§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,936,200, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expenses for the personnel for shipbuilding, repairs, maintenance, etc., including the cost of establishments of dockyards and naval yards at home and abroad which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1905."
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)
said he was sorry the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord apparently did not propose to follow the usual course of making a statement on the introduction of this Vote, a practice which he thought was followed invariably by the previous senior representative of the Admiralty in this House during the time 425 of the present Government, and one which indeed the right hon. Gentleman led them to believe would be followed in the present instance, because he purposely deferred giving thorn the information which they desired with regard to the shipbuilding programme of the Government, saying that a more suitable opportunity would be given on the Shipbuilding Vote. He was no doubt aware that the information which had been laid before the House with regard to this year's programme was of an exceedingly meagre character. They did not know, for example, what the second large armoured vessel was to be, and whilst he did not wish to press the right hon. Gentleman for any information which could not be properly given with due regard to the public interest, he thought it would be a great help to the Committee to have a short statement as to what the Government proposed in the way of this year's shipbuilding. That situation was somewhat aggravated by the fact that the Return of ships built and building was not yet in their hands, and consequently, they really had no information whatever with regard to this Vote, carrying a sum of £12,000,000 or £14,000,000, except what was contained very briefly in the explanatory statement of the First Lord at the commencement of the session. The right hon. Gentleman probably had some good reason for the course he had pursued, and he hoped he would give them as much information as he reasonably could. This discussion was an annual occasion of considerable importance, not merely because they gave a formal ratification at the end of it to the shipbuilding programme outlined by the Government at the commencement of the session, but because it gave to the House their only opportunity of considering how the adequacy or inadequacy of the shipbuilding programme which was submitted to the House some six months before affected the shipbuilding necessities of the immediate future. Our system of dealing with this question of shipbuilding programmes was curious and, be thought, in many ways unfortunate. The Government prepared and decided upon a shipbuilding programme somewhere in the month of November or December; it was outlined in the House of Commons about the month of March following; it was not discussed by the House or sanctioned until probably towards the end 426 of the following July; in most cases it was not commenced until quite the end of the year, or, as had been recently the case, until early in the following year. That was to say, there was a delay of something like fifteen months from the time the programme was decided upon to the time the Government proceeded to put it into execution. That was a serious disadvantage to us as compared with the practice of our foreign rivals. Let them take the case of Germany, for example. In Germany the shipbuilding programme was voted as a rule in March or April, and building was actually commenced in June or July, and the result was that in any given year's programme we were necessarily left at least six months behind the Germans, and that start which we thus gave to our rivals neutralised entirely, as he thought, any possible and by no means certain advantage we were supposed to enjoy as a result of our superior speed in shipbuilding. He was not convinced that we did build as a common practice our ships any quicker than the Germans were able to build theirs, but that was a matter into which he did not wish to go further on that occasion. He made these preliminary observations in the hope that the Government might consider the advisability of altering the method of procedure, which placed us at a great disadvantage, which had nothing to commend it, and which indeed made it extremely difficult for anyone to calculate what our actual position was in regard to naval strength as compared with that of any other naval power. The programme which was laid down at the commencement of the session was indeed, as it was described by the First Lord, exceedingly modest. He did not think anyone, even the most ardent advocates of the peace policy, could accuse us of forcing the pace in the matter of construction as compared with foreign countries. He would endeavour to show that the programme which had been suggested was inadequate, and that it was quite indefensible from the point of view of the enormous financial burdens that it threw upon succeeding years. Most Members of the Committee knew what the programme was, that there was one battleship, one largo armoured cruiser, about which they had no information whatever, six other fast protected cruisers, sixteen destroyers, and £500,000 427 worth of submarines, but even that meagre programme was not taken seriously in hand so far as the finance was concerned. Practically the whole of the expenditure was postponed from the present to the succeeding financial year, and to all intents and purposes the very small programme was not the programme for 1908–9, but for 1909–10. The Admirality indeed went so far as to boast of the fact that the sum taken for new constructions was the smallest since the year 1899, and that it marked a further step in the continuous fall of expenditure under that head. He did not think there was anything particular to boast of in that connection, and he did not believe there was any advantage in it except a mere temporary Treasury advantage, and certainly a programme which was made up largely if not entirely of deferred expenditure was not one which even a financier need have any reason to boast of, particularly when they considered that the corresponding expenditure on shipbuilding by foreign Powers during the period covered by the Government's proposals was steadily, and even sensationally, rising. It was always an invidious task to inquire too closely into the programme of other countries with which we were on friendly terms, but they were obliged to do so on that occasion, and he must point out that the German Naval Estimates, which had increased by over £3,000,000 since last year, had, under this particular head of shipbuilding, increased by £750,000 over last year, and last year they increased by £500,000 over the year before. The German Naval Estimates had increased over 500 per cent in the last sixteen years, and under the new Navy Bill the German Naval expenditure was £14,000,000 last year, £17,000,000 this year, and would be £20,000,000 in 1909, £22,000,000 in 1910, and £23,000,000 in 1911. That did not include works, and of course the sum was further reduced by the existence of conscription with the Gorman Navy. These facts must all be taken into account. At any rate, they were face to face with the fact that under the Navy Bill, approved by the Get man Reichstag, an expenditure of £208,000,000 between now and 1917 had been approved by the Parliament of that country. The distinguishing feature of that programme and that expenditure, which, he might 428 say, had never been reduced, whatever modifications there might be made in German programmes, was that that expenditure and those programmes showed a steady, continuous, and relentless policy which made our spasmodic hand-to-mouth method of dealing with these matters appear to very great disadvantage. The facts which he had ventured to outline must give them reason "furiously to think" as our French friends said; it had passed from the stage of academic speculation, and we were face to face with the question as to how we stood as regarded the immediate future as compared with our chief rivals. The last discussion they had on this subject was on 10th March, and that debate was distinguished by a most momentous statement by the Prime Minister. The statement was so important that he ventured to remind the Committee of the particular passage. The Prime Minister said—I will say this, without the faintest hesitation, that if we find there is a probability, or a reasonable probability, of the German programme being carried out in the way the paper figures suggest, we should deem it our duty to provide, and we should provide, not only for a sufficient number of ships, but for such a date for laying down those ships that at the end of 1911 the superiority of Germany, which the right hon. Gentleman foreshadowed, would not be an actual fact. I hope that is quite explicit. That is the policy of His Majesty's Government. It remains on record, and I think it ought to reassure the House that we do not intend in this matter to be left behind.With regard to the statement of the Prime Minister, he would only make this observation, namely, that the date which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned was necessarily, in view of what would be brought before them at the end of 1911, not really a period of extreme significance. As a matter of fact he believed—and it was universally believed—that the period of extreme significance, as far as we were concerned, was not the end of 1911, but the early part of 1912. Whilst that period might seem somewhat remote, it was not really so, because under our system the ships under the shipbuilding programme which the Government had to decide in the next few months, would not be ready until the early part of 1912. How should we stand at that date, which he described as the really critical date? He admitted to the full the view that the superiority of our ships of the first-class 429 was absolutely assured in the meantime as against any rival. But as regarded the new type of ship, and assuming for the moment, not knowing what the Government's intentions were, that we should have no other ships except those which were already approved by the House of Commons, our position at that date would be as to capital ships, that we should have twelve ships of the "Dreadnought" or "Invincible" classes at the end of 1911. Germany had at the present moment, according to the best information he could obtain, nine ships of those classes building, and she would have thirteen completed by the end of 1911. They would have also, if the present indications were fulfilled, other four, making seventeen in all completed by 1912. The right hon. Gentleman shook his head. The right hon. Gentleman might have further information; if so, he would give the House the benefit of it. His own information was derived from a German paper which was universally recognised as a most authoritative source of information on these matters. He was assuming in regard to the programme an equal speed in shipbuilding; he knew of no reason why they had any right to assume anything else. The First Lord of the Admiralty had claimed publicly that the Germans were able to build as quickly, if not more so, than were we. While it might perhaps be said that Germany at the present time was three months behind in her programme, yet we also were behind in our programme in respect of the "Invincible" cruisers promised to the country to be ready for service by May, 1908. They were not ready yet. One was nearly ready.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
One was quite ready, and the other two were not, and at any rate this was not May, 1908. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary, if these figures were correct—and he believed them to be correct—that next year's programme of capital ships should be at least five vessels of the "Dreadnought" or "Invincible" class, if we were to equal the position which Germany would hold in the year 1912, in regard to these classes of ships. Then, assuming 430 that we followed our present dilatory methods of laying down ships on which we had decided—the Prime Minister, in his statement to which he had referred, hinted at an earlier laying down of ships in case of necessity. He hoped that that hint might be translated into reality. He believed that a change of that kind was sound from both a business and a financial point of view, and would relieve the present situation. The Prime Minister's statement really only insisted upon equality with Germany, and that was the reason why he himself had never thought it so overwhelmingly satisfactory, because it actually only provided for the one-Power standard as regarded these vessels. Of course, the one-Power standard in this matter was not only disastrously, but ludicrously, inadequate. His personal belief was that the two-Power standard was best translated as the twice one-Power standard, and that the only really safe course for us was to lay down, or what was more important, to complete for service, two capital ships for every one that our chief naval rival might be possessed of, at any given time. Anyhow, in order to keep the pledge which the Prime Minister had given last March, it was quite clear that the Government must embark upon a large programme of capital shipbuilding during the coming year, and that programme was to be decided within the next few months. They perhaps could not go further into the future now, but he thought it was necessary, or at any rate desirable, to remind the House and the country of what was before them, and what was their position at the present moment. The responsibility of framing the programme, and still more, the responsibility for finding the money to do it, devolved upon the Government and upon the Government alone. They had every reason to suppose that after the Prime Minister's speech they would rise to that responsibility, and if they did, they might rest assured of support not only from the Opposition