§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 15th May.]
§ MATTER—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to authorize the issue, out of the Consolidated Fund, of such sums, not exceeding £2,600,000, as may be required for the defence of certain Ports and Coaling Stations, and making further provisions for Imperial Defence."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
said, he wished to say a few words on this very important subject, which was one in which he took a very great interest. The matter was debated a short time ago, but there were many questions connected with it which were not brought before the Committee. He, therefore, trusted that the Committee would indulge him for a very few minutes while he made some remarks on the subject. It was well known that there was a considerable agitation going on out-of-doors upon the whole subject of the defences of this country. That agitation also had been taken up in that House, and the result was that there had been some kind of promise given by the Government that an inquiry should be made. Hon. Members, however, were not acquainted with the scope of that inquiry. It was quite certain that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) was not a man who, having once promised to do a thing, would, if he could possibly help it, draw back from his word. But the House was very considerably in the dark as to what the real nature of the inquiry was to be. He had put a Question to his right hon. Friend a short time ago as to whether the Committee or Commission which had been promised would inquire into the sufficiency of the naval defences of the country, and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex (Admiral Field) asked a similar Question, and they were answered in animated terms by the right hon. Gentleman, who repudiated the idea of any responsibility being taken off the shoulders of the Government and placed on the Committee or Commission which was about to be appointed. The right hon. Gentleman rebuked himself (Captain Price) and his hon. and gallant Friend in warm terms for having made such a proposal, and he was bound to say that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman met with the approval of many hon. Members. Under these circumstances, he would now endeavour to show, both by precedent and argument, that the removal of the inquiry to a Committee or a Commission would not in any way relieve the Government of the day of one iota of its responsibility, nor was it against the 1035 Parliamentary usages of the country. As to precedent, there were many, but he would only quote two. First of all, the Commission known as the Fortifications Commission of 1869. The terms of the Reference of that Commission were as follows:—Whereas we have thought it expedient that a Commission should issue to make inquiry into the present state, condition, and sufficiency of the fortifications existing in our United Kingdom," and so on.He laid special stress upon the word "sufficiency," because that was the principal argument in the present case. They were always being told that the Navy was thoroughly efficient. He did not intend to dispute that assertion, except in such small matters as that many of our largest ships had got no guns, that some of our armour-clads had their armour below the water, and other details of that kind. No doubt, both officers and men of the Fleet were thoroughly efficient, but what he wished to know was whether the fleet was sufficient in numbers and in strength. The second Commission he intended to refer to was Lord Carnarvon's Commission appointed to inquire into the defence of British Possessions and commerce abroad, especially into the sufficiency of the means taken for that purpose, and for which surely the Government were entirely responsible. What was wanted now was a Commission that should inquire into the defence of British Possessions and commerce both at home and abroad, and that the Commission should inquire into the means and the sufficiency of the means provided for that purpose. He proposed to quote one small short sentence from the Report of Lord Carnarvon's Commission—We are deeply impressed by the Returns provided by the Admiralty, and to this and other evidence we invite the attention of the Government, being bound to express an opinion that the naval defences should be proceeded with as rapidly as possible.He wanted to know whether that sentence, as reported, relieved the Government of the day from any responsibility concerning the matter? They were told that although a Commission of that kind could not be granted, yet there was to be a Commission of the Cabinet themselves to sit on the question. Was the Cabinet to consist of a Committee or a Commission, and were they to 1036 issue a Report to be laid before the country, so that all might see what the result of the inquiry had been? He imagined not, and, if not, he could not understand what the nature of the inquiry was to be. What could the Cabinet do in this way which it was not already their duty to do year after year? The Cabinet was already collectively responsible for the estimates, and to appoint a Committee of the Cabinet to do what it was their bounden duty to do was only an ingenious way of evading the responsibility which ought definitely to attach to certain persons. What was necessary was to force the responsibility upon the Government of the day, and not to relieve them from any portion of it. They wanted to know how the responsibility was to be brought home. He would give an illustration that was well known to the House only a few years ago. In 1884, the First Lord of the Admiralty, from his place in Parliament, said, as all First Lords did, that the Navy was never in such a highly efficient condition, and that all the apprehension which was felt in regard to it was a mere scare. He added that the Navy was in such a satisfactory state, that if he had £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 offered to him, he could not make use of them, or know what to do with them. Nevertheless, within a few months of making that statement, Lord Northbrook asked for £5,000,000, in order to make good the deficiencies of the Navy. History repeated itself, and the same case had just occurred again. The present First Lord (Lord George Hamilton) told them in exactly the same way that the Navy had never been in a more complete and efficient condition. He should not be surprised, however, to find the noble Lord yielding to the agitation which was now going on, and that before long he came to the House with a demand for more money, in order that the Navy might be placed in a proper condition. There was a time, however, when the responsibility would be brought home; when a seething mob of starving citizens of the country would be seen blocking up the entrance of Downing Street and Whitehall, and demanding bread at a time when it might be very difficult to give them bread. It would be in vain then for the heads of the Government to come out on their balconies and tell the people that they had 1037 done more than the last Government. The fact was, the First Lords of the Admiralty failed to take the people into their confidence. Lord Wolseley had noticed this the other day, when he said in "another place,"—"We do not take the people into our confidence; we never tell them what are our shortcomings." That was what we had to complain of, and was why he asked for a thorough inquiry into the whole matter. First Lords of the Admiralty appeared to him to vie with each other in hoodwinking the public. They talked to them about tonnage, and compared our Navy with that of other countries, but the people did not understand tonnage; they talked about torpedoes and big guns, but the people understood neither torpedoes nor big guns, and nobody but the manufacturers themselves knew much about them. He regretted to express his opinion that the Admiralty pursued a policy with respect to the people which was not only one of mystification, but of positive misrepresentation. He saw sitting below him the Secretary of the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood), who went down to Liverpool, not long ago, and told the people there that the Navy never was in such a state of superiority. He knew that the hon. Gentleman did not think very much of naval officers, and he was afraid that the hon. Gentleman did not think very much of our naval history. It seemed to him, however, that it was part of the duty of officials in his position to make themselves acquainted with the naval history of the country and of the nation. If the hon. Gentleman had done so, he would never have made such statements as those which he did make at Liverpool the other day. It was the fashion to say that every question which was introduced for discussion was a working man's question. This was essentially a working man's question. He was told by competent authorities that there were in this country, at the present moment, only three or four months' supply of corn—that was to say, that at the average rate of consumption for the supply of the people it would only last three or four months. It was the duty of the First Lord of the Admiralty to make himself acquainted with the true state of the case, because he must know that in the event of a war, this country might occupy the position of a beleagured 1038 fortress, more or less completely cut off from any other supply, and the noble Lord ought to be in a position to say, if that statement was anything like the truth, what provision had been made in case of a prolonged war to secure an adequate supply of corn and other imported necessaries of food for the people of this country. For this reason, he laid down the maxim, which he did not think would be controverted, that the Fleet of this country should be vastly superior to the Fleet of any other country, not for the purpose of aggrandizement, or for the ideas of carrying out Colonial conquest, but simply for the purpose of ending a war in a short space of time, or for insuring an adequate food supply to the country. He had never contemplated any idea of the Fleet of this country being defeated; but he confessed that he had a strong feeling of uneasiness when he came to consider what might happen if our food supply was cut off or hampered in any way. He, therefore, desired to know from the Government what the position of the country would be if we were engaged in a prolonged war, and when he said a prolonged war it was not necessarily an unsuccessful war. Any prolonged war, however it might result, must occasion great distress throughout the country. Within a comparatively small area round the House of Commons there were nearly 5,000,000 of people, a large proportion of whom were always only a few degrees removed from want. He would ask the First Lord of the Treasury, or even the Lord Mayor of London, to contemplate what would be the effect on the Metropolis, in the event of the food supply of the country being hampered so that the fourpenny loaf might go up to two shillings or half-a-crown, as assuredly it would within a few weeks after a great naval war broke out. Would they ensure that quiet would be preserved in the Metropolis? If they did, he thought they would be most sanguine. A few weeks ago, in a debate which occurred in that House on the Naval Question, the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald), in a singularly able and well-delivered speech, put a most pertinent question to the First Lord of the Admiralty. He asked if he could guarantee that the Fleet of the country was sufficient to protect our shores from 1039 invasion, and sufficient also to protect our food supply and the import of raw produce for manufacture? That speech up to the present time remained unanswered. He wished he could induce some Member of the Opposition to put the question direct to the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, and insist upon getting a straightforward and truthful answer as to how the matter really stood. Then, again, in regard to our commerce. They were told that the sea-borne trade of the country was valued at the stupendous sum of £1,000,000,000 sterling—a sum that was almost beyond their comprehension, and far beyond the wildest dreams of any prize which Cortes or Pizarro thought they might gain. When the First Lord of the Admiralty was asked what steps had been taken to protect this commerce, he told the House that experience alone could decide what measures ought to be taken.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
said, the hon. and gallant Member was mistaken. He had never said anything of the kind.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
said, he had no wish to misinterpret the noble Lord; but his impression was, that what the noble Lord said was, that we could only tell from experience what was required, meaning thereby, that the experience of war could alone decide what measures ought to be taken for the protection of our vast commerce. He had hoped better things of the noble Lord. He should like to see the noble Lord a great First Lord of the Admiralty; but he never would be unless he rose above the mediocrity of his Predecessors, and determined to go forward and put the Navy of the country in a better condition. The opportunity of success was said to come once in a man's lifetime, and if the noble Lord had never had it before, he had it now. He had everything in his favour; he had youth, courage, and ability, and he had behind him a devoted Party; around him a people whose history showed that they had never yet failed to provide the means demanded for the defence of the country; but it was necessary that he should take the people into his confidence. If he did that, they would not refuse all needful supplies. He hoped the noble Lord would not take 1040 in bad part the appeal he had made him. The Navy of this country ought not only to be vastly superior to that of any other country, but it ought to be sufficient to ensure one of two results. Either that any war in which we should be engaged should be brought very shortly—within a few weeks—to a successful conclusion; or that we should be able to ensure that the imports of corn into this country should continue in the same manner as at present. He knew that the noble Lord had the supreme responsibility in this matter; but he felt that he and those who acted with him had also a responsibility, not only to their constituents, but also to the whole people of the country. It was because they felt that responsibility that they were making this effort, because they were not willing that when a time of danger and, perhaps, of disaster come upon us, the people should be able to point to them and say—"You also shirked your responsibility; you knew what would happen, and you knew what things were being left undone, but said nothing about them." It would be added—"You had nothing to gain, because your bread and butter did not depend upon making things smooth for the Government." He trusted that all Parties would join in the effort they were making, so as to insure that the defences of the country should be such that there could be no doubt as to the ability to defend the noble inheritance which had been handed down to them.
§ MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
said, he could not accuse the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Captain Price) of not giving warning enough as to the present state of the country. When a debate took place nearly three weeks ago he (Mr. C. H. Wilson) stood up to make a protest on the other side of the question, and that protest he now repeated. Those who had been Members of the House for some years had often heard almost precisely the same story which hon. and gallant Officers opposite were now repeating to them. Some of those noble and gallant Officers had not been as long in that House as he had, but others had; nevertheless, however long they had been in the House of Commons, their story was invariably the same. They were told that we were 1041 unprepared for war. Well, he thought it was a very good thing if we were unprepared for war, and ho hoped in the eyes of some hon. and gallant Members we should never be prepared for war. Unfortunately, he had had a long experience, and he knew what the cost to this country had been after a series of wars, beginning with the Crimean War, and followed by the Ashantee War, the Abyssinian War, the Zulu War, the Transvaal War, the Afghan War, and that hopeless matter in Egypt. What good had this country derived from that large expenditure of money and life? They were now told that the country was in danger. Whom was it in danger from? If it was in danger at all, it was in danger from the enemies we had made in those former wars. As a country, instead of setting an example of war scares, we ought to endeavour to create an entirely different feeling, and to lessen the armaments which were now producing ruin to nearly every Foreign Power in Europe. We were told by one great authority in "another place" that if France built one ship of war we ought to build three, and, judging from the pressure put upon the Admiralty at the present moment, that seemed to be the course pursued. He thought the probability, or rather the certainty, was that the expenditure recklessly going on now in building ships of war would produce the reaction which had already been produced in former times, and it would be found that that expenditure of money had been to a great extent, if not entirely, a waste of the national resources. We were using every effort to produce ships and guns of the most destructive character, and yet they had been told, after that miserable affair, the bombardment of Alexandria, that our old wooden ships would have done much more injury in one quarter of the time than the modern guns and modern ships of war employed on that occasion; and, further, that guns with large conical shot should not be fired at a short distance, and it was necessary to give them an elevation, the result of which was that, instead of doing the damage they ought to have done in most cases, they passed over the fortifications, and it was astonishing to see the small amount of actual injury done by that large expenditure of power on the part of the British Navy. That 1042 statement he made to the House on the authority of a naval officer, and he believed that there was a large amount of correctness in it. We were now building ship after ship, and with regard to most of them we finished we were told that for some reason or other they were not suitable for the purposes for which they had been designed. There were half-a-dozen vessels built with belted armour, and, when they were finished, it was found that the armour was underneath the water. And then, again, when a ship was armoured, enormous guns were put into her, and there was great doubt in his own mind whether in action such vessels would not be more dangerous to our own people than any enemy they could possibly be brought against. His own impression was, that if they wanted powerful ships, they should provide them of such a character that they would be almost unsinkable. There was a possibility that our guns themselves would soon become as unsuitable as the old wooden ships, and that we should have to rely in the future more upon the chemist than the gun manufacturer. We had heard a great deal lately about torpedo vessels. From the first they had been a sort of mechanical plaything; but nearly every naval officer had now come to the conclusion that they were useless, and ought not to be built. This was, in fact, one of the passing follies of the day, and he was afraid we should have continuous repetition of it. We talked about our defences; but if we really wanted to defend the country we should not have Squadrons all over the world wasting their power in simply flaunting the flag of England in the eyes of foreign countries, but we should keep them on our own coasts. We should have them manned by men who were capable of working them, and when the time came, if we wanted ships to defend our commerce, we should organize them in the same way as our ships for our own defence. They talked of defending the coaling stations. There was no necessity of defending the coaling stations, as our ships might take all their coals with them. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laughed, but probably they had not had the same experience in matters connected with the Marine that he had. At the same time, he must tell hon. Members that he and others who paid the taxes of the country 1043 had not much to be thankful to the Government for. They were always told whenever there was a war-scare, that matters were not in a satisfactory condition, and that the money asked for was absolutely wanted. No doubt, the same thing would be repeated over and over again; but, in his opinion, a Fleet properly organized ought to carry its own coals; it ought also to have its hospital ships, its storeships, and the means of repairing damages incidently to any contest which might occur. At present, we had nothing of the sort, but the one idea seemed to be to build ship after ship simply because it was necessary to spend so many millions of money, and by that means we should be saved from foreign invasion. Hon. Members got up in that House and said—"You have got an enormous population, and immediately a war breaks out you will be cut off from your supply of food." He maintained that the mercantile marine would always be able to provide the country with food, and they should be brought by the railways to a central depôt. They were told the same thing about the Army—that the Army was too small, but it was forgotten that they had a ready means of increasing the Army of this country. There were some 40,000 men, soldiers, and police in Ireland; and, if we gave the Irish people Home Rule, and satisfied their wants, we should be able, not only to take away that force from Ireland, but to increase the Volunteer Force of this country by thousands of loyal Irishmen. He believed that by such means we should be able to increase our available Army by almost 100 per cent. At present, we could not send out of the country a single Army Corps, but in Ireland itself there were men enough to supply two Army Corps. At present the Government were destroying the military organization by turning the troops employed in Ireland into policemen, and compelling them to assist in evictions, and to do work which was by no means calculated to increase the popularity of the Service, and against which he knew that many of the officers strongly protested. The Volunteers were a force this country was proud of, and ought to be proud of, and every confidence could be placed upon it. It ought, therefore, to receive every encouragement; but when Volunteer officers went to Wool- 1044 wich they were placed in an inferior position to the officers of the Militia. He was told that this was felt as a grievance by Volunteer officers. All these little matters tended to diminish the popularity of the Service. At this moment there were only two enemies we ever talked about. One was Russia and the other France. We had a considerable guarantee for peace as far as Franco was concerned in our interest in the Suez Canal, although his own opinion was that the very best thing that could have happened to this country, was that Arabi Pasha should have been left alone and the Suez Canal destroyed. The ships that were employed in conducting the commerce of India were considerable in number and gave a large amount of employment to the seamen. We had now a short cut to India, and instead of London being a depôt for the Eastern commerce, as it was before, that depôt stood in the Mediterranean, and the trade of this country was suffering in consequence. We need, therefore, entertain no fear of the attitude of France, whose interests in the Suez Canal would keep her from war with this country. Personally he had a large interest in the commerce of the country, but he entertained none of those fears which had been entertained by hon. and gallant officers opposite. He knew that it was easy to stir up a war feeling either in this country or any other. Our real enemies were not abroad, but here, near at home—the discontented in Ireland, and the demoralized and unemployed population we saw in our large towns. If they went to Manchester they would see a miserable undersized population who were not fit to be soldiers, and hardly citizens, and it was the result to a great extent of the liquor traffic of the country—they were our enemies. If they could do away with our enemies at home, such as he had pointed out, he did not think they need be afraid of our enemies abroad. What we wanted was our money's worth for all that we spent. We were going now to spend £35,000,000 or £40,000,000 a-year, for the Army and Navy, and if they were properly expended it ought to make this country safe and impervious to those war scares which were periodically got up, which were not only expensive, but most injurious to the interests of a country. Only a few years ago there 1045 was a Russian war scare, and the result was most injurious to the Baltic trade. Nevertheless, these scares were constantly initiated by naval and military Gentlemen, especially on the opposite side of the House, although he confessed they were participated in on the Opposition side. Hon. Members who held a contrary opinion did not speak out as loudly as they ought to do. Connected with commerce as he was, and knowing he had justification for what he said from the experience he had gained for a considerable time, he entirely deprecated these scares, and felt it his duty to speak out. He objected to the proposed expenditure, which he believed would be of no service to the country, and one which in every way would be injurious rather than beneficial.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, he was of opinion that what the public required chiefly was not that money should be spent, but rather that the money voted should be properly spent. The public were not taken into the confidence of the Government upon this important matter. He did not believe that the public cared to know that 2½d. had been saved on the Navy Estimates, or that two men and a boy had been added to the Army. They complained, as the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) said, and as Lord Wolseley had said in "another place," before he was converted by the Prime Minister, that they were not taken into the confidence of the Government. He knew there were arguments used by official persons against letting the public know official secrets, but practically that argument would not hold water; because there was not a man in the War Office at St. Petersburg who did not know the secrets of our War Office as well as nine out of ten Members of that House, nor was there any official attaché who did not know the state of things just as well as the officers in command of their forces themselves. The public, however, did not know the real state of things. They did not know that the stores of powder in the country would not last six months, and that there was no possibility of getting a further supply, except from abroad. They did not know that the heavy guns mounted in the Thames and the Medway were, with the exception of 10 of them, in- 1046 capable of piercing the sides of a first-class iron-clad; they did not know that our guns consisted of about 2,500 muzzle-loaders, of cast-iron small-bore Pallisters, converted about 20 years ago, which were practically obsolete, those being all the guns we possessed, except a few 30-ton guns, which those in charge of them did not know would fire or not; nor did the public realize the fact that, although £16,000,000 a-year had been spent on the Army for 20 years, it was only armed with a weapon that was to all intents and purposes obsolete, and that we had transport for only 20,000 men. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) came down the other day with a plan of mobilization. He proposed to mobolize the Yeomanry and the Volunteers. Now, he (Major Rasch) could not think that the right hon. Gentleman was in earnest in suggesting the mobilization of the Yeomanry. The other day the right hon. Gentleman received a deputation from the Volunteers, and told them that, if possible, he proposed to get together a third Army Corps to be composed of Volunteers and Militia.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
said, he had made no statement with regard to the Volunteers.
