HC Deb 19 March 1896 vol 38 cc1364-89

On the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill,


said, that it could most conveniently be discussed in Committee, and he should not at the present stage go into detailed criticism. But he would suggest that it was quite impracticable to take the Committee stage on Monday, if the Government were to follow the example set by the late Government. Between the Second Reading and the Committee stage of the Naval Works Bill of last year, all the plans on which the Admiralty proposed to proceed were laid in full before the House, and hon. Members had ample time given for considering and examining them. If similar plans were to be laid before the House in connection with the present Bill, it would be impossible for hon. Members to consider them before Monday. There were many new Members to whom the subject was an entire novelty, and he hoped an assurance would be given that the course of last year would be followed. Explanations would certainly be looked for in respect of some of the new proposals in the Bill—such, for example, as the portentous development of the late Government's scheme for a dockyard at Gibraltar. The original scheme of last year was for a single dock at an estimated cost of £360,000. In Committee the Government agreed to retain the option of making more than one dock. But the present Government proposed to make three docks, and practically four [Ministerial cheers], because the original dock was to be extended in length so as to serve, on necessity, as a double dock. He agreed that if there were to be a dockyard establishment at Gibraltar at all, it was better to have two docks than one dock; but the cost of the new proposals was no less than £2,670,000, or an increase of nearly £2,500,000 over the Estimate of the late Government. The House was entitled to know how the expenditure had reached such a sum, and further, where the additional docks were to be placed. He remembered from the plans of last year that it was with some difficulty that a second dock could be squeezed in; and he thought that great restrictions of space must have been necessary to get in three docks. The only other new point on which he wished at this stage to say a word was the proposal to build a naval college to take the place of the Britannia. He did not object to the idea of substituting for an old hulk a naval college on shore, but he asked the right hon. Gentleman to pause before committing himself to Dartmouth as the site of it. As far as he was advised, there was no reason whatever for the selection of that site, except the utterly irrelevant one, that the Britannia, was lying off that place now. The only good reason which had been advanced in favour of Dartmouth was that there was a cricket field, tennis ground, and other shore equipment there, some of which he assented to himself, and that something would be lost if they departed from that neighbourhood. If he had known that the additions to the shore equipment of the Britannia, to which the late Board assented during their term of office, would be made a reason for making Dartmouth the site of a new college, that assent would certainly not have been given. He did not believe that Dartmouth in itself was a good site. Apart from that, he regarded it as one of the great misfortunes that had to be admitted in the present management of the Navy—a really national misfortune—that all the naval establishments were along the south coast of England. ["Hear, hear!"] There were strategical and historical reasons why the great naval establishments should be where they are; but there were no such reasons why the Naval College for Cadets should be on the south coast, and particularly why it should be at Dartmouth above all other places. Of course, it was quite impossible that every part of the country should share alike in the expenditure of a public department; but, on the other hand, he did not recognise the right to monopoly of any part of the country in regard to naval establishments. It meant that the Navy became very much a south of England force. They lost the brain, energy, and muscle of Scotland, and to a large extent of the north of England. He did not want to make special claims for particular localities, but, as a Scotch Member, he maintained that there were places in Scotland and others in England quite as suitable as Dartmouth, and more so, for a naval college. There was the whole United Kingdom to select from; and, having in view the local interest which the Navy had failed to excite because it was concentrated in the south of England, and the value of such interest in the building up of the Navy, he appealed to the First Lord not to commit himself to the Dartmouth site.

ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

assured the late Civil Lord of the Admiralty, that the Navy deeply appreciated all the talent and energy he brought to the discharge of the duties of his office. He sympathised with the hon. Gentleman in his lamentation that they had not the advantage of Scotch brain and muscle in the Navy, but that was not their fault in the south of England. They would welcome the hard-headed Scotchmen, but they preferred to join the Army rather than the Navy. With regard to the question of substituting a college on shore for the Britannia, he begged to assure the First Lord and his advisers that naval opinion was very much divided upon it. Prominent officers and prominent medical men also had written finding fault with the site proposed; but he held strongly that the Admiralty were almost bound by their own acts in the matter. The Manning Committee recommended the establishment of training ships in every mercantile port round the coast, mainly with the idea that they should be a nursery for seamen for the Royal Navy. It was an illogical proceeding, since this House had sanctioned the establishment of a certain number of reformatory schools and training ships for the supply of the Mercantile Marine, that young officers for the Royal Navy should be trained in a college on shore, while the sons of poor parents were to be trained in ships in harbours. He failed to see that what was good for one class was not equally good for the other. At the bottom of this whole agitation he believed was the desire of the officers and instructors to have comfortable houses on shore, instead of being compelled to live on board ship. But he did not care twopence about the officers or instructors; what he wanted was to see young cadets get such a training as would turn them into future Nelsons of the Service. The proposal, therefore, to have a college on shore would have his continued opposition, but if there was to be a college—which God forbid—then he would rather see it on the Firth of Forth, or anywhere rather than Dartmouth. If there was to be a fixed site then they should have to look all over the country for a good site. There were many advantages for a site on the Solent—either at Southampton Water or anywhere in the neighbourhood. There would be inconveniences, but there would be conveniences. It was close to Portsmouth dockyard, and that would be a valuable addition to the efficiency of such an institution. The lads at Dartmouth saw nothing of the dockyards. He was not oblivious of the fact that the Britannia had been moved to Dartmouth for certain reasons, and that they would have to sacrifice all that had been laid out in that locality if they departed to a new site. But if they were going to build a great college on shore, they must entertain the question of sites, and be prepared to hear arguments in favour of this or that position. So long as they had a ship, those arguments would not prevail, for they could move a ship up and down just where they liked. He had heard nothing and had seen nothing in the Bill to lead him to change his views in opposition to this college. He could conceive later on that naval authorities would arise who would propose that the age should be extended to 17 or 18, and would they then propose to keep them at the college on shore for a year or two? Naval opinion would say no, and that they should be sent straight to sea. There was much to be said for that view, and he did not know that it would not be a wiser course than the present one. He thought the whole matter required more consideration than it had received at present. If they decided to raise the age to 15 or 15½ he thought it would be worth while to very carefully consider whether they should continue the establishment on shore at all, or whether they should not entertain the idea of sending the cadets straight to sea. He ventured to enter his humble protest against this question of a college on shore, for which nearly £200,000 was put down, and which would not be completed until 1900. They needed an institution to carry on their torpedo instruction much more than this college, and it would be far better to spend the money on such an institution than on the proposed college, where everything, he supposed, would be provided to make life happy and comfortable—a very bad preparation for the first three or four years they would have to spend at sea. He did not suppose he should convert the First Lord, but at the same time the First Lord could not convert him.

MR. W. REDMOND (Clare, E.)

said, that, in accordance with the notice he had given, he rose to move: ''That this Bill be read this day six months." He agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Admiral Field) that it is futile to imagine that any representations which might be made would influence the Gentlemen connected with the Admiralty. He was quite aware that the Bill would be passed into law, and that all the plans of the Admiralty would be carried out, but that did not, he conceived, release him from what he considered to be his duty of uttering a protest against this increased expenditure in the Department of the Navy. He made this protest from the Irish point of view. Objection might be taken to the programme of the Government from various points of view, such as that taken by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who objected to the establishment of a college for naval cadets upon shore. He sympathised with what he said, and he thought that nine-tenths of the men connected with the sea would consider it a preposterous proposal to substitute for a training ship a college on shore. He spoke from some little experience of the sea, and he held that it was utterly impossible to train men for the Navy or for work aboard ship in a college on shore. It was an absurdity, to which it was not wonderful to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman object. But he took objection to the Bill from the Irish point of view. He found himself in the position of an Irish representative, representing some thousands of the taxpayers who would have to find the enormous sum which was required for the increase in the Navy. These people objected to maintaining this increased Navy because they felt there was no need for it, and that, so far from tending to keep the peace and preserve the balance of power, it would tend towards war in the long run. His constituents sent him to say that if millions were to be spent upon the Navy, in building docks, in improving barracks and so on, and that if they were to pay their share of the money, some of that money ought to be spent in their country. Nobody could deny that the Irish taxpayers paid their full share. That question was under discussion at the present time, and it could not be definitely dealt with until the Report of the Commission upon the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland was issued. But sufficient evidence was given before the Commission to make it absolutely certain to every impartial man that Ireland unquestionably, for all Imperial purposes, was taxed several millions a year beyond the amount which in proportion she should bear. That being so it made it all the more irritating to the Irish taxpayers that they should be asked to spend all this money, and to receive absolutely nothing in Ireland at all. A few thousand pounds were to be spent this year in improving Haulbowline dockyard, but that was a miserably inadequate share to come to the Irish people. The present Bill proposed to give £2,750,000 towards the programme of the Government, and so far as he could see, not one single sixpence of that vast amount would be spent in Ireland, or in the slightest degree for the benefit of the Irish people. He doubted whether any of the Unionist Members for Ireland would deny that there was a great deal in the claim which was perpetually made in this matter that the Irish people ought to have some share of the expenditure, and if the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Saunderson) and his friends would run the risk of displeasing the Government for a moment, they would be obliged to say that it was only a reasonable and fair demand that the Irish people made. That was to put his objection to the Bill upon what he considered to be the lowest ground. But, a part from the expenditure, they were opposed to the Bill because it carried on what they in Ireland, and a great many people in Great Britain, considered to be a perfectly fatal policy, which was certainly calculated to bring about an expenditure which in the end would be so ruinous as to place this country almost in the position Italy was in at the present time—practically a bankrupt condition—by increasing its Navy and taxing its people to keep afloat an enormous fleet which was of no earthly use to the people, and which was altogether out of proportion to the resources of the country. Italy, as he understood, had the third largest fleet in the world, and the result was that she was practically in a bankrupt condition. And for this country, rich as it was, if this expenditure went on, a time would come when it would find itself in the same miserable condition in which Italy was at present. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in introducing this Bill, denied that any menace, or threat, or defiance was meant to any other country by this increase in the Navy. But, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's declaration, it was quite clear other countries in Europe did not take that view of the case. They considered that defiance was meant, because directly after the First Lord's statement they found that in various European countries the Navy of each was to be increased, following the example of England. Next year, if this country further increased the expenditure in the same direction, other countries would follow suit. It was said that the people of England must keep up their fleet and defend their shores. But if England was the highly-civilised country which people considered her sometimes to be, he would suggest that she should set an example by making a new departure in this matter. What would be the effect in the civilised world if, in the morning, instead of coming to Parliament and proposing to spend millions of money in building ships and making guns for the destruction of human life, the First Lord of the Admiralty or some other Minister came down and said they proposed to end this ruinous and extravagant competition by suggesting that the various nations of the world should come to an agreement to stop all warlike expenditure, and settle their affairs by arbitration? The right hon. Gentleman might say that a policy of that kind would meet with derision from abroad, but he himself believed that, if England led the way in this matter, other countries would follow her example, and before very long every nation in Europe would come to the conclusion that it was a barbarous institution to be continually arming and threatening the peace of the world. He objected to this Bill, not alone because he was opposed to this continual expenditure on armaments, but because he and large masses of his fellow countrymen in every part of the world considered that this increase in the Navy was specially directed against the United States of America. ["No, no!"] The right hon. Gentleman said that this scheme was prepared in November, before the trouble with Venezuela cropped up at all. But what he (Mr. Redmond) said was, that this Naval programme was commenced years ago, not by this but by the late Liberal Government, who ought, perhaps, to be blamed more than the present Government, because, whilst the latter always held this policy, the Liberals carried it out in the House, and in the country talked about peace, retrenchment, and reform. When he said this policy was directed against the United States, that contention could not be met by the First Lord saying the programme was commenced in last November. This policy of increasing the Navy was started some years ago, but if it had not been started they would not have had any trouble about Venezuela; nor would President Cleveland have sent his famous message had he not been worked up to the belief that this increase in the Navy of Great Britain was meant in the last resort as a menace to and an attack upon the United States. He objected to this vast increase in warlike preparations because he believed it to be an uncivilised way of settling disputes, and he objected to it also because not a single penny of this money would be spent for the benefit of the Irish people. He noticed that the preamble of the Bill stated that the House of Commons most cheerfully granted this money to Her Majesty. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members might be cheerful, but he was not one bit cheerful about it, and the same remark applied to the vast majority of the Irish Members. It would be really asking too much to expect the Irish people to be cheerful about spending millions of money in Gibraltar, Hong Kong, and Simon's Bay. He moved the rejection of this Bill, not because there was any chance of carrying his Amendment, but because he, for one, intended on every opportunity to make an emphatic protest against this policy, which he believed to be ruinous to England, most unfair to Ireland, and which was disapproved of by the Irish people.


