§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand,
I rise. Sir, to invite the Committee to consider proposals which the Government deem to be of great importance in the interests of the country—proposals deliberately adopted by the Government after considerable and careful study, and which are the issue of consultation with, and advice and assistance of, eminent Naval and Military Authorities during last year and the winter which has just passed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) and my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) have both explained in their Statements the course which the Government propose to adopt, and the scheme itself was alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) in his Statement with regard to the finances of the year. The House is not, therefore, in any way without notice of the deliberate intention of the Government, which I have explained to be the result of long study and deliberation. The proposals which we now make are an addition to the expenditure on the Estimates for the Army and Navy for the defence of the country. The course which we have adopted is one which, as we think, may well be adopted not only with regard to the particular works we now recommend, but might with advantage be adopted with regard to any other serious works for the defence of the country. With regard to works which are vital and necessary to be provided for by Parliament once for all, economy, efficiency, and safety alike demand that they should be final in their character, and that the work on which we are entering should be thoroughly carried out. It has not been customary in the past to provide for expenditure in any year of more money than is required for particular works, and it has been customary to postpone the completion of such works for one, two, or three years until the Estimates of the year are brought under the notice of the House, and until the money is provided under the financial arrangements of the year. There is a great deal to be said in favour of that view; but I think hon. Members will see that it is inadvisable to propose from time to time the provision for works which are useless unless they are completed, and for fortifications and ships which are useless unless armed—and a gun takes almost 361 as long as a ship to construct, and is almost as expensive as some ships, the construction of which may be undertaken by Naval Authorities. It is a matter of the highest vital importance that the whole cost of any enterprize in which the country may be embarked should be stated, and should be faced by Parliament as a liability to be met within the period which the completion of the work will occupy. The Government have decided to make these proposals to the House upon information obtained by Royal Commissions and Committees which have sat during the last six or seven years, at the instance first of one Government and then of another, and also upon information existing at the Admiralty and the War Office. We came to the conclusion last year that it was our duty to apply that information for the purpose of providing for the defences of the country. These proposals are the results of the inquiries we have made. With regard, first of all, to the Navy, the Resolution provides that there shall be an addition to the Australian Squadron, the cost of which is to be £850,000. The agreement was arrived at in the course of last year during the progress of the Conference which was held in London, and at which the Australian Colonies were represented. The proposals agreed to at the Conference in 1887 may be thus summarized. There is a provision for an additional force of sea-going ships of war for the protection of the floating trade in the Australian waters at the joint cost of the Imperial and Colonial funds, such additional force to be manned by officers and men of the Royal Navy, and to be under the sole control and orders of the Admiral commanding Her Majesty's ships and vessels on the Australian Station. The vessels are to be employed on the station in the same way as the other ships of the Squadron, and not to be removed beyond the limits of the station without the consent of the Colonial Governments. No reduction is to be made in the normal strength of the force maintained on the Australian Station in consequence of such additional force. The vessels are to consist of five fast cruisers of the improved Archer class, and torpedo gunboats of the Rattlesnake class, of which three cruisers and one gunboat are to be kept constantly in commission, 362 the Imperial Government to bear the first cost of constructing and equipping these vessels. The Colonies are to pay interest at 5 per cent per annum on the first cost of the vessels to an amount not exceeding £35,000 annually, and to bear the actual cost of maintaining four vessels in commission and three in reserve, including liability on account of retired pay, of pensions to officers and men, and charge for relief of crews to an amount not exceeding £91,000 per annum. The Imperial Government are to bear the cost of commissioning and maintaining the three vessels in reserve in time of emergency or actual war. Any of these vessels that may be lost are to be replaced at the cost of the Imperial Government. The agreement, in the first instance, is to be enforced for a period of 10 years from the date of commissioning the first of these vessels, terminable then, or subsequently, only on notice being given two years previously. On the termination of the Agreement the vessels are to remain the property of the Imperial Government, and nothing in the agreement is to affect the purely local Naval Defence Forces, which are to be paid for by, and are solely under the control of, the several Colonies. It may be within the knowledge of hon. Members that some of the Colonies have small Naval Forces of their own, which have long been recognized as being exceedingly useful for police purposes on their coasts. The total cost, as estimated, is as follows:—Hulls and engines of the five improved Archers, £605,000; armament and stores, £125,000; total, £730,000; hulls and engines of two Rattlesnakes, £95,000; armament and stores, £25,000; total, £120,000, or, altogether for the hulls, engines, armaments, and stores of the vessels, £850,000. Provided that the armaments are ready at the same time as the ships, the five Archers could, it is estimated, be completed in 18 months, and the two Rattlesnakes in 15 months. There is, therefore, every hope that these vessels will be efficient for the purposes of the Service by the end of next year, or of the March following that—that is, by December, 1889, or March, 31, 1890. A pledge was given by the Admiralty that, so soon as the negotiations for the increase of the Australian Squadron at the joint charge of the Imperial and Colonial Governments had 363 been brought to a satisfactory conclusion, steps would be taken to obtain the sanction of Parliament to the proposals on which they were agreed. Acts sanctioning the Agreement, which was provisionally approved at the Colonial Conference of 1887, having been passed by the Legislatures of five out of the seven Colonies concerned, it now becomes incumbent on the Imperial Government to obtain the sanction of Parliament to the expenditure for which the Home Country will be responsible. I may state to the Committee for its information the development which has taken place upon naval construction. The arrangement I have described was made with the Colonies at the Colonial Conference last year. At that time it was proposed to provide a certain class of ship which, it was thought, in point of tonnage, speed, and fighting power, would be adequate for the protection of the commerce of England and Australia, and of the common interests of a united Empire. Of the vessels of the Archer class which it was proposed to construct, and which the Colonial Conference accepted, the length proposed was 225 feet, the length now approved is 265 feet; the displacement proposed was 1,770 tons, that now approved is 2,500 tons; and speed 17 knots, now 19 knots. The armament was to have been six 6-inch breech-loading guns, but now it is to be eight 36-pounder quick-firing guns. A similar development has followed the arrangement with regard to the torpedo boats. The Committee will observe that this development of power is a progressive development. A capacity now exists for producing vessels of great speed and great offensive power, which did not exist two, three, or four years ago; and even in one year there is an addition of one, two, or three knots speed of our ships, and also, I am sorry to add, an addition to their cost. But, Mr. Courtney, in this respect we are bound to provide the most efficient vessels we can for the objects we have in view. Those objects are the protection and safety of the commerce of the country, and the security of the great enterprizes in which the merchants of this country embark from time to time. Unless we can protect our commerce, our harbours, and our shores alike at Home and in our Colonies, I am afraid the time may come when a 364 great disaster may overtake us. I cannot help remarking on the extreme value of the principle which underlies the engagement which has been made between this country and the Australian Colonies. We have in this Agreement recognized the principle of a common duty by the people of this country and our cousins, friends, and children in the Colonies in connection with the protection and defence of the Empire. They recognize that they must do something for the protection of their own interests, and they express their confidence in the capacity of this country to aid and protect them. They do something in the way of protecting themselves by imposing on themselves a considerable annual charge, while they place the entire control of the Naval Force in the hands of our naval officers in the South Seas. I think we have in this Agreement—which we now ask Parliament to ratify and enable us to carry out—the indication of a policy which we may distinctly follow with great advantage to the common interests of all who call themselves Englishmen, whether they are found in England or Australia, in Canada or the Cape of Good Hope, or in any other Colony. Once more I wish to point out that this is an addition to the strength of the Navy; it is in no way substitutionary for the provision made in the Estimates for the general purposes of the Navy. The sums I refer to are to be regarded as additional in all respects to the sum already asked for by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty for the service of the country in the coming year. Now, I will refer to the second part of the plan for which we ask the approval of Parliament. We ask for a sum not exceeding £2,600,000, such as may be required for the defence of certain ports and coaling stations, and for making further provisions for Imperial defence. In asking for this provision we are only seeking to supply deficiencies which have been ascertained in past years. I am not going to impute blame or neglect to those who have gone before. It is no part of my purpose to endeavour to arouse any Party feeling or sentiment whatever with respect to this grave proposal to which I desire the attention of the Committee and the assent of Parliament. Whether or not adequate provision has been made from the point 365 of view of right hon. Gentlemen who have been responsible during the time being for the necessities of the country, is not a question to which I now desire to ask the attention of the Committee. What we now desire the House to say is that existing deficiencies, from whatever cause they may have arisen, must, as far as possible, be made good in the interests of the country at large, and of the safety of the Empire. I have stated that Commissions have sat and reported on the unprotected condition of our coaling stations and ports. It was the duty of the Government to bring together all the information they could obtain, and it was obtained after careful examination by a Committee which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War invited to consider the Reports and recommendations of previous Commissions and take evidence. That Committee included the hon. and gallant Member—well known in this House as a great authority on all matters of fortification—I refer to the hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley), and upon the Committee which rendered these good services to the country were Sir Frederick Bramwell, Admiral Sir William M. Dowell, the hon. Baronet the Member for North-West Manchester (Sir William Houldsworth), the hon. Member for the Penrith Division of Cumberland (Mr. J. W. Lowther), Mr. G. W. Lowther, the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), and the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. E. R. Wodehouse). These Gentlemen were requested to consider the plan proposed for the fortification and armament of our military and home mercantile ports, and the relative importance and approximate cost of the works and armaments necessary for the adequate defence of these stations. I should greatly regret to weary the House with long quotations; but the importance of the subject will, I hope, be my excuse for quoting some of the statements from this most valuable and interesting Report for which the Government and the country are so greatly indebted to those distinguished and hon. Gentlemen who have devoted their time and attention to the matter. The Committee, in their Report, state—In order to form an opinion as to the relative importance of the defence of the ports under consideration, and of the particular works proposed at each of them, the Committee have examined many of our most eminent Naval and 366 Military Authorities, including His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, General Viscount Wolseley, Admiral Sir G. Phipps Hornby, General Sir J. Lintorn Simmons, Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Clarke, the Inspector General of Fortifications, the Director of Artillery and Stores, the Director of the Intelligence Division of the War Office, the Directors of Naval Ordnance and Intelligence, the Inspector of Submarine Mining Defences, the Assistant Director of Torpedoes, and others. These witnesses have been unanimous in pointing out the weakness of our present position, and in urging the imperative necessity of strengthening and adding to the existing defences, though with some natural divergence of opinion on minor questions. The Estimates before the Committee appeared to represent the full amount which, in the judgment of experts, are required to put all these ports into a state of security against all probable contingencies. In the case of the principal military ports, the scheme is framed on the assumption that the command of the Channel has been temporarily lost to us by the fact that the Channel Squadron is absent or disabled, and that these ports and dockyards might have suddenly to rely exclusively on their own resources for defence against attacks by a powerful squadron of armour-clads. On the other hand, the plans for the defence of the mercantile ports do not generally contemplate anything more serious than an attack by one or two armoured cruisers, accompanied by torpedo boats and other small crafts.I have quoted this in order to show hon. Members that the matter has been gone into exhaustively, with a full sense of the danger to which the country is exposed, or would be exposed in the event of the temporary absence or dispersion of the Channel Squadron. In their opinion these recommendations appear to meet the requirements which, in the judgment of experts, it is necessary to meet. Well, Sir, they go on to say—After inquiring carefully into the condition of each of these forts, the Committee have no hesitation in stating their conviction that deficiencies exist in the defences of each of them which render our position dangerously insecure. It must not, indeed, be supposed from this statement that the money spent upon fortifications since 1860 has been injudiciously applied. They gave us adequate protection for many years; but now the enormously increased range and penetration of modern guns, and the great strength of iron-clads (what at the time of the erection of the fortifications could not have been foreseen), render partial, and in some cases very extensive, reconstruction essential, and necessitate an armament equal to modern requirements.It appears to me that in these few Words the Committee state, what all who have any knowledge of the changes which have been going on during the last 10 years will admit, that these changes make it imperative upon us to 367 take measures for the increase of the defence of our coasts, and also for increasing the strength of our Navy. These changes involve alterations in the power of guns and in the strength of iron-clads which could not have been foreseen, because these guns did not exist seven, eight, nine, or ten years ago. It was only in 1879 that I signed, on behalf of the Navy, the drawings of the first breech-loading gun for mounting on our ships, and that gun certainly was not made for two or three years after those drawings were signed. Small breech-loading guns had been in use for many years before; but hon. Gentlemen who are acquainted with the affairs of the Navy are aware that these breech-loading guns were withdrawn from the Service, owing to the strong objections entertained for some years previously to the date I have named, and it was only when we came to realize the absolute necessity of being able to meet the increasing strength of foreign guns and ships that we felt we must have breech-loading guns instead of muzzle-loading guns. It is not that a breech-loading gun in itself is a better gun than a muzzle-loading gun; but the objection is that you cannot handle them long—you cannot load and fire them as you can a breech-loading gun. The Committee go on to say that the next matters in importance to the Channel and Home defences are the defences of Gibraltar and Malta; and I am sure that any Gentleman capable of forming a judgment and of taking a survey of the responsibilities of the country, and of the dangers we should run if Gibraltar and Malta were not preserved as strong places for the security of the Empire, will readily agree with the Committee as to the absolute necessity of keeping these two fortresses in a proper condition of defence. Gibraltar and Malta, in common with our military ports at home, have suffered from the enormous increase in the power of large guns; and it is, therefore, necessary to give them guns and works which will enable them to resist any attack which may be made upon them. I would remind the Committee that the amount required, in the opinion of experts, to put these ports in a state of security in all contingencies is not less than £1,500,000. For that expenditure we shall be able to put the military ports in the Channel, Malta, 368 and Gibraltar in a condition of security.[Sir GEORGE BALFOUR (Kincardine):How about powder?] Powder and projectiles are not provided for in this loan. The principle upon which we have proceeded is this—and I think the Committee will agree that it is a sound principle. We have provided for permanent works, and for that which is next in endurance to permanent works, heavy guns, by this loan. We thought we would not be justified in providing powder and projectiles, matters which come under revision in the ordinary way in Annual Estimates. [Sir GEORGE BALFOUR dissented.] Whether my hon. and gallant Friend agrees with me or not, I am afraid I cannot retract from the position I take up—namely, that we should not have been justified in asking for money on loan which was to be spent from day to day and week to week, and which would disappear altogether by the use of powder and projectiles. That is a matter for the Estimates. Well, Sir, I will not occupy the House long on the question of mercantile ports. I have stated the principle upon which we have proceeded with regard to them. They will be made reasonably secure against attacks from gunboats or torpedo boats; but it is obvious that to fortify our mercantile ports, or make them strong places in the ordinary sense of the word, would be a mistake of the gravest character, for it would draw upon them the fire of the enemy, and the results might be serious, even if the attack were beaten off. There is one point in this Report to which I wish to draw special attention, and that is the remark of the Committee as to the necessity of providing for garrisons. They say—The Committee have received from the head of the Intelligence Division of the War Office evidence as to the necessity of providing for the requisite garrisons, and for their maintenance in an effective state. Moreover, every battery of modern guns has its peculiar features, which, if it is to be worked effectively, ought to be thoroughly studied beforehand by the actual troops (whether of the Regular or Auxiliary Forces) likely to have charge of it in war time. Many circumstances combine to make it very difficult for our garrisons to have sufficient experience of the guns they will have to serve. This is a point which, in the opinion of the Committee, requires very careful attention, and they would recommend that every arm of the Service which is told off for the defence of a particular port should, wherever reasonably practicable, have an opportunity of being exercised upon the ground which it may have to 369 defend, and with the guns which it may have to use.Well, I think any reasonable man will fully recognize the importance and value of these recommendations, and I am happy to be able to say that steps have been taken to provide garrisons, to provide arrangements under which the men, whether they belong to the Regular or Auxiliary Forces, who will be told off to work the guns and man the fortifications will be practised on the guns, and will be employed for this purpose. An increase in the Garrison Artillery has been made for the purpose, and I think an increase has been sanctioned in the Fortress Engineers also.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
