§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ *THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. PRETYMAN,) Suffolk, Woodbridge
said that on the Money Resolution passed by the House in Committee on Friday last he made a general statement on questions of finance affecting the Bill; and he did not, therefore, now propose to repeat it. Of course, if any hon. Member wished to ask any further questions on points of finance, he should be glad to attempt to deal with them. He then stated the total sum that was asked for; the total sum to be spent; and the total estimated cost of the whole of the works in the 312 schedule of the Bill. He also stated that, as far as they could now anticipate, they hoped that of this series of Acts this Bill was final as regarded the items. The present Board of Admiralty saw no reason to suggest new items to be added. He also stated that the total estimate of the cost was not final. He proposed to give a few particulars as to that when he came to the items. He further stated the list of the new works which they proposed in the schedule. He thought it would now be convenient if he made a general statement of the progress of the existing works; and also made a short statement as to the reasons why the new items were introduced. In the matter of progress, he thought he might claim that the general progress made in the existing works was, on the whole, satisfactory. Of the £6,500,000 voted two years ago for two years' work, there remained unspent £574,000. That was rather a large sum, but he thought he could show the House that there were particular reasons, which could not well have been foreseen, which accounted for that under-expenditure. On several items there had been over-expenditure; but the balance was as he had stated. There had been a considerable sum overspent. That was to say, that certain works had made more progress than was anticipated or allowed for. On Gibraltar, Dover, Hong-Kong, Keyham, and the Britannia College, they had spent more money than they had anticipated. The House had frequently expressed, as he thought, the proper and business-like opinion that where a contract was issued, and the money voted by the House, to carry out an important naval work, the sooner it was executed the better The House having definitely authorised the expenditure of the money, it was the business of the Admiralty to speed it as fast as they could. Therefore, he said advisedly, that they had succeeded in making more rapid progress, including more rapid expenditure, on those particular works than they anticipated.
There were other works in which progress had not been so rapid as had been anticipated. These works included the Malta breakwater. That followed the principle of all new projects—namely, that they were very difficult to start. They were constantly making 313 allowance for that in those Bills, but they did not seem to be able to make allowance enough. When once a work got into swing, then expenditure was comparatively rapid; but the preparation of the plans, the bringing of the contractor's plant on to the ground, and the innumerable matters to be attended to, always caused much delay in the commencement. He was glad to say that the contract had now been let, and he hoped that the work would proceed with ordinary rapidity. For the deepening of harbours and approaches there was a small under-expenditure, not very considerable. In the case of Colombo Dock there had been slight retardation. That was a matter in which the Admiralty were not directly concerned. The Colonial Government were constructing the dock and the Admiralty were making payments suited to their expenditure. In regard to the Malta Dockyard extension there had been considerable delay, and the underspending amounted to £207,000. The reason was that there had been great difficulty in consequence of infiltration. The contractor had not allowed sufficient pumping plant, and he understood that when the necessity for increasing that plant was discovered, it was done rather piecemeal. That had caused considerable delay, though no expense, to the Admiralty. He hoped the difficulty was now mainly overcome. The work was now making reasonable progress. At Bermuda there had been some delay on account of a strike, but they were pressing on with the work, and it was now making fair progress. At Simon's Bay there had been delay, due to the war and the scarcity of labour in South Africa. They had not been able to make the progress which they anticipated with the new coaling item which was added to the Act last year. There were £300,000 underspent on that item. That was mainly due to the fact that they were new works, and to its being impossible to start these works all over the world simultaneously. On the whole the progress was satisfactory. They had made considerable progress at Hong-Kong in connection with the coaling item. He did not wish to weary the House with too many details, but he should be glad to answer 314 any question with regard to the progress of any particular item. The Portsmouth barracks and magazine items were both somewhat behindhand. The Portsmouth barracks were now nearly completed, but there had been some change in the plans on account of the new scheme of training and the increase in the number of men allotted to the barracks. It was difficult to make rapid progress with the magazine item because constant changes in ammunition, and in the policy which was to be followed as to reserves all over the world, made modifications necessary. At Gibraltar the detached mole and the new mole were now completed, except for a little work at the head. The commercial mole would be completed by the end of the year. One dock was practically complete, and the foundation and side walls of the other two docks were nearly finished. So good progress was being made.
said there had not been any infiltration at Gibraltar. When the work was first proposed an eminent engineer prophesied that they might as well try to pump out the North Atlantic, but, as a matter of fact, although at Malta they had had great difficulty, at Gibraltar there had been practically none. There had been very considerable criticism in the public Press with regard to Hong-Kong, apparently largely founded on a statement that the work at Hong-Kong was making very slow progress, and that special difficulties in the matter of foundations were being encountered by the contractors. That statement was entirely without foundation. Indeed, measuring progress by expenditure, they actually had spent £170,000 beyond the estimated expenditure; so the progress was exceptionally good.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked whether the foundations of the dock at Hong-Kong were really good and adequate.
said, so far as they had gone, no special difficulties had been 315 encountered. The work had not yet reached the stage when it could be stated that there would be no difficulty with the foundations; but they had every reason to believe that the foundations would be perfectly satisfactory, and no reason to suppose the contrary. He had no hesitation whatever in making that statement. They could not be perfectly certain as yet. At Chatham the progress was extremely good; but they had now encountered very considerable difficulty through water finding its way in from the adjoining basin. It was impossible in great engineering works of that kind to definitely anticipate that there would be no difficulty; but so far as they could judge nothing unusual need be anticipated as regarded Hong-Kong. There had been considerable correspondence—and the matter had been noticed in the Press—in regard to a proposal that the entire naval establishment at Hong-Kong should be removed to another site. The whole object of that proposal was purely commercial and colonial. From a naval point of view, there was no site as good as that which they now occupied. He thought it would be contrary to all precedent—and he could not suppose that the House would sanction such an operation—to vote an enormous sum of money in order to remove an efficient dockyard from a site where it was properly defended, on an island that was a strategical necessity, to, perhaps, a less eligible site which would have to be defended, merely with the object of enabling the colony to extend their commercial establishments and marine parade.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said they were. There was a time when there was a naval ground on which it was considered desirable to remove the naval establishment at Hong-Kong. They then had only five or six acres of land, but now they had nearly forty acres of land, and they had room enough for the naval establishment, for the necessary stores, and for the long dock which was being constructed. There was also a clear site for another long dock for the largest vessels, should it be necessary at any time to construct one. There was some congestion in the ordnance establishment 316 at Hong-Kong—there was still a joint ordnance establishment for the Navy and the Army. But a committee of naval officers had selected a site on the island for a new ordnance establishment; and negotiations would shortly be commenced for establishing an ordnance depôt on that new site. He hoped they would then have more room at the dockyard, and that the ordnance establishment would be placed on a satisfactory basis. The naval coaling station was established on the mainland. Although that site was suitable for a coaling station, it would not be suitable for a naval dockyard, because there was a difficulty about the water and the anchorage, dredging would be required, and, as they had good reason to know, the price of the land was enormous. They had to pay an exaggerated price for land for a coaling place. Indeed, one would think that the land was in the City of London. They placed the matter in the hands of the colonial Government, who obtained the best value they could, but it entailed a very heavy charge. He thought he need not particularise further.
He would now explain the reasons why increases were proposed in existing items included in the schedule of the Bill. When the Resolution was being debated last week a remark was made that these items were constantly increased without notice to the House. That was not quite the case, because it had been constantly stated as a matter of policy that in regard to three items included in the Act the total estimates were not final, and that increases would be necessary. Those items were the deepening of harbours and approaches, coaling, and magazines. Those three items all included a large number of separate services, and it was found impossible to give a final and conclusive total estimate of the whole cost which might be covered by them. But the control of the House was preserved by the fact that no items were undertaken within any particular two years covered by the Act which could not be covered by the total estimate already approved and included in the Act. The increase in the item for deepening harbours and approaches was to cover the general scheme of dredging which had been already approved. With the approval 317 of the House they had embarked on the policy of purchasing a large and efficient dredging plant, and that policy had been amply justified. There was, perhaps, no item of works on which there was such an extraordinary difference between the cost of doing the work by contract and doing it themselves as there was on dredging. He thought possibly the explanation largely was that the insurance on dredgers was extraordinarily heavy. They did not insure their dredgers, but, fortunately, they had met with very few accidents. He would give the House an instance which would show the remarkable character of the difference. A large work was now going on at Keyham, where about £4,000,000 was being spent on dockyard extension. A great quay wall was being put down in what was now shallow water. The access to that quay would have to be deepened by a very large dredging scheme, something like 4,000,000 yards of rock and mud having to be removed. It was desired, if possible, in order to make more progress with the other works, to have the dredging done by the contractor. It was always better to have the whole work in one hand rather than to have one party dredging and another going on with the other work. The lowest tender which could be obtained from the contractor was £565,000. Before obtaining the tender the Admiralty had placed one of their new dredgers on the work in order to ascertain at what cost they could do it themselves. They found that, taking the results of that, experiment as a basis, they could execute the work with their own plant for £114,000. He should qualify those figures by saying that favourable circumstances were assumed, and that if they met with hard rock which had to be blasted, which they did not anticipate, a further £50,000 might be involved. He thought the House would see that the cost of the dredging plant, which was the best in the world, was amply justified.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said it was £200,000, which was almost exactly the same increase as last year. The increase was 318 necessary in order to enable the whole of the present dredging plant to be worked at full power and, in view of their having decided to do this great work at Keyham, to purchase one more complete set of dredging plant. The increase on the coaling item was £250,000. A round sum of £1,000,000 was taken last year. The House was then informed that that was not absolutely final, but that no more works would be undertaken than could be completed within the estimate. That pledge had been fulfilled, but it was now necessary to extend the work into other places. For £1,000,000 they would complete Malta, Gibraltar, Hong-Kong, Portland, Wei-hai-wei, Haulbowline, Portsmouth, and Devonport, and also provide a floating depôt. It was now necessary to add to these. He wished to ask the House to sanction a further £60,000 for Portsmouth, as, although the complete scheme could be carried out for £100,000 in accordance with the undertaking which was given last year, the scheme would be considerably improved by the expenditure of a further £60,000. At Sheerness they would require to spend possibly £100,000; Ascension, an important coaling station, they had put down for £65,000, and £16,000 for St. Helena. The importance of the coaling item, he thought, could hardly be exaggerated. The policy had been discussed and approved last year, and he need not therefore argue it further. There was a very large increase on magazines, amounting to £460,000. That was a fluid item on which proposals were added as necessary. It was now hoped that these proposals were approaching finality, but he could not definitely promise that it would not be necessary to extend them. The item responsible for the largest share of the increase, £190,000, was the new magazine at Chatham, in connection with which it was proposed to create a subsidiary establishment, with access to the Medway, at Teapot Hard, about four miles below Chatham, in regard to which they had obtained very excellent facilities for shipping ordnance stores and ammunition. It was also in contemplation, in connection with that establishment, to transfer a part of the stores which were now kept at Woolwich to that site. At present there was a very great congestion at Woolwich owing to the Army 319 and Navy stores both being kept in the same magazine, and Chatham was a far better site from their point of view. At Priddy's Hard a further expenditure would be necessary. A Committee had recently been examining into the question of the magazine at Priddy's Hard, and considerable changes would be necessary there. At Gibraltar, where the cost of the magazine work had been larger than was anticipated, further increases were necessary.
