HC Deb 04 August 1904 vol 139 cc1051-79

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £10,314,000, be granted to his Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Contract Work for Shipbuilding, Repairs, etc., which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1905."


said this Vote came before the Committee of Supply some three months ago, and, with the general consent of the Committee, it had been postponed in order to give the House an opportunity for a deliberate estimate of the naval programme of the Government. They had had reason to complain at the beginning of the session that they had Navy, Navy, always Navy, and they were glad of the respite afforded by this postponement, but they did not expect that the Vote, which was intended to raise, and did raise, the whole naval policy of the Government, would be put before the Committee on a fragment of a day in the middle of August. He did not blame either the Secretary to the Admiralty or the Secretary to the Treasury, who were always ready to make the best arrangement possible for this. It was part of the result of the general mismanagement of the business of the session, which had been absolutely fooled away. It was with a feeling of despair that he approached the task before him of dealing with this subject. It was a task so hopeless and so thankless at this period of the session that he had been more than half tempted to throw it up altogether and let the Estimates take their chance so far as he was concerned. He would do, however, the next worst thing, and proceed at once to the large general question of the naval policy of the present session as embraced in these Estimates.

In the course of about ten years the annual expenditure of the country had risen by £50,000,000, and of that sum £20,000,000 at least were chargeable to the account of the Navy. The Navy Estimates had risen from £14,000,000 in 1894 to £43,000,000 in the present year, if they took into account the expenditure on works. The Shipbuilding Vote was the dominant feature in the Navy Estimates, and the kernel was the item now under discussion, the amount spent on the addition of tonnage. When the Navy Estimates were normal—when they stood at from £12,000,000 to £14,000,000—the Shipbuilding Vote accounted for about a third of the total. That was the proportion when all things were equal, when the Navy was neither extended nor diminished. He was far from saying that the rule of three should apply now, but it might apply to a certain extent. But if it did apply now then it followed that if the new construction did not increase, but the level reached this year was maintained, and £11,500,000 was spent on new construction and £18,000,000 was the whole, they would find the naval expenditure of the country would be not £43,000,000 but £54,000,000. That was what he desired to draw attention to. In passing this Vote to-night they were sanctioning a future expenditure, far exceeding calculations, of a most extreme character. He was not talking of to-day but of the future and of the heavy burden that would fall upon the country, because the passing of this Vote would lead to an automatic increase in other Votes, which would bring the Navy Estimates up to £50,000,000 at no distant date.

The Admiralty asked for £11,500,000 to add new tonnage to the Navy. He was an upholder of a strong Navy on every ground, and the Committee would have to consider whether this amount was sufficiently large or too large for the purpose for which it was asked. The explanation given for the first time officially by the Admiralty for this large programme was that it was no more than was necessary to maintain the two-Power standard. Let the Committee examine the facts of that allegation. At the present time, from the Report in his hand, he saw that we had battleships of the first class, 49; the next three naval Powers—France, Germany, and Russia—had 50; and all the other navies of the world 80. That was a three-Power standard. We had five-eighths of the battleship strength of all the rest of the world. In armed cruisers we had 28; France, Germany, and Russia, 27; and the rest of the world, 42. Here, again, there was a three-Power standard. In protected cruisers of the first class we had 21; France, Germany, and Russia, 13; and the other navies of the world, 16. In second-class cruisers we had 49, as against 27 for France, Germany, and Russia; and 59 for all the other navies. In third-class cruisers we had 32; France, Germany, and Russia, 32; and the rest of the world, 55. So that in the case of the fleets in being we were maintaining a three-Power standard. It was the same story with regard to fleets on paper. In battleships and armed cruisers we were building 39, as against 35 by France, Germany, and Russia, and 68 by all the other navies of the world. There was all the difference in the world between a fleet in being and a fleet on paper. The fleets on paper of foreign countries took a longer period to come to birth, and with regard to that Sir William White made this sweeping observation— The unrivalled resources of this country in shipbuilding, engineering, armour and gun work, made it possible for us to keep the lead in battleships even though we started later than our rivals. And he was quite prepared to abide by the judgment of Sir William White. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had had some experience of the Admiralty, argued that inasmuch as in the twenty years ending December last we had spent £116,000,000, as against £111,000,000 spent by France and Russia, we had only a small balance in our favour over the two-Power standard. He, of course, could not test the figures given for the expenditure of France and Russia, but he could test the figures so far as our own expenditure was concerned, and the figures given in the Estimates did not, it appeared to him, tally with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the date of the Return we had unfinished ships in existence which required an expenditure upon them of £38,000,000, bringing this total up to not £116,000,000 but £154,000,000. The figures given by the hon. Gentleman opposite for a shorter period threw quite a different light on the matter. Here were the figures. During the last nine years this country had spent £70,000,000 on new construction, as against £82,000,000 by France, Germany, and Russia; we had added 933,000 tons to our Navy, while France, Germany, and Russia had added only 847,000 tons to their navies. Thanks to free trade our £70,000,000 had produced work which would cost the other three Powers £90,000,000 to produce. Our present number of ships was 400. If we went on at the same rate during the next nine years we would have doubled our present fleet.

