§ Considered in Committee:—
§ Mr. MELLOR in the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
|HEADS OF PROPOSED EXPENDITURE.|
|Station.||Name of Work.||Amount proposed to be expended between the 31st March 1895 and 1st April 1896.|
|(a.) Enclosure and Defence of Harbours against Torpedo Attack.|
|Gibraltar||Completion of present mole||30,000|
|Extension of ditto||80,000|
|(b.) Adapting Naval Ports to present needs of Fleet.|
|Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Haulbow-line||Deepening harbours and approaches||300,000|
|(c.) Naval Barracks &c.|
|Chatham||New Naval barracks||50,000|
|Walmer||Royal Marine depôt, (extension)||20,000|
|Keyham||Engineers' College (extension)||20,000|
|(d.) Superintendence and Miscellaneous Charges||15,000|
§ *MR. EGERTON ALLEN (Pembroke District) moved to reduce the sum proposed to be expended upon Keyham Dockyard by the sum of £20,000, in order that that sum might be expended in the improvement of Pembroke Dockyard. Her Majesty's ships that were built at the latter dockyard had, after they were launched, to be sent to a jetty three-quarters of a mile from the dockyard to have their boilers and machinery put into them and to be fitted. The jetty in question, although it belonged to the Admiralty and the War Office, was also used by the public, and the consequence was that the ships were exposed to considerable danger. The boilers and heavy machinery had first to be brought to the dockyard and landed there, then to be re-embarked on barges and taken to Hobbs' Point, the jetty where the ships were moored, there to be re-landed in order to be put into the ships. The fitters and carpenters, and all the men and material required for advancing the ship had to be taken by vessels from the yard to Hobbs' Point, and if a tool was wanted, or a bit of material, it had 516 to be fetched, and journeys backwards and forwards for the purpose must be made. The waste of time was very great, and the extra transport was exceedingly expensive; it had been calculated that the waste by this system would amount to £10,000, even in the completion of one very large ship. The present proposal was to erect a jetty and shearlegs within the precincts of the yard on a convenient ledge of rock called the Carr Rock. If this were done the ships would be perfectly safe, the boilers and heavy machinery could be landed at once where they would eventually be wanted, and the men and material would be handy at their work without the inconvenience of being ferried backwards and forwards. Ten years ago, the noble Lord who was First Lord of the Admiralty in the last Administration, on the representation of a deputation, came to the conclusion that the change was advisable, and thought he would be able to carry it out. It had not, however, been carried out, the reason being, that scheme after scheme contended for notice on the Estimates, but if it were provided for in 517 this Bill, the difficulty would be overcome. It might be suggested that the amount necessary should be put on the Estimates for next year, but the Committee would see that for many years past it had taken its chance on the Estimates, and had never come up. The present Administration had already, in a Parliamentary Paper, laid down certain works which were to be completed out of the Estimates under Vote 10, the Vote under which, he supposed, this amount would appear if it came on the Estimates. This scheme went through a score of works, but Pembroke Dockyard did not even appear in that large scheme to be laid on the Estimates, and therefore, he thought it could not be laid to his charge that he was unduly pessimistic or suspicious in including the money they desired in the present loan. He did not think it would be objected on either side of the House that this money ought not to be spent at once, and the only question was, as to the means of raising it. The proposed work would be of a permanent character; it was, to build a jetty which would last for all time, and would be useful if any of Her Majesty's ships required repairs, or they could coal there.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. EDMUND ROBERTSON,) Dundee
