§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [6th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months,"—(Mr. Labouchere) instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ COLONEL HILL (Bristol, S.)
When my remarks were interrupted last night, I suggested, in reply to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler), that the House and the country were much more interested in the question of the increase and maintenance of the Navy than in any dissertation, however learned, upon constitutional practice. I had indicated that the highest authorities in the Navy had been consulted, and that there was a consensus of opinion as to the insufficiency of the Navy. I also asserted that naval experts were satisfied that the vessels proposed to be built were a judicious compromise of the various important but necessarily conflicting qualities required in a man-of-war. I added that the extent of the additions was satisfactory, and I expressed an opinion, which I formed while sitting last year upon the Naval Estimates Committee, that the present Board of Admiralty are not "profligate wasters," but clever businsss men, in whose hands we may safely trust the administration of the Navy and the expenditure of the money they asked for. If the questions of number and design be satisfactory, there only remains for consideration the economic cost of production; and upon this mattter I think the public mind should be satisfied with the guarantee afforded by Her Majesty's dockyards being placed in direct competition with the private dockyards of the country, and that upon fairly equal terms, inasmuch as the vessels are to be built right off, and under this Bill they will not be subject to the increase of expense caused by delay and uncertainty. I 1369 venture to say that nothing could be more fatal to economy than the present system of insisting that the whole of the sums voted should be spent within the financial year. That appears to me to be a direct encouragement to needless waste and extravagance. Work to be carried economically must be carried on with evenness and regularity. Frantic efforts to spend a certain sum of money within a given time can only lead to waste. If the dockyards are unhampered, I see no reason why they should not produce vessels as cheaply as in private yards, and so place the legitimate trade profits of the builder into the pockets of the British taxpayer. I think the First Lord has stated in a straightforward manner what is his standard of an efficient and sufficient Navy. He requires an increase of 70 vessels within a period of four and-a-half years, involving a total cost of £21,000,000, or an addition to ordinary shipbuilding outlay of £11,000,000. If this be not so much as some expected, I see no reason for dissatisfaction. This does not seem to me a large sum to pay for the insurance of our 680 millions of imports and exports and the 100 millions worth of ships in which this enormous business is carried. The maintenance of our food supply and the preservation of our national dignity and existence. My noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty properly pointed out, in his introductory speech, that the incomparable resources of the country will be brought into such prominence as to show foreign countries how impossible it is to compete with us. That, I think, is a fact which will tend to preserve and maintain that peace which we all desire to see maintained. I think that the two propositions put forward by Lord Rosebery at the banquet of the London Chamber of Commerce in February have been fulfilled; that the necessity for the increase of the Navy has been shown, and that we have an ample guarantee that the money will be judiciously expended. Therefore, to use his words, I hope no Party. worthy the name of a Party, will refuse to grant the money. I feel called upon to give Her Majesty's Government my best support, confident that in doing so I shall have the hearty support of my constituents, and especially of the work- 1370 ing classes of which they are so largely composed.
§ *SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)
The hon. Member for Bristol seems to consider that the evidence given before the Committee on the Navy Estimates last year has satisfied all reasonable men that the Board of Admiralty and its dependents are are not profligate wasters. Now, I have never gone so far as to say that they are. On the contrary, in their conduct of business during the last three years they have effected a marked improvement and a real reform in the administration of the Navy, which had previously been extremely lax. But I see no reason why still further reforms should not be made. I should like to know if the evidence taken by the Committee upstairs has satisfied my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bristol (Colonel Hill) that the statements now made by the responsible officers of the Admiralty are reconcileable with the remarkable statements which were then made by experts employed by the Admiralty. I did not gather from my hon. and gallant Friend, either last night or to-day, that the statements made by Admiral Sir Arthur Hood before the Committee, and the statements which he subsequently made to the Board, have sufficiently attracted his attention. At all events, I perceived no indication of that in the remarks with which he has favoured the House. I cannot help thinking that the debates which have taken place upon the Naval Defence Bill have brought out prominently two important points. First, the entire absence of argument or reasoning in favour of these propsals; second, the difficulty of accepting these proposals in face of the conflicting opinions previously expressed to us by responsible officials. The Chancellor of the Exchequer assured us the other night that it was the desire of the Government to take the House into their confidence, and yet I find that they have not taken us at all into their confidence. We have had no reason assigned for their extraordinary change of opinion, nor have we received any explanation of the causes which have brought it about. The remarkable statements which were made by the First Naval Lord before the Committee last year, contrasted with those which have been made quite recently, will be recollected by those who 1371 have studied these questions. Some of the gallant Admiral's answers to the Committee were certainly given in an ungracious and discourteous manner, particularly answers which he gave to the noble Lord opposite. That was a matter which attracted our attention at the time, although no particular notice was taken of it; but I cannot allow a discussion of this kind to take place without expressing my views upon the matter. I wish to draw attention to the present and the former opinions on this matter—not of the noble Lord, those have been already adverted to— but of Sir A. Hood. On the 13th of June, nearly a year ago, Sir Arthur Hood expressed his opinion as to the adequacy and sufficiency of our ships. This was extracted from him, not without a difficulty, by the hon. Member for Preston. He was asked over and over again if he was satisfied with the number of ships, not in reference to peace, but war, and his opinion undoubtedly was that the country was adequately supplied with battle ships. That fact was specially brought out in Question 4,228 and subsequent questions, particularly 4,234, 4,326, 4,240, 4,241, and 4,242. When Sir Arthur Hood was asked last year whether he was satisfied with the adequacy of the Estimates, he said he was satisfied with everything except the provision made for fast cruisers. He also said he was satisfied with the relative number of armour-clad ships compared with those of other Powers on two conditions—namely, that we were to continue to build battle ships to take the place of those that become obsolete; and secondly, that in the event of other Powers laying down more ironclads, we should at the same time lay down vessels which should be more powerful and faster. Sir Arthur Hood is especially responsible, as the First Naval Lord of the Admiralty, for giving advice to the Government of the day. Well, Sir, we have since ascertained from him what was the worth of all this evidence. In a remarkable speech, made after dinner, on the 12th of April, and perhaps of a more frank character than his utterances upstairs before the Committee, he stated that so far back as the 1st of July last year, —that is less than three weeks from the time he was making those statements to the Commtttee—the scheme, which is now put before us for increasing the 1372 strength of the Navy was in his mind and was absolutely in print. I noticed last night that the hon. Member for Eccleshall (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) stated that it was nine months since this scheme, or rather the memorandum on which it was founded was absolutely brought out by the First Naval Lord. Well, all I can say is that it is a most disingenuous proceeding. If it is not the First Naval Lord must be a singularly foolish man, because within less than three weeks of the date he told us he was satisfied with the battle ships of the Navy he came forward with a memorandum of his own, proposing that we should add eight battleships to the Navy.. The Government, in these circumstances, have placed us in a most difficult position. I myself am not at all inclined to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere). I am inclined to consider that it is reasonable to suppose our fleet is not in a sufficiently strong position; and there is strong evidence to indicate that this is the opinion held by many Naval officers who are-quite competent to form an opinion. What I protest against is the Government coming to us in this way, and asking us for an enormous sum of money without producing a single argument in support of their demand. I listened very carefully to what was said by the hon. Member for Eye, and he certainly never brought forward a single argument in favour of increasing our Navy drawn from the fact that there had been a change in the relative positions of the Powers of Europe and ourselves since the time those utterances of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord G. Hamilton) and the first Naval Lord were made last year. I contend that if we are justified in making this great addition to our Naval strength, it must be in consequence of something that has occurred in the position of foreign Powers or in the policy of foreign Powers. Or else those who are responsible for the adequacy of our Navy have been entirely behind hand up to the present time, if, we are to believe, they are even now able to understand what are the requirements of the country. When I take up the Return given to us in consequence of the application of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), I find in it quite sufficient to induce me to believe that 1373 the Government do not at all know what those requirements are or what they are doing; that they have not set before us at all a satisfactory programme, that they do not know what they will be called upon to do in case of war, and that they don't know what the requirements of the country are or in what position of inferiority or supremacy we may find ourselves with reference to foreign navies. When the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) referred to figures he was taken up by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, who produced figures quite different from those contained in the Return printed for us subsequent to the 29th March last, and which must have been in the mind of the Admiralty if they have got such a thing as a mind, when they brought forward their programme. The hon. Member for Eccleshall says England is to have in 1894, 77 armoured vessels, including belted cruisers. That is the same number as is given in the Return; but he goes on to say that France will only have 44, and the Return gives 48. I can quite understand the number for France being understated. But how is it possible if the Admiralty is worth its salt they can have been overstated: and yet that is the Civil Lord's assertion. When, too, we look at the Return with a little more curious eye, we see that the position the Government have taken up is altogether unsatisfactory. This Return, which they say shows us what will be the position of our Navy in 1894 as compared with the positions of certain foreign Powers, contains a footnote which states that the list of ships for England and Germany includes the programmes projected up to 1894; but that the lists for France, Russia, and Italy include only the building programmes up to the present year. And yet this statement is brought before us to show us how, at the end of a certain time, after spending a large sum in a rather unconstitutional manner, we shall find ourselves with a sufficient force to confront any two naval Powers.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord G. HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
I would point out that if we can build 50 per cent faster than other nations, our ships must be finished sooner than those of other nations.