His right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean reminded him about Germany. Sir William White's statement did not refer particularly to Germany; but undoubtedly it was a new element which had to be taken into account. The serious thing undoubtedly was the rise of practically two naval Powers—Germany and the United States. As regarded the United States, the proposed shipbuilding programme was greater than that of this country; but he was not for a moment going to suggest a naval policy in relation to that. The whole defence of the Government was the two-Power standard. But what was the two-Power standard now? There was never any doubt about it when the formula was first invented. It was a polite way of alluding to France and Russia; but Lord Goschen broke through the reserve, and mentioned openly these two countries. But what was the two-Power standard now? He himself had never regarded it as the maximum. In the old days, it vas not a two-Power standard in the abstract, but a two-Power standard in concrete. The French Navy Estimates had now been introduced; and his right hon. friend had quoted the words of M. Delcassé, but what about the other factor of the two-Power equation, viz., Russia? In the Report there was a reference to the cruisers belonging to Russia on the 23rd February of this year, but much water had flowed under the bridges since that date. Many good ships belonging to Russia had been lost; but it would be ungenerous to dwell upon that and ungracious to probe the exact amount of damage that the Russian Navy had suffered. It was not, however, to be ignored in any consideration of the two-Power standard; it would merely be a sham not to take notice of it. But he would not further discuss this painful matter to a friendly Power.

There had been considerable discussion on Army matters during the present session, but few people knew exactly what purpose the British Army was intended to serve; everyone knew, however, what purpose the British Navy served. He held that the duty of the British Navy from first to last was to seek out the enemy and destroy or render useless the navy of any country that might be hostile to this country. It also had a subsidiary purpose; and that was to defend these shores as well as the outside Empire, such as Canada, Australia, and other colonies. Further, it had to protect British commerce; and not only British commerce but Imperial commerce, a fourth of which was owned outside the United Kingdom, although other parts of the Empire paid practically nothing towards the expenses of the Navy. All these things were a truism; but they could only be carried out as long as the Navy was powerful enough to destroy the navy of any hostile country. The main purpose of the Navy, after all, was to be strong enough to destroy any force which might be pitted against it. The magnitude of the Imperial commerce of this country was in a sense its own protection. It was so vast that no hostile navy could afford to detail sufficient of its strength in order to destroy it. Therefore he would repeat that the main purpose of the Fleet was, not the subsidiary matters he mentioned, but its power to put an end to any hostile fleet. His deduction from all this was that the strength of this Navy must be as a general rule dependent on the strength of other navies. If that were good as a justification for increasing the Navy, it was equally good as a justification for decreasing it; and at the present moment the facts of the situation were such that the two-Power standard would call not for an increase in new construction but for a decrease. He desired, in conclusion, to put two questions to the Secretary to the Admiralty. He wished to ask him, in view of the facts he had stated, what was really the standard now; and if it was still the two-Power standard how did the hon. Gentleman make out that it had not been exceeded? Further, did the Admiralty, with nine months' additional knowledge since the Navy Estimates were framed, hold out any hope to the House and the country that any reduction might be expected in the future in the total of the Navy Estimates? Could the right hon. Gentleman hold out any hope that the Navy Estimates of next year would fall below the enormous amount at which they now stood? The other question he would like to ask was whether the hon. Gentleman could promise any reduction in the sum of £11,500,000 which was asked for building new ships? He hoped an affirmative answer would be given to these two questions.

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloustershire, Forest of Dean)

said that before he turned to the interesting and important speech of his hon. friend the Member for Dundee, there were three or four questions which he wished to ask. In the first place, they had a right to complain that the Report of the Boiler Committee had only been issued that morning. He had an impression that it was by no means a satisfactory document. He thought the Admiralty would find it impossible to defend the extent to which they had adopted a groping system. They had imitated Germany by recently installing both cylindrical and water-tube boilers. He understood, however, that that system was now abandoned; and that showed that the Admiralty itself realised its mistake. Yet the ships in the Navy had a greater variety of boilers than that of any other navy in the world, with the result that it was admitted that the difficulty of stoking had been enormously increased, and that the different types of boilers in the ships had been the cause of misfortunes in the course of the manœuvres. He could only hope that the mischief was now over; and that boilers of a comparatively simple type would in future be installed, and also that the attempt to mix cylindrical and water-tube boilers would be abandoned.

