§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,905,200, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at Home and Abroad, including the cost of Superintendence, Purchase of Sites, Grants in Aid, and other Charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1906."778
§ *THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. ARTHUR LEE, Hampshire, Fareham)
said that, in view of the modest character of the Estimate this year, his remarks would be brief. The effective portion of the Vote, that which was allotted to actual works, showed a considerable decrease—£110,574. The only items which showed a substantial increase were under Naval barracks, General Fleet Services. This increase was mainly owing to the new quarters at Whale Island and the provision of depôts for submarine boats. There was also a small increase in the item for naval armaments, which was due to the provision of torpedo ranges at Hong-Kong and Malta. The other main increase was for grants in aid of works. This item was accounted for by the fact that the New South Wales Government had agreed to provide, free of cost, the storage accommodation required by the Navy for Victualling services in Australia; but it was not convenient to them to pay that sum at once; and as the Admiralty were very anxious that the work should be begun at once, they had agreed to advance the money in the first place, the whole of it being repaid in annual instalments spread over the next five years. With these exceptions, every item in the Vote showed a decrease as compared with the Estimates last year, and every effort had been made to reduce the expenditure on naval works to the lowest possible figure compatible with efficiency. The only other salient point which he wished to draw attention to was with regard to the administration of expenditure under the Loans Act. In agreement with a desire expressed by the Committee last year, arrangements were now being made to amalgamate the Works Department proper and the Works Loans Department, and by this means he hoped that an economy of about £20,000 a year would be effected.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said he did not complain of the brevity of the remarks of the hon. Gentleman: indeed, he thought he would follow his example in that respect. Probably the most important thing in his statement was to be found in the concluding sentences, wherein he told them that the 779 administration under the Naval Works Loan Act, and under the Naval Works were to be amalgamated. The original division of responsibility was the outcome of a well-considered scheme having economy for its object; and yet, although the works under the Loans Act had grown more extensive, a new policy had been introduced, and it had been suggested that it would be more economical to return to the old system, and to have the statutory works as well as the loan works under the same supervision.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
The change, in the first place, was not made on the ground of economy but from sheer necessity, because the Works Department of the day was small and not capable of dealing with great works. Now it has been gradually built up, and it has been possible, as well as compatible with economy, to reduce the two separate staffs and combine them into one.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
repeated his suggestion that economy was the ground put forward for the original change. He further desired to know when the next Naval Works Bill would be introduced into the House. It was about time, he thought, they got information. He forgot whether any statement had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or anyone else as to the anticipated amount that would be asked for under the new Naval Works Bill, and he certainly hoped that they would get the information of the total estimated expenditure during the financial year just beginning. It was quite true that, apart from the increase in annuities and one or two other developments, there had been a decrease in the normal expenditure of the department amounting to £110,000. But he would like to know whether any portion of that reduction was attributable in any way to the new scheme of naval policy. He found that in the case of Jamaica there was a considerable item of £105,000 for a new official residence there. That was a large amount for a house, especially when they remembered that Jamaica was specifically mentioned in the last Memorandum as about to be reduced from its old status. Why, when the Admiralty were proposing 780 to degrade Jamaica from its present status as a naval station, should they be asking for such an enormous sum for an official residence? He would like further to know whether the hon. Gentleman was prepared to make any statement in regard to what was being done or to be done at Rosyth?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
An undertaking has been given that the sum of £200,000 already voted shall not be exceeded.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he was afraid he could not accept the hon. Member for King's Lynn as a conclusive authority, and he must press the Admiralty for an Answer to this Question. At any rate, could they confirm the hon. Member's statement?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that in the Report on the Appropriation Account it was specifically stated that the £200,000 was not to be exceeded.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said his hon. friend was quite mistaken. They were pledged, certainly, not to spend more than the £200,000 voted under the last Loans Bill during the existence of that Bill, but it was never supposed for one moment that they were going to create a naval base in Scotland for the total sum of £200,000. That sum, or the greater portion of it, had been spent mainly on the purchase of the site, and in due course, later in the session, when the Loan Bill of 1905 was introduced, he would lay before the House the full proposals of the Government for the development of the site, and ask the sanction of the House for the necessary expenditure.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he believed the amount paid for the site was £170,000, and he was glad to know that when the Naval Works Loan Bill was brought in they would hear a little more as to the intentions of the Admiralty. He accepted that as a pledge on the hon. Gentleman's part that they would have a careful estimate of the proposed expenditure on that new naval base. He hope that the Naval Works Bill would be produced as early as possible, and that they would be 781 given as much information at the present time as could be given, so that they might get some intelligible idea as to the extent of the naval budget they were dealing with.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that certainly his memory was very distinct that the Report on the Appropriation Accounts and the Papers connected therewith contained an absolute pledge that no more money than the £200,000 already voted should be expended. It was his surprise at finding that which caused him to mention it that day. Now he understood he was entirely mistaken, and possibly the official through whom that assurance was conveyed was also mistaken. Were they to take it that the expenditure of that £200,000 was only to apply to the end of the present year, and, if so, were they to have some tremendous expenditure corresponding to that upon Gibraltar or some other first-class naval base? If that were so, he looked on it as a very serious matter. It was a serious adumbration of the intentions of the Admiralty in regard to that site. The hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty must be aware that it had been generally thought that Rosyth was to be abandoned. It was true that he had denied that statement within the last few days, but they were left for some time under the impression, conveyed through the ordinary channels of information—the Press—that an alteration had taken place in the policy of the Admiralty and that Rosyth was to be abandoned. Now they were told that it was not to be abandoned, and he supposed they were to have an expenditure of some millions incurred upon it. Of course, if the hon. Gentleman would say at once that it was only proposed to spend a small sum in addition to the £200,000, he would make no further remarks, but if the outlay was to amount to some millions, he assured him that the proposal would meet with his most uncompromising resistance, and he trusted he would be supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House in opposing the creation of a naval base which was unnecessary, which was strategically false and mischievous, and which would prove an enormous additional burden to that now placed upon 782 the country by this monstrous system of Naval Loans Acts.
Now he came to the statement that the two administrative bodies were to be amalgamated—the Naval Works Loans and the administrative staff. He did not quite understand why that was not done before, and he confessed it aroused suspicion in his mind. Apparently the Naval Works Loans Department, instead of being temporary, was to be made permanent. He saw a very serious objection to that because it would saddle the country permanently with salaries which it had been anticipated they would get rid of when the loan works were completed, and it would also saddle the country with pensions. In the alternative, they would have to face this position, that the Admiralty engaged on permanent conditions, with the permanent advantages of permanent Civil servants, this staff, when they professedly were only to be engaged on work which in its nature was temporary, and was in due course to come to an end. If that were so, it indicated a determination on the part of the Admiralty to go on with Naval Works Loans Acts for an indefinite period. Surely some further explanation was required in regard to that. He would not go into the question of Jamaica. It was a very serious one, but it was only one among many questions of the same nature, Why, although the Admiralty were going to abandon that station, they were, nevertheless, incurring increasing expenditure in regard to it, was a thing which ought to be inquired into. Of course, it might be they were only fulfilling undertakings already entered into, but some further information was required. He wished to say, in conclusion, that the whole of this system of naval works by loan was a most monstrous and false system, and that in the case of Rosyth a tremendous blunder had been made. If the House was to be asked for a large sum in addition to the £200,000 already voted he certainly should most strongly oppose it.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
said he took some interest in the matter of Rosyth in the earlier stages, and he thought the House was now in possession 783 of one of the most important intimations they had ever yet had in regard to naval works. He understood the Civil Lord of the Admiralty to promise the full proposals of he Government in regard to Rosyth when the Naval Works Bill came to be discussed.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
What I said was that I could make no statement about Rosyth, as regards the future, until the Naval Works Loans Bill was introduced, but that I would lay then whatever proposals the Government had in regard to it before the House.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW
said that exactly illustrated the position in which the House of Commons stood. He did not think his hearing was defective, but he certainly had understood the hon. Gentleman to promise them that when the Naval Works Bill was introduced he would give them the full proposals of the Government. Now they were told they were only to have such proposals as were in the mind of the Government, and there was some difference in that, because then they would only have the proposals up to a certain extent. The fact was that the Government at the present moment did not know what it was going to do with Rosyth as a naval base. It had entered on a large transaction, and it had bought property at a ridiculous and even at a scandalous price from the landed proprietor—it had paid eighty-five years purchase for that tract of land. He challenged that transaction at the time, and he still challenged is as a notable instance of how the Government had failed to use its Parliamentary powers for the acquisition of land, and had, in consequence, had to pay a much higher price than they ought to have done. He did not lay any blame on the landed proprietor, because having a soft Government to deal with he had extorted a very substantial price.