There were considerable increases on all the items for naval barracks. None of these increases were due to the works costing more than had been anticipated. They were almost all solely due to increased accommodation and to changes of policy. At Chatham the accommodation originally provided for and covered by the Vote two years ago was for 3,730 men. It was now increased to 4,858 men. At Portsmouth there was additional accommodation for 1,464 men, and at Keyham additional accommodation for 648 men. Besides that, owing to the abolition of masts and yards training, it had become necessary to erect gymnasia in connection with all these establishments. He would quote to the House from The Blue Jacket, a paper which circulated largely on the lower deck, to show how the policy of substituting barracs fork hulks had been appreciated by the lower deck. The Blue Jacket, referring to the new accommodation at Chatham, said—That as compared with the old it was like comparing Heaven with hell.That was a strong lower deck expression which he hoped the House would forgive him for repeating. On the Chatham naval barracks there was an increase of £70,000, on Portsmouth naval barracks £120,000, and on these at Keyham £50,000. There was also an increase of £50,000 on the Chatham Naval Hospital, which now provided 600 beds, and there were some additional residences to be provided for and other requirements. He believed that the hospital, when it was completed, would be as well equipped as any existing hospital in the United Kingdom It had been visited by many competent judges connected with London hospitals, and the arrangements met with their unqualified approval. On the Britannia Naval College there was an increase 320 of £60,000. This was mainly due to the extra wing which would have to be built in order to accommodate the larger number of cadets who would have to be housed owing to the new scheme of entry and training in the Navy. It would also cover the purchase of some additional land which was required in connection with the establishment near the entrance.
Passing to the new proposals, the first was for the introduction of electricity for power and light into the dockyards He gathered in the previous debate that that met with general approval, and therefore he would not elaborate but he should like to give the House one or two reasons which had moved the Admiralty to adopt that policy. Every one would realise that the present system meant a great distribution of power scattered all over the yard, boilers at very low pressure, and a very great waste of fuel. With the power obtained by electric installation they would be able to have the whole power carried all over the yard with little or no waste of energy. It was impossible, also, to carry on night work without electric light, and if we were unfortunately engaged in a naval war, the dockyards would undoubtedly have to carry on night work. They had inquired as to the experience of many large firms throughout the country of electrical power in their establishments, and that experience was most favourable; generally speaking, the firms told them that their output for the same expenditure of power had increased from 25 to 30 per cent. It was evident that there would be much more room in the shops, that there would be no shafting, no belts, more head-room, and an enormous advantage in the matter of tools, especially in the speed with which tools could be worked. With steam they had to have an average speed, which probably did not suit exactly any tool, but with electricity they could have the exact speed for each tool, and tools could be carried to the work, as the system was extremely flexible, and the power could be carried, not only into the shops, but round the docks and the slips. The Director of Dockyards estimated that the saving in extra economy and efficiency would be little less than 40 per cent. in the dockyards as compared with the present 321 system. The Admiralty in dealing with this matter had thought it best to consult a firm of experienced electrical engineers of the highest standing, and had obtained from them a complete scheme, which had been carefully considered also by their own officers, for the establishment of a system for installing electric light and power in each naval establishment. The system had not been dealt with piecemeal, but as a great and consistent whole; sites had been selected in each establishment for the power station, and the scheme allowed a margin for future contingencies and additions if necessary The moment the House approved the expenditure of this money, they would be in a position to put the work under way. The amount asked for this work was £1,500,000; that might not be absolutely final, and if that was not sufficient it might be necessary in two years time to add some small sum.
With regard to Sheerness, there they had an establishment which had been mainly used for the bull ding and repairing of coastguard vessels, sloops, and small vessels which were now obsolete for war purposes. It could not thus be said that Sheerness really fulfilled a very useful purpose to the Navy of this country. The docks were not now long enough to take a modern destroyer, but with very little lengthening they could be adapted to this purpose. They had a great deal at Sheerness which would be very costly to provide elsewhere, for instance, something like 2,000 trained personnel available for dockyard work. It had been found that by the expenditure of £250,000 they would be able to adapt Sheerness yard for the carrying out of the whole of the large repairs to all the destroyers. There would be a certain number of strategic bases where there would be repairingships, called "mothers" in the Navy, which would have forges and armouries on board, and here the minor repairs to destroyers would be executed, but when the destroyer required to be docked she would be taken to Sheerness and dealt with there. This policy, he believed, would be found to be the most economical, for to deal with destroyers at a large yard, and to put one, or even two, into one of the large docks involved 322 an enormous waste of money in pumping out the immense docks which were intended for first-class cruisers and battleships. The specialising of Sheerness to the use of destroyers was really a part of the great policy of specialising to which we were driven by modern requirements. As to torpedo ranges, it was proposed to construct a new torpedo range in the Medway, in close proximity to Teapot Hard, which was now in connection with the Chatham schemes. There was an admirable site there, for there was a tongue of land something over 2,000 yards in length, alongside the river—it would give them a perfectly straight course—and but very little excavation would be required. They also proposed to lengthen the torpedo range at Horsea to 2,000 yards, because the introduction of the gyroscope had so largely lengthened the range of the torpedo. He hoped that the House would realise the added importance which now attached to the torpedo in connection with naval warfare. Every torpedo had to be run thirteen or fourteen times before it was issued and on its return after commission it had to be run again, and consequently considerable space was required for the torpedo establishment in order to keep it up to date. The increase in the fleet had involved an increase in the use of torpedoes, and he could assure the House that the present accommodation was wholly insufficient.
The next new item was that for gunnery schools, which had been combined with the item formerly described as "Naval Barracks for Medway Gunnery School" in the existing Act. That school they had not yet been able to begin, but in the last few days, he was glad to say, the War Office had seen their way to come to an arrangement with them about the site which they had hoped for. The additional money was for another gunnery establishment at Trevol near Devonport, on the Cornish side of the Hamoage; it was an excellent site of over 100 acres. The number of men it was proposed to provide for in each of those gunnery schools at present was 1,000. With regard to the coastguard stations item, he had gathered that the House agreed that 323 it would be desirable to develop our present rental into a charge for extinguishing the cost of acquiring and building stations. This was an item which, although it appeared on this Bill, did not really involve any extra charge. The charges for interest and repayment which would become due on the sum of £500,000 which they proposed to borrow. If it was necessary to increase that sum it would be extended on the same principle. The charge for the payment of interest and the repayment of capital would be no greater than would have to be paid for hiring modern accommodation at all coastguard stations. There were 533 coastguard stations in Great Britain, scattered over remote parts of the coast, and much of the accommodation was of a very inferior character, and to provide sites and erect buildings wherever required would require no little attention and application. They excluded Ireland from this provision, because under the present system the coastguard stations in Ireland were not built out of naval funds, but were put on the Board of Works Vote in the Irish Civil Service Estimates.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)
asked whether there would be in future any item for the purchase of coastguard stations?
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said there would not be eventually, though it might continue for the next two years. £50,000 only were being taken to start with, but it was expected that the total cost would be at least £500,000, though it would not really add to the annual charge. What the Admiralty now desired was to get the principle approved, and he hoped when the next Works Bill was introduced a final and considered estimate would be placed before the House. The only other new items were in respect of Chatham and Rosyth. The Report of the Berthing Committee specifically referred to both of these items, and reasoned arguments were given showing their necessity. With regard to Chatham, there was at present a very considerable naval establishment there, but it laboured under special disabilities. One special difficulty, owing to the increased size of ships, was the question of the navigation 324 of the upper reaches of the Medway leading to the dockyard, and of the entrances to the basin and the docks themselves. The depth in the channel and over the sill was hardly sufficient to afford proper access for modern vessels, and there was an alternative entrance on the upper side which was practically disused. In order to obtain full advantage of the present basin it was necessary to deepen the channel of the Medway for some distance below the lock entrance, and also to provide a further lock entrance. It was proposed to construct another large basin, two lock entrances, and perhaps two additional long docks. There was no question of acquiring land, as they already had on St. Mary's Island an ample area of land available, adjoining the present dockyard, and eminently suited for the purpose. It was impossible without an extension of this character to accommodate all the ships as they were now being built for the Navy. When this new basin and the two long docks had been added, they would have at Chatham an establishment much on the same scale as at Portsmouth and Devonport. The Berthing Committee's Report laid considerable stress on this point, alleging that it was not desirable to increase any existing establishment beyond a certain point. The establishment at Devonport and Portsmouth had already reached the practical limit of economical extension, and the establishment at Chatham was to be on a similar scale. With the additions now proposed Chatham would be brought up to the standard of Portsmouth and Devonport, and would probably employ some 10,000 or 12,000 hands. The amount taken for this work was only £50,000, and he thoroughly understood the complaint that a final and total estimate had not been submitted in the first instance. If Members would carry their minds back to the experience of the past they would see that the submission of a total estimate at this stage invariably resulted in additions and alterations at a later date. He had with him the statement made in connection with the Naval Works Bill of 1897 by the present Postmaster-General, from which it appeared that in connection with the works at Dover an original estimate of £1,900,000 had to be increased to 325 £3,500,000. The £50,000 now asked for was to enable the Admiralty to complete their plans and to make the necessary surveys, and the total estimate would be submitted when the next Works Bill was introduced two years hence.
With regard to the item of Rosyth, the new naval base in the Firth of Forth, there was a short discussion on the Resolution stage which aroused considerable interest. He could assure the hon. Member for King's Lynn, who objected to this base on strategical grounds, that the matter had been most carefully considered, and the naval advisers of the Admiralty were of opinion on strategical grounds that the base was admirably situated, ft occupied a commanding position in reference to the North Sea, and—what nowadays was of some importance in reference to a naval base for strategic purposes—it was a considerable distance from any torpedo station which could be occupied by any possible enemy. It was not now, as it used to be, desirable to be within easy range of the enemy's station. One of the most important things in future naval wars, he believed, according to the opinion of naval officers, would be to obtain rest for the crews and for any nerves which naval ratings could permit themselves to have. If the anchorage of a fleet was within striking distance of, and accessible to, the destroyers or submarines of a possible enemy it was quite impossible for the crews to obtain real rest. The Firth of Forth also had the advantage that it was already a defended station. Moreover, it was in the immediate proximity of coal and iron, which was an enormous advantage in questions of construction or repairs. A further advantage of having a naval base in Scotland was that they hoped to obtain more recruits for the Navy from that part of the country. No better recruits could possibly be found than those to be obtained from the East and West coasts of Scotland, but a great bar to recruiting at present was that any recruit from Scotland had to join a ship which commissioned on the South coast, so that when the ship came home for purposes of leave he had to go, at great expense and loss of time, from the South of England to, perhaps, the North of Scotland. That would be obviated if he could join a ship which commissioned from a naval base in Scotland. It was hoped that this would be a great incentive A further important 326 advantage was that there would be no great expenditure on dredging. The item for the deepening of harbours and approaches showed the enormous expenditure which had to be incurred in connection with existing harbours, which were originally occupied by smaller vessels, in order that those harbours might accommodate modern ships. When it was realised that a modern first-class cruiser required thirty acres of water to swing, the House would see what a very large area of deep water was required for modern vessels. That area was available on the Forth without any additional expenditure.
