§ On the Motion for the Third Reading of this Bill,
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said, he regretted that on what was a formal stage of a Bill of this kind it was his duty to ask the House to listen to some remarks on the Bill. Brief reference was necessary to the history of the Bill. He regretted that the First Lord of the Treasury had countenanced the insinuation, which he himself was not surprised to find in certain newspapers, that the long discussion on Thursday night was due to the obstructive tactics of the Opposition. Now, of the 6½ hours which the Committee stage of the Bill occupied, he found that four hours were occupied by supporters of the Government and only 2½ hours by Members of the Opposition. It was to be regretted that so much of the time was taken up in discussing the old items in the schedule. There was this striking peculiarity about the Bill, that the whole of the Bill was contained in the schedule. This was treated as a clause, and closured under the rule relating to clauses which did not fairly apply to schedules.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
rose to Order. If the hon. Gentleman was entitled to question the application of the Closure, he should claim the right of reply.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member would not be in order in discussing the decision of the Chairman of Committees as to the Closure.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said, he did not intend to discuss the Chairman's ruling, but he desired, if in order, to doubt the propriety of the Rule which admitted of old items sanctioned by Statute, and which could not be got rid of unless the Statute were repealed, being discussed in principle on the Committee stage of the Bill. He ventured to think the Rule should be altered, and such items should only be allowed to be discussed on a Motion that the Statute authorising the expenditure should be repealed. The 417 Committee, after spending much time on the old items in the Schedule, was prevented from discussing the most important of the new items. The First Lord of the Admiralty pulled the wrong tooth.
§ THE FIRST LORD OP THE ADMIRALTY, again interposing, said the hon. Member was discussing the Chairman's ruling as to the Closure.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said, he would not do more than ask the First Lord to kindly give information on certain points which had really not been discussed in; any previous stage of the Bill. First he would inquire as to the expenditure on new docks at Gibraltar. No one who knew anything about the Bill would deny the enormous importance of this item in the Schedule. The proposals involved an expenditure of £2,750,000 of public money, and this he did not think the House fully realised. He asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to kindly explain the site of the new docks at Gibraltar. The late Government proposed to build one new dock on the site of the now mole. It was now proposed to extend this dock further out into the water, and to build two other docks side by side. His next point was a financial one. The country had been struck— though not so much as it might have been—by the enormous addition to the expenditure proposed by the late Government. The latter proposed £360,000, the present Government proposed £2,670,000. According to the Schedule the difference was that, instead of building only one dock as the late Government proposed, it was now proposed to build three docks. But that did not account for the £2,750,000. He asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how much of this was attributable to the building of docks, without dockyard extension and other works which were not provided for in the original Schedule of the Bill of the late Government. He would also like to know how this great work at Gibraltar was to be done, and whether the present Board of Admiralty adhered to the intention of the late Board that the work should be done, not by contract, but by the Admiralty. The next point, which hitherto had hardly been mentioned, was 418 the extension of docks at Hong Kong. He understood that the difficulties which formerly existed on the part of the Colonial Office had been removed. The expenditure on Hong Kong was to be increased, and he wished to know whether this was partly accounted for by our having to buy foreshore rights. One great difficulty was as to the local road called the Priory Road. The residents of Hong Kong insisted upon a public promenade being thrown right across the Hong Kong Dockyard, or, rather, between the dockyard and the sea, and overlooking the dockyard; and that was considered to be, inconvenient. After all that had been said by representatives of the Admiralty, he still remained unconvinced of the prudence of the change they are making and of the way in which they are proposing to make it. To his mind, the question of a Naval College versus the Britannia could not be properly decided without taking into account the whole system of naval education. Three years' official experience and subsequent opportunity for reflection had raised in his mind doubts whether the Britanuia stage in the education was