The whole increase asked for is not yet made.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Anyhow, before the fortresses are ready an increase will be provided. The Volunteer Artillery and Sub-Marine Miners will be increased according to the necessity of each part of the coast. We provide the necessary money for the permanent works at home and abroad which are required. We provide money for heavy guns; but all the naval, all the light guns, all the small arms, and all the ammunition are provided for in the Estimates, and we consider that it is necessary to adhere to that arrangement, so that no guns for the Navy will be provided for out of the loan. The expenditure which will be involved in this scheme altogether is £2,600,000, and the cost of the small arms, ammunition, and light guns which falls on the Estimates will be £900,000, making £3,500,000 which we propose for the Services we have undertaken. We have reason to believe that the guns will be complete in the time mentioned—three years. [Cries of "Oh!"] Three years may appear to be a very long time; but I am sorry to say our experience during the last four or five years has been that heavy guns are never completed within the time named in the first instance, either by the contractors or the Gun Factory. I make no complaint of the individuals who are themselves responsible in some measure for this delay, because when we come to examine the facts of the case it turns out that the delays arise in many cases from circumstances beyond their control. A gun 370 may fail under the severe tests which are applied, and then the heavy forging has to be done over again and the gun is delayed. It is only fair, right, and just to the men who are doing their best to fulfil their engagements with the country that these facts should be stated. But, on the other hand, it is the duty of the Government to look these facts in the face, to look a long way ahead, and to avail themselves of the dearly-bought experience they have obtained from, I will not say the errors of the past, but from the facts of the past, and see that any work upon which they may enter shall be so carefully thought out beforehand, that when ships and fortifications are ready for guns, the guns shall be ready for them. I do not despair of even accelerating the delivery of these guns. I will only mention one fact to justify the statements I have made as to the period required for the delivery of the guns. I was myself responsible for an order given to a great firm in September, 1885, and I am sorry to say that but a very small portion of that order has as yet been executed. It was an order for £150,000 worth of guns. I believe the manufacturers have exercised due diligence in the endeavour to complete the order; but they have not yet completed it, and the result is that some of our ships are waiting for guns which we had every reason to believe would have been put in the ships by this time. I say this without, in the slightest degree, imputing blame to my Predecessors. They, no doubt, believed that when they ordered guns two or three years would be a reasonable time within which to expect delivery of them; but that has not proved to be the case, and disappointments and delays have resulted. Neither the Royal Gun Factories nor the private manufacturers have been able to complete guns within the contract time, and we are without them at the present time. But as soon as we knew that these delays were occurring the Government took every step in their power to see that due diligence was exercised in completing the guns now in arrear. We have put such pressure as we are able to put upon the manufacturers themselves; we have requested a competent engineer to visit the works, and see whether he can suggest any definite measures to secure earlier delivery of the guns; and, taking warning from the 371 past, we have ourselves provided against the repetition of a delay which is not only exceedingly disappointing, but which may be very dangerous to the public interest. A remark has been made in the course of the discussions upon this question as to the new rifle. Now, I wish to tell the Committee frankly what has occurred in this matter. If anything is kept back, it may be said we have some motive in keeping it back. Like other countries, we have been for a long time desirous of having a new rifle, the best rifle obtainable. For six years, I think, the subject has been studied by the Military Authorities. A Committee of experts, under pressure from myself I am afraid, reported two years ago in favour of a particular rifle; but no sooner had the Report been adopted and some rifles had been manufactured than it became clear to the Military Authorities that a better rifle was in prospect. Therefore, the manufacture was stopped, new experiments were undertaken, and the Committee was re-assembled; and now at last, after the lapse of another two years, we have a pattern which is approved by the Military Authorities, and is about to be tried in all climates and under all circumstances before it is finally adopted. But our experience is precisely the experience of other countries. It is said that Prance has got a start in the manufacture of a rifle; but we are not quite certain that that is the case, and certainly Germany has not yet started the manufacture of a new small-bore Magazine rifle, which is the arm that to our Military Authorities seems to be most necessary. I mention these circumstances in order to show that, however great may be the faults of our civilian administration of the War Department—and I am far from saying they have not faults—here is a particular question which has been entirely in the hands of experts during the last six years. [An hon. MEMBER: Seven years.] A right hon. Gentleman opposite says longer—that it is seven years. These experts have had every assistance, and all available resources which successive Governments possessed placed at their disposal; but so great are the difficulties, so many are the considerations involved in the choice of weapons, that it is only now that the Military Authorities have succeeded in 372 deciding for themselves that they believe they have at last gat the best weapon. One of the complaints made against the Government is, that we are slow in adopting improvements, and that so soon as we have adopted an improvement we do not immediately replace all the material of war that we possess by the improved article. In the first place, we must have some trial of a new article before we can know whether it is an improved weapon; and, in the next place, we must consider what expenditure is required to replace the rifle in the hands of 650,000 men who are mentioned as the strength of our Army, including Volunteers, but omitting the forces in India. It is complained that we have not organized the Departments and welded them into one vast machine. No efforts have been spared during the last three years—and I doubt not in years preceding, but certainly not on the part of Her Majesty's present Government—to avail themselves of the intelligence at their command at the War Office in the endeavour to improve the organization of the Army, to render it capable of undertaking any duties it may be called upon to discharge—in point of fact, to make it what it ought to be, ready to go anywhere, and to discharge any duty the country can reasonably call upon it to discharge. We have had great assistance from our Military Advisers and from experts specially called in. I should delay the Committee too much if I were to attempt to describe the work which has been done. Most valuable work has been done in the Departments of the Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General and by the head of the Intelligence Department, and they have combined in framing a scheme which has received the approval of the Secretary for War, and which has gone very far indeed to make the Army mobile and an easily-used machine for the purpose for which it is intended. I do not say this for the purpose of eliciting expressions of praise or of confidence. I know it is only natural that members of the Military and Naval Professions should have a certain want of confidence in civilians in the administration of great Services like the Army and Navy; but it is only fair that I should state that both at the Admiralty and at the War Department the professional officers who have been 373 selected have been seriously at work, and certainly, in our time, every effort has been made to take a comprehensive view of our military system. In the discharge of that duty it is utterly impossible that some changes should not have been made, some steps should not have been taken, which have not met with the approval of every naval or military officer; but still the changes have been made on the best advice that could be obtained, and my own belief is that if during this period there had been a military Secretary of State, or a naval First Lord of the Admiralty, there would have been at least as many differences of opinion as have been expressed during the last few years upon the policy of the Government in from time to time effecting changes in the Services. I have a long Report of the work which has been done from a most distinguished officer, but I will not now weary the House with it. Another complaint is that sufficient provision has not been made for warlike stores in the Army and Navy. I am very far from saying that we have made up leeway, and that we have overcome all the difficulties of the position which the rapid changes and extraordinary developments of destructive weapons have created during the last three years; but it is right the Committee should realize what has been done as regards warlike stores alone. Four or five years ago, it was held that £1,600,000 or thereabouts would supply new guns to the Navy, and make good the wear and tear of military ports, and supply projectiles required for both Services, and also supply arms required for both—in fact, would meet all the necessities of warlike stores for both the Army and the Navy. Within four years our Estimates for these Services have gone up to £3,600,000. We now ask Parliament for £3,600,000, whereas in 1884–5 only £1,619,000 was required. This sum which appears on the Estimates is altogether irrespective of the loan we now propose to contract. I assure the Committee we should noh ave asked for a single farthing of this money unless we had felt it was our absolute duty to do so, having regard to the interests of the country. We know that the country will not be secure unless our soldiers and sailors are armed with the best weapons which the country can obtain for them, and unless the country 374 is furnished with the best material of war which it is possible to procure. In endeavouring to obtain the best arms and other material of war, we believe we are doing our duty to the country and meeting the obligations imposed upon us. Now, Sir, I think I ought to refer to some questions which have been raised during the last three or four weeks. The Government, on the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), undertook to grant an inquiry into the extent to which our naval and military systems, as at present organized and administered, are adapted to the national wants. I have explained to my hon. and gallant Friend that the Government have been unable to constitute a Commission to undertake all that is included in that Reference; but the noble Marquess the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington) has undertaken to preside over a Commission—To inquire into the civil and professional administration of the Naval and Military Departments, and the relation of those Departments to each other and to the Treasury; and to report what changes in the existing system would tend to the efficiency and economy of the Public Service.I am challenged as to the method by which the inquiry shall be conducted into the important question of naval and military organization originally intended to be reported upon by the Royal Commission; for example, into the system under which English troops are found for Indian and Colonial Services, and for the garrisons of our coaling stations, and the experience we have gained of the operation of short service and of the Reserve. It is the intention of the Government to conduct the inquiry with the assistance of officers and civilians who are acquainted with the very difficult questions at issue, with the view of determining for themselves, and upon their own responsibility, whether changes ought not to be made in a system which, though perfect in theory, is certainly one which involves a very great drain on the resources of the country. It must be remembered that at the present time we have 70,000 men in India; that we have large garrisons scattered all over the world; that these troops are entitled to relief at certain intervals of time; and that the effect of the relief is 375 to create a considerable drain upon the Army in this country, and to expose the battalions serving at home to an amount of exhaustion, so to speak, in order to maintain the strength of the battalions serving abroad of which few people have any conception. We think that the system has now been in operation long enough to justify a careful examination of its results, and we shall take care that that examination is complete and thorough. The Prime Minister himself is giving attention to the question, with the view of ascertaining whether the system is one which ought to be maintained. Sir, I am no optimist. On the contrary, I am willing to admit that there are many deficiencies to be supplied, many evils to be grappled with, many improvements to be effected. But the recognition of invention and improvement brings upon us some of the charges now made. A fast ship with a powerful battery discredits the slower and the weaker vessels; a new gun of great range and penetration, a new rifle, or a new explosive by the side of the weapons previously relied upon, condemns them as obsolete, although they have done good service to the country. It is our duty to avail ourselves of the ingenuity, the scientific skill, and the mechanical power of the country to obtain the best arms that can be put into the hands of our soldiers and sailors; but there are enormous difficulties in manufacture, failures and delays in new material, new designs, and immensely developed powers. It is impossible to improvise at once complete supplies for Services like ours of the best and the latest patterns. I do not say that to excuse inefficiency, to excuse indifference, to excuse procrastination. It is our duty to consider what the necessities of the country are, to examine them with care upon our responsibility, and to see that, to the best of our ability, those necessities are met as they from time to time arise. But hon. Gentlemen should remember that we are sometimes apt to insist upon absolute perfection, and we are inclined to wait until we get absolute perfection. We have waited seven years, for instance, for a rifle, because we had not got that which was the very best. We have to use the material at our hands from day to day; we have to take the men who are at our disposal; we have 376 to take the ships which we can find; we have to adopt the guns which are at hand; we have to put the best weapon we can into the hands of our soldiers and sailors; and we believe that, in doing so, we shall best protect the interests of the country at large, and do our duty to the people who have sent us here. We have shown our readiness to effect any economy which knowledge and experience can suggest. We welcome inquiry and criticism. We do not seek to conceal shortcomings or mistakes for which either we ourselves or the system may be responsible. We do not shelter ourselves by aid of a storm of Party recrimination; but, adhering loyally to the principles of Parliamentary government which we are bound to maintain, we still hold to our view that the Government, and the Government alone, must be responsible for the measures to be recommended to Parliament and for the cost involved. If we fail to secure for ourselves the best advice, the most competent guidance, and to form a judgment upon the facts—to give shape and direction to a policy suited to the necessities of the country; or if, in the judgment of the House of Commons, we are deemed to be incapable of doing so, it becomes at once the duty of Parliament to replace the men in whom it has no confidence for the discharge of the most important function of any Government—the provision for the safety of the country. I beg to move the 1st Resolution which stands in my name.
Before a discussion begins, I may point out that though the right hon. Gentleman has naturally dealt with several questions, there are nine separate Resolutions to be proposed. The first four deal exclusively with the arrangement with the Australian Colonies. The general discussion, therefore, would more properly and consistently with Parliamentary usage take place on the 5th Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to ratify an Agreement for Naval Defence made between Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of Her Majesty's Australasian Colonies."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, there were one or two points which certainly required a little further explanation. As far as he could gather from 377 the speech—the very clear speech—of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, we were practically to give £4,440,000 towards certain ships. [Cries of "No!"] Yes; he thought so.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that the entire expenditure for ships, including armaments, was £850,000, and the entire expenditure in respect of the military ports at home and abroad, coaling stations, and mercantile ports was £3,500,000, of which £2,600,000 only was to be raised on loan.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that £850,000 was the total to be spent on the Australian Squadron. The ships would be ours at the end of the 10 years.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
asked, what good would the ships be when they were turned over to us? The whole thing amounted to this—that certain ships were to be built by us and used by Australia. We were to contribute £850,000 towards the ships. In order to be quite correct, he would like to ask what we were to expend upon the ships per annum—was the Australian Government to pay a farthing?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
said, that the whole arrangement was contained in the Report of the proceedings of the Colonial Conference which was laid before Parliament last year, and which had been discussed over and over again.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that he imagined he was right in supposing that £35,000 was to be spent by us upon these ships annually?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, the hon. Gentleman had quite misunderstood the arrangement. The Colonies were to pay £35,000 per annum as interest on the capital expended on the ships, and they were to pay the whole of the cost, including superannuation, of the officers and crews, and the estimated cost of the maintenance of the ships during the 10 years, which amounted to £91,000 per annum.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that in that case we were to give a grant-in-aid of these ships to the Australian Colonies of £850,000, and the ships were to be used exclusively for the defence of Australian ports and shores. He objected 378 to that entirely, and he objected to it so strongly that, so far from letting the thing go by default, of which there seemed a great likelihood before he rose, he should take a Division if he could find any Member to tell with him. They had heard lately a very great deal about Imperial Federation. He was no very great believer in the schemes and proposals to federate the Empire. He thought that the relations which existed at present between the Colonies and ourselves were a far better tie than any which could be devised. He had always known that when Imperial Federation was translated into deeds it would mean that we should be called upon to spend money for the Colonies. What was this? Surely, it was nothing but a call upon us to spend money for the Australian Colonies. [Admiral FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne): No.] The hon. and gallant Gentleman said "No;" but it was. It must be remembered that we, at the present moment, had our Fleet spread out all over the globe. We had to defend all our commerce upon the seas; we had to defend all our fortresses; we had, as they saw from these Resolutions, to vote money for coaling stations; and all this not only for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of the commerce of our Colonies. At present, it was thought by the Australian Colonies desirable to have a Fleet which was not to cruise on the high seas, but which was to be there to defend their ports and shores. He said that, far from our paying for that Fleet, the Australians ought to pay for it. If the Australians wanted to come into Imperial Federation, it seemed to him it would be only reason-able that they should commence by making a contribution to those Imperial charges from which they benefited—the charges for the Diplomatic Services, and the like. Who paid those charges? We in the United Kingdom paid them, though the Colonists benefited from them equally with us. Who paid for the Army? We paid for it? Some time ago, when we sent some troops to Suakin, we were told that the expedition would benefit India. India paid something towards the cost of the expedition. We were also told that the Colonies would be benefited by the expedition; but the Colonies contributed Absolutely nothing to wards the expenses. It was true the Australians did send a 379 number of men to Suakin; but they misconducted themselves. [Cries of "Oh, oh'"] Hon. Gentlemen cried "Oh, oh!" but he challenged the Government to produce any report as to what the men did in Malta. [An hon. MEMBER: They did not go to Malta.] They put in at Malta. [Cries of "No!"] He begged hon. Members' pardon; they did. The Canadian Contingent —the Voyageurs—did. At any rate, he did not think any single military man who was in the expedition—he said nothing about despatches, because some of the despatches were written with the object of patting the Colonists on the back—would say that the expedition to Suakin was in any sort of way benefited by the presence of the Australians, or that the operations on the Nile were benefited by the presence of the Canadian Voyageurs. Therefore, he maintained that although the Colonies benefited in every way by the vast expenditure, not only military, but civil, which we incurred, they did not pay their share. At the present moment the Australians wished to have a Home Squadron, and they asked us to pay a portion of the cost of it. We might be considered to be the parent of the Colonies. The Colonies were thriving children; we were getting old; we had very large debts to pay; we had to pay the interest on loans incurred during wars which were of benefit to the Colonies. Surely, if we were to keep up the large establishment we now kept up, if we were to expend and extend our establishment as was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, we ought, instead of being called on to make any contribution to the home defences of Australia, to receive some contribution from the Australian Colonies. It was said we should derive some benefit from this arrangement, because the ships were to be called ours. But they were to become ours when they were perfectly useless. Instead of indulging in generous, recklessly generous, ideas, because the thing was labelled "Imperial Federation," which was only a phrase, and worth nothing at all, the House ought to refuse to sanction this arrangement. The House should at once say—"What we believe is, that the Colonies ought to contribute to the general expenditure of the Empire, and the Colonies themselves should pay for the expenditure which is 380 necessary for each of them." He should take a Division upon this Resolution.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, he wished, in a few sentences, to make it quite clear what the arrangement was. Perhaps he had better say what the arrangement was in the first instance. The ships were originally to cost £700,000. On that cost the Australians agreed to pay 5 per cent for 10 years, at the end of which time the ships would not belong to Australia but remain ours. That did not strike him as a particularly bad bargain for this country. There was no gift of any kind. We were to advance the money, the Colonies were to pay the interest upon the money, and at the end of 10 years the ships were to revert to us. The increase in the cost of the ships from £700,000 to £850,000 reduced the contribution of £35,000 a-year to about 4 per cent instead of 5 per cent. That was the position in which the matter stood at present. The ships were not to be for the defence of the inland ports of Australia, if one might use such a phrase, but for the defence of the general commerce of Australia; and as the commerce of Australia was mostly carried on in English bottoms, no one would deny that English commerce had as great an interest in this matter as Colonial commerce. He was bound to say that the Colonies had shown every disposition to make an equitable bargain with us, and one which would not be heavy on the Mother Country. The arrangement which had been arrived at seemed to him to be fairly equitable between the Colonies and ourselves. He did not wish to enter upon the question as to whether the Colonies ought to pay the entire cost of their own defence. What he wanted to make clear was that this was not a gift. At the end of 10 years the ships would, of course, not be as valuable as they were now; but if at the end of 10 years, when old ships, they reverted to us, we should have been paid at the rate of 4 per cent for the use of the capital expended upon them.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (&c.) Stirling,