§ MAJOR RASCH
said, he accepted the correction of the right hon. Gentleman; but with reference to the Militia, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have overlooked the fact that the Militia Estimate of 130,000 men ought to be cut down to 90,000, owing to the number of men who did not really join, and that this 90,000 ought to be further reduced by 30,000, the number of men who belonged to the Reserve. Deductions had also to be made for men who, by means of fraudulent enlistment, enlisted in half-a- dozen regiments, and were counted as half-a-dozen men, so that the same men were enumerated half-a-dozen times over. As to the Volunteers, they were deficient in pretty well everything. They had no transport, no magazine rifle, no adequate hospital arrangements or adequate supply of great coats. As a simple agricultural Member, he did not think he would be doing his duty to his constituents if he were to depend entirely on what the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord 1047 Randolph Churchill) called the other day "historic memories," and refrained from ventilating the question.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT (Manchester, (S.W.)
said, the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. C. H. Wilson) had spoken a great deal of common sense. The subject before the Committee that day would not have been under discussion at all but for the scare which had passed, not over the country, but over some portions of the Metropolis. He was not surprised at the present excitement in the Metropolis about the security of the country, or that there should be this scare. Scares come almost with the regularity of the seasons; we had them from time to time, and unfortunately the result was a considerable increase of expenditure, but no increase in the security of the Nation or the efficiency of the Services. We were told now, as we had been told years ago, when demands for increased expenditure were made, that the Services were in a most unsatisfactory position, that the country was really defenceless, and, in fact, it was feared that unless a large addition to the Estimates was made something serious would happen. The country was told that there was danger of invasion, and the country which was to invade us was France. It was always France. He could never recollect the time when we were not in danger from an invasion by France. He did not understand why this should be so, because France was not a country composed of men who were absolutely without sense. Only 18 years ago France provoked a great war which ended in humiliation and disaster for her, and it was not likely that the people of France were in a state of mind now to provoke another great war without probably securing a single Ally. It was impossible that France could contemplate anything like an invasion of this country. No doubt, in the time of the First Napoleon, the greatest soldier of modern times, an invasion of this country was contemplated, but, notwithstanding all his military genius, he shrank from the undertaking, and it was hardly likely that France would attempt a project Napoleon dared not undertake, seeing that she had not a soldier or a sailor of any reputation whatever. How were these scares created and extended? The hon. Member for West Hull spoke 1048 of the food question, and only recently his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the South-East Division of Durham (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) told them that we got one-half of our supply of food from abroad. That was true enough, but his hon. and gallant Friend went on to say that if we sustained any naval check we should be powerless to obtain our food, and that a large portion of the people of this country would be in a starving condition. It should, however, be remembered that neutral ships were now perfectly safe at sea, and could enter our harbours without difficulty. It was said that they could not enter blockaded harbours. That was quite true, but it was much more difficult in these days of steam to blockade a harbour than it was in the days of sailing vessels; but even if that were not so, and we were unfortunate enough not always to be successful at sea, how many of the ports of this country could be blockaded? All around our coasts many such ports and harbours were to be found, and, therefore, if we could not secure the same supply of food as we had now, we should probably have the same as we would get if the fair traders had their way, and imposed a duty on the importation of corn. It might, however, be said that the British mercantile navy would not be safe at sea, and would not contribute to our supply of food. That was our own fault. It had been in the power of England to make commerce, both in regard to neutrals and combatants, safe, and he believed it was in her power now to bring about a great change in that respect in the law of Maritime States. If that were so, nobody need get up a scare as to any difficulty to supply the people with food. There was nobody in that House who was careless about the defences of the country. Every man wished the country to be adequately defended and rendered secure, but a good many did not believe that any additional security would come from additional expenditure. Something like £30,000,000 a-year was being expended, and it ought to give us adequate security without entailing additional expenditure. The hon. Member for West Hull had spoken of enemies at home as well as enemies abroad. He believed with the hon. Member that we had enemies at home, 1049 to whom no direct reference had been made—he meant the great spending Departments of the country. It appeared to him that there was either corruption or incapacity in those great Departments, and secondly, that the country did not get their money's worth for what it spent. There was a great want of confidence throughout the country in the administration of the Army and Navy, and, so far as he understood, the Government was unwilling to inquire into the condition of things which brought about that want of confidence. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who led the Government not two years ago and the Tory Party in that House, and who spoke with great authority, having studied the question of expenditure probably as much as any Member of the House, had spoken more loudly of the unfortunate condition of our spending Departments than perhaps any other Member. He (Mr. Jacob Bright) agreed with the hon. Member for West Hull, and he would not vote for the additional expenditure of a single penny, although he would do all he could to assist those who would reform the Departments, and give the country their money's worth for the money that was spent.
§ MR. TROTTER (Colchester)
said, that as he took great interest in the question, he would ask the indulgence of the House while he made one or two brief remarks. He entirely deprecated all idea of panic. Although he spoke as one who had no source of information, he thought all the circumstances abroad pointed to the continuance of peace, and that there was no present cause for alarm for the invasion of the country. Still, at a time like the present, when Continental countries were increasing their armaments to an enormous extent, and we were on amicable terms with all our neighbours, it seemed to him to be a favourable time for stock-taking in regard to the National defences, in order to ascertain where we were open to attack. He held that while the temporary landing of a small force might be possible, a successful invasion of this country would be more difficult now than when that famous Armada threatened our coasts 300 years ago, for much as steam and electricity had increased the 1050 power of attack, they had infinitely more, in a country like ours, increased the power of defence. He could not agree that we ought to keep our forces at home, because we had interests in every sea, and were open to attack all over the world. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Captain Price) had referred to the uneasiness which prevailed and the perplexity which existed in the public mind at the present moment, as to the difference between the experts and the official view of the question, and he (Mr. Trotter) believed the country was quite prepared to see any necessary expenditure undertaken, provided it was satisfied that it would get full value for the money spent. The question whether England had increased in strength of late years was largely a relative one. Probably our resources were really stronger and more effective now than they had over been before, but in view of the increased powers of attack of our neighbours, it was possible that they were still not sufficient. His own belief tended in the direction that it was desirable to spend a large sum on our coast defences and coaling stations, and also probably upon guns and ships. In regard to our Navy, he thought it ought to be not only within the knowledge of ourselves, but of the whole world, that we were in a position to meet any force that could possibly be brought against us, and that we had sufficient fast cruisers to protect our carrying trade. That was the insurance, the large but necessary insurance, we were bound to pay, in consequence of our inability to grow our own food supply. He admitted that the difficulty was as to the quarter from which the money was to be obtained if the expenditure was proved to be necessary. But the present generation has made large and successful efforts in reducing the National Debt, and he had long thought that if national emergencies were such as to demand it, there would be no impropriety in suspending for a time the payment of the whole or part of the sum devoted to that reduction. The country, it must not be forgotten, fully appreciated the value of its freedom from conscription, and in consideration of that fact was willing to pay liberally for its defences. It must also be remembered that in undertaking more work, we should be able to em- 1051 ploy labour in the country which now sadly needed employment. The want of work was, he knew, a difficult subject to enter upon; but still he held that it was a reproach to the civilization of the 19th century that there should be in this country so many men able and anxious to work who were unable to find employment. Allusion had been made to the Volunteer Force. He did not think the Volunteer Force had much to be grateful for to any Government. For many years it had been continually subjected to snubs. Perhaps it might have become overgrown, but the Force had been created by the energy, and to a large extent at the expense of, patriotic men. It appeared to him, although he had no great opportunity of rendering service to the Volunteer Force, that what the Volunteers had done for the country had been very little appreciated by any Government. It was especially unfortunate that at a time like the present an order should have been made that the Volunteers going into Camp should not be able to take anything like their full strength in consequence of the lack of sufficient Government grant. He was very glad that a Committee of the Cabinet had not shrunk from taking upon themselves the enormous responsibility of inquiring into and deciding upon what was necessary to be done under the circumstances upon this great subject. The country, in his opinion, would wait with great interest for the decision of the Government as to what was needed to complete our defences and the means to be employed to give effect to the recommendations of the Cabinet. He did not doubt that when the inquiry was completed the House would be put in possession, as a matter of course, of the result. Lord Wolseley had stated that the insufficiency in the state of preparedness was very largely due to the evils of Party Government. Without doubt there was much truth in that, but it did not cover the whole ground. It was once said by Horace Walpole that the decline of Party meant the growth of faction, and the latter would be a very much greater evil. He did not believe that Party spirit would decline in this country, but where there could be so much agreement as in the matters of foreign affairs and national defence, he regretted that there was not at the present permanency and continuity in the 1052 management of those great Departments of the State. It did seem desirable that in matters of such great importance they should not entirely depend on change of Government, but that such questions should, to some extent, be entrusted to permanent management. He had thought of speaking somewhat fully to his constituents on the subject, but after what had occurred elsewhere, he felt it his duty to say those few words from his place in the House.
ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke, &c.)
said, the reason he rose to take part in the debate was that they had been told on the highest authority that if they did not speak in the House of Commons when criticizing the naval and military defences of the country, they had no right to speak on the subject anywhere else. He intended to speak on every possible opportunity, in every possible place, and under every possible circumstance, until he arrived at the conclusion that the Navy was in some sense what it ought to be, or until he and those who agreed with him were proved to be utterly wrong. He was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. C. H. Wilson) introduce into the debate the question of Home Rule, the liquor traffic, and various other questions, entirely apart from the subject now before the Committee. The hon. Member said that an invasion of this country could be prevented by giving Home Rule to Ireland, and withdrawing the troops which were now stationed there. What we were more mainly concerned in was to prevent an army from ever being landed in England. Of course, after it was landed, the Fleet would have very little to do with it. The position they took up was a very simple one. The First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), speaking at Derby the other day, said that he did not say, and had never said, that the Navy was in that condition in which it ought to be; but the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) had said that the Navy was equal to any two other navies, and was becoming daily stronger in proportion to the navies abroad. That was the point on which he joined issue with the First Lord and his hon. Friend. He denied that the Navy was becoming stronger. It was possible that it was just keeping pace with the navies of 1053 foreign countries, but even that fact they were inclined to deny. Only to-night they had heard the First Lord say, in answer to a Question from the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), that they were still building 16½ knot gunboats, although it was known that that speed was considered insufficient for the Australian cruisers, and that the French were building double the number capable of steaming at the rate of 19½ knots. He wished he could think that he was wrong in this statement, because he did not wish to under-rate our Navy; but, at any rate, the First Lord of the Treasury had told them that the speed of the ships which we were building was not considered sufficient for the Australian cruisers. The consequence would be that they would have to be laid up in the event of war, because they could not satisfactorily do the duty required of them, or escape capture by faster foreign cruisers. The Navy generally desired to know in plain English, how the First Lord made out that we had a force superior to even France alone, because he (Admiral Mayne) and several other of his friends estimated that if they had, apart altogether from the protection of our commercial interests, to fight the French to-morrow in the Atlantic, we might manage to muster an equal number of ships, and possibly one or two more at the outside. Our vessels were deteriorating with as much rapidity as those of France; six or eight of them could not be driven at full speed now, but could only be made to go at reduced boiler power. He should be happy to hear that statement denied upon official authority; but he believed he was correct in stating that it was a fact that we were quite unable to go as the French squadron did the other day, at a speed of 11½ knots in the Mediterranean. It was also known that the Téméraire, before going out to reinforce the Mediterranean squadron, had to take guns out of a fort at the entrance of the Thames in order to make up her complement of guns. In these circumstances the position of the Thames defences, as represented by military men, was not what was supposed, and, as far as could be judged, it was highly probable that all the guns would have to be taken if more guns were to be put in the 1054 Fleet. But if we had a slight superiority in number of ships, we certainly were not superior in guns or quality of vessels. He did not undervalue the courage and the seamanship that would be displayed by his brother officers and seamen, but he maintained that it was unfair to put our Navy to too severe a test. The hon. Member for Hull, who was a large shipowner, had spoken of the protection of commerce; and he thought the hon. Member would be one of the first to cry out if his ships were not properly protected. The admirals and captains in the Naval Service always got the blame if the commerce of the country was not protected, and if the enemy's fleet was not thoroughly defeated. It was wrong and unjust to say that all naval and military officers desired merely that more money should be granted, no matter how it was spent, or that they desired to create a scare. On the contrary, their object was to prevent a scare, to prevent the number of ships, guns, and men being allowed to fall so low that it became necessary to ask Parliament to vote sums of £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 of money to do that which less than half the sum would have accomplished if judiciously spent. There was no attempt to raise a scare, but all they desired was to place the Navy in a proper position to defend the country. It might be said that they were playing into the hands of Ministers, in order to enable them to raise the money. He was sure that his noble Friend—if he might presume to call him so—the First Lord of the Admiralty did not regard the matter from that point of view. It was not a Party question, and they were not speaking in any Party sense. On the contrary, they took equal exception to the measures—or more properly absence of measures—adopted by both sides. They hoped to see something more intelligent and intelligible in the administration of the Admiralty; and he had no doubt that when the necessity was shown, the House and the country would ungrudgingly grant the money that was asked for. He should conclude the few observations he had thought it his duty to address to the House by saying that unless our system of naval administration was entirely reorganized, the country could never hope to see the Navy made thoroughly efficient. Upon this they 1055 were thoroughly of one opinion, and looked forward with the greatest eagerness to the recommendations of the Commission, which they trusted would be of such a nature as to lead to a complete change in the system of our naval administration.
§ SIR CHARLES PALMER (Durham, Jarrow)
said, he should very gladly support a Vote for more money for the purpose of our defences if he were convinced that it was really required, that it would be judiciously expended, and that the arrangements of the Departments were sufficiently well organized; but he feared that they might assume that the latter was not the case, especially with regard to the War Office. No doubt this question had been brought forward under a feeling of scare or panic throughout the whole country, and to vote money while such a feeling prevailed was, in his opinion, to be deprecated. The meeting which had been held the other day under the presidency of the noble Lord opposite, and assisted by naval officers, had the fixed idea in their minds that it was necessary for the security of the country that we should build more ships of war. As far as he was personally concerned he would not take exception to that proposition. But he happened to know that shipbuilding, whether by private contract or in the dockyards, had very greatly improved within the last few years. For instance, ships which formerly took six years to build were now turned out in three years, and cruisers that formerly took three years to build were now completed in a year-and-a-half. Moreover, the cost of vessels had been largely decreased, and, therefore, the money that was annually voted for purposes of the Admiralty would certainly produce a greater number of ships than it had formerly. He had heard that the dockyard system could be greatly improved if the Admiralty would take a strong course with regard to it by placing a good practical administrator at the head of the Department, and with power to discharge and take on men as occasion might require, as well as exclude them from coming to that House to make complaints through their Members when they were discharged. In this sense I would suggest that the dockyards should be disfranchised. He had 1056 shown that we could increase our shipping at a very short notice and at a small cost, but the difficulty in the matter was the question of guns. It was of no use to build ships if they were to lie for years waiting for their guns. There had been a great cry got up and created by some naval men with regard to the food supply of the country in time of war, but he pointed out that they had no longer wooden ships to deal with; they had mercantile steamers now which almost equalled in speed any foreign cruisers, and it would be difficult for those cruisers to intercept our merchant ships in the way referred to by those naval officers. It must be remembered that the cruisers must carry coals which would compel them to enter harbours or coal stations to replenish their coals, so that their position was more critical and dangerous than it was in former years. With regard to the coast defences, he happened to have been the first to have taken up this question as Commander of a Volunteer Engineer Corps. He represented that if the Volunteer Engineers were to be of any service whatever, it must be in connection with our coast defences and commercial harbours, and he submitted to the Government of the day a scheme with regard to the defences of the harbours in the North of England. Owing to the broad views of the Inspector General of Fortifications, Sir Andrew Clarke, his suggestion was carried out so as to enable the Volunteer Engineers to go through their submarine mining drill at Chatham as well as receiving the necessary material in the north. But the fact was, that whenever our Volunteers took any step forward of their own motion they were immediately snubbed by the Authorities of the Regular Services, and although pretty speeches might be made, and although the Volunteers were, so to speak, patted on the back and encouraged in that sort of way, they were not looked upon by the Regular soldier in the light in which they ought to be. In this question of home defence, however, he looked to our Volunteers. There had been alarm caused by the marvellous statements put forward by the Adjutant General with regard to the consequence of a large Army landing on our shores, and he regarded them as our best coast protection. But the 1057 Volunteers must have more consideration shown them—more money voted ask for equipment and drill halls and other purposes than they had at present. With regard to guns, he was aware that proposals had been made to extend the area of gun factories, and that subject might be now under consideration; but he was convinced that we should never be free from the difficulties in which we were now placed in relation to guns until the area of manufacture was widened and a better supervision brought to bear upon the gun factories. The manufacture of guns was practically a monopoly; and he doubted whether his right hon. Friend the Minister for War would get up and say that he had confidence in the guns as they were now being manufactured. We were being left behind by France and Germany in this matter; and he was satisfied that the Government would take a wise course by giving orders to large firms to manufacture guns, which orders he knew that some firms were already in a position to carry out. He should be prepared to support the Resolution if he did not think the Votes for both Departments of the Service were amply sufficient. It was the organization of the Departments themselves that was, in his opinion, more important than the expenditure of the larger sums of money now asked to be placed at their disposal.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
said, he quite agreed with some of the remarks that had fallen from hon. Members opposite, that the House ought not to vote money under the influence of a scare; but the object of himself, and of those who thought with him, was not to create, but to prevent panic, and to lay the facts as they actually were before the House and the country. The hon. Member for West Hull (Mr. C. H. Wilson) and other hon. Members had said that these cases of panic and these demands for money had occurred over and over again. That was quite true, and they would occur again and again until they altered the system of naval administration. This was the object they had in view. They asked that there should be an inquiry into the system of administration for the purpose of seeing whether it could be altered, and the Government had given way to a certain extent and appointed a Committee. Those who had 1058 taken part in this movement did not ask for increased expenditure for itself; they wanted a better naval administration and a definite standard of defence to be laid down. Experts had made statements, had not been contradicted; they had been met on the part of the Government by an argument which had nothing to do with the issue. The Government argued that we had more ships than the French. But that was not the point. What they had to consider was the work to be done by the different Navies, and it was this point that he and his hon. Friends wished to be threshed out. He for one would he strongly opposed to money being voted until they knew what it was voted for. There were two points of great importance to be considered: First, whether our line-of-battle-ships, upon which the ultimate issue must necessarily fall, were sufficient; and, secondly, whether we possessed a sufficient number of cruisers for the protection of our mercantile marine. On this point he would ask the Committee to listen to a few statistics. In 1793 we had 185 cruisers to protect 16,800 merchant-ships, having an aggregate tonnage of 1,589,000 tons; in 1814 we had 489 cruisers to protect 24,411 ships with an aggregate tonnage of 2,616,551 tons; in 1888 we had 42 cruisers. In calculating that number he did not take into account vessels of under 15 or 16 knots, for the simple reason that they were of no use to us. Unless they had cruisers of the same or superior speed to those of the enemy, they would not be able to catch the enemy's ships. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Jarrow Division of Durham (Sir Charles Palmer) had remarked that the enemy's cruisers, being steam vessels, would easily be caught, bcause they would have frequently to run into port for coal. The hon. Baronet was quite correct in that, but how much damage would an enemy's cruisers have done before they were caught? That was the point which told with practical men. Every vessel bringing over food supply that was destroyed, prevented the owner from sending others to sea, so that our communications might be very largely interfered with in the first three weeks of war. And, further than that, it was a point of great importance that in time of war the rate of insurance ran up and very largely interfered with enterprize in our mer- 1059 cantile marine. In the present year, then, we had 42 cruisers to protect 36,725 vessels, whose aggregate tonnage was 9,135,512 tons, and if to this was added the colonial marine there would be another 1,500,000 of tonnage. In the old days, when we had cruisers to protect our shipping, we were not dependent upon food supplies from abroad; but we were so now, and if our commercial communications were stopped it would be impossible to feed the people. There was another matter in connection with cruisers that he wished to refer to. Great Britain had only one cruiser to every 100 steamers over 100 tons, while France had one cruiser to every 10 steamers of the same tonnage. With the hon. Member opposite of course he hoped there would be no such thing as war, but if we were to lose three ships in war it would be equivalent to the loss of two Army Corps to Germany; but if France lost her whole Fleet her people could still eat, drink, and dance—it would not so much matter to her; while, if we lost a squadron, our Imperial or National existence might be imperilled. He would call attention to one paragraph in the Memorandum of his noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), who said that the conditions of naval warfare were so changed and changing from day to day that nothing but actual experience could show how complete protection could be given to a commerce double that of the rest of the world. It was that sort of idea to which naval officers outside the Admiralty altogether objected. They pointed out that the question was grave and required immediate attention; but the statement of his noble Friend meant that they were to wait to allow things to take their course and then see what could be done That, at any rate, was the way in which naval officers read the noble Lord's statement. The noble Lord had frequently said that in the matter of cruisers we compared very well with France. But he (Lord Charles Beresford) pointed out that the French had built seven ships which they called by the name of commerce-destroyers, and we had nothing that we could oppose to those vessels. His noble Friend would not deny the statement that the French had 13 ships with a speed of 19 or 19½ knots, and that we should have only eight, be- 1060 cause vessels of the Orlando class could not go 19 knots. His noble Friend began his speech by saying exactly what he (Lord Charles Beresford) and his hon. Friends said, namely, that the Navy was not strong enough. If once we lost the command of the sea, there was no question but that we could be starved out. On the Naval Estimates, he had distinctly asked Vice Admiral Sir A. H. Hoskins—one of the Lords of the Admiralty—whether the shipbuilding policy adopted by the Board of Admiralty was suited to the necessities of the case of defence, or according to the requirements for a popular Budget, and he refused to answer his question. He (Lord Charles Boresford) wanted his late Colleagues at the Admiralty to answer it, and to give their reasons for thinking that our plan of defence was sufficient; and until they did so, the country would not be satisfied. A certain statement was made by the Prime Minister, and repeated at Derby by his noble Friend, with reference to shipbuilding and their armaments. What they said was true, but the inferences drawn from it were entirely incorrect. It was said that in 1880 the Vote for naval construction and armaments amounted to £2,100,000, and in 1887 to £5,467,000. But, if the amount for armaments was deducted, the Vote in 1880 was £1,664,000, and in 1887 only £3,118,000, so that the increase in shipbuilding in the two years was represented by £1,454,000. In 1876 the shipbuilding was £2,496,000, and in 1884 at the time of the last scare, it was £2,206,000, while for 1888, which might be called the next scare, it is £2,463,320, so that after 12 years there was £33,000 less in the estimate for shipbuilding purposes. That was how the matter stood in fact, but not according to the inference drawn by the Prime Minister and his noble Friend. His noble Friend had spoken of the Navy being stronger now than it was before. That was perfectly true, and a great deal of this was due to his noble Friend who had made a number of improvements, and in particular he referred to the enormous improvement owing to which ships would not now be turned out of greater draught than was originally intended. His noble Friend had said, that if the existing gun factories failed to carry out what 1061 was required of them, he should go outside. He trusted that his noble Friend would fulfil this promise, and if the existing factories failed, that he would go to Krupp or some other manufacturer who could supply guns of the kind wanted. In his opinion they should keep touch with recent inventions by appointing an experimental Committee belonging to both branches of the Service, to enable the Government to take advantage as soon as possible of all the latest inventions in gunnery and other inventions for warlike purposes. Illustrative of this, he might say that it was a great feature, that they might have to engage foreign vessels which could throw a 30lb. melinite shell equivalent in destructive effect to a shell of our own weighing 100lb. His noble Friend the Secretary of State for War had promised a Committee which should thoroughly try this new explosive, particularly as against the unarmoured ends of our vessels, and he hoped to hear that this was not being delayed. He demurred altogether to the tone which his noble Friend had adopted at Derby. He (Lord Charles Beresford) earnestly hoped that whatever might occur in the Debate, whatever differences of opinion might arise between the Government and those with whom he acted, there would be no Party feeling allowed to enter into this question, but if his noble Friend desired him to enter that arena he was ready to meet him either with or without the gloves on. With regard to the question of guns, he would ask for the names of the firms which in some cases were 12, 18 and 20 months behind the time at which the guns were promised to be delivered; also whether during that time they had supplied any guns to foreign Governments, and if so what was the character of those guns? He would also ask what was the procedure now relative to fines or some kind of punishment inflicted on firms who did not fulfil their contracts; and further, whether the noble Lord would guarantee that the guns for which they were waiting would be got at the date they were promised? It made a great difference in expenditure if the ships were kept waiting for their guns. It was details of this kind which required to be thoroughly looked into, and the authorities should fix direct responsibility upon somebody, whether soldier, 1062 sailor, or civilian; and when a person was discovered to have failed in his duty, he should be sent about his business and get no half-pay. What he and his hon. Friends held, was that first of all our administration was at fault. It was upon that fault of the administration they held that all these and other consequent extravagances were based. If there were a thorough-going system of administration our Estimates for the Navy were amply sufficient for the defence of the country. He and his hon. Friends did not want anything done in a hurry; what they wanted was that the naval work of the country should be done in a business-like way. They did not want the Government to come down and ask for an enormous sum of money, and he for one should vote against such a demand unless he knew to what it was to be applied. He believed that the Committee of the Cabinet was most useful, and had gone a long way in the right direction, but the Services and the country would not be satisfied if it adopted the same line as had been taken by his noble Friend at Derby. The Committee of the Cabinet ought to have the evidence of experts before it, and the experts should say what the country wanted. The Government had now a splendid chance; the country was with them, or rather with his hon. Friends and himself in their anxiety about the National defences. If the Government were ready to spend the money he was satisfied the country would agree to it if, as he had said, the thing were done in a business-like manner, and he believed it could be done without taxing the people. We might use the £7,000,000 of the Sinking Fund employed to pay off the National Debt, and this would be a good use of the money, for if we were to meet with disaster the National Debt would be doubled. He believed that the cause of the present state of things was that Governments were frightened and did not like to look the matter in the face; the sum of money required would be, they thought, enormous, and they asked themselves the question whether, if we were to be attacked, it was after all worth while to spend so much money. He was certain that if we built five line-of-battle ships and 24 cruisers, it would be the minimum required to make us safe; but he hoped the Government would build no ships 1063 and spend no money until they had a distinct programme before them. It was said that those who took the line which he had followed were influenced by personal considerations, but on the 14th of April 1885, the present First Lord of the Treasury said—We appeal to the country to examine this question for themselves. At all events our consciences are clear. I f war breaks out we are not ready.