§ 1. £4,812,700, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Matériel.
§ *(2.40.) SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
On a former occasion in the course of the present session, when we discussed the programme of the present year for shipbuilding, I ventured to state 917 that that programme was extraordinarily below the average of recent years, and was, in fact, far too low. The programme, as those members of the Committee who watch these questions know, and as some members of the Committee may have forgotten, has no bearing on the expenditure of the present financial year. In order to illustrate that, I may point to the fact that the ships provided for in the programme of last year have not been begun. One, a large battleship, was laid down only last Saturday, but as to the cruisers they are—if we are to accept recently published statements—in doubt as to the thickness of the armour to be used. At any rate the money taken for new ships under the programme of last year has not been expended. Now, the extraordinary smallness of the new programme of this year does not affect the expenditure of this year, which is virtually the same as last year, both on the whole and as regards new construction. "New construction" does not mean the "new programme," and it is "new programme" that I want to discuss on the present occasion. It is not the case that a great diminution in new programme has been brought about by a recent alliance with a maritime Power. In February last the Government informed us that they had not taken into consideration, in connection with their new programme, the alliance with Japan, and there is a reason which makes it pretty certain that that is so, for while we have made a new alliance with a maritime Power, we have lost virtually an alliance with another maritime Power. Some years ago Mr. Goschen told us that if we had to fight in the Mediterranean we should not fight alone. That was, no doubt, an allusion to our engagements with Italy, and the speeches of Commodore Hewett, as well as the Notes exchanged in 1888, were indicative that we had entered into an alliance for maritime purposes in the Mediterranean. But we cannot, on this Vote, discuss the circumstances under which that alliance has disappeared. We shall, no doubt, be able to raise the question on the Foreign Office Vote.
As I have said, we were told that the alliance with Japan had not 918 been taken into consideration by the Government as affecting their new programme for the year. The new programme for the present year is the smallest we have ever had, and by far the smallest of all recent years. When on a previous occasion I made that statement, the Secretary to the Admiralty gave a reply which. I think, will not stand the test of exam nation. He said that the programme was, after all, not much smaller than that of recent years, and he added there was a large secondary programme—a large fresh programme of destroyers and smaller ships. But that can hardly be said to be the case. The average construction of destroyers for some years past has been larger than is provided for in the present programme, It is true there are some destroyers in the programme of this year, but the expenditure is very small compared with the expenditure on battleships and first-class cruisers. Let me compare the programme of the present year with the Goschen programmes. The figures are as follows: 1896—five battleships and four first-class cruisers; 1897—four battleships, followed in July by a programme for cruisers; 1898—three battleships and four first-class cruisers, followed in July by a programme for more cruisers; 1899—two battleships and four first-class cruisers; 1900—two battleships and six; first-class cruisers; 1901—three battleships and six first-class cruisers. In 1901 the programme was greatly delayed. Indeed, all these Goschen programmes, which Mr. Goschen at the time represented as the minimum consistent with the safety of the country, have fallen behind As regards the last of these programmes (that for 1901) there has been delay in the giving out of the orders. Mr. Goschen maintained that these programmes were the least the safety of the country would allow him to present, and many Members will remember that he used that expression year after year, and that he said in each February if he found the programme were not sufficient he would present a further one in July—and he did that in two or three years. He gave certain reasons why it had been impossible to present a larger programme. First there was the engineering lock-out, which, no doubt, affected the shipbuilding power of the country to a considerable degree 919 Then there was the difficulty of obtaining machinery, which arose, in part but not entirely, from the lock-out, and there was the question of the power of the country to produce armour-plates. But since then these difficulties have been overcome. More firms are making armour-plates, and there is not that pressure which existed at the time when Japanese warships were being built in this country. At one time it was almost impossible to find a vacant slip on which large battleships could be laid, but that difficulty does not now exist. We have one additional large slip at Devon-port, and probably vacant slips will be found in our dockyards as well as in private yards. It is quite clear that these minimum programmes, which were put forward by Mr. Goschen as being the smallest which the safety of the country justified, were based on material considerations which no longer affect the problem, and there is therefore good reason for critically examining the new programme of the present year, and seeing whether it is in fact sufficient for the needs of the country. The Secretary for the Admiralty on the last occasion said that, taking battleships and first-class armoured cruisers together, the present year only shows a difference of two as compared with the last few years. The difference is much greater than that. It is nearly as two to one. Then the hon. Gentleman said we have to set against that a much larger number of destroyers. That again I deny. He spoke of a considerable addition of submarine boats and of the new class of scouts. But in the present state of knowledge, submarine boats cannot be reckoned as a sure addition to our offensive power. Battleships and first-class cruisers are the only ships which can by any conceivable possibility take their place in line of battle. In 1899 there were six, in 1900 eight, in 1901 nine, in the present year four. Instead of being only two short, we only reach half the standard of the last three years. It is the smallest programme since 1891. The smallest Spencer programme was in 1894, but that was followed by an enormous programme in 1895, when we had seven battleships provided for. The programme of the Government is the smallest since the Vote of Censure moved by the Conservative Party on Mr. Gladstone's Government for the smallness of their programme, which was the same as that of this year. The Secretary to the 920 Admiralty in explaining away the penury of his programme takes into account the smaller ships, but if that is done my case is strengthened. In 1894 we had seven battleships and six second-class cruisers, and in 1895 four first-class cruisers and four second. There are no second-class cruisers this year.
Let us consider the position into which this very small programme will land us in the long run. It is of course possible that the rate of progress will be equalised by a heavy programme next year, but what the House desires is steady progress. The great jumps from small to large programmes have always been obnoxious to the House, and they are specially inconvenient to contractors who supply machinery and armour-plate, and who have to look a long way ahead. It might affect their power to take contracts I for the new Japanese ships. Compare our position with that of foreign Powers. Last year Germany launched five first-class battleships, and France has in two years laid down eleven battleships or first-class armoured cruisers. Our present new programme is smaller than that therefore of two foreign Powers, at least. My allegation is that the Government are giving a false impression. They have very much delayed the programme of last year, and I should like to press for information as to how far there has been change at the last moment with regard to that programme. The armed cruisers have been greatly retarded; the money taken has not been spent, and the orders have been delayed. There are, no doubt, several causes for this; one of them being a doubt as to the character of the boilers to be put in the ships. However, it is clear that there has been a delay which affected the programme of last year with regard to battleships and cruisers. This is a subject on which I feel most strongly. There has also been a great deal of doubt thrown on the character of the material of our new ships, according to the discussions which have taken place abroad. I am quite willing to admit that the French Admiralty are even more Conservative than our own. They, however, have a magnificent fleet of the highest fighting capacity, supplied with the finest weapons science has produced. The discussions which occur in the French Chambers, where there are a large number of ex-Ministers of Marine and a considerable number of distinguished men of science 921 and admirals, are always extremely instructive; indeed they are some of the best debates on naval questions that take place in the whole world. Year after year they carefully hammer out these questions, and I think Members of this House have a good deal to learn from the debates in the French Chambers. The present French Minister of Marine, a distinguished man of science who watches scientific questions with great care, said last year what has been stated previously in France with regard to the speed of our ships, that we exaggerate it, and that our speed trials are not satisfactory. Whereas formerly the French experts dropped off one knot from the speed of British ships, they now take off two knots. Where we claim eighteen or seventeen and a half knots, the foreign experts say this ought to be compared with French ships of sixteen knots. Again, as to protection, it has been stated in the Senate and the Chamber that British ships are inferior, and they claim that the armour of a large number of our first-class ships is liable to be pierced by the French secondary armament. A very useful Report has been recently made by a Committee on the question of the delay in completing new ships. There are an immense number of ships brought round to Portsmouth and Devonport to be pulled about, and there they remain for an indefinite period; even those very ships which the contractors deliver to time, and some before their time, remain in those two harbours. What is the remedy? We should adopt the principle applied by Russia and Japan, namely, that a ship shall be finished where she is built, and under the supervision of the officer who is to hoist his pennant on her. I think that is a reasonable suggestion, and I should be glad to hear the opinion of experts on that point. We used to be told that it took two years to complete a ship, but now it takes four years clear. The "Vengeance" is a case in point. She was begun in 1898, and she is only nearing completion now. Other ships are far from being ready for commission, as we knew with regard to the programme of 1897. Just let us consider what that means and the number of great ironworks, great engineering enterprizes, including the ironwork done 922 in connection with the Paris Exhibition and the Eiffel Tower, which have been carried out in four years. I desire to initiate a discussion upon what appear to me to be essential and material points in our naval policy. I will not move the Amendment of which I have given notice, lest it should limit unduly the scope of the debate.
§ (3.6) MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said his right hon. friend had renewed the protest he made earlier in the session against what he called the penury of our new programme, but seeing that the total Estimate amounts to £32,000,000, he thought that a great many things would have to be considered before they could encourage the expenditure of more than the Admiralty, with a full sense of its responsibility, considered to be necessary for the naval defence of the Empire.
He wished, for one moment, to advert to the remarkable conditions under which this Vote is being taken. This was the first week after Whitsuntide, when usually the bulk of the legislative programme of the Government was before the House, but instead of adhering to the arrangement by which one day a week was to be given to Supply, they were giving the whole week to it. He thought it was most inconvenient, and it could not be said to be a matter of necessity, because the Admiralty had obtained Supply to the extent of £15,000,000. He was, however, ready to admit that the circumstances of the time are exceptional in I many respects. He was anxious that opportunities of further discussion on the Navy Estimates should not be taken away, because there were many questions of great importance which could not be conclusively determined in this debate. There were great questions connected with Vote 12, and also with the present Vote, which could not possibly be discussed at the present moment. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman, that, in the sense of the conditional promise he had given the other day, these indeterminable questions should be submitted to the House at some more convenient time. It was not right that this should be the last opportunity of discussing these indeterminable questions.
