Motion made and Question proposed:—
That 93,750 men and boys be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, including 16,005 Royal Marines.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
continued his speech, which was interrupted at midnight on Friday, and said that as he understood the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth lapsed with the former sitting, he proposed to conclude with an Amendment to reduce the Vote.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.) rose to order, and asked whether as the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth had lapsed, he was not entitled to precedence over the hon. Member for East Mayo, inasmuch as he had an Amendment which stood next in order on the Paper.
I called on the hon. Member for East Mayo because he was in possession of the House when the discussion came to an end last Friday.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
And I ask whether any Amendment, being first on the Paper, is not entitled to priority?
I do not think that that necessarily means that the hon. Member should move his Amendment first. If the hon. Member for East Mayo, who was in possession of the House on Friday chooses to conclude with a Motion he is entitled to do so.
§ MR. DILLON
said he had no desire to intervene to prevent the hon. Member for East Clare moving his particular Amendment. He submitted, that the very large increase in men which was made by the late Government last year was accepted by the Committee on the understanding that it was to be more or less a resting place, and that full provision had been made for the defence of the country for some time to come. He was entitled to ask, therefore, what fresh instances had arisen to justify the present Government in coming down and asking for another enormous increase. The fact was, these periodical demands were made as the results of panic and fits of Jingo fear, or from a policy of aggression. One of the worst features was that these demands were always accompanied by speeches which constituted a defiance of some European Powers. The First Lord of the Admiralty had cast aside the principle that the fleet of England was to be a match for any two fleets in Europe. Apparently, the principle now was, that the fleet was to be increased inimitably, until it should be able to cope with the fleets of almost all the rest of the world. That opened up a prospect of the most terrifying character for the taxpayers of the country. Where were these armaments to cease? The speech of the First Lord held out no hope of even temporary finality to the piling up of armaments, and before consenting to a single step in this most unnecessary and monstrous increase in naval expenditure, the House was entitled to demand against what nations the armaments were intended to be directed.
The First Lord of the Admiralty had said:—These are not Estimates of provocation, they are Estimates of self-defence. They are Estimates based on the special conditions of this country, on conditions which are not those of other countries, on our scattered possessions, on the position of our food supplies, and of our colonial possessions They are based on the security of our own shores.What had altered since last year in the special conditions of the Empire? Nothing, unless foreign complications have altered them. But the First Lord of the Admiralty had not adduced one 479 shred of evidence in favour of this enormous advance on the programme of last year; and by the words quoted the right hon. Gentleman had condemned his own propositions. The present Government did not complain last year that the late Government's proposals were inadequate, and nothing had changed but the foreign relations of the Empire. Then these enormous Estimates must be asked for as a menace to foreign Powers. The last increase of the Navy was based on the alliance of France and Russia, and the junction of their fleets off the south coast of France. What had been the gain to the Empire of all these millions spent on this most foolish and criminal attempt to overmatch the fleets of France and Russia in a spirit of aggression? In the last few months the result was shown. England had gained nothing, and the foreign policy of the present Government had thrown the entire East of Europe and Asia into the hands of Russia. Now Parliament was called to vote another enormous increase to meet the difficulties which were even more alarming than the alliance between France and Russia. They were asked to vote these millions in the dark. They did not know against whom this demonstration was intended. Was it intended against the United States? Was it a warning to that country, if she should not yield on the Venezuelan Question, of what she might expect? Or against what new enemies was it intended? The late Government increased the number of men for the Navy by 12,000 in two years; and now a further increase of 5,000 was to be made; and it had been made abundantly clear that the increase was only temporary, and would be followed by still more. The First Lord of the Admiralty had explained that his proposals would add £2,000,000 to the Estimates for the present year, and that there would be a supplementary Estimate of £1,000,000. That increase of nearly £4,000,000 seemed likely to be permanent; and it did not take account of the £8,000,000 to be spent under the Naval Defence Act. That was a monstrous and extravagant charge; and further, the supplementary Estimate ought really to have been included in the general Estimate of the year. He did not believe that these increases in the Navy would bring 480 any increase of safety or strength to the country. They provoked counter-increases in European and perhaps American Powers. This system, if carried on as it had been by this country for the last 10 years, could only end in one way, and that was universal European bankruptcy. The time had come, quite apart from special considerations connected with Ireland, to protest against these enormous and monstrous armaments, and against the shame of a free-country like England leading the way in this race to universal ruin and bankruptcy. If England could build ships, so could other Powers. The principle was laid down that England's fleet must be more than a match for the combined fleets of any two other countries; and when that was reached, the principle was thrown aside, and it was declared that the English fleet must be prepared to stand against the world in arms. On England's shoulders would rest an excessive share of the responsibility for these armaments, which were draining the life-blood of the populations of Europe. It was to be deeply regretted that the First Lord of the Admiralty, who in a special manner was identified with and responsible for these great increases before the world, should have thought it right to go down to the country, shortly before the opening of Parliament, and make a speech which he has admitted in this House to have been interpreted as a threat hurled at the whole of Europe. He spoke of our magnificent isolation, and intimated that England would take steps to stand against the whole world in arms, if called upon to do so. [Ministerial cheers.] He thought that such cheers were foolish. It was against that very spirit that he had risen to protest. Why should England challenge the world in arms? Why should this country, blessed with free institutions, set an example of arrogant militarism? It was a disgrace to England, who ought to claim far different honour, by setting an example of moral armaments and a desire for peace and good understanding among the rest of the European Powers. If for no other reason, this was not the time to make these enormous and aggressive increases, after such a speech from the First Lord of the Admiralty, interpreted in the capitals of Europe as 481 a sort of universal defiance. There could be no doubt that while the quarrel with the United States was impending, these enormous naval increases would be regarded in America as very aggressive and insulting proposals. He must say a word in honour of the one great British Statesman whose absence from this House he regretted, who had not hesitated to make his voice heard against this ruinous and scandalous expenditure on armaments. Mr. Gladstone, in a recent letter, the words of which would be long remembered, said:—I will only add that conviction and sentiment on this subject grow with me in strength from year In year in proportion to the growth of the monstrous, and, I will add, barbarous militarism, in regard to which, I consider, that England has to bear no small share of responsibility.Those were courageous words, and they were true, from the greatest Englishman of this generation. These words ought to, and he believed would, commend themselves to the attention and respectful consideration of the English people when the present fit of Jingoism had cooled down. There was another aspect of the increase in the Navy. He had been an assenting party to the proposals of the late Government for an increase in the Navy. It was very much against his own judgment and inclination. But the ate Government had promised to issue a Commission to inquire into the proportion in which these charges were borne by Ireland and Great Britain; and Irish Members were bound to show some consideration to the Government. Although that Commission had not reported, it had taken a great amount of evidence; and in his opinion it not only substantiated all that Irish Members had contended for, but had revealed a condition of things worse than they had presented to Parliament. There could not be the slightest doubt that Ireland, the poorest part of the United Kingdom, had for many years been paying far more than her just proportion to the military and naval expenditure of the country. That being so, was it not a monstrous and outrageous injustice that, in spite of the known and expressed wish of the vast majority of the Irish people, who were opposed to this policy of big armaments, which they considered 482 unnecessary, that this huge increase to the Navy should be forced on Ireland, when, as everyone knew, she would have to pay double her share of the cost? While, as an individual, he was opposed root and branch to this increase, because he believed that it would be another step in the iniquitous race to general bankruptcy—while he was opposed to it on grounds of common humanity—as an Irish Nationalist he was still more strongly opposed to it, because he held that the Irish people, who had no kind of responsibility for this system of bloated armaments, and the policy which had given rise to it, should not now be asked to pay two or three times their just share of this additional burden. The Government could not expect the Irish Members to help them in their proposals as regarded the increase of the Navy. Irish Nationalists were united in their resolve to give the proposed increase, whether as regarded men and boys or in regard to the gigantic increase under the Naval Defence Act, the most determined opposition that the forms of the House would allow. [Cheers.]
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
said, that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Dillon) probably endorsed the opinion that the proposed naval expenditure was occasioned by fear of Russia, France, Germany, and the United States. Why, instead of paying money to enable England to defeat those countries, Irish Nationalists at the present time infinitely preferred to pay money to enable those countries to defeat England. It was all-important, politically, that that view should be taken into consideration; when they came to the discussion of the Navy Estimates, and were trying to do what they could to increase the strength of the Navy, they need not pause to consider such a view.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
It is a quotation from an article written by one of the hon. Member's friends. [Nationalist laughter.]
