HC Deb 29 June 1905 vol 148 cc552-98

Motion made, and Quest on proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,768,300, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expenses of the Personnel for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc., including the cost of Establishments of Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1906."


said he presumed they would, as usual, be allowed to take a general discussion on shipbuilding questions on that Vote. The first point he wished to raise was the scheme of discarding certain ships which was announced at the beginning of the session. He made no complaint of the statement of Lord Selborne, but the policy was announced to the country before the opening of Parliament by the Prime Minister in language which ought not to be forgotten. The right hon. Gentleman told a Party meeting at Glasgow that by a "courageous stroke of the pen" the Admiralty had abolished 130 vessels, and by this remarkable achievement the efficiency of the Navy had been increased, and large savings would be effected to the extent of hundreds of thousands, and indeed of millions, annually. He adopted from his audience the words "bad rubbish" as a description of these ships. This was only one of the aspects of this question. It was not merely that the Board of Admiralty had laid down the rule that a ship, however use ul in t me of peace, was not only useless but worse than useless in time of war if it possessed neither fighting power nor speed, but it had gone further and it had with one courageous stroke of the pen abolished 130 ships, with the result that the cost of their maintenance and repair was to be struck on the Estimates while the fighting power of the British. Fleet would simultaneously be increased two or three-fold in the first twenty four hoars of war—a "remarkable achievement," and "the greatest feat in naval policy since the days of Nelson."

Information upon this policy, at first meagre, was supplied by a Return issued by the Admiralty of ships affected by the redistribution of the Fleets. From this it appeared that twenty-seven ships were put into the llama class, retaining their armaments, but laid up in the charge of caretaker, thirty-six vessels were relegated to a class available for subsidiary purposes, eighty obsolete vessels were in a third class, and ten vessels were in a fourth class of guard, receiving and stationary ships. With regard to the llama class, as no expense was to be incurred on these ships for maintenance and repairs there must inevitably be deterioration, and certainly it was not possible to rely on their being made rapidly available in time of emergency. In this Return he could find nothing to justify the grandiloquent language used by the Prime Minister. Of the ninety ships struck off the list or sold a number had long been worthless, and could not be included in last year's policy. For instance, the "Royal Adelaide" was completed in 1828, the "Havannah" in 1811, the "Belvidera" in 1810, and the "Implacable" was so old that the Admiralty had no record of the date of her completion. So far as he could make out, only about half of the ninety vessels struck off could be attributed to the recent policy. Was it not absurd, then, to say that this great Admiralty achievement was without parallel since the days of Nelson. Again, as they knew, a large expenditure was incurred on several of these ships just before they were sent to the scrap-heap. On the "Porpoise" £31,000 was expended only three years before; on another vessel £9,030 was spent two years previously. Upon that policy he need not do more than allude to the statement of Sir W. White, late Chief Constructor to the Navy, and the two points upon which he pressed for explanation were: why so much expenditure was incurred for repairs for ships shortly afterwards removed from the effective list, and, secondly, how a distinction was made between ships of the same apparent class and value, some of which were laid up and others classed as useful for subsidiary purposes.

Let them contrast. the actual results of the policy with the description of it given by the Prime Minister at Glasgow. Lord Lansdowne, speaking in the House of Lords, had stated that the policy of eliminating ships from the active list had produced a saving of £3 500,000. That was an entire delusion. There had been a saving of £3,500,000 on the Navy Estimates this year, but it had been due to reductions on new construction, on armaments, on repairs, and on stores. He was quite sure that Lord Lansdowne spoke in good faith, but it only showed he was under the d fusion, fostered by the Prime Minister's language, that the saving had been effected by the elimination of these ships. But something must have been saved by the elimination of these ships, and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would tell them how much had been saved in past years and what saving might be anticipated in future years. They ought to know how much money had been realised by the sale of these old ships. He had hitherto applied unsuccessfully to the Admiralty for information on the point, and ho was driven to the papers for such facts as he had acquired. He would ask whether it was true that the "Warspite," which was only seventeen years old and had cost £700,000, had been sold for £18,000, and that eighteen so-called obsolete ships, which cost £2,250,000 not very long ago, sold at the beginning of April for something less than £100,000. He desired also to know what was the number of men set free by the elimination of these ships. He asked a Question on that point the other day and was told that the complement of these ships' crews totalled 30,748, but it did not necessarily follow that that number of men had been set free. He had not been able to get accurate information on the point, but it seemed to him that one result had been to increase the number of men serving on shore or in harbour ships, and that more men had not been put on sea service. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would vouchsafe the Committee some further information on that point.

Did this new scheme offer any hope of their being able to increase the efficiency of the Navy? Sir William White had made a strong point on that, arguing, as he did, that the elimination of these ships meant a reduction of reserve forces which was regarded as dangerous. Some reassurances on that subject would be useful. Many of these small ships, although they would be of no use in the fighting line in a great battle, were useful in peace and war for the protection of British interests locally. What was the policy of the Government and the Admiralty with regard to the protection of commerce in time of war? According to all authorities that he was acquainted with, our commerce in time of war would be protected by this class of small ships. He was aware that the question of the protection of commerce was in a state of flux at the present time. Therefore, it was important to know the reason for the elimination of ships which many high authorities regarded as being especially useful for that purpose. He knew there was high naval authority for the proposition that in time of war in all probability, at any rate at first, our Navy would not trouble itself to defend commerce at all.


asked whether the hon. Member was at liberty to give his authority.


said he was not at liberty, but he should not have made the statement without believing that he was justified in doing so. The theory was that the business of the Fleet in time of war was to seek the opposing fleet and knock it out of existence, and after that, but not before, the question of protecting commerce might be considered. He believed that His Majesty's Government were at that moment considering the propriety of going into a conference called by the President of the United States which had for its primary object and purpose the abolition of the capture and destruction of private property at sea. He desired to express his hearty sympathy with that proposal and his desire to believe, though it was impossible to believe, that this elimination of ships might possibly be connected with it. At all events he hoped and trusted that the barbarous rule, as he regarded it, of the destruction of private property at sea of which we were the chief victims would be abolished; but so long as international law permitted it, we ought to consider our position before we sacrificed all these ships, on account of their special value in relation to the protection of commerce. In regard to specific questions, he would like to know from the Secretary to the Admiralty how the sea stores in those foreign stations that were being practically abandoned for the time had been disposed of.

Now he came to the general contents of the Vote. The First Lord, in his Memorandum, stated that the repairs of the Navy had all been overtaken now, and that in consequence it would not be necessary to send this work to private yards. He hoped that statement was well founded; but there were one or two passages in an important article by Sir William White in the July number of the Nineteenth Century on this very question that deserved the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty. Sir William White said that— This vigorous effort to effect necessary repairs of the Fleet was undoubtedly praisworthy, but there was a want of thorough consideration and provision in framing the scheme, and no trustworthy estimate was made of the cost involved in its execution. Ships were sent for repairs to private firms which had not built them, and in some cases to firms which had little or no experience of building ships or engines for the Navy; while other and competent firms who had built ships and engines for the Navy, and who were well acquainted with. admiralty work, were left unemployed, and both time and cost were thus increased. There was another statement in the article on the general subject of repairs which should be brought under the notice of the Committee. The amount put down this year for repairs was something under £3,000,000, a decrease of £500,000 on last year. But this was a delusive estimate. It was under existing conditions difficult to estimate beforehand the cost of repairs. On this point Sir William White wrote— The diligent student can ascertain the first cost and date of completion for each existing combatant ship in the Navy and the cost of maintenance for each ship alter completion and so can form an opinion as to a reasonable allowance, in proportion to first cost, for subsequent cost of maintenance. In this manner—having regard to the value of armour, which does not sensibly deteriorate—one can arrive at a figure for the annual minimum amount which ought to be provided for the efficient maintenance of the existing Fleet. This method of investigation leads one to the conclusion that under present circumstances, for efficient maintenance of the Fleet and provision for a certain amount of reconstruction, an annual outlay of at least £4,000,000 sterling is requisite. As the costly battleships and cruisers now building come into service, and the capital" value of the Fleet in commission grows, this amount for maintenance will require a corresponding increase, although more ships may be struck off the effective list during this period. He thought that was a serious consideration, and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would give the Committee his views upon it.

As to new construction, he thought the Committee had a right to complain of the silence of the Admiralty on the subject. No information had been vouchsafed to them up to the present, but he thought that now, when the session was nearly over and when steps would shortly be taken to carry into effect the new shipbuilding programme, they were entitled to be told. something about the proposals of the Admiralty. They had been told that a Committee of Designs had been appointed to assist the Director of Naval Construction, and he had asked to be supplied not only with the terms of reference to that Committee, but also with the Reports they sent in from time to time. Neither of his requests had been granted, and he understood the hon. Gentleman was not prepared to give the House the information. Well, he appealed to the majority to assist him in obtaining it. Surely there was nothing unreasonable in asking for it.