necessary at all. That doubt became more important when it was proposed to raise the age for the admission of cadets into the Britannia and to change that into a school on shore. He would urge that this was the time for the reconsideration of the education of naval officers in all its parts. There was no connection, in principle, theory or fact, between the school system of the Britannia and the subsequent technical instruction in what might be called the University to the Britannia, nor between the one or the other, and the third and still higher stage which was carried on at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. For himself he would hesitate at the point that was now reached, and he would not lay a single brick of the college until he, had fully considered, in a way that it never had been considered, the whole subject of the scientific and technical training of naval officers. He was speaking now as he had acted through the course of this Bill and that was as a strong supporter of the Bill. He had done all he could to facilitate the discussion of the Bill, and he did not regret that it was getting through the House at a date months earlier than the 419 late Government, under much greater necessities, were permitted to have their Bill. He sympathised with the work proposed to be carried out, and it would be inconsistent for him or any other Member of the late Admiralty to adopt any other attitude towards the Bill. He hoped the rather confused Debates would not mislead the public mind as to the real origin and purpose of the Bill. This was the third edition, with large extensions, of a programme winch owed its first inception entirely to the late Admiralty. It was two years since this programme was brought in first on the Estimates. Then it was embodied in the Naval Works Bill of last year. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had attributed the programme to an agitation about Gibraltar. The present Government did not originate the plans; they were laid down in the time of the late Government, who, indeed, took up the scheme which had been considered by the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) and his colleagues. It did not need any outside pressure to induce the late Government to take up the scheme. The House and the country little knew how much they were indebted to the action and inspiration of the Leader of the Opposition, who was the real author of these proposals. Ten years ago he attempted to induce the House to begin the great scheme, which was now to receive the sanction of the House, for the making of a harbour at Dover. He hoped that no one would impair the unanimity of the House by offering opposition to the Third Reading of a Bill which represented the opinion of both sides of the House. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said, he rose to move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. He looked with suspicion upon advice coming from the Front Opposition Bench. He objected to the increase of the Navy because it was not necessary. The Irish people were called upon to pay a considerable proportion of the increased demand for the Navy, and they derived absolutely no benefit from the Navy. The only danger Ireland stood in dread of was due to her connection with Great Britain. If Ireland was a freely-governed country unconnected with Great Britain she would be no more open to attack than Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, or 420 any of the other countries which were independent and were not threatened with attack. The continuous expansion of Navies was a policy which was calculated to bring ruin on the countries that persisted in it. But if this money was to be voted, and the Irish people were to be compelled to pay a large proportion of it, it was only reasonable that they should consider themselves ill-treated when it was proposed to spend merely a trifle out of all these millions in Ireland. The hon. Member for Dundee, with all his sympathy for Ireland, did not do much when in office to divert some of the millions voted for the Navy to Ireland. The present Government had gone a step in the right direction, for they proposed to spend £50,000 of the £60,000 on the improvement of Haulbowline Docks at Queenstown; but still that was a miserably-inadequate step. He had no doubt that the First Lord of the Admiralty would make the plausible reply that this money was not to be spent according to the nationalities or countries of the United Kingdom, but according to the requirements of the Service. But that was not a sufficient answer to the Irish people. They complained that while they would have to pay at least one-twelfth of this money—which was more than their due proportion—only a few paltry thousands were to be spent in their country. All round Ireland there were abundant natural facilities for the construction of harbours and naval works of all kinds, such as did not exist in any other part of the United Kingdom; but they were ignored because it was the policy of all Governments to boycott Ireland, and not to spend there a single penny that could be avoided. According to the highest financial authorities of the country Ireland was paying a