§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]
§ *THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. PRETYMAN,) Suffolk, Woodbridge
said that it had not been customary to make any statement on the introduction of this Resolution, but on the last two occasions on which the money Resolution had been brought before the Committee of Ways and Means, Questions were asked, and he understood it would be for the convenience of hon. Members that he should make a short statement on the general points affecting the Resolution on which there were any changes from former practice. He hoped hon. Members would defer general discussion of details until the Bill itself, which would be founded on the Resolution, came on for Second Reading. There were special reasons why he should take this departure from ordinary practice. There was a change in the form of the Resolution itself to which he wished to specially allude. That change was as to the method by which the money was to be borrowed. Under the Resolutions on which the Naval Works Loan Bills of 1895, and all those down to the present date were based, the money had always been borrowed for a term of thirty years dating from 1895. But it was evident that, under that principle, money which was now being borrowed, and still more the money which was to be borrowed in future years 1263 over the long period which these words would cover, would be repayable in a very short term of years between the borrowing of the money and 1925. Therefore, it was a much more reasonable principle that the sums now authorised to be borrowed, if this Resolution was passed and by subsequent Resolutions in future years, should be repayable in thirty years from the date of borrowing. He also wished to state that protests had been made as to the growth of this loan expenditure, and as to the extension of the number of items which had been added since the original Bill was proposed. That had been engaging the attention of the Admiralty, which thought at this time to make some final proposal as to the items which should be embraced in this series of Loan Bills. Of course, it was impossible for the present Board of Admiralty to bind their successors or the Committee for all time—because unforeseen circumstances might arise—but so far as they could foresee it was the policy of the Admiralty that the items which were to be inserted in the Schedule to the Bill should be final. He must guard himself, however, by stating that the total estimated cost over the whole area of expenditure was not final. The House might be asked for a further sum in respect of the total estimate, on items already inserted or to be inserted in the Bill on this occasion, but it was, not proposed to insert any new items. The total sum which the House was asked in this Resolution to vote was within £4,000 of £8,000,000. That was arrived at in this manner. The total sum already voted on previous Resolutions was £13,750,000, and the total which would be voted if this Resolution was carried was £21,000,000, leaving £8,000,000 to be voted. The total expenditure would be just over £8,500,000. That extra £500,000 came out of the £13,750,000 voted in preceding Bills, £500,000 having remained unexpended. Of the amount of £8,500,000, £6,750,000 would be required for expenditure on the old items which had already been approved by the House; and £1,250,000 would be required for beginning the new items to be proposed in the Bill. The total estimated cost in the Bill was increased by about £4,000,000, but, as he had already stated, that would not be absolutely final. The total estimated cost for the whole area was £31,750,000.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said that that was the total estimated cost of all the items, old and new, which would be included in the Bill; but it would be necessary as regarded some of those items, as to which details would be given on the Second Reading of the Bill, to propose some further expenditure which would increase the total estimated cost.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Do I rightly understand that the total cost will be, roughly, £31,000,000, and that of this sum £21,000,000, when we have voted this £8,000,000, will already have been provided for; and that therefore there will be another £10,000,000, to be provided for in the future?