It having been decided to establish the base it became necessary to acquire a site, and in this matter the Admiralty had kept in view the history of the existing dockyards, from which it was seen that the greatest difficulty with which the Admiralty had had to contend in recent years was that of extension. The Admiralty had therefore decided to acquire in the first instance a sufficient area of land to allow for any possible extensions which would be required in the future. An area of 1,400 or 1,500 acres, including land and foreshore, had been acquired, and that would be amply sufficient and to spare for any possible establishment. He was very much pressed on a former occasion to state exactly what the Admiralty proposed to do and the establishments they would erect. He would tell the House what the Admiralty proposed to do, but he could not say exactly what works they proposed to erect. They were sending this month to Rosyth Colonel Exham, who for the last eight years had been in charge of the Admiralty establishment at Portsmouth, and than whom there was probably no one in the country better acquainted with the requirements of a large naval establishment from the works point of view. This officer was proceeding to Rosyth, and he would put upon paper a comprehensive plan showing the sites and the details of all the different establishments which would or might be required for a great naval base on the scale of Portsmouth or Plymouth. The country had suffered because the existing dockyards had originally been laid out on too small a scale. They proposed to have this dockyard laid out on paper as if it were going to be a naval establishment on the largest scale provided with all possible known requirements. 327 Having got this plan, it did not follow that the present, or even the next, Beard of Admiralty were going to provide for anything approaching all these requirements. They would decide what were the present needs, and these would be provided with reference to the final and completed whole, so that if any future Board of Admiralty decided to add to them they would find that what existed could be added to without any interference with one item or the other. All the works would be so constructed that they could be individually extended at the least possible cost, and without interfering with the site of any other building. Borings would be necessary, because the sites of the docks and basins would largely depend on the depth of the mud that lay on the rocks. Until Colonel Exham's report was received it would not be possible to make a start with the works. Having received it, the first work would be the erection of barracks, training school, and hospital, and while these were in progress the question of the construction of docks and basins could be considered. It would not be right at this stage for the present Board of Admiralty to pledge their successors to any definite policy as to the erection of these works.
The starting of a new dockyard was an interesting occasion. He thought it might interest the House to hear a few words as to the history of the existing dockyards. He did not wish to labour this point, but he had found one or two interesting things upon this point. His hon. friend behind him had stated that his precedents did not go quite far enough back. Portsmouth dockyard was the oldest in the country. It was supposed to have been founded by King Alfred; at any rate King John on the 20th of May, 1212, ordered works to be undertaken for the enclosure of the docks there. The order was addressed to the Sheriffs of Southampton, and it was as follows—We order you without delay by the hands of lawful men to cause our docks at Portsmouth to be enclosed with a good and strong wall for the preservation of our ships and galleys; and likewise to cause pent-houses to be made in the same walls in which all our ships' tackle may be safely kept. Use as much despatch as you can in order that the same 328 may be completed this summer lest in the ensuing winter our ships and galleys and their rigging should incur any damage by your default; and when we know the cost it shall be accounted to you.Apparently there were difficulties in getting money in those days. In 1663 Mr. Pepys, who was then Secretary to the Admiralty, inspected the site of a wet dock at Chatham. He said—The place is likely to be a very tit place when the King hath money to do it with.He apparently found some considerable difficulty in raising the £10,000 necessary for its construction.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked whether the hon. Gentleman could give him some estimate of the cost of the new dockyard and arsenal at Rosyth. He also asked why the cost of the new establishment at Osborne was not included in the Bill.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said it was quite impossible to give even an approximate estimate of the cost of the new dockyard at Rosyth. It depended entirely on what policy was adopted in the future. They were going to take this survey, but whatever was done now would be done as part of a great and comprehensive whole. All he could say at this stage was that the Admiralty would come down and propose complete works and give a final estimate for those works which they proposed to construct. Whether some future Board of Admiralty would propose other works it was impossible for him to say. With regard to Osborne they did not propose to construct any large permanent building like the Britannia College, and such work as was being done would be met out of the ordinary expenditure of the year.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked why the Britannia Royal Naval College was included in the Bill while the Osborne establishment was left out.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said that the reason was that Britannia College was a large and substantial building, while the Osborne naval establishment was built upon an entirely different principle. He explained on Vote 10 what they proposed to 329 construct at Osborne was not a large permanent building because that would give them no elasticity or capacity for extension.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
replied that the Osborne establishment was built upon a different principle and there was no borrowed money in connection with its construction, and it was being done out of the ordinary expenditure of the year. He thanked the House for listening to so many wearisome details which he had had to inflict upon hon. Members. Reference had been made to the extremely heavy outlay upon these works, but the House would see that this great expenditure was merely part of a considered policy in regard to the increase of the Navy and the increased efficiency of the Navy, and this part was absolutely necessary to the whole. If they looked back into the past they would see that the ships of a century ago were able to equip themselves in a very different way. Unlike the ship of a century ago, which could refit at sea from captured ships or forests along the coast, and could be kept at sea for two or three years together, the modern ship was entirely dependent on specialised articles and specialised stores and upon scientific equipment of various kinds which could not be improvised, and unless she had within reach a naval base where these articles could be found she was useless for the purposes of war. Take one item alone—that of gunpowder. In the old days there was one particular brand of gunpowder which everybody used, and if one of the King's ships captured an enemy's ship there was the same powder found upon it. At the present time there was a different powder in every service and almost for every different gun. If they wished 330 to use those particular guns they must provide the proper ammunition for them wherever the ships happened to be. He was thoroughly aware that there was only a certain sum of money available to maintain the Navy, and that everything that was spent on works meant so much less upon ships. Upon this point he thought he could hardly do better in conclusion than read a short statement which dealt with this very part of the question. The Intelligence Department of the Admiralty had said that—To add to the number of our ships without providing corresponding means to maintain them in sea-keeping condition would not add to the efficiency of the Navy, but rather the reverse, as an excessive strain thrown on its deficient resources would probably react on the general condition of the Fleet.That was the true view. The works policy did not originate with the Works Department of the Admiralty, as had been suggested; it was the result of the demands of the Navy, and although the expense was heavy, he did not believe there was one proposal in the Bill that was not absolutely necessary to maintain the efficiency of the Fleet.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
thought it was to be regretted that there had not been a larger attendance of Members to listen to the full, the interesting, and the important statement that had been made by the Civil Lord. As far as he could estimate the Parliamentary and probably the public interest in this vastly important Bill, he thought it had diminished rather than increased since the first step was taken in Committee of Ways and Means. It was said that the small attendance and absence of interest in this Bill meant that hon. Members were satisfied with it, but he did not take any such consoling view. He believed the real explanation of this absence of interest was that the majority of hon. Members on both sides were unwilling to grapple with great technical difficulties and were absolutely indifferent in regar to the expenditure of money. The hon. Gentleman said that the sub stance of the Bill was in the schedule. This time there was something in the body of the Bill which would want some attention from the Committee. He did 331 not know whether the House knew that there was a proposal to extend the time during which, under the original scheme, the whole of the liabilities under the Naval Works Acts should be repaid. The new expenses, at least, were now to be paid by annuities, terminable in fifty-five years after the date on which the expenditure was incurred. The payment of the money was, therefore, spread over a longer time, though the annual burden would be less, but considering what they were doing in other Departments in piling up liabilities for posterity, he would rather that the repayment in this case were to take place within a shorter period. That must be a matter for the consideration of the Committee. This schedule of the Bill was really, as on every occasion when such a Bill was brought forward, the part to which the House could alone give any considerable attention. The new items did require more consideration this year, and, in particular, the projects for dockyard extension associated with Rosyth and Chatham. These called for most grave consideration on the part of the House in Committee. He would say at once in regard to this policy of dockyard extension that it could not but be disappointing to many of them that this very large additional outlay should be necessary. Anyone who looked at the schedule of this Bill would see what enormous expenditure on dockyards and harbours had already been authorised at many places. The sum Parliament had already authorised the Admiralty to spend on what was really housing accommodation for the Fleet amounted to no less than £23,000,000. That enormous expenditure having been provided for the stowage of ships since 1895, it was a source of disappointment that further provision should have to be made. But they were in a difficulty in this matter. How was one even to criticise the deliberate proposals of the Admiralty which were founded upon knowledge which could not possibly be possessed by hon. Members, and upon an examination of facts and circumstances which they could not possibly know?
The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the Report of the Berthing Committee. He was afraid that the hon. Gentleman was wrong in supposing that all the Members who listened to 332 him had read that Report. He doubted if many had read it. It was a pretty stiff Report to read, and it added to the difficulty he had in endeavouring to criticise the new proposals at all. The Committee was appointed to consider the question of accommodation for the growing Fleet, and this was the result of their examination and consideration of the matter. They found that the present naval ports were insufficient for the accommodation of the Fleet, and that other harbourage could only be partially utilised. At page 14 of the Report they gave a list of ships which must be accommodated in naval ports. He would not go into this now, but there they were, and it seemed to him a reasonable statement, and one which it was very difficult to find fault with. The Committee stated that that Fleet would not have the accommodation it would require, unless this new policy of dockyard extension was carried into effect. There were one or two points which suggested themselves to him on this question. One was that they had dwelt a good deal during this session upon the increased Vote for new construction at large, and the increased Vote for repairs. A point that had not been dwelt upon in connection with these matters was that the increases had gone to private contractors. The policy with regard to that was very clearly laid down in the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, with which their proceedings this year commenced. It mentioned the employment on a larger scale of private contractors, both in building and repairing, as a policy which was to be encouraged by the Admiralty. But the figures were somewhat remarkable. Last year most of the new shipbuilding was given out to private contractors. It went up by £1,000,000 as compared with the year before, but this year it was a good deal more than a million in excess of last year. If they compared the Estimates this year with those of two years ago they would find that the new shipbuilding going to private yards had increased by something like £2,250,000. In regard to repairs, the difference was almost startling. Three years ago, to go no farther back, one item in the Estimates—he thought it was Item E in the Contract section— 333 stood at £93,000. That was the amount that went to private yards, but this year under that head the sum was £722,000. This policy, they understood, was to be extended, and he should like to have some explanation of it. He should have thought that the increased amount of work, both original work and repairing, which was given out to private yards, would have relieved the situation in the naval ports, but instead of that they had this policy of employing private yards going on concurrently with the providing of increased accommodation for naval ports. That was a point on which the hon. Gentleman might have something to tell the House.
