HC Deb 27 July 1906 vol 162 cc67-119

1. £2,407,600, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Personnel.


I believe I am taking a somewhat unusual course in asking the Committee to listen to a short statement before the discussion of this Vote begins. But I would remind the Committee that the circumstances are unusual. We had to take over the whole of these Estimates from our predecessors, but in March I was careful to say that as to the shipbuilding vote we reserved our liberty in certain respects. I said the building of the four large vessels in the new programme would not commence till a late period, and that as to these vessels we did not propose to ask the Committee to tie its hand at present. It has been the regular practice for many years past to postpone the consideration of Vote 8 to a comparatively late period of the session, and in respect of that portion of the Estimates, therefore, I claimed a certain amount of freedom. I must begin by reminding the Committee that Vote 8, with which we are now concerned, is the most important vote in the Estimates, the aggregate of its three sections amounts to little less than £14,000,000—a sum, I may say, almost equal to the whole of the Naval Estimates when I first had the honour of becoming connected with the Admiralty. Vote 8 is the dominant vote, and all other votes depend upon it, and the kernel of this vote is the provision for new construction. The provision for new construction, taken roughly, is nine millions and a quarter for the present year, and by new construction, I ought to explain, we mean the building of ships that are not yet complete, no matter when they may have been begun—one, two, or three years ago, or they may not be begun yet. So long as they are new, not finished, the money devoted to their building is the provision for new construction. But the new programme of the year is a different thing altogether, it is part of the new construction, but a peculiar part, and I call it the inner core of Vote 8. The new programme means those ships that under these Estimates are to be laid down for the first time.

I have given the amount of new construction in the shipbuilding not yet complete as nine millions and a quarter. The sum taken for the new programme of the present year is £645,000 only—by far the most important and significant part of the vote. Vote 8 as a whole must go on, the new construction on the whole must proceed, ships in need of repair must be repaired, ships begun must be finished; but as to the new programme the Committee has the freedom I claimed for it, the freedom which I also claimed for myself and the Admiralty. The new programme might be called a mouldable and plastic thing. I have in my possession a record of the Estimates of recent years, showing how the new programme, originally set forth in official papers, has been modified either by increase or diminution in the course of the session in which it was submitted to Parliament. It is a plastic thing which the House has full control over, and that is the main reason why this part of the Estimates is kept back so late in the session as it is usually. The Estimates as a whole are prepared in November; they are considered beforehand, so that probably in most cases the new programme will be a year old before it is presented. These Estimates were framed in November, and published shortly afterwards. We took them over from our predecessors. They knew, and we knew, that the programme of November might have to be modified, as in many cases they have had to be modified, before the present period of the session. It is to give Parliamentary Government a free hand on this part of the Estimates that the wise practice of recent years keeps back this Vote till the present period of the session. This year we have had an exceptional advantage. Usually, if I am not mistaken, we have had to discuss Vote 8 without having before us the Return annually moved for by my right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean. This year I have taken care that the Return should be expedited, and it has been in the hands of Members many weeks, and it is the best text-book I can take in considering the proposals I have now to mention.

I come to the main statement I have to make at this point-namely, the new programme set forth in the memorandum accompanying the Estimates signed by my noble friend the First Lord. What does the new programme of the last Admiralty and the last Government consist of? We proposed, according to the official paper referred to, to begin building this year four classes of new ships. Four of these ships, much the most important part of the whole programme, we described as being armoured vessels. I think it is the undoubted fact that these four armoured vessels should be of the "Dreadnought" type.

MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)

was understood to assent to the proposition.


Secondly, five ocean-going destroyers; thirdly, twelve coastal destroyers; and, fourthly, twelve submarines. The Board of Admiralty has given this new programme the most anxious consideration during the period of five months which has elasped since we laid the Estimates as a whole before the Committee. I have now to say what they propose to do after this reconsideration and review. It is the unanimous opinion of the Board of Admiralty that the new programme I have detailed should be reduced in the following particulars. Instead of four "Dreadnoughts" we propose to lay down only three. Instead of five ocean-going destroyers we propose to lay down only two. We leave the coastal destroyers at twelve, but we propose to reduce the number of submarines from twelve to eight. Let me state as clearly as I can the financial effect of what we propose. The old new programme, if I may so call it — the original new programme only calls for the trifling expenditure of £645,000 in this year's Estimates. The burden was to fall on future years. I propose now to state to the House the amount of liability involved in the original new programme. The amount of expenditure to which it would have committed the country and the House, the total liability on the original new programme, according to Lord Cawdor's Memorandum and our own Estimates, was on Vote 8 £8,132,000 in rough figures, and if we add to that the correlative expenditure on Vote 9 for armaments, which is really part of the programme—a sum of £1,210,000—we have a total committal by the original new programme from beginning to end of about £9,340,000.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)

Spread over a period of years.


Yes. In the case of the "Dreadnoughts" it would take two years, so that the heavy liability would be in the second year. I will now state what is the corresponding liability in the revised new programme which I submit on behalf of the Admiralty. Our new programme, revised as I have stated, involves a total liability of £5,900,000 in Vote 8 alone, or, if we add armaments, a total liability of £6,800,000. In other words, we reduce the total committal of the new programme from £9,300,000 to £6,800,000, or a reduction of £2,500,000. I proceed to take the financial effect of our proposed reductions, first on the current Estimates, and secondly on the Estimates for the next year. I do not think I will venture further than that. The financial result on this year's Estimates will be that about a quarter of £645,000 will not be spent on the new programme. But there are contingent necessities, such as the salvage of the "Montagu," which must be provided for, so that the total of this year's Estimates will not benefit very much by the reduction. It is on next year's that the first and main effect of our proposals will appear.

Although we are reducing the sum to be paid, under this year's Estimates I do not think that the full financial effect of our proposals will be felt till next year. The financial effect on next year's Estimates 1907–8 will be that there will be a lightening of those Estimates to the following extent. Vote 8 will be lightened by the sum of £1,305,308. If I throw in the corresponding part of Vote 9 the net result is that next year's Estimates will be lightened to the extent of £1,488,680, or roughly speaking £1,500,000. I should give notice now, though it is not relevant to the Vote, that in connection with the reduction of the number of destroyers, it will be necessary to lay down, early in the next financial year, what is called a mother ship or a parent ship for torpedo boat destroyers. Usually ships are laid down late in the year, but it is thought that this particular parent ship should be laid down early in the year, although it will not form part of this year's Estimates. Now as to the types. The three armoured vessels which will take the place of the four armoured vessels of the original programme will be "Dreadnoughts" with a displacement of 600 tons in excess of that of the first vessel of this class. Of these three vessels one will be given out to private contractors and two will be built in Government dockyards, one at Portsmouth and the other at Devonport. As to the mother ship for destroyers, I believe I am right in saying that it will probably go to Pembroke. Ocean going and coastal destroyers have always hitherto gone and will now go to private firms who have made a speciality of them, but there is to be a new departure in regard to submarines, which have always been built by private contract. This year the Admiralty propose to build some themselves, and these will go to Chatham.

I have now stated the revision which we propose in the new programme which we inherited from our predecessors, but my story is not yet complete. The Committee knows that a great international conference is soon to meet at The Hague having for one of its many objects an international movement in favour of the reduction of armaments. The Committee knows the attitude taken up by my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary in regard to that proposal. The Committee is aware of its own Resolution unanimously passed calling upon the Government to further that movement in every way. All these things have been present in the minds of the Government and of the Admiralty, and I have now to ask the indulgence of the Committ'ee for trespassing beyond the strict limit of the Estimates of this year and lifting the veil to some extent in regard to the Estimates of next year. Instead of the four armoured vessels which it was originally intended to lay down in 1907–8 we propose to make provision for two armoured vessels only, but with the proviso to be stated in the Estimates that a third armoured vessel is to be laid down if the proposals in regard to the reduction of armaments laid before The Hague Conference prove to be abortive. Further, the amount to be taken for new vessels to be laid down in 1907–8 is to be limited to a small sum, and they will not be commenced till a late period of the year, and this emphasises to The Hague Conference the good faith of the British Government in its desire to bring about a reduction of armaments. One further little digression may be allowed me. I do not want the Committee to come to the conclusion that what I have said exhausts the list of possible economies. I must say once more that the Board of Admiralty are unanimously satisfied that whilst these reductions may be made we shall nevertheless be maintaining the strength required to secure the naval supremacy of this country.

I should like, if I may, to anticipate possible criticisms of our economies. I hope I may not have to fight both sides of the House. I am well aware that there may be and probably will be two entirely different schools of critics each of which may be dissatisfied with our proposals. Some may ask "Why have you reduced so much," and others "Why have you reduced so little." I can hardly hope to satisfy both, but there are one or two considerations which I would ask them to bear in mind in their criticisms. First of all as to those who may object to our reductions, whom I think I may identify as supporters of the old Board of Admiralty which arranged the new programme we are reducing. Nevertheless I am forced to say that so many statements has been made about this question; there have been so many stories of dissension and resignations that I am compelled to do that which is generally recognised as an unwise thing and that is to define the responsibility of our naval colleagues for the proposals which we are now making. I would remind my hon. friends opposite that the naval advisers of the First Lord are the same gallant and distinguished officers who filled similar positions under Lord Cawdor and before that under Lord Selbourne. Moreover, they are the authors of the original programme, but they have recently revised it. We have the authority of the authors of the original programme for saying that. It is unwise, I think, to separate our responsibility, and I think our solidarity should be maintained. I object, therefore, to separate the functions of the Naval Lords from those of their colleagues, but so much has been said about dissensions and resignations that I think it is right to say that they themselves have recommended us who are their colleagues to revise the new programme which we submit to the Committee. I do not think it would be prudent on my part to give reasons for the course we are taking. They are confidential reasons and I could not give them, but I may indulge in a general purvey of the naval position. The Sea Lords think that the balance of sea power will not be imperilled by the introduction of the changes we have recommended.


Does that include next year?


The whole thing. They are convinced that the strength of the Navy at the present moment is overwhelming, and that is the best justification for the attitude we have taken up. I do not want to say anything about foreign Navies, but I must say with all caution and reserve that there is reason to believe that there has not been that progress and advancement which was anticipated when the Estimates were framed. I believe that is the opinion of the naval experts, and I believe it to be well founded.

