HC Deb 05 June 1905 vol 147 cc781-93

Order read for Further Consideration of Resolution:— That a sum, not exceeding £1,905,200, be granted to His Majesty to defray the Expense of Works, Buildings, and Repairs at Home and Abroad, including the cost of Superintendence, Purchase of Sites, Grants in Aid, and other Charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1906.

Resolution further considered.


continuing his remarks, said when the House adjourned he was referring to an expenditure of £25,000 for the house of the Commander-in-Chief at Chatham He had asked the Civil Lord to allow the House to see the plans and designs for this very expensive building. Since the matter had been discussed in Committee his opinion had been confirmed that unless an addition was made to the present consideration for service it would be absolutely impossible for that officer to live on his pay. That was one of the reasons why he brought this matter forward. It was, he supposed, too late to hope for a modification of the scheme, but he submitted that it was a wrong principle to bring in a large expenditure of this kind on an initial Vote of £5,000. With regard to the cold-meat store at Gibraltar he hoped the remarkable discrepancy between the two Departments concerned which was discovered in Committee had now been rectified. The store, he understood, was large enough to store, in case of a siege, sufficient for three years. He did not know whether it was to be packed full and kept full in anticipation of such a siege which, in his opinion, was impossible whilst we had the command of the sea. He would also like some explanation of the loan of £50,000 to New South Wales. It was not satisfactory that a Colonial Government should build a storehouse for us and that we should advance the money necessary for that purpose in the form of a loan. He had not seen any item of this kind before in the Estimates, but such items as this and others which came on this Vote showed that there was not that care and control which there ought to be over these spending Departments. He begged to move to reduce the Vote by £10,000.

Amendment proposed— To leave out '£1,905,200,' and insert '£1,885,200,'—(Mr. Whitley,)—instead there-of

Question proposed "That '£1,905,200' stand part of the said Resolution."

MR. PURVIS (Peterborough)

desired to Say a few words of protest against the way in which the Estimates were criticised by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who appeared to look upon the vaguest assertions as proof. "I am told this" and "I can imagine that" was a good type of the criticisms brought from time to time against the Estimates. The hon. Member, having dealt in a casual manner with what the Admiralty were doing at Whale Island, dashed off into the lax control exercised by the Treasury but gave no details as to where that laxity occurred. Then having scolded the Treasury he scolded the House and said they ought to be students of reform in these matters. He then went away to the other side of the globe and denounced Wei-hai-Wei as a bathing station, which was still a mere assertion. Then, to show how swift was thought, before they could forget Wei-hai-Wei he was back at Chatham with some vague description of the residence there being a palace. He had noted these points because it had occurred to him that when hon. Gentlemen criticised Estimates in this way they might feed the House with more definite and nutritive food than those vague assertions. The answer was plain. It was impossible to kick at nothing, or at least it was very jerky work, and all they could say to such vague assertions was that expenditure was not condemned by saying it was increasing. It was not what was spent but what was bought. If it could be shown that the money was thrown away and not expended on anything useful then that question might be brought before the House. As a matter of fact he had noticed that there had in fact been a decrease in the expenditure for works this year of £110,574.

With regard to the grant to New South Wales, it was a great thing when we were trying to bind the Empire together to find that New South Wales was willing to pay for a storehouse for the victualling service for the Navy for the whole of Australia. They had not the money to build it, and we lent it to them and they were to repay it in five years. Such a thing showed a mutual desire to maintain the integrity of the Empire. That was the short answer to that. When there was nothing definite to bring against the expenditure of the Departments they should not be criticised. British naval stations existed in all parts of the world, and under the higher policy of Imperial defence some were to be used and some abandoned, and in these matters the hands of the Admiralty should not be tied. The discussions in this House ought not to touch the fringe of these questions, and they ought not to stigmatise as mere bluff that on which our existence might depend.