With reference to new construction, the Committee would remember that adherence to the design of the "Edward VII." class for three new battleships had been generally condemned by the House of Commons. He hoped information would be given as to the design of the two new battleships of the "Lord Nelson" class; what the type was to be, and also information with reference to the new cruisers. With reference to the important and interesting speech of his hon. friend the Member for Dundee, his hon. friend began with a most justifiable complaint as to the lateness of the period in which the Vote was taken. He did not blame the Admiralty or the Secretary to the Treasury for that; it was due to the general muddle of Supply which had occurred during the session. The general practice of consulting the Opposition had not been followed during the year; and it was within the knowledge of the Committee that the Opposi- tion had frequently suggested arrangements regarding Supply which had not been carried out. His hon. friend the Member for Dundee suggested that hon. Members who were in favour of a strong fleet had voted for a decrease in naval expenditure. That, however, did not apply to him. When he addressed the House, he showed the possibility of a reduction of Army expenditure; but he did not pledge himself to the possibility of a reduction of Naval expenditure. With reference to the two-Power standard, he quite agreed with his hon. friend that it was not an immutable law, and that it ought to be examined from time to time in order to ascertain what they really meant by it. In the present circumstances of Europe, if the two-Power standard meant the building of ships against France and Russia, as it had done in some minds, then the ideas on that question would have to be re-examined. Personally he had always thought that the two-Power standard was merely a convenient mode of arriving at the size of the fleet calculated to give pause to a possible alliance of three Powers against this country. He admitted that there was much less chance now of an alliance of three-Powers than there had been for a great many years past. The hon. Member for Dundee suggested that we had reached a three-Power standard. Personally he attached little importance to a long catalogue of battleships, which were lumped together technically as first class ships, all different in their age and nature. The United States and Germany were building newer ships more rapidly than we were. Effectively the United States had already become the second naval Power, and there was in the Mediterranean at the present time an American fleet more powerful than the French squadron. We could not contemplate these Powers being allied against us, and with care in the future it would be possible to revise our views as to what the two-Power standard meant.

With regard to battleships, there could be no doubt that within a year or two we should have to reconsider the whole foundation of our naval policy. Our position in the Mediterranean itself was a little old-fashioned, and would have to be reconsidered. Unless an alliance with either Italy or Spain could be counted upon, the maintenance of a great squadron in the centre of the Mediterranean, having regard to the purposes for which it was maintained, would become increasingly difficult, and ultimately impossible. His suggestion was that of all matters in which this country should proceed with caution, that of reducing naval expenditure was the one in which caution was most needed. No one could foresee what would be the shipbuilding policy following on the war in which certain Powers were now engaged. At present we had to deal with the rapid increase of only two fleets—those of Germany and the United States—and it was most unlikely that they would ever be allied against us. But the increase of the German Fleet had been supported by language which must make any Englishman careful; there had been, in language and in rapidity of building, a direct challenge to the naval power of this country. As to the suggestion that some more definite and tangible offer should be made to other Powers with regard to a reduction of naval expenditure, it was impossible for England and France, who might cooperate in such a proposal, to do so effectively at present. But after the war, when these matters began to be considered, he believed that England and France might usefully take counsel upon this point. Although they admitted that the naval programme of Great Britain, having regard to the vital necessity of the Navy to ourselves, must depend on the building of others, yet the only safe policy to pursue was not to attempt to thwart the Government in what they considered necessary for the maintenance of the position of this country, but to press upon them a reconsideration of the facts in view of the immense changes which were occurring in the naval position of the world.


said that while figures as to the number, cost, and tonnage of ships in our Navy, and their comparison with similar facts connected with other fleets were most interesting and important, it was impossible by selecting particular years and particular ships to arrive at any really accurate conclusions. Figures might be made to prove any- thing. As to the two-Power standard, he would like to clear the ground and lay down the principle which he thought ought to be observed in regard to the two-Power standard. As to the standard itself, that was a matter for the House of Commons and the Cabinet; and when successive First Lords of the Admiralty had laid down the standard they had laid it down not merely from the point of view of their Department but speaking as members of the Cabinet. The duty of the Admiralty was not to set the standard, but to work by it; and he, as speaking for the Admiralty, assumed full responsibility in replying to the criticisms and suggestions made from the Benches opposite. He thought that the Committee would agree with him that it was better that he should not follow the details which had been raised as to the relations with various Powers. He would only say that they might regard it as fortunate that, whereas when the two-Power standard was originally laid down men's minds naturally turned to two particular Powers, because there was a possibility that they and ourselves might be brought into antagonism, it now did not come generally into our winds that there were any two particular Powers with whom we might he brought into antagonism. But notwithstanding that, with the necessary limitations and changes which were constantly coming over national and naval policy, the Government did adhere broadly to the two-Power standard as that towards which they were working, and although that standard might be criticised, at any rate no one had been able to suggest a better which could be understood and appreciated by the nation at large. When they came to work the standard he would rather put differently the principle stated by the right hon. Baronet. He would not go so far as to say that they could not work the cruisers on the two-Power standard.