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said that was the case; but not in addition to the £31,000,000; in addition to the £21,000,000. There would be something further than that, which would be proposed later, but no new items. Supposing the total expenditure, including the Scotch naval base and all the new items which were now to be proposed, amounted to £40,000,000, that would be spread over twenty years, and amount to no more than £2,000,000 a year for the period during which the expenditure took place. Adding the average annual expenditure on works and maintenance generally, which was about £1,000,000 that would give an amount of £3,000,000 a year for naval works all over the world as actual expenditure for twenty years in order to carry out current needs and meet new requirements, and at the same time fill up the vacuum left by the great increase of the Navy in the form of ships, and the necessity of providing for these new ships dock accommodation, etc. He would state to the Committee the proposed new items. The first new item was for introducing into our naval establishments throughout the world, and that comprised nearly all of them, electric light and power. The second item was 1265 for converting the present dockyard at Sheerness, where the docks were somewhat antiquated, and did not at present give their full value to the work of the Navy, into a special depôt for the large repairs of the entire flotilla of destroyers. That would be the destroyer base, so far as repairs were concerned, but not the strategic base for all the destroyer fleet at home. It was also proposed to construct a new torpedo range on the Medway, and to lengthen the torpedo range at Portsmouth. A new gunnery school was to be constructed at Trevol, Devonport. There were two considerable dockyard items. One was for increased dockyard accommodation at Chatham, as to which only a small sum was taken in the Bill to enable the work to be started. The final estimate would be before the Committee in two years time. Secondly, an item for the new naval base on the Forth at St. Margaret's Hope. There had been some misapprehension as to the name. The Admiralty called this new naval base, so far as the shore was concerned, Rosyth. Rosyth was to St. Margaret's Hope exactly what Portsmouth was to Spithead. St. Margaret's Hope was not the name of the land but of the anchorage, and Rosyth was the name of the barony, castle, farm, and therefore the name of the establishment proposed to be constructed would be Rosyth, and the anchorage of the ships would be St. Margaret's Hope. The last item, which was on a different basis from the others, was for coastguard reconstruction. That was proposed on purely financial grounds. At present a very large proportion of our coastguard establishments were rented. That created a great deal of trouble. The leases and tenures varied very much in character, and were constantly falling in. The rents were being perpetually raised, and great difficulty occurred as to the allocation of repairs as between landlord and tenant. He had most carefully gone into the financial aspect of this question, and he found that it was possible, without increasing the annual charge, which now fell upon the Votes, to take a capital sum under this Bill to be applied, in some cases, to the purchase of existing coastguard stations now rented and which were suitable; and in other cases to buying sites and building new stations. The interest on that charge would be no 1266 greater than the sum we were at present paying for short term and other tenures of coastguard stations. At the end of the time when capital and interest were paid off—he included capital and interest in that statement—the country would be the actual freehold owners of their coastguard stations, and would have no mote rent to pay. That seemed to him to be an ordinary business principle which anybody who had the capital would carry out, and he did not see why the country should not act upon it.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said that the sum taken would be £200,000 to cover the purchase of land and any necessary beginnings; but it was quite impossible to consider that as a final estimate. No final estimate could be given until the plans were presented. There was one statement in regard to Rosyth which he was in a position to give to the Committee. The total area of the land which had been acquired for the Rosyth base was 1,178 acres of dry land, and 286 acres of foreshore, making a total of 1,464 acres. The total price paid for the land was £122,500, and the present rental was £1,620. There was one point which was not as yet finally settled—viz., whether there was to be any special valuation of minerals in a part of the land, as to which there might possibly be some increased charge, though he hoped that might not be the case. That point was now under the consideration of experts. The area of land acquired would enable the Admiralty to provide not only for present but for future needs; and when the cost of the land per acre was compared with the cost of purchasing small quantities of land in existing dockyards, where civil and commercial interests had grown up, he thought the Committee would see that at any rate future generations, and even the present generation, would benefit largely by this extensive purchase. He did not desire to say anything more at present, but merely to lay before the Committee this bare statement of facts showing the grounds on which this 1267 Resolution was asked for. He hoped the Committee would vote the Resolution and defer detailed criticism until the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it is expedient to make further provision for the construction of works in the United Kingdom and elsewhere for the purposes of the Royal Navy, and to authorise the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of such sums, not exceeding £7,996,000, as may be required for those purposes, and to make provision for raising, in the manner provided by Section 5 of the Naval Works Act, 1895, the sums so issued by terminable annuities for a period not exceeding thirty years from the date of the borrowing."—(Mr. Pretyman.)