Benches but from the whole country. If the Government did not rise to that responsibility, he believed that the country would make it overwhelmingly plain—indeed, they had done that during the past week—that whatever else they might put up with there was one thing they would not stand, and that was any trifling with the Navy. He would not go into technical details about the ships on the new 431 programme, particularly in view of the fact that they had been vouchsafed no details by the Government. These Votes were not only extremely technical and complicated, but they were the occasion of continual wrangling and disputes among the experts, and when experts "raged furiously together," there was not much chance, he thought, of the House of Commons being able to come to a conclusion. Expert critics like Sir William White, the ex-chief constructor of the Navy, who attacked the new type of vessels for many divers and inconsistent reasons, did not help them very much to arrive at a conclusion. Those critics said that the "Dreadnought" type was bad and inferior as a fighting machine to the ships which they themselves had designed. They compared the increased speed, the increased armament, the increased cost, and all the other characteristic features, and yet in the same breath those critics chided the Admiralty for having introduced a type which was inferior to the previously existing type, and for having wantonly sacrificed the immense advantage which we possessed in the older class of vessels. Those two arguments were mutually destructive, but however that might be, he did not wish on that occasion to plunge into this highly technical controversy as to the "Dreadnought'' versus the "King Edward," or any of those other technicalities. What he wished to say was that the new type of "Dreadnought" was absolutely inevitable as the result of the Russo-Japanese War. We had not invented it; we had not originated it. If he might use the language of the Stud book it was the "joint parentage" of Colonel Cuniberti the great Italian expert, and the Russo Japanese War. However that might be, both the Russians and the Japanese had decided to build large ships of this type before we designed the "Dreadnought," and we were face to face with the question whether we would follow suit or run the risk of the British Navy dropping behind in this most vital matter. The Board of Admiralty who wore responsible for the introduction of this type only arrived at the design after the most careful deliberation by nil expert Committee, which had upon it not only the First Lord, but the Director of Naval Construction, the Chief Engineer, two sea-going captains, and six experts, including Lord Kelvin, Professor 432 Byles, and Sir John Thorny croft. From their most careful investigations was evolved this type, and he thought the designs they produced were at least as worthy of consideration as any of the views expressed by Sir William White. At any rate the "Dreadnought" type had been adopted by every first class naval Power, and was it really suggested by the critics that we should abandon it—that we should be content to build slower, smaller, and less armoured ships than other countries simply in order to please expert critics like Sir William White, who, as was not unnatural in the fond parent, hugged the belief that his own offspring must necessarily be unsurpassed? As the motor cabs superseded the older class of vehicles, so in time no doubt the "Dreadnought" type would be surpassed and discredited by other and later ideas. That was the universal experience in naval progress. In the meantime was it possible that they should allow the British Navy to run the risk of falling behind our foreign rivals as regarded ships of the "Dreadnought" class? The only other point he wished to go into had reference to torpedo craft. Discussion did not seem to lead to any satisfactory conclusion in view of the impossibility of getting at what the facts really were. At one time the Government had accepted the rule by which the life of a torpedo boat was put at eleven to twelve years. At another time when the standard was Inconvenient they repudiated it. At one time they told them that the coastal class were sea-going destroyers, at another time that they were not destroyers at all but torpedo boats and very properly entered them as such in their official returns. These, of course, were Parliamentary manœuvres as far as these ships were concerned. It was practically certain, and it was endorsed by practically every naval officer who had had command of these vessels, that practically the whole I of our destroyers, previous to what was I known as the "River" class, were now worn out and were incapable of continuous service under war conditions. That fact was plainly hinted at in the statement of the First Lord at the beginning of the session. Although we had a very imposing strength on paper of vessels of this class amounting to 166 destroyers, built or building and 16 433 projected, he believed not more than 50 per cent. of those built at the outside were really capable of continuous war service under the sort of conditions that they would have to follow, say, in the North Sea. Concurrently with this they knew that the Germans had eighty-four modern boats built or building, and what was more important, they were laying down a complete division of twelve boats of this class every year and their Bill provided for doing so every year from 1906 to 1917. Here again they saw that regular relentless policy of shipbuilding which contrasted so favourably from the naval point of view with the spasmodic policy which we followed. He did not wish to make any party points at all. In past years we had apparently had no settled policy in regard to the building of destroyers. In 1903 fifteen were laid down; in 1904, none; in 1905, five; in 1906, three; in 1907, five; and this year it was proposed to lay down sixteen. As far as they could judge, comparing our standing with foreign countries we should be obliged to lay down at least twenty-five in the coming year if we were going to maintain anything like the reasonable superiority that was required. He did not think it was necessary to point out the financial and business evils which resulted from this irregular and haphazard method of construction. It imposed a sudden and almost intolerable strain upon the finances of a future year or else, as was more likely to be the case, it led to the neglect and postponement of shipbuilding which was absolutely necessary for the safety of the nation. This destroyer question he believed to be one of the most serious that the Admiralty had to face. He did not see how it could be faced or dealt with adequately without the production of a Supplementary Estimate during the present financial year. At any rate it was a most urgent matter. We had to have these vessels and he hoped the First Lord would inform the Commiette what was the intention of the Government with regard to this important matter and to give them some assurance which would relieve the very grave anxiety that existed on the point. There was another point on which he wished to say a word. There were at present building in private yards in this country three 434 vessels of the improved "Dreadnought" class for Brazil. Why Brazil should need three leviathans at this juncture it was difficult to imagine. Past experience showed that, whereas Brazil had had many ships built in this country, very few of them remained in her Navy to-day. Brazil was rather a speculator in warships, and if she had found that profitable in the past there was no reason to suppose she would not repeat the process in future. A sudden and unexpected addition of three "Dreadnoughts" to the fighting strength of any first-class naval Power would completely upset the balance upon which our shipbuilding programmes were constructed. That was a somewhat dangerous contingency which we could not neglect. It would be a profitless speculation to suggest what the ultimate destination of those ships would be, but he hoped the Government were watching the matter very closely, and that steps would be taken not only by the Admiralty, but by the Foreign Office to see that those ships would not fall into the hands of any Power less friendly and more formidable than the great South American Republic, with which we were, and, he hoped, always would be, on the best possible terms. He hoped he had made it clear that he was particularly anxious to avoid anything like party considerations, but he did not consider the Government shipbuilding programme to be adequate in any way to the needs of the Empire and still less to the necessities of the future. But after all there were some on both sides of politics who believed in a stronger Navy and who held this view just as strongly as he did. As far as these naval questions were concerned he would be glad to join hands with any one on either side, in or out of politics, who would do the right thing for the Navy, and he hoped they might count the new First Lord one of the number. He had a difficult, and, in some respects, a very delicate task before him. He believed the materiel of the Navy to be excellent and unsurpassed as far as it went. He believed that the personnel also was excellent and unsurpassable, and altogether, as regarded ships, equipment, officers, men, training, he believed that the Navy led where it had always led. There was nothing wrong with the Navy as a whole, and the country, 435 he believed, had the utmost confidence in its zeal, spirit, and capacity. There was only one point on which at present there was any anxiety. He would not discuss that now, even if it were in order to do so. But he hoped he might express the confidence which he was sure they all felt that the Government were fully alive to this serious matter, that they could be relied upon to handle it with tact, impartiality, and above all with firmness. In whatever action they might find it necessary to take, in the interests both of the British Navy and of the nation, they were assured in advance of the support not only of all political parties, but of every one who cared, and cared deeply, for the reputation of the finest service in the world.
§ MR. McKENNA
, who was indistinctly heard, assured the hon. Gentleman that, notwithstanding the inadequate material of which he complained, he had managed to make a most excellent statement. He admitted that in one respect the material was not as full as the hon. Gentleman was entitled to receive; that was due to the return which stood in the name of his hon. friend having been unfortunately delayed, but he had not materially suffered from that circumstance, as the whole drift of his argument was not affected by any particulars contained in that return. The hon. Gentleman had complained that our system gave Germany an advantage in the fact that our shipbuilding programme was considered in November or December, and was stated to the House in the following March, and the programme was not begun to be laid down until probably some time in July or after.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said it was brought before the House of Commons for discussion in July, and not laid down till the end of the year or more often, as in the present year, until March of the following year.
§ MR. McKENNA
said that that was true as to some ships, but not as to all. Some ships were laid down earlier than was stated by the hon. Member. If one looked at the German figures, he would find that the German programme of 1906 was not laid down in regard to the 436 large ships until, in one case, March, 1907, and in the other, August, 1907. It so happened that the German programme of 1906 was actually laid down after the programme of 1907. In the German programme of 1904–5, when the hon. Gentleman himself was at the Admiralty, a considerable number of ships were not laid down in that year at all, and the principal ships were not laid down until 1st April, 1905. It was almost impossible to avoid some delay in laying down ships after the programme had been completed. If the hon. Member could offer ally suggestion by which the laying down could be more approximated to the initiation of the programme the Board would be only too willing to consider it. The hon. Gentleman's principal complaint was that the Government programme for the year was too meagre, and in order to emphasise his observations he referred to the "continuous relentless policy" of Germany in building large ships. The Committee ought not to be in any uneasiness on that subject. At the present moment in Germany five large ships of the "Dreadnought" or "Invincible" type had been laid down, one of them as recently as March this year, and four others in March, June; July, and August, 1907. This country, on the other hand, had ten very nearly complete. One, the "Dreadnought," was completed long ago; the second, the "Indomitable," would accompany the Prince of Wales to Canada; and the third, the "Inflexible," was very nearly finished, and it was hoped tile "Bellerophon" would be completed in October or November this year; in fact, the whole of the ten ought to be completed before the German five were finished. Then the hon. Member went on to refer to the danger which would occur in 1911 and 1912. In the middle of 1911 we should still have a marked superiority over Germany in this particular type of ship. In that year we should have eight "Dreadnoughts" and four cruisers, while Germany—even if she completed her programme in the shortest time named by herself, as to which present experience did not justify too sanguine hopes on Germany's part—would have seven "Dreadnoughts" and two "Inflexibles," thus giving us a 437 superiority of three vessels in that type.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
The right hon. Gentleman takes the figures for the middle of the year 1911, but when the Prime Minister dealt with this subject on 10th March he pointed out that if you took the figures at the end of the year they would be Germany thirteen, as against our eleven.
