§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I think I am relieved 1112 by the circumstances of the times from offering any justification for the magnitude of those Estimates which I now rise to. propose. The amount is £27,522,600, being an increase of £928,100 over the Estimates of last year. This is a stage—not a very long stage—in that increase of our naval expenditure which has now been going on for about six or seven. years. When we took office five years ago, the Navy Estimates stood at £18,700,000. to-day I propose them at £27,500,000, nearly half as much again. The average yearly increase during those years has been about £2,000,000, but the progress has not boon uniform. On one occasion the leap that was taken amounted to £3,100,000; last year it was £2,800,000. But whatever the differences have been in the amounts of the Estimates proposed, there has been a continuity of policy; the same principles have underlain all the Estimates from year to year, and they have not been spasmodic or capricious. When prompt action had to be taken, it has been taken, but we were still guided by those principles with which the House is fully acquainted, and which, I think, the House and the country have endorsed. To the Estimates this year of £27,500,000 must be added about £2,000,000 probably, for expenditure under the Naval Works Act, which would bring up the total to nearly £30,000,000 sterling. I say this coldly, not rhetorically, only for the information of the Committee. These Estimates have been framed on the same principles as former Estimates. There is nothing sensational about the Estimates—indeed I am informed in some quarters that the absence of anything sensational about the Estimates has caused great disappointment—they simply represent the steady progress which we have been engaged in for some years past. I need not tell the House that, though) there is nothing sensational in these Estimates, we thoroughly realise the situation in which we stand. We know what the nation expects of the Navy, and we know our duty is to prepare for all emergencies. We have framed the Estimates on that footing. We have not included in them any amount for the mobilisation of the Fleet. If the mobilisation had to take place, and if we thought it necessary, we should not hesitate for a moment to mobilise the Fleet and come to Parliament for the necessary sum in order to 1113 do so. But we do not think that that time has come, and we hope it will not come. We are not menaced by any naval Power; and, supposing we were to mobilise, what should we do with our mobilised vessels? There might be a long time during which there was no increase in the present tension, and during that time the mobilised Fleet would parade up and down the Channel in order to show Europe that we possess the ships. Europe knows our strength. There are times when a demonstration is advisable and sometimes necessary, but we do not think that a demonstration of that kind is necessary now. There are three meanings in which mobilisation is used. There is the mobilisation of the Fleet; there is the partial mobilisation, as we call it, which takes place at the manoeuvres; and there is the mobilisation of particular ships or a particular squadron. I daresay that some of those who cry for the mobilisation of the Fleet mean the mobilisation of a squadron, or something short of a great mobilisation, which is not necessary, and which would disturb the whole of the training which sailors and the marines go through at such establishments as the "Excellent." and the "Cambridge" at Devonport, the gunnery and torpedo schools, that constant training which is necessary to develop the bluejacket and the marine up to date. The alarmists cry for mobilisation; but the sensationalists scent it often where there is no question of mobilisation at all. There was a curious case the; other day, when the papers began to publish paragraphs headed, "Admiralty Active," "Admiralty Alive to the Situation," because we had begun, as it was supposed, coaling some ships in the Reserve. I had not heard of this coaling at all. I had to inquire about it, and I asked my naval colleagues. They had not heard about it, and no order had been given. We asked the Admiral Superintendent at Portsmouth Dockyard, but he did not know; he had given no orders. What had happened? It was the storekeeper at Portsmouth, who, acting on a port order, had filled up ships with some coal which had been used on them during a certain time. There is a rule that they ought to be filled with coal when used up to a certain point, and, acting automatically on that order, these ships had been tilled up, but the incident was utilised in order to predict and emphasise the beginning of 1114 a mobilisation. That warns us that we must be careful what we do, because we do not want to disturb the minds either of the sensationalists or of any other class. There is an administrative measure which the Admiralty are going to take, and which will commend itself to the public generally. It is in reference to the Reserve Squadron. The ships of that squadron have hitherto gone every year about March 1st to Portland for prize-firing and some other exercises. They will go there this year, but we propose that they shall go there and act together, instead of singly or independently, and that the Admiral of the Reserves should take charge of the Reserve ships. He. will take them to sea and exorcise them in tactics as well as prize-firing, and in every way the efficiency of the squadron and the individual ships will be increased by their acting together in that manner. I mention it as an administrative measure. I do not know that it was necessary to inform the House of this, but I foresee that the moment this action takes place and the admiral hoists his flag at Portland the incident will be taken to mean mobilisation, and it will be stated "at last we have become awakened to the necessities of the situation." The absence of the Channel Squadron was commented on in the same class of paragraphs I have referred to, but at the time when it was said that our coasts were in danger during the present state of things the Channel fleet was engaged in excellent exercises in the seclusion of Bantry Bay. I come now to another subject not unconnected with this which I have treated. A point on which there has been alarm has been the question of coal. We have been summoned to explain why we did not take some measures to stop the export of coal to France and Russia and other Powers with whom it was thought we might possibly at some time' be at war. I ask the House, Is it within the sphere of practical politics to talk at this moment of stopping the export of coal? I do not know what would be the condition even of the great coal-producing counties. I do not know what would be said by the shipowners, by the owners of collieries, and by the vast interests engaged in the coal trade; but I submit that it is an entirely impossible measure to consider that it would be possible to stop the export of 1115 coal before war breaks out or until an emergency of a totally different character from the present one arises. What we hare to do, and are attempting to do, is to take every precaution that we shall he able to get all the coal we want, and that our coaling arrangements may be as perfect as forethought, arrangement, and organisation can make them. We have under review our arrangements with the collieries, and have examined carefully the question of the export of coal. I think the House may be interested to know what the percentage of the export of coal to France and Russia is to the total output of the United Kingdom. It is 4 per cent. The coal which went to France and Russia combined in 1899 was 9,000,000 tons. It is larger than usual. There has been a strike in Silesia, and in consequence Russia has been importing large quantities of coal for railways and other purposes from this country instead of from Germany. Russia has reduced the tax on coal in order to facilitate the import. It was stated that there were contracts for 400,000 tons, which created some alarm; but if a contract like this is made by a Government it does not follow that the coal has to be delivered at once. It may be part of the coal arrangements which are habitual, but the statistics I have given show that we ought not to be alarmed at the export of coal to France and Russia. At the same time it is our business to see that some arrangements are made to secure coal. The difficulty, however, lies not only with the getting of the coal, but with getting colliers, which is sometimes a more difficult point than the getting of the coal itself. There is one point I omitted with reference to mobilisation. I omitted to state that persons have commented upon the absence of ships, or have expressed a desire that more should be commissioned. I think they can hardly realise the enormous number of fighting and sea going ships and the great difference which exists in that respect between now and ten years ago. There are now 258 sea-going ships in commission, with crews of 56,000; while in 1888 there were only 139 ships, with crews of 25,000. Therefore, there are at sea at present twice the number of men and more than 100 more ships. Let people consider that when the) ask for the mobilisation of still more ships. But one step we took when the demand for cruisers for the Cape was considered, and 1116 when we had to send out the "Furious," the "Terrible," and others, thinking it our duty to look out for the transports at Gibraltar, Las Palmas, and St. Vincent. We then transferred the officers and crews from four ships of the training squadron to modern men-of-war; and by that step we strengthened the fighting efficiency of the fleet by four powerful ships. But there has been much comment on that step. My hon. friend behind me looks with dismay at this transfer, and he will probably ask me whether it is to be permanent. I cannot answer that question yet. No final decision has yet been taken by the Admiralty. Personally, I have always been in favour of the transfer, but the opinion of the Navy is extremely divided on the subject, and I think that the great balance of opinion among the men on the active list is that the sailing training squadron is doomed. Sucessive commanders-in-chief of the Mediterranean Squadron and of the Channel Squadron have held that opinion, and those great authorities must naturally have weight. As to my opinion, it is still in suspense, but I say distinctly that on a subject of this kind it is the duty of a civilian First Lord to be guided by the advice; of his naval colleagues on the Board. On this occasion I ought to say one word on the transport service, though it will be more fully discussed—possibly in a critical spirit—on a future day. I do not now intend to defend the action of the Admiralty, but merely to place before the House and the public the magnitude of the operations which have been undertaken. Since the beginning of July 181 transports and freight ships have been engaged in the conveyance to South Africa of a force of 132,000 officers and men, 23,300 horses, and 23,600 mules—exclusive of the troops, horses, etc., which have been conveyed from India and the colonies under local arrangements, and exclusive of certain Volunteer detachments and special corps. In this connection, I wish to compliment the mercantile marine on their part. It has been noted how extraordinarily few accidents have occurred. There have been two serious ones at most, but as far as we know the whole of these operations has been conducted without the loss of a single human life. In these vast operations we have seen the reserve power of this country for all the sub- 1117 sidiary operations of war, and the assistance which could be rendered by the mercantile marine in times of emergency. Not only have the ships been excellent, but I am told that the masters of all these ships—cattle boats many of them, or boats engaged in far rougher trades than that of conveying Yeomanry and Household troops—have invariably acted with a courtesy and ability in discharging their onerous duties which have excited the admiration and praise of our military authorities. I have thought it right on this occasion to mention a few matters which do not arise directly on the Estimates, because they appear to me to be of general interest, and it would be thought strange if I did not make some allusion to them. I pass now to the Estimates proper, and the great problems involved in them. Generally, the increase of £920,000 may be divided as follows:—Personnel, £448,000; Miscellaneous, £28,000; Works, £51,000; Ordnance Vote, £294,000: Vote 8, shipbuilding, £108,000. As to the Works Vote, one of the principal points in the increase is the attention which has been paid to hospitals. This is a matter which has attracted a great deal of attention on our part. The hospitals we did not think were thoroughly up to date; they required considerable reform: and the whole naval medical staff has been dealt with. In regard to the Ordnance Vote, the increase is over £290,000. It is a very anxious Vote; and I do not think I need justify the amount we have taken for that Vote, though it is immense. At present it stands at £3,000,000, while five years ago it stood at £1,000,000. It has almost doubled in that time: but it is a Vote no part of which would be grudged by anyone in this House. It is a very anxious Vote, because it is in connection with this Vote that we have to consider new inventions and appliances of every kind; and not only the nature of our guns, but the amount which we ought to have in store. But, at all events, I would ask hon. Members to remember that it is under this Vote that there have been provided the naval 4. 7 in. and 12-pounder guns which, under the blue-jackets and marines, have done such excellent service at the front. With reference to the personnel, we propose an increase of 4,240, which will bring the numbers up to 115,000. Can we get them? We can get them. I 1118 think the best proof that we can get them is that I asked for an increase last year of little more than 4,000 and we have raised them. The numbers have risen from 105,000 on February 1, 1899, to 110,000 on the 1st of this month. We have only 400 more to get during the next month to realise the whole number for which we asked. There was a time when we hoped that we might have rested at a lower figure than 115,000. Last year I said I hoped that when we had reached 110,000 we might stop; but the action of other countries and the general needs of the service have been such that we have been compelled to advance to the present figure. I will not deny that there are drawbacks to this rapid increase, which in a few years has raised a personnel of 65,000 to 115,000. One drawback is that we must have young recruits, and there is a difficulty in getting a sufficient number of petty officers of a certain seniority. Then there is great difficulty in getting them all to sea, notwithstanding the immense number of ships commissioned. We do our best to train them on shore, but there are many difficulties. With reference to the Naval Reserves, I have remarked in my printed statement that a smaller number were embarked for the six months training and somewhat fewer enrolled than we took the money for last year. The exceptional circumstances mentioned in that statement have accounted for the fact to some extent. But I would remind the House that this is a new scheme, under which the quality of the men is to be largely improved, and that is to be done by insisting that every Naval Reservist during the first five years shall go to sea for six months in a man-of-war, and that is a condition which I should be most reluctant to relax. We have no intention of retracing our steps in that respect. It is no use having a paper Reserve. We want trained men. We would rather put up with a somewhat smaller enrolment if it enabled us to have men who knew all about a man-of-war. But I do not accept the present slacker enrolment as normal, and, indeed, since the statement was issued we have better prospects of increasing the number of men at sea. In the Reserve Squadron, which will be brought together at Portland in March, there will be, for instance, 500 Reserve men, who will take their part in all the movements. We are not content 1119 with merely having the men. We have been giving a great deal of attention to the point as to the use to which we should put them in case of an emergency. We should not absorb a very large number of the Reserve in order to man every ship that we could possibly send to sea. But we are engaged in the study of a plan as to how to employ and utilise them to the very best advantage, and we, therefore, think it would be better to obtain powers to call up a certain number of the Reserve, if we required them—say 10,000 or 15,000 instead of the whole 29,000 at once. At present, as the law stands, if we were to call out the Reserve for mobilisation we should have to call out the whole 29,000; so we propose to introduce a short Bill, which I am sure the House will be willing to pass, to give us somewhat more elasticity in the calling up of the Reserve. It is often asked, Will the Naval Reservists turn up when they are wanted? The same question was asked with regard to the Army Reserve. The Army Reservists came up when the call was made on them, and I sec no reason whatever why the Naval Reservists should not show the same alacrity in fulfilling their engagements as was shown by the Army Reservists. But we are not content even to leave matters entirely in this position. We have been looking around for further organised Reserves. There is another Reserve which is very little heard of: it is that most excellent Reserve, the seamen pensioners, numbering 1,500 men, who have earned their pensions and have gone into the Seamen Pensioners Reserve, and who for a slight remuneration do a certain amount of drill every year, and are ready to be called out in an emergency. The importance of this Reserve is that the majority of the men are petty officer's, and these 4,500 seasoned men would be invaluable as petty officers for the 29,000 Reserve men, and we are now considering how these two organisations can be brought together. But that is an existing Reserve. We find that there is no Reserve for the seamen who take their discharge after twelve years service without re-engagement. The statistics of the discharge of these men do not give a right impression of the facts, because a great many of them re-enrol after six months, though they count as having taken their discharge. But no doubt there is a great number of these men who do not enrol themselves in this Reserve, 1120 and I am told that only one in five of them join the Naval Reserve, which is an entirely different body, composed of fishermen and sailors of the mercantile marine. These are men who are experts, who belong to the prime of the service, and whom it would be most desirable to secure. Now there is no Marine Reserve. We are at the present time studying plans for sweeping in both marines and seamen who have taken their discharge after twelve years, and I hope, on a future occasion, to be able to lay figures before the House showing how we have strengthened our resources in that direction. The more trained men we can get the more valuable our Reserve will be. I should say that both the seamen pensioners who have not joined a Reserve, and the Marine pensioners who have not joined any Reserve, are still all liable to be called up until they are 55 years of age. The men who are not liable to be called up are those who have taken their discharge without pensions. The House perhaps does not know the large resources we have in manning when we take into account all those Reserves together. We have 28,000 Royal Naval Reserve, 9,000 seamen pensioners, of whom 4,500 are in the Seamen Pensioners Reserve, 2,800 Marine pensioners, making a total of 40,000, all liable to service. Besides these there are 115,000 on the active list, giving a total of 155,000, from which I deduct 6,000 boys in training, leaving 149,000 men whom we are able to call up in case of emergency. That is exclusive of the new proposals I am about to make. I do not say whether it is enough, but I am putting the plain facts before the House. There is a further attempt we are going to make. The House will feel, I hope, that we are giving our attention seriously to this matter-. We are now inquiring as to how we can organise Naval Reserves in our colonies. The military instincts of the colonics have been so developed in connection with the war in South Africa as to inspire us with the hope that, if we can only find an adequate system of organisation, we shall be able to get valuable contingents for our Navy from Australia, Ganada, and elsewhere. But there are some difficulties in the way, partly on account of the differences in wages in the colonies and partly because we have not got the same appliances for training in the colonies that we have at home. We have had a long 1121 correspondence with some of the authorities in Australia. Our Commander-in-Chief has done his best, but, as I have said, we find certain insuperable difficulties—either that the terms which would have to be given to the Colonial Reserve would be so much higher than the pay of the blue jackets that discontent would arise; or that, on the other hand, if we did not give these high terms, and we required the men to undergo six months' training, we should not be able to get the colonials. That is a formidable difficulty, but it may be possible to solve it in this way namely, not to raise a sea-going Reserve from Australia, but a Naval Reserve for coast defence in which sea training would not be indispensable. But that is a matter for future decision. I thought it better to suspend negotiations on the subject until federation is established, as it would be infinitely easier to deal with one central authority for one Naval Reserve than to arrange for several Reserves with four or five distinct Governments in Australia. With Newfoundland we are more advanced. There wages are not so high, and there the fishing industry is so managed that it may be agreeable to the fishermen to be employed for a period in a man-of-war during the time the fishing season is closed. In that direction there is more hope. They have asked that we should reduce the time of training from six to four months to conform to their local exigencies. No final decision has been taken in the matter, but I thought it my duty to the colonies to inform the House of the interest they have shown in this attempt to form a Colonial Naval Reserve, and their great desire that the negotiations should be ultimately successful. Let me say a word on an important branch of the personnel —I mean the engineers. Those who have read my printed statement will see that we have tried to meet the desires of the engineers to as great an extent as we have found compatible with' the general interests of the service; but, as my printed statement may not have been as accessible to the engineers as I should hope, I should like to read what we have done— "The promotion, status, and pay of engineer officers have been recently considered by a committee of the Board, with the result that the following changes have been approved:—The list of chief inspectors of machinery has been increased from live to eight, and that of inspectors of machinery from eight to thirteen.