One of these concerned the Merchant Cruiser system, in connection with the new shipping combination which had 923 attracted so much attention in the House and country. He was not going to deal in any way with the principle of the Merchant Cruiser system. His hon. and gallant friend the Member for Great Yarmouth had an Amendment down on the Paper, which would raise the whole of that question. Nor did he want to press the Government for any declaration about the view they took of the effect of the new shipping combination upon that system. That was a separate and special question, and the Government had told the House that the matter was engaging their attention. But there was one portion of the subject to which he wished to advert. As he understood the position, it was that the White Star Line's contract was about to expire; that a new contract had been made for a new period of three years, and that one of the conditions of that new contract was that during these three years the subsidised and pre-emptible ships of that line should remain British ships. Now, it had been asserted over and over again by persons chiefly responsible, and some of whom might be present in the House of Commons, that the Oceanic Steamship Company, which meant the White Star Line, had not parted with one of their ships; that the Oceanic Steamship Company was not in the Combine at all. What had taken place was that the contract, if it became effective, would turn out all the existing shareholders of the Oceanic Company, who were British subjects, and put in their places shareholders who were foreign subjects.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER, Belfast, W)
said he did not think this subject could be discussed under this Vote—which was Part II. It came specially under Part III. of the Vote.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he was proceeding on the assumption, which was pretty well expressed at an earlier period of the session, that although divided into sections, both parts were to be taken as one Vote. Discussion was otherwise impossible, because the same subject-matter ran through all the sections. The separate sections were not separate Votes, but only sections of the same Vote. However, he would not press the Secretary to the Admiralty on that 924 point. What he wanted to be sure of was, whether the Oceanic Steamship Company would remain a British corporation, and all its ships would be under the British flag even if every share were to pass from British ownership into foreign ownership. He doubted altogether the policy of giving subventions to ships which, although technically British ships, had ceased substantially to be British ships. If the name of "British ship" had any national character at all, it ought not to be applied to ships which, although owned by corporations technically British, were practically owned by persons foreigners to this country. He wanted to be sure of his ground, and to utter, as far as he was concerned, a caveat against renewing a subvention to the White Star Line. The hon. Gentleman would admit that that was an important point which could not be determined now, and that this Vote ought to be left open to the House for more effective discussing hereafter.
Another point was distinctly relevant to every one of the sections of this Vote. In the First Lord's Statement there was an important announcement with reference to the Australian Squadron. The First Lord said—The question of the future composition of the Australian Squadron will be discussed with delegates from the Australian Commonwealth and New Zealand during the course of the year.That, he took it, meant only the arrangement which had subsisted between the Admiralty on the one hand and the Australasian Colonies on the other, as to the contributions from each to the cost of the local squadron in Australian waters. But beyond that statement of the First Lord, they had had this session a far more important statement bearing on the same subject, made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer renewed the pledge which he had given five years ago, that the contribution of the colonies to the Imperial Navy could not remain in its present condition, and that the existing system was not a permanent one. Now, that was a question which ought to be fully and fairly considered by the House this session, and it would have been most convenient to have kept back this Vote until after the Coronation and until the Conference with the 925 Colonial delegates had taken place.
There was another point of great importance which should he of interest to the hon. Member for Gateshead, but which, it appeared to him, could not be in any sense conclusively discussed now. He referred to the greater boiler question, about which those who were interested in it would find a most able and lucid statement in this day's issue of the Pall Mull Gazette. They were told: in the beginning of the session by the First Lord of the Admiralty that the interim Report of the Boiler Committee had been laid before Parliament, with the Report of the trials of the "Minerva," but that the final Report of the Committee had not been presented, because they had not brought their experiments to a conclusion. Now, the gravest issues—he spoke as one who was partly re sponsible for the introduction of these water-tube boilers—were raised in connection with this important Report; and he confessed he was of opinion that it would be most convenient to have had this Vote postponed to the usual later period of the session, when the Committee would have before them not merely the interim Report of the Committee—which, he might say, was not satisfactory—but the final one. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would tell the Committee what were the prospects of the production of that concluding Report, and whether an opportunity would be afforded of discussing the whole question when it had become actual. As a matter of fact it was not now actual, because of a certain announcement which had appeared in today's newspapers. The Admiralty, the previous night, had issued a statement, which he had not seen in official form, but which he might presume to be correct, showing that the six new County cruisers, as they were called, about to be built were going to be constructed under an entirely new system of boilering. There was going to be a combination of one-fifth cylindrical boilers and four-fifths water-tube boilers; and the water-tube boilers were in each of the six cases to be of a special type.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he thought six. But, at all events, there was a very remarkable variation. In the first place, there was a combination of boilers, 926 which, he thought, was new in the Admiralty system, although it had been tried elsewhere; and then there was a wonderful variety in the elements of the combination. His observation was that this variation pointed clearly to the fact that it was a great experiment. It was almost impossible to conceive that, after all that had been said in favour of unity of type of boilers, the Admiralty should have adopted deliberately a variation of this remarkable kind. If it were merely an experiment he would leave it to experts to say what they thought of it from that point of view; but, whether experimental or not he should like to ask whether that remarkable development had been adopted as the result of the recommendation of the Boiler Committee. He pressed this question, because he saw it stated in one of the professional newspapers that that was not so, and that the Admiralty had already given the go-bye to this Committee.
He had made three points which were all relevant to the Vote; all questions of public importance and he thought that if the Vote was really to be passed now, some opportunity ought to be reserved for the consideration of these questions, and he suggested that the Vote should not be passed today but should be reserved to a later period of the session, when they might hope that all those points would be in such a position as would enable the House to say what it thought of them. There were, however, some minor matters on which information was desirable. What was the nature of the change which the Admiralty had decided, it was said, to make in regard to the armouring of the new County cruisers? As he understood, it was proposed to add two inches to the thickness of the armour, it having been discovered that what was called capped shot was capable of penetrating the armour now used. The next point to which he desired to draw attention was that in the First Lord's statement it was announced that a new class of destroyer—the scout—was to be created, and that the shipbuilders were to be asked to submit designs. What had been the result of that experiment? With regard to the rather frequent accidents to destroyers, was the Admiralty satisfied with the navigating training possessed by the officers in command of vessels of this type? Lastly, it would be very desirable 927 if the deliberate opinion of the Admiralty on the value of the submarines could now be communicated.
(3.34.) MR. ARNOLD-FORSTEK
The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean has referred again to the insufficiency, as he considers it, of the programme of the number of ships to be constructed. I do not think the Admiralty have any desire to censure so laudable a spirit as that which urges additions to the Fleet; but in this case I think I can show that there is not the great urgency in this matter which the right hon. Gentleman has represented, and that there is not that failure on the part of the Admiralty which the right hon. Gentleman suggests. The light hon. Gentleman has eliminated from the consideration of this question the question of cost and of what is actually being done. I do not think that is quite fair. If the right hon. Gentleman desired to prove his case, he would have to show, as he cannot show, that the Admiralty are not aware of the necessities of coming years and are not providing for the service of those years. The Committee, perhaps, do not realize the magnitude of the work which is now being done by the Board of Admiralty which is charged by the right hon. Gentleman with this inability to appreciate the necessities of the future. Since I addressed the Committee in April last year, no less than thirty-five ships have been completed and passed into the Navy, and during the present year there are no less than seventy-five ships actually under construction. That number includes fourteen battleships and twenty-four armoured crusiers. This is a colossal addition to the resources of the Navy; and when it is added that there are in immediate contemplation twenty-seven other ships, the Committee will realize that the hands of the Admiralty are pretty full. We are told that in comparison with the programmes of other nations we are not doing enough, and it is impossible to deny that there is a point of view from which that proposition may be sustained. If it is to be assumed that we are to provide a naval force equal to combating on equal terms all the navies of the world combined, then no expenditure would realise that hope. But I do want the Committee to understand how we are situated in regard to one or two of the most powerful navies of the world 928 The Vote for new construction alone in the current year is over £9,000,000. That is within £1,000,000 of the entire naval estimates of such great Powers as Germany or Russia, and when the auxiliary services under Vote 8 and the Vote for gunnery are added, the figures are still more startling. While the total German naval Estimates are £10,000,000 and those of France are £12,000,000, our Votes 8 and 9 have reached the enormous total of over £18,000,000. This expenditure is lamentable, but I should be the last person to deny that it is absolutely necessary. Surely it would be a strong thing to say that the Government which sanctions, and the country which sustains, such a burden are neglecting their duties in the matter of shipbuilding. The Admiralty are doing all that is possible to complete and render effective at sea the enormous number of ships on their hands. They have not neglected, and do not intend to neglect, the work of coming years. I can assure the Committee that the Admiralty have placed before themselves the standard which has over and over again been presented to the House and assented to by the House, and they have based the whole of their calculations for new construction on a procedure calculated to maintain that standard in years to come as it has been maintained in the past. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was very unwise to have a great excess in one year not maintained in the next. If the Admiralty were to take the right hon. Gentleman's advice and in this particular year to begin laying down a large number of additional ships, such a burden would be imposed two years hence that the exact evil which the right hon. Gentleman desires to avoid would be produced. We have taken great pains to ascertain that under the system which we have adopted we shall be able, by an expenditure not less, but I hope not substantially more, than that to be sanctioned in the present year, to lay down and complete the battleships and cruisers necessary to maintain the standard of comparative strength which the House has hitherto approved. I should be the last person to say that the developments of shipbuilding in other countries may 929 not necessitate in the next few years some abnormal increase of the rate of building. But that necessity has not yet arisen. When it does arise I am sure the Government will be ready to ask the House, whatever the cost may be, to provide for that extra expenditure. We are not going to allow the rate of shipbuilding to decline. We are not going to fall behind in that respect. We know what we are doing, and that we are doing an enormous amount of work. It must not be supposed that there is any foundation for the suggestion that the Admiralty are allowing the yards to rest in idleness. It is impossible to work at the construction of seventy ships and not to give an enormous amount of employment to the dockyards and private yards.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that he only contended that Portsmouth was becoming a repairing yard rather than a yard for new construction.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
It is quite true that in the past there have been special causes which interfered with the rate of shipbuilding, but these have been removed. I believe that at the present moment the Admiralty are taking full advantage of the accelerated conditions governing the production of work which now exist. The right hon. Gentleman truly said that there have been delays in the completion of ships, but I believe that substantially those arrears which have been the continuing cause of interference with the production of ships have come to an end. It is true that the ships which were affected by those arrears are still behind. But we have, during the last few months, shortened up the delay which appeared to be inevitable a short time ago, and to that extent we have retrieved the misfortune caused by the delays in the past. The case of the "Vengeance" has been mentioned by the right hon. Baronet. The "Vengeance" is one of a class of six ships, and it is true that though now in commission, she was delayed considerably more than her sister ships, but what was the reason for the delay with regard to the "Vengeance?" The delay in the case of the "Vengeance" was not produced by any of the ordinary causes which delayed other ships. She was built at Barrow, and was delayed by the breaking down of the sill of the Ramsden dock.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
Is it not a fact that the Return shows that there was a delay in many other matters connected with the "Vengeance"?
