§ The House went into Committee of Supply on the Navy Estimates.
§ Mr. MELLOR in the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ On the Vote for £4,133,500 for wages of officers, seamen and boys, for the Navy, Coastguard and Royal Marines, for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1896,
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, he thought the Government would recognise that there was no disposition on the Opposition side of the House to unduly prolong the discussion on these Votes. The House had been edified by the usual duel between the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. J. Reed) and the hon. Member for North Belfast (Sir E. J. Harland), by the usual afflicting litanies of members representing dockyard constituencies, which made him think the time had arrived when dockyard labourers ought to be deprived of their votes—and, indeed, all public 1277 servants—because they only used them for the purpose of raising discussion in the House to get additions to their wages and salaries. He had no desire to embarrass the Government, or, indeed, to do anything else but to assist them by a few suggestions, He was animated by the feeling that it was the business of the House to assist whatever Government was in power to improve that great service—the Navy—on which we so much relied. He acknowledged the great services of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and recognised in him a worthy successor of that other Lord Spencer who, in the time of England's stress and difficulty and danger, so admirably filled the post of the head of the Navy. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty had introduced the Estimates with a speech of such frankness and directness, that he was in danger of becoming the spoiled child of the House, and of rivalling in popularity outside the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or even the Prime Minister himself. Turning to the subject of the Vote, he saw the Government was going to spend something like a million of money on removing seamen from hulks and putting them into barracks on shore. This policy was the invention not of the present Government, but of the last Government; but he thought it was entirely wrong. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty had said that the change was made for sanitary and social reasons, and for reasons affecting the comfort of the men. He denied every one of the reasons. He contended that a hulk was very much better for sanitary reasons than the most modern contrivance in the way of drainage on shore. He did not understand what was meant by social reasons. What they should aim at in lodging seamen was to see that they did not cease to be sailors. When a man was put in a hulk he had to learn how to get into and out of a boat, to live in a restricted and confined space, to get used to sleeping in a hammock in 18 inches of space, to knocking his head against unusually low projections, and to walking about without stumbling over ring-bolts. In fact, he got ingrained into him the habits of a sailor. But in a barracks on land he had any amount of space to move about in; he slept in a bed, never got into a boat, and became more of a 1278 soldier than a sailor. The new idea—not of the seamen, but of the gunnery officers—was to treat sailors as if they were soldiers; to put the men into barracks where they learned marching and battalion drill, instead of into good, wholesome ships, where they could learn the customs of the sea. It was most important that the men should be able to steer a correct course. But that they were often not able to do. It was most important that they should be able to take a cast of the lead and call the cast. But that they were often not able to do. To his own knowledge many of the sailors were unable to pull a boat, or row a boat, or sail a boat, or tow a boat, or beach a boat. This policy of taking the men from the hulks and putting them into barracks on shore deprived the men of opportunities of learning things which as sailors they ought to know, and which increased their opportunities of becoming seamen. That, in his view, was a mistaken policy. The Admiralty were, in fact, running paper against practice. They were giving up the old English maxim, that practice meant perfect, and they were conveying by their conduct that paper made perfect. They seemed to believe that they could turn out seamen by getting the men to sit on forms and listen to things and write things. He said that on the contrary the only way to make sailors was by standing on the deck and acting. He did not deprecate science, but experimental science, and not theoretic science, was what he demanded. What he wanted was the science which enabled men to handle a boat, to steer, and heave the lead, and to do all the other things required of sailors. But all this practice on board ship was to be set aside for theory on shore and on paper. This policy was advocated by men who had arrived at eminence by paper work. To his mind it was a mischievous and dangerous policy; and he hoped the Admiralty would go back to the old system, whereby men were judged not by what they did on paper, but what they accomplished when they got a job to tackle on board ship. Lord St. Vincent in 1796 wrote—I will not lie here a moment longer than is necessary to put us to rights, because you will know that inaction in the Tagus will make us all cowards.1279 Lord St. Vincent would not have believed that not only did they propose to keep their ships largely in port, but when they had got into port to take the seamen, out of them and put them on shore. That was a dangerous and a very wrong thing, and the matter ought to be reconsidered. As to promotion, if they were going to have a larger number of officers entering the Service it would be necessary to revise the list of admirals, captains, and so forth. He trusted that some attention would be given to the leave grievance, so that officers who came home after serving abroad for three years, and who were entitled to six weeks' leave, being a fortnight for each year of foreign service, should not be immediately ordered away again, and thus prevented taking advantage of the holiday due to them, and see the suppressed leave, instead of being carried to their credit, clean wiped off from the slate. This was a grievance the naval officers felt very much, and he hoped steps would be taken to remedy it. Military officers were almost always on leave, but the working sailor officer could not actually get even the little leave which was due to him. He now came to a point about the men. He had never understood that there was any difficulty in getting boys for the Navy, but, on the contrary, he believed that they could always get more than they wanted for the training ships. He knew that, in his own town of King's Lynn, eligible boys had presented themselves in the ordinary way, and the medical officers had had to invent reasons for rejecting them, because they had more boys than they wanted. He believed that there would be no difficulty in getting boys in the ordinary way. If that was so, what reason was there for providing this wandering ship the Northampton to get boys? Again, he saw that the boys who joined the Northampton were only to have six months' training, but in an ordinary training ship they had fifteen months. He failed to see why, if the longer period was necessary in the one case, it should not be equally necessary in the other. He understood another training ship was to be set up, and undoubtedly the present number was insufficient. This ship, he believed, was to be stationed at Queenstown or Cork. He would point out that this was an entirely new departure. Ever 1280 since the mutiny at the Nore it had been the practice not to have a training ship in Ireland and not to take Irish boys, but now they were going to have a training ship in Ireland, which would be supplied entirely by Irish boys. And they were going to put this vessel in the wrong place. They were going to put her near a large town. That was a mistake. A training ship should be at some port which was distant from a large town, and where the boys would not be assailed by the temptations incident to such a town. Falmouth, for example, was an excellent place for a training ship. He did not know whether anything was being done to improve the rating of the signalmen. Their signalmen were insufficient and not good. The signals were the ears and tongue of the Fleet. If the signalmen were not sufficient to, or capable of, making signals or taking them in, the fleet could neither speak nor hear. The Fleet, in such circumstances, might be incapable of being communicated with or of communicating with their commanding officer. He hoped they should hear that something would be done to improve the rating of signalmen and to induce better men to join, and also that their numbers would be increased. In regard to the men, there was another matter to which he wished to allude. He understood that a considerable amount of the increase in the stokers must be held to be due to the larger consumption of coal, and, consequently, the larger number of men to trim the coal and stoke it, required for the Belleville boilers. He thought the Admiralty were making a great and serious experiment with boilers which required more men, and with boilers that had failed entirely in the Mercantile Marine. There was not a single representative of these boilers in the Mercantile Navy at the present day, and whenever they had been tried they had always failed. The Engineer-in-Chief was responsible for introducing these boilers, but the responsibility was shared by the First Lord of the Admiralty, because he had a preponderating voice. If they succeeded, well and good, but if they did not there would be a serious day of reckoning in that House and in the country. The Admiralty were entering upon this large experiment of using boilers without a thorough trial of them having taken 1281 taken place. Turning to the question of works, he said the Admiralty were going to make works, not only here but all over the world, to teach their men that they were not to be vigilant sailors, but that they were to turn in, go to sleep and feel comfortable when the enemy was a few miles from their shore. Ho said that was a mistake. It was not the method pursued in the blockade at Toulon, where for two whole years the men were kept constantly on the alert and rowing guard night and day. If they were going to box up their men in Dover, Portland, and Gibraltar, in inaccessible breakwaters where they were to be perfectly safe from attack, they would teach them that they had a right to turn in and sleep and take no care for the enemy. That was wrong. It would be teaching them not to be alert, whereas, all their efforts should be to teach them to be unceasingly vigilant. The hon. Member was proceeding to discuss the financial methods by which the Naval programme was to be carried out, when—
interposed and pointed out that such a question did not arise on this Vote. When the Annual Loan Bill came on the hon. Member would be able to discuss the financial aspect.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES
had hoped to have said a few words on the general strategy of the naval operations, because, really and truly, upon their view of Naval stategy depended every farthing they voted, whether for works, or men, or anything else. But he recognised that this was not the time for raising such a question, and he trusted another occasion would be afforded him on which he might present a few considerations to the Government. There was only one other matter to which he desired to allude. Members would have seen from the reports of speeches in the French Chamber, that the increase in men and in English Naval expenditure had aroused the susceptibilities of France. He thought there was no ground for those susceptibilities. Some members of the French Chamber seemed to think their Naval Votes were directed against France. But they should have to take the same Votes and maintain the same strength in their Navy if France did not exist. There was not a 1282 man who merited the name of a statesman who did not feel the importance of our maintaining good terms with France and of France maintaining good terms England. It was not against France, but for the carrying out of the destinies which were given to them in this world, and in the maintenance of their trade they sought to make their Navy strong. He and Members sitting on that side were convinced that the Government had not only acted wisely, but had done their bounden duty in coming and asking the House for what it would never refuse—namely, adequate sums for the maintenance of a strong and powerful Navy.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. EDMUND ROBERTSON,) Dundee
, replying upon the various points raised during the discussion of the Vote, said, the interval that had elapsed since the Estimates came before the Committee had enabled him to review the comments of hon. Members. These comments had been grouped round three, subjects, and the first was that of works. Upon this he had only to say that in a few days the Loan Bill—to provide the first instalment for works—would be before the House, and that would be a more suitable time for the discussion of questions relating to the items. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Kings Lynn he knew the hon. Member's knowledge of Naval matters, and he would bear in mind what he had said when he came to further vindicate the barrack policy of Government. Subjects had also been raised relating to the Shipbuilding Vote. In that he included all questions as to the types of new ships, the great battle of the boilers (in which he contended so unequally with the hon. Member for Gateshead), and other dockyard questions, and hon. Members would permit him to postpone what he had to say upon these matters until the Shipbuilding Vote was before the Committee. But, in answer to the hon. and Learned Member for Plymouth, he would like to say that the apprehension he expressed about petitions had no foundation in fact. He, himself, did not think the men would be prejudiced by the delay in bringing forward the petitions. But some weeks ago the Admiralty caused an order to be disseminated that in future the petitions should be collected at the 1283 end of September or October instead of in November as now, that the Admiralty might have an opportunity of seeing them before the Estimates were framed in November. With regard to the question of the Engine-room complement in the Navy, he had already said that during last year some concessions were made to the demands put forward on behalf of the men, after hearing certain hon. Members of the House who were interested in engineering questions. He was sorry, however, to find that what he said had been misunderstood by certain service papers. This was a warning to be cautious about the language one used about the service. It had been represented that the engineering staff of the Navy had votes, and because of this the Admiralty listened to the engineer Members of the House. That was a total delusion. The Admiralty made no discrimination between the engineering and the executive part of the Navy. The hon. Members for Lewis-ham, Battersea and Gateshead would remember perfectly well that they approached the Admiralty, not as political representatives of the engineers of the Navy, but as engineering experts who were deeply interested in the position of Naval engineers, and, with a good sense and patriotism deserving of all admiration, desired to lay their professional views before them, rather than appear to be agitating for advantages to their profession on the floor of the House of Commons. Having already said the Admiralty would not be unwilling to receive their views on another occasion, he hoped he might be allowed to pass away from this engineering grievance. The senior Member for Devonport spoke of the stokers in the Navy. He had asked those responsible for advising the Admiralty whether there was any fault to be found with the quality of the men, and he was assured that it was entirely satisfactory.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, W. R,, Holderness)
The hon. Gentleman says certain concessions have been made to the engineers in the Navy. Has he stated what they are?
§ MR. ROBERTSON
Yes, I did so in my last speech. That interruption enabled him to correct an unfortunate mistake which had got into the newspapers. The Admiralty were adding 1284 £9,000 a year to the pay and pension of engineer officers. The figures appeared in the papers as £90,000. But he was sure no engineer officer had been misled by the mistake, for which he was not responsible. He now came to questions properly raised under the present Vote, and the first was as to the claim put forward, not for the first time, for improvement in the status of the warrant officers. Everybody who spoke seemed to shave the views of the hon. Member for Devonport on the subject, and an hon. and gallant Admiral went so far as to inform the House that the Naval Lords of the Admiralty were of the same opinion. He did not like to discriminate between Naval and Civil Lords, but when it was considered expedient to lay the opinions of the Naval Lords before the Committee it would be done through himself, and not through the hon. and gallant Admiral. But the position of warrant officers was an extremely difficult question which had been a long time before not only the Naval Lords, but the Board of Admiralty and the Manning Committee. The whole matter had taken a new turn, and was at that moment engaging the consideration of the Board of Admiralty. The duties, classification, and position of warrant officers in the service would come up for immediate review by itself. The necessities of the modern warship made it absolutely necessary the whole question should be considered, and until this was settled it would be obviously impossible for him to give any further information. The questions of a possible new rank and more rapid promotion must be suspended until the Admiralty had received the opinion of its professional advisers.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES
asked whether the promotion of warrant officers to quarter-deck rank would be considered.