said, he was sure no one could find fault with the spirit of the speech of his hon. Friend, but he hoped he would not complain if he reminded the Committee of the nature of this Bill, and their duty with regard to it. This Bill was an exceptional proposal to borrow money for the construction of certain naval works, which was made by the Government of the day on the advice of the Department which was responsible for the selection of the works that were deemed to be so urgent as to deserve exceptional treatment. Notwithstanding the natural anxiety that his hon. Friend and his constituents must feel in the state of Pembroke Dockyard, those feelings, he submitted, ought not to have an abiding place in the minds of the Committee. The Committee had to consider the matter from a national and not a sectional or local point of view, and the Government having shown themselves ready to discharge their national responsibility, they hoped that they ought to be able to 518 rely upon the sense of the House in that regard. He would remind the Committee that the Bill was an exceptional one—to borrow money for the construction of certain naval works which, in the opinion of the responsible department were so urgent as to require this exceptional proceeding. But the Bill, exceptional as it was, did not profess to be a complete programme even of the works, it was necessary to provide for by the loan, far less as a complete programme of works of all kinds. The Admiralty had never said that it might not be necessary at a future time to apply the same method in regard to other works not mentioned in the Bill, but, having considered the whole situation, what they now asked the Committee to sanction by this Bill, was the loan for carrying out those specific works which were mentioned in the First Lord's statement, and which had been accepted by the House as a whole. Whether the amendment of the hon. Member was in order or not, it was contrary to the practice of the House that the Government of the day should be forced by a Resolution to undertake expenditure which they had not demanded. The Motion or Amendment consisted of several parts, and only one fragment of the hon. Member's proposal was then before the Committee. His speech was devoted mainly to Pembroke Dockyard for the present. But the Government were bound to resist the Amendment because the hon. Member not only asked the Admiralty to carry out works at Pembroke which the Government did not undertake in the Bill, but asked them to omit certain expenditure which they had declared to be necessary in order to carry out the works under the Bill. He did not think the Committee would approve of such a course as that at the instigation of the hon. Member, and contrary to the course recommended by the Board. Now the Board of Admiralty had recently considered on the spot the requirements of Pembroke Dockyard. Only a fortnight ago they visited Pembroke, heard all the recommendations made to them locally, inspected the site proposed for a coaling jetty, and, indeed, considered all the circumstances of the case. He hoped the hon. Member and all those locally interested would deem it a satisfactory 519 declaration when he said the Admiralty would not dispute in essence the statement the hon. Member had made to the Committee as to the desirability of the works he suggested. Indeed, he might say on behalf of the Admiralty that they were prepared to admit the necessity of creating sheer legs and a jetty at the point proposed at Pembroke; but the work could not be included in this Bill, which was for other specific works. The work referred to at Pembroke was work which applied properly to, and should be included in, the ordinary estimates of the year, and he was instructed to say that the Admiralty would be prepared to make provision in the next year's estimates for them. That was the way in which similar works had been dealt with in the House. In the ordinary estimates of last year provision would be found for precisely similar work at Portsmouth. He had admitted the desirability of the demands made by the hon. Member in regard to Pembroke, but he was bound to resist his proposal to deal in an arbitrary way with certain items of this Loan Bill which the Admiralty on their responsibility had submitted to Parliament, and his demand that the expenditure for the works he mentioned should be met by the exceptional method of the Bill. After what he had said he hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn, and that the Committee would be allowed to proceed with the consideration of the Schedule. He appealed to the Committee to say whether the Admiralty, by this Bill, had not shown that they deserved their confidence, and whether they were not entitled to resist any attempt to force their hand in respect to expenditure which they had not recommended to the House.