In this and previous sessions the House had granted to the Admiralty enormous sums for the manufacture of new ships. This year the Admiralty came forward and told them that these new ships which had been sanctioned would be of no use to the Navy unless they provided the additional dockyard accommodation now asked for. On the first point, he for one had not found it possible to accept the mere estimate of the Admiralty as a sufficient reason for larger demands in naval construction. He had said again and again that this depended upon policy for which the Admiralty were not answerable, but with regard to which those who were answerable had so far given no adequate reply. Therefore, so far as the substance of this new policy of extension was concerned, while he took no responsibility for the causes that had led to it, he frankly admitted that from his point of view it was hardly possible to contest the decision at which the Admiralty on its own responsibility had arrived. Now he came to the items of this new extension. The item relating to Rosyth was that which had brought so large a proportion of his colleagues in the representation of Scotland to this debate to-day. They formed a good majority of the House at the present moment. He did not think he was doing his colleagues any injustice in making that suggestion. His hon. friend the Member for East Perthshire had put down a Motion challenging the Second Reading of the Bill on the ground that full financial estimates had not been made.
334 He should like to say a word or two in regard to the defence made by the Civil Lord of the line of action followed on this occasion both in respect of Rosyth and Chatham. They had what is called a "total vote"—only a statement of the probable expenditure. The issue raised by his hon. friend was that the Admiralty ought to have prepared, not conclusive, or absolutely exact, or final estimates, but some rough estimates, at all events, of the total financial effect of their now proposals. The hon. Gentleman alluded to the case of Dover, and said that when it was put in the first Naval Works Bill a comparatively small amount was allowed. He would remind the House that Dover was pushed into that Bill by this House; it was not in the first draft at all. The Government of the day was compelled by the sentiment of the House to allow it to go in, and under those circumstances no estimate was possible. He dared say that the estimate that followed was below the mark. The hon. Gentleman might have chosen as a better illustration the case of Devonport. The estimate made for Devonport had been largely exceeded, but it was at all events an official estimate. It was made by those responsible for such things to the Admiralty of the day. He had charge of the Bill in question and he could say that with full assurance. He thought that the absence in the present state of any estimate at all gave rise to the inference in the first place that there was not only no estimate but no exact and thought-out plan and policy. That had been fully confirmed the other day by what was said by the Civil Lord. He had asked the hon. Gentleman what kind of a naval establishment this was to be? Was it to be a new Portsmouth? Were they going to undertake shipbuilding there or were they only going to effect repairs on the ships which came into the roadstead? He took it that the Government themselves had not yet made up their mind, that they did not know now what they were going to do at Rosyth. That there were to be naval barracks there, was known; but were there to be large construction works, or were they to take it that they did not know? They had bought land enough to enable them and their successors to do anything they liked. Rosyth might be 335 at any date a full-blown Portsmouth or not, according to the decision of the Government or the Admiralty—a base for shipbuilding as well as repairing. But the point was, should the House of Commons take what he believed to be an entirely new departure in finance in assenting that day to works of this enormous magnitude, the cost of which was unknown, because the extent of them was unknown? He could understand that where the wages of labour were dubious in future years, or that the cost of the acquisition of land was uncertain, the estimate would have to be more or less guesswork; but the essential element in a case of this kind did not depend on these items at all. It depended upon facts which the House did not know; upon what was going to be done at this new naval base. He agreed thoroughly with the principle which his hon. friend the Member for Perthshire sought to establish by the Amendment he was going to move, that, making all allowance for the imperfection of estimates, the Admiralty should, before the Committee stage was reached, come down and tell the Committee what was the rough approximate estimate of the cost of this new naval base.
There was another reason why there should be more precision in the estimate. This was not a case where the expenditure was to be incurred once for all. It depended upon what they were going to erect, whether the cost of the new naval establishment would be anything like the annual cost of Portsmouth, or Devonport, or Pembroke, or Chatham. On these grounds they were entitled to more complete information. They ought to have an estimate not only of the cost of the new works but of what the annual cost of the new establishment was likely to be on the naval Votes. He regarded Rosyth from another point of view. The hon. Gentleman had spoken about the excessive price which the congestion of the population in the neighbourhood of the existing dockyards had put upon the land values. But what was the reason for the excessive price given for the land at Rosyth? The hon. Gentleman said nothing of that that day; but in Committee of Ways and Means he told the Committee that the gross rental 336 of the estate purchased at Rosyth was £1,622 per annum; and that he was going to take authority, by this Bill, to give for that estate a sum of £122,500, with certain rights reserved to the vendor in respect of minerals. An hon. Gentleman, who had now left the House, had been gibing about the Irish Land Bill, but this far transcended the terms given to the landlord in the Irish Land Bill. It was a transaction which must be further probed and about which more information must be given than the House had yet had. He would ask where the money was to be got for this land purchase? He presumed that it was part of the £200,000 of initial expenditure for the year. [Mr. PRETYMAN was understood to assent.] But coming back to the price, the State was the ultimate owner of all the land in the country, including Rosyth, which it needed for its own purposes. Here was this particular bit of land, bringing in something like £1,600 a year. He did not know the price of agricultural land in that neighbourhood. He should suppose it was worth not more than thirty years purchase. [Mr. T. R. BUCHANAN: Twenty-six years purchase.] Well, he would allow thirty years purchase, and £50,000 would be the outside price in the open market for any private person coming forward seeking to acquire the land. He did not know who the owner was, although he believed it was a noble Lord belonging to Scotland. However, that did not matter so far as his argument was concerned. But the Admiralty had given two-and-a-half times the market value, estimated by the best authorities, for this land. Why had they given so much, and how did they make the contract with the owner of the soil? It was a lucky thing for that owner that the naval policy of the country had taken this new direction; but what the Committee wanted to know was by what manner of procedure did the Admiralty fix this price? Did they send a man down to bargain with the owner, telling him that the land was wanted for the Admiralty and leave him to put his own figure on it? Something of that kind must have been done. Why did the Admiralty not adopt the procedure indicated in the first Naval Works Act 337 of 1895? In that Act, foreseeing that the Admiralty would require to purchase land and that the vendor was likely to stand out for a large price, and knowing that the Admiralty had not then the power which the War Office possessed, a clause was inserted in the Act of 1895 which gave the Admiralty the same powers of compulsory purchase which the War Office had. What he wanted to know was why the Admiralty did not proceed to take this land by these compulsory powers, when the price might have been fixed either by a jury or by the alternative system provided for by the Lands Clauses Act? All they had got to do was to make an inquiry, delimit the land, so to speak, pass a Provisional Order by their own authority, and come to the House and ask their assent to the Provisional Order, and then proceed to fix the price by the tribunal provided by the Act. Why was not that course of action taken in this case; and why was this enormous price for apparently a very ordinary bit of Scotch agricultural land to be paid to this noble Lord?
There was only one other point on which he wished to touch. The hon. Gentleman, in speaking about the progress of the works under the old Acts, told the Committee that there had been more work done in some places than in others and that the saving in one Department was used against the excess expenditure in another Department. The total shortage was £1,500,000. He thoroughly concurred in the principle that the Committee should make allowance for excess expenditure over estimates in regard to great works; but he confessed he was astonished to hear the hon. Gentleman say that considerable progress had been made with the establishment at Keyham. He himself had meant to ask why it was that there was so great delay in the completion of the works at Keyham. It was a big business, but those responsible for the original Bill were advised that the works there would be completed in 1903. He observed that every year the date of the completion of the works was postponed in the Naval Works Bill for a few more years; and now it was said that they were not to be completed till 1906–7. The Committee ought to have 338 some explanation of this delay in the completion of the works at Keyham. Now, as to generalities the sum they were going to spend this year under this Bill was £4,000,000 out of the appalling total of £40,000,000. That was the gigantic cost which, although the Navy was intended for the defence of the Empire as a whole, fell wholly on the unhappy inhabitants of this island, because we had practically no contribution from those whom we defended, towards this expenditure—an expenditure which was now so great that all patriotic and sensible men must be becoming alarmed by the possibility of further extension. In face of this unparalleled and terrific expenditure on the Navy, surely they might have expected from the Government some defence of the policy which made the Navy necessary and, at all events, some assurance that they were alive to its dangers and were willing to take the only course which could bring such expenditure to an end—that of inviting other Powers, our alleged rivals, to join in putting an end to this expenditure of public money.
§ *MR. BUCHANAN
said he only proposed to deal with the financial and not with the naval aspect of this discussion. Various suggestions had been put forward from time to time as to modes and methods of retrenchment and economy, one of which was that they should go round cap in hand to the colonies for contributions, but his opinion was that expressed by Prince Bismarck, who said in these matters they must each wash their own doorstep. They must act on their own initiative and their own authority, and if they were not willing to do that they were not likely to embark on any effective retrenchment. It seemed to him that they should determine what their own interests were, and that their naval expenditure was commensurate with the financial resources and the needs of their own people. He did not agree with the Civil Lord that there was a total sum for the Navy, and that if more was spent on naval works there would be less to be spent on the Navy. Experience had shown that there was no limit to the sum put into the Naval Works Bill. 339 They had to agree to a large initial expense which entailed in succeeding years enormous and consequential increases. He thought if there was one branch of naval expenditure in which retrenchment might be possible, it was with regard to naval works. He quoted Lord Brassey in support of this contention. There were certain new features in this Bill which he thought were bad, and there were old features in it, which were inherent in every Naval Works Bill, which now appeared in an aggravated form. He did not think the House quite realised the length to which they had gone in this policy of Naval works. It was commenced in 1895 and had steadily developed until they had reached this enormous expenditure. He did not wish to discuss again the principle which underlay the Naval Works Bill—viz., to construct works of a permanent character out of borrowed money repayable in thirty years, but he retained the opinion that it would have been better to have adhered to the practice which prevailed in this country down to 1895 except in regard to certain rare cases. He recognised there might be exceptional works to be undertaken which it was necessary to pay for with borrowed money, but, if so, certain conditions should be clearly laid down as to what works came within that category and what did not. It was manifest and agreed to by everybody that they might construct out of borrowed money, and not out of the annual Estimates, works which entailed a large expenditure of money, and which were of a permanent character, and which would benefit the country for the thirty years in the course of which the money was to be paid, but they ought not to construct with borrowed money any works which would perish in the using. There were works put into this Bill which ought to be put on the Estimates and which could not fairly be paid for out of borrowed money. While the Bill of 1895 was brought forward as an exceptional measure this system of annual or biennial Naval Works Bills had become a stereotyped Departmental practice in this country. It had produced an alarm- 340 ing and continual increase of naval expenditure, and also resulted in a confusion in the accounts. It was a practice which ought to be deprecated, because it brought in two naval and two military Budgets in one year.