An absolutely new scheme was being put forward this year. Under this Vote they were going to lay down one battleship, four armoured cruisers, five ocean-going destroyers, one ocean-going destroyer of an experimental type, twelve coastal destroyers, and eleven submarines, and in regard to the whole of this scheme they were absolutely without detailed information. They really ought—now the session was nearly over—to be told something about it. Engineering had openly divulged important particulars which had been denied to them by the Government. A month ago this paper gave some leading details about the new battleship, and stated that she was to be of twenty-one knots speed, that she would have an armament of ten 12-inch guns, a displacement of 18,000 tons, and turbine machinery. Was that a correct description of the new type of battleship? The same organ gave the speed of the four new cruisers at twenty-five knots, and that of the ocean-going destroyer as thirty-six knots. He wished to know from the representative of the Government whether these particulars were true or not, and would he supplement them by giving some further information. He noticed that this inspired author of the naval programme of the Government had nothing to say about the design of the submarines. He desired to take this opportunity of expressing his deep regret at the last great disaster on one of their submarines. The new type had been doubly unfortunate, and this was not the first disaster which had shocked the country. He sincerely hoped that would be the last. He thought that was an additional reason why they should be told more about the design of the new submarines, and how far the possibility of accidents would be avoided. He wished to know why this information had been communicated to the editor of Engineering a month before it was communicated to Parliament. Those were all fair Questions, to which he hoped an Answer would be given. It was an ingenious sort of article, because it did not profess to say anything about the principles which animated the Designs Committee, although it claimed an acquaintance with the views of Admiral Fisher and Mr. Watts. But whether the information given to this paper was official or not, they had a right to know why this paper was allowed to have it.

Then there was the question as to whether this large expenditure was justified or not. He wished to point out that the Opposition were not responsible for these colossal Estimates and that they had nothing to do with them. In deciding what the strength of the Navy should be they had to remember that one of the great Powers had now practically ceased to exist as a naval Power. Therefore, they had to count out Russia and count in Japan, and they had also to count in the United States. His point was that in the new state of naval affairs the old formulae had ceased to have any effect. It was useless to talk about a two-Power or a three-Power standard now, and they wanted a now consideration of the whole problem. To replace worn-out ships and keep the Fleet in repair cost about £4,800,000 a year, and his point was that by that expenditure they could keep the Fleet at its present strength. They were spending this year upon new construction alone double that sum. That meant that at present they were not only maintaining the Fleet at its present strength but that they were adding to it year by year. He thought that Lord Lansdowne in what he had said had gone further than anyone in that House in supporting and countenancing the principle of a reduction in naval armaments.

With regard to the Colonies the right hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth and himself had several times urged upon the House the advisability of the Colonies bearing their proper share of the burden of maintaining the Imperial Navy, although they had not obtained much support upon either side of the House. The right hon. and gallant Member the other day led a deputation to the Prime Minister which urged that the Colonial Conference which was going to consider the fiscal question should be asked as a matter of primary consideration to consider the question of contributing towards the Imperial Navy. From the report he had read he was under the impression that the Prime Minister had assented to that demand, but, when he was questioned in the House be appeared to throw over that deputation, and declared that what he had said practically meant nothing at all.


said he thought that, in view of the statements which the hon. and learned Member for Dundee had made, it would be convenient to the Committee that he should reply at once upon the general question before the debate proceeded any further. The national and international considerations touched upon by the hon. Gentleman were very much in the minds of the Admiralty, but the hon. Gentleman would not expect him to go into them in detail. The hon. Gentleman had suggested that the Navy might be reduced.




said if they considered the whole question in its broad aspect they would see that the first thing they had to ask was what was the work the Navy had to do; had they sufficient ships to do it—modern ships such as alone should be supplied to the personnel this country possessed? If those new ships and the personnel were sufficient for the needs of the country, could it be anything but wasteful and bad economy to keep on ships, which, however useful when first built or even two or three years ago, were now superfluous? The policy of laying ships aside as having m great value for the immediate operation of war was not a policy that stood by itself, but was combined with the policy, to which the hon. Gentleman had not referred, of nucleus crews. It was only by taking-from the active list all these ships that it had been possible to provide a personnel for the nucleus crews, and he thought the Committee would see that what had been said by the Prime Minister in that regard could not be taken as exaggerated if they would consider the importance of this great principle of providing nucleus crews. Under the old system ships were in reserve, and lay in the basins at the great ports. They were not manned at all. Crews were provided for them in reserve in war. but the personnel had before mobilisation no connection whatever with the ships. Under the present system these ships were in commission in reserve. That was no form of words. They were in commission; and every modern efficient ship in the Navy fit to put in the first fighting line except such as were actually under repair in the yard was provided with a nucleus crew and ready to go into action at a few hours notice. That meant an enormous increase of efficiency, because, under the old system, when ships were mobilised for manœuvres, those vessels on which there had been trouble and breakdown had been those which had been in reserve and of which the personnel had no knowledge of the machinery and appliances on board. Under the present system the more important personnel of the ship—those who would be, in prime charge of the appliances—were not only living on board, but taking out the ships frequently and exercising them. There was another incidental advantage in the system. It might very often happen in war that a ship would have to be fought and worked short-handed. They had never had any experience of that particular state of affairs; but now, by working these ships with nucleus crews, a large proportion of the Navy was gaining experience of working ships short-handed both in the matter of gun practice and machinery. All this involved an enormous gain in efficiency.

The hon. Gentleman had asked where was the increase of efficiency. There could be no comparison as to efficiency between the old system and the new, either in peace or war. Efficiency in this case could not be separated from economy. What possible relation could there be between the figures as to the cost now and last year? The real comparison must be between the expenditure of to-day, together with the efficiency of to-day, and what the expenditure and efficiency would have been to-day under the old conditions. It was quite clear that comparison could not be made in actual figures. No amount of expenditure within one year could have produced the same efficiency. Unless those vessels had been taken out of the first fighting line there would be no crews at all for carrying out the nucleus system. There was a great economy, but greater still was the efficiency. He could indicate many ways in which there had been actual economy. There was a very large saving of the expense of refitting these vessels. Had these vessels, which were now known as llamas, been refitted, modernised, and rearmed—and the hon. Gentleman was well aware the "Admiral' class could not have been considered efficient otherwise—the cost would have worked out to about £2,500,000. Had there been no reconstruction and rearmament, but simply necessary repairs and refitting, the cost would have been somewhere about £500,000. In addition to that there was the saving of the stores and coal which these ships would have required, of personnel, subsidiary expense, upkeep, etc There had been a very large saving indeed compared to any sum which the House would have been asked to spend had; they attempted to provide the nucleus crews in any other way. Those crews were a necessity if that great scheme was to be carried out; and he believed he was right in saving that the Committee approved of that scheme. Economy could not be divorced from efficiency. Either they might have kept things as they were and abandoned that valuable scheme or they might have kept the old ships and had nucleus crews to a certain extent. In that case there would have been an enormous additional expenditure. The hon. Member suggested that these vessels would have been of great value for the protection of commerce. So far as he was aware any proposals which might exist for attacks on our commerce would be by modern armoured cruisers, against which these vessels, would be absolutely valueless. The result of employing those ships would simply be to lock up in them valuable personnel, which would not be available for more modern ships.

The hon. Member raised a very important point as to the protection of our commerce in war, and asked whether it was not the opinion of a high naval authority, which he did not specify, that in war our first policy would be to destroy the enemy's fleets, and only after that had been done to protect our commerce. Although he did not know who his high naval authority was, he could say that was not the view the Admiralty took.


said he referred to Captain Mahan.


said he thought the hon. Member was confusing the relative importance and the question of time. No one would deny, if there was an alternative, and if the question arose whether they were to destroy the enemy's fleets or protect their commerce and attack his, there could only be one answer. That was what Captain Mahan said. If the question was, "Am I to destroy the enemy's fleet, or am I to protect my commerce," there could be only one answer, and that was that the enemy's fleet must be destroyed. The hon. Member was referring to a volume on a great French war in which Captain Mahan pointed out that the enormous losses suffered by the French were caused by the diversion to the protection of commerce of power that would have been" better employed in fighting the enemy's fleet. No one who had studied naval strategy would agree that because there were two objects, one of which was infinitely the more important, therefore the other should be neglected and postponed. It happened that the protection of commerce was an interest infinitely more vital to us than it was to any other country; and, therefore, from the strategic point of view, our first object was so to dispose our forces as to destroy an enemy's fleet. But it did not follow that we should neglect the second object, which was to protect our commerce. The method in which the Admiralty had dealt with this problem was not to ignore the value of strategic policy, but to provide sufficient ships to do both these things. Last year he had said that the Admiralty had over and over again stated that the two-Power standard was not applicable to cruisers, for the simple reason that it had been recognised that we required this large additional number of armoured cruisers in order to supply the strategic requirements of the Fleet for seeking out the vessels of an enemy and to protect our commerce. That was the whole point; and he was sure that the Committee would accept it from him, without desiring that he should suggest the nature of the considerations and plans which dealt with this matter of commerce protection, that it had had and was having the very closest attention of the Admiralty.