§ MR. REES DAVIES (Pembrokeshire)
said, there was a very strong local feeling at Pembroke because no concession had been made in the Bill in regard to Pembroke dockyard. The Civil Lord had taunted his hon. Friend with a desire to cut down the expenditure at 520 other dockyards, but his hon. Friend had adopted the only form by which he could raise the question. He did not desire to deprive other dockyards of their fair share, but his complaint was that the money had not been, fairly allocated as between the various dockyards. He hoped his hon. Friend would believe that he had obtained a concession of a full and ample character from the Civil Lord, and that under these circumstances he would be prepared to hold the Government to their promise that in next year's Estimates the demands now made would receive full consideration. He observed that the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) smiled. He did not know whether it might be the fate of the noble Lord next year to sit upon the Treasury Bench, but the noble Lord himself had placed an Amendment on the Paper in favour of making a concession to Pembroke dockyard, and they therefore could scarcely suppose that he would, when in office, go back upon the proposal which he was now prepared to make. He was glad to find that Lord Spencer, when he visited Pembroke ten days ago in company with the Civil Lord recognised the weakness of Pembroke and promised that the demands which were made should receive full consideration. The statement now made by the Civil Lord he took as an indication that that promise was to be fulfilled. The Admiralty must recognise the claims of Pembroke. It was one of the finest harbours in the world He believed that at no distant date the Haven would be a great Trans-Atlantic port. There were signs of it already. They only wanted a little stimulus; they only wanted Pembroke to have the same advantages which other dockyards enjoyed, and they believed it would rapidly become a great trading port as well as a great dockyard.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
said, ho agreed with the Civil Lord that sectional or local interests ought not to override national 521 or naval considerations in a matter of this kind. The expression, however, was rather an unhappy one. The Government had assented to the claim of Wales to be treated as a separate nation so far as religion was concerned. But the moment they came to deal with dockyards, Wales shrank into the small dimensions of a section or locality. This was a loan Bill, and the present generation benefited at the expense of posterity. Therefore, it behoved them to see that the proposals made would meet the wants of the future. Nobody could deny that Pembroke was in a very inferior position compared with other dockyards. By this Bill Devonport, Portsmouth, and Chatham, would be in a better position than before, while Pembroke remained where it was, so that the difference would become greater than ever. That was a very important consideration. In recent years they had found that the more rapidly the ships were built, the cheaper was the cost of construction. If Pembroke was in such a position that every ship laid down took two years longer to build, it would be so handicapped that the Naval lords would be forced to give less and less work to Pembroke, because the return was less than from the other yards. If Pembroke was to be excluded from the Bill, he could not help thinking that, notwithstanding the promise which the Civil Lord had held out, the Admiralty would have to consider whether Pembroke was to be maintained as a dockyard at all. The Civil Lord had pledged the Government to include the necessary expenditure in next year's Estimates. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer had for years contended that no Ministry had a right to pledge the expenditure of any future year. That was the one principle which the right hon. Gentleman had laid down, and it was audacious in the extreme for any Government whose majority was not larger than that of the present Government, quietly to inform the House that 522 next year they proposed to put money in the Estimates for this work. The Naval Works Vote next year would be very heavy, and therefore, if Pembroke were excluded from this Bill its prospects of getting what it wanted would be very bad. The Civil Lord said that the Admiralty were acting on the advice of the Naval Lords in this matter, and had come to the conclusion that the construction of a jetty was not a fit subject for a Loan Bill. He had always admired the boldness of the Government, but when they proposed to spend too large a sum of money on such an ephemeral object as dredging, it was absurd to say that a permanent jetty could not be the subject of a loan. He would put before the Committee from a naval and national point of view why he thought these works at Pembroke should be included in the Bill. There were only four great naval dockyards in this country—Chatham, Portsmouth, Devon-port and Pembroke. Only three of them could build ships of the largest dimensions, and of them Pembroke was one. It was the most modern of the dockyards, and, he thought, the best laid out; and most of the work done there in recent years had been in connection with big ships, and therefore it was particularly fitted for building the class of ships which would be most required. But at Pembroke only one part of the work required in connection with the construction of a ship could be performed, namely, the commencement, which included all work up to the launching. There wore two other stages, the advancement and the final completion. The work could be done at Pembroke up to the launch, but as soon as the vessel was launched it could not be brought alongside there. It had to be towed to a point at a considerable distance from the dockyard, and the men who were at work upon her lost twenty minutes in going to their work and twenty minutes in coming back; in fact, every man who worked on the ship in the stage of 523 advancement at Pembroke, lost nearly an hour a day. When the vessel got beyond the advancement