seconded the Amendment.

MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)

was afraid the hon. Member who had moved the rejection of this Bill forgot one fact, which was, that the British was a living, and not a dead nation, and that their naval policy was practically the maintenance of their national existence. He spoke as a Radical, but at the same time he looked upon the nation and the existence of the nation as far and away above party points and party quarrels. They, as a nation, had to maintain the highways over which their fleets pursued their course. They had the largest and most powerful commerce of any nation in the whole world, and it was well known that Great Britain at this moment was surrounded by many commercially jealous neighbours; therefore it was incumbent upon them, if they were to maintain their existence and their prosperity, and give their millions cheap bread, to have a Navy that could hold the highways of the ocean. There was no comparison between this country and Italy. Italy could not build her ships. England built her ships for her, and British workmen got the Italians' money for building their ironclads. Italy was naturally a poor country, with no iron, coal, lime, or anything of the kind. They were not a race of engineers like the Britons, but were a race of maccaroni eaters, therefore there was no comparison between the two peoples. He himself was strongly in favour of arbitration in the settlement of international disputes, but they could not arbitrate unless all the parties to the quarrel were agreeable to that course. He quite approved of the whole of this Bill so far as regarded the necessity for making provision for these grand ships they were building. He was glad that the necessity for providing docks had come to be recognised. It seemed to him that hitherto the Admiralty had been building ships and entirely neglecting docks. He approved entirely of the Bill, which he regarded as an absolute necessity. He thought, however, the docks that were to be made were far too greatly localised. He saw that three docks were to be constructed at Gibraltar, and this number was necessary; but £63,000, which was the amount stated in the Vote, was not nearly enough for the machinery that would be requisite.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's,), Hanover Square

remarked that the amount in question was set a part for permanent machinery. There would be on the ordinary Votes provision made for other machinery as the works progressed. This was only for machinery which was to be absolutely permanent.


asked, why were they not constructing a dock at the Cape?


We have taken money in the Estimates for a survey at the Cape.


thought it would have been better to have gone to the country right off, and told them that these kind of docks were necessary throughout the world.