I do not know how far I have carried conviction to the minds of those who seem to object to the cutting down of the programme, but may I now address myself for a few moments, mainly to those on this side of the House, who do not think we have cut down enough. I would remind my hon. friends in the first place that in naval expenditure it is much easier to build up than to destroy. It is very easy, for example, to create moral and vested interests, but it is hard, indeed, to cut them down; and I hope my hon. friends who take what I may call an extreme view of the case will not press me over-much from that point of view. I have seen some ingenious calculations to the effect that the Navy Estimates should be reduced at once to the level at which they stood in 1898 or 1899, or some other year. My own opinion is that no courageous stroke of the pen will bring back the Estimates to that level in the compass of a single year. That is all I will say on that point. I would remind my hon. friends further of what I am sure they will never forget, what the Admiralty, at all events, must always remember—how vast are the Imperial responsibilities of this country and how entirely they depend upon the active strength of the British Navy. I am not speaking of the protection of the Colonies alone. Great Britain has sentimental interests, over and above her connection with the Colonies, all over the world. These must always be kept in mind in considering what possible reductions may be made in naval expenditure. Again, do not let us forget that under the present state of international law—whether it is right or wrong I say nothing—we, with our enormous commerce, stand in a peculiar danger on account of the liability of our private ships to be captured and destroyed by the enemy. It must also be remembered that so long as we have a Navy at all there must be a certain amount of annual replacement going on. And, finally, I must ask my hon. friends to bear in mind the skilled opinion as to the importance of the new type of battleship that has been emerging in recent years. We may be responsible for its emergence at this time, but the effect of the possible growth in other navies of a number of these enormous battleships has to be kept in mind by the British Admiralty. I hope my hon. friends will also bear in mind that unhappily the big battleship grows bigger and more expensive every year. It is a formidable problem. I think about twenty years ago or a little more a ship now doomed, the "Collingwood," a great ship of her time, was laid down and launched at an expenditure of something like £700,000. The "Dreadnought"To-day costs from start to finish £1,800,000, and the new cruisers of the "Invincible" class cost very nearly as much. These growths are abnormal, and they impose enormous burdens on the people, but it is a fact that these things are going on and they are not to be forgotten. I ventured on the last occasion, in dealing with this subject, to read a memorable sentence uttered by my right hon. friend the Prime Minister at the Albert Hall, and I am going, in conclusion, to read a sentence or two from it again— I hold that the growth of armaments is a great danger to the peace of the world. The policy of large armaments keeps alive and stimulates the idea that force is the best if not the only solution of international difficulties. It is a policy which tends to inflame old sores and to open new ones. I submit to you that as the principle of peaceful arbitration gains ground it becomes one of the highest duties of Government to adjust those armaments to the newer and happier conditions of things. I submit that the proposals I have made o-day are in strict keeping with the spirit and letter of that memorable decarlation.


confessed that he had listened to what the right hon. Gentleman had called the main kernel of the Government's proposals with deep regret, because he liked to think that the Navy should always be treated as a non-Party question in this House, and because it had been his privilege this session invariably to support the Government in the proposals they had brought forward with regard to the Navy. He was afraid he could not do so on the present occasion, and, judging from the sounds which came from other portions of the Committee, he gathered that the right hon. Gentleman was justified in his apprehension that he would have to face the fire from both broadsides on this occasion. The House of Commons was entitled to ask what justification the Government had for departing in July from their programme of March. What new facts had emerged since the Cawdor Memorandum was issued? There was no change for the better in international relationships or in the strategic problems which the Empire might be called upon to face: There had certainly been no reduction in the foreign shipbuilding programmes; on the contrary, there had been large increases since the beginning of the year. Only one change had occurred, so far as he knew, and that was that a new Government had come into power which was desirous of effecting great economies; and apparently they thought that the simplest way of doing so was to take money from the two great spending departments, the Army and the Navy. It was also probably more optimistic in the pursuit of international disarmament than its predecessors. The right hon. Gentleman had trenched upon exceedingly delicate ground when he proceeded to shelter himself behind the Sea Lords, and wished the Committee to accept the theory that because these proposals had not resulted in the resignation of the Sea Lords therefore it was above criticism.


I make no such suggestion. I have been asked by the Sea Lords to say that they recommend these reductions, as they recommended the corresponding reductions last year to their colleagues.


pointed out that the Sea Lords were not only technical but constitutional advisers, bound, like all other officials, to recognise political exigencies, and to adapt their advice accordingly, unless the changes proposed were in their opinion so disastrous that the only effective protest they could take was to resign office. Because that had not occurred the Government must not consider themselves exempt from serious criticism—at any rate, from those responsible for the programme which had now been abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell them when the three "Dreadnoughts" were to be laid down, or if there was to be any delay.


They will be laid down at the time contemplated.


said he was glad to hear that. The reduction in battleships, however, amounted to 25 per cent., in ocean-going destroyers to 60 per cent., and in submarines to 33 per cent. of the whole programme. That could not be done without weakening the Navy of the future. ["No."] Certainly; he thought the right hon. Gentleman might be entitled to the applause of those who were in favour of a weaker Navy, but he was not entitled to the applause of those who believed that the maintenance of the two-Power standard, especially in ships of the newest and latest type, was absolutely essential to the existence of the Empire. The right hon. Gentleman had enlightened them a little as to what was at the bottom of the Government's action in this matter. He had explained that the Government believed in a vague theory of international disarmament, but there were no visible signs at present on the part of our foreign rivals that they intended to give practical expression to this dream. A certain amount of suspicion had even been displayed with regard to the motives of the British Government in the matter, and it had been suggested in more than one influential quarter that the action of the Government was partly the result of a desire of a world-wide Empire to restrict the legitimate growth of its rivals. But even if the principle of limitation of armaments were universally accepted by the Great Powers, how was a practical plan to be arrived at? What tribunal was to decide the relative strength of armies and naves for the Great Powers, and after the decision was arrived at, how was it to be enforced? It would be rather difficult outside this country to believe in the bona fides of the Government in this matter when the House heard only a few days ago the Secretary for War announcing that he was going to "give the lead"To foreign Powers in international disarmament and then, almost in the same breath, pointing out that he was providing a larger striking force for service over seas than this country had ever possessed before. That was not an argument that would carry conviction to the minds of our foreign rivals or enlarge their present belief in the sincerity of the Government in respect of this question. There was no one who would not genuinely welcome any rational scheme of reducing international armaments, but as had been well pointed out by Lord Lansdowne, who had done more practical work in the cause of international peace than any other man living, the question was not so susceptible of easy solution as was popularly supposed. If the Prime Minister could get The Hague Conference to guarantee that other Powers would reduce their naval programmes in response to the bait that he had thrown out this year, he was sure that the result would be acclaimed by both sides of the House. But let us have that decision first. We were the only country in the world that depended for its very existence on the maintenance of its sea power, and surely it was not for us to set the pace in the reduction of our naval supremacy, though we should be glad to follow-others in making it. The right hon. Gentleman had said that we could afford to wait in view of our overwhelming superiority in first-class ships, basing his argument on the so-called Dilke Return laid before the House a few days ago, which, however convincing to the uninitiated, was one of the most misleading documents annually presented to a trusting Parliament. In this list of "first-class" battleships there were eleven quite obsolete and eight more obsolescent, and the Return suggested that Great Britain had sixty-one first-class battleships, built or building, as compared with fifty-eighty of the next two strongest Powers combined. That was a misleading statement.


Are none of the ships of the other Powers obsolescent?


said nothing like the same number as was put in this list. In Brassey's Naval Annual the number of first-class battleships of Great Britain, excluding the "Montagu" and the "Renown," was forty-nine as compared with fifty-one of the next two strongest Powers combined. This showed that we were not quite up to the two-Power standard even in ships of the ordinary type. The situation, however, had been completely changed as a result of the war in the Far East, and by the arrival of the "Dreadnought," which had discredited all existing types of facts-class battleships. According to the facts published by the Admiralty the "Dreadnought" had more than twice the gun-power of any existing battle-ship, and sufficient speed and coal endurance to overhaul or out-manœuvre any battleship afloat. It was, however, most important to realise that the ships of the new type could not be mixed advantageously with the older types of battleships, and to attempt such a thing would deprive the new type of its peculiar and overwhelming advantages. To get the value of this new type there must be homogeneous squadrons. The first country that completed a fleet of "Dreadnoughts" would, ipso facto, secure the undisputed command of the sea. It could not be too strongly emphasised that the two-Power standard was not intended as a strategical rejoinder to any particular menace, but merely as a convenient margin readily adaptable to the changing conditions of naval power, and with the additional merits of being simply expressed and easily understood. Did the right hon. Gentleman still stand by the two-Power standard on that theory? If not, the change altered the whole basis on which our naval programmes in past years had proceeded. He also pointed out that practically the whole of the money spent in shipbuilding went back into the pockets of the people. There were few classes of employment which gave better wages to large numbers of our working classes. It was therefore surely inconsistent on the part of the Government, by one courageous stroke of the pen, to take away the equivalent of between £300,000 and £400,000 of wages from the working classes and on the other hand to give a dole of £200,000 to the unemployed for work which was bound to be absolutely unproductive. We were bound, if we intended to retain our naval supremacy, to retain a supremacy in ships of the new type. In the immediate future we would only have seven ships of the new type laid down as against six by France, three by Germany, and three by the United States. In the new type, therefore, we would fall far below the two-Power standard. We could not count on maintaining our superiority in building-speed. As to ships of the new type, our position seemed to be one not only of gravity, but of urgency. If money must be saved, let the Government pursue the policy of discarding more obsolescent ships and of keeping fewer first-class ships in commission. But let them not destroy the line-of-battle fleet of the future by starving the building programme now. The inevitable result would be a panic in a few years, followed by an avalanche of extravagant expenditure. To accompany a reduction of the Army by a reduction in the Navy was to risk a national catastrophe in the pursuit of a showy Budget. The country did not desire great economies in the Navy Estimates, and would not tolerate any weakening in our naval strength. He gave the Government credit for proclaiming to the world their desire to promote the era of universal peace. But we owed the last fifty years of uninterrupted naval peace to the recognised invincibility of the British Navy; and once the belief in that invincibility were destroyed, the era of peace would be doomed.

MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

said the fact that the Government were reducing their naval expenditure was a proof to foreign nations of the sincerity of their purpose. It was an insult to foreign nations for the hon. Member for Fareham to say that even although The Hague Conference recommended a reduction in armaments there was no guarantee that they would carry out the decision come to. He welcomed, so far as it went, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the proposed reductions. £2,500,000 was a small reduction, but it marked the turn of the tide. The expenditure upon preparations for war, naval and military, was admitted to be excessive. The great conference which came to a conclusion the other day had proved that there was a desire on all hands for a reduction in the cost of armaments. The announcement made by the Secretary to the Admiralty following upon the announcement of the Secretary for War would be welcomed by the friends of peace and arbitration all over the world as a genuine step towards a more sensible policy in the settlement of international disputes. He welcomed the policy of economy indicated by the right hon.. Gentleman, because it showed that at last the idea of maintaining bulk under the impression that we were maintaining efficiency had been exploded. No greater falsehood could find currency than that mere bulk implied either strength or efficiency. Economy did not imply inefficiency. It simply implied that the necessary resources would be of the most efficient kind and that the best value possible would be obtained. He hoped the beginning which had been made that day of a more economical policy would be continued, and that the example would be followed, until the time came when nations would be ashamed to waste money on war and preparations for war while social reforms and humanitarian reforms were being starved.

MR. LAMBTON (Durham, S.E.)

said that anyone would have supposed from the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil that international disputes were settled by peaceful persuasion and that it was his view that it was not necessary to have any fighting force. But where should we be if we had not our Army and Navy at our back to carry out peaceful persuasions? He did not think we should be the victors in the dispute. The most important part of the speech of the Secretary to the Admiralty was that in which he alluded to what he called his new departure, when he took the dangerous step of introducing the names of the naval advisers of the Crown into discussions in this House. Vote 8, he had told the Committee, was a plastic sort of Vote and it seemed in the hands of the Government to be very plastic. The right hon. Gentleman had said a good deal on this Vote about its financial effects, but he did not say a word about its military effect; in fact, the whole tone of his speech was an apology to his own suporters for our having a Navy at all. He seemed, like the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, to rely upon. The Hague Conference. It seemed a dangerous policy to introduce the names of the naval advisers in this House, because what were the responsibilities of those naval advisers. He presumed they recommended programmes to the Government upon the absolute necessities of the case. In fact, that was apparent from the Report of Earl Cawdor, presented in November, 1905, which showed the view of the Admiralty in that year. Now the same gentlemen were prepared to come forward apparently and say that they approved of the reduction of £2,500,000 whereas in 1905 they said the expediture then advocated was absolutely necessary. The Secretary to the Admiralty had said he would not mention much about foreign navies, but there was an Intelligence Department in the Government. Were they not aware in 1905 and in February, 1906, when Lord Tweed-mouth issued his Report, of the reasons put forward to-day for reducing the Estimates? Were they not then aware of the condition of foreign navies? How was it that the same naval advisers who declared last year that a large increase was necessary now authorised the Secretary to the Admiralty that it would be quite safe to spend £2,500,000 less on ships? That did not give him much confidence in their naval advisers, and he was afraid that political reasons had induced them to depart from military and naval considerations. Naval warfare was an almost unknown quantity. When they found the Secretary for War coming down to the House and adopting the blue-water theory surely it must entail upon them the necessity of keeping up an adequate Fleet instead of knocking off £2,500,000. He hoped some more intelligible reason would be given for these reductions.

MR. BEAUCHAMP (Suffolk, Lowestoft)

said that unlike the hon. Member for Durham he was content to accept the unanimous opinion of the naval advisers, that the shipbuilding programme which was being put forward was sufficient to maintain what they certainly all desired, namely, the supremacy of the British Navy. He was glad that the ships to be built were battleships, and he hoped that the result of The Hague Conference next year would be that they would be able to reduce their programme from three battleships to two. He was not, however, particularly sanguine about the result of The Hague Conference, considering what they did in 1899. The Secretary to the Admiralty had drawn attention to what happened then, and had said that that conference was called primarily to endeavour to reduce the naval expenditure of the various countries of the world, because they were getting alarmed at the growth of the Naval expenditure in this country which had risen by £20,000,000 between 1894 and 1906. During the same period the expenditure upon the navies of Europe and the United States had increased from £68,500,000 to £101,500,000. Therefore they could not be particularly hopeful that other nations would reduce their naval expenditure unless we gave them some evidence of our earnest desire to reduce our shipbuilding programme. He wished to call attention to one particular part of that subject which he thought must cause them all very considerable doubt and grave anxiety, and that was the continued and ever increasing growth of the cost of individual ships. The latest type of battleship—the "Dreadnought"— cost £1,800,000, and the "Invincible" class of cruisers cost only about £60,000 less than the latest battleship. If the cost of individual ships was to go on increasing in this way it must result in increasing our naval expenditure, or reducing the number of the vessels we had. He thought numbers were of very great importance. With our extremely wide and responsible area, with the interests we had in every quarter of the globe, with our huge mercantile marine and oversea commerce and the dependency of this country upon food from outside sources it was extremely important that we should not fall below the standard in point of numbers. There had always been a tendency to equality of vessels in the various navies of the world. That had always been so in the past, it was so now, and there was every reason to believe that it would be so in the future. We laid down a ship and the news went abroad that this country had laid down the most powerful and swiftest battleship in existence, and immediately other nations followed our views and laid down similar vessels and if possible a little superior. He wished to know if the Secretary to the Admiralty could confirm the information that Germany was going to lay down vessels of equal displacement to the "Dreadnought." He believed that France was going to do the same. It might be said that foreign Powers would build that type of ship whether we did or not, but he hardly thought that would be so, because it must necessitate on the part of Germany and France a large increase in harbour and dock accommodation. He thought this country was to blame in this matter for building so many large vessels, because it was only increasing the cost to all other countries. He did not know that there was such a large balance of advantage in favour of the larger battleships. He was aware that experts differed upon this subject. We were going to lay down more of these big battleships although it was notorious that expert opinion was divided on the question of their relative advantage, and as to whether the advantage of speed and gun power which they possessed were commensurate with the increased cost. There were many naval officers who considered that big vessels could not be as easily manœuvred as the smaller class. There were, on the other hand, a large number of naval officers who did not hold that view. Of course, we were naturally bound by financial conditions which must limit the numbers, and it was a moot point whether we were wise in putting too many eggs into one basket. He spoke with all humility on this question, because he saw from the latest Memorandum that these large, powerful, and costly vessels were thought to be practically invincible. Up to the present, experience had shown that these large and costly vessels were just as vulnerable to the mine as smaller vessels. He was glad that no more costly armoured cruisers were to be laid down at present. One thing which was not previously known had been demonstrated by the war between Russia and Japan, and that was the supremacy of the battleship. Would it not be better under these circumstances to suspend the building of armed cruisers, and, if necessary, to some extent, expend the money in building battleships which would be able to perform the duties and functions of cruisers? He admitted that when other nations were building—and especially one nation —a large number of armed cruisers with the determination of destroying our commerce in the event of their being at war with us, it was necessary for us to build corresponding vessels. But when the other nations were now coming to the conclusion that these vessels were not suitable or necessary for the destruction of commerce he thought we might suspend the building of costly armed cruisers until we saw whether other nations were going to continue them. Of course, questions of time, speed, and other matters, were of a technical nature, and could not be thrashed out in the House of Commons. They could be ventilated here, but ultimately they must be left to the naval advisers, in whom, he thought, the House might have the fullest confidence. He thought these advisers did not give quite sufficient attention to the financial side of the question. It was admitted that the numbers could not be maintained unless we increased our expenditure, and we could not indefinitely expand the expenditure.

*CAPTAIN HERVEY (Bury St. Edmunds)

