§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Question again proposed,
That it is expedient to authorize (a) the expenditure of a sum not exceeding £21,500,000, for the purpose of building, arming, equipping, and completing for sea vessels for Her Majesty's Navy; of this expenditure a sum not exceeding £10,000,000 to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund in the seven years ending on the 31st day of March 1896; and a sum not exceeding £11,500,000, to be issued out of moneys provided by Parliament for Naval Services during the five financial years ending on the 31st day of March 1894."—(Lord George Hamilton.)
Amendment again proposed,
To leave out all the words after the first word "That," in order to add the words "having regard to the statements made during the last Session of Parliament by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, as to the efficiency of the armaments of the Country for the purpose of Defence, and seeing that the Nation was assured, in the recent Speech from the Throne, that Her Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers, which were of the most peaceful character last year,
remain in the same satisfactory condition, this Committee deems it expedient to authorise the expenditure asked for by the Government,"—(Mr. Cremer,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
I rise to suggest, subject to the pleasure and rule of the House, that we shall be adopting a more regular course if we can arrange a change in the form of the question as it has been put. The commencement of the original Motion is on the subject of expenditure, and the Amendment of my hon. Friend also refers exclusively to expenditure; but the original Motion passes off from the subject of expenditure to what is a totally distinct question—namely, the manner in which the expenditure is to be provided. I own I am aware that there is an Amendment on the Paper, and that it will follow naturally that all the words of the original Motion should be left out in order that the Amendment of my hon. Friend should be inserted; but I think it would be more advantageous and more regular if the Amendment to leave out certain words could be limited to the first three lines of the original Motion, ending at the word "Navy," so that the Government proposal for the expenditure would then be met with a distinct refusal of that expenditure, after which would come the specific subject of the second part of the Resolution with regard to the mode of providing the expenditure. Everyone will see that the two questions are entirely distinct, and I desire, if it be the pleasure of the House to permit it to be done, to disentangle those two subjects, and in order to do so I suggest that the form of the question should be altered, and that the Amendment should only be to leave out the words down to the word "Navy." This can only be done by the general permission of the House, which might approve of the first part of the Resolution and disapprove of the second, or, on the other hand, might disapprove of the first part. I am bound to say I think it would rather tend to expedite business. Of course the Motion could be made in Committee or on Report, when a separate discussion might occur with a 1255 fresh start. But I conceive that upon all these questions the original Committee stage is, according to Parliamentary usage, the proper, most fitting, and best time for the discussion of the merits of the subject. I, therefore, venture to make this suggestion.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I will not enter into discussion with the right hon. Gentleman as to the most usual course to pursue with regard to such Resolutions, but my impression was rather different from that of the right hon. Gentleman. It was that Resolutions were accepted by the House, and that the serious discussions of an important character were taken on the Bill founded on the Resolutions. I have some reason to complain that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh only appeared on the Paper on Saturday morning, although the Government Resolution has been on the Paper since the 2nd March. I shall offer no opposition to any course which is calculated to facilitate the progress of business and which will enable the Committee to come, this evening, to a decision on the Resolutions as a whole. But I think it would be unreasonable that a discussion of this character should be protracted, especially after we recognize the fact that the Amendment now sought to be considered is one which has only been produced three weeks after the original Resolution appeared on the paper.
If the right hon. Gentleman asks me for a pledge that the discussion will conclude this evening, I must ask him how long the discussion which will precede the consideration of the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, will occupy? I am afraid that the First Lord of the Treasury could not tell me that, and, therefore, I would advise my right hon. Friend to give notice of his Amendment for the report stage on Thursday.
§ *MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I will take that course. But I would remind the First Lord of the Treasury that there has only been one debate on the general subject of the Resolutions, and that did not last a whole day. I thought it would be inconvenient to put down an Amendment to the second part of the Resolution until after the amendments to the general question were on the Paper, and about to be considered.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I must point out that an interval of a fortnight elapsed between the statement of my noble Friend the Frst Lord of the Admiralty and the first discussion, and during the whole of that fortnight it was open to the right hon. Gentleman to put his Amendment on the Paper.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
Many of us on this side of the House think the Amendment first to be discussed is of far more importance than that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh. Surely, when a question of policy of a most dangerous character is submitted to Parliament, we ought not to be asked to pass the Resolution as a matter of form. Those of us who have any experience in this House know that when it is declared expedient that a certain sum of money should be expended by Parliament for a specific purpose, it is always open to debate. I do not think the House of Commons has ever been called on in recent times to decide on a more serious financial question than this one. I myself oppose both the substance and the form of the Government Resolution, and I believe that in so doing I am in accord with many hon. Members sitting on these Benches. Therefore it will seem strange to us and to the country if the closure should be attempted at a time when we are asked to take into consideration an important question of policy.
Order, order! It is extremely inconvient that reference should be made to the closure as if it rested entirely with the leader of the House. As it appears not to be the wish of the House that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Haggerston should be withdrawn, it is not convenient that this preliminary discussion should be prolonged.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
I do not see that anything which has transpired in this conversation should prevent me going on with the debate which was not concluded when the matter was last before the House. Now, I considered the remarks made to the House the other night by the hon. Member for Haggerston to be most important for two reasons—first, because as I am well aware a large number of people in the country—many of them working men—hold the hon. Member's views; and, 1257 secondly, because the hon. Member is a working man's Representative, and I should like, if possible, to upset some of his arguments in a perfectly argumentative way. I was not at all astonished that the hon. Member appeared to be puzzled and mystified as to why so large an amount of money was necessary; but I will show him how it came about. He said very rightly that we were always getting into scares like this, and the Government of the day promptly came forward and wanted to lay out a large sum of money, as necessary for the safety of the country. The hon. Member has referred to some of us as experts, and has complained of our action, but as a fact, what I desire to do is to awaken the country to a statement of fact. I do not want to create a scare; I only want the truth to be made known. The hon. Member said he had a duty to perform as a Member of this House. So, Sir, have I. Now, Sir, before I sit down I think I shall be able to show him that he took a very bad date for the purposes of his argument when he referred to the Naval Estimate of 20 years ago, for in that year the country had begun for a variety of reasons to reduce its Naval Estimate, which ought to be taken, from a business point of view, as the rate of insurance for the country. Twenty years ago the nation's imports and exports amounted to £334,000,000, and the Naval Estimate was only £10,000,000. Now, the imports and exports have risen to £680,000,000 and our Naval Estimate is £1,000,000 less. Twenty years ago, consequently, the rate of insurance we were paying in the shape of our Naval Estimate was 3.41; now we are only paying 1.85. If the hon. Member claimed that we should have no Naval Estimate at all, then there might be some merit in his argument, but he is not justified in saying that we are paying too much now as compared with the basis of payment 20 years ago. We must have a navy to protect our commerce. The hon. Member would not say to his constituents that the food supply, the commerce, and the shores of Great Britain shall not be defended at all; and, if defence is to be undertaken at all, it should be done in a business-like way, and not as the two Front Benches have been doing. Why, they must confess that they have adopted principles 1258 dictated mainly by Party reasons and not by the completeness of the defence of the country. If not, why did the First Lord of the Admiralty state on a previous occasion that the country was paving too much for the Navy?
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
The noble Lord expressed the hope that he might reduce the Estimates, and stated that the then shipbuilding vote, if carried out, would run the fleet up to a standard which would be ample for the defence of the country. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for tacking ship. I told him he would have to do it. My point is that he should not have put the rocks in his own way; he should have put the necessity for the increase before the country. But let me continue my answer to the hon. Member for Haggerston. In the last 20 years the tonnage of the Mercantile Marine has risen from 5,700,000 to 9,135,000 tons; and if the Estimate of 20 years ago was sufficient for the commerce of that day it is not sufficient now; and yet the Estimate of to-day is less by £1,000,000. As a matter of fact, two prominent European Powers have increased their Naval Estimates in the last 20 years by four and a-quarter millions a year. The population of this country has increased 8,000,000 or 9,000,000, and the imports have doubled during the last 20 years, and can it be said that if a navy of a certain strength was required then, a stronger navy is not now necessary?
§ *MR. CREMER
I made no such admission as that which the noble Lord asserts. I did not say that the Navy 20 years ago was either adequate or necessary. I said nothing upon the point, and the noble Lord is quite in error in putting into my mouth words I did not use.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
Then I do not see where the hon. Member's argument is. I understood him to put forward as an argument, that there was an increase in the Naval Estimates now over those of 20 years ago. I am sorry if I misunderstood him.
§ *MR. CREMER
That is true. I instituted a comparison between the ordinary Naval Estimates now, and the ordinary naval expenditure 20 years ago, pointing out the increase which has taken place during this period.
§ *MR. CREMER
I pointed out the increase which had taken place as evidence of the demands which are continually being made for increased expenditure upon the Navy.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
Then I want to know whether the hon. Member is prepared to say that our commerce, our shores, our trade, and our food supply is not to be defended?
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
The danger is in being unprepared. The hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree with me that this country ought to be protected, not in the way it has been done, without any definite plans, without the experts being called together and deciding what shall be protected and how, but after the experts have made out their plans and given their reasons to the House of Commons. I find fault with the Government because they are going to do the right thing in the wrong way. I told the Government the other day that they were going to do the right thing, though they were going to do it in the wrong way. If the hon. Member for Haggerston, who has brought forward his views in a very able manner, had directed his remarks to the right-about-face of the Government I should not have got up to answer him. But, as I understood him, though, perhaps, again I am wrong, the hon. Member directed his shafts against the opinions of what he described as "the cormorants," men like myself who are endeavouring, to the best of their ability, to let the country know what is wanted, and to give their reasons. I was very much astonished to hear the First Lord of the Treasury hint that a debate so important as this should be in any way curtailed. Putting aside Party altogether, the defence of the Empire is the most important question that could be brought before the House, and it is desirable that every light should be thrown upon it. The argument brought forward by the hon. Member for Haggerston is one held by a great number of people, and it is desirable that it should be debated so that people should see whether it is right or wrong. I there- 1260 fore hope it will not be curtailed. Now with reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Cardiff, if they had been directed to vessels of the Admiral class I should have agreed with him entirely. The First Lord of the Admiralty was, I think, wrong in describing them as of the Admiral class. He said that the new ships were more assimilated to the Admiral class than to the Trafalgar. What I imagine him to mean is that they were more assimilated in the matter of auxiliary armament.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
What I said was that the position of the armour resembled that of the Admiral class, but that the position of the armament was more of the Trafalgar class.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
I entirely agree that the ship's platform whose safety you have to insure is not at all like that of the Admiral class. We must do our best to make the House understand this technical question. We will begin by the fact that a first-class ship, cruiser, or any fighting machine must be a compromise. First of all, we start with the theory of an armoured battleship that cannot be sunk or put out of action unless its armour is pierced. Secondly, we must put down the weight of the armour and what we are going to put on the ship, and then let experts discuss and decide where is the best point to put the armour on. These are points which must be talked over in Committee at the Admiralty. I will tell my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff that the reason why I like the new ships is because they are not naval architects' ships. My idea of what our naval administration ought to be and of the mode in which our naval architecture should be conducted is that it should be done in a business-like way, as in Germany. In Germany the experts discuss for days what ships are necessary, and make out a plan and sign a memorandum of their views. First they find out how many ships they want, and then they lay down the principles on which the ships shall be built. They have opinions as to the requirements from the seamen, the engineers, and the artillerymen. That is what we ought to do. Someone ought to be made responsible. Ships should be designed in accordance with the views and to meet the requirements of the men who have to fight them, and 1261 not to meet the plan of the naval architect.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
That is so; but what I want to enforce is that in Germany the designs are first worked out by the sailors, and when they have decided on what is necessary, the architect makes the plans. That is never done at our Admiralty. I believe that the new ships will be good ships. Let us take the Thunderer or Ajax class. I think most seamen objected to the Ajax class because all the offensive power is in the centre of the ship, and if a shell got in, then the whole battery would be unmasked. Now, I am dealing with the new design—the Trafalgar design and the Admiral design—and I wish to compare the new ships with the Trafalgar and the Admiral class. The length of the new ship is 380 feet, and it is armoured for 250 feet. The Trafalgar is 345 feet in length, and is armoured for 230 feet, while the Admiral, with a length of 330 feet, has 150 feet of armour. I believe that the Admiral class could be sunk or put out of action without piercing the armour, or, indeed, without firing big guns at all. The new ship presents to an enemy a very much smaller target than the citadel ships of the Trafalgar class, and its ammunition and loading places are completely covered. If the citadel be pierced in the Trafalgar class—which is perfectly possible—your heavy gun may be put out of action, because there is no armour at the base of the turret. Another advantage of the new class of ships is that they carry four guns, two forward and two aft. The armour deck in the new class of vessels is 8 feet lower than in the Admiral class. This, in my opinion, is an enormous advantage. The great danger that besets the Admiral class is that an enormous amount of armament may be brought to bear. In the new class you will have a five-inch armour plating which will certainly burst any shells charged with high explosives which we have such a horror of in the old armoured ships. In my opinion, the new ships will be of a better build than have yet been seen in any country, and I think you cannot get vessels better defended, when you take into account the tonnage and the requisite thickness of the armour. The 1262 guns are in excellent positions and are excellently defended. What will happen in action we do not know. We may find that a 7lb. shell may explode the magazine. I am satisfied, however, that the protection of the guns will be ample. The hon. Member opposite (Sir E. J. Reed) cannot say that he approves of the auxiliary armament of the Trafalgar. There was such an outcry about protecting the auxiliary armament of that ship that four extra inches were put on. I should say that these new ships will run up to from 300 to 500 tons of extra weight, but I maintain that the mode adopted of putting on the armour is the best that could under the circumstances be used. Another point of advantage is that, whereas the freeboard in the barbette class is 18 feet, and in the Admiral class 10¼ feet, it is 11½ feet in the turret class. Then, again, the barbette in the new ships will be 23 feet above the water, whereas in the Trafalgar it is only 14 feet and in the Admiral 20 feet. What you have to do is to hit the enemy's ships as often as you can, and you are not likely to hit them if your guns are under water. There is no doubt that the new ships will have a speed of half a knot more than the Admiral class, which is a point of great importance. As to the question of size, I believe myself that we have now arrived at the maximum of size with due regard to utility and economy. I do not think it will pay either in the Mercantile Marine or in the Navy to build larger vessels with the object of getting more speed out of them, and I do not believe you will get many ships to go faster than this new class, unless you invent a new motive power. There are many reasons for believing that these will be good ships. The Government have acted wisely in trying to find the best type for adoption, and I think that if they are ready to sit down and debate the subject, we are likely to get the best ships the House of Commons can vote. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. J. Reed) said that the Blake and the Blenheim, which are called protected cruisers, are not protected. Well, this is a case of conpromise. You must sacrifice either speed or a certain amount of armour. My contention during the short time I was at the Admiralty was that the Blake and the Blenheim should 1263 not be armoured, but that they should trust to their speed, and that, I think, was the best compromise that could be adopted. Well, as I have said before, I think the Government are doing right, but that they are going about it in the wrong way. I believe the hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Ashmead Bartlett) told his constituents not long ago that the British Fleet was able to fight the combined fleets of any two Powers.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
Oh, then, we agree entirely. My opinion is that the country should be made to believe that an expenditure of £21,000,000 is necessary now. I am very glad that the Government are coming round to my view; but I believe that if they came down to the House and said, "Having looked into the question, we find that such and such an expenditure is necessary, and our policy is so and so," they would have met with no opposition from anybody, except those Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite who think we ought always to be at peace. When I criticized the Ministerial Programme some of my brother officers came to me and asked, "Are you going to throw the scheme over?" I answered, "How can I oppose a scheme which is practically my own?" I calculated what was necessary, in addition to the ordinary ship-building votes of the year, to defend all our interests in the event of a war with France alone. We ought not to depart from this principle: that if we go to war with any country we should be in a position to sink every vessel of the enemy, and if you adopt that principle you can take your Navy List and make out the same plan of campaign as I did. The Government told me that was not necessary. Well, my noble Friend (Lord G. Hamilton) came round—
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
Well, that is one of the most satisfactory statements I have heard, because it will 1264 enable us to show how my noble Friend has come round. My brother officers came to me and told me to acquiesce in everything. Well, I am not going to acquiesce in everything. I know that £21,000,000 is not half enough to spend on the Navy, and what the Government ought to do is to tell the people so. My noble Friend (Lord G. Hamilton) has tried to induce the House to believe that his programme will meet the full requirements of the country. I say it will do nothing whatever of the sort. He might just as well think we are all going to believe in the historical associations of this first of April as that we are going to agree with him in that. It cannot hold water at all. My brother officers said to me, "Half a loaf is better than no bread." I said, "Certainly; a quarter of a loaf is better than no bread, but, for goodness sake, let the people know it is a quarter, and not a whole loaf." My noble Friend could not get his colleagues on the Board of Admiralty to sign a paper stating that this scheme is sufficient to meet the requirements of the country. The actual addition to the amount to be spent on the Fleet will be only £9,535,000. I know the Government will get a much better class of ships, but what they ought to do is to keep up the number of their ships, so as to be able to meet a combination of any two Powers against us. According to my noble Friend's (Lord G. Hamilton's) own statement, at the end of five years, the waste, in respect of obsolete vessels, will alone be 67 ships, and this programme will only give us 70 ships. Really, therefore, he is going to add three ships to the Fleet, looking at it from that point of view. My own opinion is that if the case were put before the country in a reasonable sort of way, the electors would be willing to vote anything that might be necessary for their defence, but people, naturally, are filled with doubt, when they hear statements such as are constantly being made on both sides of the House in reference to the strength of the Fleet. I maintain that if we do not insist upon making the Government Departments fully responsible, this sort of thing will go on for ever. We shall be told one month that "Britannia rules the waves," and that we are all right, and the next that we have to pay £21,000,000. My noble 1265 Friend the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) said not long ago that the entire question of the strength of your Fleet depended on your policy. I cannot agree with him, because your policy may alter in a dog-watch, or, if you like, the policy of another country may alter in a dog-watch. You ought to have a Fleet strong enough to defend all your interests and to keep peace. This country ought to have and must have peace; I assure you that those of us who have earnestly taken up this point of the strength of the Navy think more of peace than even Gentlemen opposite, because we are acquainted with the horrors of war. A strong British fleet is a more important factor in the question of the maintenance of the peace of the world than many hon. Members think. The first thing that would be asked by Foreign Powers, if England had a Fleet adequate to meet all her requirements, would be in any emergency—"What will England do?" I entirely object to my noble Friend's argument that the strength of your Fleet depends on your policy.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
Will my noble Friend allow me to interrupt him? I will put my argument in the form of a query. Does he not think the British Fleet would require to be much stronger in the Mediterranean if we held Egypt than if we left her?