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he thought the novel feature of this Resolution was sufficient justification for the course adopted by the hon. Gentleman in the statement he had made. He did not propose to go into details, but he was quite sure that the announcement made that day would be received with satisfaction by the Committee and the country—viz., that this was to be a final Bill; that no new items would be added to the list of works to be provided for by means of loans. Seeing the enormous development of this system from its humble beginnings in 1895, it was gratifying to know that there would be no more additions to the Loans Works, and that when they got this Bill off their hands they would have seen the last of them. With reference to the financial novelty of extending the borrowing powers, his own impression was that, considering how largely they had been throwing burdens on posterity this year and last year in connection with military expenditure the Government should have been very well content to have brought the whole of this expenditure to an end in 1925, according to the original scheme of the Naval Works Bills. He did not commit himself at all to approval of the course proposed in that respect. As to Rosyth, he did not understand what the hon. Gentleman meant when he said that plans would be exhibited. As far as he knew, no plans were yet in existence.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he understood that was as far as the Admiralty had proceeded at present. The hon. Gentleman omitted to make any reference to the most important thing in connection with Rosyth, and that was what sort of a naval establishment it was to be, and what precisely was to be its character. It was said in the Report that it was found necessary to have another naval establishment, and that Rosyth had been selected. But what was to be the exact nature of that establishment? Was it to be a manufacturing dockyard or a housing dockyard? Was it to be a place like Dover or Portsmouth? That had an important bearing on the annual cost, which was a very serious element in the situation. One of the most important matters in connection with Rosyth was what was to be the annual cost which this naval establishment, unlike most of the other works in the Bill, would involve after it was completed. They were done with expenditure in other cases after the principal and the interest of the loan had been repaid; but, in this case, after the establishment was erected there would be an establishment of men and a certain amount of money would be wanted every year for its maintenance. The hon. Gentleman might be able to tell the Committee what was the intended scope of the proposed establishment; and what the financial cost per annum of its maintenance would be, when completed. The only other item to which he would allude was that which referred to electric lighting in the dockyards. It required serious consideration as to whether it was right to put the cost of installing electric light into a Naval Works Bill. It was a policy to which he for one was not prepared to commit himself. He did not intend to offer any opposition whatever to the Bill. He understood from the First Lord of the Treasury the other day that the Second Reading would betaken on Wednesday; and he would ask, if before then any further information beyond the statement of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, would be laid before the House of Commons.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he wished to respectfully congratulate his hon. friend on his very clear statement, as far as it went; but he did not follow him in his suggestion that it would not be convenient to debate his proposals now. He desired to take advantage of the present occasion to put some very general considerations before the Committee with reference to the choice of the new naval base in the Firth of Forth, and its general strategic position. First of all, he would say that the statement of his hon. friend had a very serious financial side to it. They had already borrowed £20,000,000 for naval works; they were now asked to add another £8,000,000; and the hon. Gentleman told the Committee that they would be asked to add another £10,000,000; and, in all probability, yet a further £10,000,000. The consolation which the hon. Gentleman offered—and he seemed to think it was a consolation—was that although he proposed that further expenditure dated from to-day yet there was to be no increase in the items. He himself confessed that, considering the enormous financial burdens which were being placed on the country, he would rather have been told that the sum now asked for would be final, rather than be told that the sum was not final though the items were. He was beginning to be quite appalled at the manner in which burdens were being laid upon the country. There was to be an indefinite number of millions for Irish land; an indefinite number of millions for Morgan subsidies; nearly £30,000,000 for naval works; and other sums in every direction were being put on the country. It almost made him sometimes believe that His Majesty's Ministers did not know the difference between £1,000,000 sterling and a £5 note. It was really a very serious matter, but he would not dwell upon it now. First of all, he would say that he entirely disagreed with the hon. Gentleman opposite who suggested that he had some doubt as to the advisability of introducing electric light into the dockyards.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he referred only to the inadvisability of 1270 introducing such work into the present Bill.