§ 1. Motion made, and Question 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."
§ SIR ELLIOTT LEES
, continuing his speech, said that in his own constituency there was at one time a considerable amount of Government work in Messrs. Baird's yard, but when the series of battleships which they were building came to-an end there was a considerable reduction of hands. Hon. Members must remember that, after all, all shipbuilding was specialised work. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty had said that the dockyards had all been placed in districts that would not now have been 599 selected, and that men thrown out of work had little chance of finding other employment and had to be provided for, but the same remark applied to private dockyards. The only other industries at Birkenhead were dock-labouring and slaughtering foreign cattle shipped alive to this country, and it was idle to suppose that if an expert man in the shipbuilding yard was discharged through dearth of employment he could turn his hand at once to those other occupations. It seemed to him that from the workmen's point of view there was no difference in the hardship of a man being thrown out of work whether he was employed in a Government or a private yard. And when hon. Members representing dockyard constituencies pointed out the hardship of these discharges from Government yards, he could only state that his constituents suffered in precisely the same way.
The hon. Member for Plymouth said that the dockyards had been of enormous service to the country. That was true, but so also had the private yards. In his opinion the sound policy of the Admiralty was to help the private yards and enable them to continue to exist, so that in time of war the Government yards might be devoted to repairs, and the private yards to construction to reinforce our Navy. He might also point out that the private yards also built ships for foreign Powers, and in the event of war we should have, in the ships in course of construction in private yards, a large reserve to go on with, because the Government could commandeer all the vessels which were being built for foreign nations and indemnify the builders against any loss through non-delivery. Foreign countries had a great respect for the judgment of our Admiralty, and when they wanted battleships or ships of war of any kind they ascertained in what yards the Admiralty placed their orders, and placed their own orders with the same yards. The result was that to the private yards the Government work was of great advantage from that point of view, as in that way private yards got many orders that would otherwise go to other countries. It had been said that private yards 600 could look for many orders after the war, but he did not remember to have heard that Russia had ever given many orders for shipbuilding in this country, and he did not think she was likely to now. Japan in the past had had ships built in this country, but the cause which demanded a great naval effort had for the moment passed away, and it was more than likely that in the future Japan would build her ships herself. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on his policy with regard to construction, and reminded him that whatever pressure might be put upon him by those representing dockyard constituencies to deviate from the course he proposed to pursue, there would always be available, on the other hand, sufficient pressure from those representing private yards to enable the hon. Gentleman to keep his equilibrium.
§ MR. BENN (Devonport)
thanked the hon. Gentleman for the kind words he had uttered with regard to the very sad submarine disaster. He said some months had passed since he drew the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty to words in the Memorandum of the First Lord which caused him considerable anxiety. In fact, there was real cause for alarm in the considerable alteration made in the policy of the Admiralty, because, looking at it in the light of the observations made just before the dinner hour by the hon. Gentleman, it appeared that, in the future construction would take a second place in the Royal dockyards. It would be a case of repairs first and construction afterwards. The First Lord said in his Memorandum that it was the first business of the dockyards to keep the Fleet in repair and therefore the amount of new construction should be subordinate to this consideration. He desired to enter a most powerful and emphatic protest against that view, for the reason that if that policy were to be continued the discharges would also continue. The nation had paid millions of money in establishing these dockyards and fitting them with appliances, and it would be a disastrous policy to turn them into mere repairing shops and to allow the construction machinery to fall in to desuetude. He respectfully submitted that it was the first duty of the Government of the 601 day to fill up, as far as possible, the Royal dockyards. They were the nation's workshops, and it would be the worst of all policies to starve them. To do so would be to deprive men of work and render them both hopeless and helpless, whereas in private yards there were opportunities to secure work from abroad, and if a workman failed to secure employment at one establishment, he could go on to another. He therefore suggested that it was within the power of the Government to stop straight away a great part of the discharges. Under the new naval policy they should first of all give out sufficient work to keep the Government establishments going, and then divide the remainder among the private yards. He was sure that any proposal to mitigate the present mischief would receive the sympathetic consideration of the hon. Gentleman. If the new policy of repairs first and construction afterwards obtained, the Government dockyards would be in a large measure destroyed as establishments for the production of ships. At present they employed two classes of competent men—one for construction and the other for repairs, but if the new policy were persisted in there would be found in the near future a scarcity of constructors.