The hon. Gentleman opposite had referred to the statement of the Prime Minister that the elimination of obsolete ships was "a courageous stroke of the pen." These words referred to the policy as a whole. He was perfectly prepared to give to any hon. Member who desired it the fullest figures and facts as to what any particular ship had fetched; but he felt that the Committee would rather that he should come down to the House prepared to defend the policy of the Admiralty and to deal with questions which had been raised upon it than that he should come prepared with sheets of figures which could perfectly easily be supplied to anyone who wished for them in answer to Questions.

MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

said that his Question was what was the cost of the ships sold, including the amount spent in repairs, and the amount realised by the sales.


said he was perfectly prepared to give all those figures, but could not do so offhand; but he would point out that the cost of a ship when new bore no relation whatever to her value when sold. A ship when she was built was a fighting unit When sold she was old iron, and what value remained in the ship as a fightirg unit, the machinery and armament, had to be destroyed.


said the point of his Question was how much the ships originally cost and how much they realised.


said he would take care to furnish the hon. Member With the figures. But the hon. Member appeared to think that the disparity between the cost of a ship and the amount for which it sold indicated some kind of laches on the part of the Admiralty. The hon. Member referred to the case of the stores in South Africa as if there were some parallel. He was quite sure that hon. Members did not wish that these matters of naval debate should be made the subject of Party recrimination. Their one desire was to secure the efficiency of the Navy, and to secure it as cheaply as possible, and not to find fault with one another except when efficiency and economy failed.

Reference had been made to an article by Sir William White, the late Director of Naval Construction. He yielded to no one in his admiration for Sir William White, whose work as a designer was known throughout the world; but when he was quoted as an unrivalled authority, not only on questions of design, but on the question of the value of ships as fighting units and on questions affecting the naval policy of the Admiralty, he could only say that he believed the superior officers in the Navy, who now occupied posts at the Admiralty, were as high, or even higher, authorities on questions of that kind. When Sir William White gave it as his opinion that the ships which had been laid aside might be of great value in time of war, he might say that the opinion of the high authorities he had referred to and the heads of the Navy was that these ships would not in normal circumstances have any value in war at all. It was conceivable that there might be a condition of affairs in which we arrived at the point when there would be no ship of the enemy's abroad from which these ships would incur danger. They might then attack commerce; but was it seriously suggested that the equipment of these ships should be maintained when they were only available for that particular purpose? He was quite sure that if Sir William White had been at the Admiralty and had had these considerations in his mind, he would have been of the same mind as those at the Admiralty.

He had been asked why, not only the reference to, but the Reports of the Designs Committee had not been laid before the House. He submitted that to attempt to treat the question of designs as a purely academic one and as one which could be discussed apart from those of strategy and policy and naval requirements was an entire misapprehension, and if mistakes had been made in the past, he believed it had been due to that misapprehension. Hon. Members In that House, and among them the hon. Gentleman who used to represent Gateshead, had over and over again laid down that our ships were under-gunned. If some were, he believed the reason was that in some of these ships the question of design had not been considered sufficiently from the point of view of naval strategy; and he ventured to suggest that the proper process of designing a ship was, in. the first place, that the heads of the Navy, the Commanders-in-Chief, and the Lords of the Admiralty should be called together and should consider from their standpoint what was required for the purposes of war, and when that had been done as a first step, then the matter should be referred to a Designs Committee or to the Director of Naval Construction. If the Admiralty now recognised the closeness of relationship between design and strategy, it followed that the details of design could no longer be brought down from year to year and laid before the Committee. The hon. Member appealed to Members on the Ministerial side in the name of the ancient rights of the House. With equal confidence he would appeal to hon. Members on the Opposition side, putting it to them whether they would insist on their ancient rights if it were shown to them that they were against the interests of the nation. He appealed to hon. Gentlemen to allow him to refrain from giving the particulars asked, because these questions of design were so intimately connected with strategy. Although statements which were unauthorised statements, which were correct in some particulars and were incorrect in others, had appeared in print, the Committee would agree that a statement appearing in any newspaper, however important, was totally different from a statement made on behalf of the Admiralty across the floor of the House. He reminded the-Committee of another fact too often forgotten—that they were now building ships in competition, not with the ships they knew of to-day, but with the ships that would be their contemporaries, which were not only not completed but not on the stocks, but whose designs were in the drawers of foreign nations. This being so, clearly that nation had the advantage which was first able to obtain the designs and the plans of other nations in competition with which they were building. We had, perhaps, been too often in the habit of giving that advantage away, and he would ask the Committee to believe that he was not withholding anything that ought not to be withheld. The designs were ready, and there must be a moment when these designs would become known, but perhaps never a moment when they-would all become known. He hoped he would have the acquiescence in the view of the Board of Admiralty of the hon. Member for Dundee himself.


was understood to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the reports in the engineering papers were correct. The Admiralty, he added, always laid a statement before the House.


said that, was exactly what he had stated and what he was asking the Committee to allow him to pass over for the reasons he had given. He relied on the Committee's support. He assured the Committee it would be as great a pleasure for him to state the particulars as it would be to them to hear them, but it was better in the interests of the nation to leave them unstated.

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

thought it was not possible for any Member to resist the reason given for not making the usual statement with regard to designs, but he hoped they were not going to have another case of making mystery where it was impossible to be p things secret. A general statement to that Committee was of slight importance by the side of the technical details which appeared in the engineering newspapers and those which had already appeared in regard to new vessels, and which had been sent round to all the countries in the world and had been seen by naval attaches. These would be assumed to be correct, and it soon leaked out from the dockyards whether they were substantially accurate in their main lines. He should have thought that information as to the large item of general cost might have been safely given to the Committee.


said the cost of the new battleship would be about £1,500,000.


said the figure named was less than the figure quoted in the engineering newspapers, and showed that there had been some exaggeration in regard to the size and character of the new ship. He thought there was no doubt that the number of 12-inch guns would be enormously increased; and he was glad to hear that the Admiralty anticipated that in this new battleship and in the new cruisers we might be leading rather than following the naval world, as had been too often the case in the past. While congratulating the Board of Admiralty on their spokesman in this House, he condemned the suddenness of the carves which the Board had executed, and said the Prime Minister's speech regarding the courageous stroke of the pen was one of which the Minister ought to be a little ashamed. Lord Lansdowne repeated the epithet "courageous" in the statement that the Naval Estimates showed a saving of £3,500,000 owing to the courageous scheme of Lord Selborne relating to the obsolete warships, which were costing the nation a great deal of money and doing nothing to promote efficiency. It was a pity that the Prime Minister at Glasgow and the Leader of the House of Lords should make a statement so flashy and misleading. The Government used the figures as to the character of the ships in divers fashions according to the reasons for using them. In one list fifty-three first-class battleships appeared two of which appeared in the Return of ships not effective for fighting purposes. That Return had been largely used for argument which could not be justified. He was not satisfied that farseeing wisdom had been evinced by the sudden changes of the last two years, and he understood the views of the hon. Member for Dundee as to commercial protection. With regard to the third-class cruisers, some of which were brand-new ships, he reminded the Committee that at present there was a powerful Commission to which the consideration of the food supply of the people had been referred. It did not seem to him wise, having built ships of this class within the last two or three years and spent enormous sums of money in repairing them, to suddenly strike them off the effective list before the Report of the Royal Commission had been received. The policy adopted might be perfectly sound; but the suddenness of the change without waiting for the Report of the Royal Commission had thrown a certain amount of doubt on the continuity of he policy of the Admiralty.

