§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [2nd March]: "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair:"
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
, who had a notice on the Paper to call attention to the decreasing numbers of British seamen available for service in the Navy in time of war, said, he congratulated the First Lord of the Admiralty on the fact that so large a number of Members had listened to his statement. Formerly the discussion of naval questions was carried on in the presence of very few Members on the Conservative side of the House and still fewer on the Opposite 243 side. The right hon. Member had fallen upon different times, and a very full House had listened to his statement. The county, as well as the House of Commons, was becoming naval in these days under pressure. If Sir Richard Grenville, of The Revenge, were to return to that House, of which ho was a Member three and a half centuries ago, he might be led to suppose that they were all even better patriots and sailors than their predecessors in the days when that distinguished hero lived. The first thing to disclaim in a Debate like the present was that they were speaking as Naval experts. Members were not in that House as Naval experts, but as Members informing themselves as to our relations with Foreign Powers and as to the armaments of those Powers, and also as the representatives of the British taxpayer, whose duty it was to see that the taxpayer got due value for the money which he had to expend. One difficulty which had to be faced was that in Debates like the present they had no real opportunity of engaging in a collective review of the whole defensive expenditure of the country on the Army and Navy taken together. The speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty was not only clear, but was conceived in a sound spirit, and was devoid of all offence to Foreign Powers. The right hon. Gentleman had made proposals with regard to Gibraltar which it seemed to him were necessary from the point of view of any of the naval policies which had been advocated in this country respecting the Mediterranean. When the right hon. Member made his statement with reference to Gibraltar, he was interrupted, according to the reports in the newspapers, by a cry of "shame." The cry did not reach his ears. All must recognise the importance of Gibraltar and the necessity in any case of being prepared with the proper accommodation there for the reception of the cripples of the fleet, even of a victorious fleet. In his opinion this expenditure at Gibraltar was inevitable; but it was a deputation to the late Prime Minister, which included the late Sir G. Chesney, the hon. Member for Belfast, and others, which had brought about this policy. Was it not humiliating that, with all the professional advice which this country paid 244 for, it should become necessary for Members of that House to initiate a policy necessary to the well-being of the country? If it was a wise and proper policy, ought not the Government to have been informed of the necessities of the case by their own subordinates? If this expenditure was necessary, as they had been told it was by the late and present Governments, it ought to have been provided for some years ago, and they ought not to have waited until now to be told that three docks were to be constructed at Gibraltar. With reference to the armament of the fleet, the First Lord of the Admiralty told the House that he had to propose this year Supplementary Estimates for sums to the amount of £200,000, and that next year an additional sum of £800,000 would be required. Now, he understood that the chief Naval adviser of the Government was responsible for the Estimates as a whole. The First Sea Lord was the Chief General Naval Adviser of the Government, and the Estimates for next year were signed by the First Sea Lord who signed the Estimates last year. It threw a certain amount of doubt on the value of that responsibility when they found the right hon. Gentleman shake his head—as to the sufficiency of the expenditure upon armament, as to the large deficiency of a million which existed on armament, when the same First Sea Lord who signed the statement of that deficiency signed the statement of the sufficiency of Votes submitted to Parliament last year.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said, he did not say that the £850,000 was due to any want of provision, but that the acceleration of ships made it more necessary.
§ SIR C. DILKE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had only anticipated what he was about to say. Acceleration counted for a portion of the increase, but the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that he did approach the consideration of the subject by saying that we were still behindhand with the armament of our fleet, behindhand with the guns provided for the drill of our Reserves, and that he pointed in several ways to a deficiency apart altogether from the question of the acceleration of 245 Supply. In the printed statement attached to the Estimates there was a peculiar and almost painful reference to this subject. In these days, when our sailors had plenty of new work to learn, when their work was increasing in perplexity every year, it was desirable that their drill should be with the guns they were likely to use. But the drill of the Reserves in this country was still with the old-fashioned guns. The First Lord admitted that fact, and promised that in 1896–7 a beginning would be made to arm places where Reserve men were drilled with modern guns. It seemed to him that it was the duty of the Government not only to increase the armament by the sum which they had provided, but to see that the Reserve were drilled with the most modern gun which could be supplied. [Cheers.] A beginning meant a very small beginning indeed, and it meant that in the following year the main expenditure was to be incurred. There were other symptoms of the same continued neglect on the part of Departments of the State. The Black Prince was to be sent to Queenstown, and she was armed almost entirely with old-fashioned guns. Her principal armament consisted entirely of old muzzle-loading guns, and there were 26 guns on board. But he was glad to hear that they were not to be used for drill. We had still a very large proportion of our fleet, now extending to a half of the lowest class but one and the whole of the lowest class of ships, entirely armed with the old guns, and they were counted in all comparisons before the House, in all statistics between the force of this country and Foreign Powers, as battleships capable of taking their place in the line. Undoubtedly there was a grave deficiency in armament as long as our Reserve were trained with old guns, and a considerable proportion of our ships in the fleet continued to be armed with those guns. An armament was provided for merchant cruisers—the cruisers which were to run down the cruisers of the enemy; but with old-fashioned guns they were not capable of coping with the foreign cruisers which were armed with the best type of guns which foreign skill could produce. The two main points in all Naval Estimates must be ships and guns. In speaking of 246 ships he confined himself entirely to battleships, while as to cruisers only expert opinion was valuable. The defensive strength of this country, and ultimately her whole position in the world, depended in his opinion on her force of battleships. There was no other test or criterion which would stand the investigation of sound sense. The comparison had been admitted by successive Governments, that we should be superior or equal to some Power or Powers in this matter of battleships. In cruisers we had a certain superiority over other Powers, but there again entered considerations as to the extent of our trade and the enormous calls made on our cruisers in time of war; and as to this it was impossible for any but experts to pronounce a satisfactory opinion. As to battleships, however, the matter was plain. we knew, not that one battleship was equal to another ship, but that the Admiralty had told the country that for certain purposes numbers of battleships were essential to a certain superiority of strength in battleships. What was the standard placed by the Government before the country? He complimented the First Lord on having avoided any provocation of comparison with a Foreign Power. But still, in his speech, the right hon. Gentleman hinted that the calculations of the Admiralty had to be relative, and had to be founded on some standard which was present to their minds. He could not, however, see in this programme as to battleships in 1899, that there had been any standard before the Admiralty which could be accepted by those who held his views as to the sufficiency of standard for defence. The programme this year seemed to him to be a hand-to-mouth programme, a mere continuation programme, a France and Russia programme. The last statement made in the House on this subject was made by the right hon. Baronet (Sir U. Kay Shuttleworth) as to our equality or superiority with Foreign Powers, and the right hon. Gentleman spoke of equality to France and Russia as the standard of successive Governments. On former occasions the House had heard of equality, and sometimes of superiority; the language varied. It had always been held that there was a 247 certain definite scientific superiority ascertained as the necessary superiority, and Governments had told the country what it was. Ho for one did not agree as to the equality with or superiority over two Powers. It seemed to him to be a fallacious and misleading test. It was to his mind unlikely that without allies this country would be engaged in war with the two particular Powers to which the comparison pointed. He wished he felt certain that there was on chance of our being engaged in war without allies with a larger combination than France and Russia. It must be remembered with regard to these Powers that a navy was not vital in the sense in which it was vital to this Empire. When those Powers built ships they were to a certain extent an expensive luxury to them, and an expensive necessity to us. Upon our battleships the very life of this country seemed to him to depend. Now, the foreign policy of the Government could not be discussed just now in any detail, but still it must be remembered that policy governs Estimates. All that the naval technical advisers could do was to say: "Given your policy, and the possibilities which you lay down of European combinations, you need so many ships to provide against those possibilities." It was the Cabinet and the Cabinet alone that could prescribe the policy. Hon. Members had already had an opportunity of saying what they thought about a recent convention to which he could not further allude—an attempt apparently to gain friendships by sacrifices of British trade, which did not appear to be gained as the result of that convention. But at all events the time had come when the Government, before making conventions and agreements of that kind, and before, on the other hand, going on with a hand-to-mouth policy with regard to the Navy, ought to make up their minds. They were still going upon the basis apparently of an equality with two Powers. We foresaw what would be the position of the British Navy in 1899, and its composition. That composition was one which would not give us, in the most moderate view, what those two Powers would certainly have before 1899, not looking to promises, but accomplished facts. The right hon. Gentleman had not stated that he himself believed that 248 we should have in 1899 a superiority even over those two Powers. Of course, a homogeneous fleet was vastly stronger than allied fleets could be, but still there were Powers which were closely allied and which for years had interchanged all their knowledge one with another, which had practically the same manufacturing establishments for all new discoveries, and the officers of which were familiar with all the work of the other, and in that case the dangers and difficulties of allied operations were much less than in the case of Powers not so associated. He was sorry to say it seemed a reasonable possibility, to be taken into consideration by reasonable men, that we might find ourselves without allies engaged against a combination stronger than any which had hitherto been thought possible. There was no man who took the pains to keep himself informed of the state of Europe, who did not know there had been recent occasions when we were within an ace of having demands made upon us which would have been supported by a stronger combination than two Powers—possibly by three Powers—demands which we could not have acceded to without a useless humiliation, and which we could not have been able to resist without being superior to those Powers in naval armaments. He said useless humiliation, because of course we could secure temporary peace by-giving up points to which some might or might not attach importance. But such humiliation in the case of a Power like Britain, with interests scattered all over the world, with enormous wealth, with a trade which excited the envy and jealousy of the whole world, would only whet the desire to bring about more humiliating disaster. Speaking on the 26th February, the First Lord of the Admiralty used these remarkable words: "Whenever we fight for our existence we shall not fight alone." On the contrary, he thought many circumstances might be contemplated in which we might find ourselves without allies while fighting for our existence. Our "splendid isolation" appeared to him a necessary isolation. We had a power and position in the world so great that when we came to anything in the nature of a life-and-death struggle, we should not find other Powers naturally gravitating around us. Some thought we might 249 contract alliances, and advocated alliance with Russia. If we were to ally ourselves with Russia, we should be bringing Russia up to the Hindu Kush or Pekin or Constantinople for no good end or purpose. The Government proposals appeared to fall between two stools. The House had had no joint view of construction in Army and Navy, no joint view of the relations of their naval to their military proposals. The expenditure of this country and of India upon military and naval defence in the course of the present year was 58 millions sterling, and with the expenditure of the colonies, which was of course outside the functions of this House, it was 60 millions sterling. The figures were so enormous that we were beginning to wrap them up as if we wished to conceal them. There was the Military Estimate, Military Supplementary Estimate, and Military Debt. There was the Naval Estimate, Naval Supplementary Estimate and Debt under the Naval Works Act. And then there was Indian expenditure and Colonial expenditure. It was difficult to consider these Naval Estimates without having some regard to the extent of the Military Estimates also, and to the policy of the Government in respect, not only of alliances, but of the relations between the two services in Imperial defence. It had been noticed with some alarm that the Commander-in-Chief, who was the military adviser of the Government, had expressed a view of the function of the Navy in Imperial defence which was different from the generally-accepted view of naval as well as military authorities. That seemed to indicate confusion in the minds of the advisers of the Government. On behalf of a number of Members representing all parties, he and the late Sir G. Chesney wrote a letter to the Leaders of the present Government and Opposition, recommending the creation of a Committee of the Cabinet to have general control of the relations if the two services. That Committee had been appointed, and the present Government had taken credit for its regularisation. But if the Duke of Devonshire, who presided over the Committee, was to be advised by naval authorities, who pulled one way and military authorities who pulled another, the 250 result would be confusion, the absence of any definite plan for national defence, and the piling of further burdens on the taxpayer. But putting aside the question of the Army, the Navy was still below the limit which the necessities of the country demanded. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, in attacking the expenditure of last year, quoted Sir Robert Peel's saying that in times of peace the country must be prepared to run risks. That was a prehistoric doctrine. Of course, the risk must be run of a possible combination of all the navies in the world against this country. But there were risks which were reasonable, and which this country ought not to run, seeing that all we had or were depended on the avoidance of them. Great changes had come over the art of war. With many powers, naval mobilisation had become like military mobilisation, a matter of days and not of months. In the old days the Treasury used to say: —Keep a sharp control over the spending Departments in times of peace, because in times of war they must do as they please.That had now ceased to be a practicable policy. The German fleet had a principle of mobilisation as rapid as that for the army; and although recent French criticism had pretended the contrary, he believed that the system of mobilisation for the fleet in France was more rapid than ours. The First Lord of the Admiralty had taken great credit for the rapid equipment of the Flying Squadron the other day. When the British Army in 1882 was called upon to send an expedition to Egypt, it succeeded at the end of six weeks in collecting 20,000 men. He had never known how deplorable was the organisation of the British Army, until he found with how much satisfaction that effort was regarded by the authorities. In the same way, if the Admiralty were so extremely pleased by the mobilisation of the Flying Squadron, a disastrous light was thrown on the organisation of the Navy. As a civilian, he was prepared to learn that the whole of the British Fleet could have been equipped and sent to sea with as much ease as the Flying Squadron. In many foreign navies—which, of course, were smaller and more easily controlled than ours—every man knew 251 his place and where he was to join in time of mobilization; and at the end of three days every ship in the service of those Powers had its crews on board. Whatever view might be taken of the cost of the Navy, all would agree that it was undesirable to have very sudden ups and downs in expenditure. Hitherto the total naval expenditure, the Building Vote, and the New Construction Vote, had sharply varied from year to year. In the present year he would admit that there was not that downward tendency generally noticeable on a new Government taking office. In 1886, and in 1893, the fleet was neglected for a year or two, and afterwards followed a steady increase of expenditure. In the present Estimates there was no drop, but a continuation of the previous year's expenditure. But at the same time, the Estimates did not show that calculation for the future which he should have expected from the First Lord of the Admiralty. He shared the opinions of the Leader of the Opposition on the subject of the Bills which were presented to Parliament under the Naval Defence Act, excellent as the results of that Act had been. He thought it would have been better to bring in Estimates year by year, looking ahead to future needs, but not spreading the money for one year over several. But there was always a fear that a reaction would follow large expenditure. There was an occasion under Cromwell (in 1653) when £1,445,000 was spent on the Navy out of a total National expenditure of £2,600,000. And at the same time Cromwell kept up an army good enough to fight against the armies of Spain. Yet in 1667 the Dutch guns were heard in London—the only occasion when the guns of a foreign navy have been heard there—and only a miracle saved this country from invasion. There were many who would be disappointed with the proposals of the Government as to battleships. After the declarations which had been made, they expected from the Government a policy which could be explained to the House—either a foreign policy of alliances, to which he himself was rootedly opposed; or the policy, which was the only true policy for this country, of keeping up such a fleet as would make 252 us safe against any probable combination. As to manning, the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty was extremely clear on that point, and on the face of it was satisfactory and sufficient. The right hon. Gentleman implied to the House, if he did not directly state, that we had enough men to man every ship at present, and that we should continue to have enough men to man every ship we could build up to the end of the century. That to him was a startling statement. Were there enough men not only to man every ship, but also to meet the waste of the first week of war? Whenever war came upon this country it would come suddenly, and the suddenness would be an additional cause of that confusion and panic which in any case was likely to exist. At the moment before an apprehended war, tremendous demands would be made upon the fleet for convoying garrisons to the various coaling stations which ought always to be in a state of preparation for the war which might come any day. There were some coaling stations—such as Sierra Leone—which the fleet demanded as absolutely necessary; and as that particular station was liable to attack from the land, it must be well garrisoned. And yet the whole of the troops, with the exception of a small black battalion, which was now there, would have to be taken out by convoy at the moment of the outbreak of war. Were they to understand that we had the men for every ship which would have to be put afloat in time of war? The First Lord left the impression on the mind of the House that we had that force, and the late Government had always held the same language. The Admiralty must have been told by their experts that that was the case; and yet there were facts before the country which must lead them to receive that statement with a certain amount of doubt. When the mobilisation of the Flying Squadron took place the other day, it was said that a very severe strain indeed occurred upon the manning powers of the Admiralty. That was a very startling statement, because we had a large number of ships at home not in commission. They were told that, in the second year of the great Naval manœuvres, there was great difficulty in manning the ships sent out. One 253 year it was even said that three ships were left at home because there was a difficulty in manning them; he did not know whether the deficiency was in stokers, men, or officers. The Estimate showed that the number of officers, men, boys, Coastguard and Marines who were available for sea service in the present year was nominally 81,500 men. In reality, there was an average deficiency of 3,000 men; so that the number available was only 78,500. With that number, could we man every ship which was on the list of the British Fleet at the present time? ["Hear, hear!"] There was the deficiency between the real and the estimated numbers which he had mentioned. In foreign countries such deficiencies did not occur. In the German Army and Fleet, for instance, there was never a man wanting. Whenever one man went, another was put in his place; so that the numbers were always kept up to those estimated. Here, however, a certain laxity crept in, and we were 3,000 men short. He asked, would 78,500 men man every ship, old and new, that was worth manning? Would it send to sea with full war-complement on board every ship in the British Navy? He knew that, in face of very strong authority, he exposed himself to severe censure in pressing the question; but, nevertheless, he asked, would 78,500 men man every ship with its full complement in the British Fleet? There were officers of distinction and of great knowledge on the subject who boldly declared at the Royal United Service Institution that we required 100,000 men to fully man the British Fleet. There was a great discrepancy between that number and the men we in reality now had. For next year the figures were nominally 85,750. Suppose we started with the sufficient number now, was the increase sufficient for the prospective increase of the Fleet? He very much doubted it. Again, were the additional ships, up to the 31st March, 1897, covered either by this total number, or by the 4,900 men it was proposed to have? Furthermore, in three years we were to add to the Navy 13 battle-ships, 34 cruisers, and 69 destroyers. They did not know what ships were to be withdrawn in that time; and, although they could calculate for themselves the number of men—something like 20,000—who 254 would be required to man the additional ships, they could not make the deductions from the number which might be necessitated by the withdrawal of ships. Given that difficulty, would the right hon. gentleman give a return showing what ships are ready at any given date, with their full complement of men, and thus enable the House to judge for themselves of the true position of affairs? As to the Reserve, Admiral Tryon's Committee told them that 10,000 men from the Reserve might be calculated upon at once; but subsequent inquiries had given 8,000 as the figure. If we had every man we wanted in the Navy, 8,000 might be necessary for the first week of war, but there was no margin. All the best men in the British Mercantile Navy were employed on board ships, the liners which we could not afford to lay up, which we contemplated arming as a portion of the fleet. It was often said that the real Reserve in the case of England was the British Mercantile Navy. The point which he wished to draw most urgent attention to was that the real Reserve of England was disappearing very fast. The British sailor was becoming more and more a rare article of luxury. He was used on the first-class liners, and not used elsewhere. ["Oh!"] That was the fact. He might quote from the figures of the Board of Trade, which were laid before Sir Edward Reed's Committee. In view of the importance of the matter, he took upon himself the responsibility of making public figures which had been placed before a Departmental Committee, although they had not yet been placed in the hands of hon. Members; etiquette did not prevent him taking that course. Mr. Howell, the principal clerk in the Marine Department of the Board of Trade, in his evidence before a Departmental Committee, said there were now 63,000 A.B.'s in the British Mercantile Navy as against 66,000 in 1858. Of the 63,000, 7,000 were lascars and 9,000 were fishermen or yachtsmen. Of the 47,000 non-lascar A.B.'s 13,000 were foreigners, an element which was rapidly increasing. It was sometimes said in after-dinner speeches that there were 240,000 British seamen. That figure was a myth, as it included stewardesses, barbers and waiters, and, on a great Atlantic liner, there were between 300 255 and 400 waiters. And, even as regarded A.B.'s, everybody now was called an A.B. who pleased to call himself an A.B. There was no attempt to act upon the qualification which was supposed to be imposed by law. Every man was now an able seaman who chose to call himself so, and it was the evidence of Mr. Howell that most of the men outside the liners were not entitled to that rating. The figures of the whole foreign trade, including the liners, which did not take foreigners, showed 44.7 per cent. of foreigners in the sailing ships and 30.4 per cent, in the steamships. From a report submitted to Parliament in 1886 it appeared that the number of foreigners in British ships in the preceding year was 14 per cent., whereas by the calculation of Mr. Howell the number in 1893 was 36.3 per cent., or an increase of 22.3 per cent, in eight or nine years. This state of things was very rapidly getting worse, and if the crews engaged abroad in British ships were taken into account, the percentage of foreigners engaged would appear to be still higher. The number of apprentices in the mercantile marine in 1870 was 18,000, whereas in 1894 the number had fallen to 8,500. It might, indeed, be said that, except upon the liners, no English were now learning the trade of a seaman. Support therefore in some form would have to be given in order to rear English boys for a seafaring life. ["Hear, hear!"] If the First Lord of the Admiralty was clear and certain that he possessed already enough sailors to fill, with the war complement, all his ships at the present time, and that the increase he made of 4,900 men, and the possible increase he might make next year would be sufficient to fill the ships being built and that would be ready in 1899, then no doubt this would be a matter of secondary importance, because the reserve could be swelled sufficiently rapidly to meet the war waste in 1899. But, even then, we could not swell our reserve beyond a certain limit. There was another point of importance. Among those foreigners there were many masters of ships, and they were taught the pilotage of our rivers. This was a very serious matter and might become a great danger in time of war. [Cheers.] He felt sure that the First Lord of the Admiralty and the President of the Board 256 of Trade would turn their attention to this matter. But the point on which he desired mainly to lay stress was that the return for which he had asked in the earlier part of his speech might be granted. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
It is not my place to go minutely into the speech to which we have just listened, but I think some immediate reply to the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean is necessary. That reply is given by myself rather than by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, because, the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, not having moved an Amendment, my right hon. Friend is precluded by the Rules of the House from making a second speech on the Motion that the Speaker leaves the Chair. Now, I am far from complaining of the tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, although that speech was of a very gloomy character, and painted the naval future of the country in colours much too dark. ["Hear, hear!"] Possibly it is advisable that something should be done to redress the balance when we have one hon. Gentleman telling us at Question Time that he himself intends to vote against every single item in the Navy Estimates in which there is any increase over the sum of last year, and when we have the late Prime Minister adumbrating, as far as I understand him, considerable doubts as to the necessity of the additional demands we are going to make on the country for the Navy. It is, no doubt, a very good thing that somebody should rise on the Benches opposite and explain, perhaps even in exaggerated language, that what the Government are asking for is not too much, but errs, if at all, on the side of defect. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt, in the concluding part of his speech, with the alleged deficiencies in the supply of men for the Navy. On this point, as on others to which I shall refer, a fuller and more detailed reply will be given at a later stage by the First Lord of the Admiralty. But I must anticipate what he has to say by telling the House at once that, in the judgment of the Government, there is no reason for most of the fears the right hon. Gentleman has expressed. It may be true, 257 as he says—I am not competent to judge—that the number of British seamen outside the Royal Navy is a diminishing quantity. I am informed by the President of the Board of Trade that in answer to a Circular addressed, I think by his predecessor, to various shipping ports in the country—that the general answer given was that there was no deficiency of seamen, and that the supply of seamen is in most cases equal to, and in some cases exceeds, the demand made upon them. Therefore, if it be true that the British seaman is a vanishing quantity, the fact must, I fear, arise from some reasons which induce shipowners to look elsewhere for seamen to man their ships.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