There was another point of view. These Government establishments were founded first of all that the nation should produce in its own workshops and from its own designs its battleships. The time might arise when it would be important to construct with secrecy certain vessels according to the ideas of our own advisers, and it was possible that we might find it convenient and wise to keep to ourselves certain appliances for our instruments of war. In that case the dockyards would be an absolute necessity. Then there was the financial consideration, and although he was glad to see that the Government recognised the necessity for economy, retrenchment, and reform in certain directions, he could with confidence assert that once they disqualified themselves from producing with facility the finest of battleships in the Government yards, they would offer a premium to private yards—he would not say to form a ring against the Government, but at any rate there would be the temptation 602 to charge higher prices. He submitted that the present policy should be reversed at the earliest possible moment in order to keep this most important department of national defence in our own hands, and to enable the Government yards to be the first and best sources for the supply of our battleships.
With regard to the question of wages, the Government were at present far behind private employers, and certainly were not the "model employers" they ought to be. In Devonport the environment of a labourer was very similar to that of a labourer in London, and he had in his hand the family budget of one of the men who served the Government for £1 a week. The family consisted of the man, his wife, and three children, and out of the £1 a week 5s. 5d. went in rent, Is. 9d. in rates, 2s. 5d. for fire and light, 7d. for club-money, and 4d. for soap and sundries, leaving 9s. 6d. to feed five persons, to say nothing of beer, tobacco, holidays, and other matters. Three pence farthing per head per day! Moreover, fifty per cent, of these men were frequently called upon to do more or less skilled work for their £1 a week, and yet under the borough councils in London the minimum wage for scavengers was 27s. He submitted that the time had come for a reconsideration of the position of these labourers. The increase in the cost of food alone during the last two years was represented by at least 1s. 6d. a week to such a family as that to which he had referred. There was also the question of the discrepancy which existed between the wages paid in Government yards and those paid by private firms. The money value of the privileges granted to Government employees did not exceed 6d., or, at the outside, 1s. a week.
§ MR. BENN
was glad, to have that confirmation of his figure. But even taking it at Is., the discrepancy was far from being met. The average wages of joiners, for instance, in the shipbuilding yards of the Thames, the Tyne, the Mersey, the Clyde, and Belfast, were £2 a week, and their hours 51½, whereas in the Government yards the wages were only 32s. 6d. and the hours 48. 603 There was no satisfaction or economy in cheap and nasty labour. To get good labour a fair price must be paid. According to the hon, Gentleman's own figures the private yards were able to build as cheaply as the Government, so that there was no economy in sweating or starvation wages.
§ MR. BENN
said he did not mince matters; he would say without any insinuation that £1 a week for such work as he had seen in the dockyards partook of the nature of sweating. Then taking the average of the wages paid to men engaged in what he might term the "hardware" side of shipbuilding, there was a difference between the inside and the outside wages of 6s. 6d. per week. The pigeon-holes at the Admiralty were doubtless stuffed with the petitions of the men, and he suggested that the matter should be referred to a Committee consisting of officials and representatives of the men, so that justice might be done. If higher wages were paid the Admiralty would command a better class of men, but the result of the present policy was that the private yards got the pick of the workmen, and the highest quality of British skilled labour was engaged in the building of foreign ships. He also asked whether these labour questions came within the purview of the Committee referred to in the First Lord's Memorandum. If not, it was a great pity, and he would suggest that the reference should be enlarged so that the Committee might review the labour conditions at present obtaining in the dockyards.