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done them a good service in making somewhat more plain the arrangement between the Imperial Government and the Colonies; because 381 although he had nothing but praise for the very lucid and ample statement of the First Lord of the Treasury, the right hon. Gentleman did not give to the Committee full particulars, especially as to the payment to be made by the Colonies. He had no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman trusted to knowledge on the part of Members of the Committee which all of them did not possess. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have remembered that the information was hidden away in a mass of Papers, and that it was difficult to glean it from the Report of the proceedings of the Colonial Conference last year. But there were one or two points he (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) would still like a little more information upon. As he understood the First Lord of the Treasury, the development of the size and of other qualities of these ships, and the consequent development of their cost, was represented by an additional £150,000, the difference between £700,000 and £850,000, £700,000 having been the amount originally decided upon, and £850,000 being the amount dealt with in these Resolutions. The Colonies were to pay, as he understood, £35,000 a-year, and they were to pay the whole cost of the crews. But would not the addition of these ships to the Navy involve an addition to the number of men under training, and would the ships be manned from the British Navy? Would the Colonies pay, not only the direct cost of the maintenance of the crews on the station, but the indirect charges, which sometimes were very heavy in such cases, which would otherwise fall on the British taxpayer? It would be interesting to be informed on these points. Now, he was not disposed, like his hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere) to raise an objection to this arrangement; but he thought it right to remark that he believed it was absolutely the first time that the expenses of building ships had been met by a loan of public money. Hitherto such an expenditure as this had always been met and charged upon the current Estimates of the year. That was a new departure, and he hoped it would not be regarded as a precedent in the case of our own expenditure; that it would be considered as solely justified on the ground of the peculiar relations between ourselves and the Colonies, and of the bargain that had 382 been made between the two. The sum was small to be got by way of loan, and the object was one which he believed had never been met in the way proposed. Loans had only been raised, as he had been taught to understand, for such great objects as fortifications, or some definite and tangible work. But, as he had said, he did not share the objection of his hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere). If the arrangement stood as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had explained, it did not seem to him to be a disadvantageous one for this country, as the commerce which was to be protected by those vessels was substantially British commerce rather than Australian. He certainly did not think it would be right to put any impediment in the way of an encouragement of a patriotic spirit on the part of the Colonies.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
asked to be allowed to explain a little more in detail the arrangement which was negotiated with the Colonial Representatives. The financial part of the arrangement had been properly described by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Colonists undertook to pay on the cost of these vessels a sum not exceeding £35,000 a-year for 10 years—that was on the cost of construction. They further arranged that of the ships constructed, three of the larger, and one of the smaller, should be permanently in commission, and that the remainder should have a certain staff and crow, and be in such a condition as to be ready for commission at a moment's notice. The whole cost of the maintenance of the ships in commission, and of the ships out of commission—the whole cost, both direct and indirect, everything connected with their maintenance—was to be borne by the Colonies, provided it did not exceed the sum of £91,000 a-year. In other words, the Colonies undertook to pay practically an appropriation in aid of the Imperial Naval Estimates amounting to £91,000. [An hon. MEMBER: For 10 years?] Yes; and at the end of that time the ships were to become the property of the British Government. That arrangement was arrived at after long and careful negotiation between them, and he thought it was one equitable to the Mother Country as well as to the Colonies. It established for the first time the great principle of financial partner- 383 ship between the Colonies and the Mother Country; and, so far from taking the view which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) entertained that this arrangement was unjust to the English taxpayer, he believed it might operate in precisely the opposite direction. The Colonial Representatives showed no narrow or prejudiced spirit. They were not influenced by local considerations; indeed, the last words a leading Delegate said to him before leaving this country were—I am glad the Imperial Government have met us in a frank and liberal spirit. We, in Australia, are now only 4,000,000; but in 30 or 40 years we may be 40,000,000 or 50,000,000, and then, when our riches and our power have increased, we shall be able to treat the Mother Country in as generous and liberal a spirit as it now treats us.He (Lord George Hamilton) trusted, when a question of such Imperial importance came before the Imperial Parliament, that Parliament would not be found wanting. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) had called attention to the increase in the cost of the ships, and that was a point on which he (Lord George Hamilton) desired to say a few words, because it brought home at once to anybody who was in any way interested in naval affairs the danger of attempting to embark upon a wholesale expenditure upon ships. The march of mechanical science was now extraordinarily rapid. One of the arrangements they made at the Colonial Conference was that whatever type of ship was adopted it should, so far as its displacement was concerned, be equal in power and speed to anything afloat. The Colonists said that, being a new and go-a-head people, they would only be satisfied with the most modern type of war ship. The ship the Admiralty proposed was an improved type of the Archer class, which, at that time, fulfilled these conditions; but, owing to a delay on the part of one of the Colonies in assenting to the proposal, they were unable to put out last year the tenders for the building of the ships. In the meantime, certain foreign nations designed and commenced ships more powerful than the vessels of the Archer class; and the Admiralty were therefore obliged, in order to fulfil their bargain, to substitute, for the vessels originally decided upon, ships of the size mentioned 384 by his right hon. Friend. It, therefore, came to this—that although they had lost five months in point of time, they had gained considerably by an increase in the power, speed, and generally efficiency of the ships. If the vessels had been laid down last year they would have been inferior to the vessels subsequently laid down. That, he thought, brought home very clearly the unwisdom of prematurely rushing into shipbuilding. They might be confident that, as soon as a vessel was laid down, one superior in speed and probably in power would be commenced. He thought he had answered all the questions put to him; and he hoped the Committee, considering the manner in which these proposals were treated by the Colonial Legislature, would endeavour to act in a reciprocal spirit, and not go to a Division.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
said, he desired to reserve what he had to say upon the Resolutions until a later period, and what he rose for now was to repudiate what the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) said about the Australians who came to help us at Suakin. He went up the Nile, and he went to Suakin afterwards, and he might say, on behalf of every soldier and sailor serving in that expedition, that they were very grateful to the Australians for the help they rendered. Their discipline in camp was splendid, they were excellent soldiers, and they could not have done better then they did. As to the Canadian Voyageurs, he very much doubted whether our men could have got as far as they did if they had not had the Voyageurs with them. The experience on the Nile was something totally new to our officers and men; but the Voyageurs took charge of the boats; it was an old game of theirs. They understood the rapids and rocks, and they were, in truth, found most useful. He was fully persuaded he only expressed the opinion of every man in the expedition, when he said they were most grateful to the Canadians for what they did on the Nile. As to the Australians, he did not think they went to Malta. The hon. Gentleman was totally misinformed upon that point. The Canadians did go to Malta; but he had never heard anything but a good account of them in whatever they undertook.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
said, he entirely approved of the policy of the Government in regard to the vessels which the First Lord of the Treasury had told them they were going to supply. There was one point, however, upon which he should like further information. The Government told them what their policy was to be, but he had considerable doubt as to whether they would be able to carry it out. He was obliged to make that statement, in consequence of the answer given by the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) with regard to our own guns. If we were unable to supply our own naval guns, how were we going to find the guns for the Australian vessels?
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, that he was only going to raise the question of guns, as far as the Navy was concerned; and on the question of the supply of these ships he presumed he should be in Order in doing that?
said, that, if guns were provided for in the 5th Resolution, it would be much more appropriate that the question of guns should be raised upon that Resolution.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, he was anxious that an opportunity of raising the question should not be allowed to pass.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, there was no difficulty in providing guns for this class of ship. The difficulty was confined to the large guns—the 22-ton guns, and upwards. In the supply of six-inch guns there had been no delay, and, as a matter of fact, the orders for the guns for these ships had been already placed.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
asked, whether the sum of £91,000 included the £35,000, or was an additional sum?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that a sum of £35,000 was to be paid annually for 10 years on the original cost of construction, and a sum not exceeding £91,000 was to be paid annually for the maintenance of the ships in commission.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
said, he wanted to understand what the view of the Chairman was with regard to the course of the debate. As he understood at present with regard to the whole of the Resolutions, so far as they 386 dealt with the defence of our Australian Colonies, they would be discussed now; but everything else arising out of them would have to be considered on the Fifth Resolution, which authorized the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of £2,600,000.
There are nine separate Resolutions which will be submitted separately to the Committee. Each Resolution has its proper sphere of discussion; but on the fifth, which is of an extensive and comprehensive character, any question relating to Imperial Defence may be discussed except that part with reference to the Australian Colonies.
§ MR. WADDY
said, that was what he understood, and he had only wished to have it clearly laid down. Now, he agreed with what had been said with reference to drawing tighter the bonds between the Mother Country and the Colonies, and the sentiments of generosity which had been expressed by the Government in this matter were, no doubt, shared by hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House. But he must say it appeared to him that a false issue had been raised as to this £850,000. It was stated that this was not a gift. Well, it was not a loan, because it was said that the Colonies were not to pay it back. It was a gift, if anything. We were to find the £850,000 to begin with, and just let the Committee see how the figures would work out. We were to find £850,000 to begin with, and what were we to have at the end of the time? We were going, he supposed, to raise the money under the new arrangement—at any rate, that was the most favourable light to put it in—and to pay 2½ per cent for it. We were to get 4 per cent per annum for the money, and to get it for 10 years; therefore, we should receive as the difference between the two percentages—the two rates of interest—£12,750 a-year. In other words, we should get back of our £850,000 in cash, spread over the whole term of 10 years, £127,500. Therefore, in reality, there would be £722,500 out of the £850,000 which, as cash, we should never see back again at all, and all that we should get in exchange for this large amount of money would be the return of the ships at the end of 10 years. Well, he supposed it would be agreed that at the 387 end of 10 years the ships and engines, if not worn out, would be so much depreciated that they would not be worth taking into account. They would be more like old iron than anything else; so that at the end of the 10 years all we should get would be the value of the ships as they would be then. We should receive the ships back, and he supposed they would be sent to the Dockyards and broken up.
§ MR. WADDY
said, he was glad to hear it. Though the vessels might not have to be destroyed at the end of 10 years, still they would clearly be in a very depreciated condition, and would be comparatively useless. Whatever might be their state of depreciation—and on this point he did not wish to insist—the article they would get back at the end of the period of 10 years would not be of the value of £850,000 which they were now spending. It might be a very desirable arrangement that the Government proposed to make; but, inasmuch as it was such an arrangement as he had described, it was evidently important to them that they should consider what had been said by a right hon. Member from the Front Bench on the Opposition side of the House—namely, that this was the first time the Government of this country was found borrowing money in this way for such a purpose. It did seem to him (Mr. Waddy) that if this was a proper outlay—and that it was not a proper outlay he did not suggest, because he did not wish to contest that point at this moment—it, at any rate, appeared to him that we were in this position. We were making a provision for what were said to be the ordinary requirements of the Empire—[Cries of "No, no"] Yes; that was what was said now. We were undertaking an entirely new system of provision for the ordinary requirements of the Empire, for the Government declared that these ships were not wanted for the protection of the Colonies, but for the defence of the Empire generally. The ships were required for the protection of our own commerce, and, no doubt, that was true; but it had always been the case. The only difference was that we were now making a better provision for the protection of our commerce in far-off parts of the world 388 than had been made before. Then let us have our eyes quite open as to what we were doing. If it was necessary and desirable that this money should be spent, then by all means let it be spent; but it surely was not desirable to raise the money in the manner proposed? It ought to be raised on the ordinary Estimates of the year. He felt this point very strongly indeed—that, for a purpose which the Government held to be necessary, they were spending more money on the ordinary provision for the year, without allowing the expenditure to come into the ordinary Estimates of the year. It was, in point of fact, an attempt to conceal the real expenditure of the country by calling it by a new name, and spreading the amount over 10 years. If, as he said, the money ought to be spent, in the name of common sense spend it; but let the expenditure take place in the ordinary fashion.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport),
in reply to the hon. and learned Member for the Brigg Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Waddy), said, that if this arrangement was not made with the co-operation of Australia, we should still have to supply these vessels ourselves for the protection of our commerce, though, instead of its costing the country the sum which the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think it would cost, we should be actually receiving something like £90,000 from Australia in support of these vessels. There was one bit of information which he (Captain Price) should have liked to have received from the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) as to the control of this Australian Squadron. He understood that the Squadron was to be under the control of the senior naval officer on that Station, but, at the same time, it was only to be used in Australian waters. Now, he wished to know who was to be the judge as to how, from the Australian shores, this Squadron should act, because there was one very important duty which a Squadron such as this would be called upon to fulfil in connection with commerce—that was to say, the duty of convoy? He would put this question to the noble Lord, who, perhaps, would be able to give them an answer before the end of the discussion, and say whether some arrangement could not be made with the Australian Government by which, in case of war, 389 these vessels would be allowed to convoy merchantmen for a certain distance from the shores of Australia, say, to the Cape or to Singapore, or to such other place as the merchantmen could be handed over to the Imperial Navy? It certainly seemed to him that there should be some definite arrangement between ourselves and the Australian Colonies for this purpose. Before he sat down he should like to express his great regret for the slur which had been cast upon our Australian Colonies by the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) in regard to their having sent troops to Egypt to our assistance. Whether or not what the hon. Member had said this evening was calculated to advance his notoriety in this country, at any rate he (Captain Price) sincerely trusted that the hon. Member's words would not, in any shape, reach the shores of our Australian Colonies.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, that whilst he objected to the proposal to raise money for the purpose of Imperial defence by loan, he should feel bound, if a Division were challenged, to vote in favour of ratifying the agreement which had been entered into with the Australian Colonies.
§ COLONEL BRIDGEMAN (Bolton)
said, he wished to protest against the language used by the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) with reference to the New South Wales contingent at Suakin, and to bear out what had been said by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) and the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price). It would be a very serious thing if it should go forth from England to Australia that the services of the Colonial troops who served in the Soudan were not appreciated. The hon. Member for Northampton had said that no soldier would rise to say that those Volunteers had been of any use; but, having served in the same brigade with them, he (Colonel Bridgeman) wished to bear testimony to the admirable manner in which they had performed their duty. No men could have worked harder or more willingly, or shown a keener anxiety to learn a 390 soldier's duties. It was a splendid thing for a Colony to have sent men out, at its own expense, to the help of the Mother Country in a time of danger, and it would be a national misfortune if it went forth to Australia that England had failed to appreciate the loyalty which was shown to her.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he wished to know whether the Colonies were to pay for the repair and maintenance of the vessels in commission, in addition to the payment of the £91,000 referred to?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that the arrangement was that the Colonies were to bear the expense of the maintenance of the ships in commission up to £91,000. That sum, it had been estimated, would be sufficient to keep them in proper repair, and to pay for their coaling and for caretakers of the vessels when out of commission. They also estimated that the indirect charges would fall within that sum of £91,000, though he did not mean to say that that sum would never be exceeded.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
asked, if it were exceeded, whether this country would have to pay the extra expenditure?