1122 The engineer-in-chief has been given the relative rank of a rear admiral. The yank of staff engineer has been abolished. Chief engineers will rank with lieutenants of and above eight years seniority, while engineers on promotion will rank with lieutenants of less than eight years' seniority instead of, as now, with but after lieutenants. In other respects the relative rank of engineer officers remains unchanged. Engineers will he given a new scale of pay—namely, on promotion, 10s. a day; after four years, 11s. a day; after eight years, 12s. a day; and the allowance of Is. a day at present paid to senior engineers for all ships will be replaced by a scale varying, according to responsibility, from 1s. to 2s. 6d. a day."
There is one other important branch of the service about which I should like to say a word. I mean the medical service. We are doing what we can to give the medical officers in the Navy greater opportunities for studying and informing themselves generally with reference to the progress of medical science, and also to relieve them of burdens which seem to us unjust. Hitherto the medical officers have had to supply their own surgical instruments, and, as a consequence, which was not unnatural, in many ships the supply of surgical and other instruments and drugs, which are so essential for the welfare of the sailors, has not been sufficient. We have therefore thought it our duty to improve this service to the best of our ability. I hope these details are of some interest: f have given them fully in order that they may be read by others who take a great interest in naval matters. I now pass to another question, not more interesting, but quite as interesting—the question of matériel. I will speak, in the first instance, of construction during the present financial year. The House will observe in the statement an intimation that the two ironclads of which I spoke last year—the "Albemarle" and the "Montagu"—have been begun. It seems a very long time since the Hague Conference assembled to consider the question of mutual disarmament, held its meetings, and when it was called together, the House will remember, we suggested as a Government that possibly the laying down of further battleships might be kept in suspense, with a view to ascertaining what the decision of the Hague Conference might lie. This country, maligned as it generally is for an aggressive intention, was, I think, the only one which made a suggestion of the kind or met in any degree the peaceful spirit which inspired, most sincerely inspired, the 1123 Tsar in calling the Conference. The Conference met, and soon it appeared that disarmament was a policy too Utopian to he entertained, or even reduction of armaments. Other valuable matters arose in the Conference, but as to progressive reduction of armaments nothing at all was done; and in the next six months succeeding the Conference more gigantic programmes, stretching forward for eight, sixteen, and twenty years, were conceived and elaborated by the Governments represented at the Hague Conference than had ever been put forward by those Powers before. Well, we commenced the two ironclads which figured in the programme of last year. Then there is another point connected with the programme of last year—namely, that we have dropped our proposal to lay down three third-class cruisers of rather larger dimensions than the "Pelorus" class, intended to be very fast, and designed for special purposes. In the statement laid before the House I have described the considerations which induced us to change our plan. We were guided in the matter to a certain extent by the experience of other countries. France had also intended to lay down some very fast small cruisers, but the French naval architects, like our own, appear to have found the task impossible to perform, and the French Government have withdrawn the small third-class cruisers from their programme, just as we have dropped them from ours. The attempt was to put an enormous amount of machinery within a vessel of very small dimensions. That has been accomplished in the torpedo-destroyers—they are light and very delicate instruments; but when we came to try it on a larger scale it was thought that these third-class cruisers would only be torpedo-destroyers on a larger scale, that they would not have the necessary seagoing or fighting power, and, therefore, it was thought better not to embark on an ambitious attempt, which, though it would result in the appearance of a great success, might turn out to be impracticable in war. The Russian Government have taken a different view and have two such vessels under construction, one in Copenhagen and one in Germany. Whether they will be successful or not is for the Russian Government to judge; they may have a special object in obtaining craft of this kind. We have been guided by the best 1124 advice obtainable, and have altered our programme, substituting for these small cruisers a second-class cruiser of an improved "Hermes" type. In this I think the House will consider us justified, and the second-class cruiser will come within the limits of liability sanctioned by Parliament for the three third-class vessels. The proposed second-class cruiser will have the same armament as others of the type, a speed of about twenty-one knots, and a slightly larger displacement. The design is not yet complete. I come now to the most regrettable part of my statement—the failure on the part of contractors for armour, hulls, and machinery to earn the money taken by us in our Estimates, which we hoped would have been spent in the year. It is much to be deplored that we find that £1,400,000 or more of the sum placed at our disposal has not been earned. The most accurate calculations were made, ship by ship, on the basis of what we supposed contractors would earn. But contractors have not earned the amount expected, and a sum of £1,400,000 remains unspent for these purposes. Here I cannot resist the temptation to refer to an interpretation that has been put upon this failure to expend this sum, for it is the most extravagant case of the imaginative perversion of facts which I have over come across. I have seen it seriously suggested in a serious newspaper that the Treasury interfered to prevent this expenditure, that pressure was put upon us not to spend money which belonged not to us but to the contractors. The writer imagined the Chancellor of the Exchequer coming to the Admiralty and saying, "Tell your contractors to drop work, because I should like a little more money to wipe off debt at the end of the year." This is the absurd idea seriously put forward, the fact being that we at the Admiralty have been straining every nerve to keep the contractors up to their work, visit after visit having been made to the armour manufacturers for the purpose of seeing whether they could not produce more. Notwithstanding this, such an idea was started. I need not assure the House that our anxiety has been to usefully spend every shilling Parliament has placed at our disposal. We deplore a condition of things which the House must realise in relation to our construction programme. It appears that, so far as machinery, hulls, and armour are concerned, it is difficult to 1125 produce more than we are asking for. We have been putting a pretty strong strain on manufacturers; there are fifteen battleships and fourteen armoured cruisers under construction, and it is not surprising that they are pretty well occupied. Under such conditions some critics ask that we should lay down, not two battleships and six armoured cruisers, but ten battleships and thirty armoured cruisers. It would be distinctly dishonest on our part if we were to suggest that we could undertake building and ask Parliament to vote money for ships we cannot build within the time. Our programme is limited to what we believe to be the output of the country in armour, hulls, machinery, and the vast number of accessories to be provided. The limit has been laid down after careful investigation founded on experience. Once before our programme was limited by the output of armour. The great armour firms were sanguine that they could produce so many thousand tons, but unfortunately their expectations were not realised, and though they have increased their plant by nearly 50 per cent. beyond what it was in the previous year, we are still short by £400,000 of the value of the armour we expected would have been produced. I may have a few more observations to make on our programme. As I have said, the main portion is two battleships, six first-class armoured cruisers, and one second-class cruiser. Shipbuilding in foreign countries, of course, has great interest at the present time. Our proposed expenditure for the year 1900–1 is £8,460,000. Russia in ordinary estimates proposes to spend £2,300,000, and under the famous ukase another £2,000,000, making together £4,300,000. France will spend in the financial year £4,154,000, according to estimates: and added together the expenditure of the two Powers makes £8,454,000, or, by an extraordinary accidental coincidence, £6,000 short of our expenditure, Germany will spend about three-and-a-half millions. Then there is a point which I think will interest the House. The French reporter of the committee which considers the Naval Budget states that materials in France for shipbuilding cost 40 per cent. more than in England, and that labour costs 10 per cent. more. I can scarcely believe that materials cost 40 per cent more, but the French experts ought to know. Generally, taking their 1126 shipbuilding in France, and probably Russia, as 20 per cent. dearer than here, we have an advantage amounting to no less than about £1,700,000 on the expenditure in the two countries—that is to say, though the expenditure here might be the same as in France and Russia combined, we should build an additional battleship and an additional cruiser. I have verified this view by comparing the cost of individual ships. Their ironclads and cruisers cost more than our ironclads and cruisers. That is an advantage which we have. Perhaps it may also interest the House to know that France has completed two or three ironclads, and that she will have under construction this year three ironclads, and probably if her new programme is carried out she will lay down two more towards the end of tin; year. Let me say one word with reference to the new programmes of France and Germany. Those programmes require to be analysed if we are to understand their true proportions. Germany is starting a programme for sixteen years. Her programme for personnel is to extend up to 1920. Germany's programme reaches the appalling figure of 70 millions sterling. France has got a programme spread over eight years of 28 millions sterling. Germany's first year's expenditure amounts to £4,380,000: and, France's first year's expenditure is £4,154,000, but the House will see that these appalling figures are for programmes spread over a very large number of years, and that what you have got to look at is the annual sum which will be spent, and not these gigantic totals. I compare our annual expenditure of £8,000,000 with the annual expenditure which is contemplated under their great proposals. If we were to act upon the German principle, and have a programme extending over sixteen years, at our present rate the expenditure would be £128,000,000 instead of the £70,000,000 of Germany, and applying the same parallel calculation as regards France we should find our expenditure was £64,000,000 instead of the £28,000,000 which is contemplated by France. I do not know whether any persons in this country would have wished us to lay down a programme for the next sixteen years or even for the next eight years. I know the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth would not have liked a Naval Defence Act of that character, and I think now a Naval 1127 Defence Act is unnecessary, because the country has been thoroughly accustomed to certain principles and to a continuity of policy in this matter. The difficulty before the Naval Defence Act was that with constant changes of administration the Estimates went up and down, but I must say that I shall never regret that I was a party to the Naval Defence Act which gave us a large number of ships built as we intended them to be built and in the numbers which we intended to have. But now we are in such a position that I, for my part, would prefer to look on and see how these great Naval Defence Acts of foreign countries are going to work out. We know that France intends during that time to lay down six battleships and five armoured cruisers. I should like to see what class of battleships and of armoured cruisers they will be. It is always interesting to learn from foreign countries, and the French are extremely clever, as everyone admits, in naval construction. I think we had better go forward now with our annual Estimates, keeping them on the same lines and on the same principles. The House will see, if I have managed to at all make them understand our position, that our Estimate of £8,000,000 for constructive purposes now is quite equivalent to the larger programmes which have been made by other countries, and that these large programmes ought not to alarm us in that respect. Of course, these programmes are large, and it will require great vigilance and constant sacrifice and attention on the part of the House and the country to keep ourselves abreast of this great development of naval power which is being made, not only in France and Russia and Germany, but also in the United States and Japan. In all directions we see this great increase of naval construction. I have explained how I consider that our programme of battleships and cruisers is adequate, and I have also explained that it is limited by the power of the contractors and private firms. Then, it may be said, "Why do you not increase the number of men in your dockyards ad libitum, and so be enabled to lay down more ships?" There are many difficulties in the way. In the first place, we should have the same difficulty as regards armour and material. Then let the House understand that there is only a certain limited number of men belonging to the industries engaged 1128 in shipbuilding and engineering. We raise the number of men in our dockyards this year to 32,000, which is the largest figure it has ever stood at. It stood at 27,000 a few years ago. If we endeavoured to increase it still more we should simply be drawing away a certain number of shipwrights and boilermakers and others from the private firms engaged in building our cruisers and battleships. We should not gain much in that way. We do propose to employ more labour. We have taken an addition of £90,000 for labour in our dockyards, but we propose to employ that additional labour in a still more energetic course of repairs and refits than we have been engaged in the past. The House will see that at critical times repairs and refits of ships mean providing for the immediate future, while the laying down of ships which may be finished three years hence means the distant future. Therefore, in critical times it is our duty to take every ship in hand in that way that deserves repair's, and push on those repairs as fast as we can, so as to have as many ships as possible available at a given time for any emergency that may arise. But we do not repair ships which do not deserve repairs, and in this connection I may say something which I am certain will give gratification to the right Iron. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. We are going to strike off at once some of the older ships from our list—the "Warrior'," the "Boadicea," the "Belleisle," the "Black Prince," and some others. The right hon. Gentleman and others laugh, but I would point out that on the French list there are some good old friends. I see three battleships continuing to figure on the French list with which I was perfectly familiar, and looked upon as very fine ships indeed, when I had to propose the Navy Estimates in 1874. So that I hope that when these comparisons are made, and when we strike off our ships, the same course may be followed by the French Government, or, at all events, by those who draw up comparative lists between the two countries. There will be another opportunity for considering whether our programme should include any second-class cruisers. These second-class cruisers have their uses for the protection of commerce in all parts of the world, and it would be wrong to give up their construction, though, on the whole, I think that opinion, both here and 1129 abroad, is rather coming to the point of having a large number of ships of each class and diminishing the number of the classes—of having as much homogeneity in all classes as possible. I come now to the appendages of our Fleet. I was asked a question by the hon. Member for Belfast with reference to repairing ships, telegraph ships, and colliers. I will state our policy to the House with reference to these ships. As regards telegraph ships. That matter has been most carefully considered by us. In all our strategical combinations and we are engaged in considering strategy—the question of telegraph ships greatly enters. But we do not think we should be wise in buying or constructing telegraph ships ourselves, but that we should do far better by utilising the services of private enterprise and the cable ships of the companies who. in time of peace, are engaged in that work and are continually seeking, under the pressure of competition, to improve their plant and to develop every new invention. The House may be assured that we know what we are about. We are in communication with the cable companies, and we have found every disposition on their part to facilitate any organisation and any steps which may be taken, so that, when an emergency arises, Members need not fear that we shall then have to improvise our arrangements. The arrangements are considered beforehand very carefully and very thoroughly. Then as regards repairing ships. We recognise the importance of these ships. I do not know whether those hon. Members who have studied this question have read the annual report of the chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering of the United States Navy. They will find there an explanation and description of the enormous services rendered to the American fleet in the late war by a repairing ship. I do not think I need labour this point. They are very economical because they may keep ships out of the dockyards, and nothing is worse for economy than when ships go into dockyards for small repairs. We do not propose to build such ships, but we propose that we should now contract to purchase a ship of the mercantile marine, and we find that there are ships engaged in the transport service which are very suitable and appropriate for the purpose. You require the large space which you find in ships of the mercantile marine. We hope to buy one of these 1130 ships soon, indeed at once, and to fit it with plant for repairing. We shall then see what further action is to be taken. The House must not, however, forget that we have two ships already employed on this work—the "Vulcan" in the Mediterranean, which is doing very good work, and the "Hecla" in the Channel, which is also a very good ship, undertaking the repairs of torpedo destroyers and torpedo-boats and craft of that kind. The House must understand that we have this matter well in hand and that we quite appreciate its importance. Then as to the third class—the colliers—there again we think that, on the whole, using private enterprise will do. bettor than building our own colliers. But we are bound to make such arrangements as will ensure the free use of colliers in time of war. We have made a useful experiment in this direction and we now charter colliers for a year instead of for the voyage, and perhaps for a longer time in order to give the owners of colliers an opportunity of improving their plant in the hope of permanent employment. We believe that under this system, under the pressure of competition, we shall be able to get the necessary class of colliers fertile services that we necessarily require.