stage, no more work could be done at Pembroke, and the vessel had to be towed round to Devonport. To give a practical illustration of what it cost the country under the present system, he would turn to the Estimates for the present year. On page 190 it would be seen that there were two vessels now building, the Majestic at Portsmouth, and the Renown at Pembroke. The Majestic was much larger than the Renown, being 14,900 tons, while the Renown was only 12,350 tons. The Renown was laid down at Pembroke in February 1893, and the Majestic at Portsmouth in February 1894. The bigger ship was laid down a year after the smaller, but at the conclusion of this year the larger ship would be practically complete, while £100,000 would remain to be spent on the smaller. If rapidity of construction was economy, the Renown would have cost some thousands of pounds by being erected at Pembroke than if it had been erected at Portsmouth. Therefore, on broad national grounds he believed the construction of a jetty at Pembroke, if inserted in this Bill, would be remunerative to the nation. Some ten years ago he went personally into this matter, and he was advised that there happened to be a ledge of rock running out from Pembroke Dockyard, and that a jetty could be constructed on those rocks at a cost of less than £100,000, which would carry all the work necessary for the completion of ships. This scheme made a considerable impression on him and his colleagues, and they came to the conclusion that a primâ facie case had been made out, and they directed that a sum should be provisionally inserted in the Estimates for that purpose. A change of Government took place, and the new Government came to the conclusion that considering the very large amount of unfinished work in hand, they could not embark on these new works, but he always considered that Pembroke had a primary claim for 524 this additional expenditure. He wished to push the point a little, further. We kept our dockyards for the purposes of war as well as building purposes, and nobody could deny that if we were ever engaged in a serious war, the work at all the dockyards would be seriously heavy. Naval mobilisation was exactly the reverse of military mobilisation. The ships had to be brought to where the men and the guns were. If that concentration were to take place only at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Devonport their dockyard system would be strained. But Pembroke, not being absorbed or distracted by these duties, would be able to concentrate attention on building, and if the proposal the hon. Member made in this Amendment were accepted Pembroke would be able to complete every vessel it commenced. Supposing, however, the Amendment was not accepted, and Pembroke remained as it now was—in time of war, when a vessel had been advanced to a certain stage, it would then have to be towed or escorted round to Devonport. It seemed to him essential, therefore, that Pembroke should be included in the Bill. It had the finest harbour, he supposed, in the United Kingdom, and that being so, surely it was advisable that the naval dockyard there should be so constituted that in time of war it would be in a position to undertake the repair of every vessel that had to come into the harbour. He argued this question, not from any sectional or local point of view, but from broad naval and national grounds, and he said the case the hon. Member had made out was one which was not satisfied by the declaration of the Civil Lord, and if the hon. Member pressed the Amendment to a Division he should certainly support him.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon District)
supported the Amendment. The Bill, he said, sanctioned proposals for the expenditure of £8,000,000 for the purpose of certain naval works, and out of that sum it was not proposed to spend a farthing on Pembroke Dock. 525 He should not like himself to express any personal opinion after what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, who, he had no doubt, had had the advice of the highest naval experts. But he must take into account the fact that the noble Lord opposite who had been in charge of the Admiralty for some years, and who had as great or greater, an experience in these matters as the Civil Lord, and who had also been in contact with naval experts, was strongly of opinion that the Government were acting unwisely in refusing to accept the suggestion of his hon. Friend. Besides that, the Civil Lord in his speech admitted the case which the hon. Member for Pembroke had made for this Amendment. He said it was true there was need for a jetty and one or two other things in this harbour, and said he would meet the necessity by placing a sum upon the Estimates for next year. There being, therefore, a perfect agreement upon the merits of the case made out, why did the hon. Member in charge of the Bill not meet the Amendment by proposing to expend £70,000 or £80,000 this year? He knew very well he could not possibly pledge the next Government. The noble Lord opposite did not accept the undertaking the hon. Member had given; and, under these circumstances, the promise the Civil Lord had made would not bind any succeeding Government, and might be absolutely worthless so far as Pembroke Dock was concerned. Why not include £70,000 or £100,000 for this purpose in the present year? The Civil Lord said he could not dock off the allowances which had been made in respect of Gibraltar and some other ports, but it would be perfectly possible for him to add a proposal to expend a further £100,000. [Mr. ROBERTSON: "No, no!"] He would ask, as a point of order, whether it would not be competent for the Government, by means of a proposal, to recommit the Bill in order to add the sum of £70,000 or £100,000 to the amount taken?
§ * THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. JOHN ELLIS)
The procedure is governed and limited by the Resolution which has already passed the House.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
would it not be possible for the Government to do this by proposing a fresh Resolution?