He would like to explain what was the local position in regard to Rosyth, and he wished to do it now in order that it might not be said when the Naval Works Loan Bill came forward that he had made any reservation 784 in regard to the local interests involved. There were important local as well as national interests concerned. The county of Fife had furnished itself with a water supply, and the Government had become responsible for one-third of the cost of a not inconsiderable water scheme for supplying the population which was to be at this naval base. But he wanted to know where was that population, when was it to be there, would it be there within this decade or the next decade or even within the next generation? He believed that, unless they had another ridiculous outbreak of Jingoism in the country it would be postponed for at least half a century. That was the situation. The base had been projected, but the works which were to be established on it were now going to be postponed. The late Secretary to the Admiralty on one occasion spoke of Rosyth as an eventual base. He would like to know what was meant by that? It was not an eventual purchase of the site. They had not merely obtained the right to acquire the land and to hold it in reserve. The locality were led to believe there would be an increase of population, and the county and the locality arranged their business in view of present and future requirements. If the statement as to its being an eventual base had been made at the beginning the locality would not have formed the expectations as to the increase of the population which it had been led to form, and would not have made arrangements on the assumption that the Government meant prompt business. The fact was, the whole of this transaction was a sample of the way in which the Government went on. It was a spendthrift Government; it mismanaged its business; it started on a scheme and then found that it was not sufficiently urgent to be proceeded with.
He held a very strong opinion that the whole of this scheme of naval works was opposed to the general financial system of the country. When the Naval Works Bill came forward they would get nothing but vague words about eventualities, and the one fact would stand out that the land had been acquired by the Government at a rate only justifiable on the assumption of instant and urgent need.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said, as regarded the question of the hon. Member for King's Lynn, he thought the hon. Gentleman had overlooked the fact with regard to Rosyth that it was a total Vote of £200,000, and it was taken as a total Vote, because at that time no estimate either as to time or money could be given in respect of it, and what the House complained of then was the fact that the total proposal was made on the promise of something, the effect of which could not be foreseen. He entirely agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Member for Dundee as to the question of procedure in this House and the policy pursued with respect to loans for works. He thought if the Navy was to be sufficiently economically administered it must be on the basis of broad facts and broad principles, and his complaint was that they could not get from the Admiralty any clear statement of those principles by reason of the methods by which this House was approached for money. The whole thing was chopped up into little bits and they were never shown the whole account. He was sorry that they had a prospect of another demand being made for naval loans, following and not preceding the Naval Estimates, on this Works Vote. He did not think it was in the interest of the Navy or in the interests of the Admiralty. He had every confidence in the Admiralty himself, and had had for many years, and he believed they did work on broad principles, but they were open to the suspicion, and recent facts had increased the suspicion he had before, that they had taken action without due consideration with regard to this matter. The House, in his opinion, was placed in a very difficult position for discussing the Works Vote, because they had not the whole policy of the Admiralty before them
. To complete his observations upon the expenditure upon this matter, he might say that the Memorandum recently issued was an exposition of the world-wide policy which would have to be contemplated by this country, yet we were abolishing, or, rather, largely reducing, and in fact taking the ground that certain bases were not necessary. He did not wish to go over the whole of them, but let them take 786 the case of Jamaica, which had been mentioned. The House would recollect that in the Memorandum dealing with this distribution of bases, the West Indian station was described as extending from the Equator to the Pole. That gave a very graphic description of the extent of the area, and they must remember that in that area the operations of commerce and trade which affected us were very great, and when they came to compare Rosyth on the one side with Jamaica on the other there was something incongruous in the position. The North Sea was not large when they considered the very small area of the German Ocean and all the waters to the eastward of England and to the westward of Europe as compared with the area between the Equator and the Pole. It was certainly incongruous when they were told the base at Jamaica was to be abolished because it was not wanted; that in these days of steam it was too near England; but that when they came to the German Ocean the contention of the Government was that Portsmouth was too far off, and that another base must be established within a few hours, steaming distance further north. He merely indicated that to establish his contention that our naval policy must be founded on broad principles, and based on a broad policy which had regard to the whole world and dealt with large areas. Therefore, this question could not be dealt with by the House unless the whole policy was before them.
He noticed in this Vote there was a charge for the fifteenth instalment in aid of a dock at Halifax. Now the arrangements had totally altered since the time when the last Estimate was placed before the House with regard to the relations of this country, and of the Admiralty, to Halifax. So far as the garrison there was concerned, the Imperial business of providing for its defence was to be taken over by the Dominion Government, and so far as the policy of the Admiralty was concerned, it was to reduce expenditure and to create a sort of cadre. What that meant he did not know, and therefore he thought the House was entitled to have a real explanation of the meaning that was put to this new word "cadre," because a 787 dock was part of the appliances necessary for any sort of naval base. They were therefore entitled to press for information as to what exactly was going to happen under this system of cadre. What was going to happen to the machinery there? What was going to happen to the dock? Who was to be responsible, for its upkeep? and who was to pay for it?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. PRETYMAN, Suffolk, Wood-bridge)
said this was no question of a dockyard. The dock was a private dock and the instalments were paid in order to secure, if necessary, the prior use of it.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said he was perfectly well aware of what his hon. friend stated, but whether it was a private dock or not, the fact of subsidising it was sufficient reason for seeing why that arrangement was made and they should have once and for all some explanation of the meaning of this new word cadre as applied to naval bases. Another point on which he desired some explicit information was the item of £88,000 for buildings on Whale Island for the accommodation of sub-lieutenants. Of late the policy of the Admiralty had been to get the officers and men more on the water, more often afloat, than used to be the case. Was it not the fact that our "nucleus of crews" system and our new rules with regard to the distribution of the Fleet as it affected the personnel had not had the effect of diminishing the numbers requiring barrack accommodation? and was it not the case that the Government had built close to Whale Island at immense cost a most luxurious barrack?
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said in that case he wanted to have it clearly proved that this expenditure on bricks and mortar on Whale Island was really necessary. He quite admitted that a great deal of time was lost by young officers having to go from the Naval College right through the dockyard to Whale Island, but he could not think that all this expenditure on bricks and mortar was necessary, and inasmuch as he had 788 raised his voice against expenditure of this kind for many years, he must press for this explanation. What he wanted to know was whether the result of the system of nucleus crews and the new distribution of the personnel had not reduced the occupation of barracks, upon which £2,500,000 had recently been spent. It was not right that this question of naval works and buildings should be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion. The whole matter should be placed before the House and an opportunity afforded of fairly considering the principles of the policy upon which the Government were acting.
§ *MR. McCRAE (Edinburgh,E.)
thought the Cotnmiitee had a right to complain of the perfunctory way in which this Vote had been introduced. No one would have imagined from the statement of the Civil Lord that a sum of £1,900,000 was involved. In 1899 the Vote amounted to only £730,000, so that in seven years it had increased nearly three-fold. The hon. Member would probably say that it was largely due to the annuities for the payment of advances, but that simply added force to the complaints which had been made against the policy of Naval and Military Works Bills. The Estimate for repayment had increased from £630,000 last year to over £1,000,000 this year, and that he took to be entirely due to expenditure already incurred and debt already created. If that were so, the indebtedness on account of naval works had been increased during the year by £5,000,000. This was borne out by the National Debt Return, which showed that the outstanding debt under Naval Works had grown from £11,000,000 in 1904 to £16,000,000. He submitted that it was not fair that expenditure of this amount should be made after the introduction of the Estimates for the year. The Committee was now considering the Naval Estimates, but they had not yet seen the Works Bill for the expenditure to be incurred daring the present year. That was bad finance, as it did not give the House any idea as to the expenditure actually to be incurred. A further reason why the Naval Works. Bill should be introduced before the Naval Estimates were passed was that it dealt not merely with new works but 789 with the completion of works to which the House was already committed. The policy of dealing piecemeal with naval expenditure ought to come to an end, and the Committee ought to have a clear statement of the responsibilities to be incurred during the financial year before the financial year began.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