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Yes. But the difficulty of speed in colliers is this: as my hon. friend must see, to get speed you require large machinery and engines and large boiler-room, which occupy a large portion of the centre of the ship. Then again, speed involves that the collier eats away the coal which the collier ought to carry for the use of the Fleet. As my hon. friend will see, there are two sides to this question, but we shall endeavour to get the highest speed we can. At any rate we have not neglected our duty in regard to these ships. We are engaged in considering the best methods of carrying ammunition, stores, and provisions from the bases of fleets to the several stations. The methods have been determined for some time past. We are in possession of the views of the Commanders-in-Chief, but we have not yet come to a final conclusion. The whole of this question of mobilisation and organisation has occupied, and must occupy, our careful attention. Now I must offer an 1131 apology to the House for detaining them so long with a great many technical matters. It is difficult to choose subjects which will be of general interest. I know I have omitted many things, and have only slightly touched many important points. But I have no doubt my critics and friends will give me an opportunity of answering their criticisms either upon our programme or upon general administration. To sum up, the substance of the Estimates is that our expenditure is to be twenty-seven and a half millions and our personnel is to be 115,000 men; including our Naval Reserves it is to be 150,000 men. We hope to create two new reserves. In the dockyards there are to be 32,000 men. The expenditure on ships is to be £8,160,000. We are to lay down two battleships and six armoured cruisers, besides other smaller vessels, bringing up the total number of ships which will be under construction or passing through construction in the coming financial year to seventeen battleships, twenty armoured cruisers, four protected cruisers, twenty-one destroyers, and other small ships. But the vastness of these forces in men rand ships does not entirely give the clue to what we have to do, because we have most carefully to consider the use to which we must put these great forces, the strategy which is to underlie their operations, and all the precautions which have to be taken. We are much preoccupied with questions of this kind. The Intelligence Department has been strengthened from year to year. It now contains eight naval and five marine officers, so that there are thirteen men, all picked men. We are anxious to get as much brain power as possible into the department, rand we have been very successful in doing so. We have divided this department into three—mobilisation, foreign information, and strategy, and each has at its head an Assistant-Director of Intelligence, all being under the Director-General of Intelligence. I may fairly state that we receive intelligence from all portions of our dominions. Our plans are carefully worked out and the geography of the seas is carefully mapped out so that we know every trade route and can tell off at once all the ships that are to be posted in different parts of the world for the protection of our coasts and our commerce. The question has been asked by a writer, Is our Fleet perfect? and he continued, 1132 "The First Lord of the Admiralty says it is." I have never ventured on such an opinion. No administrator who knows his business could possibly believe in the perfection of such a vast organisation as this. The very statement which I have placed in the hands of hon. Members shows that it is improvement that we are aiming at—improvement in every direction with no consciousness that we are arriving at perfection. There can be no perfection except and this is the only exception in the loyalty, the sense of duty, and the "go" of the officers, and the courage and handiness of the seamen and the marines. I know of nothing else that is perfection. We do our best, and the task is a very heavy one, but we do not dream of perfection. I hope there is nothing in what I have said which looks like glorification of the Navy or of the Admiralty. I hope I have said nothing to give that impression. I have not waved the flag, but the flag is there; and I think that now, as heretofore, all the citizens of the British Empire, both in these islands and beyond the seas, even in these days of storm and stress, may rest content that under that flag their interest and their honour are safe.
*SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH () Lancashire, Clitheroe
said that when they had a corresponding debate a year ago it was held under the influence of the striking contrast between, on the one hand, the hopes which were entertained regarding the outcome of the Czar's Peace Conference, and, on the other hand, the vast increments in the naval and military expenditure in this and some other countries in the world. The Peace Conference had now been held, but that was not the opportunity for discussing its positive results. He feared, however, it could not be held that the prevention of war, the interruption of shipbuilding activity of Continental Powers, the abandonment of the practice of formulating ambitious paper programmes for sixteen years, or eight years, or shorter terms, were among the results of that Conference. He was sure the House, under these circumstances, would not complain if the Government, determined to maintain the national policy of an equality with two Powers, proposed to go on on the same lines as in recent years. The House and the country might rest assured that whether as regarded naval works, shipbuilding, 1133 manning of the Navy or Reserves, the Opposition, as a whole, remained as much in earnest as anybody in the desire and determination to maintain and advance with every modern improvement the force and efficiency of the British Navy. He wished distinctly to state that, because it became his duty to offer some criticism on the shipbuilding programme of the Government. He rejoiced, and the House would rejoice also, that there were no signs of alarm or loss of nerve; that these were not panic Estimates. There was no doubt an increase in the total Estimates, but that did not indicate any special uneasiness on the part of the Government. It was partly due to necessities, especially with regard to the personnel, for ships which had been built, or were building, and to improvements in the pay of the engineering and signalling staffs. He desired to say a few words upon a short passage in the printed statement in which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord said that the expenditure on new construction continually failed to reach the sum which was voted. That could only relate to the previous three years. If the House looked back to 1896-7 they would see that the estimated expenditure for total new construction is £7,381,000, while the actual amount was £7,327,000, or only £57,000 less than the Estimate. Previous to that date the actual expenditure year by year came up to very nearly the amount of the Estimate. One point to which he desired to draw attention was the causes by which construction had been retarded. Two years ago the retardation was due to the dispute in the engineering trade, whilst last year it was alleged to be due to the great boom in shipbuilding and the difficulties in carrying out the increased work. In the current year special difficulties appeared to have arisen in regard to obtaining materials, armour, and engines, and obtaining the necessary labour. He was. however, a little afraid lest the contractors had been allowed to become lax. Had contractors, perhaps, been less pressed by the Admiralty than formerly, he urged the Government to make it clear to them that the Admiralty would be quite as exacting as other customers. Contract dates were no longer enforced, which led to the result of our not Inning the ships which we expected, and which had been proposed as necessary to our naval strength. The whole work of the dockyards was 1134 thrown out of gear through the failure of contractors to deliver the necessary materials, armour plates, machinery, etc., with the result that when they were delivered it was sometimes necessary to resort to most uneconomical methods, such as overtime, in order to hurry forward the work. A close examination of the Estimates disclosed the fact that the dockyard work had been fairly well performed throughout the year, whilst the contract work had got into arrear to an alarming extent. There had been a short expenditure of £1,400,000 on the contract work of one shipbuilding Vote. Of this, more than a million was due to short expenditure on twelve ships of the greatest importance, namely, the four "Duncans," three of the "Drake" class, and three of the "Cressy" class, the "Monmouth" and the "Bedford." Orr the contracts forarmour alone £420,000 less than was estimated had been earned. He would like to know how far the Admiralty expected the output of armour to become more satisfactory. He was aware that the four present contractors had had to contend with special difficulties, because of the new hardening process introduced two or three years ago. What were the prospects for coming years? One great consolation remained that whilst delays took place in our naval construction, delays of a more serious nature were a much more frequent and chronic evil in the shipbuilding programme of another naval Power, and that whilst we were able to build ships of the "Majestic" class in two years or less, France had been unable to complete the "Charlemagne" in less than six to seven years, and the "Gaulois" and "St. Louis" in less than five years. With regard to the new shipbuilding, he did not regret the abandonment of the three third-class cruiser's and the substitution for them of a second-class cruiser. He thought it would Ire undesirable to build any additional small craft until they had before them the results of the trials of the new system of using steam—he meant the steam turbine. If the steam turbine turned out to be a success for torpedo-boat destroyers, it might also be a valuable reform on larger vessels. It was a change which was likely to result in a great saving of weight and, at the same time, the attainment of a much greater speed. He now came to the question of 1135 battleships and armoured cruisers. M. Lockroy, who had been three times at the head of the Admiralty in France, said in La Defense Navale —The cost of ships has grown to such an extent that it has become impossible to our country to have at the same time a sufficient number of cruisers and a respectable number of battleships.And he then discussed the possibility of a compromise in a ship armoured with modern steel uniting in itself the qualities of a battleship and a cruiser. Armoured cruisers had these two advantages—that they cost rather loss than battleships, and they obtained a much higher speed. They had this disadvantage—that they did not carry quite as powerful an armament. Their secondary armament of 0-inch and other guns was the same; but in place of four 12-inch guns, they carried two of 9.2-inch calibre. Speed was, however, a matter of great importance, and in certain circumstances it was possible to use armoured cruisers of the "Cressy" typo as battleships. When they considered what was going on abroad, it was a grave question whether the continuance of the policy of building battleships was as necessary as the building of modern armoured cruisers. Our greater celerity in building enabled us to wait until we saw what ships were actually laid down abroad, and we need not be misled by paper programmes, which, perhaps, were never to be fulfilled. He submitted that the report of the French Budget Committee, pointing out, as regards the 1896 programme, how thirteen cruisers valued at over three million sterling, besides certain rapid scout-cruisers, had been abandoned, and thirteen gunboats had apparently no chance of being commenced, showed good reasons why people in this country might view with considerable equanimity the vast paper programmes to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred; and he thought he was justified in saying that it would be a wise policy for this country to watch and see what ships were actually laid down by other countries before being frightened into proposing large programmes. M. de La Porte and his Budget Committee said that only a little more than half the total value of ships projected in the 1896 programme had been commenced—only 79 vessels out of 220—and their report asked—Were we wrong in asserting that the pro- 1136 gramme of 1896, though hardly three years old, has finally ceased to exist?M. de La Porte argued that, in the choice between a war of squadrons and a war against commerce, England will choose the first, while France would not be wise in risking, at the commencement of the war, an encounter with her adversary's fleet, but at that stage would have two objects—1. The mobile defence of her coasts, to which would be added offensive action within a short radius by means of torpedo boats, submarine boats, and perhaps mortar boats also. (2) War on commerce by means of rapid and numerous cruisers with a large radius of action.And M. de La Porte added these words, which were practically a repetition of the abandonment of the policy of 1896—We have compelled ourselves, in our feebleness, to favour for the year 1900 the commencement of torpedo craft, submarine boats and cruisers.He had only one more extract to read, and he wished to read it to the House, because it was really the conclusion of the matter. The Committee wound up by saying—We are to-day asking the Chamber to fix at £12,388,000 the total Budget of 1900 (for the Navy)—an increase of £244,600. We are evidently approaching the limit which cannot be exceeded, unless indeed our country, renouncing her traditional responsibilities as a Continental Power, should wish henceforth to look to nothing except the sea and the colonies. The credits appropriated to naval construction (£4,154,500 for 1900) seem to have reached their culminating point.That was, France spent half what we spent and got much less than half the result. The French Budget Committee had stated in a formal way that their naval expenditure had now reached a culminating point, and therefore so far as naval expenditure hero was concerned there was no need for panic or such a huge increase of expenditure as had been proposed in some quarters. On the question of building more battleships he would not attempt to express a final opinion without the fuller knowledge possessed by the Board of Admiralty, but while he was assured of the necessity of building such armoured cruisers as the right hon. Gentleman proposed, he could not help having doubts as to the necessity of two more battleships (in addition to 1137 two last year). He observed that the right hon. Gentleman had taken £1,000,000 instead of £750,000 for the coaling of ships; but his own doubt was whether it would not be necessary to make a larger provision for a reserve of coal in time of war'. With respect to the subject of colliers, probably the plan of having colliers immediately under the control of the Admiralty was one which needed great development, for the present arrangements could not he considered adequate in the case of war-. It was rather disappointing to read the paragraph in the; right hon. Gentleman's statement relating to wireless telegraphy. The experiments had opened up the prospect of our cruisers being able to act at a very much greater distance from the Fleet, and he hoped that the difficulties would he so overcome as to make wireless telegraphy a necessary appurtenance to the Fleet. He had been very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's references to the services of the naval contingents in South Africa. Several naval officers, whose names he need not mention, had rendered services of an exceptional character, and which had had far-reaching effects. The experience of naval guns accompanying troops in the field, and when used at places like Ladysmith, had given new hopes of what use might be made of these larger guns in connection with military operations, and had thrown a new light on the whole subject of military armament. The House ought to recognise with great gratitude the skill and initiative and inventive power of some of the naval officers who had rendered such valuable services in South Africa. On page 13 of the Statement it was said that the manufacture of guns was proceeding, and had "so far" kept pace with the requirements of the Navy, He hoped there was no ground for serious anxiety—either because of the great demands of the Army or from any other cause—that in future the supply of guns for' our new ships would not keep pace with the demand. He had no means of discussing the details of the transport work done by the Admiralty, but he congratulated the Department on the general result. The work had been unprecedented in magnitude and it had been, crowned with remarkable success. He thought the country owed an immense deal to the enterprise of the mercantile marine. As to the numbers added to the Royal Naval 1138 Reserve, he felt some disappointment, but he was glad to hear that the subject was receiving the attention it deserved from the Admiralty. There were great difficulties with respect to the colonies, but he should rejoice if we could have an addition to our Naval Reserve from Australia. In conclusion he asked for information with regard to the progress of the naval works. There was no part of the expenditure which was more vital to our naval strength.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