It had been stated that this Bill was to be final as regards works, but not as regards money, but he heard that statement with considerable scepticism, though he recognised that the Government were beginning to recognise the necessity of putting some limit on this vast and increasing expenditure. He did not think the Civil Lord or his successors would be able to hold their own in this matter, because he had observed that the naval expert had acquired command not only of the tiller but of the till. Efforts of retrenchment would be handicapped by speeches of a most sweeping character delivered in the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others who demanded that no limit should be placed on naval expenditure for the defence of this country. His general objection to a good deal contained in this and previous Bills was that the hon. Gentleman and the Admiralty were really endeavouring to save their Votes and put upon loan money which ought to be put upon the Annual Estimates. For instance, the furnishing of electric light and power in the dockyards was a very necessary reform, and, as a layman it was a surprise to him that it had not been introduced before, but that appeared to him to be an item that should not be paid for out of capital but out of annual income, and as such should appear upon the Estimates and not on this Loans Bill. The hon. Gentleman had also spoken of coaling facilities, the amount for which appearing in this Bill was £1,280,000, which was an increase of £250,000 on the estimated cost of 1901. Among the works included in that sum was the construction of a jetty at Haulbowline for coaling purposes, for which they were going to pay, not out of the annual Estimates but apparently out of borrowed money, the repayment of which was to be spread over thirty years. There was also to be an extension of the coaling jetty at Portland. If any hon. Gentleman looked through the Naval Estimates, and studied the details of the Works 341 Votes, he would find that these were just the items that should appear upon tie Estimates under the head of works and not be built out of money borrowed, the repayment of which would extend over a generation. Then there was an item for torpedo ranges, for the construction of the new torpedo range and the extension of an existing one. Surely that was expenditure that should be included, as similar expenditure had previously been included, in the annual Estimates. Why was it that the Government were now taking a new financial departure by putting items into the Naval Works Bill which hitherto had been borne on the annual Estimates and paying the expenditure out of borrowed money which ought to be paid out of the annual income.
Passing to the new works, particularly the extension of Chatham dockyard and the construction of the Firth of Forth base, for the first time since the Naval Works Acts were passed, the House was not told the total estimated cost of these works or when it was expected that they would be completed. He had endeavoured to show that this system of naval works legislation had introduced laxity into our financial control. The Government were now going further and asking them to embark on initial expenditure for works of unlimited extent and duration upon the details of which they themselves had apparently not made up their minds. Surely that was unduly interfering with the control which the House ought to possess, and which, in his opinion, was the best support the Government could have in the direction of economy. He did think the hon. Gentleman, in asking for a grant of money for initial expenditure, should give them at least an approximate estimate of the total cost. That surely was a reasonable and moderate demand. He recognised that it might not be possible to give a final estimate, or even one that could be relied upon for a number of years, but seeing that they were now embarking, as the Civil Lord had said, on one of the most important naval works undertaken during the past two or three centuries, they ought to be informed more in detail what was contemplated by the Admiralty and how much it was proposed to spend during the next two or four years. Column 1 342 in the schedule was a very important column, because it gave information as to the amount of their commitments on works that were being undertaken. Those commitments had of late years risen rapidly. The last return showed commitments to the amount of £27,000,000, and the previous one was £23,000,000. In the present year the hon. Gentleman put the figure at £31,000,000. That figure was quite fallacious, for it did not include an estimate for the Rosyth works or the Chatham extension, and he had told them that the eventual expenditure would be nearer £40,000,000 than £30,000,000. Personally, he was inclined to think it would be nearer £50,000,000. There had been a good deal of discussion recently about the National Debt and the means of paying it off, but they were very apt to lose sight of the fact that while on the one hand they were paying off debt they were accumulating it on the other, and in this and the next year they would be spending some £4,000,000 of borrowed money on naval works which would have to be repaid at a future date. What was the history of the Naval Works Bill? The first one was introduced by the Liberal Government in 1895, and the schedule contained only one column, which gave the estimated expenditure on each work for the ensuing year. But hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite particularly the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, then insisted on having another column showing the total estimated cost of each work, and also fixing a time limit for their completion. In view of the fact that since 1895 they had been in the habit of receiving this information, he hoped the hon. Gentle man would at some later stage be prepared to supply it to the House in regard to these new works. He begged to move "that this House declines to sanction expenditure on new works for the total cost of which an Estimate is not, as has hitherto been the practice, included in the Bill."
§ MR. EUGENE WASON (Clackmannan and Kinross)
seconded the Motion, and suggested that the Government should inquire into the feasibility of making a canal from the Forth to the 343 Clyde. Such a canal would be of enormous importance from a strategic point of view. The constituency which he represented was naturally very interested in this question, and he held in his hand a copy of a memorial from the Provost, Councillor and Magistrates of Alloa, addressed to the Secretary for Scotland, asking him to bring this matter before Parliament. The construction of such a canal would save vessels the necessity of going round by Pentland Firth; it would, in fact, shorten the distance by hundreds of miles. There were no engineering difficulties to be overcome, and the financial problem could be easily solved if the Government would guarantee say 2½ per cent. on the capital required. He wished to know why the Government had paid such an enormous price for the land at Rosyth. He had calculated that it represented something like eighty years' purchase, and it certainly required some explanation.
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House declines to sanction expenditure on new works for the total cost of which an estimate is not, as has hitherto been the practice, included in the Bill,'"—(Mr. Buchanan.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ *MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Portsmouth)
said he assumed that there was going to be a new naval base and a dock yard, possibly of very large dimensions, at Rosyth, although it was not possible at the moment to give an approximate estimate of the cost. It seemed to him inevitable that we should have a new naval dockyard.
Though, no doubt, they would continue to hear speeches deprecating the immense expenditure incurred in connection with the Navy, he was afraid there was no escape from the expenditure in front of them. He was pretty well acquainted with the dockyards of the country, and he believed that in most cases they had reached their limits of economic expansion. The question was, were they to go in for a policy of building their ships in Government yards or were they to build them 344 in private yards? His view was that in time of war the Government dockyards would be required for repairing purposes, but he considered it was essential that in time of peace the Government should build more of their own ships in their own yards. It was not prudent to depend entirely on the services of private firms, because in times of great stress there might be a dislocation of trade or an upheaval in the labour market which might have the effect of damaging and embarrassing naval preparations, and the necessity for speed with which they might be confronted; and they there fore should not allow construction to pass out of Government hands into the hands of private contractors. He would like to make his protest against the principle of giving out so much work to contractors, and to associate himself with those who desired to see more work done and larger provision made for further work in Government establishments. If the Government dockyards were all full now it stood to reason that we must have another one somewhere. He believed Rosyth would be a good place for a dockyard. He knew that the hon. Member for King's Lynn objected to it on strategical grounds, and had quoted Captain Mahan as his authority for the contention that all our naval bases should be on the South Coast. But at the time Captain Mahan wrote his books, the Russian and German navies had not become so important an element as they now were in the situation. They had, in fact, completely altered that situation, and had per-haps made it necessary for us to have a naval base on the East Coast of Scotland. He also could quote a passage from Captain Mahan supporting his view. It was a passage insisting on the importance of the fleets being near at hand to depôts from which they could replenish their stores. Let them do what they could with the existing dockyards—and he was in favour of making them of the greatest use—but they must sooner or later have another one somewhere, and in spite, of the strategical objections that had been raised, he maintained that Rosyth supplied the qualifications and advantages which justified the Government in adopting it. They ought to be prepared to make very large concessions, 345 and to give considerable licence to the Government to make the preliminary investigations which they trusted would result in material advantage to the country.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, in reference to the money proposed to be spent upon the defence of Dover, he had always considered Dover to be a complete fraud, because it was no use, and was not fit even for a secondary base. With regard to Rosyth, the strategic importance of which he did not regard as very great, if it were true, as had been stated over and over again, that the Government had given eighty years purchase for the land it was the most outrageous scandal ever disclosed to that House. His opinion was that Rosyth was not in a good position even for a secondary base—that was to say, a coal-keeping, biscuit-keeping, slight-repair-making naval base—and that it was eminently unfitted to be a base for arsenal and constructional purposes. The whole question was the value of the place as a strategic point, and that he considered to be very small indeed. A sum of £200,000 was put down for Rosyth, but that conveyed no idea of what was the final expenditure which would be incurred for dockyard and arsenal purposes. As to Dover, it was perfectly monstrous that, they should be induced to spend three and a half millions upon it. No naval commander in his senses would allow any fleet to go anywhere near Dover, unless it was going at full speed and in daylight. They had Chatham round the corner and Portsmouth close at hand, and Plymouth a little further on. There was not the slightest defence for the expenditure of this money at Dover, and this proposal seemed to him to be the conclusion arrived at by some sea-sick passenger to the Admiralty who came over on a bad day. The condition of Gibraltar was another serious scandal. All these scandals he traced to the Works Department of the Admiralty, an extremely extravagant Department, far from being as capable as it should be, which, having to do with an extremely well-intentioned but weak First Lord, really overrode him and dictated to him in the most amazing manner. He was not going to 346 dwell at any length upon Gibraltar. They were asked to sanction an expenditure of £5,000,000 to make Gibraltar not stronger but weaker. They had made it less able to maintain itself as a fortress, and they had made it a most tempting objective to an enemy which might wish to deal a blow at England in time of war.