§ MR. SPEAR (Devonshire,Tavistock)
joined in the protest against the action of the Government in reference to discharges. On a former occasion it was stated that the number of discharges should not, if it could be avoided, exceed twenty-five in any one week. It was not a definite promise, but the way in which that number had been exceeded had excited considerable surprise and disappointment. The position had been aggravated to tome extent by the mistaken policy 604 of the Government in reducing the work in the dockyards rather than. in private yards. If the Government were satisfied that the efficiency of the Navy could be maintained at less cost, and that in justice to the taxpayer reductions should be made, he submitted that those reductions should be made in such a way as to be the least injurious to the men affected. He altogether disputed the argument that a reduction in the amount of Government work would affect men in private yards as seriously as men in Government yards. The latter had no other work to which they could turn, whereas private firms would at once look round for more private work, and it did not at all follow that a reduction in Government work would entail the dismissal of men. The Government had shown their interest for the welfare of the unemployed, but by their dockyard policy they were undoing in one direction the good they were endeavouring to do in another. He hoped the Admiralty would consider the importance of giving the bulk of their work to the dockyards. No doubt it was important to keep in touch with the private yards; they had a right to a share in the work, but the dockyards must always be regarded as the first source of supply, both for new construction and for repairs. The possible danger of relying too greatly upon private yards had not been exaggerated by the hon. Member for Devonport. In any case, in view of the great expenditure that had been made in the provision of plant for all classes of work, it would be detrimental to the interests of the country if the present policy were continued.
He regretted the action of the Government in increasing the number of their submarines. He would far rather that they approached other nations through the Hague Tribunal with a view to seeing whether the nations of the world would not set their faces against what appeared to him to be an unmanly and un-English method of warfare. He had perfect confidence in the naval policy of the Government, but he thought the Admiralty were inclined to neglect the dockyards in the interest of private firms, and, therefore, he hoped the 605 Secretary to the Admiralty would consider whether the policy they were pursuing in this respect was not likely to be detrimental to the best interests of the Navy and of the country.
§ MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said that Labour representatives had to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded by this Vote to bring before the public the grievances of the men for the simple reason that the Government, unlike private firms, refused to allow the principle of collective bargaining which had proved so great an advantage in negotiations between private employers and their workmen. The only means Government workers had of making their grievances known was to go individually to their superiors, and everybody of experience knew the dangers which beset a man who was at all keen in pressing his grievances, no matter how just his complaints might be. The grievances in the dockyards were considerable, and the complaints, he believed, well founded. The Government was far from being a "model employer." One of the grounds of complaint was the method of the discharges, altogether apart from the general policy. Discharges had taken place, not merely in pursuance of the policy of cutting down the Navy Estimates, but because of an old-standing order under which apprentices had to be guaranteed a two years engagement at the termination of their apprenticeship, and as a result of which a considerable number of men, who had been in the service many years, and against whom there was not the shadow of complaint—in fact, they were often the best men in the yards—had been dismissed, and forced to start life anew. He appealed to the Secretary to the Admiralty to look into this matter, and suggested that if a Committee were appointed some of the Labour Members should be taken into consultation. The private employer brought the workmen into consultation when he wanted to alter the whole conditions of employment, but the Government did not adopt this course.
The grievance was felt to be more acute because of the want of any proper effort to remedy the evil. The question 606 of the division of work between the private and the Government yards was a most important one, upon which he knew there was a sharp division of opinion in the House. Some hon. Members suggested that private yards should receive the first consideration, but he thought their first duty was towards their own yards. He had recently been over the Government works at Devonport, where they had spent over £5,000,000 of the nation's money, and notwithstanding this fact hon. Gentlemen opposite were urging that private dockyards should receive that further consideration which, if acceded to, would still further reduce the number of hands in the Government service. They ought not to proceed on those lines, because, if they did, employment in their own dockyards would be brought to a standstill. It had been demonstrated in this debate that it was possible to build ships in Government dockyards, if not cheaper, certainly as cheap as in some of the private yards. If they would only apply business methods to the conducting of the Royal dockyards he thought it would be possible to build in them cheaper than in private yards. It was well known that for a large percentage of the material used in their own dockyards they had to go to private firms. In his opinion the Government ought to have gone further than they had done and arranged things so that they could have undertaken more constructive work without depending so much upon private firms. Very little of the real constructive work of a ship was created in their own dockyards, and therefore the proportion of the labour employed by the Government in the construction of a ship was comparatively small. Frequently work required in one department instead of being sent to another Government department was put out to contract. If the various departments worked together more harmoniously, and if they were allowed to do work for each other at cost price, the volume of work done in the Government dockyards would be considerably increased. The policy adopted by the Government was one which ought not to be continued, and they would only be doing the right thing by the taxpayer if they kept all these dockyards going at the fullest pace by providing them with 607 work which was now given to private firms.