desired to revert to the statement he made earlier in the afternoon. He remarked then that the Admiralty had pledged themselves not to spend more than £200,000 on Rosyth, but the representative of the Admiralty denied it. He had now the document with him and would read the evidence of Colonel Raban and Major Pilkington given before the Public Accounts Committee in 1904, and the Treasury Minute thereon. The Committee asked—In that way we are giving you more and more latitude, and the House of Commons is having less control.To which the Admiralty witness replied—At Rosyth you gave us authority to undertake work to the extent of £200,000, and no liability has been incurred beyond the £200,000. We have pledged ourselves that we shall not incur liabilities in excess of that, and the Treasury hold us to that. That is the obligation upon us.The Treasury Minute, dated November 30th, 1904, dealing with this matter stated—The Committee express the opinion that Parliament should not be asked on a token Vote of a few thousand pounds to commit itself to the construction of a new work of which the total cost may run into millions and of which not even an approximate estimate is submitted. My Lords, while entirely concurring with the principle of the Committee's observations, do not admit that in practice Parliament has been so committed. In connection, for example, with the token provision of £50,000 in the Naval Works Act of 1903 for Chatham Dockyard Extension, my Lords in Treasury Letter of June 25th last stated that they do not accept the contention that Parliament has sanctioned this service in principle, further than to provide the above-mentioned sum for preliminary work. Similarly with regard to Rosyth the Admiralty representative before the Committee stated: 'At Rosyth you gave us authority to undertake work to the extent of £200,000, and no liability has been incurred beyond the £200,000. We have pledged ourselves that we shall not incur liabilities in excess of that.'Did the Admiralty pledge themselves to that now?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that when he stated that the Admiralty had pledged themselves that they would not incur liabilities beyond £200,000 it was denied, but he submitted that he had now made good his assertion. Of course if the Admiralty got further authority from Parliament they could incur expenditure of £100,000,000 or £1,000,000,000. The Public Accounts Committee, the Treasury, and the official superiors of the two representatives of the Admiralty on the Treasury Bench, had stated that Parliament was not to be considered as committed to a large expenditure on a mere token Vote of £200,000. To placate the Committee the Admiralty witnesses stated that they had not incurred, and would not incur, liabilities beyond the £200,000, and when the hon. Gentlemen below him came—if they dared to come—and asked for an expenditure of three, four, five, or six million pounds on Rosyth, he would call upon their official superiors and the Treasury to make good the pledge they had given with regard to the £200,000. His belief was that the difficulties which this House might interpose in the way of the execution of the lunatic scheme for a naval base at Rosyth would be as nothing compared with those that the Admiralty would meet with when they went to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he was startled by the statement of the hon. Member for King's Lynn that the Admiralty had pledged themselves never to spend more than £200,000 at Rosyth.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said that no Department could pledge themselves to incur liabilities beyond the amount sanctioned by Parliament. It was true that at the time of the purchase of the Chilian warships the Chancellor of the Exchequer committed an act of illegality behind the back of Parliament, and he had to come to Parliament for an indemnity. The 791 language used by the Treasury and quoted by the hon. Member for King's Lynn was not quite of the same character as that now used by the Secretary to the Admiralty. This was an important financial question, and it now appeared to have become a Treasury matter. If the statement which had been read as to the Treasury policy in regard to this matter had any other meaning to that given by the Secretary to the Admiralty the House ought to know whether there was any other interpretation to be put upon it besides that which had been stated by the hon. Member for King's Lynn. This being a Treasury matter, and the Treasury having given a pledge to one of the Committees of the House, he appealed to the hon. Gentleman to let the representatives of the Treasury know in order that they might inform the House what their policy was.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said that the statement read out by the hon. Member for King's Lynn was given by the witness in answer to a question. He did not think this was a point on which it was necessary for the Treasury to intervene, for there was nothing whatever behind the answer. It merely emphasised the fact that the Admiralty, with or without the Treasury authority, had no intention of doing anything which would put them during the currency of the present Loan Bill to any expenditure beyond the £200,000 authorised by Parliament.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)
said that the hon. Member for King's Lynn had not gone into the whole, matter of these token Votes, because three such Votes had been taken. It was clear from the answer given before the Public Accounts Committee that the House was not committed to construct either the Rosyth or the Chatham docks. The Admiralty were bound not to exceed in two years £200,000 for Rosyth. As a matter of fact they had not exceeded that amount at Rosyth, but they had exceeded the amount voted in the two other token Votes. For the coastguard naval stations £50,000 was taken, but the Admiralty spent £89,000, and they had to go to the Treasury to permit them to 792 exceed the £50,000, and the Treasury gave them permission. The Chatham Dock extension was an exact parallel to the Rosyth case, for they got permission to spend £50,000, but they actually incurred liabilities amounting to £70,000. The Admiralty again went to the Treasury, but this time the Treasury stood out against their demand. He wished to ask the Secretary to the Treasury how he reconciled that with the statement contained in the Paper issued that morning with regard to the Chatham Dock extension. This form of finance was a very bad one, and they had often protested against it, and he hoped there would be an alteration in the mode of drawing up Loan Bills which had been adopted by the present Government.
He was disappointed with the meagre statement made by the Civil Lord in introducing this Vote. The fundamental objection they took to this method of procedure was that they had not really before them anything like the full proposals of the Government with regard to the naval works of the year. What was put before them was a mere fraction of the expenditure upon the naval works with which they were dealing. They were not only without details as to the sum to be taken, but also as to the actual amount to be taken. He suggested that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should conform to the practice of his predecessors and tell them what amounts were wanted for military and naval works during the present year, so that they might know what were the obligations of the country in this respect. The Admiralty had not only departed from the system of making a full statement, but they had also adopted the practice of introducing their Bills later, when the House could not give them the consideration they deserved. This was a Vote which he should like to see largely increased in order that the country might be made aware of what was actually being spent. For the year ending March 31st this year they had spent £3,500,000 in naval works, and that made an expenditure during the year of £5,000,000 for naval works. Let them assume that the expenditure under this heading for the 793 current year would be the same as in the past year. In that case if they really wanted to realise what the country was being called upon for naval works they would find that it was not £2,000,000 they were voting, but £5,500,000. Why should the Government conceal this matter from the consideration of the House? It was all due to the mischievous system of introducing this form of loan expenditure.
In many cases there was no distinction whatever between the character of the expenditure under the Loan Acts and the expenditure in the Navy Estimates. There were certain very large works for which there might be some justification in asking that they should be carried out by loan and repaid after a considerable period of years, but anyone who examined the Loans Act would find that there was expenditure of an identical character both under the Naval Estimates and under the Loans Act. The Admiralty asked for £40,000 or £50,000 in the Estimates for dredging, and he observed that last year they spent £120,000 for the same purpose under the Loans Act. Why should these two charges be separated? Why should not both be charged on the annual Votes? It had been stated that the charge in one case was in regard to the construction of a new dockyard, and that, therefore, the Admiralty were justified in charging the expenditure to the Loan Fund. That reason would not stand criticism for a moment in view of what should be the control of the House of Commons over the expenditure of the taxpayers' money for certain specific purposes. There were no hospitals on the Loan Fund. Why should they all be on the annual Votes and none on the Loan Fund? Barracks were sometimes on the Loan Fund and sometimes on the Votes. There was a certain amount of torpedo expenditure in the loan account and another amount in the Vote now before the Committee. Why should not the whole sum for these specific purposes be included in one item? For many years past there had been an item for coaling stations in various parts of the world, but there was none this time. He was naturally a little suspicious at the disappearance of that item. Did it mean that there was no longer to be any sum asked for coaling depôts at home 794 and abroad? Did it mean that they policy of the Admiralty in this matter was to borrow the money in future? That would be a step in the wrong direction. He was beginning to hope that they were retracing their steps in the right direction.
The extravagance of which he complained tended to a confusion of the accounts and made it impossible for the House of Commons really to understand what was being taken out of the taxpayers' pockets for different specific purposes. It also introduced laxity of control. An item was introduced one year in the Votes, and the work to which the money was to be applied was not constructed, or only half constructed, and then the item disappeared from the Votes. The House of Commons did not notice these omissions from the Votes, but a year or two afterwards they found that the items had been transferred to the Loan Fund. Could anything be worse than that? He instanced the case of a store which was to be erected at the Cape at a cost of £2,000. It disappeared from the Estimates, and they afterwards learned from the Comptroller and Auditor General that the charge was transferred to the Loan Fund. It was ridiculous that this rich country when erecting a trumpery store at a cost of £2,000 should not pay outright instead of spreading it over a number of years. When the Vote now before the Committee was under discussion a couple of years ago he pressed the then Secretary to the Admiralty for details of an item in regard to the purchase of land. The hon. Gentleman replied that it would be very inexpedient to give the information because it might spoil the market. He could not help agreeing with that contention. They now found that the Vote included, among other things, £4,000 for the purchase of a church and parsonage at Portsmouth. It might be very right and proper that there should be for the benefit of the seamen and others a church and parsonage, but he should like to ask why this charge was puts on the Votes. In the Vote they were discussing to-day there were items for two churches, and the Committee had, therefore, an opportunity of expressing their opinion about them. It was originally proposed to pay for the 795 church and parsonage at Portsmouth out of money included in the Estimates. He did not know for what reason the charge was taken out of the Votes and put on the Loan Fund. The church and parsonage at Portsmouth were now to be purchased for £5,000, and the payment of the money was to be spread over thirty years. The whole thing was to be charged to the extension of Portsmouth Dockyard. Was that a fair and honest way of treating the House of Commons? He thought the whole of this system ought to be done away with, and that they should return to the former practice of the House, which was to put the Naval Works expenditure on the Votes of the year. There were some signs that the Government were disposed to take steps in that direction. There were considerable sums for new works now included in the Votes which three or four years ago would have been put on the Loan Fund. This showed that the promise given by the Secretary to the Admiralty two years ago was beginning to bear some fruit. The promise was that in the Naval Loans Bill for the future no new works would be introduced. Here they had new works on the Vote for the year, and it seemed as if they were returning to a saner system for the future. He hoped there would be presented to the House at an early date the Naval Works Bill in order that they might be able to examine the details, and have an opportunity of considering them in all their bearings.