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
said, he desired to add a word or two to what had fallen from his right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) at an earlier part of the debate. They would probably have a great deal to say upon the 5th and some of the following Resolutions. No doubt, the Committee would be glad of further elucidation as to the effect of those Resolutions; but as regarded the present Resolution, as affecting the arrangement with the Australian Government, he was bound to say—and he said it with some recollection of the arrangement made a long time ago, in fact before he occupied the post of First Lord of the Admiralty, in connection with the Victorian Squadron of that day—that he thought the Government had made a very fair and reasonable arrangement. The Government were going to spend £850,000—an enlarged expenditure from the sum of £700,000 originally contemplated—upon this Squadron, which, though it would be for service in Australian waters, would be entirely under the command of Her Majesty's officers. That amount appeared to him to be a reasonable sum to spend as the initial cost of these 391 ships. What he understood would happen would be this, that the Australian Governments amongst them would contribute every year, during a period of 10 years, somewhere about £125,000 towards the capital expenditure on the ships, and the annual maintenance of the vessels, that was to say, we should receive £1,250,000 towards a fleet which in all probability, even if it had not been for this arrangement with the Colony, the necessity for protecting our commerce would have compelled us to establish ourselves. He did not say that if it were not for this arrangement with the Colonies, we should be spending an amount equal to that which it was proposed now to spend, but, at any rate, we should have had to incur a large outlay for the protection of our enormous commerce to and from Australia, and the fact remained that that burden was shared by the Australian Colonies to the extent of £1,250,000, spread over a period of 10 years. So far, then, as regarded the arrangement with the Colonies, he was well satisfied; but he must say that he was not quite so sure of the wisdom of the arrangement between the Admiralty and the Treasury. He confessed he shared the apprehensions of some of those who had asked whether as between the Admiralty and the Treasury, in regard to a strictly internal arrangement in the matter of the cost of providing these ships, was it worth while to break through the great principle on which all ships had hitherto been built? The cost of these works had hitherto been defrayed out of the annual Votes of Parliament, but now it was proposed to defray the cost of so small a charge as £850,000 by means of a loan. If the money were to be borrowed, he admitted that the arrangements for the loan itself were not unreasonable. The repayment of capital and interest was to be spread over a period of 10 years, and that was preferable to the 20 years for which loans of the same kind had formerly been raised—that, for instance, for fortifications which was contracted under Lord Palmerston's Government. What he was afraid of, was, that if once they began to raise loans for perishable things such as ships, although they only began with the small amount of £850,000, the time would come when it would be quoted as a precedent, and they would be asked to build a much larger Navy by the aid of money raised on loan. 392 He did not suggest that such a proposal would be made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury or the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not believe it would be made by them; they had disavowed any such idea, but the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) would forgive him for reminding him that such a proposal was made by a distinguished statesman not many years ago, and that it was possible it might be renewed on some future occasion. If the proposal were not made now it was not the noble Lord's fault that it was not. He (Mr. Childers) remembered perfectly well the controversy which took place when that proposal was made, and he shared very much the apprehensions of those who feared that what was now being done would be quoted as a precedent on some future occasion. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had assured them that so far as he was concerned, this would not be made a precedent of, and that assurance would find a place on the authentic records of the debates of Parliament, and, therefore, he (Mr. Childers) would at that moment say no more on the subject. He had risen not only to say that, but to express his great satisfaction with the words to which the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had given utterance as to shipbuilding. The noble Lord had put before them the unreasonableness of embarking upon an enormous amount of shipbuilding of the type which happened to be the best type of the year. There, again, we had had, and should have both now and in the future, proposals made for an enormous amount of shipbuilding to be undertaken for the reason that some person in authority might come to the conclusion that our Navy was insufficient, and that a very large amount of tonnage ought to be built. But the noble Lord had spoken clearly as to the grave objections which existed to such a policy, and he (Mr. Childers) hoped that the very wise words of which the noble Lord had made use would not be forgotten. They would remember that the French had fallen into precisely the same error which it was so essential that the Parliament of this country should avoid in this matter. A very able Commission was appointed not so many years ago in France, and he remembered very well its inception, and its recommending 393 to the Imperial Government of France that it should embark upon a very large programme of shipbuilding. The French Government approved of the recommendation, and ordered a very large Fleet to be prepared, the expenditure on that Fleet to be spread over, he thought, 10 years or some such period. Well, what had been the result? Why by the end of the 10 years two-thirds of the vessels built were found to be of an obsolete character. The French had thus been engaged in a most wild shipbuilding speculation, quite forgetting that the type and character of modern ships of war changed very rapidly. Ten years, or certainly 12 years, after these ships were taken in hand, it was found that they were, to a great extent, obsolete, and those who had compared the strength of the French Fleet with our own at that time—and it was his business to take part in that comparison—had felt very easy as to the final outcome of the enormous shipbuilding speculation undertaken by the French Government. Therefore, he was very glad when he heard the noble Lord lay down such a sound doctrine. Might he ask the noble Lord to add another principle to that which he had laid down, and it was this, that whatever decision might be arrived at as to the number of ships to be laid down, do not be afraid to finish them—that it was better to undertake three or four new ships, and not be afraid to finish them, than to contemplate building a large fleet, and spend a small sum on each, but then to patch and alter them from time to time as shipbuilding science advanced, and never complete them according to the original designs. If they undertook three or four new ships and finished them, when they were well forward with these they could commence another batch, in which all more recent improvements would find place. In this way they would get the advantage from time to time of whatever advance was made in shipbuilding, gunnery, and engineering science, as the Government had shown that within 12 months they had been forced to take advantage of the most modern principles in the type of vessel to be built for the Australian Station. He hoped he was not unduly pressing this principle upon the attention of the Government. It was one that all Admiralties always disliked to face; but he hoped it was one that the Govern- 394 ment would adhere to. He thought he saw signs of its having been adhered to by the noble Lord, and he congratulated the noble Lord upon the circumstance, and he trusted that the principle would receive the approval of the House.
§ SIR. WILLIAM CROSSMAN (Portsmouth)
said, he only rose to refer to a remark which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) as to the part taken by the Australian Colonies in the expenditure for Imperial defence. He (Sir William Grossman) had visited the Colonies some seven years ago, and had been very much struck by the preparations which had been made by the Colonists in the direction of fortifications for their own ports. From all he had heard, the Colonies were keeping pace with the times, and were improving their fortifications year by year. The Colonies had done very much for their own defence; and he thought that when it came to a question of the defence of British commerce, it was for the Government to make the best bargain in their power with the Colonies.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
said, the principle involved in this Resolution was so important and novel that he thought the Government ought to feel very well satisfied with the general acceptance it had obtained in this country as well as in Australia. He confessed that, looking at the matter as a financial operation, it seemed to him that the English people had not altogether got the best of the bargain. From the statement made by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty this evening, it appeared that originally the cost of these ships was to be £700,000; but the Australians, who were a go-a-head people, came forward and said they wanted the best and fastest ships which could be supplied, the result being that the expenditure had been increased to £850,000. He did not find, however, that the Australians were to pay any more on account of this increase in the expenditure. It was very easy for the Colonists to appear a go-a-head people in this way with the money of other persons. Nor was he greatly comforted by the assurance of the Australian delegates, which the First Lord of the Admiralty had quoted with so much satisfaction, that Australia, if generously treated by England now, would repay the debt a hundred- 395 fold at some future time when she became a nation of 40,000,000; for no people had the right to pledge their descendants in this way, and, besides, the Australians were very much better off now, when they had a small population possessing boundless mineral and agricultural resources, than they were likely to be when their numbers had largely increased. If then, he looked upon this as a purely business arrangement, in that light he considered that the Australians had made a very good bargain indeed for themselves with the taxpayers of this country. The real defence of this proposal seemed to him to be that it was an immense improvement upon the existing state of things, for at the present moment the Australian Colonies enjoyed all the benefits of being protected by this mighty Empire, whilst they did not share in its expense and responsibility. Now, for the first time, the Government had succeeded in inducing them to enter formally into an arrangement by which they would pay a portion of the expenses of the Imperial Government, and by which they were willing to join us in defending the commerce of the Empire. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had said that the ships which went to Australia were English ships, and that, therefore, it was only right that we should contribute a large proportion of the expenditure necessary for protecting them. But if we entered into any scheme of Imperial Federation, or entered into the consideration of the principle upon which such a federation could be carried out, they would all agree that each portion of the Empire should pay for its own defence. That was the principle we acted upon in regard to India. We treated India in a very different fashion to the way in which we treated our Colonies. We required her to pay for every man and every pound of powder she got from us, and the principle of protecting at our own expense all the British ships that traded with India was not recognized in our treatment of her in the slightest degree. If a scheme of anything like a real federation were adopted, we should have to give our Colonies an equal control with ourselves over the policy of the whole Empire. At present, the Colonies did not possess that, and therefore it was perhaps only reasonable to 396 expect that they should not contribute as largely as they should otherwise do towards the defence of the whole Empire. All that could be said for the present proposal was that a beginning had been made in the right direction, and that now, for the first time, the Australian Colonies recognized their responsibilities, and were willing to take a share in the defence of the Empire.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he congratulated the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham (Mr. J. M. Maclean) in having delivered the most sensible speech which had been made on that side of the House, although he was very much afraid the hon. Member was about to vote precisely in opposition to the views he had expressed. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) had complained that he (Mr. Labouchere) had stated that the New South Wales contingent had not conducted themselves properly at Malta. He had been speaking not only of the New South Wales contingent, but of the Canadian Voyageurs, and the fact was that this force was composed principally of young men who had emigrated as boys from England to Canada, and were very glad of this opportunity of getting back to Europe for a holiday. With respect to the New South Wales contingent, he only wished that hon. Gentlemen, instead of reading the Jingo organs in this country, would consult the newspapers published in Australia—there might be three or four Jingo organs in Australia; but he would recommend to the attention of hon. Members those organs which were best appreciated by the inhabitants of that country. It would be seen, from the statements in those papers, that all persons in Australia not of a Jingo disposition were of opinion that the whole expedition of the New South Wales contingent to Egypt was entirely a mistake. The idea was put forward by a Prime Minister, who had naturally a servile spirit, and who wished to show his servility to this country. It was a most undesirable and regrettable circumstance that they had dragged the Australian Colonies into this miserable warfare—to make war upon people, who in the words of the late Prime Minister, were "rightly struggling to be free."
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he would not go into the question of the expedi- 397 tion to Suakin; but with respect to this particular Vote he desired to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had made the matter clear to them, so that they now knew exactly what the arrangement would cost. Financially, it was most unquestionably a bad bargain; and it was desirable that the electors of this country should perfectly understand this, that taking the price at which we could borrow money at this time, and the amount we were to be paid, the operation of raising the money would cost us, from first to last, £220,000. Now, an hon. Member on the other side had said that this was an addition to the Imperial Navy. It was not a bit of an addition to the Imperial Navy. These ships would be essentially a local Navy to protect the Australian waters. They would do no more than that, as they would have not only to protect vessels in Australian waters, but also to protect Australian forts. He had read the speeches made by gentlemen who were touched with this Imperial Federation mania. He had read the speeches of gentlemen from Canada, protesting against their ports being open to attacks from the Navies of other nations when those nations might be at war with this country. He had seen it stated that, in the event of a war breaking out between England and some Foreign Power, a hostile ship might go in front of one of their towns and insist on bombarding it, unless some ransom were paid. That also was the argument used by the Australians when this proposal was made, and that was one of the grounds upon which the arrangement was carried out; but now the Government turned round and said it was British commerce that was to be protected by these proposed new vessels. How was British commerce to be protected by these ships? British commerce would have to go out to Australia before it could receive protection. We were to bear the expense of protecting our commerce between England and Australia, and when it arrived in Australian waters we were still to share the expense of protecting it in the manner proposed. As a matter of fact, the Australians had few ships of their own; but Australian imports came in ships which went to Australia from this country, and therefore it was Australian commerce which required to be protected in Australian 398 waters. If we were to say to the Australians—"We want you to contribute not towards a general Fleet to defend British commerce all over the world, but towards the maintenance of a special local Fleet in British waters, in order to protect ships coming from Australia, because in those ships there happen to be Australian goods," what would be the reply of the people of Australia? And yet that mutatis mutandis was the argument hon. Gentlemen opposite used on this occasion. The hon. Member for Oldham had said that this was the beginning of a new principle, and that was precisely what he (Mr. Labouchere) objected to. It was, no doubt, the commencement of a new principle, and what he complained of was that, if sanctioned in this case, it would be extended to other Colonies. If they made this bargain with Australia, how could they refuse to enter into a similar one with Canada and the Cape? In the future they should find that wherever they had Colonies, those Colonies would come sponging upon them and asking to have ships built and equipped for them for the defence of their shores, and, forsooth, that they would support them when they were built, and, generous creatures, give them back to this country when they were worth nothing. With regard to this condition that this country was to get the ships back again, if he were a prophet he should be inclined to say that they should not even get them back at the end of the 10 years, or if they did get them back that it would be simply on condition of giving new ships to replace them, at a cost of another £700,000 or £800,000. An hon. Member opposite had stated that the Australian Colonies had spent a large sum of money upon fortifications for the protection of our commerce; but that seemed to him (Mr. Labouchere) a most extraordinary argument. He should certainly vote against the proposal of the Government. The matter really resolved itself into this, practically. He was sorry he should not have the support of the hon. Members sitting on the Front Opposition Bench; but it had sometimes occurred to him to divide the House without having had the privilege of that support. The question was really this—they had, at the beginning of the evening, to choose whether they would discuss the proposal—this wretched proposal, for giving £850,000 raised from the tax- 399 payers of this country, from the tea and coffee and tobacco of the poor people of the country—in the method suggested—or the mature proposal of the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) for finding some means of spending English money in housing poor persons at home. He was in favour of that proposal, but the Government had shirked it in order to bring forward this miserable plan of spending £850,000 for the benefit of Australia.
§ COLONEL DUNCAN (Finsbury, Holborn)
said, he was sure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) always desired to be historically correct, but in his description of the Canadian Voyageurs he had made an error which be (Colonel Duncan) should like to correct. The hon. Member had said that the Voyageurs who had been employed in the Soudan were men who had emigrated as boys from this country. He (Colonel Duncan), however, could assure the hon. Member that, as a rule, they had been either French, Indians, or English Canadians of the second or third generation.
§ Question put.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 85; Noes 37: Majority 48.—(Div. List, No. 111.)
(1.)Resolved, That it is expedient to ratify an Agreement for Naval Defence made between her Majesty's Government and the Governments of Her Majesty's Australasian Colonies.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to authorise the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of such sums, not exceeding £850,000, as may be required for building, arming, and completing the vessels mentioned in the Agreement."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
said, he did not wish to repeat what he had already stated as to this matter; but here, at all events, there could be no justification for the particular Resolution. Assuming the justice of the Resolution just agreed to, and assuming that this money ought to be raised for these Colonial ships, surely the mode of raising the money proposed in the present Resolution could not be justified. It was admitted that what was wanted was to defend our own commerce as well as that of the Colonies, and that was unquestionably a legitimate out- 400 going expenditure for the year. The expenditure ought, therefore, to appear in the financial statements for the year. If the Government desired to provide these ships the Government should pay for them, and should not leave the cost as a burden upon incoming Governments. There could be no excuse for allowing the expenditure to run over a period of 10 years, during part of which period in all probability other Governments would have to share the burden of finding the necessary finds. The invariable custom had been time out of mind to provide the money for ships as they were required. The Government would now obtain the whole of this £850,000, but it was to be paid back year by year, and, therefore, the debt would be practically one which would fall upon the shoulders of other Governments. He, for one, strongly protested against this mode of dealing with the simple financial question, and, therefore, if no one else cared to do so, he should divide the House upon this Resolution.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
asked, whether they were not to have some statement from the Treasury Bench on this subject? No doubt, as was suggested on the Treasury Bench, they had had a full statement with regard to those Resolutions from the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) at the commencement of the proceedings in Committee, but the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means had stated that the Resolutions were to be put separately in order that there might be a discussion upon each one. Well, to discuss a thing required two parties to the arrangement, two persons of different opinions. As yet, upon the resolution before the Committee they had had only one opinion, that of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Brigg Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Waddy), and he would put it to the Government that to leave that expression of opinion unanswered could hardly be called discussion. As a matter of fact the history of this transaction was only part of the whole history of Conservative Governments—Conservatives spending money and Liberals providing it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was looking forward to having a surplus next year. Well, if the right hon. Gentle- 401 man could secure a surplus by making savings, well and good; but what he (Mr. Labouchere) strongly objected to was making a surplus at the expense of future Chancellors of the Exchequer and then swaggering about it. He did not believe in making surpluses by postponing the burden of expenditure of one year to future years. Here they had a large amount of money to be spent at once, which was to be borrowed or got in some sort of way, the repayment being deferred to future years. He (Mr. Labouchere) certainly hoped his hon. and learned Friend (Mr Waddy) would do what he had just declared to be his intention of doing, namely—to divide the Committee on this Vote.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, that as the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken seemed to desire that there should be a discussion upon this subject, perhaps it would be as well if he (Mr. Goschen) said a word or two in reply to the hon. Member who had started the conversation.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he did not know whether the hon. Member opposite (Dr. Tanner) thought that his interruption was a Parliamentary contribution to the discussion of the subject. It would certainly seem that hon. Gentlemen sitting behind and supporting the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) were not inclined to give much encouragement to that Parliamentary discussion which was demanded.