§ *SIR W. PLOWDEN
But this is a proposal under which the country is to 1374 be placed in a position of maritime supremacy. It is put before us as a complete programme, but is no more complete than any other which has been presented to Parliament. I hope that in Committee we may be able to prevent some of the proposed dangerous deviations from the usual practice of Parliament, which deviations are not at all necessary. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Hill) said he was in favour of allowing the Admiralty liberty to refrain from necessarily spending the sums voted during the year. My right hon colleague (Mr. Forster) has already indicated that this can he done without resorting to the Government proposal. It seems to me utterly absurd to suppose that we cannot enter into contracts for the building of the ships that may be required, or lay down the ships to be built in our dockyards, without altering the whole of our constitutional procedure with regard to the assignment of funds. I sincerely trust the Government will see their way to making some concession in this matter. I think they are hound to give us a certain amount of information in regard to the inquiries they have made, and which have satisfied them that they are now asking us for all that is necessary to bring the country to the naval position which it is desirable. I do not believe there are 20 Members who would protest against an expenditure on the naval defences of this country which the responsible officers of the Crown indicated as absolutely necessary. But the responsible officers of the Crown have held their hands in this matter and held their tongues too. They tell us it is necessary to spend this large sum, but they do not tell us why. That is, in my opinion, a childish way of dealing with the question, and we have a right to ask for the arguments which have satisfied them on the subject. I trust the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty (Lord G. Hamilton), to whom I am willing to give every credit for his efforts to promote economy and to reform the administration of the Navy, will think better of the decision he has come to. and that he will agree to the appointment of a Select Committee to complete the work which was only half done by the Committee of last year, hut which, nevertheless, as the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty intimated, has been of great use to him in his 1375 efforts in the direction of economy and reform of administration.
§ *SIR J. PULESTON (Devonport)
My hon. Friend opposite, whilst professing a desire to support the Admiralty in all their requirements, at the same time makes a speech which will render it as difficult as possible to carry the measures they propose. He says he does not think there are 20 Members who would refuse the money necessary to render the Navy efficient. All I can say is, that already 20 Gentlemen on the other side of the House have spoken in a sense very adverse indeed to the making of any addition to the Navy. And right hon. Gentlemen have protested against the way in which it is proposed to raise the money. I think, however, on reflection, it must be admitted that it is necessary to provide for a permanent policy, and that without such a permanent policy you cannot have efficient naval construction. Personally, I should have preferred that the amount necessary should have been raised by means of a loan. A loan of £50,000,000 would only have meant by a charge of the million and a-half sterling a-year, the saving arising from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Conversion Scheme might very well have been devoted to this object. By appropriating a considerable sum of money to make our Navy as strong as it should be we are insuring the interests of the country, protecting our food supply, and ministering to the interests of commerce. The hon. Member for Haggerstone (Mr. Cremer) the other day demanded that members of the Services should not have seats in this House. Gentlemen opposite are always talking about the extension of the Franchise, but it is evident that when it suits them they desire to restrict the Franchise.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerstone)
I did not say that because men were in the Services they should be excluded from this House. What I said was, that the time would probably arrive when the nation would object to Members sitting here and practically voting their own salaries.
§ *SIR J. PULESTON
Well, the hon. Member seemed to desire to exclude the Services from this House. The hon. Member went on to speak in favour of making a clean sweep of all the permanent officials of the Admiralty. I 1376 would ask, how could the Admiralty, or any other Government Department, be administered without permanent officials? Then he said that the measure was unnecessary, because we had no foe. I think if the hon. Member had been here during previous Parliaments, he would probably have seen that the result then of not being prepared was the wasting of millions of money. To have a strong Army and Navy is the surest safeguard of peace. Some of us do not think this Bill goes far enough, but we recognize the fact that half a loaf is better than no bread. This is a movement in the right direction, and it would, I think, be very remarkable if the House did not pass the Bill with the greatest unanimity. One hon. Member said there was no justification for the measure, because the Queen's speech spoke of the maintenance of peace. We, however, ought to be prepared for every emergency, and soon Queen's speeches would cease to speak peace if our Navy was not strong. Most of those who have spoken from the opposite side of the House have protested not only against the form and character of this Bill, but against raising any money at all for strengthening and promoting the efficiency of the Navy. I am not going to take up the time of the House further, but I cannot help expressing an earnest hope that we may come to a conclusion shortly upon this measure. Every day's delay is a matter of considerable consequence, especially having regard to the season of the year at which it is desirable to place ships under contract. As we now know the views of hon. Members opposite, who object to strengthening the Navy in any shape or form, I think the sooner we go to a division the better.
§ *MR. J. SHAW-LEFEVRE (Central Bradford)
Mr. Speaker, I was one of those who abstained from voting on the Resolution on which this Bill is founded, through unwillingness to oppose an absolute veto on any proposal that the Government might make. Even at this stage I frankly say that if the Government had contented themselves with the normal Estimates, providing at the same time means out of the ordinary taxation of the country to meet the increased expenditure, I should hesitate twice or thrice before voting against them. I have always felt that a good deal must 1377 be left in such matters to the responsibility of the Government. After all, the best check on that responsibility, and the only check upon wasteful and extravagant expenditure, is the necessity of providing the means within the year—namely, by an increased taxation, if an increase be necessary. But if once that check is removed, and if you provide for increased expenditure out of the means of future years, and if you make up present expenditure by post obits upon the future, it appears to me that all check upon prudence is thrown away, and you are launched into nn-wise and unnecessary expenditure to an unlimited amount. Now, for my part, I object to the present proposals on two main grounds. The first has reference to finance, and the second to shipbuilding. I object to the financial scheme contained in this Bill, in part because I find that it spreads the expenditure over a few years, that it ties the hands of Parliament by making it a statutory obligation upon the Government to carry to completion the plan of building so large a number of vessels, and that it introduces into the financial arrangements of this country a wholly and totally new principle of a very dangerous character. It withdraws altogether from the control of Parliament the expenditure upon the shipbuilding Vote for the next four or five years. I principally rose for the purpose of pointing out my objection to this scheme from the shipbuilding point of view. That objection is mainly on this ground: it obliges the Admiralty to commence at once, or within a short time, not fewer than 70 vessels. That is what the noble Lord has frequently described as a spasmodic shipbuilding policy, and one which he has frequently denounced in this House as being of a dangerous character. I do not think any Naval Minister has so often, so fully, and so ably denounced that policy as the noble Lord himself. If I remind the House of his previous utterances, it is not, I can assure the House, for the purpose of convicting him of any inconsistency in the matter, but because I thoroughly agree with him in all that he said from that point of view in the past year. I have frequently got up and expressed my agreement with him, and I think the noble Lord will remember that last year he defended himself and his policy 1378 against the attacks made upon both by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone, and when he resisted the proposals of the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone, to commence at once the building of a large number of vessels, I got up immediately after the noble Lord and said I agreed with every single word he had spoken, and I endeavoured to enforce his arguments with some others that occurred to me. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord will acquit me of anything like Party feeling in the matter. I should be extremely glad if I could follow the noble Lord in his present proposals, but I assure him that I cannot conscientiously do so. So far as I know the Goverment have produced no facts whatever, no arguments whatever for their change of policy. Now the delarations of policy which the noble Lord made last year, or during 13 months, were not mere casual observations, the result of the "jog trot" policy which he had inherited from his predecessors; they were the deliberate expressions of a policy formed after careful consideration with his colleagues, and announced not merely once or twice, but on numerous occasions to this House. I have endeavoured to collect these various statements of the noble Lord into certain propositions of policy, taking, as far as I can, the actual words of the noble Lord on different occasions, and I have put them together in a form which indicates a definite policy on the whole subject, and I hope the noble Lord will not think I have done him injustice by the way in which I have put them together. It would take rather too long to quote all the speeches on the subject, and I therefore thought it better to put them together in the form of propositions. The first of these propositions is this. It has reference to what will be the actual state of the Navy under the programme which he laid before us last year, in April, 1890. The noble Lord (Hamilton) told us that—By April, 1890, when the ships building in our own Dockyards, and those of France are completed, our Navy in respect of ironclads and cruisers will show a very great superiority in force over those of France and will be superior to those of France and Russia combined, and France and Italy combined. He gave us also the tonnage of armoured vessels as follows: England, 311,000, France 184,000, Russia, 75,000, an excess for England, 54,000, or equal to seven large ironclads.1379 Then again with regard to fast cruisers, he told us that by 1890, taking vessels even 16 knots, England would have 41, and France 21. Now I will undertake to say without fear of contradiction, that never during the last 25 years has there been a superiority so great on the part of this country, as is indicated by those figures. The next question is assuming those figures to be correct, what is the normal rate of expenditure upon shipbuilding, and how far does it provide for an increase of this relative superiority? The noble Lord's propositions was this; that the normal expenditure on the construction of new ships should not exceed £3,200,000, at which rate we would continually improve our position as compared with other of the Powers. Then he went on further to say, and this is the third proposition:—That any sudden or spasmodic increase of the Navy by laying down by wholesale of a large number of vessels at any one time was most unwise, as—owing to the constant changes in design and the development of speed—these vessels would soon become obsolete. That, by maintaining our shipbuilding programme at a rate in excess of the annual depreciation by 40 per cent, and by maintaining this policy over a term of years, we should more judiciously and effectively raise the strength of the Navy than if we entered upon a hasty and spasmodic expenditure, with the certain knowledge that a portion of the expenditure would he wasted by the very haste requisite.And. lastly, he laid down this most important proposition.That there was no single instance in the past in which ships laid down by the dozen have not shown defects common to all, which would have been avoided if they had been laid down gradually and continuously over a term of years.I venture to say that the proposition is strictly accurate; in fact, it is borne out by experience, as I venture to say it will be borne out by experience in the future. The noble Lord, in all these utterances, was completely sustained by the Secretary to the Admiralty. And it would be impossible to make stronger speeches, both inside and out of this House, than those which condemned in the strongest possible manner the policy which we are now called upon to condemn. I do not want to convict the hon. Gentleman of inconsistency. I really point to the passages which I am about to quote because I could not better explain than they do my own views and my objections to the policy of 1380 the Bill now before us. Speaking on the Estimates last year, the Secretary to the Admiralty said—An increase in the number of vessels to be laid down in excess of the normal yearly shipbuilding programme is fraught with danger. The progress of science in the construction of machinery and gunnery, and the increase in development of explosives is so rapid that vessels which this year may be far ahead of their possible competitors belonging to foreign nations, have in a brief period to be relegated to quite a secondary class.Then, again, speaking at Liverpool on July 9th last year—though now we are told by Admiral Hood that this particular programme was in print and had been laid before his colleagues at that very time—the Secretary of the Admiralty said:—The only safe and sure policy was to ensure a steady, not a spasmodic, shipbuilding programme. This was attained; an expenditure on new construction of £3,200,000.As I have said, I entirely agree with the noble Lord the head of the Admiralty, and the Secretary to the Admiralty, on