As to the dockyards at Jamaica, Halifax, and Esquimault, hon. Members would observe that the columns with regard to personnel in the Estimates were blank, but there was still to be a staff retained at Bermuda. The garrison at Bermuda was very largely reduced, and he thought the Committee should get from the Civil Lord a statement of what was proposed to be done there in future. What was the policy of the Government with regard to all these dockyards in future? From a statement made by the Secretary of the Treasury it appeared that the amount expended on naval works during the ten years ending March 31st, 1904, at Bermuda, Halifax, Jamaica, and Esquimault was £609,000. That was in addition to the military expenditure at these places, which was very great indeed. They 796 were now told that after all this expenditure these bases were practically to be given up. There was no charge in the Vote for caretakers, and he wished to know how the buildings and works were to be kept in proper repair unless there was a staff to look after them.
§ MR. JOHN DEWAR (Inverness)
said he wanted to know what the Admiralty were doing in regard to the erection of batteries in the Western Highlands for the training of the men of the Volunteer Naval Reserve. He understood that, notwithstanding previous promises, no progress had been made with them, although they had been started three years ago by the Admiralty. More than 600 Naval Reserve Volunteers had joined there and had no facilities for training in gunnery.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that the whole question of batteries for the Naval Reserves in the Western Highlands and elsewhere was now under consideration. The hon. Member for Dundee, speaking of the amalgamation of the Works Loan Department and the Works Department, was under a misapprehension. He said that the Works Loan Department was created for the purposes of economy. That was not so. It was created because the Works Department was not large enough to deal with all the great works which were contemplated under the Works Loans Acts, and it was necessary to relieve that department of a portion of this work. The new department created was only of a temporary nature to be maintained during the progress of the loan works. He was sure the hon. Gentleman would not object to a modification of that policy in the interests of economy, when the Works Department was sufficiently reinforced as to be able to take over the supervision of all these works.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that the change had not yet come into effect, but the director was to be Colonel Raban. The present engineer-in-chief was Sir Henry Pilkington, and his department would be gradually reduced during the current year and finally closed 797 by March 31st. The Director of Works would then have sole responsibility, and there would be a saving of about £20,000 on staff expenses. He was not disposed to quarrel with the hon. Member for Dundee when he said that it was an unfortunate thing that the entire expenditure for the year for naval works was not all shown under one head. On the other hand, neither he nor the present Government were responsible for introducing this system of Loan Bills. It was introduced by the Government of which the hon. Gentleman was a Member. He confessed he did not hold it up to admiration. It had been suggested that the Loan Bill for the next two years should have been introduced before this time. He was very anxious that it should be introduced as early as possible; but it was not for the Admiralty to settle the order of the business of the House. Moreover, a great many of the details had not yet been approved, but he hoped that it would be introduced at an early date. The hon. Member for Dundee asked whether the reduction on Vote 10 this year was in any way due to the new naval policy. Certainly it was. It was obvious that the mere closing of some of the naval stations abroad must effect a reduction in repairs and maintenance, and in the staff kept up at these ports.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that the closing of Halifax necessitated a reduction of the staff. It was said that if Jamaica was going to be given up as a station why was it that they were going on spending money there. They were under contract obligations in regard to particular buildings which were nearly finished; and he was sure the hon. Gentleman would admit that it would be the very worst policy to leave houses without a roof if they could be completed at a comparatively small expense, so that they could be disposed of in the open market or transferred to the Colonial Government. He was not able at that moment to indicate to the House anything with regard to the future expenditure on Rosyth. The hon. Member for King's Lynn talked of the stupendous expenditure 798 on Rosyth and asked how was it that the rumours of the abandonment of that naval base had not been contradicted. Well, if the Admiralty were to spend their time in contradicting or verifying all the rumours that appeared in the papers in regard to naval policy, it would be difficult to proceed with their ordinary business. He asked the Committee to be patient. He could promise that when the Loans Bill was introduced the Admiralty would be in a position to give full information with regard to the expenditure on Rosyth. The hon. Member for King's Lynn said that the Works Department was not a big enough or strong enough body to deal with all these works. That department had been gradually built up until a sufficient number of officers had been trained to carry out the works under the Naval Loans Act. An increasing proportion of the works under loan had been carried out by the Works Department; and when the personnel of the Works Department was sufficiently strong to take over the whole, economy would be effected.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that in neither the Works Department nor the Works Loans Department were all the officers permanent. Many were taken on temporarily when work was pressing, and discharged when work was slack. He could not really gather what was the true attitude of the hon. and learned Member for Hawick Burghs in regard to Rosyth. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to be running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. He was outraged at the vast expenditure incurred in connection with Rosyth, and, on the other hand, he was outraged that his friends in Scotland were not receiving all the benefit they anticipated from the creation of a naval base in the waters of the Firth of Forth. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of an "eventual naval base" at Rosyth and condemned them because they had bought the land for it. That was surely a logical sequence of events. If a gentleman bought a site 799 for a house he hoped he paid for it before he proceeded with his intention to build a house. He did not see that there was any ground for criticism of the Admiralty because they had purchased a site suitable for a naval base. His hon. and gallant friend the Member for Great Yarmouth had joined the chorus against the Loans Bill.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that he did not think that that was the practice of the hon. Member himself when in office.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that his right hon. friend the Member for Great Yarmouth stated that there was no more necessity for Loans Bills. There was, however, a number of arrears to be disposed of, and then he hoped that the system of Loans Bills would be abandoned, and that all expenditure would be shown on the Estimates. As regarded the Halifax Dock, also mentioned by his right hon. friend, the Admiralty had the use of the dock without any responsibility for its upkeep and the maintenance of the machinery. That obviated the necessity of providing a separate dock. His right hon. friend also wished to know what the expenditure was.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that he thought it would be out of order to enter on the general question of naval policy.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that the arrangement was that the care and preservation of the buildings and of all the appliances should be undertaken by local authorities, either the Royal Engineers or the Colonial Works Department.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
asked whether the cost would be voted by the House or borne by the Canadian Government.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that the repairing work would be carried out when possible by the Royal Engineers, and the charge would naturally fall on the Vote before the Committee. The charge had only been incurred from the 31st March last; and it was impossible to show the details at the present moment. He hoped, however, that the details would be shown in future years.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that at the moment he was not able to answer that Question. His right hon. friend also objected to certain expenditure at Whale Island, but that was not incurred in connection with gunnery courses solely, but because the quarters were required for other courses.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said it was a special case. It was an emergency; and the expenditure was incurred with the full sanction of the Treasury.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that the Treasury agreed to the whole expenditure. As regarded the argument of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, they all recognised that expenditure should only be incurred with the full sanction of Parliament. Sufficient money had, however, been sanctioned for two years; and the Admiralty were accordingly in no way exceeding their powers. No new items had been included. A definite pledge had been given, not only by the representatives of the Admiralty, but by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that point. The hon. Member for Perthshire said that he wished the Vote would be increased. Such a remark was rarely heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite. 801 He, himself, agreed to the extent that he should be very glad to see the whole of the works expenditure shown and discussed together under the one head. With regard to the coaling depots which had been referred to, there was no mystery about their disappearance from the Estimates. Having been completed no further expenditure was required upon them; and they were, accordingly, removed from the Vote.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said, before going into the question which was the subject-matter of the discussion, ho should like to ask whether the new buildings for the accommodation of the Explosives Committee were connected with the experiments that were being carried on by the Committee to discover a less erosive form of cordite powder. The erosive quality of the cordite was admitted, and they were told last year that experiments had been made and that already they had led to an improvement of the cordite powder. That was a statement of a rather speculative, but somewhat reassuring character, and there was naturally anxiety upon the point, because, although he should not be in order in alluding to the life of the 12-inch guns, every one knew that it was very short owing to the erosive quality of the cordite powder used.
He thought they were in a more hopeless and muddled position than they had ever been in before in regard to the conflict between the Works Vote and the Naval Works Bill. The confusion which had always existed had been increased by the sudden and complete change of policy on the part of the Government. His hon. friend the Member for Dundee was right in his contention as to the character of the first Loan Bill introduced by a Liberal Government. It was to be an annual Bill, and a Return was to be laid annually before Parliament. The items had a wholly different signification when they were supplied every year from that which they had when they were supplied every two years. The arrangement had, therefore, become hopelessly confused, and no one knew where they stood as between the Loan Acts and the Works Vote. The Civil Lord had admitted that he could not anticipate the 802 statement that would be made later in the session on the introduction of the Loan Bill because the policy of the Government was not yet settled.
The fact that the policy of the Government was not yet settled affected the question of Rosyth. The charge against the Admiralty, in which the whole House joined, was that they paid a Very high price for the land at Rosyth as an emergency measure for which no case could be made out. Difference of opinion came in when they came to consider the ultimate future of Rosyth. He admitted that in the ultimate future it would not be possible to rely on Portsmouth and the Solent, and even on Portland, as we had relied upon them in the past. We should have to look forward to removing some of our establishments from the Channel because of the rapidly increasing dangers to navigation in the Channel in time of war. But that was a case for deliberation and the discussion beforehand of all the considerations involved, and there was no case for a sudden purchase and the payment of an extravagant price. It was no secret that the Admiralty would have gone on with the Rosyth scheme some time ago if the Treasury had consented to it, but it was not a question for the Admiralty. The change of policy would involve great expenditure, and it was therefore a policy in regard to which the Treasury would have a preponderating voice. He was, therefore, convinced that in the Naval Works Bill the proposals in regard to Rosyth, although they might involve large ultimate expenditure, would not involve any large immediate expenditure. The confusion on this occasion was increased by the absence from that House of any member of the Cabinet who could give authoritive expression to the views of the Cabinet on these questions. If Lord Goschen were still in this House and had been First Lord of the Admiralty he would have given to the House an expression of opinion which would have satisfied the Committee, not perhaps that he was right, but that he understood what he was doing. They had not that expression this evening. That was not due to want of ability on the part of hon. Members on the Front Bench, but to the want of authority 803 which they could not in their position command.