He wished also to say a few words in regard to the three years system of employment in the dockyards, which he did not think tended either to economy or efficiency. They sometimes appointed as a chief superintendent a gentleman who had doubtless occupied a high position in connection with the Admiralty, and ho would take charge of the works. He might discover that certain things ought to be altered. Months would pass and then he would probably try to put those changes into operation with a view to improving the system. By that time probably his three years appointment would be well nigh gone and he would be moved up. He would very likely be sent to sea to take charge of another department, and somebody else would be sent to take his place as chief superintendent. Who suffered by this system? The taxpayers, because the new man had to go through the whole process again, and endeavour to find out where he could make improvements. There were in the House of Commons hon. Members who were connected with some of our leading manufactures, including great engineers and colliery proprietors. He ventured to say that not one of them would ever dream of conducting his business on those lines. If a business man got the man he had set his heart upon, who was capable of economising and effecting improvements, who could turn out better work more rapidly, he would not be anxious for him to be moved somewhere else at the end of three years. As long as a man could turn out rapid and efficient work that was the man an employer would desire to keep in his employment. They had no right to deal with the money of the taxpayer in a different way to that which they would adopt if they were spending their own. If the Government got a good manager they ought to endeavour to keep him, and the sooner this triennial system was abolished the better.
§ SIR WALTER PLUMMER (New-castle-on-Tyne)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down spoke so strongly in favour of employment in Government dockyards that he appeared to forget 608 the great mass of workmen on Tyneside who were engaged in private dockyards. It was on this account that he could not help saying a few words on this occasion with regard to that most important and valuable national asset, the private dockyards of this country. It was not the first time they had had a discussion as to how far the Government was justified in their division of work between the Government and private dockyards; the subject, indeed, was practically a hardy annual. He represented a constituency where there was a private dockyard, and he declared that in such private yards they possessed a national asset. These establishments had been of great service to the nation in times of stress in the past, and if they were properly cultivated they would continue to be so. He spoke on behalf of a constituency greatly interested in private dockyards, and he trusted the Government would continue to hold the balance fairly between the two interests, and that they would not make the great mistake of putting all their eggs in be one basket. It had been urged that there had been a large amount of national money sunk in the Government dockyards, but owing to the support given by the Government to private yards hundreds of thousands of private capital had been invested in those yards, and it would be grossly unfair if the Government were to reverse the policy hitherto pursued of giving a fair and just share of the national work to them. The people living in non-dockyard towns were after all taxpayers and were entitled to receive a fair share of the work of the country. He did not speak on behalf of the private employer, but on behalf of the thousands employed in these private yards at Newcastle and elsewhere who had a right to ask the Government to continue the policy of giving them a fair share of their work. The moral of the debate was that in times of stress such as we had passed through a few years ago, the Government should not allow the Royal dockyards to be swollen to undue and artificial dimensions. It was because these establishments had been doubled in such years that the Government found themselves in the present difficulty. They ought at such times to maintain the establishments in 609 full work and give the surplus work to the private yards. Then the position of dockyard Members would be more pleasant.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN (Dewsbury)
urged the Government to avoid allowing the dockyard work to become spasmodic and fluctuating. He knew of cases where men trained in the dockyards had, in consequence of this policy, to seek employment in the United States dockyards.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
did not object to it on that ground. He believed in free trade, but not in free gifts of skill to America. The Admiralty had now reverted to the better system of conducting repairs in their own dockyards, but they had pushed ahead their repairs with feverish haste, as shown by the fact that some of the vessels repaired were now struck off the list, that the men could not now be fully employed, and they had not a regular supply of work for them.