§ DR. TANNER
I rise to Order. I wish to ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether I am out of Order in saying "Hear, hear!" to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is ashamed of my cheer?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he rose to answer the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, if that hon. Gentleman wished to know the views of the Government upon this subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Waddy) who started this discussion stated that this was only the ordinary way of edging in an expenditure which 402 was initiated by one Party and borne by another. He (Mr. Goschen) thought that if there was ever an occasion upon which that method of proceeding had been carefully avoided it was the present, for though the expenditure might be right or wrong, the Government had taken special pains that no burdens whatever should be thrown upon their Successors.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that the Successors of the Government would have to pay the interest on the money.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The interest will be more than covered by the contribution received from the Colonies.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, for the 10 years. The interest will be more than paid, and also the loan itself will be more than paid off out of the interest we receive out of the Suez Canal Shares.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he saw the hon. Gentleman's idea of discussion—which he himself had invited—was that he should keep up a running fire of comment upon every statement he (Mr. Goschen) made. The hon. and learned Member for the Brigg Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Waddy) had endeavoured to give some Party colour to this debate by referring to Tory tactics; but, as a matter of fact, the Government had endeavoured to keep everything like Party out of the question; and, not with standing the provocation which was given to them, they would not allow themselves to be led into the discussion of how far they had now to touch the revenues of the year in order to meet the defects in the system of defences of the Empire, which had been left to them by their Predecessors. The Government would not enter upon that field of discussion, and desired to prevent such a disturbing element from being imported into it, and to discuss the question simply on its merits. In the present case, as he had said, they threw no burden upon their Successors; and, if they had raised this money by loan, it was simply because it was an entirely separate operation, and he was glad the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had called attention to the subject, because it enabled him to say once more, and most 403 clearly, that the present proposal of the Government could not be drawn into a precedent for building ships by means of loans. The operation they proposed would be rather a loan of ships to the Colonies for a certain number of years. The cost of the ships was provided by loan, the interest upon which loan, together with the principal, would be defrayed in yearly instalments by the Colonies. He should himself very much deplore the fact if this were in any way turned into a precedent for meeting the needs of the year by means of a loan. He should always adhere to the principle that the needs of the year should be met out of the revenue of the year.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
said, he wished to know whether the capital as well as the interest was to be wholly repaid by the Colonies? If not, the arrangement was one which anybody would be glad to avail himself of in ordinary life, if it were within the bounds of possibility—that was to say, to supply himself with luxuries on borrowed money which he would not be called upon to repay. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred to the income from the Suez Canal Shares; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, if the arrangement for the purchase of these ships had not been entered into, this money would have been received from the shares, and there would have been so much more in the Exchequer.
I must point out to the hon. Member that he has anticipated a subsequent part of the discussion.
§ MR. PICTON
said, he did not wish to do that; but he only made reference to the point in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had stated that the money for the repayment of capital and interest would be obtained out of the interest on the Suez Canal Shares. What he (Mr. Picton) wished to insist upon was that, if this money was to be borrowed, it was also to be repaid, and, whether it was to be repaid from money derived from interest in other directions made no difference. This was merely the beginning of an objectionable system, and he was very much afraid that before long they would find other Colonies coming forward for similar assistance to that we were giving to the Australian 404 Colonies, and the result would be the rolling up of another National Debt in addition to that with which the country was already saddled.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, that he wished to make quite distinct the objection which he had foreshadowed when they were discussing the last resolution. He objected to the method in which this grant was to be provided for, and he failed to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his statement that no burden would be imposed upon those who might have the duty of managing the finances of the country during the 12 years over which the repayment of this money was spread. Whether the money was to be raised by loan, or, however else it was to be obtained, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the year during the next 12 years would have to provide means for the repayment of the principal and interest, which was covered by the amount of the terminable annuity. When they came to the Resolution dealing with the other provision to which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded, he (Mr. Bradlaugh) should have something to say on the adoption of that as an asset. Whether the ships were to be paid for year by year, or, whether the interest merely was to be paid, the charge would be clearly one upon Governments hereafter, and a delusive appearance would be presented by the arrangement, inasmuch as it would seem as though future Governments were meeting the ordinary charges of the year, whereas they were merely paying the debts of a Government which had gone before.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
said, the Resolution under consideration asked them to confirm the statement that it was expedient that to authorize the issue of such sums not exceeding £850,000 as might be required for building, arming, and completing certain vessels of war, and it was because he believed that it was not expedient that these sums should be authorized, or any other sums, that he should follow the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Brigg Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Waddy) into the Lobby to protest against it. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) had 405 told them that this outlay was proposed for the purposes of Imperial defence. Well, it seemed that Imperial defence implied Colonial defence, and he should have been very glad if the right hon. Gentleman had told the House where he thought attack was likely to come from, and who, he thought, were likely to be the foes we should have to meet in Colonial waters. If the right hon. Gentleman had shown who was likely to attack our Colonies, and had pointed out the danger in which we stood, hon. Members on these (the Opposition) Benches would have been much more likely to follow him into the Lobby and support him in this Resolution than they were under the existing circumstances. He (Mr. Cremer) had long since learnt to look with a great deal of suspicion upon all statements of this kind, and upon scares raised for political purposes from time to time. It was the special province of the other side of the House to manufacture scares. Unfortunately, scares of this kind had been too frequently manufactured by either Party in the State. He had ventured to take the common sense view of the matter, and had asked himself whether there was any real fear of our being attacked by any Foreign Power if we minded our own affairs. The Australian Colonies had got along very well for something like half-a-century without being placed in the predicament which hon. Members opposite seemed to dread. No one had interfered with them, and the Colonies, for their part, had not interfered with any-one. He could not help thinking, however, that these Colonies had pursued the even tenor of their way as they had done because they had not possessed the means of mischief. If the means of mischief had been given to them, there would sure to have been difference and strife between themselves and foreign countries. The late Lord Aberdeen used to make a statement to the effect that nations in possession of large Armies and Navies were like boys with new knives, they must cut sticks with them. It was because he was anxious to prevent any such thing taking place, it was because he was anxious to prevent strife between our Colonists and other people, that he should oppose this Resolution. Quite recently there had been some difficulty between our Australian Colonies and a Foreign Power on the subject of New 406 Guinea, and it had seemed to him that at one time there was some danger of hostile feeling being exhibited by our Australian Colonies; but, fortunately, the matter was settled by amicable means, without the expenditure of blood or treasure. And why was this? Simply because the Colonies had none of the means of mischief at their disposal which the Committee was asked by this Resolution to enable them to become possessed of. Had they possessed a powerful Navy they would probably have resorted to its use to carry out their policy, for that which was characteristic of individuals when in a state of "armed defence," as it was called, was also characteristic of nations. It was because of the absence of fighting forces that the Australian Colonies were ready to settle their differences by peaceful means. He should oppose this Resolution, because it seemed to him that the nation had no guarantee that the money which it was proposed to vote would be wisely or well spent. He had said that he did not believe it would be wisely spent, but they had no guarantee that it would be well or efficiently spent either. In revolving in his mind, during the past few moments, what had occurred on former occasions, he thought he could justify the position he had taken up by reference to what had happened on those occasions. Many hon. Members in the House would remember the Palmerstonian panic prevalent some 25 years ago, which, under the influence of that bogey French invasion, was manufactured for the purpose of inducing the country to spend something like £10,000,000 on the fortifications of our naval stations. In consequence of that panic a considerable sum of money was expended at our chief naval station—Portsmouth. When a boy, he had frequently walked round the ramparts constructed out of that £10,000,000, and had thought wonderingly upon how impossible it would be for any foe to invade that fortress; but the fortifications which at that time were considered impregnable were now regarded as utterly useless, and some of them were dismantled and absolutely destroyed. Then we had magnificent forts constructed for miles around that naval station, and he had been informed by people living in the neighbourhood that these forts had never been armed with 407 guns of sufficient calibre to do injury to an enemy making an attack upon the positions. In fact it had been said that it would be dangerous to do so, for the reason that if guns mounted there of sufficient power to carry shot at the distance at which an enemy's vessel would lie when making an attack upon Portsmouth, or to carry a sufficient distance to prevent an enemy from landing, the first gun fired off would cause the forts to crumble into pieces. He did not say that this was true, but this was the prevailing opinion in the locality, and probably some hon. and gallant Gentlemen who were familiar with these subjects would tell the House whether the account which had been stated to him was accurate or not. If these allegations were true, the enormous sums of money expended upon these fortifications might just as well have been pitched into the harbour at Portsmouth or carried out to Spithead and dropped overboard into the Ocean. Then, coming down to more recent years, there was another scare manufactured at the time of the Franco-Prussian War, £4,000,000 being voted for pressing military and naval necessities. What good had come of that expenditure? And then, coming down to a later period, a Vote of £11,000,000 was rushed through this House after two or three hours' debate in consequence of a Russian scare. He used the phrase "rushed through" advisedly, because he considered that the passage of a Vote of £11,000,000 after three hours' debate deserved to be described in such language. And why was it that this money was voted? It was because it was stated that Russia had taken a strip of land somewhere or other on the frontier of Afghanistan which somebody or other said it was not right to take. Well, it turned out ultimately that that strip of land belonged to Russia, and that, therefore, under all circumstances the scare was ill-timed and the expenditure involved absolutely unnecessary. But whether the strip of land did or did not belong to Russia everyone admitted in the, end that it was not worth 2s. 6d., to say nothing of £11,000,000. No one could be found to give 5s. for it to-day, and yet we were very nearly going to war with Russia about that miserable strip of sandy desert on the frontiers of Afghanistan. It must be remembered 408 that the Afghans whom we were supposed to be so anxious to protect, declared that we should not enter their territory with our troops in order to afford them that protection we were so anxious to render against their terrible foe, Russia. An hon. Member behind him asked what was done with the £11,000,000. He (Mr. Cromer) should very much like to know what had become of it, for the nation had never yet heard that it had received any value for it. Therefore, the nation had every proof that the money voted during the Palmerstonian craze was wasted. The nation never knew what was done with the whole £10,000,000. The same was to be said with regard to the £4,000,000 voted during the Franco-Prussian scare, and also of the £11,000,000 voted during the Afghan scare. Until they had some assurance that the nation got more value for moneys voted in this way than they had secured in the past, he for one should go into the Lobby with any one opposing such Votes, and vote with him against such an anomalous manner of spending the money of the nation. After having read the statements of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope), he had thought at last something like reason was coming to guide Her Majesty's Government. If he remembered right it was said that it was not so much money that was required as organization. There was plenty of money voted, and if the money voted were properly applied there could be no doubt that we should have one of the best and most efficient armies in the world, and he took it that it was not millions of money that were required but organization. After all these large sums had been expended in one year, it was customary for Governments to tell them the following year, or at any rate in a very short time afterwards, that the country was in an absolutely defenceless position.
The hon. Member was not in the Committee when the distinction between the several Resolutions was pointed out. The observations he is making now would be perfectly appropriate to the 5th Resolution upon which the general discussion of questions relating to Imperial defence can be taken. His observations, therefore, have no bearing upon the particular Resolution before the Committee.
§ MR. CREMER
said, he thanked the hon. Gentleman for reminding him that he had wandered somewhat from the immediate subject under discussion. He was not aware that the larger sum involved in the proposal of the Government was not under consideration. He would, however, now turn to the immediate question under discussion, and that was the Vote of £850,000 for building, arming, and completing certain vessels of war for the purpose of the defence of the Australian Colonies. He had only to say in regard to that—reserving any other observations he had to make as to the larger Vote—that he opposed the grant, because he thought it was a very bad example they were setting our Colonies. He could not help contrasting the proposal now made by Her Majesty's Government with a proposal at the present moment before the United States Congress. Our own Government were preparing to arm our Colonies, in order to prevent some imaginary foe from invading them; but in the American Congress there was a much more sensible proposal under consideration, and one which had been considered and reported upon by the Foreign Relations Committee, and he thought it had a very good prospect of being accepted by the Senate and House of Representatives. The proposal was to authorize the President of the United States to appoint a Committee to consider the question of establishing a tribunal to adjudicate upon questions arising between the different autonomous Governments of the Continent of America. A sum of money was to be set apart for a Conference to consider the proposal. If Her Majesty's Government would follow the example of the Government of the United States, and make as good and serious an effort to keep the peace as they were now making for the means of breaking it, he would have been very glad to have supported them in their proposal. It was because he believed the example they were setting to other Colonies was a bad one, and one which was sure to be taken up by other Colonies; and it was because he did not wish to see the evils which existed in other parts of the globe introduced amongst our Colonies, that he thought it his duty to oppose this Resolution. The Parliament of this country ought to set a good rather than 410 a bad example, and it was because he believed in the force of the words used by Shakespeare, that—The sight of means to do ill deedsToo oft make ill deeds done,—that he should vote with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Brigg Division of Lincolnshire.
MR. CHILIDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not in the House when he (Mr. Childers) had spoken on the first Resolution, and when he had endeavoured to make a distinction between the arrangement made by this country and the Australian Colonies, and the internal arrangement between the two Departments of the Government—namely, the Treasury and the Admiralty. As to the first point, he had supported Her Majesty's Government in their Resolution; but, as to the second, he ventured to point out that it was of a very different character, and authorized a proceeding which might be very dangerous. He had admitted that with the distinct pledge of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the effect that this proposal for purchasing ships out of a loan would not be used as a precedent by the present Government, the danger would not be so great as would otherwise have been the case; but, at the same time, he must repeat to the House the statement that we had never yet borrowed money for the purpose of building ships. The only purpose for which we had borrowed money had been for the carrying out of permanent works; but for perishable things such as ships we had never followed that course, and he was bound to say—having regard to the smallness of the amount in question—that it was a great pity we should have such an example set. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a surplus considerably larger than this amount, which went towards the remission of ld. in the Income Tax, and it seemed to him (Mr. Childers) that even if the whole charge fell on one financial year, which he doubted, it would have been much better if this money had been expended on the shipbuilding declared to be necessary, so that it would have been taken out of the annual revenue of the country.
§ Question put.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 92; Noes 48: Majority 44.—(Div. List, No. 112.)
(2.) Resolved, That it is expedient to authorize the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of such sums, not exceeding £850,000, as may be required for building, arming, and completing the vessels mentioned in the Agreement.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the sums so issued shall be repaid to the Consolidated Fund, out of moneys to the provided by Parliament for Naval Services, by an annuity of such amount as will repay the same, with interest at three per cent per annum, within twelve years."—(Mr. Henry Smith.)
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
asked, whether there would be any objection to substitute 10 years for 12 years?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman would see at once what the objection was. The arrangement was for 10 years, and the arrangement did not come into operation until the ships were in commission, and probably two years would elapse between the passing of the Bill on which was founded these results and the commissioning of the ships.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he did not think that the statement of the noble Lord coincided with that made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. Smith) (Strand, Westminster)
said, that he hoped he would be allowed to explain. The ships would take 18 or 20 months to build. They would be put in hand immediately, and there was every reason to hope that they would be completed by the end of next year, or, at all events, by the end of the next financial year.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that if it was quite understood that the two arrangements ran together—that the arrangement with the Colonies and the loan were concurrent—he had nothing further to say.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, that if he and his hon. Friends did not challenge a Division upon this and the next Resolution, it would be because they had already asserted a principle by challenging a Division upon the 2nd Resolution.
Question put, and agreed to.
(3.) Resolved, That the sums so issued shall be repaid to the Consolidated Fund, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament for Naval Services, by an annuity of such amount as will repay the same, with interest at three per centum per annum, within twelve years.
(4.)Resolved, That it is expedient to authorize the Treasury to raise such sums by means of terminable annuities charged on the Consolidated Fund.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to authorise 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.)