The confusion between the Works Vote and the Loans Bill was illustrated by the fact that the list of dockyards now before the House was inexplicable without reference to the other list. Why was Wei-hai-Wei counted as a dockyard? The whole range of these Votes would have to be considered, and they would have to start afresh on all this works expenditure. There was one item not in this Estimate at all, an item that he thought was very important to this Estimate. Jamaica was in but Bermuda was out. Why was it the name of Bermuda did not appear in the list? Was it the policy of the Government to abandon Bermuda? He did not know what the future of Bermuda was to be and what expenditure was justified. Owing to the position in which they were placed it was hopeless for them to obtain any real information in regard to this Vote. All they could do was to insist that the Admiralty should clear their minds as to their policy and should make a frank statement of their policy to the House. The Committee would expect that if they passed this Works Vote the Admiralty would come under an undertaking to make a statement, upon the introduction of the Works Bill, in the presence of representatives of the Cabinet and the Exchequer of the intended policy with regard to dockyards and naval stations abroad. The Committee were dealing with the matter in a piecemeal way which was unworthy of the House of Commons. They could not come to any proper conclusion on the present occasion, and if the Vote were passed to-day it would be on the understanding that, as on previous occasions, a statement would be made and an opportunity for a proper discussion afforded at a later period.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said it would not be in order to enter upon the question of policy at any length; but, though he could not speak with authority on matters of policy, he thought he might say a few words to induce the Committee to pass the Vote. The policy in regard to naval stations might be shortly stated. We had stations in all parts of the world, acquired where possible to meet as far as they could be foreseen naval exigencies in 804 naval operations, having regard to possible enemies and our own resources. When the bases at Jamaica, Halifax, Trincomalee, and Esquimalt were created, naval necessities in the opinion of the Cabinet and the Admiralty required under the then conditions that they should be maintained as bases that would probably be used in the event of war. They were therefore equipped for the repair of ships, and ships were kept at these stations and were available at all times. What had now happened was that, as a matter of policy in regard to preparation for instant war, they were not considered likely to form part of the field of operations and come into use upon a declaration of war, and therefore ships were no longer based upon these particular stations, though they visited them. When ships were not based there it was no longer necessary to keep up expenditure for equipment. Facilities were there with permanent structures and machinery, but if they were not for present use there was no object in spending money in maintenance, but they would be available if in any particular warlike operations it became necessary to use them as a temporary base. It had been seen during the present war that the Japanese and Russian fleets had used improvised temporary bases. If the requirements of the British Navy demanded the use of a station as a base, the plant would be there, and it would be equipped; but it was not suggested that immediately on the outbreak of any war, without consideration of requirements, we should immediately send out re-equipment. The right hon. Baronet's criticism would be justified if that were intended. It was not the intention. The Admiralty believed it would not be an economic policy to spend money on the maintenance of a base simply because we had it, if they did not believe it would be likely to be required for war.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said there were such questions as trade routes and food supplies to be considered, and the whole of the previous policy of the Admiralty was concerned, but these questions could not now be debated.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said he was merely stating that, from the point of view he 805 had taken, the right hon. Baronet's criticisms were justified. He was now endeavouring to state what the Admiralty policy was, not the grounds upon which it rested, to justify sanction to the Vote. Bermuda was retained as a naval base, but the number of ships based there would be less than formerly; and therefore the expenditure upon the Bermuda establishment was reduced in proportion to the use to be made of it. As to the purchase of Rosyth, with great respect for the opinion of the right hon. Baronet he found a difficulty in understanding what he meant when be objected to the sudden purchase.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he meant the element of suddenness as it appeared to have affected the price.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
understood that the high price had been defended on the ground of the necessity for the sudden purchase.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said he had never put forward any such suggestion. The price was the best that could be obtained by private treaty, and information and experience at the disposal of the Government confirmed their view that resort to arbitration would not have been in the interests of economy. The purchase was made as part of a settled policy, and the Admiralty believed that a base at that particular point in the North Sea would have many advantages. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet as to the dangers of the narrow seas in time of war, but Rosyth would be more exempt from those dangers than Chatham.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said that all these points were fully considered before the Admiralty came to a decision.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said the difficulty which many Members felt in agreeing to this Vote 806 was not merely with regard to the distribution of the Fleet and the abandonment of certain coaling stations, but the absence of control on the part of Parliament over this Works Vote in connection with expenditure under Loans Acts. The control of Parliament was purely fictitious; there was no real control. They did not even know where certain branches of expenditure were to be found—whether they would be met out of yearly revenue or out of loans. A longer statement from the Civil Lord to the Admiralty would not put the matter altogether right. Parliament would not have any real control over the money spent under loans unless effect were given to the pious opinion of the Civil Lord in favour of having the entire works expenditure properly estimated and laid before Parliament, so that it could be considered as a whole. These Loans Acts could not be entirely dispensed with. If the works at Rosyth were proceeded with the expenditure would doubtless come under an Act of this kind. He was not urging the expenditure at Rosyth because it represented a certain advantage to Scotland; he believed that on the whole the Admiralty were taking a right course; but, if the works were continued, there would be a continuance of the hopeless confusion which now existed, and he regretted that there had been no member of the Cabinet present to observe the profound dissatisfaction which existed in the House with the present system of granting Supply to the Admiralty without any proper Parliamentary control over its expenditure. He believed that the best way of controlling expenditure would be by a Joint Committee of the Treasury and the House specially charged with the work. There ought to be a special Committee formed for that purpose. If they were satisfied that the country was getting value for its money, which he did not believe was so in all cases, these debates would be very much curtailed. He had always supported the Navy proposals of the Government, but he felt very much the responsibility of joining and acquiescing in the expenditure of these huge sums without adequate control. It was the fashion now to accuse Parliament of being extravagant, but, in regard to Votes 807 like this, the Government were encouraging extravagance by not giving the House adequate means of securing efficiency and economy in the expenditure of the country. There was extravagance in not having modern machinery in some of the dockyards.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
said that he joined in a vote against one of the churches in this Act not long ago because he thought that church was not needed, and because he thought the existing accommodation was adequate for the religious discipline of the troops. He thought also that the expenditure upon barracks had been extravagant. At any rate, he thought those who were responsible for this enormous expenditure when economy was so urgently required were not justified in agreeing to this system of presenting public accounts without entering a strong protest against it. In no country in the world did they find so un-businesslike a control over finance as they did under this particular Vote. He thought if they had a strong Committee they would be able to evolve some sound system of finance.
§ MR. JOHN HOWARD (Kent, Faversham)
said he desired to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty two Questions. In the first place had the Admiralty decided to remove the School of Gunnery from Sheerness to Chatham; and, secondly, he wished to know when the Torpedo School to take its place was going to be started at Sheerness?
§ MR. BLACK (Banffshire)
said a twofold complaint had been made of the present system of the Admiralty, and the Civil Lord had given the Committee an assurance that the system complained of would not be repeated. He asked what hindered the introduction of the Naval Works Loan Bill at an earlier period of the session, and prevented the Bill being considered on previous occasions. There appeared to be some doubt in the mind of the Admiralty regarding their policy towards naval works. He hoped that the Government, 808 having been squeezed by a landlord in Rosyth, would not now be bullied by their supporters into abandoning what was considered an advantageous policy, viz., the establishment of a naval base in the northern parts of these islands, and concentrating the base of the Fleet in these islands instead of its being scattered all over the world. He should not like it to go abroad that they objected to the general policy of establishing a naval base at Rosyth. Their objection to the policy of the Admiralty in this instance was, first, that they paid far too much money for the site, and secondly, that they bought the site far too early, and in advance of their requirements. The justification advanced by the Government for paying the high price of eighty-five years purchase was that there was a feuing value of the land. He had been there personally and investigated the matter, and he found that the total feuing value was to be measured by one year's purchase. The Government had paid two and a-half times as much as they would have paid had the matter gone to arbitration.