Then as regarded construction, for instance, the boilerings of the Fleet showed a lack of wisdom on the part of the Admiralty. The American and German Governments had used both the cylinder boilers and the water tank boilers together. The American Government abandoned the mixed system as a failure, and this country then adopted it. The mixed system was of doubtful value; and its adoption showed that this country was following other countries, whereas it should be at the top of the tree in the application of science to Navy matters. Then as regarded submarines, the deplorable accidents were more numerous in proportion to numbers than in France. They must expect accidents in such a service, but there should not be such a large proportion. The Admiralty had refused to give the Committee information on the subject; indeed, the Engineering Supplement of The Times contained more information than was given by the Admiralty. It would have been better if the Admiralty had reassured the service and the public and had given a larger amount of information on the question of submarines. In the course of the present year a new policy had been adopted which bore on the question of submarine construction. The Admiralty took over from the Army the water defence of certain ports such as Berehaven. He would ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the Admiralty intended to defend these ports by means of submarines. If so, it was clear from the information published in France and also by Sir William White, that a new class of submarine would have to be constructed for that purpose. The tendency was to make the submarine larger and larger for defensive purposes; but that was not the view taken by the French, who were masters of the art. The Admiralty attempted to combine sea-going pro- perties and defensive properties in the same boat; but if the submarines were to be used by the Admiralty to defend ports, smaller ships would have to be built. He considered it would be well for the Admiralty to take the House of Commons more into their confidence in this matter. It was not a matter in which secrecy could be kept from the world as regarded the size of the vessels and their number; although there might be secrets-when they were submerged. The Admiralty should state whether they considered that the larger boats were capable of a double use. The new departure was so great that it deserved the careful consideration of the House of Commons.

SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

said it was essential that the naval policy of the country should be persistent and consistent. That was apparent to every person who had a reasonable conception of the requirements for the defence of the Empire. He deprecated exaggerated or flowery language in dealing with the actions of the Admiralty. In regard to submarines, it should be remembered that they could not attack a port; and the Admiralty should be extremely cautious in respect of the work, formerly discharged by the Army, they had undertaken in connection with the defence of places. If there were no ships in a port, why should submarines enter it? They could not attack works or docks; and he desired to protest against any hasty action of the Admiralty in the development of this submarine policy. The Prime Minister in his recent speech could only touch the fringe of the question. The papers appeared to be under the impression that he meant that there was no danger of invasion if only there were a sufficient number of submarines and torpedo-boats. Submarines were, however, primarily necessary to a weak naval Power, they being purely defensive weapons. When any new great invention was brought into being and caught the public enthusiasm, experiments had to be tried. Therefore the Admiralty picked out the best coming officers, the young men with the ablest brain they could find, to man, and experiment with these vessels, and those men really became a cult. Their enthusiasm for the submarine became such an influence as to affect the policy of the Admiralty. He therefore ventured to warn the hon. Gentleman and the representative of the Admiralty that this thing might be pushed too far. The true naval policy should be the line-of-battle power, and by the amount that was spent upon submarines to that extent was the battle power limited. Nobody could deny that the experience of the Japanese War had shown most emphatically, what all naval history taught, that it was the line-of-battle ships which determined maritime wars and that the torpedo-boats, which were at one time supposed to have superseded the battleships, were a very necessary but subsidiary instrument to the line-of-battle power.

He did not agree with the hon. Member for Dundee that the time had come for the reduction of naval armaments owing to the disappearance of the Russian Fleet. On the contrary, he saw everything warning this nation and our Empire to keep its naval strength up to a standard sufficient to meet all reasonable possible contingencies. He had always protested against that rule-of-thumb standard, the two-Power standard. A maritime Power in another hemisphere had had a great trial and had given an illustration of what awaited unprepared naval nations. There was no such thing now as a temporary defeat at sea of a nation's fleet. The defeat was final; there was no recovery; no means of remedying a reverse. The real question, and it was coming very near, was who was going to be master in the Pacific? The United States intended that she should be, and she had given every sign of it by the extraordinary increase of naval power in which she was engaged. Then there was Japan, both Powers having arsenals and power of naval production and maintenance in that hemisphere. In the not distant future we might have questions arising in the Pacific, the policies of Japan, the United States, and Great Britain coming in to conflict. Were we sufficiently prepared for such questions? Could we, by applying this rule-of-thumb standard at home, keep pace with what was going on in another hemisphere, with our power of production and maintenance of ships only in this hemisphere? He did not think so, and that being so, what were we doing to prepare for that time, when our interest and those of either or both of these other Powers in the Pacific did not accord? All welcomed the Japanese alliance, but nobody could believe that that alliance would last for ever. We all dreaded a rupture with the United States, but ruptures did take place and we must be prepared for them. Therefore, the real question was who was going to rule the Pacific, because whoever ruled the Pacific one day would rule the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic the next. He saw with regret that no preparation on our part had been begun to strengthen our power of construction and maintenance in the Pacific.

With regard to the nucleus crews, he had understood his hon. friend to say that unless we had sold these ships and expunged a large part of what were called the Llama class, we could not have the nucleus crews. He understood that that was the root of the nucleus - crew system, and it therefore came to this, that there was not enough personnel to keep afloat as the Fleet was then. Another reason the hon. Gentleman gave was economy. If the barracks were full, if nucleus crews were wanted, why were they not taken from the barracks? The main point was that it was not considered by the Admiralty that these vessels could be useful in time of war, and that the money could perhaps be applied more usefully. That being so had the Admiralty abandoned their policy of subsidising the mercantile marine? Vessels built for war, armed for war, and prepared for war, were sold off because they could not stand against armoured cruisers, whilst the Estimates still bore a charge of thousands of pounds for subsidies to certain companies in order that we might have a call on their ships, which could not stand up against the armoured cruiser.


said it was an old agreement.


asked was that policy abandoned, and, if so, why was it there was such a heavy charge on the Estimates?


said the agreement had to continue till it expired.


said there was one word he would like to say with regard to the Colonies. Was anything being done to bring home to the minds of our fellow-subjects in Canada and Australia the fact that this country could not go on protecting the whole of the British interests in both hemispheres. The interest of the Colonies was greater in the other hemisphere than that of the mother country. Was anything being done to wake up those colonies in the Pacific with large seaboards to their danger, and to their duty and responsibility to co-operate and to share the burdens of preparations, so as to secure the Empire in war a free sea?

MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)

said the last Question put by the hon. and gallant Member as to contributions from the Colonies was certainly a live one, although he did not attach much importance to that put previously, as to who was going to rule the Pacific. The hon. and gallant Member had told them the time might come when we should fall out with the United States, but he thought the country was not at the present time in a condition of mind to regard such a statement with much alarm. They were told that a new policy was being pursued now, and the retort could be made that so long as they continued to pursue the old policy money was, on the admission of the Admiralty to-day, being wasted. Some of them belonged to the school of economy, but they all, he hoped, worked harmoniously as regarded the naval programme. They accepted the new ideas of the Admiralty, and, as far as he had been able to give them consideration, he believed they would be advantageous, leading not only to the saving of money but to increased efficiency.

He commented upon the inconsistency of the Admiralty in the fact that whereas last year they spoke of the necessity of sending ships to private yards for repair, this year they said the necessity no longer remained; that the first business of the Royal Dockyards was to keep the Fleet in repair, and that they had a magnificent asset in the private yards, where new construction could certainly be as cheaply executed as in the Royal Dockyards. The hon. Member disputed this contention. He pointed out that a distinguished First Lord of the Admiralty in the past, the noble Lord the Member for Ealing, said it had never been shown that construction could be carried on more cheaply in private yards than in Government establishments, and that the existing Director of Dockyards, in the course of an interesting speech recently, repudiated altogether the suggestion that ships built in Government yards, were more expensive than those built in private yards. All the figures that appeared with regard to this matter in the official publications were founded on the estimated cost, but that was no guide. What they wanted to know was the actual cost, and that could only be ascertained when the ship had been built and paid for. He had the prices of the ships of one class, the "Duncan" class, some of which were built in Government, and some in private dockyards, and he found from them that in the case of the "Montagu" which was built at Devon-port, the estimate was £46,000 more than that ship actually cost, the actual amount being £979,530; whereas the "Cornwallis," built in a private yard, cost £1,029,000, or £46,000 more than the estimate. That was the case all through. In the Government dockyards the vessels were produced at less than the estimate, whilst in private yards the estimates were always exceeded. He contended that construction was not more cheap in private yards than in Government yards, and asked the hon. Gentleman to consent to a Return being made of all the ships built during the last ten years, with the actual cost and the estimated cost.


said he saw no objection.


said he also thought the hon. Gentleman had made a mistake as to the time expended in building. He (Mr. Kearley) contended that the rate of construction was more expeditious in the Royal than in the private dockyards.