these matters of policy. But we are now asked to entirely reverse this policy, and to vote for the policy which the noble Lord has so often condemned—namely, the spasmodic increase of the Navy. We are asked to do that which the noble Lord said was "imprudent and unwise," and the Secretary to the Admiralty said was "fraught with danger"—to lay down at once no fewer than 70 ships. Well, what has been the excuse given for this policy? As far as I am aware, the noble Lord has not given any definite reason for it, and the only argument for it was that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as involved in the somewhat vague generalities presented to this House. I may say that I should have considered what the right hon. Gentleman said as important if he were ready to back it by providing money for the payment of the cost, but inasmuch as he was content to give his authority for spreading the payment over future years, and refrained from giving any definite reason for the increase proposed, I regard his opinion as of no very great value. I will here frankly say that if we could be agreed that this spasmodic policy would not have the effect of stimulating further shipbuilding on the part of the Admiralty, I should not so much object to it, but I think the greatest objection to it 1381 is that it will only stimulate other Powers to adopt the same course, and thus entail fresh expenditure on the part of this country. Indeed, this would appear to be the case from what has already been said in the German Parliament, and in other countries; and I have not the slightest doubt that this great increase in our Navy will involve a relative increase in that of France. Indeed, I will venture to point out that for the last 60 or 70 years, ever since the great Napoleonic war, it has been the deliberate policy of France to keep her Navy within a certain proportion of that of this country. This was pointed out by the late Mr. Cobden, in a pamphlet he published in 1859—namely, that it had been the policy of France for the previous fifty years, always to maintain her Navy in the proportion of two to three of the ships laid down by this country, and he quoted figures for the purpose of showing that for periods of five years during that time, taking the averages for each, that proportion was invariably kept up. Mr. Cobden said:—In comparing the expenditure of the two countries, it will be observed that they almost invariably rise and fall together. In the long run this must be the case, because it has always been the recognized policy of the two Governments to observe a certain relation to one another. Looking back for nearly a century, we shall find that in time of peace France has been accustomed to maintain a Naval force not greatly varying from the proportion of 2–3 of our own.If hon. Members will look at the amounts spent in the dockyards it will be seen that where England spent 31 millions in the 25 years before Mr. Cobden wrote, France spent 22 millions, which is almost the exact proportion, and if you take the last 25 years it will be seen that where the cost of new ships in England has been 4 millions, the expenditure in France has been 28 millions, showing a similar proportion of two to three. I have no doubt that it is the deliberate policy of France to keep her Navy up to that proportion, and that whatever we do in the way of increasing our Navy will be followed by France in a similar ratio. If, therefore, we now expend, by a spasmodic effort, the sum of ten millions on our Navy the French Government will in all probability spend six millions, in excess of their estimates, and at the end of the period over which this expenditure 1382 is to run the relative proportions of our naval strength will be found to be the same, and it will be seen that our effort had been practically useless. The real fact of the matter is that France is much more afraid of the increase of this country's Navy than we are of the increase of the Navy of France. That country has during the last 25 years greatly extended her responsibilities in directions away from her own shores. She has greatly increased her empire, not only in Cochin China and Tonquin, but in Africa, and has extended her interests in other parts of the world, and in the event of a war with this country all these interests would be jeopardized, and in a very short time France might be cut off from communication with all her outlying dependencies in different parts of the world. We should also remember that the French Navy is to a large extent an artificial one, and is not based as is our Navy on her commercial strength. In the event of its being largely reduced by war the French Navy could not easily be renewed; but in our case the strength of the English Navy rests on a commercial basis. I need not refer to the strength which this country possesses in its shipbuilding yards—a strength so great that we are enabled to turn out more than one million tons a-year; while the exertions we might make in a case of necessity would be greater than has ever been known in the past. For my part I cannot conceive any motive that should induce France to enter into a naval war with this country. I have confidence, and I think this House may have confidence in our own strength, so that there is no occasion to give way to those unworthy fears and alarms which are to a large extent the cause of the present proposal of Her Majesty Government. There is another point of view with regard to this proposition on which I may be allowed to say a word and that is in reference to the question of the types of the vessels to be built. It is proposed to commit the Government to the construction of no less than 71 vessels of particular types. There are to be ten large ironclads, eight of which are to be larger than any yet laid down and two of a slightly smaller size, the ten together costing upwards of ten millions. It is also intended to lay down no fewer than 39 cruisers. J 1383 would venture to ask hon. Members to look back and say when in the past did any Government propose to spend ten millions extra on ironclads? Would it have been thought wise to have spent ten millions on ships of the Warrior class, or the same sum on ships of the Sultan class. For that sum we might have had 20 ships of the Warrior type and 15 of the Sultan type. Moreover, would it have been wise to have built 11 or 12 vessels of the Nile or Trafalgar class. I venture to ask, if it would not have been wise then, why should it be considered wise now? Every reason that would have made such a course unwise in the past must equally make it unwise in the future. It is quite certain that we have not yet reached the limit of invention in regard to ships and armaments. Never at any time have the improvements been greater, whether in respect of ships or guns. than at the present moment; and therefore it seems to me to be unwise to spend a large sum of money in committing ourselves to vessels of one type. No man can say what the next few years may not bring forth, and that the vessels which it is now proposed to build will not, in their turn, be rendered as obsolete by vessels of the future as they will render vessels of the past. Take the Nile and Trafalgar; the vessels it is proposed to lay down are infinitely superior to them in size and speed and many other qualities, that they would supersede and render them obsolete. But in a few years the vessels now proposed to be laid down will in their turn be rendered obsolete, and be superseded by other and better vessels. I do not put this forward as an argument for doing nothing; on the contrary, I think the noble Lord would be wise to lay down one or two ironclads a - year during the last three years. Two or three years ago I moved for a Commission of Enquiry in regard to types of vessels, and I then said it would be wise to lay down two ironclads year by year, but it would not be wise for us to commit ourselves to the spasmodic policy of laying down an enormous number of vessels at one and the same time. If this policy be sound as to ironclads, it is still more as regards cruisers; and I say that to lay down 39 cruisers at one time and of one class, is fraught with the same danger as to the future as to pursue the same policy with 1384 regard to ships of the larger types, because they will as certainly be superseded in the future by vessels of greater speed and power as the vessels now proposed will supersede those of the past. Supposing we lay down these 10 ironclads and 39 cruisers during the present year, and some two years hence the French lay down five ironclads of a superior class to ours. namely, faster ships and with heavier armaments—and supposing they also lay down twenty cruisers of superior speed to our 35, which may be the case, where should we then be? Why we should only have to begin again. And then, I suppose, we are to go on, year after year, laying down vessels, and then when the French increase their Navy, we shall have to meet those French ships with others of the same type. I think this alone is an argument for prudence and caution in our shipbuilding policy, an argument against rushing headlong into building any one type of vessels. And I think also, this is a strong proof that the present policy of the Government is an unwise one. I have already pointed out, the noble Lord in one of his speeches last year, said there never had been a case in which vessels laid down by the dozen, had not proved to have most serious defects, which might have been avoided by greater thought, and by not laying down so many at the same time. Now, there is a very remarkable illustration of this. In 1859, there was an alarm about the Navy, and Sir John Packington came down to the House and recommended a considerable increase of the Navy. He proposed that 19 sailing line of battle sailing ships should be converted into steamers, and at the same time, he proposed the conversion of a large number of other vessels. I think the Naval Votes of that year were increased from £8,800,000 to £12,500,000, an increase of nearly four millions sterling, and no fewer than 67 vessels were in hand at the same time, either for conversion or new construction. That number bears a striking comparison with the present proposal of the Government. What was the result? I take the following account from an interesting article on the Navy in the "Encyclopedia Brittanica":—Unhappily all these wooden line-of-battleships and frigates were soon found to be no real 1385 addition to the force of the Navy, and man) of them were not even completed. The iron. plated ships building in France completely changed the position and superseded the wooden vessels.Now, Sir, I say that that is evidence in the past of what comes of a spasmodic policy such as now proposed by the present Board of Admiralty, and I think it shows the un-wisdom of the course which we are proposing to take. Let me for one moment put this question to the House. Supposing it may be desirable to increase the Navy, is it wise to do it by a spasmodic effort of this kind, or would it not be wiser to add to the normal expenditure on the Navy under the Navy Votes, and spread that increase over a certain number of years. It is proposed to expend during the next four years £21,000,000 on new ships, and on ships now in hand something like £1,600,000 is required for their completion, making a total of £22,600,000, the expenditure of which will be spread four and a half years. Why not spread it over six years? If you did that would give you £3,700,000 yearly, and by adding a sum of £500,000 to the normal votes, and by voting £3,700,000 for six years instead of £3,200,000, you would at the end of six years have the same result as you are now proposing to achieve by spreading the expenditure over four and a half years. I cannot but think myself, that that would be the wiser course to adopt, and instead of laying down these seventy vessels at once, you might lay down a certain number immediately, and in two or three years the remainder. Thus you would avoid this spasmodic increase which the noble Lord himself has so often condemned. Now on the general point of the increase of naval expenditure, I should like in that connection to quote to the House, the opinion of one of the ablest and most wise and prudent statesmen that ever governed this country. I mean the late Sir Robert Peel, who in the last Session in which he was in this House, and in one of the very last speeches which he delivered, addressed himself specially to the inexpediency of the Government being guided by naval opinion only, in regard to public expenditure. He said:—In time of peace you must be content to incur some risks if you will have all our means of defence, naval and military, in a perfect 1386 state. I venture to say that no amount of annual revenue would be sufficient to meet such demands, if you adopt the opinions of military and naval men, anxious for the complete security of every available point, and naturally anxious to throw upon you the whole responsibility for loss in the event of war suddenly breaking out, you would overwhelm this country with taxes in time of peace. We should best consult the true interests of our country by husbanding our resources in time of peace, and instead of a lavish expenditure on all means of defence by placing some trust in the latent and dormant energies of the nation, and acting upon the confidence that a just cause will rally a great and glorious nation round the national standard, and enable us to defy the menaces of any foreign Power.That was said in 1850, a short time before the death of Sir Robert Peel, but These were words of wisdom coming from the lips of one of the greatest Ministers we ever had in this country, and also one of the best economists. If these words were wise then, I venture to say that they would be far wiser now. Remember that the naval and military expenditure of this country has more than doubled since then, and from figures which I have before me I gather that the relative increase in this country has been greater than that of Austria, France and Russia put together. In 1869 the expenditure by these three nations upon their armies and navies amounted to 50 millions; in 1888 it was 78 millions. In this country in 1869 it was 21 millions; in 1888 it was 32½ millions, and during the present year we are actually proposing to spend not less than 35½ millions. In my opinion the effect of this spasmodic increase of the Navy will be to stimulate other powers to increase their navies; it will widen the ever-increasing ranks of those who look at such questions from one point of view only and swell the number of panic mongers. It will stimulate still further the birth of inventions in warlike engines of all kinds which will supersede all that has gone before, and involve us in still further expenditure In my opinion, it is equally unsound from a financial point of view, and from a shipbuilding point of view, and it is also impolitic and wasteful in the highest possible degree. I shall therefore vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.
*ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
I have listened with great care to what has been said by speakers on the other side of the House, 1387 if there was any real valid objection made to the proposals of Her Majesty's Government, and I find that the objections to the Naval Defence Bill appear to be threefold. There are the objections of the hon. Members for Haggerston and Bethnal Green and of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, who holds if there is any real meaning in their arguments, that the weaker Navy we have, the stronger we are, and that the real way to go into the councils of Europe with full weight is with an inefficient Navy; or better still, I presume, with no Navy at all. The second objection is on the financial question, which was raised by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh; and the third has reference to the designs of the ships proposed to be built, which have been touched on mainly by the hon. Member for Cardiff. I do not propose on the second reading of the Bill to deal with the subject of the designs which can be much better discussed in Committee, but I wish to say a few words on the other points. The right hon. gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton scouts the opinion that anybody on that side of the House would desire anything but a most efficient Navy. That remark is, I am glad to notice, cheered by hon. Members below the gangway opposite. But sir, what is the language made use of by the three hon. Members whose opinion I have quoted in stating the first ground of objection. The hon. Member for Haggerston and others have several times declared this increase to be wholly unnecessary, and that in their opinions we have got a Navy sufficiently strong for all our purposes. There is, however, only one solid and serious objection that can be taken to the Bill, and that is for any Hon. Member to get up in his place and show, not merely by quotations from speeches and vague statements, but by facts and figures, that we have now as strong a Navy as the country requires. There has been no attempt to show anything of the kind. No doubt hon. Members may prove to their own satisfaction that the utterances of the First Lord and the Secretary to the Admiralty last year were not quite consistent with those of this year, but how ever that may be, their utterances now are in accord with the whole professional opinion of this 1388 country, except in so far as some think they do not go far enough. There is only one utterance of the First Lord's with which I think we have a right to find fault, and that was the hint that the money necessary for keeping the Fleet up to its proper mark might not be voted in future years. I do not think the House will allow that to occur, however. If the Fleet is to be kept up properly, an increased sum of money must be expended annually for the purpose; or else what has happened now will occur again a few years hence. The Navy will be allowed to run down, and another sum of 10 or 20 millions will have to be voted to put it in the state in which it ought to be. In a debate of this kind arguments of a very curious nature are often used. For instance, we have been told by more than one hon. Member that the strength of the Fleet depends upon the policy of the country. I do not assent to that; I maintain that the policy of the country very often depends much more upon the strength of the Fleet, and it is only by having a strong Fleet that a proper and bold foreign policy is possible. If the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth and those who think with him are really serious in their views; the Amendment of the hon. Member for Shoreditch ought to have been moved on Vote 1, so as to refuse to grant men or money to the Navy at all. I have no doubt that the hon. Baronet would prefer—when the German Emperor comes over here—that instead of making a display of a vast number of ironclads, we should show him the beautiful anchorage at Spithead, empty of all vessels except a few colliers; and that, instead of a Naval Review, there should be a procession of punts up the Thames. This would be eminently peaceful, and highly economical, and I suppose the hon. Baronet would think more conducive to the dignity and power of England ! But what would be the effect on the mind of the Teutonic Prince, it', when we went into the councils of Europe, we should say, "We have disbanded our Navy; we ask you to disband your armies," what would be thought of such a proposal? Hon. Gentlemen cannot be serious in such a policy, and yet that is the logical outcome of what they propose. One of the objections raised by the right hon. Gentleman 1389 the Member for Bradford to increasing our fleet is that the French will follow our example and build up to the same mark. If we were to increase our Army so as to vie with Continental armies, there might be some force in that objection; but our Navy is our great reliance, and it is universally admitted that England should be preponderant as a Naval Power. The right hon. Gentleman quoted Mr. Cobden as having said that our Navy should be to the navy of France as three to two; but why did he not add that Mr. Cobden said that if France attempted to alter that proportion he would be the first to vote: 100,000,000, if necessary, to maintain it, Why, Sir, France has already materially altered that ratio. And when the right hon. Gentleman speaks of what France may do, he might have gone farther and shown what is Continental opinion on this subject. Major Wachs, of the German army, gave this opinion of our naval strength. He wrote:—Foreigners may well doubt if England rules the sea; but England herself, despite her admirals and generals, and in utter misconception of facts which prove that the Empire's rule over the waves is a thing of the past, still places unlimited confidence in her fleet.If hon. Gentlemen had read the debates in the French Chamber they would see that Admiral Dompierre d'Hornoy said:—" The Mediterranean, too, ought to be a French lake." I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite assent to that proposition; if so, the sooner we give up Malta and Gibraltar, and disband our fleet, the better. Napoleon the First, as is well known, said that if he were master of the Channel for six hours, he would be master of the world. The Report of the French Budget Commitee for 1888 says that the programme, if carried out at once, would assure to them "une superiorité maritime surtoutes les autres nations; "and yet we are told, because we are going to prevent that, we are inciting the French to build more ships. I listened attentively to the remarks of the hon. Member for Durham. Few Members are better qualified to express an opinion on these matters than he is. He is not likely to be in favour of Government proposals generally, yet he considers this is a wise and a moderate programme. I think his opinion should have some weight in this House. Of course, a debate of this 1390 kind cannot be expected to take place without the usual attack upon the unfortunate Admirals. Hon. Gentlemen opposite claim to be the special representatives of democracy; but one of the great points in a democracy is that the people are to be free to elect whom they please to represent them. A sensible democracy would naturally think that, as millions are voted every year for the Navy, there ought to be in the House some men who know one end of a ship from the other. The paucity of our numbers may be pleaded as some palliation of our presence in the House at all. I am sorry that my Friend the hon. Member for Oldham, has in this matter, been led astray by hon. Members opposite; but that hon. Gentleman was rather roughly handled by a naval officer a short time ago, unjustly so, as I think, and he had a debt to pay. Having paid the debt, I hope the hon. Member will take a more just view of us poor people, who, at least, set a good example, never taking up the time of the House except on questions as to which they are supposed to have some slight knowledge ! The democracy, whether classes or masses, always receive admirals in the same way, and admirals are never afraid of going among them, or in any doubt of the reception they will get. However much some gentlemen may desire to take away the very small stipend which a generous country gives her admirals for being ready to be killed whenever gentlemen opposite or those on this side chose to proclaim war, it is easy to know, when there is actual danger, in whom the country puts its trust. When we are taunted with forming "a syndicate of admirals," and causing panic, my answer is that our object is to allay panic, and to prevent Ministers coming down, as they did a few years ago, and asking for £11,000,000 solely because everything had been allowed to run down to zero. Sir T. Brassey asked for £4,000,000 additional for the Navy in 1884, and yet that was the very year in which Lord Northbrook said he would not know what to do with £3,000,000 if they were given to him. I am not finding fault with Lord Northbrook; I am merely pointing out that this is no new thing, and when the hon. Members quote the opinion of the First Lord expressed some time ago that does not really in the least affect the matter. 1391 The only question the country cares about is whether we have the number of ships we ought to have, and whether we should be likely to beat any enemy whom we should have to confront whenever and wherever the enemy may appear. That is the sum and substance of the whole matter. As to the financial part of scheme I will only say that I notice on the Front Opposition Bench a number of embryo First Lords. Many of those Gentlemen have been at the Admiralty for shorter or longer periods, but I defy any of them to say that the old method of voting money, that is to say, of returning the mispent money at the end of each year, has not been a source of waste and expenditure, in many instances utterly unnecessary. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler) last night, and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) just now, merely amounts to this: we have had a turnpike on this road ever since we can remember, there is no precedent for removing it, so we must not remove it now. I say remove all obstacles to efficiency as soon as they are found to be so. I feel sure that when we come to the question of voting this money, those who have the real interest of England at heart, whether you call them the democracy, or the classes, or the masses, will vote for the Government proposal; and that by doing so they will not only go a long way to maintain the peace of their own country, but to maintain the peace of Europe, and, indeed, of the whole world.