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER,
resuming, said, it was to be regretted that they had hardly yet heard any discussion as to the real deficiency of the Navy. They had heard two speeches from the two front Benches following the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and they had a speech of the greatest importance from the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. That speech was being commented upon by Members on both sides of the House and outside it. It struck everyone who heard it as a lucid, well-conceived statement of a case which might be strong or weak, according as the facts stood. Until the facts were overthrown it was a strong case, and one to which a little more consideration ought to be devoted. The Leader of the Opposition said that we were to accept the proposals of the Government because they were proposed by a responsible Government with their knowledge of the necessities of the case. Was it not an elementary fact that during the last ten years everything that had been conceded had been forced by agitation from the responsible Government and had been something they did not intend to give? The increase of the Navy Estimates had proved that the Estimates made by former responsible Governments did not cover the necessities of the case. To tell them that they must accept these Estimates because they were proposed by a responsible Government was to fly in the face of all experience. Then the Leader of the Opposition said our policy made our Navy Estimates. Did they not all know that there were present to the minds of the House two recent things that were done independently of this country, which were neither sought, nor desired, nor anticipated by us, and with which we had no more to do than "the man in the moon?" There was the action taken in the United States and in South Africa. They were acts entirely independent of our policy ["Hear, hear!"], and no prevision on our part could have foreseen and provided for them. So it was illusory to say our Estimates were dependent on our policy, for that would suggest that we were always aggressive, and increasing our 484 Estimates accordingly The speech of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean certainly required to be answered on one or two points. He said that the materiel for manning the Navy and the Reserve were not sufficient. He himself did not believe that we had not men enough to man the existing ships. He believed we had. But there were ample facts to show that the Reserve we relied upon in the Mercantile Marine was not sufficient, and if the present system went on it was not likely to become so. In the Mediterranean we had a state of things which every man was able to understand was to our disadvantage, and which they ought to protest against. We had 30 ships, large and small, in the Mediterranean, but we had in the Channel a still larger fleet. In the Channel we were spending £10,000,000 at Dover, Portsmouth, and Devonport, for the purpose of strengthening our naval depôts and fortifying works. In the Channel, with a superior fleet, with all the resources of the United Kingdom behind us, so unsafe did we believe ourselves to be that we were actually putting booms across our harbours that our ships in our own dockyards, under our own guns, inside our own forts, might be safe at night. In the Mediterranean every single precaution was discarded. We had only one torpedo-boat in the Mediterranean, and she, like most of her kind, broke down. We had only two docks, and they were in the wrong place. We had now, for political purposes, four ships cruising about in the Levant, 2,000 miles from Gibraltar and utterly unprotected, we had no coaling station, and the proof we knew we were unsafe was that we were committed to further expenditure in making plans. Then there were the forces of a great naval power entrenched in a line with four great fortresses—the whole of the French fleet and an enormous number of torpedo-boats. The most elementary strategy in the world told us that to divide two inferior forces with a superior enemy entrenched on an inner line was bad policy. People might say we could recall our fleet from Gibraltar. He remembered, when there was a possibility of war with Siam, one of the French gunboats fired a shot across the stern of one of our men-of-war. It was the merest accident that that shot was not 485 returned; if it had been, there would have been war from one end of the world to the other. At that moment half of our fleet was at Smyrna, the Victoria was at the bottom, another ship was docked at Malta, the French fleet was mobilised at Toulon, and what happened then might happen again to-morrow. These were matters requiring explanation. It was political reasons only that accounted for this fleet being in the Mediterranean. He could not meet with a single naval officer who would say that our naval arrangements were really satisfactory. Let hon. Members ask themselves why, if it were right to go to such enormous expense in the Channel, what we were doing and not doing in the Mediterranean could also be right? He went down to see the Rupert, when she returned nearly full of water; and he asked, what would have happened if she had got abroad? She might have been left somewhere unprotected unless she had been patched up and towed to Malta or Devonport. The mishap occurred in a time of peace; but what would have been the state of things if it had been a time of war? He hoped that we should either withdraw our fleet or resolve to make it strong enough; at all events we ought not to run the risk of assuming that it secured us an advantage which was absolutely illusory. With regard to men he had been studying the matter somewhat closely, and he affirmed that the demoralisation of the British Mercantile Marine by the introduction of foreign sailors had reached a point that was startling. He had been told that the ships that were subsidised carried neither guns nor ammunition, while the steamers of the German Lloyds carried guns, and within six hours of leaving New York could be converted into armed ships. On the Atlantic station we had nothing that could touch them or come near them; and in the Pacific, too, the French steamers could be quickly converted in to armed cruisers. Ammunition could not be carried on board these mercantile steamers under the Board of Trade regulations; but it was stored at depôts all over the world; and guns could easily be carried in the hold. Arrangements could easily be made for supplying the officers in command with the necessary sealed Commission. If the First Lord was really 486 needing men, let him include in the list of mercantile seamen the 9,000 men engaged in connection with yachts. The Naval Volunteers were justly put an end to but those who sailed for pleasure might be made available by a little encouragement. If a torpedo-boat were placed in the port of London, it would be manned by men who would soon be competent to handle it; and the system could be extended all round the coast. There were thousands of young men who went to sea between Saturday and Monday in little boats, and it was marvellous that they kept above water. These are the men who were wanted to man torpedo-boats that would otherwise be useless. In conclusion he would ask whether, before another series of Estimates was presented, an assurance could be given that they might have an opportunity of discussing the defence of the Empire as a whole.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, that so far as he could gather, the last speaker was prepared to build a fleet, to man a fleet, or to command a fleet. [Laughter.] As to the last suggestion of the hon. Member, it had always been held to be necessary to catch boys when they were young in order to make seamen of them. The hon. Member's plan might give work to the unemployed of London, but whether it would benefit the Navy or not was a different matter. Unlike the hon. Member he was not a strategist, and his great difficulty was that it seemed to him, no matter who was First Lord of the Admiralty, he was deemed to know nothing about the Navy or about our requirements. He readily admitted that private Members without special knowledge ought to vote for what those who were in official positions said was necessary for the safety of the country; but if you went back a little you saw that each First Lord had proposed a scheme entirely different from that of his predecessor. Lord Northbrook declared that the Navy was equal to all requirements, and that if he had an extra million he should not know what to do with it; but a few months afterwards he produced ascheme for increasing the Navy. The Opposition supported him; and when they came into office the noble Lord opposite (Lord George Hamilton) reduced the Estimates 487 on the first year, and a few months afterwards repudiated all that he had said, and proposed the Scheme carried out under the Naval Defence Act, at a cost of £21,000,000. As usual, the Leaders of the Opposition applauded that, and it was carried against the protests of a few Members below the gangway; but it was thought that this was to be a settlement of the question. Then came in Lord Spencer, who in the second year added £3,000,000 and in the third year £3,000,000; and now the right hon. Gentleman inaugurated his tenure of office by proposing a Scheme even more monstrous than any that had been suggested before. And this lavish outlay was but a sop to those who advocated still larger expenditure. Did not all these facts show that First Lords of the Admiralty had never taken a really large and broad view of our naval requirements? They seemed to think that, if a newspaper demanded that more money should be spent upon the Navy, they ought at once, because it was a popular thing to do, to spend more money. Whenever Ministers wanted to be popular with the nation they came down to the House, and in a blustering, swaggering fashion declared that they were prepared to build a few more ships. [Laughter.] He trembled to think what would occur when the present Ministers became somewhat unpopular, as Ministers always did when they were some time in power. Heaven knows what numbers of ships they would build in order to recover their popularity. [Laughter.] He spoke not as a strategist like the last hon. Member but as a plain, simple taxpayer, and as such he would ask the Government "what are you trying for?" The noble Lord the Secretary for India when first Lord of the Admiralty in the late Conservative Government had said the idea was that we ought to have a fleet which would be equal to any two fleets in the world. But that was an absurd plan, because it would be possible for two countries to be at war with us. Now the plan of the present First Lord seemed to be to build a fleet that would be able to cope with the united fleets of the entire world. The First Lord did not put it in that way. He said the plan was defensive and not offensive—that it was to protect our commerce, our 488 colonies and our coasts; but it must be remembered that a fleet of this great power could be used, and would be used in all probability, for offensive purposes. Having the greatest fleet in the world we would have practically the absolute dominion of the sea, and if we fell out with any Power we could close all her ports and bombard her towns. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear!"] Yes, that was what hon. Members opposite were in favour of. But it must not be forgotten that this vast dominion was attended by positive danger—the danger that other Powers would combine against us. What led to the fall of Napoleon was that he had too great an ambition—he wanted to be master of Europe and in the end Europe combined against him and overthrew him. Then there was another objection to the plan. Let us not suppose that we had got a monopoly of the wealth and shipbuilding of the world. Every nation would compete with us in shipbuilding. We were engaged in a ridiculous game of "beggar my neighbour" against the world. We must in the end be broken in such a game. As we spent this money on our Navy, the other Powers would spend money on their Navies; and in the end the relation between us and the other Powers would be the same as it was before this competition began. He therefore thought a more dangerous suggestion had never been made to the House than the suggestion that we would build ships, no matter what other countries did, so as to keep our Navy equal to any two Navies; and a still more dangerous proposal was the present proposal which seemed to substitute for any two Navies the Navies of the entire Powers of the world. The object in view seemed to be this—that if we unfortunately found ourselves at war with any Great Power we should be able to carry on our whole commerce precisely in the same way as if there was no war. But that was absolutely impossible. We must accept the consequences of being at war. We would have to defend the channel, and to have fleets in various parts of the world; but besides that, in order to protect our commerce, we would have to have a fleet to patrol the entire ocean to that British ships would be able to go from one port to another. That could not be done. In the wars with 489 Napoleon when we almost cleared the sea of the enemy, two million pounds worth of English ships were destroyed by privateers sent out by France; and it was certain that if we were at war with a Naval Power, our merchant ships would be attacked by privateers in the same way, with the result that our carrying trade would be taken away from us and given to a neutral country. It was said also that unless we had the absolute command of the sea during war we would be starved. He did not believe that. The food would come into our ports in neutral ships. It might be said the enemy would object to that. No doubt; but the enemy would not be able to help it, because if she took any hostile action against the neutral she would turn the neutral into an enemy. He agreed with the very sensible speech recently made by Lord Wolseley who pointed out that it would be absolutely impossible in war to blockade all our ports, and with one or two ports left open our food supplies would come in without any difficulty. He had no doubt that food would be dearer, and he hoped it would be dearer in the event of war. He agreed with John Stuart Mill that war ought to be made as terrible and as injurious as possible to every human being of the countries engaged in it; and he trusted that the fact that food would be dear would deter working men whose means were mainly devoted to getting the necessaries of life from joining in the wild ridiculous Jingo cry that was now going through the country. A good deal was said about our great and noble Empire, about the loyalty of our Colonies and how they loved us. But he wanted that love of the Colonies to have a cash basis. [Laughter.] He did not care about a union of hearts—what he wanted was a union of purses. [Laughter.] An hon. Member had told the House that the expenditure on the Navy per man in Great Britain was 10s. 1d. The expenditure on the Navy in Australia per man was 1s. 3d; in Canada, one farthing per man; and in Africa, that land of gold, it was zero. The whole thing was thrown entirely upon Great Britain. One would suppose that we were spending it entirely on ourselves and that the Colonies had no share in the benefit. What were the facts about our carrying trade The trade was worth roughly 490 £1,100,000,000 per annum, and one-fourth of it was the carrying trade of the colonies, not between the colonies and this country, but between one colony and another, and between our colonies and foreign countries. And yet it was said we were to find all the money. That was not all. If we ever did get to war with another country it would be on account of some miserable dispute with regard to our colonies. Take the case of Venezuela. Who cared to whom that miserable bog belonged? He only feared the possibility of its being made out it belonged to us, and our being dragged into a great war. We were to have a vast Navy in order that we might dictate, not to Venezuela—that would be simple enough—but to the United States, to whom that bog belonged. Our taxation was now enormous; it had reached £100,000,000. Although there was a surplus there was to be no remission of taxation; nothing was to be done to brighten and better the lot of the poor man. And this expenditure would oblige us to levy not merely the present taxation but £10,000,000. Where was the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to get the money from? Not from his agricultural friends. From the brewers? Not a bit of it. Depend upon it, it would come, directly or indirectly, out of the pockets of the poor man. It was said that our requirements depended upon our policy. He had observed that our policy depended upon our expenditure. The more we spent the more bragging and blustering we were, and the more we continued to spend the greater would be our brag and bluster, and the greater our attempts to grab countries all over the world. All our wars during the last 500 years had been the consequences of our own meddling in matters which did not concern us. Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Gladstone, two of the most popular Ministers that we had had in the present century, argued that we ought not to incur in times of peace a perpetual war expenditure, but, ought to run some possible risk or contingency. He forgot who it was who said that was a pre-historic view, but, pre-historic or not, it was a very sound and sensible view. Mr. Gladstone had always been against large expenditure; and unless rumour was entirely wrong, Mr. 491 Gladstone was not quite satisfied with the expenditure proposed by Lord Spencer. He (Mr. Labouchere) believed this Jingo craze was merely temporary, and ascribed it, to a great extent, to the Liberal Party not having proved faithful to their traditions. Formerly there were two Parties. When the Conservatives were in Office there was a tendency to lavish expenditure, and on the Liberal side there was a tendency to economy, particularly in regard to military expenditure. He did not doubt that many of the Gentlemen now sitting on the Front Opposition Bench would rise and deplore this expenditure—they were quite capable of it—[laughter]—but what did they do when they were in power? Did they vote for reductions then? Not a bit of it; each shrugged his shoulders, said that it was the fault of his wicked colleague, and submissively voted as the Whips told him. The people of the country had no confidence as regarded economy, either in the present or the late Ministers. He found that both set of Ministers tried to see who could acquire the greater amount of popularity, and when he spoke of popularity on this matter he meant that of the music halls, of experts about guns and about vessels, and of ardent problems like the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield. The country was opposed to this expenditure, and he warned his right hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench that if they ever hoped to re-acquire the confidence of their country they must revert to the old sound Radical principles of peace and reform. They had seen the result of the last General Election. Where were they now? Whose fault was it? Their own; and he thought they deserved to be landed where they were. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by 1,000 men and boys. He would infinitely prefer a reduction by the whole 4,900. He made it 1,000 because he wished this to be a test question. If the Navy was inadequate for our requirements, or if the Army was inadequate for our requirements, let some Minister come down with a clear scheme. This was not a scheme which had been thought out by the Ministry or which was understood by the country. It was certainly not a scheme which was appreciated in his quarter of the House. He wanted the 492 House to have an opportunity of saying they were ready to accept the fact that it was necessary to have a Navy for defence, but they were not going to attempt a scheme of beggar-my-neighbour against the actual world. What he and his Friends wanted was, not a Navy which might compete against the Navies of all the world, but a Navy sufficient for our honest and peaceful requirements.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, the Committee knew perfectly well what the views of the hon. Member for Northampton were, because they had heard most of his remarks before. What he would like to know was, where did the hon. Gentleman get his facts from? The hon. Gentleman told them amongst other things that our carrying trade was worth £1,100,000,000. That was perfectly absurd. The hon. Gentleman must have been thinking of tonnage. [Laughter.] To say that this country earned by carrying £1,100,000,000——
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I did not say that. The hon. Gentleman should not only speak in this House, but listen. [Laughter] I spoke of the amount of the value of what is carried.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Then the whole thing became doubly absurd. He understood the hon. Member to speak of the value of the carrying trade. These were the words he used. He now said he meant the value of the goods. But he was not right there either. If he would refer to the Trade Returns, he would find that the value of the goods carried was nothing like £1,100,000,000. One other point. The hon. Member said it was dangerous for one Power to have this stupendous preponderance of naval force, and then he immediately proceeded to argue that there was no danger at all, because he told the House that as soon as we increased our naval power, others would increase theirs in proportion, and we should remain where we were, as little dangerous as when we began. It was true that two neutral leagues were formed against this country in 1780 and 1880, but we defeated both these neutral leagues, and it was his desire that, if ever another neutral league was formed, we might be in a position to repeat the experience of the past. The hon. Member accused the First Lord of the Admiralty 493 of coming down blustering and swaggering. He had never heard less bluster and less swagger in the mouth of a First Lord than the right hon. Gentleman showed. Why, he spoke more like a village maiden—he positively bleated. He was surprised at the mildness of the terms in which the right hon. Gentleman commended to the House the largest naval expenditure the House had ever had to discuss. They had had very little assistance in that Debate from the official Opposition. The late Secretary of the Admiralty, indeed, apologised for speaking at all, and he explained that he would not have spoken except that the House expected a person in his position to make a speech. Of course they did. The Leader of the Opposition averred what was perfectly true, that armaments must depend upon policy; and he said that, as the Leaders of the Opposition knew nothing of the policy of the Government, they could not discuss the Estimates—a very unfortunate position for leaders to be reduced to. But the right hon. Gentleman did not stop there. He said the reason for this increase in the Navy Estimates was that we had not learned how to make the world our friends. No, we had not, and he did not believe we ever should. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to stand up and preach the policy of the early Christians. But he must remember that the kingdom of the early Christians was not of this world, and ours was. He had never known the right hon. Gentleman himself to show much of the character of the early Christian. He would rather have taken him for a late Pagan. When he was smitten on one cheek and turned the other, there was generally a closed fist with it. But suppose the right hon. Gentleman was right in all this, and that this early Christian policy was the proper one to be adopted, he was one of the very greatest sinners against it. When he was in office he consented to a very large increase in the Naval Estimates, and having increased the Navy in order to defend the country against the enemies of England, he clapped the whole cost on the landed class and those against the Government in order to defend himself against his own enemies. He now came to the unofficial Opposition, most ably represented by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. He 494 did not share the right hon. Gentleman's opinion that too little provision was made in this year's Estimates for the wants of the Navy. He thought the provision was ample. In some respects, indeed, he thought too much provision was made—that a large proportion of the money was going to be spent in the wrong direction. He thought the right hon. Gentleman greatly overrated what he called our position of isolation. It was true we were isolated in time of peace, and he for one would rather be isolated, because he should prefer to make his own choice of allies in time of war. But, at the first sound of the trumpet announcing war, our isolation would and necessarily must cease. Suggest any combination of Powers you pleased, it must be such as to insure, either on or soon after the outbreak of war, at least one, and probably two Powers on our side. He thought too that the right hon. Baronet underrated our present strength. It could not be forgotten that in six days, one of which was a Sunday, this country fitted out a Flying Squadron which, in point of strength and fighting power, was equal to, say, the whole Navy of Germany. That was an exploit which could not be matched by any Power in Europe; nay, by any two Powers. Then, comparisons between our ships and those of foreign nations, were entirely fallacious. It was a fact that while foreign navies and foreign crews largely consisted of paper, ours all consisted of the real stuff. Foreign ships did not go very much to sea. Ours were almost always at sea. We manœuvred our vessels in closer order, we exercised our men oftener, and we fired more ammunition; our ships and our men were better than those of foreign nations. Any comparison, taking ship by ship, between our ships and those of the foreigner was therefore necessarily fallacious, and the true comparison, if it could be properly made, would be much more to our advantage. Now he came to the men. The right hon. Baronet thought 100,000 men was the right number. He maintained that they had that number. The provision in the Estimates for next year was 85,818. Then there were 6,883 in training; and in an emergency a considerable number of these, who 495 were near the end of their training, might be taken. Consequently, they might reckon at least 86,000. Then there was the Naval Reserve numbering 25,800. It was true that Admiral Tryon's Committee reported that only 10,000 of the Reserve would be immediately available; but it also reported that a very large additional number would be available in two months. And at that time the total of the Reserve was only 20,000, so that he thought he was justified in concluding that they might fairly reckon on 13,000 being immediately available now. This would give a total of 99,000. He was quite prepared to allow 3,000 as the number that might contingently not be immediately available, but he thought 96,000 was sufficiently near the strength which the right hon. Baronet required, because, certainly, within two months the remaining 4,000 would easily be obtained. The right hon. Baronet had introduced the Mercantile Marine, and described the number of 240,000 British seamen as a myth. But, if so, it was in the direction of moderation. He believed that there were 400,000 British seamen all told. The fishermen, who were the very best seamen in this country, numbered some 100,000, and they were the last men he would exclude in any calculation of British seamen. But whatever the right hon. Baronet might be able to prove as to the Merchant Navy not containing a sufficient proportion of men of British nationality, none of that was true about the Navy. The men in the Navy were all British. The fishermen were also British, and so were the Naval Reserve. He now came to the question of Belleville boilers. He confessed that when these boilers were first introduced, he had considerable doubts as to the experiment which the Admiralty were making. The first reason was that the Mercantile Marine had not adopted the boiler; and it seemed that the experiment appeared to be made only in small vessels. He had since been alongside the Sharpshooter and seen the Belleville boiler, and he felt bound to say that he thought those reasons were not valid. The Belleville boiler was such that if it succeeded in a small ship it must succeed in a large ship, and although it had not been adopted in the Mercantile Marine, that was because its qualities 496 were such as were intensely and enormously valuable to the Navy, yet perhaps of very little extra value at all to the Mercantile Marine. These boilers were entirely broken up, and one tube or one element might be taken out or injured, the rest remaining complete. Then they could be examined and cleaned with the greatest possible facility. Special advantages of these boilers to men-of-war were that steam could be raised with the greatest rapidity; and that the most sudden stoppages and startings could be made. The furnace doors were all knee high, and thus there was greater facility for stoking. There was an almost entire absence of foul tubes, and sea-water could, in an emergency, be used. There was a considerable economy of fuel in these boilers, amounting to nearly two pounds per indicated horse-power per hour.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead) rose to a point of order. He could only say the hon. Member was utterly in error.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that if the hon. Member did not know more about Belleville boilers than he did about order, he should be a little more moderate in his language. The information he had received from the officers of the Sharpshooter was that there was an economy of fuel with careful stoking of 1.7 1bs. per indicated horse-power per hour, and in spite of the interruption of the hon. Member for Gateshead, he still continued to believe that. Having endeavoured in some degree to reply for the Admiralty, he now came to his criticism upon them. Close upon £23,000,000 was asked for the Navy this year; and his criticism was that a great deal of it was being injudiciously spent. It seemed to him that the Admiralty had thought too much of works and ships, and too little of men and their training. In fact, the order of their ideas seemed to be works first, ships next, men last, and training nowhere. The order of his ideas was, men and training first, ships next, and works nowhere. The First Lord, speaking of works, instanced Dover, where £2,000,000 was to be spent upon a harbour; and he himself told them he had not sufficient knowledge to say what the result and what the cost would be.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
But already they had been told that the works would cost £2,000,000, so that an estimate had been formed. His belief was that the estimate would be very largely exceeded, and that the cost would be nearer £4,000,000. Even then, they would not have a satisfactory job, and he believed they were making a harbour where they ought not to have one. In regard to Gibraltar, he remembered their making demands for one dock there, and the difficulty in getting any authority to listen to that demand. But ultimately the idea of one dock was entertained and then, mainly, he believed by the efforts of the Secretary of the Treasury, the idea was entertained as conceivable that there might be two docks at Gibraltar. His view was that one dock was indispensable and two very good, but a third dock there, in comparison with other requirements, he believed to be quite useless, and a misapplication of the money. Why, instead of having this third dock, did they not build a dock at Simon's Bay or Mauritius? It was of the most essential importance to have a dock at Simon's Bay.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
I rise to order. I desire to know whether on a Vote reducing the number of men the hon. Gentleman is entitled to go into all these questions with regard to docks.