The right hon. Gentleman opposite has paid a tribute of admiration to the services rendered by the Naval Brigade in this war. Perhaps one of the greatest complaints I have to make against the First Lord of the Admiralty is that he seems not to have stood up for his own people in the matter of making known to the world, through the despatches, the part they have played at the front. It is exactly a month ago since the despatches referring to the exploits of the military at Gras Pan and Colenso were published, and yet the right hon. Gentleman has not succeeded in obtaining the permission of the War Office, or whoever it is, for the publication of the Naval despatches. One word as to coal. I hope the First Lord will remember there is nothing which deteriorates so much as coal. If he is going to lay in large stocks of coal all over the world, it will be necessary to make storage places for them—not such as he has at present, but underground cellars, where the coal will be kept at an even temperature and far away from rain and other deteriorating influences. We might as well not have coal as store it so that it will deteriorate. The First Lord apologised for his proposals as being modest beyond expectation. They are not more modest than they should be. The hysterical press that has been calling for the mobilisation of our Fleet has not begun to understand the naval situation of Europe or of this country. There has not been, and is not, the slightest necessity for such a mobilisation as has been demanded. We are strong enough at sea to do all that is required of our Fleet at the present moment; and, therefore, I was very glad the right hon. Gentleman, being strengthened and backed up by naval men, has escaped from that panic which seems to have 1139 overtaken some of the Fleet Street strategists of the cheaper press. I am very glad to hear that no decision has been arrived at with regard to the Training Squadron. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of this—that if the naval man on shore has shown such ingenuity in adapting himself to military work, such capacity in inventing new carriages, and in slapping guns about over all sorts of ground and getting them into impossible positions, it has been mainly on account of the training he got on masts and yards. If the Training Squadron is abolished I think the better half of the sailor in this respect will be abolished also. I hope the First Lord will hesitate long before he allows himself to be influenced by the enthusiastic young admirals at the Admiralty Board in the direction of abolishing the excellent Training Squadron. At any time a naval officer may be called upon to take charge of a sailing ship: and the great shipowners of this country (who have no prejudice, and only want to get the best men) insist on their steam officers having the kind of training to which I am referring. I hope this question will not be reconsidered until Lord Charles Bores-ford is back in the House. I was afraid the right hon. Gentleman was going to take the opportunity of his absence to make a final decision as to the Training Squadron adverse to the views that officer and I hold. It would have been over my dead body, but I would rather have had the gallant Admiral at my side in conducting the fight. As to the Royal Naval Reserve, I think the situation as at present shown is serious. I have always held that the new regulations the right hon. Gentleman made, though well-intentioned, were ill-advised. The right hon. Gentleman says he wants fewer men better trained. I say the great thing is to get the men. They do not require the same training as a shop boy requires. They are already three-fourths trained, and, therefore, there is not the least necessity to insist on six months in a sea-going battleship for the Naval Reserve men. The circumstances under which that new regulation was introduced were such that I was convinced it would have a deleterious effect on the numbers of the Royal Naval Reserve. The further we go the more it is seen that the plan was wrong, and that we shall have to go back rather more to the old plan. The colonics seem to hold 1140 the same opinion as I do, because they have urged the right hon. Gentleman to diminish the period of training from six to four months. That would, of course, make a very great deal of difference. The delay of the contractors in finishing their work of construction is a very serious matter indeed. Is it that we have arrived at the limit of the powers of the contractors plus the English dockyards to build battleships? [An HON. MEMBER: No!] I agree with the hon. Member who said "No." Why, then, have the contractors so failed to do their work? One reason is that they have been building an enormous amount of tonnage for foreigners. The figures show that, out of the whole enormous tonnage being built, one-fourth is being built for foreigners. I have seen some splendid battleships turned out for Japan, built by contractors during the time they might have been occupied in building battleships, for its. Why is it Japan can get her battleships built here and we cannot? Is it a question of price? Is it because the right hon. Gentleman is trying to get his men-of-war too cheap? I do not know. The failure to provide an adequate amount of armament I regard as very alarming indeed. Do you rely entirely on your contractors for your armour? I think I am right in saying you do. Is that safe? You admit you are short of armour. Almost every year the complaint has been made that those who provide the armour are not quite ready with that article when it is required. I think the right hon. Gentleman and the House should consider whether in addition to dockyards it would not be advisable to have armour rolling machinery of your own. You rely upon Woolwich for your guns. Are you content with Woolwich?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
was understood to say that the Admiralty relied upon Woolwich only to the extent of one half of the guns.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I am glad to hear that, because I do not think Woolwich has worked, or is likely to work, so as to give complete satisfaction. I desire now to make a few remarks on what I may call the general naval question. There is no doubt that in this country we must address ourselves most particularly to the sea. The development 1141 of our sea power is the development of a power which will act, not only upon the sea, but also on nations situated inland if it is properly used, so as to stop their supplies. Two-thirds of the trade of the world is carried on by sea; therefore, if you command the sea you can practically stop the supplies of any country with which you are at war. Moreover, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, the command of the sea gives this country the great power of acting promptly and suddenly at a distance. There is probably no other country in the world that could have done one half of the work we have done on the sea during the last four months in the way of transporting men and stores to Africa. As to the use of this sea power, I have some small, but not serious, complaints to make of the right hon. Gentleman, but I have some very serious complaints to make about Her Majesty's Government. I cannot forgot that the head of the Government stated in 1871 that the Fleet was almost valueless for any purpose other than defence of our shores.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
In 1871, and it is as true now. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has not endeavoured to remove the cause which Lord Salisbury gave for this state of things. That cause was the signature of a Declaration allowing a neutral flag to cover an enemy's cargo. I entirely agree that the Declaration has greatly restricted the sea power of this country. Had it not been for that, we could have stopped every ounce of gold and every pound of wool that left the Transvaal under whatever flag we found it, and everything—not only contraband of war, but everything—that went to the Transvaal. It was the Declaration of Paris alone which prevented us doing that. But even the powers left to us—of seizing contraband of war—have not been exercised as they ought to have been. Mistakes have been made either by the cruisers themselves or in consequence of inadequate instructions. I rather lean to the latter theory. One of the most pressing necessities of this country is that we should have written for our Navy such a book as was written for the French Navy—a seamen's manual 1142 of International law. In consequence either of that defect, or of some laches (which I am loth to believe) on the part of the Admiralty, our cruisers have in some respects exceeded their attributes, with the result that we have had to release prizes and to make apologies. A more serious matter is that we have undertaken to give up the whole of the high seas with the exception of between Aden and Delagoa Bay; we have undertaken that we will not search vessels except between those points, which is a tremendous thing. We have also undertaken not to search any mail steamer anywhere. Wiry? Even in the case of the "Trent," when we went to the verge of war with the United States and North America, no such claim was made.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I think the hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. We have not given up the right to search mail steamers.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Then I must refer the right hon. Gentleman to the distinct statement made by Count Bülow that England had undertaken not to search mail steamers on more suspicion.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Let me point out that until you have searched you can have nothing beyond mere suspicion. Until you have searched a vessel on the high seas, which search consists in examining her papers, questioning her captain and crew—
was understood to say that there might be cases in which it was known that a vessel had embarked contraband of war.
*MR. GIBSON BOWELS
You can know nothing until you have examined the ship. Your information may be and has been false. One of the troubles in this very case has been that you have acted on false information. You can never be certain that your information is true until you have searched a ship, at any rate, to the extent of examining her manifest and all the rest of it, and questioned the captain and crew. I therefore again assert that until yon have searched you can have nothing but 1143 mere suspicion. I say that mail steamers are precisely the vessels which have been playing the most dangerous part in conveying contraband of war. I name no nation, but officers and men who have joined the Transvaal forces, a great many of the enemy's arms, and a large quantity of their ammunition have gone by mail steamers. I therefore think it is very unfortunate that Her Majesty's Government have been induced to promise that they will not search mail steamers under the only possible circumstances under which they could be searched, namely, circumstances of mere suspicion. Count Billow also says that we have agreed to the principle of a Board of Arbitration as to damages in case of unlawful or improper and unwarranted detention. That I really cannot comprehend. That is a matter for the Prize Court, and I cannot understand how even the English Foreign Office can presume to take it out of the hands of the Prize Court. The matter belongs properly and exclusively to the Prize Court, and I say you cannot arbitrate upon it. I have called attention to these matters with reference to the exercise of our sea power, because they are very important. There is another very important matter' to which I wish to call attention. The responsibilities of England are very much greater than many Members of this House are aware. There is our trade, which of course we must protect; we must protect our colonies, at the risk of losing them; but we are also bound hand and foot by the most tremendous treaties. We are bound to defend the absolute neutrality of Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the Ionian Islands. These are all treaties of the most solemn character. We are bound to defend Sweden by force of arms against Russia, in case Russia should make any attempt to seize that territory. We are hound to defend the independence of Turkey, and most especially of Asiatic Turkey. We are bound to defend the independence of Greece. We arc bound to defend Chusan for China against attack; and above all, we are bound to defend Portugal. These liabilities are very considerable, and at any moment we might be called upon to make good our engagements. It is therefore of, the utmost importance that we should lose no advantage, that we should not even waive any part of the sea power which we alone 1144 have. In recent times we have put ourselves under certain serious disadvantages in the use of our sea power in other ways. For instance, our occupation in Egypt is a very serious disadvantage from a naval point of view, inasmuch as the effect is to cut our Mediterranean Fleet into halves—one half being to the east of Cape Matapan and the other half to the west; it obliges you to have a constant force at or near Alexandria; and in the case of war in the Mediterranean it might. have a very serious effect upon your action there. I now come to the last and most important point to which I wish to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. He said—and I think properly—that it is not necessary for us to take any alarming view or to bring forward any ambitious new programme at this moment. He said, with wisdom, that he is content to stand by and look on while the new naval programmes of France and Germany are being developed. I believe at the present moment he may safely do that, because we can not only build more cheaply but more rapidly than either France or Germany. And it must be remembered that France has practically announced that she will no longer contest the empire of the seas with us in line-of-battle ships; if she is to oppose us in any way it will be by means of cruisers, or corsairs, or of those ridiculous or impossible things submarine boats. But the present aspect of Europe seems to indicate that before long there will be an entire change in the balance of naval power. As to Germany, it is scarcely sixty years since we gave her a frigate with which to start a navy. She has now some of the finest guns and vessels afloat, but she has no navy, because she has no seamen. Her navy, so-called—her ships are manned by inland men with inland traditions, and I have noticed again and again the extraordinary absence from among German captains and admirals of knowledge in some of the most elementary duties—the A B C of seamanship—which are known to all sailors, properly so called. But with France it is different. France has the traditions by which alone a navy is made. Life at sea is so eminently artificial that unless you build it up and secure, so to speak, the position of each man, and settle his exact place upon the deck, you cannot carry out the duties satisfactorily. France has a navy; Ger- 1145 many, as I think, has none, but only ships, guns, and landsmen crews. But there has been announced lately the possibility of an event which, as I have said, would change the whole balance of naval power of Europe, namely, of Holland joining with Germany under some special conditions. That is an entirely new and most unexpected factor. For generations it has been to this country that Holland has looked for her protection, especially against her strong and ambitions neighbour, Germany. There has always been a German party in Holland, though that party may have been small, but recent events have caused that small party to become a very string and powerful party, and I am inclined to think it is now the larger party in Holland. The Dutch have many very valuable colonies: in fact, the Dutch colonies are the only paying colonies possessed by any country in Europe. The Dutch are now saying to themselves that they have colonies which they must look after, and there is no doubt that the notion, if not the firm purpose, exists in Holland that it is now time for them to turn away from. England and to make satisfactory terms for themselves with Germany terms which will involve the absence of military conscription, and make Holland an Admiral State with special privileges compared even with the other States like Bavaria, already within the Empire. That project is already taking form and may be brought to a successful issue. If it be so, the whole balance of naval power will be changed. The German Fleet, manned no longer with inland Germans, but with Dutch commanders and sailors. with their Dutch traditions, would, in a, few months, be as good, ship for ship and man for man, as the British Navy. But like every other great event which seems to act against us. that also would have, its compensations, because I do not suppose the French would be extraordinarily pleased to see that combination come about. It is, however, certainly within the possibilities of the future that there may be no longer only two fleets, as I hold there are now the British and the French—but a third, the German, manned by Dutch sailors and commanded by Dutch officers. Thai is an eventuality which cannot be left entirely out of account. If it should occur, the Naval Estimates will have to be very different from those we now have, 1146 but, as things are at present, I think the right hon. Gentleman has done his full duty to the country, and that his estimates are entirely adequate. If he will only agree not to abolish the training squadron, and not to proceed with the policy—to which I shall call attention in detail later on—which I think is calculated to destroy the training of naval officers and to some extent the training of sailors, in my opinion we shall have cause to remember him as one of the best First Lords of the Admiralty we have had. I only desire now to thank him for not having been led away by the hysterical old women who want to call out every ship and man we have as soon as there is the slightest disturbance, and to say that in that respect I think he has shown a very wise discretion.