There was one point to which he wished to draw the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty, and it was in regard to the new vessels under construction. It was a point which might re-open some of the very grave questions which were discussed a few years ago, and which to-day had been singularly absent from their deliberations. For some years past they had been constructing battleships of enormous tonnage, and if the information which had leaked out was correct the newest type of battleship was to exceed the largest of its predecessors by 2,000 tons, and they were now going to embark upon 18,000 ton battleships. He did not wish to criticise the conclusions of the Designs Committee, but perhaps ho might be allowed to suggest that there were considerations which were strongly in favour of not building battleships of excessive size. The cost of the new battleships worked out at about £1,500,000 each and that compared with the "Swiftsure" class was 50 per cent, more expensive. Certainly 610 they would do as good work as vessels of the "King Edward" type. In large vessels also they had a very great draught of water, and that was a consideration in respect to which, perhaps he might be allowed to make a comparison. It was a consideration which would in future become more and more valuable to the Admiralty. Of the recent vessels added to our Fleet, some were of comparatively greater draught than those which had been added to the German fleet. The "Majestic," for example, drew 27 feet 6 inches, whereas the "Kaiser Frederick III." drew 25 feet 6 inches, the "Canopus" 26 feet, and the "Formidable" 23 feet 9 inches, while he believed the "King Edward VII." drew 26 feet 8 inches. There was no battleship in the German navy which drew more than "Kaiser Frederick," and they were designed for the very work which the Admiralty intended for those he had mentioned. For shallow-water work a difference of one foot was a great consideration. When they remembered that the North Sea might some day or other be the battleground on which our vessels would be tested, he thought we should be extremely cautious in adding vessels to the Fleet of more than 26 feet draught.
There were two considerations—one was the draught and the other the expense—which argued in favour of not proceeding to excessive size. They had to consider also the easy way in which a large vessel could be lost. He thought that all the arguments were in favour of not putting all the eggs in one basket. He was not sure that there was not a great deal to be said for having three battleships costing about £1,000,000 each of smaller size, rather than two costing £1,500,000 apiece. He knew that the argument against that was that they could not have the same class of armaments on the smaller vessels as on the larger ones. He knew that most naval authorities were in favour of the larger vessels, but there was a consideration which weighed largely with the naval authorities when they were making up their programme for the year, and when they had to lay their proposals before the Treasury, which said to them that they could only have four instead of five, or three instead of four vessels.
611 The Admiralty said if they were only to have three they would have three of the largest. He hoped that consideration did not weigh too strongly with the hon. Gentleman. The considerations in favour of the smaller sized battleships were not discarded so largely in other navies. Not only did they adopt smaller battleships in Germany and the United States, but somehow or other they had succeeded in getting into the smaller ships the armaments which we put into the larger ones. They might quite possibly reduce their engine power, or diminish their space or bunker capacity. He trusted that the subject was not being too lightly dismissed by the Committee with which the hon. Gentleman was connected. He threw out these suggestions as an amateur, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give some of his personal attention to them.
Another point to be remembered in connection with the increasing draught was that it became more and more difficult to find dock accommodation for these ships. He also asked what improvements had been made during the last three or four years in the coal consumption of the vessels we had recently been building. His late friend Sir W. Allan used to bring this matter forward year after year, and he could not pretend to have anything like his technical knowledge of the subject. It was really very alarming to find that in some of our vessels in recent years the consumption of coal per indicated horse power per hour was extraordinarily heavy. In the case of the "King Edward," with a speed of 11½ knots, the consumption was 2.63 lbs. per indicated horse power. Compared with the consumption in an ordinary cargo steamer, which was now approximately just over 1 lb. per indicated horse power, he thought this consumption really alarming. At 17 knots the "King Edward" reached her most economical consumption on this basis. It worked out at 1. 06 lbs., and at 19 knots it worked out at 2.17 lbs. In the case of the "Dominion" the lowest consumption, was 1.68 of indicated horse power per hour. In the case of cruisers the consumption was even higher. 612 The smallest consumption on a twenty-knot basis was 2.02 lbs. When they came to the third class of cruisers the consumption was more alarming, for vessels with reciprocating engines burned 2.52 lbs. These were very large figures indeed. Two years ago hopes were expressed that the vessels under construction would have a very much smaller consumption than those which he then quoted. The "Sapphire" figures had not gone down but actually up. The only reduction so far as he could see was in the case of the turbine boat, "Amethyst," which with a 20-knot speed burned 2½ lbs. This was so far above the standard in the merchant service that he suggested there must be a great discrepancy somewhere. It was not merely a matter of design, but of the boilers and engines put into the vessels.