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
That is rather beside the question. I say that to keep the country at peace should be the aim of every Englishman, that in order to do so a strong British Fleet is essential, and that you will never have a strong British Fleet whilst you have a system which allows you to do what you are doing now, and what you did under Lord Northbrook. You should once and for all find out what the standard of your fleet should be, and you should keep it up to that standard, and have, as far as you can, a level estimate every year. There is one other observation I wish to make. I do implore hon. Gentlemen to put on one side all questions as to whose fault it is. Let us look at this as a great national question, and bury all Party questions when we deal with it. I am sure I have not always said kind things of my former colleagues, nor 1266 have I allowed their plans to pass without criticism. I have, I know, on one occasion, said I would rather wait a year than have this programme brought forward; but since then I have seen how things are managed by foreign nations. I have seen how good is their organization, how quick and apt they are to get the first advantage, if anything should unfortunately occur, of any circumstance that in these days of steam and speed would give them an advantage in the beginning of a campaign. They are better prepared in matters of detail. The two leading Naval Powers next to ourselves have £4,200,000 more on their annual Naval Estimates than they had 20 years ago, and yet their lives do not depend upon their naval strength, as our lives do. In bringing my views so constantly before the House I desire to support the Government. I hope they will be allowed to get to work soon; for every day we lose important time. The keels of the ships should be laid down as soon as the money is voted. We may debate the system of administration, and even the financial question, afterwards—they admit of debate and argument; but I do not think that the question of our defence and of keeping pace with our commerce does admit of debate. I believe we are all together upon that point; and, therefore, I hope the House, though it may find fault with the Government for this right-about-turn, will assent in enabling them to lay down a number of ships. My argument is that you will not take more than eighteen months to launch the hulls of the vessels, and as soon as the stocks are cleared other keels should be laid down, until we get the ships up to the standard.
§ *MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
The House always listens with interest and pleasure to the noble Lord, not only on account of his ability and acquaintance with the matters with which he deals, but because of his obvious sincerity and earnestness in the cause he advocates. But I am bound to say that there was at least one part of his speech in which, if his object was to support the policy of the Government, he did not very much advance their cause. I allude to that part of his speech in which he entered at great length into details of the different designs of ships, and carried on a dis- 1267 cussion with my hon. Friend near me something similar to that we anticipate at the Institute of Naval Architects on a day not far distant, with the result, I think, of satisfying the greater number of the Committee there was really no fixed principle or standard rule in regard to shipbuilding; that the whole business was such a quagmire of diverse opinions, that it might seem the less money was embarked in it the better. But, approaching the programme of the Government, the first objection I have to make—the first criticism I have to pass on it—is connected with the extreme difficulty of ascertaining what the sum of money involved really amounts to. The noble Lord, in stating his proposals, led off with, and brought into the fore-front of his statement, the good round sum of 21½ millions, and such a figure so stated would naturally be taken—and was as, a matter of fact, at first taken—to mean that there was to be an absolute and actual increase to this extent over and above the ordinary shipbuilding expenditure of the country. But in the further course of his speech, and in subsequent explanations given, other figures have been mentioned by the noble Lord and others, and his latest dictum is that the whole sum involved in the programme is 11½ millions for shipbuilding, and even this sum of 11½ millions rests on the supposition that if there were no such proposal as the Government now submit, nothing whatever would be done in the Dockyards or by contract, except the mere replacement of waste in the Navy; so that even here we do not find firm ground to stand upon. Now, I cannot but think this was a mistake, and an error in tactics on the part of the noble Lord. I believe that he would more readily have commended his proposal to us if he had proceeded in a precisely opposite way—if he had, in the first place, endeavoured to show us how very small an increment he proposed over the ordinary rate of shipbuilding expenditure, and then, when he had shown how small that was, he had paraded before us the magnificent catalogue of 0 ships which he would be able to provide for the money. I know that the noble Lord had no idea whatever of misleading the House or anyone by giving such prominence to the big figures with which he started; but he 1268 must be aware that, when those were put in the foreground they would sink into the public mind, and if I look for motives for adopting that course I think I can suggest two. In the first place, a somewhat unusual and not altogether justifiable course has been followed in this matter. While the House of Commons remained in perfect ignorance of the intentions of the Government, the noble Lord and some of his colleagues were going about discounting the popularity which their scheme might gain for them among the classes in the community interested in naval expenditure; and in favoured places, and in congenial company—at banquets in the City of London and occasionally in the Provinces, taking credit to themselves for the great things they were about to do. It was necessary, therefore, to make as much of it as possible. The second motive was that it was, above all things, necessary to fill the eye, and inflame the imagination, and impress the ingenious mind, of the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford) and those officers of the Service who are of his school. Whether they have altogether succeeded in that object I am not very sure, because, from what I know of the noble Lord, I think he is far too shrewd not to see the real state of the case. But I wish to examine this large demand which is made upon us, and to inquire what is involved in it, and what justification is put forward for it, but before I do so I ask the Committee to consider what is the origin of the Government proposal. The noble Lord (Lord G. Hamilton) did not give quite an accurate account of the origin in his speech. The real origin of this new Naval Programme is to be found in an Amendment moved about this time last year to the Army Estimates asking for the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the provision made for the defence of the Empire. I think the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone will agree with me in this. The Government took it into their heads that they were going to be beaten on a Division on that Amendment! I do not believe they would have been, but, however, for fear of that result, they proposed to meet the desire of hon. Members in another way, and to inquire in a way, and to a degree 1269 of closeness not hitherto usual, into the state of the defences of the Empire, and, accordingly, they appointed this Committee of Members of the Cabinet of which we have heard so much. The noble Lord somewhat unkindly ignored this incident, and ascribed his present policy to a happy inspiration of the Government, who, he told us, "resolved, after a full survey made of the requirements of the Navy and the country, and having ascertained what the deficiencies were, to do our best to make them good with all the rapidity which was consistent with good construction. Her Majesty's Government determined to adopt that principle, and our new shipbuilding programme is based upon it." Well, if that were a principle spontaneously adopted by Her Majesty's Government, it was a rather sudden resolution on their part, and not altogether consistent with their previous action. For the last few years they had been reducing the Naval Estimates, to gain some degree of temporary popularity, no doubt, possibly in one year to prevent—shall I call it?—the official suicide of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in the next year to avoid his criticisms. They have been reducing the Estimates, and assuring us that all was well with the Navy; that it was abundantly adequate; and deprecating sudden and spasmodic movements in shipbuilding. Now, I am not going to dwell at this moment on this line of argument—on these assertions and declarations by the naval authorities of the adequacy of our naval strength—and to found on them my main argument against the Government policy, for I wish rather to consider that upon its merits; but they afford an abundant supply of that tu quoque argument so freely made use of from the front Bench opposite. I can imagine, for instance, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been engaged in opposing the Government policy, how he would have revelled and rollicked in the material furnished by so prolific a mine of his favourite argument. But while not dwelling upon them I must observe that the statements to which I refer were not expressions of opinion by private Members which might change with changing times and circumstances, but were the authoritative assertions made by responsible Ministers of the 1270 Crown to the House of Commons upon which they sought for and obtained support for their naval policy; so that it was something much more serious than the mere expression of opinion of private Members. But I do not wish to dwell on that part of the subject. The First Lord proceeded in support of the wisdom of the course taken by the Government, to adduce the opinion of the Committee on Naval Estimates, of which I had the honour to be Chairman last year. He said it was a marvellous thing that this body of Members, taken from every part of the House, absolutely agreed with the view the Government had taken. I will read the words the noble Lord used, so as to make this clear—The proposition to which that Committee gave a unanimous assent was to this effect—that any new ship building programme should be based upon a full survey and knowledge of the whole requirements of the Naval Service of the country.This recommendation of the Committee, said the noble Lord,Was arrived at some months after the decision of the Government, and it is a curious coincidence because it shows that so far from this increase of naval expenditure which we advocate being necessarily associated, as some think it is, with the traditions, training, and predilections of the Tory Party, we have indisputable evidence to the contrary, a body of men specially appointed to consider questions of naval expenditure and temporarily dissociated from their political prejudices have arrived at identically the same conclusions as Her Majesty's Government.Now, it is only right to say that this Committee determined from the first—and determined rightly—that we had nothing whatever to do with the question of the adequacy or strength of the Navy. We were not appointed to go into the strength of the Navy, and had we done that we should have required to take a very large amount of important evidence. It is quite true we could not exclude questions bearing on this subject when we happened to have a distinguished Admiral before us in his official position, and Members of the Committee did ask such a witness whether he was satisfied with the condition of our Fleet, and with the sufficiency of that Fleet. Anyone who looks at the Report of that Committee will observe the singularly contradictory answers received on this point. But the Committee itself considered that the question of increased 1271 expenditure on the Fleet was altogether beyond their functions, and they gave no expression to any opinion on the subject. What they did inquire into was the mode in which the Naval Estimates were framed, and the degree of information, knowledge, and professional opinion which was at the disposal of those who decided upon them in their ultimate shape. As result of our inquiry into that point, an hon. Member whom I see opposite moved an Amendment to the Report to the effect that every year in framing the Estimates—for we were then dealing with the annual Estimates, but an expansive programme such as this—every year in framing the Estimates the Naval Members of the Board of Admiralty should be called upon to state what, in their view, the requirements of the country demanded in shipbuilding, and that that should be plainly put before the Government, and that if those views were overruled then the reason for that course should be recorded I do not give the words of the Amendment, but that was the effect of it. That Amendment was moved, but it only received the support of three Members of the Committee. But another Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Old ham and accepted unanimously, to this effect—Your Committee are of opinion that the responsibility of the Board of Admiralty and the Government respectively for the efficiency of the Navy would be more clearly defined and accentuated if the wants of the country were carefully considered, and a programme drawn up and submitted by the First Lord on behalf of the Board to the Cabinet before any decision is taken as to the amount of money to be spent during the year.This was a very reasonable proposal which the Committee accepted, but it has nothing of the character the First Lord attributed to it. It related solely to the ordinary Estimates of each year, and to their mode of preparation, and, above all, it cannot be quoted as any approval whatever of an increase in naval expenditure, or as in any way superseding the tendency which anyone may have, and which I have not, of associating such a policy with the traditions and predilections of the Tory Party. I thought it necessary to explain this matter on behalf of the Committee on Navy Estimates of last year, and now let me come to the actual proposals of the Government. There are, undoubtedly, two bases on 1272 which we may consider and decide what is the requisite strength of the Navy—first, a comparison with other Powers: and, secondly, a review of the duties which would be imposed upon the Fleet in time of war. Those are the two criteria which may be applied. The first of these is a matter on which we can all form a more or less correct judgment, and I would say at once that on the mere comparison with other nations taken by itself I can find no justification for any large extension of our naval strength. But let me, to prevent misunderstanding, say for myself that I accept in the fullest and most complete form the doctrine that it is necessary for this country to hold the supremacy of the seas, and that, further, I accept the doctrine that the test and standard of this supremacy is that our Fleet should be as strong as the combined strength of any other two Fleets in the world. That supremacy I believe to be the traditional possession of this country. I believe it is necessary, on account of our insular position, and the extent of our Colonial Empire, and I further believe that that necessity has not been impaired, but rather increased, by the development of our trade, by the multiplication of our interests in all parts of the globe, and by the increased facility of communication all over the world. But, above all, I wish to point out that we hold that supremacy of the seas with the consent of, and without any injury or grievance to, neighbouring countries. I believe it causes no jealousy among them. Take, for instance, the nation with whom we are more immediately concerned—France, the nation occupying a naval position next to ourselves with a long interval between the second and third—what is the feeling in France on the subject? When I was Secretary to the Admiralty it was my duty to read the debates in the French Chamber and in the Budget Commission in relation to naval affairs; it was my duty, and at the same time it was a source of satisfaction and pleasure to me. I will not go so far as to adopt the cynical saying of the French philosopher, that our greatest pleasure consists in contemplating the misfortunes of other people; but this I will say, that it is a great solace and relief to us to find that other people are not 1273 exempt from the distresses and calamities under which we suffer. What did I find in this course of reading which I strongly recommend to any hon. Member afflicted with the idea that our Navy is conducted in a deplorably bad manner? I found the same complaints, the same grumblings, the same condemnations we are so accustomed to hear. They complained that ships took too long to build. In passing, let me congratulate the noble Lord; the credit is due to him and his Colleagues of having, at all events, wiped out that disgrace and source of expenditure from our administration. I am not sure that France has yet got over it. They complained of the slowness in the delivery of guns; they quarrelled over the designs of ships and guns; but what I wish specially to refer to is this—that from first to last, except, perhaps, when an occasional expression fell from some hair-brained fanatic injurious to this country, there was not a word used in debate but expressed full acknowledgment of the fact that the English naval power was the strongest, and ought to be the strongest, in the world. I remember one important authority expressly declared that, in respect to the most important classes of ships, France could not even rivaliser with Great Britain. So fully do they admit the superiority of this country. But now let me explain by a few figures the progress of shipbuilding in France in recent years. I may say, putting it briefly, that about 20 years ago France discovered that she had, in the modern sense of the word, no ironclads at all; that her ironclads were all of the original type, wooden built, with iron on the sides, and vessels so constructed were known to be inefficient compared to others, and liable to be racked and torn asunder by the weight of armour on the sides. The French made up their minds that they must create a new fleet of battle-ships. They, therefore, instituted a great programme to be spread over 20 years, and it is in the development of that programme that their shipbuilding expenditure has been increased year by year. The execution has not been, in fact, so fast as they expected. During the years 1863–74 the average annual expenditure on new construction for hulls and engines was £740,709; for the next three years it was increased to about 1274 £1,300,000. Our expenditure averaged in the same years £2,220,000. In the years 1878–79–80 there was a very serious check in the shipbuilding in this country. During that period we almost touched low water mark. The French expenditure still continued £1,400,000, and ours was only £1,440,000.
§ *THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD,) Lancashire, Ormskirk
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in his figures. The expenditure in England in 1877–8 for new construction was £2,922,000.