… We have at least done our duty in attempting to fix your attention on a grave danger which might be remedied with moral resolution and a comparatively small expenditure of money.It might be also said that ours was a policy of peace. But other countries might do something totally opposed to our policy. France might insist upon our getting out of Egypt, and it might be a very good thing if we were to get out of it. He did not think his noble Friend would say that our ships and cruisers would be able to cope with the combined Navies of France and Russia. If his noble Friend should say so he would be ready to meet him on the subject publicly or privately. Supposing such a combination, the question was—Are you ready?" If his noble Friend could answer that question in the affirmative, he would put an end to the speeches that were being made throughout the country in a contrary sense.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
My noble and gallant Friend objects to an expression which I made use of the other day in a speech in which I described the agitation that was being conducted on this question as sensational. I repeat that observation, and now tell my noble and gallant Friend that the only possible hope which he and his Friends could have of making that agitation successful was by making it sensational. I must confess that I was very much puzzled by the concluding part of my noble and gallant Friend's speech. He stated that he did not want any more money to be spent. If the object of my noble and gallant Friend, and those associated with him, is not to increase expenditure, I do not understand with what purpose their speeches are made.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said, he never stated that he did not want any more money to be spent. What he said was, that he did not want any more money to be spent until the Government issued a distinct programme 1064 of what was necessary for the defence of the country. He said that when that programme was made out, monoy would have to be spent.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
My noble and gallant Friend only wants the money to be spent when the programme is settled. Now, it is a very favourite statement of my noble and gallant Friend, that if the Admiralty were reorganized, and a better system of administration instituted, there would be enough money for naval wants. Well, Sir, whoever puts forward that statement simply misleads the public. For nearly the last two years I have been aided by the most able advisers and shrewd men of business, and they all confirm me in the view that, although £1,000 might be here and there saved, the whole sum would not exceed £100,000. Therefore, it is misleading the public to say that any reorganization would place at the disposal of the Government any large sum of money for the public service of the Navy. My noble and gallant Friend contested some of my figures, and found fault with a statement which I made in my Memorandum, to the effect that the conditions of naval warfare were so changed and were so changing from day to day, that nothing but actual experience could justify any confident assurance as to our requirements. That is a statement I deliberately made and to which I adhere; and I go further, and say, that I think that any naval officer who asserts the contrary will find it difficult to prove his case. Sir Geoffrey Hornby delivered a lecture the other day on the subject in the City. Everything that Sir Geoffrey Hornby says is entitled to the most careful consideration, as coming from one who is admitted upon all sides to be one of our most able naval tacticians and strategists. He did not guarantee immunity from capture to our merchant vessels. He wished to try to establish a system of protection of our commerce, on the old lines adopted in the great war between England and France. But even then, when the conditions were more favourable for the protection of our commerce, the force we possessed being six or seven times greater than that of France, we were not able to protect a certain portion of our commerce from attack, and now, when the conditions have all changed, 1065 I am not going to mislead shipowners and the public by saying we can guarantee absolute immunity to the whole of our commerce. The noble and gallant Lord fought rather shy, I think, of the conclusion at which Sir Geoffrey Hornby arrived. Sir Geoffrey Hornby said that he wanted 140 fresh cruisers—that that was the minimum of our wants. If I emphasize that statement it is in order to show what the ideal efficiency is which is wanted by a distinguished naval officer. But what would the cost be of this addition to our Fleet? With the high speed, coal-carrying capacity, and sea-going qualities which would be required of them, they could not be built at less than £150,000 a-piece. That would mean an immediate outlay of £21,000,000. But besides that immediate outlay, there would be the money necessary for the men who were to man these ships and their maintenance, and that would mean an extra sum of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 on the Estimates. Why does Sir Geoffrey Hornby wish for this enormous number of cruisers? Sir Geoffrey Hornby said very truly that a vessel of 13 knots could not catch a vessel of 16 knots speed, and that, therefore, every one of these vessels would have to possess a speed of over 16 knots. The arrangements contemplated by Sir Geoffrey Hornby were clearly made for the protection of our commerce against France, not that our relations with that nation are not most friendly, but because he naturally selected that country which is the greatest naval nation next to ourselves in speaking of the power of a foreign country to injure our commerce. He took France as the criterion in the matter. Well, does my noble and gallant Friend know how many 16-knot cruisers France possesses? We are to have 186 cruisers with a speed of 16 knots. France, at the present moment, posseses five, and I will take the relative strength in this respect of the two countries in 1890. In that year France may have 21 16-knot cruisers—in addition to 7 belted cruisers—and we shall have 41. Assuming that Sir Geoffrey Hornby is right, and that it is necessary that we should have 186 cruisers, when France has only 21, we should then have to keep eight times the number possessed by her. Does anyone believe that the 1066 taxation necessary for that would be borne by the nation, or that such a system of defence would be maintained for any time? It seems to me a waste of time for any naval officer, however capable he may be, to base his system upon such an expenditure. What is a curious fact is, that at the very moment these demands are being made on the English Government, almost identical demands are being made on the French and Russian Governments. Lord Brassey, in his Naval Annual, quotes the report of a French Committee on the Naval Estimates for the year 1887, in which complaint is made of the scarcity of vessels possessing a speed of over 16 knots, while a comparison is drawn in this respect with the British Navy. Since that time a considerable number of ships have been laid down by France. But the test of a shipbuilding programme is not the number of ships laid down, but the progress made. We have deliberately kept our building programme well within our financial compass, and we are building 50 per cent more rapidly than any other nation. In France, on the other hand, the building programme is much in excess of the money voted for the purpose, and, consequently, her programme is very slow; and although we have a great deal of lee way to make up, assuming that there is no further alteration in the Estimates, we shall have, in 1890, a large number of cruisers. But I will take the figures as quoted by Lord Brassey. Lord Brassey estimates that in 1890 England would only have five cruisers of over 19 knots, while France would have 15. But Lord Brassey arrives at that conclusion by including a number of vessels which have since been struck out of the French Estimates, and excluding the whole English building programme of the present year, which includes something like 32 vessels, most of which have a high speed. Including these, we shall stand thus in 1890:—England will have 15 cruisers of over 19 knots, as against 10 belonging to France, and 18 over 18 knots as against nine belonging to France. I do not say that that is sufficient, nor is that the view of the Government; but what I do say is, that we shall be stronger then than we have been for many years past; and, under the policy which we are pursuing, 1067 by which we are maintaining our shipbuilding programme at a rate much in excess of the annual depreciation and waste of the Fleet, we shall year by year add 40 per cent more in the shape of new ships, guns, and cruisers than we shall take out in the shape of old ships, guns, and cruisers. If we can maintain this policy over a number of years, I believe that, at the end of that period, we shall have more judiciously and more effectively raised the strength of the Navy than if we had entered upon any hasty and spasmodic expenditure with the certain knowledge that a portion of the expenditure would be wasted by the very haste requisite. The noble and gallant Lord and a number of other naval and military men have always impressed upon the Government the necessity of giving more authority and control to professional experts. I quite agree; I have the utmost confidence in my professional experts, but it is a most curious fact that, in the very same breath, they are always expatiating upon and exaggerating the failings and shortcomings of the Ordnance Department of the War Office. The one Department which has absolutely and exclusively been under the control of military experts is the Ordnance Department, and, therefore, it does seem to me a most extraordinary conclusion on their part that, because that system of employing professional experts has, according to them, produced bad results, therefore a similar system should be applied to every other Department both of the War Office and Admiralty. My noble and gallant Friend discarded all cruisers which had a loss speed than 13 knots. Why were those vessels built? At the present moment, in the minds of most naval men—and I believe it is a correct view—speed will be the more important factor in naval warfare. But a few years ago we did not hold that view; handiness was to be the qualification of our ships. [Lord CHARLES BERESFORD: And wasted ships.] They were deliberately built short for the sake of handiness, in deference to the opinion of naval experts. When I first accepted Office in connection with the Admiralty, expenditure was pressed upon me in connection with torpedoes. The torpedo at that time happened to be the naval fad, and a most distinguished and able writer, M. 1068 Gabriel Charms, impressed upon the French Government the importance of this weapon. I was then urged to rush into a wholesale expenditure on torpedo boats and torpedo boat catchers. I had then the advice of wise and sagacious naval Lords, who told me that, in their opinion, the efficacy of torpedoes was over-rated, and I think I acted wisely in taking their advice. My naval advisers now do not advocate this enormous expenditure upon cruisers, and I intend to abide by their advice. Let the noble and gallant Lord just think the matter out. A 13-knot cruiser cannot catch a 16-knot cruiser, therefore we are to build 140 16-knot cruisers. Suppose in order to build these 16-knot cruisers you suspend the Sinking Fund, and raise loans and occupy to the utmost the producing power of dockyards and gun-making factories; and then suppose the French built four or five cruisers with a speed of 22 knots. The whole work would have to be done over again. I will do everything in my power to prevent wholesale expenditure such as that. There is no single instance in which ships laid down by the dozen have not shown defects common to all of them, which would have been avoided if they had been laid down gradually and continuously over a series of years. Recently, statements of a somewhat sensational kind have been made with regard to the state and efficiency of the Navy. There was a statement, in particular, made by a distinguished officer in the Army, which, perhaps, has caused greater commotion and perturbation in the public mind than any other—namely, the danger which this country would run if 100,000 men were landed within a reasonable distance of London. Several hon. and gallant Gentlemen have alluded to that statement. Now, do we run at the present moment any real risk of invasion? I felt it my duty, as that statement has been made, to estimate the amount of tonnage which would be necessary to convey an invading army to our shores. I felt that if that statement was correct, it was only right for all of us at the Admiralty to take the greatest precautions to prevent its accomplishment. It happens that the Admiralty had had enormous experience in recent years in the transit of troops, and I obtained calculations from the distinguished officer who has had most to do with trans- 1069 port operations during those years. He informs me that to convey 100,000 men, packed as close as they could be, for 48 hours, would require 120 steamships of 4,000 tons, or an aggreate of 480,000 tons. If smaller steamships were used, an increase of from 10 to 15 per cent in the tonnage would be required. I next considered what nations were likely to invade England. There are only two nations which have a large army, and could suddenly ship 100,000 men to England, and those two nations are Germany and France. Now, the total steam tonnage of the German Empire is 420,000 tons, or 60,000 tons less than would be required for the operation, and the whole steam tonnage of France is a little under 500,000 tons, so that the Committee will see that, in order to carry out an invasion, France will have to bring together every single steamship she possesses, leaving her Mediterranean Coast and her various possessions abroad unprotected, and then concentrate them somewhere in the Channel, and when she got them there, there is no port where she could locate them or find sufficient wharfage for them. I am further informed that even with our enormous resources we could not bring together a similar amount of tonnage under three weeks. That being so, my noble and gallant Friends will not be surprised to hear that the Government in one sense cannot give countenance to the sensational statements to which I have adverted. We thoroughly sympathize with the objects of those who make them—namely, to increase the strength of the Navy. If, however, on the strength of these statements, we propose to increase taxation, or obtain money, we should be obtaining it on false pretences. We would be placing ourselves in a position in which we would be certain to be attacked afterwards, and it would cause a reaction of public opinion which would operate not merely against those who started a sensational policy, but permanently against the cost and efficiency of the Navy. Therefore, my hon. and gallant Friend will understand that when I was obliged, the other day, to put myself in opposition to what he said, I did so in no unfriendly spirit. I recognize the kindly manner in which my hon. and gallant Friends have spoken of the work which the present Board have done, all the more because 1070 we had an unpopular task to take in hand. We had simultaneously to reduce redundant establishments, and to increase the amount of our shipping—two by no means easy operations. Of that task, I think we have now got over the most unpopular part. My hon. Friend has dwelt with just emphasis upon the risk to the efficiency of the Navy which has arisen from the long delay in the delivery of guns. I can assure him that we will leave no stone unturned to prevent a repetition of such delay. It was a relic of a system which I think my right hon. Friend at the head of the War Office has, to a very large extent, reformed. Probably, it will interest my hon. and gallant Friend to know that, although we have a large number of ships building, and about to be laid down, the guns of every one have been ordered; and, as far as the subject of ammunition is concerned, we are limited in making good deficiencies by the producing power of the country; and if we find, as we proceed, that those deficiencies are greater than we expect, we will not hesitate to shape our action accordingly. I am much obliged to the Committee for having allowed me to make these observations. I conceive there is no graver or heavier task to which men could be called than to be made responsible for the efficiency of the Navy; and, on the other hand, I contend that of the functions which are imposed upon the Government, there are none as to which they should act more jealously or guardedly than those which relate to national defence and national expenditure. We are ready to act by the light of experience and the advice of our friends. Any communication made to us will receive most careful and respectful consideration. We know from past experience something of the unreliability of public opinion, and my hon. and gallant Friend has alluded to what he called the scare of 1885. A very large increase in the Estimates was voted, when it seemed we might be engaged in hostilities with Russia, and a large Vote of Credit was spontaneously placed at the disposal of the Government of the day. The present Government succeeded to Office shortly after that Vote of Credit had been passed, and at a time when the whole programme of shipbuilding which had been agreed to with the practical assent of both sides of the House had not been executed. 1071 Then certain of my naval Friends recommended me to make hay while the sun shines, and to lay down a number of extra ships and to promote in every way an increase of the programme assented to. Well, I declined; but, with the assent of the Board of Admiralty, I did commence to lay down two of the most powerful iron-clads that any nation has ever yet built. A change took place in the Government of the country and a reaction in public opinion, and the new Board of Admiralty had the greatest difficulty in obtaining from the Government the money to carry on the iron-clads. Clearly, that money would not have been obtained at all if I had embarked upon a wholesale expenditure, for the new Government would have gone to the other extreme. What is really necessary for the efficiency of the Navy is a stable public opinion, and to maintain, for a series of years, the naval expenditure at a high level. That is our object. We agree that the Navy at the present moment has not arrived at the standard of strength which we hope it will attain, and when attained will be kept. But in carrying out that policy we must be allowed to exercise our own discretion and our own judgment; and when I recognize the loyalty and confidence with which my hon. Friends on this side of the House have supported the Government in the arduous undertakings to which they have set their hand, I feel that, so far as the efficiency of the Navy is concerned, we shall not ask in vain for a continuance of that loyalty and confidence.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
said, he wished to express the satisfaction with which he had listened to the statement of the noble Lord, and had noted the firm stand which he had made against the pressure brought to bear upon him by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) and high authorities outside the House, that he should incur very large expenditure in the shape of cruisers. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) agreed with every word that the First Lord had said on that subject. The fact was that at the present moment immense improvements were being made from year to year in the building of ships of this kind, and the limit of improvement had not yet been reached. If a large number of cruisers of a certain pattern were 1072 built, there could be no doubt that in a very short time, owing to the development of improvements in the machinery and design of the vessels, most of them would be absolutely useless. He should like the Committee to recognize what we had done in the last three or four years in consequence of the programme of Lord Northbrook. Since 1885, when the immense addition was made at the suggestion of Lord Northbrook, we had expended upon ships and guns no less than £8,500,000 in excess of the normal Estimates of previous years. Of that money £4,000,000 had been spent on iron-clads and £4,500,000 on guns, and the result of that expenditure was, to his mind, conclusive to this effect—that we had brought the iron-clad vessels of this country to a point at which we were stronger relatively to the vessels of France and of every country in Europe than we had ever been at any previous period. While this country had been spending increased sums upon iron-clads, it was undoubtedly the fact that France had somewhat slackened her expenditure. She had apparently been rather disheartened by the feeling that we had so completely distanced her, and had come to the conclusion that the best way of defending herself, and possibly attacking this country in the event of war, was to build cruisers to harass our ships, rather than to attempt to meet us on the high seas with more powerful vessels in the shape of iron-clads. He thought that was a wise policy on the part of France. He did not, however, think that what France had done was calculated to cause the least alarm in this country. He listened to the figures given by the First Lord with satisfaction, and he felt quite certain that if we progressed with the same amount of shipbuilding in the future as we had during the last two or three years, rather laying down cruisers than iron-clads, we should not only maintain our position, but should find ourselves, in three or four years' time, as superior to France in respect of cruisers as we were now in the matter of iron-dads. He could only, therefore, express his satisfaction that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had not given way to the tremendous pressure which was brought to bear on him for a large increase in the number of cruisers. The general policy which the noble Lord 1073 had indicated was in his (Mr. Shaw Lefevre's) opinion on the whole satisfactory. He thought they ought, sometimes, to look at the question from the point of view of their opponents as well as from their own point of view. He believed that France had more to fear from us, in the event of naval hostilities, than we had to fear from France. He knew it was the view of many French naval officers that, make what exertions they could in the way of bringing up their naval resources to as high a pitch as they could, in the event of war with this country they would suffer very severely in every direction. There was no question that in the event of war between his country and France, France, in the first place, would lose the Newfound land fisheries; those fisheries would altogether be lost, and in all probability would never be recovered. Then, again, the communications between France and her Colonies would be cut off. In all probability the communications between France and Algeria would be cut off, and he knew that many French officers feared that an insurrection would occur in Algeria which would give considerable trouble to the French Government. Furthermore, the communications between Tonquin and other Colonies would be cut off. He merely pointed that out to show that France had great interests which would suffer very severely in the event of war with us. His own impression was that those considerations were certainly worthy of entertainment. He knew that they were entertained at that moment by French officers, and that was, perhaps, the reason why the French Government endeavoured to bring up their fleet to something like an equality with our own. He understood from the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) that, in the event of better organization at the Admiralty, it would be possible to maintain a very much larger force. He understood the noble and gallant Lord to ray he would not vote any additional money unless he was satisfied of better organization at the Admiralty. Although the noble and gallant Lord disclaimed the suggestion that he was not prepared to vote any money at all, he said that in the event of the Fleet being put in a proper position, the money we now spent would be sufficient to maintain it in a proper con- 1074 dition. The noble and gallant Lord did not, however, explain what expenditure would be necessary to put the Navy in a proper position. He presumed the noble and gallant Lord would desire very considerable expenditure in that direction. He agreed with the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty that it was a mistake to suppose that by any considerable reorganization of the Admirally they could effect any great saving. No doubt, something could be done by improved organization. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) would be glad to lend his aid in that direction, as he had always done previously. He had, no doubt, some thousands of pounds might be saved by better organization in the Dockyards and improved administration at the Admiralty; but to suppose that with that improved organization they could secure such economy as to enable us to increase their Fleet very largely, was an idle dream.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said, that he had stated that his belief was that if the Navy was once put into a state of thorough efficiency and organization, the amount of money now voted would be enough to maintain it at its proper strength and efficiency.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he understood the noble and gallant Lord to suggest a large increase of the Navy.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that to suppose that a large increase of the Navy could be maintained at the present cost, would be altogether an idle dream. Suppose the recommendations of the gallant Admiral, Sir Geoffrey Hornby, were adopted, and a large number of cruisers added to the Navy, the result must be an enormous increase in the cost of the Service; the cost could not possibly be defrayed by the normal Votes year by year; an immediate addition to the ordinary naval expenditure would be required. Nor did he believe that any reorganization or any improvement in the administration of the Admiralty could make up for that increase of expenditure. What he did think was that by better organization in the Dockyard, and by better administration possibly in the Admiralty, no inconsiderable saving might from time to time be effected. But that would not materially affect the 1075 naval armaments of the country, and we could not look in that direction for any large increase of iron-clads or cruisers. The fact was, that in these days a single iron-clad or a few cruisers cost an enormous sum of money which could not be provided for by improved administration. He would conclude by saying he agreed with the general policy as laid down by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty. He thought the noble Lord right in making a stand against this enormous increase of cruisers, and he approved generally of the reductions which had been proposed this year in the Naval Estimates. There was one other point, however, to which he must allude. They were now being asked to vote money for coaling stations and the fortifications of our naval ports. The debate had taken a turn on naval expenditure generally, but the immediate question before the Committee was the provision of money for coaling stations and fortifications. What he objected to in this proposal of the Government was that, at a time when we were reducing our Army and Navy Votes by no less a sum than £1,000,000 sterling, we should be called upon to borrow money for the purpose of meeting this extraordinary expenditure, amounting to about £2,500,000 sterling. He ventured to say that never in the financial history of this country had we been called upon to borrow money to the extent of £2,500,000, at a time when we were reducing military and naval expenditure. That was a proposition against which he must enter his protest. It appeared to him that we ought to provide for this extraordinary expenditure out of the ordinary Estimates of the year.