MR. H. E. KEAR LEY (Devonport)
inquired whether the hon. Gentleman 1285 did not make practically the same statement about the warrant officers two years ago.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said, that what he had just stated was not in his mind at all two years ago. Turning to the difference between the allowance given to able-bodied pensioners in the fleet reserve and the dockyard reserve—the former receiving 1s. 6d. and the latter 1s. 1d.—he said he had been asked why this discrimination was made. The fact was the employment of pensioners of the fleet reserve was temporary. This system of temporary employment was coming to an end, and when the numbers of the active service list were brought up to the proper mark it would be ended altogether. The end being temporary, the employment being temporary, the whole institution being temporary, there was naturally a larger allowance made to the men so engaged than there was to the men employed in the dockyard reserve. It might be said that the dockyard men did not get enough; but he would ask the Committee to remember that the dockyard reserve pensioners do not come under anything like ordinary market conditions, but come under a preferential scheme. If he mistook not, they were employed without any serious limit in respect of age; at any rate they had exclusive right to the appointment; nobody else was allowed to come in; and that differentiated their case from that of others. A question had been raised about the allowance to marines going a second time on foreign service; and he was glad to be able to give the hon. Member for Devonport the comfort that his remonstrances had proved effectual, and that a remedy in the direction he desired had been applied. The question about Naval shipwrights he should rather like to leave for the future as one of the dockyard questions, because it came before the department on the petition of the shipwright apprentices. It had been asked why boys from the Northampton training ship were taken on after six months instead of 15 months' training. The Northampton was intended to get hold of boys who could be put into the Navy almost at once in order to avoid the anticipated deficiency of 1,800 men. It was thought that a year could be saved if they could get hold of a class of 1286 boys a year older or more, and, therefore, readier for service than ordinary boys were with the best preliminary training that could be given them. It was thought it would be a good thing to send the Northampton to those places on the coast that hitherto had not yielded any boys for the Navy, and, on the whole, the experiment had succeeded wonderfully; it had aroused public interest in the Navy; and almost every member for a place on the sea-board appeared to be anxious for the Northampton to visit his constituency. He would not pretend to say that the experiment was a complete success until the boys obtained had been more fully tested, but still there was room to hope for the best. Other points had been raised which he would take care to represent to the members of the Board of Admiralty specially concerned; and he hoped that now they might be allowed to take Vote I., as they had had ail unusually long discussion.
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cockermouth)
rose to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000. He said that, after the full discussion of the details of the Estimates, he hoped they might be allowed to consider, as a whole, the policy they involved. He did not speak as a pessimist or a croaker, but simply as an independent member who was horrified at the enormous expenditure for warlike purposes. He apologised to the Committee for moving his amendment now; it would have been more appropriate on the vote for the men, but he let the opportunity slip; and such was the languor and lassitude prevailing that nobody seemed to do the right thing at the right time. Ho took the opportunity of raising the question of the policy of these armaments because, in the view of political friends sitting below the gangway, they could not allow this enormous expenditure to pass unchallenged. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh, in an admirable speech on Friday night, said that the prosperity of this country depended upon free trade and an invincible Navy. Yes, but to be invincible, our Navy must be prepared to meet, not only any other two Navies, but all other Navies; and for that purpose the Estimates were too small; while on any other assumption they were too large for all rational purposes. He was not anxious 1287 to run any risk; but he agreed with Sir R. Peel, who, long ago, said:—I believe that in time of peace we must by retrenchment consent to incur some risk.Those were words of common sense; and it ought to be explained now whether we were preparing to fight the whole world, or were proceeding on a more rational footing. They were all too apt to put responsibility on the Government; and he felt that in this case he could not do that; indeed, responsibility rested on all members, and this was a matter on which they might well speak out. On other matters they were hampered by the fear of what would happen to their measures in another place, but in this matter they were free and responsible only to their constituents. Of course he should be told that all this armament was for defence only. Well, if it were for anything else it would be the most wicked expenditure imaginable, and he thought the tendency of these enormous armaments was to produce danger. A noble lord opposite had carried by a large majority the Second Reading of a Bill based on the assumption that if people walked about with pistols they would be very likely to use them; and if that were true of individuals it was true of nations. If we had these ships and armaments all ready for action there was a great temptation to put them into action. Of course they would hear again the old adage, "If you wish for peace you must prepare for war," but that was like saying that if you wanted to keep dry you must jump into the river, or if you wanted to keep sober you must fly to brandy. Experience showed the folly of the wise saying that was so often quoted. France and Germany, Russia and Turkey, were the four nations that had fallen most completely under militarism, and we know that within living memory all these nations had been involved in disastrous wars.
§ SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
rose to a point of order. Was not the hon. Baronet attacking the general policy of Naval Expenditure? Would other Members be allowed to enter upon the general question?
The general question must not be entered upon, 1288 except so far as the Vote is concerned. As I understand the hon. Baronet is about to move a reduction of the Vote on the ground that he thinks the number of men asked for is too many.
There can be no general discussion on the Vote except so far as the Vote itself permits.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT, Derby)
This is not the Vote for men but for money.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cockermouth)
said, he hoped the hon. Member and others would not be more out of order than himself. Surely, proper reasons should be given why this sum of money should be voted. The Committee were called upon to vote all this money to keep up armaments because it was supposed to be the best way of bringing about a settlement of international disputes. But all these disputes were settled at last by Conference, and all he said was—settle the dispute before the slaughter. Lord Dufferin said, not long since, that if he had his way, whenever war broke out between two nations, he would take the Ambassadors of each and have them hanged in public. Without going so far as that, he would be inclined to proceed somewhat in that way towards Governments who chose war as the means of settlement. There were only two ways of settling disputes—you could settle them by reasoning, or by fighting; and he opposed this Vote because the Government, through making these strenuous efforts to provide great armaments for the settlement of disputes by fighting, had not, so far as he knew, taken any means for settlement by reason. He had been taught from his earliest youth that the policy of the Liberal Party was comprised in the watchwords—"Peace, Retrenchment, Reform:" and the present Government was the nearest approach to a Liberal Government he had seen in his generation, and the nearest approach probably he was likely to see. They could do nothing more likely to make their name honourable and memorable than by taking a course 1289 to get, rid of the abominable method of settling disputes by war. But this Liberal Government was out-Jingoing the "Jingoes," and never were there more extravagant Navy Estimates. These ''bloated armaments," as long since they had been called, were growing year by year, and the words used by his hon. Friend (Mr. Robertson) every elector should read—''Ten years ago the Navy Estimates were just over £12,000,000; to-day they are £18,000,000. Ten years ago——
I think the hon. Baronet is now going beyond this particular Vote, and touching upon matters germane to a general discussion.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, there were wide limits for discussion in this Vote of £4,000,000, and it was an awful statement that this expenditure on machinery for slaughter had in ten years progressed by leaps and bounds. If this was to go on, what use was there in talking about education and civilisation, what was the use of the Liberal Government, what was the use of Christianity? If this horror continued, it would mean that in another decade other representatives of the Navy would say, "We must have, six millions of money and 30,000 more men.'' There had been experience of how the thing was worked. A vast sum of money was called for by the naval and military authorities, and this being granted, the House was told—Now we are all right, we shall have the finest ships manned by the finest men in the world.But in a few years, the money being spent, and the people who benefited by the expenditure being gorged like a boa constrictor after swallowing a sheep, at last began to get hungry again, and more expenditure was called for. The way to get expenditure was to get up a scare, for there was nothing John Bull liked so much as a scare. So then, in a few years, the people would be told that we really had no Navy, that our ships were useless, the money had been thrown away, and we were defenceless. There was an example in a recent Times comment—We doubt if we could put an effective Army Corps in the field, after all the optimist tolk of the War Minister.1290 Newspaper editors would be set to work at the right, time, meetings would be held in the City presided over by the Lord Mayor, who would be supported by aldermen, stockjobbers, and others. Lord Salisbury would perhaps speak, and gallant admirals and generals would pull the British lion's tail and wave the Union Jack, the voice of the Jingo would be heard in the land, and then constructors, contractors, boiler makers, and the rest would be comforted, the Income Tax would go up, and millions would be gathered in to the accompaniment of the Alleluia Chorus from Liberal Dockyard Members. Everybody knew that, as a description of what would take place, everybody knew that when this money was spent there would be this thing over again. A splendid thing this for the constructors and boiler makers and others; but how was it, for the working mass of the population? How would they stand it? There was an old public-house sign, the "Five Alls," meaning the King who governed all, the Lord Chancellor who pleaded for all, the Bishop who prayed for all, the General who fought for all, and the working man who paid for all.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, it had been estimated that the working man worked half an hour more daily to maintain these enormous armaments. Think of that, in a country full of poverty, misery, and wretchedness! Thirty-six millions in the year taken for the Army and Navy, taken from reproductive labour, increasing the misery, want, and destitution among the people! Talk of the Eight Hours' movement, he wished that the working men representatives were present to vote with him against these bloated armaments, with the intention of showing how in some measure something could be done to make the lives of the poor brighter. What had been the result among the great military nations? If we followed in the same path we should have the same result as there was in Germany, where militaryism was in the ascendant, and where also were the seeds of 1291 sedition, anarchy, and despair; or, as in France, now starting a filibustering expedition almost as bad as any we had carried out ourselves; or, as in Italy, which country, apeing the big armaments of other Powers, had made their land one in which life was scarcely worth living by the working classes. Now England was called upon to play the same miserable role. Against such a policy he would, by voice and vote, protest, because until the Government had tried, and tried effectually, to make arrangements with other nations to settle disputes by reason, they had no right to enter upon this game of beggar my neighbour in the contest of means of slaughter. Published letters from the Continent showed that even now foreign Governments only wanted for some Power to take the initiative to follow the example in reducing such expenditure; and it would be a noble action for England to take that initiative. He did not care for being called a Little Englander. He would have this a peaceful, honest, prosperous England, under rational conditions; and because it was not rational to vote these enormous sums, he would divide against the Vote. He Moved the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
said, that after hearing the speech of the right hon. Baronet he had come to the conclusion that the hon. Member must have been asleep for a great number of years like Rip van Winkle. The hon. Baronet forgot the fact that we were living in an age of iron, steel, and steam. He forgot that one could not build an ironclad in the same rapidity with which men built a 74-gun ship 100 years ago. He forgot the fact that the progress made in science had culminated in the construction of huge vessels. Everything was huge now by comparison with what existed 50 or 100 years ago. The hon. Baronet also forgot that this was an era of high wages and short hours of labour. He forgot that this was an age of steam engines and good boilers, and he ought to know that a line-of-battle ship cost a million of money, for which sum ten 74-gun ships could be put afloat 80 years ago, There was another consideration which the hon. Baronet overlooked. We were an insular nation; if our frontiers had been 1292 adjacent to those of other nations we should have had conscription rampant in this land. Every man would have been liable to shoulder a musket, and huge armed camps would have been established in the country. But our bulwark was the sea, in which lay the highways to and fro our home. It became, therefore, an absolute necessity for this nation to be in a condition to hold those highways at all hazards against those who might dare to obstruct them. We must have cheap food for our working men; the days had gone past of dear food for our toilers. In the event of war with a strong naval power, the four-pound loaf must not be increased in price. How was all this to be secured? It could not be secured without a perfect fleet to keep our highways open so that all our food stuffs could be brought in without let or hindrance. We could only make sure of such a position by being free of the sea. No doubt it was painful to spend 20,000,000. Every right-thinking man deplored the necessity, but the expense must be borne for our security. He held the expenditure upon our Navy to be nothing more nor less than the nation's premium in its life insurance-policy. As a Radical he would gladly welcome the dawn of the millennium but as yet there were no signs of universal peace and brotherhood. The aspirations of the poets and other good men were not yet fulfilled, and until they were we must not allow ourselves to grow weak upon the seas. Let them reduce Army expenditure as much as they liked; but they could not reduce the fleet. They might look forward to a still greater expenditure upon the fleet as time went on. Science demanded it. Larger docks and more of them were wanted for warships: docks on the east coast, docks on the west coast, and docks on the Irish coast!
said that the hon. Member was now travelling beyond the limits of the Vote before the Committee.
§ MR. ALLAN
said that he would conclude by recalling what Sir Walter Raleigh once said in reference to England:—The nation that commands the sea commands the commerce of the world: commanding the commerce of the world you command the riches of the world.We were that nation. It was the duty, 1293 therefore, of every Briton, worthy of the name to support any and every Government whose policy was based on the principle of always maintaing the strength of the Navy, for upon that policy—he said it fearlessly as a Radical—depended the greatness of the British Empire.