It may be cheapness; I do not go into that point. I confine my attention to the Royal Navy, with which we are chiefly concerned at this moment, and I have to say that, in the opinion of the Government, and of those who advise the Government, there are seamen adequate enough to man all the ships that we could reasonably expect would be called into use in time of war. It is perfectly true that in order to man these ships we should have to draw upon a portion of the Royal Naval Reserve, but only upon a small portion; but that is a condition of things of which we ought not to complain. If I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he would like to see a condition of things in which every ship we could reasonably expect to use in time of war should have in time of peace its full complement of men. What are these men to do when the ships are not at sea? It is unreasonable. As a matter of fact, we do keep at sea a very much larger proportion of our fleet than other nations. ["Hear, hear!"] What would you do with the crews of those ships that were not at sea? Would they not get out of hand, and would you not be burdening yourselves with an unnecessary supply of men, and doing for this country what no foreign country does for its naval reserve? ["Hear, hear!"] I do not say that every man who appears on this or that reserve would necessarily come forward in time of war. There must be some 258 wastage of that kind, but I do say emphatically that so small would be the strain put upon the Naval Reserve by the manning of the ships I have described, that there would remain a large margin to meet the inevitable wastages of war. I hope that this brief statement will, in the absence of a more detailed account by my right hon. Friend, satisfy the House that so far as the Royal Navy is concerned, we are not in the deplorable condition described by the right hon. Gentleman. But may I remind him that within the last three years we have increased the number of our seamen by 17,000, and in all probability, as I understand, a further increase will be made next year? Is that not enough to show the House that the necessity of keeping an adequate number of men to man the ships we construct has not been absent from the minds of our predecessors, nor is it absent from our own? I pass from these observations as to the personnel of the Navy, to what the right hon. Gentleman said in the earlier portion of his speech. I need not trouble the House with the question that he raised with regard to Gibraltar, nor with the cognate questions in connection with the guns provided there. He endeavoured—and he may have been right—to establish upon the late Government and their predecessors a want of foresight in not taking earlier in hand the fortification of Gibraltar. It is possible that Gentlemen on that side and on this side of the House have erred in not dealing with this great question sooner, but I do not know that anything is to be gained by raising that point now. At all events, I do not feel called upon to defend myself or others, or my predecessors, from the charge which the right hon. Gentleman has levelled against us. A more important point arises in connection with the guns, for the right hon. Gentleman has levelled a charge at the official advisers of the Admiralty—at the First Naval Lord, in short—for at the same time signing the Estimates of the late Government without putting in them a sufficient amount of money to pay for the guns required for the new ships, and also, the new Estimates for this Government, in which large sums of money are asked for for that purpose. I have two observations to make upon 259 that. In the first place, I do not myself level any charge against the late Government, for, as I understand the matter, they could mat anticipate that the money could be spent that year for the guns, and they did not ask in the Annual Estimate for the money. We now know the money can be spent in the year, and we have asked for it in the Supplementary Estimate. Therefore, I do not think that blame should be attached to Gentlemen opposite, and certainly blame does not attach to us. But there remains behind the question of the personal responsibility of the First Naval Lord, and I say distinctly that in my judgment it is absolutely subversive of the true relations that ought to exist between the Government and this House on one side, and the expert advisers of the Government on the other, if they are to be dragged in here into our Debates [cheers], and made responsible for errors, if errors there be, for which the Minister, and the Minister alone, ought to be blamed. [Cheers.] Admiral Richards has been a valuable servant of the State, and has served at the Admiralty under two successive Governments, and if the Naval Policy of either of those Governments is in fault, the fault must rest on the heads of those Governments, and they alone must be made responsible, and no blame attaches or ought to attach, to those who have done their best to advise successive Governments, from whichever side of the House or from whichever Party they may be drawn. [Cheers.] Having dealt in parenthesis with this not unimportant part of the right hon. Gentleman's speed, let me go on to the only remaining part on which any word need be said at the present stage of our Debate. He is of opinion that though the late Government laid down seven battleships, and though the present Government are laying down five new battleships, yet when 1899 comes we shall be found insufficiently armed to meet a combination of Powers with whom possibly we may have to contend. Let me say, in the first place, that in arguments like these there is an enormous speculative element. ["Hear, hear!"] It is always easy, in the fate of whatever nation you are concerned, to imagine a combination by which that nation may be crushed out of existence. 260 I suppose that even a nation most impervious to attack, such as Russia, might, by a possible combination, I do not say be crushed out of existence, but be so injured or destroyed in vital or semivital parts, that she would cease for years to come to rank as an important factor among the Great Powers of Europe. It would be easy to imagine a combination by which Germany might be injured, if not destroyed, and the smallest amount of ingenuity exercised in this kind of speculation, this kind of political prophecy, may in the same way forecast a disastrous future for any nation in the world. We must not examine or contemplate an extreme case. ["Hear, hear!"] If every country tried to base its armaments upon extreme cases, no country in the world could possibly be safe. I think, therefore, with all deference to the right hon. Gentleman, that we must content ourselves with the general standard, which has been quite sufficient in the past, and, without taking a vast, though not absolutely impossible, combination against us, simply contemplate bringing up our fleet to a strength which would enable us to contend on satisfactory terms with the two largest fleets that could be brought against us. I believe that that standard has been attained, and will be attained, by the efforts of the late Government and by our efforts during the three coming years, at the end of which every ship which we contemplate beginning ought to be finished. The right hon. Gentleman gave us no figures in opposition to that belief. Perhaps he did not do so on the ground that nothing was to be gained by minute calculations of this kind.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
They all differ. There is one calculation in a newspaper to-night friendly to the right hon. Gentleman, and I have another here from a very high source. They all differ slightly, but they all show the same general result, and I thought it better to state the general result only. It depends upon what you count.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right hon. Gentleman truly says it depends upon what you count to know exactly what your position is. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer always went on the view that you ought only to count first-class battleships, and he drew 261 the definition of a first-class battleship more rigidly than seemed correct to many perhaps of the best naval experts. But that does nut make any difference as to the facts, but only as to the classification. The facts are extremely simple. You may take as first-class battleships ships which, from their armament, speed, and defensive armour, are capable of fighting in the first line against any other ships of a similar class, irrespective of coal supply, of height of free-board, or other conditions which make a ship valuable for distant service or service in a rough sea and on the ocean; or you may proceed on a different principle, and you may say that no ship can be described as a first-class battleship which is not capable of fighting anywhere in the first line of battle, that has not a very large coal supply, as well as powerful armament, and that is not therefore capable of joining in a combination of fleets very far distant from its base of operations. According as you take one or other of these principles of calculation, no doubt you will get different results in making comparisons with foreign navies. But let it be observed that there is so far this justification for the narrow definition advanced by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. You are dealing by hypothesis with a single nation—with Great Britain—fighting a combination of Powers; choose what Powers you like. Those two Powers, if you mean to include the second-class battleships—second-class in point of size—with very heavy armament among their first-class ships, undoubtedly cannot bring together in combination a fleet equal to your own. Those ships are only first-class ships in their own waters, and not first-class ships far from their base, and therefore do not form part of a fleet which can work with another nation very far from the base of operations. Therefore it is manifest that, though it would be rash for this House to say that because some of these smaller and powerfully-armoured ships cannot act far from their own port, they ought under no circumstances to be regarded as first-class battleships, for all purposes they are not first-class battleships, and some of these purposes are the very purposes that become important when you are considering the combined action of two foreign fleets. If you take a rigid 262 definition of a first-class battleship, requiring not merely powerful armament, but powerful armour, speed, and coal-endurance, we shall have, as I make out, in 1898–9 a very considerable superiority over the two largest fleets that may be brought against us. We shall have a margin of five first-class battleships, and I do not think that will be an unsatisfactory result. ["Hear, hear!"] I admit that a less satisfactory result is arrived at if you choose to include those second-class ships with powerful armament, but I have already given to the House reasons for thinking that though, for certain purposes, these ships ought to be included, there are other and very important purposes for which they ought not to be included in the calculations we ought to make. The right hon. Gentleman is not content with the rapid growth of the shipbuilding Programme. He did not, I think, sufliciently bear in mind the pregnant observation of my right hon. Friend to the effect that you cannot go on increasing the number of your big ships without at the same time increasing a very large number of other things—namely, docks, barracks, guns, and other collateral requisites of a great naval establishment. Does the right hon. Gentleman feel, as I certainly do, that if you are going to make demands even greater than those which we are making—if you are to ask the country not merely to provide a great increase for the purpose of docks, barracks, and ships—you may produce one of those reactions in the public mind in regard to naval expenditure which the right hon. Gentleman himself would be the first to deplore? ["Hear, hear!"] It seems to me that what we have to aim at is a steady, continuous, un wearying growth in our naval power—a growth which need not reach gigantic proportions, unless foreign nations drive us into a further policy, but which shall be adequate, and yet obviously not more than adequate, for any necessity we may be called upon to meet. [Cheers.] That, it appears to me, is, on the whole, the safest policy to those who, like the right hon. Gentleman and myself, feel the full need of unceasing and unrelaxed efforts in the direction of naval reform. ["Hear, hear!"] I cannot help thinking, if we have to carry out with unrestricted zeal the policy the right hon. 263 Gentleman has in view, we should not merely drive foreign nations into a kind of rivalry with us, which would disgust his own countrymen with the sacrifices that they would be called upon to bear, but we should also produce an inevitable reaction at no great period. [Cheers.] The Government have been told over and over again on public platforms and in the public Press that this is a moment at which any demand whatever with regard to the fleet would be granted by the country. ["Hear, hear!"] What does that mean? It means that public opinion has been excited, by events in the memory of all, to such a point that it would not look at a Bill, but would consider anything that was asked of it was not too much. ["Hear, hear!"] These moods are always passing moods. [Cheers.] The great difficulty in all democratic countries who do not live under constant stress of menace and danger of absolute political annihilation, is to keep their military and naval efforts up to a sufficiently high mark without these frantic ups and downs, these hot fits and cold fits, these periods of alternate excitement and apathy, of which we have had too much reason to be ashamed in the past. [Cheers.] I believe that the not inconsiderable, and yet not immoderate and excessive, demands that we have made upon the public purse and upon this House will avoid both the danger of doing too little and the almost equal danger of asking the House in one particular year to do too much. ["Hear, hear!"] If the House wishes adequately to judge of the policy of the Government, they must consider it in connection with that policy which has preceded it. The right hon. Gentleman used the words a "continuation policy" as a term of reproach in more than one passage of his speech. I regard that as a term of praise. We do not aspire, and never have aspired, to come down to this House, and in connection with our naval policy to say the perfunctory efforts of our predecessors are utterly inadequate, and that we desire to begin an entirely new national policy on this question, to mark ourselves off distinctly, as having different objects and as desirous of pursuing different methods in connection with this great branch of national expenditure and national 264 effort. We recognise, on the contrary, that the late Government, at all events during the last two years of their term of office, began a great, and, I believe, an adequate policy of naval expansion. ["Hear, hear."] We are not ashamed of admitting that ours is a continuation policy; we are also not ashamed of admitting we have gone on in the track which they were the first to open, though, after all, they only pursued the policy which we had pursued by the Naval Defence Act. ["Hear, hear."] The previous Governments of 1886, of 1892, and of 1895, all felt the necessity under modern conditions of increasing the extent of our fleets, and they never relaxed their efforts in that direction. There has been nothing spasmodic or violent in that extension, but they have gone on, carefully considering the necessities in which the country may be placed and the dangers by which it may be possibly menaced, to keep the fleet up to the strength absolutely necessary for the security of the Empire. [Cheers.] And, Sir, I do not think that, on the whole, the country need be ashamed of the results of these successive efforts. [Cheers.] I am certain that, regarded absolutely as a fighting machine, regarded from the point of view of our naval and military and colonial and home defence, and as regards cruisers and battleships, we have now a better fighting machine than there has been in the past for many generations. [Cheers.] I hold, further, that it is not only an absolutely better fighting machine, but a relatively better fighting machine than there has been for many years. There have been times, not within my political and parliamentary memory, in which I believe war would have found us at a very great disadvantage, and under which certain, not at all impossible, or even improbable, contingencies would have shown how nations may court disaster by carelessly abstaining from necessary preparations at a time when danger does not seem to menace. But I do not think any accusation can, on the whole, be brought against us of that kind during the last ten years. There may have been a year here and there during which shipbuilding has not progressed so rapidly as it was desirous it should do; but, upon the whole, this House has not shown itself unmindful of the responsibility that rests upon it. 265 [Cheers.] Successive occupants of this Bench have come down with large proposals for the augmentation of our naval force; and, Sir, if the proposals now made by the Government seem inadequate to the right hon. Gentleman, he will at all events do us the credit of admitting that it would have been easy for us to gain a certain temporary lustre by making large demands upon the public. [Cheers.] If we have not done so, it is not because those demands would not have been met, but because, on the most careful consideration of all the circumstances of the case, of the dangers we were likely to undergo, of the forces that were likely to be brought against us, the large proposals we have made seem to us to be adequate to the necessities of the Empire. [Cheers.]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I listened with great attention to the able and interesting speech of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. I think my right hon. Friend did himself an injustice when he began by saying he could not be heard from the point of view of the naval expert. I have heard naval experts, but I do not think I have heard naval experts speak with more detail or pronounce with greater authority upon naval subjects. My right hon. Friend said that he had reckoned up the expenditure upon the Army and Navy of this country, and that it was £58,000,000 a year. He thinks that this is too little to devote to purposes of that kind.