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
said, that no one would deny the grave and the great importance of the present Resolution. He also did not think that anyone would deny that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) had made a most clear and most lucid statement to the House in introducing his Resolutions. His right hon. Friend put several propositions before the House. Almost the first statement that he made was that existing deficiencies must be supplied in the interest of the nation. Now, he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) desired to ask whether his right hon. Friend had taken into account all those deficiencies, as that was absolutely necessary in forming an opinion of what ought to be done? Another statement his right hon. Friend made was that Malta and Gibraltar, two fortresses of absolute necessity to this country, must be properly not only fortified, but properly garrisoned, as quickly as possible. He did not think that his right hon. Friend would deny that neither of those fortresses or stations were properly armed, and, perhaps, he might say in regard to one of them, not properly garrisoned. Those places were on our main highway, not only to India, but also to our great Colonies, and no stone must be left unturned in making them absolutely efficient for defensive purposes against whatever force might be brought against them. His right hon. Friend referred to the difficulty of getting guns, and he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) would have a word or two to say upon that point presently; but the First Lord of the Treasury said that although guns had been ordered 413 in the year 1885 they had not yet been delivered. To that also he would refer presently. Another question which his right hon. Friend raised had regard to the new rifles, and he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) would in the course of his speech make a few observations upon that as well. But, before he went into those questions, he thought it would be right to ask his right hon. Friend exactly what he intended to do with regard to the Royal Commission which was promised to them, and in regard to which he did not quite understand how they stood. He had had a good deal of conversation with his right hon. Friend, and he was bound to say, and he said it with all sincerity, that he had received from the right hen. Gentleman the greatest courtesy and the greatest consideration in regard to all the statements which he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had had to make upon this question. It would be in the recollection of the House that, on the 5th of March, the question raised was that there should be appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into and to report upon the question, whether the Army and Navy were, in fact, in such a condition as to be absolutely efficient for the protection of the Empire? That, no doubt, was very wide; it raised a great question, because it raised what should be the number of men that we ought to have, whether we had got that number, whether our Army was, in fact, efficient and sufficient, and especially whether our Navy was efficient and sufficient for our protection. The Government said they could not possibly go into that question; that they were absolutely responsible for the condition of the Army and Navy; and then they proposed to give another inquiry, and that inquiry was as to what extent our present naval and military system was adapted to the national wants. He and his hon. and gallant Friends accepted that in all good faith; it was given in good faith, and they accepted it in good faith. On a subsequent occasion the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) was appointed Chairman of the Royal Commission; and there was no one in the House who would contradict him (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) when he said that there was no man in the country they would rather see at the head 414 of a Royal Commission than the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale. But he thought he should not be committing any breach of confidence—for the noble Marquess told him so himself—when he said that the noble Marquess thought that even the inquiry which had been promised was too wide, and one into which he did not think he would like himself to go. It was, therefore, arranged that an inquiry of a less wide nature should be granted, and that it should be an inquiry into the civil and professional administration of the Naval and Military Departments, and the relation of those Departments to each other and to the Treasury, and that a Report should be made as to what changes in the existing system would tend to the efficiency and economy of the Public Service. Now, what he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) wanted to ask was, first of all, whether the Commission and the two Committees which were now sitting on the Army and Navy Estimates would not extract all the information that the proposed Royal Commission would extract? He put that strongly to his right hon. Friend, who, this evening, had gone the length of stating that he would be prepared to grant another Royal Commission or a Committee which should have the effect of carrying out the views he expressed so strongly in the House so short a time ago. The right hon. Gentleman indicated the proposal he would make to the House, upon the condition that he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) withdrew the Resolution which he had then proposed. Suppose his right hon. Friend carried out the proposal he made, what did it involve? In the first place, everyone would admit—no one would admit it more readily than his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope)—that organization was the one thing which we required, and that in regard to certain affairs we had not got organization. He would not go into the question from a naval point of view, because around him were naval officers who would state exactly the case of the Navy; but the Navy was our first line of defence, and it, as he was told, required organization just as much as the Army did. He left the Navy to be dealt with by his naval Friends who would follow him, simply asserting that if there was one thing 415 that the country would vote money for, it was that our Navy should be more effective and more efficient than any combination of Navies which could possibly be brought against it. Now, were we to have any difference made between the Home Army and the Army in India; was the Army in India to be enlisted for a longer time, and was it in future to rely on drawing the best men out of the Army at home for the purpose of filling up its ranks? The Army at home was depleted by having its men over 20 years of age, and who had been in the Service some time, taken away to fill up the ranks of the Army in India. Of course, there ought to be a wide difference in the length of service in India and the length of service at Home. If we had shorter service at home, we would get a larger Reserve, and we should have more men at home to defend our interests. The next question which ought to come under the notice of the Royal Commission would be the strength of our Cavalry regiments; and was there a man who would say that our Cavalry regiments were fit to be sent abroad at a moment's notice? He did not believe they were, though he believed his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War had been doing a great deal to improve the condition of the Cavalry. Surely, that was a question which deserved their most serious attention. Next came the question of the Artillery. He would not go into the question further to-night than to say that, having listened most attentively and read most carefully afterwards the answer that his right bon. Friend the Secretary of State for War gave to his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wirral Division of Cheshire (Captain Cotton), he could only gather that, after the first two Army Corps had been made complete and efficient, the number of guns which would be left for the Home Force was only 56. What would be left behind? There would be something like 400,000 men, who would require to have guns found for them. Perhaps he ought not to say 400,000 men, because they knew perfectly well that many of the men, in case of great necessity, would have to go into the different fortresses in the country; we should, however, want a very large number of gems in addition to 416 those we had at the present time. And here he might mention the Magazine rifle, absolutely necessary at the present moment In what position were we with regard to its? After all the Committees and experiments, no rifle was yet approved. The next question which arose, and which his right hon. Friend said it would be perfectly competent for the Royal Commission to inquire into, was the question of the Militia. Could anything be more important than to inquire into the condition of the Militia, from which we now got 30,000 men in the Reserve? If, however, the Militia was recruited to its full strength, and the conditions of service somewhat altered, we might get the whole of the Militia willing to volunteer. If we paid the Militia £1 extra per annum per man—the same as the Militia Reserve—he had no doubt that we should find the whole of the men would be prepared to serve in any part of the world, and they would be organized in reality, and not in name, as the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the Line Regiments to which they belong. Then let them take the case of the Volunteers. Surely, we ought to make the organization of the Volunteers in every way effective and efficient, because we should have to depend in case of need—God grant that it might never occur—very largely indeed upon the Volunteers of the country. Then there was the question of the Reserve Force. Were we going to call our Reserve Force out every year to see what we had got? Surely, there was no nation in the world but the English nation who slept and believed they could get men out whenever they wanted them, without even knowing where they were, or whether they were or were not fit to do duty. That was another question which the Royal Commission might inquire into. A further question was, and it was a great question—namely, that of the garrisons for the Coaling Stations. His right hon. Friend spoke of that to-night as a question which might be inquired into by the Royal Commission in the same way as the other questions which he had specified. But, turning to the next point, the illustrious Duke at the head of the Army had said distinctly that 11,900 more men were wanted. It had been said over and over again 417 since short service had come in, that we wanted an increase of men in our Army. What we wanted was that men should never go into the ranks who had not been one year in the Service, and if we had an extra number of recruits we should always be able to fill up the ranks with men who had been a year in the Service. But there was still another point deserving of attention. [Opposition ironical cheers.] Yes; hon. Gentlemen might think that these were questions for which they should have no care; but they might find some-day or other that they would require to have a great deal of care for these things, and if we were ever found unprepared in case of necessity, the very Gentlemen who now sneered would be the first to cry out against the Government, whichever Government might be in Office, for having neglected its duty. He was about to say that there was one thing he was very much struck with, arising out of the inquiries made by the Committee sitting upon the Army Estimates, and it had reference to the barracks. The estimate for the repair of barracks was nearly £1,000,000.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
I rise to Order. The evidence given before that Committee is not at present before the House, and it cannot be quoted with the least approach to accuracy from what has appeared in the newspapers. The evidence is at present before the Committee, and not before the House of Commons.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he would say nothing more upon that point; but he was very glad that he had called the right hon. Gentleman's attention to it, because his right hon. Friend might make a statement with regard to the reports which had gone the round of all the newspapers. If those statements were inaccurate, they ought to be contradicted; because they were statements so startling that he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) could hardly have believed it possible they could have been made, unless they were true and correct. [Opposition ironical cheers.] Some hon. Gentlemen opposite tried very hard to make this a Party question, but it was a non-Party question, and he hoped that the question of the defences which were absolutely necessary for 418 the safety of the Empire would never be made a Party question. Now, he was exceedingly surprised to read the statement of Lord Brassey with regard to guns. Lord Brassey distinctly stated that we had not thought it right to employ our large manufacturers of guns at home, but that we had allowed France to precede us; for he said, speaking of Messrs. Whitworth, that they had a contract to make guns for France, and that, therefore, we were unable to got any guns from that firm.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Allow me at once to offer the same explanation that I offered to this House yesterday, through my hon. Friend the Member for Wigtonshire (Sir Herbert E. Maxwell). When that statement was made by Lord Brassey, I made inquiry personally of Messrs. Whitworth, and they assured me that they were making no guns whatever for the French Government, and that they had no intention or anticipation of doing so.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he was very glad to hear that; but the noble Lord (Lord Brassey) wrote emphatically that he had made himself acquainted with the fact, and he gave full particulars which were printed in the newspapers. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) should regard it as a most extraordinary thing—indeed, as a most intolerable thing—if he were to make a statement in writing in the newspapers without one word of foundation for it. Lord Brassey was a man of high position, and a man who had been in Office. The only thing which struck him (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) as very odd was that while Lord Brassey was in Office they never heard one word from him in regard to these questions; but since he had been out of Office, since he had had nothing to do with the Government, they found repeated notices not only of the coaling stations, but also of the guns and other matters by the noble Lord. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War must not be too sensitive upon those things. Ho could get up and contradict them, and, if he did, they would be quite ready to believe his contradiction. Certainly, his right hon. Friend ought to thank him for placing this question before him, and thus giving him an opportunity which he would not have otherwise been given of contradicting statements which, as his 419 right hon. Friend had said, were absolutely without foundation. Surely, there was nothing more important to the country than that it should have a proper supply of guns. There had been many statements made in the newspapers in regard to the supply of guns, and they were told that from Portland Bill up to the Tweed there was not a gun of new pattern in any one of our ports at the present time. They were also told that there was only one gun in Gibraltar that could cope with the ironclads of the present day. Those were questions which ought to be considered, and what he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) and his hon. Friends were asking was that there should be placed on record the number of guns we absolutely required, and that the supply should be kept up so that all our ports could be properly armed, and all our ships properly supplied with the guns requisite for them. But there was another question connected with the guns, and that was the question of the condition of the Royal Artillery. If there was one matter of importance in the present days of fighting, it was that our Artillery should be armed with the very best guns which could be found. He knew the Secretary of State for War was doing all he could to arm the batteries of Artillery with the best and newest guns; but how many of those batteries were still armed with the old weapons which had been declared by competent authorities to be the very worst weapons with which any Artillery in Europe were armed? It was impossible that we could be prepared for war, unless we had a sufficient number of the very best guns, and a sufficient number of artillerymen understanding those guns to work them. No doubt our men would fight well—our Volunteers would fight well—but he had endeavoured to point out that it was the organization which it was so absolutely necessary and essential should be perfect. Unless it was perfect, we should be able to do nothing whatever, and it was because the Royal Commission which he thought they were to have was to inquire carefully into the organization both of the Army and of the Navy that he was so anxious that the Royal Commission should be appointed. He could not refrain for one moment from going into one or two other questions with regard 420 to statements which had been made. He said nothing about what had occurred in "another place," but would take the statements which had appeared in the newspapers, and he recollected that the illustrious Duke had made a statement with regard to our present defences—not very different in its details from that made both in "another place" last night, as well as at a celebrated dinner, by the noble and gallant Viscount (Viscount Wolseley). His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Birkenhead (General Sir Edward Hamley), than whom no one was better able to describe the condition of affairs, and who had done so much good not only in the House, but out of it, and had written so ably on the defence of London, had made similar statements; and, besides that of his noble and gallant Friend the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) with regard to the Navy, they had the declarations of the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir John Commerell), whom they all congratulated on his appointment, and of Sir Geoffrey Hornby. He knew the Government did not repudiate these statements, and that they felt there was a great deal of force in what had been said; and he admitted that they were striving to the full to carry out, as best they might, the views which had been expressed. But there was still something more to be done. If they had such a man as the noble Marquess at the head of the Royal Commission; if his right hon. Friend would extend the Commission and its inquiry as far as they were anxious to see it extended—namely, to ascertain what was required both for the Army and Navy, and to enable this to be known by the House and the country, the Government might feel certain that they would be backed up by the people in carrying out those proposals which were essential to their welfare. He thought no one would deny that the first duty of a State was self-preservation; and notwithstanding what had been said about non-interference with the affairs of others, he asked what would be their position as a nation if they ceased to hold their place amongst other powers? If, when they were prepared to speak, they were not prepared to act, what would be their position amongst those nations who knew exactly how they stood with regard to arma- 421 ments? Hem aintained that there was man in that House who would get up and declare that for the want of sufficient armament he was willing that the country should decline from the high position which it now held in this 19th century amongst the nations of the world.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
There have been so many questions raised in the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken that I think it desirable that I should offer a few observations in reply before the debate goes any further. In the first place, with regard to the Royal Commission, I think that anybody who has listened to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend will have observed the enormous number of questions which he desires to see decided by that Commission. The scope of the inquiry which he desires would be absolutely enormous—the period of inquiry would extend over years. I venture to say that we should have no Report of any sensible value, until, at any rate, one or two years had passed over our heads. The object of the Government is not to have Blue Books and hold exhaustive inquiries, but to take action, and our belief is that the best means of attaining that object is to split up the subjects of inquiry. We have told the House in the course of the debate on the Army Estimates the subjects which we think are proper for inquiry. We thoroughly adhere to—we do not withdraw from—that statement; but when we came to examine the details of the proposals as to what should be the Reference to the Royal Commission we found it would be impossible to ask the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) to undertake such an inquiry. If we wish to obtain useful results, the inquiry over which the noble Marquess is to preside must be so limited that he will be able to exhaust it, and present a Report before many months are over which will be of real value to us in the position in which we are placed. The noble Marquess has kindly undertaken that inquiry; we believe it will produce valuable results, and we think it would be most ill-advised on the part of the Government if we were to attempt to place additional work upon it which would prevent the noble Marquess discharging the duty which he has under- 422 taken. But we do not shrink from inquiring into the remainder of the subject, and, after carefully considering the best method of procedure, we came to the conclusion that it is not by taking volumes of evidence that we can arrive shortly at a determination on the great subjects which are of such enormous importance to the future interests of the country. We shall, therefore, proceed with all the speed possible under the circumstances, determined to take a full view of all the important questions relating to the Empire as a whole, and determined also that any action we may take shall be based on full consideration of all the facts of the case. I now pass from that subject to the basis of my hon. and gallant Friend's speech. He complains of certain deficiencies that he says ought to be supplied. I should like to be allowed, in a spirit of explanation, not of controversy, to follow him into each of the complaints he has made. My hon. and gallant Friend, in the first place, complained of the want of organization. So far from differing from him, I have most publicly stated that organization, and not the expenditure of enormous sums of money, was the remedy we had to seek. We are undertaking that organization with the fullest determination to carry it out. I hope I am not saying anything too favourable of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury or of myself when I say that, during the time that this Government has held Office, we have applied ourselves to the question of organization without delay and without cessation. We have in that time done a good deal, and laid the basis for a good deal more, and I am strongly impressed with the belief that the new system of administration which we have introduced at the War Office is a step which will enable us to carry out our intention with the least possible delay. I am sure the Committee will not wish me to follow this matter into further details at the present moment; but I shall be very glad to explain in detail how I think our plan will be worked out, if an opportunity is given me hereafter. I pass, then, from this subject to that of the state of our defences, which my hon. and gallant Friend says is one which demands inquiry. We are perfectly well aware of the state of our defences, and I have told the country as plainly 423 as I possibly can in the Memorandum, only excluding those details which my Military Advisers think ought not to be communicated, that the state of our defences is eminently unsatisfactory. I have told in general terms what is the nature of the improvements required in those defences; and we have asked Parliament to give us this large sum of money, amounting to £3,500,000, for the purpose of meeting the most urgent of our deficiencies. First of all, we have dealt with our Colonial stations. We do not want to lie under the reproach, which no honourable Government could endure, that we have made a bargain with the Colonies and not carried it out. We have come, at the earliest possible moment, to Parliament and said—"Give us the money necessary for completing our part of the bargain." And here I may state that every one of the guns necessary to complete that bargain is in hand, and not only that, but the greater part of them are very far advanced. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) will be glad to hear that although the defence of Table Bay—probably the most important in the whole of the defences we have undertaken—was only undertaken last year, yet I am going to send out in the next few weeks the first big gun for the works at Table Bay, which I hope will be ready for its reception; and so we shall go on, with the expectation that as the works are ready for the guns the guns will be ready for the works. As regards Malta and Gibraltar, there, again, is a case which demands no further inquiry. We know perfectly well that the defences at those places are not of a satisfactory character, and in the Bill now before Parliament we have taken a very large sum for adding to the defences of those stations. I am not quite sure of the exact sum, but I am aware that it is considerably more than £300,000 that we are going to expend on improving the defences of Gibraltar and Malta. And so with all the other military ports at home and abroad. Every gun that is contemplated in the Report of the Committee, over which I had the honour to preside, has already been ordered; and although my right hon. Friend told the Committee that he would not be justified in saying that all that work can be completed very much 424 before the period we have ventured to fix, I myself feel somewhat more sanguine, every effort having been made during the last two months to expedite the completion of the guns. We have been somewhat successful in our endeavours, and at the end of the year we trust we shall be able to place in position the lighter guns necessary for the defence of our ports; but the completion of the larger guns of 10 and 12 inches must, as everyone knows, take a longer time. I can, however, assure the Committee that nothing will be omitted on our part to secure their early completion. We have put a large part of what we propose to do on the Estimates, and I hope we shall be able to keep the pledges given in my Memorandum; but if the Estimates for the year should not be sufficient for the ammunition required for the guns, we must ask the House for a Supplementary Estimate to enable the guns to be supplied with it. With regard to our mercantile ports, those stand in a different position, and we have in their case to provide against different kinds of danger; but we are pushing forward all the defences. We have ordered all the light armaments; and I hope before many months have passed to be able to say that the submarine defences are complete and in good order, and that the light armament is on its way to the ports. My hon. and gallant Friend has asked that inquiry should take place into the matter of the garrisons at coaling stations. But there, again, we have had the most careful inquiry, and I am sure that the House will understand that the Government has done a good deal towards making the garrisons effective. We have added all the Garrison Artillery necessary for the defence of our ports at home and abroad; we have added a force of Engineers, and increased the Estimates by a sum for Submarine Miners necessary at the coaling stations. It is, therefore, impossible to say that we have not paid considerable attention to the question of the garrisoning of our coaling stations and ports abroad, although, as I stated to the deputation that waited on me, when the defences of certain coaling stations approach completion some moderate additions to the Infantry garrisons will be absolutely necessary. And this is most essential, because we ask, in the Bill about to be presented, 425 for powers to complete the barracks at the coaling stations at which the troops are to be placed. I do not want to deal with the evidence that is being taken by the Committee upstairs. I do not dispute that it is exceedingly probable that very great improvements might take place in the barrack accommodation of the country; but is it contended for a moment that it is possible for the Government or for Parliament to do everything that is needful in a single year, or that when a Secretary of State is brought face to face with an enormous question of national defence it is to be said that he must at once make provision for every need in the shape of barrack accommodation in every part of the world? Is he not rather to be trusted when he says that the matter can wait, but that the armament of the coaling stations cannot be allowed to remain over? Now, as to the question of guns, there, again, I thought I had explained to the House that we had taken all the steps we can to remedy what I fully admit to be a grievous state of things—namely, the delay in the supply of the necessary guns. We hope we have reached thoroughly the causes of that delay, and that we have remedied it. My hon. and gallant Friend also dwelt upon this subject, and I may say here, as I am responsible with regard to guns not only for the Land Service, but also for the Naval Service, that we have not only ordered the guns which are necessary for the Naval Service, but have taken every step we possibly can to expedite their production, and we believe we have reason for the statement that instances of ships waiting for their guns will not occur in future. First of all, we determined to lay down the principle that the guns for the ships and the Army shall be absolutely, so far as is possible, interchangeable; we intend, further, to consider that the Navy has the first claim upon us; and we have laid down the principle that if guns are short in number and are required by the Navy, the Navy shall have them, and the Army shall give way. Then I come to the question of lighter guns. My hon. and gallant Friend spoke in very strong terms indeed upon this subject; but I think if he will look at my Memorandum on the Army Estimates, and which I am afraid I made a mistake in circulating, for it does not appear to have 426 been read, he will see that in the Estimates of the year we provide for 12-pounder guns for two Army Corps batteries. We intend to push on that work, and to complete the armament for the whole Field Artillery. But when my hon. and gallant Friend says that the guns they now have are inferior, I beg to say, upon the authority of my most skilful advisers, that he is entirely mistaken, and that a great portion of the Field Artillery is armed with a gun which, although inferior to the 12-pounder, is, nevertheless, a better one than any Army on the Continent possesses. As regards the strength of the Royal Artillery, the Government, in the course they have taken, have acted solely and entirely upon military advice. If the Committee will allow me to say so in these terms, I decline altogether to accept responsibility in reference to matters which are of a purely military nature—I decline to accept responsibility, for instance, for the proportion which either arm of the Service shall bear to the other. That is a question for Military Advisers, and a Secretary of State would be mad if he were to deal with them without reference to those Military Advisers. The Artillery Force asked for, then, is one which has been recommended to the Secretary of State by the best military advice, and I hope and believe that, in addition to the Force of Artillery which we now possess, we shall be able before long to put into the field a number of batteries of Volunteer Artillery—not necessarily to move about as the Regular Artillery can, but able to take up the position assigned to them if they should be called out. Looking on the capacity of the Royal Artillery for home defence, I can say that, acting as any foreign Government must—strengthening the cadres of our Artillery by calling out the Reserve and getting the horses necessary—we have, at the present time, Artillery not only for two Army Corps, but for a third Army Corps, and behind this we should have the Volunteer Artillery, which, if a little time were given them, would prove exceedingly useful. I trust the Committee will forgive me for entering at greater length than I intended into this subject; but the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend has rendered a somewhat detailed reply on my part necessary. I feel very deeply the responsibility of the position in 427 which I am placed. It is only after the most careful consideration of the evidence placed before us, that we have laid before the country the programme contained in the Bill before the Committee, which, I believe, will advance the best interests and add enormously to the safety of the Empire. I do not, for a moment, expect that the term of our official life will enable us to see the fulfilment of the whole of the programme now initiated; but it is proposed by the Government, on my initiative, with a firm belief that what we are doing is necessary for the best interests of the country.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK-ALLAN (Durham, S.E.)
said, he desired to preface the observations which he had to address to the Committee by expressing to the First Lord of the Treasury his thanks for the clearness of his statement, which had been ably supplemented by that of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. Nothing was further from his intention, nor from the intention of those on either side of the House with whom he had the honour of acting in asking for further inquiry, than to interfere with the responsibility of the Government in their measures for the defence of the country. They had no desire to weaken that responsibility, or to share it; their only desire was to accentuate, and, if possible, to make it clearer—to bring it home not only to the mind of Her Majesty's Government, but to the mind of every elector in the country. He might be permitted to say that, so far from desiring in any way unfairly to criticize the proposals of the Secretary of State for War, he admitted that since the reforms initiated by Lord Card-well in 1871, some of which were of very questionable utility, no measures had been more valuable than those initiated by the right hon. Gentleman during the short time he had been in Office. If the right hon. Gentleman thought that it was his (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan's) desire, or the desire of those who asked for further inquiry, to delay the work in hand, he was justified in saying that they had no such intention, and that they had every wish to strengthen his hands, with the firm hope that his term of Office might be fruitful of great and beneficial changes in the administration of the Service. When he had the honour of addressing the House on the 428 8th of March last, he and his hon. Friends had asked simply that certain inquiries might be made as to whether the military and naval resources then at the disposal of the country were sufficient for its requirements, and whether they required to be supplemented in any degree, and if so to what degree, and from what source. That inquiry, to their great regret, was narrowed by the First Lord of the Treasury to the inquiry which they understood was to be presided over by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale. There was no man in the House in whom the country had greater confidence than in the noble Marquess; but the inquiry which had been granted had resolved itself into an inquiry into administration—as between one Department and another. They had had many inquiries of that nature during the last 40 years, which had resulted in nothing at all. It was because they were now brought face to face with a crisis which the military resources of the country were unable to meet that they desired to have an inquiry which should extend over as few weeks as possible, which he believed might be finished in six weeks from the present time, reported in eight weeks, and upon which Report the Government might take action before the end of the Session. If he might be allowed to detain the House one or two minutes longer, he would point out that there were only three or four military contingencies to which this country was exposed. Providence had provided us with a wet ditch all round us, and we had a very good Fleet. He might say that he had observed with some regret, during the time the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was speaking, the flippant way in which his remarks were received by hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Opposition side of the House—hon. Gentlemen who, in the event of any serious emergency arising, would be the first to cry out that the defences of the country had been neglected. It was of the utmost importance, having regard to our insular position, that our Navy should be kept in a thorough state of efficiency. The electors of this country were marvellously ignorant on the subject of naval and military reform and efficiency—the subject being naturally uncongenial 429 to minds which had not been obliged to deal with it—and he had often wondered whether they ever contemplated the position we should be in, drawing, as we did, half our food supplies from abroad, if we lost command of the sea for even a week. If we lost command of the sea for a week it would be one or perhaps two years before we could regain it, because we should not lose it without some serious disaster to our Navy. During the time we were regaining our supremacy he wondered what would be the condition of our people? Speaking as a distressed agriculturist, he could say that wheat was now 28s. a quarter. Well, it would go up at once to 80s. or 100s., and no doubt the electors would then think that that was a rather high price to pay for a paltry and petty economy, and an enormous penalty for present want of courage in voting necessary strength to our Navy. The right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for War and the noble Lord the present First Lord of the Admiralty had done their best; but he maintained that if any great improvement was to be effected in our naval and military position it must be by making a totally new departure and taking the electors of the country into their entire confidence. That was a thing he declared recent Administrations had not done. Numerous Reports had been presented by Royal Commissions and Committees, but nobody ever read them; and numerous Blue Books had been circulated with the same result. The popular mind was still impressed with the belief that naval and military experts were only engaged in pushing their own individual interests. With regard to the inquiry which military men had expected, but as to which they had been disappointed, he must say he was glad the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) had refused to increase its scope, seeing that they now had the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that the investigation to be made would take a wider scope, and would be presided over by the Prime Minister—who, it must be remembered, was also Foreign Secretary—himself. The inquiry could not be in better hands, considering that the question of our defences was so bound up with 430 the question of foreign policy that it was impossible to separate the one from the other. If there was anything in which we had shown a want of moral courage, it was in not facing what the possibilities of our foreign policy might be—like the ostrich, which hid its head in the sand, and had the idea that its other and more ignoble parts were likewise concealed from view. He had heard the Prime Minister declare not long ago that it would be insane to proclaim to other countries what our real necessities were. But did the Government think that they were deceiving foreign nations? They might throw dust in the eyes of their own people; they need not think that they were throwing dust in the eyes of foreign nations. There was scarcely a capital in Europe in which you might not buy for an expenditure of 5s. a more accurate description of our military and naval wants and deficiencies than were at the disposal of any hon. Member of that House. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War was aware that in the Library of the House, month by month, there were placed confidential Returns as to the condition of the Army. Those Papers were at the disposal of every hon. Member of the House. If anyone wanted to see the confidential Reports about the British Army, or wished to write a treatise about our military and naval resources, he had only to go into the Library of the House and satisfy himself upon all the details as to the disposition of every man, gun, and horse available for the defence of the country both at home and abroad. Within the past month there had been a Blue Book published giving full details as to the strength and character of our forces in India, and as to our military administration of that country, and all the information circulated in this way was in the possession of every European Power. We admitted foreigners into our arsenals, our shipbuilding yards, and into our Government factories. Was it supposed that foreigners when they went to these places kept their eyes shut? To talk of secrecy in these matters was ludicrous. It was absurd to suppose that the foreigner was not perfectly alive to everything that went on in our arsenals and building yards, and was not perfectly aware of all the shortcomings of our Army and Navy. The inquiry that military men 431 had so long wished for—and which it was so satisfactory to hear was to be now presided over by the noble Marquess at the head of Foreign Affairs—need not last longer than six weeks; and in two months Her Majesty's Government might be in possession of full facts, and in a position to come to the House and ask for the Supplies which they wanted. We had to prepare ourselves against but three contingencies—the invasion of this country by a Foreign Power—against which the splendid force of Volunteers which we possessed, together with the Militia and the Regular Army at home, rendered us tolerably secure—the invasion of India—or a war in the East of Europe, which might involve the necessity of sending two or three Army Corps abroad. Had we not the courage of our opinions? It was a mere absurdity and sentimentality to talk as if these things were not possible. It was quite possible that within 15 or 18 months one of these contingencies might happen, and it was not wise, for the sake of false sentiment, to hide from the people of the country, who could give the Government power to act, facts which were as well known to every Foreign Power as everything connected with our organization had for years been known to them. He was exceedingly glad to hear that Her Majesty's Government had changed their mind with regard to this inquiry, and that they had increased the scope of it. Let him ask them humbly but earnestly to stick to these three points indicated just now. He would ask them to appoint a Commission with the noble Marquess at the head of the Government as Chief—who should be supported by three experts from the Army and three from the Navy—say, His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Wolseley, and Sir Donald Stewart (for the Indian Service), as representing the Army, and Sir Geoffrey Hornby and two other Admirals—of whom there were plenty in that House—as representing the Navy. Let the Government consult those authorities, and put before them the three contingencies he had mentioned, and let them ask those Gentlemen what would be our condition to cope with each contingency, and to say frankly what provision should be made in the shape of guns, stores, and men under either of those circumstances. He would undertake to say 432 that within two months the Commission would have presented its Report, and the Government would be in a position to act upon it. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had told the House something about our guns, great and small, but he had said nothing about our small arms, and he (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) had noticed the omission with great regret. What were the facts with regard to the adoption of the Magazine rifle by the Armies of Europe? Why, the German Army, numbering 16 corps, was supplied with a Magazine rifle, containing eight rounds in its stock, for every one of 600,000 men. It was true that Germany was seeking for a better weapon; but, at the same time, they were now in possession of a Magazine rifle possessing the fullest requirements of a serviceable weapon in war. France had three corps of 120,000 men armed with the Magazine rifle; Austria had 200,000 men; and Russia, with a detachable Magazine gun, had 300,000 men so armed; whilst the British Army absolutely possessed not a single Magazine rifle in use. Three hundred and fifty of these rifles had been manufactured for the purposes of experiment only. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had stated, in introducing his Army Estimates, that he hoped by the end of the year to have 80,000 of the new rifles manufactured; but in answer to a Question put by himself (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) the right hon. Gentleman admitted that there was not one of these guns yet manufactured, except 350, as he had said, for experimental purposes, and that even the pattern was not yet decided. He imagined that it would be fortunate if by the end of the year we had as many as 20,000 of these weapons in the hands of our soldiers. With regard to field guns, our supply in India was totally inadequate. Only three weeks ago he had asked what field guns there were in India, and he was told—
§ MR. E. STANHOPE (interrupting)
said, that the Question was answered by the Under Secretary of State for India, and not by himself.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK-ALLAN
said, that the right hon. Gentleman was the person who did—or, rather, did not—supply the guns to the Indian Army.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, that if the Indian Government gave orders for 433 guns they might be manufactured in our arsenals, but that he had no responsibility in regard to ordering them.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK-ALLAN
said, that with regard to Field Artillery at home, it was a fact that there were not three complete batteries in the country of the 13-pounder gun, or of the 12-pounder gun, of which they had heard so much. It was said that a number of batteries were to be armed with the 16-pounder guns; but it would take some time to do that, the bulk of the 13 and 12-pounder guns not having yet been served out. He (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) was very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War for the courtesy and completeness with which he had answered him; but if the facts revealed were satisfactory to the electors of the country it would be a matter of great surprise. He wished to give the right hon. Gentleman the greatest credit for what he had done; but he desired to point out that while we were deliberating how best to lock the stable door the steed might be stolen. The Government were making preparations to complete the armaments of the country and of its foreign Dependencies in the course of two and a-half years or three years; but could they guarantee that these men and guns would not be wanted in 15 months from the present time? He, at all events, should be sorry to make any definite promise upon that point. He would claim for military Members of the House of Commons that they were only endeavouring—and they probably succeeded only more or less indifferently—to discharge their duty to the country in a conscientious way in pressing these matters upon the attention of the Government. In the last resort it would not be a question of the expenditure of thousands or even of millions of pounds, but when an emergency of war arose they would have to spend money like water. They might also have to spend something far dearer—the lives of brave men wantonly and foolishly thrown away. The military critics wished, therefore, to fix responsibility upon the Government, and not to share it themselves. They had done their duty when they had brought the deficiencies of the Services publicly before the notice of the country. He had received with great pleasure and gratitude the assurance of 434 the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the Government intended to take action in this matter shortly, and that the inquiry, so long promised and so earnestly asked for, was now actually to take place. He would urge upon the Government not to lose a single moment in carrying their intentions into effect. In any case, if emergency arose, it would not be the military Members of the House who would have failed in their duty, nor would they share in the responsibility if disaster occurred. They knew that British soldiers would, as they had ever done in the past, stand in the field and die at their post; and he repeated that if any emergency arose, and if disaster came, he, along with other military Members of the House, would have the satisfaction of knowing that they, at all events, had delivered their souls, and that not on them, but on Her Majesty's Government, would rest the sole responsibility—he hoped he might not have to say the crime.