§ *MR. ALLAN () Gateshead
I must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the business-like and patriotic attitude he has adopted in the statement he has made to the House. I do not want to go over every point in that statement, for the simple reason that I am not sufficiently versed in every matter with which it deals, but there are two or three points to which I wish to refer. The right hon. Gentleman said that this most important branch of the Navy were the engineers. We all know that the modern navy consists practically of three elements coal, engineers, and guns.
§ *MR. ALLAN
Engineers are men, of course. I want to address myself for a few moments to those points.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Gentleman says I stated that the engineers were the most important branch of the service. What I intended to say was that they were one of the most important branches. I ought not to have said they were the most important branch, because that is not my opinion. They are one of the most important branches.
§ *MR. ALLAN
Of course, I will accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, but I noted his words at the time. What is being done for the engineers is up to a certain point very well indeed, but there are one or two points which are overlooked. 1147 The right hon. Gentleman says in his printed statement—The list of chief inspectors of machinery has been increased from five to eight, and that of inspectors of machinery from eight to thirteen.That is far too small a number. I leave it to any business man, or anybody acquainted with the work, to say whether eight chief inspectors of machinery and thirteen inspectors of machinery are sufficient for 268 vessels. These numbers should have been practically doubled if you want efficient service and efficient attention paid to the machinery. Then—The engineer-in-chief has been given the relative rank of a rear-admiral.That is very good and I am glad you have copied the American system to that extent, but you have not carried your copying far enough. You then state—The rank of staff engineer has been abolished. Chief engineers will rank with lieutenants of and above eight years seniority.Is that fair to a chief engineer? Chief engineers rank far higher than that in the American Navy and get far higher pay. Instead of coming down and proposing a bold scheme of promotion for these deserving men, upon whom practically our Fleet depends for its success, the right hon. Gentleman only gives them the rank of lieutenant. It is not fair, and these valuable officer's of ours should not be treated in that manner. The statement continues—… while engineers on promotion will rank with lieutenants of less than eight years' seniority.Here is where I think the great mistake has been committed. I know the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to do his best for the engineers of the Navy, but there are other influences at work which prevent him doing all he would, as is shown in this next paragraph—In other respects the relative rank of engineer officers remains unchanged.I only say that it is not fair to the engineering staff of the Navy. That these officers, with their hard work, should receive this paltry promotion is not in keeping with the requirements of British engineers at the hands of the Admiralty. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take this matter into his serious consideration and endeavour to amend this beggarly 1148 state of advancement. Chief engineers certainly ought to rank not lower than commanders or captains.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
was understood to point out that the promotion of engineers was far more rapid than that of the other branches of the service, and the pay bettor.
§ *MR. ALLAN
You recognise shore service to count for seniority: you do not require actual sea service?
§ *MR. ALLAN
It is immaterial whether an engineer goes to sea or not? Then he may be the biggest duffer in the world as far as the sea is concerned. However, I will take that point up again on another opportunity. There is in this statement a startling oversight: there is not a single mention of engine-room artificers having anything done for them. In order to make the Navy as popular as it should be you ought to give the engine-room men every encouragement.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Nothing is said with reference to torpedo-men or gunners. We have not mentioned every class; we have simply mentioned those classes in which certain changes have been made. I fully admit that engine-room artificers are a most admirable body of men.
§ *MR. ALLAN
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman is not willing to rise high enough or to go sufficiently' far in these matters for me. The duties of the engine-room artificer or engineer are totally distinct from those of a gunner. They are exposed to all the risks of the engine-room. There is no analogy between the two branches of the service. Another great mistake is in reference to the Reserves. The right hon. Gentleman did 1149 not inform the House how many Reserve engineers there were. The next element which goes to constitute a man-of-war ship is coal. The right hon. Gentleman says in this Statement that he has taken some £400,000 for extra coal supplies, and that he is going to have a coaling depot at the Falkland Islands. I am very glad he is going to do so, because some years ago I urged that there should be one at that place. But I should like to point out that most of your present coaling stations are practically useless for holding coal. Welsh coal, of all coals, is rendered friable by exposure to the weather, and yet at the coaling stations you will see hundreds of tons of coal—costing perhaps 30s. a ton at the pit mouth, and another 20s. for carriage—lying in exposed places instead of being under cover. You can never expect to get the same amount of power out of that coal, it is an impossibility; and that is a matter which certainly deserves the most serious attention of the right hon. Gentleman, in order that the coaling stations may be so built as to protect the coal so that the full value may be got out of it. I differ entirely from the right hon. Gentleman as to the Government not having steam colliers. The Government ought to have a dozen or twenty armed screw colliers, steaming ten or twelve knots not more. The right hon. Gentleman's remark with reference to higher speeds than that was perfectly correct. You cannot get higher speeds without greater engine-room space. In peace times these boats would carry the coal from Wales to wherever it was required, thus saving hiring and transport, and in war time would be ready at a moment's notice to follow the Fleet. It is worthy the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman that that matter should be gone into in a thoroughly practical and businesslike way. It is no use Members of Parliament thinking that all you have got to do is to vote the money, and ships will be built that year. It cannot be done even by working night and day. I quite agree that if weare spending £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 on shipbuilding we have reached the limit, and it is impossible to do more. When you take into consideration the impetus given to the mercantile marine, and the fact that our manufacturers have to make large quantities of boiler plates and ship plates, naturally this hinders the supply of armour plate. As for the 1150 Government attempting to make their own armour plate, they would require works twice as big as those we now possess at Woolwich. The right hon. Gentleman has been talking about building cruisers, and he takes a very great interest in the Navy. He was dwelling upon the necessity and value of our cruisers, but perhaps it will surprise the right hon. Gentleman to know that our cruisers, by comparison with the cruisers of other countries, are undergunned. Some of our latest built cruisers, compared with cruisers of a similar type built in foreign countries, and having the same displacement, are undergunned, and we are building these and sending them out to sea. I will take the "Highflyer," of which we have heard so much. It has a displacement of 5,600 tons. Then there is the "Matsusima," which has a displacement of 4,277 tons, or nearly 1,400 tons less displacement. The weight of metal discharged in one round by the "Highflyer" is 1,100lb., while the weight of metal discharged in one round from the "Matsusima is 1,245 lb. Therefore the smaller ship discharges 1,245 lb., as against 1,100lb. by the larger vessel. In this calculation I am just taking the big weapons that can do execution at long range. As a further example I will take one of our modern cruisers, Her Majesty's ship "Arrogant," and compare it with the United States cruiser "Olympia," both of which have a displacement of 5,800 tons. The total weight of metal discharged in one round from the "Arrogant" is 670 lb., while the weight of metal discharged from the "Olympia" in one round is 1,600lb.
There are many other questions to be considered, such as how much ammunition is carried, or how much coal. Ships are a compromise, and must be judged according to the work to which they are to be put. We put either more guns, more ammunition, more coal, or more speed into a ship, but we can never have a maximum of ail these in any one ship.
§ *MR. ALLAN
I am sorry to differ from the right hon. Gentleman, but he labours under the disqualification of not knowing the peculiarities of shipbuilding.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I do not think it is possible to be five years at the Admiralty without knowing something about that.
§ *MR. ALLAN
I think my comparison is a fair one. [An HON. MEMBER: What is the speed of the "Arrogant"?] I do not think that has anything to do with it. The system which has been in existence at the Admiralty is determined by the factor of stability, which seems to have been sacrificed for speed. [Mr. GOSCHEN dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman need not shake his head, for a startling instance of this is afforded by the Royal yacht, for she is so fine that she cannot stand upright. That very same thing obtains with our cruisers, for they are so fine that you cannot put heavy guns on their decks because it would make them top-heavy. I want to direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to another fact upon which the House requires some explanation. I was glad to note the other day that the right hon. Gentleman had instituted a series of comparative trials between the "Highflyer" and "Minerva," the latter being fitted with the old type of boiler and the former with the now boiler. What was the result? The "Highflyer," fitted with water-tube Belleville boilers, broke down, while the "Minerva" was read) at any moment to go ahead. The "Minerva" had less men in the stoke-hole and no smoke. I am very sorry for the sake of this country that this experiment was not begun two years ago, for if this had been the case millions would have been saved to the country. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman laughs, but with me this is not a laughing matter but a very serious business.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I did not laugh at it. If I did laugh it was at the manner in which the hon. Member put it, and not because I did not think it was a serious matter.
§ *MR. ALLAN
It is a great pity that this experiment was not tried sooner, for in this trial the "Highflyer" had to signal for artificers, and yet we have been spending millions of millions of money, and we 1152 have produced a paper fleet that will not stand the stress and storm of war. We have had that demonstrated by these trials, which have helped to show the Admiralty conclusively the advantages of the old boilers which burn less coal, give greater safety to the men and inspire them with more confidence: which require a less number of men, there is less grumbling, and the cost for repairs is less. I have had my say with regard to these boilers, and I beg to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the trials he has made between the "Highflyer" and the "Minerva," and I sincerely hope that the same spirit which has actuated him today will continue to actuate him in the future, as long as he continues to represent the Admiralty.