§ SIR C. DILKE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had rather misinterpreted him. He distinctly stated that he used these figures upon the point of insufficient consideration being given in this country to the relative expenditure upon the Army and Navy. These were figures for the Army and Navy together in this country and India, which he mentioned only for the purpose of showing how large was the total spent on the two branches of the Service which they had no means of comparing.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the expenditure is £58,000,000, and he demands a greater expenditure upon the Navy, but he has not told us what reduction he proposes upon the Army. I have no pretensions to be a naval expert, 266 and I do not rise for the purpose of discussing any of these details. I only wish, and that very briefly, to state what I think is the position of hon. Members of this House who are not responsible for the Estimates, or the defence of the Empire, and what is the situation in which they stand with regard to the proposals of the Government on tins subject. I ventured to say on the first night Parliament met, in the Debate on the Address, that the House of Commons has never refused, and I believe never will refuse, those Measures which are demanded by the responsible Government of the day for the maintenance of the defence of the Empire. ["Hear, hear!"] Upon the Government that responsibility rests. I do not understand, either, the position of Gentlemen who call upon the Government to place upon the country greater burdens than those which they think are necessary for the public welfare. [Cheers.] That these Estimates are large Estimates—that they are immense Estimates—cannot be denied. They were so put forward by the First Lord of the Admiralty, who used these very adjectives, I think, and, no doubt, stated that, in his opinion, there were circumstances which justified these immense Estimates. I think every body must regret that, in the competition for armaments which is going on throughout the world, it should be necessary to spend anything like the sum which it has been stated by my right hon. Friend is expended upon that most unproductive of all expenditure—that upon the Army and Navy. There is no doubt that every man in this country would have been glad if, out of the abundant revenue we have been fortunate enough to have this year, means have been found for giving relief from the burdens of the people. [Cheers.] But the Government have come to the conclusion that with a large surplus, and no doubt a surplus in expectation of no small dimensions, such a course as that is not possible. Now, of the propriety of these demands we are not in a position, to judge. My right hon. Friend has said, and said truly, that the propriety of these demands depends upon the policy of the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] In a celebrated speech by Mr. Disraeli, in which he denounced the "bloated armaments" of those days, he said, "Your 267 expenditure depends on your policy." ["Hear, hear!"] It is perfectly true. My right hon. Friend has said it is not a question for Admiral Richards, or any of the professional advisers of the Government, to determine what is to be the extent or cost of the fleet, but it depends on the situation in which the country finds itself in regard to other nations. Your expenditure, as Mr. Disraeli said, depends on your policy. What is the policy of the Government? That is the question, no doubt, upon which the whole of this matter of expenditure—the whole of these immense demands which have, in a few years, increased the expenditure on the Navy by 50 per cent.—depends. It is true that the House of Commons might demand of the Government what is the policy which makes it necessary for you to make these large additional demands on the taxpayers of the country. I do not follow on this occasion the example of my right hon. Friend in demanding now from the Government a declaration of that policy. I do not think it would be prudent, I do not think it would be patriotic at this moment to enter upon those questions. There was, I think, a little inconsistency between the statement made on Monday by the First Lord of the Admiralty and that made by the First Lord of the Treasury to-day. No doubt the House of Commons and the country desire to know what is the basis upon which these Estimates are framed. Now the First Lord of the Treasury said I had been in the habit of making comparisons between the fleet of this country and the fleets of other nations, and he said he did not intend to follow that example. But the First Lord of the Treasury has followed precisely that example, and has even taken the classification upon which, on these occasions, I had proceeded. The First Lord of the Admiralty declined altogether—and I think for very significant reasons—to adhere to the former estimation of the fleet which should be adequate to meet two foreign. Powers; the First Lord of Treasury to-night seems to have adopted that as his test. I confess I do not believe that these Estimates are founded upon that basis at all. They are founded upon the condition of things which at this moment I do not think it would be prudent for me, indeed, for any man who has not official information, to enter upon 268 or inquire into. The situation in former times when you were discussing what may be called the two-Power basis, is a very different state of things from that in which you find yourselves to-day. I do not desire to go into details on that matter. The time will come and ought to come when we shall investigate the policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman opposite to-night said he would be willing that an Inquiry should be made into that matter before Easter, I think.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes; a Debate may be taken upon it, but it must be taken at a time when the Government will be prepared to lay before the House of Commons what is the actual condition of things which exists upon the Continent of Europe and the other side of the Atlantic. It is utterly idle, it is utterly useless, that we should discuss the policy of the Government until the time comes when they will not be able to say that it is not for the public interest that a full statement should be made on the subject; and it is because at this time we cannot judge what is the situation—and I am certain it is an uneasy sense of the gravity of the situation which really lies at the bottom of these Estimates and the willingness which may exist to accept them—that we are unable to go to the bottom of this matter. We do not know how we stand with the world, what is the situation which requires these vast armaments. The first Lord of the Admiralty was vevy prudent, very reserved, very discreet in the speech he made in introducing these Estimates. He declined altogether to put them upon the situation of England with reference to the rest of the world. But when ho found himself in a peaceful retreat in Sussex he was not equally silent on these subjects. I read his speech, I confess, with considerable alarm—a speech that created—as he indicated himself the other night when he spoke—great uneasiness abroad. He said he had been misrepresented. I hope he was. I do not know whether the adjective belongs to him of the "splendid isolation" of this country.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is an admirer of splendid isolation. Isolation may be taken in two senses. Isolation may be that you have not desired to enter into permanent or entangling alliances. But there is an isolation of another character, and a much more dangerous character. It is not an isolation that arises from the absence of alliances; it is an isolation which arises from the unfriendliness of the world. ["Hear, hear!"] You will never have got to the bottom of this perilous and costly isolation until you have learnt how to make the world your friend. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] I do not know whether you think the best way to make the world your friend is to be always shaking your fist in its face. [Cheers.] I do not think that that is the course by which friendliness is best created in private society, and I am quite sure it is not the way in which friendliness is created in the society of nations. The question of policy lies at the bottom of the whole of this matter. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman meant, and his supporters behind by cheering him, that the way to make the world your friend is to say, "We are stronger than you and can beat you." Is that what is meant? [Ministerial cries of "No!"] I am glad to have it disavowed, because a policy of that kind is not the policy to make the world your friend—a policy which is always extolling your own greatness, always magnifying yourself at the expense of others, always promoting your own interests regardless of the interests of others. That is not the policy to make the world your friend. The reason why it is quite impossible that we can discuss the real meaning of, the real necessity for, these Estimates is because we do not know, and I do not believe it is prudent at this moment to insist upon inquiring into the causes and justification of the great increase in our naval and military expenditure. The time, as I say, must come. The right hon. Gentleman has talked of the impatience of the country which might arise from a vast increase in naval or military expenditure. The time will come, perhaps is not far off, because we see that on each arrangement made, on 270 each proposal brought forward, on each programme advanced, we are always told, "This is a complete settlement of the question." We were told so on the Naval Defence Act, and we believed it, and in the time of the late Government. ["No!" and laughter.] I must confess that we believed it. But the situation is very different now, and therefore you have the continuation policy. I was glad to hear that testimony to us from the First Lord of the Treasury. If there had been a little more of it heard at the late General Election it would have been more to the purpose. [Cheers.] It was always held that the Government which was to succeed us was to have much greater Estimates and much larger expenditure on the Navy. Well, this is a continuation policy. The First Lord of the Treasury says it is a continuation of the policy of a fleet equal to the fleets of two Powers. I do not want myself to go into any of those comparisons; but, as the First Lord of the Admiralty stated that I had relied upon those comparisons, I beg leave to say I was not the author of the two fleets to one policy; I took it as I found it; I think the Government that preceded us laid down that principle; and I compared the strength of the fleets on that basis. But now the First Lord of the Treasury has said truly that it depends upon how you compare your ships. We see a small ship of, say, 10,000 tons compared with a ship of 14,000 tons, and we are told that the foreign ship is equal to the English ship of 14,000 tons; it is said the only difference is in the coal-carrying capacity of the vessel. The fact is the small ship has got thicker armour and heavier guns, and therefore it is of as much use in its own waters, as the First Lord has said, as is the larger ship. I dare say that is quite true; but are you going to have no ships of your own in your own waters? If not, why are you not? Are you not going to have in your own waters constantly vessels which you will not send to a great distance? In my belief, the nation will always demand that you shall have a number, and a considerable number, of vessels in the Channel which are not to go to the other end of the world in case of war. I do not believe that the nation ever will again run the risk which was nearly 271 fatal to it just before the battle of Trafalgar, when the Channel was left without a protective fleet, the great ships having gone to a distance. If so, there is an easy method of obtaining a larger number of ships which, for defensive purposes, may be made as powerful as, or more powerful than, much larger ships of other nations. There is a policy by which you can get a far larger number of ships in your own Channel, and that is a policy which is well deserving of consideration. I owe an apology to the House for having gone so far into the details of the matter; but the First Lord of the Admiralty has admitted that there are perhaps as many experts who take one view as take the other. These Estimates, as I have said, depend upon the policy of the Government; they are dependent upon the situation which we occupy with regard to foreign nations; and I read these Estimates by the light of the speech the First Lord of the Admiralty made in Sussex; they are the corollary of that speech, and I regard that speech as a preface to these Estimates. As I have said, we cannot challenge these Estimates because we do not know what that policy is. We cannot challenge these Estimates because we have not the knowledge; and no doubt it would not be prudent for the Government to state what is the, situation in which we stand with regard to foreign nations. It is upon that situation, and upon the responsibility of the Government with respect to that situation, that these Estimates must rest, and we are bound to accept the assurance of the Government that the situation is one of such gravity that it justifies them in making, and compels them to make, an increased demand upon the resources of the country and to impose an additional burden upon the taxpayers of the country. That is the situation in which we are placed, we who are not responsible for the Estimates, who have no knowledge of the policy of the Government, and who are not acquainted with the situation abroad. It is for that reason we do not find ourselves in a position to discuss the details of the Estimates. [Several Members, including Admiral Field, rose to speak amid great laughter, as Sir W. Harcourt had not resumed his seat.] I only hope the gallant Admiral 272 is not going to make further demands than even the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, and that he is not going to reproach Her Majesty's Government with having introduced such very small Estimates.