Order, order! The question which the right hon. Gentleman is now discussing would arise on the next Resolution.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, be thought he might possibly be allowed, as the debate had taken rather a wide turn, to introduce the subject at that point, but, as the Chairman was of opinion it would more properly be discussed on the next Resolution, he would defer any observations he had to make until they came to that Resolution. What they were now called upon to vote was money for coaling stations and the fortifications of naval stations, and that was a somewhat different matter to the 1076 question of the increase of the Navy, which had really been discussed.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
said, that the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), upon which that debate was founded, had nothing to do with the expenditure of money. The hon. and gallant Baronet simply urged that inquiry should be made. Surely that was rational. It was so rational that to some extent it had been conceded. He hoped tile right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), if he took part in the debate, would be good enough to tell them what was to be the nature of the inquiry, and by whom it would be conducted. Were some Members of the Cabinet going to conduct it alone, or would there be associated with them certain officers in whom the public had confidence? Why was it that no assertions of the Government could allay the uneasiness in the mind of the public, when great authorities like Lord Wolseley and the Commander-in-Chief struck some uncertain note about our National Defences. It was undoubtedly true that the public paid almost no attention to the speeches of the Government, or those who represented the Government, and the reason was patent. The public knew and felt that it was owing mainly to the present system of Government—Government by Party—admirable in most respects, but no doubt unsatisfactory in relation to the Army and Navy—that the Government of the day were disinclined to ask for the money which really ought to be spent. The First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) had somewhat misunderstood the Paper to which he alluded. Sir Geoffrey Hornby, in writing his Paper, wrote as a specialist, and he pointed out what we should require if we went to war now. Sir Geoffrey Hornby, however, never maintained that his Paper had to be taken as a complete guide; nothing of the sort. Moreover, Sir Geoffrey Hornby's Paper had not been criticized. He certainly, for one, had criticisms to urge in respect to some portions of the Paper, as well as to the deductions which were drawn from the Paper by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Maryiebone (Lord Charles Beresford) and others who had spoken. 1077 He thought the public were very much misinformed about our Mercantile Marine. Figures were constantly placed before the House and the country about the Mercantile Marine, which largely consisted of millions of tons being thrown together. There was no sort of inquiry into the figures, or anything done to divide them into their component parts. If hon. Gentlemen went into the figures closely, they perhaps would see that the difficulties were not quite so formidable as some seemed to imagine. The interest of this question seemed to have considerably shifted since the Whitsuntide Holidays. Before the Holidays, had he spoken on the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), he should have sought to make out a primâ facie case for inquiry. He should have shown that we were not strong enough; he should have had to make out a case by which the Government might have appointed some Committee of Inquiry. But it was no longer necessary to do that. The First Lord of the Admiralty had told them we were not strong enough. He (Captain Bothell) and his hon. and gallant Friends desired that we should be made strong enough, but not by rushing into any exaggerated expenditure. The First Lord of the Admiralty and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) rested upon the argument that if we built too rapidly and hastily, most of what we built would presently become obsolete. No doubt that was perfectly true; but the same argument applied to everything that was now being built. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone was sanguine enough to hope that the day would come when there would be a standard of expenditure for the maintenance of the Fleet. But progressive expenditure would continue to exist as long as progressive thought existed, and the same science which required us to spend additional money would make it easier for the country to bear the burden. The First Lord of the Admiralty also made some observations upon Lord Wolseley's speech, and asked them to believe that it was quite impossible to suppose that an invasion of this country could take place. The noble Lord's remarks, however, did not display the same care and anxiety to master the subject which 1078 generally characterized his utterances. Before he sat down he should like to remark that two years ago there was a most interesting chapter in the First Lord of the Admiralty's Memorandum on what was called the depreciation of the Fleet. When that chapter appeared he thought it was merely a monument to the mercantile ability of his hon. Friend the Member for the Ormskirk Division of Lancashire (Mr. Forwood); he certainly never thought that any one would make proposals for the future of the Fleet upon that calculation. Was it possible the noble Lord intended to act upon that calculation? [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON assented.] Then it was really possible. He was sure the Committee would receive with astonishment the news that the First Lord of the Admiralty accepted that interesting theoretical statement as being of the slightest practical use. He only regretted that that was not the occasion on which one might criticize it more closely, and that when he had wished to do so, he had not had an opportunity afforded him. No doubt his hon. Friend (Mr. Forwood), if he spoke in this debate, would indicate what was the use to which he could put such calculations.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, that the debate had resolved itself into an internecine fight between the Government and its own supporters. He listened with great interest, as he always did, to the speech of the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), because he knew that the noble Lord was a practical seaman, and he was acquainted with these subjects. He had also listened to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), who was not a practical seaman, and after listening to the two speeches, he was convinced that it was the duty of the Committee to reject this Vote. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone insisted that they ought not to vote money until they knew how the money was going to be expended, and until they had an efficient man to expend it. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty explained to them that the money was really not wanted in any sort of way, that it was perfectly ridiculous that there should be these panics and 1079 alarms on the part of his naval Supporters, and that it was impossible that an army should land in England. He had expected that the noble Lord would conclude his speech by withdrawing the Vote, and he was very surprised he did not do so. Now, what he wanted to know was how much money in all is it proposed that we should spend. They were aware that the most able naval expert in England had suggested that we should spend £21,000,000 immediately, and that we should spend £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 annually beyond what we did now in the maintenance of the Fleet. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone, so far as he (Mr. Labouchere) could gather, suggested that we should spend £7,000,000 per annum; the noble and gallant Lord wished the Sinking Fund to be done away with for a certain number of years, and the money to go towards increasing the Fleet and defences. The noble and gallant Lord wanted more money than even the eminent naval expert who had been alluded to. This large expenditure was based upon two grounds. They were told by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone that we ought to have a Navy at least equal to that of France; in fact, that we ought to have a Navy stronger than France, because we might in case of war lose a few ships, and the consequences would be that we should be on equal lines with France. He (Mr. Labouchere) naturally objected to that. We were not masters any longer of our own expenditure; we had to enter into a competition with France. France had got a certain number of ships, let us build some more. France said "England's got some ships, let us build up to England." Where, he asked, was this insane competition to stop? The noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone himself pointed out the absurdity of it; because, he said, that the First Lord of the Admiralty would never for a moment suggest it, nor would he suggest that we should build a Navy able to cope at the some time with the Navies of France and of Russia. But, if we were to be perfectly safe, we ought to do that, and not only should we be able to meet the Navies of France and of Russia combined, but the Navies of France, Russia, Italy, and all other 1080 countries combined, because large possible alliances might take place. If we were to be absolutely safe, it was clear we must have a Navy not only equal to the Navy of any one particular country, but to the Navies of all countries collectively; and yet no one asserted that such a thing was possible, or that the country would stand it. Another argument was used by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone. The noble and gallant Lord said, what about our food supplies, and he pointed out that while our commerce had vastly increased, our means of defending it had not increased in equal proportion. The noble and gallant Lord said, "You have got Free Trade; you do not raise enough corn in your own country to feed your own people; you are dependent upon foreign corn, therefore it is absolutely necessary you should have a Navy large enough to enable you to import as much corn in British bottoms as is necessary for the requirements of the inhabitants." Did the noble and gallant Lord remember what took place at the Congress of Paris? Did he remember that we agreed to free ships and free goods? What would be the consequences of that, supposing that a war did break out between us and France to-morrow? There would be no necessity for the French Fleet to be equal to ours; all they would require would be half-a-dozen cruisers on the ocean to deprive us of our carrying trade. The result would be that the insurance on British bottoms would go up. Commercial people were practical people, and they would send their goods in the cheapest and safest manner possible. It would be cheaper and surer to send goods in foreign bottoms, and, therefore, without the slightest question as to whether we could or could not defend ourselves against France, all this carrying trade would go into the hands of foreign countries; but against that we should have the advantage, if we could only keep our ports unblockaded, of having a sure supply of food. It was, therefore, by no means necessary, as hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to contend, that we should have a Navy able to defend our commerce in order to feed our population in case of war. By the mere operation of the laws of supply and demand, that food would come in, unless the whole of the inhabitants of the world were banded against us, in which case 1081 we might as well give up the game. There was, he thought, a consensus of opinion on the part of everybody, except those who were officials and those who had been officials, that our naval and military administration was as bad as any administration possibly could be. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty said—Why do you go on talking about the Admiralty? We could not effect an economy amounting to more than £100,000 per annum; and I tell you that would be a mere flea-bite in comparison with what will have to be paid if you want this very efficient Fleet.Let us first of all save this £100,000 per annum. Our Admiralty costs about four the Admiralty of France costs. If France could do the work of the Admiralty for one-fourth, surely England could? Our War Office cost about five times what the War Office of Prussia cost, and yet everybody admitted that the Army of Prussia was better organized than the Army of this country, everybody admitted that money was not grudged in Prussia when it was required. Let us first make this preliminary economy, and reduce the cost of the Admiralty and War Office to what it was in France and Germany. He was a mere civilian, and he always found that military and naval experts agreed with each other in asking for money. They agreed that our ships were not fit to be sent to sea, that the guns in the ships would not go off, and that our soldiers were armed with weapons which were useless. All this was exceedingly serious, and he congratulated hon. Gentlemen in the military and naval professions on bringing the matter before Parliament; but he warned them that they must not run away with the notion that they were going to have unlimited supplies of money. They would be given a reasonable amount of money; but Parliament would look strictly after the expenditure, and expected the country to be defended for the sum of money granted. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone said he did not aid in getting up the present scare. He (Mr. Labouchere) did not think the noble and gallant Lord did; but, undoubtedly, we were face to face with one of those panics which recurred every four or five years. Civilians had a right to complain of what had taken place. Lord Palmerston asked for 1082 £20,000,000 in order to fortify the Channel. What had become of that money? No one knew; it was entirely wasted. [Cries of "No, no!" and "Not a bit of it."] Not a bit wasted. He was glad to hear that, because there was an additional reason why they should not vote the sum now asked for. Anyhow, he would take it that some of the £20,000,000 which Lord Palmerston got had been properly expended, and that a good deal had been wasted. Now, in 1878, what occurred? There was then the "Jingo" craze that took place when Lord Salisbury was in power. We spent a vast amount in strengthening our Fleet; we bought ships here, there, and everywhere; ships which we were told we were to retain in order that they might be used as transports. Another waste of money. In 1885, what occurred? £11,000,000 sterling were voted by this House. Another panic! What had become of that money? He supposed it was expended in purchasing ships. [An hon. MEMBER: It was not expended.] Not expended! Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would say what had become of the £11,000,000. He (Mr. Labouchere) said that it had been in the main wasted. He maintained that every five, six, or seven years down came the military experts, and a little scene took place between the Government and those experts. The Government said the experts asked for too much; but really there was a good deal in what they said, and, therefore, they would give a certain sum of money, He was opposed to all Governments in these matters, because one was precisely as bad as the other. We spent £30,000,000 annually upon our Military and Naval Services, and he thought it was enough; he did not believe they ought to vote any more. Certainly they ought not to vote any more until the administration, which, they were told, was execrable, was entirely altered. He agreed with the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone that they ought not to vote a single penny more until they had received the Reports from the two Commissions which had been appointed. If it could be shown that money had been wasted and squandered, that it was absolutely necessary for defensive, not for offensive purposes that we must buy guns, that we must 1083 fortify our coaling stations, and that this could not be done by the money already voted, then let them vote a moderate sum. It did seem to him perfectly ridiculous that, while it was admitted that the administration was thoroughly bad, and two Commissions were sitting to inquire into the question, and before those Commissions had reported, Parliament should be asked to vote £3,000,000, which was only a portion of what it was intended to spend upon our defences. He observed that Lord, Wolseley in a speech which had attracted considerable attention, pointed out that the Army had increased by 25,000 men, and stated that that was not enough; he wanted more. He (Mr. Labouchere) found that there were 28,000 men in Ireland keeping the Irish quiet. That was naturally the army of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He found also that there were 10,000 men engaged in annexing Burmah; and he also found that there were about 6,000 in Egypt, crushing the Egyptians for no earthly reason. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, what were they for? [The FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. Brodrick) (Guildford): 3,500.] Well, 3,500; he was not very particular. There were, therefore, 28,000 men in Ireland, 10,000 men in Burmah, and 3,500 in Egypt. If the Government ceased coercion in Ireland, if they ceased their occupation in Egypt, and if they would not attempt to annex Burmah, it was obvious they could reduce the Army by 41,000 men, and then be in precisely the same position as they were now.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he did not care whether they were on the Indian establishment or not, he would reduce them. If they had not these men in Burmah, they would not have to send so many men from England, because they had to send men to Burmah from India, and they had to replace the men sent from India by troops sent from England. They always would have to ask for more so long as they went in for a policy of coercion in Ireland and annexation abroad. He was disposed to think that we ought to pay a reasonable rate of insurance to guarantee us against 1084 successful hostile attacks; but we must remember that the policy of Her Majesty's Government at the present time was to utilize 28,000 men in Ireland, to send 10,000 men into Burmah to annex the country, and to have 3,500 men uselessly employed in Egypt. Moreover, one of the allies and guides of the Conservative Government—he alluded to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain)—stated the other day that he was in favour of a grand Imperial policy in Africa. It appeared the right hon. Gentleman would have us go about in Africa carrying out the views of the late Sir Bartle Frere. While these doctrines were in the air, while the present state of things existed as regarded Burmah, Ireland, and Egypt, and while Lord Salisbury was in Europe allying himself with various Empires against other Empires, and seeking in every way to drag us into any war which took place, we ought not to vote in favour of any increase of the Army. Give these Gentlemen more soldiers, and they would use them; give them more ships, and they would use them. Let us stick to the £30,000,000—he spoke in round figures—which we now paid; let us hear what the Commissions which had been appointed had to say; but do not let us vote one single farthing of increased money to be given to men who, they knew, had squandered and wasted that which had already been granted.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he was sorry for once to find himself in opposition to the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). He always looked upon the hon. Gentleman as a real friend of the Navy; for on former occasions when they talked about naval defence, the hon. Gentleman had said—"Oh, I will give you another £1,000,000, I am all for a strong Navy, but you must take it out of the Army." He (Admiral Field) did not think that military men would agree with that proposal; but he held the hon. Member to the promise to give them another £1,000,000 for the Navy, of course on cause shown. It was not difficult, if he only took, as his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Holderness Division of Yorkshire (Captain Bethell) had done, the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, at Derby, who had admitted that the Navy was 1085 not strong enough, and, that being so, his hon. Friend opposite must grant them the extra £1,000,000. They wanted a little more money. He agreed with the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) that they did not demand any fixed sum. They did not feel themselves competent to say what the sum of money ought to be, but they maintained that the First Lord was, according to his own showing, bound to ask for money which was required. In the speech of the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton), which he made at Derby, there were very important admissions. He said that, by a gradual process, they would bring the Navy of the country to a condition that, as a responsible Government, they considered it ought to be brought. But what was to happen in the meantime? If they admitted that the Navy was deficient, and not up to the standard of excellence they said it ought to be, what was to be done in the meantime? On the Government's showing, it would take a series of years to put the Navy in a proper state and condition. What was to happen if a war broke out during the period of improvement? He would put against the opinion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) that of an authority who would be respected—that of the Radical, Mr. Cobden. [Cries of "Oh, oh"] He and his hon. and gallant Friends intended to quote that authority whenever they were opposed by the Radicals. The hon. Member talked as if hon. and gallant Gentlemen had some personal motive in advocating what they now did; but they had no motive except the good of the country. Civilians did not realize the danger as naval men did; but they would be the first men to come, cap in hand, and ask, in case of need, for a gun, boat to be sent to such and such a place to guard their blessed commerce. Naval men were called experts. If they were considered experts, why were they not trusted, especially when, as he had said, they only desired the good of the country? He would make an appeal to another Radical Member, the hon. Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer). He remembered that, not long ago, when the Vote for £850,000, to be spent on the Australian cruisers was taken, the hon. Member 1086 said that if anyone could show him there was a real danger he would vote for the grant. It was his (Admiral Field's) good fortune, a few years ago, to visit the Australian Colonies, and, on the way out, the steamer called at King George's Sound, the most important coaling station on the Australian Coast. What did he learn there? That a Russian Squadron had been there; that an Admiral had gone there with two or three ships, and had left one or two ships outside. The Admiral remained for nearly a week, taking soundings and bearings in every spot. So important did he (Admiral Field) regard the matter, that he wrote home a Report. So important did the Australians consider it—
Order, order! The hon. and gallant Member is referring to a debate on a Resolution which has been passed.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
said, he bowed to the Chairman's ruling. He only wanted to claim the vote of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch. It must be borne in mind that the place he had spoken of was a coaling station, and that this Vote had reference to it. At the time he was there, there were no defences at all, yet it would have been easy to hold the place against all comers by one cruiser. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) said he was against this Vote. He (Admiral Field) maintained that money was wanted now, because the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to which he belonged did not do their duty. The Commission which was appointed in 1879 reported in 1882. The Government of that day knew the weakness of our coaling stations, and if they had done their duty, as they ought with the facts before them, they would have asked Parliament to grant the necessary money to defend the coaling stations, without which it was admitted the Navy could not carry on successfully its operations in the different parts of the world. But the Government of the day would not ask Parliament for the money. He contended that as right hon. Gentlemen opposite failed to do their duty then, they were bound to support the Government now. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman, if he had a conscience, to remember what happened in the past; 1087 if he did, he must certainly vote for this grant. [Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE: I never said I would vote against it.] He was very glad they would have the support of the right hon. Gentleman; but certainly he regarded the right hon. Gentleman's speech as an opposition speech. He never heard or read a speech of a Minister's couched in more moderate or courteous terms than that in which these Resolutions were introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), and it must be very hard oven for Radicals to vote against so moderate a proposal to render our coaling stations and fortifications efficient. He did not understand that there was any provision made for the garrisoning of the coaling stations and fortifications. If there were men to handle the guns, there must be barracks in which the men could live. The question of garrisoning the coaling stations was a very important one, and he, as a naval man, might be pardoned for uttering a naval view in respect to it. He considered that our coaling stations—such stations, for instance, as Hong Kong—should be garrisoned, as far as possible, by Marine Artillery and the Royal Marines. He was fully persuaded that such duty would be very popular amongst the gallant corps he had mentioned. He regretted the view which was taken by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty of the lecture delivered by Sir Geoffrey Hornby. As had been pointed out, that essay or lecture was not given forth as binding the Naval Service to every opinion expressed in it; but it was put forth as a very able statement, a statement showing the danger to which our commerce was exposed. He admitted that no naval man would like to pin himself to every word in that lecture; but there was no doubt that the lecture was a very clear and able statement of the danger which was ahead of the country, and no one in the British Navy was more competent to point out that danger than the gallant Admiral (Sir Geoffrey Hornby). The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) looked upon expenditure as an insurance; but he was against any increased expenditure. Upon the question of insurance, he (Admiral Field) asked the hon. Gentleman's attention to a very able statement made some time ago by Admiral Fanshawe, 1088 who made a comparison between the state of things in 1837 and 1887. The gallant Admiral showed that, in 1837, the Naval Vote was under £5,000,000 annually, but that then our commerce only amounted to the value of £124,000,000. In 1887, however, the Naval Vote amounted to £12,700,000, but our exports and imports were of the value of £645,000,000. The proportion of the Naval Vote in 1837 to the commerce of that time was 3.56 per cent. The proportion of the Navy Vote in 1887 to the then commerce was under 2 per cent; so that we were really spending 1½ per cent less upon the Navy in proportion to the commerce than it was deemed necessary to spend in 1837. One was almost ashamed to stand up and defend the Government in proposing such a small Vote as this. This Vote needed no defence. Every thoughtful man must know it was right that this Vote should be passed. A very well-known French writer had said it was astonishing that the richest country in the world should be behind all Continental nations in the manufacture of its guns. Who was responsible for this? His (Admiral Field's) words were of very little value; but he maintained that somebody was responsible, and that somebody deserved impeachment, if not hanging, for the present state of things. Here was the richest country in the world, and we had got no guns to put into some of our first-class ships. At the present time, the Channel Squadron was composed of three ships and a gunboat, and every one of the three ships was of an obsolete type. Two ships, the Sultan and the Téméraire, were to be sent to the Mediterranean. If war came upon us, we should not have sufficent battle ships to hold the Mediterranean and to do duty in the British Channel. That being so, he and his hon. and gallant Friends asked, first of all, the First Lord of the Admiralty, who, by his own speeches, said he was not satisfied with the present condition of the Naval Forces of the country, to meet them half-way. All they asked for was an efficient and exhaustive inquiry. They wanted the Government to consent to some kind of inquiry. The First Lord of the Treasury had said that this was a Cabinet question; but he (Admiral Field) maintained that the First Lord of the Treasury and his Colleagues, 1089 as a Cabinet, were not competent to deal with a question like this. He did not assume that they would attempt to deal with it by themselves, for he conceived they would call in the assistance of experienced naval and military men. He took that as a necessary deduction from what they proposed to do. All they wanted was an inquiry, and they were not satisfied with the inquiry which had hitherto taken place. They maintained that the Government had no definite naval policy, and that no Government before them had ever had a definite naval policy. All Governments since 1805 or 1814 had been living on the prestige of the Navy of England, and the grand deeds done by our forefathers, the great giants of those days. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; prestige was a grand thing; but it was not a thing to live upon when the whole state of things was completely changed. Science had advanced by leaps and bounds, and the problem was altogether different from that which had to be discussed in 1805 and 1814. He contended that civilians were not competent to discuss, by themselves, such matters. Naval men had no definite proposal to make. It was not their duty to make one. They admitted that the Government were responsible; but they said—"You are not alive to the changed condition of naval warfare, and although you are keeping the Navy ahead of the French Navy, it is nothing like what it was ahead of the French Navy in former days." What was the proportion 50 years ago? In 1837 England had built, or building, 90 line-of-battle ships and 93 frigates. France at that time had 49 line-of-battle ships and 60 frigates. In other words, we had 41 more line-of-battle ships and 33 more frigates; but what was the proportion now? The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty could not say that the present proportion was satisfactory. It was nothing like the proportion which our forefathers, who were responsible for the naval policy of the country, thought it necessary to observe. He contended that the Government had to make a strong case indeed before they could show they ought to change the naval policy of old. He said that the Government had nothing to guide their judgment. The Government had had no naval war, the fate of the country had never been imperilled, and he 1090 and his hon. and gallant Friends asserted that if the Government lived on the prestige of the past, they ought to adopt the policy of the past. Until they adopted something like the policy of the past, they had no right to rail at naval officers, and call them panic-mongers. They had not much sympathy with the Chief Magistrate of the City of London, who wrote letters to the newspapers about naval men—men who were as honest as the Lord Mayor himself, men who possessed knowledge on the subject, and men who had but one desire, and that was to wake up the country to the real danger besetting it. It was only by bringing pressure to bear upon the Government that they realized their responsibility. It was not until the scare of 1885 fell upon the late Government that they had the courage to come to Parliament and ask for £11,000,000, about which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had been railing. The late Government were driven to do that by the pressure of public opinion; and he believed that after the meeting was held in London to-morrow, the present Government would be driven to examine more closely into the question. They would be driven, he hoped, to come to Parliament, and, if necessary, ask for more money. He did not ask the Government to adopt Sir Geoffrey Hornby's policy; and it was not fair for the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to attempt to pin all naval men to the view of one naval officer, however eminent he might be. It was something, to his mind, shocking and revolting to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton talking about the commerce of England passing under a neutral flag, because when once we lost our commerce we should find it very difficult indeed to get it back again. In the time of the great Civil War, America was not able to defend her commerce on the high seas; it passed away from her, and now she bad no commerce worth mentioning. He wished to emphasize all that had been said by his noble and gallant Friend the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford). It was the duty of patriotic men to create a batter opinion upon this subject in London, the great centre of progressive thought, because until they did that it was impossible that the country 1091 could be roused from its present position of reckless indifference upon this question.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
said, he was glad to hear the statement of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty that, in future, we should not have so much delay in the delivery of heavy guns; and he thought the House was entitled to some congratulation on the subject, partly in consequence of the Return moved for by his noble and gallant Friend the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Berosford). He thought, however, that the House would require to have some further information on this subject. He found from the Returns that only 15 guns above 9 inches diameter were delivered between January and December, 1887. He did not think that we ought to rely solely on the firms of Whitworth and Armstrong and on Woolwich alone for our guns. His hon. Friend the Member for the Jarrow Division of Durham (Sir Charles Palmer) had made an appeal to the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the intentions of the Board with regard to these guns. He (Mr. R. W. Duff) did not know where the money was to come from, as sufficient was not taken for the purpose in the Estimate. [The SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Forwood) (Lancashire, Ormskirk): Yes.] But when the Estimates were introduced the First Lord replied to his criticism by saying that it was of no use taking more money, because the ships could not be supplied with any more guns at present. He was glad to see the improved tone adopted by the noble Lord in his speech at Derby. He said that we must have these guns, although he had not given them any information as to where the guns were to come from. They required at least 30 or 40 guns to be delivered in the course of 12 months for the supply of the Service. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: They are ordered.] They might be ordered; but they had no guarantee that the guns would be supplied within the proper time, and he wanted some assurance that the delay which had occurred would not again arise. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) told them the other night that the time had now arrived for action. That 1092 was a good sentiment; but he wanted to know what action the Government had taken? He should have expected them to say that, finding there was a deficiency of guns, they had gone into the market, and thrown tenders open to some large commercial firms. The Return before the House showed conclusively that Sir William Armstrong and Messrs. Whitworth had failed to supply the guns required in the specified time; and he thought that the House and the country would not be satisfied unless they had some definite information as to the source from which the guns were to come. The Return showed conclusively that those two firms could not supply the guns wanted; and unless the Government were prepared to throw open the competition for guns to other firms besides those now employed, he did not think they would be able to make up the large deficiency which at present existed, and which rendered many of our vessels quite useless. He hoped the Government would, before the debate closed, give the Committee some assurance that active steps would be taken to redress the scandal he referred to.