said he was afraid that this reduction in the Navy was symptomatic of what they had heard from the Secretary to the Admiralty on the subject on previous occasions. There was, as they all knew, a Party in this House who claimed to be specially anxious about economy. They were all anxious about economy, but they all wished to see the Navy kept up at the same time. There was a Party on the opposite side of the House who held that our Navy was stronger now than it ought to be, and who conceived that the present was a suitable time to retrench in our shipbuilding policy. The arguments used in support of this theory were, in the first place, that the recent Russian naval defeat had left us in an excessively strong position; secondly, that our present foreign relations with France, the next greatest naval power, did not necessitate such special precautions as had hitherto been considered advisable; thirdly, that even if we accepted the two-Power standard our expenditure should not be more than the sum of the expenditures of the next two strongest naval Powers. He desired o dissociate himself from those who held these views and to make a few remarks on the considerations that should govern our shipbuilding policy for the immediate future, and he suggested that the considerations that should govern us should be dependent solely on the maintenance of our own strong right arm and the righteousness of our cause. We should never forget that wise saying of old— When a strong man armed keepeth his palace his goods are in peace, but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted and divideth his spoil. He would deal in the first place with our position due to the Russian naval defeat. Russia certainly could not be now deemed our "most likely potential enemy."the Russian menace was always principally a military menace, but the danger of that menace was heightened by the strength of her fleet when taken in conjunction with her ally France. The Russian military danger had been counterbalanced by our alliance with Japan, but our bargain with Japan was that we should keep up our present naval strength notwithstanding Russia's naval over-throw. In spite, then, of Russia's defeat our naval strength was still measured by the phrase the "two-Power standard" although the Powers might be different. This standard was not a mathematically exact one, but it gave a good working basis as to what we should aim at independently of ententes and the like, which had no guarantee in themselves that peace of a lasting character would be maintained. Our sole guarantee was our strength in battleships. For the reasons just given we need not so much consider why our next naval competitors were increasing their naval armaments, as how they were increasing them and what effect their action must have on our building policy. Germany had now taken the place of Russia as the next leading European naval Power and had shewn un-mistakeably her intention of progressively increasing her fleet. What was the essence of the two-Power standard? Surely it was that we should have a fleet of such a strength as to give us a reasonable prospect of victory against a combination of the two next strongest Powers; and these Powers were now France and Germany. What was the the aim of the two-Power standard? It was that in the event of our going to war with any other two Powers that we should have a fleet of battleships of such strength that we should have practically a certainty of victory if we came into collision with their combined fleets. But we should not have an absolute certainty of victory if we were only equal in strength to the fleets of the two Powers. It was obvious that if our fleet were only ship for ship equal to those of the next two strongest Powers, we should not have a reasonable prospect —other things being equal—of victory. It would be a toss up who would win. We had no right to assume a monopoly of pluck or fighting capacity. Included, then, in the phrase the "two-Power standard" was the assumption that we should have 10 per cent. more battleships then those possessed by our rivals. This 10 per cent. would make allowance at the beginning of a war for battleships on foreign stations, as well as preponderance in numbers to ensure a reasonable prospect of victory. They all knew the advantage Japan got in their last war by getting in the first blow. A sufficient battleship squadron on the spot at the commencement of hostilities was obviously essential to our safety. He submitted therefore that in battleships we should have 10 per cent. more than any two combined Powers. He did not include cruisers in his calculation, because that class of ships was used for a perfectly different purpose, viz., for scouting and for the protection of our mercantile marine, which was the largest mercantile marine in the world. How did the standard of new construction laid down by the Admiralty in the statement of policy set forth by the Secretary to the Admiralty compare with that of France and Germany, taking into consideration their actual and projected expenditure, in the immediate future? In 1904 he understood that France and Germany combined had an expenditure on new construction of £10,300,000 compared with our expenditure of £12,500,000, so that we were more than £2,000,000 ahead of France and Gėrmany combined. In 1909, if they accepted the statements made on the Continent, France and Germany would expend £12,900,000 on new construction as compared with our expenditure of £10,100,000. That was to say that under the programme submitted to Parliament before it was proposed to reduce it as now, we should be expending £2,800,000 on new construction less than France and Germany combined. Hon. Gentlemen would see that if we were to keep up the supremacy of our Navy in the future we must not only go on with the original programme of new construction, but in order to keep up with the two-Power standard in the future we might have to increase it. Could it be truly said that we were leading the pace in augmenting armaments? On the contrary, it was obvious that if France and Germany proceeded with their programme, as of course, they would, whatever preponderance we might now have would soon have vanished, and that instead of decreasing our programme, if we were to maintain our supremacy we might very likely before long have to increase our expenditure, unless we were content to lose our own guarantee for peace and safety. Turning from the question of expenditure to the actual number of armoured ships—battleships and cruisers— how did we stand, and how should we stand in the near future if we continued the policy laid down by the Government at the beginning of the year in the memorandum issued by the First Lord of the Admiralty of building four armoured ships annually? He had before in this House expressed the view, which he believed was held by our best admirals, that the useful efficient life of a battleship might be put at fifteen years. Taking into consideration this question of obsolete ships, our position at the beginning of 1906 was that we had forty-seven battleships less than fifteen years old against twenty-nine held by France and Germany. And as regarded armoured cruisers we had twenty-four as against twenty-two held by those two Powers. He wished to call attention to the curious fact that, in spite of our having twenty-four armoured cruisers against twenty-two possessed by France and Germany, it had been thought necessary to increase our superiority in battleships by three. Not only the Sea Lords, but the Civil Lords had agreed to that policy after the experience of the war between Japan and Russia. Admitting that we were numerically superior to other countries at present, we ought to look a little ahead. Taking, the standard as before, and not taking into consideration the abominable reductions which had just been announced— [Cries of "Oh, Oh?"]—he used the only words he could to express the feelings of a man who had served in the Navy— what would be the position in 1910? He was in a little bit of a difficulty with regard to the figures as they would stand at the end of 1910, since he did not know whether the armoured ships our Admiralty were to lay down were to be armoured cruisers or battleships. So they had to consider the total number of armoured cruisers and battleships against the total armoured cruisers and battleships of France and Germany at that date. He thought, however, that the correct figures would be that Great Britain would have had under the programme of February last, if it had been carried out, eighty-three, while France and Germany would have had sixty-seven. That would seem a very satisfactory position, but he would like to test it in the light of the experience gained in the war between Japan and Russia and the alterations in shipbuilding consequent thereupon What had been proved beyond doubt and what he believed the right hon. Gentleman had agreed to was that many protected cruisers which we had had in the past, and of which we had laid 150 upon the scrap heap were practically useless for war. That had been agreed to as good policy and he saw no attempt to bring these cruisers back into the service. But there were still a large number of protected cruisers in the Fleet which were of very little use far war, such as the "Terrible" and the "Powerful" We should not forget the services they rendered in connection with the South African War, but it was not the ships that fought but the men. The ships never fought and never came in actual collision with the enemy, and for his part he was glad that they did not, because they were comparatively useless ships. He would ask hon. Gentlemen to consider whether, when after the termination of their present Commissions these ships came in the ordinary course into dockyard hands, it would be worth the Admiralty's while to spend the large sum necessary to make them efficient or whether it would not be better to scrapheap them for the same reasons that had led them to scrap-heap the 150 others. The ships which would have to be put into the place of the "Powerful" and the "Terrible" and such like monsters should be the armoured cruisers which the Admiralty did not pretend that they were going to lay down this year at all. He did not find fault with the fact that the Government were proposing to build three battleships, but he thought that on the figures they ought to build armoured cruisers also. He did not think the Sea Lords would, if left to their own free will, have advised the Government to reduce the shipbuilding programme. This programme was put before the House in February when they said what they thought it was right to do, and they would never, if left to themselves, have cut it down in July. But hon. Gentlemen must look a little further ahead, because the programmes of shipbuilding laid down by foreign countries went further than even the year 1910. Supposing they went a little further and calculated what the result of the shipbuilding programmes would be twelve years hence. Taking fifteen years as the life of a battleship and considering battleships and armoured cruisers, he believed the statement was correct that if we went on on the basis before this reduction was proposed then our position in 1919 would be this: Great Britain would have sixty-three to France and Germany's sixty-eight, that was to say that instead of our being in a position of supremacy under the two-Power standard we should be five ships behind. He chose some date far ahead because, first, that date was the one that marked the completion of the present foreign programmes, and, secondly, because, he did not wish to see a small bit of shipbuilding this year, a big bit of shipbuilding another year and a bigger bit the year after. What he wanted was continuity of policy. If the Secretary to the Admiralty would get up and say that he would continue to build three ships every year until we reached the twoP-ower standard that would be the sort of continuity of policy which he asked for. He said, however, that we ought to build four ships every year until we attained the two-Power standard and then to maintain it at that standard. This, he believed, the country wished for, and this they would sooner or later make the Government carry out. As to the size of battleships it had been said that it was bad to build big ships because they cost so much, but he never knew anything which if you wanted to get the best did not cost a large sum of money. He had always acted upon that principle in his private affairs and had found it pay, and in his judgment the best things to buy were big battleships. It was said in the last days of wooden ships that a two-decker was better than a three-decker. That might be so in those times, because there was a limit to the size of vessels built of wood beyond which they could not go. Conditions were different now that iron had replaced wood and steel had replaced iron. No limit had yet been reached as to the size of the ship we could build. Increased armaments, speed, and coal capacity could here be obtained without sacrificing other essential features. The new ships should not be cruisers, but battleships. What we needed were the biggest battle-ships with the biggest armaments in order that this country might wipe the floor with any nation which had the temerity unnecessarily to come into collision with it.

*MR. BRAMSDON (Portsmouth)

expressed, his gratitude to the Secretary to the Admiralty for the extremely clear way in which he had put this Vote before the country. Never had he heard a Vote put in a better or clearer way. The statement was unanswerable. The Admiralty had as their advisers the most experienced professional men that the world had ever seen. Especially was that the case at the present time. He did not think anybody would deny that they were equal to the best in British history. Those advisers were perfectly satisfied with the scheme propounded this afternoon. If they had been at sixes and sevens with the First Lord and with those who had associated themselves with him he could have understood a big debate taking place in the House, but as it was he suggested that they might accept the statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty and feel satisfied that our Naval interests were properly looked after. He believed in a strong Navy, and in the two-Power standard, and he would reject anything which would endanger the stability of the Navy. He reminded the Committee that the gross steam tonnage of the British Empire was already 16,000,000, the next highest being Germany with 3,000,000. If these figures were looked at the Committee would understand what was necessary for the defence of our Empire. While he believed in having a strong Navy he felt sure that the nation was safe in the Admiralty's hands, as he had implicit confidence in those who were now in power. Considering the enormous size of the British mercantile marine as compared with that of all the other nations of the world, a very great responsibility rested on the Admiralty, but he believed they could place implicit confidence in the Government. He rather resented the insinuation that the responsible professional advisers were not quite honest in the advice which they gave.


I did not impute any dishonest motive to the Sea Lords, I only intended to suggest that they did not deal with the Estimates for this year only. They had to bear in mind the policy of future years, and if they cut the expenditure down now, they knew they must increase the amount in the future, and that point had not been brought out by the Secretary to the Admiralty.


I understood the hon. and gallant Member to say that if the Sea Lords had been left alone they would not have given the same advice.




said that in his opinion that was not so. To say that the distinguished gentlemen at the head of the Admiralty gave their advice subject to the views of those who came to them for advice was preposterous. They ought to place unbounded confidence in the professional advisers of the Admiralty.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER ( Staffordshire, Lichfield)

agreed with those who declared that they must keep up the two-Power standard, and believed that practically the Government proposal did that. At any rate that was the intention of the Government. Let them remember that in recent years we had got considerably ahead of that standard, and we possessed a very large margin over it at the present moment. No doubt the ships of the "Dreadnought" class would be a very valuable addition to the Navy, for they would be able while attacking an enemy effectively to keep out of the range of their opponents' fire. They would indeed constitute the real fighting strength of the Navy. As to the reduction in the number of cruisers he thought there was some justification for that, and he was strengthened in his opinion by the fact that France had discontinued building vessels of this class. What he wanted to know, however, was whether the oceangoing destroyers would be able to take the place of the cruisers in the future; whether they would be able to undertake all their duties? He did not think they were justified in reducing the number of destroyers if they were to take the place of the cruisers, which had constituted a class of enormous importance to this country, seeing that it had in the past been mainly charged with the protection of our mercantile marine and with the safeguarding of our food supplies in time of war. These matters would require careful consideration by the Board of Admiralty, which should ask the Secretary if a reduction in the number of destroyers to be built would not be dangerous seeing that they were to replace the cruisers.

*MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)

congratulated the Secretary to the Admiralty on the clear and lucid statement he had made, and said that so far as this year's programme was concerned he was thoroughly satisfied with three battleships; the real fight would of course take place on the programme of next year, with which they were not concerned on the present occasion. As far as the Sea Lords were concerned they had not a leg to stand upon—not a sea leg at any rate. They issued one statement last year, and all the changes which had occurred since made, he submitted, for increased armaments. Yet now they had authorised the First Lord to make a totally different statement ! What changes had occurred? There were the increased armaments on the part of France and Germany, the loss of the "Montagu," and the somewhat ill-advised resolution of the Admiralty not to work overtime in the dockyards, the result of which would be that our ships would not be built so quickly as hitherto. Then the effect of the destruction of the Russian fleet had been to enable Germany to concentrate the whole of her ships in the North Sea, as well as the torpedo flotilla, which was a threat against our battleships. There was also the new policy of the Government in respect of the Army. Defence now rested entirely with the Navy. All these and other changes, he contended, made for increase of responsibility, and, therefore, increase of armaments. No doubt the "Dreadnought" would possess immense firing superiority over other ships, and we were bound to maintain that superiority. There was a gain in speed at least of five knots, the big guns were 2½ times as numerous, each one firing twice as quickly, and the penetrating power was 50 per cent. better than that of the "Majestic" class. The outlined future programme of next year was a reduction of a reduction. In 1901 there were thirty-nine ships of over 5,000 tons under construction; there were now only seventeen, and the programme provided that in 1908 there would be only five under construction. That was an enormous reduction, and in face of that they saw the most stupendous exertions being made by Germany, which had always increased her programme since 1898. The reductions which the Admiralty had achieved —he was not including the new reductions —since 1904 amounted to £5,000,000 sterling on Naval Estimates and £5,000,000 sterling on works, apart from Rosyth, which he personally hoped would not be proceeded with. The relative increase in the Navy estimates of Germany by 1909 would be just under £10,000,000, as compared with the Navy Estimates of Great Britain since 1904. Allowing for our savings on Works Bills and that which Germany was going to spend for naval purposes, there would be a relative increase in Germany of £27,000,000. That was apart from the deductions which the Secretary to the Admiralty had foreshadowed, and it allowed for £10,000,000 to be spent on the Kiel Ship Canal to accommodate the new battleships. Several speakers on the Ministerial side, rather in the form of interruptions, talked of our being up to a three-Power standard. He knew they were honest in thinking we could safely reduce our ship-building, but he had never been able to discover that, taking ships building and projected as we ought, we were more than up to a two- Power standard as regarded France and Germany. Brassey's Annual gave France and Germany as having thirty-two second and third class battleships to our three excluding the "Llama" class, or ships which the Powers did not think it worth while to maintain. Putting these out of consideration and confining attention to first class battleships, they would find Brassey's Annual gave us fifty-one battleships, deducting the "Montagu," built and building, to forty-one of France and Germany. The moment they took in the projected programmes they found a different state of affairs. In four years we should have fifty-four to fifty-one of Germany and France. But if they allowed the contention, which he believed to be true, that the "Dreadnought" was equal to three "Majesties,"then in four years we should have sixty-one units as compared with seventy-one units of Germany and France. Between the years 1778 to 1850 we were always twice as strong as France in battleships, and generally much more than twice as strong in frigates. If the Government were only to build one "Dreadnought"In a year and one armoured cruiser, all he could say was that by 1919 all our ships prior to 1900 would be obsolete and Germany would be superior in battleships, while our cruiser strength would be absurdly inadequate; in fact, Germany would have a total of forty first-class battleships by 1919 if she continued her policy of building two battleships a year as compared with twenty-nine or twenty-eight in this country if for the future we were to have a cut down programme of only one battleship. He thought the minimum programme we could possibly pursue must be two to three battleships a year, and to this had to be added a suitable number of cruisers. With regard to the question of cruisers, the Return of Fleets gave us thirty-eight armoured cruisers as compared with thirty-two in France and Germany. That was not a very marked superiority, and taking all cruisers, excluding the "Llama" class, we had 111 to exactly 100 of France and Germany. It might be said that we had an individual superiority of type. So we had in many cruisers, but no strategy would provide that a cruiser could be in two places at one time. In the last prize essay of the United Service Institution it was said that we wanted seventy-four cruisers for scouting. Lord Spencer, one of the best First Lords this country had ever had, said last year— I have always maintained that we must have a much larger number of cruisers than any two other Powers. That larger number certainly did not exist. Sir Phipps Hornby had said that we wanted 236, and Sir Cyprian Bridge, before the Food Supply Commission, stated that we required a numerical advantage of 50 per cent. in cruisers as compared with hostile cruisers attacking our commerce. The policy of the Government as outlined by the Secretary to the Admiralty was practically to build no cruisers at all. Certainly none were to be laid down this year. In 1903 we had 162 cruisers; to-day, we had 102. There was not the slightest doubt that by 1909 eleven "Pandoras," two "Barhams," two "Blakes," and nine "Edgars" would have to be scrapped, and we should then have seventy-eight as compared with 162 in 1903.

*MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)

said that nobody who had had the advantage of serving in His Majesty's Navy for however short a time could fail to have been impressed, at any rate, with the extreme importance of the statement which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman. There could be no question that of all the matters connected with the Navy none was more important than proposals solemnly made upon the responsibility of the Admiralty to effect a real and substantial reduction in our naval strength. It was incumbent upon the Committee to very carefully consider whether or not under all the circumstances such a reduction ought to be made. The hon. Member for King's Lynn began his speech with what he understood to be an expression of gratitude to the Secretary to the Admiralty for having been able to announce this reduction. He did not glean from the remainder of the hon. Gentleman's speech any reasons for that gratitude, or, indeed, anything but a somewhat crude attack upon the Admiralty for the line they had taken. As he understood, the Secretary to the Admiralty based his case for this reduction upon two considerations. He said in the first place that there was a spirit abroad among the nations tending towards universal peace and the settlement of national disputes by arbitration, and that that as it stood was sufficient reason or, at any rate, was a very strong contributory reason why they were justified in making reductions in what, after all, was our only, certainly our first, line of defence. For his part, he thought nothing of that argument at all. He did not desire to say anything against the principle of the settlement of disputes by arbitration, but he believed that at present it was, and must be, recognised by reasonable men to be a mere dream— a dream which all desired to see realised, but which it was dangerous in the highest degree to put forward as a real reason why we should reduce the force upon which the existence of everyone in these islands directly depended. But the right hon. Gentleman had another and far more weighty reason, namely, that the considered opinion of the expert advisers of the Admiralty was that this was an economy which could be effected absolutely consistently with the complete maintenance of our naval supremacy. The question for the Committee was whether or not it was really the fact that that supremacy could be maintained if this reduction were carried out. He agreed with hon. Gentlemen who said there was considerable difficulty in arriving at what the facts really were in this matter. The Dilke Return had been referred to as a misleading statement. He strongly agreed with that remark. It was not possible to arrive at the real facts from a study of that Return, and the more one tried to find out what our naval strength was compared with that of other Powers the more one was beset by apparently insuperable difficulties. In a letter to The Times that morning Lord Brassey said that, so far as our present existing balance of power was concerned, there was no question whatever that we were well above the two-Power standard. It was true that Lord Brassey based his figures upon the Dilke Return to some extent, but after all one could not altogether neglect that Return. But what Lord Brassey said was that in ships ready for service we were equal to any three European Powers combined. He did not know that he accepted that in its entirety, but he did accept it as showing that we were at this moment well above the two-Power standard in effect. Therefore the only question was as to the future. The real difficulty of comparison was that our figures did not include any considerable proportion of ships that could be called inefficient or at any rate obsolete. There was no similar security with regard to the lists of foreign ships. All comparisons in the Dilke Return and Brassey's Annual assumed that every ship of every foreign Power was absolutely as up-to-date as ours. He did not believe it, and if comparisons were to be made merely upon the figures then greater weight, if anything, ought to be given to our figures than to those of foreign Powers. There was, he thought, one consideration which governed and dominated the whole of our shipbuilding constructive policy, and that was that this country was able to build the ships she required much more quickly than any other Power in the world. Let them take the casa of the "Dreadnought." He was informed, and he did not believe it would be contradicted, that that battleship, which was the largest, the most complex, and the most powerful ship that had ever been built for war purposes, would be finished within two years from the time that it was first decided at the Admiralty that such a ship should be built. He understood that if Germany laid down a "Dreadnought"To-day she would not be ready for three and a half years, so that to keep pace we should not have to begin to build such a vessel for eighteen months. That being so, what was the position in which any reasonable Board of Admiralty found itself? Surely the constructive policy of this country was dictated by that fact. Surely it was not only wise but imperative in the interests of the taxpayer to keep our money in our pockets for that eighteen months and take advantage of the interest on our money and all the advances in naval science during that time. At the end of the eighteen months, if it were deemed fit to answer the German "Dreadnought," we could lay down our "Dreadnought," and both ships would be launched at the same time. The Alpha and Omega of our naval policy might be summed up in two words—quick building and quick hitting. We had got quick building and we were getting quick hitting. He for his part could not shut his eyes to the enormous advantages which we got from quick-building, and it was for the right hon. Gentleman and his officials to do all they could to get every advantage which this country enjoyed from the enormous saving in time by quick building. That being the general attitude of mind in which he approached this question he had not much difficulty in coming to a conclusion. He did not suppose there was an hon. Gentleman in the House who did not desire to maintain the two-Power standard with all that it meant. He did not understand that it was contended in any quarter of the House that this reduction involved any departure from that standard, at any rate for some considerable time. The year 1919 had been suggested. He regarded that year with the most profound equanimity. He took the view that many things might happen before 1919, and he refused for his part to be greatly disturbed by gloomy prognostications as to things that could only happen in that distant year. The hon. Gentleman for King's Lynn, he understood, although deeply grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having made this reduction, was under some doubts as to the meaning of it. The hon. Gentleman spoke on naval matters with all the ability which naturally belonged to a sailor and a naval officer. He had not the slightest doubt that if the hon. Gentleman were put in to a boat at the foot of th Terrace he would get across to Lambeth without any serious mishap. He was sometimes inclined to think that the air of King's Lynn had been, somewhat too strong for the Liberalism of the hon. Gentleman, and he could not resist taking this opportunity of complimenting him upon the stout Toryism with which the air of that borough appeared to have inoculated him. He did not agree with the hon. Member, and he was content to believe that the Sea Lords of the Admiralty knew their business. He refused to be drawn into a miserable chorus of detraction of gallant officers unable to reply for themselves, who were doing their duty to their country in the best way they could according to their lights. When the Secretary to the Admiralty told them that he had the definite and personal authority of the Sea Lords to assure this House that, they recommended this reduction he was content to rely upon that assurance.