§ SIR A. B. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, that in his opinion our Navy Estimates must depend upon the shipbuilding policy of other countries. This country would never remain content as long as her Navy was not superior to that of any possible combination of two Powers. If there was one phrase he was more pleased with than another in the First Lord's speech it was that these were not haphazard Estimates. By this description he understood they were framed to meet the necessities of the case, and were not governed by the exigencies of the Exchequer, that he had adopted the opinions and recommendations of his Naval experts, and that our standard was to be fixed by the necessities of our trade, and by the work which the fleet had to do. In looking for a standard he had to go back to the Estimates of 1888, when the standard set up under the Naval Defence Act was that we should have ten battleships over the number possessed by any other two Powers. Last year the House had before it a table showing the naval programmes of other Powers, and, according to the standard laid down, we were short by four battleships of the first class and nine of the second class, by four first-class cruisers, and four second-class cruisers. He quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet that we had to look to the battleship as the chief security of this nation. By laying down five first-class battleships we had overtaken our estimated deficiency, and passed it by one, always assuming that other nations had not made further progress in the interval. As regarded first-class cruisers, the Government proposals placed us ahead of the necessary standard of 1888, and in second-class cruisers we had always been ahead. He believed that during the last 12 months there had been a remarkable acceleration in shipbuilding in both Government and private dockyards; and if it was continued it would bring us, by 1899, into the position of superiority which Naval experts said we ought to occupy. He was sure other Members would share his regret 273 that at this juncture the Government was deprived by ill-health of the services of their Constructor, Sir William White. He regretted that the Government were not continuing battleships of the tonnage of the Magnificent, but had gone back from 14,900 tons to 12,900 tons or 2,000 less displacement. In these smaller vessels there was great difficulty in combining all the defensive power, all the coal-carrying power, and all the necessary offensive power we should have in a fleet of the type of the Magnificent. The first-class cruisers, with a displacement of 11,000 tons were of a fair size, and had a large coal-carrying capacity. There was one point in the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty that he regretted to hear. He told them that he intended to put in Belleville boilers. He was afraid that was a very rash experiment in vessels of this character, on which the fate of the nation depended, to put in boilers which had never been fairly, properly, or thoroughly tried. He was not going into details. He went into them last year, when he expressed his regret that a trial had not been made on a moderate-sized vessel on a long voyage before adopting them for large and costly vessels. It was true that there had been trials in the summer, trials of 60 or 70 hours. In six out of eight of these trials the engines broke down. Certainly that had nothing to do with the boilers; but on a small vessel boilers which were expected to give 500 horse power could only be driven at 360. The First Lord of the Admiralty said that by fitting the battleships with these boilers a higher speed would be attained, but he assured him he had been misled and was mistaken. He expressed his regret again that they should have been rushed into adopting these boilers before they were fully and fairly tried. When this matter was discussed in the House last year, during the time of the late Government, these boilers had the powerful support of the Member for Hull. He should like the Member for Hull to tell them that night what experience he had in the last 12 months, in the application of the Belleville boilers to one of his own ships. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought they should have a revelation if the hon. Member conveyed his experience. The First Lord of the Admiralty would be 274 well-advised in re-considering this question. There was one point on which he should like to say a word of commendation, and that was, he thought the Government had avoided the temptation of making too large a programme, compared with the provision made to carry it out. As to the question of manning, referred to by the right hon. Baronet opposite, he agreed in a large measure as to what he said in regard to the possibility of looking upon the British Marine as a nursery for the Royal Navy. Two years ago he brought this subject forward. He called attention to the increasing number of foreigners in the Mercantile Marine, and the increasing desire of shipowners to engage foreigners as more sober and subordinate. He made the suggestion that the Admiralty could do very much to assist themselves and the Mercantile Marine by training boys up to the sea. The best seamen they could get for these ships were those boys who were trained in the training-ships. They remained two years before they were drafted off to vessels of war. It-would be a very excellent plan if the number of those training-ships were increased, and although the boys might not all be wanted for the Navy, yet they might find occupation in the Mercantile Marine and return to the Navy when required to do so. He quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet opposite, that they had to-day no nursery for British seamen, and that their present system was not likely to lead to any improvement. The First Lord had alluded to the Training Squadron. The training on board those ships was a delusion. The boys were kept for 12 months on board, and out of that period only 150 days were spent at sea, the result being that they were no better seamen at the end of the year than they were at the beginning. The real training must be found in increasing the coal bill. They must be kept at sea and not choose the finest or the best weather for sea. If they wanted to make seamen of their boys they could not do better than send a certain number across the North Atlantic in winter weather, and then they would begin to see what a seaman's life was. He congratulated the First Lord in his determination to do away with the Britannia and put the boys in a college on shore. He doubted whether 275 the south coast was the best location, owing to the enervating character of the climate. They had one of the best buildings at Yarmouth, which would make an admirable training college. They heard, like all Estimates, that those as to harbour works were never reliable. There were 8½ millions last year, and it had run to 14 millions this year. He asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, before he embarked on enormous expenditure at Dover, to consider whether the money might not be spent to better purpose elsewhere. He thought a dockyard was much more needed at Simons-town, at the Cape. Many believed that in time the Suez Canal would cease to be the highway to the East, and that its place would be taken by the Cape route. By having a dockyard at Simonstown, capable of meeting any emergency, we would be able to command that route. In conclusion, he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on his Estimates, and on the wisdom with which, on the whole, they were framed to serve the best interests of the Nation.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
said, that he had listened with pride and pleasure to the elaborate statement of the First Lord of the Treasury that he intended to keep up the numbers and quality of our Fleet. He did not intend to dwell on British policy at all as a factor in determining the number of ships we required. He had nothing whatever to do with Foreign policy or Colonial policy. The only thing he had to do with was the simple question—had we enough ships to protect our commerce? That was the only question, he considered, that Britishers should think about in regard to the Navy. We could not afford, as a maritime nation possessing the largest commerce in the world, to be sleeping or slumbering while other nations were increasing their fleets. He was not now going to discuss the type of ships that were to be built. He would confine himself principally to the manning of the ships. The First Lord of the Admiralty had stated that there was no difficulty whatever in finding men for the Navy. He begged to differ greatly from the right hon. Gentleman in that. He had it from an officer high in the service that the Admiralty were unable to find sufficient men even for the small number of ships comprising 276 what was called the Flying Squadron. The fact was that the Admiralty had never paid sufficient attention to the manning of the Navy. They had not got engineers, firemen or stokers, and were compelled to advertise for them in every paper in the Kingdom. Every ship was undermanned in the engine room. There were grand ships, but there were no men for them. He was informed that in the Portsmouth reserve there was only one assistant engineer unappropriated. In the case of one torpedo-destroyer, which cost £40,000 and was of 4,000 horse-power, there was only one engineering officer on board. The manning of the Navy was of the first importance. It was not by the ships, it was not by the guns, it was by the men that battles were won. No general ever went into the field and frightened the enemy by his own appearance. He must have had an army at his back. But we had not got the men. If the manning of the Navy had not been a secondary consideration merely with all the Admiralty Boards, Liberal and Conservative, we would not be in our present plight through the want of stokers and engineers. The Admiralty had lowered the standard of examination for engineers. Why was that required? Simply because they could not get the men to join, they were so miserably paid and ill-treated. He would suggest a way by which the Admiralty would be able to obtain men. Why not have a training-ship for engineers? There were thousands of engineers who would join our engineer reserve; and it might all be done for twenty or thirty thousand pounds a year. The Admiralty said they had a reserve of seamen. What was the use of them if there were not engineers? The Admiralty should do the same for the artificers. If they were treated fairly, all the young apprentices would be glad to join the Reserve. But, so long as the present conditions of service existed, so long would the Admiralty find it difficult to fill the engine-room, and they would be forced to advertise for men and to pick them up from the slums of all the cities. We could not afford to have our food supply endangered, and therefore, we must keep open the highways of the sea. To spend all these millions that were asked for on building these beautiful 277 ships, without making due provision for manning them, would be a disgrace to the Admiralty. He trusted that we should not have a paper fleet, but that it would be manned with Britons who were fit to do their work. He hoped that before long our Admiralty would realise the fact that it was solely on our engineers' rooms and on our stokeholds that the greatness of this Empire depended. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said that the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had drawn attention to the fact that the expenditure on the Army and the expenditure on the Navy could not be discussed conjointly in that House. To that disability was attributable a great deal of the wasteful expenditure of the country. The safety of the Empire depended upon a joint combination of the naval and military forces, and yet they were obliged to consider the subject of the Navy and Army separately, and the result was confusion. ["Hear, hear!"] The Leader of the Opposition said that the expenditure on our armaments must depend upon our policy, and it was made pretty clear by the First Lord of the Admiralty the other night that that was the case, for he said that our policy was one of self-reliance. Well, self-reliance in the maintenance of our sea and commercial interests was a principle of policy that all must admit, and the expenditure necessary for carrying out that policy must depend upon the magnitude of the operations involved, and the geographical distribution of the power of other nations. When we remembered that our maritime interests extended to every quarter and corner of the globe, and that the inhabitants of our great cities were dependent for their food upon the supplies that came from over the sea, it was evident that, if our policy was to defend our worldwide commerce, the task before us was a vast one. It was often said that the safeguarding of our food supplies was the chief reason for our naval expenditure, and some people held that if a supply of food could be guaranteed in other ways, there would be no ground to justify the expenditure of the large sums which that House was asked to vote for the Navy. The latest exponent of that view was no less a person than the Commander-in-Chief. Lord Wolseley 278 said that, however deficient the fleet might be, we could rely upon obtaining an adequate food supply, because there were so many indentations and ports on our coasts that no naval Power could prevent food from being brought in. Lord Wolseley practically said:—Here we have two islands; they are garrisoned by 40 millions of people. I am in command and we are besieged, and we can smuggle food in somehow. What more do you want to do, except to prevent troops from landing.With all respect to the Commander-in-Chief, he thought, to borrow a phrase from Kinglake, that view was too military to be warlike. The true position would be, not the splendid isolation of an Empire, but the squalid isolation of two islands from their own empire. It was not a question of garrison and of rations; it was a question of forty millions of men, women, and children. They did not live by bread alone; they lived by work and wages. They would not live by word of command, and they would not live on rations. He agreed with Lord Wolseley that if we lost command of our own waters, we might get enough food to keep alive, but the point was rather a question of price. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is justified in referring to the importance of a large Navy for the purpose of protecting commerce, but he is not entitled to go into the whole question of food supply in the way in which he is now treating the subject.
§ SIR J. COLOMB
thought that the ruling of the Chair emphasised the difficulty which had been pointed out by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, a difficulty which, eight or nine years ago, he brought before the attention of the House—namely, that hon. Members were not allowed to discuss the higher policy of defence, the essential things that went to make up the safety of the Empire. The question of getting food into the home ports was not the entire question of food supply. It was a question where the food came from and the distance of its transit which affected and determined their naval operations, and which must influence their Naval Programme. To get food to our coasts involved the consideration 279 of naval protection on the other side of the world. What was the position of our food supply on passage at this moment. That was a matter of vital importance to this country, and it was germane to the consideration of our naval expenditure. While he was speaking, at that moment there were 169 ships carrying about 2,250,000 quarters of wheat steering for England. Thirty-five were due to arrive this week. Some of the 169 ships were now in the Channel, but the bulk of that food supply—about half of it—was either making for these shores from or was rounding Cape Horn. If there was a declaration of war that night, this country would need to put in force her naval power not merely to protect the food supplies on the other side of the Horn, in the South Atlantic, in both hemispheres, but in various quarters of the world. This was an important fact which affected our expenditure and our naval arrangements. The food supply question was a question of the naval power to protect it at the sources of origin and in the course of its transit to our own waters. Last year 35 per cent. of our wheat came from the north-west Atlantic ports; 17½ per cent, from the Pacific ports; 26¼ per cent. only from European waters; 14¼ per cent. from the South Atlantic, and 7 per cent. from the Indian Ocean. He had listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean with intense interest and great instruction. It was a highly statesmanlike speech, and he thought that the House and the country were wiser and better for it. He was glad to hear the First Lord of the Admiralty abandon the fallacious and fictitious basis and standards put before the House by his predecessors, as to other fleets compared with our own. He gathered from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that the essence of the Programme was acceleration, that its aim was its own completeness, and though he thought the shiping policy rather a curtailed one, he felt convinced that it was curtailed simply by the limits of the productive power of our naval resources to turn out good work in good time. We had to build up our naval power. He trusted that the First Lord of the Admiralty gave the House ground for hoping that the Admiralty were basing their present policy on a careful survey of the requirements 280 of the Empire and the necessities of the whole naval situation. It would take a long time and many Programmes to overtake the maritime growth of the Empire which we had neglected. He hoped, however, that they had got away from the fallacious idea that if our fleet was equal to the two greatest foreign fleets we were all secure, but he was sorry to hear the First Lord of the Treasury hark back that evening to that fallacious idea. The strategical equality of ships was a question quite separate from individual fighting power. If they had to engage in a war with a Power possessing two seaboards in different seas, the aim of their naval policy would be to deter those fleets from coming out. Supremacy at sea did not mean that if they got the two fleets out on the ocean one would be able to beat the other. It meant only this, that their power was such as to produce a moral effect which should prevent any reasonable combination of Powers from contesting it. If there were 10 battleships in a port, they could not keep them in with 10 other battleships. In some ports he could name it would take 20 or even 30 to give any guarantee of producing that moral effect which would keep the 10 ships in, and therefore it was wrong, it was false, to base naval policy on an abstract comparison of battleships. To show how impossible it was to put your finger down and say, so many ships are enough, let one go to the experience furnished by the civil war in America. Public opinion in America at the outbreak of the Civil War was very much like what we have here now, and though they knew the war was coming, the Government of the United States thought they could go into it with a light heart with 42 ships and 700 men. In 3½ years, though the Northern States were at war, not with a naval Power but with a territory that had only two cruisers, hastily armed and constructed, they found that, in order to do their work completely they required 700 ships and 51,000 men. That showed the necessity of making a liberal estimate and allowing a wide margin if they wanted to protect their interests efficiently. He was exceedingly glad to hear that the policy of the Admiralty was to increase the ammunition and stores supply at Malta and Gibraltar, but he wished 281 to know whether the policy was confined to decentralisation of stores only so far as Malta and Gibraltar were concerned, or whether the China station, the Australasian station, and all distant stations were also to have sufficient stores and supplies always on the spot to meet the emergencies of war. Our war vessels on the China and Pacific stations, even in peace, and certainly in war would have to rely upon colonial coal, and he wanted to know if the boilers of the ships intended for service in that hemisphere were adapted to give the best results out of colonial as distinguished from Welsh coal. He was pleased to hear the hon. Baronet the Member for the Ormskirk Division speak in favour of Yarmouth as the site for the new Naval College. It was true there was sometimes precious rough water outside Yarmouth, but, on the other hand, there were about 100 miles of broads in which the young cadets could be exercised with much advantage. As a matter of economy, he was surprised the Admiralty did not select Yarmouth. After all, Yarmouth was the place where Nelson first embarked and in that district he was born. Passing to another point, what arrangements were made under the programme for ensuring that in peace, in order to provide for an outbreak of war there would be reserves of men at the headquarters of every naval station. They wanted a localised reserve always available at the headquarters of the naval stations. He could not see that that was provided for under the scheme. The First Lord of the Admiralty said that of course the Navy would not be provided by this programme with men for every ship in commission, because ships would not always be in commission, but the real fault of the Navy now was want of power for expansion as regards men and officers. He hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would clear up the point with regard to the provision for reserves of men on the naval stations. There was another point which had not been touched upon, and that was the torpedo and torpedo-boat destroyer service. That was a service of which we had had no experience in war. Now, if one went on board these boats he would be driven to this conclusion, that at all events in the Channel, the strain on the mind and 282 nerves through the vibration and the anxiety and responsibility of war would be too great to endure for any long time, and therefore, if our torpedo-destroyer service and torpedo service were really to be efficient, it was a grave question whether the Admiralty must not provide for a duplication of crews for these vessels. Did this programme make any real use for the gunnery service of the fleet of the Marine Artillery officers? The Marine Artillery numbered nearly 3,000. They were picked and highly trained men, and skilled gunners, and yet when they were put on board ship no use was made of them except in subordinate positions. The First Lord of the Admiralty had announced that the age of entry into the Navy was to be extended to 15½ years. The age of entry for officers in the Marine Artillery was 16 years; so that there was but half-a-year between the two. The naval cadet would be sent to the college, and then on to a man-of-war. The marine officer went through a highly scientific course of education at the Naval College; then he was drafted into the gunnery school on the Excellent; then he was sent to the torpedo school and then to the Marine Artillery headquarters where he had another year's scientific training. After all that he joined a ship with the naval cadet who had entered otherwise the same day as himself. The Marine Artillery officer's training cost probably four times as much as the naval officer's; and yet the latter could do duty on board ship, and the former could not. That was a waste of power. Naval programmes would continue to grow and expenditure must inevitably grow also. But the real difficulty was this—that the naval obligations of this world-wide Empire were being discharged from the resources of these islands alone. The revenue of the British Empire was about £220,000,000, and the Navy was for the protection of that revenue and the Empire at large. But the naval programmes were charged upon the revenue of the United Kingdom only. In future he believed that that co-operation between all the parts of the Empire must be secured, that was necessary to solve the problem satisfactorily. By these Naval Estimates every man, 283 woman, and child in the United Kingdom would be paying 10s. 6d. as a contribution, to the Navy for this year; but the interests of Australia, Canada, and the Cape were all equally to be protected by the Navy, and what did they contribute? Australia was contributing 1s. 1d. per head of her population; Canada, with her vast mercantile marine and her seaboard in two hemispheres, was contributing one farthing per head; and the Cape, with its gold mines and increasing commerce, was contributing nothing at all. To face the increased expenditure on the Navy, we must look to a policy which would induce, the whole of the Empire to share the burden.