in replying to the criticisms, said that the erection of the sub-lieutenants' quarters at While Island was a case of extreme urgency, for it was necessary to provide accommodation not later than September 1st this year. Had the Government waited until the Vote was taken it would have been impossible to have got the accommodation ready in time. There were many precedents for the course that had been followed, and it was not necessary for him to justify it further to the House. The case of Wei-hai-Wei had been adequately dealt with on previous occasions. It was not a question as to whether we were going to remain in possession of that station after the conclusion of the present war, because Wei-hai-Wei would probably always remain the chief sanatorium for the China Station, though it was given up as a coaling station. He would be glad to show hon. Members the plan of the residency of the Commander-in-Chief at Chatham, and from it hon. Members would see that the accommodation was not in excess of the requirements of the admiral and his staff. The Navy needed a victualling store in Australia, and the New South Wales Government had offered to provide it. The offer had been accepted, and as the store was wanted at once the Colonial Government asked for a loan to pay for its erection, the money to be repaid by annual instalments. That was a very proper arrangement, and the only alternative would have been for the Government to have constructed the store themselves. It was highly desirable, as a matter of policy, that we should accept the assistance of our Colonies when they offered it to us. With regard to the observations of the hon. Member as to the laxity in the scrutiny of the expenditure, and the hope expressed by him that in the reorganisation of the Departments that laxity would disappear, that was a matter which had nothing to do with Vote 10, and therefore required no answer.

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

Considered his hon. friend the Member for Halifax had been fully justified in the reduction he had moved, even though it only resulted in eliciting the very interesting statement of the hon. Member opposite. The Civil Lord had passed over in a few words the question of the storehouse at Gibraltar, but that was probably due to the presence of the Financial Secretary to the War Office, who would probably be able to explain why this enormous amount of money had been wasted. At present there had been no explanation with regard to it. Here was a large amount of money devoted to a particular purpose which was discovered, after the money had been spent, to be absolutely useless. Who was responsible for the extraordinary report upon which the work was proceeded with? It raised a much larger question than the mere local question at Gibraltar, because if these enormous sums were going to be spent in this way, they should know by whom they were incurred, and not be referred by one Department to another. This meat store was built, they understood, first for an ammunition store, but was found to be unsafe, and then turned into this so-called cold-meat store. That showed that the person who advised this expenditure was not to be trusted. The House was entitled to know who induced the War Office to incur this useless expenditure, because the amount of money originally expended could not have been necessary for the purposes of erecting a place to store cold meat. If notice was not taken of these mistakes of the Government they would think themselves justified in spending colossal sums of money, and, then justify the expenditure afterwards by saying it was useful for another purpose. This was not the time to expend money in this way, and he thought the Opposition wore entitled to know who incurred the preliminary expenditure in this matter, and whether any action had bean taken against the persons implicated in this affair. What had the Financial Secretary to the War Office to say? He, after all, was the guardian in this matter. He received the reports from the Admiralty or the War Office. What was the hon. Gentleman going to do, because whoever passed that expenditure was guilty of a dereliction of duty, or they would have had a proper inquiry into the whole matter before the money was spent.

With regard to Wei-hai-Wei the Civil Lord admitted that although we were bound by treaty to withdraw from Wei-hai-Wei—


I did not say so.


said it did not matter whether the hon. Gentleman said so or not; it was a fact that could not be disputed or denied. We were bound by treaty to withdraw from Wei-hai-Wei. But the hon. Gentleman made the most curious explanation that, although we must withdraw, Wei-hai-Wei would always be useful as a sanatorium. That was a most extraordinary statement. He remembered perfectly well the flourish of trumpets with which the Government took over Wei-hai-Wei, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean pointed out that it was only mere bluff, and that it would have to be vacated in a few years. It was a diplomatic asset which was of no use, and now we had the satisfaction of knowing that it was going to be one of the most delightful sanitoria throughout the whole country—a sort of huge "hydro.'' That was what the House was told after the enormous amounts of money the House had been asked to sanction with regard to it.