That Bill provided for a total expenditure of £31,640,859. The Civil Lord told them that the items were final. But that did not console him. What he wanted to know was whether there was any finality in the total. It did not console him to be told that they were not new items. He wanted to know what finality there was about the sum the House was pledging itself to, and the answer to this question was conspicuously and completely absent from anything the hon. Gentleman had said. There was an item in the schedule, subhead (b), "deepening harbours and approaches," of £1,300,000, and a footnote explained that this was "exclusive of the cost of dredging plant purchased prior to 31st March, 1895." Why exclude that cost if it was part of the total expenditure? There was £2,500,000 for Simon's Ray dockyard extension, in regard to which an expenditure estimated at £8,300 was incurred during 1896–7 to 1898–9, which was charged to Vote 10 in those years; at Portsmouth there was an extra sum of £40,466 taken for widening the caisson, in addition to a similar sum expended in 1902; and finally he came to the most flagrant case of all, namely, Rosyth, which figured for £200,000, as to which they were told "this is a token sum only, and does not represent the total estimated cost." What would the Rosyth dockyard and arsenal cost them? They knew what Gibraltar cost. There they had not to pay for the land, but nevertheless the dockyard at Gibraltar cost them £5,000,000 to enlarge. Here they put down £200,000 for the naval establishment at Rosyth, but that sum conveyed no adequate idea or estimate to the House of the final expenditure to be incurred. Take the Chatham dockyard extension, for which £50,000 was taken. That sum would be enormously increased, and they had not got even an approximation of the amount which the country would be asked to spend upon either of these enormous undertakings. He really did think that 347 it was a very extraordinary thing for the hon. Gentleman to come down to the House of Commons and ask hon. Members to authorise the enormous expenditure asked for in this Bill. He was contracting an increasing disquietude with regard, not only to the amount of their obligations, but also to the manner in which they were being piled upon them. This method of Naval Works Bills was an improper method on the face of it, and it was originally introduced upon the excuse that it would only be done once, and would never occur again. Since the present Ministry came into power, this method had been adopted again and again, and it would recur. This was a very serious matter. He had already pointed out the total at present authorised to be spent by this monstrously extravagant Works Department, with regard to which his conviction was that it was not only extremely extravagant, but was also far from being as capable as it ought to be, and had become a sort of wicked Old Man of the Sea, sitting upon the neck of every succeeding First Lord of the Admiralty. The Admiralty was going to buy up the freehold of all the coastguard stations, a most proper thing, and the proposal for electrifying the dockyards was most admirable. But this buying up of the coastguard stations meant making the Works Department permanent. In this total of £31,000,000 the Works Department figured for nearly £1,500,000 for superintending and miscellaneous charges. The Government were spending these vast sums without even an adequate estimate or defence of any one of them. He was tired of this, and if he stood alone he would make his protest against this monstrous expenditure and against the monstrous job involved in the purchase of the land at Rosyth.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
said there were two points in the discussion which seemed to strike everyone. In the schedule to this Bill they were not told anything beyond the fact that this was the first instalment, and that the Government did not know what was to be the scale or even the scheme of the works at Rosyth. They were told that an expert was going down to 348 Rosyth to report upon all the requirements of the station from the works point of view. He wished to put this question very plainly to the Civil Lord: Did His Majesty's Government contend that an expenditure of £8,000,000 at Rosyth would be sufficient? If not, what was the sum total of the money they intended expending there. They were asked to give their sanction in this measure to a grant of £200,000 to start an operation the finality of which was not defined, and the extent of which the Government were not able to tell. He never heard of such a transaction in an Assembly supposed to be composed of business men. There was one item in the transaction which they did know of, and in regard to it he desired to assert his complete accord with the observations of the hon. Member for King's Lynn. The sum of £200,000 had been asked for and voted for the naval base at Rosyth, and in regard to that sum one item was definite, and he had made some calculations with regard to it. He understood it to be actually the case that the Government had concluded a transaction of purchase in regard to land at the Rosyth base. They did not yet know what was to be put on the land, and they did not know what was to be the extent of the works to be erected there. They had yet to receive a report as to how extensive or how limited was the transaction, but the Government had completely made up their minds that they must buy the land, and before the House of Commons knew anything about it they had concluded this transaction. Perhaps the House of Commons would take from him a calculation based upon the statement of the Civil Lord. Here was a pretty little example in land purchase. There were 1,464 acres of land. The rental of that land was £1,620, and the purchase price was £122,500. He would bring this sum down to acres. A total of £1,620 of rental for 1,464 acres was land at the value of 22s. 2d. per acre of rental. So that this Scotch landlord had succeeded in obtaining from His Majesty's Government for land at 22s. 2d. per acre a purchase price of £84 per acre. They had recently been discussing what was the ordinary method of valuing land in Ireland, and he would give the House 349 the result of a comparison he had made. These Scotch landlords, whoever they might be, had obtained a purchase price of 75½ years of the rental of the land. But that was not the whole story. He understood that the mining rights were still reserved to the landlords, and the statement of the Civil Lord with regard to those rights, was that he hoped there would not be much to pay for them in the future, that they were to be subject to valuation, and that possibly a Supplementary Estimate in regard to thorn would have to be brought before the House of Commons.
This £200,000 was a most curious item, because what expenditure it was going to lead to the Government did not know, but calculated on its own merits two-thirds of that sum was consumed in a purchase transaction, which he would only say was of a startling and incomprehensible character. In regard to the position of the Admiralty in this matter, it could not be pleaded that they had their hands tied in the negotiations. Under the Naval Works Act of 1895 power was granted, not only for the works in that year, but also power of compulsory purchase for all future works undertaken under the ægis of the Admiralty, upon the same principle as that which applied in the Military Works Act, and the Lands Clauses Act. Upon looking into the statutes he found that under Section 20 of the Military Lands Act there was a provision by which Parliament compelled arbitration in all such cases. He wished to ask the Government why arbitration was not resorted to in this case? Was there any reason why the Admiralty should abnegate all its rights granted recently by Art of Parliament, and should have made a transation of this kind behind the back of Parliament, without Parliament having an opportunity of either sanctioning or condemning the scheme? If His Majesty's Government did not desire to use compulsory power, and preferred to make a private bargain, how did the element of consistency stand? There was a precedent to hand in the proceedings of the House of Commons this session in regard to the Irish Land Bill. There was a case in which some of them were in favour of compulsory powers, but His Majesty's Government preferred private negotia- 350 tions with a bonus. There was a minimum and maximum price fixed of twenty-eight years purchase, and, with the bonus, thirty-two years. In those circumstances, would any hon. Member in the House explain to him why in Ireland a transaction of that kind should be concluded with a possible maximum of twenty-eight years, and a bonus of four years, while the same Government in the same session concluded privately a transaction for the acquisition of a plot of land in Scotland at seventy-five-and a-half years purchase. He should wait anxiously to hear the defence of that transaction, and he thought Parliament was now beginning to be interested in it. He desired to call the attention to this fact of those hon. Members who were inclined to jib at the Irish transaction.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW
said they knew perfectly well that the Solicitor-General might have hopes in his mind with regard to that measure, to which up to this date he had only given his minimum support, but it would not do for him to try by an interjection of that kind to divert the mind of the House of Commons from a transaction under which it was plain that a Scotch landlord had obtained more than twice what was to be paid to the landlord interest in Ireland. This transaction was apparently completed. He hoped it was not, and he trusted that the exposure in this House would strengthen the hands of the Government and stiffen their backs before they finally ratified any such transaction. With regard to the site he entirely appreciated the situation in which His Majesty's Government found themselves as to its advantages. He understood perfectly the advantages to be gained from the easy access to matériel and the supply of labour; but he would like to know whether any provision was made for the workmen who would be employed and their families. An opportunity now occurred to the Government to prevent once for all the creation of a slum town at Rosyth. Had the Government made any prudent arrangement for the acquisition of the site which would be occupied by the town to be created? He contended that the Government ought to 351 make such arrangements that the town to be built up, should be built under enlightened conditions. Had the Government made arrangements for bringing in a water supply fit for an additional town of 20,000 or 30,000 inhabitants? If not, far from jibbing at the expense, he would willingly see another 1,000 acres added to the 1,464 in order that the Government could protect itself by seeing that the people in that part of Scotland should live under enlightened modern conditions with lung space sufficient for the community, recreation, ample water supply, and all the modern appliances of health and comfort. Unless that were done they would regret in Scotland the day they started this scheme. It would be bad for the Government to say that they took this land for their own purposes; that they would bring the labour to the spot and let the people look after themselves. That meant that the adjacent towns would have dumped down upon them a population living at a considerable distance from the scene of their labours. Then there would be an extreme demand for land in the immediate vicinity of the naval base and there would grow up exactly that condition of affairs which in England and Scotland disgraced borough life.
§ *MR. PLUMMER (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
said that from the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down the disadvantages of the site at Rosyth seemed to be so great that he hoped the Government would reconsider their decision to establish a naval base in Scotland and consider the advisability of establishing one on the north-east coast of England. He would only detain the House for a few moments while he referred to the naval base at Rosyth. He did not wish to question the establishment of this base because last week it was received with practical unanimity, and by none more so than by hon. Members representing Scotch constituencies. The great feature of this debate was the wonderful change which had apparently come over the opinions of Scotch Members in regard to this particular subject. The hon. Member for King's Lynn opposed this scheme as he opposed almost every scheme of His Majesty's Government. He would leave the hon. Member to the tender mercies of another critic of the Government whom they 352 were always glad to hear—he referred to the hon. Member for Gateshead, who had blessed this scheme, lock, stock, and barrel, although no doubt he had made a mental reservation that there should not be employed in connection with the scheme and its construction any water-tube boilers. His object in rising was to ask the Admiralty in the development of this new naval base not to lose sight of the great existing facilities both for construction and repair on the north-east coast at the present time. To take the Tyne alone there was a great arsenal at Elswick, within easy reach of the Forth, and on the same river there was the shipbuilding yard at Jarrow, where battleships of the largest size had been constructed. There were also engineering works of the greatest capacity, and dry docks capable of taking ships of the largest size. In the past the First Lord of the Admiralty had shown a due appreciation of these private dockyards. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had spoken about the Government dockyards in Portsmouth, and he rightly represented the views of his constituency, just as he was endeavouring to represent the interests of his district. The Admiralty seemed to have preserved a fair balance in the distribution of national work, and it was most essential that the work should be provided in something like a continuous manner, not by fits and starts in time of war but regularly in time of peace. The hon. Member quoted a passage from Cobden in support of this view, and said that although he did not ask the Secretary to the Admiralty to follow the extreme views of Cobden either in this or any other matter, he hoped that in considering the future development of this naval base due regard would be had to the extensive facilities on the north-east coast, and that nothing would be done at Rosyth in the way of creating establishments at great expenditure of capital which would injure those facilities which were within comparatively a stone's throw of Rosyth. It might be said that he was advocating the interests of one district, but they were all sent to that House charged with the responsibility of looking after the interests of their constituencies, and, provided they could do that without 353 neglecting the national interest, he believed they ought to do it. In this case he felt that he could conscientiously advocate the use of the great facilities on the Tyne and the north-east coast, feeling that by taking advantage of those facilities the Government would be pursuing a policy which would be in the interests of national economy.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said the hon. Gentleman opposite would remember that they had asked him more particularly as to whether this new harbour was to be a construction harbour. He did not think hon. Members could be charged with any desire to bring work to their own particular districts. He did not agree that that was not any part of their function in this House. In dealing with this subject, although a new port might be welcome in Scotland, it was a very secondary matter as compared with the question of the economical and proper spending of money. What they might fairly complain of was that they had not got the information they desired to have in regard to the plans for the new dockyard, which were left very much in the air, and were really invited to vote £200,000 in the form of preliminary expenses. He must not be taken as concurring in that policy. If this was a good project there seemed to be no reason why the successors of hon. Gentlemen opposite should not be bound by it. He did not see why the Government should have any fear in facing this policy and making it binding upon their successors if it was a good one. They were now asked to vote £200,000 for preliminary expenses, and they ought to have had much more definite information than they had yet received, as to the exact policy which was to be carried out. The reason why he ventured to put forward the argument for making this a construction harbour was that they would get cheaper construction there than they would by an extension of the dockyard at Chatham. It was a matter of little value whether the extra needs of the Fleet were mot at Chatham or at the new base on the Forth, but if they got a new base in the north of England they would have far greater economy of construction than in 354 the south. If in this way they set up a better standard of economical construction it would make itself felt in the Government dockyards. What they complained of was that there was still a lack of clearness in regard to the policy which had been declared to the House. As to the details of this Bill, there were one or two points which ought to have appeared in the annual Estimates. He agreed that the item for electric power might have come in the annual Votes and that would tend towards economy. He desired to protest against any scheme that involved extravagance, and he insisted upon the House retaining proper control over naval expenditure. The House did not retain that control under the Naval Works Act, nor had it any control over the policy of the Government in regard to that Act, for the Government had no clear policy to state to the House, and yet hon. Members were called upon to vote huge sums of money and to pay large sums for preliminary expenses for great works, without having any definite scheme laid before them.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said the hon. Member for the Border Burghs referred to Rosyth and the arrangements for the purchase of the land there as something which had been done behind the back of Parliament. That was a ridiculous position to take up. In the first place such work could not be done in the House because the particular Minister concerned had to deal with it as administrative work, and he had to report what he had done to the House. The only point he agreed with was with regard to the regret expressed that a larger area of land had not been taken. The hon. Member opposite stated that he regretted that another 1,000 acres was not taken. He believed that if more land had been acquired by the Government it would have given the Admiralty greater control. He wished the House to remember, however, what would have happened if the question of purchasing this extra 1,000 acres had been discussed in the House. The result would have been that the owner of the land would have asked a very much higher price at the end of the debate than at the beginning of it. It was quite essential that these matters should 355 be done without first running to Parliament. Coming to the items on page 2 of the schedule of this Bill he noticed that under the heading "Enclosure and Defence of Harbours" they had expended a sum of about £3,500,000. That was the total amount of the money spent upon ports in the possession of this country abroad. If they took the total estimated cost and made up the aggregate, they would find it came to £7,500,000, and out of all those places Gibraltar was the only single possession abroad that was going in any way to share in the cost. He noticed that Gibraltar was going to pay an annuity of £14,000 per annum for fifty-seven years from the opening of the Mole. In regard to Malta the sum of £1,250,000 was to be spent there, although the revenue of Malta was five times less than Gibraltar. He did not think his hon. friend had made these matters quite clear. With regard to the Colombo dock, they were asked to spend a sum of £159,000, and nothing was contributed to that expenditure by the colony. He thought all these matters should be set out in the statement. He wished to know if this was a contribution to a colonial dock. At Simon's Bay they were proposing to spend £2,500,000, toward which no contribution or assistance was given by the Cape.