great deal more than her fair proportion, according to her population and resources, to the Imperial revenue. That, surely, was a strong reason why some of this money should be spent in Ireland, if it was to be spent at all. But of the millions voted every year to the Admiralty thousands of pounds were spent at Gibraltar, or at Hong Kong, or in some other part of the world, rather than in Ireland. And yet the people of Ireland were expected to be as content and as peaceable as the people of Great 421 Britain, who had their taxes spent amongst them. The fact was that no Government would secure the good-will or the allegiance of the Irish people until even-handed justice in the expenditure of the Imperial revenue was dealt out between England, Ireland, and Scotland. He was not surprised that representatives of working-class constituencies in England, who were opposed to war, should still support this Bill, because the money voted under the Bill would be spent in the industrial centres of the country, and hundreds of thousands of artisans would consequently be able to live in comfort; but the people of Ireland, who would get no benefit from the Bill, regarded it in a different light. Nothing was more certain than that if the people of Ireland were supporters of the Government some justice could be done them in the matter, and convinced as they were of that fact he voiced their feelings in making this protest against giving Ireland only £50,000 or £60,000 out of the millions voted under the Bill, while most of it was to be spent in this country. But he did not wish to be misunderstood. He did not base his opposition to the Bill mainly on the small proportion of the money that was to be spent in Ireland. He opposed the Bill in the first place because he was convinced that huge armaments would be the ruin of every country that had undertaken them, and that it was only a question of time when Italy, France and Germany would become bankrupt. In the second place he opposed the Bill because there was a feeling in Ireland that this naval programme was intended as a menace to the United States. Such a thing would not be tolerated for a moment by the Irish people, and they would do everything in their power to oppose any accession to the strength of this country if that strength were to be used against the United States, which had given to millions of their race the shelter and fair play denied them under the Union. Jack. He had heard that it was in contemplation to establish some sort of works on the coast of Ireland; but whether that were the case or not, he expected from the Government some recognition of the earnestness and sincerity with which the Irish Members had brought forward this grievance. He begged to move.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said, that this, like other of the far-reaching Bills of the Government, had been carried through with undue haste. These important proposals justified some consideration, especially if they were to be agreed to in the unanimous manner for which the late Civil Lord of the Admiralty had appealed. He had not been greatly moved by the hon. Gentleman's appeal; and he regretted that there was not more "discordance on the Liberal Benches" in regard to these proposals of the Government. There were but few to uphold the old watchword of "peace, retrenchment and reform." He noticed that there was a genial contest between the two Front Benches as to the authorship of this programme; but if that programme went on developing as it had done its authorship would involve a very serious responsibility. The first proposal was made as a part of the Naval Estimates of two years ago, and though an expenditure of four millions odd was then contemplated, only a quarter of a million was asked for within the year. The second edition of the proposal was put forward last year, when the total expenditure had risen to eight millions, and the year's contribution to one million. Now the third edition anticipated a gross expenditure of 14 millions and an expenditure in the present year of 2¾ millions. What he wished to know was whether we had at last got to the outside estimate. [Opposition cries of "No!"] He was alarmed at the rapidity with which these enormous demands grew. If the First Lord of the Admiralty confirmed the suggestions which had been made that the Estimates would yet reach 30 or 40 millions, he should be doubly resolved to do that which he had already nearly determined to do—vote against the Third Reading. The hon. Member for East Clare deserved the greatest credit for the manner in which he had represented the case of Ireland in regard to this expenditure. For the last 70 years or more no one had known exactly how much of this extravagant expenditure Ireland had had to bear. Ireland was not progressing as was Great Britain, nor did she require the Navy in the same 423 way, and, therefore, some consideration ought to be shown to her. But he did not agree with the hon. Member for East Clare in the argument that some of the money should be spent in Ireland in order to conciliate the hostility of Ireland to these proposals. What Ireland wanted was not a little largesse, but an end to the extravagance.
§ MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport)
said as his constituents were getting the lion's share of this expenditure he naturally did not oppose the Government's proposals; and he thought that the view of his hon. Friend was most misguided. But he wished to know, whether the Government were making any arrangements for the housing of the large number of workmen who would be brought into the neighbourhood of Keyham by the extension scheme. It was reported that the contractor was likely to be delayed by being unable to procure suitable dwellings for his workmen. It would be an opportune step on the part of the Government to make representations to those who had the control of the land in the neighbourhood of Devonport. As to the site of the new Naval College, of course the most eligible spot in the whole of the kingdom was on the banks of the Tamar.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
I need not say that I do not rise to oppose the Third Reading of this Bill; but, referring to what has been stated earlier in the evening, I must say that I do not think it is a creditable thing that the House of Commons should pass the Third Reading of this Bill under the circumstances in which this Bill stands. ["Hear, hear!"] This is a Bill which commits the country and the taxpayers to an amount something like 14 or 15 millions. A certain part of that expenditure has been discussed last year and this year; but the expenditure which is the newly-proposed expenditure, amounting to 3¼ millions, has never been discussed by the House of Commons at all. [Cheers.] I am not at liberty to refer to the circumstances which have led to that position of things. But this is the fact —that the House of Commons is going to read a Third time a Bill for the expenditure of 3¼ millions which the House of Commons had not been allowed to discuss. [Cheers.] It is not for me nor for hon. Gentlemen opposite to 424 vindicate the rights of another assembly which claims the privilege to correct the errors of the House of Commons. We have always been told that if the House of Commons, either by accident or intention, has not properly discussed a subject, the House of Lords will always take care to do so, but arrangements have been made that this Bill is not only to be brought forward in another place, but passed through all its stages in a few minutes, so that that great Assembly which corrects our errors shall not be allowed a word to say on the Bill. This is in consequence of the arrangements that have been made for public business in this House. There is no reason whatever why this Bill should not be passed a month hence just as well as to-day, and the consequence, as I have ventured to point out, is discreditable to the House of Commons. Take Gibraltar. There is an increase of £2,300,000 upon the proposals of last year. Not a word was permitted in Committee upon that subject. There are other measures of less importance, such as Keyham and Chatham Naval Hospital. Those matters have never been discussed. If the Government had accepted the proposal I ventured to submit of adjourning on Thursday night when they found the discussion going to a considerable length, we should have passed the Third Reading under circumstances very different from those under which it is now to be passed. I make these observations, not in hostility to the Bill, but I could not allow the Bill to be read a Third time without protesting against the manner in which it has been treated in Committee, and without any adequate explanation of this enormous expenditure.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I think the right hon. Gentleman has exaggerated the desire of the House to discuss the various items set out in the Bill. If there had been a general desire to discuss in Committee some of those items, the desire would have become known and notice would have been given. The hon. and learned Gentleman told us that he thought he should have been able to discuss one subject on Report. That was a gratuitous assumption on his part, and surely the Government are not to be blamed because the hon. and learned Gentleman 425 missed his opportunity, although I admit the hon. and learned Gentleman would have been the person most competent to discuss it. The fact is, the Bill has not been elaborately discussed because the great majority of the House on both sides believe that the Bill is necessary and expedient, and because the main items of which it is made commend themselves at once to the commonsense of the great majority. One of the main items is under Gibraltar, with regard to which there was a discussion, and as to which I gave explanations. Plans, too, have been accessible to those Members who desired to discuss it, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman in his pro formâ denunciation of our proceedings on this occasion must know that there was no desire to discuss that matter with any elaboration whatever; and the House is in possession of the knowledge which they desire. The right hon. Gentleman perhaps did not hear his colleague, the right hon. Member for the Montrose Burghs, state that there was very little inclination to discuss the Naval Works Bill much further, and that a very short time would be enough to dispose of it, and yet the right hon. Gentleman in his high constitutional manner —[laughter] —denounces us for not giving ample time for discussion on the Third Reading. [Cheers.] This is an ex post facto discovery on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that Gibraltar has not been discussed. In Committee there was a six-and-a-half hours' discussion. Half the time was taken up with a discussion as to whether Ireland ought not to have a portion of the money. While admitting the importance of that question, I think it might have been discussed with much greater brevity. The hon. and learned Gentleman in his remarks went back pretty far, and suggested that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was the original father of the whole scheme. [Sir W. HARCOURT: "Dover."] He did not confine it to Dover, but, in his anxiety to give the right hon. Gentleman as much credit as he could, said that the Scheme really originated with the late Chancellor of the Exchequer ten years ago. I am bound to say that, considering the time 426 the right hon. Gentleman has been in office, it is a pity much greater progress has not been made before now with these works.