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he could well understand that the cost of introducing electric light would be so great that he could not think anything could be more proper in a Bill of this kind. If they had electric power in the dockyards it could be switched on and off and great economy could be effected. The only objection that would be entertained to it would be by members of dockyard constituencies when they found a large number of men discharged, their places being taken by electric power. The other matter on which he wished to congratulate his hon. friend was the purchase of coastguard stations. That was an exceedingly proper thing to do. It was an ideal thing to be put into a Bill of this kind; and, in fact, it was the only ideal thing that was connected with this method of raising money. He wished he could say that of the other works mentioned in the Bill. He wished to place before the Committee what he thought was a matter for the gravest consideration with regard to the new naval base. The hon. Gentleman opposite asked what sort of a naval base it was to be. He could not conceive any doubt in the matter. He imagined—he spoke subject to correction—that it would be nothing less than a Portsmouth or Plymouth; and until his hon. friend corrected him, that was the assumption on which he would argue. There was, of course, another and a secondary kind of naval base, which was extremely useful—a jumping-off place which might be established in the Scilly Isles or in the Orkneys. He always deeply regretted that he had not been able to induce His Majesty's Ministers to establish secondary naval bases where ammunition, coal and rations could be kept, but where there would be no repairing facilities. He regretted that such bases were not established in the Scilly Isles and in the Orkneys. The establishment of a naval base in the Firth of Forth, as was now proposed, was a matter of extreme importance, because it was one of the most important acts of strategy, properly so 1271 called, that could be taken by any Government. It was upon the choice of naval bases, the spots where the fleets were to be centred, where ships were to be brought for repairs if injured in action, that the exercise of the power of this country in time of war would depend; and, therefore, it was of the most essential importance that those bases should be chosen properly. To his mind, this country was already provided with the right places, and only places it wanted. The long line of 600 miles from Brest to the mouth of the Elbe represented the naval front of Europe towards England, In the centre of that line was Calais; and if a perpendicular line were drawn from Calais it represented the battle coast of England and Scotland. The line from Brest to the mouth of the Elbe was the only line that this country had to deal with; and it was dealt with most admirably by the present establishment at Chatham for that part of the line which extended from Calais to the mouth of the Elbe, and by the establishments at Portsmouth and Plymouth for that part of the line which extended westward from Calais. Having laid down that broad principle, he would ask permission to read two extracts from that great strategetic authority, Captain Mahan. The first was—The geographical position of a country may not only favour the concentration of its forces, but give the further strategic advantage of a central position and a good base for hostile operations against its probable enemies. This, again, is the case with England: on the one hand she faces Holland and the northern Powers, on the other France and the Atlantic. When threatened with a coalition between France and the naval Powers of the North Sea and the Baltic, as she at times was, her fleets in the Downs and in the Channel, and even that off Brest, occupied interior positions, and thus were readily able to interpose their united force against either one of the enemies which should seek to pass through the Channel to effect a junction with its ally.The other short extract he would read was as follows—If in addition to facility for offence, Nature has so placed a country that it has easy access to the high sea itself, while, at the same time, it controls one of the great thoroughfares of the world's traffic, it is evident that the strategic value of its position is very high. Such again is, and to a greater degree was, the position of England. The trade of Holland, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, and that which 1272 went up the great rivers to the interior of Germany had to pass through the channel close by her doors.That was the case to-day, and all that trade still passed our doors. The position was the same to-day as it was a hundred years ago and as it would be a hundred years hence. The strategic position of England for naval purposes was probably unmatched in the world. The naval doors in this country were always open and were almost incapable of being closed by a hostile fleet. The conclusion he had arrived at was this, that if they drew a straight line from Brest to the mouth of the Elbe, and a perpendicular line from that line, in Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth, this country had not only every naval base it required, but the best that were to be found in any part of these Islands, for acting on the coast of Europe. Chatham was nearer to Belgium, Holland and Northern Europe than the Firth of Forth was. There was no part of the northern coast of Europe to which Chatham was not as near as the Firth of Forth, and, as regarded most places, it was nearer. The advantage was in keeping this country's fleets in positions from which they could concentrate, and, therefore, in his opinion it was a mistake to make a great naval repairing base on the Firth of Forth. What ought to be done was to make secondary naval bases, one in the Orkneys and one in the Scilly Isles. The effect of establishing a great naval base at Rosyth would be that the squadron stationed there would be separated from the greater part of the other naval armaments of the country, if ever a naval combination were formed against this country. He considered that strategy to be entirety false. He had ventured to give the Committee the general principles of what he conceived to be the true strategy to be adopted.