The fleet cruisers you can.


said that he would rather put it differently. Taking the two-Power standard as the standard to work to both for battleships and cruisers, he would put the matter thus. The numerical test was the proper test for battleships. The work which our battleships would have to do would be similar in character to that which would have to be done by the battleships of other nations. In regard to cruisers, although we might adhere to the two-Power standard, the test of equality was not numerical. Regard must be had to the character of the work they would have to do. In view of our immense commerce it was evident that more cruisers would be required for the defence than for the attack. The hon. Member for Dundee most correctly stated that Vote 8, and particularly this part of it, was really the governing factor in all the Navy Votes. He was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman state, and to hear no dissent from his words, that he would not be a party to starving other Votes when expenditure was necessary in order to maintain at full efficiency all the ships provided under Vote 8. If that view were adopted, it followed that Vote 8 set the standard. But the hon. Gentleman also stated that in normal times Vote 8 was one-third of the total, but that now, when the Naval Votes were increasing, that proportion had been considerably altered. The reason why the proportion to-day was different from what it was ten years ago was very simple. Owing to the advance of science and the change in naval policy it happened that an enormously larger proportion of the naval expenditure fell under heads which came in Vote 8 rather than other Votes. One of the very larges increases now was in gun-mountings. Gun-mountings were of two kinds. The fixed mountings came under Vote 8, and the movable mountings under Vote 9. The tendency every year was for the mountings under Vote 8 to increase, and their cost was much greater than the cost of those which came under Vote 9. There was no connection, so far as he could ascertain, between the proportion of Vote 8 to the remaining Naval Votes and the fact whether the Votes were normal or increasing. The hon. Member suggested that the naval policy of increased expenditure was inaugurated in 1892. He would rather say it was inaugurated following the Naval Defence Act of 1889. Of course when one started from a stationary standpoint such as had then existed for some time and began a large increase of shipbuilding, we should have two or three years during which the other Votes would not follow the proportion of Vote 8. That did not follow now, because we had been increasing expenditure steadily for some time, and if the Vote had not been at the stationary normal, it had been at the normal rate of progress. The hon. Member had said that in sanctioning this Vote 8 they were sanctioning an expenditure in future years of £50,000,000.


If the rule of three sum holds.


said the rule of three sum did not hold. He did not think it had any basis in fact. The further comparison which the hon. Gentleman made was a comparison between the tonnage of our Fleet and the tonnage of France, Germany, and Russia. It was impossible to compare tonnage. We must compare the number of ships. If we took the number of battleships of the first and second class built and building we had at present the following figures:—France and Russia, 64; France and Germany, 61; Great Britain, 63. As to the speed of construction, the statement of Sir William White was perfectly correct as a general statement, but, as a matter of fact, the rate of building in Germany had latterly rather exceeded our own. The factor of gun-mountings was an important one which the hon. Gentleman omitted in comparing the figures of new construction. Gun-mountings were included in new construction in our Estimates, but not in the Estimates of Foreign Powers. The larger sum which was being spent on our new construction was accounted for almost entirely by the additional number of cruisers which we had had to build, on the policy he had just indicated, and by the inclusion of the gun-mountings. He entirely shared the hope of the hon. Member for Dundee that some reduction in the Estimates in future might be possible, but of course he could not go so far as to make any positive statement. All the factors which the hon. Member named as to the decreased expenditure by France, and as to what might be the position of the Russian Navy, would not be lost sight of when next year's Estimates had to be prepared, but it would not be expected that he could say now whether there would or would not be a reduction next year. As to the Boiler Committee's Report, and the right hon. Baronet's criticism of the Admiralty attitude as one of "groping," he imagined the Admiralty had been pursuing a policy of "groping after truth," and if they had found it that policy was justified.


It is an expensive process.