In these matters the hon. Member for King's Lynn was a sort of Nelson who had always a blind eye for what he did not want to see. Two main considerations had to be taken into account. First there was the geographical situation of the sources of power of hostile nations; and next the probable direction of the lines of supplying and maintaining our base. With regard to the line of supply 356 we had to look across the Atlantic to Canada as the nearest possible source of supply, and unquestionably the line of supply to Rosyth and going round the North of Scotland, was a safer line than going through the Channel and the German Ocean. These considerations more than justified the Admiralty in the selection of that particular situation. With regard to the item in the schedule for Dover he reminded the House that he objected to the works there at the time they were proposed. He was, he thought, the only man of his Party who voted against the proposal, and as years had gone on the more he had been convinced that it was not a wise expenditure. The House of Commons took a different view and ratified the decision of the Admiralty, and the works having been proceeded with they had now to complete them. He was sure time would show that it was a great mistake, but so far as this Bill was concerned they were in duty bound to complete the works already sanctioned by the House. He thought the question of the price of land at Rosyth ought to be left to the Committee Stage, where it could be examined in all its details. His hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn in a sneering way said that the next thing, the Admiralty might do would be to propose the establishment of a base in Australia. In view of the development of local sources of power by three great maritime nations in the Pacific, he did not look with complete reliance on our placing the whole of our resources in this hemisphere. That was a matter which lay in the future, but it would have to be considered before long. He thought this Naval Works Vote was reasonable, rational and sensible. He could see no new departure in this Bill with the sole exception of the base at Rosyth, and that 357 was amply justified. He was glad to observe from this Bill generally that the Admiralty were consistently carrying out a definite policy instead of wobbling about here and there, asking money one day, and in two or three years saying it was a mistake. He had great pleasure in supporting the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. BLACK (Banffshire)
said he desired to associate himself with what the hon. and gallant Member had said with regard to the suitability of Rosyth for a naval base. The Admiralty had at last wakened up to the shifting of sea power on the part of foreign nations which had taken place within the last decade. There was a difference of opinion on the part of some hon. Members who had spoken to-day from what had been written on this subject by Captain Mahan. Captain Mahan began to write eight years ago, and during that period a great change had taken place with regard to the balance of sea power—a change which, he took it, would go on in the future as in the past. In the establishment of this naval base he appreciated very much what had been said by the Civil Lord on the subject of recruiting for the Navy. He hoped the establishment of the new base would revive throughout the whole seaboard of Scotland an interest in the Navy, and increase recruiting which, except in Edinburgh and Glasgow, had almost reached the vanishing point.
He desired to call attention to a matter which had not yet been touched upon in regard to this naval base. On Tuesday last he inspected this base on the spot, under the guidance of one of the engineers already there. Perhaps hon. Members might not be aware of the exact situation 358 of this base. It was to the west of that great structure the Forth Bridge, and all vessels approaching this naval base would require to pass under that bridge. The bridge consisted of three cantilevers, vast in extent, but not very difficult to break down in certain conceivable events. The point he wished to-direct the attention of the Admiralty to was this, suppose in time of war the Forth Bridge got destroyed in any of its parts, was it quite certain that it would so fall so as not to form an obstruction of that base? He did not think that it would serve the purpose of the Admiralty to say that it was improbable it would so fall. In a matter so closely affecting the welfare of the country, as this might come to be if the bridge were broken down so as to form a barrier to access or egress, conditions might arise which might involve the ruin of the country. This was not a thing to take risks in, and although the chance was one in a thousand it was a chance which should be provided against. He had consulted an expert who said that while it was improbable that the bridge would so fall as to cause an obstruction it was not impossible. If one cantilever was destroyed or shot away, one end might fall so as to form a block in the channel. One might theorise as long as one pleased on the subject, but no amount of theory would serve. A cantilever might fall in such a way as to cause an obstruction for a few hours, and these might be fatal hours. He hoped the Admiralty would have due regard to this aspect of the matter. It was true that the position was fortified, but in modern warfare it was not only the approach of a hostile fleet they had to guard against. They had now become familiar with the submarine boat. Therefore the Admiralty should be in a position to say that under 359 no circumstances was it possible that the base could become blocked at a time when it was required. There were two remedies. A canal might be constructed between the Forth and the Clyde, or a second entrance might be made to the base through Inverkeithing Bay by cutting through a neck of land about a third of a mile wide and forty feet above medium sea level, situated to the east side of the Forth Bridge.
With regard to the price paid for the land, he claimed to have some knowledge of land values in the district, and he declared without reserve that a very adequate price would have been twenty-eight years purchase of the net rental, or £42,000. Yet the Admiralty were actually paying nearly three times that amount. This was a matter on which the House should demand some explanation.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said he would deal only with the principal points which had been raised, because he could reply more adequately to many of the questions in Committee. The main point was the price which had been paid for the site at Rosyth. He was amazed that hon. Gentlemen from Scotland, who thoroughly deserved the reputation of business men and had some experience of these matters, should have used the expression "a monstrous job." That was an expression which they heard more frequently in debates on questions affecting the sister country.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that giving eighty years pur- 360 chase for this land to a friend and supporter of the Government is a job.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said that bore out his view that these statements made without foundation were lightly made, and perhaps they might fall lightly. They were more often heard in Irish debates than in debates affecting Scotland, where men looked upon business matters from a serious point of view. [An HON. MEMBER: Why do you not treat Ireland seriously?] Would Ireland like to be treated seriously? The gravamen of this charge was that an area of land of which the rental was about £1,600 a year had been acquired at a price which represented eighty years' purchase on that rental. That was the sole ground on which the Admiralty had been attacked. A further suggestion had been made by several hon. Members that the Admiralty would have done better had they proceeded to put into force the powers of the Military Lands Act which were embodied in a former Naval Works Bill. As to the first point, hon. Members were aware that in the purchase of land there were many values to be considered besides the actual rental. A private company, which he assumed was a business company, had recently paid £9,000 for an area of land on which the rental was £10 a year.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of London. The land of Rosyth was in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said ten or twelve miles. The hon. Member had himself said that towns and villages were springing up in every direction in this district. The Admiralty obtained the services of two of the most experienced valuers who could be found in Scotland and sent them to Rosyth to make a valuation of the land on behalf of the Admiralty. The owner of the land had a valuation made on his own behalf, but with that the Admiralty had nothing to do. He would give the figures to the House with perfect frankness. The figures which these experienced valuers arrived at were £91,000 for one portion of the land and £22,000 for the other portion. That was about £7,000 less than the price which had been paid. The Admiralty were strongly advised that if they put into force the powers of the Military Lands Act, attendant expenses and the extra price which would probably be obtained would be largely in excess of the difference of £6,000 or £7,000 between the valuation and the offer of the owner. They were strongly advised by business men to close with the offer and to give the price which had been stated to the House. It had been stated again and again that this land might and should have been bought at twenty-eight years purchase. He did not profess to be familiar with the procedure in Scotland; but he was credibly informed, and he thought hon. Members would not deny it, that when land was taken compulsorily in Scotland, under any terms whatever, by a Government Department or by other parties, the price invariably obtained for it by arbitration was thirty years purchase plus 50 per cent. for compulsion. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh," 362 and "No."] Well, that was so in many instances. Only the other day some land not far from this was taken by a corporation, he believed for gasworks, and no less than £1,100 per acre was paid for it.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said, although it was much nearer Edinburgh, £1,100 an acre was given for it, whereas only £80 an acre was paid for the land which the Admiralty had acquired. Of course the Admiralty had approached this matter from a business point of view. There was another element, and a not inconsiderable element in the purchase of this land. Lord Linlithgow was not willing to sell. His attitude was that if the land was necessary for naval purposes he would not refuse to sell it. He was unwilling to sell for the reason that thin land was purchased in the 17th century and since then had belonged to his family. Moreover, it was exactly opposite his own house. The feuing value of the land in this district was considerable. Evidence was produced—[dissent expressed on Opposition benches]—he was stating facts, and he would not stand at that table and state as facts what he did not know to be facts—satisfactory evidence was produced to the Admiralty, that £15 an acre had been offered, and was being offered, for feuing land in this district. Lord Linlithgow's special reason why he did not wish to part with this land was that it was exactly opposite his windows.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said there were two miles of water between the house and the land at high water, but there was a foreshore of half a mile, and if any large works were erected on the foreshore they would be in front of the windows of the house at a distance of a mile and a half. That was a point which was treated as amenity by the valuers. By taking away all Lord Linlithgow's Fifeshire property, not only would his Lordship not obtain the benefits of any unearned increment, but the amenity of Hopetoun House would be reduced to a considerable extent. Great stress had been laid on the extreme adaptability of the land for the purpose for which it was acquired; and he thought that, when all these points were taken into consideration, the House would see that the Admiralty, as a matter of policy, and also as a matter of business, had taken the only course which they could have done—viz., to have the land valued and acquired on the best terms they could. He wished they could have acquired it cheaper, but he believed they had made as fair a bargain as one could expect under the circumstances. It had simply been a business transaction. No doubt the present owner would be considerably benefited, but he doubted whether, had the land belonged to any hon. Member opposite, the Admiralty could have got it any cheaper. The land had not been given to them, and if anyone wanted land he had to pay for it. He was of opinion that if the price of the land and the whole circumstances were compared with the general circumstances attending the purchase of land for public purposes, they had not made a bad bargain.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked if the hon. Gentleman was aware that the price paid by the War Office for Salisbury Plain nowhere exceeded thirty-five years purchase.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said that that was purely agricultural land, and was quite a different case from Rosyth, which had very considerable elements of value for feuing purposes in addition. The main point on which he relied was this. Mr. Binnie, of Glasgow, a valuer of the greatest experience, acted on behalf of the Admiralty, and his valuation was within a few thousands of the sum they had to pay. He would also like to point out that their position with regard to enforcing the Military Lands Acts was not a very strong one. These powers were conferred for the purpose of acquiring land for the use of either service for direct military purposes. Several hon. Members had most strongly insisted on the desirability of using a very large portion of this land, not for a direct military or naval purpose, but for the purpose of housing the workmen, and of providing a garden city. It was entirely a new precedent to take land in order to let it out for building workmen's houses with gardens attached; and it was certainly a doubtful point whether land could have been forcibly taken under the Military Lands Acts for these purposes. The hon. Member opposite, and others, had very properly stated the great disadvantage which existed at Devonport, Portsmouth and Chatham, from the congested slum areas in close proximity to the dockyards, and that was one of the facts in the mind of the Board of Admiralty when they acquired this area of land at Rosyth. Two points had to 365 be considered in this matter; one the point of view of the taxpayer, and the other the point of view of the dockyard personnel. He trusted the House would never attempt to force on the Board of Admiralty any such policy as he thought was suggested in some of the speeches which had been delivered—the policy of the Admiralty themselves undertaking to build and to supply cottages for the whole of the personnel of the dockyard. That policy would be most wasteful and extravagant, and it was not a policy the Admiralty intended to follow. What the Admiralty did wish to do, and what they had had in their mind throughout, was, that when a sufficient area of land had been allotted for naval purposes, immediate and anticipated—for a naval base, for a naval dockyard, and for naval construction—the remainder of the area, which would be considerable, would be available for the housing of the personnel of the yard. What the Admiralty proposed to do was to feu or let land on reasonable conditions to private individuals, under such restrictions as seemed necessary to provide sufficient accommodation and air space for the personnel. That, he ventured to put to the House was, it an entirely new policy, also a business-like policy.