*ADMIRAL FIELD () Sussex, Eastbourne
I am glad to have an opportunity of offering a few friendly observations upon the statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He spoke to this side of the House rather than to the other when he said he expected criticism, and that he hoped it would not be unfriendly. We are always friendly critics of everything the right hon. Gentleman puts before the House, because we all recognise and I know I am voicing the service when I say it—that there is no man who has ever presided at the Admiralty for whom we entertain a higher respect. I have a word or two to say by way of reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Gateshead. I will confine myself to the point he touched upon last. I believe he dreams about tubular boilers, and I believe that when all the navies of the world are fitted with them as they will be in time, the hon. Member will go down to posterity as the only unconvinced Member of Parliament on the question. I will answer his criticism in one word. I know he has great respect for America. I read only last week a statement made by an officer in the United States Navy corresponding to our engineer-in-chief, before an American scientific institution, on this very question. He admitted frankly that he was always opposed to water tube boilers until his experience in the war with Spain, which had entirely converted him to their excellence. That is a sufficient answer to the hon. Member, as coming from an officer who was a convinced opponent of water tube boilers. A word or two as to 1153 the observations made by the late Secretary to the Admiralty. I am in sympathy with much that be said, and I think there is much force in his observation that some penalty ought to be enforced against contractors, at all events for the non-delivery of armour plates. I do not share his view that penalties ought to be enforced against contractors for the non-delivery of ships. That is an old controversy. Ships were delayed owing to the engineers' strike, but that is now past and gone, although we are suffering from it at the present time. But I do think that the Admiralty ought to satisfy the House that armourplate contractors are not supplying armour to foreign nations, and keeping the English Navy waiting. That would be a very serious matter. I offer no opinion on it, because I have not, of course, the necessary information, but the delay is very serious, because it keeps back battleships and armoured cruisers ordered by the House. The right hon. Gentleman also alluded to the new invention of propulsion by the turbine as Mr. Parson's wonderful invention. I am very glad to see we are carrying out experiments with that invention: but when the right hon. Gentleman appeals to the First Lord of the Admiralty to suspend the construction of vessels until the turbine has been proved to be, or not to be, an efficient method of propulsion, then I am at issue with him at once. To prove that will take a long series of experiments. Time is the essence of the business, and we cannot afford to suspend construction in order to carry out experiments. The right hon. Gentleman congratulated the Naval Brigade on their performance in South Africa, and that, of course, we all re-echo. But he hesitated about mentioning names. Well, if he would not mention names, I will. The name of Captain Percy Scott stands out pre-eminently. It is to his cleverness and inventive genius that we owe the fact that the 4.7 gun was mounted and sent to the front. Why should his name not be mentioned? Honour should be given to those who have earned it. The right hon. Gentleman also congratulated the Admiralty on the admirable work of the transport department. The transport department is worthy of the good opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, but we should also think 1154 of the man who organised it after the Crimean War, namely, Admiral Manns. Foolish people think that the transport department ought to be placed under the War Office, but I hope that will never be done. The Admiralty is responsible for the dispatch of troops to the scene of action, and can carry that out better than the War Office, who have enough on their hands. I now come to the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty. He said that there was nothing sensational in the Estimates. I agree with him, but he need not have stopped at that. While there is nothing sensational there is much room for disappointment, and I know many of my friends are disappointed. Reading between the lines there is delay in the completion of ships by contract—delay here, there and everywhere except in the manufacture of guns. I say no more than that the statement is disappointing. We ought to be informed a little further as to why the ships promised to us have not been completed. The three cruisers which were sanctioned have not only not been completed but have been superseded on reconsideration, and a cruiser of the second class is to be built instead. That opens up a question of policy of very great importance. The late Admiral Sir Geoffrey Hornsby, who did more to educate public opinion on the deficiencies of the Navy than any other officer, was strongly of opinion that more cruisers were needed to guard our commerce and our commercial routes. He showed that a certain number would be required to be stationed at rendezvous to meet our mercantile vessels coming home, and I affirm without fear of contradiction that this question has not been dealt with in the serious way it deserves. I deeply regret that these three cruisers sanctioned by Parliament have been scratched off the programme, and a second-class cruiser, the keel of which is not yet laid, substituted on paper. The House is asked to approve of that, and of course the House will approve of it. One thing I did approve of, and that was the First Lord's answer to the criticisms as to why the fleet had not been mobilised. I should have regretted extremely to have seen the Fleet mobilised as a menace to Europe, doing no good whatever, and the Government have acted wisely in refusing to give way to such foolish and ignorant criticisms. No one can form an adequate opinion as to 1155 whether the Fleet should be mobilised except the Foreign Office, which understands the whole range of foreign politics. The First Lord did lay stress on the fact that certain coastguard ships had been summoned to Portland for training, but every naval man understands that. He then went on to explain that the Admiralty thought it right to unman the Training Squadron and transfer the officers and crews to four cruisers which he called a special service squadron. The First Lord then dwelt upon the differences in naval opinion as to whether the Training Squadron should be maintained or permanently abolished, and cited the 'Opinions of distinguished naval men whose names he did not give. We know the names. Some of them are on the retired list, though they were recently on the active list, and they are men of great influence. I mention one—Sir John Hopkins, the late Commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Squadron, for whom I have great regard and great respect. But there are many eminent officer's who hold the contrary opinion. The matter has attracted a great deal of public attention. I hope it will attract more before it is finally settled. I hold that the First Lord should not be entirely guided by his official advisers in the matter. It is a national question, not a departmental question at all, and the opinion of four naval men at the Admiralty should not be conclusive regarding it. As far as numbers are, concerned, there are more sailing vessels than steamers in the mercantile marine, and as long as we have any number of sailing ships carrying the commerce of this country to foreign ports it would be a scandal and a shame that our naval officers should not be able to handle them on the high seas. These distinguished men who are now in favour of abolishing the Training Squadron would never be what they are were it not for the instruction they received in sailing ships, and it is illogical and inconsistent that they should now try to abolish the system by which they themselves climbed to eminence. That policy ought not to find a place within the four walls of the Admiralty. It is a national question, and hon. Members—oven non-service Members—have a right to express an opinion upon it. I defy the Admiralty to part company with the Training Squadron. The Admiralty have not 1156 heard the last word upon it. Naval opinion is very much exercised and divided on the subject. I, for one, am in favour of maintaining the Training Squadron, and the arguments of the naval advisers in favour of abolishing the Squadron are not worth powder and shot. At any rate, these naval advisers will not have their way without a good struggle in this House and out of it. I support all the First Lord has said in regard to telegraph and repairing ships. We have two such ships at present, the "Vulcan" and the "Hecla." I am glad to hear he proposes to buy another. In regard to the colliers, I cordially support the First Lord in his objection to building a special class of ships for the coal supply of the fleet. I never shared the views of Lord Charles Berosford on this point, and I agree that with our splendid mercantile marine, on which we can rely to carry coal for the service of the fleet in any part of the world, it would be a waste of time and expense to lay down such a special class of ships. I disagree with my right hon. friend in putting aside the building of the third class cruisers which were voted last year, and which ought to have been built tins year, and substituting for them second class cruisers, which he thinks more suitable. What we want is scouts, which third class cruisers would lie; and at any rate, you can build third class cruisers quicker than second class cruisers. I am glad to see the proposed improvement in the engineers' rank and pay; but I hope the First Lord will not yield to the demand which, I understand, has been made that the engineers should have the power of punishing their own men. I trust the First Lord will offer his most strenuous opposition to any change of the administration of discipline in the Navy. I am sorry to see the necessity for the removal of the boys' training ship "Ganges" from Falmouth to Harwich. Why not have an additional training ship at Harwich, and keep the "Ganges" where she is? for it is most important to have an adequate number of ships for training boys. I am delighted to see the increase of 300 in the Royal Marines, and that the barrack accommodation at Walmer is to be increased. I observe that there has been a wastage of 2,000 men in the Marine corps, and that it will take some time to raise that corps to its full strength. The First Lord said two years ago he 1157 would look into the question of wastage, and now we are put off with the statement that the matter is under consideration. The men ought to be secured by the expenditure of a small sum of money. The same remark applies to the wastage in able seamen. I come now to an old grievance of mine—the negotiations for procuring a rifle range at Plymouth. I have pestered the First Lord on this subject for years, and yet we are "no forrarder." I understand you have compulsory powers of purchase. Why not exercise them? It is monstrous that an expense of,£2,000 a year should be incurred in carrying the Marines down to Brown down to carry out their rifle practice. I see that the Army ranges at Tregantle are now available, but why were they not made available before. I think it is most unsatisfactory that we should not have a rifle range at Plymouth. I know there is an opinion abroad that the Royal Marines and the Engineers should be represented on the Board of Admiralty. I am utterly opposed to any such pernicious proposal, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will stamp it under foot. We arc not going to allow any desperadoes in this House to alter the Queen's Navy, and we will continue to govern it without Royal Marines and Royal Engineers. The next question which the First Lord touched upon was the Naval Reserves. Now, here I am entirely at issue with the right hon. Gentleman, who seemed to think he had made out a good case when he said that the Naval Reserve amounted to 27,000, or including the Coast Guard, to 40,000. But I consider that that is an altogether inadequate Reserve for a great sea power like England. I must say. with great respect to the First Lord, that this question has not been faced by the Admiralty with all the seriousness it deserves. I am certain that the Reserve is not adequate, and that there is not a naval officer who would consider it adequate to moot the wastage of a great war. Let the Admiralty take a lesson from the sister Service. Whoever anticipated that 200,000 troops would be required to carry on a war against two small Republics? If a great naval war were to come upon us, it would be short, sharp and quick, and I maintain that our Reserves are not adequate to meet any great emergency. Many more men should without delay be enrolled in the Reserves. 1158 For years past the diminution of British seamen in the mercantile marines has been complained of. We all know and admit it, but no one has attempted to find a remedy. There was a Manning Committee at the Board of Trade, which urged upon the Government that some coercive measures should be passed to prevent the mercantile marine passing entirely into the hands of foreign seamen. The conduct of Ministers on this subject has been most unsatisfactory. Over forty per cent. of the sailors in the mercantile marines are foreigners, and yet you plume yourselves that if necessity arose you could call out your Naval Reserves. It is absolute nonsense to say that we could fall back on the mercantile marine to supply war wastage after depleting the mercantile marine of 25,000 Reservists. It would be to deplete British ships entirely of British seamen, and instead of their being partially manned by foreigners, the British ships would be altogether manned by foreigners. What has become of the initiative of Ministers? They are paid to initiate. I pass by the building programme, but there is one important matter to which I wish to draw attention. It is stated in the papers to-day that the men employed upon the magnificent cruiser "Kent" had been taken off and put to make the repairs and alterations on the Royal yacht. That is a transfer which I utterly condemn. This mighty cruiser is pressed for, and the Royal yacht might wait for a more convenient season. Her Majesty's yacht, the "Victoria and Albert," is already efficient, and she will last for some time longer, at any rate until the "Kent" is built. As to armaments, I rejoice to see that intermediate guns are being manufactured. We are thankful for small mercies, and hope and believe that as a similar gun has answered in the Japanese Navy the Admiralty will be perfectly safe in introducing the 7. 5 gun. I should like to have some more information with respect to the supplies of cordite. An explosion of cordite occurred on the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet, and I want to know whether the Admiralty has had any report as to whether the cordite was stable or in some way defective. The Government knows my opinion as to magazines for the storage of explosives, so that it is useless to labour that to-night. Cordite is safer than powder if you know 1159 your material. We believe it is quite as safe and quite as stable; but French chemists, who are just as clever as the English, advised the French Government the smokeless power was perfectly stable, and there was the explosion at Toulon. Cordite is stable, and we have the explosion on board the flagship. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give some reassuring information on that point. With regard to the magazines, they simply say the work is progressing satisfactorily. No doubt it is from their point of view, but not from mine When I am dead and gone an explosion will not matter to me, but the Government of that day may then recollect my humble efforts and the protests I made against such a piece of gross folly on the part of the Government as this.
§ MR. KEARLEY () Devonport
Two points have been made in the course of this debate. One, the failure of the contractors to deliver to contract time, the other the failure of the Naval Reserve to retain its numbers. The default of the contractors not only effects the contract work itself but very materially affects the progress of the work in the dockyards. The rapidity of construction in the dockyards is beyond question, but, so long as the dockyards depend on outside contractors for armour and other materials, so long will their efforts be of no value. It is only a few years ago that the Devonport Dockyard was entrusted with the building of engines for large ships, and as soon as the opportunity was offered it was found that Government hands could build engines as reliable as those turned out from the shops of the great contractors: therefore, this class of work should not always be put out to contractors. If there is a surplus, then let the contractors have it, but the Government employees ought surely to have an opportunity of doing this high-class work. With regard to armour, that is a more debateable point, but I fail to sec why we should not commence the manufacture of armour in our own yards, and I hope we shall hear of something being done by the Government in that respect. I am convinced that these delays on the part of contractors will continue, and in years to come they will find it impossible to keep up to contract dates, despite; the fact that the right hon. Gentleman says the output of armour has increased 50 per 1160 cent. Not only will our Naval programme of construction be delayed, but before the ships can be commenced the Government will have to wait for the convenience and goodwill of the contractors for various parts. It is essential, therefore, to increase the output by commencing manufacture in the Government yards. This year that to a certain extent has been done. Until this year there was only one slip available on which you could lay down a battleship; if that yard were developed you could build three battleships simultaneously. You are now going to enlarge that slip, but there are two sheds at Mutton Cove which, if developed, would enable you to build two battleships there. The right hon. Gentleman took exception to the idea of increasing the output of armour by manufacturing it in our own yards because he thought it would necessitate the withdrawal of a large number of men from the private yards. I think nothing of that; we have increased the staffs of our yards from 22,000 to 32,000 since 1892, with the great advantage that in our yards we are never likely to be subject to those labour difficulties which crop up in naval yards. With regard to the Naval Reserve, it is obvious that the sanguine expectations of last year have not been realised. The Admiralty has not yet succeeded in hitting upon a plan which will attract a sufficient number of men to enable it to build up the Naval Reserve it requires. In the last ten years the personnel of the Navy has increased by 50,000 men. In the same period the Royal Naval Reserve has only increased by 8.000 men. I believe the personnel of the Navy will increase to 150,000 men, and that the disproportion between it and the Reserve will be much more marked, and the Admiralty will be confronted with the great difficulty that it is impossible, on a peace footing, to keep the strength of the 'personnel of the Navy up to war requirements. The next difficulty will be that these men, even now, cannot be sent to sea a sufficient time to give them a good training. So it is necessary to build up this Reserve if the Admiralty wishes it to be a trained, organised, and reliable Reserve. It must be done now; it cannot be postponed. I will assume for the moment that the present Reserve is about 29,000. Naval authorities hold that its strength should be much greater, 1161 and Lord Charles Beresford hold that it ought to be 75,000. I am confident that if a system of short service was introduced into the Navy the long service would suffer, because you could not work a short service against a long one. If you really intend to build up the Royal Naval Reserve you will have to make it moderately worth the while of the mercantile marine to take apprentices. The attempt to got the colonies to assist us to build up the Royal Naval Reserve may so far be regarded as a failure.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Some of the colonies are very anxious to join us, and we shall be glad of all the Naval Reserve men the colonics may give us, but it is not a source that we calculate upon, nor an easy source to secure.
It will be a good thing if we accept the offers of the colonies, and I hope that the Reserve will go on increasing.