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
If it is not possible to do it by means of a Resolution, then the only possible course is for my hon. Friend to proceed with his Amendment, and press it to a Division.
§ SIR GEORGE BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
was not surprised that no Member of the Government had risen to reply to the speech of his noble Friend, seeing that whilst the point they were discussing was the important one of national policy, not one of the three Members of the Government then present was in the Cabinet. The question they had to consider as to Pembroke was not one of mere local interest, but was a question of high importance in their policy of national Naval defence. He thought this matter ought to be regarded entirely from the point of view of National Naval policy; and he, therefore wished that there was some one on the Treasury Bench who could speak on it from that point of view. The only defence of the Opposition to this Amendment which had been given by the Civil Lord, was a confession of ignorance. The hon. Gentleman had said that a long time after the schedule of the Bill had been prepared, the Board of Admiralty had visited Pembroke, and had come to the conclusion that the Amendment would have been desirable had it been introduced in time. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to point out that the Government could not introduce into the Bill any charge for those works, which he admitted were desirable, but he endeavoured to bind a future Ministry, of which he might not be a Member, by saying that it would be in a similar Bill to be introduced next year. He wished to point out that the House had been told that the scope of the Bill could be discussed on the schedule; and he certainly would not have allowed the Second Reading to be taken so expeditiously if he had known that he would not be allowed on the schedule to discuss other Naval works, not in the schedule, which ho thought were urgently needed. With regard to Pembroke, all naval authorities agreed that 527 for the purposes of construction, finishing and repairing of vessels, the dockyard was of the highest importance. But on looking thorough the amounts expended on dockyards, he found that the policy of the Government seemed to be to concentrate all their efforts on Portsmouth, Devonport, and Chatham, on which £48,000, £40,000, and £54,000 had been spent respectively, while Pembroke got only £14,000 and Haulbowline£5,000. It, therefore, looked as if the Government, having disestablished and disendowed the dockyard of Ireland, were now about to disestablish and disendow the dockyard of Wales. He should regret that policy immensely. Those who had studied naval strategy knew that in our war with France our great advantage over France was, that she had only one great naval port, at Brest, the successful blockade of which enabled us to triumph in the war. The more naval ports we had the greater would be the difficulty of our enemies to blockade us. Our navy had increased enormously in numbers, and was going on increasing, and yet it seemed to be the policy of the Government to decrease the dockyards. He thought that if naval authorities wore right in that contention, we ought to increase and not decrease our dockyards. Speaking on behalf of the protection of our commerce on the Mersey and Clyde, he desired to point out that that commerce could be more effectively defended if we had a repairing and constructing dockyard at Pembroke. Pembroke was a most important strategical point; and he thought that regarding the matter from the point of view of our national naval policy ought to provide for the expenditure asked for in this Bill.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
said, he did not sympathise with the theory that the State should spend money in order that people might get work. But regarding the matter from a national point of view, he thought that the noble Lord had made out a strong case in support of the Amendment. In Milford Haven they had admittedly the finest harbour in the world, in which ships of the heaviest tonnage could ride; and Pembroke Dockyard possessed that most essential condition for a dockyard, and from its position it was incapable of being attacked from 528 land. The three dockyards we have at this moment were facing the Continent. The danger of that position was by no means imaginary. We were erecting enormous and costly works at Portsmouth, Devonport, and Dover to protect them from torpedo attack. The essence of a torpedo attack was that it must be delivered at a short distance from the base of operations. Such an attack was possible in the Channel, and not possible in Milford Haven. Although he did not sympathise with the local view of the question, he desired to support the Motion of the noble Lord.
* ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he had less hesitation in intervening now, because on all subsequent parts of the Bill they were all agreed. They were all agreed upon the proposal as to Gibraltar, and all the other proposals of the Civil Lord, and he made bold to say the naval service would be grateful that the hon. Member for the Pembroke Boroughs had had the courage to press the Government to recognise their responsibility. The hon. Member was in a difficult position, and he sympathised with him. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would have the courage of his convictions, and would not run away. The Civil Lord appealed to them in a pathetic way. He thought the Government deserved the confidence of the Committee. He most cordially reciprocated that feeling. The Civil Lord asked them to approve the expenditure of nine or 10 millions of money in carrying out permanent works which had long been desired by naval men. The hon. Gentleman had the confidence of naval men in that matter, but that was not the point. The point was whether the Government had not omitted something from their programme. He trusted the hon. Member for Pembroke Boroughs and for Pembrokeshire would pluck up their courage and stick by the proposal of the former. Where was the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire? He ran away from his guns, for he did not stay to listen to what Members had to say. He hoped someone would send for the hon. Gentleman. Hon. Members did not care twopence for the hon. Members for Pembroke Boroughs and Pembrokeshire and their grievances, and they did not care whether they were going to give a stimulus to the Pembroke 529 Boroughs. This was a national question, and it ought not to be looked at from any local point of view. It was from the national standpoint that Members would support the Member for Pembroke Boroughs. He would like the Civil Lord to tell them what was the opinion of the Captain Superintendents on the question. He had no hesitation in saying that it was the duty of hon. Members on both sides to support the Amendment. It was not a Party question, and he hoped that it never would be; and if the Government were defeated they need not resign. He saw that £300,000 was put down for deepening harbours. That was not a permanent, but an annual work.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
said, that was not stated, and he thought that the work was the ordinary dredging of the bars at the mouths of the harbours.
* THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Sir U. KAY-SHUTTLE-WORTH,) Lancashire, N.E., Clitheroe
This work is the permanent deepening of harbours in order that they may receive battleships of great draft at all states of the tide. The ordinary dredging work continues to be provided for in the Estimates.
§ MR. A. B. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
asked whether the sum did not include the mud-dredging at Portsmouth.
* Sir U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, that the permanent part of that work was included; but the ordinary dredging was provided for in the Estimates.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
said, that the jetty advocated by the hon. Member for Pembroke would be a permament work. Every sailor who had ever been in Pembroke Dock knew that the work was necessary, and why should it not be included in the Loan Bill? The noble Lord, the late First Lord of the Admiralty, was perfectly right in pressing this point; but the Government might make a smart reply to him. Was not the noble Lord himself at the head of the Admiralty for six years? He had told the Committee that his Administration considered the question, and saw that a primâ-facie case had been made out. He smiled at the statement of the 530 noble Lord, for he himself was not a Party man on this question. Let the Government retort on the noble Lord as he richly deserved; but if the late Government neglected their duty, it was no reason why the present Government should not do their duty. Private Members could not move to increase the Estimate, but the Government could decrease the Estimate in one particular item, and set apart £20,000 for this jetty. Even if it cost £70,000 it ought to be built. He spoke without regard to any Government in this matter, for all Governments were bad. But the present Government had done their duty in proposing this loan of £9,000,000, and they ought to continue in well-doing, not for the sake of Pembroke Boroughs, but for the sake of the Navy's efficiency. All Naval men were aware of the strategic importance of Pembroke Dock. A vessel leaving Pembroke found itself at once in the open sea, where there was no fear of torpedo-boat attack. This was not the case in leaving Portsmouth. It was the duty of all future Governments to pay more attention to Pembroke. Naval opinion was agreed on this, but unfortunately it had very little weight. The power was with the Government of the day, who ought not to shrink from what they knew to be right. The hon. Member for Pembroke was perfectly right in his argument, whether he was moved by a desire to benefit his constituents or not. He cared nothing about the hon. Member's constituents in this connection. He would urge upon the Government and on hon. Members on both sides of the House, looking at this question from a national and naval point of view, and not from a party point of view, to continue in the policy which had been begun. Hon. Members would find that the Government would bear squeezing, and would yield to pressure; and if the Government were defeated they need not resign.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLE WORTH