It is rather difficult to draw a line in these matters. The ordinary custom has been, as I have already explained, that on the first Vote a general discussion is allowed upon everything contained in the Naval Estimates. I was doubtful if the hon. Member was in order in discussing the particulars of the dock at Gibraltar, which does not come upon these Naval Estimates at all, but which will find a place in the Naval Works Bill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
As regards Simon's Bay and Mauritius, I may state that money has been taken in the Estimates for a survey of these two docks.
I think the discussion should be confined to matters for which money is taken in the Estimates.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, he would not pursue the subject further. He was glad to hear that money for the survey at Simon's Bay was in the Estimates. In regard to the size of ships, he thought that the proposed saving of two feet in the draught was a matter of the greatest importance. He now came to the question of the men, and here it was that he thought the First Lord was making his most serious mistakes. To his mind the most essential thing was, not to have a large number of men, but that such as they had should be highly trained. Let the House remember that the sea service was a highly artificial service. When they took a man and trained him for the sea he had everything to learn. He could not move about on a ship with safety to his head or his feet; he did not know how to sleep in a hammock, he could not get up a ladder or into a boat. He had to learn all those things so thoroughly that he forgot that he knew them or how he learned them. That was what he called training. All these things went to make up a thorough seaman, who was the result of an unbroken series of traditions. He must be taught them from the beginning; and that could only be done by catching him young. In his opinion the right hon. Gentleman was going in the direction of abandoning the old and true traditions of sea-training, as they had been understood. Some people were of opinion that anybody would now do on board a ship. He believed, on the contrary, that the skill which was the result of training was never so essential and never made so much difference as now. In no department was skill ever so necessary as in the stokehole and the engine-room. The other day a torpedo-catcher was built for a foreign Government, and a picked and trained crew was sent to take her home. On the trial trip the contractor got 30 knots out of this vessel; but the foreign crew could not get 14 out of her, showing the tremendous importance of skill even the engine-room and stokehole. It was the same with regard to seamanship. There were at this moment nearly twice as many sailing vessels afloat as steamers. At any time they might have to send a man-of-war crew and officers to take charge of one of these vessels. It would be a pretty mess 499 if these officers and men, having been trained entirely for steam, did not know how to handle a sailing vessel. In addition, the whole of the crew might have to take to the boats. That was purely a question of seamanship. In his opinion high training in seamanship for the men was still absolutely necessary if we intended to maintain the character of our Navy. Let him point out how matters stood at the present time in this respect. In the first place he might explain to the Committee that training-ships were those in which a boy was received when he joined the Navy, and in which he underwent a special preliminary training and discipline. At present the boy passed 20 months on board one of those training ships, which, indeed, was all too short a period. The Admiralty, however, now proposed to reduce that period of 20 months to the short period of 16 months, and to raise the age at which a boy could be received by a year. In his opinion the Admiralty were wrong in both those proposals. He would rather have fewer boys with better training than a greater number of boys with less training. Then he came to the training-brig, and here again a similar objection applied to the proposals of the Admiralty. When the boy had completed his 20 months on board a training-ship, he was sent on board one of the training-brigs, in which he actually went to sea, not to a great distance perhaps, but to a sufficient one to teach him seamanship at sea. But he only remained on board one of these vessels for six weeks, a period that was not sufficient to train him in using the lead line, and to hand, reef, and steer. That period, in his opinion, ought to be doubled, and a part of the large sum for which the right hon. Gentleman asked ought to be appropriated to increasing the number of these training-brigs. It appeared to him however that the Admiralty despised training, and only thought of obtaining a large number of men. Then he came to the training squadron, in which the boys received their third and finishing training, which lasted for a year. There, indeed, the boys received a most excellent and most comprehensive training. But would the Committee believe the startling fact that not more than one-eighth or one-tenth of the 500 officers and men in the British Navy ever passed through the training squadron at all? In order to pass a sufficient number of the men and officers through this course of training, the Admiralty would have to double the number of the ships of the training squadron. But the Admiralty gave no sign of their intention to take that course. They left the squadron exactly where it was, and this again showed that they preferred numbers to training. He did not believe that the training on board a torpedo-destroyer—which indeed they proposed—would give anything like the necessary training that was required, because no seamanship could be learned on board those vessels. Now he came to the last point in his indictment against the Admiralty, and that related to their proposal with regard to the Britannia. No doubt that vessel was an old one, but, if they wished to train their officers on board in place of on shore, it would be easy to replace that vessel by another of the same class. It was, however, now proposed to do away with that vessel and to replace her by a training college on shore, while at the same time the age of joining of the cadets was to be increased by one year. It was said in support of this proposal that the boys were now drawn from too small an area. But how would they increase the area by increasing the age of the boys? On the contrary, by increasing the age they should be diminishing the area. Again, it was contended that by increasing the age they would abolish competition and cramming, and would consequently diminish the pressure upon the boys. In his opinion, however, instead of diminishing the pressure they would increase it by a year's duration. Here, again, it was proposed to reduce the period of training from 23 months to 16 months. In his view, if any change in the period of training were made, it should be in the direction of extending the period instead of shortening it. The Britannia had given us a most excellent body of officers, who had done their duty in every capacity in all parts of the world, and the Admiralty were taking upon themselves a very serious responsibility in abolishing the training on board that vessel. He believed that they could not take a boy for the Navy at too early an age, when he could easily be taught 501 to get up and down a ladder and handle a boat. With all respect for the right hon. Gentleman, he must say that he appeared to him to be going in a wrong direction. If it were not too late, he should ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his decision in reference to these proposed changes, which would not create but would destroy that marvellous combination of knowledge, patience, constancy, dexterity, resource, and self-reliance, which make up the British seaman, who was the outcome of the accretions of the traditions of 1,000 years. He implored the right hon. Gentleman not to destroy our real seamen, upon whom, more than on ships, works, or forts must ever depend the prosperity, the safety, and the very existence of the British Empire. [''Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. EDWIN LAWRENCE (Cornwall, Truro)
said that he desired to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty to a most important reserve to which attention had not as yet been directed—he meant the great number of ships of war that were being constructed in our private dockyards for foreign nations. All countries had a right, in times of difficulty, to take what the nation required, and he thought that, if any emergency arose, we should be fully justified in availing ourselves of the right of pre-emption and taking, at their full value, all or any of the vessels to which he referred. He did not know how many of such vessels there were in the private dockyards, but no doubt the Admiralty were fully informed upon the subject.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
supported the attitude taken up by the hon. Members for Cockermouth and Northampton. He expressed admiration for the conduct of the first-named hon. Member in this matter, because it was not easy for any hon. Member to take up an attitude opposed to that of the great majority of Members representing all parties in the House. The hon. Member had simply lived up to his reputation, which had always been consistent in the House. He did not support the Amendment, however, for the reasons given by these hon. Gentlemen. He objected to this increase in the Navy expenditure from an Irish point of view. He was surprised at the attitude of the so-called Radical Party. For the last 502 few years he had listened to speeches of hon. Members who claimed to be Radicals and to express the views of the working people of this country. They bitterly denounced every attempt of the Tory Party to incur extravagant expenditure for warlike preparations and to burden the people with extra taxation for a policy of Jingoism. He had always thought that those hon. Gentlemen were sincere, but now he found that the so-called Radical Party had apparently disappeared, for not a word of protest had been uttered by the front Opposition Bench against this extravagant policy. Both Liberal and Tory Governments were almost equally to blame for such expenditure. If he were an Englishman or a representative of a constituency here, he was not prepared to say that he would not be in favour of a strong Navy, but, in the present circumstances of the Government of Ireland he, as an Irish Member, said that the Irish people took little interest in what concerned the welfare of Great Britain, and the British people might make up their minds to the fact that the great bulk of the Irish nation, as long as they were ruled as at present, could not regard with any interest or sympathy any precautions taken by this country in regard to foreign affairs. Irish Members had been returned to ask for a Measure of Self-Government for Ireland. That Measure had been refused, and the Irish Members were now at Westminster in pursuance of the old policy of discontent. He told the House plainly that as long as it pursued the present method of governing Ireland, this country could not rely on the bulk of the Irish people sympathising with such proposals as the present. From the English point of view, he was also impressed with the amount of terrible distress and misery in all the large towns of the country, and with this fact staring him in the face he would, were he an English Member, hesitate very much before he voted to sanction this enormous expenditure. The great bulk of the Irish people had ten thousand times more sympathy with the people of the United States of America than they had with the people of Great Britain. It was only fair on occasions like this to tell England the truth, that Ireland had no sympathy 503 with her in this policy. What was the first objection to this policy from the Irish point of view? He objected to this increase of armaments, first of all, because it was intended undoubtedly as a menace against the United States. ["No!"] But for the difficulty which arose with the United States over Venezuela these proposals would never have been made. ["No!"] But, Yes! What message did the representatives of the London Stock Exchange send to the United States? They sent a most impertinent message to New York—If your excursion steamers interfered with Lord Dunraven's yacht race, we hope they won't interfere with our men-of-war.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
It was denied that any such message was ever sent. In any case, it is impossible to make Government responsible for it.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
said, that at all events these gentlemen let the cat out of the bag. He had never seen the contradiction, but he saw the reply of the New York Stock Exchange, and it was not likely they would send a reply to a message they had not received. The people of this country might express their feeling against their German cousins to their heart's content, but he and every Irish Member would go into the lobby and fight against this increase to the Navy, believing it was a menace to the Great Republic which they loved so well, and which was their greatest friend. He objected to this expenditure also, because it was a monstrous imposition upon Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen opposite believed that England was a benefactor to Ireland, and that but for the millions which had been poured into Ireland the people would disappear or die of starvation. What were the facts? It was well known that Ireland, with her four millions odd of population, bears one-twelfth of the whole taxation of the United Kingdom, so-called. Mr. Gladstone himself had laid it down that 504 the proper and fair proportion of Ireland to the general taxation of the country would be, not one-twelfth, but one-twenty-sixth, and yet they knew that, according to the evidence of the greatest financial experts given before the Royal Commission on Financial Relations—men like Mr. Giffen and Mr. Childers—Ireland was taxed, and has been taxed for the last 40 or 50 years at least, three millions more than she ought to have been taxed. In the face of that fact, they were asked to vote the enormous sum of nearly 22 millions this year for the maintenance of the Navy—an increase of three millions over the increased Vote of last year. Hon. Members were forced to express surprise that Irishmen should be found so unreasonable as to object to this expenditure on the Navy. "Oh," they told him in private conversation, "the British Navy is as much for you in Ireland as for us. The Navy will defend you against foreign foes as much as it will us." Ah, yes! that was all very well; but Irish Members had got the firm conviction that what brought Ireland within the slightest range of foreign attack was her connection with this country. If Ireland were ever attacked, it would be because of her connection with Great Britain; and Great Britain ought to bear the cost of protecting her. It was said that the money raised in taxes went back to the people in the form of wages, and so on. No doubt that was so in England, but it was not so in Ireland. He had often asked how much of the Naval Estimates was spent in Ireland. He believed none at all. Some £50,000 or £60,000 was going to be spent on a dockyard at Haulbowline; and that was all, out of a total expenditure of 23 millions. Last year the Irish Members made the modest demand that some share of the supply of pork to the Navy should be given to contractors in Ireland, where the business was carried out to perfection. He did not know whether that demand had been listened to.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. W. E. MACARTNEY, ) Antrim, S.