He thought he might say that, as far as the discussion of naval matters went, they were at all events free in the House from any unnecessary partisanship in the criticism offered. Their criticism was not in the interest of Party but of the British Navy itself. He though they might express some satisfaction that in the recent naval victory of Japan in the Far East the whole of the guns which brought about the victory were of British design and manufacture, and that almost the whole of the vessels were built in this country. He hoped this would give some reason for believing that the vessels of our Fleet were of an equally high standard, so that if the time should ever come for action—which God forbid—they might be equally successful.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
said that if he had to choose between speaking on behalf of his constitutents or of a particular firm he thought he should speak on behalf of his constituents. Hon. Members who represented dockyard towns were absolutely jeered at when they spoke on behalf of those whose interests they were there to look after, but the House cheered when hon. Members got up and asked what their firms were to do if this particular municipality or that particular Government dockyard was allowed to interfere in the businessin which 613 they were concerned. Surely hon. Members could speak not only in the interest of their constituents but the ratepayers at large. He offered no apology for intervening in the debate in order to ask the Government one or two plain Questions. According to the argument of the hon. Member for Newcastle it would be to the advantage of the whole community that the Government should give all the extra work to the private yards because the owners had invested hundreds of thousands of pounds of capital in the concerns. He wished to point out that Government dockyards were not in the same position as private yards inasmuch as they could only do work for our Government while private firms could compete for the building of ironclads for foreign Governments. There was a case in his recollection where one of the departments of the Admiralty took up the position of manufacturers when private firms had locked out their men. He hoped they would not attempt to repeat that.
He asked why dockyard work should not be conducted on the business lines of a private firm, and why when all the machinery of the dockyards was not employed work should be given to private firms. All he asked was that the Government dockyards should be put on exactly the same footing as those run by the Elswick firm and the Barrow-in-Furness firm. The owners of these yards would not give work to anybody else in the way the Government did. Why should the Government let their machinery go to rust because they wished to give work to private yards? There might be something to be said for that if private firms were willing in times of emergency to serve the Government at peace prices, but everybody knew that they did not. They had only to cast their minds back to the recent war to remember what was done by the patriotic ship owners. It required no stretch of imagination to see that they were only patriotic for as much as they could get out of it. He thought the Admiralty might have found useful work for most of the 7,000 men who had been discharged from the dockyards, and the machinery might have, been kept going. Were they always going 614 to depend on private employers? It was sometimes said that Government employment was permanent. It was not so. It was only permanent so long as it lasted. The man who thought he had a permanent job must be an extraordinary man; he must be related to a duke. The sensible and business method was to keep men in steady work at the dockyards, and to make them feel that while the nation expected from them the best service they could give, their own interests were not neglected by the Government.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said the labour question was confined solely to construction. It could not apply to repairs, because the whole of that work went to the dockyards. With regard to construction, he would point out, while admitting that every consideration should be given the workmen, that there was one interest which had not been referred to at all, but which outweighed and over-rode all others—the interest of the Navy as a whole. In the matter of new construction it was clearly the preeminent interest of the country that there should be a building power not only in the dockyards, but also in the private yards, capable of expansion in times of emergency; and, if all the work was given to the dockyards, where would that power of expansion and capacity come from. The Admiralty could not afford to neglect the national asset which they had in the private building yards.
In regard to dockyard wages it was the policy of the Admiralty to pay unskilled labour at least as high a wage as that paid to unskilled labour in the district. There was no such test as that to apply in regard to skilled trades in the dockyards, and they approached the wages paid to those trades from the standpoint of the general average rate throughout the country. The most careful comparisons were constantly made, and the result was to show that the standard of wage in the Government dockyards compared favourably with that in the private yards. The junior Member for Devonport cited figures which seemed to show that, in certain trades at all events, that was 615 not so, and if the hon. Member would send him those figures they should have the most earnest attention of the Admiralty. It had been the practice of the First Lord to receive the representatives of organised labour to confer with them once a year. They had consulted the representatives of trades unions who visited the Admiralty in February last. What they had to say had received the most careful attention.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury had raised two important questions. With regard to the first one, that of the size of battleships, he could assure the hon. Member that not one of the factors he had mentioned had been neglected. They had all been taken into consideration. The hon. Member asked that this question should be taken into consideration. He could assure the hon, Gentleman that that was one of the factors of naval policy which had always been taken into consideration. A large battleship was clearly in itself an evil. It was subject to all the disabilities the hon. Gentleman had enumerated; but, notwithstanding all these disabilities, they were driven by the necessities of the case to build big battleships. One of the principal lessons of the present war was to show the value of the battleship, though there was something that came even before that, and that was the value of a highly-trained personnel. He fully admitted that the battleship had vindicated herself most thoroughly.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
Togo used his larger cruisers in the same line, and in the same way, along with the battleships.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said that probably Admiral Togo would before the battle, have felt more certain of the result if he had had battleships in the place of those cruisers. They could not afford to take risks except when obliged. We must recognise that the battleship was not for restricted but for general service; and, once they began a policy of specialising and building a small ship for one purpose and a large one for another, they would be landed in interminable difficulties and expense, and when the 616 time came perhaps, the ships would not be of the very best service in the place where they were wanted. In their position, he believed the hon. Gentleman would adopt the same policy of building battleships of the large size. They wanted battleships, moreover, not "almost" but quite of the first class, and another lesson of the war was in favour of the 12-inch guns.