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
It was this accident which prevented the ship from being transferred to the other parts of the yard and from being completed. The case of the "Vengeance" was, therefore, altogether an abnormal case, but I do not deny that there have been those unfortunate delays, and that there are still delays which nobody regrets more than I do. There has been a delay in the commencement of the new armoured cruisers of last year's programme. These ships should have been laid down at the close of March last. They are now being laid down, but there has been a delay of a month in beginning with them. This delay is not without a reason. In the first place, a vast amount of special designing was required for these ships and the battleships of the same programme, and at the time a transfer was being made between the last Director of Naval Construction and the new. There was some loss of time on that account; and another cause of delay has been the question of boilers. We have been held back by the delay arising out of the postponement of a decision with regard to the boilers to be put into these ships; and those two considerations have resulted in the delays to the ships. But I believe that, owing to the accelerating conditions I in the building yards, the completion of I these ships will not be extended beyond the anticipated dates of delivery. With regard to the future, over which the Board of Admiralty has some control, I think that the outlook is a good deal more cheerful.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Report of the Committee, over which I myself presided. With regard to the recommendations of the Committee, it has been suggested that the remarks of the hon. Member for Maidstone and Sir Thomas Sutherland were dissentient reports from the main body of the Report. That is not so, except where it is expressly so stated. To a large extent the other members of the Committee agreed with these additional recommendations. But it was clear that the House, having appointed these 931 two independent gentlemen as members of the Committee, would desire to have their opinion on the matter referred to them; and I asked these gentlemen to append their remarks as independent members on these points. I am most anxious that it should not be supposed that the remarks by my hon. friend and Sir Thomas Sutherland indicated dissent from the main propositions advanced by the Committee as a whole: they should rather be regarded as expansions of the main Report. The Report itself has a great bearing on the matters raised by the right hon. Baronet, and I should like to point out that effect has already, to a large extent, been given to its recommendations. It recommended that the Controller's Department should be strengthened, in order to accelerate the work of construction. The Department has been and is being materially strengthened. It expressed the hope that armour production might be more rapid. The armour casemates for the conversion of ships of the Royal Sovereign class has been obtained in six weeks from the date of the Order. The dockyards seconded the efforts of the armour manufacturers, and the other day I saw one of the ships which had had her easements put on and had gone out to her gun trials within two months. The Committee recommended similarity, as far as possible, in gun-mountings and the designs of ships. Recently an agreement was made with the gun-making firms of Elswick and Vickers, which, I believe, will be most fruitful in the future. These two important firms agreed to make absolutely uniform the whole of their heavy gun - mountings, so that those produced by one firm will be interchangeable with another. Again, the Report recommended that the Admiralty should adopt the system of contracts without tender. That recommendation has been followed, and the Admiralty have recently sent, under the system known as a "Schedule of Prices" two ships for repairs, one to a Scottish yard, and one to an Irish yard: and they are waiting with the greatest possible interest the result of this experiment. We have been told by great contractors that the Admiralty did not trust them enough or give them enough liberty, and that if the Department would only fall into 932 their methods of construction, the work would be done well, and the Admiralty would get the whole benefit of their great experience. I quite concur with that point of view. I think that they are right. We must depend much less on the minuteness of inspection or examination of accounts, and more on their good faith and their desire to maintain their reputation for the excellence of their work. In pursuance of the Committee's recommendation we have taken the step referred to with the greatest possible confidence in the great firms to whom the work has been entrusted, believing that they will justify all that: has been said on their behalf, and that the nation will effect economy in expenditure, with an improvement in the rate: of execution. There was also a recommendation that standardising should be carried out to a larger extent. We are doing everything that can be done, without interfering with the essential difference that must exist in naval work, in the direction of standardising the component parts of our work, and in obtaining similarity between large parts of the ships and the armament. It was further recommended that special precautions should be taken to guard against the consequences of financial failure in the case of any firm with which the Department had contracts. That recommendation was the result of evidence given that the Department had suffered very much in the past by the insolvency of two important firms to whom great contracts had been entrusted. In pursuance of this recommendation we have taken further and, as we believe, sufficient steps to guard ourselves in the future.
There is one matter of very great importance which was mentioned by the right hon. Baronet, and I hope the step the Department proposes to take will gratify him and others. We hope to allow ships to be completed in the contract yards in which they are laid down. It is true that that practice is carried out in other countries, and, there is certainly nothing in the constitution of our great contract yards, or in the qualifications of our great contractors which should incapacitate them from doing what is done by 933 builders in other countries. That is an experiment which has not heretofore been taken by the Admiralty, but it is one which they propose to take with the greatest possible confidence that they will be met more than half-way by the contractors whom they are making their partners in this matter. Another step is to be taken which is not specifically recommended in the Report, but which is cognate to the whole spirit of the Committee's recommendations. We are making arrangements by which we hope the repairs of destroyers can be effected with greater rapidity and certainty than has been the case up to the present time. I hope the Committee will understand that, as far as the Admiralty are concerned, when a Committee is appointed for a purpose of this kind, they feel it is due to them to give effect, as far as possible, to the recommendations of the Committee. I want to make it quite clear that this is not a case of two distinguished gentlemen having been asked to inform the public and the Committee, and then, after they have taken great trouble with the matter, of their views being entirely neglected. Happily their views are very largely in harmony with those of the Admiralty, and I believe we shall have some real improvement in the matter. As we shall have discussions on other matters, I need say no more on this point, except to ask the Committee to believe that on the all-important question of programme, the Admiralty is alive to the necessities of the case.
§ * MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said there was a good reason for the delay to which reference had been made. As a director of one of the large armament firms, he could say that large expenditure was at the time required on plant. Enormous sums of money have been spent in laying down new plant to meet the requirements of the Government, but, in consequence of the delay in last year's shipbuilding programme, that plant was lying idle, with the result that men had had to be dismissed from the yards, and great distress prevailed in the East End of Sheffield. Tenders had been issued for the armour of three battleships which ought to have been laid down last year, but no orders had been given out, and until those orders were 934 given out it was impossible to put the men on the work. He reminded the Secretary to the Admiralty that the late First Lord visited Sheffield some time back and pressed his firm to make necessary expenditure on plant. Sir William White did the same, and said they could depend on the Admiralty for orders. They had, therefore, some reason to complain that, having incurred the expenditure, the works were idle. He asked for some assurance that there should be continuous orders in future, instead of the present system under which there were orders one year and none the next. The people could then be kept at work, instead of being com polled to go into the workhouse as they were now doing.
§ *(4.7.) MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
expressed his pleasure at the statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty as to the progress of the work in hand, also as to his efforts to standardise details of machinery and other minutiæ in connection with ships and engines. These were steps in the right direction, and were on modern engineering lines. His statement as to the number of ships launched last year, and at present under construction, however, was nothing to go by. The question was not as to the number, but as to the quality of the ships. Dining the past few years millions of money had been voted for I vessels, and the Committee had been told they were to be the best in the world. The Admiralty were warned that the vessels were not as represented, and those warnings had been verified. Portsmouth dockyard had become a veritable repairing depot, and the same remark would soon be true with regard to Chatham, Devonport, and Sheerness. The vessels which had been so much vaunted were now being towed to various ports in the country to be practically renewed and renovated. No one could tell from the Estimates how much these repairs were costing. Here were vessels, built at a cost of nearly three-quarters of a million of money, and having done no practical work, lying helpless! The strength of the Navy lay not in the number, but in the quality of its ships. Nine years ago he warned the Liberal Administration, and then the succeeding Conservative Administration, against the use of Belleville boilers 935 The views he then expressed had been completely verified. Sixty or seventy first-class ships were fitted with boilers which a Committee had condemned. That was the true position of the Navy, and there was no getting away from it. To give one instance. One vessel, H.M.S. "Russell," was fitted up to distil 120 tons of water a day, but the leakage from her boilers alone ran up to 150 tons a day, and she could not keep her supply of water. That was a brand-new ship! It was simply terrible. Then there were vessels going on trial trips and being unable to accomplish them, the excuse given being hot bearings and so forth. But all these things were done under the supervision of the Admiralty inspectors. This question would have to be faced, because if the ships could not do the work for which they were required, day in, day out, at full speed or half speed, they were not warships at all, and they could not be relied upon for the defence of the country, and of the mercantile marine.
What had been the culminating point in connection with the man who had exploited John Bull so cleverly, of the foreign engineer, so called, who had plucked this country of thousands and thousands of pounds and given them—what? The Boiler Committee would tell them, their ships would tell them, how they had been exploited. And who stood against the adoption of these boilers? Not one. They were told that they were adopted on the advice of Admiralty experts. The Admiralty experts used to write papers about water-tube boilers, but he challenged any man to read a paper before the Institute of Naval Architects on the value of these boilers now. The Committee would be interested to know what had become of this gentleman. He had heard from a friend in Paris, and he wished the House to know that their so-called Admiralty experts acted upon a report made to them by a French engineer in the British navy, who got promotion for it, and whose report had been stultified in every respect. Who were those Admiralty experts, and where were they now? M. de Laumay Belleville had, at a general meeting of the shareholders of the Messageries Maritimes, been removed from the directorate of the company, with the 936 object of suppressing his boilers in their fleet; and, had that company not been heavily subsidised by the French Government, it would have been ruined long ago. He would not weary the: House by dwelling upon the Belleville boiler. They had now killed that boiler in the British Navy, and he hoped that it would never be resurrected. But what a lesson! He noticed that the Admiralty had now been advised to put in a combination of boilers consisting of one-fifth circular and four-fifths water-tube. But why have four-fifths water-tube boilers when they had been condemned by the Committee? [Cries of "No, No."]
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
They condemned the Belleville boilers, but they recommended water-tube boilers.
§ * MR. WILLIAM ALLAN
No, no. Stand up square; no quibbling. They recommended water-tube boilers "if a satisfactory type could be produced."
The hon. Member said the Committee condemned water-tube boilers, and that is an entire delusion.
§ * MR. WILLIAM ALLAN
asked where were they to-day? They were now going to put in a combination of one-fifth circular and four-fifths water-tube. They were putting the Durr boiler in some of the ships, but what experience had, they had of this boiler? What did they know about the quantity of coal it consumed, of its safety, and simplicity of working, qualities which were absolutely necessary in a good boiler? They had had no experience whatever. The Durr boiler was what they knew as a Field boiler. That was the thing—a continental toy, he would not call it a boiler—which the Admiralty were now putting into our valuable ships. This was what they were voting money for. The foremen and workmen at Jarrow told him that they never saw in ail their days such an absurdity to put in any ships where the lives of men were at stake. One of these boilers had been tried in the "Sea-gull," but where 937 were the data extending over long voyages showing indicated horse power, the consumption of fuel, and everything else which went to make up a true boiler? They had had no experience whatever of this boiler. There was not a single man at the Admiralty who had had any experience of this boiler except what they had got in the "Sea-gull." This boiler consumed twice as much coal, and that meant limiting the range of action in war time. But over and above this fault the "Seagull" smoked so much that she could be seen miles off, and when they saw her smoke on the horizon people actually thought that they were approaching land.
He could not understand why any body of men would undertake to spend the nation's money in this way without the slightest experience in regard to what they were doing. This was the Belleville boiler blunder over again. They were also putting in a number of Babcock and Wilcox boilers. It was true that some ships had been running at slow speed with those boilers, but what were the facts? What was the consumption of coal, and how many of them had given out? It had been reported by one of the Board of Trade engineers, who inquired into an accident caused by one of these boilers, that the failure of the tube referred to, after only four Jays working, discloses a very unsatisfactory and dangerous state of affairs. It was also further stated that this type of boiler became a great source of danger when unduly forced with high pressure, as appeared to have been the case in this instance and the rapid consumption of coal should be discontinued if boilers of this kind were to be worked in safety. The Admiralty were now adopting Babcock and Wilcox, Niclausse, and Durr boilers without one iota of practical experience. The Committee ought to pause before it sanctioned the putting in of such a combination of boilers in their ships. It was said sometimes that a water-tube boiler would get up steam more quickly than other types, but not a bit of it, for this contention had been disproved by the "Minerva" trials.