Yes. Ireland gets four-fifths of the supply.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
said, that in any case only a few thousand pounds were concerned. He opposed these proposals because they were a menace to the United States. When the Flying Squadron was commissioned, and sent to the south coast of Ireland, on the way to America, whom was it intended to frighten? Everyone knew that it was intended as a menace to the United States. [Ministerial cries of "No!"] Then how was it that the idea of mobilisation never occurred until the dispute with America arose, and that the squadron, when it sailed, was sent on the way to America? For the reasons which he had given, he should support the Amendment, and should move others standing in his name later on. Whatever belief he had held in the sincerity and fidelity to pledges of the Radical Party had been completely shattered by their conduct on this matter. It was monstrous that while these additional millions were being spent, the Front Opposition Bench should be empty. They acquiesced in this expenditure as eagerly as the greatest Jingo. With the exception of the hon. Member for Cockermouth and the hon. Member for Northampton, who stood up for their convictions, there was no opposition to the programme of the Government in any part of the House except from the Irish Members. In the end, the English people would thank the Irish Members for their opposition. It was most absurd for the country to suppose that by spending any amount of money it could make its fleet equal to the combined fleets of the world. The more that was spent here, the more would be spent abroad; and at the end of 10 years the proportions would remain unaltered. It was cowardice or a guilty 506 conscience on the part of the British people which made them always afraid that someone was going to attack them. If they treated other Powers fairly and squarely, and did not, attempt to bully them with a big fleet and a large expenditure, they in turn would be treated fairly. As an Irish Member he took the view that these Estimates ought to be opposed for the all-important reason that the great bulk of the Irish people were opposed to them.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said, that the speeches from the hon. Gentlemen representing the principal two Irish Parties in the House would be generally taken in the country as a very good reason why more power in Imperial matters should not be given to the Parties of those hon. Gentlemen. It was unfortunate, in the interests of the hon. Gentlemen, and of the country which they desired to serve, that they should show themselves so absolutely unable to grasp the great Imperial needs of the country. He believed the view of the hon. Member for East Clare, that the Flying Squadron was mobilised as a menace to the United States, was entertained by very few persons here or in America. He would remind the hon. Member that the disproportion between the navies of America and Great Britain was already so great that an increase of five battleships and two cruisers could not make very much difference; and, moreover, the acute stage of the dispute about Venezuela had passed away before the Flying Squadron was commissioned. Ho made this answer to the hon. Member's suggestion, because it would perhaps be more difficult for the First Lord of the Admiralty than for a private Member to do so. As to the general programme, he agreed very much with the criticisms of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. If anything, the increase of the Navy was rather under than over the mark. Could anyone say that an increase of five battleships and 507 12 cruisers in three years was excessive? It was considerably less than the Spencer programme, which most of the hon. Members for Ireland supported. In comparison with the fighting navies of other countries, the Government's programme was too moderate. He would rather have seen eight or ten battleships proposed than five; and that opinion was held by many naval authorities. At present we had 33 first and second-class battleships, as against 31 of France and Russia. At the end of 1897, there would be 41 British, against 42 French and Russian; and in 1899 there would be 46 British, against 48 French and Russian—or an inferiority of two against us. If they added to that the coast defence vessels, they would have 49 British against 55 French and Russian. The proposals of the Government were moderate, and, in his humble opinion, almost too moderate. While he said that he must be allowed to congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on his statement as a whole. He thought it had been received by the House with great satisfaction, and with great approbation by the country. He believed, if there was one thing upon which the British people were determined, it was that their Navy should be strong and supreme. So long as the responsible Ministers of the Crown came down and advocated an increase in naval expenditure, with their knowledge and on their authority, so long was the country certain to support them, and so long was Parliament certain to Vote the necessary supplies. They had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton so often that it was hardly necessary to reply to it. He concurred with one point in it, namely that some step should be taken at as early a date as possible to obtain financial support from the Colonies for the Navy. If the facts that were stated were true, that one-fourth of the carrying trade of the Empire was the trade between one colony and another and the colonies and foreign countries, then 508 certainly some of their wealthier colonies should be called upon to contribute something to the Navy. He should like to say something with regard to the speeches which had been made by the Leader of the Opposition and by one or two other Members opposite. They were going to have three docks at Gibraltar, and he believed there was to be one at Simon's Bay, or whatever position in Cape Colony was thought fit for such a dock. He asked the House to consider for one moment why it was they were under the necessity of so largely increasing the dock accommodation at Gibraltar? A dock at Gibraltar was undoubtedly most desirable. He had himself advocated it and worked for it for many years.
Order, order! I have already ruled one hon. Member out of order for dealing with this subject, and I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to deal with it.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he was not going into details, but he understood that, as being part of the whole naval programme, they could refer to it as bearing upon naval policy at large. He thought he should be in order if he referred to the necessity which had led to this hange, so to speak, of their naval base. Their naval base had been shifted in the Mediterranean westwards. They had three docks at Malta, but evidently the policy of the Government was now based on the assumption that those docks would not be available. And here came in his reference to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the isolation of this country, and twitted the Government that this had rendered this great naval expenditure necessary. There was no doubt that the foreign difficulties of this country had had a great deal to do with the increase of the Naval Estimates. They must have a great deal to do with it, but when the right hon. Gentleman said it was the policy of his right hon. 509 Friends on the Treasury Bench, which had caused this increase in the Naval Estimates and this isolation, he forgot two things. He first of all forgot that other countries had policies as well as Great Britain, and that this country was bound to adjust its naval force, not according to its own policy, but according to the policy of other countries as well. The charge against this country of being aggressive with regard to the Navy was one of the most fantastic charges ever devised in the House. The Member for Northampton talked about the swaggering and boasting speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Personally he never heard a speech couched in terms more directly opposite to swaggering and boasting.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he denied that five battleships and four first-class cruisers was swaggering in re. As a matter of fact various events in foreign policy—events which were due to the policy of hon. Gentleman opposite, to their foolish and fantastic policy in the East—had led to the temporary isolation of this country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for it, and yet, in the face of that, the Leader of the Opposition got up and made what he ventured to describe as the most vacuous speech ever delivered in the House, even by an ordinary private Member, much more by an ex-Leader of the House. It happened, at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, that this country was faced by very grave and serious perils, and the only possible answer on the part of this country—an answer not defiant, but defensive—was the mobilisation of a portion of her fleet and the permanent increase of her Navy. It was not boastful or a threat to any foreign country. It was simply a statement that England intended to be in the position of "the strong man armed that keeps his house 510 in safety." With regard to the shifting of their naval base in the Mediterranean westwards, which was practically due to the temporary isolation of England, as the hon. Member for West Belfast said that night, the next naval action would probably have to be fought in the neighbourhood of Gibraltar. If they found that, owing to their Anti-Turkish policy, Russia's naval force in the Black Sea was able to enter the Mediterranean, as was very likely, they would then have their 12 battleships in the Mediterranean confronted by 17 French battleships and six Russian battleships. Under those circumstances their naval commanders would have no resort except to fall back for reinforcements to Gibraltar, and therefore came in the necessity for this increase of dock accommodation there. He agreed very largely with what his hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn said about the necessity of maintaining the training of their sailors in seamanship, in favour of the training squadron, and also of giving the boys a long and thorough training. He did not feel sure that the proposed increase of age with regard to the cadets going to the Britannia would be an advantage. He would like to hear from the First Lord how he was going to secure these boys from the public schools a year older, and at the same time secure that they would not be crammed for an extra year. It might be possible by some rearrangement of the examination system to avoid this, and he only hoped it might be so.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY,
who was received with cheers, said: I have to deal with criticisms which have been made on three different occasions, and I hope any hon. Members whose questions I may not answer on the present occasion will not feel that I have in any way slighted the suggestions they have made. There will be further opportunities of dealing with details when we come to the discussion of the various Votes. I should wish to-night 511 to deal with the main points only that have been urged. The main points I conceive to be these—the question of the manning of the Navy, the training of our boys, and the general objects of the increase in the Estimates. I have to deal with three different sets of critics—those who consider these Estimates too high, those who consider them too low, and those who criticised various points in the programme from a practical point of view. With regard to the first, I do not think I need detain the Committee very long because those who think these Estimates are too high have not pretended to argue with any knowledge whatever of the particular number of the ships that might be required, or the number of men we ought to have. They have argued on general principles, on a kind of Utopian optimism that it was unnecessary for us to have any fear in any possible direction, or that we should require to put ourselves in a position to defend any of our possessions or any of our interests. ["Hear, hear!"] But at the same time, before I sit down, I shall be glad to answer some of the direct questions put to me. I pass to one or two questions with which I hope to deal briefly, because they are matters with which we shall be able to deal again. I have been asked questions with reference to the Britannia by the hon. Member for King's Lynn and by my hon. Friend who has just sat down, but, as no doubt this matter will be fully dealt with hereafter, I shall not go into the subject with any detail this evening. I will merely say that, after the statement which I made the other day, I received letters from most distinguished Naval Officers thoroughly approving of the plan which I then indicated. ["Hear, hear!"] My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield suggests that the matter should be further considered. If I felt there was any protest from Naval Officers generally—not a formal protest, but if I even felt that the opinion of the Navy was not with us, I should hesitate 512 in carrying out the plan. But I hope the Committee will understand that in this matter, as in so many others, the layman must rely to a great extent upon the advice of professional confrères. Occasionally we must represent to them what the House of Commons' opinion is or what that of the country seems to be; but on thoroughly professional matters such as how best to train Naval Officers and seamen, I feel I should be guided very much by experienced Captains who have young officers and seamen under their charge. ["Hear, hear!"] I pass to another point that has been raised—namely, that which has reference to the engineers of the Navy. To listen to the language of one or two Gentlemen who have spoken, one would think experience had shown the engineers in the Navy to be incompetent. But that is not the experience of the Admiralty nor of the hard facts. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen seem to argue a priori that the engineers ought not to be competent because they have not been trained long enough. But there has been as great a freedom from accidents and as great care of machinery amongst engineers of the Navy as there has been amongst the engineers of the great lines of steamships. ["Hear, hear!"] There have been some extraordinary runs made by battleships with comparatively new crews, which entirely justify the confidence which the Admiralty feel in that most valuable body of men—the engineers of Her Majesty's Navy. ["Hear, hear!"] When, however, hon. Gentlemen like the hon. Member for Gateshead wish to persuade the Committee that the whole responsibility for the safety of the ships rests with the engineers, they carry the matter a great deal too far. The engines of a ship may be likened to the heart, but the head must guide the whole body; the real responsibility rests upon the Captain of the ship and those who assist him, not only in peace times but in war, when it is necessary to fight with the 513 ship. ["Hear, hear!"] The engineers have got powerful friends in this House to express their views, but the executive officers are not so bound together, and no agitation is made on their behalf; therefore, with every desire to do justice to every rank in the Navy, irrespective of class, I would urge that all class jealousies should be avoided, and the House may feel confident that both the engineers and Naval Officers work harmoniously together. ["Hear, hear!"] I would wish hon. Members who take an interest in the engineers to avoid all language which would seem in the least calculated to create friction or discontent on board the men-of-war. ["Hear, hear!"] It is very natural that laymen, not only in this House, but elsewhere, should criticise generally the performances not alone of the engineers but of Naval Officers as well, I admit that in after-dinner speeches and in general terms, the efficiency of the Navy is always admitted. But when we have several days of consecutive comment, there is scarcely a class of officers who escape criticism at the hands of various Members of the House. That is as it should be. But, on the other hand, I may put before the Committee the fact that these officers, both executive and engineers, have duties to perform which are totally different from those of our Commercial Marine. Men-of-war have to enter every kind of water; they do not run from one port to another, as do our commercial vessels, but they have to explore all parts of the globe; and under these circumstances, I think it is astonishing how few accidents there are, and how seldom we have to deplore the loss of a ship or loss of life. ["Hear, hear!"] I hope the Committee will feel that, as spokesman of the Admiralty, it is not unbecoming I should put forward some of these considerations, so that confidence may not be shaken by any of those views which have been advanced—that either the education of our officers or the training of our seamen has 514 been declining during the past years. ["Hear, hear!"] I will spend a very few words upon a topic which has not been very much pushed in these Debates—namely our shipbuilding programme. It seems to me that, on the whole, the selection of ships to be built, and our general programme have not been adversely criticised. I felt it was wise to have ships of a somewhat lighter draught than the Magnificent, which should be able to enter shoal waters, which, as the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness has said, are to be found elsewhere than in the Suez Canal, and where it is important that ships should be able to go. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of still smaller ships, but I think, on the whole, the feeling of the House is not in favour of building ships of the Rupert class, which represent our coast defence, and which have difficulty in facing heavy seas. I now come to that topic which I think is interesting to the House more than any other—that of the manning of the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean said I had not been optimistic in other parts of my speech, but that as regards the manning of the Navy he thought I had taken too rosy a view. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the numbers voted were not borne, and he argued that we always had less men than we voted. This is a misconception. The average cost, which covers all the year, represents the gradual increase in the numbers voted. Take this year the 4,900 That does not mean we are to have the 4,900 men the day after to-morrow, but that recruiting will spread over the whole year, which gives a better selection of men. Thus, on April 1st of this year, we shall have every man who is voted in the Estimates of last year. Then, after April 1st, we shall begin to enrol the additional 4,900 men; and in the course of the year they will be added to the Navy, so that on April 1st in the year afterwards we undoubtedly shall have the full 515 number voted by the House. The word "under-borne'' looks as if there were difficulty in getting the men, but that is not so. It is simply a question of gradual increase. I come to the general proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. He put the case before the House as if every single ship was to be sent to sea and at once; and he afterwards put that assumption into my mouth, and added it on to my statement that the increase in men now proposed had not been a haphazard increase, but one that had been made on the most accurate calculations. That is the case But that the 500 ships would be sent to sea on the first declaration of hostilities is surely a hypothesis that would never be realised. In the first place, it cannot be done. You cannot send the whole of your forces to sea. The matter would depend upon the nature of our enemy, the operations to be performed, and the class of ships that it would be necessary to send out. The Admiralty can man every ship that could be ready to-morrow with the men we have now, drawing only 5,000 from the Naval Reserve. If we were to send every possibe ship to sea which is seaworthy, excluding harbour ships, we could man the whole of them, though it is impossible to suppose they could all be ready at once, by taking a draft of 11,000 from the Naval Reserve. A certain number of ships, of course, would be under repair. A certain number would be coming home from foreign stations. There would be training ships, which, of course, would be laid up for a time, and their crews would be transferred to effective ships. Then there are surveying ships, which would be similarly treated. Under these circumstances, I must ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean to accept the statement made by the Leader of the House that every ship which could reasonably be sent to sea could be manned without difficulty. [Cheers.] Hon. Members sometimes complain of the compara- 516 tively small number of men who are left behind when ships are commissioned. I do not know whether the House is aware of the enormous number of ships which we have in commission at the present moment—a far larger force than, I believe, has ever been in commission in time of peace before. If you compare them with the ships in commission in foreign countries, excluding the torpedo-boats and similar vessels, you will find that we have nearly as many ships in commission as all the Great Powers of Europe put together. [Cheers.] We use our ships so much more. The hon. Member for King's Lynn has spoken about training our men. What better training can there be for this large number of men than being embarked on men-of-war at sea? ["Hear, hear!"] To give the House an idea of the difference between the present and former times, I may say our coal bill for the Navy amounts to £500,000 now as against £247,000 not many years ago. Now, in view of the requirements from the Reserve of 5,000 men, or in an extreme case 10,000 men, it will be interesting to know how the Reserves stand. We have in the Royal Naval Reserve 24,000 men, and if we had only to call on 5,000 men to man ships which could reasonably be sent to sea, I, without wishing to be optimistic, think I may truly say that is not an unsatisfactory position to be in. But to this number I may add a force of 5,000 seamen pensioners—seasoned men, 45 years of age, who may not be so active for some duties on board ship as younger men, but who, on the other hand, being mostly petty officers, would be excellent leaven in all ships' crews for the purposes of instruction and discipline. Some hon. Members seem to have suggested that there was a neglect of training in the Royal Naval Reserve. I can assure the Committee that every attention possible is being paid to this matter. ["Hear, hear!"] We have substituted two modern ships for old hulks for the 517 training of the Royal Naval Reserve. The hon. Member for King's Lynn has charged the Admiralty with not attending sufficiently to the men and with looking more to works than ships. I can assure my hon. Friend that that is a mistake. The attention of the Admiralty is fixed more carefully than ever upon the training of the men and boys, and cadets. My hon. Friend says we are taking boys and cadets for the Navy older than we did before, and he objected that in consequence they did not get sufficient training. But the boys who come now into the training ships know more of school work than they used to do. They have profited by the improved education of the people generally. They come better prepared into the Service, and the time formerly devoted to educational purposes is now utilised for professional and technical training. With regard to the Royal Naval Reserve it has been suggested that the distinction between the first and second class should be abolished on the ground that the second class is as good as the first. I have not had time to go into the question of volunteering of any kind; but the proposals which have been made will receive consideration. The hon. Member for Belfast offered, if he had facilities given him, to secure a large body of Volunteers; and they would be good Volunteers, I have no doubt. (Mr. W. REDMOND.—"Orangemen.") It was in London and not in Belfast they were to be recruited. It happened to be myself who inaugurated the Royal Naval Volunteers at the instance of Lord Brassey, who took the same interest in the matter the hon. Member for Belfast does now. The experiment was not very successful. There are great difficulties in volunteering for the Navy; but my mind is open, and I shall be prepared to consider all the proposals that are made, and shall be glad if a further Reserve can be established. It is suggested that we shall increase the Royal Naval Reserve up to 50,000, but 518 some who favoured the increase seemed to fear that when the time came we should not be able to get the men. I do not propose to increase the number beyond the 25,000 at which it now stands; still, it is a matter open to consideration. The hon. Member for East Mayo asked whether we had now reached the maximum number of men; and the Committee must understand we have not yet reached that number. As new ships come into existence it will probably be necessary to increase the number of men. It was suggested that last year right hon. Gentlemen opposite had given such an undertaking; but they could not have thought they could lay down seven new battleships without increasing the number of men; and, similarly, now we could not make the increase in ships that we propose without contemplating a corresponding increase in the number of men. I am perfectly frank and candid on that point. ["Hear, hear!"] Some hon. Members have been informed that only 20 per cent. of the seamen re-engage at the end of their 12 years. The returns show that 60 per cent. re-engage at once and 9 per cent. leave and re-enter, so that, in round numbers, 70 per cent. re-enter the Navy on the close of their 12 years' engagement. In the case of stokers the proportion is still larger; 74 per cent. re-engage at once and 10 per cent. leave and re-enter, so that 84 per cent. re-enter. From year to year it is seen that men are re-engaging in greater numbers and proportions. It has been suggested that the Navy should train a number of boys and that they should be handed over to the Mercantile Marine; but I should not see my way to any such proposal. I think the preponderance of foreigners in the Mercantile Marine is somewhat exaggerated; but, if the shipowners of a great maritime country like this prefer foreigners, it is not for them to ask the Navy to train boys for them. There must be some kind of reciprocity. We have heard of the Mercantile Marine 519 training a large body of seamen for the Navy, but it would be an inversion of the process for the Navy to train boys at the public expense without any obligation on the part of shipowners to take them when trained, and a disposition on their part to take foreigners if they could get them cheaper. At the same time, nothing could be more valuable to the country, as well as to the Navy, than that the proportion of English sailors in the Mercantile Marine should be by some means, not artificial, largely increased. ["Hear, hear!"] I will not enter into other problems raised by the hon. Member for Belfast. The hon. Member said that every man endowed with common sense would see that our strategy in the Mediterranean was absurd; he condemned everybody who did not regard the question of strategy as he regarded it. If he had been in his seat, I might have argued the matter with him; but in his absence I will not press it beyond saying that there is some authority on the other side. [Laughter.] The Leader of the Opposition and others have asked—What is your policy? I stated that our policy was to have such a force as we could rely on to defend our interests in all parts of the globe where they might be attacked. I repeat that our Estimates are not Estimates of provocation. [Cheers.] The suggestion made by hon. Members from Ireland that they were simply intended as a menace to the United States are not only wrong in fact, but are absurd, as I shall be able to prove. The hon. Member for East Mayo seems to be trying to arouse a feeling in the United States against us—["Hear, hear!"]