§ MR. McKENNA
rather thought it was the Leader of the Opposition and not the Prime Minister who stated that. The Leader of the Opposition assumed that at the end of 1911 Germany would have completed not only this year's programme, but also her next year's programme as well, and in consequence would have at the end of 1911 a total of thirteen, whereas we, upon this year's programme, would have only twelve. In that statement it was assumed that Germany would have completed her next year's programme, whereas we should not have completed our next year's programme, although nobody, he thought, would suggest that Germany could build faster than we could.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
But the point is that Germany begins her shipbuilding every year much sooner than we do, and, if that practice were carried out next year, then the dangerous state of things would come about to which reference was made. The Prime Minister, in reply to me, said that, if that seemed to be likely to be the case, we would begin our shipbuilding programme earlier next year.
§ MR. McKENNA
said that, although our shipbuilding programme was initiated in the month of November or December, and was not discussed in that House until the following July, the practice being not to lay down the ships until the latter end of the year, yet the Admiralty were perfectly capable of laying down boats at any time of the year. The interruption of the Leader of the Opposition had no reference to this year's Estimates. After 1st April, 1909, however, it would he a perfectly proper observation that if we were to keep pace with the Gorman programme, we 438 must build a certain number of ships in 1909–1910 and lay them down at an earlier period of the year. But in answer to the statement as regarded this year's Estimates, all we had to do was to assume that Germany could build no faster than we could and to make sure on this year's programme, which would be completed in the middle of 1911, that we should have at that time a superiority over Germany.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
The right hon. Gentleman says at that rate we shall have twelve as compared with Germany's nine. Does he state on behalf of the Admiralty that he considers that a sufficient margin of superiority?
§ MR. McKENNA
said the hon. Gentleman asked whether he considered that was a sufficient margin of superiority over Germany in this kind of ship. The hon. Gentleman had laid it down that a desirable interpretation of the two-Power standard would be twice any one Power. But that was an extension of the doctrine of the two-Power standard, and a very serious extension. What the hon. Gentleman meant was not only twice any one Power in any type of ship but twice any one Power in every type of ship. According to him we were not to take into account our "Lord Nelsons," our "King Edward VII's." and our vast array of battleships. All those were to pass as nothing at all, and we were simply to estimate any particular type of boat and see that we had twice as many as any one Power in that particular type of ship.
§ MR. McKENNA
said that that was the argument the hon. Member used. He would have thought that twelve against nine was a sufficient predominance even if we had nothing else, but we had a very considerable superiority of strength behind the "Dreadnought" type, and he must have stronger arguments brought in support of the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the two-Power standard before he could admit that Great Britain would not be maintaining in 1911 the two-Power standard as hitherto interpreted If must be remembered that 439 down to the last three years the battleship superiority of this country over Germany was very considerable. It was generally assumed that the introduction of the "Dreadnought" had altered the whole relations between the two countries. Valuable as most people now agreed the "Dreadnought" was, as a new type of ship, no one would assert that the existence of the "Dreadnought" nullified the existence of the previous kinds of ships. Those must be taken into account in striking a balance between the two Powers. What value were we to apply to battleships which existed prior to the "Dreadnought" type? If he might judge from statements made on the other side of the House, when these types were compared with corresponding types in Germany, he was fully entitled to say that with the preponderance of twelve "Dreadnoughts" as against Germany's nine, the great superiority of the older types of ships would give to this country complete security in 1911. There was no greater mistake than to build more than we needed. The essential for this country was security—absolute and complete security, and he was sure the House of Commons would be willing at any time to submit to sacrifices which were necessary to obtain security. But it was mere waste to go one inch beyond what was security. If we overwhelmed ourselves in any one year with unnecessary ships, we should suffer for it in the future, because no matter what the type of ship was, it would become obsolete, and our hands would be tied when we wanted to be free to build a newer type of ship. The Government had laid down a programme for 1908–1909 which would give the country complete security at the expiration of the time when that programme would be completed. And next year the Government would be prepared to take the foreign increased construction into account, and to propose next year what was sufficient for security to this country in 1911 and 1912. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the inadequate state of the torpedo craft. He did not know how the hon. Gentleman acquired his figure that 50 per cent. of the existing torpedo-destroyers were ineffective. As a matter of fact, there were eight scouts.
§ MR. McKENNA
said that scouts were better than destroyers; and as the Admiralty did not reckon them among the cruisers they thought they were entitled to include them among the torpedo craft. These eight scouts had no corresponding vessels among the torpedo craft of either France or Germany. There were eight scouts, seventy-nine destroyers, and nineteen coastal destroyers of ten years old and under. What period the hon. Gentleman took when he reckoned 50 per cent. of the existing torpedo destroyers as ineffective he was unable to discover.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said he was not reckoning scouts and he was not reckoning coastal destroyers, which the Admiralty in their own return described as torpedo boats and not destroyers.
§ MR. McKENNA
said they were called coastal destroyers because they served the purposes of destroyers. He had taken the age of ten years and under in order to please the hon. Gentleman, but for no other reason. In truth, the hon. Gentleman had been misled by something which occurred when he himself was at the Admiralty into estimating the life period of a destroyer at eleven years. In the Return, Appendix No. VII. of the Estimates, the life period of a torpedo boat was estimated at eleven years; and the life period of a gunboat was estimated at fifteen years; and when the hon. Gentleman was at the Admiralty he included—as the Board said at the time and still said, in error—destroyers under the head torpedo boats instead of under the head gunboats.
§ MR. McKENNA
said that destroyers approximated more closely to the gunboat class, at any rate in regard to length of life, than to the torpedo-boat class. The Admiralty had always reckoned, and did so now, the life of a torpedo-boat destroyer, for the purpose of depreciation, not at eleven years, but at fifteen years. He was advised, and 441 had no reason to doubt the value of the advice, that the whole of the destroyers were thoroughly good and useful craft. The Admiralty were laying down this year sixteen destroyers. That came on the top of a very considerable provision made quite recently. He thought there were thirteen destroyers made last year and the year before last. The Admiralty had also quite recently, the House would be glad to hear, bought two completed destroyers. They would, therefore, have this year eighteen new destroyers, and it appeared to him, accordingly, that the provision made in this year's Estimates was quite sufficient.
§ MR. McKENNA
said that that was quite true; but they should be provided for next year. At any rate, the Admiralty were, in this year's Estimates, laying down sixteen destroyers; and they had bought two out and out to replace those lost in the accident. The position was this—they had completed three torpedo-boat destroyers since 1st April; ten more were being built, of which five would be completed before 31st March, making eight during this year; the other five would be completed next year, and they were laying down sixteen others this year, which would also be completed next year. So that this year and next the destroyer flotilla would be increased by no less than twenty-nine boats. That appeared to him, even if the hon. Gentleman's strictures were altogether justified, to be an adequate addition to make to the torpedo craft. In regard to the three large ships which were being built in this country for Brazil he could give the hon. Gentleman no information beyond what he knew upon the subject. But he could assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government naturally would watch the career of these ships with considerable interest. He agreed that it did not seem likely that Brazil could be launching into a Navy of such a size that would require three boats of this magnitude; but the Government had not the slightest reason to suppose that the ships were being built with any hostile purpose towards 442 this country. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's references to recent incidents in the Navy he would say no more than to thank him for his expression of confidence in the Government. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that it would be the aim of the Government to compose any differences which might exist. He was bound to say that these differences appeared to him to be more emphasised in the Press than was in the least called for, and were differences which, so far as the Government were concerned, rested upon unverified rumour. He believed these differences had already, in fact, given place to a more satisfactory condition of things. He was obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the terms in which ho had spoken of the Government in the matter.
§ *MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON (Lanarkshire, N.W.)
said he was sure that everyone in every quarter of the House would have received with most sincere appreciation the last remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. The policy which the right hon. Gentleman referred to in the early part of his statement, which was now known as the all-big policy, had been gone into by his hon. friend near him. He felt that that was not the time nor the place for a further discussion as to the wisdom or unwisdom of building craft of that type, or of the wisdom of our policy in the initiation of that type. He did not wish to say anything about that, but he did say that, having accepted the all-big type, there were certain corollaries connected with it which he desired to put before the right hon. Gentleman, for lie could not help thinking that they had escaped the consideration they deserved. The first of these was the question of dock accommodation. Having accepted the all-big policy, it was absolutely necessary that we should have increased dock accommodation. This was not like the question of the naval programme, a question of fast or slow construction. It was not a question whether we had a superiority over Germany in the construction of docks. We could not construct naval works any quicker than any of our great rivals.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wishes to 443 discuss the question of docks, but I must point out that it is not in order on this Estimate.
§ *MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON
said he was aware of that, and he apologised for mentioning it. He mentioned it merely as one of the corollaries of the all-big policy in order that it might not be thought that he was passing over the most important of these corollaries. He came to what might be called the accessory craft in the policy now adopted—namely, cruisers and destroyers. The all-big policy had had its counterpart in the case of cruisers. During the past twenty years cruisers had become bigger and bigger, and now they had grown to a size which was actually astounding. Beginning with the Russian "Rurik" in 1894, to which our "Powerful" and "Terrible" were the reply, the world's navies had gradually reached the "Minotaurs," the "Edgar," "Quinets' and the "Inflexibles." While that process had been going on, how did we stand in regard to the legitimate work which our cruisers would have to perform in time of war The reason for this gradual growth was, roughly speaking, one might say this. The idea was that as a single unit was detached it might be able to meet and defeat any other detached unit it might encounter. He wished to point out that this had developed to such a point that these units had become so big and valuable that we could not afford to detach them. In the Memorandum which the Admiralty submitted to the Colonial Conference in 1902 they said—If the enemy's cruisers escaped we could always spare a superior number of vessels to follow them.That might be true as things stood then, but was it true now? Would any admiral be in a position to detach these highly valuable single units in chasing small protected cruisers? The tiling was impossible. All history showed that it was impossible. Admirals had always avoided the risk of detaching a valuable portion of their squadrons. They had to keep their main force absolutely undivided, and no admiral could afford to detach big cruisers for the purpose of using them as detached units. Incidentally he might say that there were many occa- 444 sions which called for the use of detached units not only in time of war, but in time of peace. How did we stand at the present moment with regard to medium cruisers since we could not use these big armoured vessels for detached service? If two such cruisers were reckoned as the complement of a battleship in the constitution of a fleet, we stood in a singularly bad situation. In the Channel Fleet there were fourteen battleships and three medium cruisers; in the Atlantic Fleet six battleships and three medium cruisers; and in the Mediterranean Fleet, six battleships and five medium cruisers; or a total of twenty-six battleships and eleven medium cruisers, showing a deficiency of more than two to one.
