§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
The Resolution which I shall have to propose as to the building of ships, clearly brings to the mind of the Committee the object with which it is made. It is made for the purpose of giving effect to repeated declarations made by different Members of the Government that the time has now arrived, in their judgment, for a survey of our Naval establishments with a view of materially increasing their strength. Four years ago an almost similar motion was made by the First Lord of the Admiralty under the Administration of the right hon Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). Lord Northbrook then proposed largely to augment the normal shipbuilding pro- 1165 gramme and to add to the number of guns, and large additional ways and means were added for a period of years to the ordinary Naval Estimates. That programme, which has been known as the Northbrook programme, is practically complete. I wish to say nothing about it, except from an administrative point of view. The peculiarity attending its execution has been that ships have been built much more rapidly than it was anticipated they would be, and they have been kept waiting in some cases for months, and in other cases for years for guns which alone could make them efficient fighting machines. Now, I think, we shall all agree that one of the first duties of any one connected with naval administration is to try and reduce to the smallest limits the amount of money locked up in incomplete and useless ships. There can be no object in accelerating the shipbuilding process if the ships whose construction has been so expedited are to be kept waiting for long periods of time for their guns. Therefore, early last year my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War (Mr. Stanhope) gave very close attention to the subject, with a view of ascertaining how far the existing block was capable of being removed, and how far the causes which tended to produce it were preventible for the future. If the Naval progress during the last two years has not been so rapid as some of my hon. Friends would wish, it was due to a block on the road, through the road being too narrow, and the widening of the road to accommodate the increase of traffic was clearly the duty to be undertaken. We have now widened the road, and I believe I may with confidence say we are able to push on our work with regularity and expedition. Now, in addition to these vessels, which are comprised in the Northbrook programme, a considerable number of other vessels have been laid down and completed during the last three years. But there is one particular class of vessels to which I must allude. I may almost say the magnitude and ubiquity of our commerce force us to perform on the high seas almost single-handed many police duties, and for the purpose of performing them and protecting the smaller currents of our trade along the coast vessels have in the past been employed of small capacity and slow speed; and these 1166 vessels were, from their want of tonnage and slow speed, useless for effective war purposes. To replace these obsolete vessels by a limited number of efficient gunboats has been one of the duties performed during the last three years; and we have built sufficient to supply that branch of the service for several years to come. Therefore the money to be devoted to the increase of shipbuilding in the construction of new ships for years to come will be solely devoted to vessels which are designed for war purposes alone. On the 1st of April, 1889, we shall have in process of building in our dockyards and by contract about 30 vessels, and on the 1st of April, 1890, we shall have completed all those vessels except four, and those four will be in a final stage of their construction. Therefore it was evident early last year that it would be our duty to submit a new shipbuilding programme, to this House to take the place of the Northbrook programme, which is practically complete. Early last summer Her Majesty's Government took into consideration the bases and the principles upon which the new shipbuilding programme was to be founded. It had been admitted, I think, on all hands, that although we had made considerable progress during the last three years, yet our Naval establishments had not attained the strength at which they should be permanently maintained. I have endeavoured in the past to give effect to the Northbrook programme by concentrating our attention on the ships and work which we had in hand, adding to them the vessels which were most urgently required, but taking care every year that the new ships completed and ready for commission were largely in excess of the old vessels which became obsolete—that is, to put into the Navy a good deal more than we took out of it, and so to build it up towards the level at which we thought it ought to be maintained. Her Majesty's Government had to consider whether this should be the principle on which the new programme should be based. There was an alternative on which to base our programme, and that was, after a full survey had been made of the requirements of the Navy and of the country, and having ascertained what the deficiencies were, to do our best to make them good, with all the rapidity which was consistent 1167 with good construction. Her Majesty's Government determined to adopt that principle, and our new shipbuilding programme is based upon it. Undoubtedly it is an advance—at least I think I may say it is a departure from the principle on which, or the methods by which preceding shipbuilding programmes have been calculated. It is frequently maintained in certain quarters that the Army and Navy expenditure of the country should be regulated by the opinions of experts whose services are at the disposal of the Government. That is a doctrine in which Her Majesty's Government cannot acquiesce. The Executive Government of this country are entrusted with the duty of managing the whole of the policy of the country, and one essential portion of the responsibility of the Executive Government is the making of the needful provision for our naval and military requirements. The responsibility of initiating increase of expenditure upon those services must rest upon the Government, and upon the Government alone. I do not believe it would be possible, and certainly it would be most improper for any Government to attempt to shirk that responsibility by endeavouring to shelter themselves behind the opinion of their professional advisers. But when the principle of future expenditure has been settled, it is clearly the duty of the Government to take the advice of their professional officers, in order that the increase of expenditure may be so formulated as to be of the utmost use in increasing the efficiency of the services to which it is to be appropriated. Therefore, so soon as we had settled the principle on which the shipbuilding policy was to be based directions were given to our naval advisers that they were to prepare, in accordance with the principles laid down, some scheme of shipbuilding. Since then a good deal has happened; but the scheme which was then drawn out on the foundation I have mentioned is in many respects practically the scheme which I am about to lay before the House. In the interval Her Majesty's Government have given their constant attention to this question and in many particulars, and in some important items, the scheme has been modified during the past six or eight months. And, Sir, before I leave this part of the subject I 1168 should like to acknowledge publicly the very great assistance which we have received from our naval advisers in the preparation and elaboration of the scheme I am about to unfold. The first and foremost of these advisers is Admiral Sir Arthur Hood, whose immense technical knowledge, calm judgment, and intuitive administrative capacity have not only in this instance, but ever since I had the honour to be associated with him, been of enormous benefit to the Naval Service. It is rather a curious coincidence that there was another body, quite independent of Her Majesty's Ministers, considering the principles upon which the shipbuilding programme should be based. Last year the House appointed a Select Committee, over which the right hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs has presided with his characteristic common sense, impartiality, and ability. That Committee was composed of men of every section of political opinion in this House. We differed on a good many matters, but there was a proposition to which that Committee gave a unanimous assent, and it was to this effect—that any new shipbuilding programme should be based upon a full survey and knowledge of the whole requirements of the Naval Service of the country. That decision, or rather that recommendation of the Select Committee, 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 politital prejudices having arrived at identically the same conclusions as Her Majesty's Government. I should like to lay before the House some considerations which influenced us in arriving at the conclusion that an increase of naval strength was necessary. Our commerce has greatly increased during the past few years, and it will continue to increase, but the mere development of our commerce is not in my judgment a conclusive argument for a proportionate increase in naval expenditure. The examination 1169 of a few figures will show that the increase in tonnage is greatly due to the enlargement of the size of vessels rather than to an increase in their number. This increased tonnage therefore means increased strength and greater steaming power; and it therefore follows that every year a large proportion of our mercantile marine has become more and more capable of taking care of itself, and of evading hostile depredation. So much is this the case that the actual amount of new tonnage added to the English mercantile marine during the past ten years is very nearly equal to the total of the steam tonnage of the rest of the world. While submitting', therefore, the magnitude of the interests we have to protect is one factor in the calculation, that which should primarily govern us in considering the strength of naval establishments is the amount of force which is available to attack or injure our commercial interests. In Her Majesty's gracious Speech allusion is made to the fact that there has been in recent years unceasing expenditure on naval armaments by European nations. It is quite true that this is not altogether applicable to the last two or three years with regard to the leading Naval Powers of Europe; but, taking the last 15 years and dividing them into quinquennial periods, it is found that each live years show an increase on the previous five years. This is true of every European nation that has any considerable seaboard. It must always be remembered that naval expenditure diners in this respect from military expenditure—that the actual returns are not available so soon. If any one wants to examine into a Naval Budget, he must not merely have regard to the expenditure in any one particular year as conclusive proof that in that year no addition was made to that particular Navy; he must go behind this to the expenditure of some of the years before, and this will not infrequently disclose the fact that in a year when the expenditure has apparently fallen there has been the greatest increase of naval force, owing to ships, the expense of which has been met in previous years, being completed in this year. In this very year, when to the mere naval statistician the naval expenditure appeared to be lowered, there may have been the greatest aug- 1170 mentation of naval force. Now we have had one great advantage during the last few years in our shipbuilding policy; we have adjusted the work we have taken in hand with our finances, and we have been able to make most rapid progress with all the vessels we have had in hand. Foreign nations, however, have acted on another principle. They have allowed their shipbuilding programme to outrun the compass of their annual finance, and have not made the same progress we have. There is a great amount of incomplete work on which expenditure in the past has been incurred; therefore, in looking to the future we must take cognizance of not only prospective expenditure, but add that to the expenditure already incurred in reference to unfinished ships to estimate the addition made to the naval force of foreign countries. If we apply this test, we find that during the next five years there will be a large addition to the war fleets of Europe, especially in the matter of battle-ships. I had hoped some two years ago that the Nile and Trafalgar would be the last battle-ships laid down in this country. It then appeared as if there was to be a general cessation of armour-clad building, and that for reasons not far to seek, torpedo boats had come into use, and naval officers were inclined greatly to exaggerate the effect of the change. The result was that the second European Naval Power, France, practically suspended her armour clad building, and other nations followed her example; but since then, owing in part to the development of quick firing guns, and partly to the invention of new explosives, a great impetus has been given to battle-ship building. Therefore, it is our duty, as we find our neighbours are pushing forward the building of this class of ships, to make similar efforts. We cannot fail to take cognizance of the fact. We may talk of our supremacy on the sea, but that supremacy is measured by the number of battle ships we can put into line. In the observations I have made I am re-echoing the view expressed in the gracious Speech that our relations are friendly and cordial with all nations. Still, it requires no very deep student of history to know that there are certain sections of opinion and of influence in foreign countries which are unfriendly to this country, owing to jealousy of our 1171 prosperity and envy of our great colonial expansion, with our immunity from conscription and all its attendant evils and the like; and if any one of these influences, these cycles of opinion, happen temporarily to become predominant, we cannot ignore the fact that increased naval armaments may he available for our annoyance and injury. I have endeavoured during the past year to study the speeches of those who in previous years have held my position and that of Prime Minister, so as to ascertain what was the paramount idea underlying their utterances when they spoke of the standard of strength on which our naval establishment should be maintained. I think I am correct in saying that the leading idea has been that our establishment should be on such a scale that it should at least be equal to the naval strength of any two other countries. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) has given expression to that view. The right hon. Gentleman was noted as an advocate of vigorous economy at the Admiralty, but he has stated that he felt certain that when he left the Admiralty the British fleet was equal to the combined naval forces of any two other countries. That may have been the case; but it must be borne in mind that at the time of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks there was only one considerable Naval Power in Europe, while the feature of the present situation is that there are now not one or two, but four or five nations which are spending largely on their naval armaments. When, then, there is this simultaneous development of naval force going on, it is quite clear that the strength of the combination of any two other countries must be regarded as considerably increased in the aggregate. This is a fact that we cannot ignore, and we must therefore either be content with a less measure of precaution than that which in past years was supposed to regulate our Naval Estimates, or we must be prepared, to face an increased expenditure, or those Estimates I have always endeavoured to speak with reserve upon the question of what would be the effect of a naval war upon our commerce. I do not believe that ten cruisers or twenty cruisers would annihilate that commerce or cut off our food supplies; but, on the other hand, it 1172 is quite clear that any system of commerce and mercantile marine must be based on the security and price of freight, or, on the outbreak or danger of war, there might be a rude shock or a great disturbance to a branch of some trade, which might go altogether, leading to a total cessation of other branches of the same trade. No doubt, at the moment, it would be the apprehension of what might occur rather than the occurrences themselves, and it would be most necessary that there should, at the outbreak of a war, be a feeling of perfect confidence in our naval strength. I have sufficient confidence in the energy and capabilities of our merchant seamen, and believe that they would soon adjust themselves to the requirements of such conditions; but in order to sustain that confidence the supremacy of our Fleet is a necessary preliminary. This is a view that not only I, but naval officers, hold. The changes that have been effected in naval matters during the last few years have certainly increased the difficulty of maintaining a close blockade, and here the recent Naval Manoeuvres have given us useful lessons. A military strategist, in conducting a campaign, requires information on two points—he wishes to know the amount of the force that can be brought against him, and he also wishes to know the uses to which it can be put. On land the number of military movements or combinations is limited by many conditions—the frontier of the territory—the geographical lie of the country, the course of rivers, the means of transport, even the conditions of weather; these and other matters must enter into his consideration, and impose limitations upon his movements. But this is not so in regard to naval combinations. A ship is self-supporting, carrying her own stores and commissariat, and without any warning can proceed to join any combination that may take place at any rendezvous in any part of the world. No amount of foresight or calculation can anticipate naval combinations and naval movements; therefore, it seems to me essential that, for the purpose of meeting such unexpected blows, we should have a considerable margin of reserve; and if this is to be utilized in the way I have indicated it must be equipped, and armed, and ready for sea at a few days' notice. 1173 I venture to lay these arguments before the Committee, because I think they are worthy of attention, and are incontrovertible conclusions for the premises from which Her Majesty's Government started or which they accepted, that there should be no declination from the assumed standard of strength in the past. I am no alarmist, and much dislike the waste of public money, and in the controversies that have taken place during the last few years I have frequently combated exaggerated and sensational statements, for I have always considered it mean for a Government to take an advantage of an ephemeral phase of public excitement to incur unnecessary expenditure. Nothing is more foolish than to enforce demands for increased expenditure by arguments based on facts which will not stand discussion or the test of experience. But there seems to me to be no alternatives but those I have stated; we must either be content with a lower standard of precaution than in the past, or we must be prepared to face increased expenditure. Her Majesty's Government, in the present state of European politics, cannot recommend the former course; on the contrary, we shall use all our influence and authority to endeavour to induce the House of Commons to meet this necessity for increased naval expenditure. Having stated, therefore, the nature and scope of the scheme which I am about to propose, I should like to turn to some other conditions to which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, that scheme should conform. We considered that it should be entire in itself, and adequate, not only to our immediate, but also to our future wants. We considered that every vessel should be an effective war vessel of the newest type and most approved design, and that every vessel, when once laid down, should be pushed on with all the rapidity compatible with sound construction, and that as these vessels approach completion preparations should be made for the necessary accumulation of men and stores and guns which would enable a ship to become an efficient fighting machine. To associate with that scheme of expenditure those business-like conditions necessitated a good deal of previous investigation and work. Upon that work we have been engaged for 1174 the past three years; and, although there may seem at first sight to be little connection between the proposals I now have to make and the work we have done, in reality that work is the foundation on which we base our scheme. We considered it to be essential that before we asked the House for additional money for naval purposes we should be able to show that the national shipbuilding yards were well administered, that the scandal of ships waiting for guns should not be repeated, and that the designs for new ships should be in accordance with the view of naval officers and naval scientists. Upon the questions of the administrations of the Dockyards, the supply of guns, and the preparations of designs I will therefore say a few words. In the comparison too frequently made between our Dockyards and private yards sufficient allowance is not made for the variety and multiplicity of those duties which the former have to perform, and from which private yards are free. Everything that relates to a great fleet of warships has to be done in the Dockyards. Almost all the officering, manning, victualling, storing, coaling, and lighting—these and many other services, which in a great commercial port are performed by various public and private agencies, are performed by the Dockyards. In addition to this, it is necessary to have a great accumulation of stores and men ready for action at a moment's notice. Moreover, we have so to arrange our machinery that every branch of it may be capable of great expansion in case of emergency. Naval mobilization is just the reverse of military mobilization. The former is decentralization and localization, while the latter is concentration and centralization. If we were unfortunate enough to get into any war, every man, every officer, every store, and every gun, as well as ammunition, would have to pass through the Dockyards in order to be put on board the ships commissioned in those Dockyards. Therefore, though it is necessary to keep a tight hand on these subsidiary and incidental services, it would be most unadvisable to cut them down beyond a certain limit, because in case of emergency it would be impossible to expand or extend them. In the past three years we have dissociated these incidental services 1175 from shipbuilding and repairing. We have brought them to account and have largely reduced their amount. We have made regulations by which, men once put on shipbuilding are kept there and not taken for other purposes, and we have established a form of account which is working admirably. There was a little difference of opinion between the Admiralty and the Treasury which came into prominence before the Committee last year; but since then the Treasury have sent a high official, Mr. Waterhouse, to make an examination, and he has expressed himself as highly satisfied with the system, and suggested its further extension. These alterations have effected a perfect revolution in the Dockyards. Ships are now built with a rapidity rivalling that of private yards. The Trafalgar, which is the largest ship of war ever built in this country, was completed in the unprecedentedly short time of three years and three months. It is conclusively proved in this instance that rapidity of construction is a convertible term for economy of construction, for not only has the ship been built with this great expedition, but the saving on the original Estimate is £100,000, of which £85,000 is on labour alone. The last ironclad built is the Anson, which is of much less tonnage than the Trafalgar. Six years were occupied in her construction, and the cost of labour alone on the lesser ship was £30,000 more than on the Trafalgar. Therefore a cardinal point of our new proposals is that we should establish in our Dockyards a system by which there should be a statutory enactment that ships should be pushed on with all possible rapidity, for it is better for this House to limit the number of ships than to assent to a larger number and then to reduce and curtail the money necessary for their completion. And now I turn to the question of guns. The knowledge that a considerable number of very powerful ships had so long been waiting for their guns has resulted in somewhat exaggerated statements being made as to the gun-producing power and condition of our Ordnance Department. A very short recital of the circumstances under which breech-loading guns were introduced into the Service will at once make clear to the Committee what is the nature of 1176 the block from which we are now suffering. In the earlier days of heavy Ordnance English guns were muzzle-loaders, and the muzzle loading system was brought to great perfection, so much so that naval officers declined to part with their guns, which were in every way equal to the breech-loaders of foreign nations. About 12 or 13 years ago a new kind of powder was discovered, known as the cocoa or slow-burning powder, from which by long chasing in the guns much better results were obtained than from the old powder. Nevertheless, expert opinions clung to the muzzle-loaders, and declined to sanction the introduction of a breech-loading system. Experiments went on, till at last it became clear that we should be hopelessly left behind by foreign nations unless we adopted breech-loaders, because the length of the gun necessary to fully utilize the slow-burning powder prevented the guns being loaded from the muzzle. We then took to breech-loaders in 1880, and we have had in the last seven years to concentrate an amount of labour which in other nations has been spread over three times that period. In dealing with questions of so experimental a character as those relating to the manufacture of big ordnance there must be a certain number of failures and mistakes. Our failures and mistakes were not greater nor more numerous than those of other nations, but they have been compressed within a much shorter period of time. At that time the gun factories were working under desperate pressure, in consequence of shipbuilding having been carried on with great rapidity. If the system of breech-loading ordnance had been introduced into the Navy earlier, more time would have been given to perfecting experiments; but, as it was, the result of incomplete experiments were precipitately embodied in the manufacture, and thus we have the cause of delay—vessels waiting for their guns now. Then the use of "liners" was introduced in the construction of a considerable number of guns. That answered very well for a certain time, and then there was a failure, and the whole of those guns had to be re-manufactured. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for War and I had to inquire during the past year in order to ascertain how this block could be re- 1177 moved, and, if it were removed, whether the resources and producing power of this country are so large as to enable us to say with confidence no great number of ships would be detained for want of guns. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Preston I showed that by the end of the financial year 1889–90 all our ships requiring heavy ordnance would be supplied with their guns. The vessels of this year will be supplied with their guns, though there will be a delay of two months in the date of delivery. After that the block will be entirely removed. I speak as to the user, while my right hon. Friend speaks as to the manufacture, and we are both quite confident that for the future no block of the same character will occur, and that if orders are given in time, and if no change takes place in the designs during construction, the sources of production will hereafter be quite equal to our naval wants. I will undertake that the orders are given in time, and my right hon. Friend will undertake that there is no change in the designs after the guns have been ordered. Now, I wish to say a word on the subject of designs. We have a large number of ships which are coming on, and we wish to impose a test more effective than that of the measured mile and the ordinary experimental cruise, because we have formed certain opinions regarding their merits and defects, and are anxious that they should be thoroughly tested. We have had the advantage of the Naval Manœuvres, and that has fully confirmed the opinion we have formed, and all the vessels which we propose to build will be characterized by a high freeboard, more length, more engine room, and we shall avoid the error of endeavouring to cram too much accommodation into a small space. We have designed a new ship of war which shall not only be capable of fighting, but shall also give decent accommodation for the officers and men on board and in all weathers. So far as the question of design, construction, or armament is concerned, we can give every assurance that any increase of expenditure which may be sanctioned shall be given effect to in a prompt and business-like manner. I now turn to the exact number of ships which we propose to build, and the expenditure associated with them; but I do not propose to give the individual 1178 cost of each vessel, following the precedent set by Lord Northbrook in 1885, because, if we are to derive the benefit of the competing contractors, it is not advisable to give them too close a line as to their tenders. The number of ships which we consider should be added to Her Majesty's Navy in our new shipbuilding programme is 70, and their estimated cost, including armament, is £21,500,000. We propose to build eight first-class battle-ships, with a displacement of 14,000 tons; two second-class battle-ships, with a displacement of 9,000 tons; nine first-class protected cruisers, with a displacement of 7,300 tons; 29 second-class protected cruisers, of the Medea class, with a displacement of 3,400 tons; four smaller cruisers, of the Pandora class, with a displacement of 2,600 tons; and 18 torpedo gunboats, of the Sharpshooter type, with a displacement of 735 tons—making a total aggregate tonnage of 318,000 tons. As to the time each of these vessels will take to complete, the first-class battle-ships will be finished in from three and a-half to four years; the second-class battle ships in three years; the first-class cruisers in two and a-half years; the smaller cruisers in two years or somewhat less; and the gun vessels in one and a half year. Of the aggregate cost of £21,50,000 for these 70 vessels, the sum of £16,150,000 will be for engines and hulls, and £5,350,000 for the armaments. Dividing the sum of £21,500,000 into two portions, one of £11,500,000, and another of £10,000,000, the sum of £10,000,000 represents the work which we propose to put out to contract, and the £11,500,000 is the amount of work which we propose to assign to the Dockyards, and to absorb the charge for Ordnance included in the ordinary annual Estimates. The first sum of £10,000,000 will enable us to build, arm, and equip the following vessels:—Four battle-ships, five first-class cruisers, 17 second-class cruisers, and six torpedo gunboats—making a total of 32 vessels; and I propose to put the whole of these 32 vessels out to contract in the course of the present financial year. Funds for this expenditure will be raised by methods and under conditions which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will subsequently explain. If I find there is any tendency to run up prices against 1179 the Admiralty, we may have to alter our decision as to the amount to be so expended; but, with that one reservation, we intend to put this amount of work out. For the purpose of building and completing the remaining 38 vessels and their armament there is £11,500,000. This sum, which is to be included in the ordinary Estimates, can be divided into two heads—£8,650,000 for construction of engines and hulls, and £2,850,000 for armament. We propose to lay down in the Dockyards this year 20 vessels, as follows:—Four battle-ships of the first class, one of the second class, three first-class cruisers, six second-class cruisers, and six torpedo gunboats. Adding these 20 to the 32 put out to contract, we have 52, leaving 18 out of the 70 still to be accounted for. They will be disposed as follows:—A second-class battle-ship will be laid down early in the financial year 1890–1, and the other vessels will take their places on the slips in the Dockyards, as soon as they become vacant by the launch of the vessels laid down in the first year. The whole of the programme, including both Dockyard and contract work, is to be finished in four and a-half years from the date of the commencement of the first vessel. There is a naval and an administrative advantage in this distribution of work, to which I should like to call attention. Taking the programme as a whole, it consists of 70 ships, 10 of which are battle-ships and 60 cruisers of different types. A battle-ship takes very much longer to build than a cruiser—three and a-half or four years—and if they are to be finished within four and a-half years they must all be commenced in the first year. But a battle-ship when completed is not entirely efficient unless she has certain small vessels attached to her as scouts, and we consider that out of the 70 vessels 20 are the satellites of the battle-ships. The remaining 40 cruisers will be effective whether used in squadrons or individually. We propose to commence the construction of the whole of these this year, and thus make an immediate addition to the Navy of what it most requires. Later on, when an increase is made to our battle-ships, each battle-ship will be accompanied by two smaller vessels, and thus there will be no drain upon our force of independent cruisers. This 1180 enables us to carry out effectively the whole of our shipbuilding programme, and it also enables us to give continuous employment in the Dockyards, thus avoiding the great evils of a sudden expansion of business. In order to absorb the amount represented by this sum of £11,500,000, we raise the Shipbuilding Vote in the ordinary Estimates by £615,000, and reduce the Ordnance-Vote by £400,000, because we intend to purchase all the Ordnance for the contract ships out of the £10,000,000 to which I have referred. If the Shipbuilding Vote be kept at the level at which we propose to put it, and the Ordnance Vote at the same level, there will be sufficient to provide for the whole of this work, as well as for all the work we have in hand and to complete in the period of four and a-half years. The Committee will observe the extreme rapidity with which we propose to build these ships. In France a battle-ship takes nearly ten years to complete. In this country, previous to 1885, ironclads took six years and large cruisers four years. We propose to lay down 70 vessels, including ten battleships, in four and a-half years. It is in the interests of economy that we make this proposal.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
Are the 70 vessels to be the total shipbuilding production of four years, or in addition to the ordinary estimated production, whatever takes place?
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
No; perhaps I may explain. When Lord Northbrook made his proposals there were a large number of ships in the Dockyards which were in process of building, and what he did was to increase the existing shipbuilding programme by making certain additions to it. I stated that on April 1, 1890, there would only be four ships in Her Majesty's Dockyards and under contract, independent of this programme, which would not be complete. These four ships would be in the last stage of construction. After this year, therefore, the whole of the Naval Estimates are available to carry out this part of the programme.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
On the four years' Estimate. Rapidity of construction means economy, because delay occasions twofold waste—not only does 1181 the ship cost more in construction, but the longer it is on the stocks the less is its life as an effective ship, and, therefore, the lees use you get out of it. In order to insure rapidity of construction for the whole of these ships, contract as well as Dockyard ships, we propose to put them in an Act of Parliament in two Schedules, enacting that they shall be completed within the period I have mentioned—namely, by April, 1894. A special account will be kept of each of these vessels, and those accounts will be subject to the ordinary control of the Treasury and the Comptroller and Auditor General. In order that the Dockyards may not be subject to certain impediments which prevent the ships from being completed as rapidly as possible, we propose slightly to adjust the financial machinery in two essentials as regards excesses and balances of Votes. There is, perhaps, no practice, however laudable its pretensions, which results more in extravagance than the practice of surrendering to the Exchequer balances because the contractors have failed to deliver within a certain period. The liability remains, but the money goes back into the Exchequer, and goes to the reduction of the National Debt. It is practically a misappropriation of funds. The taxpayer is taxed one year for certain work, but because the contractor, through some unforeseen circumstances, is unable to deliver the work a day in advance of March 81, the money so raised goes back into the Exchequer, and next year the taxpayer is taxed again for the same purpose. That is not only unfair, but most prejudicial to economy. The unquestioned tendency in the Departments is to surrender as little as possible, and there are a number of devices by which attempts are made to reduce expenditure which would come into the next year by anticipating it, in order that in a subsequent year this deferred liability may be met without up setting the departmental finance or the Estimates of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Therefore, the proposal we make is that balances in reference to shipbuilding should be retained. But we go further. There are certain articles and certain stores, such as armour plates and steel castings, which only a limited number of firms pro- 1182 duce, and we must take these goods when we can get them. It is very likely that in dealing with transactions of this magnitude armour plates may be delivered sooner than anticipated, and heavy payments have to be made which would disorganize arrangements, and, therefore, provision is made for a temporary advance for the purpose of meeting any such payments, the advance being immediately repaid as soon as there was a surplus to the credit of the Department. We propose to allocate to new construction in the present financial year, 1889–90, £2,645,000; but only £1,360,000 is available for the new programme, the remainder goes to the completion of those ships still in hand. Next year, 1890–91, we propose to allocate £2,590,000 for new shipbuilding, and of that £2,340,000 will go to the new programme.
§ * LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
No. In 1891–2 we propose to allocate £2,560,000 to new construction, and the whole of that will go towards the new programme. Next year, 1892–3, we estimate that only £1,650,000 will be required, and in 1893–4, £740,000. These sums, in the aggregate, amount to £8,650,000. We propose in the same way to distribute the money necessary to arm these ships, and to make provision for it out of the ordinary Ordnance Vote. Adding that sum of £8,650,000 to the amount required for ordnance, which is £2,850,000, we get £11,500,000, which is the whole of the work we propose to put upon the Estimates. Therefore, summing up our scheme, it comprises the building of 70 vessels; it involves the expenditure of £10,000,000 out of the Special Fund, the nature of which my right hon. Friend will explain; and it involves an increase of £615,000 in the Shipbuilding Vote; but there will be a reduction of £400,000 in the Ordnance Vote, making a total increase of £215,000. I do not wish to anticipate the discussion on the ordinary Estimates, but there is certain work which we propose to take in hand, and which forms so essential a part of our shipbuilding policy that I must allude to it. There is a considerable number of our ironclads whose boilers are much worn. We propose to take all these vessels in hand and spread their 1183 repairs over a number of years, on this principle—that as few vessels as possible should be laid up at one time. Certain of these vessels are worth re-engining, others are worth re-arming, so that in certain cases these vessels, re-boiler-ed, re-engined, and re-armed, will be more efficient and powerful than on the day they were first commissioned. The vessels we propose to take in hand are the Minatour, Achilles, Superb, Thunderer, Devastation, and Rupert—they will all be taken in hand this year. Next year we shall deal with the Hercules, Monarch, Sultan, and Invincible. We propose also to thoroughly refit the Nelson, Audacious, and Triumph.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
Yes, this year. That is included in the ordinary Shipbuilding Vote, which has been increased by £615,000. By taking these vessels in hand and repairing them we are enabled to do that which many sailors have long advocated. We shall be able to substitute in the next eight months four efficient amd sea-going ironclads for the four hulks which now carry the flags of the Commanders-in-Chief at Sheerness, Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Queenstown. These vessels will have all their stores and all their coal on board, and they will be prepared at a moment's notice to go anywhere. This means a great addition to our reserves in the home waters. The only other increase in the ordinary Estimates worthy of note is in regard to the provision we make for improving the coaling facilities for our Fleet in the Channel. We also propose to dredge the Medway, so as to allow first class ironclads with all their weights on board to pass down with the ordinary tide, which they cannot do now. We also propose to increase the Votes 1 and 2 by the sum of £275,000 for the purpose of adding 3,000 men besides those voted last year. These 8,000 men would comprise 1,100 marines, 1,000 stokers, and about 900 bluejackets. Including all these sums, they will show for the year commencing 1888–9 a total increase of £602,000 over the Naval Estimates of the preceding year. The Committee will naturally ask, does this increase on shipbuilding carry with it great progressive increases in future, so far as the expenditure on stores and men is concerned?—because I think it would be 1184 very unfair to get the Committee by a side wind to assent to an increase of one branch of expenditure without placing clearly before hon. Members the increase which that sanction entails in other branches of expenditure. On that point I can give satisfactory assurances to the Committee. We at present have sufficient men to man every available vessel, but when all these ships are completed we shall want a considerable additional number. While I think it most desirable to accumulate a large reserve of war vessels for an emergency, I do not think it would be reasonable to ask the Committee to vote all the money necessary to maintain sufficient men on the continuous service system to man all those vessels. A certain increase will be necessary, but that increase, spread over the next five years, will, I think, not amount to more than £250,000 in the aggregate. I propose, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, to turn attention to the development of the Naval Reserve. In the Naval Reserve you have most admirable material, and as our deficiencies are mainly under the heads of lieutenants and stokers, I have no doubt we shall be able to make some arrangements by which a very large proportion of those deficiencies can be supplied without a great addition to the Estimates. On the other hand, there will be a substantial contribution next year from Australia as an appropriation in aid; there would be, as the Committee will recollect, a decrease in the Shipbuilding Vote two or three years hence if the House were satisfied with the strength at which the Navy was maintained; and there would also be two or three years hence a considerable decrease in the Ordnance Votes. I am looking closely into the question of the reserves of ammunition. The proportion of reserves was fixed many years ago, when production was limited and slow. Now that production has rapidly increased, I do not think it advisable to keep large stores of perishable material. I hope I shall be able to make emergency contracts with the great firms who manufacture these articles, and, if so, we shall be able ultimately to accomplish a substantial reduction in our Ordnance Vote. Therefore, putting together all 1185 these decreases, and putting against them the only prospective increase, I think I may say our scheme carries with it, as it approaches completion, a reduction rather than an increase of expenditure. I hope the Committee will now allow me to say a word or two upon that part of our work upon which we have bestowed most trouble and anxiety—namely, the preparation of designs of the respective types. Now, in preparing those designs, we were all very much impressed with the great difference between the requirements of the British Navy and those of foreign navies. The great mass of European navies are kept in peace time within inland seas, such as the Baltic, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean; with the exception of France, they have, outside Europe, few bases of operation. Now, vessels intended for short cruises require neither the sea-going qualities nor the coaling capacity which English ships must have. Therefore, if these qualities are to be obtained, our ships must be larger and larger; and if they are to be equal in armament and superior in speed, the coal-carrying capacity must necessarily be larger. The Committee will have noted the large dimensions of many of the ships we propose to build. We have ascertained that increase of size does not carry with it corresponding increase of expenditure; but it does carry with it a proportionate increase in the length of life of the vessel as an efficient fighting machine. We have, therefore, prepared our designs on that principle; and I will just very roughly state what they are. The torpedo-gunboat will be a vessel of 735 tons, with a raised deck forward, a speed of 21 knots, as against a tonnage of 550 and a speed of 18 knots of its predecessor, the Rattlesnake. The Pandoras are an exact reproduction of the vessels building for the Australian Colonies, which have given satisfaction to all who have examined their design. The improved Medeas are an enlargement upon the original Medeas. Their speed is the same, 20 knots; their armament is somewhat heavier; but they are 35 feet longer, and have 600 tons greater displacement. The first-class cruisers are vessels of 7,350 tons, as against 4,050 tons of the original Mersey, on which they may be regarded as an 1186 improvement. Their speed is three knots greater—namely, 20 knots. Every one of the above types represents a design which has either given satisfaction or is an improvement upon a well-known and satisfactory ship. I propose to-morrow to lay on the Table a Paper giving full particulars of our whole procedure. In the meantime, I will roughly summarize this Paper. The Select Committee on the Navy Estimates last year suggested that as regards the distribution of armour of battleships outside opinion should be called in. I very soon found out that the outside opinion wanted was not that of designers, but of naval officers, and especially of gunnery officers. I am fortunate enough to have at the Admiralty four officers, three of whom have held the post of Director of Naval Ordnance, and one now ably discharges the duties of that office, and in these four gentlemen I believe I have more technical knowledge as to Ordnance than can be found in any Admiralty in the world. We discussed the subject at very considerable length—what should be the distinctive features and qualities of the new battle ships, and we had a considerable number of alternative designs prepared, with their weights, showing what could be done, because the difficulty is not what is put in, but what you leave ont. These were all worked out. I was anxious to get the best outside naval opinion I could get; and, therefore, I sent the designs to the three Admirals appointed to report on the Naval Manœuvres and to the two Commanders-in-Chief. Afterwards we met at the Admiralty and had a full discussion on the subject, a report of which will be found in a Parliamentary Paper; and I am glad to say we were almost unanimous in the decision at which we arrived. Roughly speaking, the disposition of armament is that of the Admiral class, though the number of guns is considerably greater, while the disposition of armour much more resembles that of the Trafalgar or the Nile. They are vessels of great coal and steaming capacity, with a high freeboard and a speed of 17½knots. I believe they will give almost universal satisfaction to the Service, while as regards seagoing qualities they will be capable of being sent to any part of the world and in any weather. Just before I sit down there is one other 1187 subject on which I should like to touch. Our scheme is naturally based on the nature of the work which in an emergency our Navy will have to do. The area to be covered and the duties to be performed are so great and various that I should like roughly to indicate to the Committee the distribution of that work and the means by which we hope to carry it out. Our first duty will be so to dispose of our Fleets that our coasts should be defended from invasion and our naval stations from bombardment, and this disposition should be carried out on wide and general lines for the protection of commerce. These duties must be exclusively performed by the regular ships of Her Majesty's Navy. The second branch of the subject is the protection of our commerce on certain trade routes. The great bulk of this work also must be done by the Navy, but the armed cruisers of the mercantile marine can be associated with the Navy in the discharge of that duty. I am sorry to see in quarters where I least expected them depreciatory observations made as to the inferiority of the merchant cruiser, on the ground that it would not be a match for a war vessel of the same size. Of course they are not a match for a war vessel of the same size; if they were there would be no object in having war cruisers. But they will be more than a match for any cruiser of the same character, and in all those movements of dogging the footsteps of a foreign cruiser embarrassing a foe, and keeping touch with a squadron that has broken blockade, they will be absolutely invaluable. I advocate the extension of the system on still higher grounds. The discipline of the mercantile marine is every year improving, and I believe it is very much to the advantage alike of the mercantile marine and of the Navy that they should be brought together, and I trust the House will always insist on that being one of the primary features of Admiralty policy. I turn now to the third question, on which there has been a great deal of agitation, and particularly in the neighbourhood of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), namely, the question of local defence, and I will only deal with that portion of it which is known as the floating defence, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War 1188 will be able to give an explanation in regard to the land defences. Now, we asked the commercial ports to co-operate with us in the discharge of this duty, and they willingly complied. The primary duty of the Navy, in my judgment, is to prevent attacks being made upon the commercial ports. Their secondary duty is to co-operate with the land forces in the event of an attack. Now the gentlemen we asked to co-operate in that secondary duty attached to that co-operation conditions which would have fettered us in the discharge of our primary duty. They wished us to station certain war vessels at different ports and leave them there in time of war. We could not assent to such an arrangement, because if we made it in time of peace it would not be worth anything in time of war. There is some limit to the amount of money for naval purposes which Parliament can vote, and the more that money is locked up in vessel's stationed at different ports of the coast, the less remains