§ *MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I took the figures from the Return which the hon. Gentleman has laid on the Table, a Return of Naval Expenditure from 1859 to 1888 inclusive. The amount, £1,440,000, was very little more than the French expenditure. During the following three years 1881, 1882, and 1883, the French expenditure remained at £1,400,000, while ours was £1,800,000. Since the Northbrook programme has been brought into play the French expenditure has risen to £1,700,000 a-year, while the British expenditure has been £3,120,000. Looking at the relative expenditure of the two countries, therefore, there is no reason for an extravagant expenditure in this country: we have kept well a-head of our rival. With regard to ships in existence and ships building, we have 16 first class-battleships of what I will call the most modern type, ships which have been launched since 1878, while the French have 12 and the Russians five. Of vessels launched before 1878, some of which are among the strongest ships in our Navy, such as the Inflexible, the Téméraire, and the Dreadnought, we have 16; while the French have only two vessels of iron and ten of wood, and the Russians have two. The two French ships, the Friedland and Redoubtable, are strong vessels; but the ten wooden ships are fast passing into that picturesque category which the French style, "Sans valeur sérieux." As to vessels on the stocks, the comparison of this country is not so good; and here I blame the Government. It has always been thought better to keep steadily advancing than to allow an interval when the programme might lapse into nothing. If the Government had laid down new ships in the last two years, even at the risk of increasing the Navy Estimates a little, the 1275 sudden spurt which we are now invited to sanction would have been avoided. As it is we have nothing on the stocks, while the French have two ships and the Russians four. I submit to the Committee, therefore, that on this mere comparison of battle ships there is no great argument to be founded in favour of increased expenditure on the part of this country. With regard to armed cruisers, we have nine of the most modern type, the speed of seven of them being over 18 knots, and of two 16 knots. Besides these, we have nine ironclads of the old class that are easily convertible into armed cruisers. They are ships with good lines, with great coal capacity, and modern engines and boilers would no doubt give them great speed. The French have four armed cruisers of 14 knots speed and the Russians nine. France has also two of a high speed building. Taking unarmed cruisers over 15 knots, because of ships below that speed we have too many rather than too few, we have 22, France 11, and Russia one; and of vessels between 16 knots and 17 knots we have 11, while France has nine and Russia two. Then this country also possesses at her command the merchant cruisers of which the First Lord of the Admiralty has spoken. I ask the Committee whether it is not clear that there is no reason in this mere comparison for the large expenditure now proposed? But now I proceed to part company with some of my friends. I admit that this argument is not exhaustive. The comparison with other Powers is not enough. We must take into account, what is often neglected, the requirements of the Empire, and the uses and duties of the Navy in time of war. No doubt it is on this consideration mainly that the Government will justify the policy for which they seek our approval. But the pity of it is that they have given the House no data whatever. We do not wish the Government to disclose secrets, but to tell the Committee what the grounds are upon which they make their particular demand. If the Committee of the Cabinet have discussed such questions as the design of vessels and the height of armour belts above the water, I submit that they have done that which it is not their duty to do. It is not the duty of Cabinet Ministers to leave their ordinary work for the purpose 1276 of settling the details of a Department—details which should be settled by those who are directly responsible for them. What they were called upon to do was to arrive at some conclusion as to the naval strength which this country requires. If they have arrived at a conclusion on that matter, the Committee ought to have some particulars before voting the money asked for. Apart from the conclusions at which the Government may have arrived, I am strongly of opinion that, upon the grounds of the extensive and increased duties which the Navy will have to discharge in time of war, there is a case for proceeding steadily with that gradual strengthening of the Navy which has been going on for some years, without precipitancy and without panic. On the other hand, I have no sympathy with demands based on exaggerated estimates of our requirements; whether these are put forward in magazine arttcles, or in speeches at public meetings or in this House. And I had occasion last summer to enter a protest against the insidious attempt which was made in connection with the Naval Manœuvres to frighten the country into an expenditure of money on the Navy. No doubt these manœuvres are most useful, and I congratulate the noble Lord on having instituted them, but what I objected to was is the ridiculous movements in the shape of raids round the coast in order to frighten people out of their senses. These movements were unreal and misleading representations of what will actually happen in time of war; and I protest against them, inasmuch as they have the appearance of giving the sanction of our Government and the authorities of the British Admiralty to a kind of warfare which I believe is condemned by international law, by the common feeling of men, and by the comity of nations. But we shall have another opportunity of discussing that question, and I only allude to it in passing. While I thus condemn all exaggerated views in this matter, I am as anxious as anyone to see the Navy strong enough to undertake with efficiency and success all the duties which it can reasonably be expected to perform in time of war. If necessary, and I believe it is not at the present moment strong enough, by all means let the Navy be 1277 gradually and reasonably increased. But how can we, devoid of professional advice and information, say to what extent it ought to be strengthened? Surely the Government, before the close of these debates, will vouchsafe to us some facts on which the Committee can build a judgment. The First Lord has told us that Her Majesty's Government consider that the scheme should be "entire in itself, and adequate, not only to our immediate, but also to our future wants." With that view they are suddenly to build 70 vessels. Why 70? Why not 100, or 200, or only 10? What we want to know is upon what principle Her Majesty's Government have arrived at this figure of 70? Surely it is not after all only a hand-to-mouth guess. Can it be that the Government, having been pressed by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford) and others, that noble Lord himself recommending a programme not costing £20,000,000, decided at least to overtrump him by a proposal of £21,500,000, and then discovered that they could have 70 ships for the money? That is the old policy of making the strength of the Navy depend on the Estimates instead of the Estimates upon the strength of the Navy. Unless the Government afford the House more information, that is the only explanation of their policy that will be forthcoming. But let me direct the attention of hon. Members to the real bearing of the figures involved. As I have already mentioned, our average annual expenditure upon new construction during the past five years has been £3,120,000. If this rate of expenditure were continued for the next five years it would amount to £15,600,000. But the new programme, exclusive of armaments, only proposes an expenditure of £16,150,000 in that time, besides £1,550,000 necessary for the completion of ships now building, making together £17,700,000. This is the total expenditure actually contemplated, for I refuse to take into account the problematical sum of £3,000,000, which is intended according to the First Lord, to be utilized "either in laying down new vessels or in reducing the Estimates for the years 1892–93 and 1893–4." The increase, therefore, over the expen- 1278 diture which will be incurred if the Admiralty merely pursue the old lines in respect to their building programme is only £2,100,000, or an increase of £420,000 a year, and it is, after all, therefore, merely for the sake of this small sum that all this pother is being made. I do not commit myself to the opinion that the present rate of shipbuilding ought to be kept up at so high a figure, or, on the other hand, that it ought to be reduced, for an opinion can only be formed upon a knowledge of facts, and these the Government have not supplied the House with. If the Navy is in some respects deficient, would not the reasonable course be to go on steadily; not reducing the Estimates for two years, and then propounding a great and sensational programme of expenditure, not omitting for one or two years to lay down any battleships, and then laying down ten. If Her Majesty's Government had quietly and steadily continued the old rate of shipbuilding instead of propounding this sensational scheme many advantages would have been secured. We should have avoided all this fanfaronnade, which would in itself be something gained. We should have avoided spasmodic expenditure, which is always attended with waste and extravagance. We should have avoided the evils attendant on laying down too many vessels of one kind at once, the disadvantages of which anyone can learn by reading the speeches of the First Lord and of the Secretary of the Admiralty, which are eloquent homilies on this subject. We should also have avoided any occasion for those financial irregularities to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to be lending himself so easily. I will not enter into this branch of the subject, as it will be raised by another Amendment already on the paper; but I will merely point out that the proposals involve that the deficiencies of one year may be set off against the excesses of the next, and the excesses of one year against the deficiencies of the next—a proceeding totally at variance with all established rule—and that the expenditure to be incurred in five years will be spread over seven. Lastly, we should avoid the most unconstitutional course of passing an Act of Parliament consti- 1279 tuting the other House of the Legislature the equal co-partner with this House in determining the expenditure of the year. This is not the policy which I would have expected from a prudent Administration. The policy I should have recommended would have been to continue, in such degree, and to such extent, and for such a duration of time as might be necessary, the process of gradually building up the strength of the Navy, until it was fully adequate, in the judgment of the responsible Government and of Parliament, to the duties required of it. This process I am not prepared abruptly to discontinue by rejecting the whole of the Resolution now before us, and I deeply regret that Her Majesty's Government, by the conditions they have attached to their proposals, by the form in which they are put forward, and by this neglect to furnish grounds for the precise extent of this demand, have made it difficult for us to support it, even for those of us who yield to them not one whit in our desire to maintain the position and power of the British Navy.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
I think the right hon. Gentleman's speech may be divided into several chapters, some of which are favourable to the plans of the Government, and some of which are not. In the end, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be somewhat in doubt as to which side of the fence he should come down upon.
§ *MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
No; I distinctly said I could not interrupt a process, which I thought was a right one, by flatly rejecting the proposals of the Government. I only regretted that the Government had made it so difficult for us to support them.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
Mr. Courtney, I shall have to claim the indulgence of the Committee while I lay some figures before it, not for the purpose of any tu quoque argument, but in support of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Some charges of inconsistency have been brought against me, and I will as rapidly as possible deal with that branch of the subject which concerns myself personally. The hon. Member for Haggerston has very courteously referred to certain speeches I have made with regard to the comparative strength 1280 of the British Navy. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington has also referred to those speeches, though in not quite so courteous tones. [Lord R. Churchill dissented.] The hon. Member for Haggerston has quite correctly quoted me, but he has omitted to notice that a few days after the delivery of one of the speeches referred to, I made another speech in which I pointed out that on the former occasion I had merely quoted figures from an official statement showing the number of different classes of vessels possessed by England compared with those possessed by other Powers, adding that "I left the moral to be drawn by others," as no more difficult argument could be entered upon than to attempt to compare the strength of different ships of war—that it is one upon which naval men differ, and that I, as a civilian, would not attempt to deal with it.
§ *MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
The words of the hon. Member, which I quoted, were "that the Navy of England is more than equal to the two greatest navies of Europe—those of France and Russia."
§ *MR. FORWOOD
The hon. Member quoted me accurately enough, but he did not quote a subsequent paragraph in my remarks where I stated my opinion was based upon a comparison of the numerical strength of the respective navies. An opinion on such a subject may be liable to be changed as events occur. I claim, on behalf of the present Board of Admiralty, that they have taken the best means of ascertaining what is the comparative efficiency of the Navy. The naval manœuvres afforded the first and the best means of ascertaining what vessels of war could do; and after going to the expense of those manœuvres, it would be obstinate folly to ignore the experience so gained for the sake of maintaining a former opinion. The naval manœuvres developed for the first time the probable value of vessels of war in relation to the blockade of an enemy's port. It was from the experience thus gained and upon the advice of a competent Committee appointed to consider the lessons to be learnt from the manœuvres as well as from consultation with an able body of colleagues, that the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty determined upon the Estimates submitted to the House.
§ MR. DUFF (Banffshire)
May I ask what is the recommendation of the Committee which the hon. Gentleman is referring to?
§ *MR. FORWOOD
The paragraph in the Report of the Navy Estimates Committee is—That the responsibility of the Board of Admiralty and of the Government would be more clearly defined and executed if the wants of the country were carefully considered, and a programme drawn up and submitted by the First Lord on behalf of the Board to the Cabinet before a decision was taken as to the amount of money to be spent in the year.It was in response to that paragraph of the report that the First Lord called for information, and obtained it in the most complete manner possible, as to what would be the wants of the Navy under the present conditions of naval warfare, as these were developed by the naval manœuvres. On that information, and on the recommendations of his advisers, he has framed the programme which has now been submitted to the House. The basis of that programme is that our naval strength should be equal to that of any two Continental nations. The noble Lord behind me (Lord C. Beresford) says that he approves of what the Admiralty have done, but that they have gone the wrong way about it—that they never called around their table the sailors, the constructors, and the artillerymen.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
I did not say they never did so, but I want to know whether, in this case, they did so?
§ *MR. FORWOOD
Then I can assure my noble Friend that the sailors, constructors, and artillerymen have been engaged during the past six months in considering the details of the various ships that should be included in the Programme, and I do not think that a more business-like, or complete arrangement could have been made to ensure a good and efficient ship. It has been the endeavour of the Admiralty to gain experience, and to prevent a recurrence of past mistakes. One of the most important matters in regard to a vessel is displacement; and care has been taken to leave a sufficient margin, so that when a vessel goes to sea she should float at the draught for which she was designed. Further, it was determined that the trials of ships should not be merely measured mile trials with a forced 1282 draught, but that the ships should be taken out to sea, and their speed ascertained by runs of considerable duration at sea. I hope that I have now cleared up the points raised by my noble Friend as to the designs of these ships. But we went further than that. The First Lord has already explained that he was not content to have the opinions of the constructors, and of the members of the Naval Board, but that he submitted the designs of the ships proposed to be built to an independent committee of admirals not connected with the Admiralty. They were perfectly informed on all points, so that their views might have greater weight, and their opinions were unanimously in favour of the craft proposed to be built. I am not going into the question of design further than this: The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. Reed) when discussing the question of design, proposed a higher wall of iron between the redoubts; but he did not say that the thousand tons of additional weight to be carried must be taken off some other part already protected or some alteration be made in the dimensions of the ship—
§ *SIR E. REED (Cardiff)
The hon. Member is forgetful. I did not advocate any alteration in the design of the Nile and Trafalgar. I only advocated that they should not have a thousand tons less armour than they already carried.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
At any rate, it is clear that the hon. Member has not carefully read the papers circulated with reference to the designs, or he would find that the armament of the new ships will require something like 500 tons additional displacement for the additional auxiliary armament and rounds of ammunition to be carried. The hon. Member for Cardiff, in his speech, endeavoured to belittle the proposals of the Government. ["No, no."] With that object, he compared the expenditure for the coming five years with the expenditure for five previous years. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has dealt with the question of expenditure on somewhat the same lines, and he has stated that, with only the average expenditure of the past five years we could have completed what we now propose to do. Now, I am bound to say that since my noble Friend made 1283 his statement in this House, and a more complete and lucid statement could not have been made, an endeavour appears to have been made to obscure and confuse the public mind with regard to the figures. If there was a fault in the statement of my noble Friend it was that. In his anxiety to draw a fair and unexaggerated picture of the scheme, the noble Lord understated rather than exaggerated the the programme which he laid before the House. Let me recapitulate the figures quoted by my noble Friend. He said that within the next five years he would finish, the vessels now in course of construction and in progress of completion at a cost of £1,500,000; that he would build and complete in the dockyards in the course of the next four years, certain new vessels which he enumerated, at a cost of £8,650,000 for hulls and engines, and that he would provide guns for those vessels at a cost of £2,850,000. Then there would be a certain number of vessels built by contract at a cost of £10,000,000, and my noble Friend finished by stating, as any man of common sense would have stated, that it was necessary to leave a sum of money in hand available for the commencement of new work in our Dockyards. No one dreamt that we were going to cease work in the Dockyards when the Shipbuilding Programme was complete. Whether the House will pass the Navy Estimates in years to come, by appropriating the surplus of £3,000,000 to new construction, or use it for the reduction of the Estimates, I cannot say but we at any rate are entitled to regard it as a provision we have made for work to be carried on in the Dockyards. The hon. Member will see that the total expenditure proposed by my noble Friend thus amounts to £26,000,000. The hon. Member for Cardiff dissents, and has endeavoured to show that when it was compared with our Naval expenditure of the past five years, the increase for the next five years was only £3,900,000, leaving a deficit of £5,200,000 unaccounted for.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
Yes, on ships, not armaments. The hon. Member divided the expenditure on the new programme into two parts—£5,350,000 for arma- 1284 ments, and £16,150,000 for hulls and engines. The cost of the armaments, he said, he would leave on one side. This was rather a curious mode of assessing the cost of a war vessel, for guns and ammunition do not fall from the clouds. We propose to order the guns, to pay for them as we go on. Some such idea may have been entertained by the Government to which the hon. Member belonged; but, as matter of fact people, we are now going to provide guns and to pay for them. The hon. Member further went on to compare the expenditure we propose to incur with the expenditure of the last five years, and he tried to make us believe that the expenditure on the last five years averaged £3,900,000.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
Yes, on ships. Now, I think that quotation of figures is pretty much on a par with the erroneous statements which have been going the round of the Press during the last three months.
§ *SIR E. REED
I took the figures from a Return laid before the House a few weeks ago on the motion of the noble Lord opposite—a Parliamentary Return.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
I am about to quote from a Parliamentary Return—Appendix C, Navy Expense Accounts, 1887–8—and if the hon. Member will turn to that Account, and refer to the expenditure in the years 1883–4, 1884–5, 1885–6, 1886–7, and 1887–8, he will find that the total for those five years up to the 31st of March, 1888—the last year for which the Returns are complete is £14,225,000.
§ *SIR E. REED
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member. I did not take that Return, but. I took the cost of construction last year from the Navy Estimates now before us.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
Then the comparison of the hon. Member is wrong and misleading, because it gives the expenditure with the incidental or establishment charges. £14,225,000 was expended during five years I have mentioned in new construction, irrespective of indirect charges, or an average of £2,845,000 per annum, nearly £500,000 less per annum than the figures the hon. Member gave as his basis for comparison. A comparison between what we now propose and the past five years would, I 1285 believe, conclusively prove the financial soundness of the scheme which we have laid before the House. Within the five years ending the 31st of March next, Lord Northbrook's additional programme would have been commenced and finished, including the purchase of a number of torpedo and other craft paid for out of the Votes of Credit. We do not wish to depend on Votes of Credit, but to make our financial arrangements clear and distinct before we enter into shipbuilding engagements. The abnormal expenditure of the past five years represents £4,250,000, which, deducted from the total outlay of £15,000,000 during the period, leaves the normal expenditure of the five years at £2,150,000 per annum. As our ordinary expenditure is to be fixed at £2,650,000, we are proposing to expend an addition of £500,000 per annum to that of the past five years. We believe that £2,650,000 is an amount of money that would maintain the Navy at the standard at which we desire to place it. If our calculations are correct, when the vessels we propose to build are completed, the wastage of the Fleet will amount to £2,650,000 per annum, and if the future House of Commons desire to maintain the Navy at that standard of strength, it will be necessary to expend the sum of £2,650,000, or we should have the Navy falling back, and the former scares repeated with further spasmodic schemes for shipbuilding, altogether unsatisfactory in the interests of the country. At this point it may be convenient that I should refer to the return which has been prepared at the instance of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
Yes; but not printed. This is a proof which came in to-day for correction, but it is convenient to refer to it in print rather than in manuscript. I desire to give hon. Members an idea of what would be the standard at which the Navy will be placed by our proposal. In 1894 the proposed standard for England's Fleet is 77 armoured vessels and 88 protected vessels. It is estimated that at the same date France will have of vessels ready, building, or projected, 48 armoured and 14 protected; Russia will have 27 1286 armoured vessels, with 3 protected; Germany will have 40 armoured vessels and 10 protected, and Italy will have 19 armoured vessels and 17 protected. I do not give the numbers of the smaller class of vessels. That represents the standard of the Navy at present proposed by the lights now before us, by the experience of the manœuvres, and by the opinions of officers most competent to advise the Admiralty. We consider that when we propose an expenditure we should avoid the faults which have been committed in the past. One great fault of Naval Administration has been that we have had vast paper Fleets, but sufficient money never taken to rapidly complete the vessels. I will take the last period, in 1885–6, when Lord Northbrook's scheme was proposed, the liability then undertaken for new construction involved £9,000,000 sterling to complete the ships building and those to be built. The House will scarcely credit me when I say that to meet that £9,000,000 only £800,000 was added to the normal shipbuilding Vote for the year, which was £2,150,000. Of course there were Votes of Credit taken, and they came to their aid in the course of the year. But the present Government desire to lay down a proper financial programme at the outset, and not to depend on fortuitous Votes of Credit. But the short supply of funds did not stop at shipbuilding. The hon. Member for Cardiff has eliminated guns from his figures, but the question of guns has a most important bearing as regards the readiness and the efficiency of ships for service. In 1885–6, as I have said, £9,000,000 sterling was required to commence and complete the ships included in the programme. And what was the amount of money that was taken for the guns? The total amount for guns and warlike stores, which were then provided by the Army Vote, was only £1,000,000 sterling. As it takes about half a million annually for the ordinary normal equipment and service of the Fleet, practically only £500,000 was taken on account of guns and munitions for that vast amount of shipbuilding. Comparing with that the proposed provision for the same purpose, in the coming year the present Admiralty take £1,000,000 in their Ordnance Vote for guns, &c., with a shipbuild- 1287 ing liability of £7,500,000, as against £500,000 on a shipbuilding liability of £9,000,000. In the four years ending in 1886 the Ordnance Vote for the Army only amounted to a total of £3,000,000, or an average of £750,000 per annum, excluding Votes of Credit. Deducting the annual requirements, the amount available for arming new ships was therefore only £1,000,000. As eleven millions in value of new ships had been laid down in that period, requiring £3,500,000 for armament, the deficiency of financial provision is at once apparent. I think there can be very little doubt that much of our trouble has arisen from this want of prescience in the past. We are determined, if possible, to prevent this in the future. We know, to our own cost, what a disturbance there is in the year's finance by not making a proper provision, and not laying down an adequate programme. Let us take the most recent of all—Lord Northbrook's programme. It was estimated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, that £800,000 would be required for three years, £60,000 in the fourth year, and £500,000 in the fifth year. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong to the extent of something like £1,100,000, and that proved an additional burden upon those who next came into Office, and disturbed seriously the arrangements of the Admiralty. There is one more point which I wish to emphasize. I desire to put before the Committee the value, in an economical point of view, of determining a programme, and carrying it out some few years in advance. The cost of our ships has been vastly increased by reason of there being no predetermined arrangement as to the amount of money to be spent from year to year. The proportion of expenditure devoted to new construction in the last 20 years is as follows, if the whole estimates are taken: In the first five years, only 12 per cent of the whole estimates went for new construction in ships; in the next five years the proportion was 17 per cent; in the following five years it was 15 per cent; and in the last five years, I am glad to say, 24 per cent of the total estimate went into ships. I have taken out the cost of six cruisers and six armoured vessels built during the period 1288 when the smallest percentage went into new ships, and have compared it with the cost of armoured vessels and cruisers when 24 per cent of the total estimate went into ships. I find that six armoured vessels and seven cruisers built in the lowest period were estimated to cost £2,250,000, and the actual cost was £3,000,000, or an increase of 30 per cent. In the last five years nine armoured vessels and six cruisers, costing over £6,000,000 have been built within £15,000 of the estimate laid before the House. These figures point to the necessity and importance, from an economical and administrative point of view, of laying down a programme and taking measures that shall be adhered to, and that no spasmodic efforts and changes shall be made to alter the programme. I need not dwell now upon the Constitutional question. I am too young a Member of the House to dwell on what is involved in placing this expenditure in a Bill; but, as far as I have been able to judge of the practice of the House, it is a common and everyday occurrence for the House to make contracts, such as mail contracts, and to enter into engagements with individuals for a term of years for which the payment is to be met by money to be annually voted by Parliament. I see no difference between that course and the portion of the programme to be built in the dockyards in the one Bill with the contract portion, and that this fixed sum of money should be annually voted by Parliament as it annually votes money for other services. I apologize to the Committee for having detained it so long a time, but I have endeavoured to place before it as the reasons which I believe make the proposals to be the most economical which could be submitted by the Admiralty.