The reason for all this was that the Admiralty would not admit their mistake. They were now adopting a proportion of one-fifth of a boiler that could 938 be depended upon and four-fifths that could not be depended upon, and why? Where was the sense of running the risk of spoiling those first-class cruisers by putting water tube boilers in them of which they had had no experience? He called upon the Committee to make its voice heard against this extravagance which was uncalled for, unnecessary and a cruel waste. The circular boilers to be put in were 13-ft. by 9-ft. long. That was a bad-proportioned boiler, and he defied any engineer to contradict this assertion. This circular boiler was not of a modern type and ought not to be put in vessels which cost so much money, and where hundreds of lives were at stake. This combination of boilers was mechanically unsound, and was not based upon true engineering data, and the Admiralty advisers appeared to be going again full tilt to the ruin of our ships. He was glad to see the First Lord of the Treasury in his place listening to this debate with marked attention, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would have something to say about these boilers before they were put in the ships. He would strengthen his position in this matter by giving the Admiralty an account of some experience in connection with the use of combination boilers. The Italians had tried them and given them up. He wished to direct the attention of the House to a letter he had received from a friend in Holland, in regard to the trial of combination boilers in Dutchmen-of-war. He said—It is true that these boilers use more coal than was promised when the cruisers were built. The difference is even greater, for while it was said these ships would steam a distance of 8,000 knots, we had to be content with 4,800 knots. The expensive repairs which have had to be carried out must, to a great extent, be attributed to want of knowledge of the new arrangements.The consumption of coals is 66 per cent more than estimate upon Yarrow's premise.That was their combination! The expenses were very great, and Great Britain was building ships costing many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and then putting into them engineering appliances which were absolutely of no use. In the rough and tumble of war, and in the storms of the ocean, these ships would be put to the real test, and would come to grief. On the trial run from Gibraltar with the "Hyacinth" these boilers came to grief. They were absolutely wrong in principle, contrary to nature. Why should 939 Great, Britain—the home of engineering, the nursery of all the great engineers the world had known—be now experimenting? We could not afford to "experiment" with the nation's destiny. He could not believe that these experiments were according to the recommendations of the Committee, some of whose members took care not to adopt the system for their own ships. He could not believe that they would recommend one-fifth circular boilers, and four-fifths water-tube boilers. He strongly advised the Admiralty to go in for half and half, or, better still, all circular boilers, which would be economical and safe. What was not good for the Union, the Castle, and the Cunard liners was not good for a man-of-war. He hoped that the question, what should be done with the new cruisers, would be deeply pondered, else there need be no surprise to see them crippled in twelve months. The country had yet to see, perhaps in its hour of trial, whether it could depend on their Fleet or not.
§ *(4.35.) LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Woolwich)
said there were two questions of a rather different character before the Committee—one being the Report of the Committee as to the delay in shipbuilding and the strength of the shipbuilding programme, and the other the all-important question connected with boilers. Referring to the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, he said that the House never had a clearer exposition of naval policy as it should be than from that right hon. Gentleman, and they fully appreciated that in the Royal Navy. He had found fault with the delay in shipbuilding. It was certainly difficult to see why what had been done once could not be done again. The "Magnificent" and the "Majestic" had been turned out thoroughly equipped in a few days under two years. That was due to good organisation, and to looking ahead for all the requirements of the case. A battle-ship was made up of a large number of different requirements, made by different firms in various parts of the country. When a battleship was to be built, all those requirements should be thought out beforehand, and everything should be ready in time to enter the ship when the hull was ready to receive them. That point was brought out very well by the hon. 940 Member for the Ecclesall Division, who showed that owing to these matters not being thought out, it occasionally happened that armour-plate works got an enormous amount of work, while on other occasions they had to discharge men.
The right hon. Baronet also spoke about submarine boats. He was himself delighted that the Admiralty had tried the submarine boat. It was much wiser for this country, as everybody acknowledged, to make practical trial of every instrument of warfare than to decide that it was not good on theoretical grounds. The hon. Gentleman opposite first started the idea of trying the submarine boat. It would now be seen whether it was useful or not. His own idea was that it would be found more useful in defence than in attack, and as we must be the attacking Power and other countries the defending Powers in naval warfare, it would be more useful to them than to us. But they should never over-rate or under rate anything in naval warfare.
As to the comparative speed of fleets, this must be reckoned by the speed of the slowest ship. At the present moment the speed of one division of the French Fleet was better than that of one division of our Fleet. But, taking the Fleets as a whole, our speed was equal to the French, certainly not better.
With reference to projectiles, what the Admiralty went down to see at Barrow were experiments that had been carried out by other nations before, with the result that they had got the Johnson cap. He did not wish the House to run away with the idea that he agreed with all the argument on that subject in a aleding article in The Times. If he had made a speech half as strong in character about our guns, he would have been told that he had created a panic. We were simply adopting now with our projectiles the same plan that we had always adopted, the plan of waiting to see what other countries were going to do. If we found it good we said we would adopt it; if it was not good we said we would not adopt it. This was a very reasonable course, but we waited too long; and there was no doubt that, although at this moment we could fit the cap to our projectiles, there were four nations ahead of us with the cap. It was most effective 941 with a high explosive. We too often delayed experiments too long, then tried to make things right in a moment of panic, which was not a good time.
He suggested that by the postponement of Vote 12 till later in the session, there would be a more convenient occasion given for criticising administration. With regard to accidents to destroyers, no doubt there were a great number of them, but the House must not be hard on this question. Those destroyers were teaching the young men how to handle ships, and he assured the Committee that some of these young lieutenants who commanded them handled them in a way which won the most distinct admiration of their senior officers. Their methods of handling, their nerve, their way of appreciating the difference between speed and slow speed, were perfectly excellent. The Committee might depend upon it that if once they began to say to these young officers, "If you hurt your boat, you must be tried by court martial," they would kill all their dash and nerve. These young men did not fear consequences at present and he hoped they never would; it was the old men who knew too much. Give him the young men; these were the men who were to fight the country's actions; and he hoped the Admiralty would go on the principle they had indicated with regard to these accidents, and would not reprimand young officers who, having to risk something, occasionally made a mistake, but who were doing their best to learn.
He now came to the question of boilers, which was of the most vital importance to the country, because it was perfectly well known that the engineering department, the boilers and the engines, now put the executive officers on board ship into a position to fight our actions. They had taken the place of the old seamen of the masts and yards, and therefore they could not be too particular or careful before embarking on any new invention. He had always been a strong supporter of the water-tube boiler, because he thought it possessed advantages over the circular boiler. There were many disadvantages in the water-tube boilers, but these might be got over by having the officers and men especially trained for this work. It was difficult work, and different from that which appertained to the cylindrical boiler. It was no use having stokers who 942 did not know how to keep down smoke, because smoke would have a great deal to do with the winning of losing an action in the future. On one occasion lately, during manœuvres, one section of the Fleet was revealed to the enemy by the smoke from the boiler fires: but that was a point which could be got over by very careful training. These water-tube boilers, however, required an enormous number of hands from the deck to help the stoking, and that was a very weak point. If a ship was going into action the men could not be in two places at once; they must have the stokers at the fires and the gunners at the guns. On one occasion, during a trial of speed by the "Andromeda," 120 men were taken from deck to help in the engine room and stoke holes. It was his experience that water-tube boilers could get steam up quicker than cylindrical boilers, and could be worked at a greater pressure. In the Mediterranean it was found that ships fitted with water-tube boilers could always go without any breakdown as fast as ships fitted with circular boilers. [An HON. MEMBER: And go as far?] Yes, and go as far, and farther. Moreover, the ships with water-tube boilers had a much larger stowage of coal than those fitted with circular boilers. He confessed he had been a little shaken in his faith in the water-tube boilers by the interim Report of the Boiler Committee; but he must tell the House that the officers in many of the ships of the squadron in the Mediterranean were satisfied with them. Of course he was not an engineer, but the captain of a ship, or an Admiral of the Fleet, had to know everything connected with the ships. The engineer officers under his command had certainly told him that they were pleased with the water-tube boilers, although they had their defects. But these could be got over if they had a number of men sufficiently trained to work them properly. The executive officers on board ship liked the water-tube boilers because they could get up steam quickly. With regard to the experiments being made, he was entirely in accordance with the hon. Member for Gateshead that they were wrong. There should be nothing experimental in fighting ships. This experiment of combining circular and 943 water-tube boilers was, in his view, absolutely mechanically unsound. He wanted to ask this question of the Secretary to the Admiralty. If he had been a little shaken by the Report of the Boiler Committee, he was much more shaken by the idea of putting in the same ship different classes of boilers. He asked which boiler was the Admiralty afraid of? If they were afraid of the water-tube boiler, why put it in a ship, and so also with the circular boiler. There could be no good principle, on the face of it, in making such an experiment as putting two different classes of boilers in six of our newest and best ships. He thought the hon. member for Gateshead had gone a little off the track in speaking of the defects in the "Spartiate." The defects in that ship, as in the case of the "Powerful," were nearly all defects in machinery, defects in eccentrics, over heating of bearings, and so on, which had nothing to do with the boilers.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN
said he was sorry to interrupt the gallant Admiral, but if he would make inquiries from those who were working on board the "Spartiate," he would find that the tubes were leaking at the end.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN
said no; the gallant Admiral had been wrongly informed. The boiler tubes were leaking as well as the condenser tubes.
§ * LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said that if that were the case he must have been wrongly informed. Another grave point which the hon. Member had brought out about these boilers was their enormous consumption of coal, and that militated against their utility, because coal was the life of a ship. He knew that it was something enormous. He hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would tell the Committee clearly why this experiment was being made, and which boilers he was afraid of. In any case let him try two ships first and drive them across the Atlantic and back again. Then they would know where they were, and would not be 944 in a position which might be fraught with absolute danger. He wished to congratulate the Admiralty on the Report of the Committee with regard to standardising. It showed the advantage of putting business men to look into naval affairs. It was a most valuable report. Standardising fittings on board ship was admirable because it was economical. If, for instance, he had three ships in action and an accident occurred, if the specification for the machinery and fittings of these ships were made out so that they were standardised, he might be able to refit two of the ships and go back with them into action the next day with all parts repaired, leaving only one under repair. He only instanced that to show how useful standardising was in time of war. He was delighted to hear that the Admiralty proposed to finish with ships right off with the contractors. That would be fairer to the contractor and to the Fleet than the present system. They should say, "Build us such and such a ship on such and such a specification, and if the specifications of the completed ship are not what we laid down we shall not take her." In conclusion, he congratulated the Admiralty on having formed a Committee which had obtained the most valuable evidence, and on having acted upon the advice of that Committee.