§ *MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)
The Bill provides for the expenditure of £21,500,000 in the next five years, normal and abnormal, and, therefore, I am not quite sure that if it is passed it will not be necessary to eliminate the moneys hitherto set aside for shipbuilding purposes from the annual Naval Estimates. In the first place I should like to know whether in settling this expenditure the Government have based their estimates on the current prices of material and labour or upon the prices current some l2 months ago. The Government are no doubt aware that during the last 12 months a very considerable advance has occurred in the price of all ship building material as well as in that of labour 1392 But I object to the proposal of the Government on the grounds mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler) last night. I hold that this proposal is a new departure, and a new departure in an unconstitutional direction, inasmuch as the Bill will concede to the House of Lords in the future, or at all events for the next five years, control over the expenditure which has hitherto been confined or supposed to be confined to the House of Commons. Besides, before we can decide whether the proposals of the Government are adequate or inadequate, we ought to have some statement from the Government with regard to the foreign policy which is to be followed by them; and also some statement from the Leaders of the Opposition as to their views as to the lines of foreign policy which ought to be observed. Is our foreign policy to be a policy of intervention or one of non-intervention? If it is to be a policy of intervention in European affairs, the proposal of the Government is necessary, but if it is to be a policy of non-intervention, as I contend that it should be, the large increase of the Navy demanded by the Government is totally unnecessary. Supposing we can have a statement as to the line of foreign policy to be observed the next point to be arrived at is how the Admiralty intend to distribute the ships which they already have at their disposal. So far, we have not had placed before us anything in the shape of a grouping or a Plan of Campaign. The Government ought, in the first instance, to state what number and what designs of vessels they require for home defence, what they require for the defence of our Colonial Possessions, and what they require for foreign stations. Supposing the Government give us information upon these points, the next point to arrive at is whether the effective force now at the disposal of the country would be sufficient to carry out the policy of the Government with regard to the grouping of the vessels at the disposal of the Admiralty at home, abroad, and in the colonies. We have had placed before us two lists of ships; one is the list to be found in the Naval Estimates and the other is the list recently given in the shape of a Return granted upon 1393 the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill). To my mind both lists are misleading with regard to the effective forces of the Navy. The number of ships set out in the Return granted to the noble Lord is 373, whereas the number set out in the list in the Naval Estimates is only 267. How do the Admiralty account for this discrepancy? But in order to arrive at the effective force at the disposal of the country, it is necessary to eliminate a very large number of non - combatant ships which appear annually in the Naval Estimates list. I find in the Estimates for this year that the number of non-combatant ships is 186. This leaves 81 fighting ships. To these are to be added 43 ships which are set out in the programme, and which are nearly ready, and seven first-class line of battle ships, six belted cruisers, and two vessels of the second class, 58 in all. When these vessels are completed we shall have, according to the Navy List, 139 ships, and not 373 as set out in the Return granted to the noble Lord the Member for Paddington. I understand that, by the Bill now under consideration, it is intended to add, during the next five years, to the 139 ships, 70 fighting ships of various classes at an increased abnormal cost of something like £12,500,000. But hon. Members must understand that the increased cost now set out represents a very small proportion of the annual increased cost which must eventually be attached to the commissioning of these ships. When completed, the ships will require coal, stores, boilers, and machinery, alterations, and repairs. There will be a large amount of depreciation every year, in fact, the depreciation account as set out in the Return granted to the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, is something like 10 per cent. If all these ships are to be placed in commission on a war footing, the annual increase to the Naval Estimates must be something very considerable, indeed almost intolerable. Is it, indeed, that all these ships shall be placed on a war footing, or are some of them to be maintained intact as new ships to be used only as reserves. I contend there would be no necessity to place all these new vessels in commission, inasmuch as they may be maintained in an efficient condition 1394 by being utilized now and then for experimental purposes only. Now, Sir, if the policy of the Government is to be one of non-intervention in European affairs, I contend that there is no necessity to ask for this large increase in the number of our ships. There is no reason why there should not be some rearrangement of the disposition of our fleet. At the present moment we have the best of the squadrons stationed in the Mediterranean; we have 23 ships there. I believe these ships as a rule are used or manœuvred in the way of yachting excursions rather than in practical work. Why have we been keeping this large Fleet in the Mediterranean? I understand the main object is to uphold what is commonly known as the balance of power in Europe, but if there he any balance of power in Europe, I think it is now upheld by the German Emperor or by the Triple Alliance. If the policy of the Government is to be one of non-intervention, a very large portion of the Fleet we now have constantly sailing about the Mediterranean ought to be brought home to this country. If we retain the best portion of our Fleet in the Mediterranean, how in the event of war will we be able to guard our ports at home? Now one part of the programme of the Government provides for an increase of something like ten ironclads. At the present moment I only desire to say upon this point that I hold the building of these large ironclads to be nothing more nor less than a waste of money. It would be much better to have vessels of a smaller size, equally powerful of the same coal capacity, and armed with one or two instead of four guns which these ironclads have. The programme, too, provides for a very large number of cruisers. What is the object with which these cruisers are to be built? Ostensibly the object is that of protecting our commerce. If the Admiralty had told us some of these vessels were to be provided for ocean fighting, I should have been prepared to have agreed with them, but the conveying of commerce in time of war will be an utter impossibility. Suppose that half a-dozen cruisers were told off to convoy 200 ships of commerce from the United States, and that on their way across the Atlantic they met with 1395 three or four of the enemy's cruisers, what would happen? The cruisers supposed to be protecting the merchant ships would immediately have to leave the vessels in order to keep back the enemy's cruisers, and in all probability before reaching home, the merchant vessels would meet with another force of the enemy's cruisers and be either captured or destroyed. As a matter of fact our merchants would not ship their goods in belligerent ships unless they had them insured, and our shipowners would not risk their ships at sea unless they could have them insured. The consequence would be that the shipowners would, as far as possible, transfer their property to neutral flags. Then, again, the supply of food and raw material necessary to the country would not all be sent to the ports of this country direct, but would be sent possibly to neighbouring neutral ports and forwarded from there. The very fact of having to pay largely increased insurance would compel our merchants and shipowners to divert the traffic from their own flag to that of neutral powers. Now, in the comparisons made between the strength of the Navy of this country and that of France and other countries, nothing whatever has been said with regard to men. If we are to have this large increase in the number of ships, we must also have a large increase in the number of men. Our effective force of seamen at the present is something like 19,000 or 20,000. Of these I believe 4,000 are petty officers, 3,000 boys, and only about 6,000 able seamen. Then we have to add to these 4,000 men in the coastguard service, and about 4,000 pensioners, so that altogether we have fox the manning of our Fleet something like 30,000 men. France has at the present moment 100,000 seamen and 23,000 marines.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I rise to order Sir. The hon. Gentleman is now discussing the manning of the Navy. That is no part of the Bill which is now before the House, but is entirely excluded from it.
§ *MR. GOURLEY
I think the manning of the Navy was alluded to by the First Lord of the Admiralty when he introduced his Resolution, and with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I would point out that you cannot send ships to sea without men. However, I 1396 will defer what I have to say upon that point until a later period. In conclusion let me add that I yield to no man in the belief that this country ought to be doubly as strong as any other nation in regard to its Navy. Our Navy is not only our first but our second and third line of defence. What I do object to in regard to this Bill is the new departure which is proposed by the Government from a financial point of view, and if I vote against the Bill it will simply be because I disapprove of this new departure, as well as of some of the designs.
§ *LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
The statement made by my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton in reference to this Bill has created a wrong impression, or wrong deductions have been drawn from what he has told the country through this House and I would like to correct this wrong impression while also pointing out some of the weak points in the Bill. To the Bill as a whole I do not think there will be serious opposition, but there are two points to which I would draw the attention of the House. In the first place the noble Lord has told the country and the country has believed him that the Bill will meet the full requirements of the country, that it is designed to make additions to the fleet which would run the fleet up to the given standard which as fixed by the noble Lord is that it shall be able to defend our shores, our commercial interests and secure our food supply against any two other fleets combined; and secondly that the additions will allow for the arrears of shipbuilding as well as the wastage that will occur year by year. Now, I need only take the return of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) to prove that both these statements are incorrect. I take first the Government statement that in the year 1894 the fleet will be enabled to meet the combined fleets of France and Russia. On page 18 of my noble Friend's Return for 1890 you will find —I am only going to take the battle ships. I will not detain the House by going through the cruisers. and in any engagement in which we may be concerned, the ultimate issue will be between the battle ships. If you add up the armoured battle ships of the first and second class 1397 with some others in the Return, we are credited with 65 in number. But in this Return, in the category of "others," we are liable to be misled by a number o coast defence vessels being included Now, if we go to war, we must do so with a definite plan of campaign, and the Government have put forward a very good plan, "to watch for and if possible to destroy the fleets of all possible enemies." To carry out that plan you must not count on your coast defence vessels, though you must count on those of the enemy, because to watch for ant destroy the enemy's fleet you must get at the enemy's harbours. Here the Return is misleading—
§ *LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