The hon. Member for Inverness had referred to Naval Reserve batteries and the Civil Lord had told them that the matter was under the consideration of the Admiralty. He hoped that before the debate was concluded they would have some indication from the Admiralty as to their policy with regard to the Naval Reserves. It was a branch of the service which it was very desirable to encourage. It enabled persons skilled in handling ships and in seafaring matters to train during the time they were not engaged in their occupations, so that they had in this system the best form of civilian contribution to the Navy. He hoped that the Admiralty would, in establishing Naval Reserve batteries in the future, follow the seafaring population. In one case the Admiralty had failed to do this, but it was to be desired that future batteries should be established in the centre of a seafaring and fishing population. He noticed that a sum of £6,000 was put down for dredging at Wei-hai-Wei. That expenditure was surely a little premature as matters at present stood in the Far East. He understood that our tenure there was 809 somewhat precarious, and that when matters settled down at the end of the present war there would be room for considerable readjustment in the Eastern Seas. He hoped that some satisfactory reason would be forthcoming for this expenditure at Wei-hai-Wei, because he understood that the place had been practically abandoned for naval purposes. The hon. Member for Leith Burghs had referred to the item for churches on these Estimates. He hoped to have some assurance that these churches would not be allowed to go from the control of the Admiralty; and that they would be left free for occupation by any religious bodies that found it necessary to use them, and would not be set apart for the exclusive use of any one communion.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
asked whether the Secretary to the Admiralty was prepared to give the Committee the items of the reductions due to the change of naval policy. The proposals in regard to Esquimault and Halifax disclosed to his mind most clearly that the Admiralty were shutting their eyes entirely to the development of sea war power in the United States. This disclosed a grave state of things. He thought the hon. Gentleman would find that the Admiralty were deliberately leaving out of contemplation the contingency that might arise owing to the fact that at present the increase of naval war power was going on in the United States and not in Europe.
§ MR. BENN (Devonport)
said it seemed to him that they should not pass this Vote unless they had a little more information as to the policy of the Government with regard to shipbuilding. If there was to be a fundamental change of policy with regard to shipbuilding, that was to say, if the shipbuilding yards were to be turned into repairing shops, that change would affect the works for which they were asked to vote money at this moment.
§ MR. BENN
said one of the items in the present Vote had to do with the 810 foundations for machines, and that was the very point to which he was directing the attention of the Committee. If the policy which was foreshadowed in Lord Selborne's Memorandum obtained, it must largely affect the money they were asked to vote with regard to these works. His concern arose out of the statement by Lord Selborne that the first business of the Royal dockyards was to keep the Fleet in repair, and that, accordingly, the amount of new work allotted to these dockyards should be subordinated to these matters. The Committee ought to know before they voted this money whether the policy of the Government was to maintain these yards as shipbuilding yards as heretofore.
§ MR. WHITLEY
moved a reduction of £510, which was the amount proposed to be spent on Wei-hai-Wei. There was also on the Estimates an item of £6,000 for works to be carried out at that place. He thought it was time that this make-believe was put a stop to. Of course they all knew that Wei-hai-Wei had been an immense mistake. The Government had acknowledged it. It was at first intended, they were told, to be used as a great fortified station in the Far East, and it was to be a set-off against the taking of Port Arthur which the Government had allowed to go, but to which result they largely contributed by the withdrawal of the British ships then at Port Arthur. He did think it was time to remove all expenditure at Wei-hai-Wei from the Estimates. They had been told once or twice that this was to be used as a health resort in the Far East—a bathing establishment for officers or something of that kind. Of course they all knew what that meant. It was an easy way for the Government to let themselves down and to prevent them confessing the huge mistake they had made. Now they had practically given up this policy of bluff. Rosyth was practically the same thing. The Government went in for Rosyth in response to certain German newspapers which 811 were making a great fuss. Now the Government had got over their fit of the blues and were going in for a more reasonable policy in naval matters. Therefore let them make a clean sheet and remove this kind of thing from the Estimates. The sum of £510 was not large, and it could not do much good. There was one man at Wei-hai-Wei at £1 per week. He did not know whether he was an Englishman or a Chinaman, or whether living was particularly cheap in that part of the British Empire, but it was very small remuneration. Why could not the Government have the courage to strike off the item and acknowledge that it was a great mistake to make such a flourish of trumpets. It was practically annexing a slice of China, and who knew how much that had to do in bringing about the Boxer trouble and the present war in the Far East as well. It was certainly lending a hand in the scramble that began for territory in China at that time. Now that they had abandoned their original policy there they ought to take the item off the Estimates.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries and Allowances of Superintending Officers and others) be reduced by £510."— (Mr. Whitley.)
§ MR. BRIGHT (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said it could not be supposed that Wei-hai-Wei was a strength to the Empire. If it was, they must spend more money on it. There had been too much or too little spent on it during the time they had had it. He thought the Government might be congratulated on the fact that these Estimates were £1,000 less than the Secretary to the Admiralty in reply to a Question said they would be. What was the use of spending any money at all on this place? Nobody supposed that it could be made a really strong place by the expenditure of a few thousand pounds a year. The particular Vote which they were objecting to at the present moment was in regard to dredging, the amount to be spent being £6,000. He should like to know to what depth the dredging was to be undertaken and what advantage was to be gained by it. Was it for naval or commercial purposes? He understood that as a 812 commercial port it was hopeless because there were no railways to it. If it was important as a great matter of policy to retain Wei-hai-Wei, then it would be necessary to spend millions, but to spend small items for which we got no return was a pure waste of money. He hoped the Committee by voting for the Amendment would protest against this frittering away of the public resources.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said the hon. Member for Halifax had asked why the station at Wei-hai-Wei was maintained. The whole question of the policy with regard to Wei-hai-Wei had been fully debated in the House on many occasions. There had been a change of policy with regard to that place in one respect only. It was no longer to be maintained as a fortified naval base, but it was being maintained as a sanatorium for use by the Fleet on the China station. The hon. Member for Halifax made fun of that, but he would not make fun of it if he had ever lived on that station and realised the necessity for a healthy anchorage for the Fleet during the worst season of the year. It was a place also where exercises could be carried out on shore. The men went there for rifle practice. It had been of the greatest possible value to the health of the Fleet on that station, as had been shown by the reduction of the number of men on the sick list. No new works were going on there, but it was found desirable to maintain the dredging.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said there were several other items on the Votes for Wei-hai-Wei. Could the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what was the total expenditure, capital and annual, for that place?
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said no one could deny for a moment the value of a health station for the Fleet in the Far East. There were two such stations in the Mediterranean on foreign territory, and we had a naval hospital in a third place, also foreign. Wei-hai-Wei was Chinese territory and was only acquired on lease so long as Port Arthur was occupied by Russia. At the time of its acquisition it was pointed out that Wei-hai-Wei was subject to torpedo attack and that it could not be made a war station but a peace station. Now, Port Arthur was not likely to be retained by Russia, and it seemed to him that Wei-hai-Wei should not be detained in our hands. It was totally unnecessary and should be returned to China. In his opinion, we ought to make arrangements with the Chinese Government to secure the use of it in time of peace as a health resort, the same as we did in regard to our Mediterranean stations in Turkish territory.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that the Government had now given up Wei-hai-Wei as a naval station and had kept it as a sanatorium. What had dredgers to do with a sanatorium? Moreover, for years past, large vessels had used Wei-hai-Wei, and dredging was therefore unnecessary. All the accommodation that was required there was for the men ashore. The only use to which Wei-hai-Wei could be put in any sense was as a port to which to bring invalids. Had the Government got to the bottom of their mind in regard to whether they were going to make of Wei-hai-Wei a Chinese Plymouth? The only purpose for which they required dredging was to give that perfect accommodation for large battleships which was required at a naval base. He was very glad indeed at the change in the policy in regard to Wei-hai-Wei as they understood it. He was only surprised that some one did not move a reduction in the Vote for Rosyth, for there they did not know fully the policy of the Government. But in regard to Wei-hai-Wei they knew what the Government policy was.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said he could not quite understand why we should 814 be dredging a sanatorium at Wei-hai-Wei, and some answer was necessary. Last year it was said that it had been decided to hold Wei-hai-Wei as a peace and health resort where the Fleet could go in hot weather; for exercise of the crews on shore; where 6,000 tons of coal could be kept; and where a hospital and canteen could be established. They could quite understand that. He believed that there was not the least difficulty in sending a battleship now into Wei-hai-Wei Harbour. The only difficulty was that the whole Fleet could not go in there and anchor; and perhaps that was the object of the dredging. Why this waste of money? Had the harbour silted up? and was this expenditure of £6,000 to be incurred every year on an unfortified base?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said that by arrangement with China it was agreed that we should give back Wei-hai-Wei to that country and only hold it as long as Russia held Port Arthur. They knew that, as the result of the war, Russia would not hold Port Arthur; and therefore the Government were wasting money in any expenditure on Wei-hai-Wei. He thought that before the Vote was taken the Committee ought to have some sort of explanation on that point.
§ MR. MOONEY (Dublin County, S.)
said there were several sub-heads "all over the place" about Wei-hai-Wei. Could the hon. Gentleman say what the annual and capital cost of this sanatorium would be?
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said he could not answer that Question because it would not be in order, as these other Votes were not under discussion. All he could say was that Wei-hai-Wei was being maintained as a sanatorium for the exercise of the men of the China Fleet when they were ashore, and for rifle practice. It was necessary to dredge the anchorage to accommodate the Fleet when it went into the harbour. If it was the policy of the Government at the conclusion of the war in the Far East to hand back Wei-hai-Wei to China, this expenditure would cease.