§ *MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green)
I shall certainly not follow the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House with his statement, but I shall approach this subject entirely from the standpoint of the taxpayer, and in doing so I can assure the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) and other Members of this House connected with the Navy that I have no wish whatever to depreciate the great services of the Navy, or to cripple it in any way for funds whenever these funds are necessary. But I have endeavoured to ascer- 1289 tain for myself with regard to the condition of our Navy, from the reports of inquiries which have taken place during some considerable time past, what is the actual condition of that Service. I have listened to all the speeches which have been made on this subject since this debate first commenced, including the speech of the noble Lord who introduced it, and I do not understand yet the condition of the Navy, and I do not think very much light has been thrown upon the condition of the Navy by the addresses which have been delivered. "Who shall decide when doctors disagree?" Certainly, so far as the condition of the Navy is concerned, we find men who are supposed to be experts differing very widely indeed as to the actual condition of the Navy. I hope I shall not weary the House if I recall the Committee again to some statements made by those who are supposed to be responsible for the Navy—those, at any rate, who are responsible to this House for giving, and who ought to give, something like accurate information. It is not very long ago that the First Lord of the Admiralty made a speech in which he reviewed the condition of the Navy, and compared it with the navies of Foreign Powers. He boasted at that time, and pointed out to an admiring audience, that our Navy was equal to the navies of the three greatest European Powers.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I said nothing of the kind. What he means is that I said we had in commission as many ships as any three Foreign Powers.
§ *MR. HOWELL
I accept the hon. Lord's words, but let the House judge for itself. The noble Lord in the autumn of 1886, speaking at the Guildhall, said "the number of Her Majesty's ships which at the present moment were in commission, both armoured and un-armoured, exceeded the combined force of three of the greatest naval European Powers." And I very well remember that the hon. Member for Woolwich said on that occasion, if such be the condition of the Navy, it is certainly not due to the noble Lord, for he has only just taken office; but, Mr. Courtney, since then we have been spending a very considerable amount of money, and the noble Lord and his colleagues have been pushing forward this 1290 programme of Lord Northbrook's, that has been referred to again and again. A very considerable amount of money has been spent in recent times, which certainly ought to have placed the Navy in something like an efficient condition, if it is ever to be so. The amounts spent since that time have been £13,250,000 in the following year, £13,000,000 in the next year, and nearly £14,000,000 in the current year. But the noble Lord demurred to my interpretation of the speech at the Guildhall, as though he did not mean it. But the noble Lord did something more. He came down to the House and said practically, the Navy is in such a splendid condition that we are able to reduce the Naval Vote this year, and the Naval Vote was reduced, and a number of men were struck off.
§ *MR. HOWELL
Well, all I can say is that we were promised a reduction, and if the Supplementary Votes exceeded it, that is quite another matter. Certainly, the number of men was reduced by the noble Lord. The noble Lord does not say "No" to that. The number of men was reduced by 100.
§ *MR. HOWELL
Well, all I can say is, Mr. Courtney, that those who are responsible for the Returns and Papers published by the authority of this House have not given us honourable and faithful Returns, for the Returns show an actual reduction of 100 men. I shall have an opportunity, perhaps, in later stages of this discussion to refer to the matter again, and I will ask some hon. Members who are going to take part in it to refer to the Navy Estimates, in which they will find that the actual reduction was proposed by the noble Lord, and that the number of men was reduced to the number I have stated. But, Mr. Courtney, I have a right to go back somewhat further with regard to this question. Figures have been referred to going back over a number of years, leaving out altogether the expenditure on the Navy, speaking generally, and including stores and men. Let us see what has been spent on shipbuilding 1291 alone, as this is a shipbuilding Vote. I think I am correct in saying that the life of a ship is from 20 to 22 years; that is, supposing she has not got on a rock or sunk in a quicksand. My hon. Friend near me says in 20 years she is obsolete, and it does seem as though ships of war became obsolete very quickly indeed. There is at the present time many hon. Members in this House who are supposed to be experts, these dispute as to the value of certain vessels laid down within a very short period of time. That is a question for those experts to settle among themselves. But, so far as the Members of this House are concerned, I take it that it is our duty to withhold this Vote until the experts have settled what kind of a ship of war is to be built, and what that ship of war is to be worth as a fighting ship after it is built. I find the total sum spent up to the date when the inquiry was instituted was, for shipbuilding alone, £33,364,000, in 18 years. Now, taking the life of a ship of war at 20 years, that amount ought to have given us a magnificent Fleet, more than equal to that which the right hon. Gentleman said we were equal to in 1866. Beyond this we spent £16,000,000 in repairing those ships during those 18 years. It would thus seem that the cost of repairing comes to nearly half the total cost of our shipbuilding, and if this be not a sad instance of waste, mismanagement, and mis-spent money, I do not know what would be. The Secretary to the Admiralty wanted to eliminate the incidental Dockyard charges, but I say that they are a part of the shipbuilding programme, and that if you eliminate them you cannot make the necessary comparisons. These incidental charges amount to over nine and a quarter millions; consequently there was more than £58,500,000 spent in 18 years, while the ordinary life of a war-ship is said to be equal to 21 or 22 years. This is altogether exclusive of naval stores, which would make the cost enormously greater. But then comes the expenditure of the noble Lord, and his able colleagues, who are going to set everything right in regard to the Navy, and this has added a large sum to the total cost, so that in the aggregate, up to the present time, we have spent in twenty years seventy-one millions of money, and yet we are told 1292 by experts in the House that we have not a Fleet equal to what is necessary to compete with the Fleets of two of the largest European Naval Powers. If it be true that we have not a Fleet sufficient for this purpose, then, I say, we ought to have, and that if the money of this country had been well spent we ought to have had a Fleet equal to those, not only of two or three of the great European Naval Powers, but equal to the combined Fleets of the whole world. If we have not such a Fleet, whose fault is it? It is not the fault of this House, because the money has been voted. This House has never withheld the money for the building or manning of our ships whenever it has been required, and if we have not such a Fleet as I have indicated someone is certainly at fault. Those who have paid any attention to the management of the Navy know there is a large amount of blame which ought to be laid somewhere; and, as far as I am concerned, I am not disposed to permit this point to be lost sight of in academical discussions between experts on this and on the other side of the House. It is all very well for Gentlemen who have been in office on this or on the other side of the House to bandy words and figures as to the right of this and the wrongs of that; but, as far as we who sit on these Benches are concerned, what we want to do is to fix on the right shoulders the responsibility of permitting our Fleet to drift into the sad and dire condition in which it is now supposed to be. I am not laying the blame on that side of the House any more than on this; it matters not to me who is to blame, but I say we have a right to know who it is we should blame. When the noble Lord and others opposite speak of the splendid condition of our Navy, it shows that they have not made themselves thoroughly acquainted with the facts in connection with the Department they administer. I may say I have just had placed in my hands a copy of the words used by the noble Lord, to which I referred a short time ago. In July, 1887, the noble Lord said—The Navy Estimates of this year show a reduction of £800,000. I stated in the Memorandum to which I was referring that I was satisfied that for years to come there would be a steady reduction of expenditure.1293 and so on. I do not think it necessary to carry this further, because the matter is within the knowledge of Members of the House, and I do not wish to prolong the debate; but if the noble Lord should question my statement as to the words he used, I have them here, and they can be produced at his demand. With regard to this question of responsibility for the condition of the Navy, I may say that I have paid considerable attention to the various inquiries instituted during the last few years, and I have hoped, and hoped, and hoped on, that sooner or later I should find—I trust sooner rather than later—that we shall, at least, be able to fix something like responsibility on someone with regard to the condition of the Navy and the expenditure in carrying out our shipbuilding programme. On carefully reading the Reports of the Departmental Committees of 1885 and 1886—Committees not very likely to report strongly against the Departments with which they were connected—I found that they reverted to the Reports of older Committees, and endorsed what those Committees had said with respect to the utter absence of control on the part of the Admiralty in regard to our Dockyards. It seems to me that the noble Lord has not read these Reports, although, in a memorandum on some of them, the reference to one Committee was extended, and another Committee was appointed to carry on the inquiry in consequence of the sad state of affairs that had been brought to light. I followed the inquiries instituted by those Committees, in order that I might find that the responsibility and control were absolutely fixed; but I found nothing of the kind, and I have met with nothing in the later authoritative statements in this House to assure me that the responsibility has really been fixed. It is possible the noble Lord may say that some of the things recommended by those Committees have been agreed to; but I want evidence of the fact before I believe it. The Secretary to the Admiralty laughs, but I have not, as a private Member, the opportunity of knowing except from Blue Books and Returns how these things have been dealt with. My complaint is with regard to the management of the Admiralty in the administration of the Dockyards. I, for one, should be 1294 willing practically to assent to what is now proposed if I could be sure the money would be well spent, and achieve the object for which it is asked—not that I think the way in which the money is to be dealt with is right, because it is proposed that a large sum is to be paid over to a Government which may be out of office long years before its programme can be fulfilled. I will now refer to a matter to which I have before called attention, and which I find is carefully evaded by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I have spoken of the want of responsibility, as well as of control, and I want to know who it is that is absolutely responsible for a completed ship of war? Perhaps hon. Members who laugh will be good enough to listen to what I have to say. I ask who is responsible for the completed ship of war—for the war machine or fighting machine she should be when fully built and equipped, and with all her armaments upon her? As far as I am able to gather—and I have not the means of getting at the pigeon-holes of the Admiralty—the Chief Constructor of the Navy says he is not responsible. Who, then, is? The noble Lord opposite appeared to be unaware of what I referred to when I first brought the matter before the House. I will call his attention to Question 7,957 in the Report of the Select Committee on the Navy Estimates, published last August. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) asked the Chief Constructor of the Navy—Do you consider yourself as being responsible for the battle-worthiness of a ship as well as for its sea-worthiness?—Mr. White (Chief Constructor of the Navy): No; certainly not.Question 7,958—The hon. Member for Preston: Who are the people responsible for the battle-worthiness of a ship?—Mr. White: I should say the members of the Board of Admiralty, who ordered the ship.I have been reading some further Questions and Answers, and I find that the Naval Lords of the Admiralty did not admit that they were either severally or jointly responsible for the battle-worthiness of a ship. I want to know, are we to have ships built and engines put on board of double the power required, and armour fixed upon them much heavier than was ever intended, together with heavier armaments than they ought to carry, so that the ships 1295 display a natural desire to go to the bottom when they are taken out to sea, and is no one to be held responsible? I want to know, Mr. Courtney, who is responsible for such a state of things? The First Lord of the Admiralty said he could see no mention of the matter in the Report; but the noble Lord and his friends took very good care that it should not appear in the Report, for he and half-a-dozen of his colleagues, most of whom were, or had been in the past connected with the Admiralty, voted against its inclusion in the Report. Well, the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston voted in the minority. Why, I ask, was it not referred to in the Report? It was that the Admiralty might escape absolute responsibility for their conduct in connection with the building of ships of war, and equipping and manning them, and sending them out as fighting machines; and until we have some kind of satisfactory answer to this question, I say the House is in duty bound to withhold its hand, and not to vote this twenty-one millions to be expended on the Navy in the construction of ships which when built either go to the bottom of the sea, or are rendered obsolete in the course of a few years. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff has called attention to some of these matters, but I must say that, in his case, the roaring lion of the Times was like a sucking dove when he discussed this matter, and I was very sorry indeed to see that with him the subject narrowed down into the discussion of a mere technical question as to what was to be done, supposing the money should be voted. I, on the contrary, hope that the money will not be voted, and, so far as I am concerned, I shall take every opportunity I can to prevent its being voted, and whenever a Vote in connection with it is put in this House I shall record my vote against it. A lot of this money is to be spent in purchasing ships to be built by contract, and I wish it were possible for the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, for the Secretary to the Admiralty, or for some other responsible person, to give the House some information with regard to the manner in which these contracts will be entered into. The Reports, to which I have before referred, 1296 show that there has been a great deal of looseness in connection with Navy contracts and in connection with the building of vessels. The Select Committee which investigated the system of purchase and contract in the Navy found that alternative tenders were accepted; that alternative designs were presented; and that, in many instances, triple engines were put in the place of other engines tendered for. Now, Sir, let me ask business men in this House—and not hon. Gentlemen who are mere fighting men connected with the Navy—let me ask business men who know what contracts are, whether, under ordinary circumstances, if alternative tenders came before them, they would accept them? For myself, I have sufficient knowledge to say that I look with considerable suspicion upon any such tenders, because, whenever an alternative design or tender is put before a Committee, it enables the friends of the contractor to plead for that contractor getting the work, and to urge upon the Committee the advantages of the alternative tender. If men at the Admiralty are capable of making designs for ships, what need is there for these alternative designs? The fact is, when the design leaves the Chief Constructor's office, it ought to be complete in every part, and there should be no necessity whatever for those alterations in design which so enormously run up the cost. It is evident the Admiralty, in connection with these matters, do not know what they want; they neither know the form of the ship, what it will carry, nor scarcely anything else in connection with it, and when the ship is laid down the Admiralty alter it from time to time accordingly as things may strike them. This they call designing and constructing for the Navy. No wonder, then, that we have ships, if I may speak in a figurative sense, of neither classic, Gothic, or any other kind of design. Under ordinary circumstances, I am bound to say, I think we shall be better served by contractors—by good contracting firms—than if we have the ships built in Her Majesty's Dockyards. The Dockyards, at any rate, might do the naval repairs; but, so far as one can judges they are not the best fitted for constructing ships for the Navy, and, therefore, I do not object to a large portion of the 1297 money being spent in contracts, provided always that the designs are complete, that the tenders are complete, and that the contracts are made for the kind of ship which is absolutely required by the Admiralty. I hope, Mr. Courtney, that something may be done to reform the present system of managing the Dockyards, for the Select Committee had certain matters before it which certainly gave rise to the impression that there was need of, and room for, reform. Indeed, some hon. Members have asked me whether I have not thought that there have been frauds to a considerable extent in connection with this management. So far as I am concerned, I can point to nothing that would support any such conclusion, but I am bound to say that, if frauds have not taken place in connection with the Admiralty and Navy, and especially in connection with the management of Her Majesty's Dockyards, then that the officers having command of the yards must be perfect paragons of perfection. And for this simple reason, Sir, that every opportunity has been placed in their way to commit fraud on a wholesale scale. I say that advisedly, and the noble Lord may, if he can, disprove it. I may point to one matter—namely, the passing into stores of goods supplied by contractors without being properly viewed, without being passed by men competent to judge of their quality and value, and even passing into the stores without going through the storekeeper's account except incidentally after the stores have been removed to the place where they are to be consumed. If this does not point the way for fraud, it, at any rate, does give an opportunity to the contractors to tip the men who pass in the goods. I do not say that the contractors have tipped the men, or that the men have accepted tips from the contractor, but I do say that to leave matters in this state is to give an opportunity for corruption such as should not prevail. Then with regard to the manner in which the stores have been dealt with. Here, again, there have been ample opportunities for corruption, unless the officers were like Caesar's wife, not only absolutely above suspicion, but absolutely above corruption. There seems to have been no system by which a proper check can be kept in regard to the stores in the Dockyards, and I look upon this matter as 1298 somewhat serious, especially when we remember that our first line of defence is, and possibly at some time our only line of defence may be, our gallant Navy. We have a right, therefore, to see that the stores passed in for the use of the Navy, for the construction of ships, and for the armament of ships, are of first-rate quality, and such as have been contracted for. There is another point which I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will give some attention to. A plan has grown up in the Dockyards of making payments for time which was not worked, in order to pay men for overtime said to be worked, or, to put it in plain language, paying dummies for time not worked, in order to have a fund at command out of which to pay men working overtime. If such a system has been allowed to prevail, the officers connected with Her Majesty's Navy must be pinks of perfection indeed if it gives rise to no fraud. Again, the Auditor General points out that a system has grown up of charging to one Vote expenditure incurred under another Vote; and I venture to say that if this system is allowed to go on, we never shall have a Fleet strong enough to satisfy the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone, or any other man who wishes to see the Fleet really in a condition fit for war, should war unfortunately come. Then, again, there has been a practice of paying for goods on the supposition that they will be delivered at some future time. I suppose this happens sometimes when Her Majesty's Government find that they have money left in their hands towards the close of the financial year, and do not know exactly what to do with it, and so they pay their contractors in advance. Finally, Sir, there is the general question of the absolute absence of supervision and control on the part of the Admiralty. I ask the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone, who has, by his speech to-night, practically endorsed the programme of the Government, whether he means to stand to his guns, and whether he means to demand that we shall have absolute supervision and control, financially and otherwise, with regard to public expenditure, before we vote this sum which is now asked for? I hope that the noble Lord, as well as his noble Friend the Member for South Paddington, will not be found 1299 to be among those "who would, but dare not." Now is the time; now is a favourable opportunity; because I believe that hon. Members on this side of the House would be prepared to vote any reasonable sum for strengthening the Navy, if they were absolutely sure that the money would be well spent. We might forget for once our Party politics, and deal with this question from a national standpoint, but we cannot do it unless hon. Members opposite, who have condemned the mismanagement, and want of control in connection with the Navy generally, will stand by us and fight out this question. The noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty at the commencement of his brilliant career in connection with the Admiralty, boasted that the Navy of England was in splendid condition. Since he has been in office, we have spent a large sum of money in strengthening the Navy, and hon. Members have shown in this debate that, though the Navy was strong in 1886, and though we have since spent considerable sums, yet experts have since shown that the Navy is in a sad condition: so sad, indeed, that the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone says that instead of twenty-one millions, we ought to spend forty-two millions on it. Yes, Mr. Courtney, and very likely we ought to spend twice forty-two millions to put it into a state sufficient to satisfy some hon. and gallant Gentlemen in this House, especially if the old methods of administration are to be pursued. I am as anxious as any man that our Navy shall be efficient and well-equipped—that our ships shall be well built and well armed—but I want it to be done with due economy and with due care for the taxpayers' money. If the House will grant me one or two minutes longer, I will refer to the very latest Return which came into my hands, namely, the Return showing how the Navy is to be strengthened under the new Naval programme. The noble Lord, as I have already pointed out, proposed to effect under his ordinary Estimates a reduction of 100 men.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
No; that is not so, the number of boys is to be reduced, but the number of men is to be largely increased.