§ GENERAL FRASER (Lambeth, N.)
said, military men quite admitted that the first line of defence was the Navy; but, from what they had heard with regard to its state that evening, they thought it was time to claim an inquiry into the organization of the Army, and that the country should be taken into confidence on many points connected with it. They had the evidence of the Commander-in-Chief with regard to the defence of the country, and he would like to read a few words from the evidence.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I rise to Order, Sir. The evidence of His Royal Highness is not before the House, and I object to any quotation from that evidence taken from the newspapers.
I would point out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that evidence given before a Committee is not admissible until it is presented to the House.
§ GENERAL FRASER
said, he understood that the Committee was an open Court; but if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War did not wish him to refer to the statement of His Royal Highness, he would reserve his remarks until another opportunity presented itself.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
said, they might hope, and even confidently believe, that they might never again be involved in war with France or Germany by any direct cause; but they must remember that those great Powers were kept in a state of unnatural tension by their mutual antagonism. The old line, "Tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet," applied in a certain sense to us, even though our party wall was a stretch of blue sea. Great was that bulwark and fortunate was our position compared with that of a Continental nation; but in the very greatness of our sea bulwark there lurked a danger that we should regard our position as absolutely impregnable, which it was not. Anyone who read the history of the American War must be certain that the demands of our Navy to protect our commerce in time of war would be enormous. If we ever became involved in any great naval war we should have our ships drawn away in all directions, and might find our Naval Force in the vicinity of these Islands inferior to that of our antagonists, and might temporarily lose command of the Channel. If an independent inquiry were held, it would establish two things—one, that in the present day it was impossible to rely upon the Navy alone, and that the Government must organize those large forces which the spirit of the country had given; and the other, that the administration of the Navy was absolutely unfitted to cope with a future great naval war. Not only was the question of tactical arrangement in the future very difficult to gauge, but it was certain that the control of the Fleet would he very much more at Whitehall than it had done hitherto; the Admiral would never be able to get away from the wire; he would always be receiving messages to say—"My Lords, order this," or, "My Lords, order that." He hoped that the Committee presided over by the noble Lord the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington) would seriously consider the position of the Admiralty with regard to any great naval war in the future. He could not sit down without entering a distinct protest against the frivolous way in which the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had dealt with the 1094 question of the possibility of invasion. He was certainly surprised to hear the tone taken up by the noble Lord. Everybody who had considered the question had felt that the only chance of an enemy would occur if and when they gained temporary command of the Channel. However difficult that might be, they must not regard it as impossible; and, at the same time, it must be borne in mind that the force which might be landed in the first instance, need not be a very large one; a comparatively small force might land and effect a lodgment behind defensive ground protecting the disembarkation of the mass of the Army. He was bound to say that, in his opinion, a Committee of experts would tell the House that this opinion was correct, and he believed that the country would make a great mistake in accepting the words of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty. He wished to give every credit to the Government for applying for the Vote on Account of the coaling stations, because it was a most necessary one, and he trusted some steps would be taken to secure a better supply of guns in the future. It appeared to him that in dealing with that most treacherous material, steel, no margin, or at any rate, no sufficient margin had been allowed for failures in ordinary guns. He had no doubt that if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War applied his energies to meet the difficulty, we should soon find ourselves in a much better position. The history of modern artillery resembled a game of leap frog, the nation which was behind profiting by the improvements of those before it passed to the front.
§ MR. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
said, this question appeared to him to have been treated entirely as a question for specialists. They were asked for £2,600,000 for some indefinite object, and he could imagine that many men who read the report of this debate would do so with a sensation of fury and despair that so much time should have been wasted, and so much money voted, to defend them against an enemy which might not, perhaps, be to them very tangible. It seemed to him that all Members of the House were united in the object of making the country strong; but he con- 1095 tended that a tithe of the money now asked for, if it were applied in assisting the poor and unemployed, would make the country far stronger than £30,000,000 spent in armaments. He took it that they could not have a strong country while the majority of the people were miserable and discontented. What could it possibly matter to hundreds of thousands of their fellow-subjects whether they were under the rule of Prussia, or Austria, or France? They could starve equally well under any rule. It was, therefore, a bitter satire that the Government would not stop for one hour a discussion on this subject to consider the position of the unemployed in the country. He presumed that when the Government got that money they would use it for some object, and that that would be to provoke a collision with other nations. But the danger was not from collision with foreign nations; and if either of the Front Benches were ill-advised enough for Party strife to go to war with foreign nations, the real danger would not arise from that cause, but from the hopeless multitudes in this country. He, therefore, hoped a Division would be taken in order to show that there were, at least, a few Members of that House who had some regard for the condition of those multitudes.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
said, he observed a tendency in several speeches to ask the House and the country to rely for the safety of their commerce on neutral ships. It was said that if we went to war we need not have cruisers or armaments, because under the Declaration of Paris we could carry on the commerce of the country in neutral ships. But he wished hon. Members who used that argument to remember that there were not enough neutral ships in the world to carry our commerce, and that, in order to carry out such a programme, we should first have to part with our own shipping property to neutrals. He did not think the country would agree to do that. To part with our shipping, by which a vast proportion of the population got their living, and by which national trade operations were carried on, meant, in fact, parting with something, perhaps, more valuable than territory. But there was another point to which those who held this 1096 doctrine would do well to pay attention—namely, that it was not at all certain that the neutral flag would secure our food supply, because we had the recent experience of France in the operations in China, when, for purposes of war, she declared rice and food to be contraband of war. We had accepted that doctrine, and should, therefore, be bound by it ourselves; and, however this question might be regarded, he thought a thorough examination would show that if the safety of our food and commerce was to be secured in war, it could only be effected by our own exertions and the strength of our own right arm. Another argument used was with reference to the question of coaling. It was said that the armed raiders of an enemy could not keep the sea, owing to the necessity of replenishing their coal. But in certain parts of the world there would be no difficulty whatever in a belligerent getting as much coal from a neutral Power as was necessary to carry on the operations of war. At many ports on the South American Continent, for instance, hostile cruisers could obtain coal, and if we used those ports we should be at a positive disadvantage as compared with our enemy. Supposing we were at war with Russia and the squadrons of the two countries went into Monte Video for coal; according to the arrangements of International Law, the Russian Squadron could get enough coal to carry it to Sebastopol, while ours could only get enough for a few days steaming to the Falkland Islands—the Russian Squadron would then be able to take up a position on the Equator and hold it with an ample supply of coal. He thought that a careful and impartial investigation into the condition of the Empire in regard to its defences had never been made. They had only had patchwork inquiries. A Royal Commission inquired in 1859 and 1860, within narrow limits, as to the fortification of certain ports named; but that was not an inquiry into the defences of the Empire, but only into a small portion of them. Then they also had a Royal Commission in regard to the Navy; but its inquiry was held entirely separate from any inquiry as to the Army, whereas both Services ought to have been taken in connection with each other. In 1879 there was another 1097 Royal Commission, which dealt with the protection of British Possessions and commerce abroad, but excluded all other branches of the subject. They had never had a Commission to take up the whole question in its entirety and say—"Here is the geographical and economic position that we occupy; and the question is, what are the naval and military arrangements necessary to secure it in case of war?" It was because he felt the importance of abandoning this patchwork system that he heartily joined in and supported the action of so many Members of the House in urging on the Government the necessity of such an inquiry as would enable the country really to understand this great and complex question. It was impossible that this Empire could ever be engaged in any operations of war, offensive or defensive, in which both Services would not be engaged. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had made no case whatever against the necessity for comprehensive inquiry, and had made no allusion whatever to the important question of battle-ships. He had passed in silence over the objections of the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) and of the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Admiral Mayne) on that point; but, after all, the key of the whole naval problem was the battle-power of the nations who might be engaged in war. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had referred to remarks which had been made as to an enemy being able to throw 100,000 men on these shores, and he proceeded to quote the information that he had received from the Transport Office. He was glad the noble Lord had obtained that information, and made the statement he had made, because he had always felt that the idea of throwing 100,000 men quite casually on our shores would be found not to rest on a firm footing of possibility; but he begged to point out to the noble Lord that he had put the saddle on the wrong horse, because the head of the Intelligence Department of the War Office had stated publicly and officially before a Select Committee of that House that in three weeks 150,000 men could be landed on our coast. On a 1098 former occasion, he had challenged the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) to state the source of that information, and the data upon which it rested, and the right hon. Gentleman was unable to tell him. It amounted to this—that the War Office was assuming naval conditions without inquiry. He would point out that they were now asked to vote £2,600,000 for military demands which had been based on naval assumptions that had not been examined.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I beg the hon. and gallant Gentleman's pardon. As a matter of fact, the Army Intelligence Department and the Naval Intelligence Department are in constant communication.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said, the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had stated that it was impossible for 100,000 men to be conveyed across the Channel without absorbing the total carrying power of France, and that the operation would consume weeks. On the other hand, the head of the Intelligence Department of the War Office had stated that 150,000 men could be landed on the shores of this country in three weeks. Well, what he wanted to know was this. If these two Departments were in such close communication, why did they not agree in their data and their facts? This was his point—that working the defence of the country under two Departments without central control they never got at the truth, or at a correct basis as to how they should proceed. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to say whether he repudiated the statement of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, or whether he repudiated the statement of the head of the Intelligence Department of the War Office? Here was to be found ample justification for the position taken up by those men in the House and in the country who demanded that there should be an inquiry into the whole system on which they relied for the defence of this country and our Colonial Possessions. He did not wish to detain the House, but he desired, if possible, that there should be some clear issue raised as to the expenditure of this £2,600,000. This money was to be voted for the purpose of defending cer- 1099 tain ports from naval attack; but naval attack was a matter entirely dependent on naval conditions. The possibility of attack rested upon reasonable probabilities of the result of war between two Maritime Powers, one of them being Great Britain; and, in the Memorandum in which these proposals were ushered in, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State said that in preparing the Estimate for the present year the Government had felt it to be their duty to carefully consider the position of our defences in all parts of the Empire. He was bound to say that we were getting on better with the defence of our Colonies than ever before, as the Government were apparently determined to face the whole question, and not to fiddle with bits of it at a time. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, in his Memorandum, seemed to deal with the question of our naval superiority as a matter of popular feeling. Well, the Navy was not the right hon. Gentleman's business. He maintained that the amount of superiority which we were to possess in order to give us security was not a matter of popular feeling at all, but a subject for calculation; and he, therefore, asked for an inquiry that a satisfactory result might be arrived at. The next thing as to the result of this view of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War was this—that they were asked to grant this £2,600,000 for the construction of military works, and a Committee, partly composed of Members of the House, had been called to aid the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to consider the question. It was assumed that the Channel might be temporarily lost to us, owing to the fact of the Channel Squadron being absent or disabled. Now, that was a very large assumption. What he wanted to know was whether the collateral facts of our loss of the Channel had been at all considered, because such a condition of things involved a great deal more than a possible attack upon certain military ports. It involved the suspension of all exports and imports, and of all business and commercial transactions. It involved the assumption that the Channel Squadron was not a Channel Squadron, but a Squadron for general service anywhere and everywhere be- 1100 yond the Channel. That was what was covered by this assumption. It involved the assertion of our naval inferiority, and that our naval means did not admit of our having a reserve Squadron behind the Fleets and Squadrons necessarily advanced to more distant areas beyond the Channel. These were very broad assumptions, and they were all governed by the one assumption which the Committee was ordered by the War Office to accept. The general assumption to which he referred also involved an assumption as to time, for the period of three weeks was mentioned. Now, he wanted to know, if they were going to assume the loss of the Channel, why they should assume a limit of time at all; and, furthermore, an arbitrary limitation of 21 days? Having started that assumption, which was not substantiated by inquiry into the naval condition of this country, a whole lot of arbitrary assumptions were involved, and it was on the basis of these arbitrary assumptions that the Committee were asked to spend £2,600,000 upon military works. The Committee were told that the military ports—that was to say, principally those at Portsmouth and Plymouth, and the works on the Thames—might be attacked by a powerful Squadron of iron-dads, and that it was therefore desirable to spend this money to put these places in a position to resist that attack after we had lost command of the Channel. But why was it presumed only necessary to resist an attack by a Squadron? Why not by a whole Fleet? For when we lost command of the Channel we would be liable to such an attack. What was the use of only preparing for an attack by a Squadron? Then they passed on to the military ports in the Mediterranean; and here, again, because they would not face an inquiry as to the actual condition of things in order to ascertain the relative strength of the Navies of the world, they had got into a regular tangle of arbitrarily assumed conditions which would not be of any real advantage. The Committee declared that on the maintenance of the fortresses of Malta and Gibraltar depended our position in the Mediterranean, and they said that we must be prepared to face a possible attack by 1101 powerful iron-clads at Malta, and an attempt to land a large land force. But if we were unable to maintain a naval superiority in the Mediterranean necessary to render improbable such an attack on Malta and Gibraltar and an attempt to land a large force, we must assume a great deal more than an attack upon Gibraltar and Malta. These very iron-clads and transports, with these large bodies of troops which the Committee had in their mind, were not bound to go to Gibraltar and Malta. It was proposed that we should spend our money to defend Gibraltar and Malta against such an attack; but what might happen? Why, instead of attacking these fortresses, the enemy might go to Port Said, and, coaling there, pass through the neutralized Canal to Aden, which they would only find fortified to resist an attack of cruisers. They might master Aden, and then the whole of our supremacy in Eastern waters would be at an end. He thought we might very well pause to examine the condition of things which this would bring about, and refuse binding ourselves to accept any remedy until we had carried out our investigation. Driven from one assumption to another, we were brought to consider the defences of our mercantile ports. Having assumed the loss of the Channel and the absence of our Fleet, we were asked to spend money on fortifications in order to secure our commercial ports—against what? Not against the attacks of powerful iron-clads, not against the attacks of a squadron, but only against the attacks of a couple of armed cruisers with torpedo boats and other small craft. We should bear this in mind—that if we had lost our command of the Channel it would be the enemy and not ourselves that would determine the amount of force that would be brought against these commercial ports. The matter would not be left to chance by a Committee of the House of Commons or a Committee of the War Office of this country; and he therefore declared that that was another and stronger proof of the necessity for a real inquiry into the whole of the requirements, military and naval, of this Empire. Such an inquiry as he asked for would not regard this subject in a piecemeal way, considering a bit of defence here, and a bit of de- 1102 fence there, but would go into the whole matter of the protection required to insure the real safety of the country; and the Committee might rest assured that until such an inquiry was set on foot, and steps were taken to settle this matter as a whole and once and for all, they would find these scares continually arising; they would find weaknesses staring them in the face, and he continually wasting money and finding themselves further than over from economy and efficiency. He did not blame the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War and the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty for anything they had done in connection with the Services under their management. On the contrary, he thought that they deserved every credit for what they had done since they had been in Office. The faults lay not with them, but with the system of dealing with so great a problem as that of the defence of the Empire by fits and starts. For what the First Lord and the Secretary of State for War had done he cordially thanked them; but he believed that not all their efforts, nor the efforts of all the men as able as themselves at the War Office and the Admiralty, would be able to prevent waste and weakness and danger in the event of war, unless something were done to bring about a more thorough system of the application of fixed principles of defence.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
said, he would not stultify the vote he gave the other night by voting for the Government on the present occasion. He would endeavour to be as consistent as he possibly could in opposing the waste of the national resources in the manner proposed by the Government. He would repeat what he had said the other day upon this subject. He appealed to hon. Members opposite, who assumed to be thoroughly au fait with this subject, to tell the House where the danger was likely to come from, and where the enemy was to be found. Notwithstanding the repeated appeals he had made to those hon. Members, no attempt had been made to prove that any real danger existed, or that any attempt was likely to be made on our shores, especially if we minded our own business. The only country to which 1103 reference was made, and from which danger seemed to be apprehended, was France. Well, he had hoped that we had lived down that folly. Twenty or 30 years ago we were periodically frightened out of our propriety by French scares. The people of this country were then made to believe there was a real danger to be apprehended from France. But even if there had been it had passed away now, and the people of France, who were now supreme in that country as they were here, were pacifically disposed. There was not the slightest desire or intention on the part of the people of France to invade our shores, any more than there was on our part to invade theirs. It was stated by one hon. Member that the people of France were responsible for the last great war that took place there; and it was more than hinted that if the people of France had been responsible for that war they might at some time or other, perhaps at no very distant date, make another effort of that kind, and direct it to our shores rather than in the direction in which it was previously made. He (Mr. Cromer) challenged that statement altogether. He denied emphatically that the people of France were responsible for the last war. It was not a war entered into by the people of France, but by the Emperor of France. The people of France were altogether opposed to it. He did not know if it was in the recollection of hon. Members, but, if not, he would recall their attention to the fact, that when the Government of September took possession of the Government archives they unearthed a number of documents of a most remarkable character, which threw a most remarkable light upon the war and on the way in which it was entered upon. It was then proved—and hon. Members could see the documents themselves whenever they chose to ask the permission of the French Government to do so—that, some weeks prior to the breaking out of the Franco-Prussian War, the Emperor applied to the Prefects of Departments for information as to the state of public opinion in the various Departments. Everyone knew that the office of Prefect was one of considerable honour and emolument; and, notwithstanding that the Prefects at this time knew that their Imperial Master wanted 1104 them to say that a war would be popular, they risked his displeasure and their own dismissal, for 90 per cent of them told the truth, and declared that the war would be by no means popular, and that the people did not want it. Those documents were never published to the world by the Emperor. They were withheld, and their existence only became known after the fall of the Empire. This was a remarkable proof of the fact that the people of France were not responsible for the Franco-German War. But it was said that the people cheered the troops as they marched out of Paris. He denied that the French people did any such thing. It was true that there was a cry of "On to Berlin!" but that was a manufactured cry, as people now knew. There were, however, thousands of people who cried "Vive la Paix!" but they were laid hold of by the police and dragged into the station-house and barracks, which were full of peacefully-disposed citizens. As he had said, the cry for war was manufactured and the cry for peace was suppressed. Well, if the people of France were peacefully inclined in that day they were more so now. Monsieur Ollivier—who was Prime Minister of France in the time of Napoleon—was now the most unpopular man in that country, and why? Because of the support he gave the Emperor in his war projects. Monsieur Jules Ferry was almost equally odious in the eyes of the people on account of the Madagascar and Tonquin Expeditions. Everyone knew how the people of France had swept M. Jules Ferry and most of the Opportunists away a short time ago. But they had another person to the fore now in France—there was the Boulanger scare. He (Mr. Cremer) did not know whether hon. Members generally had noticed it, but he himself had noticed that, in all the addresses General Boulanger had delivered to the French people in the Department in which he had been wooing their suffrages, he had been careful to tell them—and he knew well the pacific character of the people—that his election meant peace. What did that mean but a tribute on the part of Boulanger and his friends, and an acknowledgment of the pacific character of the French people. If that was the case, where was the danger to this country 1105 likely to come from? No reference had been made to any other country than France; and with regard to that country, besides the facts he had adduced, there were many others which could be mentioned which would prove that no danger whatever was likely to come from that quarter. He again, then, asked where the danger was likely to come from, and where was the enemy? Unless he received a satisfactory answer to the question—to him and to a large number of people out-of-doors a very