New South Wales was, so it was said, going to assist us by building a storehouse for the victualling service of the Navy in Australia; we were to lend them the money and were to have something to say in respect of the spending of it. That was certainly a curious way of dealing as between ourselves and the Colonies, and he would have been much better pleased had New South Wales given a specific and substantial contribution to our naval expenditure. If that assurance was not worth any more than the Transvaal assurance it was not worth very much. He hoped the New South Wales assurance would be worth something more, although personally he did not see why they should not make a money contribution. The Civil Lord had stated in his explanation that money had been spent in this way by a preceding Liberal Government. He did not see that it was entirely applicable to refer to what a Liberal Government had done on a former occasion. Whether a Liberal or Conservative Government did it, they were both to blame. Except under extraordinary circumstances the credit of this House should not be pledged without its authority. There was absolutely no limit to what might be done if once they accepted the principle that the Treasury might act without the authority of Parliament. In this case why did not the Admiralty wait until the expenditure was authorised by the House? He thought they were entitled to hear from some representative of the Government what was to be done in this matter, in view of the criticism passed the other day on both sides of the House.

MR. BENN (Devonport)

called attention to the statement in Lord Selborne's Memorandum of February 14th that new construction could be as cheaply built in private yards while repairs were more economically conducted in the Royal dockyards, and asked whether this meant that the dockyards were henceforth to be starved as centres of shipbuilding for the Royal Navy and to become mere repairing shops. Would this alteration in policy really mean any alteration in the management of the dockyards, so far as shipbuilding was concerned? He was perfectly sure the hon. Gentleman would be able to give some information which would relieve the anxiety of his constituents, and make the meaning of the Memorandum more clear to those immediately concerned.


on a point of order, asked whether the hon. Gentleman's Question did not come properly under the Vote for construction.


So far as I can make out, the speech of the hon. Member is really not relevant to this Vote. This Vote deals entirely with works.


said if shipbuilding was to be abandoned the works would not be required. He submitted that the two things were so intimately associated that he was nearly in order, if not quite.


said his hon. friend had finished his remarks. He thought that they were relevant to the Vote now before the House.

MR. GODDARD (Ipswich)

said he should like some more information in regard to the cold-meat store at Gibraltar. He gathered from what was stated in the course of the last debate, that the cost was to be borne half by the Navy and half by the Army. He fancied that did not take into account the amount expended on the building which was first of all intended for an ammunition store. The original Estimate was £42,000, but when it was found that the building was too damp for an ammunition store it was converted into a cold-meat store. He wished to know whether the £42,000 was expended entirely out of the Navy account and whether, if that was really so, the proportion to be paid by the Navy was not very much larger than that of the Army. There was a considerable amount of questioning when the matter came before the Public Accounts Committee, and it was stated that £47,000 was then the Estimate for converting the building into a cold-meat store. There was a sentence in which it was stated that the Navy would have to pay £66,000, and the Army £23,500. It was very clear, therefore, that it was not an equal division between the two services. It was stated that in future the Navy would build their own works at Gibraltar, Malta, Hong-Kong, and Bermuda. He did not know whether that policy was being carried out at the present time, but it was very desirable that there should be no dual control in these matters. In cases where there was dual control the figures were complicated, and it was difficult to bring home responsibility to anyone.

The system by which the Treasury could sanction new expenditure without the authority of the House was a dangerous one, because the Departments were able to initiate works which had never been submitted to or considered by Parliament. When work had been begun in that way it was always said that they could not go back upon it. That was a practice which lent itself to extravagance on all sides, and it took away from the complete control which Parliament ought to have over the finances of the country. There ought to be the greatest grounds of urgency before this was done, but such grounds could not always be stated in cases where the policy was pursued.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid.)

said he would like a little more information as to the policy the Admiralty were going to adopt at Wei-hai-Wei. Some years ago it was said that it was to become a great naval base, and in order to carry out that policy the Government spent a large amount money in erecting fortifications there, and they were all ready except that the guns had not been provided. How much money had been spent on the fortifications, and what was being done in regard to the Chinese regiments which were being drilled at Wei-hai-Wei under British officers? Had these troops been disbanded or were they still there? What was the nature of the dredging that was taking place in the harbour? Surely there was some mistake about the dredging of the harbour. The "Terrible," which was one of the largest vessels in our Navy, lay a long time in that harbour, which could accommodate the whole of the British Fleet in deep water. He could not understand the policy of the Government in making Wei-hai-Wei a sanatorium for the Flect in Chinese waters. Now that Port Arthur had fallen it was obvious what would happen in the East. The true explanation of the change of opinion with regard to the value of Wei-hai-Wei on the part of the naval and military authorities was the belief that should Russia ever be compelled to part with Port Arthur Europeans would be turned out of China altogether.