for the general defence of the country and the Empire. If our naval supremacy were seriously impaired no system of local defence, however efficient, would give protection to the country. On the other hand, if our supremacy is maintained, no serious attack will be made upon these ports. We were asked to provide material in the shape of ships and guns fur those ports, which were to be manned by Naval Volunteers. Now, ships and gunscosta great deal of money, and being complicated machines they require a complete training on the part of the personnel before they can be properly handled, and in my judgment, it would be a sheer waste of money and power to spend large sums in supplying these ships to be manned by comparatively untrained men. The Volunteer system has worked well so far as the land forces are concerned; it has become a fairly effective Reserve at a small cost, bat I cannot say quite the same of the Naval Volunteer system. I admire the self-sacrifice and the patriotism which animate the members of that force in going through the tests which the Admiralty imposes. But the great bulk of the Naval Volunteers are not seafaring men. They know little or nothing of gunnery; they have also to get their sea legs on and become seamen. It is impossible for any volunteer to sustain the strain and 1189 test of such a training. I do not want to have any force which is merely a force upon paper and which has no assigned duties to perform in our system of national and naval defence; and at present our Naval Volunteers are not available for land purposes; they are not under the Secretary of State for War, and from their inability to go through the necessary training they are not available for sea purposes. I have a proposal to make, and take this opportunity of mentioning it. There is in all these commercial ports a considerable number of small vessels—tugs, passenger steamers, and others—which are quite strong enough to carry a modern gun of considerable size. These are manned by captains and men who know every inch of the coast and the water in the neighbourhood. You have there the very material you want in time of war. I am quite ready to consider a proposition if the ports would co-operate, by which the Admiralty would discuss with them the terms of a capitation grant for men and some assistance towards the hire of vessels which may be passed as efficient, the Admiralty supplying the inspection and instruction, and the guns and material. I believe in this way that we should get in each locality a good nucleus of small vessels—an effective and respectable flotilla manned by seafaring men. I make the suggestion, because I do not want to shut the door to any self-sacrificing patriotism developed in the Naval Volunteers; but I do want to get some better return for our money than we now get. Well now, Sir, I have completed my Statement and I have only one more word to say. The House, I think, will gather from the nature of the details, as well as from the principles which I have enunciated, that our scheme is the result of a somewhat slow and laborious investigation. We have been many months at work on this scheme. In one sense we had to embody all the requirements of the Navy. We had then so to adjust them and to spread them over a series of years that we might not make too great a demand on any particular class of article which is difficult of production and might arrest our progress and prevent our shipbuilding from proceeding with rapidity. We have turned this scheme over and over again, and looked at it from different points of view. We 1190 believe that if the House assents to our proposals and the provisions contained in this Bill founded on the resolution which will shortly be read from the Chair—we believe that we can complete this scheme at the cost we have given and in the given time. There is no branch of the Service or any want of the Service which, we believe, has been overlooked. Therefore our scheme must stand or fall as a whole. A portion of it cannot be cut out without affecting the efficiency of the scheme as an entire scheme. In asking the Committee to give impartial consideration to these proposals, I am afraid I shall appeal in vain to one portion of this House. There is a powerful section of public opinion in the country, ably represented in this House, which objects to all expenditure on the Army and Navy. I so far sympathize with the object of these hon. Gentlemen as to assure them that, if ever they can get Foreign Governments to adopt their principles, no body of men will rejoice more at their success than the Government for the time-being of Her Majesty. But until they do so succeed, they cannot expect that this country should be the only country to ignore the first instincts of self-preservation. The late Prime Minister on the first night of this Session somewhat cavilled at our definition of our scheme of increased expenditure as coming under the head of precaution rather than of warlike preparation. I think the word "precaution" is a just one, and is capable of being sustained. What do we ask this increase of naval force for? It is for the protection of home and domestic interests alone. Our commerce and our shipbuilding are among the oldest of the hereditary industries of this country. It is through them that many industries have been brought into existence and fostered, and it is by the maintenance of that commerce alone that that huge industrial system of employment, which exists in this country, can be sustained, and which alone enables 35 millions of people to live within these islands. Then, will this scheme lead to increased expenditure on the part of foreign nations? I think not. We do not attempt in any way to vie with foreign nations in the magnitude of their land forces. Our whole social and constitutional system and policy are utterly opposed to any 1191 such competition. But if, on the other hand, there should be any foreign nation which should wish to encroach upon us, or to invade our naval supremacy, we have so framed our scheme as to bring into world-wide prominence the incomparable power of this country and its enormous resources. The scheme which I have laid before the House is one which I do not think all the Dockyards of Europe would complete in he time we propose; and if there are any nations abroad who do wish to compete with us in naval armaments, the mere enunciation of this scheme will show to them the utter futility of their desire. I am aware that in one instance I stand at a great disadvantage, compared with nay predecessor, Lord Northbrook, when he made similar proposals to Parliament. In that year, 1885, a great constitutional question had been settled, and the leaders of both parties of the State were then in conference, in order to give effect to that great change. Now a wide constitutional difference irreconcilably separates on one particular question the two great parties of the State. Still, I have noticed with great satisfaction that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, while admitting their differences with us so far as the methods of the internal government of the Empire are concerned, have over and over again asserted that if any external question should arise affecting either the safety or integrity of the Empire, all these differences would to a large extent be diminished if they did not vanish altogether. Therefore, while I do not ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to in any way abandon their legitimate rights of criticism which their administrative knowledge and political position fully entitle them to make on a scheme of this great magnitude, I feel sure I can rely upon their approaching this question of national defence from a broad and patriotic standpoint, and that they will discuss our scheme upon its merits in a fair and impartial manner. It is in that sense I have endeavoured to explain the scheme, and it is in that sense, I trust, the discussion will be continued and the proposals of Her Majesty's Government considered.
Motion made and Question proposed:That it is expedient that a sum not exceeding £21,600,000 be granted for the purpose of building, arming, equipping, and completing 1192 for sea, vessels for Her Majesty's Navy; and that it is expedient that a sum not exceeding £10,000,000 be issued out of the Consolidated Fund in seven years ending the 31st of March, 1896; and that a sum not exceeding £11,500,000 be issued out of the moneys to be provided by Parliament for the Naval Service during the five financial years ending the 31st of March, 1894.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer rises to speak, there are one or two Questions which I should like to address to him as representing the Government, and which it might be of material benefit to the Government should be answered categorically. I rise rather in the interests of the Government than of the House. I have no doubt it has been telegraphed all over Europe by this time, and that every General and Admiral of every foreign Power is informed that Great Britain is about to spend £21,000,000 on its Navy. That no' doubt is an announcement which may cause some surprise, and in some foreign quarters some consternation. I also think it is an announcement calculated to startle the public mind of this country. But it is for the purpose of preventing the public mind from being over-startled, and of preventing Foreign Powers from being over alarmed, that I rise to make a few interrogatory remarks, addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty has spoken at great length; and the result of the speech and of all the noble sentiments which it contains, and the eloquent appeal which the noble Lord made to the patriotism of both sides of the House to spend money on the defences of the country—the result of it all is, and I think I can prove it, subject to the correction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that for the next four years a sum rather under £1,000,000 is to be added to the Navy Estimates. I will explain to the Chancellor of the Exchequer what I mean. The noble Lord stated that he was going to ask the House to consent to an expenditure in the Dockyards in the next four years on shipbuilding and armaments of £11,500,000. The House will recollect that last year the vote for shipbuilding amounted to £1,250,000, so that, if the noble Lord had stated that he was going to ask the House to pledge itself to maintain the expenditure of last year on 1193 shipbuilding for the next four years, he would have committed the House to an expenditure of £17,000,000.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
I am afraid that the noble Lord does not follow me. I say that if he had asked the House to pledge itself to spend for the next four years the same amount which it spent last year on shipbuilding, the amount which the House would have been committed to would have been £17,000,000.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
I make these remarks for the purpose of eliciting information, and for the sake of correction, if necessary. The sum voted last year under the three heads of the Shipbuilding Vote was £4,250,000. Multiply that by four, and we get £17,000,000. But the noble Lord only proposes to spend upon the Shipbuilding Vote in the next four years £11,500,000. Therefore, as far as the Shipbuilding Vote is concerned, there is a reduction of expenditure made by the noble Lord of the difference between £11,500,000 and £17,000,000—that is to say, a difference of £5,500,000, and consequently a reduction of expenditure upon the Navy to that amount. But to the £11,500,000 we must add the £10,000,000 which the noble Lord proposes to commit the House to at once, making a total expenditure of £21,500,000 as against the £17,000,000, which the Estimates would have shown if the amount of the Shipbuilding Vote for last year had been maintained for four years. So that the actual difference between the expenditure entailed by the proposals of the noble Lord, and the expenditure that would have been entailed if the Estimates of last year had been maintained for four years, is a sum of £4,500,000. The noble Lord, I see, dissents from that view. Well, if it is not the case, it is not owing to any mistake in my figures; it must be owing to some inadequacy of explanation on the part of the First Lord of the Admiralty, which perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to set right. Therefore, I say the difference made by the noble Lord's proposal is a little over a million a year added to the Navy Estimates for the next four years. Against that must be set the appropriation in aid from Australia, and possibly some other appropriations, 1194 which will probably bring the sum to a little under £1,000,000 a year, as far as I gather from the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Then, as I understand it, contracts are to be entered into by the Government to the extent of £10,000,000, and future Parliaments will not be able to get out of those contracts. As to the £11,500,000 which is to be expended in the Dock-yards, it seems to me that it is quite unnecessary for the House to consider that at all. All the House has to consider out of it is the Shipbuilding: Vote this year, and it is utterly impossible for the noble Lord to pledge the House to expend in the future £7,500,000 on shipbuilding. Even if it is done by Statute it has not the smallest binding effect on Parliament; and all discussion now on future expenditure on the Navy under the head of shipbuilding will be entirely supererogatory. I venture to submit to the noble Lord and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it would be a great waste of time. There seems to me to be nothing whatever in the scheme of the noble Lord propounded to-night—interesting though it was in parts—which ought not to have been said in the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty on the Naval Estimates-last year. I can see nothing whatever in what has been laid before the House which in any way differs from the usual annual statement, except that this year we are to have two long speeches instead of one. What I want to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer is this. Is the resolution which has just been read a resolution which is to be embodied in legislation? Obviously if it is, we are committing the House to a series of stages on a matter which is practically beyond our power; we are trying to pledge the House to spend money this year, next year, and the year after, by which time another Parliament may have come into existence, and which may not agree to it. What is the practical use of passing a Bill through its Committee and Third Reading stages which cannot have a binding effect upon future Parliaments? Therefore, Sir, in the interests of the Government, having regard to the effect which this announcement of the expenditure of £21,000,000 may have upon foreign Powers, as well as upon this country, and to reduce that sum to what is its 1195 right proportion for the present year, and in the interests of this House to prevent its time being wasted on a resolution which can have no binding power whatever beyond the actual Session in which the resolution is passed—in these two interests, I do make an appeal to the Government to explain fully: first, the exact amount by which the Naval Estimates for the next four years will be increased; and, second, what possible necessity there is for exceptional legislation on the subject, and whether it cannot be dealt with on the ordinary votes.