—a feeling of which, I am glad to say, I have not seen any evidence in the newspapers of that country—upon the ground that the increase of our Navy was a menace to the United States. The hon. Member says he is convinced of that. Well, I can tell him that our programme was framed by the Board of Admiralty in November, before any of the 520 events in connection with the United States took place. [Ministerial cheers.] I am glad the hon. Member has given me this opportunity of saying to him, and to others who think that these Estimates are proposed in a spirit of hysterical alarm, that they are Estimates deliberately prepared in accordance with a policy which has now been pursued for some time, and not deviating from the general lines laid down by successive Boards of the Admiralty. [Ministerial cheers.] When the late Liberal Government proposed to build seven new battleships we did not ask what their policy was. It was a startling proposal to come from a Government whose Leader was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire; but we did not think that because they proposed seven new battleships they were therefore going to provoke foreign nations, or that there was any idea of attacking any foreign Power. "May I ask what Power you are going to attack?" said the hon. Member opposite. None, I hope, unless they attack our interests. [Ministerial cheers.] It is a pity that such speeches should be made; but I hope they will not carry any weight. ["Hear, hear!"] It is a pity there should be such speeches insisting on there being provocation in our proposals; when the facts prove there is none. ["Hear, hear!"] But I have also been asked from other quarters what is our policy. We have stated what our policy is. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition quoted Mr. Disraeli, who said:—Tell me what your policy is, and I will tell you what Estimates you will require.I tell the right hon. Gentleman that our Estimates do not depend upon our policy alone. Our Estimates depend also upon the policy of other Powers. [Ministerial cheers.] And if you ask us what our policy is we tell you it is absolutely clear—as clear as crystal. We have no intention of embarking upon any adven- 521 turous policy in any part of the globe; we have asked you to give us that measure of help which is required in our belief to meet various reasonable eventualities that may occur, and we ask for no more. ["Hear, hear!"] It has been stated that the Government have said—that I have said—that we must have a Navy as large as all the navies of the world combined. None of us have given expression to so preposterous a statement. ["Hear, hear!"] On the contrary, the Leader of the House pointed out very effectively that such a policy is impossible. Some hon. Members who take an extreme view of our necessities, and think our proposals inadequate, ask us what will we do if there is a war combination of various Powers against us? That question brings back a classical incident to my mind. When the statesmen in the Athenian Assembly were asked—"What will you do if there is a combination of the other States against you?" they replied, "Trust in Providence and in a good Admiral." [Cheers.]
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said, his remarks would be confined to criticisms of details in the programme of the Government. The first point to which he would like to direct attention was the serious question how it was proposed under the scheme of a naval college on shore to make appointments to officerships of rank in the Navy. The First Lord of the Admiralty gave the House to understand that the education of naval cadets would be handed over to the public schools. That was a scheme which he confessed he regarded with some distrust. In how many of the schools would it be possible to have the naval classes of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke? And was it proposed to limit admission to the Navy to those schools which had proper naval classes?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said, a further question he would like to ask was how 522 the right hon. Gentleman was going to apply this new mode of education without a revision of the old system of nomination to the Navy?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
Nomination and competition as now, but with a new feature added—namely, that, as far as possible, these boys are to be drawn from the public schools. He would venture to urge on the right hon. Gentleman to make a clean sweep of the nomination system altogether. There was no nomination in the Army—why should there be nomination in the Navy? Why should these young boys, who were going to engage in what he believed to be the noblest career in the world, begin with the impression—which must be removed from their minds before long—that they were a privileged class, and that the rest of the world were outsiders? He did not believe the prestige of the Navy would suffer if the competition for places in the Training College was thrown open to all boys, and those accepted who proved themselves the best fitted to enter the Service. The right hon. Gentleman had said his proposals were supported by the opinion of the Navy. That was a very important element; but the opinion of the country was more important still; and he believed that opinion was that the Navy should be thrown open to all persons best fitted for it, without regard to the sources whence they came. ["Hear, hear!"] He heard with the greatest satisfaction; he account the right hon. Gentleman gave of the present state of the manning, especially as the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had argued that all the ships of the Navy it to constitute the war-fleet should be in commission in peace-time. That would be a complete reversal of the practice of the Admiralty. In any one year—in this year, for instance, the Manning Committee would calculate the war-fleet, 523 say, of the year 1899. They would lay down on Paper the names of vessels that would constitute the war-fleet, according to all probability, of that year. A portion of that war-fleet would in the year 1899, if there was no war, be in commission and fully manned by active-service men; the other class would not be in commission, but in what would be called the Fleet Reserve, as distinguished from the Dockyard Reserve—that was to say, they would be vessels ready to be called out for war. The difference between the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean and the Board of Admiralty was that a portion of the Fleet estimated to be in the Fleet Reserve in 1899 would not be provided for to the full with active-service men in that year. Then there would be two classes in the Reserve—one would be composed of new ships and the other of old ships, and a certain proportion of the manning of the new fleet and a larger proportion of the manning of the old ships would be left to be provided for by the Naval Reserve. The right hon. Baronet proposed, against the advice of experts, against the practice of the Admiralty, and against the practice of every nation in the world, that in a moment of profound peace we should add at least £1,000,000 a year to the expenditure. He did not know that the House were in possession of the facts as to the comparative state of manning in the navies of the different countries; but he had made some inquiries, and he found that, whilst the First Lord of the Admiralty now asked for 93,850 active-service men, the corresponding list in France in 1895 was 41,500, Russia 30,600, Italy 23,400. The total number of active-service men, therefore, in the three biggest navies in the world after our own was within a few hundreds of the numbers provided for in these Estimates. [Cheers.] Again, while our Navy in point of personnel had gone up from, he thought, 60,000 twelve or fifteen years ago to 93,000 now; the 524 Navy of France, which was 41,000 in 1895, was 42,000 twelve years ago; that of Russia had risen by only 500 in ten years; and that of Italy alone showed any great increase. These comparisons were of some importance from the point of view of the criticism of the right hon. Baronet; and he had only to add that he cordially supported the defence which the First Lord of the Admiralty had made of the present system, and accepted gratefully the statement that the success of the system was attributable to the Board of Admiralty which immediately preceded the present. As to the shipbuilding policy, it was very difficult to know from the Estimates what was the real increase demanded by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman called for £3,000,000 more than the Admiralty obtained last year. Of that excess, something like £2,150,000 was due to expenditure on ships to be laid down in the present year. The balance of £1,000,000, he took it, was fairly attributable to the proposals which the late Board of Admiralty made. The difference, therefore, between the right hon. Gentleman's proposal and the late Board's was to be seen in the absolutely new shipbuilding. The amount taken in last year's Estimates for totally new shipbuilding was under £1,000,000; so that the net excess on these Estimates was something like £1,500,000. The main item of the excess, no doubt, consisted of the five battleships. He did not pretend to say what the Opposition would have proposed had they remained in Office; and he was not prepared to say that the number of new battleships now suggested was excessive. The Leader of the Opposition, however, had asked what was the policy of the Admiralty, meaning thereby that they should state why they made this addition to the Navy. What his right hon. Friend said was—We know that your proposals necessarily are founded upon certain calculations relative to the strength of foreign navies, but we cannot ask what they are.525 But he did invite him to give them the reason for this new addition to the Navy. They had the answer that night in the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman—a statement, the importance of which he thought was not fully apprehended by the House, and which might be grossly misunderstood. The importance of the statement lay in the announcement that these Estimates were framed in November, at the usual time, before these foreign complications had arisen at all. [Ministerial cheers.] That was a statement, he repeated, of the gravest importance, and amply justified the Question put the other day by his right hon. Friend. If his right hon. Friend had been there that night he would have welcomed with satisfaction that statement, which showed that these Estimates were based not on a policy of adventure, but solely on the safety of the country. [Ministerial cheers.] The House, he thought, must be content to be left in the dark. They knew that calculations had to be made; they knew that if it were possible no Admiralty would hesitate to take into its confidence a House that had never failed to respond to demands made on behalf of the Navy. It was not necessary and it was not wise that the calculations should be publicly avowed or publicly discussed. He had no doubt that they had been made as usual, and he accepted the assurance that the Estimates were Admiralty Estimates and not Foreign Office Estimates. [Ministerial cheers.] As to the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton, it was a repetition of the Motion which he had to answer last year under similar circumstances. [Laughter.] If the hon. Member would permit him to say so, he, like the Member for Cockermouth, was guilty of a logical blunder in proposing to reduce the number of men. It was not a logical thing to reduce the number of men who were to man the ships already voted.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
Last year. He 526 did sympathise with any rational demand in that House for economy, even in the greatest service in the nation. He agreed with the suggestion that the Navy in this matter should be considered along with the Army. They should lay down a total expenditure for the whole Empire, and then consider which should have the larger proportion, the Navy or the Army. He formed the opinion when he was at the Admiralty that the time had come for the reconsideration of this ancient service of the Navy. There were some services in the Navy in which he did not believe. He did not believe that the money was well spent on the Paymasters' service. He did not believe that the clerical service kept on board ship was an establishment which should be maintained. In these and other Departments retrenchment might be carried out, but he did not sympathise with a mere general rush at the Estimates; and in particular he could not, any more than last year, vote for a specific proposal like that now before the Committee. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I only intervene in order to make an appeal to the Committee, and to explain briefly the precise situation we are in with regard to the Estimates which must be passed before Easter. According to our calculations, it is absolutely necessary for us to get, before the end of this week, the Vote for the men in the Navy on which we are now engaged; also the next Vote, the money Vote; to get the Speaker out of the Chair on the Army Estimates, and also to get the Navy and Army Supplementary Estimates. ["Oh!"] That is necessary to be done this week. In order to do that we have two days. We have Thursday and we have Friday. I may remind the House that according to the established practice a general discussion may be taken upon the Vote for the men or upon the Money Vote, but not upon both. As I understand the matter, it would not be in order to have a general 527 discussion on both the Vote for the men and the Vote for the money. I would suggest, therefore, that we should now terminate the general discussion upon the Vote for the men and pass this Vote, and, having disposed of the Amendment standing upon the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Mayo in reference to the Vote for the money, we should pass that Vote also before 12 o'clock. If the Committee declines to take that course, and we are unable to get these two Votes to-night, I shall have to ask the House to suspend the 12 o'clock Rule on Thursday and Friday in order that we might take these Votes on those nights. I would venture to suggest that that is an unnecessary and an inconvenient course to adopt, but in the event of the Committee not acceding to our suggestion to-night, we shall most reluctantly be compelled to take the Votes on Thursday and Friday nights. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. WALTER HAZELL (Leicester)