MR. BRIGHT (Oldham)

said the idea of economy was one which very naturally occurred to the minds of all Members sitting on the Liberal side after the country had witnessed for so long a time the extravagance of the late Government. The country was as much stirred by the idea of economy as by any other subject that was brought before it at the recent general election. Members of the Opposition side had expressed their sorrow at the proposals put forward in the naval statement. Of course they were sorry, but their orrow was the joy of Ministerialists. Hon. Members had said that in a few years there would be a panic and that the country would have then to go in for large expenditure for a great number of new ships. But panics were the sort of thing hon. Gentlemen opposite dealt in. Jingoes naturally went in for panics, and there was no more timid and shrinking person than an Imperialist Jingo. He saw a robber in every bush and looked with suspicion on all the world—everybody was going to hurt him. Liberals had not that feeling of timidity. They had a very great asset at present—they had got rid of the "new diplomacy."they should apply no more bluff to foreign Powers, at any rate until they were able to back it up. The late Government took the greatest possible Army and the greatest possible time to subdue the smallest possible enemy. He did not believe that any Power wished to attack this country. We were friendly with every Power in Europe as far as we knew. He was very glad that the Secretary to the Admiralty had announced economies. This was most valuable in view of the forthcoming meeting at The Hague, for it showed our bona fides. It showed that we were willing to take the lead, if not in reducing, at least in limiting armaments, and he hoped we should be followed by other Powers in this respect. He came to the House to promote economy, to promote peace, and to promote free trade. These subjects very greatly interested his constituency—a very large and very intelligent constituency.

MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)

And very well represented.


It was very greatly moved on this question of economy and the result had been that it had returned two Liberal Members. He congratulated the Government on their proposals and he was sure they would lead to a great strengthening of the desire for peace all over Europe.

MR. O. C. PHILIPPS (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)

said that, speaking as a shipowner, he was a strong supporter of a powerful Navy. At the present time our mercantile marine was about three times as large as that of two of our most powerful competitors, and, therefore, a two-Power Navy was a very small standard for Great Britain. He would have been pleased if the Government had seen their way to provide four ironclads, for he believed it was possible to have economy in the Navy and yet maintain a large building programme. The true policy of this country was to maintain a large building programme and to look for that economy in the Navy by discarding obsolete and semi-obsolete vessels that were now on the list of the Navy and tended very largely to increase the annual cost. He said that as a practical ship owner. He believed that the policy adopted more recently of scrapping old vessels and selling them for what they would fetch might be very considerably ex- tended, and it would be possible to use the money so saved in building more powerful vessels and keeping the Navy to the height at which it ought to be kept. Great Britain had enormous advantage over her competitors from the fact that she was a free trade country. The money which we expended produced a very much better result than an equal amount spent by other Powers. We got a larger amount of tonnage for the same amount of money than any foreign country. He would like to say one word to the Committee with reference to the question of building. When they came to build the vessels he hoped the Government would yet see their way to employ fully all the dockyards before giving out work to be done by contract. No private employer would think of giving out work to private contract so long as he had any of his own men unemployed, and it was a sound Liberal principle that they should keep their own men employed, and, not as had been done in the past, discharge large numbers of their own employees whilst distributing work elsewhere. In the case of Pembroke Dockyard, there had been no less than 700 men discharged during last year, and this in the case of a town which had been entirely built since the Government some hundred years ago instituted a dockyard at that place. Previously there was not a single house there. It had been stated that Pembroke Dockyard was not a place in which to build the largest class of vessels, but as a practical shipowner he defied any expert who had visited the place to declare that Pembroke Dockyard was unable to build "Dreadnoughts," or vessels very much larger, as economically, as quickly, and as well as any other dockyard in the Kingdom. They would be told that it was not reasonable for the Government to give all the work to the national dockyards, but he reminded the Committee that in the case of work given to the national dockyards out of every £1,000,000 expended £800,000 was given to private contractors for the supply of armour plates, material, and engines; therefore, even if the whole of the work of the country was given to the national dockyards, which was a thing that no one proposed in times when there was a large building programme it would still mean that four-fifths of the money would be distributed among private firms. It was no use building fine vessels like the "Dreadnought" unless they provided ample dry dock accommodation around the coasts for them. In the case of war they might have to repair these vessels, and, if so, plenty of graving docks would be wanted. He urged the Government to consider this question of increasing the number of graving docks and dry docks round the coasts. He hoped they would also consider the desirability of having a large graving dock in Milford Haven, which had just been used for the great scheme recently carriedout by the Admiralty. In conclusion, he pointed out that in Wales they had only one large national establishment, namely, the dockyard at Pembroke. He hoped the Government would do their utmost to give that establishment a reasonable measure of support, so as to keep the men engaged there fully employed.

SIR ALFRED THOMAS (Glamorganshire, E.)

congratulated the Government on their new programme. What he was sorry for was that they did not proceed farther in the direction in which they were going. They had heard a great deal about the two-Power standard, but the question was not how to rival other Powers, but to ascertain what Navy we required ourselves. Nelson said— Thank God the Spaniards cannot build men. But we in England could build both men and ships to-day, and he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite should take heart of grace and not be so panic-stricken, for we had got men who could fight and we had got a few ships too. He also congratulated the late Government, represented on the Front Bench opposite by the hon. Member for the Fareham division, on their action in scrapping so many ships that could neither fight nor run away. It was a criminal act to put men into ships when neither the guns could be fought nor the ships run away. He trusted that the Government would take a heroic view of this question and be governed, if necessary, not even by the Sea Lords, but by common sense and a little pluck. He wished to support the remarks of the hon. Member for Pembroke in regard to Pembroke Dockyard. There was not a better dockyard in England. On behalf of Wales, he asked the Secretary to the Admiralty to see that that country had justice done to it.

MR. MADDISON (Burnley)

deprecated the lively and not very healthy competition between dockyard Members for orders. [Cries of "Oh, oh ! "and "Withdraw."] He had yet to learn that getting an order was a dishonourable thing. [Cries of "Withdraw."] He had nothing to withdraw. He meant what he said. During the course of this debate hon. Members opposite and one or two on the Ministerial side of the House had spoken as though the proposals of the Government were going to destroy the Navy and threaten the safety of the Empire. It was perfectly well known that this statement was to be made, but there were not more than half-a-dozen Members on the benches opposite when it came to be made. He should have thought that the representatives of the great Imperialist Party would have been present in their full strength to defend the Empire, and to maintain the present situation. He recommended hon. Members opposite to have a little more courage; they should understand that risk was a part of the naval profession. Nelson had been quoted; but he would remind hon. Members that Nelson never said, as it had been said in this debate, that our Navy would certainly be defeated if we had not as many ships as the enemy. He would ask the hon. Member who said that to get a little more tonic.


said that Nelson was always asking for reinforcements.


said that Nelson asked for reinforcements on the quarterdeck and not in this House. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh, oh."] He thought that the quarter-deck was better training ground than the floor of the House. The hon. Member for Norwood, who had made an admirable answer to the hon. Member for King's Lynn, referred to the fact that we could not rely for any length of time on a particular type of ship. No doubt the scrapping policy was a very good one in some respects, but it might become a very bad one if we based our faith on a particular type of ship. None of the service Members had shown that the Sea Lords were wrong in recommending this reduction; and as those who supported retrenchment had the Sea Lords on their side, they meant to make the most of it. He would be interested to hear how the Leader of the Opposition would deal with this question. He had had three years' experience of the right hon. Gentleman, and he wished that he had not such a command of choice and charming language, for, although he was convinced that the right hon. Gentleman was generally wrong in his conclusions, while he was speaking the right hon. Gentleman for the moment sometimes upset him. There was one flaw in the speech of the hon. Member for Norwood, and that was an attempt to belittle The Hague Conference. After all, we had some interest in humanity; and how long were the people of the world going to treat an era of peace as a dream? If our religion was worth anything at all, peace ought to be one of the elementary things of every-day life. We had learned to settle our differences in private life without the duel.


said that a good many people had been shooting at him, and he would like to hit back.


said he wanted to enter his protest against the idea that the proposal to reduce armaments was within the domain of dreams. He ventured to say that the Prime Minister had proved himself a statesman in the highest and best sense of the word when at the Albert Hall, and at the Inter-Parliamentary Conference, he said that the arrest of armaments, far from being a dream, was the immediate task not only of English but of international statesmen, and that we owed it to humanity to see whether such a thing could not be brought about. He wished to ask the Admiralty and the Government whether they were going to The Hague Conference to give it an earnest of their sincerity. The policy of the Government in going to The Hague Conference ought to be to say— Here is England, not in her weakness but in her glory and her strength; and she is so strong as to be able to take the lead in a cause which is well within the domain of human reason. He believed that such a policy would not jeopardise the Empire, but would leave it intact and relieve our industries of a great part of the incubus which weighed so heavily upon them through the waste of money on armaments. An hon. Member had said that if reductions were to be made on now construction for the Navy there would be a loss of wages. But he was sure that the Labour Members, with all their shortcomings, would never believe that they would increase wages, or the quality and amount of their employment, by spending money in the building of warships. It was true that the building of warships engaged a certain amount of labour, but did anybody believe that £1,000,000 spent in building a warship gave as large an amount of efficient labour with as £l,000,000 spent in the ordinary industries of the country? He endorsed the Government policy with all his heart, and did not believe that there was one of their supporters who would not back them up in it. At the proper time they would expect the Government to go further.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)

The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down expressed many excellent philanthropic sentiments with which I find myself in agreement; but I must contest his general argument; and, whether or not I shall again give him another of those half-hours of doubtful pleasure which I seem to have afforded him on other occasions, I hope to offer him at least some suggestions which may induce him to alter somewhat his attitude of congratulation towards the naval policy of the Government. It must be evident from the tenor of the speeches that have been delivered that there are two distinct currents of thought animating or influencing the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. There is, first, the question whether we do or do not require a larger Navy than the Navy which the Government propose to give us. That is what I might call a scientific question. Its answer depends on the duties which we throw upon the Navy. The other question is how far we can inspire the nations of the world through The Hague Conference, or by other means, to dispense with the vast armaments, the burden of which now weighs so heavily upon their finances. I shall have something to say about each of these questions and of their relation to each other.