The hon. Member asked a very pertinent question as to coal consumption, but there was a very great difference between a battleship and a merchantman. The former had a very large number of auxiliary engines which had to do a great deal of work in connection with the ship, and which were entirely absent in the case of the Atlantic liner. There was also the question of room, to which something had to be sacrificed in the case of a cruiser.
The hon. Member for Barnard Castle raised two important points, both covered by the Dockyard Committee. In connection with the apprentice matter, it was not a question of an old order, but of contract, and the hon. Member for Plymouth had recognised that the contract could not be broken. The hon. Member had made his criticisms from a business standpoint, and he was perfectly prepared to accept that standpoint, with this reservation that the business the Admiralty were carrying on was not the business of private shipbuilding, but the business of running the British Navy. They must therefore widen their horizon. They had to deal with this question of dockyards, not as a private firm dealt with it, not as a question merely of profit and loss on that particular business, but as a branch of the administration of the British Navy as a whole. And if there was one more valuable rule than another in the whole gamut of the rules, regulations, and traditions of the British Navy it was what was known as the sea-time rule. It was absolutely necessary that the administrative and executive work and the personnel should be intimately connected; and, although they were properly kept as separate as possible in regard to the work at any moment, it was necessary to avoid any cleavage. There was no principle more important 617 than that, and there must be alternation. The admiral-superintendent, a naval officer, must have a restricted term of service under the sea-time rule. Not long since a civil assistant had been appointed under him who was a permanent officer, and the whole matter of dockyard reorganisation from the admiral-superintendent down to the unskilled-labourer would, be under the purview of the Dockyard Committee. He appealed to the Committee to give the Vote.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said that Ireland received little or no benefit from this great naval expenditure, and as they contributed more than their just share there should be more money spent in Ireland than at present. Wales got a considerable proportion of the expenditure on the Navy; England had all the great dockyards; and in Scotland they had a big share of the shipbuilding, so that in Ireland they had grave cause of complaint. The wages earned in England and Scotland from Government work were so large that the towns derived great advantage. He understood that the money spent on works at Haulbowline was of a very trivial kind compared with that spent in England, Wales, and Scotland. He would, be very grateful to the hon. Gentleman if he could give the Irish Members any idea of how much Ireland derived from this great naval expenditure.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil
, said he desired to express his disappointment that no definite understanding had been given as to the dismissals or rates of wages of dockyard men. The hon. Gentleman had given great expression of sympathy but nothing practical had resulted. There was no justification for the dismissals from Government dockyards. In the case of Government yards, with any sort of decent management, the business should be nearly a constant quantity. They ought to have some assurance that this method of employing men for two or three months and then dismissing them should be discontinued. As to wages, he contended that 21s. a week was not a rate of wages that should be paid to a Government employee. The 618 demand of the men was most moderate—namely, that the minimum should be raised to 23s. 6d. a week, and the higher order of labourers to 24s. a week. He understood that the Government, through the Civil Lord, would not take these claims into consideration, but he insisted that they should be conceded, especially when it was remembered that, in the case of the specially skilled labourers, the rate of pay had been fixed so long ago as 1890. Only 2,000 men out of the 27,000 employed would be affected, and the cost would not be very great.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said that in answer to the hon. Member for Waterford he was afraid he could not give off-hand the figures relating to capital expenditure in Ireland.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said he wished again to draw attention to the overcrowding at Devonport. The Home Office had adopted the view that on account of the abnormal rate of rent the police there were entitled to special consideration. He asked that the Admiralty should inquire into the matter from their side also.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said he was quite prepared to consider any figures which the hon. Gentleman would submit to him. But there was a considerable difference between the case of the dockyard labourers and the police. The latter were required to be within a certain distance of the yard because of the special character of their duty. The dockyard labourer was not under the same obligation to live in the immediate vicinity of the yard. He hoped that the congestion at Devonport would presently be relieved, and that a fall of rents would follow.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