This brought him to the effect this policy had produced upon the various dockyards, not merely in Devonport but in other parts of the country. Of course a large number of discharges had been necessitated in consequence of a reduction in the Navy Estimates. Nobody could argue that if there was a reduction of expenditure the personnel could be maintained at its former high standard. They were entitled to ask that some consideration should be shown to the circumstances in which these employees now found themselves. He emphasised this by a local reference. Plymouth, he said, brought forward a scheme for the development of the mercantile interest of the Catwater, and it would have been of the greatest possible benefit, but the Admiralty killed it, refusing to give it recognition, and the scheme was abandoned. These people were dependent upon Government employment, which was the only employment available in the neighbourhood, and the methods which had been adopted lately in regard to the discharging of the men was contrary to a definite pledge given by the Secretary to the Admiralty in the House, and they were very hard and harsh. The hon. Gentleman gave an absolute pledge that the situation should be eased as much as possible by limiting the number of weekly discharges to twenty-five. To his surprise the number of discharges had gone on increasing every week, and last week it reached ninety-two. What was to become of those workmen who had been in the employ of the Government for twelve or fourteen years? Did the Government contemplate with satisfaction the fact that they were emigrating? No less than forty-three went last week to the United States. It appeared that the Admiralty had a very proper contract with apprentices under which they were guaranteed two years work at the end of their apprenticeship. Nobody would object to that. To ensure the fulfilment of that contract very harsh methods had been adopted. Some of the gangs of men were highly specialised on account of their skill. Naturally these men were entrusted with the education and instruction of the apprentices. Under a recent order matured experienced workmen had to go in order to fulfil this contract with the apprentices. He hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would inquire whether some improvement could not be immediately made in regard to the method of discharging these men. He also hoped that this policy of taking away work from the Government dockyards would not be persisted in.


said he associated himself with what the hon. Member for Devonport had said in regard to the Government dockyards. He was afraid it would not be much use detaining the Committee with an appeal upon this subject, because the First Lord of the Admiralty had recently received a deputation on the subject and had been good enough to hear the views on this question, therefore it would not perhaps be fair to repeat what was said upon that occasion. He could not help, however, taking this opportunity of pointing out what a very serious matter this was, because steps had been taken which amounted to a public calamity in a place like Portsmouth. In Portsmouth there were no flourishing industries, and, rightly or wrongly, the inhabitants considered that it was partly due to the Admiralty that they were limited in their opportunities of developing their local resources. The workers in the dockyards formed a considerable proportion of the population, and when they were out of work it put them into a very grave position because they had very limited alternatives and very few resources to fall back upon. The situation was made rather worse by the fact that of late years the present Secretary of State for War on more than one occasion had stated that there was no prospect of this falling off of work. He did not blame the right hon. Gentleman for saying that, but it had turned out to be a false security and it had come all the more as a shock to those who had to suffer. He knew that the answer of the Admiralty was that they were only responsible for the administration of the naval policy and for the expenditure of public money, and if a policy was approved by Parliament which Necessitated a reduction of work in the Government dockyards they had no alternative but to reduce the number of those employed. If it was decided to do this from motives of economy the Government would not be justified in the circumstances in considering the claims of any particular town. From a public point of view that was so, "but this policy fell with singular hardship on towns like Portsmouth. He wished to make a protest against this," because the Board of Admiralty had gone on increasing employment in Portsmouth dockyard and had held out lopes that such employment would continue, and now, unfortunately, they found themselves in the position of having to reduce the number of persons employed. It would surely have been wiser to have kept employment there as far as possible in such moderation that the probability would have been in the direction of increasing instead of reducing it. This was also an argument for making the establishments of those dockyards as far as possible permanent in the sense that they should have more men on the establishment and fewer hired men. It was the large number of hired men who were likely to suffer at a time like this.

He should be glad if his hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty would say exactly what was the policy with regard to pensioners in the dockyards. He did not say that the policy now being adopted was wrong, because he did not quite understand what it was, but it seemed rather curious that the Government were dismissing their pensioners whilst private firms were being urged to employ them. He also wished to know why the "Metropolitan Police were employed in the Government dockyards, because he should have thought it would have been more economical to do without them. Perhaps the Secretary to the Admiralty could also tell them what was happening in Regard to Wei-hai-Wei, where he noticed that this year there was a small increase in the expenditure. As to the question of boilers, he did not know whether the Secretary to the Admiralty would think it wise or necessary to tell the Committee what was the intention of the Admiralty in future. He himself was of opinion that the Belleville boilers were the best. If the figures which he had were correct, it appeared that on the trials the consumption of coal was less on vessels fitted with the Belleville boilers than on those fitted with the Babcock and Yarrow boilers. With the Belleville boilers it was 1.95 lbs. per 1 h.p. per hour; with the Babcock boilers 2. 02 lbs. and the Yarrow boilers 2.04 lbs. This, supposing ships to steam at 10,000 h.p. for a week, meant a saving of 84 tons of coal with a Belleville—a matter of the utmost importance. The real point, however, was that whereas Bellevilles, if damaged in action, could be easily repaired by screwing in new tubes, the Babcock and Yarrow boilers could not, but had practically to be taken to pieces in a dockyard. It was a great advantage to have ships fitted with boilers which, in the event of a breakdown, could be easily repaired.

Referring to the policy of striking ships off the active list he said that many of those who had not the advantage of expert advice were inclined to hesitate in expressing an opinion as to whether this was a wise policy. There were some ships which he imagined were still of some use and could be utilised for certain purposes in time of war. He had recently seen a number of ships lying off Spithead, and he confessed that they did not make a very glorious show. One was more inclined to think that they were fit for the scrap-heap. When he compared the ships which had been struck off the list this year to similar ships in foreign navies he thought some reason should be stated for the action of the Admiralty in this connection. He instanced the "Arethusa" as having been struck off our list while French, German, Italian, and Japanese ships, similar in size, speed, tonnage, and guns were retained in the active lists. He always thought it important on these occasions to elicit as much information as possible, because there was a tendency now a days to trust to the Press for naval news. A great portion of the Press catered for the hysterical public, and therefore these papers continued to wash our dirty linen in public, quite regardless whether our linen wanted washing or not.

He had sometimes seen statements about the Navy in the Press which were calculated to cause a very unpleasant impression at home, and an entirely erroneous impression abroad, and if they could get these allegations confirmed or refuted it would be satisfactory, and therefore he was sure that his hon. friend would not complain that these Questions were either unnecessary or irrelevant. He had seen it stated in a naval paper that the nucleus crews who were lately sent out for trial gave unsatisfactory results. It was stated that they were inefficient. It would be satisfactory if the hon. Gentleman would state what he knew about this matter. He ended, as he began, by making as strong an appeal as a representative of a dockyard town could do to the Admiralty not to undo what had been done, for it was too late to ask that, but to make every effort to avoid the recurrence of the hardship to workpeople which recent changes had involved.

MR. PHILIPPS (Pembrokeshire)

wished to press upon the Secretary of the Admiralty the necessity of hesitating to give work to private yards in preference to their own yards. Very severe hardship had been occasioned by the dismissals that had been going on. They disorganised the labour market in a wide district and caused trouble to other classes as well. He did not intend to deplore the fact that the Government were able to make a reduction in the Shipbuilding Vote. He thought they should all rejoice at it, and that thereby the Admiralty were doing their best to assist in the peace of the world. He did feel strongly that when the Government took men into their employ they should, whenever they had work to do, give it to the towns where there were dockyards and not to private yards which could get plenty of work from other people. Probably when the present war between Russia and Japan was over both these nations would give out fresh orders which would come to yards in this country. If the orders went to Germany other orders which would have gone to Germany would come here. It was not at all likely that private yards would suffer from want of work for many years to come. Pembroke was a little town almost absolutely dependent on Government work, and burdens had been put-on it by the Government. The local authority had been absolutely forced to provide an expensive water supply which would have been absolutely unnecessary but for the existence of the Government dockyard. He associated himself with the hon. Members who had asked the Government to do all they possibly could to provide employment for the people in their own dockyards

MR. DUKE (Plymouth)

said he did not think that anyone who knew the dockyard towns would dispute that the Government dockyard administration had been characterised in connection with recent discharges by want of method and forethought. No private employer who had great establishments such as those the Admiralty had, would have felt himself morally justified in treating the people under his control in the manner that the Admiralty had treated the dockyard population. He failed to comprehend the meaning of such an absolute breach of the understanding that was arrived at when this question was before the House two or three months ago. They were then assured that there would be a regular and moderate discharge until the necessity for the discharges—which they all recognised—had been satisfied. No one representing a dockyard constituency could expect the affairs of this country to be regulated solely in the dockyard interests, but the dockyard communities were entitled to expect that the Admiralty wrould behave with the same consideration that was expected from private employers. At the present time a state of panic was being created among the dockyard population. There were recent discharges—which must have been perfectly well foreseen—of men of good character and skill, and who had been a long time in the dockyard, at a week's notice to make room for a great batch of apprentices, who had completed their service as apprentices, and at the same time new apprentices had been taken on to the extent of between 125 or 150. No doubt it was necessary under the old system that a great batch of apprentices should be periodically taken on, but while the Admiralty was carrying out this new policy of wholesale discharges it was at the same time continuing the old policy of taking on new apprentices by wholesale. Men were being displaced without any possibility of finding employment in the West of England, or even in this country.