As to the New South Wales loan he wished to know why the colony did not borrow the money itself with, if necessary, the guarantee of this country. The money would be advanced by us for the purpose of providing the storage, and we would never see it again. The colony was not going to pay interest for the money, and, that being so, why should we advance it? Had we a guarantee from the Federal Government or from that of New South Wales? This money was being taken out of the taxes of the country, and there was probably no intention of its being repaid.

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestrshire, Forest of Dean)

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty what had been the results of the experiments carried out by a Committee in regard to the erosion of guns from the use of cordite.


The result has been the introduction of the M. D. cordite, which is less erosive than the cordite previously in use. But this does not mean that the life of the new gun is longer than that of the old. The increase in velocity increases the erosion even more rapidly than it has been diminished by improvements in the propellant; but it is this improvement which has rendered the higher ballistics possible.


on a point of order, respectfully submitted that if the Secretary to the Admiralty looked at Vote 10 he would see an item having to do with machine shops and shops in building yards.


said the point which the hon. Member had raised was out of order on this Vote. It referred to Vote 8.


said the points raised by the hon. Member for Mid.-Lanark had been dealt with in the previous debate. The dredging at Wei-hai-Wei was undertaken for the simple reason that the available anchorage space, although spacious to a superficial observer, for first-class cruisers or battleships was limited. The object was to deepen the water in the roadstead so that five or six large ships might lie there. In regard to New South Wales, a totally unfair misconstruction had been put on the action of the colony. Hitherto we had been providing our own storage at the expense of Imperial funds. We were erecting these new stores out of Imperial funds as before, but the colony, in addition to the subvention which they had already agreed to pay, also agreed to repay by five annual instalments the whole cost of construction. We were only finding the money in the first instance.


asked if the hon. Gentleman would answer the question whether the original £42,000 for the cold-meat store et Gibraltar came entirely out of the Navy funds.


said that the £42,000 never was expended for such a purpose. The hon. Gentleman had for some time been on the Public Accounts Committee, and the matter to which he referred occurred a good number of years ago. The hon. Gentleman referred to this question of cold storage on Party lines; it was a question of administration. Did the hon. Gentleman really think that, because it was found that this site was not a suitable one for an ammunition store for the Admiralty, the Government of the day was totally incapable?


said that what he suggested was that the person who was

appointed to advise the Government was incapable; and he wanted to know who he was.


said that what the hon. Member had suggested was that the Government who took the advice was incapable of administration, and he raised this as a Party issue. The Government which was responsible for the selection of the site for an ammunition store at Gibraltar which proved to be too damp was the Liberal Government which was in power in 1893. The person responsible was presumably the First Lord of the Admiralty or the Civil Lord of the Admiralty of the day. Of course, whatever sum was expended on the ammunition store was not included in the cost which the Admiralty now submitted. The figure quoted were perfectly accurate, and the total additional expenditure for cold storage was £48,700.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 144; Noes, 86. (Division List No. 196.)

Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Dalrymple, Sir Charles Hickman, Sir Alfred
Anson, Sir William Reynell Davenport, William Bromley Hoare, Sir Samuel
Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. H. O. Denny, Colonel Hogg, Lindsay
Arrol, Sir William Dickson, Charles Scott Hope, J. F (Sheffield, Brightside
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Joseph C Houston, Robert Paterson
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Doxford, Sir William Theodore Hunt, Rowland
Bailey, James (Walworth) Duke, Henry Edward Jameson, Major J. Eustace
Balcarres, Lord Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. Hart Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred.
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manc'r Fellowes, Rt. Hn. Ailwyn Edw. Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh
Balfour, Rt. Hn G. W. (Leeds) Fergusson, Rt. Hn Sir J (Manc'r Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Finch, Rt. Hn. George H. Laurie, Lieut.-General
Bignold, Sir Arthur Finlay, Sir R. B. (Inv'rn'ss B'ghs Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)
Bingham, Lord Fisher, William Hayes Lawrence, Sir J. (Monm'th
Blundell, Colonel Henry Fison, Frederick William Lawson, John Grant (Yorks N R
Bond, Edward FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham)
Brassey, Albert Forster, Henry William Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Gardner, Ernest Llewellyn, Evan Henry
Brymer, William Ernest Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk. Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.
Bull, William James Gordon, Hn. J. E (Elgin & Nairn Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham
Butcher, John George Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S
Carson, Rt. Hn. Sir Edw. H. Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Loyd, Archie Kirkman
Cavendish, V. C W. (Derbyshire Greene, Sir E W (B'ry S Edm'nds Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred
Chamberlain, Rt Hn J. A (Wore. Grenfell, William Henry Macdona, John Cumming
Chapman, Edward Hall, Edward Marshall M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nderry M'Calmont, Colonel James
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow Hare, Thomas Leigh M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh, W
Corbett, T. L. (Down, N.) Harris, F. Levorton (Tynem'th Majendie, James A. H.
Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S.) Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley Marks, Harry Hananel
Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) Heaton, John Henniker Martin, Richard Biddulph
Dalkeith, Earl of Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W. Milvain, Thomas
Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants, Pym, C. Guy Stroyan, John
Moon, Edward Robert Pacy Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne Strutt, Hn. Charles Hedley
Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow Reid, James (Greenock) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Morpeth, Viscount Remnant, James Farquharson Thorburn, Sir Walter
Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine Tomlinson Sir Wm. Edw. M.
Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry) Renwick, George Tritton, Charles Ernest
Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Ridley, S. Forde Tuke, Sir John Batty
Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury) Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield) Turnour, Viscount
Pease, Herb. Pike (Darlington Robertson, Herbert (Hackney Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. H.
Pemberton, John S. G. Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon
Perry, Earl Rutherford, John (Lancashire Whiteley, H (Ashton und Lyne
Pierpoint, Robert Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford Williams, Colonel R (Dorset
Pilkington, Colonel Richard Seton-Karr, Sir Henry Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Platt-Higgins, Frederick Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Plummer, Sir Walter R. Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir
Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Spear, John Ward Alexander Acland-Hood and
Pretyman, Ernest George Stanley, Rt. Hn. Lord (Lancs.) Viscount Valentia.
Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart
Purvis, Robert Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Abraham, William (Cork, N. E. Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) Richards, Thomas
Ainsworth, John Stirling Goddard, Daniel Ford Rickett, J. Compton
Atherley-Jones, L. Grant, Corrie Roe, Sir Thomas
Barran, Rowland Hirst Higham, John Sharp Runciman, walter
Bell, Richard Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E. Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Benn, John Williams Hutchinson, Dr. Chas. Fredk. Shackleton, David James
Black, Alexander William Joicey, Sir James Shipman, Dr. John G.
Boland, John Jones, Leif (Appleby) Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Brigg, John Kearley, Hudson E. Slack, John Bamford
Bright, Allan Heywood Kennedy, Vincent P. (Cavan, W Smith, Samuel (Flint)
Brown, George M. (Edinburgh Langley, Batty Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R (Northants
Burns, John Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall Sullivan, Donal
Burt, Thomas Layland-Barratt, Francis Tennant, Harold John
Buxton, N. E (York, N R, Whitby Lewis, John. Herbert Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr
Caldwell, James Lyell, Charles Henry Toulmin, George
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) MacVeagh, Jeremiah Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Causton, Richard Knight M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Villiers, Ernest Amherst
Channing, Francis Allston Markham, Arthur Basil Wallace, Robert
Cheetham, John Frederick Mooney, John J. White, George (Norfolk)
Cremer, William Randal Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen White, Luke (York, E. R.
Delany, William Murphy, John Whiteley, G. (York, W. R.)
Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh. Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Duncan, J, Hastings Norman, Henry Wills, Arthur Walters (N Dorset
Edwards, Frank O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.
Ellice, Capt E C (S Andrw's Bgh's O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Eve, Harry Trelawney O'Malley, William Woodhouse, Sir J T (Huddersf'd
Fenwick, Charles Partington, Oswald
Findlay, Alex. (Lanark, N. E.) Perks, Robert William TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.
Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Pirie, Duncan V. Dalziel and Mr. J. H. Whitley.
Flynn, James Christopher Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries

Resolution agreed to.