§ SIR G. BADEN-POWELL
said, that when the Civil Lord of the Admiralty Induced the Committee to close the general discussion the other night, there still remained a great many Members who desired to speak on the general question. Those hon. Members would now have to discuss the questions in which they were specially interested on the details of the Estimates. There were points which they must raise in the interests of their constituents and the country, and they must now be raised on the Votes as they were reached, because they could not be raised in the general Debates in consequence of the action of the Civil Lord. He regretted that there was not a Minister of Cabinet rank who was charged with the duty of presenting in that House the Estimates for the greatest of our spending Departments. He had the greatest respect for the abilities and capacity of the Civil Lord, but the admiration for that hon. Member did not make him a Member of the Cabinet. And the fact remained—that they had to discuss these great Naval questions without the assistance of the First Lord of the Admiralty, whose place was elsewhere. One of the results of this state of things was that they were often compelled to discuss at great length matters which could be disposed of comparatively briefly if the First Lord were only present in that House. The Civil Lord that evening had said that to three or four questions which had been asked he could only reply after reference to his Chief. They were supposed now to sanction a large expenditure for officers and seamen before they knew what would be the final policy of the Government respecting the ships which these men were to man. He had consulted a great many eminent Naval experts, who said that there were serious faults in the type of the ships recommended in the programme of the Government. If that programme were amended, there might be a vital and material difference in the number of officers and men and engine-room staff required. Yet they were asked to vote 1294 this money for the men in ignorance of the character of the vessels for which they would be wanted. Our past experience showed that the command of the sea depended upon an absolute supremacy in battle-ships; but the present programme of the Admiralty did not provide for a single new battleship. That was a very serious defect in the programme. Complaints had been made with respect to our training ships and some of our dockyards; and as yet no satisfactory explanation had been given. It had been acknowledged that the effort of the Admiralty last year to enlist men into the Navy directly from the Mercantile Marine was a dead failure. Now they heard that a new experiment had been made, and that a ship had been sent to different ports for the purpose of inducing boys to join the Navy. The Civil Lord had not informed the Committee how far the cruise had been a success in relation to the cost of the process. He did not see that by going to the large seaports any security was offered that the boys who were recruited should be boys with sea training, and he thought on this point much more information was desirable before the country was pledged to the expenditure involved. So far as he had observed, the chief appreciation of the visits of the Northampton came from the tradesman and the shopkeeper, who found considerable profit from the presence of a large man-of-war in the port; and he doubted whether this appreciation came from any earnest desire to supply boys to the Navy. He would not say that the hon. Baronet was in any sense a Rip Van Winkle; on the contrary, he was one of the most lively and wide-a-wake representatives of the "Little England" school, and for that reason he was most strenously opposed to the hon. Baronet and all his arguments.
§ MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
reminded the Committee that 12 years ago, speaking roughly, the expenditure on the Army and the Navy was £26,000,000, whereas at present it was about, £40,000,000. Including the expenditure on the Indian Army, the national charge for armaments came to the monstrous sum of £58,000,000. The reason of this perpetually-increasing expenditure was that every now and 1295 then there was a scare in the newspapers, and Ministers were very much given to these scares; while Naval gentlemen, naturally desirous that their service should be magnified, did their best to convince the country that our whole Empire was in danger of falling to pieces unless each year we spent additional millions on the Navy. There was no satisfying these gentlemen; whatever Ministers did, and whatever amounts they were ready to spend on the Navy, the Naval experts, and Admirals, and such-like people always were complaining and crying—"More, more!" How did this mania for expenditure originate? It originated in a speech made by the noble Lord the late First Lord of the Admiralty, who laid down the extraordinary doctrine that we ought to have a Fleet equal in strength to that of any two fleets in the whole world. Hon. Gentlemen accepted that; but could they say what had occurred since that most incautious statement was made? Why, other countries were not prepared to admit that we ought to have a Fleet that could sweep off in a moment the fleets of any two nations. As we build ships, they build ships. Therefore, we we were engaged in a game of beggar-my-neighbour—not against one, but against two Powers. Was he to understand that in case of a war we ought to have such a Navy that we should be able to drive off at once any belligerent from the ocean, so that our commercial marine would be enabled to continue their business as though there were no war? The thing was impossible and absurd. One knew perfectly well that the mere chance of an Alabama slipping out of harbour would so raise the premium of insurance on British bottoms as against the premium on neutral bottoms that practically our commerce for the time would go into the hands of some neutral Power. He had seen discussions as to whether we ought to defend the Mediterranean or not. Now it was very obvious we should require a much stronger Navy in the event of war, say with France and Russsia—absit omen—if we were obliged to maintain our flag in the Mediterranean, than if we were to withdraw from the Mediterranean. [Sir C. DILKE: "No."] He should say the less seas we had to defend, the less Navy we required in order to defend 1296 them, and it would be infinitely simpler in his judgment, to block the Mediterranean at Gibraltar, and Aden, and Pem, than to seek to defend it. In the Parliament of 1880, under the Ministry of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, he believed there was a Departmental Committee which considered this question, and he had always understood this Committee decided that it would be necessary, in our own interests, to withdraw from the Mediterranean pro tem. instead of remaining merely for the purpose of protecting our coasting trade, and to send everything round by the Cape to India. The hon. Member opposite spoke in a sneering way of "Little Englanders;" but the poor "Little Englanders," it must be remembered, had practically to pay for everything. Who were the so-called "Little Englanders" but the right hon. Member for Midlothian, his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. There (pointing to the Treasury Bench) sat the "Little Englanders." And what he complained of was that these right hon. Gentlemen would not stand honestly and persistently by the opinions they professed when out of office, but now, when they were in office, they went wasting and squandering money just as if they were Conservatives. Formerly there was a way of stopping, to a certain extent, this vast expenditure upon military armaments. When hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power they were always prone to spend large sums of money. But they were always attacked by their opponents. Now it seemed to be a competition between the two Parties which should spend the greatest amount of money on the Navy. Thus, when the Civil Lord of the Admiralty made his statement, the late First Lord, instead of protesting that the amount to be spent was not large enough, congratulated the hon. Gentlemen on the proposals he had made. On reading that statement he could not help remembering that it was laid down in former times that the heads of the two great spending Departments should be in the House of Commons. He should not object to his hon. Friend being First Lord of the Admiralty. But he was not; the First Lord was somewhere else.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
He has always been in another place in the case of a Liberal Government.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, if that was so it was a shameful and melancholy thing. It would be admitted that the right hon. Member for Midlothian was himself always against this vast expenditure. He only regretted that the right hon. Gentleman was not present, for he was sure he would denounce this wild and reckless expenditure on the part of the Government. He did not himself believe that these large armaments tended to peace. When you had these huge armaments, you next felt that you ought to use them, and you were apt to meddle in matters of foreign policy that did not concern you. He admitted that it was desirable that we should have a Navy sufficient for defence; but he protested against the Navy being swollen to such a degree as to become a menace to every other Power. They were not ashamed to be little Englanders, and would Vote cordially for the reduction of the vote, believing it to be desirable that they should register some protest against this vast advance in the expenditure on the Navy.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
desired to explain why he could not Vote in support of the Amendment of his hon. Friend, to whom they were indebted for bringing this subject before the House. Many people shared his hon. Friend's view with regard to the increasing expenditure upon the Navy, but the weak point in his hon. Friend's speech was that he did not suggest one single item upon which expenditure was too heavy. Then he did not make any suggestion as to the limitation of expenditure in the future. Looking at the expenditure of the last ten years and to the possibilities of the future, he thought the present situation was one which no Radical, and no Conservative even could view with any degree of favour. But the hon. Baronet contented himself with a quotatation from Sir Robert Peel that we ought to have sufficient retrenchment in time of peace almost to run a risk so far as war was concerned. He did not believe that was the view of the Radicals of the country. He would vote for the Government—if he voted at all—on the 1298 present occasion, because they were in a better position than he could be to judge of the necessities of the country. But he desired to know what was the view of the Government as to the future. Did they contemplate that in the next ten years there would be an annual increase such as had taken place in the last 10 years? Did they think that this rivalry between the nations of the world, so far as Naval power was concerned, would continue? France and Russia were building ships year after year. Would it settle the question if we gave up our Navy to-morrow? He understood that his hon. Friend who Moved the Amendment was against the whole expenditure.
§ MR. DALZIEL
asked whether the Government would be any nearer a settlement if they gave up the proposed Estimates for the current year? Had they any guarantee that if this country ceased to build ships, other countries would cease also. He thought the time had come when some arrangement should be arrived at with other nations. Had the Government ever considered the possibility of such an arrangement? He did not see that it ought to be impossible to make such an arrangement on the basis of this country retaining its present superiority. He appealed to the Civil Lord to say whether the Government was prepared to take any steps to bring about a conference of nations in order to see whether some arrangement could not be arrived at which would be acceptable to this country, and which certainly would be in the best interests of all the countries concerned.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
said, it was very satisfactory to hear a Radical of the extreme type of the hon. Gentleman assert himself so vigorously on the side of those who wished to maintain the Navy of this country. The sums now voted for the Navy, large and increasing though they were, were in proportion to the wealth and commerce of the country and the duty that the Government had to perform, small in comparison to what they were even in the last war. The hon. Member for Northampton asked whether they proposed to sweep away from the seas in case of war, all hostile vessels, and 1299 said he believed such an idea to be impossible and absurd. And yet it was by sweeping away almost all hostile vessels in olden times that we did succeed in bringing to a happy conclusion a war which last for very many years. He did not believe that these sums of money, large as they were, expended in increasing the strength of the Navy were wasted now, when, as all the world knew, in the last few years there had been times when the possibilities of war were very close. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had assured the Committee that it was the duty of this country, in case of a war, to shut up the Mediterranean, but such an idea was a mistake, founded, in his belief, upon a misconception of the history of our past wars. Apart from the great damage that would be done to commerce in the Mediterranean itself, he would point out that in almost every war most of our successes were due to the fact that, in our operations in the Mediterranean, we were in the centre of the field where naval operations could be carried on to the distress of the enemy. This fact would inevitably repeat itself in future wars. He believed that those who advocated the closing of the Mediterranean did much damage in pressing such views on the Government of the day. He hoped that the speech they had just listened to was an indication of abiding vigour in faith in the strength of the Navy, which, he believed, existed in Radical as well as Conservative circles. Among the people of this country, during the past few years, there had been a revival in favour of our having a strong, and even a very strong, Navy. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) as well as other Liberals, had taken a strong line on this question, and he thought this might be taken as an indication of a general consensus of opinion throughout the country. They might, therefore, congratulate the Government on the firm line they had taken up in boldly recommending to their followers and the Committee so great an expenditure.
§ MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
, while regretting that the Member for Cockermouth and the Member for Northampton had, no doubt unintentionally, misled the Committee, pointed out that it was a delusion to say 1300 that there had never been so great an expenditure upon the Navy. [An hon. MEMBER: "In time of peace.''] At a time this country was, it was true, at war, but when there was not a single organised hostile naval squadron in European waters, this country spent £19,000,000 sterling upon her Navy Estimates during the 11 consecutive years 1805–1815. There was then no organised naval force in the world to oppose us; only 5 per cent. of what we ate came over the seas; the cost of a battleship was only one-tenth of what it was now, while the population had since increased four-fold. If the alternative were put before any voter in this country whether he would wipe off the cost of that expenditure or take the assets it represented in the form of our great colonies, what conclusion would he come to? The Committee were really wasting time over this Amendment. He could understand the position of the Member for Cockermouth if he had come down and said that all our expenditure upon the Navy was wrong, and that we ought, in case of any dispute, to resort to arbitration; but he could not understand by what right the hon. Member and the Member for Northampton could say that a particular sum was enough for our naval requirements. If they reduced the expenditure to a point which they did not consider to be enormous, then every single sixpence spent that would not enable the Navy to do its work was absolutely money wasted and cast into the sea. They did not pretend to tell the Committee that they had considered the question of what sum would, in their views, suffice, but they said that the sum now asked was extravagant. He would retort upon those hon. Members that if they succeeded in reducing the expenditure upon the Navy to a point at which the Navy would not do its work properly, it was they who were extravagant, because whatever money was then spent would not enable the Navy to do the work for which it was intended. He, however, sympathised with the hon. Member for Northampton when he complained that this country was paying all the cost of the increase in the Navy. We were, in fact, paying 89–90ths, while the Colonies were getting the benefit of that increased expenditure. There was no 1301 contribution from Canada towards the cost of the Navy, while the contribution from our Australian Colonies was ludicrously small. If there was to be economy, it might well come from the Colonies, which shared so largely in the benefits and protection of the Navy. He had addressed audiences of different complexions in politics on the subject of the Navy, and he would undertake to obtain a majority of votes from any constituency in the country on the question of the present Amendment. The Patronage Secretary, it was true, had gone down to a remote corner in Wales and there made a statement which no schoolboy out of the 4th Standard would be allowed to make elsewhere, that the only damage from a great naval war would arise to the great landowners and the dukes, and that all this increased expenditure was being asked to please the landowners and the lords. Could there be anything so preposterous? The miners well knew that they themselves would be great sufferers from a great naval war. He should certainly vote against the Amendment.