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I was leading up to that point. I do not wish to dispute in the least who should have the credit for any of these Bills. I claim no credit for myself. I give large credit to Lord Spencer, and I give great credit to the Naval Lords and naval experts who, taking a wide survey of the necessities of the Empire, have framed a plan which successive Governments have adopted. I cannot give the undertaking asked for by the hon. Member for Islington, that this Bill will mark the end of our proposals. It is possible, indeed, that more than the money asked for in the Bill will be required. It is proposed to construct docks at the Mauritius and Simons Town. But, except in the case of Dover, where we have nothing to go upon, we have done our best to accurately forecast the cost, and we have endeavoured to over-estimate rather than under-estimate. With regard to the question of the hon. and learned Member opposite as to Hong Kong, the cost is £320,000, and we have not included any amount for the foreshore. Praya Road, in front of the dockyard, is to be abandoned, and Queen's Road from Murray Pier to the Blue Buildings is to be widened by 75ft. We have come to a compromise with the authorities on the subject, and we are able to go rapidly forward with this important work. I am unable to give the hon. Member the division of the money between the docks and the site of the buildings. It could not be stated what amount should be attributed to one work and what amount to the other. In determining what should be done with regard to the Naval College, it was thought advisable that the whole question of naval education should be taken into account. It is a difficult and complicated problem, but it is one which is engaging my attention at the present time. We are not only examining into the question of the Britannia; but also into the 427 question of further examinations and training on board ship, as well as taking a survey of the education of the naval officer from the first moment he enters the Service to the time when it is considered that his whole education as a seaman and officer is complete. The hon. Member for Devonport suggested that the Tamar would be a preferable place to the Dart, that it would be more accessible to Devonport. I hold, however, that to get cadets into the neighbourhood of dockyard towns would be a very great mistake in many respects. The hon. Member for Clare asked me to put myself in the position of Irish Members, and to judge whether I should not oppose the Bill. I should not oppose this Bill if I were in their place, because I am of opinion that it is for the defence of the Empire as a whole, and Ireland is as much exposed to hostile attack as any portion of Her Majesty's dominions. [Dr. TANNER: "Haulbowline."] We are going to spend a considerable sum of money on Haulbowline. [Mr. W. REDMOND: "Who is going to attack Ireland?"] Ireland's enemies would be England's enemies, and I will not recognise that there is any difference between the position of loyal Irishmen and the position of loyal Englishmen or Scotsmen; we must all be equally interested in the Empire. It is said that a portion of the money should be spent in Ireland. But take such localities in England as Essex and towns on the east coast. Not a shilling will be spent there; and I do not see the difference between living in a part of England where money is not to be spent and Iceland. The money ought to be spent solely where it is wanted, and anything else will savour in the end of a kind of political corruption. If we were to say that this part of the country is entitled to more than any other, it would be on political grounds, rather than on strategical and national grounds, that the money will be spent. It is not only in the case of Ireland that we resist this expenditure. Take the case of London. We have taken up the same attitude there as we have taken up with regard to Ireland— namely, that the money ought to be spent according to the strategical necessities of the situation. I hope the House will now read the Bill a third time.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)
asked if in this matter Ireland was being fairly treated. He declared it was not. He had had an opportunity of speaking to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and had got an assurance that the points he had raised should be considered, but how many years had Ireland been waiting for what might be done in connection with Haulbowline? He recollected, when a boy, being told by a naval officer, who had since become an Admiral, that Haulbowline was the very place for a big naval station. Many millions of money were now being spent, and after their professions of their intention of benefiting Ireland, he held that the present Government was in duty bound to stand to their words and spend some of the money in that country. Haulbowline was admirably adapted for a naval station. If there was a war with America to-morrow, what would be the most western point for the docking of any disabled ships? Would it not be Haulbowline?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. Member that there is nothing about Haulbowline in this Bill. The hon. Member cannot, on the Third Reading, discuss the merits of Haulbowline as a station.
was not going to weary the House with the merits or demerits of the three docks at Gibraltar. Numbers 2 and 3, he understood, would be all right, but dock No. 1, he was told, would not be practicable, owing to its defective entry. When they were dealing so much with Gibraltar, why did not the Government take into consideration the whole question, and do something effectively for Ireland?