The principal point the Committee had to consider was that the £200,000 now asked for was not to be the total sum. It would involve the expenditure of millions upon millions in the construction of new docks, new arsenals, and new workshops, and further millions for the maintenance of them when they were there. He had thought over the matter with considerable 1273 anxiety. His own belief was that a great mistake had been made; and that it would have been very much better to increase the accommodation they now had in what he considered to be the unmatched naval centres at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth, rather than to establish a new naval base at Rosyth. No doubt this matter of high strategy was one which it was presumptuous for a person like himself to deal with. Nevertheless, he had given a great deal of consideration to strategic questions, although he put forward his views with the diffidence which became him. He wished to ask whether this new naval base and its establishment was, as a strategic question, submitted, considered, and decided upon by the Defence Committee—he meant the new Committee of Defence instituted by the present Government about a year ago. That Committee of Defence was very far from being perfect. He was conscious of its defects, and it seemed to him to be very imperfect indeed. But, at any rate, it was the only body they had in this country competent to deal with strategic questions. He should like to ask the hon. Gentleman definitely whether the question had been considered by the Defence Committee and whether in the Second Reading of this Bill the House would have the advantage of the presence of a member of that Committee to defend this plan on strategic grounds. He would not vote against the Motion; but he was opposed to the enormous and largely increasing burdens which were being placed on the country; and he expressed his very serious doubt as to the strategic value of the proposed new naval base.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said he wished to put a few questions to the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. The hon. Gentleman stated what the new items were and he should like to know what the items were in the existing Act for which the Estimates had been considerably increased. Those details were given in previous Naval Works Bills. In 1901 the Controller and Auditor-General reported that the total estimated cost of new works was something like £2,000,000, and the total amount of the increased Estimates for existing works 1274 was also £2,000,000. He could not follow some of the hon. Gentleman's figures as to the future expenditure. It was now apparent, as many of them had foreseen, how the system of Naval Works Bills had increased hand over hand and had become more and more expensive every year. When the practice began the expenditure was only £1,000,000 per annum. Then it went up £2,000,000 and then to £3,000,000 and now this Bill was calculated on the basis of £4,000,000. That was an enormous sum for the Admiralty to borrow in the course of its ordinary year to year transactions. Then the hon. Gentleman called attention to an alteration as regarded the terminable annuities, and said that instead of being paid off in 1925 they would run for thirty years. He agreed with his hon. friend the Member for Dundee in thinking that that was an alteration which should be fully considered. It was an alteration which did not commend itself to him, and he viewed with the utmost distrust the continual use of the borrowing powers of the Government for objects which did not appear to him to be suitable for the exercise of such powers, but which should be paid for out of the annual Estimates. Some of the items mentioned in the Bill did not seem to him to be matters which should be regarded as capital expenditure. His hon. friend alluded to the installation of electric lighting in the dockyards. He should imagine that that might be paid for out of the annual Votes. As regarded the following three items he was not sufficiently acquainted with naval affairs to express an opinion, and therefore he would suspend his judgment. There was, however, a very large and substantial financial alteration in the Bill to which his hon. friend had already alluded—the form of the Bill had been altered considerably. There was no estimate given of the total cost of Rosyth.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said that the hon. Gentleman was much better acquainted with the facts than he was, but he thought it was in the recollection 1275 of the Committee that Column I of the previous Naval Works Bill conveyed to the House of Commons what was the total estimated cost of the works which were in process of construction. As far as he gathered from the statement of the hon. Gentleman, the Committee had received no intimation as to the estimated total cost of Rosyth. In the early days of those Bills they always contended that the Military Works Bills should conform to the Naval Works Bills because the latter gave the House of Commons very important information as to the cost of the works, but apparently the House of Commons was not to enjoy for the future the information as to the amount of their commitments on naval works. As far as he understood the hon. Gentleman, they would only be able to learn from year to year and by degrees what was to be the total cost of the new naval works, especially the two most important works—Keyham dockyard and the new naval base in the Firth of Forth. As he understood that the Second Reading of this Bill was to be taken immediately after the Irish Land Bill had passed through Committee, he thought they should have the fullest possible information given them on the present occasion.