The community, part of which he represented, wanted to know the meaning of what was being done, and how far it was to go. He submitted that such a community was entitled to know what the department of the Admiralty which controlled the dockyards had in view. What would be the extent of the discharges? By what instalments would they be carried out, and what would be the strength of the establishment when they ceased? He did not lose sight of the fact that at Devonport, at the present time, twice as many men were employed as were there under the old administration, but it was no satisfaction to the great body of people gathered together there, to be told that they were twice as many as the numbers of ten or twelve years ago, and to live in the daily expectation of the increasing batches of discharges, which destroyed the ordinary balance of civil life in the community. There was no sort of intimation as to how far the discharges were to go and what was to be the end of it. Great alarm was accordingly caused, and he therefore hoped his hon. friend would state to what extent the discharges were to go. The responsibility rested upon the Admiralty, as it rested upon all employers, of having consideration to the population they gathered together.

This business had been complicated—almost wantonly complicated—by the circulation of statements which purported to show that the Government were embarking on a policy not only of reducing the establishment but also of reducing the class of employment in the dockyards. Had the Government any intention of that sort? The Government had spent £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 upon new dockyard works at Devonport. Was it intended to use the docks, and slips, and basins there? It was rumoured that this expenditure was a great mistake, and that the Government might cease to use their dockyards for the construction of new ships. Having regard to the fact that the Government had spent millions on the dockyards, which had been a great source of security in time of war, and of efficiency in time of peace, and that the Government had restricted the development of dockyard towns in other directions, it was a matter of importance to have some definite information as to their intentions. The community which he represented viewed with great concern the want of method in the course which the Admiralty had taken, and the absence of a clear statement of settled policy. If that state of things continued much longer the doubt would arise whether some reformer from the War Office had not strayed into the Admiralty,

MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)

said that he had intended to say something in behalf of economy, but he was bound to say, in fai ness, that the tendency of recent speeches, on both sides of the House, was not in the direction of economy. He quite sympathised with those who expressed the feeling of the men who were under discharge. But, on behalf of the general taxpayers of the country, he would put in a single word that the administrative powers at the Admiralty should do their work efficiently and with economy. The Secretary to the Admiralty had, in his speech, used a phrase which he had employed before, about the necessity of a wide horizon; but that day he coupled it with the saying that he wanted to have a wide horizon and full information. What the Committee wanted was to get some fuller information as to the policy and the details of the new administration at the Admiralty. He joined with his hon. friends in, protesting at the way in which this new Admiralty scheme was laid before the country in November last, and the way in which it had been put before the country since. He objected to the ecstatic and extravagant language used by the Prime Minister in his speech at Glasgow in January. He thought that language was not substantiated by the hon. Gentleman who represented the Admiralty. But it was used in almost exactly the same form by the Leader of the Government in the House of Lords. The Government claimed for themselves that by this new scheme, published on November 7th, they were introducing a new reform of a wide-reaching character which was to entail, as one of its consequences, a large and permanent reduction in the expenditure on the Navy. He ventured to say that, in so far as he had been able to examine into the matter, he questioned whether there would really be any real reduction in the expenditure on the Navy of a permanent character.

Earlier in the session the Secretary to the Admiralty spoke of the number of ships which had been knocked oft the effective list, or what was also called the fighting line. They had some reason to complain that in the Prime Minister's speech at Glasgow, in other speeches, and in Lord Selborne's Memorandum, great point was made of striking out a large number of ships from the fighting line, and that a great variety of figures had been given. They were told that the number of ships so struck off was 130, then 117, then 60, then 88, and then 72. The effect of that great variety of figures again showed how unsubstantial was the real foundation for the plea put forward that this measure was great and far-reaching. If the Admiralty really believed that this striking off of ships from the effective list was a novel and far-reaching reform, it was their duty to lay before the House of Commons the details of the ships, in their various categories, struck oft from the effective list. But that was what they did not do. When the hon. Member for Dundee asked for a Return, and when a Return was given and they complained that that Return was not complete, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty turned round and said that the Admiralty gave the Return asked for. That was not fair. If this scheme was brought forward on the responsibility of the Government, and if they took credit for it in the country and in the House, they ought to see that the House was fully informed on the subject. He could understand the striking oft of the intermediate or llama class of comparatively small fighting power. He might say in passing that the list purposed to be the same as in the Dockyard Expense Account; but there were certain ships included in that account which were not included in the Return in the White Paper. The House and those who heard or read the Prime Minister's speech at Glasgow, undoubtedly understood, when the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the "courageous stroke of the pen," that they were to remove from the effective list of the ships of the Navy those which were no longer of use for the purposes of war. But they did not expect to find in this long list a number of antiquated ships, coal hulks, and a variety of vessels which had already been condemned in ordinary course to go to the scrap-heap. In class 2 A, ships available for the purposes of war, there were no less than seven which the hon. Gentleman himself, in answer to a Question put to him on March 13th, characterised as ships unsuited for service and which had been ordered to be sold. These ships were in two different categories and there ought to be a clear statement on the subject in order that the Committee might know where they stood.

Two points were raised in the discussion. One was whether it was wise to suddenly give the Admiralty such a free hand to cut out such a number of third-class cruisers. His own opinion on the subject would be of small value; but there was considerable difference of opinion both inside and outside the House among those whose opinion was of value. In adopting that policy the Admiralty were running counter to the policy of France, of Germany, and of Japan and other Powers who retained on their active lists vessels not on the active list of this country. Only a few years ago money was being spent on these very ships: and the Committee ought to be given some further information as to the ground on which the decision of the Admiralty was arrived at. Then there was the question of the-middle class—I. B. The Secretary to the Admiralty did not give any reason for including the ships which were put into that class. They were supposed to be still possibly available for combatant purposes in time of war; yet they were sent to the Forth and the

Tyne, and put into the hands of caretakers, where it was admitted they would deteriorate. The Secretary to the Admiralty stated in March last that they could be put into an effective state of repair in three months. This policy was quite inconsistent with the policy enunciated in Lord Selborne's Memorandum, and would not result in diminishing the number of men if nucleus crews were retained. He ventured to state that this scheme did not point to any permanent economy. The Secretary to the Admiralty did not answer the Question of his hon. friend the Member for Dundee, who asked what number of men would be made available for the ships in class I. B. Surely that was a Question which should be answered. The figures in the White Paper did not answer that Question, because they were only an estimate of the number that might be required under certain conditions.

As regarded construction and repairs, it was impossible not to see that the new programme this year did not represent what would be the permanent average in future years. Only one battleship was included this year, and it was obvious that the programme was an exceptional one. He agreed with the Secretary to the Admiralty that it would be imprudent to give the character of the new ships; but he might tell the Committee something regarding their cost. They were informed by his hon. friend the Member for Dundee and other hon. Members that the new armoured cruisers were to be of a new and more powerful type. That would in all probability mean increased cost; and he should like to know what the expenditure on these cruisers would probably be. The House of Commons would not properly discharge its duty unless it pressed Ministers for information on these subjects. They did not want to interfere with the Admiralty regarding the character of the ships; but they should be informed regarding the general lines of policy, and particularly in reference to the financial policy that would be adopted. Then as to repairs, the figures were again exceptional. They were not, however, put before the House of Commons or the Public Accounts Committee as exceptional.