§ *MR. HOWELL
Nothing is said in the Return about the boys; but I wish now to point out in what manner the noble 1300 Lord proposes to increase the strength of the Navy. He proposes to add 3,000 men, and how is that total of 3,000 made up? I find under the head "Officers" we are to have an increase of 2,193; under the head "Coastguard," we are to have an increase of 200 petty officers and seamen, and under the head "Marines," we are to have an increase of two commissioned officers, 57 Staff-officers and sergeants, and 180 buglers and musicians. Thus we are to have 180 buglers and musicians to play a tune while 2,193 officers dance, and 860 men of the rank and file are to bring up the rear. This is the way in which the Navy is to be strengthened. Of course I may not have read the figures accurately, but that is how they appear to me on the Return, and as I gather it, the increase of 3,000 men only provides for 860 actual working men of the rank and file class. I leave this matter, as indeed, I am compelled to leave many others, to be settled by the experts, but in conclusion, I can only express the hope that the Committee will insist, before it sanctions any further expenditure on the Navy, that the money shall only be spent for the benefit of the Service for which it is asked.
§ *COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
In following the hon. Member I must say that, although I am somewhat indifferent to the general charges which he has brought against the Admiralty, I should have been glad to hear detailed charges which could have been answered by my noble Friend the Head of the Admiralty. Nearly all the hon. Members who have spoken have been unable to resist the fascination of dealing with figures; yet, strange to say, in no single case have they agreed, and I am almost disposed to assert that they have not approached the truth either. Now, Sir, I am profoundly indifferent to all these financial investigations. I care not in the least whether the £21,500,000, which I trust will be voted before long, would have been made up in the course of the ordinary Estimates or not; the fact I grasp is that if the House sanctions the proposals of the Government there is tolerable certainty that within four or five years the Naval programme of my noble Friend will be completed. What security should we have that this increase in the Navy which is so essential 1301 would be carried out in the ordinary Naval proposals made from year to year? Sir, while I am disposed to agree with my noble Friend the Member for Marylebone when he says he wishes the increase had been greater than it is, yet I am content with, and am glad to accept, what is offered to us. I think it is a great advantage to us to have the programme clearly defined, and so far as is possible to have an actual and absolute undertaking that it shall be completed at the end of four or five years; and therefore, Mr. Courtney, I do not see that these further investigations are necessary. With regard to the strength of the Fleet, no exact comparison can be drawn between our Navy and those of foreign nations, because there is no common basis to which they can be referred. In my judgment, however, the strength of our Fleet is not up to the strength it ought to be, either in relation to the fleets of Foreign Powers or in relation to the duties it may be called upon to perform. It is conceded, I believe, by most people in England, and was specially conceded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), that we must, owing to our unique position, have command at any rate of the home seas. If that be so, it follows that the movements of our Fleets are not dependent upon the wants of our home Government or upon our own volition, but are dependent upon the movements of the enemies' fleets. In the event of war we should be compelled constantly to watch the fleet of the enemy. If that be conceded, who will deny that we ought to have a Fleet superior in strength to the fleets of Foreign Powers, That which is true of the home seas is also true of the Indian seas and other seas. Those who are familiar with the naval history of the last century will recollect that alike in the home seas and in the East and West Indies the same necessity constantly existed to watch the fleets of Foreign Powers. It is sometimes said that the many changes of the last 30 or 40 years have prejudiced our naval superiority, that is to say, that steam, for example, has placed us in a less satisfactory position with reference to Foreign Powers than we formerly held. I think that is a mistake. I also think it is a mistake to say that less skill, less knowledge, 1302 less experience, are required to command one of Her Majesty's ships at present than used to be the case formerly; further, I say they are mistaken who contend that the peculiar characteristic of our sailors and seamen's skill which did so much to secure the successes of the old wars, have now disappeared. In this respect I view the future without any apprehension. I trust that our officers, and I believe that our seamen will have as large a field for their peculiar abilities in the future as they have had in the past. I purpose now to deal with the more professional matters alluded to by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. J. Reed). I think it must be evident that when a person of such great reputation as a naval constructor as my hon. Friend attacks with his characteristic vigour the proposals of the Government, it is not improper that some one on this side should reply to him. My hon. Friend has always taken a strong line against those vessels which are known as the Admiral class. He now says that the vessels of the new type are no more safe than the vessels of the Admiral class.
§ *SIR E. J. REED (Cardiff)
No, I did not say that. I am quite prepared to admit that the special features of the Admiral class, so far as the protection of the ship is concerned, were somewhat mitigated in favour of those new vessels.
§ *COMMANDER BETHELL
I certainly understood that my hon. Friend considered that the new vessels would suffer under the same grave charges as the vessels of the Admiral type. I am very glad indeed if that is not the case. Well, the gravamen of the charge made against the Admiral type of ships was that if their unarmoured ends were shot away they would be placed in a position of unstable equilibrium or approaching unstable equilibrium—
§ *COMMANDER BETHELL
And of course they would sink. Now, I am not in a position to say whether that would be true or not, but that has nothing whatever to do with the present argument. But the vessels of the new type are, by the admission of my hon. Friend, safe, in so far as the building is concerned, from being placed in a position approaching to unstable equilibrium 1303 by the fact of their unarmoured ends being shot away; he has admitted that the Trafalgar type, so far as stability is concerned, are safe, and the new vessels will have the same amount of unarmoured ends as the Trafalgar type. Thus the most grave defect in the Admiral type clearly does not exist in the new type. But now note the charge brought against the new vessels. They are covered with armour only five inches thick, and my hon. Friend contends that if they become inclined a matter of four, five, or six degrees the five inch armour would be much more readily perforated than the stouter armour placed on the sides of the Trafalgar. No doubt the Trafalgar type has a great advantage over the new type in this respect that we must see whether there are not compensating advantages. My hon. Friend is obliged to assume that the vessels are heeling over, but when that happens with the Trnfalgar, as well as to the new type of ship, the opposite side is exposed to any chance projectile of the enemy; but remember that this advantage to which both vessels are exposed modifies the disparity which exists between them, so far as the danger due to thinner armour is concerned. Let me illustrate it in this way. Let the Committee take the numbers six and four as representing the danger to one and the other; add another number 10 to each of them as representing the common danger to both, the ratio of 16 to 14 is much modified compared with that of six to four. Then my hon. Friend is obliged to assume that the vessel is heeled over a certain number of degrees. My hon. Friend is a great advocate of what we call belted cruisers. Now, belted cruisers, of course, like battleships, are exposed to the danger of being so wounded that they may be heeled over. My hon. Friend has pointed out in a recent speech that the special advantage of belted cruisers is that they are practically safe at the water line, but are liable to be wouuded above the belt, although it is possible to repair that. The same argument precisely applies to the vessels which my hon. Friend opposes; there is absolutely no difference, and I do think that, so far as stability is concerned, the new type of ship will be, so far as we can say, less safe than the Trafalgar. The new vessels would, I believe, be absolutely safe in the matter 1304 of stability. I do not say, for a moment, I am altogether in harmony with the comparatively minor details of those vessels. I agree that it would be much better if the belt be carried round the bows, and I am not sure that it would not be advantageous to strengthen the bows in some way against quick firing-guns. These, however, are minor details. Among the advantages of the new vessels is the fact that they draw approximately a foot less of water than the Trafalgar, and also the fact that the guns are placed at a good height from the water. Then, again, there is this singular advantage in the new vessels not possessed by the earlier types. The heavy guns are not now placed close together, but are drawn nearer to each end of the vessel, the result being that you are able to carry a powerful auxiliary central battery, which is an immense advantage in modern warships. Then there is the increase of speed. I am not prepared to say whether these ships will carry more or less than the given weight; but, taking the figures as given to us, I do undoubtedly see certain advantages in them which are not possessed by the Trafalgar type. My hon. Friend seems to think that in this matter the issue is between himself and all other nations on the one side, and the British Admiralty on the other. To my mind, the issue is between the Admiralty and all other nations on the one side, and my hon. Friend on the other. Of course, it is an immense advantage if you can afford the weight to dispose your armour in the way my hon. Friend suggests, but it seems to me that there is considerable waste of defences when the special method he advocates is pursued. I should just like to say a few words respecting the speech of my noble Friend the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford). It is undoubtedly admitted by my hon. Friends in this House that one of the most important duties of our Navy is to protect our commerce. My noble Friend several times insisted upon the fact of our interests having so much increased beyond what they were a few years ago, and therefore he insisted upon increased protection. The hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Cromer), in his speech the other day, alluded to the opinion expressed by two large shipowners in the House, that it 1305 was quite unnecessary for us to increase our Navy for the purpose of protecting our commerce. With the views of one of these hon. Members, the hon. Member for West Hull (Mr. C. H. Wilson), I am more or less well acquainted; but as to the other hon. Member, I have no knowledge, but I make this allusion to inquire why it is these two hon. Gentlemen are inclined to think it is useless to expend money in order to afford protection to our commerce, and I would observe we on this side of the House are somewhat responsible for this, for we are very apt to apply a wrong measure to the extent of our commerce. The noble Lord the Member for Marylebone not infrequently places before the House the extent of our commerce measured by tonnage or money value, but in my humble opinion you might almost as well attempt to measure, say, duration by the yard measure, or expansion by the hands of the clock. It is not the amount of tonnage, or the value that should be the gauge of our commerce, but the number of our mercantile ships. I submit to the Committee, as an axiom which, I believe, will be generally accepted, that every vessel duly qualified to sail under the British flag, whether that vessel be large or small, is entitled to the protection of the Navy, whether it be one of the great Atlantic liners or a small coasting collier painfully pursuing her path—each of these has an equal right to the protection of the Navy. If you admit that, it flows from that admission, and is a corollary to it that the only measure of our commerce is the number of ships modified perhaps by the number of voyages; but, at all events, the measure is not tonnage or money value. The tonnage of our commerce has enormously increased, but so has the tonnage of each vessel, and the number of ships carrying our commerce has very little increased, or indeed, if we can rely on statistics, I am disposed to think the number may be absolutely less than the number 40 years ago. There is a little difficulty about the figures, because it is not always explained whether all the small coasting vessels are included or not, but, roughly speaking, the number of vessels is about the same now as in the former period to which the noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) alluded.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend does not wish to misrepresent me. It is quite true what he says as to the tonnage of ships engaged in commerce, but he rather strengthens my case, for though the number of ships may not have increased much below them in the old time, owing to the introduction of steam the number of voyages has enormously increased.
§ *COMMANDER BETHELL
Yes; the gauge should be compounded of the number of ships and the number of voyages. It is rather a puzzling problem, but the conclusion I arrive at is that the number of voyages may practically be eliminated from our consideration. I am delighted to find that in my criticisms I have really strengthened my noble Friend's argument; it is always a pleasure to me to find myself in harmony with him. But I was going to say, lest it should be urged that I am unreasonable in advocating an increase of the Fleet, that my reply is, first of all, that even though it be true that the number of our ships has not increased, yet it is also true that the means of protecting them has decreased of late years, and many more routes are now open, many more interests are bound up in the trade. I am inclined to think that one of the reasons that animated the hon. Member for West Hull when he said it was no use trying to protect our commerce, so great is its extent, that he was somewhat misled by the calculations sometimes placed before the House.
§ *MR. CREMER
I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not wilfully misquote me. I did not state that the hon. Members for Hull and Jarrow said our Navy was incapable of protecting our commercial marine, but that it required no protection—it was not in danger.
§ *COMMANDER BETHELL
I do not think there is a material difference, or in the view of the hon. Member for West Hull at any rate.
§ *MR. CREMER
Yes; there is a very considerable difference. The hon. and gallant Member states that I attributed to the hon. Member for West Hull the statement that the Navy is inadequate, and not strong enough to protect our commercial marine; but what the hon. Member for Hull did say was, not that 1307 the Navy was too weak, but that the commercial marine required no protection—it was not in danger.
§ *COMMANDER BETHELL
I am quite content to withdraw altogether reference to the statement made by the hon. Member; but quite apart from the statement the hon. Member for Haggerston quoted, and so far as the opinion of the hon. Member for West Hull is concerned, I should be disposed to maintain what I have said. Just another word on the subject. I find it not unfrequently stated in connection with this same subject—this difficulty of protecting our commerce—that it will be greatly increased in future wars by the fact that it will be impossible at any time to use convoys for purposes of protection. I will not argue that point; I simply allude to it because it falls into my argument; but I maintain absolutely there is no reason whatever, so far as I can see, why our commerce in the future should not be protected much in the same way as it was protected in the past. It is my firm belief that we are a little disposed to multiply difficulties, and that our Fleet will be equal to affording that protection to commerce which, though some Gentlemen may say it is unneeded, owing to the excellence of our Mercantile Fleet—yet, I am disposed to say, will be demanded in the future, because I find, turning over the history of the wars of a century and a-half, I find, time after time and year after year, the British merchant and the British shipowner pitifully complaining to the Admiralty and the Government of the day of the want of that protection they so earnestly implored.
§ *SIR C. M. PALMER (Durham, Jarrow)
I must say that the amount proposed to be expended by the Admiralty—£21,000,000—took me by surprise, as it did the country, and I fear made a deep and serious impression abroad; but as it has been explained that the £21,000,000 is not to be in addition to the amount annually voted by Parliament for shipbuilding purposes, I venture to say that what has now been put forward as the programme of the Government is a judicious and very moderate demand. When I say it is a judicious programme, I venture to express the belief that such is the change which is taking place 1308 in the type of our ships, that this increased expenditure will continue in future. We must remember that we are now dealing with a different state of things to that which formerly prevailed. Our wooden ships have passed away; these could have been laid away in the Medway and Portsmouth, and refitted when required, whereas our obsolete ironclads cannot with advantage be brought into active service. It has been said that this scare has been got up under the plea of national defence, and if that were so, these ironclads originally built, such as the Warrior and Black Prince, should be assigned to the coast defences as, from their want of manœvring power and inadequate protection, they are quite unfitted for active service. We must all agree that our Navy is the first and real defence, and, therefore, it is of the highest importance that we should build ships of such a class as always to be in advance of those of other nations—ships which will have the highest speed, be of great power, and carry heavy guns. We should require such ships to be all over the world, in consequence of our greatly extended commerce, the growing importance of our Colonies, and especially because of the great increase of our Mercantile Marine. I am of opinion that the tonnage of the Mercantile Marine has become so enormous that scarcely any Navy could protect it; and the old system of convoys will, in any future war, be discarded. I venture also to think that our food supply is not in the slightest danger, considering the enormous extent of our Mercantile Marine. I have no doubt that if there happened to be a war with Great Powers, and there should be a blockade of the ports, if a cruiser were to escape out of these ports it might damage a number of our merchant ships, but these cruisers would be very soon accounted for, inasmuch as they could not keep at sea more than a certain number of days until they would have to put into port for the purpose of coaling, so that they would soon be traced. So far, therefore, as regards protection of our Mercantile Marine bringing food to this country, no increase of our naval power would avail much. The vessels we ought to build should be those which can keep at sea with a large radius of action, with great capacity for 1309 coal, and possessing great speed. I think at no distant date armour-plated vessels will be discarded, and future warfare will be conducted by swift cruisers capable of rapid manœuvres, but at the same time built with such water-tight partitions that, if they come under the ram, they will not sink. I sincerely hope that this increase of the Vote will not induce the Government to increase the Dockyards, either as regards the number of the men or the amount of machinery. I was a Member of a Committee which had to deal with questions relating to the Dockyards: and the Report of the Committee tends to show that to the Dockyards ought to be assigned, in the first place, all the repairs and refits of ships, and that they should be constantly employed up to a certain level. The workmen should not be subject to discharge from time to time, as the Dockyards are situated in parts of the country where discharged workmen cannot find immediate employment. I agree with this Report; and I think that ships can never be built in Dockyards at the same cost as in private yards. On an investigation of these matters, I have found a great difficulty in separating the cost of the construction of ships in the Dockyards from what are called the national charges, and, from the mode in which the men are employed, there is not that amount of work done that we find in private yards. At the same time, I may congratulate the Government and the Admiralty upon a marked and very important improvement in the Dockyard administration. Since they laid down the rule that those who design the ships shall have the designs and plans perfected before the work of constructing the ships is commenced, and not altered until these plans have been completed, they have succeeded in building ships in a much shorter time and at a much smaller cost; and they have no doubt whatever that in future they will find that they will be able to turn out a very much larger amount of tonnage in the Dockyards and elsewhere for the same amount of money. The noble Lord (George Hamilton), in his programme, has cast some reflection on the shipbuilders of this country, who, he hinted, may combine. I will appeal to the noble Lord whether it was really worthy of him to make 1310 the observation, because he must know that from the commencement private shipbuilders in this country have taught the Admiralty to build iron ships, and have been most loyal in serving the Admiralty in every possible way. I can assure the Admiralty that there is not the slightest chance of any such combination of shipbuilders to interfere with their tenders. In supporting the Government on this increase of shipbuilding, I venture to hope that they will not build too many ships of one class, because we have not yet arrived at finality in shipbuilding. Year by year we are improving the type and construction of the vessels as well as of Marine engines; and we must assuredly be in advance of any other nation in Naval matters. But if we lay down too many ships of the same type at the one time, they will in a few years become obsolete. One cannot but regret that this programme for increasing the Navy did not occur a couple of years ago, because at that time it would have been a great boon to the nation. We should at that time have had private shipbuilders anxious for the work, and artizans and workmen glad to be employed, whereas at the present moment all the large constructors have their works filled up for more than a year; and I venture to say also that there is not an artizan or workman in this country who is willing and able to work who has not found employment. Therefore, this programme is put before the country at a most inopportune time, and I believe the Government will not get the amount of tonnage built which they anticipate. For the reasons I have given, I quite agree with what the Government are now proposing, and, for my part, whatever may occur, they shall have my support.