§ SIR WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
said he desired to congratulate the hon. Gentleman upon the statment he had made. The Bill was said to be final, but he knew of no finality when they were dealing with Government requirements. He thought the hon. Gentleman would have done better to have kept that word out of his speech. He agreed with the policy of installing electric light and power in the dockyards. The Admiralty would save a great deal of money by adopting that course, and they might long ago have stopped the wasteful burning of coal by adopting electricity for purposes of power. He hoped all the principal machinery in the dockyards would each have its own motor attached to it, so that it could be run without interfering with other machines. He quite agreed with the necessity of making Sheerness a torpedo-destroyer base. It was eminently suited for that and for nothing else. The Government had been building sloops there to keep 1276 the place going. Then with regard to torpedo ranges that was also a necessity. In regard to Chatham dockyard he had visited it last week and was surprised at the cramped condition of the dockyard. The Admiralty had no room to do the work. It was essential that there should be extension there. In regard to the new naval base at Rosyth. Scottish people did not like that name. The historical associations of the place were linked with the other name, St. Margaret's Hope. But they were quite proud and glad as Scotchmen to think that the Admiralty had at last awakened to the necessity of giving back to Scotland something of what they had taken from her in bygone years. He thought the Government would be wise to establish an arsenal at Rosyth. He did not agree with the Member for King's Lynn. But if they were to make an arsenal at Rosyth he hoped it would be a proper one. The place was eminently suited for an arsenal, and it ought to be established at a minimum cost. They had deep water there, and he hoped they would have plenty of docks—large docks. He appealed to the Government not to make it a mere repairing factory, but to lay down works so that ships might be built there if required. The place was in the centre of a coal district, and in the centre of an iron district. The Admiralty could get its armour plates delivered there at very little cost, much less than they were paying for the carriage of these plates to the southern dockyards. He quite understood that the Admiralty could not yet give information as to the probable cost of the new establishment. Until the plans were drawn and the quantities taken out it was impossible to give even an approximate estimate. Alluding to the remarks of the hon. Member for King's Lynn he said it was all very well for Captain Mahan to say what Britain did in bygone days with her fleets down in the south. But it must be borne in mind that this is the steam age. Vessels from the Baltic might reach the coast of Scotland in twenty-four hours. If we had a naval engagement in the North Sea, what would happen if our ships had to go down to Portsmouth or Chatham to be mended? The proper thing to do 1277 was to have a base in Scotland, so that in the event of a battle in the North Sea, damaged vessels could put into the Forth and get Scotchmen to put them right again and ready for sea as quickly as possible. He hoped the new base would be a credit to the Admiralty. He hoped it would be thoroughly up-to-date in every particular, and that every appliance, every tool, every machine, would be of the most modern type. With regard to the land, he thought the Government had got it very cheaply. It had only cost about £80 an acre. They had made a very good bargain. He thought the proposal to purchase the coastguard stations a good stroke of business. He congratulated the Admiralty again upon the course they had taken in regard to Rosyth. They required more docks. Their present docks were all congested. They had to send their ships to private yards to be repaired, and were running up bills year by year for repairs. They would find it would be cheaper in the end to have such a place as was contemplated constructed on modern lines. He hoped the new dockyard would be built and equipped in the most modern style, and that it would be not only a credit to the Admiralty, but also of great value to the Empire as a whole.