With regard to the Question of the hon. Member for Dundee, what Answer was there to that? The hon. Gentleman had quoted authority on this subject as to the capital value of the Navy at the present moment, and as to what had been the annual amount in past years required for repairs. That amount was something like £4,000,000 per annum. This year it was a little over £2,000,000, and yet our Fleet was still growing in numbers and cost. How could they possibly say, therefore, that an annual expenditure of £2,000,000 would be sufficient both this year and in the future for repairs, when in the past it had averaged £4,000,000? They were entitled to have some information on this point. His last Question to the hon. Gentleman was, could he now tell the Committee what he was going to spend in the coming year on naval works so that the Committee might know what the total amount was that we were spending on our naval policy? The information had hitherto been given at an earlier date and they were, he submitted, entitled to have it now, as this was the last opportunity they would have for discussing the general naval expenditure.


said this Vote dictated the amount and importance of every other Vote in the Naval Estimates, and it disclosed to a large extent the naval policy adopted by the Government. He agreed that the disquiet in the public mind arose not so much from the change in naval policy as from the indication of what appeared to be an entire breach of continuity adopted with extraordinary suddenness and without full consideration. The Board of Admiralty was a very strange body, and in the past had resisted everything in the way of progress. It resisted, steam; it resisted the screw; it resisted the adopt on of breach-loading guns; and it resisted new pattern boilers. It always gave way in the end and then usually launched into violent change and very large expenditure. In this instance of the wholesale condemnation of ships, the change in the Admiralty seemed not only sudden but intemperate. By many persons the change had been attributed to the influence of the First Sea Lord, who, indeed, if he read aright the definition of his duties, seemed to have superseded and destroyed the Board of Admiralty itself. He did not question the principle that the Navy should consist of efficient ships; the principle was sound hut it had been carried so far, and adopted so suddenly, that it was to be feared that efficient ships had been "scrapped" with non-efficients, and that there had been too much suddenness and thoroughness in the adoption of this policy. Some information was required as to the operation of the principle in regard to steamship subsidies. The Admiralty themselves might have noticed that as to these there were ships for which they still paid a large sum of money; he alluded to the Cunarders, which ought to be "scrapped" with the others. V\ e financed the Cunard Company to the extent of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 for liners and subsidies, and he was convinced that the idea which led the Government to adopt this policy was a mistaken one, and that if the Government had had the same control of these ships as they had of their own they, too, would have gone to the scrap-heap.

Naval construction depended largely on the general policy of the country, because this being a naval nation any policy which had to be carried out must be carried out by the Navy. There were evidences that a change had come over that policy. For centuries it had been the maintenance of a strong Navy for the protection of our trade and of our Colonies for the sake of trade. All our great wars, from those of Marlborough to those of Napoleon, were fought for no other cause than the protection of our trade. But it now almost seemed that our notion was to fight not for trade but for conquest. If that was so, no bounds could be put to our expenditure. For the conqueror, however modestly he began, always at last sought universal conquest. That was true of every conqueror from Cryus to Napoleon. There was at anyrate a great change in naval strategical dispositions, which seemed to imply much. By the practical abandonment of stations in the North Atlantic and the Pacific he surmised that the Government were relying upon a good understanding with the United States and upon our alliance with Japan, and he would not say they were wrong, and certainly he could not complain of steps taken to strengthen our position in the North Sea; it was the immediate point to which the naval eye should be directed and we might, at no distant time, have to fight there for an ally. With regard to the character of our ships the lessons of history taught that fighting at sea must be determined by line-of-battle ships—that was to say, the strongest and stoutest ships that could hit the hardest and take the hardest hitting themselves that the wit of man could devise. That was the ship which in the past and in the present determined the battle and which would determine it in time to come. Ships and guns were the important things, and yet it seemed to him that the Admiralty were always going mad over something else. Every day the possibility of using the ram was diminished, because the distance at which an action was begun would be greatly increased, yet this useless weapon was fitted to every new ship by the Admiralty. He hoped that the ram, which experience had proved was a danger to our own vessels, would be abolished. Torpedo boat destroyers might be of considerable use, but they had great limitations. The conditions were extremely favourable for them in the battle of Tsu-shima, but we did not know whether they were of much use to the Japanese. The battleships practically decided the action. They were told that when the Japanese had their enemy beaten, and not till then, they let loose their torpedo craft to destroy the enemy's ships. If Admiral Togo did that he ventured to think that that was one point upon which criticism might be directed against him, because when once he had got the enemy beaten his object should have been rather to capture the enemy's ships than to destroy them. Such a course gave the victor a double advantage; in the first place it gave him a large number of officers and men for the purposes of exchange, and secondly it gave him the ships; and if it turned out that Admiral Togo did take the course which it was said he did, then it might have to be held that even that great captain had been guilty of an error of judgment.

He thought the Admiralty had made a serious mistake in largely increasing the number of submarines. They were engines which had to be used in conditions that made their effective action most difficult, and they were dangerous to those who used them. Moreover, they were the weapons of a Power on the defensive, and their sphere of action was far more limited than the other torpedo destroyers. When once submerged they were in the most difficult position in which a vessel could be, in a perpetual fog, and when they put up their periscopes could only see a very little way. They could not be used at night. They could not be used at any distance from their own port. In short, they could scarce be used at all for purposes of attack, and he hoped we should never be in the position of using them for defence. What was said by a great man 300 years ago was true to-day, "that he who would be master at sea must always attack," and he hoped we should always attack and never be in that position in which the submarine was of any considerable use. It was the weapon of the people that we should attack. Under those circumstances it was perhaps reasonable that we should have a few of these ships to see what would be the best way of dealing with them. He could approve of our having five or six, but when he found that there were already twenty-eight in existence, and that ten others were to be added to that number, he thought the Admiralty was making a great mistake and pursuing an altogether false policy. His own view was that the submarine was not our weapon, and that in the second place it was a dangerous weapon to those who used it. It was very doubtful whether it would be of any use in war, either for defence or offence, and he regretted that our sailors, who should be afloat in ships, should be put into these horrible engines. He doubted whether they could ever be developed in such a way as to make them safe, and he objected to the large expenditure that was being made upon them.


said a submarine was really a mechanical fish, with this difference, that they could not put into it the eyes of a fish to show where it was going. The periscope was a most ineffective instrument, and he doubted whether the Admiralty's steam fish would be really serviceable for naval purposes. Anyone accustomed to go under water or who had gone down in a diving bell knew how difficult it was to see any great distance under water, and he entirely concurred in thinking that the Admiralty had made a great mistake in multiplying the number of submarines without having more knowledge and experience as to their utility. Had the Admiralty any definite and positive information that the submarine had been of any practical utility in actual warfare? Did they know whether it had been employed to any purpose in the war between Russia and Japan? If they had no such information, why did they go on building these craft? They were told that nearly a million had already been spent on them. That was a large sum to spend for merely experimental purposes, and he hoped the Admiralty would not go on experimenting until they had better evidence than, so far as he knew, they now possessed that the submarine would be of any use whatever in actual warfare.


said that in listening to the criticism of the Admiralty by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, and to the advice he gave, he was rather encouraged by the fact that the Admiralty were criticised in good company, because when the hon. Member came to find fault with Admiral Togo, the criticism rather suggested that if the management of affairs in the Japan Sea had been in other hands the result might have been even more satisfactory. He thought the Admiralty need not accept all the criticism of the hon. Member for King's Lynn as necessarily more valuable than that of British officers.

Some very weighty words had fallen from the right hon. Baronet below the gangway, who was a keen student on all naval matters. He had not a word of complaint to make of the matter or the form of these criticisms. He could fully understand that changes such as had been made this year might bear the impression of being rather sudden. Whenever Changes did come, especially in naval affairs, which had not been preceded by exposition, it naturally followed that those who had not studied the subject deeply did think them rather more sudden than they appeared to those who were in the sphere of the Admiralty work, and had followed up all the stages by which those changes had been brought about. He thoroughly agreed with the right hon. Baronet as to the value of continuity of policy; but they must not attach too much value to that factor, especially in view of the rapid changes in naval affairs in the past two or three years, not only in the matter of construction, as, for instance, in the introduction of submarines, but also in the fact that, for the first time for a very long period of years, we had some real results to go by of a conflict in which modern ships of equal value had been pitted against each other. It was obviously undesirable to discuss that branch of the subject on the floor of the House; but he could assure the right hon. Baronet and the Committee that many of the changes which had been discussed that afternoon were mainly, if not wholly, due to the lessons they were endeavouring to learn from what had occurred in actual practice in the Far East. He could thoroughly understand that when changes, such as these which had been introduced, were brought before the public for the first time they were likely to strike people who were not in the inner circle of the Admiralty as rather more sudden and flashy than they really were.

Then the right hon. Baronet suggested—and he thoroughly agreed with him—that it ought not to be the policy of the British Admiralty to follow other nations, but that we ought to lead. Other speakers who followed apparently criticised this policy of the Admiralty on the ground that we were not following the practice of other nations. They had been told that we ought not to have discarded certain third-class cruisers, because other nations were keeping that class and were building similar ships. He claimed that the Admiralty had not followed but had led other nations, except in one point, and that was in respect to the size of our armaments. Our naval policy was not one of embarking in large schemes of construction which were not necessitated by the schemes of foreign Powers.