§ *MR. MITCHELL - THOMSON
Un armoured. He was referring to the medium ships which an Admiral could afford to detach for special services. The experience of the manœuvres of 1901, when a large cruiser action took place, and all subsequent war experience showed that at the beginning of hostilities there would be a concentration of battleships and large, highly valuable, armoured cruisers; and therefore these would not be available, and on the two-to-one standard there should be forty-one of these medium cruisers. In the Home Fleet there were at the Nore six battleships and three medium cruisers; at Portsmouth, four battleships and eleven medium cruisers; and at Devonport, three battleships and six medium cruisers. Taken on the whole there was, therefore, a deficiency as regarded commissioned ships of forty-seven of these medium cruisers. In the whole Navy there were sixty-seven unarmoured cruisers, thirty-one of which were at present with battleships and the remainder abroad, on subsidiary services and wider repair. He submitted to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Committee that our present position with regard to these vessels was not entirely satisfactory when the position of Germany was, considered. Germany was laying down every year two and three—he believed in one year 445 four—of these vessels, of not less than 3,500 tons, with 4.1 guns and fairly high speed, and therefore of considerable fighting value. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the function of battleships and squadrons of large armoured cruisers at the present moment was going to be largely that of a containing force; but that function could not be carried out unless there was an adequate screen of scouts. Every admiral knew that it was impossible to maintain any containing force in effective position within range of a hostile attack by torpedo craft alone. Taking destroyers, how did we stand in comparison with Germany? At present we had got of the "River" class—new, really effective, destroyers—thirty-four, and four of the "Tribe" class; in all thirty-eight. Now, there were forty-eight German ocean-going torpedo destroyers finished, and of this new class there were actually ten more available in Germany than in this country. He might add that in addition there were seven or eight first-class torpedo boats available in Germany. It was true that we hail a much larger number of first - class torpedo boats in this country than in Germany, but they were of no use as a screen for a containing force, because they could not keep at sea sufficiently long to act in the necessary way. Therefore, they might be practically neglected or containing purposes If we went on building, as projected we should stand in a little better, but not very much better position. The "Swift" was building; there were projected—eight of the "Tribe" class, and sixteen of a new undescribed class—in all: twenty-five. Germany had twenty-four building and projected of the same class, and a similar remark applied to German projected torpedo boat destroyers. This information was not drawn in any way from confidential, but from the most ordinary sources. He pointed out these facts because he really thought it was high time—he hoped the country had already seen the situation—that the Committee appreciated the consequences which had come along with the adoption of the all-big policy. We needed more cruisers for detached work; and we must have more destroyers for use as a screen. He appealed to the right hon. 446 Gentleman and to the Board of Admiralty to pursue in this matter a steady, continuous course. At the present moment they were working by jumps. Disorganisation came from this jumping method of procedure, affecting not only the work in the dockyards, but in private yards and in all the allied trades working outside. It became even more important now that they had permanently adopted a policy of doing naval works out of estimates and not by loan. There was always a great temptation, a great chance, at least a possibility, that when there was a heavy works expenditure to be borne on the Estimates for any one year or a series of years, the work on new construction might be blocked. He did not say it was likely to happen in the immediate future, but it was a possibility, and in order to guard against it, he pressed the right lion. Gentleman to pursue a straight, steady, consistent and thorough policy which would put this country and keep us abreast of our needs, not only with regard to battleships and large armoured cruisers, but with regard to cruisers of medium size, and especially destroyers.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said he was sorry the First Lord was not present for the moment, because he wished to take the opportunity—he was entitled to do so on this Vote, for there was an item of expenditure in reference to the naval station at Sydney, New South Wales—of asking the right hon. Gentleman whether he could make any statement as to the position of this country with regard to naval matters towards Australia. It appeared to him that the Estimates the Committee were now considering might be influenced to a considerable degree if the Committee knew exactly where they stood with reference to naval affairs towards the Australian Colonies. There was on the Vote now being discussed a considerable item for the dockyard at Sydney. What he wished to know was whether the First Lord could make a statement or give any information as to the position of this country with regard to Australia in connection with naval matters. The hon. Gentleman who last spoke had quoted a statement made at the last Colonial 447 Conference. It was at that Conference that the Australian position in connection with naval matters was considered; and it was then agreed that under certain circumstances Australia should not be compelled to make the contribution of £200,000 which she was now making towards the upkeep of the Navy. It was understood that Australia was going to make proposals to place the naval position of the Commonwealth on a new footing. After that a proposal by Australia for the establishment of a small but serviceable fleet for the protection of the Australian coast and under the control of the Commonwealth was published. That proposal created among those connected with Australia a great degree of interest, and its development was watched with considerable anxiety. The interest in these Naval Estimates would be considerably increased if it were known that a new departure had been taken with regard to the Commonwealth of Australia. He had put some Questions from time to time to both the First Lord and his predecessor in office, and had received more or less evasive replies. Not only had he put Questions, but the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had also done so, but neither he nor the right hon. Gentleman had been able to elicit anything in the nature of a satisfactory Answer as to the position of this country under the new proposals made by Australia. The Questions he wished now to ask the First Lord were: Was it not a fact that the Commonwealth Government, a considerable time ago, placed a scheme on behalf of the Commonwealth generally before the Admiralty, and, if so, was the Admiralty going to accept the scheme, or, if not, were the Admiralty prepared to make alternative proposals to the Commonwealth; and could they hold out any hope that a settlement would be arrived at in the matter satisfactory to both this country and Australia. He asked these questions because he saw in an influential daily paper a most remarkable cablegram in connection with this question. He recently asked the First Lord what was the reason for the delay as to the acceptance of this proposal, and the right hon. Gentleman replied that he could only refer to the reply given to a similar 448 Question on 21st May, which was that the scheme as put forward by Mr. Deakin was in bare outline, and required much simplification before it could be discussed with advantage, while the difficulties inherent in the scheme were very great. He said also that the scheme was a complex one and had to be fully considered. The very day after that reply had been given he read in a cablegram published in an influential newspaper that this reply had excited much criticism, and that Mr. Deakin had declared that the real difficulty was that his Government had received no sort of reply from the British Government except that the Board of Admiralty were preparing a scheme. If that was so, it was a position that ought not to exist. If it was the fact that the Australian Government, with the best of good faith, and with every desire to arrive at an arrangement which should be mutually satisfactory, had submitted a definite well thought out scheme for the defence of Australia, and that no reply whatever had been sent to that scheme, the First Lord himself would admit that it was not a state of affairs which should be allowed to continue to exist. Of course, this took place before the right hon. Gentleman came into office, when he was successfully regulating the education of the nation, but the right hon. Gentleman could say, no doubt, that it was being considered, because a message was sent to the Australian Government. But what did that message say? It made no mention of the scheme of the Australian Government. It said that the Government were engaged upon a scheme, and were anxious to arrive at a plan, which they hoped would prove satisfactory. He was, therefore, perfectly entitled to ask what was the position at the present time? He had not the slightest right or desire to speak on behalf of Australia, but he spoke as one who had considerable knowledge of, and some interest in Australia, and as one who had a great desire that what Australia proposed at a great cost to herself should not be lightly treated by the Government, but should receive consideration, not to say courtesy, at the hand of the Admiralty. He asked the First Lord these two or three questions, which he thought were quite requisite. How long ago was the 449 proposal made in regard to Australian naval defence? Was it true that the Admiralty had ever said the problem was complex and required further amplification and could not be used; and did they tell Australia they were considering a scheme of their own? Those were questions which, in the general interest, ought to be satisfactorily answered. There was not a Member in any quarter of the House who would not agree that even if the Commonwealth Government had not moved in the matter, the time was ripe for some new arrangement to be made. He represented a country which paid its full contribution towards the upkeep of the Navy, and which had neither dockyard or stores, and therefore got no benefit from the contribution. Australia paid £200,000, and might get an adequate return from the ships on the Australian station. But everybody was glad that the Commonwealth Government had found themselves strong enough to come forward with a proposal for a Fleet to guard the coast, and certainly no obstacle ought to be placed in the way of the Government in a scheme of this kind. When the Australians, who were a very public-spirited, ambitious, and sensitive people, came forward and offered to bear the cost of their defence out of their own resources, that was something that ought to be treated, not with any degree of coolness at all, but with gratitude by the people of this country, and it was all the more regrettable that there should be this delay and misunderstanding with regard to it.
§ MR. McKENNA
said the hen. Member had stated his case upon the information he had received quite fairly, but the information at the hon. Gentleman's disposal did not agree with that at the disposal of the Government. There was at this moment a proposal by the Australian Government before the Admiralty. The Government had no desire to disturb the present arrangement, but it was quite natural that the Australian Commonwealth should desire to have a scheme of their own. Last year, he thought, in June, they sent in a scheme. Where the hon. Member and he differed with regard to this matter was in two points. First, in 450 his description of the scheme. The hon. Member described it as a complete scheme of Australian naval defence.
§ MR. McKENNA
said he understood the hon. Member to say that in Australia they had drawn up a plan, and he thought the hon. Member said it was "complete." The description the Government would give of it was contained in the admirable statement of the First Lord on the presentation of the Estimates, when he said the Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth had indicated to the Admiralty the outline of a scheme for the establishment of a flotilla of destroyers and submarines, which was then under consideration. Therefore he and the hon. Member differed as to the description of the scheme.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said he did not remember that he had used the word "complete," but he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, if the scheme were adopted, it would do away with the present agreement and relieve Australia from the contributions now made.