§ *MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Portsmouth)
said the speeches dealing with the new naval base ought to be divided between its economic and strategic value. While he had great respect for the opinion of the hon. Member for King's Lynn, who examined these subjects so studiously, he was bound to say that if the Council for National Defence had decided that Rosyth was a reasonable position for a new naval base, he was satisfied. He could not doubt that it would be more economical to build a dockyard at the new base at Rosyth than to enlarge the dockyards in the south where land was so much more expensive. He congratulated the hon. Gentleman on the steps that had been taken, and would support the Resolution before the Committee.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said the decision of the Admiralty to establish a naval station in Scotland had given great satisfaction. The great object of the Admiralty was 1278 the development of the national system of defence, and the economical spending of public money. The question divided itself under the heads of strategy, and efficient and cheap construction. As regarded strategy, it was no doubt unfortunate that the matter had not been considered by a regularly working and properly constituted Committee of Defence, but the country had considerable confidence in the direction of naval strategy by the Admiralty, and there would not be any general disposition to question the wisdom of the determination to have a naval base in the north. The same remarks would apply to the question of the convenience of any selected station for repairs. These were mainly matters for experts, and in the main the country would have to be guided by the experts' advice. With regard to construction, however, they might be permitted to have an opinion. The manner in which shipbuilding naturally gravitated to the north of England and Scotland, showed that construction was more economically conducted there than in the south. The shipbuilding yards in the south would not have been very considerable apart from the Government establishments. There was always a considerable amount of waste in the older establishments—though he admitted that great efforts had been made for some time past to inculcate economy, and to bring those establishments up to date—and he conceived that in laying out a perfectly new station in a country where construction was conducted most economically, there would be a great opportunity to reduce the cost of construction for the Admiralty as a whole. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would say whether this station was to be a real constructing base. Such an object could be secured, either by having the proper docks and construction arrangements on the spot, or by carrying out the project of connecting the east and west coast by a deep-water canal. He shared the view that the construction Votes left the Committee somewhat in the dark as to the real amount of the expenditure on the Navy. They reminded him of the extraordinary Budgets of foreign Powers, and he thought it would be much better if the country could know from year to year 1279 the exact cost of the Navy, including the amount spent on construction. As a matter of fact, the sum was nearer £40,000,000 than the amount which appeared on the Navy Estimates.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
said that from an Imperial point of view, apart altogether from the question of strategy, the Government were to be congratulated upon their decision to establish a naval station in Scotland. As far as the building and repairing of ships was concerned, no more economical site could have been secured, seeing that it was in close proximity to skilled labour and raw materials. Enormous sums had to be paid for the carriage of plates to the establishments in the south, in addition to other expenditure, which would be practically avoided in connection with this new station. The Admiralty had acted wisely in taking plenty of land, as frequently Departments of State took too little to begin with, and then, when it was necessary to extend the works, huge sums had to be paid for additional land, the very existence of the Government establishments having largely increased the value of the neighbouring property. He did not altogether agree that the land had been secured very cheaply. There were 1,200 acres, of which the rental was £1,600, and the price the Admiralty had paid was £122,000, figures which seemed to support the view of those who urged the taxation of land values, because the rental was a very small item compared with the land value claimed from the Government. He asked whether the Admiralty possessed an open mind on the question of connecting the east and west coasts by canal. This site would be rendered much more valuable as a naval base if that could be done, as it would then be in touch with the great shipbuilding yards of the west coast.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said the debate rather showed the inconvenience of making any statement at all at the Resolution stage of these matters. There might be advantages in so doing, but there was clearly one disadvantage—viz., that whereas, if he brought in a Bill which included such a question as that of 1280 the new dockyard at Rosyth, it would have been his duty to explain exactly the grounds on which it was proposed; the present stage was not the occasion on which to do that, and it was somewhat inconvenient that Members should be put in the position of having to discuss such questions without having had placed before them any reasonable arguments in favour of the proposals. He therefore thought the old practice of making no statement at all was the better one in that respect.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said the hon. Gentleman's experience extended over a longer period than his own, but certainly in regard to the present series of Works Bills, which went back only to 1895, the uniform practice had been to make no statement. He would defer going into details until the Second Reading of the Bill, when he hoped to place a reasoned statement before the House, but one or two Questions had been asked, in reply to which he might say a word. He did not think strategists would agree with the hon. Member for King's Lynn that the only road from the Baltic and the North Sea was through the English Channel. He doubted whether under the new tactics it was desirable to be quite as near the enemy's coast as it was under the old conditions. He did not propose to go further into that question. He agreed with the remarks made upon both sides of the House as to the advantage which this naval base site would have from the point of view of construction. His hon. friend had asked whether the strategical question had been considered by the Defence Committee. This matter was fully considered and had been decided upon before the new Defence Committee was constituted, but every member of the new Defence Committee was fully aware of the nature of this proposal, and every one of them concurred in it. It had also received most careful consideration from the naval advisers of the Admiralty. With regard to the Question asked by the hon. Member for Perthshire, he might say, without going into details, that the total amount of increase upon the whole items was £4,000,000, and of this total £2,500,000 was due to the new items and £1,500,000 1281 for old works. With reference to the increase in the annual expenditure, the hon. Member opposite had remarked upon the fact that, during the first beginnings of spending under these Acts, the sum spent in a year was at first £1,000,000, and it had grown first to £2,000,000, then to £3,000,000, and now it was £4,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, who was responsible for this system, defended it on the ground of equalising the expenditure over a series of years. If these works had been undertaken and placed upon the annual Votes, they would have been very uneven, and one year the expenditure might have been £1,000,000 and another year £2,000,000, and some years £3,000,000, and even £4,000,000 in individual years. The expenditure was small when the work was first begun and when it was finished, but during the intervening time the expenditure was large, therefore they must have increasing and decreasing expenditure. Therefore, though the expenditure varied largely from year to year by this Act that varying expenditure was converted into an even method of payment, and that was one of the main reasons why this system had been adopted. The hon. Member had stated that he considered that the electric lighting should have been placed on the Votes, and not on this Bill at all. He thought that was a very reasonable observation to make, but he would see that when a great work of this kind was to be undertaken it was very desirable to treat it as a whole, and deal with it upon a comprehensive basis. It would be hard on any one year to place upon it this large item, and on those grounds it appeared to him to be more reasonable to put it in the Loans Act. He trusted the hon. Member for Lanark would excuse him not following him into detail upon the question he had raised, because he hoped to make a full statement upon the Second Reading of the Bill. He hoped they would be able to get to the Report Stage on Monday and then the Bill would be printed and distributed. By Friday next he thought they might be in a position to take the Second Reading. He thanked hon. Members on both sides for the very favourable reception they had given to 1282 these proposals, and he hoped further discussion would be deferred until next Friday.
Resolved, That it is expedient to make further provision for the construction of works in the United Kingdom and elsewhere for the purposes of the Royal Navy, and to authorise the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of such sums, not exceeding £7,996,000, as may be required for those purposes, and to make provision for raising, in the manner provided by Seetion 5 of the Naval Works Act, 1895, the sums so issued by terminable annuities for a period not exceeding thirty years from the date of the borrowing.—(Mr. Pretyman.)
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.