§ MR. C. H. HOPWOOD (Lancashire, Middleton)
strongly supported the Amendment, and as strongly repudiated what had been said by the last speaker. The large additions to the naval expenditure exhibited a consistency worthy of a better cause, and had gone on from year to year. The Civil Lord appealed to the Committee in vigorous language, but with a surrender of all Radical principles that astonished him. They were invited to follow up former extravagance by fresh extravagance, but he could not conceive why they were less safe formerly than they were now. In past times they existed in the belief that they had a good Army and a good Navy. They had endeavoured to mature and improve both, and now they were suddenly told that they were defenceless. It would appear that they were in the position of a man who had so much wealth that he could not defend himself unless he surrounded himself with watchmen, and yielded to daily nervousness and apprehension. The other day there was a debate in the French Chamber, and there it was declared that England possessed a Navy twice the size of the French Navy. Again, they were always 1302 making speeches, which must be intolerable, assuming that France, and, indeed, Russia too, would always be against them. Language was used which must be very hurtful to the French people to read. They had got a fleet which they could barely man, and if they were to go on as they were doing they would have to return to the old pressgang, if not their big ships would have to lie up to rot or rust. Their policy was forcing other nations into this contest of shipbuilding, and the mind was appalled at what the future state of the country would be if their resources were to be strained to the uttermost by these heavy armaments. He desired to make his protest against such a policy.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, the first question he should like to ask the hon. Members who had moved and supported this Amendment was—why their attacks on the cost of armaments were made on the naval rather than on the military estimates? [An hon. MEMBER: "Because the Naval Estimates are growing up."] Then they did not attack the Army Estimates only because they were the same as last year. No policy could be conceived more foolish. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was classed as an anti-Jingo, and yet he consented, and willingly consented, to the increase in the Navy Estimates. Was not the presumption that these Estimates were more than justified this year? Was not the presumption the other way as regarded the stationary Army Votes. The hon. Member who had just sat down referred to a speech made recently in the French Chamber showing that the naval strength of this country was overwhelming. Why, that speech was immediately answered by the representative of the French Navy, and the statement was overwhelmingly disproved. In fact, it was shown that that speech was as vague and windy as some of the speeches, if he might say so with respect, made that night in the House. Again, it was said if they continued building largely, the French and other Powers would continue to build up to them. When, for some years, they had no definite programme, France and Russia built rapidly; recently, when England was carrying out its new programme, the French reduced their programme. It was a fact well worthy of notice; 1303 but whether it was so or not, a strong fleet was necessary to the existence of this country, and not necessary to the existence of any other country. Their existence was undoubtedly at stake, and it could be no principle of Radicals or any other Party to leave this country, with its heterogeneous land forces, at the mercy of invasion. At any risk of being called alarmists, they could see no answer to this question—that, if they allowed their fleet to sink below a strength capable of holding all the seas against any possible foe, they would be liable to invasion? If they could not hold the seas, they would be brought into competition with the great military nations of the Continent. It was said that they were needlessly alarmed as to an alliance between two Great Powers—but, if one moved, the other would be compelled to move. He happened, recently, to be talking to one who laughed at their fears of invasion. He said to him:—If Russia were to go to war for any reason whatever, would you not be obliged to follow her?The reply was in the affirmative, but to the effect that Russia was most peaceful. Were they certain that nothing would occur between us and either of these two Powers? At this very moment six British battalions, with an equivalent Native force were to be marched towards Chitral, and that step would not be taken unless there was something serious in the situation, in spite of the peaceful relations existing at the present moment. It was asked, if this increase was necessary, had they been defenceless in the past? Well, the increase did not bring them relatively to a higher point than that which they occupied in past. His hon. Friend pointed out that if they wanted to lessen their naval expenditure they could quit the Mediterranean Sea. His hon. Friend, however, had mixed up two things. He agreed with the hon. Member for Northampton in certain portions of his Mediterranean policy. From the purely naval or military point of view he had never believed in the occupation of Egypt; we should have been stronger without it. But being as it was, the argument rather implied a stronger naval position in the Mediterranean, for it rested on the view that Egypt must 1304 follow the command of the seas. His hon. Friend had suggested that in a serious war against any of the great Powers the Mediterranean could not be made use of as a trade route, and that our ships would have to go round the Cape. But it did not follow that if we left the Mediterranean we could carry out our defence more cheaply than at the present time. Although there was a difference of opinion among naval men on this Mediterranean question, he asserted that it had never yet been proved that we could defend ourselves more cheaply on the high seas by masking the Mediterranean from the Atlantic and Red Sea than by holding the Mediterranean itself. It would be much better and safer to have no division at all, but to command all the seas. If they had an enemy's fleet careering about the sea, then the disputed command of the seas could not last long. It must be settled one way or another, and if it was settled against this country we had no shadow of power to defend ourselves here against invasion. He thought, therefore, that undivided command of the seas was necessary to our existence. The hon. Member for Northampton also said that the existence of great armaments tended to war. He doubted, however, whether that was the case, even with regard to the great armaments of the Continent. Although at great cost, peace had been kept for a considerable period in face of those great armaments, and the increase of a peace feeling in so-called military countries of the Continent was a fact which rather told against his hon. Friend. A great British fleet, instead of tending towards war, tended rather towards peace. A fleet was not an aggressive force unless they were preparing it for the purpose of covering a military invasion, and certainly no one could believe that the object of the British fleet was to cover an invasion of a foreign country by means of the British land forces. Unless that was intended, in what sense did a British fleet tend towards war? The people of this country were never so free from those alarms which caused war, whatever their Army might be, as when they knew that they would be able to sleep secure in the possession of an overwhelmingly strong fleet. It was quite true that the 1305 contributions from the colonies and from India towards our fleet were not what they ought to be, but whether it was possible to increase them was another matter. At all events, a strong British fleet formed the most real bond of union between this country and its colonies. The colonies might be involved in the consequences of our wars without possessing any voice with regard to them; and in his judgment it was something that this country should be able to offer to them that security which the colonies would undoubtedly obtain from the presence of the British fleet in all portions of the world.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
asked what evidence had been brought before the House of Commons to show that this great expenditure on the Navy was necessary. During the last 20 years the country had evidence to show that it had got on exceedingly well without the increased naval expenditure of recent years, while he maintained that the tendency in favour of peace had increased. This protest against increased naval expenditure was raised at this time because the Navy Estimates were increasing, and that was the most solid argument which he desired to address to the Committee. Naval expenditure increased by three and a-half millions last year. Why could not the Government wait until they had digested that great meal, and see whether or not the country had obtained value for its money. The late First Lord of the Admiralty increased the expenditure by £2,500,000, and then kept it steady for two or three years, until the country possessed evidence showing that the money had been well spent. In his opinion the Government would have been well advised if they had contented themselves with the great increase of Naval expenditure last year, afterwards waiting two or three years in order to see results before increasing it further this year. The Government did not secure the safety of the Nation by this means, because increased Naval and Military expenditure tended rather to stimulate the rivalry of other Powers. It was generally admitted that since we had begun this aggressive policy with regard to the Navy, the fleets of France and of other Powers had been greatly increased. This was the natural tendency, and he thought it 1306 might be worthy of consideration as to whether we could not set an example among the nations in this matter, and certainly we ought to proceed more slowly to the end which was thought eventually to be desirable. Experts were not agreed as to the best means of obtaining the highest result out of this vast expenditure. The hon. Member for Gateshead had shown, for example, in the debate last week, that many of our ships had not sound boilers in them, and he suggested that we could make experiments on a less expensive scale than was at present the practice. The opinion well represented in the House was the opinion of the rich Metropolitan community. On this community the great expenditure did not press very heavily; but on the agricultural districts and on Ireland it fell with ruinous effect. Did the Committee not believe that there was some connection between the famine in Ireland and the great expenditure now going on through these Estimates in a time of profound peace? He was glad his hon. Friend had made a protest. He was not a "Little Englander," neither was he in favour of a weak Navy; but he maintained that we ought to proceed more quietly. To use the language of golf, we had better not "press." It seemed to him that the Government were "pressing," and becoming a little heated and excited.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said there was nothing new in the Estimates which had been challenged by the hon. Member for Cockermouth. All that the Government was doing this year was to carry out the plan laid before the House last year, and which was then unanimously adopted. The Government had fair cause of complaint that this Motion should have been made at this time and in this way. The House had unanimously voted the men asked for; the ships had already been obtained; and in contempt of all this, apparently, the money was to lie denied. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had pointed out, this attack [...]armaments was made against the Navy as distinguished from the Army; and if this discrimination had not been made, the Motion would have found no support. The supremacy of the British Navy was the question involved. That question had been in the forefront of our legislation since the 1307 Naval Defence Act. All statesmen of all Parties would admit that. He wished to remind his hon. Friends of the way in which this question was regarded by a man so well worthy of their admiration as Mr. Cobden. Alluding to a certain Power, supposed to be our rival in respect of Naval supremacy, Mr. Cobden said—She has less than one-quarter of our mercantile marine. She has not one-hundredth part of our possessions to defend beyond the seas. She has more than double our military force; and while on land her frontier gives her access to the continent, and thereby to the whole world, we have no means of communication with any other country but by water.What was Mr. Cobden's conclusion from those facts?She has, therefore, no necessity for, and no legitimate pretension to, equality with us at sea.After suggesting that there should be frank explanation between the different countries on continued—There is no amount of expenditure which this country would not bear to maintain our due superiority at sea.All the conditions which Mr. Cobden mentioned at that time—30 years ago—as reasons for a strong Navy had changed since, but they had changed in the direction of demanding a stronger rather than a weaker Navy. In 1833 Mr. Cobden spoke of the mercantile marine of the United States as being not much less than that of the United Kingdom. In 1866 he spoke of the mercantile marine of France as being one-quarter of that of Great Britain. What were the facts now? Including vessels of over 100 tons, and neglecting all others, the mercantile marine of Great Britain was more than one-half of that of the entire world. In steam shipping alone it was 62½ per cent. of the shipping of the entire world. France stood in the relation of 1,050,000 tons to 12,788,000 tons, and the total tonnage of the United States was under 2,000,000 tons. If the argument which Mr. Cobden used was good for a Radical such as he was, surely in the present day, when the excess of our mercantile marine over that of any other country was still greater, the same argument was valid in a much greater degree. 1308 He had referred to some of the figures relating to the increase of the last 10 years, and he saw that the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth had been impressed with those figures. The mercantile marine of Great Britain had been added to in the last, 10 years to the extent of 2,000,000 of registered tonnage. The hon. Member for Islington had said that the steady increase in the Vote was the strongest reason for objecting to it. There was another Vote which had doubled in the same period—the Education Vote—and he hoped that that would not be a reason for the hon. Member objecting to that Vote. The hon. Member for Northampton, whose speech he had enjoyed immensely, had referred to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—who was primarily responsible for all the money voted—as if the right hon. Gentleman were an orthodox supporter of the "little Navy" policy. What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say last year on this very question, speaking in reply to strong assertions about our naval supremacy from the Opposition side of the House?—Do not for a moment doubt that we mean to maintain the supremacy of the British Navy. We hold, as strongly as you do, or as any man in this House can hold, that the greatness, the might, and the existence of England depend upon her Navy and its supremacy.That was the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Naval policy of which these present Estimates were an instalment. It being admitted that our Navy should be at least as strong as the Navies of any two Powers which might combine against us, the rest was a question of technique and calculation upon which the Admiralty must take the best opinion of professional advisers. That had been done, and the Government were acting by the light of that advice. He did not admit or believe that there was one unnecessary cruiser or one superfluous battleship in the programme. A conference with foreign nations had been suggested. The Committee would not expect him to deal with a high Cabinet question of that sort, but he entirely sympathised with the spirit of the suggestion. It was not with light heart that the Government presented Estimates so burdensome, and they deplored, while they strongly 1309 affirmed, the necessity for such expenditure.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said, that the remarkable development of feeling in regard to the Navy on the other side of the House was a most interesting fact. If the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy had made his speech 10 or 12 years ago, he would have been howled down by by those who sat around him. At the present time, our expenditure of over 18 millions on the Navy amounted to 1.93 per cent. of the total value of our sea-borne commerce. Last year's expenditure in France was 3.9 per cent. of the value of her sea-borne commerce, and that of Russia was 9 per cent. Again, taking as a comparison the value of the mercantile marine, our naval expenditure was 15 per cent., that of France was 105 per cent., and that of Russia was 166 per cent. That was a sufficient answer to those who held that the present expenditure was excessive. Our expenditure was an insurance, and by no means an excessive insurance in view of the great interests to lie maintained.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, the hon. Gentleman was quite wrong. The naval expenditure was less than two per cent. on the total value of our sea-borne commerce.
§ MR. CREMER
said, he made his statement on the authority of Mr. Maclean, the ex-Conservative Member for Oldham.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, the hon. Member could easily satisfy himself. The total value of our sea-borne commerce was about £970,000,000, and our Naval Estimates this year amounted to £18,700,000. £18,700,000 to £970,000,000 stood at less than two per cent. The other point to which he wished to refer was the question of the possible abandonment of the Mediterranean in time of war. No more unfortunate idea could get abroad than that our Naval Authorities or our Government proposed to abandon, or even to mask, the Mediterranean in time of war. Such a step would certainly involve the loss of Egypt and a great portion of our commerce which went through the Mediterranean. But there was another 1310 and a far more important consideration. In time of a great European war we hoped to have allies. There was a great and friendly nation in the Mediterranean whose naval power entirely existed in that sea, and whom we might expect to have on our side in case we were involved in war with two other Great Powers. The existence of that Great Power, the existence of the Italian Navy and our probable alliance with Italy, would render our abandonment of the Mediterranean impossible. In his opinion, the Naval Estimates proposed this year were demanded by the absolute necessities of the case. At this moment the French and Russian Navies were two or three, battleships stronger than the British Navy, and at the end of 1897, if there was no increase in the British Navy, the French and Russian Navies would be seven or eight battleships stronger than our Navy. In view of the present strength of the Navy, the conclusion they must come to was that the proposals of the Government were by no means excessive, and that the motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth ought to be resisted by every Member who valued the naval strength of the country.
§ DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)
regretted to have to interpose between hon. Members and their dinner, but he felt he had a duty to discharge in this matter. He was anxious to join in the protest against what he regarded not only as lavish, but reckless expenditure. He protested against the expenditure first of all as a man of peace. To make such gigantic preparation for war was entirely unsound. It would no doubt be said that preparation for war was the best means of insuring peace, but that was nothing more nor less than bunkum. Was there a Member of the House who would say that the existence of vast bodies of men armed to the teeth was not provocative of war? Such men were like fighting-cocks standing up against each other. The least spark thrown in amongst them would blow them up like a powder magazine. We were already overtaxed, and he objected as a Scotchman. If we were to have this vast expenditure on munitions of war, more ought to be spent in Scotland. Why should not some of the arsenals and dockyards be 1311 in Scotland? What was wrong with Dundee, for instance, or with Queens-ferry, or Greenock, or Glasgow? Why should they not receive some of the money? As a Scottish representative, he considered a great deal of the money might be better spent in enlarging holdings and stocking holdings for crofters and cottars, in building piers and harbours for the protection of the fishermen, and in constructing light railways to bring, in these depressed times, the produce of the agriculturists to the markets. The proposals had been made lucidly and eloquently by the Civil Lord, but he could not help regretting they had been made through the mouth of a Scotchman and a Scottish representative. He had wondered what the hon. Gentleman's constituents in Dundee would have said if they had heard him rattle off his millions of pounds. Would they not have said, with Dominie Sampson, "Ma conscience"? Depend upon it, when the Civil Lord returned to his constituents Ginx's baby would have something to say on the subject. What were we afraid of? What was this gigantic expenditure for? Were we afraid of France Why, our beloved Queen was at this moment basking in the sunshine of the South of France, and overwhelmed with the greetings of the French people. No; the French were too much interested in peace, just as we were. Were we afraid of France and Russia combined Russia could not go to war without borrowing money from England. Were we afraid of Italy? Italy was bankrupt. Were we afraid of Germany? Germany had enough to do at home in minding its own business. Danger might arise, but not yet. In 20 or 30 years' time our great sea rival would be the sturdy and hardy Jap.
§ DR. MACGREGOR
did not think he would get very far without getting out of order. The Rules of the House appeared to be made on the principle of "how not to do it."
§ DR. MACGREGOR
said he was asking what all this was for. He held that the proposed expenditure meant nothing more nor less than the most 1312 rampant Jingoism. He was as much in favour of the defence of the country as anyone in the House, but he regarded the proposed programme of the Government as simply extravagant and unnecessary. At this moment the Jingoes in thousands were dancing for joy, and singing, "We've got the ships, we've got the men, and now we've got the money too." What a parody it was upon our boasted civilization—upon our vaunted Christianity! What had become, he asked, of the party of retrenchment and reform? He had look upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the sturdy and reliable guardian of the national purse. The right hon. Gentleman was not present. Where was he? What had happened to him? Only last year he insisted upon taxing the Scottish national industry.
§ DR. MACGREGOR
said he would conclude by saying that though his sentiments might be unpalatable and unpopular, they were none the less sincere on his part. He might be reminded that he was as a voice crying in the wilderness, but he had the consolation of feeling within a small voice which told him that, in making this protest, he had done his duty, not only to himself, but also to his constituents and his country.
MR. W. R. CREMER Shoreditch, Haggerston)
said, he thanked the hon. Member for Cockermouth for bringing forward his Amendment, and he hoped that, under any circumstances, he would press it to a Division as a protest against the shameful waste of the resources of the country by the proposals of the Government. The hon. Member for West Belfast had spoken very glibly 1313 about the extent to which the proposed increase of expenditure on the Navy was approved by the people in every part of the Kingdom; but it was a very remarkable fact that not one single petition had been presented on public meeting anywhere held in support of this increased expenditure on the Navy, whereas, last Session, a very important body of nearly 500 men, who were officers of working class organisations in the country, protested against the proposals then made by the Government to increase the expenditure on the Navy. A great deal had been said about the increased expenditure being necessary to protect our commercial Marine from danger. Seven years ago, when the then Conservative Government surprised the Nation by asking for an increased Vote of £2l,000,000 to build ironclads and strengthen the Navy, the same argument was brought forward. In the House at that time were two hon. Members who had a vast interest in the commerce of the country—the hon. Members for Hull and Jarrow—and they ridiculed the idea of there being any danger to our commercial Marine, and said they were quite satisfied with the then condition of the Navy. But since that time millions had been spent on the Navy, and it had, therefore, been greatly strengthened. Yet the same old argument about danger to our commerce was repeated. From what had been said by the Civil Lord and several hon. Members, it might be imagined that the hon. Member for Cockermouth, and those who supported him, desired to disband the Navy altogether. That was not so; the question with them was whether so many millions more should be spent on a Navy which they thought was already sufficiently strong for all the purposes required. Another argument usually advanced on those occasions was that our Navy ought to be as strong as any two other Powers combined. When the question of the £21,000,000 increase was before the country seven years ago, and when this same argument was brought forward, he remembered stating to the House that only a short time before the demand was made, a Member of the Government, a Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood), actually declared at a meeting in the City of London that our Navy was then equal to the 1314 Navies of Russia and France combined, and adduced figures to prove it. Naturally, he asked the Government at the time for the reasons why, in the presence of this statement by one of their colleagues, they had asked for such an enormous increase; but he need hardly say that he had received no answer. But, if that statement was true—and he presumed it was—he wanted to know now, as he did then, what had occurred in the few months between the statement and the making of the demand to cause such a complete change of front on the part of the Government, and whether there was any real danger known to the Government which made the increase of expenditure necessary? The present proposals, however, were only a fulfilment of a prediction which some of them made seven years ago, that, notwithstanding that enormous increase of expenditure, a further demand for increasing the Navy would be made before many years. But it might be said that the Government knew where the real danger lay to our commerce and to the country. If that were so, he thought the Committee would be justified in demanding from the Government some evidence of the fact. He did not say the Government should tell them exactly where the danger was; but the Committee were entitled to ask them whether they had proof that any designs were meditated by any foreign Power against our commercial Marine, or against the shores of the country. Unless some emphatic statement of that kind was made he should support the Amendment in protest against the proposed increased expenditure. But he doubted whether the Government had any evidence of the kind at their disposal. It was an open secret that last year the Government themselves were not united on the question of increased Naval expenditure, and that this year the same differences existed in the Cabinet. No one would say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the minority of the Government who were opposed to this expenditure were less patriotic than, the Jingo element in the Cabinet. If there was any real danger the Government must have been made acquainted with it, and then they would have been united upon the subject, but it was pretty well known that they were not. He was therefore justified in 1315 assuming that there was no danger. He admitted that a strong feeling of bitterness and animosity against this country was shown by a section of the French Press; and he found, during some visits he paid to Paris last summer, that this feeling was more or less shared by many French politicians.
§ MR. CREMER
said that if the hon. Member had waited for another minute he would probably have refrained from making that statement. Well, he was determined to try and discover whether this feeling prevailed amongst the people. He therefore mixed pretty freely amongst the people in the working class quarters of Paris, and at meetings of the people he put the question plainly whether they shared in those feelings of bitterness and animosity towards this country, and in every instance, without a single exception, the idea that the people of France, and especially the working-classes of France, have any ill-feeling against this country was laughed to scorn. He therefore thought he was justified in saying that no danger need be feared from France. He was sorry a much larger reduction in the Vote had not been moved. He, for one, was opposed to the expenditure of a single extra penny on the Navy until some reliable evidence of real danger was produced by the Government. If this extra expenditure was likely to diminish the evil in the slightest degree, he would probably be found supporting it. But he had fully satisfied himself, from the observations of many years, that increased expenditure on the Army and on the Navy tended to aggravate rather than, to diminish the evil, besides, it would give to the French news-paersan opportunity, of which they would not be slow to avail themselves, of saying that those preparations on the part of Great Britain, were intended as a menace to France. During the past few months there had been a great deal of discussion concerning the terrible condition of the unemployed, and it was during such an inopportune time that the Government proposed to expend millions more upon the Navy. One hon. Member of the House, giving evidence before the Committee on the unemployed, suggested 1316 that the State should in times of distress vote sums of money.
§ MR. CREMER
said, he bowed to the decision of the Chair, and would content himself with saying that when the hundreds of thousands of people who had been suffering the pangs of hunger during the present winter looked to the House for some means of relief, the doors of the House were closed against them, and it was said it was not the function of Parliament to vote money to relieve distress amongst the people, while at the same time it voted many extra millions for the Navy. In fact, the starving people asked for bread, but instead of bread the Government gave them ironclads.
§ MR. W. P. BYLES (York, W.R., Shipley)
said, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty had argued that the extension made in the Naval scheme of the Government was necessary on the best possible advice taken by the Admiralty. But, was not that as much as to say that the policy of the Government was determined, and opinions of Members of the House silenced by permanent officials? The latter were a most estimable and useful class of public servants, against whom he certainly would not say a single word. But the policy of the Government, as regarded Naval expenditure and our relations with foreign nations, ought not to be determined by permanent officials. The Civil Lord further said the command of the sea was necessary to Great Britain. It seemed that the utterances of a few platitudes about England having supremacy at sea was intended to do duty as a reply to arguments from the Radical Benches. It was merely begging the whole question. All admitted that we must have the command of the sea, an adequate Navy, and so forth. The whole question was, What was an adequate Navy? He was appalled at the light-heartedness with which the House of Commons was continually voting increased money for the maintenance of our Imperial defences. Then the Civil Lord said they had chosen the wrong time for the Motion before the Committee; it should have been made on the Vote for men and not for money. 1317 The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean said it should have been on the Army and not the Navy. For his own part, he was willing to admit that his hon. Friend might have chosen an inappropriate moment or form of procedure for bringing his Motion before the Committee; but he cared little for the form. It was the spirit of the thing that he cared for, and he thought it had been shown clearly enough that a strong feeling existed that we were going forward too carelessly in the matter of national armaments. It was quite true that they had been wounded in the house of their friends, but he did not think the speeches of the hon. Members for Kirkcaldy and Gateshead had supplied any forcible arguments in favour of the position taken up by the hon. Member for the Holderness Division. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy seemed to be trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. He began his speech with the usual high-flown remarks about Britain having an efficient Navy and ruling the sea, which drew a good many cheers from the Opposition, and which he hoped he enjoyed. But he said he was against an extension of military and naval expenditure, and asked the Government how soon it would end. He "came to curse and remained to pray." At the beginning of his speech he was running with the hare, and at the end he was hunting with the hounds. The hon. Member for Gateshead, although he proclaimed himself a Radical and a man of peace, supported the whole of this large expenditure. But only two or three days ago, in that very House, he spoke of the expenditure upon the Navy as the squandering of national money.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
I referred to the boilers being constructed for the Navy when I spoke of the squandering of money.
§ MR. BYLES
If the Government had 1318 been squandering national money in its Naval expenditure, and rendering every ship in the Navy useless for full speed steaming, then it justified the position which Radical Members took. It was true that Conservative Members had supported the Naval expenditure of the Government. But it used not to be so. An illustrious Member of this House, the Member for Midlothian (the right hon. W. E. Gladstone) who used to make speeches in favour of economy a few years ago, said:—What I desire from the bottom of my heart is to see the question of economy once more what it was in the first twenty years of my political life—a question in which there was no distinction of Party, in which each Party vied with the other in real and energetic attempts to keep down public expenditure.He was afraid there would be few in the Lobby in which he intended to vote, and no representative of the Conservative Party. The days when they joined in the cry of economy wore apparently past. But he trusted the electors would wake up and send men to that House who would insist on the old Liberal policy of retrenchment. An argument which had been common in the Debate was, that the armaments of one country increased in accordance with the increased armaments of another; in other words, we spent more money on the Navy because the French spent more money on theirs, and the French spent more money on their Navy because we spent more on ours; and so the pendulum swung backwards and forwards, till the expenditure of all the nations on warlike preparations had grown so large that the tax-payers of Europe were being weighed down with the burden of taxation, and the countries of Europe were being brought within measurable distance of bankruptcy. The suspicions which were entertained between nation and nation were fostered and encouraged by this expenditure. In the recent Debate in the French Chamber, this suspicion had been expressed against ourselves. That day a Welsh Member had asked a question about fortifications for the Bristol Channel. The Member of the Government who answered him said that there were some other ports that were likely to be raided earlier. Who were the raiders expected to be? Did anyone fear invasion? In France there seemed to be fear on the part of some that we should invade that country. 1319 A Deputy had solemnly averred that a Cabinet Council in this country, in November last, discussed the question of the invasion of France. It sounded to us rather absurd; but it was equally absurd and unworthy of us to think that the French contemplated the invasion of England. It might savour of presumption for unofficial Members to discuss the state of the Navy; what they were really doing was to avail themselves of a form of procedure for protesting against the growing expenditure on Imperial defence. If he were personally denied the right to an opinion he would shelter himself behind Lord Randolph Churchill, who, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, on receiving the Army and Navy Estimates, said they were too large, that he was in favour of retrenchment and economy, and that he was convinced, by what he had learned at the Treasury, that such a policy was not only necessary, but perfectly reasonable. All honour to him for sacrificing himself by resigning his office. This was eight years ago, when the total defensive expenditure had suddenly risen by six millions, from a ten years' average of £25,000,000 to £31,000,000. What would Lord Randolph Churchill have said if he had been amongst us now? Why, he would have voted for this proposed reduction. Lord Randolph Churchill also said he could not obtain any satisfactory assurance that the money was properly spent, and that he had a conviction that the reverse was the case; and he spoke of the scandalously defective Commissariat in Egypt, brittle swords, bending bayonets, jamming cartridges, bursting guns, the spending of a million by the Admiralty unknown to the Treasury, and vessels costing over a million proving a failure. Since then we had lost one by the incompetence of the commander—["What vessel?"—The Victoria.]