§ *MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
Speaking as a Member of last year's Committee on the Navy Estimates, I must say that there has been great exaggeration in the charges that have been made against the Admiralty. It is certain that in the administration of the Admiralty you could not have the same simplicity of management, the same unity of control, that you have in a private firm, on account of the semi-military character of the administration. But the members of the Committee were very favourably impressed with 1311 the changes that have been made in the administration of the Admiralty in recent years. As regards that important matter, the victualling of the Navy, two leading shipowners on the Committee said they would be glad if they could provide their own ships as cheaply with food of such excellent quality as that which is supplied to the Navy. So far as the general administration of the Admiralty is concerned, the evidence given before the Committee showed that the Board of Admiralty has of late effected certain excellent reforms, and that ships can now be turned out of the Government dockyards almost as cheaply and expeditiously as out of private yards. But the Amendment of the hon. Member for Haggerston has raised a totally different question—namely, the desirability of increased expenditure upon the Navy. We shall not really be in a position to discuss the constitutional aspect of the question until we have the Budget before us, because until then we cannot get at the way in which the Government propose to raise the ten millions, which is to be spread over seven years; but the hon. Gentleman the Member for Haggerston has raised the whole question of our Naval policy, and has questioned the expediency of devoting any more money to increasing the strength of our Navy. No more important question could be brought forward, and this debate has had the useful result of showing that very few members of Parliament are ready to take on themselves the responsibility of resisting the demands of the Government for large sums of money to give the country an efficient Navy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), speaking on behalf of the Leaders of the Opposition, accepted the central principle of this scheme—that the British Navy ought to be equal in strength to those of any two other nations that could be named. Here, then, is an agreement between the two Front Benches, which seems to me to ensure a continuity of our naval policy for many years to come. But I must confess that I have been somewhat disappointed with the speeches of the First Lord and the Secretary to the Admiralty this evening. I had expected a clearer and fuller explanation of the reasons which induced them to 1312 bring forward their scheme. We all bear in mind the evidence of Sir A. Hood, who, as First Naval Lord, gave evidence last year that he thought the Navy in very good condition indeed, and that he should be satisfied if he could get six more fast cruisers by the end of 1890. But now this modest demand has been altogether altered. The six cruisers have gone up at one bound to sixty, to say nothing of the additional ten or eleven ironclads. The recent change, indeed, in the policy of the Admiralty is as remarkable as the change of front made by Lord Northbrook a few years ago. The Secretary to the Admiralty to-night has stated that the Naval Manœuvres taught a lesson which induced the Admiralty to change its policy on this subject; but what did the First Lord himself say? He said his policy has always been uniform; that he had laid down certain principles of procedure some months before the Navy Committee adopted that Amendment which asserted that a certain action should be taken to determine what measures were really necessary to put the Navy in an efficient state; and the Secretary to the Admiralty then said our Navy was equal in strength to the Navies of France and Russia combined. This was said some time before the Naval Manœuvres, so that he must have been driven by the Naval Manœuvres to come to the same conclusion as that which he had previously adopted. What, then, I ask, are the real grounds for these proposals of the Government? Hon. Members are practically all agreed that the Navy must be maintained at an adequate strength, not only to defend these shores, but also to protect the great highways of our commerce and ensure that supplies of food are regularly brought into our ports in time of war; but the question is, is its present strength adequate? And as to that Her Majesty's Government have afforded the Committee no substantial fasts upon which to base a conclusion. I have picked out a few figures with regard to the French Navy which bear on this question, and I have chosen France, for it is generally admitted that from the navies of any other country we have little or nothing to fear. I do not place any reliance on the rumours as to the probability of General Boulanger pick- 1313 ing a quarrel with this country if he were to come to power in France; but, irrespective of any considerations of that kind, we ought to be able to hold our own. Now, from a Paper read by Lord Brassey at the Mansion House a short time ago, it appeared that during the past eight years we have annually spent on new construction £2,620,000, while France has only spent £1,620,000; and these figures, I think, show that, so far as regards keeping up our relative strength to France, we have done all that is required. Again, the capitalized value of the British Navy is estimated at £44,500,000, while that of France is set down at £20,000,000, showing the value of our Fleet to be twice and a-quarter as great as that of the French, and I think it can safely be said that we get as much value for our money as they do. Now, before this debate closes, I think that the Government should give us some more distinct statements as to the causes which have induced them to make proposals for this greatly increased expenditure. Still, whatever we may do in that respect, I am afraid we shall never succeed in pleasing the Admirals, who continue to urge that we are only doing a small portion of that which the country wants. I am sure, speaking for myself as a civilian Member of Parliament, and not at all as a supporter of the Government in this matter, that I resent very keenly the tone which some military and naval Gentlemen have thought fit to assume in speaking of the action of the House of Commons. One noble Lord, in a high position in the Army, has thought it becoming to speak of the "curse of Party Government" as if, whatever the curse of Party Government may be, it is half so bad as the curse of Military Government, to which this country has never been exposed, at all events since the death of Oliver Cromwell. Then we are told about the strong public opinion which was aroused in this country on the subject of the defencelessness of the nation and the weakness of the Government. Well, how has that public opinion been aroused? By what I think I may, without offence, call a Syndicate of Admirals, who have gone about promoting a panic; and whenever anybody is seen to be engaged in defence of the House of Commons, then you see columns upon columns of the Times filled 1314 by them, and they will hold a public meeting to denounce any unfortunate Member of Parliament who has ventured to think he has a right to say a word about this expenditure. Admirals are very fond of telling us that we had a much stronger Navy in the old days; and I read constantly in the papers letters from Admiral Hornby and Admiral Symonds, who tell us how, in 1812 and 1813, we had a Navy which was four or five times as large as all the navies of the other nations of the world put together. How did that come about? At that time we were at war with all the world; and it was not that we had built the ships ourselves, but that we had burnt, sunk, or captured the vessels of other countries—we had, in fact, effaced the Navies of France, Spain, Denmark, Holland, and all the other maritime countries, until they had no vessels at all. If you read James's Naval History you will there find tabulated statements for each year of the great war, showing how scores of ships were either destroyed or captured and added to the British Navy. An hon. Member (Commander Bethell) spoke of it being the duty of our Navy to watch the fleets of an enemy; but they would have to do a good deal more than watch them in time of war; they would have to go in search of the enemy wherever he could be found, and to burn, sink, or capture every one of his ships. And if we go on doing that for the next 20 years, I venture to think, as in 1813, we shall have a Navy as large as the combined fleets of other Powers. We are constantly told that the armaments of Continental nations render it necessary that we should increase our forces. But setting apart that question for the time, we have not any serious difficulties with any Continental nation. When we are told to beware of France, we must remember that it is not France of the First Napoleon nor of the Third Napoleon we have to deal with, but a mutilated France bowed down by taxation, and scarcely able to find from her resources sufficient money to fortify her inland frontier against Germany. There is no Continental nation which would dare to make war against England without having the risk of another equally powerful Continental State against it as our ally. In former wars in which we were engaged upon the 1315 Continent we very properly fought to maintain the balance of power—to prevent one Continental State from acquiring such undisputed supremacy over the rest that her strength must be a menace to the liberties of England. Our forefathers succeeded in maintaining that balance of power very successfully, so gaining for us the supremacy of the sea. But at the present moment the Continental Powers maintain the balance of power among themselves. These armaments we hear so much talked about are maintained by the different nations for the purpose of preventing either France, Germany, or Russia from acquiring any undisputed superiority upon the Continent. Although I do not think we ought to reckon upon what our allies can do for us when we go to war, yet I bear this fact in mind, that we have never gone to war in Europe without allies, and that in any future war we shall have to a certainty allies far more powerful than we used to have when we were fighting France or Spain. I am afraid, Mr. Courtney, I have been too discursive. I should like to say that there is no one who is more keenly anxious than myself to maintain the greatness of the British Empire, and to assert our superiority in every part of the ocean; but I think that we are sometimes too apt in these days to lose the confidence which belongs to a truly Imperial people. We are apt to disparage ourselves a great deal too much—to think too much of our responsibility and too little of our power and resources. The noble and gallant Lord (Beresford) is always telling us of the very small amount of insurance that we pay for the great commerce that we carry on. Does he think that it is only our Navy that we maintain for the defence of that commerce? Our Army also is useful for such a purpose, as we can send troops for the protection of any threatened point. Suppose that we take the commerce of the whole British Empire, not of the United Kingdom alone. The commerce of the United Kingdom may be taken at £650,000,000, and I believe that statisticians put the commerce of the whole Empire at one thousand millions. But that is a miscalculation; for a great deal of the commerce is taken twice over, three-fourths of the Indian commerce, for 1316 instance, being really reckoned in that of the United Kingdom. Therefore, the whole commerce of the Empire is really not more than £700,000,000. Now we spend annually in the United Kingdom £31,000,000 on the Army and Navy, and more than £20,000,000 in India upon our defences; and if we calculate what is spent in our Colonies and Dependencies, we shall find something like £55,000,000 a year is spent on the armaments of the British Empire; and thus you get an insurance of something like 8 per cent on the whole commerce of the Empire. That is a great deal of money to spend, and we are constantly increasing the amount in various ways. When we talk of how little is done for the Navy, surely hon. Members have forgotten that only last year we voted 3½ millions of money very nearly, to constitute the Australian squadron, and to provide the funds for fortifying our coaling stations and commercial ports throughout the world. All that is strengthening the Navy, because it is freeing our ships for operations on the high seas instead of tying them down to the defence of coaling stations which used to be unfortified. Many millions of money have been spent in that way in recent years, not only in this country but in India and the Colonies. I must say that I do not think that the results of all this expenditure are so poor and miserable as it is the habit of people to say. I do not believe myself in the utter defencelessness of the British Empire. I do not believe in the possibility of such a stoppage of our food supply as many people are always talking about. All the fleets of the world could not blockade our coasts, even supposing we had no Fleet to defend them. It would be utterly impossible to make an effective blockade of our coasts. Could they seize our Colonies? No European State would be mad enough to send an expedition to seize Australia. What would be the fate of such an expedition? Depend upon it, this Empire was never more strongly, or better defended, than at the present moment. I will not speak against the proposals of the Government. I shall be glad to see a steady and continuous standard of naval strength maintained; but I do say that it is a pity that any startling or sudden changes should be made, for I believe that there is no nation in the world, and no 1317 combination of States, that would not think twice or thrice before they attempted to quarrel with this country.
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cockermouth)
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I congratulate the House, and I congratulate the country, above all, I congratulate the Tory Party on the rattling Radical speech which we have just heard from their side of the House. I heard it with the greatest pleasure, and I only hope before the evening is concluded that we shall have as good a Radical speech from the front Opposition Bench. The first thing I have to observe is that it is rather strange that these proposals should have been delayed so long. If we are really in this imminent danger which the Admirals, and Generals, and Captains on the other side tell us we are in, surely the Government ought to have brought this matter before us a little sooner, that we might sleep safely in our beds. To have delayed so long makes me doubt whether there is really the necessity which the Government assume in this matter. I am not going into the Constitutional question; I shall leave that to the wise men of this House. I do not exactly know what is Constitutional and what is unconstitutional. I have very vague ideas on the matter. I have this idea—that it is unconstitutional for an old Parliament, elected two or three years ago, to go into a new question of vital importance without taking the country into its confidence. But what I want to do is to prove two things. First, that there is no necessity for this great and dreadful expenditure which we are called upon to vote; secondly, if it be found to be necessary, the present officials at the Admiralty are not the reliable parties into whose hands the money should go. To prove these two assertions it will be necessary that I should make some quotations. I shall first begin by quoting the Queen's Speech, read on the 21st February, and which nobody can contradict. I have quoted it before, but it cannot be quoted too often. Now, in the Queen's Speech there is a statement to the effect that during the brief period which has elapsed since the close of the last Session nothing has taken place "to affect the cordial relations between myself and other Powers." Well, if nothing has taken place, if 1318 nothing has been done since, it appears to me that the Government are making military preparations against Her Majesty's own statement, which really is an act of high treason. Certainly the speech goes on to say that the increasing expenditure on warlike preparations which has been incurred by other European nations has rendered necessary an increase in the precautions which have hitherto been taken for the safety of our own shores, but then the Speech adds that these Powers are uniformly friendly to this country at present. What, then, is there to justify this last scare? I say this vague talk is utterly unworthy of the Government. What is there, then, to justify this increase of expenditure? If the whole of Europe, with its 28,000,000 of armed men, were going to fight against us, no doubt the case would be altered. Then the greatest fire-eaters in the House would admit that our case was hopeless. But against whom are these preparations made? Why do not the Government condescend to particulars? Why do they not tell us against whom they are arming? Is it France? Why, France has enough to do to look after Germany, and we have recently put an affront on France by refusing to send emissaries to the great Exhibition because it was the anniversary of the great Revolution, so little do we care for France. Is it Germany? Why, Germany is our greatest ally. She is busily engaged in watching France, and with her as our ally we are fighting somebody or other in Africa. Is it Russia—that country which is honeycombed with Nihilists, that is to attack us? Surely, we cannot suppose that Russia is going to attack us. Is it Italy? Why, to Italy we have been the only firm and consistent friend throughout her history. Is it Spain? It certainly cannot be Spain, although she has, since the scare began in this country, increased her navy under the imaginary fear, I suppose, that we are going to attack her and that we have some mischief in our minds. What is the use of asking all this, however? I know perfectly well that no one will give me these particulars. And why? You would if you could, but you cannot. Then there is that other grand argument that it is to protect our food supply. Why, the old policy of the Tory 1319 Party was to prevent the people from having food. I have often been charged with trying to rob the poor man of his beer. The President of the Board of Trade is engaged in trying to rob the poor man of his sugar. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told the country that we must keep up the flow of our commerce. The truth, however, is that this expenditure is directed, not to keeping up the flow of our commerce, but the flow of promotion; it is directed to keeping up the supply of loaves and fishes for the cormorants of whom the noble Lord spoke the other day. It means outdoor relief for the aristocracy and contracts for great shipbuilders, so that young men on the Treasury Bench, when an election is pending, may go down and offer them as bribes. We all represent the people, or are supposed to do so. But the seven or eight direct Representatives of the working men, who all sit on the Liberal Benches, vote against this expenditure. Why are there not Conservative working men Members? As I say, I believe everyone of the working Men representatives will vote tonight against this expenditure. Are they not as anxious to secure the food supplies of the people as you are? But that was not all that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said. Out he came with the old and plausible platitudes and seducing sophistries always used on these occasions. He told us, "If you want peace, you must be prepared for war." I do not believe in that, and I know of no aphorism which has caused so much mischief and misery as this. It has led Statesmen to confusion, and countries to their overthrow. "If you wish for peace, prepare for war!" Why, Sir, you might just as well say that if you want to keep yourself dry, jump into the water, if you want to keep yourself clean, take lodgings with a chimney sweep; if you want to be quiet and live undisturbed, take a bed over a factory; and if you want to keep sober, take lodgings in a public-house. All the great Military Powers on the Continent have, for the last generation or two, been preparing for war. France, Prussia, Austria, and Germany, have all been keeping up great armies, and what has been the result? Why, every few years we have had a great war. You know well enough that this is not the way to preserve peace. The other day 1320 an Irish Member asked a question—the Irish Members are always asking questions—as to whether arms and ammunition were being landed on the West Coast of Africa by an English consigner, and it was then pointed out that this practice was one calculated to lead the savages to fight. Indeed, it put me in memory of a saying by an old African Chief, that he went to war with another tribe because he had had a barrel of gunpowder given him, and he could do nothing else with it. So much for the necessity of the case; so much for the arguments we have heard in favour of this expenditure. Now, I go farther, and I say that we have been altogether misled by the officials of the Admiralty. Do the Government suppose that all the European nations are marauders and robbers? But let us for a moment take it that the food supply of the people is in danger, and that the nations who have hitherto supplied us have suddenly taken it into their heads that it would be better to spend their money in killing us than to gain it by sending food to us. Let us suppose that to be true. Does it afford any reason why this particular plan of the Government should be carried into effect? I find that we have already spent on the Navy during the last five years some sixty millions of pounds; and, surely, if the statements we have heard made by Members of the Government connected with the Admiralty in regard to the Navy are true, they cannot be looked upon as efficient in the performance of their duty, and, therefore, they ought not to be trusted with the expenditure of this money. The Secretary to the Admiralty explained very candidly and very frankly in his speech that opinions may change as events arise. I dare say they do so change; but let us see what are the opinions expressed now, and compare them with those expressed by Admiralty officials a few years ago. Take the statement of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty himself. In the early part of 1887 over and over again the noble Lord said that our Navy was never so strong in time of peace as it was at that time. Early in the year he drew up a memorandum on our naval affairs, and said we had brought up our naval strength to its proper level as far as cruisers were concerned. And later, in March, 1887, at a meeting of the 1321 Institute of Naval Engineers, he said, "Our Navy is relatively stronger to-day than it has been for many years past." Then, again, on May 2nd he was in his element at a dinner of the Royal Academy, when all the blood and culture of the Services were assembled—an assembly of Jingoism in excelsis—a few days in advance of the great Jubilee Naval Review. What did the noble Lord then say? He said that the Fleet which would then be displayed was the strongest which any Sovereign had ever reviewed in time of peace. What has happened to that Fleet? He has had charge of it. Has it gone to the bottom with the Sultan? Then, again, in July of the same year, the noble Lord recalled the words of his memorandum that the policy of the Government would be one of "steady reduction of expenditure, and increase of efficiency," and on March 13th he added that he was well within the mark when he said that our Navy was 30 or 40 per cent stronger than that of any other Naval Power. Now, when the noble Lord said that, he was either right or wrong. If he was right, then this new expenditure was a most wicked thing; but if he was wrong, and if the Fleet required all this renovation, while the noble Lord was declaring it to be perfect and the best ever seen, then the noble Lord and the naval advisers are not fit to be entrusted with the care of the Fleet, or of the money which the Committee is called upon to vote. The hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone is a great authority on these subjects, and he always speaks with frankness. On January 26, 1888, he said—If any mercantile concern were to be managed as the Army and Navy are it would be bankrupt in two years.Yet the Navy is managed in exactly the same way now. Then on March 12, 1888, the noble and gallant Member said—I have not asked for extravagant outlay. All I have asked for is that the Administration of the Admiralty should be conducted on business principles.And nothing has yet been done to institute those principles. Then, on January 4, 1889, the noble Lord said—I shall oppose any increase of the Navy unless the people are taken into confidence and 1322 told why the Government are going to spend this money.The Government have not given the information. On March 2, the noble Lord said in the House that—He was sorry to say that the First Lord had not brought forward any clear and definite reasons for what was proposed by the Government.Therefore, on every ground of common sense, common justice, and fair play, I call upon the noble Lord to vote against the proposals. I think I have proved to the satisfaction of all sensible men that no reason has been given for this expenditure. I have proved that the Gentlemen on the Front Bench who represent the Admiralty are not to be trusted, and that they make statements not from a desire to mislead, but in absolute ignorance of the subject. The proposition before the Committee is one intended to perpetuate international hatred and bad feeling. It is a simple game of brag; and what statesmanship is there in it? Mr. Disraeli, the greatest Leader the Tory Party ever had, or I think ever will have, said in July of 1861—What is the use of diplomacy? What is the use of Government? What is the use of cordial understandings if such things can go on?And yet, 30 years after those words have been spoken, we are going on in the same military spirit. I wish I could persuade right hon. Gentlemen on the front Opposition Bench to vote against these proposals. Do they think it is a good thing to go before great caucuses at Birmingham and elsewhere and cordially support Resolutions calling for a reduction of expenditure, and then, when the first proposition is made for increasing expenditure, to go over wholesale and vote with the enemy? I do not set myself up as representing the great body of people in the country. I wish I could be sure that I was speaking for the great body of the working men, for then I should know that the end of this hateful system is not far off. I read in the Times of to-day:—Mr. Cremer and Mr. Howell have opposed Lord G. Hamilton's Resolution, with Amendments, which, we should hope, the great body of working men of the United Kingdom would reject with indignant contempt.[Cheers.] I do not complain of hon. Mem- 1323 berss opposite cheering that: the working classes may reject it with indignant contempt; but I should be a coward and a traitor if, to win the applause of the working men, I were to betray their real interest. The working men have the power in their own hands, and I am disappointed with them, for they fill the House with generals, colonels, and admirals. And when the troops return to England after stealing some country, the working men shout and halloo in the streets. I do not think that it will be always so. Mr. Cobden long ago said, "The time is not yet, though it will come, when people will be able to bear the blessings of prosperity and liberty with peace." The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that those were Quixotic and Utopian views. These are two favourite expressions of the right hon. Gentleman, and Mr. Buskin has said that they are the two pet words of the Devil. Nothing is, or can he, Utopian that is right. No other plan but that of force has been tried; then let the Government ask the other nations groaning under the weight of military systems if they will not meet and sensibly and calmly discuss the reduction of their mighty armaments. Until such an attempt has been made the Representatives of the people will not be justified in allowing an increase of the burdens of taxation by supporting a scheme for which no reasons have been given, and which must have the effect of fanning the embers of international hostility, and which will delay the coming of that day for which you speak and pray, which none of you believe in, but which will come in spite of you all, when men shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and study war no more.