important question—he should not support the Government in their demand. He did not believe the people of England were in that state of fear and anxiety which they were said to be in by hon. Gentlemen opposite—which they were said to be in by those representing the Services, and he denied that a handful of Gentlemen connected with the Army and Navy represented the people of the United Kingdom. Some years ago, when most of the people were unenfranchised, the Representatives of the Services and a handful of Ministerialists had things pretty well their own way; but now millions had to be reckoned with. A very different state of things now existed; and when he remembered that not a single Petition had been presented upon the subject, and that the only meeting which had been got up in support of the alarmists was composed almost exclusively of men belonging to the Army and Navy, it did not look as if the people of the country were very much alarmed, or thought that there was any likelihood of an invasion of the shores of our country. If any such dread really existed, we should not only have demonstrations in London, but every town, village, and hamlet, would hold demonstrations, and call upon their Representatives to do their duty. In such an event, Parliament would not find the people grudging £2,600,000, or 20 times that sum; but until the Government proved to the people that there was an enemy likely to invade our shores, they were not the true exponents of the feelings of the country when they asked for this sum of money to pour into the military abyss. The last time he had spoken on this subject he had referred to the Palmerstonian craze or scare, of the money granted at the time of the Franco-Prus- 1106 sian War, and also to the Penjdeh scare, and the fact that £11,000,000 was wasted in the defence of a strip of land which all the world now knew not to be worth 2s. 6d. As to the alleged danger to our coaling stations, it was a remarkable thing that such a danger had only just been discovered. For centuries we had got along very well without taking extraordinary measures for the defence of our coaling stations; and was there any guarantee that if this money were voted it would be usefully applied? He had pointed out the other day, and he would now repeat the statement, that the £20,000,000 voted during the Palmerstonian craze or scare had been almost entirely wasted. For what was the fact? Take the forts round Portsmouth. These forts were erected at considerable cost, and when erected had from that time to the present remained almost empty. There had never been an ounce of gunpowder in any one of them. Four hundred guns had been dragged up to them, and for years were allowed to remain outside unmounted. When a Question was put in the House as to why these guns were allowed to lie in the mud outside these forts, an attempt was made to conceal the truth from the nation, and the guns were dragged into the forts; but from that day to this only about 25 had been mounted on the fortifications. These 400 guns, which had been dragged up to the fortifications at a cost of £5 a-piece, had been allowed to remain for 11 years without being mounted, and were then, at the same cost, dragged back again. What reason was there to think that this state of things would not be repeated in regard to the Vote now asked for for the defence of our coaling stations? He considered it likely that there would be a repetition of this waste from the fact that the noble Lord the then First Lord of the Treasury stated in the House, not long ago, that when he was at the Treasury three years back orders were given for a considerable number of guns, and that Her Majesty's Government were hoping that those guns would shortly be delivered. Well, if it took three years to manufacture guns to place on our fortifications, it seemed to him (Mr. Cremer) that the time had come when they should set themselves to 1107 work to devise other means of settling disputes than by the use of guns. It was not likely that an enemy would give us three years' notice of his intention to invade our shores in order to enable us to have guns ready to meet him. The burglar did not notify his intention to burgle; and he supposed that if either Russia or France intended to invade this country they would not give us three years' notice; but unless they did they would find us totally unprepared to meet them. This was an additional reason why he should vote against the demand made by the Government. He would not further occupy the time of the Committee than to say that we could learn a very good lesson in common sense from the people on the other side of the Atlantic. The United States had a much more extended seaboard to defend than we had in the United Kingdom. It was quite true that they had no Colonies; but when we took into account the vast seaboard of the United States, and the vast wealth of that country—there being more wealth stored up there than we possessed here—it would, perhaps, surprise some hon. Members opposite to learn that Brother Jonathan slept soundly at night without being frightened by the nightmare of invasion. How did Brother Jonathan manage to sleep so soundly and get along so well? It was simply because he minded his own business, and had not got it into his head that it was his business to go all over the world annexing every part of the earth that it was possible to annex, and showing everyone how they should govern themselves. If we had learned how to conduct our own business, and to leave other people to mind theirs, and to rule themselves in their own form and fashion, he believed we should have some rest from the scares which afflicted a portion of our countrymen from time to time. For the reasons he had given, and because he did not believe there was any danger to be apprehended, and because he did not believe the people outside the House cared one fig for the attempt that was being made to manufacture a public opinion on this subject, he should certainly vote against the proposal of the Government.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he rose to entreat the Committee to come to a con- 1108 clusion upon the Resolution now before them. There were several Resolutions following the one now under discussion, and as the evening was pretty well advanced it would be seen that it was now desirable that a Division should be taken. There had not been, so far, any tangible opposition to the proposals of the Government. So far from there having been any, they had heard a good deal in the shape of suggestions—on the Ministerial side of the House at any rate—that the main fault which the Government were committing was that they were not asking for money enough. He could not help thinking, however, that the matter had been sufficiently debated, and that the Committee might now come to a conclusion. There were only one or two questions which had been addressed to him personally which he wished to deal with before he sat down. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Major Rasch) had repeated a statement which he had dealt with more than once. In replying to this statement again, he was happy to be able to tell the House that at the present moment they had a better supply of powder than they had had for many years past, and that all the powder they were getting and hoped to get had been, and would be, manufactured in this country. As to the question of the supply of big guns, he fully admitted that that was the greatest difficulty of the present situation. That subject, beyond all others, had occupied the attention of the Government during the last few weeks; and he hoped to be able, before long, to prove conclusively to the House that they had been able to deal with the matter with a considerable amount of success. This deficiency in the number of big guns arose from a variety of causes, the first of all being the fact that the guns had not been ordered. With regard to the land service guns, in particular, there could be no doubt that up to the time, not many months ago, when he, with the authority of his Colleagues, ordered some of these guns, no guns of a modern pattern had been ordered for land service. The Government, therefore, could not be to blame, after having done their utmost in that direction, if they asked the country to wait a little before the guns were supplied. They 1109 had done everything they possibly could to facilitate the supply of guns both for land and for sea service. There was one difficulty in particular to which attention had been called by many people who had considered the question, and that difficulty was that the country had had no adequate and sufficient place for proving the big guns when they came to hand. It had been pointed out that the land they possessed at Shoeburyness was altogether inadequate for the purpose of the trial of those heavy guns. Well, the Government had applied themselves to remedy that defect, and they intended to acquire sufficient land at Shoeburyness to enable the trial of guns to be proceeded with as quickly as possible; and, without delay, it was their intention to make such provision for the trial of guns and projectiles at Shoeburyness as would obviate the delay which had occurred in the past. The Government had been forced more and more to place reliance for the supply of guns upon the trade, and not so much upon the Royal Gun Factory, and that was a policy they intended to pursue in the future. They could not reasonably expect to rely wholly on their Gun Factory, and they proposed to utilize to the full the resources of the trade so far as the interests of the country required. But when some hon. Gentlemen spoke about asking the great firms to tender for the supply of big guns, and dealt with the question as though it were only necessary to give orders in order to have several firms proceeding to supply heavy ordnance forthwith, they could not understand half the difficulties of the problem. With the exception of the firms of Messrs. Whitworth and Sir William Armstrong, firms could not undertake to accept contracts for the supply of big guns. It would take at least a year to lay down the necessary plant for the manufacture of those guns before the firm could turn out a single weapon. If, therefore, the Government wanted big guns for immediate service, they could not go to firms that would have to occupy 12 months in laying down plant before they could begin to manufacture. He hoped the Committee would forgive him for clearing up those two or three points. He did not believe that there were any other matters with which it was necessary that he should delay 1110 the Committee, because there would be other opportunities for making observations in the course of the discussion on the Bill on points which might arise. He did not think that anyone who had listened to the debate could have failed to observe that they had been going over ground which they had gone over on previous occasions when they had discussed the matter; and, considering that they were now only on the preliminary stage of this Resolution, he hoped that the Committee would allow the debate upon it to close.
§ MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
said, that it had not been his intention to rise to discuss this question, and he should not have done so had it not been for the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. He quite understood the anxiety of the right hon. Gentleman to have this question no further discussed. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to have a Vote, and to have as little discussion upon it as possible. Now, he (Mr. Joicey) had not had the pleasure of listening to the whole debate upon this question; but he had heard the observations which had fallen from the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), and he was bound to say that he very much approved of the bulk of his utterances on this subject. The noble and gallant Lord was accused of making sensational speeches throughout the country. He thought if there was one question which the country ought to be well informed upon with regard to our national defences it was the question of our Navy. It had been said that we depended, to a large extent, for our food upon foreign supplies, and he felt sure that every section of the House wished that we should have these food supplies secured so far as we could secure them; for he could not think that, however we might increase our Navy, we should be able altogether to protect every ship bringing our supplies, whether it was a British ship or a foreign ship, from capture. The noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty had said he was anxious to give the commercial interests of this country immunity from danger; but he (Mr. Joicey) was satisfied of this—that how- 1111 ever large our Navy might be, the noble Lord would find, in the event of a war breaking out, that there would be an Alabama here and there which would be able to do an immense deal of damage to our shipping. He (Mr. Joicey) objected to this Vote, although he was as much in favour of our having a strong Navy as any hon. Member in the House. He thought it absolutely necessary that we should have a strong Navy, a Navy stronger than that of any other country, because we had greater interests to preserve abroad; but he believed that our Navy could be made strong without this Vote. He believed that at the present time we did not get our money's worth for what we spent. He had been very forcibly struck, since he had had the honour of sitting in that House, on seeing that, whenever the Government intended to decrease the number of employés in connection with our Dockyards, that the Representatives of those Dockyards in the House immediately got up and protested against the proposed reduction. He failed to see why the taxpayers in the North of England whom he represented should be expected to provide large sums of money in order to keep a few men employed in the South of England, and he, for one, protested against the system; and he trusted that the Government in future would have the courage of its convictions, and would discontinue having work done in the Royal Dockyards when that work could be more cheaply done elsewhere.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to say that not one shilling of the money now asked for is to be spent upon the Navy?
§ MR. JOICEY
said, it appeared to him, at any rate, that the coaling stations were directly connected with the Navy; and, whether or not, he felt that the Chairman would call him to Order as soon as he became irrelevant. He maintained that the country did not get its money's worth in our Dockyards. He had heard it said that 10s. spent in a private establishment was worth 20s. spent in connection with one of our public Departments; and he must confess that the longer he sat in the House the more he felt inclined to agree with that statement. He believed that the money spent in our Dockyards was 1112 spent most extravagantly, and that there was great room for economy. He often wondered why, when Her Majesty's Government were building four or five ships of exactly the same type, they did not give half the work to some private shipbuilding establishment and half to one of the Royal Dockyards, and then compare the cost of the two methods of shipbuilding exactly in every item. As the outcome of such a step, he should like to see a statement prepared by someone competent to prepare it, like the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood), showing the comparative cost of those two methods. When that account was properly checked, he believed they would get a better idea of the cost of building our ships than they had at the present time. Then he should like to see one Dockyard put in competition with another in this building. Some people thought economy should not be considered in matters of this kind; but, in his opinion, economy was a matter of vital importance.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD) (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to say that if he looks at the Estimates he will find that a system already exists by which Dockyards are compared with one another and with private yards in building identical ships?
§ MR. JOICEY
said, that the charge for the capital expenditure would not be shown. However, that was not his only objection to this Resolution. They had heard a great deal in the course of the debate about the £20,000,000 of expenditure asked for by Lord Palmerston, and spent in the defence of our Southern Coasts. Most of that expenditure, it had been admitted, had been practically wasted; and he thought that if the Committee would read the present Resolution very carefully they would come to the conclusion that a great waste of money would take place in connection with this proposal. It was proposed to spend money for stations where coal was to be obtained by Her Majesty's ships; but they must remember that great 1113 changes had taken place in the matter of motive power. We had no electric engines at work; we had tramways worked by electricity; and we all knew that there had been great discoveries of mineral oil in the United States and Russia, and that ships were being turned out of our private shipbuilding yards almost every month to carry oil to be used for steam purposes. Well, was the Government quite satisfied that oil would not supersede coal in time as fuel for the Navy? He must say that he himself had grave doubts upon the question. He should not be at all surprised to see, in a short time, oil used by the Navy instead of coal. Our naval experts admitted that it was of the utmost importance to avoid the production of smoke in our ships as much as possible.
§ MR. JOICEY
said, he would not pursue that argument any further, but his object was to show that it was quite possible that in a short time it might not be necessary to have coaling stations—that, by a system of propelling ships by means of oil, it was possible that a ship might be able to carry a sufficient quantity of fuel without its being necessary to take in a fresh supply at one of the present coaling stations, and that, therefore, there might be no need for the stations to which this money was to be applied. That was one reason for opposing the Resolution; for, as he had said, no one was more anxious than he that we should have a strong and powerful Navy. Another reason was that he thought the money could be got in other ways, and by adopting economies in our Dockyards and in other directions.
§ CAPTAIN COTTON (Cheshire, Wirral)
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would not think him discourteous if, in spite of the appeal the right hon. Gentleman had made to the Committee to take a Division, he occupied a few moments in making some remarks upon the Vote. The naval and military Members of the House during the whole of last Session often sat like dumb dogs in their places in obedience to the wishes of the Government; and he thought that now, as this 1114 was said to be an English Session, it was only fair that they should have their say occasionally. All he wished to do was to say a few words upon the Royal Commission which the Government had said was to be presided over by the noble Lord the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington). As he (Captain Cotton) understood the matter, when his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) brought his Motion before the House, the Government refused their assent to it on the ground that they were themselves prepared to take the whole responsibility of determining what was to be the exact strength of the Army and Navy and military and naval munitions and necessaries of war which were to be kept up in this country. He (Captain Cotton) had felt that the Government were right in taking that responsibility upon themselves, and that his hon. and gallant Friend was justified in foregoing a Division upon his Motion. Well, he now congratulated the Government upon taking an initiatory step in the matter. A noble Lord a little while ago congratulated them upon the appointment of a Royal Commission, headed by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale; but he (Captain Cotton) wished to congratulate the Government upon what he thought a far more reasonable step. In The Standard newspaper, a short time ago, it was stated that Colonel Harrison, commanding the Engineers at Aldershot, should preside over a Committee to report on the exact amount of reserved stores and material required for the defence of the country. He (Captain Cotton) had thought that a most important announcement, and it was almost exactly what the military authorities in the House asked for. It was almost in the exact form in which the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex had brought forward his Motion; and so impressed was he (Captain Cotton) with the importance of this Committee that, not wishing to rely upon the statement in the newpaper, he had made an inquiry at Aldershot and found what he had seen in The Standard was really the case, and that a Committee of that kind had been appointed. Well, if that Committee had been appointed, why was there to be a Royal 1115 Commission, presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale? He must say he could not see the necessity for the Commission, and he considered it quite an unnecessary and useless piece of expenditure. It was not what was asked for by the military and naval Members of the House. All those subjects which came within the scope of the inquiry to be instituted by the Commission had already, he thought, been fully inquired into by the various Committees sitting upstairs—that was to say, those on the Army and Navy Estimates. He hoped it was not too late now for the Government to drop this Royal Commission, which he was sure would only be a considerable expense, and would, in the face of the other Committees appointed, be of no use. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for war of the sympathy which military and naval Members of the House felt for the efforts he was making to promote Imperial defence; and if he would only consent to be guided sometimes by the advice of the military and naval Members, even when that advice was contrary to the official opinion at the War Office, he was quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman would find that the measures suggested would not only lead very much to the efficiency of the Services, but would in no way promote extravagant expenditure. Could not the Government in carrying out this scheme take one great plunge, which some Government would have to take in the future, and make up their minds boldly to initiate a policy which would entirely divorce the military and naval interests of this country from all Party feeling whatsoever? He believed that now was the time to do it, since a system of continuity of policy had lately been adopted in regard to foreign affairs by the Earl of Rosebery and the Marquess of Salisbury. He held that if a similar continuity of policy were adopted in connection with naval and military matters it would be found to conduce very largely to the promotion of efficiency and economy. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War and the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty would earn for themselves undying fame if they would only carry out such policy as that he had described. As 1116 he had said, now was the time to do it. There were no burning questions of privilege in connection with the Army and Navy before the country. There never was such a time when the Army was opening its ranks to all corners, and when, he believed, the public were ready to back up any attempt to bring about a calm settlement of this matter, apart from all Party considerations. Some years ago a great controversy was happily settled by means of a joint conference between the Leaders of both sides of the House. The question concerned the admission into the voting power of this country of some 3,000,000 of people. It was a great question, and one which necessitated the putting forth of a great effort to settle it; but surely the insurance of hundreds of millions of property, the assurance of thousands of lives, and the security of thousands of homes was a matter of no less importance. He believed that when the Committees recently appointed made their final Reports the Leaders of both Parties, or of all Parties whoever they might be, should join together and determine that from year to year, no matter what Government went out or what Government came in, there should be rigid continuity of military and naval policy which should put an end to those continual scares which rose up in this country from time to time as to its safety.
§ SIR LEWIS PELLY (Hackney, N.)
said, he rose to make only two remarks. He wished, in the first place, to assure the Government that, so far as he was aware, there was no wish other than to give them every possible and just support. He had not heard a single word of serious opposition spoken, nor did he think that any such opposition existed; and speaking for himself as one who was not a partizan, and was a mere outsider, it seemed to him that the country was not quite safe at present. His second remark was this—that one test in this matter, apart from speech-making—for it appeared that the matter would never be settled by Parliamentary eloquence—would be the adoption of some practical means of putting in a concrete way before the country the extent of our Naval and Military Forces. Let the Government bring out the Forces they had got. Let the country see its Forces by land and by sea. Let them suppose, 1117 what he hoped would never happen, that this country were attacked. If they were attacked, the attack might be made without any long warning, and let them see what the Government would do in such an event. Let them see where they would put their ships, and where they would put their men, including Volunteers and Militia. Let them not waste the time of the House by discussing whether the Forces under any former Government were inadequate, or whether their own exertions had not improved upon what had previously been done; but as "the proof of the pudding is in the eating," and "as seeing is believing," let them test their resources, and let them see what they could do. Let them see what would be the nearest approach to that which would seem to be the necessary quota of strength in order to avert disaster. Whatever the decision might then be as to the Force necessary, he did not believe that a man in the country would object to any reasonable expenditure which might be entailed. If it were found that the country was not strong enough, then, in the Lord's name, let it acquire such additional strength as was absolutely requisite. Let them also see what generals they had to lead their men. Napoleon used to say that the best troops were those led by the best generals. He believed we had now as good generals in this country as we had ever had, but they had not been tested. They had had small wars, too many of them; but these had not been sufficient to test the ability of our generals to command in war, as war was understood among European nations. Our generals had not had an opportunity of handling 50,000 or 100,000 men, either in the presence of an enemy or otherwise. Napoleon said he had generals who could command 2,000 or 3,000 men, others who could command 10,000, and others who could command 50,000; but he had very few who could handle 100,000. Well, let them give their generals a chance of doing that. Why should we not rehearse with our Army? Rehearsals took place even in theatres. He should hope that he would not be supposed to suggest that we should go to war with a powerful enemy in order to exercise our generals and our troops; but he should wish to impress upon the 1118 Government and the country the necessity of taking steps to familiarize our military leaders in times of peace with the handling of large bodies of men, so that in time of war they might not be found incapable of action.
§ MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)
said, the object of the present Vote was to provide protection for our military and naval harbours; but, so far as he had heard the debate to-night, it had turned almost entirely upon the ships we required to protect our commerce. He heard nothing so far as to the amount of money, out of the large sum that the Government required at the hands of Parliament, to be devoted to commercial harbours. He should very much have liked to know what the policy of the Government was with regard to commercial harbours. Were they going to spend money on forts and guns—
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, that if the hon. Member had read his Memorandum he would not have asked the question.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, the Memorandum was not before them that night. What was before them that night was a Vote for money to be spent on military harbours and coaling stations, and also on commercial harbours; and he wanted to know how much money was to be spent under the latter head, as his vote in the Division would, in a large measure, depend upon that? The other day the illustrious Duke, the Duke of Cambridge, in his speech to the people of Liverpool, said that Liverpool was entirely unprotected and open to attack, and he hoped the people of Liverpool would contribute ample funds for the defence of the town. Well, he (Mr. Gourley) wanted to know whether the Government were going to depend upon local assistance solely, or whether they were going to make grants to Local Authorities for the purpose of enabling them to protect their towns? They had heard a great deal about building forts on the Thames, and at Portsmouth and elsewhere; and what he wanted to guard against was this—that they would not see a repetition of what was called the Palmerstonian folly. He was anxious to know what was to be done for the protection of the commerce in our harbours in the event of war. In his opinion, in the event of war, the commerce in our commercial harbours 1119 would only be in danger supposing an enemy's cruiser escaped the vigilance of our Fleet. How were our ships to be protected against the swift cruisers of an enemy? In these days we knew that cruisers could deliver effective fire at a distance of five miles. Well, how were we going to protect our military and commercial harbours from an enemy's cruisers should they escape the vigilance of the squadron and attempt to damage ports such as Liverpool, Leith, and those on the Tyne, Clyde, Wear, &c.? Had the Government any policy? The other day he had asked a question upon the point, but had only received an evasive answer. He should like to repeat the query now, and ask how much of this money was to be spent on the defence of our commercial harbours, and how much upon military harbours? Naval men that night had asked that we should have more ships. In the event of war, a great deal of our commerce would be diverted into neutral bottoms, and neutral ships would carry almost all our food, as our own ships, on the score of insurance alone, would be transferred temporarily to sail under neutral flags; and he wished, therefore, to know what the Government's policy of defence was, whether it was to be the construction of more forts, more guns and torpedo establishments, or a general reorganization of our Military, Naval, and Auxiliary Forces? Whilst in favour of a strong Navy, he deprecated the present scare. It was, to say the least, un-English. Long before an enemy could land troops, guns, and horses, we could bring all kinds of guns to bear upon his boats, &c. He could only land if covered by guns. Before doing this he would have to destroy our defensive and offensive squadrons. Surely we were not yet without our Drake, Nelson, and Wellington.
§ COLONEL DUNCAN (Finsbury, Holborn)
said, he did not rise to stand between the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War and the Division desired, but he did not think that the remarks made by the hon. Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) should be allowed to pass without some comment. He thought that the hon. Member forgot that this Vote was, in the main, for the defence of our coaling stations, in 1120 order to admit of our Mercantile Marine being protected, and to enable food to be brought to this country. The hon. Member had said that for centuries we had done very well without coaling stations. It was true; but for centuries we had not had as many Colonies as we had now, and certainly for centuries we had been without steam. Now, however, it was necessary for us to have stations where our ships could supply themselves with the necessary fuel. He did not think they would hear the severe criticisms which were sometimes uttered in that House if hon. Members would think of this question, not from the war point of view, but from the point of view that it involved the bringing of necessary food here in order to feed the people. If we could feed ourselves it would be a different matter. The hon. Member for Haggerston had said that the people of the United States could go to bed without any fear of scare. Naturally so, because America was capable of feeding not only her own population, but a large part of the rest of the world as well. This country, however, was not in that position. With reference to remarks made as to the naval and military officers who were Members of this House not speaking for the Services so much as for their constituents, so far as he had been able to observe, those officers expressed the views of the Services quite as much as anyone who could be named. The Army, he was quite sure, would accept the advocacy of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley), while the Navy would be equally ready to accept Sir John E. Commerell and the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) as expressing its wants and wishes. He was willing to acknowledge that in the past there had been lavish expenditure, and it was true that we had in our fortifications guns which had now become obsolete, and that we had ships which were no longer of any use; but he asked whether, in civil life, it was not frequently seen that machinery which had become obsolete had to be replaced with new machinery? Progress had been made in machinery in civil life; but he asked the Committee to believe that that progress in naval 1121 and military life had been infinitely greater. The Naval and Military Services had, in these days, become scientific professions, and when a demand was made by them for increased expenditure, what Parliament had to see was that that increase was not due to the greed of the Services, but to the change of conditions. He granted that much economy might still be practised in the administration of the Services, and he felt quite sure that one of the greatest economies that could be effected would be brought about by placing over the Army and Navy one great head—a Minister of Defence. That, however, was not the immediate question before the Committee. It was perfectly certain that if they failed to protect the Mercantile Marine which supplied the country with food—and they could only do that by means of the coaling stations which had been referred to—they would, if they lived, regret it to the end of their days, and their children would read the black record of as terrible a story as had ever been chronicled in the history of the world.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said, he would ask the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War and the Committee for only a few moments. The demand for reforms in these matters came not from the Front Benches, but from independent Members of the House. It was the independent Members—whether they were called Radicals, or whatever their designation might be—
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 206; Noes 85: Majority 121.1124
|Acland, A. H. D.||Barttelot, Sir W. B.|
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.||Baumann, A. A.|
|Aird, J.||Beach, right hon, Sir M. E. Hicks-|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Beadel, W. J.|
|Anstruther, Colonel R. H. L.||Beaumont, H. F.|
|Beckett, E. W.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Bentinck, Lord H. C.|
|Baird, J. G. A.||Beresford, Lord C. W. De la Poer|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.|
|Baring, T. C.||Bethell, Commander G. R.|
|Bartley, G. C. T.|
|Bigwood, J.||Gathorne-Hardy, hon A. E.|
|Birkbeck, Sir E.|
|Blundell, Colonel H. B. H.||Giles, A.|
|Gilliat, J. S.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Godson, A. F.|
|Bond, G. H.||Goldsmid, Sir J.|
|Bristowe, T. L.||Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.|
|Brookfield, A. M.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Bruce, Lord H.||Gray, C. W.|
|Campbell, Sir A.||Grimston, Viscount|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Grotrian, F. B.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Gully, W. C.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, right hon. H.||Gunter, Colonel R.|
|Haldane, R. B.|
|Carmarthen, Marq. of||Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.|
|Cavendish, Lord E.|
|Charrington, S.||Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.||Hardcastle, F.|
|Coddington, W.||Heath, A. R.|
|Coghill, D. H.||Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-|
|Colomb, Capt. J. C. R.|
|Compton, F.||Heaton, J. H.|
|Cooke, C. W. R.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Corbett, J.||Hermon-Hodge, R. T.|
|Corry, Sir J. P.||Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.|
|Cotton, Captain E. T. D.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hoare, E. B.|
|Craven, J.||Hoare, S.|
|Cross, H. S.||Hobhouse, H.|
|Currie, Sir D.||Holloway, G.|
|Curzon, hon. G. N.||Howard, J.|
|Dalrymple, Sir C.||Hozier, J. H. C.|
|Darling, C. J.||Hughes-Hallett, Col F. C.|
|Davenport, H. T.|
|Davenport, W. B.||Hunt, F. S.|
|Davies, W.||Jackson, W. L.|
|De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.||Jeffreys, A. F.|
|De Worms, Baron H.||Jennings, L. J.|
|Dimsdale, Baron R.||Johnston, W.|
|Donkin, R. S.||Kelly, J. R.|
|Dorington, Sir J. E.||Kennaway, Sir J. H.|
|Duff, R. W.||Kenny, C. S.|
|Duncan, Colonel F.||Kenyon, hon. G. T.|
|Duncombe, A.||Kerans, F. H.|
|Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W.H.||King, H. S.|
|Ebrington, Viscount||Knowles, L.|
|Egerton, hon. A. J. F.||Lafone, A.|
|Elliot, G. W.||Lambert, C.|
|Elton, C. I.||Lawrance, J. C.|
|Ewing, Sir A. O.||Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.|
|Eyre, Colonel H.||Legh, T. W.|
|Feilden, Lt.-Gen. R. J.||Lennox, Lord W. C. G.|
|Fellowes, A. E.|
|Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.||Lethbridge, Sir R.|
|Lewisham, right hon. Viscount|
|Field, Admiral E.|
|Fisher, W. H.||Llewellyn, E. H.|
|Fitzgerald, R. U. P.||Long, W. H.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. W. H. W.||Lowther, J. W.|
|Macartney, W. G. E.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. W. J. W.||Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.|
|Fletcher, Sir H.||Maclean, F. W.|
|Folkestone, right hon. Viscount||Maclure, J. W.|
|Madden, D. H.|
|Forwood, A. B.||Mallock, R.|
|Fowler, Sir R. N.||Marjoribanks, rt. hon. E.|
|Fraser, General C. C.|
|Fulton, J. F.||Matthews, rt. hn. H.|
|Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-||Mattinson, M. W.|
|Maxwell, Sir H. E.||Sandys, Lieut-Col. T. M.|
|Mayne, Admiral R. C.|
|Mildmay, F. B.||Sidebotham, J. W.|
|Mills, hon. C. W.||Sidebottom, T. H.|
|Milvain, T.||Sidebottom, W.|
|Morrison, W.||Sinclair, W. P.|
|Moss, R.||Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|Mount, W. G.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Mowbray, R. G. C.||Stewart, M. J.|
|Murdoch, C. T.||Swetenham, E.|
|Neville, R.||Tapling, T. K.|
|Noble, W.||Temple, Sir R.|
|Norris, E. S.||Theobald, J.|
|O'Neill, hon. R. T.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Palmer, Sir C. M.||Trotter, Col. H. J.|
|Pelly, Sir L.||Vincent, Col. C. E. H.|
|Penton, Captain F. T.||Waddy, S. D.|
|Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.||Watson, J.|
|Price, Captain G. E.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Puleston, Sir J. H.||West, Colonel W. C.|
|Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.||Whitley, E.|
|Rankin, J.||Winterbotham, A. B.|
|Rasch, Major F. C.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Reed, H. B.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Richardson, T.||Woodall, W.|
|Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Robertson, Sir W. T.||Young, C. E. B.|
|Robertson, J. P. B.|
|Rollit, Sir A. K.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Royden, T. B.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|Russell, T. W.|
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Kenny, J. E.|
|Kenny, M. J.|
|Allison, R. A.||Lalor, R.|
|Anderson, C. H.||Lane, W. J.|
|Barry, J.||Leake, R.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Lewis, T. P.|
|Bradlaugh, C.||Lockwood, F.|
|Bright, W. L.||M'Cartan, M.|
|Burt, T.||M'Donald, P.|
|Byrne, G. M.||M'Laren, W. S. B.|
|Cameron, J. M.||Mappin, Sir F. T.|
|Carew, J. L.||Marum, E. M.|
|Chance, P. A.||Nolan, J.|
|Clancy, J. J.||O'Brien, J. F. X.|
|Commins, A.||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Conybeare, C. A. V.||O'Connor, A.|
|Cox, J. R.||Pease, H. F.|
|Crilly, D.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Dillon, J.||Picton, J. A.|
|Ellis, T. E.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Fenwick, C.||Power, P. J.|
|Finucane, J.||Priestley, B.|
|Firth, J. F. B.||Pyne, J. D.|
|Flynn, J. C.||Quinn, T.|
|Foster, Sir W. B.||Redmond, J. E.|
|Gane, J. L.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Gilhooly, J.||Reid, R. T.|
|Gill, T. P.||Richard, H.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Roe, T.|
|Graham, R. C.||Rowlands, J.|
|Harris, M.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Hayden, L. P.||Schwann, C. E.|
|Healy, M.||Sexton, T.|
|Hooper, J.||Sheehy, D.|
|Hoyle, I.||Sheil, E.|
|Illingworth, A.||Stewart, H.|
|James, hon. W. H.||Sullivan, D.|
|Joicey, J.||Sullivan, T. D.|
|Jordan, J.||Summers, W.|
|Tanner, C. K.||Wilson, I.|
|Tuite, J.||Wright, C.|
|Warmington, C. M.||TELLERS.|
|Wayman, T.||Cremer, W. R.|
|Wilson, H. J.||Labouchere, H.|
§ Resolved, That it is expedient to authorize the issue, out of the Consolidated Fund, of such sums, not exceeding £2,600,000, as may be required for the defence of certain Ports and Coaling Stations, and making further provisions for Imperial Defence.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That interest at the rate of three per centum per annum on such or so much of the said sum as may be borrowed shall be paid out of the moneys to be provided by Parliament for Army Services."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
Sir, when the previous proposal came before the Committee embodied in the Resolution with regard to the Australian ships, I ventured to enter my protest against raising money for the purpose by way of loan, instead of making it a charge upon the ordinary Estimates of the year. And there are peculiar circumstances with regard to the money now asked for which would make it altogether unprecedented, that we should raise it by means of a loan. I am not quite sure how the Government make up this precise sum of £2,600,000. So far as I can see from the Estimate laid on the Table, the fortifications of military ports will cost £3,194,759, and of Commercial harbours £1,938,511; in all about £5,000,000. Then we have to add to that the balance outstanding, and not yet expended on the fortifications of the coaling stations, which amounts to about £835,000; so that the total expenditure which the War Office alleges to be required for the fortifications of our ports at home and coaling stations abroad is nearly £6,000,000. My point is that we have here a proposal to raise by loan a sum of £2,600,000 for the purposes of fortification, and according to the confession of the Government in these Papers the sum asked for is not anything like that which is required. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) says in his Memorandum, that the sum to be provided is £2,955,000, of which £799,430 is required for Ammunition, and then he goes on to say, that—It must be fully understood that the scheme about to be submitted does not pretend 1125 to be an exhaustive one, or to complete all the fortifications that the military authorities think necessary to be carried out.I have always understood it to be an admitted canon that a loan should never be resorted to, except in cases of a great undertaking of a special, definite and complete character, so that the country may see exactly for what it is they are going to pay. If this money was required, it ought to be provided out of the Estimates. The work is to be spread over three years, so that the money might also be taken in three succeeding Estimates. It is not as if this was to be spent in one year; the cost is to be spread over three years, and I cannot see why the House of Commons should not be called upon to find the money for each year in the ordinary way. I do not know whether I am in Order in alluding to the next Resolution; but the arrangement there proposed does not commend itself to my judgment, on account of the extraordinary way in which the expenditure is to be hidden and concealed from view by the use of the Suez Canal money. At present, I shall call the attention of the Committee to one point, that in this instance a loan is being proposed to meet this charge, not to complete the final account, but avowedly for a partial dealing with a great undertaking, and including, as I have said before, money for the purchase of guns which certainly should be provided for in the Estimates, and not by means of a loan.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, that this money is required for an incomplete scheme. It is a complete scheme. So far as it goes, it is a complete scheme which will fortify the coaling stations and military ports. It is as complete a scheme as that for the localization of the Forces, which was dealt with by means of a loan by the Administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1872. At that time, that special service was dealt with by a loan. The present is a special service, and we propose to deal with it in the same way, and we can see very little difference between the cases. If that mode of procedure was legitimate in one case, we consider it to be legitimate in this other. I will not dis- 1126 pute with the right hon. Gentleman that he has a fair point in saying that guns have not hitherto been provided for by means of a loan; but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the guns which are to be bought out of this money are not ordinary quick-firing or field-guns, but are guns which are almost equivalent to fortifications; and, under the circumstances, I think it would be mere pedantry not to treat such guns as coming under that head. The right hon. Gentleman will also see that we do not propose to take any money by loan for ammunition or for quick-firing guns, or for any purposes of a merely temporary kind. But we think that these larger guns may fairly be brought within the purview of the same principle which has been applied by previous Governments to the provision for special schemes. My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) began to deal with a question which the Chairman ruled that he was not in Order in alluding to, and he then went on to criticise the Government, because, after reducing the Army Estimates, it now asks for a loan for so small an amount. It is to be remarked that, in the case of the localization of the Forces in 1872, a loan of £3,500,000 was raised, although the Army Estimates had been reduced by £1,000,000 sterling, as compared with those of the year before, and at that time also the Income Tax was reduced from 6d. to 4d., notwithstanding which the loan for special purposes was provided for by a special Vote. Therefore, I think it will be seen that we have good precedent for the proposal which we are now making, and I do not think that my right hon. Friend will say that the difference between the two sums will be sufficient to destroy the force of the precedent.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I am very sorry to have to go back to the charge I made originally, that the Government scheme is not a complete one. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the scheme is a complete one; but against that I quote the Secretary of State for War, who said it was to be fully understood that the scheme now before the House does not pretend to be an exhaustive one; and, the loan to be 1127 raised now will go in payment of expense for the fortification of coaling stations, which up to this time has been provided out of the Estimates of the year. As a portion of the expense has already been provided for out of the yearly Estimates, I do not see any reason why the remainder should not be dealt with in the same way; and with regard to the obvious precedent which the right hon. Gentleman has found in the loan for the localization of the Forces in barracks, there was in that case two qualities which are absent in the present case. It was for the definite and tangible purpose of erecting buildings which could not be removed, and it provided for services which could not be provided for in the ordinary Estimates of the year. That constituted a legitimate subject for a loan; but, in this matter, the money proposed to be raised by loan is to be applied to purposes that I contend ought to be provided for in the ordinary Estimates.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I would point out to my right hon. Friend that one of the advantages of proceeding by loan in this matter is, that we shall be sure that the work will be carried out from the beginning to the end without interruption or delay. If you proceed by Act of Parliament in this matter, the scheme will be carried out as a whole instead of being liable to be interrupted from year to year. What we have to deplore is that there has been too little regularity and too little continuity in carrying out the plans of successive Governments, and I believe we shall have a better security for the execution of this work if it is made clear by Act of Parliament that it is the will of the Legislature that the work should be carried out.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
My right hon. Friend says that this is a complete scheme; but, at the same time, he has thrown out some hints that there may be other works which will entail future applications for money. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman can suggest if there is likely to be any other work that will require further expenditure.