Yes, but it is a most misleading Return for this reason. By ordinary civilians it would be thought that we have 65 armoured battle-ships. The noble Lord cannot contradic tthat, that if you add these ships up you find a total of 65 armoured battle ships, and the inference is that they are all ready to hand. The hon Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) described them as 68 ships in the Channel, but they would not be in the Channel if we went to war; they would be scattered to defend our interests all over the world. That is not so important as this question of the coast defence vessels. They are supposed to defend the coast of England, but it is nothing of the sort. We have six—the Wivern, which is at Hong ong, the Magdala, the Abyssinia, the Scorpion, the Viper, the Vixen, at Bermuda or elsewhere, and the sooner these are put into the market and sold the better. But do not mislead the people by this Return. Will any hon. Member say that of these 65 vessels we can rely on the coast defence vessels that are not in England at the moment? You must in your comparison include the foreign coast defence vessels, but not those of England; for, in the first place, they are not in England; and, in the second place, if they went to sea, two days afterwards every officer and man on board would see the necessity of making his will. What is there then in the contents of this Bill to lead the country to believe that when these ships are added to the Fleet, we should be enabled to meet the combined French and Russian Fleets of the same class? 1398 I would ask the noble Lord's particular attention to this. However in the name of fortune, when we look at the figures for 1894, and take out 13 coast defence vessels from the list of armoured battle ships leaving 52, are we to carry out the plan to watch and destroy combined fleets such as those of France and Russia, which added, make a total of 59 armoured battle ships? According to the Return, we should have only 52 vessels to carry out the plan. My noble Friend knows perfectly well that there is no Admiral but would tell him that there will be no possible chance of carrying out the plan of watching and destroying the enemy, unless you have at least a third more in strength to allow for contingencies that must occur when you are at sea and your enemy in harbour. I think that disposes of the Plan of Campaign my noble Friend has himself suggested. And now, let us see how these 52 ships are made up. But, first of all, I should like to correct the statement of my noble Friend that, according to what he has laid down as the wastage of the Fleet, the new programme will allow for this as well as the making up of arrears. As I make it out, the programme will be short of that result by three ships, for according to his own argument, my noble Friend has stated, and it is a sound theory that the ordinary life of a battle ship is 22 years. Accordingly, he makes allowance for four ships in making up his programme, but in addition to the four ships thus taken off, there are I find 14 ships that come within the principle laid down, and must be counted as beyond the age limit in 1894. The House will be astounded to learn the age of some of these ships which dating from the year of completion reach from 23 to 30 years, and in the case of the Black Prince to 32 years. These then should be struck off the list of effectives, and with the five vessels now on the point of completion, and the ten my noble Friend proposes by his programme, I make out that there will be three ships wanting to make up the ordinary wastage of the Fleet. I cannot, therefore, see how my noble Friend maintains his statement that his programme will make up both arrears and wastage. My own proposal is that we should expend some 20 millions over and above the ordinary wastage. The 1399 First Sea Lord the other day made some remarks as to this programme having been in existence since last June, and as he endeavoured to make a point against me, I may say a word or two as to this. This programme of mine has been before the country for three years. I mentioned it in July, 1885, and explained it very much in the same way, and I was returned twice to Parliament upon that and nothing else, so I think my noble Friend is not more correct in this than in other matters I have mentioned. My proposal was to add 74 ships at the end of five years, taking the calculation of the First Lord that in addition, £1,800,000 is required for wastage each year. I will not pretend that the programme of my noble Friend is altogether wrong, he must have made it out upon some basis, but my proposal is based upon the capabilities of the country as to production, so far as I by careful inquiry and calculation can arrive at them. I do not think that my noble Friend can turn out more ships than he proposes. He puts down three millions to be expended sooner or later on new ships, but he leads the country to believe that his sum of 21 millions will run the Fleet up to standard during the next five years, by not laying down another ship at all. If that is not the noble Lord's intention I hope he will make it clear, for that is the idea all over the country. For a moment I will touch the financial question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here, and if I attacked him I expect he would pulverize me, but I may say this. Speaking the other day about experts in a rather sarcastic way he made a somewhat extraordinary statement, that if experts had their way and a great number of ships were built, we should have these ships obsolete in three years, as had been the case before. Now, then, I join issue with the right hon. Gentleman. I know the name of every battleship in the world at this moment, and if he can give me the name of a single battle ship that has become obsolete in three years, or I will even go so far as 15 years, I should be glad of the information. The right hon. Gentleman opposite asks why, if the building is to occupy five years, the payment should extend over seven? Nor do I myself quite understand that, because I hold that the increase of the 1400 Fleet will be for the advantage of posterity, and the expenditure should o some extent fall on posterity, or it is an assurance against an increase in the National Debt. The ion. Member for Northampton brought forward several interesting details, but I could not help thinking that ho was rather laughing at us in some of them; but one point I will refer to, and that relates to the Declaration of Paris. The hon. Member says that directly we go to war all our raw material, all our food supplies, will be tranferred to neutral bottoms. But does the hon. Member know that most of the Powers will not recognize the transfer of flag finless the captain and crew belong to the country whose flag is flying? How s this going to be accomplished in a short time? The only country we need Fear anything from in mercantile transactions is France, and France has distinctly laid down she will not allow, and does not recognize, the change of flag after hostilities have commenced.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
I learned the fact from reading a book upon International Law, and though I cannot at the moment give the hon. Member the reference I will do so at the first opportunity. Has the hon. Member tried to realize what the delay in the supply of raw material and food stuffs would mean, the panic, the disturbance of trade, the distress through men being thrown out of work. I confess to being no little surprised at the speech we had yesterday from the hon. Baronet the Member for Cumberland (Sir W. Lawson). I had always regarded the hon. Baronet as a sober minded peaceful man, but he fairly astonished me with his bellicose language as I saw him waving his arms over his head and heard him boasting that in his day one Englishman was equal to three Frenchmen and six Germans, and so on. I did not know that the hon. Baronet was given to swaggering in that way. But to take up the question where he dropped it I may remind him that in these days science has brought about pretty much an equality between ourselves and Frenchmen, Germans and Italians, when one head commands everything and an electric button does the whole trick. There is very little difference to be found and as I 1401 have said, your chief efforts should be directed to knocking off the hostile captain's head, and thus demoralizing your enemy. In these days of high speed, the mere fact of the opposing captain losing his head may enable you to win the action. There is much merit in the Government Bill, and they could not well have done more than the Bill proposes to do; but I object to the Bill being represented to the country as in full satisfaction of its necessities. As a matter of fact, it only represents an instalment of the nation's requirements. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford's arguments, touching the capitalized value of the Fleet, surely it is necessary to compare the value of the Fleet with the work it has to do. The commerce which the Fleet has to defend increases by leaps and bounds every year, and the protection of our food supply becomes more and more necessary. If these calls are not met in a business-like way the end will be panic and disaster. I must refer to some remarks made by my late colleague the First Sea Lord (Sir Arthur Hood), and I should not do so but that he commenced the personal controversy I would rather have avoided. We have often been amused at things that have been said by the First Sea Lord, but we have never said anything against him. For myself, I am careless as to what he said in his references to "so-called experts;" but my brother officers who are concerned in the reproach of the First Sea Lord do not like it, and have no opportunity of replying, except through the mouth of a Member of the House. These so-called experts include among the seniors Admiral Hornby and Sir Thomas Symonds, Sir John Hay, and others, besides a large number of juniors, from whom I have received hundreds of letters on the subject, and they think it is a great pity the First Sea Lord should have allowed himself to use the language he had used; and, considering his peculiar position, it would have been much better if he had said nothing and retired into obscurity. But if people make attacks they must be prepared for counter-attack, as well as defence. I mention this with great regret, having no desire for a personal controversy. Passing away from this, I would put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are opposing this Bill—do 1402 they consider we require a Navy or not? If we want a Navy, and if we should hold, as everbody argues we should, supremacy on the sea, we must have a Navy equal to our requirements. Though I do not admit that the programme, by the proposed additions, does satisfy our full requirements, I think that it takes full advantage of the producing capacity of the country under the circumstances, and I heartily give the Bill my support.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
I think the Government may congratulate themselves upon the somewhat meagre shape to which opposition to their proposals has been reduced. I freely admit that the reception of the Bill by the country is largely due to the labours of hon. Members who, inside and outside the House, have urged upon the country that an increase of its naval forces was necessary to fit the Navy to cope with its work. I admit this because I have differed with those hon. Gentlemen's utterances in the past, and possibly may have to do so again in the future. The objections to the actual proposals of the Bill are reduced to two forms. The hon. Member for Northampton thinks that the Government are asking too much, and the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone thinks that the Government are asking too little.
§ * LORD C. BERESFORD
I said that I thought that the Government had asked for as much as they could utilize at present; but that this sum would not satisfy the full requirements of the country.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
My noble Friend criticised our proposals in a somewhat hostile spirit and went on to point out that this is not his scheme. I assert at once that it is not the scheme of the noble Lord; but it is a scheme prepared by my naval advisers, of whom the noble Lord the Member fur Marylebone is not one. I think that the noble Lord takes an exaggerated view of the wants of the country. For my own part, I see no advantage in depreciating the power of the British Navy and of exaggerating the power of foreign navies; and I am convinced that, if my noble Friend had scrutinized the list of foreign vessels with the same keeness as he has scrutinized those of Great Britain, at least half of them might have been knocked out of the list. In his estimate of 1403 foreign strength he has included vessels with wooden hulls and gun boats carrying one gun, and he has ignored the fact that our battle ships are larger and more powerful than those of foreign nations. With the number of ships we purpose to build we shall have a Navy which will be a match for any two foreign fleets in combination. I regret very much that the noble Lord went out of his way to attack the First Naval Lord. No naval officer has been more persistently attacked than Sir Arthur Hood, and yet no man has done more to promote the efficiency of the service, or has shown a greater single-mindedness in devoting himself to his duty or has so much set his face against anything which savours of a job. He has never allowed any man to be put in a position unless in his judgment that man was the best qualified to perform that particular work. Sir A. Hood is a man of great scientific attainments, and I do not think there is a single naval officer of his standing who has the same general knowledge of his profession. I think it is much to be deprecated that one naval officer should use the House of Commons to attack another naval officer who has merely been defending himself against criticisms made upon him in the public Press and in public speeches. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has contended that this proposal will encourage foreign nations to embark on a largely increased expenditure on their navies. There is not the slightest indication or evidence of that. We have just received the proposed expenditure of France for 1890, and I find that it is practically the same as for the year 1889. As far as we can learn from the foreign Press, the proposed increase of our Navy has met with the almost unanimous approval of the Governments and Sovereigns of other countries. (Opposition laughter.) I will state why. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who laugh will not deny that the greater the weight and influence of England are in the councils of Europe, the greater will be the guarantee of peace, and that the more material force is behind England, the greater will be the chances of peace. The Monarchies and Governments of Europe are all at the present time profoundly anxious to maintain and prolong the state of European peace, and therefore they welcome this addition to 1404 our Fleet as a guarantee that the force it will place at the disposal of this country will be used for maintaining the peace of Europe.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
I have only stated that this is the case as far as we can judge from the utterances of the Press of foreign countries.