§ *LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The effect of the hon. Baronet's speech was a little marred by the fact that we have often heard it before.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
Ever since I have been in the House, the hon. Baronet has opposed every proposal for increasing the strength of the Army or Navy, and therefore the hon. Baronet was not frank in saying that one of his reasons for opposing the present proposal was that he had no confidence in the existing Admiralty Administration. The 1324 hon. Baronet is of opinion that there is great folly in the saying that "If you wish for peace you should be prepared for war." Now. Sir, the only serious war in which this country has been involved of late years was the Crimean War, and if then the country's armaments had been stronger, and if more decision had been shown in their movements, Great Britain would never have become involved in that war. It was the false impression created in the mind of a Foreign Minister as to the power of this country and the resolution of the then Government which was the cause of that lamentable war. The hon. Baronet in common with other speakers assumes that there is an irreconcilable inconsistency between the proposal now made and my past utterances as First Lord of the Admiralty. I am flattered by the microscopic attention which hon. Gentlemen opposite have paid to my speeches; but they have only read sentences without their context, and have therefore put into my mouth statements which I have never made. What I have said in the past I repeat. I have asserted that in my belief Great Britain's fighting power is undoubtedly superior to that of any other nation. I asserted two years ago, and I repeat that assertion now, that for a number of years there can be an increase of efficiency and a decrease of expenditure. And I further asserted that not only I, but the Naval Lords with whom I was associated, were satisfied with the progress which was being made; and that Great Britain's progress, both actually and relatively, as compared with that of other nations in the past three years, was satisfactory. And I added that, in the judgment of the Government, we had not yet arrived at the standard of strength at which our naval establishment ought to be maintained. I made a mistake on two points which I afterwards corrected, but I claim that there is the strictest sequence and consistency in the course which the Government took in the past and in the course which they propose to take now. The Navy Estimates contain a mass of involved and complicated figures, and I do not wonder that hon. Members are sometimes misled, for there appears to be an assumption that we can exactly regulate the expenditure and that the 1325 output or result of that expenditure can be exactly proportioned to the amount of money that is spent. That is a great delusion. The result of expenditure varies greatly year by year in regard to the amount of expenditure associated with a particular year. Then there is a practice in the House which is very misleading—namely, to compare the expenditure of one year with the next year, and to assume, if there is a difference, that the Minister who is responsible has made some arbitrary reductions. Nothing of the kind has occurred. What has happened is that payments have been made sooner than anticipated and the country have had the benefit of those payments. The present Admiralty Administration have had two parts of a very difficult character to perform. We came into office in 1885, and have had to deal with a programme for the initiation of which we were not responsible. Our business was to give effect to it as economically and as rapidly as we could, and we have completed it in a much shorter period than we anticipated. The expenditure connected with the work during the period which has elapsed since then has been very much larger in the first three years than we anticipated; but increased strength has been obtained subsequently to that date. Thus it has been possible to associate an increase of efficiency with a reduction of expenditure. I have not made a single solitary reduction which affects the efficiency of the Fleet. In ships, men, and guns we are stronger now than we have been for the last 30 years. The following figures will be the best indication of our past and present policy. One fact brought home to our minds in 1885 was that whether our programme of shipbuilding is large or small, we must take care to have sufficient money to carry it out economically. There can be no greater waste of money than to have a programme for which we have not the courage to take sufficient money. I will take the money voted for new construction for four years, commencing in 1881–2 and ending in 1884–5. In 1881–2 the amount voted was £1,680,000; in 1882–3, £1,770,000; in 1883–4, £1,930,000; and in 1884–5, £2,242,000, an increase over the first year of upwards of £500,000. Any Member looking at these figures will say that the increase 1326 of expenditure must carry with it a continuous increase of output or result. The facts are these. In the first year, when the expenditure was lowest, 14 ships, with a displacement of 41,000 tons, were added to the Navy. In the second year the expenditure was higher, and the output went down to 11 ships with 27,000 tons displacement. The next year the expenditure was higher; but the output went down to five ships, with a displacement of only 10,000 tons. The year afterwards the expenditure went up, and there were ten ships, with 10,000 tons displacement. There can be only one possible explanation of these figures. Sufficient money in those years was not taken to complete the ships.
§ *LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
That is exactly the point I am addressing myself to. The total number of ships finished during that period was only 40, with an aggregate displacement of 90,000 tons, so that the average for those four years was only 10 ships, representing 22,000 tons displacement. Now I come to the period for which I am more or less personally responsible. In 1885–6 the expenditure amounted to £3,750,000. In the next year the figures fell to £3,500,000. The year afterwards—the first in which I was responsible—the amount was £2,800,000. In the next year the estimated amount was £2,700,000, and for the year 1889–90 it is estimated at £2,600,000. In that period the apparent decrease in the Vote for new construction is something like £1,000,000. In the first year 17 ships, with an aggregate displacement of 55,000 tons, were finished. In the second year 14 ships, representing 55,000 tons displacement, were finished; 1327 in the third year there were 30 ships finished, representing 86,000 tons displacement; and this year we estimate that 32 ships will be finished, representing 77,000 tons displacement; while, in addition, there is the Australian Squadron of 14,000 tons, making an aggregate displacement of 91,000 tons. During this period the average addition of each year to the Navy has been 20 ships, representing 62,000 tons, or three times as much as in the preceding period. This great increase is mainly due to our concentrating our attention on the work we had in hand, and finishing it as rapidly as we could. In each single year our output had been more than double that of any foreign nation. But the very rapidity of our procedure has exhausted the number of ships which we had in hand, and consequently, on the 1st March, 1890, we shall only have four ships incomplete. We propose, therefore, during the next four years to make such arrangements as will increase the proportion of strength by which the Navy has been augmented during the last four years. If the House will assent to our proposal we shall, in the next four years, be able to add annually to the Navy an average of 18 ships, representing an aggregate displacement of 88,000 tons—or one-fourth more than during the past year. Therefore the Committee will see that the statement which I made in the past and which year by year I have repeated, that we are able to associate an increase of strength with a decrease of expenditure, is literally true; and it can be accounted for by the simple fact that we have had a great mass of work incomplete in our hands which it was our duty to finish as rapidly as possible. I have not the slightest doubt that the course of action and the policy we propose to pursue is, from a business point of view, the right policy. So far as my statements in the past are concerned, and the proposals we now make for the future, we have shown that they are consistent. [Opposition cries of "No."] Certain hon. Gentlemen do not want me to be consistent; but I think I have shown how we have been able to have 1328 an increased strength and a decreased expenditure. Such being the result of our past expenditure, I think it is only right we should explain shortly and clearly to the Committee what is the principle upon which our new scheme is based. I thought I had done so fully in my previous statement; but if I have failed I will repeat it. We determined that our new shipbuilding programme should be based upon the fully-ascertained requirements of the nation. It is an easy thing to say to the experts, "Tell us what the requirements of the nation are;" but unless the experts know what is the basis upon which they are to calculate the requirements of the nation, they cannot arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. Therefore Her Majesty's Government directed my advisers to prepare a scheme which should make our naval establishment in 1894 equal to the naval establishments of any two nations. That is the basis of the scheme which we lay before Parliament. We took the old standard which preceding Governments have set before themselves and have not acted up to. Taking the number of ships, which in the opinion of advisers in whose judgment we have confidence, it is necessary to add to the strength of the Navy, we converted that force, including stores, armaments, and munitions of war, into money, and that gave as the number of ships 70, and an expenditure of £21,500,000. We fixed the ordinary Estimates at what we considered would be the normal expenditure—we put that at a very high level, and absorbed as much of the £21,500,000 as we could, the remainder being provided by methods which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained. The great advantage in our judgment of these proposals is that for the first time the House of Commons has laid before it a scheme in which the annual expenditure, is kept at a normal level, while that which is additional is kept outside. When our shipbuilding proposals are completed, if the House or the country think that the standard of strength is not sufficient, they can go over the same process again, and they will know that the sums spent outside the normal Estimates increase our standard of strength without coming under the head of depreciation and waste.
§ *LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The Estimates of this year. Then we associate this expenditure with a procedure for rapidly giving effect to it, and we lay the whole scheme in its entirety before the House of Commons. It seems to me that we have for the first time laid before Parliament what, in the opinion of competent judges, is the standard of strength at which the Navy ought to be maintained, and associated with the standard of strength is the normal sum necessary to maintain the naval establishments at that strength. The right hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) objected to these proposals being embodied in a Bill, and he made use of the expression that it will give the House of Lords co-equal authority with the House of Commons over the annual Estimates. It is not in the power of this or of any other Government to take away from the House of Commons its inherent power to deal with the Annual Estimates presented to it. The House of Lords will have no authority over these Votes, and it is not proposed by this Bill to take away the power which is inherent in the House of Commons. But our proposals have this great advantage, that any Government that comes in can only throw overboard the proposals after a public exposition of their policy.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
No. I do not want to anticipate the argument on the constitutional question, but if the right hon. Gentleman means to assert that an Act of Parliament under which certain sums are annually voted by the House of Commons gives the House of Lords a mandate to send down and demand the money, he very much misrepresents the Constitutional aspect of the matter. As the discussion of this Constitutional point proceeds, the fact will 1330 be found to be that we are not interfering with the action of the House of Commons nor tying its hands, but that this is only a self-denying ordinance putting a proper restraint on the Executive Government of the day. Now the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) seems to think that we have appropriated the scheme which he initiated in December last, but at the end of his speech my noble Friend pointed out that there is no relation between this scheme and his. I have never entertained the views which my noble Friend holds and to which he gave expression in December last. If I had thought we were agreed with my noble Friend it would have been my duty to have made proposals of far greater magnitude to the House, but I adhere to what I then said. Sir A. Hood adheres to the statement he made, and considers that in future we must regulate our expenditure by the number of ships foreign nations have in hand, modified by any experience which time may add to the knowledge of the Admiralty. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green seems to be of opinion that the Dockyard administration should be reformed before any additional money is voted, and he took the most unfair methods that could be conceived of showing that Dockyard reform is necessary. He took reports of four or five years back and pointed to certain abuses, but he did not take the trouble to find out whether those Reports have been acted upon and the abuses stopped. If he had done so he would have found that a Committee last year reported most favourably upon the Dockyard Administration of the present Board, and pointed out that very great changes and alterations for the better had taken place. There is very little doubt that year by year the system of Dockyard Administration will continue to improve. If hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the other side of the House are sincere in their desire for Dockyard reform, I will tell them how they may show it and assist the Admiralty. Every reform we have made in the Administration of the Dockyards has been persistently misrepresented by the 1331 local Representatives of the political Party to which the hon. Member belongs. On every occasion on which reforms have occurred attempts have been made by the Party to which the hon. Member belongs to make political capital out of them.
§ *LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I do not know whether the hon. Member considers the hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare) a Member of this House and of his political Party. If he does he will find that on every single change of any sort in Devonport Dockyard I have been catechized by the hon. Member for Camborne, and the local Representatives of the Party to which the hon. Member belongs have used every means in their power to make political capital out of it. If hon. Members are in favour of economy, they would show their sincerity by stopping the persistent and improper action of the political agents of the Party with which they are associated in making capital out of the reforms made.
§ *MR. HOWELL
It has not found expression in the House. Does the noble Lord expect us to go down to the constituencies and lecture the people?