§ MR. CHARLES DEVLIN (Galway)
said that the Civil Lord of the Admiralty was wandering completely away from the subject. There was on the Vote a sum of £510 for a civil engineer at Wei-hai-Wei. The Civil Lord said that the Vote for Wei-hai-Wei was £6,000 for dredging, but why was there this £510 for a civil engineer? Was that civil engineer attached to the dredger, or was he attached to the sanatorium, or was he dredging baths for the sailors of the Fleet? The Committee was entitled to an explanation regarding this expenditure. He arrived at the House that day anxious to support the Government; but under the circumstances he could not vote for money which was thrown away on dredging at Wei-hai-Wei, although it was badly required elsewhere. It would be interesting to know what the civil engineer was engaged in out there.
|The Committee divided:—Ayes, 118; Noes, 202. (Division List No. 163.)|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Findlay, Alexander (Lanark, NE||M'Kean, John|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)|
|Allen, Charles P.||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Mooney, John J.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Flynn, James Christopher||Murphy, John|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Grant, Corrie||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.)|
|Austin, Sir John||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Harcourt, Lewis||O'Brien Kendal (Tipperary Mid|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Bell, Richard||Harrington, Timothy||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.|
|Benn, John Williams||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)|
|Black, Alexander William||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Higham, John Sharp||O'Dowd, John|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Caldwell, James||Holland, Sir William Henry||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||O'Malley, William|
|Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Jacoby, James Alfred||O'Maro, James|
|Crean, Eugene||Johnson, John||Parrott, William|
|Cremer, William Randal||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Crombie, John William||Joyce, Michael||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Kearley, Hudson E.||Reddy, M.|
|Delany, William||Kilbride, Denis||Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th)|
|Devlin, Charles Ramsay (Galway||Kitson, Sir James||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Labouchere, Henry||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lamont, Norman||Roche, John|
|Dillon, John||Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Shackleton, David James|
|Doogan, P. C.||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Leng, Sir John||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Levy, Maurice||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Edwards, Frank||Lundon, W.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Ellice, Capt E C (S. Andrw'sBghs||Mac Neill, John Gordon Swift||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Northants|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Mac Veagh, Jeremiah||Stanhope, Hon. Philip James|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||M'Crae, George||Sullivan, Donal|
|Farrell, James Patrick||M'Fadden, Edward||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Ffreneh, Peter||M'Hugh, Patrick|
§ MR. CHARLES DEVLIN
said it was because of the hon. Gentleman's statement that he intended to vote against the Government.
§ MR. MOONEY
said that evidently the Civil Lord to the Admiralty had no information with reference to the increase in the Vote. Surely further information was required.
§ Question put.819
|Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr|
|Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)||J. H. Whitley and Mr.|
|Toulmin, George||Wilson, John (Falkirk)||Bright.|
|Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.||Young, Samuel|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Finlay, Sir R. B. (Invern'ssB'ghs||Mount, William Arthur|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Fisher, William Hayes||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Muntz, Sir Philip A.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Forster, Henry William||Myers, William Henry|
|Arrol, Sir William||Foster, Philip S (Warwick, S.W.||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Gardner, Ernest||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H.||Peel, Hn. W. Robert Wellesley|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Percy, Earl|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Gordon, Hn. J. E (Elgin & Nairn||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gordon, Maj. Evans (T'r H'mlets||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Purvis, Robert|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Pym, C. Guy|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Greene, Sir EW(B'ryS Edm'nds||Randles, John S.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W(Leeds||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury||Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Gunter, Sir Robert||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hamilton, Marq.of (L'nd'ndery||Renwick, George|
|Barry, Sir Francis T.(Windsor||Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th)||Ridley, S. Forde|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Thomson|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Heath, Sir James (Staffords, NW||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Heaton, John Henniker||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Bigwood, James||Helder, Augustus||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Bill, Charles||Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W.)||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Hoult, Joseph||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Howard, John (Kent, Faversham||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Bull, William James||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Butcher, John George||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Glasgow||Hunt, Rowland||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ.||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh)||Shaw-Stewart, Sir H. (Renfrew)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Kimber, Sir Henry||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A (Woro.||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Spear, John Ward|
|Chapman, Edward||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th||Stanley, Edward Jas.(Somerset)|
|Coddington, Sir William||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks. NR||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Colomb, Rt. Hon. Sir John C. R.||Lee, Arthur H (Hants., Fareham||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Stock, James Henry|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Cross, Alexander, (Glasgow)||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S)||Tomlinson, Sir Win. Edw. M.|
|Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Tuff, Charles|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Lowe, Francis William||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft||Vincent, Col. Sir C. EH (Sheffield|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Joseph C.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W.||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Doughty, Sir George||Majendie, James A. H.||Webb, Colonel William George|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir HE. (Wigt'n)||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Maxwell, W J. H. (Dumfriesshire||Wharton, Rt. Hn. John Lloyd|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Whiteley, H. (Ashton und. Lyne|
|Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||Mitchell, William (Burnley)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Faber, George Denison (York)||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Moore, William||Wilson, A. Stanley(York, E. R.|
|Fellowes, Rt Hn Ailwyn Edward||Morgan, David J. (Walthamstow||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r||Morpeth, Viscount||Wilson-Todd, Sir W. H. (Yorks.|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)||Wylie, Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm||Wyndham, Rt. Hn. George||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart||Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.||Viscount Valentia.|
|Wrightson, Sir Thomas||Younger, William|
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
drew attention to a reduction on Item C., the item dealing with the official residences in Gibraltar. Originally it was, he said, intended to spend £10,500 on these official residences, but the officials having been done away with the official residences were not now required. £2,000 of the money had not been spent, but the hon. Gentleman in respect to this said the Admiralty could not leave these houses with their roofs off but would have to finish them before selling them off. Seeing that 82 per cent. of the money had been spent he was inclined to think it was not so much a matter of roofs as of decoration, which his experience told him it was better to leave undone until the houses were sold. He did not see what object would be gained by spending this money, and thought that this item should be struck off the Estimates, therefore he begged to move the reduction of the Vote, Item C., by £2,000.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Item C (Dockyards Abroad) be reduced by £2,000."—(Mr. Coutenay Warner.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said there was nothing more to be said about this matter than had already been said, except that the Government were under contract obligations. They had entered into a contract which involved this money being spent on these houses, and he did not suppose the hon. Gentleman desired them to default.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said that if that was so he would not press the reduction. He nevertheless considered it was a most improper way of arranging matters, and he thought the Government ought not to have placed themselves in the position of having to pay for work from which they could not possibly derive any benefit.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.820
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he had put a notice of Motion on the Paper to reduce Item D. by £550. This sum was asked for for the purpose of the cold-meat store at Gibraltar. The Committee was cognisant of the scandal in reference to this cold-meat store, the short history of which was that the Admiralty started out to build an ammunition store at an estimated cost of £20,000. When nearly completed they discovered that the building was in the first place well within the range of any enemy that might come along, and in the second it was too damp to store ammunition in. They then proceeded to turn it into a cold-meat store at a cost of £47,000. It was admitted by the Admiralty that it had been a mistake from beginning to end, and under the circumstances he moved that the item might be struck out of the Votes.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Item D (Victualling Yards) be reduced by £550."—(Mr. Whitley.)
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
asked whether the Secretary to the Admiralty did not propose to give some explanation with regard to this. He pointed out that a few days ago the House had had to listen to a lecture from the hon. Baronet the Member for Islington, who had told them that discussions in this House had no effect on the Estimates. He denied that that was the case. It was Votes such as those that they were discussing that the Committee ought to turn their attention to with the view of reducing that expenditure. The effect of the discussions in the House was felt by the officials who prepared these Estimates. It was more effectively felt under the old system before the new rules were brought into operation, but even now he had not the slightest doubt that the dread of exposure of carelessness or corruption of any kind which led to large sums of money being wasted in this way greatly affected the officials who prepared these Estimates. It was on these large Votes that the leakages took place and not upon the 821 small and necessary increases such as they had discussed recently for the ventilation of the House. It was absurd to say that a small increase for ventilation or even the drainage of the House went to swell the Estimates. It was the Military and Naval Estimates that were to be blamed for these preventable increases, and it was an amazing thing to him that after the statement of the hon. Member for Halifax the officials of the Admiralty should make no attempt to give any explanation. It was well known that enormous waste took place under this Vote, because it was I an inevitable law that when one spent borrowed money there was an infinitely greater amount of carelessness as to the obligations that were undertaken than would be the case if the works had to be paid for year by year according to what was done. That was the main argument of those who opposed this policy of Loan Bills when it was first introduced ten years previously. He thought hon. Members representing the Admiralty had no right to allow the Committee to go to a division without replying to such criticisms as those made by the hon. Member for Halifax.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said he did not gather that the Deputy-Chairman had actually put the Question with regard to the specific matter under consideration.