The hon. Gentleman opposite had referred to a subject of great importance, that of submarines, and to the unfortunate accidents which had happened to three of that class of boats. He thought it would be recognised that when the actual character of what had occuired in those accidents was known, it would be perfectly clear that they were not due to any defect in the submarines themselves. The fact was that, in so far as our experience went, the submarine-was no more liable to accident than any other class of vessel. But when accidents did occur the consequences were infinitely more disastrous, and that showed that special precautions ought to be taken to avoid accidents. In these accidents men had been sacrificed whose services the country could ill afford to lose. They had gladly laid down their lives for their country just as much as those who had. fallen in action. That was a risk which they had gladly taken—and the Admiralty recognised that devotion to patriotic duty—but others had come-forward, ready and willing to take the same risk to-morrow. He could assure the Committee that the effect of these accidents had not been to decrease the number of those sailors, engineers, and stokers who were willing to volunteer for this service. That only increased the responsibility of the Admiralty. They accepted that responsibility. The submarine was the weapon of the weaker Power, but we were bound to answer these weaker Powers and build submarines. The Admiralty and the Navy were of opinion that the only answer to the submarine was the submarine. It would have been well for this country if the submarine had never been invented. The Admiralty would have been truly thankful if no such thing as a submarine had been invented; but, having been invented, and having come into actual operation, and the Admiralty having satisfied themselves that it was a force to be reckoned with, surely they would be guilty of something worse than negligence if they did not make the only reply that could be made. The Admiralty did not originate the policy of submarines. It was originated by what he hoped he might call without offence weaker Powers, and we had followed the submarine with the submarine. The Admiralty were convinced that the submarine was a necessary adjunct of modern naval warfare, and that in this, as in other matters, they were obliged to take the lead. Although the French submarines were more numerous than ours, he did not think that even a Frenchman would suggest that they were better or more efficient. As a matter of fact, in regard to speed and in other particulars, he thought he might safely say that our submarines were much more efficient.


asked for information with regard to the defence of Bantry and Berehaven.


said that by submarines a question of principle was involved. The right hon. Member for Yarmouth appeared to consider that the submarine might under certain circumstances be used for offence against land defence. He did not know where that idea originated; certainly not at the Admiralty. With regard to the defence of ports, that defence involved the destruction of any vessels that attempted to attack them, and that destruction should be carried out as far from the ports as possible. It was natural to think that for the defence of a port there should be a smaller submarine, and a larger one for work outside. But that view reminded him of the man with two cats, a big cat and a little one, for whose exit he made both a big and a little hole.


said he had no opinion on the point himself; he had called attention to the fact that it was the universally accepted French view, and was adopted by Admiral Fournier when he took the chair the other day at Cherbourg at a lecture on the submarine.


said he had merely stated the conclusion the Admiralty had arrived at. It was possible that other authorities took a different view, and the authority of the French Admiralty was a high one. The view of the British Admiralty, however, was that the larger submarine could do all the work of the smaller one, and more besides. With regard to the replacing by sub- marines of what had been known as submarine mine defence, after careful consideration, not only by the Navy, but the Army and the Committee of Defence also, it was decided that under modern conditions the policy of stationary mine defence was the wrong policy for this country. It had, therefore, been desided to abolish submarine mine defence both in the naval and mercantile ports; and that defence would be replaced mainly and primarily by gun power, and also, as far as was necessary, as fast as vessels were available, and the conditions were suitable, by submarines. It was not correct, therefore, to make the statement that submarine mines would be abandoned in order definitely and solely to replace them by submarines. He assured the Committee that the Admiralty were proceeding cautiously in the rate of construction; they had no desire to build one submarine more than was necessary, or to expose officers and men of the Navy to any more risk than was necessary.

With regard to what had been called the command of the Pacific, upon which he need not dwell at length, the expression, was used rather loosely. The Pacific was a considerable area, and to speak of its mastery was a term which should hardly be used. As a matter of fact we had on the Pacific a considerable Fleet, on the China Station, and on the Australian side, where there were ships of no inconsiderable value. Those were the two points in the Pacific where there were British interests which might require defence; but he could hardly think that it would be seriously suggested that beyond that it would be necessary for us to keep a large force on the Pacific, in order to attempt to obtain what was called the mastery of the Pacific. He did not think this country desired the mastery of any sea beyond this—that British commerce and interests should go there-without fear or favour and have equal opportunity with those of other nations. To suggest in that House that we desired to obtain the mastery of the Pacific or any other sea might give a false impression, which he desired to remove. The ships we had on the China and Australian Stations, however, were sufficient not only for British trade and interests to-day, but, as far as could be foreseen, for a very long to-morrow.

Turning to the very important question of dockyard labour, and the construction and repairs as between dockyards and private yards, he had no cause for complaint in the criticisms, and recognised the moderation with which hon. Members representing dockyard constituencies had dealt with the question. He agreed with every word that had been said in regard to the unfortunate position in which the discharged men found themselves. It was perfectly true that this large army of labour had been collected at points where there was no alternative employment of the character the men required. But that was not the fault of the Admiralty; the dockyards were stationed on the narrow seas at a time when ships were built of wood, and they had grown gradually. The result was that now-a-days the dockyards were at a great distance from any other centre where employment could be obtained. It was, unfortunately, unavoidable and inevitable. Yet the House could not be asked to vote money for the Navy, not because that money was required for naval purposes, but in order to give employment to a special class of men in the dockyards. That being recognised, it only remained to say that the Admiralty should do everything in their power to carry out the redustion, which was admitted to be necessary, with as little inconvenience and distress as possible to the men who unfortunately had to be discharged. Everything possible in that direction had been and was being done.

He would point out that hon. Members who had carefully studied the question from their point of view, just as the Admiralty had from theirs, had not made any suggestion as to how this difficulty might be avoided. He was quite sure that if there were any short and easy mode of obviating the difficulty it would have been suggested. There had been minor suggestions. It was suggested that the Admiralty might carry out these discharges in a different manner, that the right sort of men were not being discharged, but he could assure hon. Members that no such action had been taken by the Admiralty. All that the Admiralty had done was to regulate the discharges as far as they possibly could so as to make them gradual, to spread them over the best time, and so to avoid discharges in the winter. As to the particular men who were to be discharged, that had been left entirely in the hands, in each case, of the admiral superintendent in the yard; and the general principle adopted was that men with the least service were the first to be discharged. As between trades, obviously reference must be had to the requirements of work in the particular trade, so that of two men discharged in two different trades one might have had more service than the other. But the general policy was as he had stated. He knew that the admiral superintendents felt most deeply on the matter, knowing that many of the men discharged were admirable workmen. Still the discharges had to be carried out, and it was inevitable that those who were discharged should feel that perhaps somebody else should have been selected. He deeply regretted the necessity for these discharges, and any Member who at any time could make a practical suggestion by which, without increasing the burden upon the taxpayers, those discharges could be lessened, would receive the careful attention of the Admiralty.


asked what was the extent to which these discharges were going.


said that that was a reasonable request, but the final policy could not be stated until the Dockyard Committee, now sitting, reported, but the number of discharges which would be necessary during the present financial year, 1905–6, including those discharges already made-during that year, was:—Portsmouth, 2,270; Chatham, 2,300; Devonport, 1,6,59; Sheerness, 800. That was as far as the calculations of the Admiralty enabled them to judge at present.

As to construction in dockyards and private yards, it was perfectly clear if owing to the naval position of the day and the increased power of the individual units there were considerably less ships to be built during the year, a general reduction must take place. The matter was receiving most careful consideration by the Dockyard Committee; but he would venture to say, so far as he could indicate any probable policy not yet decided upon, that construction in the dockyards would not cease, nor would that in the private yards cease, but there would continue to be a division of construction, although what exactly that would be he could not indicate until the Report of the Dockyard Committee was received. As to repairs, two considerations must be borne in mind—the very large excess of repairs owing to the repairs to boilers in the last two or three years, and the effect of the nucleus crews upon repairs. In each of those ships now in commission there was a large staff, part of whose duty was to keep in constant repair the machinery and interior of the ship. That saved work in the yards and affected great economy to the taxpayer, whilst thoroughly familiarising the personnel with the entire construction of the machines and engines which they would have to use. Therefore, they might expect that the cost of repairs in the future would be less.


asked whether the question of cost would be taken into consideration in giving construction to dockyards and private yards.


said that was another point. HIS opinion was, after considering the question of cost carefully, that there was very little difference between private and Government yards. A good private yard would build at about the same cost as Government dockyards. A list of the completed cost of ten vessels of the "County" type showed that the cheapest was the "Monmouth," which was built by the London and Glasgow Company on the Clyde; the second was the "Kent" built at Portsmouth; and the third the "Bedford," built by the Fairfield Yard. The most expensive cost £759,000, and was built at Pembroke, and the cheapest cost £684,000.


Is it not notorious that Pembroke has no equipment to finish the building of a ship?


No, I think Pembroke is very fair. I believe they are building more cheaply than they have in the past.


sincerely trusted, as Member for a constituency which contained a famous private yard, that the Government would not accept the advice of the dockyard Members and give all the work to the dockyards. From the point of view of the men employed at Government and private yards, he could not see any difference as to the results of unemployment.

And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.