§ COMMANDER YOUNG () Berkshire, Wokingham
congratulated the First Lord of the Admiralty on the statement he had made, and trusted it would dispel many illusions which had been ventilated in the press. He also congratulated the right hon. Gentleman and his Department on the marvellous manner in which the transport of troops to South Africa had been conducted. Knowing the responsibility which must attach to the right hon. Gentleman it anything happened to the Navy, he thought the House should leave the matter entirely to him. He expressed great satisfaction that something had been done for the engineering branch of the service, than which no part of the service would have to show more courage in time of war. He hoped that promotion up to the rank of lieutenant would soon be open to warrant officers, because these men were largely responsible for the discipline on board ship, and their duties were very important. With regard to the naval training squadron, he owned that masts, yards, and sails were very beneficial, but when he saw that only a few youngsters were able to go through the training squadron, and those only for six months at a time, he came to the conclusion that the training squadron should be done away with, and that the men should be kept at their exercise in the gymnasium or around the guns.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE () Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean
The hon. and gallant Member who has just addressed the House thinks we ought, considering the enormous responsibility which would fall on the First Lord if anything went wrong m the event of war to leave him to deal with his programme. We have lately seen how difficult it is to bring home responsibility in a land war, and I believe the First Lord himself would prefer to feel that his hands were strengthened by this House. He has from time to time stated, having regard to the way things are criticised publicly, that he desired to be fully criticised by this House. The whole House has accepted that view. As one of those who have the highest standard with regard to the efficiency and relative strength of the Navy, I also desire to avoid sensation and panic. I can the more easily do so on this occasion because I do not believe that any of the risks apprehended from the present war by many organs of the press, and by persons who write letters to the press, in fact exist. Why is there no reason for panic, engaged as we are in a war which taxes the military resources of the country? Simply because of the strength the Fleet has attained relatively to the Meets of foreign Powers. That is our insurance, which has been successful. Surely the recollection of that fact, which is admitted by all, ought to lead us to be very clear in our minds that we are not failing to do now things the omission of which may jeopardise our relatively similar position in the future. I have gradually become more of a supporter of the naval administration of the First Lord, and of the naval position taken up as a whole by the Government. If there is, as I believe, not the slightest risk of any intervention by anybody in the present war, or in connection with the terms of peace, it is entirely on account of the strength of our Fleet, and not on account of any of those large proposals for sedentary defence of which we hoar. It is not expenditure upon time-expired men being formed into regiments for home service that is our guarantee against intervention; it is the possession of our Fleet, and that alone—or, more accurately, the idea entertained of our Fleet by foreign Powers. If there were at any time to be a German emperor who desired to destroy in a 1163 successful naval war our possession of colonies and our commerce, it would be his opinion of our Fleet that would cause us to have peace, and prevent him from attempting to carry out any such project. I know there are many of my friends opposed in an indiscriminate way to all military and naval expenditure. Perhaps they do not give enough time to the matter, and therefore they condemn military and naval expenditure root and branch. I always say to them. "If you want to try to reduce expenditure as a whole try and pick out what is vital to the country and set that aside: then concentrate your efforts for reduction on what is the least important." The strongest friends of peace in this country are not those who are most strongly opposed to all naval and military expenditure. The opponents of all war expenditure frequently quote the strongest friend of peace, the author of the Hague Conference, M. de Bloch. He has very recently written on the British Fleet, and what does this rigid apostle of peace say? He says that for England there is an interest of the first order in remaining mistress of the sea everywhere; she should subordinate everything else for the sake of her Fleet. If there were special risk of a naval war at the present time—which I think there is not I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that shipbuilding would not meet it. That is obvious. To use his own words, it is clear that at a critical time like the present we ought in that case to provide for the immediate future, and repairs are more imperative than shipbuilding. Sir, the menace to this country which the House has to consider when it comes into Committee of Supply on the Naval Estimates, is a more distant menace. We cannot afford to have regard only to the risks and circumstances of the present year: we must look further ahead, and consider the position we ought to keep up. From that point of view, I doubt whether the programme laid before us tonight is a sufficient programme. The First Lord of the. Admiralty and the right hon. Gentleman who followed him from the front Opposition bench were inclined to speak of paper programmes, and to contrast performance with promise as regards those programmes. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke second in this debate confined his examination of these programmes in detail to French pro- 1164 grammes. The French programme is not the one, I think, which we ought to have most in view on the present occasion. The German and Russian programmes ought still more to be kept in mind, because they are more likely to be adhered to than the French. Can anyone doubt that who watches what they are doing? I think it is wise and statesmanlike to treat the German and Russian programmes now before us as likely to be adhered to in their main lines. The standard which has been set up to-night in the figures of the First Lord is the standard of equality to two other Powers—France and Russia. France and Russia are cither never likely to attack us at all, or they are likely to attack us in company; and although no one would pretend that our Fleet, on paper, is equal to the fleets of Germany, France, and Russia at the present moment, still no one who knows the facts can doubt, looking at the difficulty of allied operations at sea. and the extraordinary disparity in the classes of their ships, hut that the British Fleet is one which would cause any three Powers to pause before they attacked it. The danger to this country from a Franco-Russian alliance without the interposition in the war of any other Power is one of the most unlikely of possible events. What is a possible event would be a great coalition of the Powers stretching along the north coasts of Europe from Gibraltar to Behrens Sea; but that is a coalition which would bring to our side the naval power of Japan as a set-off. This two Powers standard which has in recent years given us the security of being in sufficiently near proximity to equality with three Powers is, to my mind, to some extent jeopardised by the programme now placed before us. In itself it does not jeopardise the position, but if the argument it contains prevails, it seems to me it is likely to jeopardise it in the future.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
The argument, to put it plainly, is that we are checked this year in our programme, not by the enormous character of our expenditure, but by the fact that we have reached the limit of the manufacturing power of this country. That is a libel on British trade, and it is not in any essential point 1165 of view true. I am not accusing the First Lord of the Admiralty of using a disingenuous argument, but when examined by those who are not persuaded by it, it seems to break down in the point of actual and literal truth. I undertake to say that not only can we manufacture for ourselves, but that there are means by which the difficulty can be met. If the Admiralty will guarantee the continuity of orders in regard to armour, they will he able to get that armour; but they cannot expect contractors to engage a great number of men, and invest in an expensive plant and machinery, if they are to be perpetually faced by the risk that the orders may any day suddenly stop. The Admiralty must guarantee its orders from year to year. If that is done, we can manufacture on any scale we, please: and neither the difficulty about propelling machinery nor the difficulty about armour, which has been placed before us as a reason for pausing in our programme, is worthy of examination. From the point of view of the future, it seems to me the programme is weak. All the time we are told that propelling machinery and armour cannot be produced, and that we must draw in our horns because of that difficulty, the very same firms who are contracting with us are executing enormous works of the same description for foreign Powers. I believe the Government have the alternative of either giving to firms like Armstrongs, the Thames Iron Works, and the Sheffield armour firms guarantees of orders year after year, or of having some mixed system by which they will be partly partners in them for State concerns—or else by the State manufacturing themselves, they can overcome the difficulty. I am certain it is unworthy of the Government (and untrue when examined) to give as a reason for drawing in our horns as to our shipbuilding programme that we have reached the limit of the manufacturing power of the country. The First Lord of the Admiralty also disappointed me on several matters of detail. The one point on which I think he showed that outside criticism had thoroughly livened the Admiralty was with regard to what may I be called the auxiliary services of the Fleet. There it was evident great progress had been made since last year. He did not name distilling ships. I gather from his nods that the matter has not escaped attention. In the same way, what he said with 1166 regard to colliers showed great care and thought on the subject. If there is one matter more than another which the recent land war has brought into prominence, it is the question of guns. We had a. little Army debate in which, through an interruption, the First Lord of the Admiralty took part, when some doubt was thrown on the question of the supply. To listen to the words of the First Lord to-day, anyone who had not read the Estimates would suppose that there was to be a large increase of guns this year, whereas there is less money taken for guns this year than was taken last year. We are told that the needs of the Fleet, as regards the larger guns, have been supplied, and that we are keeping pace with the new ships, that the guns for the new ships are ordered and will be supplied in time. But what about the reserve of guns? The life of these guns is very short. Few, except practical gunners and those who have studied the subject, know how short the life of these guns is. There is a constant pressure, which this war will enormously increase, for gun practice under service conditions at moving targets and so forth, where a full charge is absolutely necessary. The more you practise, the shorter the lives of these guns will be. I doubt very much whether even now the reserve of naval guns is sufficient, considering the shortness of their lives and the necessity for a large amount of practice with them. The complaint of the Admiralty as to the non-supply of armour is no new thing; but for the first time this year the non-supply has been treated as past praying for. A much reduced sum is being asked for, not because the Department do not want as much armour as last year, but because the supply cannot be obtained. Either the Admiralty ought to make the supply of armour certain by arrangements with firms such as I have mentioned, or the Government must begin the supply of armour themselves. My hon. friend the Member for Devonport spoke of the power of the dockyards to construct ships. There has been some increase, but that power is governed this year by the question of propelling machinery. With regard to the number of men in the Reserve, the First Lord has committed himself to a statement which went further than statements he has made on previous occasions. He said that it would be possible to send every ship to sea with 1167 only a moderate call on the Reserves. I confess that astonishes me, but only a very highly skilled technical man can question it. But he admitted in reply to a direct question by the hon. Member for Devonport that he is not satisfied, and cannot be satisfied, with the number in the Reserves; and of course he admits that his now Reserve scheme has temporarily failed—has not produced those great results which were hoped from it last year. Suggestions have been made with regard to the Colonies. The First Lord in previous debates anticipated the difficulties with regard to wages in Australia, and with regard to Canada there arc difficulties with which the Admiralty is familiar. But the First Lord did not mention the case of Newfoundland, where the wages are very low and where there is an enormous fishing population which would be available under a scheme similar to our own.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
I am very glad to hear that, because I am certain; there is an enormous Reserve proportionately to the population to be obtained in Newfoundland. I was amazed to hear the right hon. Gentleman speak of strategy in connection with the Intelligence Department. Of course strategy lies at the base of all the proposals which are made, or ought to be made, in this House, for expenditure upon our Fleet. But strategy for future British wars must be the business of the First Sea Lord, not of the Intelligence Department. I conclude, as I began, by reminding the House that our one defence which can avail us at the present time is the opinion which I believe is justly entertained of the power of the British Fleet. In the absence of a Prime Minister who takes a keen interest in this subject we can hardly hope that both the land and the sea defences of the Empire should be controlled by a single mind. The First Lord of the Admiralty controls his share of it—the question of sea defence; he has made the best fight he can in the Cabinet against those who would spend unduly upon the land or fixed defences here at home. It is for him to make that fight, and I believe he makes a good one. We shall be only strengthening his hands—not weakening them—in any criticism against his plans for insufficiency. As to the argument he 1168 has been compelled to use to justify that insufficiency, namely, that we are unable to produce beyond the present figures, I confess I think that this House has reason for believing it to be an argument unworthy of this country.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It is only by the courtesy of the House that I can reply to the speeches which have been made, but I think there are many Members who would wish that I should offer a few observations at this point. There are two principal points which have been raised—one connected with the Reserves, and the other connected with the supply of armour and the general producing powers of this country; but before I turn to them I will deal with the side issue raised by the right hon. Baronet in reference to the Intelligence Department. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is the First Sea Lord who is responsible now, as he has always been responsible before, for naval strategy in all parts of the Empire. But in order to assist him in that work it is very important to have able officers who are thoroughly conversant with the whole of the foreign strategy and with the position of every ship, and who can work up for him various details. The First Sea Lord is taken up to an extraordinary extent with Admiralty business: there is no harder-worked man in the Empire, and it is most important, therefore, that there should be men of first-class capacity under him to assist him by drawing up details, while he superintends the principles of the strategy and the defensive operations of this country. As to the Reserves, I think that hon. Members have made too much of the slight falling-off this year in the Naval Reserve after the change which was made last year. The House should remember that when the change was first introduced men in the second-class Reserve, who had been through their term of five years, could elect to go for their six months sea training at once. The consequence, as would be perfectly natural, was that a large number of the men embarked at once in the first year of the now scheme, and I do not look at the present falling-off as any proof that the scheme has failed. Those who were in favour of the scheme are by no means discouraged, and for this reason, amongst others—that the effect on the men who have embarked 1169 has been extremely good. Some hon. Members said that the Reserve men, the fishermen or sailors, would easily pick up what they had to learn on a man-of-war. But the duties are much more complicated than that idea indicates. The handling of the guns and countless duties cannot properly be learnt except on board ship. The modern sailor is a scientific product; he has duties to perform on board which tax his energy and his training, and for my part I should dispense with the greatest reluctance with this primary condition of efficiency—the six months training at sea. It may be that other arrangements will have to be made, but the system ought at least to have as long a trial as possible for its success. I have been pressed as to the number of the Reserves, and I have been pressed to say whether I consider the present Reserve adequate. I have remarked on previous occasions that it is considered that the larger the number of men on the active list, the larger the number of the Reserves ought to be. That is the theory, but it may be argued with possibly more force on the other side that the more men you have on the active list the less you have got to look to the Reserve. [An HON. MEMEER: It depends on the number of ships.] Yes, but we have increased the men so rapidly that we consider the Reserve need not be increased in the same proportion. The right hon. Gentleman commented on the statement I made that we could send all ships to sea that were effective with a comparatively moderate demand on the Reserves. I have always maintained that the demand would be moderate, hut it is more moderate now, and at this moment the statement is more true, because we have never been cheeked in the number of men we have tried to enrol, but we have been checked by the number of ships which had to be prepared. Our ships have been thrown back, as many hon. Members know, but we have not been thrown back in the men. Consequently, we have a larger number of men now to man the ships which could possibly go to sea than we had in former times.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, we have 28,700 Reserves, instead of 29,000; we have 1170 been thrown back a thousand, but I think it will be some time before we shall require the whole of the 28,000 or 29,000 that we have got.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB () Great Yarmouth