§ MR. PENN (Lewisham)
desired to say one word with regard to the question of combination boilers. The noble Lord had mentioned an Italian vessel as having a combination boiler. The noble Lord no doubt intended to refer to the "Lecon," a vessel of 14,000 tons and 18,000 indicated horse power. She had a combination of boilers in the sense that she was fitted with eight ordinary boilers and sixteen locomotive boilers of a totally different type to the eight ordinary boilers. That vessel was tried, and put into commission immediately after, with the best results. He could see no practical difficulty in the combination of different boilers now suggested for these new ships. But it was important to know whether this combination was one that was recommended by the Boiler Committee. The power derived from round boilers was sufficient to drive a ship twelve knots an hour.
§ MR. PENN
thought the speed was rather greater than that. Anyway, he would rather see what was called the Scotch boiler, and the small tube boilers of the Yarrow and Thornycroft type, than the Belleville. He hoped the Admiralty would see their way either to making the Boilers Committee a Standing Committee or to appoint some body of an analogous kind to consult with the Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy on new designs and new building programmes. If such a Committee had been in existence in the past, a large amount of the trouble which had overtaken the Admiralty with regard to machinery in the Navy would have been avoided. He was also glad to see that ships were to be placed in the hands of the contractors for repairs.
§ *(5.9.) MR. JAMES HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)
pointed out that in former years complaints had been made of the slowness with which certain armour plate contractors had turned out their work, and pressure was put upon them to increase their power of production. Now, in Sheffield alone they could produce 24,000 tons a year in consequence of this increase, whereas the total orders given by the Admiralty amounted to 16,000 to 17,000 only, and these had been greatly delayed. He desired to emphasise what had been said by others in this debate that the uncertainty with regard to naval contracts had been very embarrassing to the private firms, and he trusted it would be avoided, as far as possible, in the future. But, if embarrassing for the employers, it was far worse for the workmen, to whom this employment meant everything. These men had a very high sense of the importance of the national work which they carried on, and they undertook that work in a patriotic and national spirit, and he thought it was hard on them that they should not have work and wages at a time when extra taxation had been imposed.
§ * MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Portsmouth)
thought that one remark let fall by the hon. Member for Dundee in the first part of the 946 debate would have a very demoralising effect on dockyard representatives. The hon. Gentleman had stated that in Vote 8 every question could be brought before the House. ut he was content to let the matter alone for the reason that early in the session they had received from the Admiralty a very patient and considerate hearing and he could not add anything now to what was said on that occasion as to the employment in the dockyard. He took this opportunity of thanking the Admiralty for the notice they had given that in future they were prepared to receive deputations of the men employed in the Government dockyards on the subject of grievances. The men themselves would be able to state their case more directly and pointedly than their representatives in Parliament. He asked for some assurances that the dockyards were being kept up to the highest state of productive efficiency. He thought there was some reason for doubt upon the subject. For instance, from a speech made by the First Lord of the Admiralty in July of last year the country was led to believe that nine new ships would be ready for service by January 1st of this year whereas he understood only three were ready. He was glad to hear that ships commenced in private yards were to be finished in those yards because as had been pointed out, Portsmouth had become a mere repairing yard.
§ (5.15.) SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY (Yorkshire, Shipley)
said that never since he had been in the House had a more general interest been shown in a naval debate than had been shown this afternoon. Hitherto the condition of the boilers had been regarded as a matter of detail, but, thanks to the action of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead and the noble Lord the Member for Woolwich, the matter of boilers had become recognised as an integral and vital part of naval preparations. The speech, in reply to one portion of the debate, which had been made by the Secretary to the Admiralty earlier in the evening must have struck the, Committee as being very complete and comprehensive. He sincerely hoped the hon. Gentleman would be as successful 947 in the explanations he would have to give on the question of boilers, and that his speech would be a justification for the course the Admiralty had taken. The system of combining in one steamer boilers of two different types was first tried by Germany, but although that system had had considerable success in German vessels, the circumstances under which the British Navy was dealing with the matter at the present time were entirely different. The history of this boiler question was that the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Goschen, came down to the House, and boasted that sixty-one vessels of the Fleet were to be filled with this new type of boiler. At the time that boast was uttered there had not been a single test as to the strength of those boilers. The noble Lord had just said something of his experience in the Mediterranean, but he had said nothing as to one fact to which the House would have listened with great attention and that was what was the longest time he had had any vessels fitted with Belleville boilers under full steam, and so proved the endurance of these boilers.
§ * LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said he could answer at once. He thought it was two and a half days. The boilers were never worked absolutely at full speed—that was to say, the ship would average 16.8, and her speed would probably be put down at seventeen and a half.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
said he hoped the gallant Admiral, when he next commanded a Fleet, would take the responsibility on himself of having a ship which was fitted with these boilers steaming for six or eight days at full speed, and then the country would have some test as to the durability of this type of boiler. The Boiler Committee was only appointed by the Admiralty I owing to the threat to divide the House upon this Vote, and that Committee had been at work for two years They had issued interim Reports, but had not yet issued their final and complete Report, yet in the absence of the final and complete Report of the Committee, the Admiralty made suggestions of this entirely novel character. The hon. Member complained of the time these Estimates were brought on for discussion. He (Sir F. FLANNERY) re-echoed the hope expressed by the hon. Gentleman that they would not be closed to the House 948 and country by the discussion this afternoon. He thanked the Admiralty for the statement that the combining of these boilers in the ships should be made the subject of a discussion. The general opinion of the Committee in these matters was that unless the hon. Gentleman could show that there was an absolute and entire justification for the experiment, no such experiment should be tried. He quite agreed that, in order to advance improvements, there must be experiments, but these should be upon a smaller scale and without the risks that were involved in the present case. Here were six cruisers of the largest size to be built. They had to wait two years till they were finished, and yet the Admiralty were putting this combination boiler into vessels which could not give them the knowledge they desired for two or two and a half years. The Admiralty had no justification for the course they were taking, and they appeared to be acting against the spirit of the interim Report of the Boiler Committee. If they desired to place this new type of boiler in large cruisers, he suggested the proportions of four-fifths of the new type as against one-fifth of the well-proven type of cylindrical boiler should be reversed; or, at any rate, that there should be half and half. The country would then feel a large measure of safety, and the weights necessarily involved by cylindrical as compared with water-tube boilers would not be so greatly changed as seriously to interfere with the intentions of the designer of the ships. He held that the alleged saving of weight by the water-tube boilers enabling a vessel to carry a larger amount of coal, heavier guns, and more ammunition, was altogether a delusion. The saving of weight in the boilers themselves might be undoubted, but of what value was it if a so much larger quantity of coal had to be carried for the purpose of giving the vessel the range of action desired? The water-tube boiler had to justify its existence, and prove as it had never yet done, that it should be fitted in the vessels of H.M. Fleet. He felt that tin's experiment was on too large a scale, and that it had been carried out under circumstances which might ultimately cripple and render useless these fine cruisers, for which so much credit had been taken in the programme of naval construction.
949 In conclusion, he desired to express his approval of the undertaking given by the Secretary to the Admiralty in reference to ships built by contract. No more foolish practice had existed than that of partly building a ship in a contractor's yard, and then taking her to one of the royal dockyards and beginning to pull her to pieces. Reference had been made to the "Vengeance." At the time that vessel was being built, one, very similar, was being built in the same yard for the Japanese Government. The Japanese vessel was completed—guns, armour, and everything—before she left the builder's yard, and was ready to go to Japan. It should be understood that vessels built by contract should in future be finished by the contractor. There were at least two contractors capable of supplying in their own yards, guns, armour, and everything required as part and parcel of the one contract. He hoped his hon. friend, who had shown so reforming a spirit, and had already effected so much at the Admiralty, would be able, by the strength and force he had obtained from the Report of the Committee, to bring about this reform.
§ *(5.37.) SIR EDWARD REED (Cardiff)
said the noble Lord the Member for Woolwich seemed to advocate the withdrawal of Admiralty inspection from ships being built by contract, and to have the idea that the specifications could be absolutely perfect, and the details left to the responsibility of the builders.
§ * LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
explained that he would not withdraw the Admiralty inspection altogether, but that he would have our ships built under contract, more on the lines of the Japanese ships. There was inspection there.
§ * SIR EDWARD REED
said that in private yards when war ships were being built for foreign Governments, the inspection was much more active than in the case of British ships. At the present moment he was engaged in building two important ships, and to engage in the inspection of those ships there arrived in this country a fortnight ago an admiral, seven post-captains, two engineers, and he did not know how many subordinate persons.
§ * SIR EDWARD REED
said he would be the last to support the manner in which Admiralty inspection was carried out; it was frequently most injurious to the contractors, tended greatly to delay, and was largely in excess of any reasonable requirements. If the speeches of hon. Members were intended to bring about the limiting of that inspection, or the direction of it in a more responsible manner, he would agree with them; but he could not for a moment lend himself to the idea that British ships should be built in contractor's yards without considerable Admiralty inspection. The idea of the hon. Member for the Shipley division was somewhat different—that the ships should not be finished off in the royal dockyards, but finally completed by the contractor. It was obvious that the Japanese or any distant Government had no alternative but to put itself in that position. In the case of the immense British Navy a consideration of great weight was that as far as possible the minor fittings of the ships should be interchangeable, and obviously it was far easier to attain that object by completing the minor fitting's in one of the royal dockyards than by expecting all the contracting firms to be able to meet Admiralty requirements in these minute particulars. It had been suggested that contract-built ships were pulled to pieces in His Majesty's dock-yards. If that were true it was a distinct waste of public money, and the persons responsible should be arraigned for such transactions. There was no doubt a tendency to bring about the undoing of work. He instanced a case of a ship building at Chatham Dockyard for the Admiralty. Instead of the usual arrangement of the cabins, the captain of the ship wanted something different. His proposal would have added to the efficiency of the ship, but interfered with the ordinary habits of the Navy and the requirements as to accommodation. He (the hon. Member) was seen by the Senior Sea Lord and asked what he would advise. He said it would make no difference to him, but that, whatever was settled upon, he hoped it would not afterwards be altered. A plan was fixed upon, the vessel finished, and the First Lord went down to see it. On his return he said he had sanctioned an alteration in the cabins, but, on being 951 told that they had been arranged as decided by the Senior Sea Lord, he said he ought to have been told that, and was going to telegraph for them to be left as they were. To that he (the hon. Member) said, "For heaven's sake don't do that!" "Why not?" asked the First Lord. "Because," replied the hon. Member, "you have been down and shown that neither the Chief Constructor, nor the Controller of the Navy, nor the Senior Sea Lord has any final voice in regard to the work, and if you telegraph it will show that neither has the First Lord of the Admiralty." He knew there was a great tendency to bring about the undoing of work, and cited cases where alterations in the arrangement of the cabins on board a ship had been asked for. The Secretary to the Admiralty ought to be able to assure the House that when ships came from the contractors' yards they were not pulled to pieces.