THE EARL OF DALKEITH (Roxburghshire)
said, that he had probably left the Navy more recently than any other naval Member of the House—[Cheers.]—and he must say, on behalf of naval officers of his own standing and of others, that no fault was to be found with the Naval Estimates presented this year. Seeing that there was an increase of no less than £3,000,000 over last year, and that the expenditure of last year was at the time thought to be satisfactory, it was rather hard to charge the Admiralty proposals with being inadequate. As an ex-naval officer, there was one point in the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty which struck him forcibly. The right hon. Gentleman had not attempted a showy programme, including the building of a large number of monster ships, and the addition of enormous numbers of men. He had proceeded on the principle that it was necessary to provide not only ships, men and guns, and stores, but also the accommodation for them. ["Hear, hear!"] In only one respect this policy had not been developed as it might have been. After an examination of the Estimates and of the Navy List, he could not see, in spite of the assurances given by the right hon. Gentleman, how it would be possible in time of war to find enough commissioned officers to fill the ships which would be required for the Service. [Cheers.] At present there were 865 lieutenants on the Navy List, and of these only 50 were unemployed. If in time of peace, when there were no manœuvres even, and when there was hardly a single torpedo boat in commission, 284 only 50 lieutenants were unemployed, how could the necessary supply be obtained in time of war. [Cheers.] It was said that, owing to the entries on the Britannia, the numbers would be steadily increased in future years. But in 1891 there were 836 lieutenants on the Navy List; in 1893, 860; and at the present time, 865. In five years, therefore, there had only been an addition of 29. He had no doubt that the increase would be greater in future; indeed, he thought those in authority would incur a great responsibility if they did not do something to remedy the present undesirable state of affairs. The late Government found themselves under the necessity of entering 100 officers from the Mercantile Marine. Whether that was a wise thing to do he would not say, but evidently the Government considered it was absolutely imperative that the Lieutenants' list should be increased. He was glad to hear the First Lord of the Admiralty say that the system of sending reliefs to foreign stations by means of first-class ships of the Navy instead of transports or troopships had been successful, and was to be adhered to. It was very obvious that such a system not only kept the officers and men in training, but put at the disposal of the Government of the day a very great extra force beyond that which they could count on in the regular ships at the various stations of the Navy. In respect to mobilisation, he hoped that in the future, when the Estimates came to be considered, it would be borne in mind that, consequent upon the large increase of ships, it would be necessary to spend very much larger sums in exercises, such as the naval manœuvres. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean remarked that a great deal had been made of the commissioning of the Flying Squadron. No one would admit that that was an effort that we should be proud of. It was certainly performed satisfactorily, but if it had not been, those connected with it would not have felt themselves very much to blame. He believed there was a pretty general impression in the country that the Admiralty could at the time, without any difficulty, have commissioned several other Flying Squadrons. When he saw that statement in the newspapers and elsewhere, he turned 285 to the "Navy List" and found that there was not a single first-class battleship, and he believed that, with the exception of one or two of the very old types, there was not a first-class cruiser in the Fleet Reserve. That was not a policy anyone could find fault with, because it was obviously a great advantage that the whole of our first-class ships should be in commission, and that only those of the second and third classes should be left lying in the dockyards. He believed the country would feel that, in demanding this large increase in the Estimates, the Government had done a wise thing, and of this he was certain, that naval officers, particularly those of his own standing, would heartily welcome the proposals which had been submitted to the House.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
thought that every Englishman who understood the requirements of the country would admit it was absolutely necessary we should have a strong Navy. He, personally, thought we had not got too many ships, but he disagreed with the policy of building ships when we had not the men to man them. He was somewhat surprised to hear the Leader of the House declare it was not now necessary to have sufficient men to man all the ships we might require. How was it possible to get, say within two months, sufficient men together to man all the ships that might be lying in the dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman asked what would we do with such an enormous number of men in time of peace, and added that they would only get rusty. The same remark might be made in regard to the Army. What did we do with our soldiers in time of peace? There was always sufficient work for soldiers to do when they were not actually engaged in warfare. A considerable number of naval men were employed as coastguards, indeed he thought that, if we increased the number of men in the Navy by some thousands we could find ample work for them to do. He 286 was also surprised to hear the hon. Member for the Ormskirk Division say there was a difficulty in getting boys to train for seamen. If there was such a difficulty, what were we going to do in another 10 or 15 years for seamen to man our merchant ships? Were we going to rely entirely upon the seamen made by foreign nations? That was practically what we were doing now. In 1845, 15, 704 apprentices formed the Mercantile Marine, but in 1894 there were only 1,861 indentures made out, while in the same year, 2,299 indentures were cancelled. The First Lord of the Treasury said that we got some 15,000 men in five or six years. Hut the right hon. Gentleman did not say how many of those so-called men were boys. He had been informed on very good authority that there was a system in the Navy now of making up the complement of the crews for warships by ordinary seamen or lads who had only been one or two years at sea, and who could not in any sense of the term be considered seamen. He thought some information should be given to the House as to the number of men who left the Navy every year—the quantity of the annual waste. He was informed that a considerable number of men left the Navy as soon as they had completed 10 years' service, just at a time when, after a good deal of money had been spent on their training, they were competent, and therefore valuable to the country. In fact, he thought a Return ought to be presented to the House showing the number of ships fully manned, and how they were manned—showing how many able seamen and stokers there were in each ship. The hon. Member for Gateshead had stated that the stokers on some of our ships were second-class stokers—that was to say, mere raw material, men picked up from the streets, who, after being put through one or two months' training, were drafted into the Navy as competent stokers. That was a serious matter, and some inquiry should be made into it. 287 It was alleged that there were 240,000 seamen in the Mercantile Marine, and he saw no reason why, if the proper steps were taken and inducements offered, we should not be able to depend on getting the services of at least 60,000 of those men in a time of danger. But shipowners were carrying out a policy now which, if not altered, might endanger the security of this reserve. The Leader of the House had referred to a circular which he said was sent out by the Board of Trade to shipowners, inquiring as to the scarcity of British seamen. He remembered a circular sent out in 1886, and it was to inquire, not about the scarcity of seamen, but why the shipowners gave a preference to foreign over British seamen.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the hon. Member was mistaken. He was referring to another circular than that alluded to by the Leader, of the House, which was not sent to the shipowners.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
repeated that the circular he referred to was issued in 1886, and he remembered that the replies given to it were to the effect that the foreign seaman was more steady and more reliable than the British seaman. But was that a true statement? He contended that it was not. In proof of its inaccuracy he would point to the fact that all the great lines of steamers—the White Star, the Cunard, the Castle, and many others—did not carry one per cent. of foreigners, while on board many of those great vessels there was not a single foreigner. There was never any difficulty of getting steady and reliable British seamen for those ships, for the simple reason that fair wages and proper accommodation were given to the men. The Government ought to make it a condition with those Companies to whom they granted subsidies for carrying mails that they should employ only British seamen and Reserve men. No less than £380,000 a year was paid by the Government to the P. and O. Company for carrying 288 mails and placing certain ships at the disposal of the Admiralty to serve this purpose of armed cruisers, and yet the Company employed Lascars as seamen at the lowest possible wages, and provided each of those poor men with only 36 cubic feet of accommodation instead of 72 cubic feet, as required by Act of Parliament. It was a scandal that such a state of things should be allowed, especially on board the ships of a Company subsidised by the Government. He maintained that it was most important, in relation to the manning of the Navy and keeping up the strength of our reserves, that the Admiralty should do all in their power to encourage shipowners to give preference to British seamen. It was a serious fact to contemplate that over 30,000 foreign seamen were now employed on board our merchant ships. Another important matter which deserved grave consideration on the part of the Admiralty was that of the supply of seamen, and the adequacy of our reserves in the future. One practical means of meeting this want would be the introduction of some system by which shipowners might be induced to engage more apprentices. At one time large numbers of lads were engaged as apprentices, and there was scarcely a merchant vessel which did not carry one or two lads to be trained as seamen. But this practice had been seriously interfered with in recent years through managing owners, for the purpose of gain only, charging premiums for an apprentice ranging in amount from £50 to £100. This, of course, very quickly reduced the number of apprentices. There were thousands of lads who would be glad to go to sea as apprentices, but could not do so because their parents could not provide the premiums. This was another point to which the Government should give careful attention. Hon. Members interested in shipping would, no doubt, say that the reason shipowners preferred foreigners to Britishers was that the foreigners——
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is now dealing with the question as between shipowners and men. He is only entitled to deal with it as a question of the reserve of the Navy.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said, he thought the question related to the employment of a larger number of British seamen, and he might have got a little from the point. He thought there ought to be no difficulty whatever in creating a larger number of men in the Mercantile Marine who would be very useful for the purposes of the Navy. He would like to say a word with reference to the Royal Naval Reserve. The Reserve was not so popular as it might be with sailors and firemen. The Admiralty had been very niggardly indeed with Reserve men. They proposed to give a Reserve man, after he had served 20 years in the Reserve and reached the age of 60, a pension of £12 a-year. The great difficulty the merchantman had was to live until he reached 60 years. The majority of them very seldom reached that age. He thought the Admiralty ought to offer the pension when the Reserve man had reached 50 years. The Reserve men had agitated on this question for years, and he thought the Admiralty ought to take it into their consideration and do something for them. There was another point with reference to the men who served 10 years in the Navy. He thought it would be useful if the Admiralty were to retain a hold on these men, and if they were to make it so that the man who served 10 years in the Navy and then transferred into the Royal Naval Reserve might serve in a merchant ship, and after 10 years in the Reserve to be entitled to a pension. A large number of those men who had served 10 years in the Navy and had given up sea-service entirely, would keep it on with the view of getting the pension. It would be a good thing for the merchant ships if they could get as able seamen men who had served 10 years in the Navy. He thought an effort ought to be made by the Admiralty to try and encourage shipowners to carry a larger number of British seamen so that they might have these men in times of national danger.