said that was so, but the problem was one of great difficulty. There were continual improvements and changes being made, and finality in that matter had never been reached. The Boiler Committee had to consider not only which was the best and most economical steam generator, not only which would give the greatest economy in the matter of weight, but also the questions of durability, simplicity of care and management, access for cleaning purposes and repairs. Had it been possible to say four years ago that the Yarrow and Babcock and Wilcox boilers were suited for naval purposes, a great deal of money would have been saved; but no such thing was possible; and the Admiralty had acted on the knowledge which they possessed at the time. If the history of the whole thing were followed, it would be agreed that no better policy could have been followed by the Admiralty. The right hon. Baronet asked him for information as to the design of the new battleships and cruisers which were shortly to be put out to contract. He was happy to say he could give that information. The battleship class would be known as the "Lord Nelson" class, and two ships were to be laid down of that class in contract yards this year—the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon." They would be ships of 16,500 tons. They would carry as armament four 12in. guns of 45 calibre, which would have a command forward of 27ft. and aft of 22ft., and ten 9.2in. guns of 50 calibre and 22ft. command. The horse-power would be 16,750, almost ex- actly the same as the tonnage, and the speed 18 knots, with a continuous sea speed of 16¼ knots. They would ordinarily carry 900 tons of coal, and a deep load of 2,000 tons of coal. They would have 12in. armour amidships, 8in. on the upper deck, 6in. forward, and 4in. aft. The total cost would be about £7,000 more than the "King Edward." The cruisers would be known as the "Minotaur" class, and the four ships to be laid down this year would be the "Minotaur," the "Shannon," the "Defence," and the "Orion." They would be of 14,600 tons, and would mount four 9.2 guns of 50 calibre and 10 7.5 guns of 50 calibre each. The 9.2 guns would have a command of 34ft. forward, and 21ft. aft, and the 7.5 guns would have a command of 20ft. Their horse-power would be 27,000. Their speed on the measured mile would be 23 knots, and continuous steaming speed 21 knots: the normal coal capacity would be 1,000 tons and deep load capacity 2,100 tons. The guns would be well protected behind 8in. shields mounted on turrets. There would be 6-in. side protection on the main deck, 2-in. on the armoured deck, 4-in. forward, and 3-in. aft. The battleships would be very slightly larger than the "King Edward" class, and the first-class cruisers would not be so long as those of the "Drake" class.

They were powerful ships, and the Admiralty believed that they would be an advance on anything yet constructed either in battleships or first-class cruisers. He believed that they would prove a great credit to their designer, and be able to take their place in line of battle, and meet with advantage any other ship of their class which could be brought against them.

MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)

said that nobody who had followed the course of events in the Far East could have failed to notice the extreme importance of the work done by the torpedo boats and destroyers of the Japanese Navy. He desired to refer to the serious change which the Admiralty had made recently in diminishing the speed of our torpedo boats, whereas other nations had increased the speed. The reason for this speed was probably well known to the Committee. The "Cobra." after its first trial trip, broke in half coming from one of our ports, and the Admiralty appointed a Committee of experts to inquire into the cause of this loss, and also into the general strength of our torpedo destroyers. The Report of this Committee had been issued, but in the public interest the Admiralty had declined to publish it. Its effect, however, was seen in the reduction of the speed of the most recently built torpedo boats. The Return showed that the average speed of our newest destroyers was not more than twenty-five and a-half knots, whilst those previously built had a speed of thirty-five knots. The average speed of the best boats they were building before this change was not less than thirty or thirty-one knots. He would compare these new boats with the most modern boats possessed by Japan and France. When he took the average of these new boats at twenty-five and a-half knots he was aware that when they were tested they carried a greater load on their trials than the Japanese boats. They carried a load of 100 tons, whereas the Japanese boats carried about forty tons. That would give our boats a speed of twenty-seven and a-half knots as against the Japanese boats with the same weight. In making these boats stronger the Government claim to give them sea qualities which the former boats did not enjoy. It should be borne in mind that every one of these Japanese boats were built in England and had to make their way to Japan. During the journey they had to encounter both rough and smooth water, and all arrived without a single accident. During the war with Russia they had had experience of all kinds and had been thoroughly tested. He failed to see why it was not possible for our Admiralty to build sea-going boats which would hold their own in all sorts of weather at a greater speed than the Japanese boats. Therefore, allowing for the difference in the load they were four knots behind the Japanese. That might prove to be a very serious factor.

Why was it that no other navy in the world was following our example, but were proceeding in a contrary direction and were going in for increased speed? Why had it become necessary to adopt this change? Because they were alarmed at the loss of the "Cobra." What did the experts say was the cause of the failure of the "Cobra"? First of all, because it was wrongly designed, that the workmanship was bad, and that the vessel had not been built by specialists in this particular class of ships. These vessels were supposed to attack other vessels and destroy them, but they would never be able to do so with this reduced speed nor, if necessary, themselves escape from the enemy. In view of the fact that other nations were going in for greater speed, was it wise to reduce our speed? That was a matter of extreme importance, and that was the reason why he had ventured to raise it. They ought to have some explanation as to why the Admiralty had disregarded altogether this question of speed. In the Japanese boats the speed was not only greater than in our new boats but the coal consumption was very much less. He thought that required some explanation from his hon. friend. Surely the Secretary to the Admiralty would not hold that under no circumstances whatever were they ever likely to enter into competition in regard to speed. If they happened to be engaged in war with another great naval Power they would be left out of the contest altogether as far as destroyers were concerned. They ought not to call them destroyers at all, because they never would be able to destroy anything.

*MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Portsmouth)

said that one point he had wished to call attention to was the matter of battleships, which had been raised by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, and had been fully alluded to by the Secretary to the Admiralty. He was sorry that the hon. Member for Dundee was not in his place at that moment, because he desired to refer to the speech which he had made that evening. He had had the pleasure during the last three or four years of listening to a great number of speeches from the hon. Member for Dundee, but he had never had the opportunity of addressing a speech to the hon. Gentleman, because it always happened that after making a long speech in which he brought an accusation of absence against the First Lord of the Admiralty he left the House. As he had said, he had listened to many speeches by the hon. Member for Dundee, who spoke semiofficially from the Opposition side of the House, but he did not even now rightly understand what his policy was. As a matter of fact he took the same exception to the hon. Member's speeches as Liberals took to the speeches of the Prime Minister on the fiscal question, that was to say he never got any nearer to coming to a conclusion as to what he was driving at. The whole drift of his argument, however, would appear to be that we must reduce our Navy, or, at all events, that we could not go on increasing our Navy. If his argument was carried to its logical conclusion the only inference was that we could not have the Navy we desired, and therefore we had better leave off building. The hon. Member for Dundee had told the Committee that evening that the two-Power standard was no longer operative, because one Power to which he alluded very delicately had undergone misfortune, which had altogether altered the situation. He stated also that France was hesitating in the progress of her naval construction. Although he was not a Member of that House when the two-Power standard was talked about, he had followed the debates, and he had never understood that the two-Power standard was restricted to any two particular Powers. If it was argued that France was reducing her naval equipment, or was hesitating in going on with her naval preparations, they might as well say that Turkey was not a very strong naval Power. As a matter of fact he did not think that they could limit themselves to any two Powers, but they must take a fair view of all the Powers of Europe. One Power that had not been alluded to was Italy, but it was an undoubted fact that Italy was getting the best battleships of any Power in Europe. A year or two ago one of the naval publicists, for curiosity or for advertisement, invited from all the Powers an expression of opinion as to which Power had the best battleship in the world. Of course each Power gave its own first as the best, but each gave the second place to Italy.

Another point to which he desired to draw attention was that it did not at all follow that every Power which was building up a navy was necessarily building against ourselves. In the German Parliament a year or two ago a protest was made that the power of Germany in the Far East was not strong enough. On that occasion the disadvantage to Germany was represented to be not as regarded England, but with respect to Russia, France, and, he believed, Italy. The fact remained that when they talked of a two-Power standard they meant at least that our Fleet must be strong enough to meet any two Powers which might come against us, and that was a limit that we could not with equanimity allow ourselves to fall behind. If the hon. Member for Dundee favoured a lower standard it was almost a menace, because the hon. Gentleman would undoubtedly hold an official position in the next Liberal Government, and it did give them pause if a gentleman of his weight brought forward such views when there was temptation on other grounds to vote against the present Government. In view of the danger to battleships from mines rather than from gunfire, as revealed by the war in the Far East, he as a layman thought that it would be a wiser policy than that of building huge ships to go in for smaller battleships and more of them. That was a proposition he would lay before Mr. Pretyman, and he would like to have the opinion of the Admiralty on the subject. As to cruisers the lesson that they were learning from the present war was that staying power was more important than speed. At any rate it was the first essential. In conclusion, he thought the Secretary to the Admiralty might tell them something about the shooting of ships which had been so much discussed, and also give them some information on that vexed question of the sighting of the guns on the "Centurion."

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

congratulated the Admiralty upon not having had to present any Supplementary Estimates this year. It was true that they had very large Navy Estimate, but the absence of any Supplementary Estimates allowed the country to give a sigh of relief. He agreed with a great deal of what the hon. Member opposite had said about economy, but he did not agree with him when he said that a two-Power standard should be rigidly adhered to and if possible increased. He did not think that they ought to go beyond that standard. He thought that it was necessary to put some check upon our naval expenditure if they were to have any success in their efforts towards economy, for which the whole country was sighing. The greatest growth in their expenditure had been in regard to their naval expenditure. The figures showed that they had spent about £43,000,000 this year, and he did not think that it was necessary to continue to spend such a large amount as that. He was sorry that some promise of economy had not been given them by the Secretary to the Admiralty. He thought they ought to have some stricter definition of the two-Power standard. He must say that the two-Power standard had ceased to have any meaning with the present Board of Admiralty. The hon. Gentleman did not tell the Committee exactly what it did mean. For forty years it meant that the expenditure of this country on the Navy should be equal, or about equal, to the expenditure of any two Powers which might combine against us. For a long period our expenditure on the Navy never exceeded the expenditure on the navies of any other two Powers. In 1883 our expenditure was 10.4 millions, and that of the next two Powers combined £14,000,000, In 1893 our expenditure was 14.3 millions, and that of the two greatest Powers £18,000,000. In 1903 the expenditure on the British Navy was 34.5 millions, and that of other two Powers £25,000,000. Now our expenditure was £37,000,000. In these very simple figures they had the story of the bad revolution this country had worked with regard to the two-Power standard. We now spent on our Navy a half more than any other two Powers combined. There was nothing in the circumstances of the world at present or in our relations with any other Power to justify Our continuance in a departure from the standard formerly accepted by the country. France had adopted a most pacific attitude towards this country. The hon. Member for Portsmouth spoke rather slightingly of France, and said that in making these comparisons they might as well look at Turkey.