said, that he had an appeal to make to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. This question of the increase of the Navy had, perhaps, been sufficiently debated, but he was going to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, before the Debate closed, be could not give some assurance to the world that, although that House was practically united in the idea that we must have at the present time a larger Navy, he looked upon the fact as a great evil, and that he looked forward to the time when all disputes between ourselves and other nations will be settled by International arbitration.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I can only say, in response to the hon. Member's appeal, that no one would regard with more satisfaction than I should a general disarmament all over the world.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, that he was surprised at the request that had been made by the First Lord of the Treasury. In the 528 whole course of his Parliamentary experience he had never known of any Government which had obtained greater facilities for the transaction of its business than the present Government possessed, and certainly the Irish Members had nothing to thank them for. The Irish Members had desired to take part in the general discussion upon the Navy, but the right hon. Gentleman, by taking the course he had done, had precluded them from doing so. Of course, the Government had certain powers in their hands, and if they chose to use those powers for the purpose of preventing discussion, they were at liberty to do so. The Irish Members, on the other hand, had certain rights, and they were determined to exercise those rights, and to put forward their views upon this question. If the Debate that night had had no other good result, it had led to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, making a statement to the effect that these Navy Estimates had been prepared in November last before the scare took place. He had no right whatever to dispute the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, but he asked why that statement had not been made before? Why had that statement been made for the first time that night? A few nights ago the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, had made a speech upon this subject, and he had made observations with regard to the effect these Estimates might have upon foreign nations. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, however, had not made this announcement then in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The reason why I did not make the statement in answer to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, was because I had already spoken and should have been out of order in rising again.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman conceived that what he had just said was an answer to his complaint. The declaration which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had made that night on behalf of the Government was of a most far-reaching character, and would have a most important effect upon the relations of this country with America and with several continental Powers, and it was now stated that it had been postponed because the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had spoken before instead of after the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. But where was the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies? Why could not that right hon. Gentleman have made the statement immediately after the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had spoken. He was sorry that the Irish Members should be compelled to go against what he supposed was the prevalent feeling of the House in regard to this matter, but they had their duty to perform, and they were compelled to discharge it. In their opinion these large armaments were the necessary and the inevitable result of the policy of the Government in their treatment of Ireland. That might be a sound or an unsound opinion; but, at least, Irishmen had the right to put it forward. It was their duty to their country to make the right hon. Gentleman's views on this question known, for they believed that a large portion of the enmity which the Government were seeking to meet by this increased expenditure was due to the attitude they had taken up towards the Irish people at home and in America. The First Lord of the Admiralty went the length of saying that his hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo was anxious to create ill-feeling against this country in America. The right hon. Gentleman was guilty that night of endeavouring to promulgate in this country the most disastrous blunder and 530 misapprehension in regard to feeling in America. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that this feeling was the result of Irish feeling in America, nurtured and increased by his hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
What I said was that on the present occasion two speeches had been made, the only result of which would be to make it appear that we had been animated by a spirit of animosity towards America.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
replied that all he could say was this, that if the right hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to read the Dispatches of the chief of the Government to which he belonged, he would find there the basis and foundation of the feeling in the United States, and not in the speech of his hon. Friend; and the right hon. Gentleman was doing a great wrong to his country and his people in lending his great position to assist such an impression with regard to the fundamental feeling in the United States to get abroad.
The hon. Member is now discussing matters of foreign policy which are not germane to the discussion.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said he would not pursue that line of argument any further, but would approach the question from an Irish point of view. He would like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty how many Irishmen there were in the Navy to-day? He understood that altogether there were about 5,000. There were 5,000 Catholics, and he assumed most of them were Irishmen. Was that always the case? He had in his hand the "History of England in the 18th Century," by the hon. Gentleman who at present they were all glad to welcome as representative of Dublin University. There was a passage in that volume dealing with a statement in the autobiography of Wolfe to the effect that two-thirds of the seamen in the 531 service of England in the great war at the close of the last century were Irishmen. He was bound to say that the hon. Gentleman threw some doubt on the statement.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said that at any rate a large part of the Navy of this country was then manned by Irishmen. Was that the case to-day? What was the reason of the reduction in the number of Irishmen in the Navy? From the English point of view as distinguished from the Irish, he would ask whether Englishmen should not seriously consider whether the depopulation of Ireland, which was the result of their policy towards that country, was not a source of evil to the Imperial strength of Great Britain? He spoke of facts within his own knowledge. The numbers of the seafaring population of Ireland had been seriously reduced and the result was that now only an infinitesimal proportion of the sailors in Her Majesty's Navy came from that part of the kingdom. It was his duty to bring home to Parliament the disastrous results of its past policy not only upon the people of Ireland, but also upon this country which now counted in its Navy fewer Irishmen than served in it in former times.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)
said, that he did not rise for the purpose of discussing the very important series of considerations which his hon. Friend behind him had brought to the attention of the Committee—[laughter]—but for the purpose of asking the First Lord of the Treasury for a more detailed explanation of his scheme respecting the proceedings between the present date and the Appropriation Bill. This was, he thought, the first time that a Leader of the House of Commons had made a statement of so much importance and scope without accompanying it with more information. He wished to know 532 what were the intentions of the Government with regard to the Votes which had to be taken before the Third Reading of the Appropriation Bill. He agreed that an adequate number of sittings had been devoted to the general question of the Navy, and that the discussion might now be closed; but he thought that the right hon. Gentleman ought to tell the Committee what was the reason for his proposed extraordinary precipitancy with respect to the Estimates.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
explained that it was necessary to pass the Supplementary Estimates without delay, and also Vote one for the Navy, because that corresponded in the Navy Estimates with the Vote on account in the Civil Service Estimates. The Consolidated Fund Bill must be introduced on Monday the 23rd, and pass the Third Reading on the following Thursday. Before that period there would only be available Thursday and Friday in this week, and Monday, Thursday, and Friday in the week following. He hoped that the Speaker might be able to leave the chair on Friday night on the Army Estimates, by which time he trusted that they might have got the Supplementary Estimates both for the Army and Navy. He hoped that the Supplementary Estimates would be reported on Monday, and on Monday, the 16th, the Government hoped to get Vote A and Vote I. That was their expectation. The Consolidated Fund Bill had to be introduced on Monday the 23rd, and the Vote on Account on Thursday the 19th.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty) rose to continue the discussion, when
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY moved that the Question be now put. [Cheers.]
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put:"533
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 239; Noes, 65.—(Division List, No. 34.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That 95,750 men and boys be employed for the said Services:"
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 45; Noes, 262.—(Division List, No. 35.)
§ A Division was challenged and the House cleared.
§ MR. W. REDMOND,
seated and with his hat on, said he desired to know, as a matter of order, whether he was not quite in order in rising to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
The hon. Member was perfectly in order, but in the meantime the First Lord of the Admiralty claimed that the Question be put, and that claim I have granted.
If the hon. Member will refer to Standing Order 25, he will find that after the Closure has been moved, granted and carried, and a Vote taken in pursuance thereof, a Minister can then claim that the original Question, which has been previously put to the House, should be put. That was done on this occasion. I granted the claim, and thereupon the original Question was put.
§ Original Question put accordingly.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 261; Noes, 45.—(Division List, No. 36.)
Motion made, and Question proposed.
That a sum, not exceeding £4,419,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of Wages, &c:, to Officers, Seamen, and Boys, Coastguard and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st of March, 1897.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
rose to move the reduction of the Vote by £286,000, as a protest against expenditure which he considered was unnecessary and unfair as regarded Ireland. He asked where was this expenditure to stop. If they looked back during the last 10 years at the enormous increase of expenditure on the Navy and if they anticipated anything like the same increase for the next 10 years, he could not imagine how even the people of England would be able to bear the burden. He had, however, absolutely nothing to do with the Vote from an English point of view. Hon. Member's on both sides might conceive that they were acting in a wise and patriotic manner. He did not look at the Vote from an English but from an Irish point of view, and that was that this expenditure was unnecessary and unfair as far as Ireland was concerned. Ireland would derive no benefit from the increase, and it was impossible that the Irish people would agree to this expenditure. We were told that this was not the result of any sudden foreign complication, that at the time these arrangements were entered into there were no questions of foreign complication with America or any other nation. If this was so the increase was all the more extraordinary.
§ And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported this day; Committee also report progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.