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would give no serious attention to the last remarks of the hon. Gentleman about retiring men at the end of 10 years and allowing them to go into the Merchant Service. They ought not to be induced to leave the Naval Service. They were too valuable to allow to drift into merchant ships. Let them do anything they liked to try and retain them in the Service, but they must not part with good material which had cost the country so much to train up. He sympathised with the hon. Gentleman's desires to see the condition of the seamen in the Mercantile Marine improved, and he went along with him in the desire that the Manning Committee should present their Report and let them know the result of their deliberations. He trusted that some good might come from its deliberations, and that one result of them would be largely to improve the manning of the Mercantile Marine. They had the machinery to their hands, and nothing was done to utilise the machinery to the best advantage. They had Industrial School ships and they were never filled. Magistrates committed boys to these ships who were perfectly unfitted to follow the calling of the sea. It might be done if the ships were affiliated to groups of land schools within an area of 100 miles, and if the captain were allowed to volunteer boys from the land school instead of having them committed by the magistrates. But it was not the duty of any Statesman to consider these matters, which were so vital to their power, and the result was they had been drifting year after year, until at last the Service was in the miserable condition referred to by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. Out of a total of 80,000 seamen in the Mercantile Marine, 27,000 were foreigners, and, of the remaining 53,000, 25,000 were under five years' service. And that was the reserve they had to fall back upon in time of war. For the greatest maritime country in the world, that was a humiliating thought to dwell upon. Naval men would support the Admiralty in doing all they could to neglect no means of training their own seamen, and he rejoiced that the Admiralty had started another training ship at Cork. 291 He thought that many of the observations of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for the Forest of Dean, were most valuable, and that he had been rather hardly used in some of the criticisms on his speech. The right hon. Gentleman pressed the First Lord to give them some method by which the insufficient supply of seamen for the Navy could be rectified. The First Lord was rather optimistic in his statement, for he told them that the supply of men was adequate. If those were the views entertained at the Admiralty, they certainly were not shared by naval men outside. It was quite true that by calling upon the Royal Naval Reserve they might man all their ships and were ready for sea. But the object of that Reserve was not to fill up their first line the moment they commissioned every ship. He agreed with the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean that they ought to have a larger number of seamen, trained ready to go on to their ships, and not look to the Naval Reserve to mail their first line. The Naval Reserve numbered under 20,000 men. In case of war they might possibly find 8,000 of them at home, but the others would be scattered all over the world in different ships. Again, if they took all the Naval Reserve men out of their ships and entered them into the Navy, how were their steamers to be manned, which were needed for bringing to this country food supplies and raw materials? To be able to man their ships with properly-trained sailors they needed an additional 10,000 men. The First Lord had asked what would they do with the men when they did not want them; to which the hon. Member for Middlesbrough had very properly retorted, by pointing out that they had a standing army, and asking what they did with the soldiers when the country was not at war. The same argument would apply to the case of the seamen. They ought to largely increase their supply of men. He urged that the Marines—a most valuable branch of the service—should be strengthened by the addition, not by 500 men as the First Lord proposed, but of 5,000 men. Lord Hood, who as Sir Arthur Hood had served as First Sea Lord, and was a most able naval administrator, had pressed this 292 same on the House of Lords during the last year. The proposed small increase was totally inadequate to meet the circumstances of the case. He was aware that it might be urged that it was impossible to make a large addition to the strength of the Marines because of the insufficiency of the barrack accommodation; but they had ample room for building more barracks, which would be a better step than the building of a naval college for the cadets of the Britannia. He was glad to find that no difficulty had been experienced in getting volunteers to enter the Northampton, which he hoped would continue to be used for the same purpose, as it was an advantage by that means to get lads to join the service at the age of 17 or 18, which was older than the age at which boys were allowed to enter the ordinary training ships. A memorial signed by 55 Members of Parliament dealing with certain grievances connected with the personnel of the Navy had been sent in, and he regretted that the First Lord had not given them any assurance that those grievances would be remedied. He referred to the grievances of the warrant officers and coastguardmen.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
interposed the observation that certain concessions had been made to the warrant officers whilst the other matters in the memorial were receiving most careful consideration.
admitted that in his speech the right hon. Gentleman did deal with the case of the warrant officers, but he did not make any reference to the grievances of the coastguards. These men were the backbone of the service, and in time of war would be called upon, to man their fleet. He had put forward their grievances in that House time after time without any result, until he was getting tired of doing it, and he thought, at any rate, that their complaints might be considered by a Departmental Committee. The burning grievance of coastguards should be referred to a Departmental Committee. When these men's 12 years service had expired they should receive the extra 2d. a day to which in the I opinion of all naval men they were entitled. Admiral Sir George Tryon, whose name would be received with respect in the House, who was deeply concerned in 293 the welfare of the service, when questioned by him at the time he was Admiral of the Reserves, said:—My dear Field, the grievances of the men are substantial and genuine, and ought to be dealt with.It should be dealt with in a liberal and broad-minded spirit, that the grievance might not be left rankling in the minds of men, and that they might be satisfied and contented. They would never be satisfied until the concession he had referred to was made. The case of the warrant officers had received attention. But they should be granted the rank of fleet gunner, fleet boatswain, and fleet carpenter. The prefix "chief" should be discontinued. He noticed that there were to be five new battleships but they were to be less in tonnage. When the building of the Majestic and Magnificent was proposed, he remembered the controversy as to whether they should not be of the Centurion type instead of larger vessels. He attended a lecture on the subject by Sir William White. He went there prejudiced in favour of larger ships, but came away converted by the arguments of Sir William White in favour of smaller ones. Boys from the public schools were being encouraged to enter the Navy to be trained as officers and the age, for admission had been raised by one year. A naval conference had been held on the subject, and the headmasters of public schools were consulted. He should be glad to see young officers drawn from a larger area, and naval men had long advocated the raising of age. But he wished to know whether only those boys were to enter the Navy who had boon trained in public schools? There were many eligible boys who had never been to a public school. He knew of the case of a talented officer of Marine Artillery, who went to Heidelberg, and, educating some other lads with his five sons, himself passed all the latter into the Army. Would a National School be considered a public school? There were plenty of people ambitious to get their sons into the Navy. He appealed to Radical Members not to make this a rich man's question.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said, it was desired to encourage the candidature of boys from public 294 schools, but the examinations would be open to boys from all schools.
, resuming, thanked the First Lord for that intimation. It would carry comfort to many hearts and mothers. [Laughter.] We were going to reverse the policy of ship-training by starting a College at Dartmouth where boys were to have large dormitories, studies, and reading rooms, and from this they were to be taken and put on the ships in which they were to pass their future lives. The sooner they entered ships, clambered up masts, tumbled down, got into boats, and fell into the water, the better, so long as they were not drowned. He objected to bringing them up artificially, and thus preparing them to be discontented with the rough life they must afterwards lead. Naval men outside the House were delighted with the Naval Programme of the Government; they thought it was a reasonable one and such as they had a right to expect. The Loader of the Opposition said something about continuity of policy; and for one he rejoiced that this question had been taken out of the region of Party. For the past few years we had known nothing of Party on this question. Policies had been put forward by one Government and another, and they had all been the result of patriotic feeling. But as there was to be continuity of policy, he did not think the taunt of the Leader of the Opposition that the naval policy of this Government was based upon foreign policy, and his pretence that he wanted to know what that policy was. The right hon. Gentleman pretended that our naval policy was now based on a change of foreign policy, and he was a master at playing at that kind of game on the floor of the House. The naval policy of the Government was happily based on the realisation of the necessity of bringing up our sea power to its proper condition so that we could stand our feet in the face of any combination of foreign Powers. In the past our naval policy had been discreditable; but at last the people of England had been aroused; and, as Lord Melbourne said—The people of England were slow to move, but when they were once roused even his satanic majesty could not stop them.295 But he did not call him by that name; he called him by his ordinary name. [Laughter.] But even a Unionist Government for two years did nothing; and one year they tried to reduce the Navy Estimates by £900,000. Therefore, he did not believe in a Government until they were stirred up by the people outside and the Press to do their duty. In a recent speech the Commander-in-Chief had urged that in the event of our losing the command of the sea, which he seemed not to think impossible or improbable, we ought to have a strong Army as a second line of defence; and he added that there would be no danger in respect of our food supplies. If there was a weak point in our programme it was that we wanted more cruisers. But still he was astonished that the noble Lord should have made such remarks, which had much exercised the minds of naval men. The noble Lord should have remembered that if we lost command of the sea, an enemy would have no difficulty in obtaining coal in Galway Bay, in the Shannon, at Waterford, and other places in Ireland, except Cork, where the batteries might prevent a hostile cruiser entering the harbour. The Irish Members of light and leading had seen that England's difficulty would be Ireland's opportunity, and that being so our enemies would have coals found for them and provisions too. The observations of the noble Lord were calculated to do mischief, and he, therefore, uttered his protest against them.
§ MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport)
said, that he maintained that our policy, as far as the Navy was concerned, was to be prepared at all times, and to learn to rely, as we did, on our own strong arm. For that reason, he himself saw not the slightest difficulty in supporting the programme put forward by the Government. Personally, he thought the present proposals were adequate, although he had much sympathy with the idea expressed by his right hon. Friend Sir Charles Dilke on several occasions that our superiority in battleships should be more marked than at the present time. In his opinion, it would be advantageous to the interests of the service if the First 296 Lord of the Admiralty would consider whether he could not even now give to the warrant officers the rank to which they had aspired so long. He would like to re-echo the words of a previous speaker in reference to warrant officers, an agitation on whose behalf had been going on no less than twenty years. He was sure they would most gratefully recognise the concession made by the Admiralty. The predecessor of the First Lord distinctly promised, in 1892, to give to these warrant officers the rank they had aspired to so long. Perhaps the Admiralty might even now further consider their desires. Every effort should be made to prevent trained men retiring from the service at the end of their first term. With regard to the Admiralty taking some steps to prevent the waste that went on by men retiring at the end of their first term, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was impossible to recruit trained men. Of course it was. That was all the more reason why every effort should be made to prevent men retiring at the end of their first term. He went further, and said that it seemed to him the most anomalous thing that we should allow the most splendid men that existed in the world to quit our service when they were comparatively young men. He was speaking of allowing them to retire at the expiration of the second term. We now allowed our men to leave at 38 years of age. He had never been able to realise why this should be. In other walks of life men served on to a much greater age, and rendered services of a most useful character. This seemed to him to be a matter deserving of consideration. The First Lord of the Admiralty was very anxious to repel what he called the fallacy that we had a difficulty in obtaining sufficient men for the Navy. This opinion prevailed very largely, and had prevailed for many years, and past events had proved that it was right in the long run. He had noticed letters in The Times from I ill-informed people suggesting that the Navy should be recruited from the reformatories. It was therefore well to tell those people that the Navy need no longer be made a dumping ground for 297 boys of the criminal classes. But he did think there was a difficulty in getting men. Take the class of stokers. There was hardly a single engineer in the Navy who did not complain of the inferior character of the stokers. Why was that? The explanation was found in the admission of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, that stokers were recruited young. How, he asked, was it possible to make an effective stoker of a youth. The duty of a stoker was to stoke, and it was quite impossible for an immature lad to stand the hard life of the stoking room. He believed that the Admiralty, in relying on boys to do stoking work, were running a serious risk should war break out. The salvation or the ruin of the nation might depend in the event of war on the swiftness with which our war vessels went from one point to another; and as the speed depended entirely on the stoking, we would only be wasting our money in building ships if we did not at the same time take steps to secure able and efficient men as stokers. If the Admiralty desired to get good stokers they must improve the position of the men in the service and make their pay better. The same remark applied to the artificers and engineers. The First Lord had said that naval engineering was a fine profession. The engineers did not think so. There was a great objection amongst them to joining the Navy, and all because they did not receive the consideration in regard to status and pay to which they were entitled. He was glad to hear from the First Lord the well-deserved tribute he paid to the men and officers of the dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the ease with which the mobilisation of the Flying Squadron had been carried out. An occasional encouragement of that kind to the men would do no harm. There was one observation of the hon. Member for Ormskirk with which, as it implied a reflection on his constituents, he desired to deal. The hon. Member had said he had been told by naval officers and officers of dockyards that West of England men were inferior altogether to the men of the East of England—that the western men could not turn out as good a day's work as the eastern men. Well, he had heard the contrary. He had been assured by naval officers that they could 298 tell a crew of western men with their eyes shut, they displayed such superiority in their work, and other officers had also often told him that they would prefer to command in a ship coming out of Devonport than in a ship coming from any other place. In conclusion, he hoped the First Lord would make some statement in reply to the matters laid before him by the deputation in November last.