§ *MR. PRETYMAN
said that a part of the land was purchased with complete mineral rights, but Lord Hopetoun's property was purchased subject to the addition of a valuation for minerals, if they should be found there. Stone was; included in the price, but the mineral question resolved itself into a question 366 of shale. Shale beds existed on the south side of the Forth, but experts were of opinion that these beds did not extend to the north side of the Forth. The minerals, if they existed, could not be worked by the owner without destroying the amenities of his property, and it had been arranged that any valuation for the minerals should be subject to a deduction on this account. The Admiralty had been obliged to do the best they could in the matter. He had been asked as to the scope of the new establishment. This was probably the first time that any proposal of this character had ever been made to the House. Some hon. Members thought it right that the Admiralty should be pressed to say exactly what they were going to do. He most entirely demurred to that. In a great project of this kind, no wise man would commit himself to details until he had carried out a most careful examination of the site, not only of what was above, but of what was below ground; and bad it surveyed and planned by competent engineers. On the question of policy he could only say that the Admiralty bad acquired the land, that they had a comprehensive plan for naval purposes, that they were going to proceed immediately to erect buildings necessary for a naval base—barracks, training schools, and a hospital—and when another Naval Works Bill was introduced the Admiralty would probably be able to make a definite proposal in regard to docks and basins, and construction, if there were any constructional proposal. It must be remembered, however, that it was perfectly possible to construct ships in private yards, but that to keep them there was a different matter altogether. It was 367 absolutely necessary that the ships in reserve which might have to be mobilised in case of war within forty-eight hours, should be at the naval bases where were the men, stores, ammunition, and the whole equipment. The question of berthing was one which concerned dockyards and naval bases, but could not concern private yards; while the question of construction was on another footing altogether. It had always been the policy of the Admiralty as far as possible to balance the expenditure in construction between the naval dockyards and the private yards. It was true that this naval base was eminently suited for construction; but it would be really premature at this stage to state that the Admiralty were committed to a policy of construction, although he thought it most likely that when another Naval Works Bill was introduced the House would be asked to sanction a scheme which would cover the construction of ships in these yards.
As to the water supply, that question had been very carefully considered; and they had been met in the most friendly spirit by the local authorities of the county who supplied the district with water. The Director of Works of the Admiralty had met Lord Elgin, the Chairman of the County Council, on the spot, and a scheme was now under consideration for a supply which would meet all possible needs. He thought his hon. friend opposite need not be anxious in regard to the Forth Bridge. There were no less than 200 feet of water beneath one span of the bridge, and 180 feet beneath another, so that it was impossible that the whole area should be blocked to a battleship by the falling of the bridge. 368 There could be no doubt that the existence of a canal would be of advantage to any fleet at St. Margaret's Hope; but whether that should be constructed, or even assisted, out of the Naval Funds was quite another matter, which the Admiralty at present were not prepared to discuss. He thought some hon. Members who had spoken might endeavour to persuade their constituents to construct such a canal which the Admiralty would be very happy to use. The question of finance had been already amply dealt with. The general policy of providing money for great works by loan had been discussed over and over again, and approved again and again, very often without a division. Of course, there would be always differences of opinion as to the exact line which might be drawn between loan and Vote, and the exact allocation of items. He could only say that the Admiralty had considered each case on its merits, and had held that unless works were of a permanent character that would to some extent benefit future generations, they were not proper subjects for a loan. His hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn had that day, as on former occasions, used very strong expressions about the Works Department of the Admiralty. But any charges that were made should, he thought, be specific and in regard to specific actions; to make charges of incapacity generally, and without specific proof, against public servants of the Crown who occupied a delicate and difficult position was not in accordance with the spirit of debate in this House. The officers of the Works Department, so far from being incapable in their work, had produced most excellent work, which would compare favourably with that of the most eminent 369 civil engineers in the country. He knew that the work done by the Admiralty in all corners of the globe had been most excellent. He hoped that the House would now be good enough to give a Second Reading to the Bill. Any further details could be discussed in Committee.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said that after the attack which had been made upon what was called the sister Isle he must make a few observations. In the first place no Irish Member had spoken in the debate; and in the second place the observation made in regard to judicial purchase in Ireland came from a Scotch Member.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said that he had no intention whatever to throw any reflection on the Irish Members.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said he would go no further on that point. The hon. Gentleman stated that in starting this undertaking some provision had to be made for the proper housing
§ of a large number of workmen to be employed there, but that for the Admiralty to do so would be extravagant and unjustifiable. He thought that that was inconsistent, when they remembered that the Admiralty had paid £80 an acre for land which was worth not much more than £1 an acre. Never let it be said hereafter that Irish Members were indifferent to the public interests. They heard a good deal of talk about patriotism. Where did the patriotism come in when this nobleman would not give the land necessary for a great national purpose unless he received £80 an acre for it? Sometimes they heard things said in this country about what went on in America, and it was stated that this country was completely free from the financial transactions rampant in America. He maintained that nothing had taken place in America that could possibly surpass, or even equal, in any way, this transaction. It was very easy to be patriotic when one got £80 an acre for land which was let at £1 a year.
§ Question put.
§ House divided: Ayes, 164; Noes, 73. (Division List, No. 141.)371
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Cautley, Henry Strother||Dickinson, Robert Edmond|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Dickson, Charles Scott|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E.|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm||Duke, Henry Edward|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Worc.||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Chapman, Edward||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Charrington, Spencer||Faber, E. B. (Hants, W.)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Faber, George Danison (York)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Man'r||Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey||Coddington, Sir William||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Collings, Right Hon. Jesse||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Compton, Lord Alwyne||Firbank, Sir Joseph Thomas|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg.)||FitzGerald, Sir Robt. Penrose|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Bond, Edward||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S||Flower, Ernest|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Cranborne, Lord||Forster, Henry William|
|Butcher, John George||Crossley, Sir Savile||Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A (Glasg.)||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Gardner, Ernest|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardign||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & N'rn|
|Gore, Hn. S. F. Ormsby- (Linc||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham||Royds, Clement, Molyneux|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.)||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Graham, Henry Robert||Lowe, Francis William||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury||Lucas, Reg'ld J. (Portsmouth)||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Greene, W. Raymond- (Cambs||Maconochie, A. W.||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Gunter, Sir Robert||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Ld. G. (Midx||Majendie, James A. H.||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Spear, John Ward|
|Harris, Frederick Leverton||Melville, Boresford Valentine||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Middlemore, Jn. Throgmorton||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Henderson, Sir Alexander||Mitchell, William (Burnley)||Stroyan, John|
|Hermon Hodge, Sir Robert T.||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Hickman, Sir Alfred||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monm'thsh.)||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd of Univ.|
|Hope, J. F. (Sheff., B'tside)||Morrell, George Herbert||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Hoult, Joseph||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. E. M.|
|Howard, J. (Midd., Tott'ham||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Nicholson, William Graham||Valentia, Viscount|
|Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Pease, H. Pike (Darlington)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Jeffreys, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fred||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley||Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.|
|Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton||Penn, John||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Johnstone, Heywood||Percy, Earl||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Plummer, Walter R.||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-Lyne)|
|Kerr, John||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Pretyman, Ernest George||Williams, Rt. Hn. J. Powell- (Birm|
|Knowles, Lees||Purvis, Robert||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Lambton, Hon. Fredk. Wm.||Randles, John S.||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Laurie, Lieut.-General||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Reid, James (Greenock)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Lawrence, Sir Jos. (Monm'th)||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine||Wylie, Alexander|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. Thomson||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Lawson, John Grant (Yorks, N R.||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Robertson, H. (Hackney)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Robinson, Brooke||Sir Alexander Acland-|
|Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S.||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Hood and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Abrahan, William (Rhondda)||Griffith, Ellis J.||O'Kelly, J. (Roscommon, N.)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbt. Hy.||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tyd||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Harwood, George||Partington, Oswald|
|Burran, Rowland Hirst||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Black, Alexander William||Helme, Norval Watson||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (Lynn Regis||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Burt, Thomas||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Caldwell, James||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.||Samuel, Herbt. L. (Cleveland)|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Jones, David B. (Swansea)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Cremer, William Randal||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Crombie, John William||Joyce, Michael||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Labouchere, Henry||Thomas, A. (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)|
|Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway)||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Tomkinson, James|
|Dillon, John||Lesssng, Sir John||Toulmin, George|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Lundon, W.||Wallace, Robert|
|Dunn, Sir William||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Elibank, Master of||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||M'Crae, George||Young, Samuel|
|Fenwick, Charles||Mappin, Sir Fredk. Thorpe|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Markham, Arthur Basil||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.||Murphy, John||Mr. Buchanan and Mr.|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Nolan, Col. John V. (Galway, N.||Eugene Wason.|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.
§ Adjourned at eighteen minutes before Six o'clock till Monday next.