said, he was obliged for the speech of the hon. Member, though he had said that all Governments were alike bad. But the late First Lord of the Admiralty had delivered a remarkable speech. First of all, the case against the present arrangements was stated exceedingly well, and he had no fault to find with a large portion of the noble Lord's 531 statement. The hon. Member for Pembroke had truly said that the present Government had succeded to a legacy of great arrears in connection with works. This was the last Government, which ought to be reproached with not having undertaken necessary works. The present Government had undertaken an immense quantity of work, had largely increased the Works Vote, and now approached the House with this Bill, asking that it should be passed in order to carry out certain great and costly works. The noble Lord, however, went on to call attention to the difference of speed in the building of the Majestic and the building of the Renown. The noble Lord was aware of the special reasons why the Majestic had been pushed on at Portsmouth, but as to the Renown he should like to ask why the late Government did not undertake the necessary works at Pembroke? Whose fault was it that the present Government had found those defective arrangements in existence? The former Board of Admiralty made the arrangements for the Renown, which was being laid down when he visited Pembroke very soon after the present Government took office; and the fact that the Renown was not able to be built with the same rapidity as the Majestic at Portsmouth was partly due to arrangements left to them by the late Government. The noble Lord had been First Lord of the Admiralty practically since 1885. He was in Office in that year; and he now informed the House that at that time he felt that a primâ facie case for the Pembroke jetty had been made out; then he was out of Office for a few months, but he returned to the Admiralty in 1886, and in the succeeding years 1887, 1888, 1889, and the rest nothing was done by the noble Lord in connection with the work at Pembroke. Now, however, he told the Committee that all this difficulty was due to the present Government, and that the work had long been a primary necessity. The Government were as convinced as their predecessors that this work ought to be done, but it had been jostled out of the way by more pressing works. Having investigated the question on the spot, the Board of Admiralty had announced that they intended to build this jetty at Pembroke, and 532 to do away with the present inconvenient and expensive arrangements at Hobbs' Point. He rejoiced in that decision. He thought that there would be a great saving at Pembroke, but the Admiralty had been justified in deferring the proposal in view of the much more important proposals which had been before them, and which they had been obliged to deal with first. They were all agreed that this important harbour at Pembroke would be greatly improved by the provision of this jetty with efficient and powerful shears placed upon it. They were satisfied that this jetty and these shears were much wanted, and they had determined on the work. It was, however, a small work which they could perfectly well do out of the Estimates, and they did not think that this was a matter which they ought to place on the Loan Bill. One of his hon. Friends had suggested that the Government should spend £70,000 this year on these matters, but that was a sheer impossibility. The work could not be done in a year. His hon. Friend, moreover, did not know how heavily the Works Department at the Admiralty was weighted with the vast amount of the works which they were now carrying out. He asked the Committee to accept the pledge which he gave on the part of the Government and of the Admiralty that, if they held office when the Estimates were framed next year they would place a sum on the Estimates for that purpose. The question as to whether it should appear on the Estimates or be included in the Loan Bill was simply a question of form. If it were placed in the Bill, would his hon. Friends effect their object? They would not tie the hands of any future Government. All that it would do would be to give them power to carry out the work. Another strong point was that they could include it in the Bill without first striking, as his hon. Friend proposed to do, at three other very important items in the Bill. In the Bill had been put down against each item the amount of money which the Government believed and hoped that they would be able to spend on the item during the current year, and it was only by interfering with the items of Keyham Dockyard extension, Portsmouth Docks, and Gibraltar Dock that his hon. Friends could effect their 533 object. He therefore asked them not to press this matter, but to accept the assurance which he had given.