§ *LORD G. HAMILTON
There is a. general indication in the foreign Press that our action meets with approval. The hon. Member for Northampton went on to say that it is not possible for this country to compete with two foreign countries. I would rather reverse the proposition and say that it is not possible for any two countries to compete with us in the matter of shipbuilding. I do not believe that all the dockyards in Europe could compete, in the short time which we propose, the addition to the fleet which is contained in this Bill. Therefore, if any foreign nation should endeavour to complete with us, so far as naval supremacy is concerned, it would soon discover that it was engaged in a hopeless task. There is another class of objections made to this bill, leaving out the conscientious objections entertained by Gentlemen who belong to the Peace Society, against any expenditure on the Army or Navy. The right hon. Gentleman, the member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler), among others, appears to think there are some discrepancies between the present proposals and my previous utterances and actions; but that arises from a different conception of what constitutes naval progress on the part of the objectors to that which I entertain. I have always stated that I believe the only test is to take the number of ships annually added to the Navy, and that to take outlay irrespective of return was altogether misleading. An increase to the strength of the Navy is not necessarilly an increase of expenditure. During the last three or four years there has been an enormous addition to the strength of the Navy. The number of ships added to the Navy in the last four years, estimated in money value, is equal to the amount added in the twelve preceding years. That is to say, as 1405 much work has been done in four years as was done in twelve years previously. And the difference between the expenditure of the past year and of the two preceding years is not due to any curtailment of the strength or efficiency of the Navy, but to two causes—first, to certain reductions in the dockyards, by which we cut down redundant establishments, but the main cause was the abnormal shipbuilding necessitated by Lord Northbrook's programme. The expenditure fell in a manner which had not been anticipated over a period of five years. It was expected that the expenditure of the first two years would be equivalent to the expenditure of the last two years: whereas, as a matter of fact, the expenditure of the first two years was about £1,500,000 more than that of the last two years. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton will, therefore, see that in comparing the expenditure of the last two years with that of the first two, he arrived at an erroneous conclusion by asserting that I had cut down expenditure. If any hon. Member takes the difference between one item in one year and the same item in the previous year and assumes because the expenditure is less or in excess that, therefore, there has been a reduction or an increase of strength, he arrives at an erroneous conclusion. The first year I was at the Board of Admiralty there was a pressing want which required to be supplied immediately. That want had to be made good either by a supplementary estimate or by a provision in the nest year. I took a supplementary estimate amounting to something like £200,000, and that simple transfer of expenditure of £200,000 made a difference in the expenditure of the two years of £400,000; but it did not mean a reduction of naval expenditure. What has happened during the past four years is that the abnormal programme has been completed much more rapidly than was anticipated, but the expenditure in regard to the normal programme is as high as it ever was. If hon. Members will look at one of the returns which have been laid on the table, they will see that the total addition proposed to be made between the 1st of June, 1889, and the 1st of April, 1894, is 113 ships, but 43 of those ships are independent of the programme we 1406 are now discussing. Our great difficulty has been to try to keep up for the next three or four years the rate of progress of the last three years. We take the amount of our liability this year, add to it the amount of liability we propose to incur by laying down new ships, and we take care each year that the amount of expenditure asked for the year shall bear a fair proportion to the total liability of the year. The annual expenditure on the total liabilities of the Navy during the past four years has been as follows:-35 per cent in 1885–6, 51 per cent in 1886–7, 60 per cent in 1887–8, and 68 per cent in 1888–9. I venture to say that that one test was the guage of good administration so far as shipbuilding was concerned. The present shipbuilding scheme is based upon a principle different from that of any scheme that has ever been presented to Parliament. We have made what we believe to be a full inquiry into the whole wants of the Naval service, and the scheme embodies the results of those investigations. A. sum of money is asked for which is sufficient not only to build ships, but also to provide the guns and stores necessary to make the ships efficient. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton objects to any departure from the practice which gives Parliament annual control over the naval expenditure; but the right hon. Gentleman did not show that that practice has worked well. No doubt it was designed for the purpose of securing economy and good management, but if it can be shown that it operated in an opposite direction, surely no pedantry or undue adherence to obsolete forms ought to prevent us from modifying our procedure according to the requirements of modern times. All who have been concerned in recent inquiries and Committees and commissions into the Admiralty administration will admit that three facts have been made clear. First, it is hopeless to attempt satisfactorily to manage, under modern conditions, great Government manufacturing establishments under the rules, traditions, and regulations of bygone days. Manufacturing and producing processes have been almost revolutionized during the past few years; and if the Admiralty are not 1407 to be allowed hereafter to hold balances at the end of the financial year, but are to be compelled to surrender them at the end of it so that they can not apply them to a shipbuilding programme extending over a number of years, it will be absolutely impossible that the Admiralty can hold its own in efficiency and economy with the private yards. But the Admiralty can hold its own if it is allowed to retain the balances. This, then, is the first alteration that is made. It is proposed to give greater latitude to the Admiralty; the balances are not to be surrendered; and moreover, the proposed expenditure is to be put into an Act of Parliament, which is a check, not on the House of Commons, but on the Executive. If the House refuse to vote the money there will be no power to force it do so; but the plan will do something to prevent a repetition of what has happened in the past. Someone has come into office who was anxious to keep down the Estimates, and some item has been struck off the Army or the Navy Estimates without the knowledge of any but one or two officials, and this reduction has had the effect of impairing the efficiency of a large scheme of expenditure. It is proposed for the future not that the House shall have no control, but that if the Government wish to make a departure from the policy which has been laid down by Act of Parliament, the Government shall be compelled to come to the House and make a public statement of the fact, so that the change will challenge attention and discussion. The second conclusion which is clearly established is that in the past it has not been the custom to lay before the House a shipbuilding scheme which was complete in itself—that is, not only as regards the ships which it comprises, but also as regards the proportion of one class of ships to another, and also the expenditure necessary for building the ships has not included the outlay required' for guns and ammunition. The third conclusion arrived at was that any scheme of shipbuilding which is laid before Parliament ought to be based on a full and comprehensive survey of the wants of the nation. The Government have entirely conformed to each one of these three conclusions as the principles of their policy, and I do not believe that we have materially interfered with 1408 the control of the House of Commons over expenditure. And now let us see what our proposal is. The expenditure covered by the Bill is £21,500,000, which is divided under two heads—£10,000,000 which it is proposed to pay out of the Consolidated Fund, and £11,500,000 which is to be provided in the Navy Estimates of subsequent years. The question should be looked at from a practical and business point of view. The £10,000,000 is to defray certain contracts which are to be entered into at once. Why is the money to come from the Consolidated Fund instead of being provided by an ordinary Vote? I maintain that it is not in the power of the House to refuse to find money for the contract which has been authorized to be made, unless for some unfairness or irregularity. If it could adopt such a course the result would be detrimental to the national finances, because every contractor, knowing he would be subject to such a repudiation, would attempt to guard himself from risk by making much higher terms. If the contractors fail in their duty it will be in the power of any Member of the House to call attention to that failure on the Admiralty Vote. If the expenditure is placed on the ordinary Estimates it will be impossible to predict how much will be required in any one of the next three years. The failure of a sub-contractor to supply certain material might throw a contract back and so change the time at which hundreds of thousands of pounds might be actually required, and this would involve fluctuating demands upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and corresponding fluctuations in taxation which would have a detrimental effect upon commerce. Therefore, instead of raising the money by a loan, it is proposed to raise it by annuities and to spread the taxation necessary to meet this expenditure over seven years, whereas the expenditure will be compressed into about five years. We have brought in a Bill, which I admit is a departure from former precedents, in order to provide for the increase of the Navy which we admit to be necessary. We ask the House formally to endorse this principle so that it may become a guide and instruction for subsequent Parliaments. I believe this is the only plan on which 1409 the British Navy can be effectively administered, and its annually recurring wants satisfactorily and economically supplied. I trust that we may be allowed to take the second reading of the Bill at this sitting.
§ *MR. DUFF (Banffshire)
I quite agree with the noble Lord that the Bill before the House has been opposed upon two different grounds. The hon. Member for Northampton has moved an Amendment because he objects alto.gether to an increase in the Fleet. I may say at once that with the object and speech of my hon. Friend I do not agree at all. But there is much greater force in the objections of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton; and the arguments of my right hon. Friend have certainly not been met in the speech we have just listened to from the First Lord. I understood the noble Lord to say that the principal reason for the financial course proposed by the Admiralty, is one which applies to the surrender of the balances. But my right hon. Friend showed last night how that could be overcome. In the programme of Lord Northbrook no such proposal as that contained in the Bill was made. A remarkable omission in the speech of the First Lord is that he made no reference to the extraordinary and contradictory statements of the First Naval Lord, as to the evidence he gave before the Committee of last year. The First Naval Lord on the 15th June last, giving evidence before the Committee, expressed himself satisfied, for present purposes, with the state of the Navy, so far as ironclads were concerned. He told us since that the new programme was in print on 1st July, so at that time he must have had in his mind, if not in his pocket, the whole of the programme since proposed, and, I think, looking at the position of authority Sir A. Hood occupies, we are entitled to some explanation of his extraordinary statement.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
The two matters have nothing to do with each other. What Sir A. Hood said before the Committee had reference to war with one country, not with war with any two countries, which is now recognized as the standard.