I said so in my Statement.


said, that a dock was required at Aden, in the Persian Gulf, and at Ceylon. At this moment Great Britain was absolutely without a dock from Malta to Hong Kong. That was a fine state of affairs, and the Admiralty were only just awakening to the necessity of building docks for use in case of accident or other emergency. He considered that a more extensive policy should have been entered upon, and docks provided in the places he had mentioned as well as in several others. They had not a dock, for instance, in the east of Scotland. Suppose they had an engagement in the North Sea, where were they to put their damaged ships? In the same way they had any amount of harbours on the west coast of Ire- land, but not a single dock to put a ship into. He held that the policy of the late Liberal Government was simply scandalous, against the requirements of the age, and not at all in keeping, in spending millions on great ships and then not providing docks to put them into. He would have been glad to have seen this Vote doubled, so that they could have put docks in every part of the world where British men-of-war had to go. He expressed the hope that the hon. Member who had moved the rejection of the Bill would withdraw his Amendment, and that the First Lord of the Admiralty would extend the Bill so that provision could be made for the construction of a dock on the Scotch and another on the Irish coast, so as to insure there being places of safety to which their ships could repair in case of any untoward accident happening them.


observed that the present Board of Admiralty was to be congratulated, and the late Board also in a lesser degree, in their being the first that had ever had the courage to face this question of the increase of dock accommodation. Docks were of inestimable importance, for without the accommodation which they afforded ships of the present day could not exist. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Gateshead, it would be impossible for the country to establish docks in every corner of the world, still less was it possible to establish docks in territory that did not belong to this country. The dock at Colombo was not large enough to receive, and had not the necessary plant to repair, a first-class cruiser, and he hoped that before long that state of things would be remedied. The late Civil Lord of the Admiralty referred at some length to the question of the Britannia, and the substitution of colleges on shore for the present hulks. Many opinions had been advanced on the question of the site. He would state a few facts bearing on the question. A ship for the training of naval cadets was first [introduced in 1857, the ship being the Illustrious at Portsmouth. In 1858 the Illustrious was found to be too small, and she was replaced by the Britannia, also at Portsmouth. The Britannia remained at Portsmouth until 1862, and was removed to Portland, where she remained more than a year. In 1863 the Britannia was towed to Dartmouth, and had been there ever since. That fact formed a strong case in favour of Dartmouth as a training station. The site at Dartmouth was an excellent one; there was none better. There was an unlimited supply of water, and everything that could conduce to the health and convenience of cadets and staff. It had been urged by some that there were not proper facilities for the cadets to carry on their nautical education. He was acquainted with Dartmouth, as he lived near, and as a harbour for boat sailing it was excellent. There were many boat clubs and private boats engaged in sailing. The harbour was not crowded like the Solent, where a boat could not go out without the danger of being run down by an excursion steamer. It was easily approached in the different states of the tide, and he was sure that the proposed college for cadets at Dartmouth, with a sloop attached, would be of the greatest advantage. Dartmouth, moreover, was not far from Plymouth, where the cadets would have the advantage of going over Plymouth dockyard and Her Majesty's ships. With regard to the suitability of Dartmouth as a site, there had been much correspondence in the newspapers. He saw a letter from the late Director General of the Medical Department, who said he reported against Dartmouth as a naval training station. That was 22 years ago, and——


I must remind the hon. Member that Dartmouth is a small item in the large amount of the Vote, and his observations are more suitable for Committee.


said, he would say no more on that subject, but point out, on the question of a training college, that the weight of naval opinion was in favour of substituting a college for the present hulks. If the Navy were polled, he believed it would be found that only a small minority would condemn the present site.

CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. K., Holderness)

asked, if the First Lord of the Admiralty had satisfied himself as to the safety of the docks at Gibraltar when ultimately finished. Some were inclined to think there were too many docks at Gibraltar. He would also like to know whether the Admiralty proposed to take any steps towards making the docks at Bombay and Gibraltar large enough to take any of the large-sized ships now used in those waters. He believed the docks at Bombay were too narrow for any of our big ships, and the docks at Colombo were too small altogether. In the past many actions had been fought in those parts of the world, and ships had been considerably damaged. If new docks were built at the Mauritius, he thought the wants of the Navy there would be largely supplied. He was rather unorthodox about colleges and training ships. He did not think it mattered much whether boys were educated on shore or on board ships. They could, moreover, be educated just as well a little older as when they were ''caught'' so very young.

MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

said, that this Vote authorised an expenditure of £2,750,000, whereas the Act of last year only authorised an expenditure of one million. That gave a slight idea of the extent to which this Bill would commit the House if passed. Under the Bill of last year the estimated expenditure was eight millions, but under the Bill of the present year that sum would be increased to £14,040,000. There was a passage in the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary for India on this subject last year, which he would quote to show the utterly unexpected and extravagant way in which the expenditure under the Naval Works Bill was increasing by leaps and bounds, pari passu, with the annual increase for the Navy. The noble Lord said last year's proposals involved an expenditure of £4,266,000, and the new proposals of the then Government a further expenditure of £4,315,000, making a total expenditure of £8,581,000, and it was shown by the Returns that only £13,000 of that sum would be spent in Ireland. The noble Lord said they all knew the Naval Estimates would lie largely added to, and he calculated on an increase of two millions, and doubted whether the revenue would stand it. That language showed that even the increase of last year under the Naval Works Bill was looked upon as a large demand, and he (Mr. Dillon) believed when called upon last year to vote an increase, the House had no idea what was before it, but under the present Bill the tax-payers would be committed to the extent of £14,040,000. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed that anyone who examined the Estimates and compared the forecast, as made by the Minister responsible for the Bill of last year, with the results which had since been worked out and which were incorporated in the Bill of last year, could arrive at no other conclusion than that this Bill, if passed into law, would involve the country in an expenditure immensely greater than the amount set down in the Estimates. ["Hear, hear!"] Last year they were told that the Admiralty, after careful investigation, had decided that it was necessary to build a dock at Gibraltar, and the Civil Lord of the Admiralty asked for £360,000 for this purpose. But now, after the lapse of a year, the expense had jumped up to £2,764,000. That was a monstrous increase, and he asked what security the House had that the works would be executed for this sum. ["Hear, hear!"] On the contrary, the whole past experience of the House led them irresistibly to the conclusion that the total cost of these works when finished would exceed three millions of money. ["Hear, hear!" There was a million for the inclosure of the harbour.


said, the expenditure on the harbour itself remained at the same figure as before.


proceeded to speak of the works at Dover Harbour, about the necessity for which there was a general agreement in the House. The sum put down for this purpose was £1,900,000, but he had not the least doubt that this harbour would cost three millions. Taking the whole, of the works included in these Estimates, he believed this Bill would commit the House to an expenditure greatly larger than 14 millions. The First Lord of the Admiralty had stated that money was to be provided for a survey in Simon's Bay and the Mauritius, for the purpose of constructing docks there. The speech delivered by the hon. Member for Gateshead, in which he said it was the business of England to put down docks in every quarter of the globe where her ships were trading regardless of expense—a project which would involve an expenditure of £100,000,000—opened up a terrific prospect for future Chancellors of the Exchequer, and showed into what expenditure this line of policy would inevitably draw the taxpayers of the country. They saw the inevitable consequence of this policy recently in one of the French newspapers, which, commenting upon the increase in the English Navy, said that, as a result of that alarming and immense increase, the French Government had resolved to remodel and enlarge the French Navy. Last year we increased the Navy in consequence of the alliance between France and Russia. Would there be another increase proposed next year, in order to outstrip France1? Apart altogether from the Irish aspect of this question, he believed the time had come when, in order to protect the taxpayers of the country, every man should protest against these outrageous increases in naval armaments, and the consequent increased expenditure. He also desired to draw the attention of the House to the clause in this Bill providing that the surplus of the Revenue was to be made use of, first of all, in paying off any sum borrowed under the Naval Defence Act, 1895. That was a new departure in finance. This Bill captures the entire surplus of the year, which, through the Budget Act of last year, was at the disposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He believed the time would come very soon when the taxpayers of the country would get sick of this enormous expenditure; and, so long as the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland were not fairly adjusted, the Irish Members were bound to oppose every increase of Imperial expenditure until Ireland got fair play in regard to the proportion she was called upon to pay. For these reasons he would support the Motion for the rejection of the Bill if it was pushed to a Division.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