MR. A. B. FOR WOOD
said the right hon. Gentleman's desire to proceed with all speed in passing this Bill would not be furthered by the attack which he had thought fit to make on Members of the late Government. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the responsibility for non-construction at Pembroke devolved on the late Government; but one of the earliest things which the present Government did was to reduce this Vote by £80,000. There was all the difference between placing these works in the Loan Bill and a promise to place them on the Estimates for next year. It was easy to escape from liability to do work by trying to put it off to another year. An undertaking to execute the work at Pembroke need have no effect whatever upon the progress of any of the other works to which the right hon. Baronet had alluded. It would take a considerable time to prepare the necessary plans and to make the contract. The right hon. Baronet said that this Bill could only give the Government power to carry out the work, and that excuses might be made by a future Government for not proceeding with it. The Opposition had from the first contended that this was only a make-believe Bill, and that there would be no obligation to complete the works named therein. That view was now confirmed by the right hon. Baronet, for had he not said that although the Committee might vote the money for executing these works, excuses might be made in future years for not carrying them out.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, that he should support the Amendment, and he hoped that hon. Members from Wales would vote for it. He should not, however, be surprised if they turned their backs upon it at the last moment, as they did upon another of their own Amendments the other day. He maintained that the Secretary to the Admiralty, who had addressed the Committee in his best pedagogic manner, had given away the whole case for the Government. The right hon. Baronet had said that the Government had excluded Pembroke deliberately. [Sir U. KAY-SHUTTLE-WORTH: "I did not say that; I said Portsmouth Jetty."] At any rate, 534 Pembroke was excluded, and yet the Government admitted the necessity of doing something for that dockyard. They even reproached the noble Lord (Lord G. Hamilton) because he had not done the work, forgetting that the noble Lord did not borrow £9,000,000 for naval works. He had come down to the House prepared to vote with the Government, for at first it did appear to him that this proposal regarding Pembroke was the outcome of a local scramble for public money, and he was also affected by the consideration that if money were appropriated for Pembroke some of it might have to be taken from Gibraltar. But the Government had given away that case, because they now said they were convinced that £70,000 ought to be spent upon Pembroke Dockyard. How did the Government propose to provide this sum? The Chancellor of the Exchequer he saw had just returned to the House. The right hon. Gentleman ought to be informed at once that his inferior colleagues during his absence had undertaken next year to put £70,000 on the Estimates for expenditure on Pembroke dockyard. The right hon. Gentleman, he saw, was horrified at the idea. But it might be that next year a different Government would be in Office, and in that case the responsibility which should be borne by the present Secretary to the Admiralty and the Civil Lord of the Admiralty would be shifted on to other shoulders. If that were to be so, the Opposition would prefer to have the money down. Let it, therefore, be voted now in connection with this Bill. Pembroke was the best point in the United Kingdom, and having regard to its strategic position, a good dockyard ought to be maintained there. Whatever the Members from Wales might do, the Opposition would certainly vote for the Amendment.
* MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint District)
supported the Amendment, observing that he had not the slightest personal interest in any dockyard whatever. It had been shown that large vessels could be constructed more economically at Pembroke than in any other dockyard. It had been shown by his hon. Friend and the noble Lord opposite that a saving of £10,000 could be made in a single large vessel. It had been shown that 535 there was a considerable loss of time and money incurred in taking men to and from their work at Pembroke, that a considerable saving of transport could be effected, and that the jetty proposed could be used in future for coaling ships of war. He ventured to think that the Government would be acting wisely and well in laying down a precedent in this matter; and he would ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he could not insert in the present Bill, he would not say the full amount asked for by his hon. Friend, but at all events, an instalment of that amount, so as to give some earnest that the work would be carried on during the course of the present year. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the difference between them was practically only a difference in form, and he trusted that would not divide them on this occasion. All they wanted was an earnest that their work would be proceeded with, and if the right hon. Gentleman would say that a small amount should be inserted in the Bill, then, he thought, they would be satisfied. He hoped the Government would be able to satisfy the request of their supporters in that way. At any rate he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give an undertaking that in the course of the current year the plans would be prepared and the contract let, so that the House might have a substantial earnest that this work was to be undertaken.
* SIR U. KAY-SHTUTTLEWORTH
said, he had already stated the reasons why the Government did not think that this work should be included in the Bill; but as regarded the preparation of plans and all the preparatory work, he could assure his hon. Friend that that should be proceeded with immediately. It was, however, quite impossible to begin a new work or to incur an expenditure upon it until Parliamentary sanction had been given to it; but it was the intention of the Board of Admiralty to ask for the sanction next year?
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 26, in right hand column, to leave out "80,000," and insert "60,000."—(Mr. Egerton Allen.)
§ Question put, "That '80,000' stand part of the Schedule."536
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 127; Noes, 104.—(Division List No. 117.)
§ And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress.
§ Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into Committee on the Bill.
§ Bill again considered in Committee, and reported; as amended, to be considered upon Thursday.