There may possibly be some consequential works in connection with the scheme which will have to be provided for.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I confess that the hints which the right hon. Gentleman has given should make us careful in the future. My right hon. Friend has quoted the precedent of 1881; but I would point out that there is this difference between the two cases—namely, that the expenditure we are now going to undertake is in respect of works already entered into. We have paid £1,000,000 under the ordinary Estimates, and we are now called upon to complete the work by loan, and that at a time when we have reduced the Army and Navy Estimates. At the time when we are making that reduction, the Government are asking us to vote a sum of £2,600,000, in order to complete these works. That, I venture to say, is almost without precedent, and not at all desirable. Bat there is a further novelty with regard to this proceeding of the Government. For the first time, they are proposing to pay off a loan, by allocating a particular asset which will not be in course of payment into the Exchequer until after a period of six years. This appears to me a novelty of an extraordinary character. How does my right hon. Friend know that six years hence we shall be better able to pay the loan than we are now? We are at present in a state of peace, and yet we are going to allocate the interest of the Suez Canal Shares—that is to say, to mortgage a special revenue that is not yet due to meet this loan. I say that that is a precedent altogether novel in connection with the finances of the nation; and, as I have always understood that my right hon. Friend is rather a purist in financial matters, I confess that I am rather surprised he should make a proposal of that character. I say it is a dangerous business, and I cannot but think that it will in future create a bad precedent; because, whenever the Government want to provide money in future, they will come down to the House and, upon the strength of this operation, propose to take some special asset to meet the liability.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
As a matter of fact, the different Resolutions are put in such a way that it is extremely difficult to deal with the whole scheme; but, 1129 of course, Mr. Chairman, I bow to your ruling, and will only deal with the main question of proceeding in this case by loan. On that point, Sir, I have the strongest possible opinion that the precedent you are about to form is a dangerous one, and one which will in future cause regret that the Government should have adopted the present course.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
said that hon. Gentlemen on that side objected, quite apart from the question of the interest of the Suez Canal Shares. They objected that the repayment of the loan was not spread over a number of years—that there was no sinking fund—and that the repayment of the principal was to be deferred for years to come. That seemed to him an improper way of meeting the expenditure, and in that view of the case he should vote against the Resolution.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
I am somewhat surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has no argument to offer in reply to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, while on a former occasion the Estimates for the Army Service were reduced by £1,000,000, the Government of the day nevertheless thought it right to borrow £3,500,000 for that Service. With reference to the question whether this is a complete scheme or not; it is perfectly true, as my right hon. Friend has said, the proposal put before us by the Military Authorities would require a larger sum of money than is taken in this Bill. Instead of leaving the Estimates totally unexamined, as in previous years, I took them carefully into consideration with the requisite assistance, and the result is that we are able to present to Parliament what is in itself a complete scheme, because it provides for the completion of that portion of our defences which are the most urgent. We felt that our honour was pledged to deal with the defence of the coaling stations at once; we could not allow the matter to drag on year after year when we were asking the Colonies to contribute towards the defence of the Empire, and we, therefore, in good faith to the Colonies, decided to borrow a sum of money to finish the guns and supply the ammunition without any further delay. As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, the guns are 1130 now very different from what they were in former days, inasmuch as, being mounted upon hydro-pneumatic carriages, they disappear after firing; and less expensive fortifications are required for their protection. I trust that the Committee will accept the proposal of the Government as one best calculated to meet the urgent requirements of the country.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, he was glad that the Government had to rely almost entirely on hon. Members opposite for support in their proposal. But if there was an objection to the proceeding of the Government before, he thought there was almost a stronger objection to the mode of payment here proposed. Not long ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given them a reason of the most extraordinary character when he said that the hands of Parliament would be tied in regard to the continuation of this expenditure. They were told that the expenditure must be carried on for several years. The right hon. Gentleman gave the House and the country no place for repentance, such as many would have been glad to find a few years after what was called the Palmerston scare, when an expenditure of £10,000,000 was resolved on in a panic. Before the work then undertaken was carried out, there were many who saw the folly of the proposal, and would have been glad to curtail the expenditure. He wanted to know why a Government that was in a minority in that House should undertake the very unusual course of fettering the freedom of a future Parliament. Why should the House at that moment be asked to float a loan of that character? It was not that they did not regard their own position in relation to nations on the Continent as being in a normal state; it was because there was in Europe now a state of anxiety and a growing danger of an outbreak of hostilities. If we were to take part in any European conflict, it appeared to him that it was not a very robust proceeding that we should be hesitating about this expenditure. He could easily understand the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had been posing before the country as an economical Chancellor of the Exchequer. On the one hand, he had been getting credit before the country for 1131 reducing expenditure; and, on the other hand, he was coming to Parliament with a most feeble proposition to launch the country into expenditure without the moral courage to meet that expenditure in the only way in which it could honestly be met. He saw nothing in the plan now proposed to justify the anticipation of certain sums of money that would come into the Exchequer six years hence. He was happy to think there was on that side of the House a growing feeling against this scheme, or, at any rate, a feeling that where a Government came before Parliament with the assurance that an increased expenditure was necessary, they ought also to make their demands on the House of Commons to meet the expenditure at the time, or not postpone them beyond a reasonable period. There was nothing in the state of the country commercially, industrially, or agriculturally which justified hon. Members in expecting that it would be better able to bear this expenditure hereafter than at present. He looked forward with the greatest possible apprehension at the danger there was of this country taking a part, an unnecessary part, in the possible hostilities which might arise, instead of steering a clear course. If the latter course were adopted, there would be no necessity for this expenditure. If, on the other hand, it was understood that we were to be involved with other nations on the Continent, he maintained that this proposal was a mere flea bite. Besides, it was not a very robust system of finance which postponed the repayment for six years.
§ Question put.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 216; Noes 136: Majority 80.—(Div. List, No. 126.)
Resolved, That interest at the rate of three per centum per annum on such or so much of the said sum as may be borrowed, shall be paid out of moneys to be provided by Parliament for Army Services.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, after 1894, all dividends received by the Treasury in respect of Suez Canal Shares, after deduction of the sum required for paying off the bonds issued for the purchase of such shares, be applied in paying the principal of the amount borrowed."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, he objected to the Resolution, not only on account of what he should sub- 1132 mit was its essentially vicious character, but also on the ground that it was utterly illusory. The Resolution intended to convey that this was an asset, out of which the whole of the expenses connected with Imperial defence could be paid, after deducting the whole of the cost of these shares. He trusted to be able to show to the Committee that that view was utterly incorrect, although it was the view which had been repeatedly advanced in the country during the last few weeks by at least one Member of the present Government, if not by more. He admitted that he conducted this opposition under some difficulty. In the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) there was no statement of the estimated value of the shares. There was no statement of the expenditure which had been incurred since those shares had been acquired, expenses solely consequent on their acquisition, and if that night he was in error in the figures he should submit to the Committee, it was hardly his fault. He put a Question that afternoon to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the average annual and total civil expenditure for the last 12 years preceding the 1st of November, 1875, and for the 12 years since that date, the shares having been acquired early in November, 1875, and he put a similar Question with regard to the military expenditure in Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not answer him, and he understood him to give as a reason for not answering him, that any brief answer would be misleading, and that the work of collecting the figures was too large to be put to him for an answer to a Question. But surely the right hon. Gentlemen had tried to ascertain the value of the asset he wished the House to pledge, and if he had ascertained it, he ought to be able to state it to the House in reply to an uninformed Member, whose ignorance he might hold up to derision. It was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to have given the House an estimate of the value of the shares, showing what had been expended on them, and not have left the attack to be conducted by him (Mr. Bradlaugh) in the dark. Owing to his want of official knowledge, there might be errors in his statement, but he would en- 1133 deavour to make as careful a statement as he possibly could. Although he might be wrong by £1,000,000 or £2,000,000, he assured the Committee that it would be in under-estimating the amounts we had spent. It might astonish the Committee to learn that the shares we held were not ordinary dividend-paying shares, nor at the present time could they have been sold in the market at the price of ordinary Suez Canal Shares. So far as he was aware, those shares were utterly unsaleable at any price at all. There had never been an opportunity since the English Government entered upon dealings in shares in foreign countries of the market value of these shares being tested; but even if these shares were at the full value of the ordinary dividend-paying shares, the £13,000,000 sterling that the shares would be worth would not equal the expense we had already incurred upon them, let alone the amount for which the Committee were asked to-night to make them security. He might have to trouble the Committee with a few details in presenting his view of the case; but he trusted the Committee would pardon him, for that was the only time during the last few years, as far as he was aware, that there had been any opportunity of answering the extraordinary misrepresentations that had been made. Members opposite had gone about the country representing that in consequence of the splendid financial operation entered into by their Party in the past, there was, to use an expression of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, a nest-egg. He (Mr. Bradlaugh) was going to break the egg, and show its rottenness. Now, we owned in the Suez Canal Company two classes of shares. We had, in the first place, 176,602 shares, and, in the second place, we had 300 shares, or now a larger number, he supposed, to give us the qualifications for Directors. It would strike the Committee at once as an extraordinary thing that, being the owners of 176,602 shares, when we came to want "Directors" to represent us on the Board of the Suez Canal Company—the Director's qualification being, he believed, 100 shares—we had not amongst those 176,602 shares a solitary share sufficient to qualify as a Director. They were shares from which the coupons had been detached, 1134 under circumstances which he would deal with presently. In the Suez Canal Company there were 400,000 ordinary shares, of which we owned 176,602, which would pay no dividend to us until the 1st of July, 1894, and which never had paid one farthing of dividend to us at any time since we had been the owners of them. There were, in addition, 223,698 dividend-paying shares, of which we held a sufficient number to qualify men to represent the country on the Board of Directors. In addition, there were 333,333 debentures and 120,000 delegations, which had attached to them the coupons which had been detached from the 176,602 shares which we held. These 120,000 delegations were in the hands of ordinary holders for value, and were not in our hands or under our control. The delegations represented no shareholders' rights at meetings, but 10 votes were accorded by courtesy to Ismail. Those 10 votes were transferred to us, but gave no legal right whatever to speak or vote at general meetings. This was not unimportant, in view of the great boast of the enormous influence acquired by us by the expenditure of the £4,000,000 sterling. There were, in addition, 120,000 debentures, which, he believed, had been repaid; there were 400,000 debentures which were issued at 85 francs, and of these he did not know how many had been paid off. There were 250,000 founders' shares, of which 150,000 belonged to Ismail, and 100,000 to the general public. By the constitution of the Company the profit was divided, so that 15 per cent went to the Egyptian Government, 10 per cent to the founders, 5 per cent for management, and the shareholders got 70 per cent. What had the 176,602 shares cost us? The usual statement was absolutely inaccurate. The usual statement was that they cost, roughly, £4,000,000 sterling, or a little over, including commission. But we had spent in Egypt, in consequence of having these shares—to protect our interests there—an amount which might be much larger than he was going to state, but which was at least £10,000,000 sterling. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not know this at Question time. He understood, from an expression which fell from the right hon. Gentleman during the earlier words of his (Mr. Brad- 1135 laugh's) speech, that the right hon. Gentleman was informed upon it now. He was sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not have given an answer at Question time which would in any way mislead him.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, he did not understand the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that he (Mr. Goschen) knew now more than he did at Question time.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he had suggested that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, judging from a remark he interjected a little while ago, had now ascertained the facts of the case.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, that here, so to speak, we had a horse which cost us £20. It had cost us £40 to keep it, and the stable having been broken into, it had cost us a considerable amount to catch the thieves. The Government only took into account the original cost, and they were about to pledge the horse for £50, although the expenditure had been over and over again more than the animal was worth. He complimented the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the audacity of his financial proposals. At any rate, they understood that the sole cost to the country of these shares was £4,080,000. But he would prove, beyond the possibility of doubt, matters which to the Chancellor of the Exchequer needed no proof, because they were entirely within his knowledge. From the acquisition of these shares an expenditure extending to more than £10,000,000—how much more he did not know—had all been incurred because of the purchase of them, and he contended that before they had a right to propose to pledge the shares for anything else, they should redeem every halfpenny of expenditure in connection with them.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, that was so; but they had paid it out of the taxpayers' pockets, and the Government were now trying to beguile the taxpayers by the supposition that they had got a watch which they could pawn for £10, when they had spent £15 on it 1136 besides its original cost. Surely that was a monstrous way of submitting a proposition to the Committee. He would, however, prove his case. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] He did not often trespass—
I confess I am at a loss to see the relevancy of the hon. Gentleman's argument, assuming it to be perfectly sound.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he would try to make his argument relevant. The Resolution was that—After 1894, all dividends received by the Treasury in respect of Suez Canal Shares, after deduction of the sum required for paying off the bonds issued for the purchase of such shares, be applied in paying the principal of the amount borrowed,and he was going to show by figures that if the Government paid off the amount for which the bonds had been issued, and paid off, as he said they ought, if they were honest, the additional amount which the shares had cost, there was no balance whatever which they could pledge for the object in view. If that was not relevant to the Resolution, he could not conceive anything which would be relevant to such a subject. Surely it must be relevant to the question whether they should pledge these shares or not, to consider what the shares had cost, what had been our dealings in regard to them, whether the country had stood in respect to them in the relation of loser or gainer; because if we stood in the relation of loser, and there was a large deficit, he submitted it was a monstrous thing that should not be urged in discussion on this Resolution. It was an unusual thing to take a part of the assets of the State, and to propose to hypothecate them for any particular matter of the State. If the Crown Lands had been taken, if any other asset of the State had been taken, he submitted it would have been perfectly relevant in passing the Resolution to go into the question of the entire cost, and adduce reasons why they should not be so pledged. Unless the Chairman directed him not to do so, he would put before the Committee, as an argument why they should not accept this Resolution, the amounts of expenditure in connection with the protection of the Suez Canal Shares. He would show how the expenditure arose out of the purchase of those shares.
Order, order! I confess I am at a loss to follow the argument. If it were established that there was a debt outstanding, besides the unpaid balances of the bonds, there might be room for an argument against the proposed application of the dividends. I do not understand that even that primary statement is about to be established, and therefore I cannot discover the relevancy of the argument of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, that part of his argument would be that there was a debt outstanding. Part of his argument would be, that to secure the interest we had got by entering into the contract with an insolvent person, we had guaranteed loans which were still outstanding, which were still unpaid, which formed a charge against these shares, and which ought to be taken into consideration before any dealing with them was permitted. He was entirely in the Chairman's hands, and he should bow with the utmost respect to any intimation he might receive from the Chairman, but he respectfully submitted that that might be urged on such an occasion when such a pretence was made by the Government, when such an absolutely inaccurate pretence was made by the Government, when a pretence not only absolutely inaccurate, but which within the knowledge of the Government they ought not to permit to be made, because it was made for the purpose of inducing the British taxpayers to imagine that this £2,600,000 was being raised without any cost to them. That had been stated in absolute terms by one of the Members of the Government, boasting of the better financial skill of those with whom he was associated, and urging that as a reason why the Government were worthy of the confidence of the country. He should, of course, on the slightest intimation from the Chairman, stop, but unless the hon. Gentleman stopped him—
Order, order! I am afraid I must stop the hon. Gentleman in the examination, he proposes.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, that even if he was stopped upon that point, his objection would be that we had no statement of what the value of these shares were, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have laid before the House some actuarial statement show- 1138 ing how he made them of sufficient value to meet the charges that were upon them. It was clear that they stood in a different ratio from any other shares. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have shown them what engagements the Government had yet unfulfilled, both in relation to the loans which they had guaranteed—loans which they had guaranteed to enable a man who was insolvent to pay interest—and the obligations to the amount of many millions which were still outstanding, for which the national credit had been pledged. In addition, there was a variety of expenditure connected with the dredging of the Canal, expenses attending the possible construction of a new Canal, or the widening of the present one to meet the traffic. The Committee ought to have before them some statement as to what estimate had been made with regard to this, because it was possible that the expenses in relation to our guarantees, and in relation to the demands upon us, would sweep away the whole of the profits which were supposed to be allocated by this Resolution. He deeply regretted that it was impossible for him to lay before the Committee a statement of what was the actual financial condition of affairs at the present moment, which he avowed would have seemed to him in any other case necessary to enable one to judge of the value of the security that was being pledged. But as he understood that the whole of the past expenditure was entirely outside the argument, he would confine himself to the charges which had yet to be made, although it was not immaterial to the facts that part of the military charges were going on year by year and would come before the House this year as they did last year, as they would next year, and the year afterwards. What calculation had the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer made with regard to these charges? All the right hon. Gentleman chose to tell them was—"Here are some shares which cost £4,080,000, which have never brought us one halfpenny of interest, because, although we had got £200,000 a-year in interest, we had only got it by guaranteeing the credit of our debtor, and by furnishing him with actual cash or enabling him to get actual cash." 1139 When the Bill was introduced, he should probably have an opportunity of doing that which the form of the Resolution did not permit him under the Chairman's ruling to do now. He would ask, however, what calculation had been made for the risk of a competing Canal? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew as well as any man in England, probably better than most men in England, that statements had been circulated to the effect that the English Government was committed by its ownership of 176,602 shares to provide a large sum of money that might be required for the widening of the Canal, or for the enormous dredging work that had to be conducted to keep the traffic from falling away, and it was within the knowledge of the Government that the highest legal opinion had been given that the Concession was a Concession for a limited term. Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer made any calculation for a sinking fund to meet the amount for the redemption of the capital? [Mr. GOSCHEN: Yes.] The right hon. Gentleman said "Yes;" but why had not the Committee the advantage of that information? Why were they asked to agree to this Resolution without any statement in regard to it? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury made a clear and lucid statement of everything but this. Why was not the Committee taken into the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this point? He should not have been subjected to the possibility of its being suggested that he had done what he always tried to refrain from doing, going outside the fair measure of argument, if the right hon. Gentleman had condescended to lay before the Committee information on this subject. The original Concession was for 99 years after the Canal was open. He did not know the precise official date of the opening, but he supposed that some 20 years or more of the 99 years had already passed. The shares, therefore, were diminishing in value every day. Surely there ought to be a sinking fund to provide for the £4,000,000 sterling. If a sinking fund was commenced, he would have suggested, if he had been permitted, that it should also provide for the whole of the £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 spent; it should, at any rate, provide for the 1140 possible risk we had incurred. He felt he had only been able to make the very lamest statement against one of the most vicious proposals that was ever made to a Committee of the House of Commons.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that a very short time was left that night in which to come to a conclusion on this matter, and what he had to suggest was that hon. Members should allow the Government to take the Resolution that evening, and avail themselves of the subsequent opportunity which would be afforded them to discuss the subject. [Cries of "No, no!"] Of course, the Government were entirely in the hands of the Committee. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had dealt with two points. One was that they ought to establish a connection between these shares and the whole of the Egyptian Expenditure. That, of course, they would repudiate. It was impossible to argue that the whole of our policy in Egypt had been consequent on the acquisition of these shares. If it were, the hon. Member would be justified in bringing the two matters together. But, as he ventured to interject while the hon. Member was speaking, as a matter of fact all the remainder had been paid for, and paid for mainly by the taxpayers during the last two or three years. He contended, and it was the essence of this proposal, that as the taxpayers had, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, been bearing the great burden of the expenditure in Egypt during the last few years, they and not subsequent generations should have the advantage, or at least part of the advantage of the shares which had been acquired. That was not in opposition to, but in accord with, some of the views which the hon. Member had advanced. No doubt the expenditure upon Egypt had been very large. On the other hand, there was this one operation which had evidently been profitable. The suggestion of the Government was that, in view of the expenditure which was now being incurred, this asset should be devoted for a time to meeting a charge in which both the present and the future taxpayers were equally interested. The hon Member (Mr. Bradlaugh) was perfectly entitled to ask for a declaration as to the value of these shares, and he was not sure that the hon. Gentleman was not justified in 1141 criticizing him (Mr. Goschen) for not having given before this further details with regard to the matter. These shares would be entitled, when the year 1894 arrived, to the ordinary dividends paid on all other shares. The dividends were there. We were not in receipt of them, but we should be in receipt of them in 1894, and it was proposed to apply them in 1894 to paying off the loan now asked for, The Government were prepared to prove that the dividends would pay off the Bonds and pay them off in a very short time. The figures were as follows:—The present dividend was £3 5s. per share, and on 176,000 shares the amount was equal to about £570,000 a-year. By the year 1894, according to the Government's proposal, they would have paid off the whole of the £3,200,000 which was still due on the loan of £4,000,000, so the sum of £570,000 would be available to pay off the loan of £2,600,000 it was proposed to raise. There would be no further liability to pay off the shares, because the whole would have been redeemed, he believed, by that time. The hon. Member would see that even if there was a considerable diminution in the receipts—if the dividends on the shares were reduced from £570,000 to £400,000, that would be sufficient in a very few years to pay off the £2,600,000 which it was proposed to raise. The hon. Member asked what the actuarial value of these shares was at the present time. Speaking in round figures the actuarial value of these shares at the present moment was £9,800,000. That was an asset which we had got, and against that we owed £3,200,000; so that there was a margin, not of £2,600,000, but there was a margin of more than £6,000,000 to pay off the £2,600,000 proposed to be borrowed. But for the desire of the Government to remain possessors of these shares it would be perfectly possible to go into the market and to sell these shares for a sum that would approach very nearly £10,000,000. That was what they believed would be the value in the market. But they did not propose to dispose of this valuable asset. They proposed to keep this asset. Anyone who was acquainted with the general value and financial position of the Suez Canal shares was perfectly well aware that there could be no safer 1142 operation than to pledge the balance of these shares beyond the £3,200,000 for the sum of £2,600,000, which was the amount of the proposed loan. That, in a few sentences, was the actuarial position of these shares; a position which he thought must be satisfactory to the country. He had not time to enter into the general argument as to whether it was legitimate or not to pledge these dividends which would come in; but he thought it would be perfectly legitimate, if the Government were so desirous, to sell a portion of the shares for the advantage of the taxpayers of the present generation, who had been liable to so great an expenditure in Egypt. The Government did not propose to do that. They proposed to keep these shares, and to devote their proceeds for a few years to the payment of the instalments of the loan. After they had paid those instalments there would still remain a most valuable asset, an asset giving a sum of £500,000 to the future taxpayers for their benefit. He need not say that it was not only this asset which was available to pay off the loan of £2,600,000. If there were balances from year to year, any Chancellor of the Exchequer would be perfectly at liberty to pay off any Exchequer Bills which might be raised for the purpose of that loan. It was said that there was no precedent for such a course as this. The fact was there was no precedent for an asset of this character and the particular advantage which might be derived from it.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
asked if he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the capital of the Suez Canal Company was to be paid off by 1894?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he proposed to pay off a portion. He proposed to pay off—and he said so in his Budget speech—the whole of the outstanding balance of £3,200,000.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had explained where he was to get the money to pay off the £3,200,000. If they applied the £200,000 a-year to that purpose, he supposed that in 1894 there would still be remaining about £2,500,000.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, there were large resources for paying off portions 1143 of the National Debt, and a portion of this was to be paid off out of the surplus of last year.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he confessed he did not quite understand the matter. It seemed to him that Her Majesty's Government were borrowing money to pay off other money. He did not understand it at all; but, be that as it might, he did not propose to enter into the peculiar view the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had taken. This certainly was a subject which ought to be discussed at greater length. The objection was that in 1888 the House should take upon itself to dispose of an asset which we hoped to receive in 1894. That seemed quite contrary to good finance, and contrary to common sense and reason. He was one of those who never opposed the purchase of the Suez Canal shares, but he maintained that these shares were an asset which had no connection whatever with the particular Vote before them. This was a Vote to make provision for the protection of our coaling stations, and he thought that if this expenditure was to be incurred, the Government ought to go fairly and squarely to the country and tell them they must find the money. A great many things might happen before 1894. The Suez Canal might "bust" up; it might be superseded by something else. In any case, it was extremely unfair that the Government in Office in 1888 should endeavour to forestall the Government in Office in 1894. He thought it was necessary that the debate should be adjourned, and that the Committee should have another opportunity of fairly and fully discussing the subject. With that view, he begged to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.