As to the first, the adequacy of the Fleet for the purposes for which it is required, I do not think that anyone who listened to the speech of the Secretary to the Admiralty will venture to say that he gave us any reasoned account of the grounds which had induced the Government to depart from the provisional naval policy which they announced in March last. I do not quarrel with the Government for having departed from that policy. They had, of course, the right to change it if they thought fit. But I do quarrel with them for having given us so short a notice of the change, and so brief an opportunity of discussing what every one admits is a very momentous decision. Of course, the Government cannot be rigidly bound to its Estimates. As I have said, some liberty of change is necessary; and I do not make that by itself a reproach. The ground of my criticism is that a change which without question does profoundly modify the relative strength of the British and foreign navies should be made without some adequate justification. Will anyone contend that the Admiralty have advanced a single argument upon that subject except that it had been made upon the authority of the Sea Lords? I think that when the Naval Lords are brought into the forefront of this controversy, as they have been brought by the Government this afternoon, we are treading on very dangerous ground; and, indeed, the Government themselves were aware that they were treading on very dangerous ground. From what fell from the Secretary to the Admiralty it is clear that he knew that it has never been the practice, and ought not to be the practice, in this House for a Government to shelter themselves in the complete manner in which the present Government have done behind the Naval Lords. The Government have gone to the length of telling us that, not merely have the Naval Lords assented to the policy for which the Government are responsible, but that the Naval Lords pressed this policy on the Government.


What I said was that the Naval Lords were the authors of the original new programme, and that they recommended the revision of that new programme to us.


The hon. Gentleman says that this policy was pressed upon them by the Naval Lords. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Recommended."] I cannot see the particular distinction between recommending a policy and pressing a policy; but I am content to say that this policy was recommended to the Government by the Naval Lords. I confess I do not much like this method of using the authority of the experts of the great spending departments. It may be necessary, but I think the Government themselves shrank a little from it.


I said so.


Yes, but you did it all the same. We have not the advantage of cross-examining the Naval Lords. I wish we had. Remember that the Naval Lords who have recommended this new policy to the Government are, by admission, precisely the same Naval Lords who were in office when the original plan of the Government was put forward which involved twenty-five per cent. of increase in the expenditure on battleships and an even greater increase in other types of ships of war. They are the same men who were in office in March last when the Government announced their provisional naval programme. In the circumstances, I think that if their authority is to be quoted, and if we are not to have the opportunity of cross-examining them, at least we should be told the grounds on which they have changed their opinions. The Secretary to the Admiralty gave not the smallest hint or indication what changes in the circumstances of this country, in the building programmes of foreign countries, in the magnitude of the interests we have to defend, and in our facilities for defending them, justify so great a change in the policy of the Naval Department. It was said in the course of the debate that we need not consider what other people are doing. That is a dictum which, I think, we all hold. But it must be remembered that our Fleet is essentially a defensive force; and, accordingly, its strength must depend upon the force that may be brought against it. Is there any indication that the force which may be brought against us is less now than it was in March last or in November last? If there is no such indication, then on what do the Naval Lords base their change of view? Of course, if the Government come down to this House and say that all their naval experts are of one mind in this matter, I admit that it is very difficult for us to hold another view. I quite acknowledge that. But I think, at the same time, that we should be told why the experts hold those opinions. The reductions in the expenditure on the Fleet recommended by the late Government did not militate in any sense against the efficiency of the Fleet. Indeed, we believed they left the Fleet stronger than it was before. But that is not the case with respect to the new policy of the present Government. That policy will leave the Fleet weaker. There is all the difference in the world between economies which leave the Fleet stronger and economies which leave the Fleet weaker; and there is as great a difference between expert advice given in one case for reasons which were stated to the world, and expert advice given in the present case of which we are kept in complete ignorance. Let me say a word now on the humanitarian question, with which, need I say, I have the profoundest sympathy? Has not the House noticed that the Government in their declarations as regards both the Army and the Navy make two different kinds of speeches according to the different class of opinion they wish to conciliate? When they are talking to those members on the other side of the House who are deeply interested in the efficiency of the Army and Navy they declare that the Army will be 50 per cent. stronger after their reforms are carried out, and that the Navy, according to their expert advisers, is quite adequate for every purpose of defence which can be asked of it. Then they turn to another section of their followers, who are more interested in the diminution of expenditure than in the efficiency of the services, and who entertain the most sanguine hopes and expectations both of what can be done by The Hague Conference and what we can do to influence The Hague Conference. What is the language they hold to these gentlemen? They say that we must set an example, and to show that we have confidence in the pacific intentions of our neighbours, we must diminish expenditure upon our defensive armaments. But you cannot have it both ways. The hon. Gentleman opposite welcomes the | policy of the Government as a proof of good faith. He welcomes it because it would enable the Government to go to The Hague Conference and say, "Look at Great Britain; we no longer intend or desire to keep these great armaments." Yes, Sir, but I do not know whether The Hague Conference will be much influenced by that argument if they read all the speeches or the whole of any speech delivered by the Government. How do you prove your good faith by saying, "See, we have diminished Army expenditure, but our striking force is 50 per cent. stronger than before? "How will you produce this feeling of implicit belief in the pacific intentions of England when you say, "We have cut down the Navy Estimates, but the Naval Lords tell us we are fully equal to any two of you, even after the reductions?"the truth is, that if, which I hope is not the case, it be necessary for us to persuade foreign nations of our bona fides, and the simple benevolence of our attitude towards all mankind, you could not go to work in a worse manner than you are doing now. I know right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are perfectly honest and sincere, and that it is simply this unhappy habit of platform oratory which requires these double and perfectly inconsistent appeals. I hope I do not indulge in it. I am not aware of any case that can be adduced against me. It is sufficient for me to say that the idea that these innocent, naif, unsuspecting statesmen who are going to join in The Hague Conference will be taken in by this noble appeal, is really absurd, ["Oh," and "Bad form"] What is bad form?

Mr. J. M. ROBERTSON (Northumberland, Tyneside)

I did not say 'bad form;" but I consider the expression "taken in" extremely objectionable.


Then I withdraw it. But the gentlemen at The Hague Conference will undoubtedly know quite as much about your public declarations as anybody else. They will look at them in a more critical spirit than perhaps they ought to be looked at, and will say, "Here is the British Government talking about setting us a good example. They are making eloquent appeals to universal disarmament. They are saying they are in the very forefront of disarmament while they are assuring their countrymen in the same speeches, through the mouths of the same statesmen, that their Army is 50 per cent. stronger and their Fleet, even after the reductions, is equal to the two-Power standard." I do not see how these two kinds of appeal can be made, and I do not believe they will be, effective. In truth, I think this whole method of approaching the question is wrong. Our forces are defensive forces; our policy is a defensive policy. I do not think this country will ever indulge in a war of aggression, and therefore we have one duty, and one duty only, which is to make our naval and military forces as strong as, but no stronger than, are required to defend all our interests at home and abroad. That is the real scientific basis, or ought to be, of our armaments; and I cannot see that the Government have in the least degree tried, in the first place, to find out what those defensive necessities were, and then to square our defensive forces with the needs they have scientifically analysed. They have shown us no indication that they have carried out the policy of the two-Power standard, though they still profess it. I do not know what answer the Admiralty are going to give to the criticism of my hon. friend near me, who pointed out that this new type of battleship really changes the character of the two-Power standard. While at first sight you might be inclined to say that the fact that we were the first to design and build them gives us a great advantage in one sense, I am afraid it may entail upon us an expenditure which otherwise you might have avoided. And for this reason. If the new type carries out the full expectations of its designers, a squadron of four of those battleships are almost invulnerable by any existing naval combination. Therefore, if we are really to keep pace with other nations as regards battleships, we shall have to build this new type at an equal rate to any two Powers. I am afraid if you look at what foreign nations are doing in the way of building these enormous ships, you will find that we are falling behind the two-Power standard in respect of ships of the "Dreadnought" type. And if these ships be what they conceive them to be, then you are endangering in a very serious degree, at this moment, by the inventive genius shown in designing those ships, the two-Power standard My hon. friend the Member for Norwood took comfort from the fact that we are able to build much faster than foreign nations; but have you any security that this greater rapidity of building is an inherent and perpetual advantage which this country is always going to have? I take it that it is a matter of organisation. I take it we have no advantage in material, no striking advantage in personnel, and that our machinery is in no sense in advance of the machinery to be found in the great dockyards of Germany or France, certainly of Germany. I do not believe—I wish I could—that we have this perpetual advantage in the matter of rapidity of building. There may have been a time when we had better material, when our dockyards were better equipped. That time is passed. No human being will pretend that our manufactories for great guns to-day are superior to the Krupp manufactory; that we can turn out great guns or armour quicker than they can. If the Germans think it worth their while, I do not think we can count upon building battleships quicker than they can. As soon as they see that it is economical and advantageous to build quickly, I think it will be found that they will build as quickly as we can.