§ DR. TANNER
did not desire to weary the House, but would certainly vote against this Bill, as he believed it to be a bad Bill, due only to the very peculiar circumstances which happened to be the outcome of the working of the present Government, and as an Irishman, he hoped that everything they did would be ineffective and to the glory of the enemy.
§ MR. D. LLOYD-GEORGE
desired to obtain some information about Pembroke Dock. The matter was raised on the Hill of last year—of which this was a kind of elaboration when the Secretary for India took a very keen interest in. the subject, and delivered a rather important speech. He regretted the right hon. Gentleman was not present, because there were one or two explanations he might like to give upon his speech of last year. He under stood the Government hoped to spend a certain amount of money upon the erection of a jetty and pair of shear legs at Pembroke Docks. He wanted some explanation upon the point. The late Government, upon being pressed by the then Member for Pembroke Boroughs, admitted the necessity for the erection of a jetty and pair of shear legs, and undertook to put the Votes requisite for their provision into the Estimates for the present year. What he wanted to point out was this, that, according to the First Lord of the Admiralty's contention the other night, the present Government were prepared to do exactly what the present Secretary for India pledged them in Opposition to do. If that was so, he should like to know, in the first instance, how it was that when the Civil Lord in the late Government undertook to do what the First Lord was prepared to do now, except that he was prepared to do it this year instead of next year, the present Secretary for India was not satisfied with that undertaking at that time. His second point was that the Member for Pembroke was very anxious at that time and his anxiety was shared by the Secretary of State for India—that Pembroke should be not merely a building dock, but also one for repairing purposes.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I understood from the hon. Member that there was mention of Pembroke in this Bill, but there is nothing about Pembroke, and the hon. Member will not be in order, on the Third Reading, in suggesting that certain works ought to be carried out in relation to Pembroke.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, his point was this, that too much money was being spent on the southern ports, whereas the western and eastern ports 430 were left without protection. £9,000,000 out of £14,000,000 were proposed to be expended on the southern ports, and his contention was that that constituted a very great objection to the Bill.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
That was not the hon. Member's argument. As I understand, the hon. Member was proceeding to speak of the omission of certain works he would like to have seen done at Pembroke Harbour. That he cannot go into. He can refer to Pembroke in general argument, but he cannot go into the merits of Pembroke Harbour as a station.
§ MR. LLOYD - GEORGE
said, his only reason for suggesting Pembroke was that it was the only harbour which for a small expenditure of money, could be strengthened and made available, not merely for building, but also for repairing purposes. It constituted a grave danger that they had no repairing dockyard on the west coast. The only provision for the purpose of repairing vessels, supposing a naval engagement in the Irish sea or anywhere on the western coasts, was at Keyham, and Dover and Portsmouth, and there was no port to which there could be easy access on the western coast. That constituted, from the naval point of view, a very great danger—a danger which could be easily remedied without such an extravagant expenditure as was proposed to he made on the ports of the south. For an expenditure of £200,000 or £300,000 upon a single dock on the west coast —say Pembroke—the Government could construct a far better repairing harbour than they could possibly hope to get at Keyham.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS
joined in the protest against this enormous expenditure. They had no guarantee where the end would come, or when the end would be reached. Some rather ominous words fell from the First Lord of the Admiralty, who, speaking of Dover, said that the Estimate would probably be exceeded. He thought it was just as well the country should know what would be required to be spent on Dover ultimately. He should imagine that the expenditure could not be limited to £2,000,000, but might extend to £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 ultimately if anything effective was to be done at Dover. The gravest doubts 431 had been expressed in the House with regard to the propriety of any expenditure upon Dover, and he thought some idea ought to be given to the House of what the ultimate limit of that expenditure would be. Before proceeding further, he should be obliged if the Speaker would kindly inform him whether he should be in order in discussing the object of an Amendment he moved in Committee, and on which he took a Division.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I think that would be quite out of place on the Third Reading of this Bill. The Amendment referred, as I understand, to a particular port, and was not carried, and it would be quite out of order to go into these details.