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am not sorry that the noble Lord has risen, because I perfectly agree with him that it is most important that there should be no misconception whatever either as regards the amounts or as regards the policy of Her Majesty's Government in these proposals. The proposals are no doubt extremely important; but we do not wish them to be alarming. We have no desire that it should go forth all over Europe that there is any disposition on the part of this country to take exaggerated action. But we do desire that it should go forth to all parts of the world that we have the power and the intention of adding during the next four year 70 ships to Her Majesty's Navy. I will deal in the first place with the second part of the remarks which were made by the noble Lord. He says—and of course there is some truth in the view—that we have no binding power over other Parliaments. We do not claim it; but what we desire to do is this—and it is a new departure—we desire to take the House of Commons into our confidence not as regards bits of ships or parts of guns, but so that the House shall have the whole plan before it, and with its eyes open, shall commit itself or not commit itself to the programme which Her Majesty's Government submit. Now I will illustrate for the noble Lord what is our view by pointing out to him what we wish to avoid. We desire to avoid this, that when these ships are once begun, no change of plan on the part of the Admiralty or on the part of a succeeding Government or Parliament should cause the programme to be stopped or delayed unless a decision to alter it were deliberately arrived at by Parliament. We do 1196 not wish to see again what we have seen before—ships being built without their guns being made, and ships being built which take six years to complete, and which, therefore, are not ready when they are wanted, or only when the emergency is past. The Bill will enact that a certain sum of money shall be allocated to this programme year by year. Of course, if in future Parliaments or future Sessions you choose to revoke the programme, you can do so; but it is a different thing to revoke a decision to which the majority of the House will be parties, and to revoke an ordinary decision of Government. It has happened over and over again that in one Session of Parliament a certain amount of money has been voted for ships that were wanted with the intention that they should be completed in a certain time; and that a new House of Commons, or a new Board of Admiralty or the same Board has changed its views, and has delayed the progress of the ships, and therefore put out the whole of the programme which the House had desired to be completed. That is the view which we take. We wish to insure a regular naval programme for years to come. I heard the noble Lord use the phrase, during the speech of my noble Friend, "It is a four years naval programme."
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, it is; but in this shape, that the House commits itself to the plan as a whole. It is our desire—though it is open to right hon. Gentlemen opposite and to the noble Lord to object—not to leave the programme subject to the whims of inventors and to the different exigencies of successive Governments, so that we may not see, what we have seen before, the programme finally not carried out. I wish to insure, as Chancellor of the Exchequer no less than as a Member of the Government, that these ships shall be built straightway, according as they are ordered; that they shall not be changed during the process of their construction; that the Ordnance shall not be revised as every step goes on, as often has been the case; but that we may have the authority of Parliament for insisting that this programme as submitted to the Committee of the House shall be carried out. The noble Lord noticed, I 1197 presume, the passage in the speech of my noble Friend, in which he pointed out that what we wanted to secure was regularity of expenditure over a number of years. If you have no settled programme you cannot do the work so economically. We do not wish that if money is not spent in one year it should be surrendered to the Exchequer, or that the First Lord of the Admiralty should be driven to force the pace of contracts, often at a great waste of money, in order to spend a given sum in a particular year; but we desire that there should be a regularity of expenditure over the whole time. I now come to the other point in the speech of the noble Lord, in which he made a mistake, which he will be glad to have pointed out to him. The noble Lord made a division between the whole of the Shipbuilding Vote and that part of the Vote which is devoted to new construction. He spoke of the addition, made to the Shipbuilding Vote, and he said that the total the Government was going to spend on new ships was £11,500,000.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
What I said was this—that the expenditure last year in the Estimates on the Shipbuilding Vote was £4,280,000. If the noble Lord had proposed to maintain that amount for four years he would have committed the House to spend a sum of £17,000,000, instead of which he proposed that a Committee of this House should vote an expenditure of £11,500,000.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, but the Vote for shipbuilding will go on as heretofore. The sum devoted to new construction will be £11,500,000, and the whole of the rest will go on precisely as before. The noble Lord multiplied the whole of the Vote by four, instead of multiplying only that portion which is devoted to new construction. The noble Lord says "No." I wish to make this thoroughly clear to the House. The Shipbuilding Vote will continue to be £4,500,000. Of that a portion has been hitherto devoted to the repairs and the business of the yards, and a similar portion will continue to be so devoted; the remainder will be £2,600,000, devoted to new construction. The new construction spread over the four or five years would amount to £11,500,000.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
Speaking in 1198 round numbers, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, as I understand, said that Vote 8 this year will be nearly £7,000,000.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
I am sorry I am unable to make it clear to the noble Lord. Well, I must try again. The Shipbuilding Vote is divided practically into two parts. One part is for the ordinary repairs of ships, and for the thousand duties which are performed in the yards independently of new construction. The £4,500,000 which the noble Lord referred to includes those ordinary duties. The sum thus spent is the difference between £2,600,000 and the £4,500,000.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell us in round figures the amount of Vote 8 this year? Then we shall understand it.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
Including contracts for engines for the Dockyards. It includes £2,600,000 for new construction, and that £2,600,000 annually for between four and five years gives 11½ millions. The noble Lord has really introduced an obscurity into this Question which was unnecessary. I must say that a clearer statement than that which the First Lord of the Admiralty made I have seldom listened to. But I rose, not only for the purpose of answering the Questions which were put by the noble Lord, but to explain to the House the general financial proposals of Her Majesty's Government. This conversation, I hope, has cleared up the question of shipbuilding in the yards. The £11,500,000 includes Ordnance, which is to be placed in the Dockyards. It remains to deal with the £10,000,000 which are to stand outside the annual Estimates and which we would call the Naval Defence Fund. It will be extremely interesting, I expect, to the House to know how we propose to raise this money. I will say at once that we do not propose to raise it by a loan. We do not think it would be right to spread the cost of this special effort, which is being made for four or five years, over very many years, and over different generations of taxpayers. We think that if it is the duty of the country to make this effort, the present taxpayers must take upon themselves the burden of carrying through the proposals laid before the House. The House will see that 1199 one of our aims is to have regularity of expenditure. Those ships which are to be paid for out of the £10,000,000 are to be put out to contract, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been at the Admiralty may know how difficult it is to ascertain the precise sum to be spent annually by contractors. We wish to equalize the payment, which should be made every year over a certain number of years. It would be most inconvenient for the purpose of taxation if one year we had to put on a tax in order to meet the large demands which the contractors might make, and immediately afterwards to reduce the taxation and have again to raise it. We, therefore, are anxious to secure a regular payment over a certain number of years to meet this £10,000,000 of expenditure, and the conclusion at which we have arrived—I trust it will not alarm the Committee—is to divide the sum of £10,000,000 by seven, and to pay £1,430,000 annually out of taxation in order to complete the £10,000,000 for which we ask. I will acknowledge that this is a considerable demand that we make on the taxpayers of the country. I think it will be admitted that we have gone very far in endeavouring to meet this large sum in a manner which will show that we do not shrink from appealing to the taxpayers for a purpose which they have so much at heart. The taxpayers of seven years hence will have the whole of those 30 ships which are to be built by contract paid for and ready without having to contribute anything towards them. I hope it will commend itself to the sense of the Committee that seven years is a fair range over which to spread this expenditure. We propose to arrange that £1,430,000 should be paid every year into this fund. If and when the demands of the contractors in a given year exceed the sum of £1,430,000 we propose to borrow on Exchequer Bonds and Treasury Bills the amount necessary to meet the demands of the contractors, and to endeavour in that way to equalize the expenditure year after year. The interest on such temporary loans will be put on the Navy Estimates of the year. In no case would it be a very large sum. It is generally not in the first and second years that the demands are largest, but rather in the third or fourth year; and I do not think there will be any con- 1200 siderable burden thrown on the Estimates in respect of interest. I can assure the House that when the proper time comes to defend our proposals, from whatever quarter they are attacked, I shall not shrink from doing so, because I have not assented lightly to this expenditure. I feel that it is a very heavy responsibility, which, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I have taken in assenting to so large a burden being placed on the people. The Navy Estimates will be increased by £600,000 a year, and there will be paid annually towards the £10,000,000 £1,430,000. We shall ask the taxpayers of the country to pay £1,400,000 extra for the next seven years over and above the sum of £600,000 extra for the next four years for the Shipbuilding Vote. The House will see that we have not shrunk from trying to meet the demands made upon us by an appeal to the patriotism and the self-sacrificing spirit of those in whose interest we believe this large outlay is necessary.
§ * MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I think, Sir, after the two statements we have now heard that we see exactly where we are. If I understand correctly we shall have to raise additional taxation for the purposes of the Navy to the extent of rather more than £2,000,000 a year for the next four or five years, to be reduced, if the Navy Estimates allow, by £600,000 for two years more. I think, therefore, that when the First Lord of the Admiralty said that the scheme looked rather to a reduction than to an increase in the naval charge he was a little sanguine as to what would come from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few minutes afterwards. I assume to-night that we shall not express any opinion whatever in reference to this scheme. It has been customary on these occasions to ask information from the Government as to details which have not been clearly or carefully expressed; but I think now we understand the proposal perfectly clearly, and that there is no misconception as to its main outlines. I wish to ask one or two questions without any opinion on the merits of the proposal. I should like to understand this. The noble Lord said that 70 ships are proposed to be added to the Navy within the next four-and-a-half years. How many ships per contra will become 1201 obsolete in all probability, or will for other reasons pass out of the service of the Navy during the time? The number in some years has been 10, 12, and even 13, and, therefore, it will be well to know what will be the net addition to the Navy under the scheme of the noble Lord. Then I also think it would be well if the House could have the two statements of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in print.
§ * MR. CHILDERS
The Bill will not give the House the amount of information needed; and, therefore, I hope, in accordance with almost invariable custom, there will be no objection on the part of the Government to put before the House a Memorandum showing in detail the plan of the noble Lord I think that that is absolutely necessary for purposes of effective discussion. Then there is another subject on which perhaps a Return is desirable. The noble Lord has described the general effect of Lord Northbrook's scheme. I think it would expedite the general discussion if we could have the outcome of that scheme before us. The House ought to have a Return laid before it showing precisely the whole of Lord. Northbrook's scheme as worked out by the Government, so that we may be able to compare the working of that scheme with the working of the scheme of the present First Lord of the Admiralty. The two plans follow each other as proposals for bringing the strength of the Navy up to a certain point, and without some such Returns as I have indicated, it will be impossible for us thoroughly to understand the effect of the scheme. It would be of no use going into the details of the noble Lord's plan at present, but as soon as any Questions have been asked and answered on this occasion which may be necessary to elucidate the proposals of the noble Lord, a future day should be fixed for the discussion of the scheme as a whole, when the House may be thoroughly prepared to deal with it. I will only say that the proposal of the noble Lord is an extremely important one, and I trust that every hon. Member will satisfy himself thoroughly about it and understand all its details. For these reasons I forbear 1202 to offer the smallest piece of criticism upon it on the present occasion.
§ * LORD C. BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
Mr. Chairman, as I have taken a somewhat prominent part in the country on the Question of the Naval Defences, I wish to say that I am not now going to discuss the noble Lord's scheme, but rather to state my own position as to these matters. I have often endeavoured to bring before the country the state of the Fleet and given my opinion of what addition to it is necessary, basing my opinion on statistics, facts, and arguments. But in every statement that I have made I have always put this point before the House and the country—that whatever addition, large or small, we make to the Fleet, it should be done in a business-like way and upon a definite principle. Now I am sorry to say that the noble Lord has not brought forward any clear and definite reason for what is proposed by the Government. I cannot for a moment object to an addition to the Fleet, but I think what is proposed is very much of a phantom addition. It is all very well for the noble Lord to say that he is going to add 70 ships to the Fleet, but he must put down what is the waste of the Fleet and what ships are obsolete. He ought to tell us what is the reason that the Government come down and asked for this extension of the Fleet. I have always held that the requirements of the country should be made out by the Cabinet. They should call on the experts to say how our trade and commerce and our import of raw material is to be defended, and the experts should give their reasons for what they recommend. I do not say that the First Lord of the Admiralty should go by what the experts say, but the First Lord ought to be directly responsible for why he does not do so. In my humble opinion this addition to the Fleet will be like that under Lord Northbrook, unless there is somebody made responsible for the ships not being as they ought to be. At this moment there is nobody responsible for the proposed addition to the Fleet being enough to bring the Navy up to the proper standard. I wish to get a definite basis to work upon. The House ought to be responsible. At present it is not. Take the case of the Estimates On certain Votes coming on the Government say, "We must have these Votes 1203 to-night, because the men are waiting for their money." That is very hard on the supporters of the Government; we are obliged to curtail our debate, and not make our views public. I wish to make the House responsible for the standard of the Fleet, so that we may avoid these periodical scares and panics. In order, therefore, to get a definite basis to work upon I shall on some future occasion move—That in the opinion of this House the Fleet of England should be able to defend its coasts, its commerce, and its trade, to insure the punctual and certain delivery of its supply of food and raw material, as well as to secure the safety of the Colonies against the fleets of two Powers combined.I would go so far as to say that one of those Powers should be France. Let us disabuse our minds of the idea that this is an aggressive step. I have lately had a very interesting cruise about Europe, and have seen some of the most distinguished men in Europe, both soldiers and sailors, and their opinion is that the intention of our Government to increase the Fleet is a friendly idea, showing that we are at least going to look after our own interests. Parties in the House are much divided on the question of Home Rule, but they are not divided on the question that the country ought to be properly defended. But in my opinion it is not a wise method—it is a method which the Government will wreck themselves upon if they bring proposals of this sort forward without giving definite reasons why they do it. I do not care whether it is a question of a hundred millions or two millions, or of 70 ships or of four ships. So little do I wish to aggravate the panic or scare that I would honestly prefer to wait another year and do the thing in a proper, business-like manner, and let the people understand how the defences stand, than to proceed in a haphazard way, without any definite reason being given to the public why these proposals are made.
§ SIR E. REED (Cardiff)
It is not my intention to discuss the proposal of the Government to-night, but I desire to ask a Question on a point which I consider to be one of very considerable importance. Both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord of the Admiralty have pointed out the great importance of having a settled pro- 1204 gramme with regard to ships. The First Lord of the Admiralty has said that the whole of the ships to be built by contract are to be at once, or as soon as practicable, contracted for. Is that statement to apply to the Ordnance for the ships? It certainly would be most extraordinary if, when the character of Ordnance is changing almost daily, we were to commit ourselves to the armament, at any rate to the minor armament, of all these vessels. I am at a loss to understand why we should do it. With regard to the general question, it appears to me that we are in a most favourable position for discussion. A Resolution has been proposed tonight, the debate on which, I understand, is to be adjourned. Then it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill which, of course, will have to be read a First, Second, and Third time. In addition, the Navy Estimates are to be presented, so that there will be ample opportunity offered for discussion of the programme of the Government.
§ * MR. ATKINSON (Boston)
Mr. Chairman, I am very glad to find that the criticism of this scheme has come from the Government side of the House—from the two noble Lords who have just preceded me. That presages the fact that this Question is to be taken out of the rut of party politics in the same way as the Temperance Question was a short time ago. I feel there will be no fear of any Government wrecking itself upon this Question because "none will be for Party, but all be for the State." Personally, having no Party ties at all, having been for more than 40 years connected with the shipping of this country, I feel justified in expressing an opinion on the plan which has been so plainly and ably explained to the House by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Some of the Hon. Members who have spoken have complained that they are unable to understand the Government's scheme. Now, I think it is perfectly clear, and I believe that the public and the nation generally will understand what is proposed, and will look upon the scheme as a very moderate one under the circumstances and one deserving approval. It is no answer to complain that past First Lords of the Admiralty have made bad bargains. It is only the duty of 1205 the Ministry in power to place the Navy on a proper footing. If we had annual Parliaments, as some hon. Members opposite desired, the First Lord of the Admiralty would be continually rearranging his Estimates in order that he might appeal to the public for support, on the ground of economy, on the Administration going out and wishing to come in again. But the present First Lord of the Admiralty and the Chancellor of the Exechequer have done nothing of the kind. They have proposed a plan which they believe it is absolutely necessary to carry into effect in the interests of the nation, and I am sure that their conduct will meet with universal approval. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am proud to say, has nothing to lose by his proposal; he is not likely to lose in popularity, and even if he does, he can afford to do so, seeing what a great success he had last year with his Stock Conversion Scheme. I am thoroughly satisfied with the proposal, and I believe the country also will be satisfied with it. There are however, one or two points, to which I wish to call the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the readiness of merchants and ship-owners to organize themselves as volunteers for coast defences. Some of these men who have proved ready to give their time, money and labour in this cause are very dissatisfied with the manner in which they have been treated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by those who have charge of the public purse. I hope that the Government in connection with this matter will see what additional assistance they can give these men. The other point to which I wish to refer is the recruiting for the Navy. I have for 40 years been connected with Industrial Schools, and I have often found that some of the boys are anxious to go into the Navy after they have for a time been in training ships, but the Admiralty fail to appreciate the difference between boys committed to the Industrial Schools, and boys committed to Reformatory Schools. They do not seem to realize the fact that boys might be sent to an Industrial School without ever having associated with criminals, or without ever having been in prison. I hold that the Admiralty ought to give such boys an opportunity of passing into 1206 the Navy, especially as we know from experience in connection with the Southampton training ship at Hull that better boys can not be got anywhere. On behalf of the mercantile and shipping community, with which I have been connected for 30 or 40 years, and for which I have done public work during the whole of that time, I wish again to say that I hope the Government scheme will meet with great success. It is the duty of hon. Members to strengthen the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the First Lord of the Admiralty, so as to enable them to perform their duties without Party bias and to place the Navy in such a position as to fit it to defend the privileges of this great nation. I hope that more will be done in the future than has been done in the past in the direction of safe-guarding our commerce. I think the Government deserve credit for the arrangements they made for subsidising the Cunarders and the P. and O. boats. The First Lord of the Admiralty has expressed surprise that he has not received the support in some quarters which he might have expected. I think, however, the mistake has been in not subsidizing more of the private shipowners. Employment is quite as acceptable to a private shipowner as to a Company, and many of them have vessels most suitable for the work. I shall support the scheme from one end to the other, and whenever it is brought before the House I trust that it will be carried by a great majority.
§ * MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
The object with which I rise is not for the present to criticise the proposals of the Government, but, if possible, to obtain a little more information in regard to them. Personally, I feel greatly indebted to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord E. Churchill) for the questions he has put to the First Lord of the Admiralty; but I wish to know whether we are really to understand that the taxpayers will be called upon to expend £1,430,000 for seven years, and £600,000 for another four years?
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
Let me clear up the point at once. The taxpayers are to be called upon to pay towards the £10,000,000 £1,430,000 annually for the next seven years, and on the ordinary Naval Estimates our pro- 1207 posals will involve an increase of £600,000 for the next four years—not for a further four years beyond the seven, but for the next four years. Therefore, in the next four years, there will be an increase of expenditure amounting to about £2,000,000, and in the three years succeeding an increase of £1,430,000.
§ * MR. CREMER
One other Question I desire to address to the Government. We have had statements made on many hands as to the relative strength of the Navies of foreign countries. I presume the Government are in possession of the actual facts, and I feel that it would greatly simplify matters if the Government would favour the House with the facts at their disposal. Within the last few weeks an important statement from the Marine Department in France has been laid before the Chamber of Deputies. This, for instance, might very properly be laid before the House.
§ * LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I think that if the hon. Gentleman will refer to a Return granted last year upon the motion of the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford) he will there obtain all the information he desires.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
I desire to ask one or two Questions, because I do not feel quite clear as to the statement made this evening. I want it to be made out exactly to what extent we are going to spend the money of the taxpayers in addition to the ordinary expenditure under the Naval Estimates. I do not think we have exactly got that as yet. We have got it very clearly as far as the Dockyards are concerned, but not with regard to contract work. I understand £10,000,000 is to be spent, and that the repayment of that money is to be spread over seven years. But is that £10,000,000 to be spent on contract ships in addition to what is ordinarily spent upon the Contract Vote? If that is not so, how are we to guarantee that any money will be asked for by the Admiralty under the Contract Vote? If nothing is asked for by them we shall be only spending £10,000,000 in seven years, which would not amount to anything more than we have been spending hitherto. Now when the noble Lord at the commencement of his speech laid down the 1208 standard he did—which I think is a very fair standard, and one generally accepted in the country and in this House as a fair one—I came to the conclusion that it was not an extravagant proposal. Indeed, I should rather say it is a very moderate one. I mean, that the Fleet of this country ought to be equal at the very least to two of the largest fleets in Europe. I thought he was then going to tell the House to what extent it was necessary to add to our Fleet to put it in that condition. I understood him—and I think the Committee must have understood him when he first spoke—to be of opinion that we require 70 ships to put us in that position. There is not one of the experts who have been putting their views before the country lately who have taken even such a moderate estimate as that. Are we to understand from the noble Lord that it is necessary for us to have 70 ships of the kind he describes to put us in the position of being equal to the fleets of two other Powers? But these 70 ships are to be built in four years, and meanwhile other Governments are going on with their shipbuilding. I should like to know this. If the Government had not come down with this programme, how many ships would be built in these four years under the ordinary Estimates? The extra expenditure is to be £600,000 for four years on contract work. What is that in excess of the ordinary Contract Vote? We have not got the figures yet. We are told that the sum of 10 millions is to be spent in four years; but are we to go on spending each year the ordinary amount of late years, on building ships by contract? Let us have it stated clearly; it is a point that has been omitted. Will the Government, so far as they can, pledge themselves—give an assurance—that the ordinary expenditure on the Contract Vote shall go on for the next four years in addition to the 10 millions on extraordinary contract shipbuilding?
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford Central)
Will the noble Lord say what increase his proposals will make under the head of Dockyard artificers?
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
It appears to me from the figures that it will involve a much larger increase, for I understand 10 millions are to be given 1209 for contract work and 11 millions for 38 ships to be built in the Dockyards. It appears to me this will involve a large increase in the number of artificers, and if this is to go on for four years and then cease, it will involve a great displacement of labour that will not be advantageous to the Dockyards or the Admiralty.
§ * LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I am asked if the 10 millions is to be an addition to the certain sum annually voted under sub-head of Votes 8, relating to contract work. The Shipbuilding Vote is under three heads—personal, material and stores, and contract. Contract work means hulls, or engines, that are put out for contract or manufacture. The Dockyards do not make their own engines—they are put out to contract. Under this programme no fresh hulls are to be put out to contract, except those within the sum of 10 millions. But vessels which are built in the Dockyards will require engines, and these will be put out to contract under this sub-head of the Navy Estimates, a larger amount of construction going on in the Dockyards. All the rest of the work to be put out to contract will be included in the 10 millions. Of course, as to how much we shall gain under the ordinary course of Estimates depends upon the height of the Estimates; but, assuming we keep the Estimates where they are now, the amount of contract work will be £620,000. The increase will be twofold—that upon the engines for the Dockyard-built vessels and that included in the 10 millions.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
That is a matter of opinion. Of course, there will be a certain amount of wastage, but, as the right hon. Gentleman is probably aware, it is much less in our ironclads owing to the nature of the metal than in those of other countries.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I think the noble Lord has estimated that 30 or 40 vessels may be expected to become obsolete in four years.
§ * LORD. G. HAMILTON
Small vessels; not big ships, but gun boats, sloops, &c. As to a vessel being obsolete, of course, it is matter of opinion.
§ MR. E. W. DUFF
I understand that the regular Navy Estimates will be taken on Thursday. When will they be presented to the House?
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I do not think this conversation should be allowed to close without a protest from those of us who object to any increased expenditure whatever. Whatever may be the merits of the arithmetical calculation we have listened to, it is clear there is to be a considerable increase in the charges for the Navy, and against this some of us will hereafter take the opportunity of protesting, because we think that amply sufficient money has been spent on the Navy, if it had been expended honestly, fairly, and practically, to give us a Navy equal to those of any two nations in the world. We find by experience that the more money is given the more it is wasted. Over and over again there have been special grants of 10 or 12 millions, and we have never had anything to show for them but what are called Fleets on paper. I never hear the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) speaking without being prompted by considerations of personal sympathy; and I would agree with all he says, if it were only possible. There was one thing he said this evening that I can quite agree with—that the Government have not given sufficient reason for the expenditure they demand. But I will not enlarge on that now. I only rose to give a distinct intimation that we shall protest against any increased expenditure whatever—and that, not because we wish to see the country in danger, not because we are less patriotic than hon. Members opposite, but because we have worked out—in our own mind, at any rate—a policy of our own, which would ensure the safety of the country, and ensure, at the same time, that all this money wasted in armaments, which I hope to God will prove utterly useless, would go into the mouths, the pockets, the homes of the people.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
As I understand the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he contemplates an addition of taxation of £1,400,000 a year for seven years, and of £600,000 for four years; and these two sums 1211 together come to something under £12,500,000. Now, as I understand, this is the whole of the additional burden the Government contemplate over their scheme. I think that it is somewhat unfortunate that the noble Lord should speak about £21,500,000, as if it were in addition to the ordinary expenditure. Had this been made clear, there would not have been the difficulty that arose between the noble Lord the Member for Paddington and the First Lord of the Admiralty. Am I right in supposing that the addition to the ordinary expenditure will be £12,400,000?
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
This is not the time to go fully into the subject, and all I will do is to cordially say "ditto" to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton). I listened very attentively to the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty—a very able statement it was—expounding his intentions, though some of us did not seem quite to understand it, and there was one point the noble Lord altogether omitted. He did not give any reason why the country should be in such a position that it now requires all this increase of expenditure upon the Navy, nor did he give us any statement leading to the belief that any threatened danger called for this vast expenditure. I think the increase in itself is a much greater danger than anything that is likely to come to us from abroad. I can assure the noble Lord that when the right opportunity comes—when the next stage of the Bill comes forward, or when the legitimate and proper time comes, he shall receive the most determined opposition to his proposal from below the Gangway.
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
Can the noble Lord give us an approximate estimate of how many ironclads will go out of commission during the interval? I think he said 40 ships; that will leave only 30 as additions.
§ * LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
My answer was given off-hand. I was speaking from memory only. Of course whether an ironclad is obsolete or not is very much a matter of opinion. Certainly a number will be considered obsolete, but if there is any desire for it, I will see if I can provide the information.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
The noble Lord enumerated a number of ships which would require new boilers and new expansion engines; will the noble Lord say whether the ships, the names of which he read out as about to receive new boilers this year or next, are all or any of them going to receive new engines this year?
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
The Minotaur, the Achilles, and the Superb are about to receive new boilers, the Thunderer, Devastation, and Rupert new boilers and engines.
§ * MR. CREMER
May I ask when it is intended that the Question will be submitted for our decision, because I may say that it is intended by some of us below the Gangway—unless the initiative is taken above the Gangway, to meet the proposal with distinct opposition in the form of an Amendment.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I said earlier in the evening that we could not ask the House to take it into consideration before this day fortnight. Ample notice shall be given.
§ * LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
Are there any arrangements for putting new boilers in the coast defence vessels of the Hydra class?
§ * MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
In reference to the question as to vessels becoming obsolete, I have Returns here for the four years 1884 to 1887, and there I find the number of vessels struck off, small and great, are 80, a larger number than the additions under the noble Lord's scheme.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
Of course ships are struck off after they have been inefficient for a long time, and meanwhile many others have been added.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday, March 21.