§ MR. McKENNA
said the proposed arrangement was, of course, intended' to supplant the existing arrangement for a contribution by Australia. The Government were perfectly willing to assist the Commonwealth in devising a scheme of their own; but what Australia proposed the Government here regarded as a mere outline upon which no action could be taken. It considered that the scheme required very considerable development and modification before it became a practicable scheme. No immediate action could take place on the proposal because the Government held it was only an outline. That was the first point. The second point was whether a proper reception had been given to the scheme. Here again his in formation differed from the hon. Member's. He was informed that a proper communication had been addressed to the Australian Commonwealth telling them that their scheme was being inquired into, that the Admiralty were 451 seeking to construct the best scheme, that Mr. Deakin's scheme was in the fullest sense under the consideration of the Admiralty, and that they hoped, if it were not possible to frame a scheme of their own, to amplify and frame a scheme on the model of the Australian proposal, and then they hoped to come to an arrangement with the Australian Commonwealth. Delay in these circumstances was essential. Some days ago the hon. Member had asked him whether the Government had put forward any alternative scheme of their own. No, they had not, because the Admiralty were quite content to stand by the existing arrangement; but they were very anxious to help the Australian Commonwealth, and they were now endeavouring to do so by constructing a scheme on the outlines which had been suggested.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman could afford any proof of what he had just stated. Had the Australian Commonwealth even been told that the scheme required simplification, that it was regarded as complex, and that the Government were moulding it into shape? He held in his hand a cable message in which Mr. Deakin was represented to have said that he had received no reply of any sort further than a statement that the Government were preparing a scheme of their own, which they hoped Australia would take.
§ MR. McKENNA
said that the message the hon. Member quoted did not purport to be a statement by Mr. Deakin himself. It was a reporter's account of an interview with him, and he did not think Mr. Deakin would make himself responsible for the accuracy of every word of the report.
§ MR. McKENNA
said it was inaccurate in this respect, that Mr. Deakin had been informed that the Government were considering his outline scheme and were endeavouring to develop the outline and to form it into a practicable scheme.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Croydon)
thought the First Lord of the Admiralty must he satisfied with the turn the debate had taken, and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree that there was a general desire on both sides of the House to co-operate on naval matters. By far the most important part of the First Lord's speech was that in which he said the Government would be prepared to lay down next year what would be necessary. The whole gist of the arguments of the Opposition was contained in those words. The First Lord had hinted that the Opposition were not justified in making reference to future programmes, but that they ought to be confined to what was an the Vote. In ordinary circumstances he would think that unanswerable, but, unless what the First Lord had said was amplified, he did not think the debate would really serve its purpose, satisfactory as it had been in many respects. What was the situation? They had now a Vote for new construction which was smaller than any Vote for new construction which had been taken for many years; and they were face to face with a continuous decline in the total expenditure on the Navy. That decline might he justified on certain grounds. It might be justified on the ground of less need, or that we were so strong that we could afford to hold our hand, or because, possibly, we were capable of accomplishing in a short time what other people took a long time to accomplish. Certainly the need was not less than formerly. Admittedly it was as great as, and greater than, it had ever been. He admitted with his hon. friend the Member for Fareham that the Navy was practically stronger than it had ever been, but it was also true that the need was greater than it had ever been. Was it true that we could do with greater expedition what other people could not do? He doubted it. They had been told three years in succession that great economy had been effected with regard to the Navy. If that economy was a real ultimate saving of the money of the country, it was an economy indeed; but if it was a mere postponement, of expenditure, it was no economy at all, and he was going to 453 suggest that it was not only a postponement of expenditure, but a postponement of expenditure to a time when it could not be met. There was only one supposition on which the present Estimates wore justified, namely, that the arrears of past years could and would be made up in time. The First Lord had spoken of the provision in this year's programme made for destroyers. He spoke of sixteen destroyers. Well, that would not be an inadequate provision, but there was no such provision in the Estimates for this year. That item, like every other item of expenditure to which the Government was committed involved postponement to a later date. The cost of those destroyers was £1,200,000, and of that £64,000 was taken this year. That was all. He thought he could probably sum up the situation as it presented itself to those responsible for the administration of the Navy in this way. The Naval Lords had been asked what it was they required to enable us to hold our naval position, and they had said that the naval requirements did not necessitate the laying down of a great number of ships during the last three years, including the present year. Then they had been told: "If that is so, will it meet your purposes if you have the ships in 1909, 1910, and 1911?" And, following his own hypothesis, he magined the Naval Lords had answered: That will meet the military needs of the situation," and the laying down had been postponed till those years. He had before him the figures as to the reduction in construction during the last three years. In 1904 the amount taken was £11,000,000, in 1905 it was £9,000,000, and this year it had gone down to £7,500,000. Could they carry out the pledge the First Lord had given to lay down next year and the year after, all that was required? That was the whole point. He had the greatest confidence in the administration of the Admiralty, though he did not altogether approve, if he might respectfully say so, of the attitude of mind of the man who would say: "We take this pledge in fulfilment of our professional claims. We are divorced from the necessity of examining whether it is going to be fulfilled. Our part is to tell you the military necessities—your part is to give us a 454 pledge that you will find the money." Whoever the man was, whether a Member of Parliament or a sailor, he had, he thought, opportunities of judging what were the probabilities of the situation, and a pledge of that kind ought not to be taken as altogether satisfactory unless he was perfectly convinced that it could be fulfilled. But in the House of Commons they were looking, not on the technical, but on the financial aspect of the programme. For three years in his life it had been his duty to draw up the Navy Estimates as Secretary to the Admiralty, and he had gained some familiarity with the work. He had applied all the experience he possessed to the estimate of what must be the addition to the existing shipbuilding Vote if they were to carry out a programme which he believed to be far from excessive, but a moderate, conservative, and adequate programme. To do that he believed the expenditure would have to be very heavy indeed next year and the year after. In his opinion the new construction Vote must rise by £3,000,000, possibly by £4,000,000. The total should be £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 for new construction alone. But Votes 8 and 9 were also concerned with matters quite apart from new construction. There was the whole of the repair work, which, as they knew, had been immensely curtailed.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said he was perfectly aware that £700,000 had been taken this year in excess of what was taken last year for repair work, in order to try to make up past defects. Then they had to consider the great increase in all the Store Votes in addition to new construction under Votes 8 and 9. Then, again, three or four years ago a large number of ships were struck off the Navy List. He was not there to consider whether that policy was right or wrong. Personally he thought it was justified; but he had always thought that we ought to have followed the German plan and filled up the gaps that were made. We had not attempted to fill up the gaps we had 455 made We were building now sixteen destroyers, and a large number of small craft that ought to have been laid down last year and the year before. Now they would find they would be piling the whole of this enormous expenditure on to the next two years if this effort was to be made. They had been considering not any addition to our preponderance, but merely a minimum which would enable us to obtain equality with one single Power at the end of 1912. He had only referred to one or two items of the increased expenditure which their policy would, impose on them during the next two years. They had been living on stores. There were enormous items of stores consumed and not replaced. They would have to be replaced on an unprecedented scale, and it would not be merely a case of replacing one vanished store by another of equivalent quality and character: Every fresh store would be of a more expensive kind than that of which it took the place. In the old vessel they had 3-pounder and 6-pounder guns, which were now being replaced by the 12-pounder and 25-pounder, and 4-inch. All these had correspondingly more expensive ammunition and mountings and cost more to the country. In addition the Government had been exceedingly virtuous and decided to put an end to loan expenditure and carry the items on the Estimates. That course was fraught with very important consequences. What it had meant up to the present was that the expenditure had gone off the loan and had not gone on to the Estimates. They all admitted the necessity of an immense addition to the building programme next year and the year after and concurrently with that they must build a new dock at Portsmouth. The cost would be £1,000,000, and they had taken £50,000 this year. Where was the rest to come from?
§ MR. McKENNA
said he did not see how increasing the shipbuilding Vote this year would help them next. To build warships this year would only increase the Estimates next year and not reduce them. He did not see how the right hon. Gentleman's argument led to the conclusion that Vote 8 ought to be increased. Any ship laid down 456 this year would be charged during the whole of next year and would be more expensive than if it were postponed till next year's Estimates.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that that was obvious. He was trying to point out that they had seriously jeopardised the position by not building these ships in the last three years, and if instead of these large reductions of two or three millions in the last two years they had built half of these destroyers they would have them now. But if they had this concurrent expenditure now they would make it impossible to add to the shipbuilding programme next year, and that was the very danger he anticipated. The greater part of the balance of the £1,000,000 for the Portsmouth dock must come on the Estimates for next year. Then £3,500,000 was to be spent on Rosyth, of which they had taken £30,000. Five years ago he was on the Clyde and saw on the shores of what was then a mud bank a model of what was to be Messrs. Beardmore's great works. Now they had a complete installation, dry dock, wet dock and machinery shops where mud then was, and they were building a first-class battleship in a year. That was how work ought to he done and could be done, and that was work economically done, and he refused to accept the proposition that they were going to waste money and jeopardise the safety of the Navy by spreading out this expenditure on Rosyth for seven years to come. They were going to have a very large proportion of this £3,000,000 thrown upon the Estimates for the next year and the year after, and all that would come on the top of this enormous expenditure for building. In addition to that, they would have the ordinary automatic increase of the fleet. What he feared was lest they should find themselves next year in this position. Demands were going to be made on the Exchequer unprecedented in their character. To some of them the Navy was paramount above all other claims. No other interest could survive if the interests protected by the Navy were in jeopardy. They knew the Exchequer of the country was to be burdened with sums of which they had only dimly understood the 457 magnitude up to the present. They did not know by what means these great claims were to be met. They had been told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a passage which had not excited sufficient indignation in the House, that in order to meet that expenditure he was looking out for more hen roosts to rob. That was an absurd statement, but the unfortunate part of the thing was that it was true. There was no other means at present from which the money was going to be forthcoming, and what they were very anxious about was whether the First Lord was really intending, with all this expenditure, for which of course he was not primarily responsible, but which was to be placed on the taxpayer next year, to make good the words he had used, and to lay down a really adequate programme for the Navy next year. It would be a very grievous disappointment to the country if, when the time came for the presentation of the Navy Estimates next year, they were told that it was impossible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet them—that the programme was limited by purely financial considerations. He would gladly take the First Lord's word for it. If the First Lord could give them an assurance that he was clear about this financial question, and was certain that next year he could obtain his colleagues' assent to the necessary programme which he had led them to believe would be the programme brought forward next year they would be satisfied. But it would be a great betrayal of the confidence of the House and the country if that programme were diminished by one jot or tittle on account of financial pressure. They were going into this thing with their eyes open. For three years they had been diminishing expenditure on the sole ground that it was possible to overtake the loss incurred in the expenditure of two years only. If they did not spend this money now they would not achieve the object they had in view. In Germany a loan of £50,000,000 had been raised, and another loan of £50,000,000 was going to be raised. He doubted whether a Supplementary Estimate would meet the situation. He believed they were rapidly approaching a state of things when only a loan could meet the position in which they found themselves. That was a 458 matter for the responsible Government. They were running into a very dangerous situation. They were talking with unanimity about a Navy Vote which next year would involve an addition of some £4,000,000 at least to our expenditure. There were other Ministers beside the First Lord of the Admiralty and there were other claims to which those Ministers had pledged them. There was only one source from which all those claims could be met—the common purse of the taxpayer—and they ought to be very careful to see that the predominant claim was met before any others were allowed to come into competition with them.