said that he would also support the rejection of the Bill, on the ground that the money ought not to be spent in the way proposed; also, because it was necessary to protest against the system of the Admiralty in submitting guesses in the form of Estimates, which had to be corrected next year. He strongly objected to new dockyards in the South of England, because there are plenty there already. He objected to the new dockyard to be called the Keyham Dockyard; it was really a new dock for Devonport. The Vote last year was £1,900,000; now it was £3,150,000, and it was probable another million would be asked for. This year £1,900,000 was asked for to be spent at Dover; and, if the present Scheme were carried out, six millions might have to be spent. We had plenty of dockyard accommodation at Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Devonport; and he understood the new dockyard at Ivoyham was to enable us to build bigger ships at Devonport than we could build there at present. He would like to bear some better reason for the expenditure of these nine millions than bad been advanced by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He was glad to hear the late Civil Lord of the Admiralty say that some of this money should be spent in Scotland. In the last Liberal Cabinet the majority of Ministers were Scotchmen, and the vast bulk of Members returned by Scotland supported that Government. But nothing was done for Scotland while the Liberals were in office, and now, his hon. Friend being unmuzzled, asked that some of the money should be spent in Scotland. That was a matter which he had brought before the House over and over again during the past 10 years. The policy of spending all the money on the dockyards of the south, and entirely neglecting the north and east—the policy of putting all your eggs in one basket—could in the present circumstances be no longer defended by the Admiralty. He could understand the preference shown to the dockyards of the south in former years, when warships were built of oak, for the south was closer to the sources of that material. But all that had been changed. Ships were not built of oak now, but of steel and iron; yet, instead of going to the north, where iron and coal would be at their very doors, where they would get cheap labour and brains (a commodity which they had not got at the Admiralty), the Admiralty proposed to spend a further sum of nine millions on the dockyards in the south, far away from the sources of all the materials used in shipbuilding. Scotland was as heavily taxed as England, and more heavily taxed than Ireland, but she did not get her fair share of the money spent for Imperial purposes. In the Firth of Forth or in the Firth of Clyde there was a splendid position for an arsenal or a dockyard. There was a canal connecting the two Firths, and if that canal were developed by the Government they would have a splendid waterway for their ships from the German Ocean in the east to the west. Iron and coal and skilled labour were to be had there in abundance, so that the Admiralty might save thousands of pounds by building there; and a better place than the Clyde could not be found for training young cadets for the Navy. Besides, the dockyards of the south were difficult to defend, whereas it would be impossible for the enemy to get at a dockyard in the Firth of Forth or the Firth of Clyde. Turning from the home aspect of the question, he had to complain that the Admiralty did not seem to have any scheme in reference to dockyards abroad. It was first said by the late Government that we required only one dock at Gibraltar. The word " dock " in the scheme of the late Government was subsequently altered into docks. Now it was proposed to have three big docks at Gibraltar. As a sample of the way the Admiralty threw away the money voted to them by the House, he might mention that a large sum of money had been spent with a view to carrying out the policy decided on last year, and all the work that was done had to be undone under the new scheme. [Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN: "No!"] He had it from a naval officer who had been at Gibraltar, that thousands of pounds had been wasted owing to an alteration in the plans. [Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN: "No!"] Official replies, though made in perfect good faith, did not always convey the exact situation; but his experience was that the truth came out ultimately. The late Government were responsible for a blundering piece of work at Malta. Some clerk at the Admiralty looked at a plan of Malta and said, "We must have a fort there." The authorities pointed out that the fort was not required there, as there was a big hill between it and the creek which it was supposed to command. But the clerk wanted to throw away money, so he ordered that the fort should be built, and it was built. An Engineer officer was then sent to direct the placing of the guns on the fort; but he saw that, owing to the intervening hill, it was impossible to place the guns so that they might be able to play on ships in the creek, and consequently the expenditure on that piece of work was absolutely thrown away. He did not see how a dock was required at Simon's Bay. It would be far better to utilise the dock constructed at Cape Town, seven or eight miles from Simon's Bay.


said, hon. Members who had spoken had taken exception to this Bill on grounds contradictory in themselves. They described the proposed expenditure as reckless and extravagant, and in the same breath they denounced the Government for not spending more in the districts which they represented. ["Hear, hear!"] That the naval expenditure should be apportioned among the different parts of the United Kingdom, according to population or taxation, was not a principle on which any Board of Admiralty could proceed. [Cheers.] The present proposals were made after careful consideration of the needs of the fleet, and were thought to be best calculated to serve the purposes in view. He would remind hon. Members that, though this Bill represented the main section of the Government's Works policy, the ordinary Works Vote would also be proposed. The hon. Member for Caithness had at least agreed that money might be wisely spent in making efficient the dock and dockyard at Haulbowline; and in the Estimates there was a proposal to take the sum necessary for that purpose. He need not follow the hon. Member for Clare in the allegation that this policy was a menace to any other country. The First Lord of the Admiralty had answered it in respect of the shipbuilding programme, and the case was even stronger in regard to the Works policy. That case was put very strongly by the Civil Lord under the late Government. The Works Vote had not expanded in proportion to the expansion of the fleet. [Cheers.] One fact ought never to be forgotten—that every expansion of the fleet, whether in ships or in men, every change in armament of the small arms, brought a corresponding charge upon the Works Vote. ["Hear, hear!"] The discussion had shown that the general proposals of the Government in this Bill had the support of the majority of Members in every part of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] Some questions of detail could be better discussed in Committee, but there were other questions on which the explanation of the Government could be given at once. The hon. Member for Caithness objected to any project for the extension of Keyham Dockyard; but that objection came too late. The present plan was submitted to the House by the late Government in almost the same form exactly, and the House approved of the plan. It was almost trifling with the House to ask it to reverse its decision on such an important question within less than a year.


explained that, while the late Government proposed to spend £1,900,000, the present proposal was for £3,900,000.