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterbrough)
As a matter of order, cannot we on either Vote discuss every question in connection with the Navy?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Certainly not. The rule of the House is that the general discussion takes place on the first Vote. Sometimes the two Votes are discussed together. The reason this Amendment is permissible is that Vote 1 applies to the men of the Navy, and it is not in Order to discuss a matter which is not a subject of the Vote.
§ MR. BYLES
thought nothing could be more germane to the subject in hand than the quotations he had made on the increase of naval expenditure by an eminent and brilliant Chancellor of the Exchequer, who further said—If the foreign policy of this country is conducted with skill and judgment, the present large and increasing armaments are quite unnecessary, and the taxation they involve perfectly unjustifiable.Very little consideration had been given to the people who had to bear this increase of taxation, to be imposed at the very time when a Committee was considering the destitution that arose from non-employment. With regard to the alternative policy, he believed that there was a more excellent way, and it was for the nations to consider together whether mutual, reciprocal, and perhaps, proportional disarmament could not be brought about among the great powers of Europe. There had been evidence during the last six or twelve months, that there was more preparedness than was generally supposed, amongst the statesmen of Europe for such proposals. He looked forward with hope to the day when a statesman would arise who would seek, by diplomatic means, to avoid the necessity for increasing naval and military expenditure.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, the quotation the hon. Member (Mr. Byles) had just made from a speech by the late Lord Randolph Churchill, should be read in conjunction with other speeches by the noble Lord, who was a brilliant and effective Leader of his Party. He was perfectly sure 1321 that many quotations would be found to the effect that England must possess an overwhelming Navy. Ho was convinced that no leading Conservative Statesman used more emphatic language in that direction than the late Lord Randolph Churchill. The hon. Member for Haggerston had commented on what he considered the change of attitude of the present Government in respect to Naval expenditure. No doubt the Government would give a good reply to those comments. Of course they could mention, among other things, the increased armaments of France, and the growing understanding between France and Russia. But, without dwelling on these reasons, he ventured to give one reason very much to the point; the marked expression of public opinion in almost all classes of the British people in respect to the strength of the Navy, and to bearing the fiscal burdens necessary to maintain that strength. Most unmistakable had been the manifestations of that public opinion which must be the ultimate arbiter in all Parliamentary affairs.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE
said, the evidence was to be, found in almost every organ of almost every Party, and in the great number of public meetings which were held at the end of 1893, and more especially that held by the London Chamber of Commerce—about the most representative commercial body in the Kingdom.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE
asserted the manifestations of public opinion had been unmistakable, and that those who knew the temperament and disposition of their countrymen—not the "Little England" and "Peace-at-any-price" parties, who were limited in number—but all who understood the feelings of Englishmen and Scotchmen, would say that the general opinion was that our Navy must be strong, and the people were willing to bear the burden of strengthening it. Whether that portion of the burden, was great which fell upon the working classes was matter for discussion at another time. The burden would be great upon the upper classes, 1322 especially since the passing of the Revenue Act of last year, but that the burden of the Naval expenditure was heavy on the mass of the, people seemed to him a monstrous proposition. Surely we must be powerful, and we were among the most lightly-taxed people on the face of the earth. But let that pass. The hon. Member asked why were there no public meetings in favour of this increased Naval expenditure. Why should there be such meetings when public opinion was satisfied with these proposals of Her Majesty's Government? Nobody was opposed to them except a limited class to which the hon. Member belonged. The vast mass of the people were with the majority in the House, and there was no necessity for public meetings. He hoped the hon. Baronet would divide on his Motion, for there was nothing like a Division to test the littleness of the "Little England" Party. Then would be seen how few Members would vote against the Government. He earnestly hoped the Civil Lord, who had conducted these Debates with so much ability and success, would not, be deterred by the opinion of this small minority—Radicals though they were. But there were Radicals and Radicals; there were some, no doubt, who desired to minimise the importance of the British Empire, and among other means to their object would see the Naval expenditure reduced; but, on the other hand, there were sturdy, strong-minded, patriotic Radicals, who, though they differed on domestic policy, were little, if at all, behind the Conservative Party in desire to maintain the defence of the Empire. He was thankful for that, and he recognised it in some of the speeches delivered by Radical Members. He need not reiterate the assurance that the Government, in doing its duty, would receive the most loyal support from Members on his side of the House. The main reason why he interposed was that he understood the hon. Member for Northampton had recommended that we should abandon the Mediterranean. That he understood was the proposition, for he had had the advantage of hearing the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Dilke), and was glad to hear it, especially after hearing some utterances about the Mediterranean on former occasions which 1323 did cause him some slight alarm. He was glad the right hon. Baronet had spoken out, declaring that the Mediterranean must be maintained, for that was the outcome of his argument. In addition to the claims of our great traffic in that inland sea, and of loyalty to our allies, Austria and Italy, there was the argument of the necessity of preserving our prestige in eastern countries. The recommendation of the hon. Member for Northampton would mean the turning of the Mediterranean into a French lake, admitting Russia through the Black Sea and Dardanelles to a comfortable coaling station, on the eastern section, the western and middle sections being entirely French. In such a position we must abandon all command of Egypt and the Suez Canal, for that would be impossible without at least a joint command of the Mediterranean. That was so obvious a proposition that he would not stop to debate it. What he was most anxious to submit to the House was this: The abandonment of the Mediterranean would be a serious blow, he might almost say a deadly blow at our prestige throughout Asia. The Asiatic people were becoming more and more alive to what was going on in Europe by means of the increased intercommunication, and we must regard the effect of an abandonment of the Mediterranean on our prestige throughout Syria, Asia Minor, Arabia, and India. Important was that in India where the people had knowledge of our position in the Mediterranean. We had sent an expedition from Bombay to Malta, and he had the organising of this expedition. Thousands of natives of India of India of influence and intelligence took part in that expedition, and they, returning, had much to say to their countrymen about the Mediterranean, and so the people of India had become aware of what went on in the Mediterranean, and any sympton on our part of caving in, backing out, or scuttling, would create the impression that twelve o'clock had struck for England's greatness, and her great day of empire was approaching an inglorious sunset. It would be construed into a sign of decadence, and our prestige would suffer. Our vast dominion in Asia depended more upon opinion than upon physical force, though, of course, physical force was the basis. But 1324 the superstructure depended on opinion or prestige, and that meant the moral effect arising from these considerations. A more deadly blow could not be struck against England's moral dominion over Asiatic people than by the abandonment of the Mediterranean. To ask England to strike that blow herself with suicidal hand was to suppose us capable of more folly than we could be guilty of at the close of the nineteenth century. If we are to maintain the Mediterranean we must look at Gibraltar, but that was a question he would not now touch, for another opportunity would be presented for discussing the work there. In passing, however, he might say that if we are to maintain our hold, as the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Dilke) so well argued we must on the Mediterranean, then we must have at Gibraltar the means of repairing two big ironclads, should they be temporarily disabled. This money was required for an increased number of men necessary, because of the increase in ships; it was the development of Naval resources the country demanded, and he need not labour the point.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said that he was not in favour of peace at any price, but in favour of defending the country in every way that was right and proper. Allusion had been made to the late Lord R. Churchill, and he believed that that statesman was in favour of a peace policy. At any rate, he opposed strongly that wretched fighting policy of ours in Egypt. The hon. Baronet who spoke last had said something about the temper and disposition of the people. Well, the industrial classes—the substantial section of the people—who had made this country what it was, were all opposed to this war policy. He supposed that the hon. Member got his notions from the public-houses. Whether he got them firsthand or second hand was a point on which they had no information. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty said that they ought to have raised this discussion on the Vote for men, or on the Army Votes. But last week they were appealed to—some of them personally—to allow the Army Votes to go through. It was going too far when Members of the Government appealed to hon. Members as a matter of business and urgency 1325 to allow Votes to go through, and afterwards twitted them for their acquiescence. If that was the way business was going to be conducted the Civil Lord and the War Minister might encounter difficulties in getting their Votes through on future occasions. He hoped they would not be treated again as the Civil Lord had treated them that night. The Civil Lord had said that no one protested against the Vote for the increase of the Navy last year. The hon. Member was wrong, for he protested against it. But, because an increase was Voted last year, the Government had no right to say that the House was bound to go on increasing the Vote for ever. Then the Civil Lord said that those who objected to an increase of taxation ought to vote against the increased demands for education. Now, those who always voted, and always had voted, when they dared, against the education Vote were the Jingo Members opposite, who were, however, ever ready to grant money for war purposes. Those who, like himself, had always voted in support of education for the children of all classes, did not like to be told that because they were in favour of devoting still more money to educational purposes, they must, therefore, vote for an increase of the Army and Navy. The policy of the Amendment was that in future there should be arbitration instead of war. Two years ago there was a Debate on the subject, and he wanted to hear what the Government had done in consequence of that Debate. Were they prepared to make a Treaty with the American Government, providing that disputed questions should be submitted to arbitration before war was begun? Had the Government approached the French, German, Russian, and other Governments with a view to entering into Arbitration Treaties? Unless steps were taken to carry out Resolutions passed by that House, it was a farce to pass them. He was convinced that if Arbitration Treaties were made there would practically be no danger of war in the future, for during the time taken to consider the question, disputing countries would have time in which to arrive at a calmer frame of mind. Surely the Radical Party ought to remember the promises which they had made to the people of this country. Possibly one 1326 of the reasons why they were losing seats in the country was that they were forgetting their pledges. The Tory Party had apparently nobbled this so-called Radical Government in regard to this Jingo business. They ought to have some respect for their principles, and to remember the promises which they made when in Opposition. Although it might be only a small band that would vote in support of the Amendment that night, the Members who composed it would have the satisfaction of knowing that they were voting in accordance with the policy which their Party advocated before they were returned to power. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy seemed to think that whatever the Government did must be right, and therefore, whilst he sympathised with the hon. Baronet the Member for the Cockermouth Division, he intended to vote with the Government. That was not the way in which the representatives of the people ought to view the Government's management of business. Why should not we endeavour to cultivate good relations with the French, the Germans, the Russians, and any other peoples we had to do business with? Unfortunately, there was a party in this country who lived by war. They were brought up for fighting purposes, and for nothing else. They said it was the only trade or profession that a gentleman could be connected with; he believed that, except in the case of those at the top of the tree, they fought very well when, called upon to do so, and that they were brave men. [An hon. MEMBER: "The Duke of Cambridge."] A right hon. Gentleman said the Duke of Cambridge. For several years he had desired to reduce the Duke of Cambridge's salary out of the way altogether, and he should propose that reduction on another Vote. He objected to fighting people altogether. [A Laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen who laughed should remember that war was, after all, murder. If they read their Bible—as he supposed they did sometimes—they would know that was the Bible view of it. We were told, "Thou shalt not commit murder." Some persons would strike the "not" out altogether. Unfortunately, a Radical Government were always got hold of by somebody. He understood from what he had heard to-night there was a division in 1327 the Cabinet in regard to these Jingo matters. He, understood from experts that there was a leakage of at least £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 of money on each service absolutely wasted; and he was told a great saving might be made by proper management without any loss of efficiency whatsoever, because things were not conducted in a businesslike way. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean rather sneered at some of them for having made windy speeches. That sort of sneer was directed at everyone who tried to do a little good in the world, but it proved nothing. In regard to this increased expenditure, they had been told something about the Colonies. He knew the Australians paid something towards the cost of the Navy, and that Canada did not. Why? Because Canada would have nothing to do with our foreign war policy. If they wanted Canada to join us, the fighting policy must be given up altogether. Why should Canada trouble about our war policy? Canada had not to thank this country for anything at all. Canada was made by people who were driven out of this country by bad land laws and religious persecution. They did not want our protection at all, and if it came to that——
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER)
I must call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that he is getting rather away from the Vote. He appears now to be discussing Colonial policy.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
went on to say that if it had not been for the "Little England" policy—the policy of Home Rule—we should not have had a Colony left us at the present time worth having. He had been telling hon. Members some wholesome truths they did not like. He could tell them a good many more; but he wanted to know one thing—Who was going to pay for this increased expenditure? The working classes of this country paid, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer would admit, the bulk of the Imperial taxes. He had no doubt they would try and put something more on the working classes. They had no right to be extravagant with the money of the taxpayers of this country. He did not believe that either economy or efficiency was studied 1328 in the management of the Navy. But there was a higher principle still. We professed to be a Christian country, although, he supposed, we were the greatest murderers in all the world. We had got an Established Church with Archbishops, Bishops——
THE CHAIRMAN (MR. J. W. LOWTHER)
Order, order! I must call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that he is getting very far away from the Estimate now under discussion, and I must ask him to confine himself more closely to the subject-matter of the Vote, and warn him to be careful.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
, in conclusion, had only to say that we professed to be a Christian people, and that we ought to remember our profession, and go in, not for increased expenditure, but for arbitration and peace.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
regretted that the Debate had been initiated at all. He would have liked it to go abroad that the House of Commons was unanimous in voting the necessary supplies to maintain our Naval power. He did not take the hon. Member who had just spoken very seriously, but he agreed with his remark that windy speeches did not prove anything.