§ SIR GEORGE SCOTT ROBERTSON (Bradford, Central)
said the statement of the First Lord would be received with considerable satisfaction on that side of the House, and they at least had none of those misgivings which the right hon. Gentleman had just uttered. He wished very much before the First Lord responded to the question about the Australian Colony, one had had some opportunity of introducing the question of South Africa and Natal, and the position they held towards the Admiralty in respect of contributions, and also whether the contribution paid by South Africa was to continue on the same basis as formerly or if a certain sum was to be deducted towards the expenses of the Royal Naval Volunteers or not, and also if Natal and South Africa were to be approximated in the treatment they received. With reference to what was said by the late Financial Secretary to the Admiralty about Sir William White, he did make one decided point about the construction of "Dreadnoughts." He said the construction of the plans and the hurrying on of the "Dreadnought" was, in the circumstances, somewhat unnecessary. That was distinctly proved by the fact that before the results deduced from the experimental trials, other ships, said to be improvements on' the "Dreadnought," were laid down. That seemed to infer that the "Dreadnought" was somewhat hurried. What the country very earnestly desired to know was that the money voted for Navy construction was properly expended. They knew that the money was voted for a particular object, but they 459 wished to know conclusively whether the money was devoted to that object, and whether or not it was spent to the best advantage. Now how were they to discover that? He thought the best plan would be to have a special Committee of the House to audit the Navy accounts, and see that the money was properly expended. If such a Committee were properly selected from all parts of the House, that would give a certain amount of confidence to private Members, because they would be able to get a Report from the Committee as to whether the money had been properly spent upon the objects for which it was provided. That would not only be a great satisfaction to private Members, but it would add to the satisfaction of the country generally, and would greatly increase the popularity of the Navy. That Committee would not have to he too numerous, or there would be too much talking and too little work, and experts, cranks, and faddists should be carefully excluded. They wanted a Committee composed of quiet business men, with business habits and intellectual power, who would ruthlessly tear out of every expert the naked facts, and rule out everything in the nature of prejudice. Such a Committee would give them a very great advantage, and would assure the country that the money voted was properly spent. Hon. Members on the Ministerial side were equally interested in the Navy, and were just as determined to see it made efficient as any hon. Members sitting on the Opposition side. He was not going to discuss the relative position of the British Navy to that of Germany, because he thought it had been made quite clear that our Navy in relation to Germany, was four times as strong. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] That was the absolute position at the present moment. With regard to torpedo destroyers he thought that was a subject which required the careful consideration of the Government. On paper, however, they seemed irresistibly stronger, the proportion being 156 against 62. As for speed or any other test, the same result would be discovered. There were, however, one or two other points, and one of them was the life of a torpedo destroyer. The 460 Germans put it down at twelve years, but afterwards those torpedoes were not discarded altogether. If they applied that test to this country, they would find that the Germans would have, in 1917, 144 torpedoes of twelve years of age and under, and if this country went on building at the same rate, and excluding scouts in that connection, we should have only 96. Naturally, this state of things had caused some anxiety, not only to hon. Members of the House, but to a large number of people in the country generally. There was another point he wished to raise, upon which he knew he would not have the sympathy of anybody at all, and that was a suggestion that they should construct and build a somewhat different type of vessel altogether, disregarding the rules about speed and new construction, and lay down a sort of coastal automobile steel fort. At the present moment no account was taken of the development which was taking place in submarine and floating mines. He thought it was quite possible that in a year or two floating mines would attain a very much greater importance than was attached to them at the present time. They had already heard of a vessel capable of laying 30,000 of these mines in a very short time. What was there to prevent any number of those mines being strewn about the sea? It was quite within the bounds of reason that all their plans laid down in preparation for next year might prove to be wrong. He put the period down at ten or twelve years, because by no bounds of possibility could Germany be ready to fight a great Power under that time, even if the possibility of a raid of this country were conceded. By that time he believed the whole of the Channel and the entire coast of the North Sea could be placed in a position of very curious neutrality, because the whole of the coast and the sea could be strewn with mines. It was quite easy to suppose that vast numbers of mines could be spread all over the North Sea and the Channel during that period. Under those circumstances it was apparent that no nation would risk a £2,000,000 battleship by sending it into those very dangerous waters where mines were as thick as leaves in Vallombrosa. The result 461 would be that only small vessels or destroyers would be sent out, and in his opinion the time was certainly coming when that would be the state of affairs. And how immensely that would add to the safety of this particular country! Suppose, for instance, the Channel and the North Sea were impracticable as far as battleships were concerned because of the very serious risk involved by the strewing of floating mines. What would be the result? Germany would be alsolutely helpless and futile, because she could not get her ships out and her commerce would be completely stopped. On the other hand, we should very well be able to thank God that we had a back entrance to our island. If the Channel and the North Sea were blocked with mines, our commerce could be conducted from the west ports instead of from the east ports. Under those circumstances we should not want to risk our great battleships, and what we wanted was something not so remarkable for its speed, but very heavily armed in the shape of a steady platform vessel which could be towed to wherever I was wanted. On the other hand, supposing the mines were in this extremely dangerous position and we wanted to use the Fleet to the best advantage. Naturally we should try and get our ships as near as we could to the enemy across the North Sea, and by firing at a very long range endeavour to harass the enemy in their ports. Therefore, he thought it was important that we should have floating battleships constructed and armoured in the way he had indicated. Of course, there would have to be arrangements for clearing away the mines. The point, however, which he wanted to make was really the question of the Committee which he thought was most desirable. Such a Committee could be easily formed and it would be most serviceable and would answer the purpose just as efficiently as the Committee on Public Accounts. They would then have a very careful and proper audit of the Navy by business men, they would be assured that the contracts would be properly placed and that the proper proportion of work was given to the dockyards and to private firms, and the minds of hon. Members like himself would be relieved of a certain feeling of responsibility in connection with those grave and impor- 462 tant matters which at the present moment they were obliged to share.
§ *MR. JAMES HOPE (Sheffield Central)
said he could not see why the Public Accounts Committee could not somewhat extend its functions instead of another Committee being appointed, because he did not think they could get a more capable Committee than the Public Accounts Committee. At the present moment the functions of that Committee were somewhat restricted, but there was no reason why the House should not determine upon some extension of their duties. He was rather sorry to interrupt the discussion of such very important issues in order to call the attention of the representatives of the Admiralty to a point which, although it was not of immediate national concern, at the same time was of vital importance to the people concerned. He wished to know whether it was possible for the Admiralty to expedite some of the expenditure which would have to be borne on this Vote next year if not this year. He was speaking in the interests of a large number of working people who would be very much affected. It was admitted that next year there would have to be a larger shipbuilding programme, and then the Vote would have to be increased. All he was asking was whether it was not possible by way of a Supplementary Estimate to throw some of the actual cost of that programme on this year's Vote. He thought, after all, that the Admiralty had some interest in doing this, because, if they broke up the establishments at which this class of work was done, they would find it very difficult to replace them and to meet the requirements of the Navy later on. He believed that state of things might be found by the hon. Gentleman next year. Except for the fact that the money would have to be spent some six months earlier he did not believe that in the end there would be any difference whatever from the Treasury point of view in taking the course which he suggested. There was very serious distress at present among those in whom he was interested; they were not now his constituents, and, therefore, he did not speak from the political point of view. Unfortunately they chose two years ago that he should no longer be their Member, but 463 that would not lessen his interest in them, and if the hon. Gentleman who now represented them, and who intended to raise this question, went to a division upon it, he would certainly support him. He most earnestly asked the Government to see whether something could not be done in the matter, because already in the summer, when there was a good deal of casual labour to be had, the distress was exceedingly acute. If the Admiralty put off to next year this work which would have to be done in the end they would gain nothing, and these poor people would lose everything.
§ MR. WALTERS (Sheffield, Brightside)
said he had been surprised at the Unanimity of the two front benches as to the requisite strength of the Navy and the amount of money to be spent on the shipbuilding programme in: the next few years. It was therefore quite apparent that the small expenditure provided for in this year's Estimate was not really a question of economy, because if the Government contemplated spending all this large sum of money to complete the programme to which the Opposition had agreed by 1912 then what had taken place was a sort of sham economy in this year's Estimates. At the best it was only a postponement of expenditure.
§ MR. WALTERS
said that unless he was very much mistaken the Government had agreed with the Opposition as to the standard of strength to be maintained, and as to the number of ships to be constructed by the year 1912.
§ MR. McKENNA
I said nothing about the number of ships. I shall wait and see what will be necessary next year.