As to boilers, he confessed that he never heard a debate on the subject without feeling that it was a storm in a tea-cup. While they had some water-tube boilers that failed, they had a number that succeeded, and they must therefore look for the causes of failure to something else than the design. The cause was usually found to be bad workmanship. During the engineers' strike a great deal of bad work was put into the Belleville boilers, and much discredit fell upon them in consequence. His hon. friend the Member for Lewisham had made the remarkable proposal that they should create a permanent boiler Committee, with no responsibility whatever to the House or the country, and that the Admiralty was to pronounce itself and all the officers in its employ incapable of saying what boilers should go into a war-ship unless advised by a body of men, not one of whom he believed ever had experience in the boiler rooms of modern men-of-war. He had often acknowledged in this House that there was a great deal to be said against the wholesale adoption of the Belleville boiler at the time it was adopted. He was quite willing to acknowledge that he did not quite understand on what principle the Admiralty were proceeding in putting a number of cylindrical boilers into their ships while they were at the same time putting in four times as many water-tube boilers. They found that they could get 952 no advice from any responsible quarter at all to go back to cyclindrical boilers. He himself would object to cyclindrical boilers in the strongest manner. His hon. friend opposite had spoken about nothing being gained by water-tube boilers, but that was not in the nature of the case. The consumption of fuel had been exceptional and had resulted from exceptional causes, and he was surprised at his hon. friend advocating such a thing as obtaining a particular type of boiler, and resorting to that boiler which was known to be bad and slow in developing steam, and was altogether a disadvantageous boiler. He believed that the Belleville boiler could be much improved.
But it did not lie in the mouths of hon. Members of that House to reproach the Admiralty for what they were doing on this point. The Government naturally made a kind of compromise, by which they could find escape from the incessant and severe criticisms passed on them in the House. The Admiralty had been advised that certain boilers should now be selected for use. In the year 1902 it ought not to be necessary for the Admiralty to learn what a boiler was. The water-tube boiler was a well-known thing, and it would be perfectly idle to invite the Admiralty to go back to the cylindrical boiler. He understood that four different types of boilers had been recommended for use. Owing to the loud and incessant condemnation of all water-tube boilers the Admiralty had decided to satisfy that position by putting in a certain proportion of cylindrical boilers. His hon. friend the Member for Lewisham had spoken of the speed given by the cylindrical boiler. The Admiralty were doing what they had been urged to do—not to pin their faith to any particular type of water-tube boiler until they had had sufficient experience of them all, and until they had ascertained whether any preference could be given to any of them. What did it matter if they got the steam power whether the boiler was of one or of two types? The Admiralty put in a certain number of the old cylindrical boilers for certain purposes, and they used a larger proportion of water-tube boilers when special speeds were required. This might not be the wisest and best thing to do, but he very much doubted whether the member for Woolwich 953 would say that if he were the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty he would abolish the water-tube boiler from the Navy.
§ * SIR. EDWARD REED
said that upon this question the noble Lord's opinion and that of the Member for Gateshead were of no account, for it was a matter of commonsense. His objection to all these concessions to Parliament and Press criticisms was this. We ought to have an Admiralty which could conduct the naval service of the country without having to appeal to Committees and hon. Members and others in order to get advice and guidance. It was a scandalous thing that in this great maritime country the Admiralty, supported by the bountiful aid of Parliament, and backed up by an immense majority, should be proved incapable of putting boilers into His Majesty's ships. Whatever might happen in connection with these boilers the Admiralty would get no excuse by saying that some irresponsible Committee had advised them to do this, or that some Member of the House of Commons had suggested that. They had great powers and responsibilities, and let them exercise those powers to the satisfaction of the country, and if they failed to do that let them give up their office.
§ (5.57.) MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said there were one or two points to which he should like to refer before discussing the question of boilers. He assured the Committee that there was no foundation I for the alarm which the hon. Member for Portsmouth had expressed to the effect that that station would be transformed into a repairing yard. The fact was that there were two very large docks at Portsmouth capable of receiving large first-class cruisers, and it was necessary to bring round to Portsmouth a number of those vessels on which a large amount of work had been done. As soon, however, as room was found, a fresh battleship would be laid down. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield had blamed the Government 954 for not doing more to meet the views of the Sheffield armour makers. He admitted the services rendered by the increase of the Sheffield plant, but it was obvious that order must be subject to the necessities of the naval service, and it was impossible to give out general contracts of this class until the ships were designed. He was as anxious as the hon. Member to hasten the orders for armour. His hon. friend the Member for Dundee asked a question with reference to submarine boats, and he would endeavour to answer it. It was impossible at this moment to make any statement with regard to the general policy of the Admiralty on the subject of submarine vessels. The vessels which had been constructed had, however, been a pronounced success, performing all that could be expected from them in the way of evolution and manœuvring. His hon. friend had asked whether there had been an alteration in the armour of the County cruisers. An alteration had been made. It was proposed to substitute 6-in. armour for 4-in. armour. With respect to the recent experiments at Barrow which were supposed to have been made for the first time, as far as the Admiralty were concerned, in regard to capping shot, he wished to say that the matter was not a new one to them, and experiments with capped shot had been proceeding for a long time. The subject was of great interest and importance. There were, however, circumstances affecting the value of the appliance which had not been referred to in the accounts of the Barrow experiments which had appeared in the Press. The Admiralty had long been aware of the value in certain circumstances of caps affixed to projectiles, and he thought he might say that they would be supplied when it was thought desirable.
As to the question of boilers, he stood in a somewhat embarrassing position. He could not appear as the advocate of the Belleville boiler as the boiler which should be adopted in the Navy. It would be in the recollection of some Members of the House that he had frequently expressed a view not favourable to these boilers, but he was there to voice the decisions of the Board of 955 Admiralty, not to express his individual opinions. He was glad to say that he was absolved from the task of entering upon any very active defence of the Belleville boiler, by the fact that it was, so far as any future operations were concerned, excluded from the list of boilers for the Navy. At the same time, he would be sorry to convey the idea that the state of things in the Navy, owing to the introduction of the Belleville boiler, was in any way such as his hon. friend opposite had represented. That would be a very grave and serious exaggeration, and would do a vast amount of public mischief if it were accepted. There were over sixty ships fitted or to be fitted with Belleville boilers. It was true that four or five of these had had to undergo repairs on account of defects in the boilers; others had undergone repairs of defects which were not due to the boilers at all. We ought in this matter, at any rate, to do justice to the very great measure of success which in many cases the Belleville boilers had achieved, and were every day achieving. He thought that sometimes hon. Members were unnecessarily alarmed by the vaticinations of his hon. friend opposite, and sometimes his innuendoes were even more alarming than his actual statements. The other day he said that if the Secretary to the Admiralty were to investigate the logs of the "Terrible," which was in China, he would discover most alarming things He had read every page of those logs for three months, but he found absolutely no foundation for the alarm which the hon. Member had suggested. Some recent performances of the Belleville boilers had been remarkable, and he thought he might say very satisfactory. The "Good Hope" and "Leviathan," vessels of 30,000 horse power, had run their full speed trials without a hitch, and had attained the high speed of 23.23 knots with a coal consumption of 1.9 lb. per 1 horse-power.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that all ships were tried for a fixed time at the trials, and they were judged by the results. Of course it was a matter of common knowledge that every ship was tested by the performance at the trial. There was no doubt that as knowledge was being acquired and workmanship was carried nearer perfection, far better results were being got with Belleville boilers than was the case formerly. He was a little astonished at the noble Lord expressing the opinion which he had done, because the engineering reports from the Mediterranean had been very favourable to the Belleville boilers. Although it was not possible for him to enter into an elaborate defence of the Belleville boilers, it was necessary that he should state that exaggeration on this subject was calculated to do a great deal of harm. His own belief was that in a very short time we should find that some of the ships fitted with Belleville boilers made as good runs as any other ships, and perhaps better runs. That was not, however, a reason why we should continue to make use of those boilers. The Belleville boiler was a boiler of very great complication, and when it was remembered that there were many thousand doors in the boilers and economisers of a single ship, and that there was a pressure of 300 lbs. of steam on these doors, it would be understood that there was a very large field for injury in boilers of that kind. No doubt, also, great care was necessary in stoking, and great care had to be taken of the interior parts. It was accordingly possible that, whilst the results were successful in favourable circumstances, with selected crews and selected ships, it might not be wise to install so complicated an instrument in any of our ships in the future. He had been asked to give what explanation he could with regard to the decision which had been arrived at by the Board of Admiralty. He did not propose to enter into a scientific controversy on the details of boilers with any engineer in the House. He merely wanted to place before the Committee the views of the Board of Admiralty and the matters which had influenced them in coming to those decisions.
With regard to the question of water-tubes and cylindrical boilers generally, there was a consideration which he 957 thought had been overlooked. The French Mediterranean squadron had been referred to as being superior in speed to our own Mediterranean fleet. Half of that French squadron had, he believed, the Belleville boiler, and the other half the Niclausse boiler. He thought it required some explanation when we were told on the one hand that we were going to rack and ruin because we were installing water-tube boilers in our ships, and on the other hand that our rivals, who, it was said, were faster than we were, were using those very boilers. The situation might be put on a wider ground than that. The Admiralty were not at present advised by anybody to revert to cylindrical boilers, but, on the contrary, they were deliberately advised to adopt water-tube boilers. Perhaps the recommendation of the Boiler Committee was not fresh in the memory of hon. Members, and he would read it. The Committee's recommendation was as follows—The Committee are of opinion that the advantages of water-tube boilers for naval purposes are so great, chiefly from the military point of view, that, provided a satisfactory type of water-tube boiler be adopted, it would be more suitable for use in H.M. Navy than the cylindrical type of boiler.Then the Committee mentioned four boilers, and suggested that if a water-tube boiler was to be decided upon at once for use in the Navy, some or all of these types should be used. Some doubt had been thrown upon the value of the advice tendered by the Water-tube Committee. The Committee was composed of gentlemen of acknowledged engineering qualifications. The Chairman was Admiral Sir Compton E. Domvile, and the other members were Mr. J. A. Smith, R.N., inspector of machinery; Mr. John List, superintending engineer, Union Castle Line; Mr. James Bain, superintending engineer, Cunard Line; Mr. J. T. Milton, chief engineer, surveyor of Lloyds' Registry of Shipping; Professsor A. B. W. Kennedy; and Mr. J. Inglis, head of the firm of Messrs. A. and J. Inglis, with Captain M. E. Browning, R.N., and Chief Engineer W. H. Wood, R.N., as secretaries. The Admiralty must of course be responsible for the adoption of their advice; but if they had not adopted it, they would have been open to very grave censure. When the present Board took over the administration of the Navy, they found that this Committee had been appointed. No one had ever contended 958 that the Committee was not a competent body, and if the Admiralty had failed to follow its recommendations they would have been censured by his hon. friend opposite.