§ *MR. DUFF
Quotations much stronger than that I have given could be found I believe—and in this matter, I think, the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford) will bear me out. Now the First Lord has made no reference to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). In many respects I take a different view as to the requirements of the Navy from that of my right hon. Friend, but I so far agree with him that I think the Admiralty are at present proceeding somewhat hurriedly in laying down the whole of these ships at once. I say that because I think there is other work which might be done at once with great advantage to the Navy. They have told us that they propose to re-arm and re-engine certain of the old vessels. This is an excellent scheme, and I have no doubt that these vessels, when thus re-armed and re-engined, will be most useful. In the possession of old vessels which can at once be rendered useful in this way we are undoubtedly in a much better position than France. We have many ships which were regarded as obsolete, which, if re-engined and re-armed, would prove very powerful. Having regard to the folly and general inadvisability of laying down many ships at once, I think, with my hon. Friend, it would be much better if, instead of laying down all the proposed new ships of the line immediately, this work of the old vessels were first proceeded with, and the new ships were only laid down after further experience has been obtained regarding the Nile and Trafalgar. If vessels of a certain class are proved by experience to be failures it will be an enormous evil to find ourselves in possession of a large number of them. With regard to these old vessels which it is proposed to re-arm, there is one point I should like to mention. Amongst the vessels it is proposed to re-arm I find the Thunderer, the Devastation, the Rupert, the Alexandra, and the Hercules. These require 24 guns, but in the Return (No. 110) only 18 are shown as being requisite, which is six short. But as an alternative policy to building all the new ships proposed at once, I think it would be desirable to press forward the re-arming 1411 and re-engining of these older vessels. There are a large proportion of obsolete vessels now afloat—according to the Return No. 3—on our foreign stations. I do not say this to the fault of the present Admiralty for no doubt they found them in their present positions when they entered office. There are upwards of 20 vessels of the Opal, Emerald, and Algerine class, all obsolete. The programme of the Government is misleading because the Admiralty do not appear to have made allowance for the increase of obsolete ships by the time that the present programme is completed. By that time, instead of 30, as stated by the Government, there will be at least 41 obsolete ships. I regret many of the statements that have been made on this subject of the strength of the Navy by the First Lord and some of his naval colleagues, for it has been those statements which have furnished the opponents of the Admiralty with their most telling arguments against this scheme. I, however, do not believe in starving the Navy on account of blundering in the Admiralty, and as I consider that the case has been made out for strengthening the Navy I cannot support the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton. On the other hand, I cannot vote for a Bill which contains the unconstitutional and objectionable financial proposals referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton.
*CAPTAIN PRICE (Davenport)
Before remarking on the principle of the Bill, I should like to notice one observation which fell from the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, as to a point raised by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone. I saw the noble Lord's point quite clearly, but I think the First Lord must have missed it in some way. I understood the noble Lord to say that he considered the proposals made by the Government amply sufficient to carry out the programme which had been laid down, and that he thought if any larger programme were proposed, the dockyards of the country would not be able to do the work. He said, however, that the proposals of the Government were not sufficient to bring the fleet up to that standard which the First Lord himself laid down, which was that our Navy should be in a position 1412 of equality with the fleets of any other two Powers. The noble Lord has laid it down that we require 70 ships of certain kinds to bring us up to that standard, but what he obviously meant was, that if we had these ships now we should be in that position of equality. That we should be so in four and a-half years time, was quite a different thing. It does not seem to me that in the scheme of the Government sufficient allowance has been made for wastage and arrears nor for the building programme of other countries. At the end of these four-and-a-half years, we shall have a very fine Fleet, far finer than that of any other country, but as the years pass, other countries will be building ironclads and, no doubt, will complete a large number of cruisers. With regard to the charge of inconsistency which has been brought against the Government in relation to this matter, and which I was very much surprised to hear brought up as an argument, as I should have thought hon. Members have learnt from their own leaders that inconsistency is the very essence of modern politics. We are reminded of the First Lord of the Admiralty attending banquets at the Academy, and in the city, and declaring that our Navy is strong enough to meet those of any two countries, and then coming to this House and telling us an entirely different story. Well we have often heard speak of an appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober, but it is left for the Chief Apostle of temperance in this House to appeal, in regard to these Naval matters, from Philip sober to Philip after dinner. The case of the present First Lord is not without precedent. In 1884 Lord Northbrook told us that not only was no more money required for the increase of the Navy, but that if he had another £2,000,000, he would not know how to spend it, and yet four or five months afterwards he came down and asked for £5,000,000, declaring that that amount was absolutely required to put the Navy into a proper condition. Then we have the case of the First Lord. He may have said on one occasion that the Navy was sufficient, but at all events now he has come to his sober senses, and tells us that this large sum is required. The lesson we have to 1413 learn from this is that we must not credit all that we hear from First Lords of the Admiralty, but must look to the opinion of experts outside, and the country in general. Another argument has been used against the principle of the Bill. We are frequently asked "Against whom are you making these preparation?" Hon. Gentlemen below the gangway opposite say, "If you will tell us from what quarter you expect danger, we will, if your alarm is well grounded, consider your proposal for increasing the Fleet." That may be a very good argument, but it reminds me of a story told during the Franco-German war. After the battle of Sedan a French General asked a German statesman, "Now that you have thoroughly beaten us against whom are you continuing this war?" And the reply of the German was, "Against Louis Quatorze." His meaning was obvious. I do not suppose he thought that Louis the Fourteenth had risen from the dead, but that they were fighting against that spirit of aggression, and military aggrandizement which had sprung into life during the time of the "Grande Monarque" which had culminated in the days of Napoleon, and which now appeared to be undergoing a period of Renaissance under the Third Empire. And when the hon. Gentleman opposite ask against whom these naval preparations are being made, the answer is, against the warlike spirit of the age, against Europe armed to the teeth, against that spirit of aggression which always has actuated the peoples of the continent, and will I suppose continue to actuate them so long as human nature remains what it is. We were told the other night by the Member for Carlisle (Sir W. Lawson) that these great armaments are a temptation to aggression. This Bill, however, is one of defence, not of defiance. It is for the people of the country to say whether we shall use our armaments for the purposes of aggression, but it is not in the power of the country to declare when we may be called upon to use them for purposes of defence. A great deal has been said about protecting the food supply. During the last great war that question never arose at all. England at that time was self-contained, and could get her food supply within 1414 her coasts. One Gentleman says he does not believe much harm would be done to our commerce by vessels of the Alabama type, because of the difficulty they would have in getting coal. But the Alabama did not have much difficulty in supplying her needs, and coal depots have been multiplied all over the world since then. It may be said that the Federals had very few ships to send out to catch the Confederate cruiser, but they were in infinitely greater proportion as compared with the Alabama than the ships would be which we could send out to catch the cruisers of France and Russia. A very large part of this money is to be spent in building ships by contract. I understood one hon. Gentleman opposite to say that the proposal comes late in the day, because, although a few years ago there was great depression in the shipbuilding trade, at the present moment things are different. The shipbuilding trade has increased, and the hon. Gentleman has very much doubted whether these ten millions could be expended on ships put out to contract. I do not know if the First Lord has looked into the question, but it seems to me that if we cannot get a healthy competition amongst the private yards, the obvious thing to do is to increase the programme in the Royal dockyards. When we consider the enormous capital sunk in these Royal Dockyards, and also the extent to which the First Lord is increasing the expense of supervision in them, I say it is our duty to employ them to the fullest extent before putting anything out to contract. And now one word as to the designs for the large ships. I do hope that the Admiralty will look thoroughly into that matter. We are going to spend upwards of £8,000,000 on eight enormous ships. I cannot for the life of me understand why we are going to put so many eggs into one basket. We could build 12 ships for the same amount of money, carrying the same armament and the same thickness of armour, capable of discharging the same number of torpedoes, and having the same ramming power. In one respect only would they be inferior, namely, in the matter of speed, and I must say I fail to see the absolute necessity of a high rate of speed in a line-of-battle shin. You could not take a large 1415 ship into action at full speed; you would not steam more than six or seven knots. Suppose, while we were building these eight ships, a foreign power were to spend the same amount of money on 12 vessels such as I have described. If our eight were to be opposed to their 12, we should be put at a great disadvantage. Then, if one of our ships were to strike on a rock, or were to be sunk by a torpedo or by a ram, and one of the enemy's vessels were to disappear in the same way, the odds against us would be even worse—11 to 7. I do hope the Admiralty will go thoroughly into this matter, for I must confess I fail to see the advantage of these enormous ships when we can get all we want from vessels of a smaller size. I support the Bill before the House, not because I think it is altogether sufficient, but because I look on it as an instalment—a necessary instalment—to bring the Fleet of this country up to what it should be.
§ MR. STEPHEN WILLIAMSON (Kilmarnock)
On the first occasion when the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone spoke on these proposals he appealed to the popular feelings that might be raised on them; and he proceeded to set forth the popular arguments for the Government proposals. One ground was the increase of our tonnage and of our commerce. Now I think the noble Lord gave us erroneous statistics on that occasion. He spoke of the increase in our trade during the last twenty years, and put the increase in the combined import and export trade at from £350,000,000 to £650,000,000 between 1868 and 1888. The actual increase was from £522,000,000 to £645,000,000—not a very large increase. A more serious mistake was that in regard to our tonnage. The noble Lord said our tonnage had increased from 4,500,000 to about 7,000,000 tons between 1868 and 1888. Well, in 1868 we had 7,300 sailing vessels and 862 steam vessels—I speak of vessels employed in the foreign trade—giving a tonnage of 4,265,000. In 1887, for which year I have the printed Return, we had 2,717 sailing ships and 3,063 steam ships—a total of 5,780—giving a tonnage of 6,000,000 tons. In 1888 there was a large increase, 1416 but I have only got the printed figures for 1887. Now we have an actual falling off in the number of vessels of about 30 per cent, taking the combined sailing and steam tonnage. Nobody knows better than the noble Lord that it is quite as easy to protect a vessel of 2,000 tons as a ship of 1,000 tons Moreover, the decrease in our sailing tonnage is astonishing. It has fallen from 7,300 to 2,700; and as the increase has been in the number of steamers, they are far better able to protect themselves than sailing ships. Many of them could outrun our cruisers. So far as the noble Lords's argument goes, as based upon our tonnage and our commerce, I think it falls to the ground. My reason for voting against this Bill, is simply that the necessity for it is not shown. What is the case? By these proposals we are simply stimulating continental countries to emulate our example. Why should we not be content with our Navy as it is, with the usual annual Votes? You are going to build enormous vessels costing about a million sterling each. How do we know that any one of them may not at any moment be shattered to pieces by a dynamite torpedo? On all grounds, but especially because the ground brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone is insufficient, I feel bound to vote against the Bill.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 277; noes 136.—(Div. List No. 98)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.