§ MR. WALTERS
said in that case he could not in the least understand the sword-practice that had taken place between the two front benches as to whether by the end of 1911 or the beginning of 1912 we were to produce a programme equal to that actually in contemplation and laid down by Germany.
§ MR. WALTERS
said they were agreed that the two-Power standard must be maintained, and the Prime Minister had said that if the progress of Germany's shipbuilding foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition was maintained, then we should lay down such additional ships as would enable us to maintain our supremacy. He himself did not like that way of looking at the question. They had two alternatives. One was to pursue a consistent and steady policy of shipbuilding—the other was that they should this year, and next year, perhaps for three years, pursue a policy of retrenchment, and then follow it by a spending policy on additional shipbuilding. The latter was an unwise policy. They were deliberately contemplating the possibility of directing their programme specifically and definitely against Germany. Suppose that in 1910 or 1911 there were strained international relations, and that the Admiralty was then putting forward a programme for a large increase of shipbuilding, that would tend to accentuate the strained relations between this country and Germany. It was eminently desirable, in the interests of international peace, that our shipbuilding programme should not have the appearance of being directed against any particular nation. If we were going on a policy of two or three years of reduction, to be followed by three or four years of largely increased expenditure, foreign Powers would not wait for the moment most advantageous to us when we had reached the summit of our programme, they would probably chose the period when we were least prepared to meet them—when we were at the bottom of our expenditure, and therefore least ready for an international emergency. Our policy should be to frame for ourselves what we believed to be an adequate programme and then carry it out steadily year by year. The present policy was not economical; it was very much more costly to build ships in a panic. If they were going to rush through a large number of ships in a short space of time, placing orders right and left, and involving the working of overtime, they would very soon find that the price of the ships would be largely in excess of the normal. Then there was another side to the question—that 465 of the employment of workpeople. He would never dream of asking the House—even though he represented a constituency interested in this work—to spend money in constructing instruments of destruction for the mere purpose of finding work for the unemployed; but if they withdrew from the ordinary processes of industry a large number of people and trained them in the manufacture of these instruments of destruction; if they had huge works constructed for that very purpose; if the sole means of the livelihood of these people depended on this employment, then it was the duty of the Government to give some sort of steadiness, some kind of continuity, to that work. Some people talked glibly about men displaced in one industry finding employment in another. That was a figment of the brain of the armchair economist. When a workman was deprived of employment in the avocation in which he had been trained, he found it next to impossible to get employment, in some other trade. It was an absolutely cruel policy to play fast and loose with the interests of workpeople in this manner, and to expect to have at one moment a small amount of employment and at another moment a large amount of employment. An ordinary decent employer would hesitate to run his factory on those lines. In Germany, where the State owned the railways, the policy was to reserve works of construction and so forth for times of trade depression, and in that way to steady employment in the labour market. We seemed to do precisely the opposite. In a time of trade depression the Government said, "We will practise economy," and their notion of "practising economy" was to throw thousands of men out of employment. In the name of common sense, let the Government give the largest State employment at a time when there was the greatest trade depression. He believed the State Departments were responsible for more overtime and for more unemployment than any other body of people in the country. They distributed their orders just at a time convenient to themselves, and they gave a short time for the execution of these orders, when they might just as well have distributed them in good time, and left 466 ample opportunity for the work to be done. He was speaking in the interests both of the nation and of the workpeople when he declared that he found himself in disagreement with the present policy of the Government.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said that nobody would deny that there was great force in the argument that they could not suddenly expand the production of armaments and other material of war. It was like the physical energy of a man getting his second wind. He had to get through a period of strain and pain before arriving at his best form. So it was with the production of ships and guns. Unless the Government factories kept up their stock and at the same time private manufacturers were enabled to continue a certain amount of production, the Admiralty could not command the power of production which they needed when the day of strain came. That was true; but it was also true as the First Lord had practically admitted, that the period of strain was coming in the near future. The only inference which could be drawn from the statement of the First Lord in answer to the right hon. Member for Croydon was that next year or the year after; there must be a great increase in the Navy Estimates; whether it would be five millions, four millions, or three millions, they would not know until next year. But if only three millions, the First Lord and the Board of Admiralty had, like other human beings, to succumb to the pressure of those with whom they worked. He gladly joined in the compliments paid to the First Lord; and he hoped he would not be regarded as qualifying these compliments or criticising him and the Board of Admiralty, if he ventured to point out that the right hon. Gentleman had added nothing that afternoon to what was said on behalf of the Government during the debate in the month of March last. The sum and substance of the statement then made was that the Government were doing all that was necessary to maintain the two-Power standard, and all that was necessary to the large dock development on the eastern side of this island. That was precisely what was said by the Prime Minister on 10th March test. In 467 that debate it was argued from those benches, and also by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, that granting it was necessary to have a certain number of battleships, heavy cruisers and torpedo boat destroyers, it was also necessary to push on at Rosyth with the basins and docks capable of receiving ships of the type of the "Dreadnought." In his opinion, we were only keeping just ahead of Germany in regard to the most modern type of torpedo-boat destroyers, as well in regard to the battleships of the "Dreadnought" type. The argument of the First Lord was that account must be taken of the battleships which had only just been superseded in excellence by "Dreadnoughts," and also of all torpedo-boat destroyers built within the past eleven or fifteen years. Up to this point that was true; but was it not also true that year by year our superiority, our supremacy, at sea would be stated more and more in terms of the newest type of battleships and the newest types of destroyers? That was certain if there was to be the little increase, which was the natural inference to be drawn from the speech of the First Lord. They knew that the right hon. Gentleman meant to be as good as his word, but his word was no better than that of the Prime Minister on 10th March last, or the words of his predecessor. They were then told that they ought not to persist in criticism, because the Shipbuilding Vote would be taken in July, and that then the Government would be in a position to give assurances to the country. The Government had given no assurance. Nothing of the kind. They had convinced the Committee that the financial pressure, which they knew to be great and grinding, was already sufficiently pressing to prevent the expansion of any building programme. He was told that they did not hold out hopes, but they did say: "Do not continue your criticism now, because the Shipbuilding Vote is the pivot of our policy." They made their criticism now on the Shipbuilding Vote, because there was a desire in the country for fuller information as to the necessity of an increase in the "Dreadnought" Fleet, and there was an apprehension that the policy of the Government was, to a certain extent, influenced by the 468 general circumstances in which they found themselves. The curiosity of the public, which he believed to be legitimate, and the apprehension of the country, which he believed to be reasonable, sprang from two causes which acted and re-acted on each other. It sprang from a naval policy which must of necessity involve a greater financial strain, and from a domestic policy which hypothecated all the money which this or any other Government could afford. The country was committed to the "all-big" naval policy. That policy demanded a successive increase in the amount of money the country had to spend upon the Navy. He was not criticising that policy, but he asked the Committee to face the facts involved by the deliberate acceptance of that policy by this country. There was a minor point which deserved consideration. By the acceptance of the "all-big" policy we had withdrawn our flag from the high seas in many parts of the world. Showing the flag was a great assistance to diplomacy. Diplomacy was a buffer state between this country and war, and if we weakened our diplomacy by withdrawing our flag from certain parts of the world—it might be right, or it might be wrong—we diminished, of course, the kind of protection against war which we got from diplomacy. Last March the Government thought it might be necessary to build some ships to keep up that diplomatic work, if he might call it so; but they had had no further information on the subject. In this year's programme there were six protected cruisers laid down; but it did not seem to him that the provision of six was adequate for the purpose, and still less did it provide adequately for the eyes of the fleet of "Dreadnoughts" which the Government were going to provide. A matter of greater importance was that the adoption of this "all-big" policy had been imitated by other countries. Therefore, if we must keep ahead of our rivals in the construction of those monster vessels we should have to keep ahead also of our rivals in constructing the necessary ministering vessels also. The issue of war would be inure rapid in the future than it had been in the past; there would be more at stake on the first onset of a naval war than when we had 469 a greater number of ships built at a small cost. If that were true, it would not be denied that a naval defeat might come more rapidly. But even without a naval defeat our food supplies might be cut off, followed by a collapse of public credit. There should, therefore, be a large margin that we might enjoy a sense of security; but he did not find that large margin on the Government programme. All the Committee were told was that there would be a superiority over Germany in "Dreadnoughts" of perhaps one vessel at the end of the year 1911, and they had to wait until next year's Estimates in order to have that stated in more definite terms.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said that first of all the right hon. Gentleman had stated that in 1911 there would be twelve of our vessels of the "Dreadnought" and the "Invincible" class to Germany's nine; but he did not deny the statement that if Germany pressed on with her programme we should have to make a greater increase in our programme next year to prevent the figures becoming thirteen and twelve.