I have laid before the committee the doubts that I am compelled to feel in regard to the policy of the Government. I do not believe for an instant that the course they are pursuing is a course which will conduce to peace. I believe that peace is secured by making those countries that are in the nature of things defensive countries as strong as possible. We do not desire to interfere with the rights of other people, but I hope we are determined that our rights shall not be interfered with. Let any man look around the world at the present time and say whether all the symptoms point to a reign of universal peace. If anyone imagines that in Asia, Africa, and Europe all the symptoms may be read in a favourable light and sanguine spirit, I confess that I am unable to agree. One policy, and one policy alone, will ensure peace as far as this country is concerned—namely, the conviction entertained by every foreign statesman that it is dangerous to attack us. So long as that is the belief entertained on the Continent, so long as the policy of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is a policy consistent with the dignity and honour of the country, so long will he be able to maintain a European peace which in every respect is consistent with the interests of this country. But if once you allow, either on philanthropic or other grounds, your defensive forces to fall to such a point as that you are thought to be a possible prey to some ambitious nation, then I say that you are shaking the foundations of the peace of the world; and it is in the interests of peace I urge His Majesty's Government to put no pressure on their naval advisers to modify opinions at which they have deliberately arrived. I earnestly request them, whatever be the changes which they desire to introduce either in the Army or the Navy, not to make changes of a kind which will weaken the forces which undoubtedly in the past have conduced to peace and which will perform the same beneficent function, if properly used, in the future. I am therefore obliged to declare that, after the explanations of the Government as regards the new programme, so far it is wholly inadequate, and that the suspicions with which it has been naturally regarded have in no way been dissipated by the representative of the Admiralty.


I assure the right hon. Gentleman, and I think he will believe it, that we on this side of the House, and those who share our views in this matter, had no idea that we should shake the foundations of peace—peace on the one hand, and the British Empire on the other—by the dropping of a first-class ironclad out of the programme of the year. If it had that effect, we should not drop the first-class ironclad. The right hon. Gentleman divided the subject, very naturally and conveniently, into two parts. First of all, there was the question of the naval policy of the year and the relations of the naval advisers of the Government to the policy; and, in the second place, there was the larger and wider question of the prospect of a general gradual disarmament, and therefore of some improvement in the prospects of peace and goodwill among the nations. As to the relations of the Government to the technical advisers of the Board of Admiralty, I am glad to reassure the right hon. Gentleman entirely. It is not the first time that the programme of the year which has been approved by the technical naval advisers of a Government has been afterwards altered by that same Government. That is no extraordinary thing. Two years ago the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was the head dropped out of their programme one of four armoured cruisers and thirteen destroyers, and last year there was also an armoured cruiser dropped—that is to say, it was not ordered—and the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on that occasion forgot or omitted even to inform the House of the change. The right hon. Gentleman says that we proposed a certain shipbuilding policy to the House in March. No, sir, we guarded ourselves against doing so. We came into power after the naval policy of this year had been nominally fixed by our predecessors. We have never quite ascertained what was the reason of that extraordinary departure from ordinary procedure when the naval programme was furnished before the change of Government in December or before the general election. When, at all events, we came into office it was our duty then to take a calm and deliberate survey of the situation, and for the purposes of the Estimates of this year we adopted the proposals of our predecessors. But my right hon. friend in introducing the Estimates said that we should review this question of the shipbuilding programme; and later in the session that we should say what our mind was on that subject. If anything has been upset it is not our proposals of building great ships, but the proposals of our predecessors born out of time.

Then what about the course taken in this matter by the Sea Lords? The Sea Lords have had no pressure put upon them in this matter. On the contrary, taking a further survey of the situation as it now presents itself to them, they have advised us that what we now propose is sufficient to maintain all the strength and preserve all the power that is required for the British Navy. Not only so, but they recommended this to us, and they have expressly asked that the House of Commons should be informed that it was their recommendation, in order I suppose, that they might get the credit for it. Now we hear put forward an extraordinary theory. When the Government is supposed to be going to reduce the Navy Estimates the Party newspapers are full of events that never occurred. The Sea Lords are on the point of resigning, or they have resigned; the First Lord of the Admiralty has tendered his resignation; every allusion that is made to the subject is couched in that tone; and then we are told that it is very improper to bring in the Naval Lords at all. But if they are to be brought in for the purposes of attack, surely it is perfectly right to bring them in for the purposes of defence? I think with my right hon. friend that the present situation is entirely abnormal and exceptional, because it has happened that the same Board is making different recommendations than were presumably made to the Government of last year. No one knows what pressure may have been brought on the Sea Lords last year. It may be, for all we know, that they are now able to find a happy way of escape out of the duress in which they were placed last year. Except in a case like this, where there is a change in the opinion of the same technical advisers, I am not in favour of adducing the authority of professional advisers either in this or in any other case. It puts them in a false position. It leads to this very line of thought of which I have been speaking, where people try to discriminate between the political heads of a department and the more permanent and professional heads; and these are great mischiefs in the administration of the country. I think it ought not to be done except in abnormal cases, but this was an exceptional case, and I do not think that my right hon. friend would be justified in refusing to make public the statement which the Naval Lords wished him to make. Our opinion is that the Naval Lords are right, and when you talk of the two-Power standard, after all you cannot quite keep out of your mind who the two Powers are. When we have elaborate calculations made as to what France and Germany are building, is it really a very likely combination that France and Germany should be allied and should go to war with us? I do not object to the two-Power standard as a rough guide, but this is a two-Power standard of almost a preposterous kind. When we come to examine the details of that two-Power standard, we find that the figures of that combination do not justify any extraordinary capacity and speed in shipbuilding in this country. But we admit that there ought to be some progress made with these huge ships of our invention, and accordingly we propose that there should be three ships laid down. What will they accomplish for us Until 1909 we shall be the only Power that has one of the great "Dreadnought" class, said to be almost incapable of defeat. Until 1909 we shall have one and no other Power will have any; while in 1909 we shall have four, and other Powers will only have two. The right hon. Gentleman controverts the idea that we have any advantage in speedy building.


No necessary advantage.


We only deal with things as we find them. What Germany or France or Scandinavia or any other country may do in the way of rapid building in the next twenty years we cannot tell. We make our programmes in accordance with what we know; and as we know these countries, neither France nor Germany, nor any other country can equal us in rate or cheapness of shipbuilding. And cheapness after all does come in, because it enables a larger number of these great vessels to be built for the same burden on the people. I do not know that I need say anything more regarding the action of the Naval Lords. We think it to be a most patriotic action. We think it most sensible and plucky of them to admit that they had rather over-estimated the necessities a few months ago, and they are content with a reduced programme. The right hon. Gentleman says that we are weakening the Fleet. How are we weakening the Fleet? That is the old idea that by piling one strength upon another strength you get a greater result. The man who has had an ample dinner, as much as he can digest, does not make himself stronger by going on eating dinners in order to dazzle other people. After all, this is one of the most vital elements of this branch of the question— the rivalry of grandeur in naval and military expenditure. It is not only the actual strength but, if I may use the word, it is the swagger as to having the largest, strongest, and most numerous fleet, or the biggest and most powerful army in the world. We dislike that sort of rivalry. The right hon. Gentleman said a thing which is very true. He said that possibly we made a mistake in laying down this one great "Dreadnought," because it has undoubtedly set the pace for other nations. By that action we deliberately encouraged other nations to go on in this unceasing rivalry. I daresay that the right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that we might have been better off in relative strength to-day if we had not built this vessel. But that is done. We take it as we find it; and we wish to maintain the strength that the naval men consider adequate for the discharge of all the duties that fall upon the Navy.

We have in our mind's eye, also, the question of general disarmament. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was very encouraging to The Hague Conference. It may be difficult to realise all the things that are attempted or thought of. But I would rather be one of those who try to realise them than one of those who run them down and point out nothing but difficulties. Who imagines that the Powers going to The Hague Conference to deal with disarmament are to disarm themselves entirely and present themselves without defence among their neighbours? It is not so. We desire to stop this rivalry, and to set an example in stopping it—we who can do it, in regard to the Navy, with greater case than any other Power—in order that we may relieve to some extent the burden that presses upon the people of all countries. The right hon. Gentleman rather implied that we should wait for other people to set the example; and the late Civil Lord of the Admiralty said that we should call upon other nations to take the first step. It is to be an inverted Pool of Siloam. Instead of all the people rushing to be the first in the water, they are all to linger on the brink and urge their neighbours to go in. In my judgment we are the country above all others upon whom it is incumbent to show a willingness to check the pace with which these great armaments have been mounting up of late years, with respect to the Navy especially. No man here wishes the Navy to be weak for all the manifold duties which it has to perform, duties which do not fall upon any other country in the world. We are all as keen as anyone can be to maintain the efficiency of the Navy, but extravagance never procures efficiency. You get efficiency only when expenditure is kept within reasonable bounds. But on these grounds we hope that the Government, having the opportunity, will have the support of the House of Commons in setting a very reasonable and moderate example—but still a very obvious, decided, and considerable example—in the direction in which, we think, all the nations suffering from this burden of armaments would do well to follow. We shall not be intimidated by any fear of unpopularity. As a matter of fact, I believe it to be a popular policy; but, if it were not, I should follow it all the same. I am not one who ever talks of mandates. I never use the word, and I do not believe very much in the thing. But we made no secret of our desire to reduce military expenditure; we went to the country; and here we are. If we had not taken the steps that we have done, in regard both to the Army and the Navy, and endeavoured to the best of our belief to show to the countries that we do not believe in reckless expenditure in this matter, but that at the same time we are anxious to maintain the necessary forces to defend our interests—if we had not done that, and if we did not now declare our intention of following that policy out, we should not be worthy to sit on this Bench.


said that the time was too short for him to make a statement as to the dockyard administration; but he proposed to print as a Parliamentary Paper the substance of what he had to say and have it circulated amongst members immediately.

MR. JENKINS (Chatham)

asked whether hon. Members would have an opportunity later on of saying something in regard to the proposal to build one of the battleships by private contract.


said the only opportunity, he believed, would be on the Appropriation Act.

SIR J. BAKER (Portsmouth)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give Members representing dockyard towns the opportunity of an interview at the Admiralty on the statement made?



Vote agreed to.

2. £2,827,200, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Matériel.

3. £8,588,400, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Contract Work.

4. £2,986,000, Naval Armaments.

5. £351,500, Admiralty Office.

Resolutions to be reported.