§ *LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
It has found expression certainly on the part of one Member of the House. If the hon. Member will take the trouble to read the newspapers which support hon. Gentlemen opposite, he will see that every opportunity has been taken by them to attack and misrepresent everything which the Admiralty have done. If hon. Gentlemen are really anxious to promote order in the Dockyards they can do so in a more effectual way than by attacking the only Administration which has tried seriously to reform the Dockyards. The Committee have heard a good deal about the question of design, and I would like to say a word or 1332 two upon it, though I do not think this House a well-qualified body to discuss so technical a subject. I certainly would not have originated any discussion upon the designs of battleships, but a certain Member of the House has been very active with his pen during the past three or four months, and has used some remarkably strong language outside the House, which, if employed at all ought to have been used inside the House. The hon. Member for Cardiff has been good enough to assert in several letters that the Naval Lords and Naval Officers whom the First Lord of the Admiralty asked to consider these designs, did not understand what they were about, and that they had assented to the design of ships which, in the opinion of the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. J. Reed) the Admiralty must know it would be an atrocity to send a body of men to battle in. Now, I should not object particularly to any attack made upon myself and the Board of Admiralty for all those who have been First Lords of the Admiralty have undergone much the same class of attack, and know exactly the amount of value to attach to it. But as the hon. Member has attacked a number of Naval Officers, and as I believe this is the first time an endeavour has been made to give effect to the principle that Naval men should be asked to consider Naval designs, and as the hon. Member wishes to impugn the decision arrived at, I would like to inquire how far the hon. Member is a reliable and competent authority. I am not going into any of the past exploits of the hon. Gentleman or into ancient history; the only witness I will call is the hon. Gentleman himself, and I will ask the Committee to listen for a few moments to a statement of facts and to draw their own conclusions from that statement. The hon. Member has over and over again asserted in this House that he is actuated by high patriotic motives in endeavouring to prevent the repetition of a certain class of ship known as the Admiral type, ships which the hon. Member characterized as "shameful ships," and which he said would be a source of terror rather to the men in them than to the men against whom they were sent. The hon. Gentleman spoke of those ships as "shameful ships" because they had in 1333 his opinion insufficient vertical armour, and because they embodied the absurd principle of carrying armour inside instead of outside. The hon. Gentleman wrote a letter which appeared in the Times of January 17, and in it he brought a very grave charge against the Board of Admiralty, of which I am the head. In that letter he said:—In the Times of December 27, 1884, there appeared an account of a very extraordinary cruising ship which the late Sir W. Pearce proposed to build at Fairfield for our Navy. The leading idea of this ship was that of very great speed, and accordingly Sir W. Pearce proposed a protective-deck ship of 8,000 tons, 18,000 indicated horse-power, and 21½ knots speed. This design was not adopted at the time nor when the present Tory Government came into power. Between three and four years were allowed to elapse, all the plans of the ship having been in the possession of the Admiralty and nothing done. Lately, however, the present Government have decided to build two such ships just of this description, but have altered the tonnage, horse-power, and speed just enough to enable them to claim credit for the design (only half a knot increase of speed) and have put them forward as designed at the Admiralty, and are building both in the Government dockyards.The hon. Gentleman went on to say—That in common decency and honesty both these ships ought to have been built at Fairfield, where, beyond a doubt, they were originated; and yet it is this Government and this Admiralty, that have robbed Govan of this work, and of the merit of initiating it, that now ask the people of Govan to approve their acts and send a man to Parliament to help them to pursue their dishonest courses.The Chief Constructor wrote a very polite letter to the Times pointing out that the hon. Gentleman was completely wrong, but the hon. Gentleman repeated his charge in a second letter, in which he said—The Admiralty officials came out with a design a trifle longer, a trifle more horse power and speed than the design of Sir W. Pearce, sufficiently altered in detail to enable them to place it before the world as something new. All I can say is that I regard such a proceeding as in the last degree shameless, and those who authorized it must bear the deep discredit of it.Well, I wrote to the Times to say that there was not a word of truth in the hon. Gentleman's charge, but the hon. Gentleman again repeated it, and said in reply—That the Blake and the Blenheim design now claimed as an Admiralty production exactly 1334 corresponds to this description and differs from Sir William Pearce's design only in secondary respects.Then Sir A. Hood, the senior Naval Lord, wrote again to say there was not a word of truth in the statement. Then the hon. Member wrote again—
This discussion is very interesting, and apparently very exciting, but I do not quite see how this controversy on the design of certain ships bears on the question before the Committee.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
If I may be permitted to make two observations the bearing of these remarks upon the question before us will at once be seen. The hon. Member has referred to the design of these ships as shameful, and he has four times in writing made a certain statement, to the effect that the Admiralty has in the most shameless manner deliberately appropriated designs by Sir William Pearce, those designs only differing in small secondary details from those by Sir W. Pearce. Now, I had those two designs most carefully examined by my naval and technical experts, and they found that there was not the remotest resemblance between the Admiralty designs and those by Sir W. Pearce; but Sir W. Pearce's designs were an almost exact reproduction of the "shameful" designs of the Admiral class.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
Oh! but, says the hon. Gentleman, those were designed for a cruiser. So that the contention of the hon. Gentleman comes to this—that that which is a good design for a cruiser becomes "shameful" for a battleship. Now, the history of this cruiser is as follows. The Benbow, a vessel of the Admiral type, was put out to contract. Sir W. Pearce had the designs and specifications of the vessel, and his draughtsman, perfectly legitimately, altered the designs in certain particulars, taking the whole armour off the outside and putting it on the inside, and that is the valuable design which the hon. 1335 Member four times deliberately stated has been shamelessly appropriated by the Admiralty.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
There is nothing I should like better than to put models in the tea-room or elsewhere, so that hon. Gentlemen might compare them, and test what reliance can be placed on the accusations of the hon. Member for Cardiff. There is no more resemblance between the two than between Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral. If anyone aspiring to have knowledge of architecture were to write four times to a newspaper, and say Sir Christopher Wren had been guilty of appropriating the design of Westminster Abbey in the building of St. Paul's, altering the design in secondary details, it would be about on a par with the statement of the hon. Member. Pour times has he made the charge, and four times has it been denied, and, I may ask, does he come within the category of a creditable witness? In various matters, beam, displacement, weight, &c., I could show there is no such resemblance. I have made these observations because I think the hon. Gentleman has no right to attack naval officers who were called upon to decide those designs in the manner the hon. Gentleman has done. If the House is of opinion that naval experts should be called in to advise the Government, and if they are unanimous in the opinion they come to, then the House ought not, on the ipse dixit of any one Member, however eminent, to cast aside their recommendation, otherwise there is no advantage in the Government of the day endeavouring to get the best advice by calling in technical and naval experts. These designs have now for some time been before the public and the Navy, and I can only say that, with the single exception of the hon. Member for Cardiff, there has 1336 not been anybody connected with the Navy who has not given the highest possible approval of them, and the language which in almost every communication I have received is that they constitute a most distinct advance in naval architecture over anything now built or building. I venture to make these observations because I do not think it right that any man should be constantly taking such liberties with the professional and personal characters of those from whom he differs, and I leave the Committee to judge of what reliance should be placed upon the statements of the hon. Member. I hope the Committee will allow this Resolution to be taken to-night. It is not the practice of the House to discuss Bills on the First Reading. This Resolution is practically the first reading of a Bill, only, being a Money Bill, it has to go through this formal process. If the Resolution is assented to to-night we propose to take the Report on Thursday, and then on the Second Reading of the Bill and in Committee hon. Gentlemen will have ample opportunity for discussing the principle as well as the details of the proposals of the Government.
§ *SIR E. J. REED (Cardiff)
I can assure the Committee it is with extreme reluctance I interpose, having knowledge of the fact that many Members desire to speak, and I have already spoken; but I am sure after what has been said by the noble Lord, the Committee will feel a remark or two is due from me. I am sorry that the First Lord of the Admiralty has completely misconceived my remarks about these ships in supposing that I have attacked in any way, or that I desire to attack, the gallant officers to whom he referred. The noble Lord has rested his accusation in that respect on the statement that I believed they did not understand the designs. Why did I say that? I said that because I was certain that the First Lord of the Admiralty himself did not understand them. The First Lord distinctly stated to the House in his opening speech that these ships, in respect of distribution of 1337 armour, more resembled the Nile and Trafalgar type of ships than the vessels of the Admiral class. But what are the facts? When on a later day I asked the noble Lord to inform the House whether the armour of those ships resembled the Dreadnought type in rising to a height of 10 ft. or 11 ft. above the water, or whether it resembled the Admiral class in rising to a height of 2 ft. or 3 ft., he explained that, while the Nile and Trafalgar, overloaded as they are for some cause not properly explained, but about which I shall have to put a question later on, have a height of armour rising 10 ft. above the water, these ships as designed have a height of armour rising only 3 ft. This answer sweeps away the idea that these vessels are of the Nile and Trafalgar type as regards their defence, and confirms the opinion I have formed that they resemble the Admiral type. You, Mr. Courtney, have ruled out of order references to the imitation of Sir W. Pearce's design, and although the noble Lord did not closely and immediately accept your ruling, I shall endeavour not to infringe upon it; but I may be allowed to say this. When the belted cruisers were being ordered several years ago, I entreated the Admiralty of that day in the House and in the Press to make those ships over 20 knots of speed. They refused to do so, and built the vessels of a much lower rate of speed. Later on Sir W. Pearce submitted a design for a belted cruiser having 20 knots of speed, but that design was rejected. True, Sir W. Pearce adopted the features of the Admiral type, because, like many other designers who were contractors, he desired to meet the wishes, the prejudices, and sometimes even the fallacies and errors of the Admiralty, in order to satisfy them by obtaining the introduction of their own ideas. But the introduction of the Admiral type in this cruiser has nothing whatever to do with this question. Sir W. Pearce prepared a design for a fast cruiser three years before the Admiralty adopted it. They aftewords did so, but when the Admiralty adopted the design they produced a vessel differing slightly in the principles mentioned, and I know as well as the 1338 First Lord of the Admiralty that that design did not resemble the Blake and the Blenheim in the matter of protection and of armament. That is not my point—my point is that the type of high-speed cruiser, which had been rejected when Sir W. Pearce proposed it, was adopted years afterwards by the Admiralty without the slightest acknowledgment. But I will not trespass on the time of the Committee. I have heard tonight speeches that have interested me exceedingly, but I heard with profound regret the statements of the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone. There is no difference between myself and other naval men as to the Admiral class; the only distinction about that class is this—that I condemned those ships before the public money was spent upon them, while naval men condemned them afterwards. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Hull, moderate and thoughtful and worthy of all consideration, though not agreeing with all my views, and I may say this—that I doubt whether the hon. Member—I doubt whether the Naval Lords of the Admiralty and their naval referees—I doubt even whether the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone understands thoroughly the meaning of the changes in the designing of ships. Twenty-five years ago it was thought necessary to give to every battle-ship a depth of armour of from 6 ft. to 6½ ft. below and 7 ft. or 8 ft. above water, and this with ships of small dimensions; now the Admiralty are proposing to build ships 75 ft. in width, with a narrow belt of armour 8½ ft. wide, of which 5½ ft. were to be below the water and 3 ft. above. The hon. and gallant Member for East Hull tells us we ought not to complain of this, because, as soon as the top of the armour is under water on one side, the bottom of it is out on the other. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone considered it matter for congratulation that the size of the armoured part—he called it the target—was reduced in those ships.
§ *SIR E. J. REED
The noble Lord means that the size of the ship is reduced. On the contrary, it is much increased, and, besides this, you take 1339 a great deal of the armour off the side of this large ship and contract the armour belt down to such an extent as to leave a greatly increased part open to the attacks of the enemies' guns. This is called reducing the target! So it is, but I wonder it did not occur to the noble Lord that if all the armour were taken off the target would be still more reduced. The First Lord has made an attack upon me full of bitterness and measured accusation; he has tried to minimize and bring down to a definite fractional proportion the amount of truth which was contained in my statements. No antagonism of that kind, no imputation will ever debar me from opposing this monstrous absurdity of contracting the armour of Her Majesty's line-of-battleships to the extent proposed. I do not expect half-a-dozen Gentlemen would now go into the Lobby with me, but I will ask them to remember the warning I give when, three or four years hence, if these ships are built according to the designs, we have to add largely to the expenditure upon them. But I heartily wish that men in the position of the First Lord would give over this petty personal antagonism. I will say this—that I received only last year an intimation from a former First Lord that some independent tribunal ought to be set up for the purpose of investigating the accusations I had brought against the Admiral class. I intimated that the only tribunal I would set up was the former First Lord himself, but he did not seem to think that a sufficiently independent tribunal. This question, I say, ought not to be dealt with as it is. The noble Lord was asked last year to take outside opinion on the question, but what outside opinion has he taken? The only thing he has done has been to call in a number of naval officers, and he leaves us entirely in the dark as to how far he has consulted them on this vital point. I do not wish to be consulted. I feel quite satisfied with my rôle of critic; but when we propose to spend millions of money—a million a ship is the point now reached—it is almost an outrage to expend it upon designs concerning which it is possible for 1340 a man to rise in his place in this House, and on his reputation denounce them as I have denounced them to-night.
§ *MR. S. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I do not propose to detain the Committee more than a few moments in saying a word or two on this most important Resolution. There are a great many Members on this side of the House who are very much inclined to support the Government, because they do not feel able to take the responsibility of refusing to add to the efficiency of the Navy when Her Majesty's Government, in the exercise of their responsibility, come down and ask them to vote a certain sum of money. But still many of us do desire to know two things—we desire to know exactly how much money the Government propose to spend, and, with the noble Lord opposite (Lord C. Beresford), we wish to know whether it is to be spent on some definite plan, or merely because they think something ought to be done? I listened attentively to the speeches of the Secretary to the Admiralty and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I am sorry to say I do not think that either of those speeches threw very much light on these two questions. The First Lord of the Admiralty did not give us the facts and figures on which he based his estimate as to the wants of the Navy, but merely stated that he based his demand on the ground that the British Navy should be brought up to the strength of the Navies of any two continental countries put together. He did not state that he and his advisers had gone carefully into the question of what the Britsh Navy had to do—and that is the real point—but he mapped out a plan on the basis to which I refer. He seemed to think that if on paper he could make the British Navy equal to those of any other two nations he would have done his duty. In regard to the amount we are asked to spend in increasing the Navy, I, for one, find it very hard to discover how much it is that the Government require. So far as I can gather, the speeches of Ministers—the First Lord, the Chancellor of the Exche- 1341 quer, the Secretary to the Admiralty—all seem to differ as to the amount which will be actually required from the nation for the increase of the Navy, and it is very hard indeed for those of us who desire to give them support in this matter, to know what course to take, when the Government themselves seem to be so very uncertain in their minds in regard to the amount of money they require, and so very uncertain as to what exactly they want it for. I listened with great interest to the very honest and straightforward speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) the other evening, but I must say I do not think that any of my hon. Friends below the Gangway who object to the proposals of the Government sufficiently appreciate the great extension which has taken place, on the one hand, in our commerce and responsibilities, and hence in our vulnerability, and, on the other, in the expenditure of other nations on their Navies. I believe I speak for many others on this side of the House besides myself when I say that we are just as anxious as hon. Members opposite to defend our Empire and our commerce, but we protest against what we consider to be an unconstitutional way of voting this money. We believe that nothing will tend more to extravagance and bad finance than a proposal of this kind. We desire that every consecutive Minister shall have a free hand in this naval expenditure; and while I, for one, am anxious to support Her Majesty's Government in their proposal to strengthen the Fleet, I protest most emphatically against this unconstitutional proposal in reference to their statutory programme.
§ *MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I hope the House will not be led aside by official ingenuity into a technical discussion, or permit its judgment to be confused by a crowd of figures, which perhaps the First Lord of the Admiralty may understand—though, as to that, I am somewhat sceptical—but which certainly he has failed to make intelligible in this quarter of the House. These proposals must be considered on broad grounds—upon 1342 grounds which can be made intelligible to the taxpayer of ordinary intelligence—and if we find the front benches in agreement, that is a reason why every private Member should look at the question with redoubled vigilance, and even with suspicion. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Maclean) challenged the Government, and challenged the noble Lord in particular, to set forth the reasons why we are asked now to embark on this large expenditure. I will ask all candid Members of this House whether the First Lord of the Admiralty has fairly met that question? What did he tell us? He told us that in ships, men, and guns, we are stronger than we have been at any time during the past 30 years. Well, that is a reason why we should be content with our present progress in regard to shipbuilding, rather than embark on a programme that involves the laying down of no fewer than 40 additional ships in one year. But it seems to me that the Secretary to the Treasury, to whom the same challenge was addressed, was more frank than the noble Lord, and he intimated that these changes had been decided upon as the result of the Naval Manœuvres. If that is so, we have a right to demand that the Report on the Naval Manœuvres be submitted to us in its entirety? What have we got? We have got only mutilated extracts of that Report, and shall I be seriously told that the public interests require that the material parts of this Report shall be suppressed? Suppressed! Why, every word of it has for months been known to every European Cabinet which is at all interested in the information. No; it is not the public interest which requires the suppression of that Report, but it is the interest of the Government, because if that Report were published to the world, I venture to say that it would seal the condemnation of the Admiralty. If however, the Report were edited at all there is one discreditable paragraph which should have been left out—I refer to that which suggests that in the event of this country being involved in a maritime war we should repudiate the Declaration of Paris. That is discreditable, and as impolitic as discreditable; because, whilst the Declaration of Paris is founded on reason and humanity, it is 1343 not less founded on the best interests of this country. Instead of repudiating the Declaration of Paris, the Government ought to be anxious to extend its operation. It would be greatly to the interest of this and other countries to exempt all private property from capture in time of war. Therefore, I think it would be good policy if, backed up by the United States, Her Majesty's Government approached Continental nations on the subject. We have heard a great deal about the necessity of protecting our commerce, but before you can fix the strength of our Navy you must be agreed upon the duties which that Navy has to discharge. Upon that essential preliminary the authorities at the Admiralty are hopelessly divided; but I do not think that we, in this country, are weak in ships relatively to other European Powers. If we are weak at all, we are weak in guns, owing to our having hesitated so long before adopting the breech-loading system. We are now asked to repeat the fatal mistake we made in the matter of guns. We are asked to build next year no fewer than 40 ships—an enormous order as compared with Lord Northbrook's programme—and it will be necessary to supply guns for these vessels. The science of gunnery is in a state of flux, and you are going exactly to repeat the mistake you made up to 1880, by manufacturing in large quantities a type of gun which probably in a few years will be as obsolete as our muzzleloaders are now. I desire to ask whether the present administration of the Admiralty is such as would justify you in commencing an expenditure as large as that which is now proposed to this Committee? I have gone very carefully through the Blue Book to which my hon. Colleague referred, and I think I am right in saying that there is not a single topic in which Mr. Elgar, who is the Director of the Dockyards, agrees with Mr. White, who is the Director of Naval Construction, and yet, although there is this disagreement between these two officers, the connection between the two Departments is so intimate, that Mr. White said himself that it was extremely difficult to say where the duty of one Department began and the duty of the other ended. Under these circumstances, is it sur- 1344 prising that the Admiralty at present is turning out fiascoes of naval construction, which, as the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. J. Reed) has shown, can neither be trusted to steam a-head, to fight, or to run away? According to the evidence of Mr. Elgar, the supervision of our shipbuilding is placed with a class of officers who cannot be trusted to build ships either economically or efficiently. I hope that before voting this money hon. Members will read the Appropriation Account of the Navy issued a few days ago. It is a duty hon. Members owe to their constituents to read that Account. They will find from it that the Admiralty again and again has incurred the severest censure of the Controller and Auditor General, and that the Admiralty has repeatedly been guilty of gross misapplication of public money.
§ It being midnight, the Chairman interrupted the business.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Question be now put."—(MR. W. H. Smith.)
§ MR. PICTON (, seated, and with his hat on) Leicester
As a matter of Order, I beg to call your attention to the fact that you had risen and called "Order" before the Closure was moved.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 235; Noes 117.—(Div. List, No. 53.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 256; Noes 85.—(Div. List, No. 54.)
§ Main Question put accordingly.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 251; Noes 75.—(Div. List, No. 55.)
Resolved, That it is expedient to authorize (a) the expenditure of a sum not exceeding
£21,500,000, for the purpose of building, arming, equipping, and completing for sea vessels for Her Majesty's Navy; of this expenditure a sum not exceeding £10,000,000 to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund in the seven years ending on the 31st day of March, 1896; and a sum not exceeding £11,500,000, to be issued out of moneys provided by Parliament for Naval Services during the five financial years ending on the 31st day of March, 1894.
§ Whereupon the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Thursday.
§ Committee to sit again on Thursday.
§ MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury when he proposes to take the second Resolution?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
The second Resolution must follow the Report of the first Resolution. I came under an engagement to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to take the Report of the first Resolution on Thursday, and I shall adhere to that engagement.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
As soon as it is carried, and on the very first opportunity. The second Resolution is pure machinery, and it has nothing whatever to do with the substance of the matter.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I do not think that would be at all in accordance with the understanding come to with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. If the right hon. Gentle- 1346 man is able to take the Report on Thursday, most clearly it ought to be the first Order.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
It will be substantially the first Order; but I cannot give any positive engagement to make it the first Order.