§ MR. JOHN PENN (Lewisham)
said, that the engine-room department of the Navy had fallen far short of its requirements, and that no adequate provision bad been made to enable it to catch up the enormous increase that had taken place in the horse-power that was under its control. In the year 1886 there were 673 engineer officers in the Navy, and in 1896 that number had only reached 804, with the result that, whereas in the former year each engineer officer had under his control an average of 1,280 horse-power, each officer in the present year had 2,500 horse-power under his control. In addition to that, each officer had now under his charge a very large amount of auxiliary machinery. There were only two sources to which we could look for obtaining our engineer officers, one being from those we trained and the other being from the outside. There was a waste, from retirement and other causes, of 24 per annum, and on the whole there was only a net increase in the Department of 20 per annum, which was not by any means sufficient to enable us to catch up the enormous increase in the steam power over which they had charge. It was often said that, in case of war the Admiralty could always obtain a sufficient number of engineer officers from the Mercantile Marine. It was, however, not quite so easy to obtain such officers from that source. In the first place the Mercantile Marine officers had no knowledge of the enormously-intricate machinery with which the Navy officers had to deal. Therefore, even if the men were obtained from the Mercantile Marine, they would not be competent to discharge naval duties until they had qualified themselves to do so by experience. That view had been confirmed by the results of the last three years. During that period there had been 114 candidates from outside for positions in the Navy, and out of that 299 number 49 had been accepted. He should like to point out that 114 applications for positions such as these was by no means a satisfactory amount of applications. If the position of an engineer officer in the Navy were as good a one as it ought to be, we should have an overwhelming number of such applications from which there would be no difficulty in selecting from among such applicants the very best men who were obtainable in this country. There was another point connected with this subject to which he wished specially to draw the attention of the House. There were at the present time 74 engineers who were doing the duty of chief engineers, who only had the position and pay of the lower grade. That operated most unfortunately, and made the Service less attractive to engineer officers than it should be. He suggested that there should be a large number of chief engineers, so that those who had the responsibility of doing the first-class duty should obtain the position and the pay of chief engineers. In view of the small number of engineer officers who were at our disposal over and above those who were on active service, he could not understand how we were, at short notice, to obtain such men for our first line of Naval Reserve in time of war. It was taken for granted that in time of war our first line of ships would be a good deal knocked about, and that the engineer-officers on board the active fleet would be available for the First Reserve. He failed altogether to see how they were going to man the second line of defence from the slender sources at their command. It seemed to him absolutely essential to the safety of the ships that a large number of engineer officers should be obtained. The engineer students at Keyham had now only three to five years' service, whereas 10 or 15 years ago they had six or seven years' service, and if 10 or 15 years ago six or seven years was the proper length of time to teach a man his business, he maintained that it was infinitely more important that he should take that time now, when machinery was infinitely more complicated. It did seem to him that the position of an engineer in the Navy was not one which was sought after by the engineering talent of the country as it ought to be. It was quite 300 true that the Keyham College was being increased, but he would like to point out that whereas now, in consequence of the rapidity of shipbuilding, a ship could be built in 2½ years, it took about 6½ years to build an engineer. He therefore feared very much that as the increase in the number of ships was going on at so huge a rate, the supply of engineer officers would altogether fail in the future. He trusted that something would be done to put right this important question.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. W. E. MACARTNEY,) Antrim, S.
thought this would be a convenient time for him to intervene in this important, though somewhat discursive Debate. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty would take the opportunity on Vote A of explaining in detail the position the Admiralty took up on the many questions which had excited so much interest that night; and he might remind hon. Members that it was perfectly open to them to deal with all the questions they wished to deal with on Vote A, and therefore he would ask them now to facilitate the progress of business by agreeing to the Speaker leaving the Chair. With regard to the position of engineer officers, just alluded to by his hon. Friend behind him, and the stokers and other ratings in the engine room and stokehold, the Admiralty did not share the view expressed that there was a difficulty in obtaining a sufficient supply of sufficiently good quality in those departments. He had recently had an opportunity of visiting Keyham College, and could bear witness to the admirable reports given there of the qualifications of the students, of the very high character they bore, and to the complete satisfaction of the officers in charge. It had been suggested that the engineer officers were condemned to an unfair social position on board Her Majesty's ships, and were confined to the engine room. Such a statement was misleading, and he hoped hon. Members would understand that engineer officers entered the Service on a footing of equality with the other officers, and there was not the slightest ground for saying that they were subjected to any inequality in the social scale. Then he came to the question of the engine room artificers. It had been said that the 301 rate of pay was not sufficient to induce them to take up their ratings in the Service. But the pay of an engine room artificer varied from £8 5s. to £11 5s. per month, and that compared very favourably with the earnings of the same class of mechanics outside the Service. No difficulty was experienced in obtaining the number of artificers wanted for the Navy, and, though complaints had been made in that Debate with reference, to the position of these men, the Admiralty did not believe that these complaints were substantial. It had been said that the complement in the engine room and stokehold in Her Majesty's ships was insufficient. The Admiralty were fully alive to the importance of the question, and did not feel themselves bound to adhere to the present complement, which was arrived at in 1892. They were watching matters very carefully, and they would not hesitate to take steps to remedy any deficiency that might be found to exist. Recently, at all events, no complaints had been received from Commanders as to any insufficiency in the number of engineer officers, engine room artificers, or other ratings. For the sake of comparison he would give the House the number of mechanics and stoker ratings on board the Royal Mail steamer Majestic, and on board Her Majesty's ship Majestic. On the former, with 15,000-horse power, there were 22 mechanics and 138 stoker ratings, 160 in all. On the latter, with 5,000-horse power less, there were 19 engineers and artificers, six chief stokers, and 126 stoker ratings, or a total of 151. With regard to the entrance examination of engineer students, it was a mistake to suppose that the standard of efficiency had been reduced. There had been a modification of the examination, but no lowering of the standard. His hon. Friend near him had said that the number of years of an engineer student's course at Keyham College had recently been reduced. It was true that many years ago engineer students often served six years in the dockyards. When the Marlborough was instituted at Portsmouth the system lasted until the Navy College was established in 1880; but when Keyham College was established it was settled that five years was a sufficiently long term. The increasing demands 302 of the fleet, due to the large augmentation in the number of ships, had forced the Admiralty to reduce the number of years which engineer students served at Keyham. After a four years' course students were selected after special examination, and experience showed that they were fully qualified to take up the duties they had to perform.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said he had no information about Greenwich. The number of four year students in 1892 was 32; in 1894, 20; in 1895, 15; and it was proposed to enter only 11 in 1896. The position of engineer officer in the Service held out the greatest possible attractions to young gentlemen, and opened up for them a career which was not to be despised. Such an officer might rise to be chief engineer at £750 a, year with the possibility of retiring at 50 on £400 a year, and at 55 on £455 a year. An hon. Member spoke of the stokers as boys. It was said that 50 per cent. of the stokers were taken from the second class. It was a rule of the Service that the squadron in home waters should always contain 50 per cent. second class stokers, but they were not picked out of the gutter. They had been in naval barracks and had gone through a course of three months' training. With regard to the future of the Britannia, he was astonished to hear his hon. and gallant Friend talk of it as a ship. It was as unlike a ship as anything could possibly be. It was a hulk converted into something like a house, and it was a most unsatisfactory habitation for those who were now trained as naval cadets. After hearing all the authorities on the question of its abolition, the Admiralty had come to the conclusion that in building a naval college they had taken the best step to secure the most efficient training for future naval officers. As to the locality, he admitted that a great deal might be said for Yarmouth, but an important element in the consideration was that there should be smooth water as close as possible to the training college—a condition for which Yarmouth was not pre-eminent. The site which had been selected was, in respect, of a healthy climate, approved by 303 all the medical authorities. Considerable sums had already been spent there on the cricket ground, gymnasium, and so on, and on every ground the place was the best that could be selected. He could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth that it was the intention to extend the decentralisation of stores to Hong-Kong and other distant stations, and the Admiralty concurred in his view as to the duplication of the crews in the torpedo boat destroyers. It was proposed to change the crews as frequently as possible. The hon. Member for the Ormskirk Division criticised the standard of superiority laid down in 1888 with regard to battleships. That was not the standard of the present programme; and the Admiralty did not believe it to be absolutely necessary. The introduction of the water tube boilers into the new battleships had been criticised, and it was asked why the Admiralty had not waited for the result of a long experimental voyage in a larger ship. If the Admiralty had waited they would have had no more knowledge, than they had now. The step which had been taken was justified by the experience gathered in smaller ships by this country, and in larger ships by other countries. The French navy and mercantile marine had tested these boilers by long and continuous steaming, and the result of the Sharpshooter trials was conclusive. It was said that those trials had not fulfilled expectations. They had sufficiently indicated what might be expected from the boilers of the Powerful and the Terrible.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
said, that according to the report of the Sharpshooter trials, the average indicated horse-power was 1,788; and the boilers were supposed to develop 4,000-horse power. Why was not the full power of the boilers tested?
§ MR. W. ALLAN
said, that according to all engineering, it was not a proper trial trip unless the full power of the boilers and engines was taken.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that the Admiralty were perfectly satisfied from the results of the trial that their anticipations as to the power to be developed by the boilers of the Powerful and the 304 Terrible would be realised. The hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne had expressed regret that Sir W. White and the Admiralty had reversed the policy of building ships of the Majestic and Magnificent type. That policy had not in any sense been reversed. Those two vessels would shortly be added to by five vessels of the same type; and the Admiralty still retained the same opinion as to their value as fighting machines. But for the naval exigencies of the Empire, those vessels had one slight defect—they could not pass through the Suez Canal. It was for that reason that vessels of the new Renown type had been designed, and they were almost as formidable as the Majestic. One or two other questions had been raised, but they could be dealt with on Vote A, which would immediately follow this discussion. In view of the time which had already been spent upon the subject he trusted the House would be good enough to let them make some progress, especially as thereby they would not in the slightest degree entrench upon their rights or diminish their opportunities of discussion.
§ MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
, who had given notice of the following Motion—That, in the opinion of this House, a training ship should be stationed at some convenient point or harbour on the west coast of the Highlands of Scotland, or that other facilities be provided for training of Highland boys who desire to enter the Navy,rose, where upon—
§ MR. SPEAKER
said the Amendment of the hon. Member was in order, but he would suggest that as it related to a purely local matter, it would be much more properly dealt with on the Vote for training stations.
§ MR. WEIR
said, he would be extremely brief. He did not begrudge the First Lord of the Admiralty the sum of money asked for, if only it were well and wisely spent. He noticed that a large portion of the money was to be spent in the building of new ships. Those new ships would displace a number of older vessels, and with that modesty which characterised Scotchmen, he had to ask that one of the old ships should be stationed on the north-west coast of Scotland as a training ship. The first Lord of 305 the Admiralty regretted that many boys in the Navy could not swim. The boys of the Islands and Highlands of Scotland could not only swim, but they had plenty of muscle and were intelligent and loyal. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman give such boys an opportunity of joining the Navy? In the expenditure of such a huge amount the Highland people, who pay taxes like the rest of the community ought to have some attention paid to them, and this might be done by providing facilities for the boys of the Highlands to join the Navy. The Government would find no finer, hardier, or steadier boys in the United Kingdom. They would make good sailors, and many of them desired to join the Navy. They would not go into the Army but they would enter the Navy. [Laughter.] It should be remembered that there were no factories or large industries carried on in the Western Highlands and Islands to give employment to those boys, and the Government were standing in their own light in not sending a training ship to a convenient station in the Highlands to which the boys could conveniently go in order to enter the service. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord would take the matter into his consideration, and he begged to move the Resolution that stood in his name.
§ DR. TANNER rose to speak a few minutes before 12 o'clock, when—
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order. If the hon. Member repeats observations of that kind I shall have to draw the attention of the House to his conduct. [Cheers.]
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 183; Noes, 47.—(Division List, No. 28.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 186; Noes, 41.—(Division List, No. 29.)