* SIR EDWARD PEED
said that he and others took very great exception to the constitution of the Committee as well as to its Report. Mr. Smith of the Admiralty was the only Gentleman appointed who had had experience of these boilers in warships, but his advice was more or less overruled.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
said that, speaking generally, engineers had the utmost confidence in the members of the Committee, and believed that whatever Report they arrived at would be worthy of the respectful attention of the Admiralty.
§ MR. ARNOLD FORSTER
said there had been a general consensus of opinion that this was a competent Committee. They had been considering the matter for two years, and had found, in the first place, that it was desirable to use water-tube boilers, if one of a satisfactory kind could be found. The problem was one which had been presented, not only to this country, but to every other country. Every other country, acting on the advice of expert authorities, had adopted water-tube boilers; and the Committee found that not one single country, having adopted them, had proposed to go back to cylindrical boilers. That was the result of a consensus of scientific opinion which was very suggestive indeed; and he, was not overwhelmed by the statements of the Member for Gateshead who was not in agreement with the majority of the engineering world.
Now, with regard to the objection raised that these boilers had never been adopted by the mercantile marine, it was obvious that the separation of functions in the boilers of the mercantile marine and in warships had been present to the Admiralty of France and the Admiralty of America, and with all the evidence before them to enable them to decide the question, they had decided it in the same sense as the British Admiralty. This country had gone further. They had referred to the Committee the question 959 as to what types of boilers were recommended for the new cruisers just laid down. The Committee had reported upon it, and the nature of the Report had been brought under the attention of the House. He was asked why it was proposed to put in a combination of boilers, partly cylindrical and partly water-tube. He would say, in the first place, they were only following important precedents. This practice had been adopted in several navies; among them the plan had been carried out in the German Navy, where they had a combination of water-tube and cylindrical boilers in nine of their newest battleships. His hon. friend the Member for Cardiff asked what was the value that they got out of combination at all, and whether the system was adopted on the recommendation of the Committee. It was in effect due to the recommendation of the Committee, who, however, had recommended, 3/11 cylindrical to 8/11 water-tube, whereas the Admiralty proposed to make the proportion ⅕ to ⅘ water-tube. The reason for adopting the plan was that cruising with the cylindrical boilers in the ordinary course, as ships in the Navy did nine days out of ten, or twenty-three hours out of twenty four, they consumed a very small amount of coal, and then, if necessary, they could, at any moment, light up the fires of the water-tube boilers and steam at the highest rate. That he understood to be the ground on which that combination had been recommended. Had the Admiralty reverted to the cylindrical boiler in the case of these ships, their design would have had to be altered, as they could not have obtained the designed speed or displacement with cylindrical boilers, and that would have involved a very serious delay, and possibly subjected all these ships to a diminution of speed which the Admiralty were not prepared to contemplate in the case of war. He was bound to say moreover, from all the advice they had, they were not prepared to revert to cylindrical boilers. He wished to point out to the Member for Cardiff that this combination system had been adopted entirely independent of any agitation, and in accordance with the Report of the Boiler Committee. He thought he had 960 given the reasons why the Admiralty had pursued the course they had. He did not know whether he had made these technical matters clear to the Committee, but he had tried to state clearly the reasons which had actuated the Admiralty in adopting this course. Greatly as he valued the opinions of the hon. Member for Gateshead in this matter, he thought that it was impossible, in view of all the advice they had had, and in view of the opinion of the engineering world, for the Admiralty to revert with regard to the whole of these ships to cylindrical boilers.
§ *(6.23.) SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said he shared the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean in regard to the general construction of the programme. He himself thought the delays serious, and that the Admiralty were not overtaking them. Although the programme might look well for this year and the next year, he did not think it looked so very favourable for the following years. His hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, as he understood him, had said that there were seventy-six ships under construction. It would be a great public advantage if the hon. Gentleman would give the particulars of these seventy-six ships. Unless his hon. friend included in these seventy-six ships a vast mass of small craft he could not understand the statement, which would of course carry great weight with the country.
§ MR. ARNOLD FORSTER
said that fourteen battleships were under construction, and twenty-four first-class armed cruisers. The others were the first class cruisers, two second-class cruisers, two third-class cruisers, five soops, fifteen torpedo boat destroyers, five submarines, five torpedo boats, and two auxiliary vessels—a total of seventy-five.
§ * SIR JOHN COLOMB
said that he only emphasised the confusion likely to arise in the public mind as to whether the contracts were kept to time. He wished to see how far the programme was being kept up, because it was rather difficult to follow it at any particular period 961 He deprecated the practice, which was quite a modern one, of splitting up the Construction Vote in this manner, and so limiting the discussion to the different departments of construction. In previous times the Construction Vote was the occasion of raising the whole question.
said there was nothing to prevent the hon. Member from discussing the general policy, but when he desired to move an Amendment on a particular item, he could only move that when that particular item came on for discussion.
§ * SIR JOHN COLOMB
said he did not wish to occupy the time of the House, but that he thought that this was a matter to which attention ought to be called. He should not say anything now with regard to subsidized cruisers, but would reserve that to a later period, he would just make this one remark that when he saw this expenditure growing, as it was growing, and remembered that it was for the defence of the whole empire, he could not help seeing the unequal manner in which the burden of this expenditure was borne by the empire, he thought some statement should be made in the House as to what it was proposed to do in this matter when the Colonial Premiers arrived in this country for the Coronation. With regard to the question of dockyard and the construction work by dockyards, and by contract, he pointed out that our dockyards at present were blocked with ships; and it was a question whether these great yards, capable of dealing with the largest ships in the Navy, should be used for the repairing of smaller craft like the destroyers. On either the east or the west coast a torpedo-dockyard might be establshed for the lighter class of vessels, where the machinery would be adapted to the work. The present congestion was so great that some change must be made. It was noticeable that some ships were much more frequently in dock than others. The Estimates gave no information on this point; and perhaps the Admiralty would furnish a Return of the ships built since 1885, showing how often each had been in dock and for what reason.
§ MR. MARKHAM (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he could give any assurance that contractors would not be required to lay down new plant for the new type of boiler, as they had been required to do when the Belleville boiler was first introduced. When the Government commenced building Belleville boilers, the Admiralty gave instructions to the contractors, or rather the contractors were given to understand that unless they put down considerable plant of a most expensive type, contracts would not be given to them. He hoped they would not be required to increase their plant for the purposes of this new boiler until it had been thoroughly tested. He thought the country had been alarmed very unnecessarily about water-tube boilers, but he did not see any difficulty about the use of them, provided they were properly constructed. He thought the Admiralty were acting most wisely in adhering to the principle of water-tube boilers, and refusing to go back to cylindrical boilers. He hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would not be led astray by any agitation got up against water-tube boilers.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 2. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £7,665,800, be granted to His Majesty to defray the expense of the Contract Work for Shipbuilding, Repairs, etc., which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1903."
§ *(6.50.) SIR JOHN COLOMB
said he had a notice of Motion on the Paper to move to reduce the Vote by £63,000 in respect of subventions for the right of pre-emption or hire of merchant cruisers. This was no unusual Motion, and he took this course now on the same ground as he had done year after year. Therefore, it was not necessary for him to repeat again those arguments which he had constantly urged in Committee. A Committee had been appointed to inquire into the question of shipping subsidies. By means of a Question, he had asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether that Committee would consider the policy of subsidising the steamers, and his hon. friend informed 963 him in reply that that question was excluded from the purview of the Committee. He wished to know whether this sum of £63,000 was divided equally between the ships; whether the same sum was paid for 16½-knot boats as was paid for 20-knot boats. The original policy of the Admiralty with regard to these subventions was based on the assumption that when war broke out they would get full value back by using those ships either as transports or as armed cruisers. After a little time the word "transports" disappeared, and the ships were to be used only as auxiliary cruisers. He wished to know whether it was a fact that when the "Majestic" was used as a transport to the Cape she was a total failure for that service, because, although she could steam 20 knots for five or six days, her speed fell to 16 knots on the longer run. If that were so, what was the good of such a ship as an auxiliary cruiser? He would like to know what fighting value the Admiralty attached to that sort of ship. Was it not a fact that such vessels were absolutely useless for any purposes of war. Was it not the case that in the Spanish-American war these ships were proved to he absolutely useless? The Admiralty were spending this £63,000 in pursuit of a policy they could not justify, and which in the last, fifteen years had resulted in the loss of half a million sterling. How was it that after all these years they had nothing to show for this expenditure of over half-a-million and the only ship they had ever tried to use had been a total failure. Therefore, he felt it his duty to move a reduction of this Vote, and if his hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty was able to convince him that this expenditure was a just and proper policy he would not take a division. The Committee ought to look at this question as a matter of business, and not go on voting this money year after year. It was quite a different system from that adopted by the German Government, who pursued a definite policy both in peace and war. The effect of taking up the fast ships in time of war would be to throw our commerce into the slower ships. He hoped his hon. friend would be able to give a full explanation and show that this was a reasonable policy to pursue.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item I be omitted."—(Sir. John Colomb.)
§ (7.0.) MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that the question of granting subsidies was under consideration by a small Committee, and that the whole question was naturally exciting a great deal of interest in connection with the subsidizing of the mercantile marine, independently of other considerations. It might well be therefore, that the views which the Admiralty had hitherto entertained, and which had found expression in the Estimates in each succeeding year, and had aroused the wrath of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, might be modified at an early date in pursuance of some general policy which might be determined upon as to the subsidizing of the mercantile marine. The hon. Member had asked whether the payment to the various companies were equal payments for unequal services. That was not so. He was under the impression that the figures had been often published before, and that they were not in the Estimates this year was an oversight and a misfortune. The "Oceanic," "Majestic,' and "Toutonic" received three times the subsidy received by the "Empress of India," the "Empress of China," and the "Empress of Japan," which were 16½-knot vessels. The principle of allocation, according to merit and speed, was pursued in the subsidy agreements with regard to all the ships in the list he was not empowered to say that at the present time it was contemplated by the Admiralty to relinquish the retention of these ships in time of war under the present arrangement. He did not think that the argument to the effect that the country had been paying for these ships for a long time and had had no value out of them, was one to which great weight ought to be attached, because although we had happily for several years not been engaged in maritime war, the argument, if carried to its exteme limit, would be an argument against any precautionary measure either in such for domestic matters as fire insurance, or in preparation for war by sea or by land. The matter must be decided on other grounds than that. Even if the hon. Member added together the whole of the sums paid in respect of any one of these ships over the whole term of years, they would represent nothing like the sum which would have 965 to be expended on a single first-class cruiser. He believed he was correct in saying that 100 years subsidies of one of the ships would barely sustain one first class cruiser; it might therefore be looked upon as a service which the country were getting in addition to over and above that which the regular cruisers of the Navy were able to render. That might be a service which we did not require at all, and it might be one that could be procured for nothing, but that was another point. He was not prepared personally to take issue with the hon. Member as to the second point. He was not quite positive that they might not obtain their services by other means in time of war if the ships were required, but undoubtedly that would require an alteration in the law to make it more in conformity with what he might call the more ferocious legislation of military Powers, whether we should greatly gain by substituting violent methods for commercial methods was a matter of opinion, but undoubtedly this arrangement did give us a hold upon the ships in time of war. It had been said that the "Majestic" on a long voyage to South Africa did not maintain her speed, in the circumstances that was not to be wondered at. But it did not at all follow from that that she would be of no use in time of war. On the contrary we should certainly have to contemplate in the Atlantic in time of war a considerable number of vessels of precisely the same type which would perform their functions in the Atlantic then as now, and the "Majestic" might be relied upon to do the same thing. If that which happened to the "Majestic" in crossing the line was common to all ships of that class, it would affect those ships also in time of war. Certainly he would be a bold man who would say that no service could be rendered in time of war by powerful ships like the "Majestic," with a speed of from 15,000 to 20,000 h.p. There were services which could be performed by these ships which could not be performed by any other class of ship. The German Government did the same thing, but according to the hon. and gallant Member for a totally different reason.