said he only repeated what was stated by the hon. Member for Dundee. That hon. Member said that France was reducing its naval, expenditure. His own point was that they might as well take any other Power.


said the hon. Member had really not added anything to what he stated before. France did not stand to this country in the same relation as Turkey. France was the most important factor in the whole European situation and it should not be compared with a bankrupt and worn-out Power in the east of Europe. The pacific attitude of France towards this country was a fact of the very greatest magnitude. We have now had eight or nine months experience of the alliance, and everything was going prosperously for a reduction in the expenditure so far as France was concerned. He did not see any reason anywhere for the great step forward we were taking this year. He was glad to see that there was a very strong Party in the German Parliament who criticised the huge expenditure that country had been going in for in recent years. He thought the German Government had considerable difficulty in pressing through their naval programme. He did not think that Germany would like to take on its shoulders all that its governors might suggest in regard to the new naval policy. In January this year the Emperor made a remarkable speech, in which he pointed out that this country was the sole cause of the vast increase which Germany had had to make in its naval expenditure. We were the root of this evil in other countries, and if they were going along so quickly after us, it was because we did not show any disposition to moderate our pace. Another great naval Power was Russia. There was no use mincing matters too much, and the fact was that the naval strength of that Power had of late been very much weakened. If we must suddenly increase our Estimates when new ships were built or laid down for Russia, why should we not modify our Estimates when Russian battleships were destroyed? This country was suffering greatly from the extravagance which had taken place in the last two years. The root of the matter was in Vote A which the Committee had been discussing, and if we did not modify our expenditure in that connection we would not be able to obtain a decrease in the total naval expenditure. The hon. Member who had just sat down looked with satisfaction on the fact that two new battleships would be built—the largest and most costly ever floated. We might not find safety in this huge increase of bulk alone. The experience of the war in the East showed, he thought, that more attention should be paid to the smaller and less costly craft. When the purchase of the Chilian battleships was sanctioned certain economies were promised, and the Committee naturally expected that these economies would be realised this year. He moved to reduce the Vote by £145,968, that being the amount included for the cost of one battleship.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £10,169,000, be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Lough.)

*SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

said he understood there was to be a considerable advance in tonnage and in the power of the armaments of the new battleships and cruisers. His hon. friend the Member for Portsmouth seemed to have a scheme of his own in regard to the two-Power standard. The suggestion of the hon. Member for West Islington was that they should leave out of account in the two-Power standard questions relating to the number and size of ships and guns, and everything else pertaining to war, and that the standard should be determined by equality of expenditure with expenditure of two Powers. That seemed to him to be a proposition which had only to be stated to be discarded. Equality of expenditure was a vastly different thing from efficiency, and it was no test whatever of the relative force of the maritime provision which might be necessary to protect our sea interests. The real test was the work we had got to do, and our power to do it. What the House should understand was that the expenditure was properly applied, and that there was no extravagance and no waste. He could not conceive why the hon. Gentleman opposite, who was a great apostle of economy, could propose a standard based on pounds, shillings, and pence.


It has always been matters, as shown by the present war, it followed.


did not think the country would accept the proposition. We had to consider our position as a sea Empire. We had to consider what were our duties and responsibilities and what necessarily would have to be the distribution of our forces which would produce a state of things in the face of an enemy that would paralyse his sea operations. The Admiralty said to the House of Commons that we must have a standard, and the House of Commons said it must be something that the man in the street would understand. We had to consider our requirements in view of rapidly changing strategical conditions. We had established a naval intelligence department, and the increase in our naval expenditure had more or less followed the work of that department. The Admiralty now submitted to the House Estimates based on considered plans, whereas formerly they proceeded by rule of thumb. In the old days our standard was infinitely greater than a two-Power standard. The old idea was that we must have a Fleet that could, if necessary, stand against the world. It was the advance made in the science of maritime war that had produced a much more difficult field for inquiry, and much greater difficulty in fixing the standard. There were obviously details which could not be explained in the House of Commons or to the man in the street; and, therefore, something had to be done to satisfy public opinion in the matter, and the rough-and-ready two-Power standard was adopted. When it was first announced to the House he accepted it as a necessity of political and public exigency, but in naval matters, as shown by the present war, it was essential to have a margin, and what that margin must be was a matter for careful and scientific observation. What this war taught above all things was that much depended on the ability of the Admirals, and upon things which could not be entirely expressed by the number of men, or guns, or the weight of armaments. It was not wise to blindly take a standard in order to suit Parliamentary and public exigencies, and to say "That and nothing more shall you have." He thought when they spoke of the two-Power standard they must always carry in their minds that there must be a careful survey of what would be the actual position and circumstances if we were at war. He rejoiced to hear that the armament of these ships was to be improved. He rather approved of the approximation of the cruiser to the battleship. That was only a consequence of what had happened in recent times. His hon. friend the Member for Portsmouth, who spoke with a certain amount of authority, seemed to deprecate the laying out of so much money in these huge cruisers and battleships, because they might run into a mine-field and come to grief. His own feeling, so far as the information he could obtain regarding the present naval war, was that the danger from mines was not all on one side. He confessed that he did not expect any great reduction in the expenditure on the Navy. He did not believe that the other Powers would stop expenditure, because they felt the necessity for developing their navies At the same time the Admiralty should exercise the greatest scrutiny and take all reasonable care to keep down the expense.

MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)

said that the hon. Member opposite had some apprehension as to what would happen if hon. Members on this side of the House were responsible for the future of the Navy, but they were just as anxious to retain the efficiency of the Navy as hon. Members opposite. The growth of expenditure, however, was causing considerable uneasiness. There was a feeling on the Opposition Benches that the overhauling of the Navy was as necessary as the overhauling of the Army. He felt convinced that a great deal of money had been wasted on naval organisation, and that a great deal of work could be done by the provision of a cheaper and lighter craft. He advocated building more ships of the "Lord Nelson" type and strengthening the destroyers without sacrifice of speed. A better Navy could be provided, he believed, for less money, but that object would never be obtained until the administration of the Navy was inquired into by a Committee of experts.


said that the interest of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in naval affairs was appreciated by every one. But he did not think that anything would be gained by the appointment of any Committee of experts or a Commission to examine into the whole affairs of the Navy. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman would hold that it was the Admiralty, with all its defects, and not a Committee, which must manage the affairs of the Navy. He agreed that speed was an essential factor in the destroyer, but when they talked of speed they did not confine themselves to smooth water speed.


Nor do the Japs.


What information had the hon. Member for Devonport as to the speed which the Japanese boats were able to maintain? The comparison must be the average speed under such conditions as boats were likely to meet with at sea, and remain at sea. Of course, if they could obtain sufficient strength and at the same time increased speed they should naturally desire to do so. The old thirty-knot destroyers having developed dangerous weakness, it was decided, after the most careful consideration, and with the advantage of all the facts brought out by the Destroyer Committee, to build eight destroyers of a new type. The additional height forward would enable these vessels to use their twelve pounder guns in a way which they could not do in the present type; and there was the additional advantage that the coal capacity would be increased. These new vessels would have a nominal speed of twenty-five and-a half knots as against the former nominal speed of thirty knots. They would be tried under all conditions of weather; and the behavour of the two classes of boats would be the subject of special observation at the manœuvres. The hon. Member for Devonport had referred to the expediency of calling in the advice of experts. He might say that some of the most eminent private firms had been asked if they could design boats of equal strength and greater speed, and unanimously they said that they could not. He could assure the hon. Member that the whole matter had been most carefully considered. As to the question of increased expenditure referred to by the hon. Member opposite, it was true that there had been a progressive increase in the Naval Votes; but the country had got benefit in exchange for that increase. There was an amelioration and an improvement in the position of the personnel in barracks, hospitals, pay, dietary, and in the position of the labourers in the dockyards. The total increase in these respects in nine years was £1,260,000, while under the Works Loan Act the sum which had been expended upon naval barracks was £2,500,000. It would be seen that with the creation of the Cruiser Squadron and the increase of

Ainsworth, John Stirling Horniman Frederick John Rea, Russell
Boland, John Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Brigg, John Joyce, Michael Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)
Bright, Allan Heywood Kennedy, Vincent P.(Cavan, W Shackleton, David James
Cremer, William Randal Kilbride, Denis Shipman, Dr. John G.
Cullinan, G. Labouchere, Henry Slack, John Bamford
Delany, William Levy, Maurice Stanhope, Hon. Philip James
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Doogan, P. C. MacVeagh, Jeremiah Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr
Elibank, Master of M'Hugh, Patrick, A. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Ellice, Capt E C (S. Andrw's Bghs M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Flavin, Michael Joseph Moss, Samuel Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)
Griffith, Ellis J. Nannetti, Joseph P. Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Gordon, Sir W. Brampton Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)
Hayden, John Patrick O' Brien, Kendal (Tipperary, Mid TELLERS FOR THE AYES, Mr. Lough and Mr. Bryn Roberts.
Hayter Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D. O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Higham, John Sharpe O'Dowd, John
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Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.) Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J.(Manc'r Llewellyn, Evan Henry
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Blundell, Colonel Henry Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham
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Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.) MacIver, David (Liverpool)
(Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire) Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury) McArthur, Charles (Liverpool)
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Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool) Tuff, Charles

And, it being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.