said, that the late Government's Estimate of £1,900,000 for Keyham Dockyard extension was made when the Admiralty could not be in possession of all the information necessary to the formation of an accurate Estimate. Steps were taken by the late Government to obtain that information; and when borings had been taken and the survey completed, the whole scheme was very carefully considered and submitted to the late House of Commons. The present Government had two alternatives. They might have accepted the Scheme, which had received the sanction of the House of Commons and been approved by their predecessors, asking the House to increase the Estimate, as further experience and greater knowledge had shown to be necessary; or they might have abandoned that Scheme and brought in a new one of a much less satisfactory kind, but covered by the expenditure originally contemplated. The Government concluded that it would be best in the interests of the nation and most consonant with the feelings of the House, as really giving effect to the policy which the House had approved, to increase the Estimate to the sum necessary for carrying out the plans. [Cheers.] The other large increase in the Estimate had been with reference to Gibraltar; and there the position was very different. The Works Bill of last year originally contemplated only one dock at Gibraltar with no considerable dockyard extension. But a very strong feeling was expressed in all quarters of the House as to the strategic importance of Gibraltar and the necessity for greater dock accommodation, and the late Government accepted an Amendment to the Bill, inserting the words "or docks" after "dock." The present Board of Admiralty had borne in mind the views expressed on this question by the experts on both sides of the House last year, and had determined to take advantage of the willingness which the House showed to do what the experts thought necessary. They, therefore, proposed to increase the length of the dock originally provided for, and to supplement that dock with two others of a smaller size. The accommodation thus provided would not be more than sufficient for the needs of the Fleet, and it would be difficult to find a position in the Mediterranean where the accommodation could be more easily afforded than at Gibraltar. As to the third dock, from the moment it was decided to lengthen the original dock and to add another, the Admiralty were compelled to alter, considerably, the scheme at first approved. The entrance to the docks had to be brought further into the harbour; and, that having once been done, it was found possible to get a third dock at a cost altogether disproportionate to the cost of building a similar dock independently. ["Hear, hear!"] The Admiralty had, therefore, made not only a useful, but an economic arrangement in building a third dock at Gibraltar. The two docks would be parallel, and the entrances to them would be brought further out in the harbour, and would not be carried as far inland as was at first contemplated. The hon. Member for Caithness, referring to the money which had been already spent by the Admiralty at Gibraltar, had stated that the many thousands of pounds expended would now be entirely wasted through the change of plans; but he could assure the hon. Member that the changes which had been made to meet the views expressed by that House would not involve any loss, but that every penny that had been laid out in beginning the work would have had to be expended in pursurance of the new plans. [''Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Gateshead and another hon. Member had referred to the question of dock accommodation in the East Indies. The question was doubtless one of considerable importance, and the Admiralty were giving very careful attention to it, and were considering whether in this and in certain other cases they could not avail themselves of mercantile docks which already existed, or might be constructed, and thus avoid the necessity of building docks themselves. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to the proposal of the Admiralty to provide dock accommodation at the Cape, the hon. Member for Caithness had suggested that we might utilise the docks already there; but the fact was that the dimensions and resources of those docks were incapable of supplying the needs of many of our ships, and would be quite unable to meet the needs of the ships of the future. ["Hear, hear!"] Another question which had aroused criticism in he course of the Debate was that of the proposed new Naval College in lieu of the Britannia. Hon. Members, he contended, would conceive an altogether wrong idea of what the Britannia was, and of the extent of her usefulness as a training school, if they had to rely only on the views which had been stated by the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne, who seemed to be bitterly opposed to the idea that our future naval officers should begin their training in a college on shore rather than on board a ship. But as to the suitability of the Britannia for the purpose, he might remind the House that the Committee which sat in 1876 to consider the question of naval education, stated in effect that the hulk called the Britannia, bore no resemblance to a battleship, and that year by year she was becoming less like a ship, and more like a floating school. The change, therefore, from a ship like the Britannia, moored as she was to a college on shore, was not of such a great and startling character as the hon. and gallant Member would have led the House to believe. [''Hear, hear!"] There were many reasons beyond those of a sanitary kind why the substitution of a college on shore for the training of cadets would be a great improvement on the Britannia. The hon. and gallant Member had asked why, if this was so, the proposed change had not been made before. The proposal was not of recent date. It was an old one and had been approved by many naval men and different Boards of Admiralty. [''Hear, hear!"] He ventured to say that the main reason why the change had not been made 15 or 20 years ago, was because the Admiralty had not definitely fixed upon a site for the college, but had left the matter open to the House for discussion. The result was that local jealousies were aroused among hon. Members; the suitability of one part of the country was set up against that of another, and every Member whose constituency was on the coast, or who thought that the locality was suitable for the purpose, pushed forward its claims, and the result was that the scheme was not carried out. ["Hear, hear!'' and laughter.] As to the suitability of the site now decided upon at Dartmouth, he thought there could be no doubt on the point, when the facts were fully considered. He could only say that the Admiralty had given the most careful and anxious consideration to the question, and they were strengthened in their decision not only by competent medical and naval opinion, but by the opinion of the Committee of 1876, who, after having gone fully into the matter, stated that the site at Dartmouth was in all respects an admirable one for a college. It was 200 feet or 300 feet above the level of the sea, and was open to the far-famed bracing air of Dartmoor. [''Hear, hear!'' and laughter.] The college, therefore, would be in a better and more healthy position, than that occupied by the Britannia, although the ship had been by no means an unhealthy one. ["Hear, hear!"] In 1875 the Admiralty called for an official medical report as to the suitability of the site, and the medical officers reported that, from a sanitary point of view, it possessed all the advantages that could be desired for the purposes of a college. He had dealt with the principal points that had been raised in the Debate. For the most part criticism had been friendly to the principles of the Bill, and he hoped the House would now assent to the Second Reading. In reply to the hon. Member for Dundee, he might say that he hoped to be able to show him and other hon. Members the plans relating to the proposed works at Gibraltar and Keyham to-morrow. He could not say that the Government would bind themselves to every detail of the plans, but those plans would embrace the main features of the works. ["Hear, hear!"]