§ MR. H. LEWIS
said, that under those circumstances, he would only draw the attention of the House to the fact that they were contemplating an enormous expenditure upon the southern ports, that that expenditure would in all probability be very largely exceeded, and that, whereas the expenditure was about to be made upon ports in regard to which the gravest doubts had been expressed, there were other ports as to which no doubt whatever had been expressed, and upon which no works of a permanent character were to be erected under this Bill. In urging that there should be a greater expenditure on the western coasts for the protection of the commerce of the Clyde, the Mersey, and the Bristol Channel, he did so solely upon grounds of national and naval policy, and upon strategic grounds.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's had asserted that Ireland had as much interest as any other part of the Empire in this naval expenditure. In the first place, the whole of the Empire was not being asked to pay its share of the expenditure. They did not dare to ask Canada, or New Zealand, or Australia to pay their share. They were proposing to build docks at Hong Kong, and works at Gibraltar, which were at least as much for the advantage of New Zealand and Australia as they were for Ireland, to put the case on a very low ground, but they did not dare to ask anything towards those expensive works from the other parts of the Empire. As a matter 432 of fact, Ireland was not as much interested in this expenditure as other parts of the Empire, and it was a mere playing with words to say that it was. What interest had Ireland in England retaining the command of the sea? Ireland lived on the produce of Ireland, and sent a good deal of it to England and Wales. [''Hear, hear!"] Ireland could manage to get on fairly well even if there were a few foreign ships about. There could be no fair comparison between the circumstances of Ireland, a self-supporting agricultural country, and the circumstances of Great Britain, a manufacturing country, living on food obtained from abroad, and sending manufactured articles abroad. He therefore protested against the theory that Ireland was as much concerned as Great Britain in this naval expenditure. If Great Britain were going to double or treble her naval expenditure every decade she must come to some terms by which Ireland, who was not interested, should not contribute to the increased outlay. Ireland must be put in the same position as other parts of the Empire that we did not dare to ask to contribute. The second objection was, that Ireland received no part of the actual expenditure. The First Lord had laid it down that the expenditure should be regulated mainly by strategic reasons; but he would probably admit also that some weight should be given to economic reasons, such as the obtaining of cheap and efficient labour. The south of England was not chosen by commercial men for the erection of great works. Of course, we could not surround our coasts with docks as France was doing, and we ought to be governed by business reasons. The Government had not chosen for shipbuilding purposes the same places that business men had chosen—Belfast, the north-east of England, and the Clyde; but they had kept to the south coast, where there was not a single shipbuilding yard set up by private enterprise. The setting up of works at Gibraltar might, perhaps, be defensible on strategic grounds, and at Hong Kong because cheap labour was obtainable there; indeed, Messrs. Armstrong were going to start a shipbuilding yard in Japan; but was there a Government shipbuilding yard in this country the location of which could be 433 defended on commercial principles? In their policy the Government were more anti-Irish than commercial. The port of Derry was eminently suitable for shipbuilding, and cheap labour was to be had there. All our defensive expenditure was being lavished on the south coast. Captain Mahan, in his book on the Sea Power of Europe, showed that even if England beat an enemy and maintained command of the sea, her commerce would still be subject to the operations of the privateers of other Powers. No feature, of that book was more interesting than that in which the author pointed out that, after the battle of Trafalgar, the loss to British commerce was enormous, because privateers were sent out by France. Assuming that England could keep command of the sea, still we should find it impossible to maintain our commerce as in time of peace through the English Channel, and much of it would be forced to go by the north of Ireland and the north of Scotland. If a war was to happen, where would the protection of our commerce be under the present scheme of naval defence? Belfast, Derry, and the Clyde were, for economic reasons, suited for dockyards, and places to which a large part of our commerce could go; but we spent no money on these places. If Derry and Belfast were not Irish we should be spending money there. For these reasons, he joined in protesting against the Bill, against enormous outlay which was not for the benefit of Ireland, and which was carefully distributed to do her as little good as possible.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 186; Noes, 27.—(Division List, No. 83.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 3°, and passed.