§ MR. ARNOLD - FORSTER
said it might be in a different way, but it came 966 to exactly the same thing. The German Government obtained by administrative act the right to use their twenty-two or twenty-three knot ships, and the purpose for which they were retained in Germany was precisely the same as that for which they were retained in this country. There was an argument of great weight in the matter, and that was the question of the withdrawal of these ships from their proper use in time of war. That was a matter of high policy upon which he was not competent to express any valuable opinion. At present the view was that a judicious selection from the ships of the mercantile marine was permissible in time of war, and it was practically certain that the Admiralty would use a certain number of these ships in time of war as auxiliaries to the Navy. He could say no more to meet tin; points raised by the hon. and gallant Member than that it was proposed at present to continue the retention of these ships on the subsidised list, subject to any change of policy with regard to subsidising generally, and subject to the status some of the ships might acquire owing to a change of ownership or registration. However, it was not necessary to jump until they came to the stile, but it was the duty of the Admiralty to take all precautions to make use of the instruments in their hands, and it was not within his province to pronounce any opinion as to the action of the Admiralty if those vessels were transferred to another Power.
(7.9.) MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said there was no stronger advocate than himself of the employment by the State of private vessels in time of war, but there was only one proper method of so employing them, and that was by giving them a commission—in fact, to re-establish the privateer. The privateer had accomplished some of the best naval service ever done for this country, and had inflicted more damage, ship for ship, on the enemy than had the ships of the Royal Navy. There was no more foolish method that could be adopted than this of subsidising peace ships for use in time of war. In olden times, the difference between a ship employed in peace and a ship employed in war was very small; it was merely necessary to put a little armament in a ship, and she was as good 967 for the purposes of war as a man-of-war itself. But that was not the case now. These steamers were altogether unfitted for the purposes of war, if for no other reason than that the essential thing in a war steamship was that the engines should be below the water line, There was nor, one of the subsidised vessels but had its engines entirely above the water line, and consequently exposed to the greatest danger which could befall a ship. There were other objections, one of which was that those vessels very rapidly became out of date. We were constantly selling our merchant ships to foreign countries, especially Norway. Norway had the next largest tonnage in merchant ships to this country, and it was almost entirely composed of obsolete British vessels, tramps, and others. The result was that if war broke out, and the conditions of the subsidy were enforced, the country would find itself landed with a lot of obsolete vessels—obsolete in themselves, and obsolete especially in regard to any fittings that might have been put on board to carry armaments, because by that time the armaments themselves would have changed. The Admiralty were particularly blameworthy in having renewed the White Star Line subsidies at this particular juncture. The Admiralty had already paid that line an instalment in respect of the new subsidy, although they were perfectly conscious of the transactions which had taken place in connection with the Atlantic Shipping Trust. The line had sold all its stuff to the Altantic Shipping Trust, and had received value in cash and shares representing an enormous profit. It was true the bargain had not yet been carried out, but in effect it was complete. It was but a question of a few months when the ships would be transferred to American owners, and absolutely under the dominion of a foreign corporation. They must then, unless the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 was absolute waste paper, necessarily cease to be British ships. What would be the position if that were the case? We had paid the subsidies in advance, and after we had undertaken to carry on the subsidies we suddenly found that the ships receiving them had passed under a foreign flag. That was what occurred in regard to the In man Line, and yet, with that lesson before them the Admiralty had chosen deliberately to renew 968 the subsidies to these vessels. But suppose it were the case, as some said, that these vessels would not pass under a foreign flag, but would remain in the eye of the law, though not in effect, British vessels. What would be the effect of the dominion exercised over them by the foreign corporation? At the very time we wanted them for use in war, perhaps in a hurry, we would find that they were in some port in the United States, and that the owners very thoroughly refused to allow them to depart from that port. England might be at war with the United States, which God forbid, or with a State with which the United States sympathised. In either of these cases we would have no chance of getting any use out of the vessels which we subsidised. He had listened to the speech of the Secretary to the Admiralty with surprise, which was intensified when he reached the end without touching on these particular subsidies which he had recently renewed. They had had a very serious debate upon the shipping trust, which initiated an entirely new policy altogether uncontemplated and new in itself. In the absence of any explanation, because the Secretary of the Admiralty never touched the particular subject of the subsidies he had recently renewed, he said it was monstrous for the Admiralty, in the state of doubt in which the thing now was, to have renewed these subsidies and actually to have paid an instalment of them. One of the reasons for paying the subsidies at all was that those ships should be used as transports, but we never used one of them for transport purposes during the war in South Africa.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said we had been able to land in South Africa, without the aid of those subsidised vessels, 250,000 men, and this had been done simply by appealing to the merchant fleet of England. That showed that we did not require subsidies, and that for the purpose of transport this country was in the happy position of being able to get as many vessels as were required. This shipping trust, if it had a meaning at all, and if it had an ulterior purpose, as he was afraid it had, was destined to ruin their carrying trade, and yet they had the spectacle of the British Admiralty 969 encouraging this trust and subsidising some of the vessels which had been handed over to it. It was the most marvellous story ever told out of comic opera. Suppose they had no subsidies? He believed it was the prerogative of the Crown to lay its hands upon any English vessel, which in time of war might be seized and paid for. There was a right of that sort inherent in the Sovereign of every country. This right was exercised during the Franco-German war, when the Germans seized six English ships and sunk them, although they subsequently paid for them. In this case the Germans were exercising their right of pre-emption, which he thought it would be absurd to deny to England itself. What the Germans could do, surely the Sovereign of England could do for the preservation of his own country. He believed the granting of subsidies at all was a mistaken policy, for our purpose could be effected without them. He protested as strongly as he could against the renewal by the Admiralty of the subsidy to the White Star Line at the time when that line had passed under the dominion of a foreign corporation.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if he could state the amount paid to the White Star Line.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said the reply of his hon. friend had assured him to this extent, that the Admiralty did recognise that the time had come, or was very nearly approaching, when the whole question with regard to shipping in connection with war would have to be considered. In these circumstances he would prefer, instead of moving the reduction of the whole Vote, to move its reduction by £21,000, the amount of the White Star subsidy. He would ask the permission of the Committee to withdraw his previous proposal.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ (7.21) Motion made and Question put, "That Item I (Royal Reserve of Merchant Cruisers) be reduced by £21,000."—(Sir John Colomb.)
§ The Committee divided :—Ayes, 73 Noes, 150. (Division List No. 184.)971
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Gilhooly, James||O'Connor, James, Wicklow, W.)|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'kelly, James (Roscommon, N.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc, Stroud||Groves, James Grimble||O'Malley, William|
|Ambrose, Robert||Haldane, Richard Burdon||O'Mara, James|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Beresford, Lord Ch'rles William||Horniman, Frederick John||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Blake, Edward||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries|
|Bolaud, John||Joyce, Michael||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Leamy, Edmund||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Lewis, John Herbert||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Caldwell, James||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Cawley, Frederick||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||M'Crae, George||Spencer, Rt Hn C. R. (Northants|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||M'Govern, T.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Crean, Eugene||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Teunant, Harold John|
|Delany, William||M'Kean, John.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Dillon, John||Markham, Arthur Basil||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Fenwick, Charles||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Ffrench, Peter||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Flyan, James Christopher||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sir John Colomb and Mr. Gibson Bowles.|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex F.||Finch, George H.||Muntz, Philip A.|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Fisher, William Hayes||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Allhusen, Augustus H'nry Eden||Fitzroy, Hn. Edward Algernon||Nicol, Donald Ninian.|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlingt'n|
|Arrol, Sir William||Flower, Ernest||Percy, Earl|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Foster, Philip S. (W'rwick, S. W.||Pierpont, Robert|
|Austin, Sir John||Furness, Sir Christopher||Pilkington, Lieut.-Col. Richard|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Galloway, William Johnson||Piatt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Gardner, Ernest||Plummer, Waller R.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Garfit, William||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Balfour, Et. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Rankin, Sir James|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds||Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)||Rattigan, Sir William Henry|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Gordon, Maj Evans-(T'rH'mlets||Rea, Russell|
|Beach, Rt Hn Sir Michael Hicks||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Green, Walford D. (W'dn'sbury||Renwick, George|
|Brassey, Albert||Greene, Sir E W (B'ry S Edm'nds||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Gretton, John||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge|
|Bull, William James||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Campbell, Rt Hn J. A. (Glasgow||Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G (Midd'x||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Ropner, Colonel Robert|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Honldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Round, James|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Hoult, Joseph||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)||Rutherford, John|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Spear, John Ward|
|Chamberlayne, T. (S'thampton||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset|
|Chairing ton, Spencer||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Coghill Douglas Harry||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop||Start, Hon. Humphrey Napier|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Ceilings, lit. Hon. Jesse||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Lawrence Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Take, Sir John Batty|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lawson, John Grant||Valentia, Viscount|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham||Vincent, Col. Sir CEH (Sheffield|
|Cox, Irwin Edward Bain bridge||Leveson-Gower, Friderick N. S.||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Cripps, Charles Allied||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Welby, Lt-Col. A C E (Taunton|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Williams, Rt Hn J Powell-(Birm|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Dickson-Poyuder, Sir John P.||Macdona, John Cumming||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E R.)|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon||Maclyer, David (Liverpool)||Wilson, Chas. Henry (Hull, W.)|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R (Bath)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire||Wolff, Gustay Wilhelm|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Majendie, James A H.||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H M.|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Mitchell, William|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Morrison, James Archibald||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Fergusson, Rt Hn Sir J. (Manc'r||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
Original Question put and agreed to.
§ It being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported tomorrow; Committee to sit again this evening.