said, he would call the hon. Member's speech a windy speech, which did not prove anything. The hon. Member gloried in the accusation that he belonged to the Little England Party, but he would say that the hon. Member belonged rather to the Party of Icelanders. He would recommend the hon. Gentleman to read the Prime Minister's speech at Sheffield. [Mr. A. C. MORTON: "I have read it."] Then he had not profited by it. The hon. Member said he must have regard for his principles. What were they? [Mr. A. C. MORTON: "Arbitration."] He would not argue that question. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment did not tell the Committee the ground on which he challenged the Vote. It was true this expenditure was for defence, but the best kind of defence was to be prepared for offence. No Government would involve us in war willingly, but the Government he would hang would be that which allowed the country to drift, and its Naval armaments to get into such a 1329 deplorable condition as that in which we were placed in 1882. Naval officers were patriotic men, who could have no object but to see their country safe, and he thought they ought to be commended rather than blamed for having done their best to arouse public opinion and to secure that both the late Government and the present did their duty in this matter. If there was any class in this country interested m the maintenance of our sea power it was the working men, for they would suffer most by a miserable cheeseparing policy. If we lost the command of the sea, what was to become of our toiling millions? If the raw material could not come into this country wages could not be earned, and the people must starve. The problem was quite different nowadays to what it was when England was self-sustaining. "Bloated armaments" was a figure of speech without any meaning, unless it was defined. He understood it to mean armaments in excess of the necessities of the country. But no one seriously considered that our armaments were in excess of our Imperial needs. Trade followed the flag, but only so long as it was known that there was a power behind the nag to make it respected in all parts of the world. Prince Bismarck said moral strength must rest upon material force, and in our case the material force was naval. He had listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton; but he could not take him seriously. The hon. Member had stated to him personally that ho was in favour of a strong Navy and would vote anything that was necessary, but that he would take the money away from the Army Vote.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am in favour of what I call a strong Navy, which is what the Navy was 12 years ago.
said he would pin the hon. Member to his words. He would answer the, hon. Member that the Navy of 10 or 12 years ago was a weak Navy, and to say that the Navy at that time was strong was really absurd. He had always looked upon the hon. Member as a friend of the Navy. It was not, however, possible to contemplate the transfer of our commerce to neutral flags; the neutrals had not ships enough. We had £150,000,000 worth of commercial 1330 property on the high seas every night, and to contemplate the transfer of all that commerce to a foreign flag was a paltry policy unworthy of a statesman or a Member of the House of Commons. Another hon. Member suggested that this country should increase her armaments if war broke out; but ships did not descend from the clouds ready made. If war broke out, moreover, it would be short, sharp, and decisive, and woe be to us if we were caught napping! The increase in the Navy Vote in excess of the Army Vote was partly due to the transfer of the Naval gun Vote from the Army to the Navy Estimates. He was sorry that the Government had not seen their way to propose a large increase in the Royal Marines, the cheapest force in the country. The hon. Member for the Middleton Division seemed to wish that a portion of the increase in the Navy Vote should be spent on education, but he would remind the hon. Member that it was better to be ignorant and safe than to be educated and in danger. This was not a Party, but a National question, and the Vote ought not to be subjected to carping criticism, but should be passed unanimously. The country had an object-lesson to-day on the advantage of possessing a command of the seas in the victories of Japan over China. If this country were to lose command of the seas, India and our Colonies would be gone. There was no bottom in this agitation. No man worthy of the name of a patriot would indulge in it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I would venture to ask the Committee to vote now upon the particular Amendment before us. We have a great deal yet to do in Supply, and the Committee of Supply must be closed to-morrow. [Several hon. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because the Report of Supply must be taken on Thursday. I will not restate again all that I said in reply to a question the other day. I then stated that the 21st inst. was the latest day upon which it would be possible to take the First Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, and I am afraid that, in order to make it safe that we may have Supply finished to-morrow night, I must give notice that I shall tomorrow move to suspend the 12 o'clock Rule. Under the circumstances, I hope that the House will now vote upon the present movement.
§ SIR J. E. GORST (Cambridge University)
said, he could not agreee with the right hon. Gentleman in the statement which he had now made—that it was necessary for the Report of Supply to be taken on Thursday. He ventured to say, with great deference to the right hon. Gentleman, that it would be ample time if the Report of Supply were taken on Friday, and after the First Reading of the Ways and Means Bill on Friday there would be ample time to complete the arrangements for the financial year by 1st April. He had been waiting there the whole evening with the view of saying a few words on this Estimate. In fact he had given notice to bring before the Committee the case of Lord Charles Beresford, and the refusal to grant the time he had served in Egypt. He had been informed that, having allowed the Vote for men to pass, he had lost his chance, and that on the Vote for the money, the same licence was not permitted. He, therefore, could only give notice that on a future occasion on the Vote for salaries he should fulfil his undertaking to bring the case before the Committee. As to the general discussion, he must congratulate the Member for Northampton on his audacity in bringing it forward as a reproach that the First Lord of the Admiralty did not sit in the House of Commons. That was a complaint which he had made on many occasions when he sat with Lord Randolph Churchill below the Gangway. It was now more than 20 years since his right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's was the Liberal First Lord of the Admiralty, and since that time their Liberal opponents had, whenever they were in power, placed their First Lord of the Admiralty in the House of Lords, where he was entirely withdrawn from the proper control which the House ought to exercise over a great spending Department. The Debate had scarcely been a Naval debate. It had been a Debate on the Defences of the country, and he must say that hon. Members opposite, who plumed themselves on being in an especial degree the representatives of the working classes, showed that in intelligence they were far behind the people they professed to represent. The working men of this country now knew well enough that their food depended on 1332 the maintenance of the supremacy of the seas, and they also knew that their industry depended upon it. Some statistics read by his noble Friend the Member for Middlesex (Lord G. Hamilton) last year showed to what extent raw materials were imported into England. What would the constituents of the hon. Member for Northampton say if there was any risk as to the importation of hides and leather, 83 per cent. of which came from abroad? The facts being so, and the intelligence of the working classes being far above what it was 30 or 40 years ago—knowing as they did that food and labour depended on the maintenance of supremacy at sea—he did not attach the slightest importance to these proposals in favour of "economy," or to denunciations of "bloated armaments." He thought those denunciations worse than useless. No one wanted to spend a single sixpence on the Army or Navy more than was necessary. If anyone could point out where a saving could be effected, he would earn the gratitude of the Committee and his constituents.
§ MR. THOMAS SNAPE (Lancashire, S.E., Heywood)
said, a challenge had been thrown out to Members on the Government side of the House who opposed the continuous increase in the expenditure of the Navy to point out some specific way in which the reduction could be effected. He would answer that challenge. The late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord G. Hamilton) received a pension of £2,000 a year, and he thought that this money might very easily be saved. [Cries of "Order!"]
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W, LOWTHER)
The hon. Member is not entitled to discuss any matter except that which arises out of the Vote at the present time.
§ MR. SNAPE
continued by saying that one reason for their action was that if they did not protest when the leaders of their own side yielded to this clamour for increased expenditure, the ground would be taken from them if at any future time they had to protest against a similar increase when the Opposition were in power. The reason for objecting was this. Many hon. Members had pledged themselves to do their utmost 1333 to adhere to the old watchwords of the Liberal Party—"Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform." But instead of that policy they found that there was a continual increase of expenditure by the Government of their own side. They were told that it was absolutely necessary to have an overmastering Navy against the combined strength of two other Powers, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had long ago told them that they occupied this position. Why, then, should we go on in this extravagant way, voting the money of those who were suffering severely from industrial and agricultural depression in the country? Owing to the skill of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, much of the taxation for the maintenance of these armaments would ultimately fall on the rich; but notwithstanding this, a considerable addition would necessarily be made to the taxation of the industrial classes and of the poor. If the Committee continued year after year to vote these increased sums, hon. Members were to that extent taking away from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the opportunity to provide a free breakfast table for the working classes of the country. He, therefore, supported the Mover of the Amendment.
§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
joined in the protest of his hon. Friend. His main reason for doing so was that he believed increasing armaments were unnecessary if that course of agreement was entered into with other nations for the purpose of reduction which had been recommended. He did not, moreover, like to see those millions of money voted away with a light heart when there were such grievous needs among the people he represented for the protection of their life and property. The only class now in this country trained to a seafaring life were the fishermen. He therefore wished to enter a claim for the money necessary to make proper harbours for those men. One ironclad would provide good fishery harbours for the whole coast of Scotland. This subject had been brought forward time after time during the last half-century. In one storm alone 100 fishermen were drowned, leaving behind them many widows and orphans. Sir Robert Duff, whose recent 1334 loss they all deplored, brought this question before the House 30 years ago; and therefore he felt that in urging measures to be taken to render those increasing armaments unnecessary he was doing his best to enable money to be provided for the purpose of building more and better harbours. A democratic Budget had been passed, and now they desired to see an era of democratic expenditure inaugurated.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
supported the proposals of the Government. He was no Protectionist, because he knew that the best antidote against Protection was the existence of a strong fleet on the seas. England grew about 9,000,000 quarters of wheat. If the fleet were reduced, how could we ensure the passage over seas of the 22,000,000 quarters of wheat which were not grown in this country, but which were necessary to feed the people? In the event of war breaking out, even if it were successful, the 4lb. loaf would quickly go up to 8d., and, if the war were unsuccessful, the loaf would go up beyond 1s. In the face of these facts, how could it be contended that a strong Navy was in the interests of the squires and parsons? In the county which he represented, there were miles of land out of cultivation, and other land was falling out by parishes. The land did not grow the wheat which it ought to grow, and how was it possible to import what food was required unless the ocean lines from Argentina and the United States were kept clear?
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
Shall I be in order, Sir, if I enter a protest against the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to keep us here after 12 o'clock to-morrow?
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER)
No. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not made any such proposal. He has only given notice that he will make a proposal to-morrow.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said, that he should not support the Motion, because he thought that this country ought to have the finest ships, fitted with the finest guns and the best machinery in the world. He considered it of the first importance that our Navy should be maintained at the highest order of efficiency. Of course the expenditure 1335 was large, but he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find some way of raising the funds other than by imposing increased taxation on the working classes of the country. He should like some of the officers and men included in the Vote to do duty among the Western Islands of Scotland, in looking after those pests to fishermen, the steam trawlers. After much trouble and constant application, he succeeded in getting from the Admiralty one wretched old tub of a gunboat, which could only steam eight knots an hour. The fishermen on the South coast of England could have 19-knot them——
THE CHAIRMAN Mr. J. W. LOWTHER)
The remarks of the hon. Gentleman would come better on the Fishery Vote.
§ MR. WEIR
said, that the Admiralty objected to the coastguard taking any part in looking after steam trawlers off the coasts of the Highlands and islands of Scotland, because they considered it was not dignified work for men engaged in the service. It was, however, singular that in the south of England the chief officers of the coastguard acted as fishery officers; they did so without any loss of dignity.
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER)
The hon. Member is now dealing with a specific grievance. The object in moving the reduction was to deal with the general question of the Navy; and the hon. Member's remarks would be more applicable when the specific Vote which he challenges monies before the House.
§ SIR E. HARLAND (Belfast, N.)
said, that before a Division was taken he would like to remind the Committee that in the discussion on Vote A several questions were put to the Civil Lord which had not yet been answered. For instance, questions were asked as to the size of the graving dock it was proposed to construct at Gibraltar, and as to the 1336 construction of second-class cruisers much broader and shorter than those of the Talbot class.
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER)
said, those questions would more properly come up on other Votes—the first on the Works Vote and the second on the Vote for materiel.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
said, he understood the Civil Lord, at an earlier stage of the discussion, promised an answer to the various questions put by the hon. Member for Dover, and by others. He did not at all press the hon. Gentleman to give an answer not allowed by the Rules of the House, but he would like to know when the replies would be given.
§ SIR E. HARLAND
said, it was a most exceptional course for a whole evening to be spent in asking questions, and then for the Civil Lord to give no answers to the questions.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
asked if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could give him an answer to the question as to the proceedings connected with arbitration.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he could only repeat that the Government would do everything they could to promote the cause of arbitration. They had shown their sincerity in the matter by their action in respect to the Behring Sea question. Nothing had been wanting on the part of the Government to give effect to that arbitration. It was their desire that all questions of that kind should be settled by arbitration.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
remarked, that what he had said had special reference to the making of a treaty with America.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
We are very anxious to promote that, but I am not at liberty to state exactly how the matter stands.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
said, the fact that questions put on Vote A had not been answered was due to an innovation which had crept into the practice of the Committee. The practice had hitherto been to allow the same discussion on the Vote for men as on the Vote for money, that was to say that the discussion permissible on the one was permissible on the other. The other night, after the satisfactory statement of the Civil Lord, the Committee assented to the Vote for men being taken. The Vote for money then stood as the first business to be taken in connection with the Naval Estimates. The understanding, of course, was that when the Vote for wages came up the same discussion would be permitted. That had always been the practice before. To night a different practice had prevailed. If the new practice were to continue it would not, he feared, facilitate the passing of the Vote for men.
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER)
said, they were now discussing an Amendment moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth. It was quite possible that everything hon. Members desired to urge might be in order on the general Vote, bur at present the discussion must be restricted to the Amendment.
§ MR. CREMER
hoped that the course pursued that night in dividing the Vote would not be accepted as a precedent. Even the Chairman of Committees had made a mistake in saying they were discussing the Vote for men. For when a question was asked him afterwards he stated that the subject under discussion was Money, not Men. It was quite clear from the confusion which had reigned to-night that it would be awkward if the course pursued on the present occasion were pursued on other occasions.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 32; Noes 153.—(Division List No. 28.)1338
§ MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport)
said, that before the Vote was agreed to, he wished to raise two points. The first dealt with the long-standing question of opening up a new avenue of promotion for warrant officers. The claims of those men were supported by hon. Members without distinction of Party, and the noble Lord the Member for Ealing, who was First Lord of the Admiralty in the late Government, had declared in favour of the proposed concession. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty had said that the question had taken a new turn, and that it was engaging the serious consideration of the Admiralty. But that was practically what had been said last year. The Secretary of the Admiralty then stated that the question was engaging the attention of the Admiralty, and that he hoped that he would he able in a short time to make an announcement in reference to it, which would be regarded as satisfactory. There was another point, also, on which no satisfaction had been given by the Government. That was as to the claim of engine-room artificers for promotion to warrant rank. It was said that Members representing dockyard constituencies brought forward those questions because of the pressure that was brought to bear on them by their constituents. But that was not so. The claims of those men were, supported by hon. Members from all parts of the country. He thought they were entitled to a further statement in regard to them, and, in order to obtain it, he moved the reduction of the Vote by a sum of £100.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said, he thought the House had carried, as far as the public interest would allow it to go, a discussion on the claims for increased wages and promotion of men engaged in the Naval Service of the country. He did not complain of such questions being raised with regard to men employed in the dockyards, as that was a matter of mere civil administration; but when it came to men in the Naval Service, he 1339 must express a doubt as to whether the interests of the Service or the interests of the country were served by those discussions of alleged grievances. At any rate he found himself in the position of being unable to do more than to recapitulate his statement which had been found so unsatisfactory by his hon. Friend. The present status of the warrant officers was the subject of new consideration by the Admiralty, and, until it was concluded, questions as to the creation of a new rank, or as to more rapid promotion within their body, must be left in abeyance. That was really all he could say. As to the engine-room artificers, he had been in hopes that the hon. Member would have acquiesced in the suggestion he had made—that these men should come before them as they did last year, and, in company with hon. Members who were expert engineers, discuss the points as to which they were still unsatisfied. He was not in a position to announce any other decision on the question, or to do more than say that they should be glad to repeat the experiment they had made last year. He hoped therefore the hon. Member would not persevere in moving the reduction of the Vote.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said, he would gladly have acquiesced in the suggestion, were it not for the fact that they had had this performance gone through for the last two years, and had received the same assurance, but after allowing the Vote to go through they had never heard anything more about the matter. A deliberate statement had been made by the Secretary to the Admiralty in reply to a similar complaint, to the effect that a year ago the question was under the serious consideration of the Admiralty. In spite of that, however, they had never heard a word about it until now. With regard to the deputations that had been suggested, he had attended these deputations until he became weary of them. He had been before Lord Spencer on three different occasions, and had found 1340 that it was altogether profitless. He persevered, therefore, in moving the reduction of the Vote, because he felt that unless they showed their resentment of this unjust treatment, they would have no chance of obtaining redress.
§ SIR J. BAKER (Portsmouth)
, called the attention of the hon. Member to the great advantage which would accrue to the whole body of warrant officers by following the suggestion of the Civil Lord. He had proposed to review their position, and to improve, both in number and status, the whole body. The numbers of warrant officers would also be largely increased. There could be no possible advantage in dividing the House on the question of improvements, the responsibility for which rested on the Admiralty. He hoped the hon. Member would not press his Amendment, which would unquestionably retard the very work which he had undertaken.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
said, the position of the engine-room artificers was intensely unsatisfactory, and the remedy was practically very simple, so far as he could judge from the many letters he had received from these men. What the artificers wanted was that they should be allowed to pass the examination which was now in vogue for the probationary assistant engineers, in order to obtain engineer rank. The next point was that they wanted an increase in their pay, as their pay was miserably small. In fact, they were not paid what was paid in a common collier, and considering the difficulties attending their position, and the responsibilities attaching to their work on board a man-of-war, he thought their pay was utterly inadequate. He, had hoped to see £20,000, or £30,000 included in the Estimates for an increase of pay to the artificers, and he hoped the Civil Lord would satisfy them on these two important points.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said, he would withdraw the Amendment on the understanding that this matter should not be 1341 allowed to hang over year after year, but that the Civil Lord would do what he could to obtain some decision on these important points.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
replied that these were matters which were not under his control, but he would do his best to meet his hon. Friend's wishes.
§ MR. G. WYNDHAM (Dover)
observed that on Monday last he was allowed to ask a question as to the proposed harbour works at Dover, and on Tuesday he made a speech putting forward the same point, when the Civil Lord bowed his head to him with great courtesy, and he understood the hon. Gentleman was going to reply on the subject. In addition three other definite points were raised by other hon. Members. In times past, it had been usual for the Government to reply to the general discussion, and he expected the same course would have been followed on this occasion, and that hon. Members would have obtained the preliminary information to which they were entitled before they came to the narrower issues raised by particular votes. It was customary after the general discussion, and before they came to the separate votes, that hon. Members should be informed what was to be the general policy of the Government in order that they might determine with their constituents what action they should take. They had been deprived of that privilege on this occasion, and instead of having a reply from the Civil Lord on the various points raised, the whole day had been wasted by antediluvian arguments which interested nobody except the last relics of the Manchester School.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
observed that the hon. Member would not be under the smallest disadvantage, and the proceedings to which the discussion he desired to raise would be appropriate would commence the moment Vote 1 was passed. He should take care that the Bill should be put into the hands of 1342 hon. Members as speedily as possible, and if the hon. Member for Dover desired any further information beyond that contained in the schedule he should take care to get that information for him, and, if necessary, have it printed.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, there was a large Vote for the men for the Naval Reserve, and he should like the Civil Lord to give them some information with regard to the value of the Vote.
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER)
If the hon. Member will turn to Vote 7 of the Navy Estimates, he will find that the pay for the Naval Reserve is taken under that Vote, and therefore, any questions he wishes to raise he must raise when Vote 7 is reached, and not before.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
intimated that when the Vote was reached he should point out that they might be reckoning without their host if they expected to get the whole of these men in time of war. He wished to call attention to the desirability of the utilisation of the services in the Navy of the non-professional seamen of this country. It was a matter of history that on every occasion when we had been engaged in maritime war, this country had relied on a source of strength denied to almost every other country in the world, and which we possessed in a prominent degree. There was no doubt whatever that we possessed more non-professional seamen not employed in the Royal Navy or the merchant service than any other nation could boast of, and it was an obvious gap that there should be no provision whatever for the employment of any of these men. The moment that war was declared, thousands of men connected with yachts and pleasure boats would be set free who were better acquainted with the sea than even the sailors of the Royal Navy. There was no case in our history when we had not been forced to rely on the non-professional aid of men who were not seamen. In 1343 Elizabethan times our naval successes were won by our non-naval seamen. The suggestion for the utilisation of these non-professional seamen had been prejudiced by the failure of the naval volunteers. They had rightly been disbanded because bluejackets could do their work just as well. But there was work which could be done better by volunteers than by professional seamen. Bluejackets were not trained to any knowledge of territorial and pilotage waters round our coasts. These men might be utilised to man torpedo boats. We had no constituted crews for torpedo boats. These boats were laid up in the dockyards, and men were called away from sea-going complements and put into these boats, being taken away from ships in which they could be well employed. Allowing for the necessary outgoing on a liberal scale, the assistance of torpedo instructors, engine-room artificers, stores, and the cost of maintenance, £250 would be sufficient to supply a crew for a torpedo boat. The Admiralty had lately made liberal changes commended by common sense, and he asked them to make use of the resources to which he had alluded. Non-professional seamen round our coasts were to be numbered by tens of thousands, and they knew the sea as no sailor in the Royal Navy knew it. They went out in heavy weather and were successful competitors with fishermen in the navigation of our narrow channels. It might be said that these men were not amenable to naval discipline, but he had been told by many naval officers that there was a great deal to be said for the view that where men were in independent command, they took away the chief objection based on the absence of absolute control such as was necessary for a sea-going ship in the Navy. What was wanted in a torpedo boat was initiative and capability of performing dangerous actions outside the immediate scope of a fleet, and these were just the qualifications which, what he might call amateur seamen, were able to 1344 bring to the work which they had to perform. He asked the Civil Lord to inquire of his advisers whether there was not an opening for the utilisation of the services of these men, who would be available in time of war, when they could not carry on their own avocations.
§ MR. A. B. FORWOOD (Liverpool, Ormskirk)
said, the Committee had been placed at a disadvantage by the way in which questions had been raised on the Second Vote, which should rather have been raised on the First. He had put several questions on matters connected with the Royal Naval Reserve, the training of boys, and the cruise of the Northampton, to which he had received no reply; and there was another important question remaining to be dealt with—that referring to the designs of ships and the machinery for the vessels. He understood from the Civil Lord that the new vessels proposed to be laid down in this year's programme would not be commenced till the House had had an opportunity of discussing Vote 8. The Vote now under discussion provided about £4,000,000, and, according to his calculation, it would enable the Admiralty to go on for three months without coming to the House for another Vote. That would throw the discussion of these matters so late, that it would practically deprive the House of the opportunity of discussing them that it ought to have. He should like an assurance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirming what he had been led to believe that Vote 8 would be submitted early enough to give the House in Committee an opportunity of discussing these serious matters connected with the designs of the ships and their machinery before they were determined upon.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he frankly admitted the fairness of the appeal made to him by the right hon. Gentleman, and he would see what could be done. It was his duty to press upon the House the necessity under which the Government 1345 were placed. When the Vote for the money was postponed the other night he certainly hoped and was led to understand that there would not be a protracted Debate on this Vote. The Government really were in very exigeant circumstances, but he would do his best to meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he could quite understand that the Government should be disappointed by the course of the Debate that night, but certainly the responsibility did not rest with the Opposition side of the House. Let it be understood that, if there had been a larger discussion than was anticipated by the Government, the persons who had taken part in it, had not been for the most part those sitting on the Opposition Benches; but the proposed reductions and most of the speeches had come from their own side of the House. That should be put on record.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said, he should not like a false impression to go abroad. The right hon. Gentleman had imputed to him rather a different statement from that which he made as to the new shipbuilding and the machinery, and he now asked for a pledge that a commencement would not be made until there had been a debate. What he said more than once was, that the details should be discussed on Vote 8, but he had not given the pledge which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine he had given.
§ MR. A. B. FORWOOD
said, this was an important qualification. What was the use of putting before the Committee details of vessels to be built when the vessels were commenced? One of the most important matters in connection with the construction of ships was the fitting them with boilers; but if the vessels were laid down according to certain designs, then those designs could not be altered. There was, then, nothing to thank the Admiralty for in offering to put these designs on the Table when 1346 the Vote was reached. The Committee could offer no suggestion, for the Government could consider no other proposal. He mistook what the Civil Lord said before, and certainly thought the opportunity was to be given to the Committee. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see his way to offering the desired opportunity. The Committee were asked to take a new departure in the mode of construction and equipment, and especially in regard to the boilers of the new cruisers, which then should have an opportunity of discussing before the actual commencement of the ships.
§ SIR E. HARLAND
said, he could not but look on the reply of the Civil Lord as extremely unsatisfactory, and especially in reference to the second-class cruisers after the Talbot type. One of the reasons for the unsatisfactory nature of the boilers in these vessels was that the vessels were so short that safer and better tried boilers could not be put into them. The second-class cruisers were to be broader and shorter than the Talbot, and it, was actually proposed, in the face of all the mischief that had been caused, to return to the old class of boilers. In the face of recent experience, it would be madness to build the second-class cruisers shorter than before, so that boilers of a safer, better tried kind could not be put in. He regarded this as a serious and most grave intention on the part of the Admiralty. The Committee would be told when the Vote came on that such progress had been made that there was no chance of alteration. The Civil Lord had taken careful notes of the discussion, but he had not answered the questions raised. He did not consider this a proper discussion of the Estimates. Another important matter he should like to refer to was in regard to the coaling of vessels at sea.
§ THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W. MELLOR)
he hon. Member is now discussing the Votes. I understood he was going to ask a question.
§ SIR E. HARLAND
said, he would take this opportunity of reminding the hon. Gentleman of the question.
§ MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
asked,—Was it to be understood that the second-class cruisers would be put in hand before there was any opportunity of discussion, because there was an assurance given the other night that their value was to be taken from the performance of another ship of a similar type, and that would be altogether misleading.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said, he had not said that; he only explained that he had not gone so far as the right hon. Gentleman had supposed he had. He did not wish to close discussion.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)
said, if the Committee could discuss nothing on this Vote but the actual purposes for which the Vote was asked, the result would be that the money would be used for general purposes upon which there had been no discussion. As he understood, the Admiralty would be entitled, when this vote of £4,000,000 was taken, to spend the money for general Naval purposes, so that the result of restricting the right of discussion would be that discussion would be forbidden on nine out of ten purposes for which the money would be used. This Vote differed from all other Votes, in that it was a very large sum taken at the beginning of the year which could not then be spent for the purpose for which it was taken, but was used for general purposes. With all respect to the Chairman's ruling, the result would be that the Committee would be asked to vote a sum of money without real discussion of the purposes for which it would be applied.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that, as there was a discussion desired of new designs which did not meet with general approval, perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give an assurance 1348 that an opportunity for that discussion should be given.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he would endeavour to make some arrangement that should be fair, but he could not at the moment fix a date.
§ Question put; Vote agreed to.