said that in view of the fact that he had had no reply from the Government to the point raised by him, he would move to reduce the vote by £100.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said that he thought he had given an Answer. The principle applied in these cases was one laid down by the House itself—namely, that the same wages were to be paid to Government employees as were paid in similar trades in the district. The whole of the employment in the dockyards was graded,
§ and if they raised the wages of one class of men they would have to raise wages throughout all the grades. It was a matter which required to be looked into very carefully.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 70; Noes, 116. (Division List No. 221.)621
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Allen, Charles P.||Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Joyce, Michael||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Bell, Richard||Kearley, Hudson E.||Reddy, M.|
|Boland, John||Kennedy, P. J. (Westmeath, N.)||Richards, Thomas|
|Brigg, John||Kennedy, Vincent P. (Cavan, W.||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Lamont, Norman||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Caldwell, James||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Runciman, Walter|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Lundon, W.||Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lyell, Charles Henry||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Crean, Eugene||MaeVeagh, Jeremiah||Sheehy, David|
|Cremer, William Randal||M'Kean, John||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Crooks, William||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Cullinan, J.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Sullivan, Donal|
|Delany, William||Murphy, John||Tomkinson, James|
|Devlin, CharlesRamsay(Galway||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Toulmin, George|
|Doogan, P. C.||Newnes, Sir George||Ure, Alexander|
|Eve, Harry Trelawney||O'Brien, Kendal (TipperaryMid||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Ffreneh, Peter||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Keir Hardie and Mr. Henderson|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Connor, John (Kildarc, N.)|
|Hammond, John||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)|
|Higham, John Sharp||O'Dowd, John|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hamilton, Marq. of(L'nd'nderry|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Corbett, A, Cameron (Glasgow||Hardy, Laurence(Kent, Ashford|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Heaton, John Henniker|
|Arnold-Forster. Rt. Hn. Hugh O.||Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Davenport, William Bromley-||Hogg, Lindsay|
|Balcarres, Lord||Dickson, Charles Scott||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Howard, John (Kent. Faverslam|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. GeraldW. (Leeds||Doughty, Sir George||Hunt, Rowland|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Jessel, Captain Herbert Morton|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Duke, Henry Edward||Keswick, William|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart||Kimber, Sir Henry|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Fellowes, RtHn. Ailywyn Edw.||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Bond, Edward||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants. Fareham|
|Brassey, Albert||Finch, Rt. Hon, George H.||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Finlay, Sir R. B. (Inv'rn'ssB'ghs||Leveson-Gower. Frederick N. S.|
|Bull, William James||Fisher, William Hayes||Long. Rt. Hn. Walter(Bristol, S.|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ.||Fitz Gerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Lowe, Francis William|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Flower, Sir Ernest||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Forster, Henry William||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Gardner, Ernest||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)|
|Chainberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A(Worc.||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Chapman, Edward||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriesshire|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury||Milvain, Thomas|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Hain, Edward||Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N|
|Montagu. Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Morgan, DavidJ. (Walthamstow||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Morrell, George Herbert||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Tuff, Charles|
|Morrison, James Archibald||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Turnour, Viscount|
|Percy, Earl||Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Sloan, Thomas Henry||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Plummer, Sir Walter R.||Smith, RtHnJ. Parker (Lanarks||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Spear, John Ward||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lanes.|
|Reid, James (Greenock)||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.|
|Robertson, Herbert Hackney||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Round, Rt. Hon. James||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
Motion made, and Question, "That the debate be now adjourned"—(Mr. A. J. Balfour),—put, and agreed to.
§ 2. £4,816,900, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Matériel.
§ 3. £7,827,800, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Contract Work
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,256,600, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on March 31st, 1906."
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.