§ SIR EDWARD HAMLEY (Birkenhead)
said, he wished to express his satisfaction—satisfaction which was now felt generally throughout the country—that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) had seen his way to ask for a loan which was to be especially devoted to the national defences. He was so well satisfied that he could not even suggest any way by which it could have been disposed of better than as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) had proposed. He hoped that this was an instalment only, and that when the right hon. Gentleman who guarded the public purse had taken his first plunge in these unaccustomed waters he would be less chary of repeating it, and would even grow fond of the exercise, and go on plunging again and again, amid the plaudits of delighted taxpayers. He would endeavour, in a few sentences, to show how far the requirements of defence rendered this measure necessary. He had been always ready to avow that, when the national defences were in question, the Navy must hold the first place. He would go a great deal further than that, and say that, considering the geographical conditions of the Kingdom and the Empire—the Kingdom in the midst of the sea, and the Empire composed of Dependencies 435 which we could only reach by the highways of the ocean—considering, too, that every sea was covered with our merchantmen, and that they brought us, not only the general prosperity that flowed from commerce, but the very food on which we depended for existence, so that the interruption of these lines meant national starvation—under these peculiar circumstances, he maintained, it would be a wise thing to make maritime supremacy the very basis of our policy; to encourage by legislation, and in every other way, all whose business was on the waters that surrounded us; to foster the growth of a seafaring population; to rear and train ample supplies of seamen for our Merchant Navy and our Fleet; and to render that Fleet adequate beyond all doubt for all its purposes. That was to say, the Fleet should have sufficient line of battle ships to dominate the Home waters after detaching the necessary Squadrons, sufficient swift cruisers to protect our trade lines, and sufficient floating defences of other kinds to place our commercial ports, our coaling stations, and our Colonial harbours in security. And it might, perhaps, be permissible to think that such a policy, founded on our national conditions, would be an eminently national policy not less worthy of the people, not less suited to our circumstances, than that other policy that now guided us, which it was almost sacrilege to touch. It might be said, and had been said, not without show of reason, that if our defences by sea were thus complete we needed no defences by land. But he would endeavour to show that we should still need them. For ships were, by their nature, precarious defences. They were peculiarly liable to unforeseen disaster. He spoke with extreme deference of such matters; but, perhaps, naval officers would agree with him that naval tactics were still very much in the clouds; that with ships and guns of which they knew the qualities rather by computation—he might almost say by guess—than by proof, and that with the new element of the torpedo entering into the problem as an unknown quantity, there must be great uncertainty as to the naval actions of the future. It was to be noted, too, that in the days of our most undisputed supremacy on the ocean naval strategy demanded that our Fleet should seek its enemies in distant waters; 436 and only some strokes of good fortune prevented that concentration of foreign fleets in the Channel, which was all that Napoleon was waiting for to cross with his army. Here was a case where efficient land defences would have rendered the project of a would-be invader vain, and where, consequently, our Admirals would have been free to act with a light heart on any point where they could best protect the country by seeking out and destroying the enemy. He thought that naval Members might agree that it would double the value of the Fleet to have its action thus left free. Again, supposing the temporary absence of the Fleet, it might be well worth the risk of an enemy's force to make a dash on London, careless of its communications, if it could reach its object; but it would be quite a different thing to find, on Landing, that it was confronted with a strong defensive line, while the Fleet might return and cut off its retreat by sea. If a considerable augmentation of the Fleet were necessary to raise it to a proper strength, time would be required to build the ships and train the seamen; whereas our Land Forces were already in existence, and only wanted the finishing touches. Therefore, he hailed with satisfaction the recent declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War of his projects for our defence by land. He (Mr. Stanhope) had announced, in terms that must give general satisfaction, that plans were in progress for facilitating defensive operations, and for so organizing our forces as to supply us with an Army for the defence of England, and other troops for the defence of London. These plans and organizations were indispensable as preliminaries, and they were what everybody could conscientiously approve, since they were attended by no expense. But it was with regard to these matters that he would once more point out how a certain expenditure was indispensable in other directions. We had an immense body of defenders in the Volunteers, but they were still, in great measure, without field equipment. This national Army now represented the progressive growth of a whole generation. It was full of the most earnest spirit, but it had been doomed to inefficiency by being left incomplete. It was as if after money and skill had reared some splendid building a sudden access of 437 thrift had left it without a roof. This was not economy—it must be called by some other name. He should, therefore, be well content to see steps taken at once for the equipment of the National Forces. And along with this there was another item entailing expenditure—namely, the supply of arms—both rifles and guns. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had most judiciously arranged for the immediate issue to the Volunteers of all the guns, suitable for positions in the field, which we now possessed. But these were old and short of the present mark of efficiency, and not only should the Volunteers as soon as possible receive a new and better class of such guns, but a certain proportion should be also supplied to our Field Army in aid of the lighter Field Artillery. It was of the nature of modern tactics that the attack of Infantry in a battle should be preceded by a duel of Artillery; the assailant endeavoured to overpower the defender's Artillery in order that his troops might not be fatally devastated by it in their advance. Therefore, as an Army operating in its own country could make use of heavier Artillery than one which crossed the sea to attack it, and which, by the nature of the case, would only be accompanied by more portable Field Batteries, it was to be hoped that we might always overpower the assailant's guns, who might thus be unable to launch his Infantry to the attack at all, except under desperate conditions, and a possible inferiority of force on our part might thus receive an immense compensation. Consequently, besides the superior field gun now in preparation, we should want an adequate supply of guns of position, and, further, of effective guns for our coast batteries. He said nothing of ships' guns, a question that was best left to naval Members of the House. He had also been glad to learn that the great Armstrong firm was prepared, on due notice, to turn out guns of all the kinds needed at the most rapid rate practicable. He had often mentioned before these items of necessary expenditure; but he did so again because the ears of the people were opening, and also because he would endeavour to acclimatize, so to speak, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) to these new atmospheric conditions which he might have 438 to live in. There was one other point he would touch on, because it had excited some interest of late—he meant the expected Royal Commission. The original proposal, as embodied in the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), was that the Commission should inquire into the strength of the Forces by sea and land and the amount of war material necessary for the public security throughout the Empire. He did not profess himself an ardent admirer of Royal Commissions—they sometimes spent much time to small purpose, and accumulated evidence which few read and fewer profited by; but this one would have had a distinct purpose. It would have been of great value both to the Ministers concerned by providing them with a standard of efficiency to which they could at all times refer, and to the nation by assuring it that, so long as that standard was conformed to, it would be impossible to take the country by surprise. Now, they knew that in "another place" an opinion adverse to this inquiry had been expressed by a personage whose views all Conservatives were bound to respect; and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) had again told them that night that though he did grant a Commission the inquiry would be one very different from what was asked for, and which some hon. Members did not see a sufficient object in pursuing. The objection was that the Government considered that in some way such a Commission would deprive Ministers of due responsibility. But he (Sir Edward Hamley) confessed he was unable to understand the difficulty thus raised. For it was not to be supposed that Ministers, individually or collectively, would take on themselves the task of prescribing what the strength of the Navy should be, what the number and organization of the troops, and the quantity of war material which were requisite for the service of the nation. They must apply to somebody of whose calculations they must assume the responsibility; and to whom could they apply with such confidence and safety as to a body of men selected by themselves, publicly appointed, and empowered to bring full inquiry to the aid of their own experience? The responsibility of accepting their 439 recommendations must still rest, as in any case, with the Ministry, and the responsibility also of departing from the standard in case of need, either by diminishing or increasing the Forces. It had been made a strong point that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell Bannerman) supported the Government in deprecating the inquiry asked for; it was said that when politicians so opposed in general to a Conservative Ministry happened to agree with it their conclusions must be reasonable. It did not seem to occur to those who used that argument that those former Secretaries of State for War might have other reasons, besides an ardent desire to support the Government, for wishing to avert a too profound scrutiny into the administration of the War Office. But such apprehensions would be groundless. Nobody, as far as he knew, wanted to rake up the past; all they wanted was to fix a standard for the future. If he still ventured to submit that to the attention of the Government, it was from a conviction that it would be for the best interest of the Government to comply. He did not presume to offer the Government advice; he only offered his own view with deference as a military Member and a supporter who wished to see the Government as strong as possible in all ways. In venturing to urge that, and also in representing that more expenditure was still needed for the defence of the country, he was only pointing to a course which would be in unison with the popular desire. Why, it was not so long ago that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) came down to the House and, for reasons far less cogent than existed now, demanded £11,000,000, and got it for the asking. He believed, therefore, that the notion that the people of this country were unwilling to provide funds for a due purpose had been allowed exaggerated influence. Certainly, if any Government were to demand large sums, and to keep the country in the dark as to the disposal of them, it would run a risk which it could not be expected to face. But it 440 would be a very different thing to convince the country that certain measures were necessary to its safety, and ask its sanction of them. He believed that the action of the Government, in taking a hearty lead in the present movement, would be widely approved. He should like to see its plan so completely carried out that little would be left to add; so completely that the people might repose in confidence that all had been done that could he done for the public safety. And if this would be good for the people, it would be good also for the Government that fulfilled the wish of the people.There is a tide in the affairs of men,Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.On that tide the Conservative Government now floated, and with it floated the destinies of England. Many popular waves were bearing it onward in its course; some raised by itself at home; the great Irish wave, setting in the new direction so bravely given to it; and now that flood of popular feeling daily swelling and surging; and if our navigators did but continue to take due advantage of those, the ship of the State would be borne into that haven where alone it could rest in security—in the heart of the country.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
said, he would not follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley) into the many and interesting subjects he had raised. He desired to refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope). To that speech he had listened with a great deal of satisfaction, and was glad indeed to hear the plans for putting our forces in an efficient condition; but there were one or two questions he desired to ask in reference to guns. He did not for a moment question the good faith of the right hon. Gentleman; but what he did question was, the possibility of carrying out his programme in regard to the large guns. He had heard something about Supplementary Estimates, and, certainly, in regard to a large part of the naval guns, the Estimates before the House would be insufficient to supply the Navy.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, the right hon. Gentleman told the House that in future no ships would have to wait for guns.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he was dealing generally with guns when he said the recurrence of delay would be prevented.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, the right hon. Gentleman spoke generally, but he wanted to speak specifically. The weak point in the Navy and in the national defence was the scandalous time ships were kept waiting for their guns. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), when the Naval Estimates were introduced, was questioned whether a sufficient sum was set down for guns, and the answer at once was—"If we take more money we cannot spend it," and it was said more than £450,000 could not be spent on naval guns. But the noble Lord had had to admit that ships had to wait a long time for their guns, and obviously this was a great source of national weakness. If the Fleet were to be equipped as it ought to be equipped, at least 30 more heavy guns would be required. He would not have touched upon this had it not been for the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that, in future, no ships would have to wait for their guns, that they were all ordered. Could the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, with the Estimates taken, he could provide an efficient armament for the Fleet? Why, half the Mediterranean Fleet was armed with obsolete guns. At least 30 more guns above nine inches diameter would be required. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) had expressed a decided opinion as to the arming of the Fleet, and said we ought not to rely on one or two firms, but ought to go into the open market. But, at the present moment, where could we get guns? Woolwich was utilized, and there were only the two firms of Whitworth and Armstrong; but those two firms would not be able to complete the orders as they were required. Would it not be wiser, instead of relying on these sources, to utilize the whole resources of the country? We had in the country great manufacturing power, plenty of material and great mechanical science, and there should be no 442 difficulty in producing heavy guns. And yet we continued to rely entirely on two firms, though it took two years to produce a 110-ton gun, 18 months for a 60-ton, 15 months for a 12-ton gun, and for a 10-inch gun 13 months. It was quite impossible to rely on Woolwich, the Armstrong and the Whitworth Companies, to make up the deficiency in our naval ordnance. Considering the number of ships waiting for guns and the large additions required for fortifications, would it not be a wise policy to give large orders to other private firms? It could not be expected that firms would go to the expense of setting up a costly plant if they only received small orders. Seeing our large deficiencies in naval ordnance, and the requirements for land fortifications, there ought to be some assurance that the Government programme had some prospect of being carried out. The right hon. Gentleman, when in Opposition, said he had a strong desire to see competition in gun manufacture carried on between the Royal Factory and anyone capable of producing guns. Those words were used by the First Lord of the Treasury in 1882, and now he was in Office and had the opportunity of carrying out the view he then entertained. He (Mr. Duff) was satisfied that, unless some energetic effort was made, we should continue to be in no better position than we were in regard to the Collingwood, which vessel was still waiting for her guns ordered two years ago. Other vessels were in the same condition, and there could be no more reckless waste than to have ships lying useless for want of guns. This was the weakest spot in regard to our national defence, of which the Navy was the first line. He called on the Government, while appointing all these Committees, to take some energetic steps at once, and, if necessary, bring in a Supplementary Estimate to provide for the deficiency in our naval ordnance.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, as the hon. Member had referred to the scandalous fact that some ships were waiting for their guns, he should like to make the position clear to the Committee. For every ship now building or laid down, the required number of guns had been ordered.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Yes; ordered for every ship building or laid down, 443 and some in addition had been ordered for reserve. But this had not always been the case. He should be sorry to pursue the historical inquiry, but he thought he would he able to show that one of the main reasons for delay in providing guns was that during one Administration ships were ordered, but guns were not ordered at the same time. He had no desire to press that inquiry at the present moment further. When the hon. Gentleman went on to say that reliance should be placed on the resources of the country, and the Government should get anybody to supply guns, of course the Government would welcome any competition in that direction, and it should be remembered that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury was the first to give full encouragement to the trade to supply the requirements of the Service. But it must be recognized that there were very few firms in the country who could undertake to supply guns; a costly plant had to be laid down.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
But the hon. Gentleman spoke of supplying present need of ships now waiting. But what was the use of relying upon private traders, when no private firms—with the exception of the Armstrong and Whitworth Companies—had the necessary plant to execute orders? As a means of supplying present deficiencies there were no other resources. As a matter of fact, the Government were determined that every step should be taken to procure a supply of guns as quickly as they could be made, and any assistance the trade could offer would be welcomed.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, if the reference of the right hon. Gentleman was to the Administration with which he was connected, he might explain that they found so many ships in course of construction, that Lord Ripon's Board of Admiralty determined to meet their liabilities, and to lay down no more vessels requiring heavy ordnance—on the other hand, they ordered 22 guns, over nine inches, for vessels in course of construction, and reserve guns.
§ MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
said, it was with the greatest diffidence he interposed in a discussion mainly carried on by naval and military authorities. He had noticed that whenever questions 444 of expenditure of this kind came before the House they were very liable to receive assent from both Front Benches, whether in Opposition or in the Cabinet. But he wished to make a protest on behalf of the mercantile community and the taxpayers of the country. There was an expenditure of over £32,000,000 a-year on Naval and Military Services, and hon. Members who had sat in the House for some time, as he had, were accustomed almost annually to hearing naval and military Members tell very much the same story. He had also lived long enough to form some judgment as to the result of the wars in which the country had been engaged. Beginning with the Crimean War, and going on through the long list of those which had occurred during his own memory, he, as a civilian, wished to ask what benefit the country had derived from any one of them? His own feeling—and he believed it was the feeling of a large majority of his countrymen—was that every one of those wars was unnecessary. They had been, he might almost say, crimes, so far as this country was concerned. In the Russian War we bombarded defenceless towns; in the Baltic we burnt a large amount of produce belonging to English merchants, and we produced a bitterness of feeling that existed at the present day.
It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to report Progress.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Thursday.
§ Committee to sit again upon Thursday.