If the number of men is in excess of the number required on ships, then I suppose the excess of seamen will be quartered on shore.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I do not know whether my hon. and gallant friend means the number of seamen on the active list or on the Reserve. We have not got men over on the active list: we require all the men on the active list and a moderate proportion of the Naval Reserve in time of war. The remainder would remain as a Reserve. Hon. Members say we ought to have a very much larger Reserve. I should like a larger Reserve, but I would call attention to this point. It is said that wastage in time of war of the men would be very great, and that it is for that purpose that we ought to have a larger Reserve, and that is the ordinary view, lint it is highly possible that the wastage of ships in these days will be faster and greater than the wastage in former times. That is a matter well to be considered in this connection. A ship in these modern days, with the machinery and engines of every kind involved, may easily be put out of action without the crew suffering severely at all. It is not as in the old days, when a large number of men were killed, and practically the ship could easily be repaired. In these days ships may be put out of action while the crews may be comparatively intact, and the crews could then be transferred to other ships which had been in reserve. I put that before the House in order to show that it does not follow at all, because there would be wastage of men, that we should need to employ a very large number of Reserves. We should require them, if at all, rather for auxiliary ships, and for the defence of harbours and many other services. Therefore, I do not think there ought to be the alarm with reference to the number of Reserves that appears to exist in some hon. Members' minds. The second point I wish to allude to is that you compare the active service list of 115,000 with a Reserve of 29.000, but you must not put 1171 the 29,000 against the 115,000, because the 115,000 comprises a vast number of services for which there is no Reserve, and which are not taken into account in this matter. Of this number of Reserves that we have got there are 25,000 who are seamen, and you must put those 25,000 seamen as a proportion against the number of seamen proper out of the 115,000. For instance, I know that in the 115,000 there are categories for which no reserve is required, and it is not necessary to have the same reserve of stokers, because it is perfectly clear that a large number of stokers would immediately be available. Thus, this nucleus of 25,003 men on the Reserve is a much larger nucleus than will appear if you consider the numerical figures only. I have stated to the House very frankly that we desire to establish two new services, a Marine Reserve and a Reserve of seamen who have passed their twelve years. Those will be excellent Reserves. Do not let us look too much to numbers, let us look to their quality, and if we are able to get a considerable number of men from these two sources it will certainly be an extremely valuable addition to the Naval Reserve. I confess that, while I should like to have more, and will make efforts to get more, I do not think we stand as regards the Reserves in such an unsatisfactory position as Ave are described as being in. I did not plume myself upon the number of our men. As soon as a Minister makes a statement to correct misrepresentations, as soon as he makes certain statements of fact, he is said to plume himself upon those facts. I simply stated to the House the facts affecting our Naval Reserves. With regard to withdrawing men from the mercantile marine, we are less and less relying upon the mercantile marine for our Reserves. We are drawing thorn now almost exclusively from the fishermen class, who are put through a training of six months—the fisherman class, if they are properly trained, being more available than the mercantile seamen, who are scattered all over the globe, and who would not be upon the spot when their services were wanted. We think that the mercantile marine will continue to be able to assist us in our mercantile cruisers, and be able to carry on the trade of the country during war, as also to help us in all those subsidiary operations which we have dis- 1172 cussed this evening, and which are so necessary to the successful conduct of war. Having said this much I will drop the question of the Reserves, but I hope I may try to clear up some other misunderstandings. The hon. Member for Gateshead made a humorous but violent onslaught upon our water-tube boilers, and referred co some trials which have taken place in regard to the "Hyacinth" and the "Minerva." Those trials are not yet concluded, but some very interesting results have been obtained. [An HON. MEMBER: Will the new vessels be built with water-tube boilers?] I have said that these trials are not yet concluded, but I must not give the hon. Member any impression that the new ships will not be fitted with water-tube boilers. With regard to the hon. Member for Gateshead, I can only say that those boilers are being put into every ship that is being built by France. Germany, Russia, and America, and if we have a "paper fleet" because of our water-tube boilers, then those Powers are in the same position, because all have water-tube boilers. The water-tube boiler has been adopted by all the great maritime nations, and I do not think we ought to go back upon it. There are certain difficulties, not with the boilers, but with the machinery, which have still to be overcome—leaky joints in consequence of the very high steam pressure—but these difficulties, I am sure, will not ultimately be beyond the power of our great shipbuilders. The adoption of water-tube boilers is looked upon as a final act by all the great Powers, but, of course, it is within our competence to review the whole question and to take different action from other nations if it were proved to be necessary. The next point of great importance which has been brought forward by hon. Members touches a double ground. The first ground is the action on the Continent as regards the programmes of laying down ships, and the other is our programmes as limited by our production of armour. The light hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of the French policy, and suggested that practically the French were abandoning the construction of battleships. It is true that the French Naval Commission reported against battleships, and M. Lockroy wrote against them, but the Council of Admirals have fought a stubborn battle against the young school upon the subject, and I 1173 believe the battleship party will win. The matter is not yet decided; the battle is not yet over; but, so far as we can read the issue, notwithstanding the frontal attack of M. Lockroy, I think the battleship party will win. The programme of [France for the next eight years is to lay down in the course of those years six battleships and five armoured cruisers. We propose to lay down six armoured cruisers and two battleships this first year. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these programmes are not at all "paper" programmes. France, because she has changed her programme so often, has now adopted the system of the Naval Defence Act. and wishes to interpose legislative prohibition against any further change in the programme which she may lay down now. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that probably Germany and Russia will stand by the programmes they have made. Russia is carrying out the ukase of the Emperor with a 90 million rouble programme, and we have taken that into account in every step which we have taken. We have faced the programmes of other countries, and we consider—though we have been limited, as I admit, in our arrangements by what we consider to be the reasonable output of the country—that our proposals are adequate, looking to our cheaper and swifter construction, and looking at the action of all the Powers. But I admit that the entry of every new energetic Power into this naval competition, as regards the increase of construction, must increase the strain upon this country, and must make us look very carefully to the standard of construction which we may from time to time consider necessary. With reference to the output of armour, it has been urged upon us to-night in several quarters, in the strongest manner, that we should arrange an armour manufactory of our own. This would be quite a new departure, and it would be some considerable time before the first output of armour took place. Notwithstanding the views which may be entertained by hon. Members as to the increase of Government establishments, it is a very serious thing to undertake a new industry by Government departments. In the present enthusiasm of the moment we are trusted, and we would be trusted, by right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen in many parts of the House; but if we established 1174 a great armour manufactory we should increase—
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
If the right hon. Gentleman refers to me, what I said was that you must either guarantee orders or, if necessary, go as it were into partnership with the firms, or else manufacture yourselves.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It would be a very great undertaking to go further in our dockyards than we have done already. The hon. Member for Devonport suggested that much larger work might be done. In the aggregation of Government workmen in that place, and in Portsmouth and in Chatham, it would be extremely difficult to go on ad infinitum. There is almost congestion, even now. We have gone on from 22,000 to 32,000, and the hon. Gentleman argued from that that we might go on still further. Is it not possible that the very increase of Government establishments has decreased the number of workmen who are available in private yards for the construction of our ships? I come now to the important suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean that we should give to the great constructing firms orders for ships for some time to come. Let me assure the House, with regard to armour, that armour manufacturers have received every encouragement from the Government to increase their plant, that they have been supplied with ample orders, and, as they have a monopoly of the manufacture, these firms are, as a matter of fact, increasing their plant. I do not think it is sufficiently borne in mind by those who criticise the producing powers of this country that we have an enormous number of ships building at the present moment. What country could have, as we have, under construction fourteen battleships, fourteen armoured cruisers, and a number of other ships into the bargain? France has nothing like such an amount of shipbuilding on hand, nor has Germany; and it is to the credit of our shipbuilding firms that we are able to place such large orders in their hands. No doubt the circumstances of the moment have thrown back the producing powers of our great shipbuilding firms. We have not yet got over the lamentable 1175 results of the labour difficulties two or three years ago. These threw hack not only the engineers, but every trade that supplies the engineers. The subordinate trades that manufacture articles for the engineers were all behind hand. A certain number of orders had been placed, and they could not be executed because the work was in arrear. The contractors and the sub-contractors also were, therefore, in arrear, and they have had stiff work to pull up. But it must not be supposed that, because we have not been able to spend the amount of money we were entitled to spend, the contractors will not be able to complete their orders within the time of their contracts. What has happened is that they have not been able to work up to the estimates those who advise us considered they would have been able to earn. But they have not been behindhand in their deliveries, and that is the chief thing. Believe me, you cannot meet a difficulty of this kind by the exaction of penalties. Whether we have or have not been remiss in this respect is a matter upon which Gentlemen opposite challenge us, but if the money spent is behind our expectations it has not arisen because we have not enforced the penalties. The general enforcement of penalties on firms who have not been able to secure the more rapid execution of their orders would have this result: considering the limited number of men who do this work, contractors would in future ask for longer time and for higher prices, lest they should be exposed to these penalties again. Now, with regard to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean that we should give the firms orders in advance for a certain number of ships, I think that is a proposal that we should be only driven to in the very last resource. The control of the finances and the very selection of the firms would be a matter of extreme difficulty. We should have to decide whether to go and make arrangements with firms on the Thames or in Newcastle and leave out the Clyde and the great firms there. I do not see how the matter can possibly be arranged, for we cannot demand that no foreign ships should be built in this country. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that enormous orders for the building of ships of war were carried out in this country for foreign nations. Japan is 1176 the only country for which such orders are being executed, if we except small experimental ships here and there. It has often been contended that it was an advantage to this country to have warships for other Powers built here, for if there was an outbreak of war, such vessels would probably be at the disposal of the Government, thus increasing our resources to a considerable extent. I do not think it is fair to cast a slur on that particular industry of this country, because that industry has borne, and is bearing, a tremendous burden, looking to the orders we have already placed. I should abuse the privilege which the House has allowed me if I were to continue my observations on other minor points which I shall be able to deal with on a future occasion. I was, however, anxious to put these two matters straight—to explain our views as regards the Reserve, and as regards these short earnings, looking at the matter in connection with the action of foreign Power's. I was going to ask my hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn, if he had not left the House, not to expect me to go into that long list of treaty obligations which he has sprung upon us this evening. I must confess that, when he asked me whether we had realised all the commitments of the last few years, I had certainly forgotten some of them. Nor would I, on this occasion, go into the remarks which he made with reference to the degree in which he thinks we have weakened our naval power by the arrangements we have made as regards the right of search for contraband of war-. I should like to make one remark which his speech suggested, and that is this—that no fault is to be found with the gallant naval officers who have been conducting this most unpleasant, this most ungrateful and difficult right of search. They have done their duty with great assiduity, continually disappointed, always watchful, always endeavouring to carry out the instructions which were given to them. I wish it to be understood that the great difficulty of the case lies in the fact that they have not got to deal with a hostile port to which goods are being carried. Every operation is complicated by the fact of Lorenzo Marques being a neutral port; and, being a neutral port, and the enemy having no ports at all, it has immensely added to the difficulty of our naval officers. I trust that no blame will 1177 attach to them if on certain occasions ships have been released because there was 'no proof that they carried contraband of war, though our officers, from the information they received, felt entitled to make these investigations. I beg to thank the House for the manner in which on the whole they have received these Estimates. I think they have considered that they are moderate, and I hope they have also considered them adequate. I am glad to find that the House endorses the attitude of the Government with reference to their desire to avoid sensational measures or anything that may look like panic in any quarter of our Empire.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR () Forfarshire
In considering the statement put before us by the right hon. Gentleman to-night, it must, of course, be borne in mind that a good deal of the general situation has been created by the war in South Africa, and I am sure the Hot use generally will acknowledge the very gallant part the Navy has played in the war. On both sides of the House there seems a determination to maintain the efficiency of the Navy. But, although the country undoubtedly has confidence in our Navy administration, I think that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean appeared to go a little too far, for he practically absolved the House from criticising the Naval Estimates. I cannot help thinking that the Naval Estimates in the past show that we have been a little lax in maintaining the efficiency of our Navy. In my opinion the Navy and the Admiralty administration in the past would have been better if there had been a little more free and open discussion. The general increase in the Navy during the last twenty or twenty-five years has been enormous. The First Lord of the Admiralty has reminded us how the number of men in the Navy had practically doubled, and I can find no grounds for believing that any such increase has been carried out by any foreign Power. While we have undertaken this enormous increase, France has only increased her strength by about 20 per cent. Of course we are obliged to take a great deal of the information given by the Admiralty on trust, for only one country—and that is France 1178 —publishes in any detail what she is doing. Russia and Germany are more or less dumb in this respect, and, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean quotes Germany and Russia as factors which must be taken into consideration in a greater degree than in the past, we must consider what he says. If you take the last sixteen years programme of Franco I do not think that you will get an average of anything like the sum named by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I do not think that the programmes of German) and Russia this year should affect our estimate as to what our duty is. I cannot help feeling that it is a disadvantage that we cannot have more information as to what is alleged in justification of this enormous expenditure on new construction. There has been probably too much reluctance in the past to criticise the Admiralty proposals. In regard to new construction we have got this fact to consider, that for the last three years the Admiralty has failed to carry out its programme. One year after another the estimated programme has not been carried out. The First Lord of the Admiralty has suggested as a reason for that the fact that the limit of our output has been reached in this country. This seems extraordinary, and almost incredible, considering' all the private yards in this country where money might be expended. Surely it is hardly a fair statement of the case to say that we cannot get more work done in private yards, and that we have reached the limit of output of all our manufacturing firms in this respect. I cannot help feeling that there are other explanations. The First Lord has said that his estimates are not sensational. I think a further inference is justifiable, and it is that the Naval advisers are perfectly satisfied with the conditions of the Navy. There may be endless details and endless ways in which further expenditure may be justifiably incurred to perfect our ships, and the House has given the Government no reason to think that there will be any reluctance in voting them money, for they have had more than enough money. For three years now the Government have asked for large sums of money which they have not been able to spend, and which has been taken from the pockets of the taxpayer. I believe this country is profoundly peaceful in its intentions, 1179 and I hope it may long continue to be so. I do not think we can complain of the expense when we consider how far reaching the power and influence of out Fleet is, but I venture to interpose these remarks because of the torrent of suggestions which seem to have all gone in one direction, and that is in the direction of greater expense. I do not believe myself that our difficulties in regard to defence can be entirely supplied by having a powerful Fleet and a powerful Army, for in the end we must depend upon the brain and muscle of our own country. There is a great deal to be done in the country in this respect for which money is wanted, and which is not available to be devoted to improving the condition of our people, and cultivating our own physical resources. I do not want in any way to lower the standard of the efficiency of our Navy, or the power and position of the country in regard to naval defence, but I believe that a more vigorous criticism is perfectly justifiable upon naval matters without incurring any reproach in this respect. I hope our efforts will be directed to facilitating that end, and that we may be led to urge and lay emphasis upon a wise and conciliatory diplomacy and attitude towards other countries.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow.