§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,549,900, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Personnel for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c., including the cost of Establishments of Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1908."
§ *THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. EDMUND ROBERTSON, Dundee)
said it might be convenient to make a short statement on this Vote. The House was familiar with the dangers that had been discovered lurking in the composition of cordite, and the serious prospect which that fact opened up both for the Army and the Navy. The development of knowledge was comparatively recent as to the law which governed the composition of cordite. Since the Estimates were framed, however, that law had been more fully ascertained, and in his ignorance he would only state that if the condition of cordite did not vary according to the temperature at which it was stored, at least it depended on the temperature. After the Estimates were framed the Admiralty had to deal with the matter on their own responsibility. They had decided to apply cooling apparatus to the magazines in which cordite was stored in all the ships of the Navy. They proposed to deal first with the ships on hot stations or those about to proceed to hot stations. In the second place, they would apply the new system to all ships under construction or undergoing large refits; and, lastly, they would deal with the remaining ships in the Navy as opportunity occurred. Shortly after the decision of the Admiralty a Committee of scientific experts was appointed to report on the whole subject, under the presidency of Lord Rayleigh, and that Committee unanimously approved of the course which the Admiralty had adopted. It, had been decided to test all cordite on the most extensive scale possible. It 982 had also been decided that the oldest cordite in our possession should be the first to be used, and. finally, all cordite that had been long at hot stations, or on which suspicion was cast, would be destroyed. The same thing would have to be done with magazines on shore in certain places, but not, of course, at Gibraltar or Malta, where additional refrigerating apparatus was not required. The designs and plans for dealing with the shore stations were not yet in a forward condition, and nothing could be done in regard to them which would require to be paid for in the present financial year. It was estimated that the total cost of supplying cooling apparatus to magazines on ships was £500,000, and the estimated expenditure in the current financial year for this purpose would be £200,000.
The second topic on which he desired to say a few words was the programme relating to destroyers, on account of observations made both in and outside the House. The first thing he had to say was that it was the opinion of the Board of Admiralty that the two-Power standard was not applicable to the destroyer section of the British Navy—whether the two-Power standard or any other did not matter. The number of destroyers wanted depended on the use that was to be made of them, and not on the. number which might be in possession of other Powers. Historically the destroyer was intended mainly as a weapon of attack against torpedo boats. In explaining the policy which had led to the adoption of the ocean-going destroyer fit for service at sea, he said that our requirements were determined on strategical grounds by the naval advisers of the Board of Admiralty. It was said that the provision this year was adequate. No hard and fast age limit was recognised, but the 27-knot destroyers were wearing out. There was also a steady annual output, the supply being five ocean-going destroyers and twelve coastal destroyers, or as they were now called turbine torpedo boats. He had obtained from the experts at the Admiralty a comparative statement as to the strength of destroyers here and abroad. Counting the coastal destroyers, he found that' France had sixty-five torpedo boat destroyers, built, building, or projected, Germany eighty-three, and Great Britain 983 191. He was advised that, on the whole, the British flotilla of destroyers was superior in essential qualities to those of foreign Powers. The next point upon which he was going to say a word or two would be of more interest than the last and had reference to the cruiser policy of the Board of Admiralty. It had been said that their programme showed that they were in default in regard to cruisers, and he wanted the House to know what the position was. They were in no default. The total provision made for new construction was £8,100,000, and he had had a careful calculation made which showed that there was a cash provision going to cruiser construction amounting to £2,800,000 or more than a third of the whole sum. The vessels building included three "Invincibles," and each of them would cost nearly £1,730.000, nearly double what they cost in the old days. Then came the three cruisers of the "Minotaur" class, each costing £1,400,000. Next came four cruisers of the "Warrior" class, and the "Achilles," "Natal," "Cochrane," and "Warrior" had now passed into the Navy and had taken their position in the northern division of the Home Fleet. Each of these cruisers cost £1,200,000. The only remaining cruiser was the new departure sanctioned last year, the "Boadicea." She was to cost £350,000. It would be seen from this statement that the cruiser policy of the Board which preceded the present Board and of the present Board itself had been to build large armoured cruisers. That was the outstanding feature of the programme. The object having been attained in establishing our required lead and superiority in this type of vessel, the Board were now free to turn, and were turning, their attention to other cruiser types—one type an improvement on the "Scout" class, the other a type necessary for replacing the "Edgar" class. The "Boadicea" type of about 3,500 tons displacement might be designated as a third-class cruiser largely superior in coal endurance and armament to the "Scout" class and with high speed. The other type under consideration was required to take the place of the "Edgar" class, which were becoming worn out and were held no longer to satisfy later requirements as to speed, armament, and coal endurance. These types would be carefully studied with a view to their 984 inclusion in next year's programme. The only other topic with which he wished to deal had bulked largely in public discussion outside the House, and that was the topic of repairs. It had been alleged that the repairs of the Fleet had been neglected, especially in the Home Fleet and in the special service vessels. In the second place it was said that this was due to the advent of a cheeseparing Liberal Government. In the third place, it was said that this policy had culminated in excessive discharges from the dockyards. He proposed to deal with those allegations in the order that they affected him most. All these charges affected him personally as Secretary to the Admiralty, because in matters of naval policy he was on the side of the repairers, and would rather keep the Fleet in repair than buy new vessels. As to the charge of parsimony, the figures he would give were not meant to institute invidious comparisons, but to repel them. In 1905–6, the last year before the present Government came into office, the provision for the repairs of the Fleet amounted to £2,019,515; but the actual expenditure fell short of that amount by £437,355. In the year 1906–7, when the present Government took over lock, stock, and barrel the Naval Estimates of the outgoing Government, which were found in a complete form, the provision made for repairs was £1,628,100; but the new Board spent £282,900 more than that amount. That was the cheeseparing. In the present financial year the provision was raised to £1,800,198, or £172,000 more than in the previous year, and up-to-date the Admiralty had overspent themselves to the extent of £44,250. The expenditure now proposed for repairs was, in this instance, larger than that which was proposed by the responsible professional officers, because he was determined to be on the safe side in respect to repairs, and at his suggestion the sum was considerably increased. He was not blaming the expenditure of former years, but merely vindicating the present Board when he repelled the injurious comparisons that had been made. With respect to the Home Fleet, early this year a special circular order was addressed to the Commander-in-Chief directing him to report once a quarter the state of his fleet 985 in regard to repairs. That circular order would in due course be extended to the other fleets. He had a synopsis of the reports made under this circular order with regard to the Home Fleet, Of battleships ready there were six at the Nore, three at Portsmouth, and two at Devon-port. The only battleships not ready were the "Glory" (refitting at Portsmouth) and the "Cæsar" (refitting at Devonport). Of the armoured cruisers there were reported "ready, no defects," six at the Nore, three at Portsmouth, and three at Devonport. The one not ready was the "Cumberland," which was being prepared as a cadets' seagoing cruiser. Of the first-class cruisers there were ready, with no defects, three at Portsmouth and three at Devonport. The "Argonaut" and the "Terrible," at Portsmouth, were not ready, and the "Europa" was refitting at Devonport. Of the second-class cruisers all were ready, three at the Nore, three at Portsmouth, and two at Devonport. The special service vessels, which had been the object of special attacks, consisted of eleven battleships and ten cruisers laid up with skeleton crews. All the battleships were reported ready at five days notice; of the five first-class cruisers, all were ready at five days notice, except the "Hawk," which was refitting; of the four second-class cruisers one only, which was being refitted as a mine layer, was not ready. That was a satisfactory statement, and he would complete it by reading the result of the answers given to certain questions by the officers responsible for the repairs of the Navy. They amounted to this. The fleets in commission fully manned were in excellent condition. A few vessels in the Home Fleet were becoming due for refit in ordinary course, and it was much more economical to keep these vessels in commission with nucleus crews than it was to put them in the old Dockyard Reserve, as was done before the present organisation was adopted. The special service vessels were all in good condition and ready for service, except those actually in dockyard hands (two in number). Provision had been made in the Naval Estimates for this year for thoroughly re-fitting all vessels which required it when the Estimates were framed, and this work would be taken 986 in hand during the year. The normal progress had in a few cases been slightly impeded by unexpected defects and accidents in important vessels, which were taken in hand and made good in preference to those in vessels of less importance. With this exception, the programme of repairs was progressing quite satisfactorily, and the money voted for repairs was being most economically applied, and with better results than before. The alterations and improvements, including fire-control, in details of comfort and fighting efficiency, were more extensive than at any previous period, and were being carried out without delay.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
asked whether the same information could be given with regard to destroyers as with regard to cruisers.
§ *MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said that it could not be given in the same detail. The last point in this indictment was that, in order to bring about this nefarious cheeseparing policy, the present Board of Admiralty had had to sacrifice the working man and to make discharges from the dockyards. He did not wish in this matter to make any reflections on the late Board of Admiralty. No man knew better than he how difficult was this question of the dockyards. In the nine months preceding December, 1905, and before the present Government came into office, the number of discharges from all causes, including deaths and natural wastage, was 6,733. In the period since they came into office, about eighteen months, there had been no discharges, but actually a small addition to the number of men employed in the dockyards, the number of additions being 171. A number of false and irresponsible statements had been made about this subject, and he was anxious to make the position clear. He was not making any charge against the late Government for having reduced the number of men by 6,733, as there might have been good reason for the discharges; it had made the work of the present Government easier, and removed the necessity for further discharges. He, however, strongly protested against the misstatements that the Navy had been allowed to go to rot and 987 ruin because this "cheeseparing Government" would not provide the money and men necessary. He hoped the House would not think that he had spoken with undue heat. He was merely apologising for any temper he had shown in his statement on account of the provocation which he had received, out of the House at all events. He had never thought that he would live to see the day when he would be grateful, as he was grateful, for the existence of the National Navy League. He had not hitherto agreed with their policy, but he was on the other side now. Within the Navy League there was a "Navier" league, if he might use the expression, which, he was afraid, had been the source of a good deal of the controversy and irritation that had arisen. He would observe, however, that he had no personal feeling in the matter, and, in concluding this statement, which had already lasted too long, he hoped that he had not imported into it undue heat or personal feeling.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)
said the right hon. Gentleman had omitted, in dealing with the Building Vote, to refer to the battleship programme. He had not told the Committee what the Government proposed with regard to that programme, which the right hon. Gentleman had previously stated was contingent upon certain things happening at The Hague Conference.
§ *MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he could make no statement different from that which he had made last year in introducing Votes.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said he thought, perhaps, the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks was the most important to the Committee. In the course of those remarks, which did not seem in the least too long, the right hon. Gentleman had begun with what he might call the small end of the wedge; he began with the question relating to cordite, then proceeded to the small vessels, the destroyers, then to cruisers, and lastly to repairs, and he would have passed away from the Vote altogether without reference to the most important class of ships that could be laid down, namely the 988 battleships, but for the question which he had put with regard to them. The battleship programme this year was in a unique position owing to the undertaking which the Government had entered into last year, and which the right hon. Gentle -man had detailed to the House in introducing this Vote last summer. His undertaking on that occasion was repeated by the First Lord of the Admiralty in March of this year, that the —"new construction for the year in the matter of battleships would include two, or, unless an understanding were arrived at with the naval Powers at The Hague Conference, three large armoured vessels of the 'Dreadnought' type.The right hon. Gentleman stated that the Government adhered to that position. But could they not now say definitely whether they were going to lay down this third battleship or not? This was the last occasion on which the matter could be discussed during the present year, and surely there could be no longer in the minds of the Government any illusion as, to what possibly could take place at The Hague Conference in reference to this question. They were aware, of course, that the Government were bringing forward, or were laying before The Hague Conference, a resolution on the subject of the limitation of armaments; but that resolution, as published in the Press—he presumed it was authentic—was of such a meek and belated character that he did not think it could really be supposed that it would in any way affect the British shipbuilding programme of this year, because even if it were passed—of course he had no means of knowing whether it would be accepted by the Conference or not—all it suggested was that this question of the limitation of armaments was more than ever urgent, and that it was desired that the Governments should resume the study of the question. But even if they resumed the study of the question, that surely would not be an undertaking between the naval Powers, such as was indicated by the right hon. Gentleman last year. It would be fairer to the House if the right hon. Gentleman would state definitely whether they were to have this third battleship or not. The right hon. Gentleman said he had no other statement to make than that which he made last year, and from what he then said they must assume that the 989 Government were going to proceed with it. No other construction could reasonably be put on the speech of last year or on the fight hon. Gentleman's language just now. Between this question of the shipbuilding programme and the Hague Conference a peculiar connection had been established, and it was impossible to pass away from the subject of this Vote without making some reference to the undertaking into which the Government had entered. As regarded a resumption of the study of the question of limitation of armaments, speaking as an economist and a lover of peace, he regarded that invitation with some considerable apprehension, when viewed in the light of past experience. Previously, a study of the question had only led to a closer examination and more vivid appreciation by each Power of the armed strength of its rivals, followed in due course by an increased expenditure on its own defence. The right hon. Gentleman himself had used very significant language on that subject in introducing the Navy Estimates last year; he said—The previous Conference had expired with the pious expression on its lips that great service would be rendered to humanity by agreeing to carry out a reduction of armaments. What happened? In the succeeding five years the expenditure on shipbuilding had risen from £68,500,000 to £101,000,000; in other words, since the Hague Conference made the suggestion, there had been an addition of 50 per cent. to the naval burdens of the world.Those were undoubted facts, and as long as human nature remained the same, which would probably be for a good many centuries yet to come, he was afraid that a closer study of the question of armaments would be likely to lead to increased expenditure in the future as in the past. But they must assume, of course, after what had passed, that this third battleship in this year's programme had been at last removed from the bargain counter. He thought it was unfortunate that the net result of the Government's angling and manœuvring with it had been that this country would be forced into the invidious position of being the first definitely to increase its shipbuilding programme as a direct result of the deliberations at the Hague. If the exceedingly modest battleship programme which the Government had brought forward had not been tampered with in 990 this way, it could have been gone on without exciting any comment whatsoever in foreign countries; and even if a miracle had occurred at the Hague, and foreign countries agreed to take any steps in the direction of a reduction of armaments, we should have been able to head the movement by striking off this battleship, which had been selected as the visible pledge of our pacific intentions. But, as it was, all through the past twelve months this ship had been alternately appearing and disappearing on the horizon, and he would suggest, when the vessel was really laid down, that it should be called "The Flying Dutchman," a name which would be indicative of its phantom career in the past, and an appropriate compliment to the place of its birth, the Hague. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the question of building or of dropping this one battle ship was not the only inducement that the Government had held out at the Hague Conference. They had also offered to postpone the commencement of even their reduced programme to an abnormally late period of the year. The right hon. Gentleman, in explaining why they did this, said it was to emphasise to the Hague Conference the good faith of the British Government and their desire to bring about reduced armaments. He in no way questioned the good faith of the Government; he was perfectly certain that they were entirely sincere in putting forward that programme, even if they were innocently optimistic in the matter. But they had to face the facts and the consequences of that undertaking; and what was the effect, after all, of this second inducement held out to the Powers at the Hague, and which had met with no response whatever, as far as they could judge? It meant practically that the battleship programme of 1907–8 had been postponed until 1908–9, and consequently much valuable time had been lost. The only practical way to remedy this was to expedite the commencement of next year's building programme by laying down the new ships unusually early. This would not make up for all the lost time, but it would mitigate the delay which had occurred, and prove the good faith of the Government, not merely to foreign nations at the Hague, 991 but, what was far more important, to the people of this country. The Prime Minister, speaking to a deputation in regard to the Hague Conference, was very apologetic for the meagre results obtained, and he expressed the hope that "the flag would be kept flying." The question was which flag? The only flag which was of vital importance to the British race was the White Ensign flying over His Majesty's ships, and the lowering of that, even by a hand's-breadth, for the beaux yeux of any so-called Peace Conference, would be doing an irreparable injury to the whole British Empire. "Would the Government undertake, in pursuance of the assurance they gave last year and which was repeated in the First Lord's statement last March, to expedite the commencement and prosecution of next year's shipbuilding programme. Before considering their needs in the matter of new ships it was essential first of all that they should know how many ships of full fighting efficiency they already possessed, and that was just the information which was so exceedingly difficult to obtain. There were tabulated statements, official and unofficial, in great variety, but no two of them agreed, and perhaps the greatest sinner from the point of view of inaccuracy and almost misrepresentation was the official Return which was annually furnished to the House and known as the Dilke Return. He did not, of course, accuse the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean of any complicity in the sins of that Return, and he under- stood that the right hon. Baronet was himself dissatisfied with it. That Return ought to be impeccable, because it was the one which went out to the world as the official statement of the fighting strength of the British Navy as com-pared with other navies. The right hon. Gentleman ha d said he was desirous that the Return should give "an accurate, complete and faithful picture as to the strength of the Navy." In view of the criticism which had been passed upon the Return he hoped the Admiralty would, do what it could to make it a more. faithful record and comparison of the great fleets of the world. The Admiralty admitted that the Return was not what it should be, and the First Lord had issued 992 a revised statement of the naval strength of this country, in which the figures given were entirely different, and were based upon the somewhat curious assumption that battleships of twenty-five years of age and armoured cruisers built twenty years ago were efficient ships. Upon what basis of argument did he lay down those standards? According to the statement they had only thirty- nine effective battleships at the present time. All ships of previous date to the "Majestic" class were described as "obsolescent." He thought they might very well have been put down as obsolete. But this being so, what was the use of dragging in ships of twenty-five years old, which could not be considered effective in any sense of the word, and could only have been put in to decorate a paper return of strength? Those old ships did not add to the fighting strength of the Navy, and judging by the lessons to be drawn from the war between Russia and Japan, the presence of those old and obsolescent ships in the fighting squadrons only resulted in disaster. It was the presence of this class of ship which made the destruction of the Russian fleet so inevitable and overwhelming at the battle of Tsu-shima. Upon a previous occasion they were furnished with some details of the shipbuilding programmes of other Powers, and the right hon. Gentleman told them that there were no battleships of the "Dreadnought" class which had been actually laid down by any other country with the exception of Japan, and he distinctly said none had been laid down in Germany. Was the Secretary to the Admiralty now prepared to tell them the state of affairs in that respect? Did he still maintain that there were no "Dreadnoughts" being laid down in Germany? If he was right in his study of the German Naval Estimates, two "Dreadnought" battleships and one of the "Invincible" type of cruisers had been laid down by Germany, and the second instalment of money for those ships had already been voted. He did not think it was likely that the second instalment would have been provided in the case of those ships if they had not actually been laid down. In regard to cruisers, what did the First Lord mean by saying that armoured cruisers of twenty years of age were 993 considered efficient? As far as he could gather from the official Returns provided, there were no such ships on the effective strength of any Navy in the world. He had examined the Returns, and he found that the oldest armoured cruisers shown in the lists of any Power were from six to ten years old, and in one instance twelve years, and even this included a large number of ships which were obsolescent. The right hon. Gentleman had given some interesting information in regard to the Government proposals on the question of cruisers. He welcomed the announcement which had been made that something would be done to remedy the great deficiency that existed in regard to cruisers. The right hon. Gentleman was quite justified in furnishing no details because they would belong to next year's programme. He hoped that in drawing up that programme the Board of Admiralty would take into consideration this fact in regard to the present deficiency in cruisers. They had been told that they possessed thirty-two armoured cruisers, but that total included ten of the earlier "County" class, which had been described by many competent naval officers who had served in them as being fit for very little else except to run away. They had great speed, it was true, but their armament was ridiculously small and consisted of only 6-inch guns, and they were lamentably inferior in that respect to the armoured cruisers of the same date belonging to Germany, the United States, Russia, and Japan. Then there was the newer class of "County" cruisers, of which there were six. It was true that the armament in this case was a little better and they possessed four 7½inch guns. These, however, were also much inferior to most of the foreign vessels of the same date. Altogether he was afraid that these sixteen ships which cost the enormous sum of £12,000,000 were a very small addition to the fighting strength of the fleet. He was aware that the responsibility did not lie with the present Government, but the Government of the day had to take these matters into consideration when considering the question of cruisers. He hoped they would take into account what he had said about the "County" class of cruisers, which constituted no less than 30 per cent, of our 994 whole strength of armoured cruisers-The Admiralty ought to take into consideration immediately the necessity of replacing those cruisers at a very much earlier date than appeared to be justified by their age. They had been given some information about destroyers. The right hon. Gentleman told them that in the opinion of the Admiralty the two-Power standard did not apply to the question of destroyers, but he did not say why. He thought that was a rather startling statement. He was himself prepared to admit that the two-Power standard should not apply to destroyers, and that it really ought to be a three or four-Power standard. But what was the standard that the Admiralty considered necessary? It would have been a great assistance to the Committee if the right hon. Gentleman had developed his argument further, and stated why this new theory was put forward by the Admiralty. It seemed to him strangely coincident with the fact that a large proportion of our destroyers were becoming obsolete. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give some idea of what was necessary. He told the Committee that Great Britain had 191 destroyers at the present time.
§ *MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that was limping two classes together. Was a coastal destroyer to be classed as a destroyer or a torpedo boat? They had been told that it was to be classed as a torpedo boat. This new system of classification made it impossible for the public to know what they had really got, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised if he adhered to the old line of demarcation, otherwise he was afraid the figures would have the effect of fogging any investigator who wished to know what the real strength was. From what the right hon. Gentleman had stated in his recent interjection he took it that the Government in applying the two-Power standard to destroyers had in mind a larger standard of destroyers, and that they would in the programme next year, or in the following year, use their best efforts to remedy the sudden blow which was about to fall on our destroyer 995 strength, not only by the disappearance of the obsolescent ships, but of those which were quite obsolete, numbering between forty or fifty of our existing destroyers. On that point the right hon. Gentleman was somewhat obscure in his remarks, and it would be for the convenience of the Committee if he would give more information on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken at some length on the question of repairs. That was assuredly one of the most important questions that could possibly come up in connection with the fighting strength of the Navy. Of course, the fleet, however strong numerically, could not be considered useful for the purposes of war unless it was kept in a perfect state of repair. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that there had been exceedingly disquieting remarks made lately with regard to the state of repairs in the Fleet. He was glad indeed that in the statement he had made to-day the right hon. Gentleman had given categorical replies from officers in high command and in actual contact with the vessels concerned. He accepted without question the statement of the Board of Admiralty on this most important subject. He hoped that the facts which the right hon. Gentleman had given the Committee to-day would be fully and thoroughly reported so that they would be seen by the public and that they would do something to allay the genuine anxiety which had existed on this subject for several months. In dealing with the question of repairs he did not think the right hon. Gentleman was quite fair to the late Government in his desire to prove how good the present Government had been in avoiding cheeseparing in this important question. He gave the Committee to understand that the late Government had only spent in their last year about £1,500,000 on repairing the Fleet, whereas since the present Government came into office they had spent a larger sum, the amount for the present year being £2,000,000. The figure of £1,500,000 must not be taken as in any way a fair example of what the late Government had done. In the previous year 1904–5 the amount spent on repairs by the late Government was £2,886,000 and in the year before that the amount was £3,156,000, and the reason why such a small sum was re- 996 quired in the year before the late Government went out of office was that the repairs had been completed and broughs up to a point never before equalled in the history of the British Navy. It was curious that the right hon. Gentleman had adopted this method of comparison, because it was a parallel to what the First Lord said in his statement last March to glorify the nucleus crews, and to show the remarkable results which were produced by the adoption of that system. Lord Tweedmouth had compared January, 1907, with January, 1904, but he left out of account, surely by accident, that 1904 was the year in which the late Government set itself to spend the almost unheard of amount of £3,000,000 on repairs. By the end of that year the whole of the repairs of the Fleet had been completed, and it was at this point, when it had been brought up to an unexampled state of perfection, that the nucleus crews came into existence for the first time. The present Government took over the Fleet absolutely in the pink of condition, and if it had been maintained in that condition since it would be a tribute to the nucleus crews and a remarkable proof of the success of that policy. But statements had been made by authorities who must be regarded as responsible, amongst them being Sir William White, to the effect that it was beyond the power of nucleus crews to maintain their ships in a proper state of repair, and that the amount of money provided was in any case insufficient for the purpose. What the right hon. Gentleman said to-day was undoubtedly an answer to that, but he thought it would have been fairer if the right hon. Gentleman and the First Lord had not attempted to take credit to the present Government for this extra expenditure on repairs, considering that the Fleet was taken over from the late Government in a state of repair which had never before been equalled. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to state what was the difference between an "annual" refit and an "extensive" refit. Was an annual refit limited in point of time to the forty days which was laid down in the Admiralty Memorandum of December, 1904, as being the maximum period for which any battleship might be absent from the Fleet, in dockyard hands, during the year? He had asked the right hon. 997 Gentleman certain definite questions, and he hoped that he might be successful in getting equally definite replies. He did not press these questions in any captious or Party spirit. He should be the last to wish in any way to add to the difficulties of the many-sided task which must confront any Board of Admiralty, but the right hon. Gentleman was aware that there had been a widespread amount of anxiety about certain recent developments of Admiralty policy. No one regretted more than he did that the old reputation of the Admiralty for a kind of infallibility had apparently suffered during the last two or three years. He thought it was only proper that the right hon. Gentleman should do all he could to allay the anxiety which existed. Secrecy was, of course, essential in certain cases, and it might be very important where the designs of new ships were concerned. The House of Commons and the Press in the past had shown a patriotic readiness to abstain from pressing for information of that kind. He hoped the Admiralty would reciprocate that confidence, and would not refuse to give to the House and the taxpayers of the country information which was perfectly legitimate, and which they had a perfect right to receive before granting to the Government the vast sums of money asked for in this Vote.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said that if he differed from his hon. friend who had just sat down it was not for any Party reason, but because he held other views as to the best method of keeping up the British Fleet at the proper standard. He congratulated the hon. Gentleman on having recovered from a very serious illness and on the vigour of his speech. The hon. Gentleman began his speech with several remarks on the battleship programme and the need of docks for these battleships. He himself attached to the latter greater proportional importance. The hon. Member had, he thought, handled the Government a little roughly in regard to the battleship programme when they remembered the admissions which the late Government had made. Now, what was proposed on this occasion was very similar to what happened on two occasions when Mr. Goschen was First Lord of the 998 Admiralty. Mr. Goschen then pointed out that we were in a position in advance of foreign Powers and that we could afford to regulate our shipbuilding programme to some extent according to what was being done by those foreign Powers— that we could hold out to foreign Powers that we should have to build certain ships or should not build certain ships according to what they did. What was done this year in anticipation of the action of the Government at the Hague was only an extension of that principle. It was not a unique action on the part of the Government as the hon. Gentleman seemed to think. On this occasion, as on the last, when the programme of the Navy was debated, there had been a gratifying absence from the discussion in the House of any of that undue alarm or panic which had been shown —or rather which had been attempted to be got up in certain portions of the Press, and which, he was glad to say, had failed. He for one should not regret that that determined attempt had been made, for he thought it would tend in the future to check the efforts of hon. Members who wished to keep the Navy up to the standard. If a panic was got up when there was no ground for it, the next time when there might be some cause for it it might be discounted from the failure of this attempt. He was glad to see that Captain Pretyman, who had been a former Secretary to the Admiralty, in his first speech as a candidate for a seat in the House was reported in the previous day's paper to have said that he had no objection whatever to offer to the shipbuilding programme of the year. And that was the position which the Opposition officially took up in the House, even more frankly than in the speech of the hon. Member for Fareham. There might be on the very next occasion when they discussed the Admiralty Votes a necessity to press the Government for additional expenditure on docks and bases. He meant that they could not build big ships and alter the distribution of the Fleet without having docks and bases to meet the requirements of those big ships and the new distribution of the Fleet. Undoubtedly under the present as under the late Administration there had been an attempt to show on the part of the Board of Admiralty that a very large 999 saving had been made in that quarter. But it was not a real saving; it was an expenditure which could not be permanently avoided. One reason why he was very anxious that we should not be extravagant now, and why he should not press the Admiralty for a too large shipbuilding programme, was because we should want money to spend upon docks and bases which this programme would require. The amount of alarm which had been displayed and would be displayed was, of course, connected with the Hague proposals and with the failure of certain Hague proposals. This Government proposed at the Hague to abolish the use of floating mines, but that proposal had been negatived by the action of Germany. That, of course, bore closely on that branch of the subject. As regarded the programme, an attack had been made on the Vote. Returns had been laid before the House this session. He had always thought it was misleading to introduce, as Mr. Goschen had done, a classification of first, second, and third class battleships into the list. That had been abandoned, and they had reverted to the first form of Return in that respect. There was another point on which the form of the Return might be improved. He had objected to the practice of putting down for all the Powers a certain number of battleships, as if thirty-two battleships were equal to twice sixteen battleships, and giving the figures at the bottom of the list independent of all other factors. They could not compare numbers with numbers; they could only go through the list and compare each with each with a certain amount of adequate knowledge. A similar objection to the new return was made which was deserving a word of remark. The hon. Member for Fareham spoke of it as a Return laid before Parliament by the Government. When Lord Tweedmouth was pressed on the subject by Lord Cawdor he replied by giving some other shorter figures. That latter Return was based on the German Return. He called particular attention to this because the German Return only took such battleships as were twenty-five years of age and under, and such cruisers as were twenty years of age and under. That Return was a Return made to the House of Lords; it was not made by the present 1000 Government; it was moved for by Lord Cawdor.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that what the right hon. Gentleman had just told the Committee was entirely new to him and it did not appear in Lord Tweed-mouth's speech.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that in the report of Lord Tweedmouth's speech it was stated that the Return referred to the full strength of the fleets of the five great naval Powers. There was no mention of a German standard.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that Lord Cawdor in moving for the figures said he wished to have a Return in the form suggested by the speech of the First Lord, which was the German form. At all events that was the principle on which the figures were shown in the Return referred to. It was not a Government Return in its inception. None of those Returns would stand criticism. The different fleets should be compared ship by ship. It was useless to compare so many ships. They must look to the age, strength of armaments, speed, and the condition of the ships. To come to destroyers, France, for instance, at one time had an intermediate class which were not called destroyers, but high-sea torpedo boats. They would get into hopeless confusion if they counted numbers. Mere numbers were really unworthy of the consideration of the House. It was numbers which had been used by those newspapers which had attempted to create a panic. In regard to the battleship programme, he understood that some of his friends on the Ministerial side of the House were going to move a reduction of the battleship programme. He quite admitted that, as things stood at the present moment, we had an unusual superiority, to some extent due to the political accidents of the last few years, and to another extent to the policy of the Board of Admiralty in commencing the construction of "Dreadnoughts" before the other Powers had adopted either the "all-big" or the turbine principle. He should however, resist the 1001 Amendment, and support the Board of Admiralty as he had always done for many years, except once, because of the importance of having a continuity of shipbuilding policy. They could not in the case of the Navy afford to fluctuate from year to year. They had to look four or five years ahead in their policy, and they could not decrease battleship building below the standard which the Admiralty with the consent of the Government had fixed. He could not say whether in the case of destroyers and submarines, and even cruisers, there was ground for making the special effort which the Admiralty were contemplating for thefuture—far beyond this year. He would give the reasons for the faith that was in him on that subject. The hon. Member for Fareham said that there had been great delay in the programme, and that the only way in which the Government could make up for that delay was either by the immediate commencement of the whole of the ships in the programme——
§ MR. ARTHUR. LEE
said that what he had stated was that the Government had deliberately caused the delay and held out the hope of building fewer battleships according to the decision of the Hague Conference.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that it appeared to him that our predominance had increased as compared with what could be expected a year ago; and our position in respect to battleships was excellent even as compared with the time of the issue of Lord Cawdor's Memorandum. The policy which was now being followed was proclaimed by the late Government, and our relative position was better now and would be better in the future than it had been in the past. They should look ahead for the next two or three years, but he did not think there would be any falling off. He had heard with regret what the hon. Member for Fareham had said in regard to panic, although his own words were conspicuously free from panic. The hon. Member had said that we should look to the programme of Germany which was our principal rival and was the second naval Power in the world. Germany 1002 had no claim to be regarded as the second naval Power in the world. The United States was the second naval Power in the world. The hon. Gentleman smiled, but surely there could be no doubt that no comparison could be made between the fleet of Germany and the fleet of the United States. He had read all the literature on the subject as to the naval strength of all the Powers. He saw the hon. Member for Fareham smile, but by every fair test he could apply, and he was a reader of the literature of all the countries on this subject, he made the German fleet virtually unimportant, a doubtful third or fourth, but infinitely behind the second fleet of the world, which was easily that of the United States. If there was any present danger from Germany to this country, it was not the danger of invasion or from the fleet, but it was her growing superiority in the scientific equipment of her people. As regarded the cruisers and destroyers and the other classes of ships proposed in the programme he was much more doubtful. The controversy about destroyers was one with which they never would come to an agreement. The hon. Member opposite stated that there was a clear line of demarcation between torpedo-boats and destroyers, but he confessed he had been able to find no line of that kind. The use of destroyers by various Powers differed infinitely, and the sizes had always been so difficult of classification that he favoured the policy of the present Admiralty that they could not bind themselves to the use they would make of their destroyers. All the Powers were experimenting on the subject, and it was notorious that there was, at the present time, a very powerful party on the Board of Admiralty and on the Defence Committee of the Cabinet that did not believe that we were wise in spending so large an amount of our resources and in placing so large a number of our most highly-trained men in submarines and torpedo-boats in proportion to battleships as we were doing now. He viewed with suspicion the amount of energy we were throwing into submarine work, in which we were not likely to shine as compared with a certain other Power, and which was not so suitable to our particular needs. The tendency in all countries now was 1003 towards attaching more and more importance, year by year, to the battleship fleet and to concentrate attention on the fleet which would fight the battles and which, by conquering the fleet of the enemy, would clear the seas for all purposes whatever. On cruisers he was a heretic, but a heretic in good company, as one or two of our admirals were doubtful as to the need for the construction of cruisers for commerce protection. The German cruisers were, of course, the cause of the change which had been announced; but if this policy was forced upon us by the yearly building of these two fast third-class cruisers by Germany, then it seemed to him it ought to be pursued next year, if it was to be pursued at all, and not in the following year, as was suggested last night in another place by the First Lord of the Admiralty. But he doubted himself the necessity of trying to compete with these German cruisers, and when commerce destruction against us was really a thing of the past, we should be rather throwing away our money if we embarked on a large policy of commerce protection cruisers which, he feared, had been forced on the Admiralty, probably rather against their will, by outside opinion. He continued a heretic in this matter, and. while he was not prepared to resist the authority on which the Admiralty might act, he would not be one to urge them to a fresh expenditure on cruisers. As to the subject of repairs, he saw no reason for supposing there was ground for alarm, but he was glad that attention should be called to it, because it was a point which needed vigilance, and on which opinion might easily be misdirected. The reserve of guns was a matter which still more needed vigilance, because, though he was not insinuating anything, there might be a tendency to save money on the things that were not seen, and as to which secrecy was necessary in the House and the country. There had been a recent increase, but that might not be sufficient, As one who was most anxious to maintain the naval position of this country, and who greatly regretted the Army Bill of this session because it would tend to the taking of money from the Navy to be spent on the Army, he supported the programme of the Govern- 1004 ment; and he would urge his hon. friends who desired a reduction in Army and Navy expenditure to turn their attention rather to the Army. No economist could doubt that in this country waste was greater in the Army, and that as far as the Fleet was concerned, as compared with other countries, we got the most, for the money we spent. That being so, he would ask his hon. friends to try to make their chief demands in regard to the Army. Bearing in mind the enormous importance in naval matters of a steady policy, he should resist any reduction that might be moved.
§ *CAPTAIN HERVEY (Bury St. Edmunds)
called attention to the strength of our Fleet and the strength of the fleets of foreign nations, as set forth in the Return which had been supplied on the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean. He said that the Secretary to the Admiralty promised in. last November that the Return should give an accurate, complete, and faithful picture of the strength of the Navy. Perhaps it might do so to an expert, but he questioned whether it did so to the. ordinary Member of Parliament. They ought to be able to see at a glance, not only that the two-Power standard was being maintained now, but that there was every reasonable prospect of its being maintained in the future, and that it was so to be maintained with the full knowledge and concurrence of the Board of Admiralty. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had said that numbers alone could not show anything accurately as to the relative strength of our fleet, but numbers were the only things that could be compared by non-expert Members of Parliament. Taking the two fleets of France and Germany as against our own, according to the Return we had sixty battleships, while France and Germany showed sixty-three. Was the difference there shown being redressed? We were shown as having five battleships building, while France and Germany had eighteen. Battleships were, no doubt, of different value, but the First Lord of the Admiralty had pointed out that a good way of getting at their comparative value was 1005 by taking ships fifteen years old and less. Of such ships we had forty actually built, and France and Germany thirty; but taking the battleships building also into account, we had forty-five, against the forty-eight of the other two Powers. He did not see how that was keeping up the two-Power standard, or how it absolved the Government from carrying out the programme laid down a few years ago of a minimum of four armoured ships per annum. He would have been glad if the Admiralty, in making out the Return, had seen their way to show which battleships were, in the opinion of their expert advisers, fit to be put in the line of battle. He could hardly believe that the Admiralty would say that some of the ships in their list, such as those of the "Admiral" class, the "Edinburgh," "Colossus," "Nile," and "Trafalgar," could be put in the line of battle against modern ships. He would no doubt be told that in comparing strength in battleships he ought really to bring in the armoured cruisers. Some of the latest armoured cruisers were to all intents and purposes battleships, and were fit to go into the line of battle. We had thirty-eight armoured cruisers less than fifteen years old, as against the thirty-one of France and Germany, and taking the total armoured units, both battleships and cruisers, we had at present a predominance over France and Germany of four armoured units less than fifteen years old. He agreed that that gave us the two-Power standard, but it gave nothing beyond, and he had great doubts whether that standard would be kept up by only putting three big armoured ships in the year's programme. If foreign nations reduced their building programmes in the future we could trust ourselves to build so as to keep our numbers on the same relative level as theirs, but he did not think we should be able to go below what was laid down three or four years ago as a minimum. He would now leave the question of the armoured ships and turn to the lists of protected cruisers. As regarded these it would be seen that we really had a large preponderance at the present moment of other than armoured cruisers as against the next two foreign Powers. But there was a very curious if not ominous fact emerging 1006 from these lists, and that was the fact that the only foreign European country which was building cruisers of this type was Germany. She was building three or four cruisers of 3,500 tons with 4-inch guns yearly. We must consider what should be done in the way of fighting such cruisers as other nations might put on the sea. It had always been our policy in the past to have cruisers slightly larger and more heavily armed than the cruisers they would be likely to meet. He agreed with that policy, for if we were to be certain of success in any naval action we must send out at least one cruiser which was better than the cruiser she was expected to meet, or two cruisers of equal strength in order to wipe the foreign cruiser off the sea. We could not send one and a quarter, or one and a half cruisers, and therefore we must either send out two, or one which was better than the foreign cruiser. In one speech which had been made, it was said, he thought, that the policy foreshadowed by the Secretary to the Admiralty would be an answer to Germany with her cruisers of 3,500 tons. We were to build cruisers of 3,000 tons. Were they to be the answer to Germany?
§ * CAPTAIN HERVEY
said it did not make very much difference if the tonnage was exactly the same, because to obtain a preponderance they must have two of them for the other's one. The naval view on this question of cruisers was gradually crystallising. He believed there was no room for a fighting ship between the big armoured cruiser and the big ocean-going torpedo destroyer, but these small cruisers now proposed would be useful for the purpose of showing the flag at distant foreign stations. We should have to build ships to carry out that work from time to time. 1007 We had ships which could do it now, but as far as he could look into the future, he thought it would be found that these vessels were gradually becoming obsolete. He should like to know what our real policy was going to be. He did not press the right hon. Gentleman to answer, however, as to our policy in regard to cruisers until we saw which way the cat jumped in foreign shipbuilding. He did not want useless cruisers to be laid down, but it might be necessary to build a certain number of cruisers which would be able to show the flag abroad. They could not forget what happened in Jamaica when a foreign admiral rushed to the rescue of one of our distressed Colonies and landed patrols in the chief town of the Colony. They knew how correspondence had passed which most people would have hoped to keep private; but a foreign correspondent had got to work throwing about ink, and the fat was in the fire. If there had been one of these British cruisers on the spot she would have been most useful. It was not necessarily for fighting purposes that we wanted these ships; they could be used in protecting our interests, as in the case of the Jamaica occurrence, for instance. If a British cruiser had been there no admiral or captain of a foreign ship would have thought of landing his men unless he first went on board the English man-of-war, where he would have ascertained pretty smartly that the wish of the Governor was that no foreign seamen should be landed for the purpose of patrolling, which could be perfectly well carried out, if necessary, by the British cruiser. It was for these reasons that he thought we should have sufficient ships continually being built in order to send them to different parts of the world to show the flag. It might also be necessary to have cruisers built for the special purpose of not only going about the different Colonies, but for scouting duty in time of war, because it was obvious that we could not always send an armoured cruiser to watch the enemy's coast with the risk of losing an expensive vessel, it would be much better to send one of these smaller cruisers for the purpose of going along 1008 the coast to see what was going on. Therefore, there would be some use for these cruisers in time of war, but they could not be looked upon as adding to the fighting efficiency of the Fleet. Turning to the question of torpedo boat destroyers, the conclusion had been arrived at that we should have torpedo destroyers of the modern type of about 800 tons, in order to accompany the Fleets and do their work wherever the enemy might be. The original destroyers, of which we had no less than seventy-three, were of less than 300 tons, most of them being about 270 tons. The Secretary to the Admiralty had told them that destroyers were efficient as long as they were efficient, but he thought that these seventy-three destroyers were rapidly becoming obsolete, if they were not already obsolete. We had, therefore, to make up a programme which would in about twelve years give us practically the same number of destroyers as we had at the present time. The whole of the seventy-three small type destroyers were built in four years, and therefore we would have to build rather more than the ordinary average per year to keep the Fleet going, as the number at the present time was 143. He was glad to hear the Secretary for the Admiralty state that he proposed to adopt a continuous building policy in regard to destroyers, and he thought they would require twelve at least. That at any rate would keep them up to the proper number this year, although it would leave them still lagging behind.
§ *MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)
said the Secretary to the Admiralty concluded his speech with a reference to the Navy League. He was not a member of that League, but perhaps he might venture to express complete concurrence with the view the right hon. Gentleman had expressed about that body. With regard to the high testimony he gave the League he did not think the right hon. Gentleman could have read the resolutions submitted by both sections of the Navy League, because both condemned the Admiralty on the specific point of the Channel Fleet. The Navy League had 1009 done him the honour of consulting him in regard to their resolution refusing to agitate about the standard of naval strength, and he had given them his advice. The reason he thought they were right in not agitating about the naval strength was that the declarations of the Admiralty in the House of Lords and of the right hon. Gentleman representing the Admiralty on the Front Bench were quite satisfactory on that point. The Secretary to the Admiralty said—It is the determination of the Government to maintain our naval supremacy as it is.That statement gave them all they required. Nobody had contended either in that House or outside that our naval strength up to the present was not satisfactory. All they had contended was that a time was close at hand when we should once more have to indulge in big programmes, and it was not economical to have a small programme one year and a big one the next year as had happened under the last Liberal administration. He understood that a Resolution was going to be moved on this question by a section of the House which was an extremely Radical wing of the Liberal Party, although he did not know the name it was known by. He did not know whether they had yet given themselves a name, bat they met upstairs and they embraced the leading members of the Cobden Club. He thought the proper time for dealing with the question of battleships was when the Resolution to which he referred was moved. With regard to the Dilke Return and the Return issued by Lord Tweedmouth, the criticism was that they were simply Returns of our naval strength at the present moment. Any Return on which they made up their minds as to the adequacy of the shipbuilding programme would have to include the ships in building and those projected. Taking Lord Tweedmouth's classification of efficient ships he gave them thirty-nine as against thirty-one for the next two Powers. As the Secretary of the Admiralty had told them it was the determination of the Government to maintain the present strength of the Navy, they would now have that thirty-nine to thirty-one 1010 standard in order to test whether the Government were maintaining a proper naval strength. There were three projected ships this year and that made forty-seven for Great Britain as against forty-eight for the next two Powers. It was contended that in comparison with certain Powers this country was able to build much faster, but taking that proportion of thirty-nine to thirty-one of the next two Powers some day they would find that there were forty-eight in building and projected by the next two Powers, with the result that Great Britain would have to build sixty battleships in order to maintain the same proportion, and that would leave them a very large number to build. Supposing we did not count the projected ships which the United States were laying down next year and the year after, and did not count any battleships that France intended to lay down during the same period, they would be obliged to adopt programmes including six battleships each year before they could arrive at that standard of sixty to forty-eight to which he had alluded. The Secretary to the Admiralty divided his speech into four compartments, viz., refrigerating machinery, destroyers, cruisers, and repairs. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman was right in dealing with refrigerating machinery first, because it was an important question and a new one. He thought the matter had been put rather too favourably by the Admiralty in regard to their lack of foresight in not introducing refrigerating machinery before. They had to remember the explosion which might have proved very disastrous which occurred on the "Fox" last. October, and it was not until May of this year that the Admiralty took any action in regard to ordering refrigerating machinery. Not one penny piece for any such provision appeared in the Estimates. Then there was another consideration. For two years past the Admiralty had been in receipt of reports from ships in regard to the question of cordite. They had received report after report that whenever the temperature of magazines was high the effect on the cordite was to make shooting very erratic. That consideration ought to have warned the 1011 Admiralty that in the interests of the efficiency of the service, apart from the danger of explosion through heat, they ought long ago to have introduced refrigerating machinery on their ships. Notwithstanding this, not a single penny had been put down for this purpose in regard to the "Dreadnought" or the "Superb" or any of the ships laid down this year. The right hon. Gentleman had informed the Committee that this machinery would cost £500,000 to fit the ships in the Navy. They had to fit up with this refrigerating machinery 160 ships afloat and eleven big ships building. He understood that the expenditure of this £500,000 was going to be spread over a period of two to three years. As it was agreed that this expenditure was urgent and necessary, he submitted that the ships ought to be fitted as soon as possible. The time at which the Admiralty had given the first order for this machinery was rather significant, for it was not given until they had had the disastrous explosions at Woolwich and at Toulon. If the efficiency of the Navy was the first consideration, the Admiralty ought long before to have given orders for supplying refrigerating machinery. This was not a new question. The Dutch Government had had refrigerating machinery for the magazines in their ships for twelve years past. The German Navy, which generally took the right course and made few mistakes, had had refrigerating machinery in their magazines and ships for six years past, and the Italian Navy introduced it two years ago. So that all those foreign navies long ago foresaw that for the sake of the efficiency of the service and avoiding dangerous explosions on board ship refrigerating machinery was necessary, and consequently they adopted it. He thought that the cost of such machinery ought to have been met by introducing a Supplementary Estimate which could have been tacked on to the Shipbuilding Vote. With regard to the question of destroyers, the Secretary to the Admiralty admitted some time back that in Germany the life of a destroyer was twelve years, and they made all their calculations upon that assumption. Germany was now building twelve destroyers a year as compared with our two for last year and five for this year. In justify- 1012 ing the building of so few destroyers the right hon. Gentleman said that the number to be built depended upon the use to be made of them from time to time. As it took eighteen months to build a destroyer, it was obvious that the Admiralty could not quite foresee what particular use they would be putting destroyers to eighteen months hence, and the only course to take was to follow the old plan of having a sufficiency of them in building. In all their shipbuilding in the past they had shown extraordinary instability of policy. He found that seventy-nine destroyers were laid down in the three years 1894 to 1896. In the last three years, from 1905 to 1907, they had only provided eleven, or less than one-seventh of the number provided in the period he had mentioned, and at the time those eleven were being built seventy-nine were falling obsolete. It was the same with all classes of shipbuilding, and in our programme there was nothing like the consistency shown in the German programme. In regard to armoured vessels, they built fourteen in 1899 and three this year. He thought that next year hon. Members would find that the number would shoot up again. That was the reason why he objected to a small building programme now. In 1889 and 1890 they laid down thirty six unarmoured cruisers, as compared with none for 1905 and 1906. Of course it was monstrous to lay down thirty-six cruisers in two years. It simply meant that in fifteen years these cruisers would have shaken themselves to pieces and would no longer be fit for repair. They would be obsolete altogether. This year they were going to lay down one. From Answers given to Questions in the House it appeared that by next year we should have seventy-one destroyers, including building and projected, less than twelve years old, and which would be reckoned by the Germans as efficient destroyers. During the same period the Germans would have seventy-three efficient destroyers, or two more than we should have. The Germans were going to lay down twelve more next year, and that would make eighty-five, so that our next year's programme would require to have fourteen destroyers in order to attain equality with the Germans. But there were obvious reasons why we 1013 should have a great superiority over any two nations in destroyers, whereas he had merely compared our strength with one nation. In time of war we should require to have at least one-third of the destroyers away from the Fleet refitting. We should be compelled to carry out the policy which Japan pursued in blockading the enemy's coasts, and we must have a superiority of one-third over the enemy whose coasts were blockaded. We had had forty-seven destroyers stationed abroad in 1905. The reason for that was that destroyers could not be sent out conveniently after a war had broken out; the stations abroad had to be provided beforehand in time of peace with the destroyers which might be required. The Secretary to the Admiralty had next dealt with cruisers. Lord Tweed-mouth's Return, which had been referred to, adding in the ships building, gave the strength of our fleet in efficient armed cruisers at thirty-eight, and that of the next two Powers at thirty-seven, being a superiority of one. That was nothing like the superiority of two to one which had often existed in the past. There was one significant omission from Lord Tweedmouth's Return. He omitted all other types of cruisers. When the Admiralty were asked for evidence to be placed before the Royal Commission on Food Supplies they sent a letter dated 2nd July, 1904, in which they stated that if the enemy's cruisers escaped—We could always spare a superior number of vessels to follow them.If there was an insufficient number of cruisers to protect our commerce in time of war, there would be a public demand in this country, and especially on the part of business men in London, to detach armoured cruisers from the fleets in order to pursue the little German cruisers which could go twenty-four knots an hour. It would be a tremendous waste of power to detach a 17,000 ton cruiser to go after a little 3,000 ton German cruiser. The admirals in charge of the fleets would resist that demand. They would not part with their armoured cruisers if they could possibly help it. There was the best evidence of that in the policy of the Japanese commanders in the battle of Tsushima. Incidentally he might mention that both nations in that war 1014 sacrificed their commerce. This we could not possibly do. In order to have the armoured cruisers in the battle the Japanese used small cruisers for scouting purposes. Their tactics were absolutely justified by the fact that the battle was determined within an hour of the beginning of the fight. If the armoured cruisers had been sent away to protect commerce or to scout they could not have returned to Tsushima. During the last seven years the wastage of protected cruisers in our Fleet had been at the rate of six a year, while we had only built one a year. There was inconsistency about the Admiralty policy in the fact that though they said that the best of the protected cruisers would die out in a few years, and this was said in "A Statement of Admiralty Policy" issued two years ago, seven were to have £241,000 spent upon them for repairs this year. He did not find fault with this; he only called attention to the tact when it was alleged that the responsible advisers of the Admiralty never made mistakes. He found also in the Return of fleets that there was a total of eighty-two protected cruisers given. But an analysis showed that twelve of them were on the sale list, and from other causes, such as the ships j being in special reserve as a preliminary to passing to the sale list, the total was finally reduced to fifty-seven. Against any two Powers that number gave us no superiority whatever in protected cruisers, whereas it had always been contended that in this respect we should have a great superiority. Sixteen of our protected cruisers were over twenty knots at their trials, and they were older than those of the Germans. The Germans, on the other hand, had built, or were building, twenty-eight of over twenty knots. The Admiralty account of the naval manoeuvres last year claimed that our superiority in armoured cruisers for the protection of commerce was greater than we really possessed against any two Powers. In armoured cruisers they gave the English force sixteen to eight of the enemy. He maintained that we did not possess that superiority. The proportions in big unarmoured cruisers were eleven to one, small cruisers were twenty-two to eight, and destroyers were thirty- 1015 eight to thirty-one. We had in all fifty-one cruisers and scouts to seventeen, or three to one. He had shown that we possessed nothing like that superiority, and yet the Admiralty had the audacity, when they issued their Report, to state that in these manœuvres they were trying the risks to British shipping under the most unfavourable conditions conceivable when in addition to giving the English fleet an overwhelming preponderance they confined the manœuvres to a narrow belt of 900 miles stretching to Gibraltar so that the English ships knew exactly when to look for the enemy. The right hon. Gentleman had given far too favourable a view of the position in regard to cruisers being built on the financial side. If the figures in the Navy Estimates which gave the number of cruisers on the stocks for any one year were looked at they would find that in 1903–4 there were thirty-nine cruisers and scouts on the stocks; in 1904–5, thirty-eight; in 1905–6 twenty—eight; in 1906–7 seven, excluding three "Incincibles;" and in 1907–8 there were only four again, excluding the three "Invincibles" which ought to be regarded as battleships. There would come a time when there would be only one cruiser on the stocks at all unless the Admiralty carried out their intention to lay down more cruisers. The next point with which his right hon. friend dealt was repairs. He had given the Committee a very rosy picture of those repairs, and he was perfectly correct in saying that it was not a question of one Party or another. If anything, he believed that the present Government were devoting more attention to repairs than the last Government did in 1905. In 1905–6 a great fault was found with the way in which the repair work was being done. In the First Lord's Memorandum it was stated that in the third week of January, 1904, out of sixty battleships, thirty-eight were unavailable, owing to the need of repairs, or 63 per cent. of the whole, and that on January 21st, 1907, out of fifty-one battleships only eight, or 16 per cent., were unavailable. It was very easy to upset these statements by statistics. The Admiralty said that these battleships were "unavailable owing to the need of repairs"; but in a letter to him from Lord Tweed-mouth it was explained that the Admiralty 1016 took the official Returns from the number of the vessels actually under repair in the dockyards; so that, if no vessels had been taken in hand at all. it would have been possible to say that none were unavailable owing to need of repairs. That was the way in which the Admiralty used statistics to hoax the House of Commons. There was another fault to be found with statistics. In the first place they were told that in 1904 there were sixty battleships, but all obsolete vessels were included. In 1906 the Dilke Return gave us sixty-one battleships, but in this Return of the same date only fifty-one battleships were mentioned. For strength statistics they included ten obsolete battleships, but for repair statistics they excluded them as their inclusion would mar their figures. It was not quite an honest way of dealing with the question, and tended to destroy all trust in Admiralty statistics. Then in the list of battleships needing repairs in 1904 the "Monarch," which was a depot ship and not a fighting ship at all, and the "Hotspur," which never was a battleship but an obsolete coast defence vessel, were included so as to swell the number of battleships needing repairs. He could vouch for these facts, as the list was furnished to him from the First Lord himself, and if it were necessary to pursue his criticisms he could point to a number of other circumstances with which the Admiralty were perfectly familiar which made the comparison grossly unfair. It was a little bit dishonest to present statistics of this kind, and he thought that someone should be censured for handing such statistics to the Admiralty. To prove his point, a Return which excluded from the ships needing repairs the "Goliath" and the "Canopus," on which £48,000 and £25,000 were now to be spent, was not quite a scrupulous and straightforward statement.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Croydon)
thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty would admit that he was one of those who had never wished by speech or vote to make a case against the Admiralty. He sincerely desired that no case would ever be made against them. He had learned to feel the greatest possible confidence in the distinguished officers 1017 who were charged with maintaining the preparedness of the Navy for war; and he would wish that from all which the right hon. Gentleman had said that afternoon, it could be wholly maintained that there was no weak joint in the armour of the Admiralty. His only wish was to ascertain what were the facts. There were points which urgently required attention which had not been discussed that afternoon, and on which the policy of the Admiralty would have to be challenged. In the question of bases, for instance, the policy of the Admiralty was not dictated by naval considerations. In regard to this Vote, the right hon. Gentleman had made a most interesting and to a large extent a re-assuring statement. It was very difficult even for those who, like himself, had made a very close and constant study of the details of our naval work, to take issue, if they desired it, with the representatives of the Admiralty in regard to this question of repairs. The question of the building programme was in a different position. He felt that the hon. Member for King's Lynn had made a speech which was of real value, and without committing himself to all that the hon. Gentleman had said it was evident that if the Admiralty did not take steps which had not yet been foreshadowed, a very serious state of things would arise. He understood from the Secretary to the Admiralty that they felt that the time had come when the question of somewhat enlarging the building programme should be considered, and they had the promise of the right hon. Gentleman that next year would see a revival of the building of the cruiser class. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken, not in heat, but with a perfect calm which was greatly appreciated by the House. He had complained of the very many Questions which had been addressed to him, and said that it was not quite fair to be thus taken to task; but on this point the late and the present Admiralty might cry quits. Although the Questions addressed to the right hon. Gentleman had been somewhat unpalatable, if too much information had been asked for, a great deal too little had been given. Great as was his real and genuine confidence in the administration 1018 of the Admiralty at the present time, he believed that there was a danger in that. He himself had held his hand absolutely during the past two years in regard to all Admiralty matters; but in the course of the last few months he had heard many men, who like himself were favourably disposed to the Admiralty, express their concern and suspicion with regard to the policy of the Board. He did not desire to say that in all cases these men had convinced him that the grounds of their anxiety were fully justified by the facts; but he must say that, apart from any sensational speaking or writing—and too much had been made of it—there was a growing feeling of anxiety. There had been not only an unfortunate reticence in the answering of Questions, but a continuance of that unfortunate policy of surreptitious communiqués to the Press. He was altogether opposed to the plan of making what had been put into the mouths of private persons by the Admiralty appear as if it were an independent expression of public opinion, and he thought that that policy was full of mischief, that it should cease, and that any communication the Admiralty had to make should be made through its representatives in Parliament. He also thought that the greatest care should be taken that the information given to Parliament in regard to naval affairs was strictly accurate. In order that the alarm which was entertained that the repairs of the Fleet had fallen off might be set at rest a Question on the subject was asked in another place; and, in reply, the First Lord of the Admiralty stated that the repairs for the year for which he was responsible compared favourably with the repairs of any previous year. But he happened to know that it would be just as reasonable to include the old float at Chatham docks as some of the ships that were included in that comparison as undergoing repairs. The British people would believe almost anything it was told in regard to naval and military matters; and special care ought to be taken that this touching confidence was not abused. He undertook to say that four years ago enormous sums wore spent on repairs, with the result that the Navy was then in a better state of repair than it had been for many a long year. He regretted there had been a 1019 reversal of policy in this respect. When he was at the Admiralty it was decided, on the recommendation of a strong committee of experts, of which he was a member, to send the ships to the great contract yards to be repaired under commercial conditions. That admirable plan had been discontinued on the ground of expense, and the ships were now to be repaired in the dockyards; but when he saw that the workmen employed in the dockyards were being diminished by thousands he asked how it was possible to carry on the repairs of the Navy in the dockyards as they ought to be carried on. He was not personally acquainted with the facts, but he was told by a very large number of persons, whom he believed to be impartial and knew to be well-informed, that repairing work had fallen greatly into arrears, and that there were many ships which, if ordered to go on a long cruise, and certainly to undertake the arduous duties of a campaign, would be found to be insufficient in their repairs. He thought when they were told, in defence of the stoppage in the building of small cruisers, that these vessels could now serve no good purpose in war, a large demand was being made on their credulity. They could not believe that the great naval Power which was building a large number of these vessels was absolutely wrong in its policy; and in his view if we relied on large cruisers to be detached to pursue and capture these smaller vessels we were allowing a danger to exist against which we had no adequate protection. With regard to the £200,000 which it was proposed to spend this year on the refrigerating apparatus for cordite, he desired to know how the money was exactly to be provided for out of the existing Votes. They would criticise very closely next year the absence of a Supplementary Estimate. He hoped that the House would be asked for one, and if it were for £500,000 they would take a very generous view of an expenditure of this character for the preservation of the magazines and the safety of the lives of the sailors on our ships.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. LAMBERT, Devonshire, South Molton)
said the reason why the sum for refrigerating apparatus in the 1020 magazines was not placed in the Estimates was that the Estimates were framed before the Admiralty had made up their mind what they could do in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman asked why had not more than £200,000 been spent this year; the reason was that they could not spend economically and efficiently more than that sum. A considerable amount of apparatus had to be ordered. They were proceeding as rapidly as was desirable. The right hon. Gentleman had made a statement which was somewhat new to him, that the repair of ships by contract was an economical method of procedure.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said he did not say that; he said it was reported to be abandoned now because it was believed to be expensive.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said he had more than once made very careful inquiries into this matter, and be understood that the experiment of repairing ships by contract was not economical. The right hon. Gentleman said that a considerable amount of unrest existed in the public mind with regard to repairs. He did not think, however, that the Admiralty could possibly be more explicit than his right hon. friend had been that afternoon. The hon. Member for Fareham had said that in 1903–4 some £3,169,000 was spent on repairs. That was true; but that was during the time when these repairs were done by contract, an expensive method, which had not commended itself to the Admiralty. He found it very difficult to say anything about these repairs, because the Estimates of right hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to the repairs did not err on the side of parsimony. In 1905–6 they estimated £2,000,000 and spent £1,500,000. The Estimates the Government took over last January twelvemonth they did not alter in the slightest degree. Those estimates provided for £1,628,100 to be spent on repairs, and, as his right hon. friend stated, they were not satisfied with that and spent £282,000 more. Surely that must satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite, at any rate, that they were keeping up the repairs of the fleet so far as spending money was concerned. The most 1021 extraordinary statements had appeared in the Press in some quarters. He would have thought more care would have been taken to obtain accurate statements. There appeared in a London paper yesterday morning a list of the ships in repair, and a more inaccurate list never found its way into a public print. It contained the following among other allegations in regard to the Home Fleet:—Out of thirteen battleships five are unavailable for active service.There were only two in repair, not five.Out of thirty cruisers nineteen are unavailable.The number was four, not nineteen.Out of 120 destroyers forty-seven are unavailable.The figure should be nineteen, not forty-seven. It was too ridiculous. This paper purported to give the repairs of the various ships belonging to the Home Fleet. He would take the cruisers. The "Amphitrite" was said to be "defective owing to continued neglect." Here was the official report—A thorough refit at Chatham has just been completed, and the ship is now efficient in all respects.This was the statement in the Press as to the "Ariadne"—Repairs have accumulated, and it is doubtful if she could make 15 knots.The official report said—Has just completed a thorough refit at Portsmouth, and is in all respects in efficient condition. On her recent trials she steamed 20.8 knots for eight hours, trials being in all respects satisfactory.No wonder the public mind—if it took any notice of these things—was a little discomposed.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said the "Diadem" was stated to be "defective owing to continued neglect." The official report was—In serviceable condition. Steams well. She is in the Chatham programme for general refit this financial year. Preparatory work is in progress at Chatham.Of the "Donegal" it was said—Grounded badly in 1906 manœuvres it is doubtful if she is sound.1022 The defects were due to grounding in the Red Sea, not in the manœuvres, and they had been thoroughly dealt with at Chatham. There was no doubt she was quite sound and perfectly efficient in all respects Of the "Doris," it was stated in the Press, "leaks badly." The official report was—Thoroughly sound and does not leak.[Cries of "What paper?"] He did not care to advertise it. He had a long list.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said the "Niobe" was reported to be "defective owing to continual neglect." The official report was—Is in serviceable condition; will be thoroughly examined later in the year to ascertain when she will require to be refitted.Of the "Warrior" it was said, "New cruiser, Nore division, unfinished. "She was complete; anything remaining to be done was of minor importance. He could go through the destroyers in the same way. The Admiralty had nothing to conceal in the matter,
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said that, as far as he knew, the whole disquiet of the public mind related to repairs, and did not relate to what he might call the fundamentals of the shipbuilding programme. It was because they had not yet had the precise statements upon these repairs that disquiet continued. He was convinced it would be brought to an end if the Admiralty would on their authority state with regard to each ship criticised whether the criticism was accurate or not. The hon. Gentleman would not weary the House.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said he would go right through the list if desired, but it was a very long one. [Cries of "Print it."]
§ MR. LAMBERT,
referring to the "Canopus," said that in the 1906 manœuvres her air pumps gave trouble; she was sent to Portsmouth, and the 1023 defect made good. She was now with the Home Fleet and was in full serviceable condition. She was thoroughly refitted in 1904, and would be taken in hand again in November next for general refit, to be ready by the end of March. This ship was referred to in the paper in question as "quite unfit for continuous service." Of course ships needed repair now and again, and the policy of the late and the present Board of Admiralty had been that the whole of the ships should not come in at once. The policy, as he understood it, was that the commanders-in-chief of the fleets should send in, six months before a ship required refit, a statement of the general state of the vessel in order that preparations might be made for taking her in hand. He could state that on the authority of the Admiralty itself. He did not like to single out individual officers of the Admiralty, but one of them, almost in despair on the previous day said to him, "It seems no good what we say; they will not believe us." Therefore, on the question of repairs, that was as far as he could go, at present at any rate. He had been asked what was the difference between an extended refit and an annual refit. The annual refit was limited to about forty days; an extended refit took from three to nine months, depending on the condition of the vessel. If a ship had been injured the refit might take longer than the period he had named. Then he had been asked how many ''Dreadnoughts" had been laid down by Germany. Up to May last, none.
§ MR. LAMBERT
replied that he had no later information with him; that was all the information furnished. As to the question put by the right hon. Gentleman the House might depend upon it that the official advisers of the Admiralty were 1024 well aware of foreign shipbuilding programmes, and they were well aware of our necessities, and they could be relied upon to advise the Government as to the best methods of spending money on the various classes of ships to be built. They had the number of destroyers, but, of course, these figures must be considered according to the individual judgment of each person. In the Return issued on the Motion of his right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean the list of ships was given. Of course, the Admiralty did not profess to estimate what was the relative value of the ships; they gave the list, and it was for individuals to form their own conclusions; but he must say that in this matter the First Lord of the Admiralty had endeavoured to give the very fullest information as regarded the relative strength of the battle fleets of the world.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
asked what steps the Admiralty proposed to take with regard to the second inducement held out to the Hague Conference, and which had caused the shipbuilding programme of this year to be introduced at an abnormally late date.
§ MR. LAMBERT
The policy of the Admiralty with regard to laying down two armoured ships and reserving the third until the result of the Hague Conference becomes known is not changed. I think that was made explicit and clear by the First Lord of the Admiralty's statement, issued at the beginning of the session, and there has been no change at all in that programme.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
I think the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my question. I am not referring to the question of laying down or not laying down a third ship. The Secretary to the Admiralty last year, in referring to the amount to be taken for new vessels in 1907–8, said the shipbuilding programme was introduced at a late period in order to emphasise the good faith of the British Government in desiring to bring about a reduction of armaments.
§ *MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)
said he desired to move the reduction of the Vote by £100 in order to say a few words in regard to the specific grievance of a large section employed in the right hon. Gentleman's department. Though the question might seem to be somewhat small compared with that they had been discussing, yet to the Iron and Steel Shipbuilders and Boilermakers Society it was one of extreme importance. Last year in discussing some of the Estimates, the Government were good enough in regard to a large section of the men employed in the dockyards to give their claims careful consideration, with the result that something like £60,000 had been paid this year in increased wages, a fact on which he complimented them. He only hoped that what was done last year would not be used as an argument against doing something for the men for whom he was now speaking. The principal point of contention was this. The Government at the present time trained men and called them skilled labourers; but these men were doing skilled work, and therefore they ought to receive skilled men's pay. They were paid the wage between a labourer's and a skilled workman's, and the result was that to-day skilled work was being done in the dockyards at a rate which was considerably less than was paid in private yards, though the work in each instance was the same. The men in the dockyards compared with the men in the private yards were not fairly treated. In the principal shipyards up and down the country there were wages boards, upon which the men were equally represented with the employers, and all the points were dealt with, and the men were at full liberty to discuss the different issues. But in the dockyards the men had no say whatever in regard to any arrangement so far as wages were concerned, and the result was that at the present time wages in the dockyards for these men to whom he referred 1026 were 40 per cent. less than were being paid in the principal shipbuilding centres of the country. In private yards at the present time, a man who had finished his apprenticeship immediately received pay which was 25 per cent. higher than was paid in the dockyards. If they took the Tyne, the Clyde, the Mersey, the Thames, and the Barrow they would find that the platers' wages averaged 38s. 3d. per week; riveters, 34s. 9d.; and holders-up, 28s. 3d. a week. When they came to the Government dockyards they found that the maximum pay of the platers was 28s.; holders-up, 25s.; riveters, 28s.; the difference as regarded platers' wages was 10s. 3d., riveters, 6s. 9d.; and holders-up, 3s. 3d. per week. It would be asked by the Government whether these men were sufficiently skilled to do this work. If, as the Government argued, these trained men were sufficiently skilled to do the work—and they did do the work equally with skilled men—then it was unfair on the part of the Government to pay them a less wage than was paid to others working in private yards and who were doing precisely the same kind of work. Was it to be supposed that the employers outside would continue to pay difference in wages of 10s., 6s., and 5s. every week when the Government were paying these lower wages for the same kind of work in the dockyards? He was afraid they would not continue to do it long if the Government still retained the existing rate of wages. There had been a conference between representatives of the men and the Government Departments, but no satisfactory solution had been arrived at. Workers under the Government were supposed to have pensions, yet it was admitted by the Admiralty that less than 25 per cent. of the men were on the permanent list, and the other 75 per cent. were not entitled to pensions. Those who were entitled to pension had deducted from their wages every week 6d. for every 10s. they earned, and if they died before they reached the pension age the widows and families did not receive any recompense. In regard to the 75 per cent. not entitled to pension there was considerable room for improvement. The fact that pensions were given to Government employés was often urged as a reason for not giving the 1027 same rate of wages as was paid outside, but when they found that 75 per cent. were not entitled to pension, and that those who were entitled, if they did not reach the pensionable age, left behind them widows and families who got nothing, then the argument which was urged about pensions lost a great deal of its force. What he urged was that the Government should pay the same rate of wages as was paid outside by private employers for the same class of work, for the Government ought not to pay less, because that was a bad example, and they ought to set a good example as employers of labour. To-day they were setting a very bad one, at all events as regarded the class of men to whom he referred. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give some promise in reference to the matter; if he did not he was afraid that they would have to go to a division. He hoped that the Secretary to the Admiralty would give an opportunity to the representatives of the Iron and. Steel Shipbuilders and Boilermakers Society to meet representatives of the Government to discuss these matters, with a view to changes being made which would prove satisfactory to both sides. He was only asking for that which was fair in asking the Government to do that.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,549,800, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Summerbell.)
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said that last year the Admiralty began a new system of dealing with the dockyards which he thought had worked successfully. The Board of Admiralty visited the various yards once a year, and every considerable section of the men was allowed to send two representatives to state their grievances, in the absence of their local superiors, before the Lords of the Admiralty. Moreover, the men had been permitted to send as one of their representatives a man who was not a member of their own grade, and they were, therefore, able to be represented by men of the class the hon. Member desired to come before the Board. Three hon. Members below the gangway opposite had represented the men on these occa- 1028 sions, and in one case they were represented by a lawyer. The Board had no reason to regret the change, and they hoped this plan would remove questions of labour from the arena of the House of Commons. The Admiralty had also established an informal board for the consideration of trade questions, and especially of disputes between one trade and another. The petitions this year were all in, and they were under consideration, and he could assure the hon. Member that what he had said would not be lost sight of.
§ MR. JENKINS (Chatham)
called attention to the fact that in 1906 when introducing the Navy Estimates the right hon. Gentleman accepted a Resolution in favour of allowing an accredited representative of the men to accompany the representative of the trade in the dockyard when petitions were presented, and of granting the recognised trade union rate of wages as paid in the district where similar work was done. So far as the first part of the promise was concerned, it had been faithfully carried out, and he wished to thank the Admiralty for the kindness and courtesy shown to their deputations. He wished to know what had been done in reference to the other part of the promise. It was perfectly true that last year the Admiralty issued a statement after the petitions had been presented, and a concession of about £60,000 per annum was made to the workmen. That showed plainly that for a great many years the workmen in the dockyards had been labouring under a great disadvantage. That £60,000 meant about 1s. per week to the whole of the workmen and a certain amount to the officials. But even with this additional payment the rate of wages paid was not the same as was paid in other parts of the country where similar work was done. That was just the grievance they complained of, and they had laid it before the Admiralty when the representatives of the dockyard men presented their petitions. He had spoken upon this question to the workmen employed in every dockyard in the country, and the difficulty was to find out the average rate of wages paid. He wished the Secretary to the Admiralty to realise that the Resolution confined itself 1029 strictly to the wages paid in the district where the Government work was done. He had gone carefully through the whole of the Estimates, and he found that ten armoured cruisers were being built or Hearing completion outside the Royal dockyards. One was being built at Chatham, one on the Tyne, four on the Clyde, one at Barrow-in-Furness, and one at Sunderland. The men were quite prepared to strike an average wage for all those ports, but what did the Admiralty do? They referred them to the Board of Trade Return, in which as far as his own trade was concerned they took into consideration ninety-four ports. He wished to point out that five-sixths of those ports never did Government work at all. As far as his society was concerned they did present to the Admiralty a Return in which they took nine ports in 1906.. namely the Thames, the Mersey, the Tyne, the Clyde, Barrow, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, and Belfast, and they included the hours worked in both summer and winter, and the wages paid on new and old work. The average hours for those ports were fifty-three per week in the winter and forty-nine and a half in the summer, making an average all the year round of fifty-one and a half hours, and the average wage worked out at £1 19s. 10d. per week. He agreed that when they compared the number of hours worked in the Government dockyards with those outside there was a difference. The hours worked in the Government dockyards were forty-eight per week. On that occasion the Government took credit for being model employers, and for shortening the hours of labour from fifty-one and a half to forty-eight. They did not increase wages. He would place before the Committee the average weekly hours for the nine ports when the working hours were fifty-one and a half. The average weekly wage was £1 19s. 10d., whereas in the nine ports when forty-eight hours were worked the average week's wage was £1 17s. In the dockyards, the men in his trade, because of the shipping advance given last year, got £1 15s. 6d. for forty-eight hours work, and that notwithstanding the fact that the Admiralty had added £60,000 a year to the amount paid in wages. That difference of 1s. 6d. was manifestly unfair. What applied to his own trade 1030 applied also to others. He wished to say a word or two on behalf of the ordinary labourers in the dockyards. It was true that they received an advance of wages of 1s., but he was addressing a House which only a few hours ago voted £50,000 to one individual. The labourers in the dockyards for forty- eight hours per week received £1 1s. He knew that there were economists in the House, and if he were pleading for the building of a new ship he might be met with arguments on the score of economy, but he was appealing on behalf of men who were in receipt of 21s. a week. He and his friends would not be satisfied till the minimum wage for those men was not less than 24s., and he hoped the day would soon come when it would be recognised that that was not too much for a living wage to those people. As to skilled work, the Government must recognise that they were committed by the acceptance of the Resolution of last year to pay the same rate in the dockyards as was paid by private firms. What did riveters and caulkers get in the dockyards? Only 5 per cent. of the men realised the maximum of 28s. per week, 10 per cent. got 27s., 15 per cent. 26s., 20 per cent. 25s., fifteen per cent. 24s., 10 per cent. 23s., and 5 per cent. 22s. The average pay for the skilled worker was only 25s. per week. He asked the Admiralty whether they were prepared to pay to riveters and caulkers the same wages as men received in outside establishments? He trusted the Admiralty would be generous enough to consider this matter. There were 25,000 men in the Royal dockyards, thoroughly equipped and fit to do great service for the country, for they were the constructors of the first line of defence. While he thanked the Admiralty for the concessions already made, he had to state that unless a pledge was given that the men in the dockyards would receive trade union rates he and his friends would go to a division.
§ SIR JOHN BENN (Devonport)
said he was a little afraid, after the speech of his hon. friend, that the Admiralty might form the impression that those who represented dockyard constituencies were not sufficiently appreciative of what had been done. He would endeavour 1031 to state the views of those interested in this matter as to the admirable way in which the new system had worked. There was now ample opportunity for the valuable speeches which had been addressed to the Committee by Labour Members being repeated by the hon. Gentlemen themselves in presence of the Lords of the Admiralty. A tribunal had at last been established which gave full opportunity for the men to state their claims. Eighteen months ago the only opportunity the men had for stating their grievances was by the old-fashioned method of sending in petitions, and occasionally they had the opportunity of seeing the authorities. Under the new system a round table conference had been set up, and the Lords of the Admiralty, at great inconvenience to themselves, had gone from dockyard to dockyard, and had invited the men to meet them. They had given the men the opportunity of being represented by trade union leaders. He thought that was a satisfactory state of things. Up to the present time a great deal had been done in the direction desired, and 300 representatives of the workmen had been received by the Lords of the Admiralty. Shorthand notes were taken of the evidence of those who could speak with authority on these matters. Up to the present time £60,000 a year had been added to the wages of those employed in the dockyards. He regarded that fact with great satisfaction, because hitherto the position of a dockyard Member had been looked upon with suspicion. They had been compelled to state in the House that the men were underpaid, and it had been said by some that it was for political reasons they pleaded for better wages for the men. To-day they were able to say that the claims which had been brought forward year after year had been amply justified by the inquiries held by the Lords of the Admiralty. They were extremely glad that a tribunal now existed by which something had been done in the direction they wished. The work was not finished, but an excellent beginning had been made. An attitude of criticism at this juncture was the best to adopt. He knew that the Government intended to fulfil the pledge, which they gave without hesitation, that the workers in the dockyards 1032 should enjoy wages comparable with trade union wages paid outside. When further representations were made in regard to these matters he was confident that they would receive sympathetic consideration, and that by another year they would see a further levelling up. Lord Tweedmouth in his Memorandum stated that it was not the intention of the Admiralty to allow overtime to be worked in the dockyards. He regarded that statement with satisfaction, because it was better that more hands should be employed than that overtime should be paid to a smaller number. On the question of discharges, he had reason to be grateful to the Government. Since the Government came into office 171 more men were employed in the dockyards, and that was a matter for congratulation. It was of great importance that in the matter of work the claims of the dockyards should receive first attention. He was not against private yards getting Government work, but he felt that unless the Government had national workshops fully equipped such work as was desired could not be produced. The public dockyards were not able to compete with the private dockyards, and, if in times of peace a dockyard was starved out, those who were engaged in it would have no opportunity of getting work in other directions. The First Lord of the Admiralty in his Memorandum said that under the change in the dockyard system the business was working smoothly and well, and he thought the nation might be satisfied that its dockyard work was going on satisfactorily. He had the fullest sympathy with the position taken up by his hon. friends on the other side of the House.
§ MR. BARNES (Glasgow, Blackfrairs)
said that he wished to say a word or two in reply to what the Secretary to the Admiralty had said as to their competence to bring forward and discuss this question on the floor of the House. He thought they should reserve their rights to come there as to a Court of Appeal. A particular class of men had had an opportunity of meeting the Board of Admiralty, and they now asked that the representatives of the Board should give them some assurance that the particular case which they 1033 had mentioned would not be taken as one among a multitude of questions which would form the subject of investigation by those who were experts in these matters. They would like to meet not the Lords of the Admiralty but men who had special and detailed knowledge. It was perfectly true that there had been an increase of wages in the dockyards at home, but he was sorry to say that did not apply to our dockyards abroad, and he thought the concessions which had been made at home should be extended abroad, where the men worked for longer hours and under climatic conditions which did not prevail here. He thought the Government ought to give them some assurance on that point.
§ MR. VIVIAN (Birkenhead)
said he had heard the case powerfully put for the Royal dockyards, but he rose to put the case for the private dockyards. He was not in favour of encouraging the extension of the Royal dockyards, because an immense amount of capital expenditure in regard to machinery and plant was made when war was threatened or took place, but when the war was over or the threatened war passed over, the machinery and the officialdom went on. Labour felt the blow at once, while the more prosperous employees did not. In private yards, however, the labour was more easily utilised for other work, and when war was over he had known cases in which ninety per cent. of the staff were suddenly engaged in producing things which were useful in time of peace. He would rather see an increase of private dockyards than of Royal dockyards. It was impossible to fulfil those conditions by utilising private yards except on a very reasonable scale and under proper regulations. The endeavour of the Admiralty should be to organise the resources of the country for the purpose of producing ships and other things required in war, so that in times of excitement and national danger the means of production should expand with the greatest rapidity and least waste. This could not be done by utilising the Royal yards on a very large scale, but by utilising the private yards their equipment would be encouraged, and the purposes of the Admiralty would be served without the waste that followed the fluctuations in the employment of labour 1034 in the Royal dockyards. There was one other defence of the private yards which he wished to point out. He was pleased to learn from his hon. friends below the gangway that they were now endeavouring, and he hoped they would succeed, to bring the wages of those engaged in State employment up to the standard which had been paid in private yards for many years. In that endeavour he would do everything in his power to help them. One hon. Member had said that there was a difference of twenty-five per cent. in the wages paid in the Royal dockyards and those paid in private yards. If that were so, he did not know why the men should be so enthusiastic in favour of employment in State yards.
§ MR. NAPIER (Kent, Faversham)
said he doubted whether the Members for the dockyard constituencies shared the opinion of hon. Members who were in favour of an unlimited expansion of the public dockyards. What was wanted was not violent expansion at one moment to be followed by depression at another. As a dockyard Member himself what he asked for was that the Government work should be so arranged that, as far as possible, the employment in the State dockyards should be constant, and that the number of men always the same year after year. Such a policy had not been so fairly carried out as it might have been in recent years. The Admiralty deserved thanks for the opportunity they had given to the men to make their grievances known directly, but he agreed that that did not relieve Members who represented dockyard constituencies of their right and duty to press in the House upon the Ministry the fair claims of their constituents. He thought the Motion made to day was amply justified, at all events from a constitutional point of view. He, however, would ask the hon. Member for Sunderland not to press his Amendment. He thought it would be acknowledged that no Government had shown itself more sensible to or sympathetic with the claims of labour than the present Government. A great advance in the treatment of the men employed in the dockyards had been made, and they were assured that the representations and complaints lodged with the Board of Admiralty at the beginning of the year were receiving serious and sympathetic consideration. If 1035 that were so, he doubted whether it would be altogether grateful or graceful to press the consideration of particular items further at the present time. There were some men in whom he was interested to whom he desired to refer. He meant the caulkers, of whom he believed that they were only eighty in England.
§ MR. NAPIER
said he was told that those men had had only 1s. advance in their wages during the last thirty-four years. If that were so, it required serious consideration. He hoped that his right hon. friend would make a note of the word ''caulkers," and that when he returned to his office he would inquire into their case. He would suggest that the Motion had served a useful purpose in drawing the attention of the House to the condition of the men and their wages, and he hoped that his hon. friend would not press it to a division, but leave the matter open for another year for the consideration of Ministers, when he was sure it would be found that the grievance complained of would be remedied.
§ MR. BRAMSDON (Portsmouth)
said he wished to express great regret that the hon. Member for Birkenhead should have raised on that occasion the question of private versus Royal dockyards. It was not suggested in any way by the dockyard Members, but as the hon. Member had raised the point he wanted to put one fact before the Committee which would speak volumes in answer to the allegations that had been made. In the earlier part of the debate they were informed that during the nine months prior to 1st January, 1906, something like 6,733 men were discharged from the Royal dockyards. The House would easily understand the great trouble and tribulation that arose in the dockyard towns, which were different from other towns, and the loss to their commercial life that resulted on account of these numerous discharges. They were prevented from having commercial docks in these places, and were consequently practically without commerce, and the result was a state of things that did not occur in towns where private and commercial yards existed. He therefore hought the suggestion made by the hon. 1036 Member was a very unfortunate one, and personally he regretted it very much. His object in rising, however, was to say that he cordially agreed with all that the hon. Member for Devonport had said with respect to the Admiralty, and on behalf of Portsmouth, the senior naval port, he wanted to thank that Department most cordially for the grant of an extra £60,000 which they had given towards the wages of the men. It was appreciated very much in his own dockyard. Of course they were not satisfied, and he hoped to be able to appeal on behalf of his constituents for a reconsideration of the matter so that the wages might be still further increased. They could not get everything done at once. The Admiralty had done a splendid thing in allowing the men to interview their Lordships, who received them with the greatest courtesy and consideration, and paid the utmost attention to their arguments and grievances. He asked that hon. Members should be reasonable and not hope to get more than they could fairly expect. Personally, he had the greatest confidence that the Admiralty would grant them more money as time went on, and he would go on agitating until the men got more substantial wages than they at present received. They were not paid as they ought to be and as the men were paid in other yards, and it was right and proper that this fact should be pointed out from time to time. If they had many friends like the hon. Member for Birkenhead, they would have a very difficult uphill fight before them. Royal dockyards were established for a particular purpose, namely, for the building, repair, and protection of ships in the Navy, and they were dockyards that could not be done away with, even if it were wished. If any crisis or a war occurred necessitating repairs or protection of ships, the Royal dockyards were the right places for it. He hoped his friends on the Labour benches would not press the matter to a division, although at the same time he was cordially with them as regards the principle on which they had brought the matter forward.
§ MR J. WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)
explained that he intervened in the debate because the Labour representatives did not consider that the statement with regard to wages which had been made by 1037 the Secretary to the Admiralty was very satisfactory. As far as he was concerned as a Member of Parliament the personal element was absent. They only made pots in Stoke-on-Trent. But, generally speaking, it was obvious that when demands were made upon our national resources in times of national excitement due to war the national dock yards were unable to cope with them, and we had to ask for help from private enterprises. From this arrangement followed the corrupt contract system and scandals that disgraced almost every military expedition sent away from our shores. All this resulted from trying to cripple the resources of the national dockyards in time of peace. We ought more and more to rely upon the national dockyards. No doubt it was quite as bad for workmen employed by private firms to be out of work as for those engaged by the Government, but there was this difference in the nature of the employment. In the Government dockyards Government work simply was done, but private yards could cater for other kinds of work if one particular kind became depressed. He had no wish to advocate an increase of expenditure, but when the House decided to spend a certain amount of money on the two branches of the Service, the Government should at least pay special attention to their own work men, for the very reason that private yards could undertake other work. Attention had been drawn to the fact that wages were 25 per cent, lower in Government yards than in private yards. A reason for it was to be found in the fact that the Government were diposed to consider to a large extent the employee's pension in the recompense they paid him. This naturally suggested to those who represented organised Labour the necessity of noting such facts and placing their views before the Government.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said he did not know that he could add very much to the statement made by his right hon. friend on this question. After all that was said and done, the Government had only been in office for eighteen months, and during that short period they had had consider able difficulty in obtaining from the keepers of the public purse, the Treasury, assent to an increase of something like,£60,000 a year distributed among the various employees in the dockyard. This 1038 year precisely the same course of procedure had been followed. The First Lord of the Admiralty had gone to Chatham and Portsmouth, and the Secretary to the Admiralty had inter viewed the responsible officials of the other dockyards; and at the present moment the matters which had been brought before them were under the serious consideration of the Department. The Government could not, however, make any further statement just now He might say that they had not the smallest wish to pay the dockyard hands less than a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. It must be remembered that they were the representatives of the taxpayers of the country, and had a right to demand that a fair day's work should be given for a fair day's wage. The point had been laid before the country, and he would be somewhat sorry to see a division on the subject, for that must have some effect on the ultimate decision. He thought that hon. Members in their own interests should not go to a division, because he did not suppose that they expected to carry the reduction, and the Admiralty would have to pay regard to the decision of the House of Commons. As regards foreign yards, though he could not make a statement, they were actively engaged in considering the matter. The whole Board had been to Gibraltar and to Malta, and they had heard many of the grievances of the men. While he could not make a statement, he could assure the House that the general principle as to the treatment which they had laid down with regard to Government employees would be carried out in, he would not say a generous, but a just spirit that would be extended to men in foreign yards. He hoped the hon. Gentlemen would see their way to with draw the Amendment; he had laid his reasons before them and it was they who had to decide, but he hoped they would seriously consider the course which he had suggested.
§ *MR W. T. WILSON (Lancashire, Westhoughton)
said he wished to say a word or two on behalf of a trade that had not participated in the £00,000 increased wages paid on the decision of the Admiralty last year—he referred to the joiners. He wished particularly to call the attention of the Secretary to the 1039 Admiralty to the fact that both joiners and labourers in the Director of Works Department were paid considerably less than similar classes of employees in other sections of the dockyards. In the Director of Works Department they were paid a maximum of 32s. a week and a minimum of 30s. a week; but in connection with that department there were classifications, which system did not prevail in other departments. He found that sometimes a man had to wait ten years before he got an increase of Is. on his wages; and unless he had influence behind him he got no increase until he was practically qualified for the old-age pension. He hoped that the joiners employed in the Director of Works Department would be placed on exactly the same footing as those employed in other departments connected with the dockyards. He was informed that the labourers in the dock-yard received £1 Is. a week, while the labourers in the department to which he referred were paid only £1 a week. He thought he was justified in asking the right hon. Gentleman at any rate to put the lowest paid class of labourers under his control on the same level as those who were engaged in other departments. He would like also to point out that while the principle was recognised in the Royal dock yards of paying a certain class of workman the same wage as was paid in private yards, in the Director of Works Department they were paid considerably less than was paid in private yards; and, seeing that the joiners for whom he spoke did not participate in the increase of wages last year, he hoped that the Admiralty would give special recognition to this trade. A system of bonuses prevailed in the dock-yards; he believed that if a man served seven years he got a bonus, but if he was discharged at the end of six years and eleven months he got nothing. Either the bonus ought to be abolished altogether or the man who was discharged through no fault of his own should receive bonus proportionate to that part of the seven years which he had worked. He hoped that the Secretary to the Admiralty would do his utmost to bring all the joiners of the dockyards to the same level so far as wages were concerned. Often these men had to travel some distance to their jobs and had to pay their own fares, and they were also liable to be laid off if the 1040 weather was bad. Ho thought that taking everything into consideration it would be right to abolish the classification in the Director of Works Department, and also that these workmen should be placed on the same level as the joiners in other departments of the dockyards.
§ *MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said in reference to the guarantee of wages it must be remembered that they were dealing with a fixed sum of money voted by Parliament, and if the wages were increased by 25 per cent, the number of men would have to be reduced by 20 per cent. But the point to which he desired to call attention was that many of these men had another grievance not connected with the amount of their wages, but because they were liable to be vaccinated. A joiner was set on at Portsmouth a short time ago, and when he refused to be vaccinated he was dismissed. This vaccination was not by statute; it was entirely by regulation of the Lords of the Admiralty, and it was a matter wholly within the management and control of the Secretary to the Admiralty and his colleagues, and if he chose he could omit the regulation It was well known to anyone who knew anything about the question that the people who advocated vaccination held that it was of no use unless it was repeated continually—that unless a person was vaccinated three or four times it was absolutely useless. If a man was vaccinated once at the beginning of his term of office and that was all, it was a useless proceeding. Why then inflict this penalty which sometimes killed a man and often injured him, perhaps seriously?
said it would be better before the hon. Gentleman proceeded further that they should dispose of the question which they had been discussing.
§ *MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said that he would give careful consideration to the various points which had been raised. What the hon. Member for Chat ham had said on another occasion in reference to the matter on which he had spoken that evening had been fully reported, together with the speeches of the hon. Gentleman's friends, and these would be laid before the Board of Admiralty in due time and fully 1041 considered. In regard to the joiners in the Director of Works Department being put on the same level as other joiners in the dockyards that was a point which would be fully considered. His hon. friend had asked when the Report would be issued. When it was ready it would be laid before the responsible officials, and when it had been dealt with, and summarised and tabulated, it would then be laid before the Board. He did not think that it would be long delayed. After to-night he would be free to devote more time to these matters. He appealed to the House either to let the Vote pass or be with drawn, it was immaterial which, because there was another Vote in the hands of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies down for discussion.
§ MR. SUMMERBELL
said that after the interesting discussion which they had he desired to withdraw his amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. MURRAY MACDONALD (Falkirk Burghs)
said he had no intention of opposing the withdrawal of this Vote. He had intended to move a reduction of the Vote, because he believed that the provision made in the Estimate for battle-ships was far in excess of our requirements, but it was obvious that at that, time of night they could have no proper discussion of these provisions. Never the less, if a division were taken, he and some, at least, of his friends, would show their dissatisfaction by abstaining from voting.
§ MR. MADDISON (Burnley)
regretted than when it was understood that a reduction of this Vote was about to be moved, raising a great question of policy with regard to large battle ships they should I have no opportunity whatever for discussion. They had been occupied discussing parochial matters which might have been settled by conference with the right hon. Gentleman, with the result that a really important discussion had been prevented from taking place. That was another reflection upon the un business like proceedings of this House.
§ *MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said there were many hon. Members 1042 sitting on the Ministerial side of the House who by no means shared the regret which had just been expressed and who, like him, were pleased that the Motion for the reduction of the Fleet was not going to be moved and that no opportunity offered for opposing the policy of the Government in this behalf. The Government avowedly maintained the traditional policy of this country in regard to its first line of defence, and its chief arm of attack.
§ MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said that apparently the hon. Member for Burnley had misunderstood the situation. The previous discussion had been on the general question. The points he had alluded to had only occupied about two hours and it was un fair to say that they were merely parochial questions.
§ MR. MADDISON
said he was not referring to that subject alone. He still thought that hon. Members would have been better advised if they had allowed this Motion for a reduction to come on.
§ *SIR RANDAL CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
protested against the course that was being pursued. Several Members had been waiting for months for an opportunity of moving a reduction in the cost of naval armaments. And now they were told that in a few minutes time the debate would be brought to a close and that the discussion on this very important question could not take place. He did not know whether those representing the Admiralty were aware of the strong feeling which existed out of doors upon this subject. Many people regarded the subject as one of supreme importance. He wished hon. Members who talked so much about the desirability of old-age pensions would devote themselves seriously to considering where the money was to come from to provide them. [AN HON MEMBER: Lord Cromer £50,000.] He believed it possible to get the necessary funds by reductions on Army and Navy expenditure. [AN HON MEMBER: Move your Amendment.] There were some hon. Members who talked about economy and said it was an excellent thing, but not in Chatham, Woolwich or Devonport. [" Oh ! "and AN HON MEMBER: Speak for yourself.]
§ MR. RANDAL CREMER
said the hon. Member for Chatham was too astute to use the exact words, but that was the result of the policy he pursued in the House of Commons. It was impossible for hon. Members to realise what they professed so much anxiety about so long as the shameful expenditure on the Army and Navy went on.
I cannot say that the expression "shameful expenditure" in the sense used is an unparliamentary expression.
§ *RANDAL CREMER
said he would withdraw "shameful" and use the word "extravagant," which equally well ex pressed his meaning. The Committee would form their own opinion as to the reasons which had prompted the Front Bench to closure them on the present occasion. He resented it and protested against it. [Cries of "Move, move."] It was not his Amendment, and he had no intention of moving it, because it was quite clear that the course which had been adopted was intended to close their mouths and prevent them from discussing this useless wasteful expenditure of the nation's resources. Having made that protest he would resume his seat.
§ MR.GEORGE WHITELEY (York shire, W.R., Pudsey)
assured his hon. friend that what he said was not the fact. No one wished to burke discussion, and the real reason why the Government wanted to withdraw the Vote was that the Under-Secretary desired to make a statement on a matter of vital importance —namely, the abolition of slavery in Zanzibar.
§ MR. MURRAY MACDONALD,
without comment, moved to reduce the Vote by £1,000, in order to allow the sense of the Committee to be taken at once upon the question which he had raised.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,548,900,; be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Murray Macdonald.)
§ MR. LUPTON
said he heartily agreed with this Amendment. All they required Naval expenditure for was to defend the Empire, and the present expenditure was a great deal too much for that purpose. The Navy Estimates might with safety be reduced by at least £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 a year.
§ MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)
said that during the last few minutes it had been abundantly demonstrated how very improper it would have been to accede to the request of the Front Ministerial Bench opposite to let this enormously important Vote go by with less consideration than one full Parliamentary day. The point he wished to draw attention to was one of the most supreme importance and he hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would be able to give him an answer. The point he alluded to was the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman with reference to cordite. Whatever view might be taken on the subject, it was certainly one which ought to receive the serious consideration of the House. Some few months ago it was ascertained that a considerable proportion of the cordite on board His Majesty's ships had been so manufactured as to be at this moment entirely untested, and in such a condition that no human being could say with any certainty that it was not in a highly dangerous state. That was admitted and could not be denied. What he complained of was the way in which the Admiralty were dealing with the situation, because they ware putting into absolute and real danger, if not all, certainly a large proportion of the ships of the Navy. What did the right hon. Gentleman propose? They had in a large number of magazines cordite which had never been tested and all the Secretary to the Admiralty told them was that it was going to be tested. 1045 He wished to know how and when that cordite was going to be tested. What test was lie going to apply? The only possible test, as far as he knew, was the heat test, and he did not believe that could be applied in this particular case. Then it was said that the old cordite was to be used up first, but he did not believe that there were any available means of finding out what were the old and what were the new cartridges in a ship's magazine. The right hon. Gentleman had also stated that "suspicious" cordite was to be destroyed. [Cries of "Divide."] He could assure the Committee that he was not engaged in any attempt to waste time. This seemed to him to be a matter of the greatest importance. A large amount of highly explosive material was on board our ships in all parts of the world. Was there anybody who could tell whether it was safe or not? If it was dangerous, it might produce destruction which would hare an enormous effect on the shipbuilding Vote. The steps which the right hon. Gentleman said he had taken to test the cordite were found, on examination, to be perfectly illusory. So far as he knew, the cordite in question could not be tested without being brought home and submitted to a difficult and complicated test. It was perfectly impossible to test it on a man of war. He did not think it was extravagant to ask the right hon. Gentleman to state some reason for supposing that the steps he had taken to deal with the danger were not illusory.
§ *MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said that the best assurance he could give the hon. Gentleman was that tests to be applied had been recommended by the experts of the Admiralty. He did not understand these things himself, and, all he could do was to rely on the information given to him as to the nature of the test. The only test to be applied was one which had recently been in use. If the hon. Gentle man opposite desired to pursue the inquiry further, he would place all the information he could at his disposal.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
said a similar question as to condition of cordite arose in regard to the Army supplies, and the Secretary of State for War said he could give a 1046 pledge that the cordite at present in store was absolutely safe. It was desirable that there should be no uncertainty among our sailors as to the safety of the cordite on board ship. He asked an assurance from the Admiralty that the cordite in the magazines at present was. free from risk to our seamen.
§ MR. JENKINS
complained of the large amount of constructional work given to private dockyards. He called attention to items on page 88 of the Estimates under the heading of "Coal, &c, for the Fleet." A sum of £1,832,000 for coal was included as a dockyard charge, and he thought it was debited in the wrong place. The figure for the dock yards instead of being £5,000,000 should only be a little over £3,000,000.
§ MR. GRETTON (Rutland)
said that unless it appeared from the shipbuilding programme next year that the Admiralty had considerably advanced as to the necessity for battleships he and his friends would be obliged to use all the force they could in criticising the programme. As to the torpedo flotilla there had been a great deal of anxiety created in the public mind. A large proportion of the boats were constructed before 1898, at which date Germany commenced the construction of a torpedo flotilla, and now had a flotilla of 146. while we had a flotilla of 143. All the German vessels had been constructed since 1898, but seventy-seven of our vessels were constructed previous to that year. It was important that we should have up-to-date vessels for the proper training of our officers and seamen. This was a subject which caused great anxiety in the minds of every competent critic in the country, and he rose for the purpose of asking the right hon. Gentle men if he could give the same assurance with regard to this that he had given in respect to the repairs of the cruisers. Would he consider whether he could furnish a printed statement in respect of the torpedo flotilla showing the repairs needed? He had no wish to prolong the debate, but he pressed the right hon. Gentleman to allay the public anxiety which had been created by want of in formation upon this subject.
*M OWEN PHILIPPS (Pembroke and Haveford-west)
said he wished to take 1047 this opportunity of expressing his thanks to the Secretary to the Admirality for the sympathetic way in which the Admiralty during the last eighteen months had met the various grievances that the men had laid before them. There were still grievances to be dealt with, and he hoped that they would be arranged in the coming year. He hoped sincerely that next year the Government would not overlook the necessity of providing additional graving docks. It was useless discussing whether we should have a large or small shipbuilding programme, whether we should build few "Dreadnoughts" or many, unless the Government dealt in a practical way with the question of providing graving docks in which these enormous vessels could be repaired quickly in case of accident or damage in time of war. The statement that had been made by a member of the Government upon the question shewed a state of things far from satisfactory. At the present time in the British Empire there were only about thirteen graving docks in which the vessels we were now building could be repaired. He submitted that it was of the greatest importance that there should be a large number of graving docks built throughout the Empire.
§ *MR. REES
said he rose for the purpose of putting two points before the right hon. Gentleman, whose brief and lucid statements always gave him the impression that the right hon. Gentleman had nothing to conceal behind a cloud of verbiage. He asked whether it was desirable that there should be no battleship on the China station. The fact that we were in alliance with a great naval power in the East made it even the more necessary that our flag should not disappear from one of these great stations where it has been accustomed to be flown, and that it should not be flown upon a less powerful warship than in former years. The Americans, the French, and the Germans all had battleships in these waters, and
§ he certainly thought that we also should have at least one such vessel. If we had not enough ships to allow one to be sent to the China station he would suggest that the Government should build one, but he thought that it might be done by a more rearrangement of the fleets. He also urged that something bigger than a gunboat should control the Persian Gulf, which, politically speaking, was one of the storm centres of the world. This gulf had been cleared of pirates and slaves at the expense of the British taxpayer; it had been opened to the commerce of the world at the expense of the same individual, and his rights and influence in these waters should be jealously maintained at a time when other great Powers were pursuing a policy of more or less peaceful penetration towards the gulf.
§ * MR SHERWELL (Huddersfield)
said since that complaint had been made that the Amendment had been moved without any statement being made in support of it, he wished to explain, on behalf of his hon. friend who moved it and those who supported him in the Amendment, that he had deliberately abstained from saying anything in support of it out of deference to the desire of the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies to have time to make a statement on the question of slavery in Zanzibar. Personally, he greatly regretted that he and his hon. friends had not been given the opportunity of stating the case for the Amend ment, which had been moved in no narrow spirit, but solely because they realised the great social and national importance of keeping naval and military expenditure within reasonable limits. Their view was that the Vote for new construction was not justified by the facts before the Committee.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 86; Noes, 263. (Division List No. 353.)1051
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Cremer, Sir William Randal|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Byles, William Pollard||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Clough, William||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Edwards. Enoch (Hanley)|
|Brace, William||Collins,SirWm.J.(S.Pancras,W.||Everett, K. Lacey|
|Bright, J. A.||Corbett,C.H. (Sussex,E,Gr'st'd||Fenwick. Charles|
|Brunner, F.J.L. (Lanes., Leigh)||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Ffrench, Peter|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Richards, Thomas (W.Monm'th|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras,E||Richards, T.F. (Wolverh'mpt'n|
|Gibb, James (Harrow)||Lehmann, R. C.||Richardson, A.|
|Gilhooly, James||Lundon, W.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Gill. A.H.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Glover, Thomas||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)|
|Goddard. Daniel Lord||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down,S.||Scott,A.H.(Ashton under Lyne)|
|Gooch, George Peabody||M'Callum, John M.||Shackleton, David James|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Maddison, Frederick||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Gurdon,Rt Hn.SirW.Grampton||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Summerbell, T.|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Menzies, Walter||Thompson,J.W.H. (Somerset,E|
|Halpin, J.||Molteno, Percy Alport||Vivian, Henry|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Murnaghan, George||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Hazleton, Richard||Murphy, John||Walsh, Stephen|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Nolan, Joseph||Ward,John (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Hodge, John||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wardle, George J.|
|Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Hudson, Walter||Parker, James (Halifax)||Williams,Llewelyn (Carmarth'n|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Jowett, F. W.||Pollard, Dr.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Joyce, Michael||Price,C.E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Mr.Murray Macdonald and Mr. Sherwell.|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Cave, George||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey|
|Acland-Hood,Rt.Hn.Sir Alex.F||Cavendish, Rt.Hn. Victor C. W.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace|
|Agnew, George William||Cawley, Sir Frederick||Findlay, Alexander|
|Allen,A.Acland (Christchurch)||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Fletcher, J. S.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Forster, Henry William|
|Anson. Sir William Reynell||Chance, Frederick William||Freeman-Thomas, Freeman|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Cheethara, John Frederick||Gladstone,Rt.Hn. Herbert John|
|Ashley, W. W.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Gretton, John|
|Astbury. John Meir||Clarke, C. Goddard (Peckham,||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Aubrey-Fletcher,Rt.Hn.Sir H.||Cleland, J. W.||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Coates, E.Feetham(Lewisham)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Balcarres, Lord||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Harwood, George|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hazel, Dr. A. E.|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Courthope, G. Loyd||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Cowan, W. H.||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone,N.||Cox, Harold||Henderson, J.M.)Aberdeen, W.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Craig,CharlesCurtis (Antrim, S.||Henry, Charles S.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Craik, Sir Henry||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)|
|Bell, Richard||Crean, Eugene||Hervey,F. W. F. (Bury S. Edm'ds|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Crooks, William||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)|
|Benn,Sir J.Williams(Devonp'rt||Crossley, William J.||Hills, J. W.|
|Benn,W.(T'w'r Hamlets,S.Geo.||Dalziel, James Henry||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Davies,David (Montgomery Co.||Holden, E. Hopkinson|
|Bertram, Julius||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Bethell,Sir J.H.(Essex,Romf'rd||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Dickinson,W.H.(St.Pancras, N.||Horniman, Emslie John|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Doughty, Sir George||Hunt, Rowland|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Hyde, Clarendon|
|Branch. James||Du Cros, Harvey||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Duncan,C.(Barrow-in-Furness||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Brigg, John||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Jacoby, Sir James Alfred|
|Brocklehurst. W. B.||Dunne,Major E.Martin (Wals'll||Jardine, Sir J.|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Jenkins, J.|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Elibank, Master of||Jones,Sir D.Brynmor (Swansea|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O,||Erskine, David C.||Jones,William (Carnarvonshire|
|Bull, Sir William James||Essex, R. W.||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Esslemont, George Birnie||Kekewich, Sir George|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Evans, Samuel T.||Kilbride, Denis|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Eve, Harry Trelawney||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Fell, Arthur||Lambert, George|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Ferens, T. R.||Lamont, Norman|
|Lever, A.Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Pearson,Sir W. D. (Colchester)||Steadman, W. C.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Pearson,W.H.M. (Suffolk, Eye)||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Pease,Herbert Pike (Darlingt'n||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Lockwood, Rt.Hn.Lt.-Col.A.R.||Philipps.Col.Ivor (S'thampton)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Lough, Thomas||Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)||Stuart, James (Sunderland)|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Radford, G. H.||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Rainy, A. Rolland||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Lynch, H. B.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah||Taylor, TheodoreC. (Radcliffe)|
|Maclean, Donald||Raphael, Herbert H.||Tennant,SirEdward(Salisbury)|
|M'Crae, George||Ratcliff, Major R. F.||Thomson, W.Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Rawlinson,John Frederick Peel||Thornton, Percy M.|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Rees, J. D.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Mallet, Charles E.||Rickett, J. Compton||Ure, Alexander|
|Mansfield,H.Rendall (Lincoln)||Ridsdale, E. A.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Verney, F. W.|
|Marks,G.Croydon (Launceston)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Vincent,Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Marnham, F. J.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield,Ecclesall)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Massie, J.||Robertson,SirRt.Hn. E. (Dundee)||Wason,JohnCatheart (Orkney)|
|Masterman, C. F. G.||Robertson,Sir G.Scott (Bradf'd||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Robinson, S.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Micklem, Nathaniel||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Roe, Sir Thomas||Weir, James Galloway|
|Montagu, E. S.||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Whit bread, Howard|
|Montgomery, H. G.||Runciman, Walter||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire|
|Mooney, J. J.||Russell, T.W.||Whitehead. Rowland|
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||Whitley,John Henry(Halifax)|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Schwann.SirC.E.(Manchester)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Murray, James||Seaverns, J. H.||Wilson,P.W.(St. Pancras, S.)|
|Napier, T. B.||Seely, Major J. B.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Nicholson, Wm.G. (Petersfield)||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Wortley,Rt.Hon.C.B. Stuart-|
|Nield, Herbert||Sloan, Thomas Henry||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Younger, George|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford,East)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Nussey, Thomas Willans||Smith,F.E.(Liverpool, Walton)|
|O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —Mr.|
|O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Spicer, Sir Albert||Whiteley and Mr. J. A.|
|Partington, Oswald||Stanger, H. Y.||Pease.|
Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,549,900 be granted for the said Service," put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ And, it being after Ten of the clock, the CHARMAN proceeded, in pursuance of Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote under consideration.
§ The CHARMAN then proceeded to put severally the Questions, "That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in each Class of the Civil Services Estimates, including Supplementary Estimates, and the total amount of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Navy, the Army (including Ordnance Factories) and the Revenue Departments, be granted for the Services denned in those Classes and Estimates:—