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

said, there could be no doubt that the proposals of the Government in the Bill were supported with great weight and authority; they had received it in the admirable speech just delivered by his hon. Friend. [Cheers.] With regard to Gibraltar, as long as it was a question of only a limited and very insufficient expenditure under the plan of the Government last year, there was a great deal to be said for building the docks in the position, where it was contemplated to build them; but now that a larger expenditure was proposed, it was a question whether they ought not to give some consideration to the alternative site on the opposite side of Gibraltar, out of the reach of fire from the land. No doubt there was the objection that that side was open to a heavy sea, but not so heavy as seas which had been successfully resisted by means of breakwaters, as, for instance, the new breakwater at Colombo, where the surf was much heavier than a dock on the eastern side of Gibraltar would have to encounter. Naval policy in the Mediterranean would force us more and more to concentrate great establishments there, and it was worth while at this moment to consider whether we ought not to cut ourselves clear from the old scheme and make a new departure on the eastern side. There was another topic which had not been sufficiently discussed yet, but which would have to be dealt with by Naval Works Bills in future years—he alluded to telegraphic communication with the establishments lying along the Cape route. Plans had been lately pressed upon the Government, not in the name of commerce, but in the name of national defence, for laying a telegraph cable across the seas and from post to post of British territory at enormous expense. He hoped that plan would not be contemplated from the military point of view unless another scheme was taken into consideration first. We were creating great docks at Gibraltar; we had establishments at Sierra Leone, and new docks were contemplated at Simon's Bay and Mauritius. That was the route which trade would follow in time of war, and it was one which would have to be controlled in time of war. So far as any route could be safe in time of war, it would be a safe route. He thought Naval Works Bills of the future would have to make provision for telegraphic communication from point to point along the route. No doubt these Naval telegraphs might be cut in time of war, but every one of the sections would be of the greatest value even if some other section was cut. Apart from the points he had indicated, he heartily supported the Bill.

MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs),

approaching the subject, as he said, without the slightest bias, and entirely in the interests of Naval policy, asked that Pembroke Dock should receive some consideration under the Bill. Last year there was discussion upon the question, and it was pointed out that of 8½ millions which it was proposed to spend on naval works, not one single penny was to be spent upon that dock. On that occasion the urgency of the question of Pembroke was admitted by Her Majesty's then advisers, and yet this year, although the amount to be spent on naval works was increased from 8½ to 14 millions, nothing apparently was to be expended under the Bill upon Pembroke dock, upon the harbour, which was the finest in the United Kingdom, and upon the dockyard which had, perhaps, greater possibilities within its reach than any other in the country. Her Majesty's Government could hardly take up a negative position in this matter without utterly repudiating the line taken and the declarations made by their predecessors in office less than twelve months ago.


said he was relieved from making many remarks by reason of the excellent speech of his hon. Friend (Mr. Austen Chamberlaln)—a speech which showed the same ability in the House that his hon. Friend displayed at the Admiralty itself. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to Pembroke, the Admiralty were very doubtful, from information received, whether it would be possible to carry out the plan which was discussed in the House of Commons last year, and consequently a Committee was appointed to inquire into the whole subject. They were now on the point of receiving the Report of that Committee, and it was possible that, as a result of that Report, work would be undertaken in connection with the jetty. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would suspend his judgment until the Report was received.


inquired if the amount to be spent would be inserted in the Bill and not in the Estimates?


said it would not be inserted in the Bill, but if a sum beyond the £5,000 should be required for the work recommended, it was very possible means would be found of obtaining it. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had touched a very important point connected with Gibraltar. No subject had given the Admiralty more anxiety than that of arriving at a decision as to the site for the new docks. The question between the west and cast sites had been thoroughly gone into, not only by the Admiralty, but by the highest military authorities whose advice was at command, In regard to the east site there was one great disadvantage, and that was the length of time which would be occupied in carrying out the work. The setting-in of the sea in that direction made it extremely difficult to work more than a certain number of days in the year, and they were advised that 15 years might transpire before the work could be finished. The matter had been examined, not as a departmental question, but with all the scientific knowledge which both the Admiralty and the War Office could possibly command, and after full and thorough consideration, the west site had been fixed upon as the better of the two. He admitted there were arguments on both sides, but the Board felt that the balance of argument and authority was in favour of the west site, and accordingly they had decided to build three docks there.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon)

inquired if it was likely the Government would be able to announce their decision as to Pembroke before the Bill was passed in Committee.


hoped that the Government would be able to do so.

The House divided:—Ayes, 206; Noes, 39.—(Division List, No. GO.)

Main Question put and agreed to.

Bill read 2a and committed for Monday next.