§ MR. DILLON
said the Deputy-Chairman had actually put the Question and he rose to draw attention to the fact.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said he did not understand so. This Vote had been on the Estimates for years and this discussion had taken place for several years. It was one of those matters carried out not by the Admiralty, but by the War Office under the dual system, and the Admiralty were not in possession of the details of the progress of the works, nor had the Admiralty any control over the progress of the work.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
said the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had made the most extraordinary speech that had ever been made in this House by an Admiralty official. 822 When the hon. Gentleman joined the Admiralty he thought he would be a credit to the Department, but if that was the only reply he could make to a serious criticism of this sort the sooner the hon. Gentleman resigned his position the better it would be. It was not fair that they should be referred to some other Department which was not before them at the present moment. It was a scandal for them to be told by the hon. Gentleman in that cavalier way that they had better wait for the War Office Vote. That was not treating the House in the way it ought to be treated. The hon. Gentleman did not appear competent to deal with these discussions, for when he was asked a very simple question about the depth of the dredging he replied that he thought it would be deep enough to take a battleship. Did the hon. Member know the draught required for a battleship? He generally tried to avoid making a personal attack and he was sorry if his warmth had carried him away on this occasion, but it excited his indignation to hear the hon Member stand up in the House and in that cavalier way say if they wanted to know that he would refer them to the Army Votes.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
thought the Admiralty ought to know something about the way this money had been spent. The hon. Member representing the Admiralty said they did not know anything about it, because the money had been spent by the War Office, but it was Admiralty money and it was the business of the Admiralty to know how the money had been spent. The representatives of the Admiralty ought to take more interest in questions which had been pressed upon them and they ought to control their own expenditure. The Admiralty were paying £32,000 of this sum and the War Office £26,000, and he wished to know why the Admiralty were paying the lion's share of this money. Apparently the Civil Lord was not aware of that, because he said they were paying half and half. They wanted this expenditure explained. There, had been a great waste of Government money and they wished to know what reason there was for continuing this waste.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
said he did not think they ought to go to a division with only the statement they had had from the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. His experience in Parliament had been that a Minister got his Votes quicker if he gave the fullest in formation. The hon. Member must recognise, however, that the fullest information had not been given in reply to the Questions put to him. They blamed him for not having the representative of the War Office present to explain this expenditure. It was obviously a War Office question although it had not been explained how the whole matter had been arranged. A large portion of this money was for an ammunition store, and he wished to know who was officially responsible for the expenditure of this money in the first instance, which had been spent without any adequate result. It was admitted that a large amount of money had been spent by the Admiralty in a useless fashion, because what was once an ammunition store was going to be turned into a meat store. What was the explanation as to the War Office not being represented in order to give the information asked for.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said that this was really a War Office matter, and he thought it was a good principle that each Department should be responsible for its own acts. As he did not wish to make a second-hand explanation when they might have it first-hand he had sent for the Financial Secretary to the War Office and hoped that he would give the Committee an explanation of the point. But in any case they would have an opportunity of discussing the matter on the War Office Votes.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said the Committee readily accepted the explanation of the hon. Gentleman, but in a matter of this kind he could not give a guarantee that it would be discussed on a future occasion. The odds were that this particular question would not be raised at all on the Army Estimates. The explanation was not satisfactory, and he hoped the representative of the War Office would arrive soon and give fuller information.
§ MR. DILLON
said the Admiralty were paying their share of the cost of the work, and therefore the hon. Gentleman ought to have informed himself in regard to all the items in the Estimates so as to be able to explain to the House, on his own responsibility, the peculiar circumstances in connection with this Estimate. He thought it would be generally admitted that this system of works undertaken jointly by the War Office and the Admiralty with divided responsibility ought to be stopped. Nothing was more calculated to cause confusion and waste than to have work such as the Committee were now discussing under the joint control of these Departments. There was no real reason to render such joint responsibility necessary. He had taken the trouble to get the War Office Estimates, and the peculiarity of this Vote increased enormously when the Estimates of the two Departments were compared. In the Navy Estimates the total cost of this cold-meat store was put down at £47,300, a most astonishing figure for a cold-meat store, and in a note it was stated that the Admiralty's share was £32,000 and the War Department's share £26,000, making a total of £58,000. In the Army Estimates, on the other hand, the item was described as the conversion of the North Gorge magazine into a frozen-meat store, and the cost was given at £48,700, or £1,000 more than was entered in the Navy Vote. A note was added saying that half the cost would be borne by the Admiralty. That was totally at variance with the statement in the Navy Estimates.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. BROMLEY DAVENPORT, Cheshire, Macclesfield)
said he did not anticipate that this question would be raised, otherwise he should have been there, and he would have informed himself more carefully than be had been able to do as to all the facts. He might remind the Committee that the corresponding figures would appear in the Army Estimates, and that there would be another opportunity of discussing the matter.
§ MR. BROMLEY DAVENPORT
said he was not quite sure whether the complaint was that the original cost of the construction of this store was unnecessarily high or whether it was that the cost of its conversion was too high.
§ MR. DILLON
said his point was that the cost, even if it were for the construction of the building, was extraordinary and required explanation; secondly, that if it were for its conversion it was preposterous; and, thirdly, that the figures of the two Estimates did not correspond.
§ MR. BROMLEY DAVENPORT
said the word "conversion" was misleading. The expenditure was for the building of the whole work, and very costly work too. The building was originally intended for an ammunition store, but while the work was proceeding it was ascertained that the place was likely to be too damp for that purpose. and accordingly it was condemned. The building involved an immense amount of excavation and tunnelling, and everybody who knew anything about work of that kind knew that it was impossible to estimate the cost exactly. As a matter of fact it was found that there were fissures in the rocks which allowed water to come in and which involved a great deal of pumping; and there was a variety of other causes why the building cost a great deal more than was originally estimated. He agreed as to the undesirability of two Departments being responsible for one work, but in this case the only Department responsible was the War Office. The only way in which the Admiralty came into the matter was that, as they were to have a share in the use of the building, it was agreed that they should bear half the cost. As to the variation in the figures, there was no real disagreement between the two sets of Estimates. The total cost of the building was £47,800. [OPPOSITION cries of "£48,700."] Yes, but in the Navy Votes other figures were given, because other subsidiary services were included which, in the Army Estimates, were shown quite separately.
§ MR. DILLON
said that the War Office estimate gave the sum as £48,700 for the conversion of the magazine, whereas 826 the Navy Estimate gave it as £47,200 for the construction of the magazine.
§ MR. DILLON
How can the hon. Member say that?
[Here the hon. Member for East Mayo left his seat, walked down the gangway, crossed the floor, and laid before the hon. Member for Macclesfield the White paper.]
§ MR. BROMLEY DAVENPORT
said he was extremely sorry not to be in a position to deal with this matter as he would like to do, but there would be another opportunity of doing so. He, however, assured the hon. Member that there was no variation in the figures whatever, except in respect of subsidiary services. The total amount of expenditure on this building would be divided equally between the two Departments. He did not contest that the building was very expensive, but it was of a character which it was impossible to judge of beforehand.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said they were all glad of the intervention of the hon. Gentleman even at that late hour, but he was not at all satisfied with the explanation which he had given. He thought the Committee, before this Vote was allowed to pass, were entitled to information as to the War Office official who was responsible for the extraordinary blunder of recommending the building of a magazine on an unsuitable site. Who made the inquiry? Who sanctioned the expenditure? Explanation of every item which came before the Committee was shelved. He suggested that the Committee should adjourn until after the dinner hour to allow the hon. Gentleman to get information on this matter. The hon. Gentleman was very anxious that the War Office should have the full credit for this blunder; and he did not think the Civil Lord of the Admiralty was very anxious to divide the glory with him. On every side the Committee saw an enormous waste of money, and they had no information to justify this vast expenditure. The hon. Member 827 for King's Lynn, who went out to Gibraltar as a special representative of the Government, might have had time to look into this matter. If so, would he give the Committee some guidance?
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said he quite appreciated the observations which had been made as to the enormous expenditure on this building; but, in palliation or justification of that expenditure, he desired to remind the Committee that the cold stores had been built on such a scale as to provide for the whole requirements of the garrison, both naval and military, in the event of the isolation of the fortress. Half the cost would be borne by the respective services.
§ MR. GODDARD (Ipswich)
said he thought they ought to have an assurance from the Admiralty, in view of what had already taken place, that the building, when completed, would be really suitable for the purpose for which it was now intended.
§ *MR. BILL (Staffordshire, Leek)
said he had seen these stores, and could assure the Committee that it was the opinion of everybody connected with the Army and Navy at Gibraltar that stores better placed and better fitted for the purpose could not possibly have been devised. The stores were so situated that they were absolutely protected from any hostile Power. No better refrigerating stores could be possibly provided.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said he was glad to learn from the hon. Gentleman that the stores were so good. That was some consolation for all the money that was being spent on them. The Estimate which had been submitted was, however, admittedly wrong. It was now acknowledged to be obsolete and was by no means a clear statement. Apart from that, he wished to know who was responsible for recommending the place as suitable for a magazine.
§ And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.828
§ The Clerk at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence of the Chairman of Ways and Means from the remainder of this day's Sitting, owing to indisposition.
§ Whereupon Mr. JEFFREYS, the Deputy-Chairman, took the Chair as Deputy-Speaker, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.