If Germany completes her programme, and we only lay down one ship next year, the right hon. Gentleman's statement is true; but there is no reason to suppose we shall only lay down one.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said that, on the contrary, the Admiralty would have to lay down five next year, certainly they would have to lay down at least four; and there would be a very great expansion in the amount of money to be found for this Vote in future years. These "Dreadnoughts" and "Invincibles" would require a greater number of attendant torpedo-boats, destroyers, and cruisers. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Admiralty had plenty of such boats. Nobody expected any Government suddenly to complete its policy in all its bearings; but the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that the creation of a great Fleet on the eastern side and the necessity of the auxiliary 470 ships keeping out at sea longer and having a larger number of ships to relieve them, had raised a certain apprehension in the public mind that the Admiralty were being driven to economise on these auxiliaries in order to make good their pledges in regard to the capital ships. It might be said that it was easier to build torpedo - boats, destroyers, and cruisers than capital ships, and that by the time they built these they could, within that period, give them all the necessary auxiliary armaments. Again he said that the Government were thus tying their hands by a perfectly futile self-denying ordinance and piling high financial burdens on future years to a point which no country could bear. He did not think that the First Lord of the Admiralty would be prepared to dispute in the main the arguments which he had ventured to address to him. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to deny that, with regard to all these three questions, there must be growing expenditure—and rapidly-growing expenditure. The Government had tied its hands by a perfectly futile self-denying ordinance. They said that in regard to defence they would not in any circumstances have recourse to loans. What an absurd position to take up in regard to self-defence, on which not only social reform, but the freedom to enjoy social reform depended. At the same time they embarked in a domestic policy which hypothecated all the resources which they and their successors could contemplate would be at their disposal, yet, so far as defence went, the Government's policy towards rivals who might become opponents was to say to them: "Just you wait." We had no reason to suppose that they would wait. In respect of their domestic policy the Government had indulged in financial debauch. It was clear that we ought to build more "Dreadnoughts" and "Invincibles," more cruisers, more torpedo-boat destroyers, and that larger sums of money would have to be more rapidly spent on naval bases. It was not clear that the Government intended to do so, whatever words might imply, and it was not clear that they could do so—even if they intended to do so—in view of the obligations they had undertaken, hasty in conception and vicious and indefinite 471 in scope. We had a foreign policy which everyone approved, but which, unfortunately, was misunderstood in the one quarter from which challenge of our maritime supremacy would come. We had an Army policy which reduced the military forces of our country and which in Continental eyes would have an aspect of transitional weakness greater, perhaps, than really existed; and we had a domestic policy which brought upon the Government from some of its supporters demands for a further reduction at all risks in Army and Navy expenditure. They were, in these circumstances, entitled to ask from the Government that they should convince the people that the Navy was not to suffer because of the presence of these supporters, that the defensive policy, which was the key to all our policy and the foundation of our safety, should not in common with so much else become the by-product of happy-go-lucky legislation.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
thought the right hon. Gentleman would forgive him for not following him into what he termed the financial debauch in the domestic policy of the Government and for confining himself to the subject matter of the Vote. As the Committee was aware, the Vote provided for shipbuilding in the yards and by contract, for repairs and alterations to ships, for fuel and sea stores, and the personnel of the arsenals at home and abroad. The total of the three sections of the Vote made up £14,313,900. The total of new construction was £7,545,200. Of this amount £2,670,370 was being applied to the completion of oustanding parts of the new programmes of 1904–5, 1905–6, and 1906–7; £4,124,832 was being applied in prosecution of the new programme of 1907–8, and £750,000 would be applied to the initiation of the programme of 1908–9. Comment had been made on the small amount of the total applied to the initiation of the present year's new programme. They were, in this respect, following the rule of their predecessors, who set aside roughly one-tenth.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That point has been made and we have made our reply, which is that that was the usual amount, that 472 these circumstances are unusual, and, when you were committed to this great growth of expenditure it would have been wise to say that a larger sum was needed.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
denied that the present circumstances were unusual, and pointed out that that being so the Government had followed the precedent of its predecessors and set aside roughly one-tenth of the new construction Vote towards the initiation of the new programme. In the outstanding part of the programme of 1904–5 was included the "Agamemnon" which had been delivered, and the "Lord Nelson," which it was hoped to deliver before the close of the year. There were four armoured cruisers in that programme, one of which, the "Defence," would be delivered before the close of the financial year. Two had been previously delivered, the fourth was ordered. Of the 1905–6 programme there was one "Dreadnought," and he quite followed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover when he said that if we built "Dreadnoughts" we could not have so many small craft to fly our flag all over the world. Then there were four armoured cruisers, the "Indomitable," which was delivered last month and which would start on Wednesday with the Prince of Wales to Canada; the "Invincible," and the "Inflexible," which they hoped to have before the close of the year. The fourth was not ordered. But on the "Dreadnought" which was delivered in December, 1906, no money was spent out of this estimate. On the three armoured cruisers which were ordered money had to be spent. Of five oceangoing destroyers delayed because of the strikes in the North three were delivered, the "Cossack," the "Tartar," and the "Mohawk," The "Afridi" and "Ghurka" had had their trials and were on the point of delivery. The "Swift," a special type of fast destroyer, to be delieved he hoped late in the current year, and the Royal yacht "Alexandra," delivered in the early part of this year, were also in the 1905–1906 programme. Of the 1906–1907 programme the outstanding parts were much more numerous, and the Admiralty had been spending money on the "Temeraire," the "Bellerophon," and the "Superb," the fourth in the programme not having been ordered. 473 It was hoped to have these three great battleships before the end of the financial year. There were five ocean-going destroyers. They ordered two—the "Amazon" and the "Saracen." These they hoped to have before the end of the financial year. Of twelve coastal destroyers seven were already completed, and others were on the point of delivery. Twelve submarines wore either delivered or would be delivered this year. Of the 1907–1908 programme three battleships—the "St. Vincent," the "Collingwood," and the "Vanguard "—were all laid down. The "St. Vincent" was expected to be completed in 1909, and the "Collingwood" and the "Vanguard" in 1910. The unarmoured cruiser "Boadicea," laid down at Pembroke, was already launched and was expected to be completed probably by the end of the financial year. Of five ocean-going destroyers three were already laid down, and were all expected to be completed during the final part of next year; twelve first-class torpedo-boats would probably be completed during the year 1909; of a number of submarines, twelve would be completed this year and next year. He had mentioned these programmes to show how much of the present Vote they had to spend on the outstanding parts of the programmes of previous years. Coming to the programme of 1908–1909, for the initiation of which £750,000 was set aside, it included a battleship of the "St. Vincent" type, a large armoured cruiser—an improved "Indomitable"—six fast protected cruisers, the first of which, the "Bellona," was to be built at Pembroke, the laying down of sixteen destroyers and a number of submarine boats, estimated to cost £500,000 in all. That exhausted the £7,545,200 for new construction. Then there were the repairs. The right hon. Member for Croydon had spoken rather disparagingly of the amount set aside for repairs, but this was one of the most significant features of the present Estimate. The present Estimate for repairs was £2,494,027. That exceeded the amount of last year by £693,829, and of the year before by £865,927. This meant more than it looked, because the policy of having minor repairs done by the ship's company had been developed to an extent hitherto unknown, while 474 the policy of striking ships off the effective list had set money free for the repairing of effective vessels. The fleet exercises now in progress gave complete evidence of the more effective way in which repairs had been carried out. There were 317 vessels now in the Home waters effectively performing war duties—twenty-nine battleships, sixty cruisers and scouts, 178 torpedo craft, thirty-five submarines, and fifteen vessels of miscellaneous classes. The way these craft had been mobilised for war duties reflected great credit on the yards, and the way in which their crews had been mobilised reflected the greatest credit on the Admiralty. He might say that although he was himself included in a humble way. In answer to inquiries of the hon. Member for the Central division of Sheffield and his hon. friend the Member for the Brightside division as to why there was no Supplementary Estimate in order to expedite the giving out of certain contracts which, so far as Sheffield was concerned, would be almost entirely connected with armour-plating. The only part of the programme not contracted for was armour for the two armoured ships in the 1908–1909 programme. He was afraid the Government could not bring in a Supplementary Estimate; he did not think the first function of the Admiralty was to give out work whether it wanted it or not for the sake of keeping men employed.
§ MR. JAMES HOPE
pointed out that it would have to be given out next year, and therefore would not cost any more and would keep the staffs from being disbanded.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
said they could not give that out at present. They had not the actual design for the ships, and the giving out of the armour-plate followed all these things. As a matter of fact, the £1,250,000 on the Estimates for armour was distributed equally among five firms, and three of these were Sheffield firms. So as a matter of fact there was £750,000 worth of armour that Sheffield had contracted for.
§ MR. WALTERS
asked whether it was not a fact that, before the armour was made, private firms, at the request 475 of the Government, had fitted their factories with plant and machinery for the manufacture of armour, to meet the Government needs.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
said that might be so; he was not speaking of favours but of facts. The hon. Member for Fareham had said quite rightly that there were critics among the Naval experts who questioned the big ship policy.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
He would not attempt to define a naval expert; at any rate he was certainly not one himself; but this was the fact, that after most careful examination, after struggling with the problem, other naval Powers had copied our big ship policy. The "Dreadnought's" displacement was 17,900 tons. France, according to the published return, was going in for six "Mira-beaus" of 18,000 tons; Germany for five "Ersatz Wurttembergs," 17,960 tons; the United States, one "Delaware" and "N. Dakota," 20,000 tons; Japan, one "Satsuma," 19,350 tons, one "Aki," 19,800 tons, and two to be laid down of 20,800 tons. He did not follow his hon. friend the Member for Bradford in his theory of "coastal automobile steel forts," and upon the question of the part to be played in naval engagements of the future by submarines, floating mines, and destroyers; they were matters upon which he could not express an opinion. It had been suggested that in comparisons "Dreadnoughts," and nothing but "Dreadnoughts," were to be counted, no matter what had gone before. ["No, no."] If that was not so, he could not understand many of the criticisms. It was no question of neck and neck competition with other Powers; in "Dreadnought," plus vessels other than, "Dreadnoughts," it could be shown we were ahead, easily ahead, and likely so to remain, Apparently the idea was that from the moment they had the "Dreadnoughts" everything else was to be regarded as obsolete.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that surely the hon. Gentleman should know that they had stated nothing of the kind. What they 476 had said was that we should have ample superiority in "Dreadnoughts," and that if there should be later improvements on this type then we must be superior in vessels of the newer type also. To say that was not to argue that vessels of previous types were to be held as of no account.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
said he was very glad to hear that, because it was a matter which affected previous types, some of which were very useful. There were the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon," for example, which were very useful vessels. He had heard naval experts say that they would rather fight in vessels of the "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon," type A; the "King Edward VII." class, which were formidable vessels in regard to armament, speed, and displacement, were not to be sneezed at. He wanted to make this quite clear, for he had thought the idea was that they were to have nothing in the comparison but "Dreadnoughts." But apparently that was abandoned by the hon. Member opposite. Let him look into the question of comparative strengths, in relation to the fascinating study of the two-Power standard. Everybody had his theory as to what constituted the unit in the two-Power standard, but they never found anybody who could agree as to how they were going to arrive at it. He would take the German view of the life of an armoured vessel as not more than twenty years, and would take the most severe view by striking off every one of our vessels that was twenty years of age. To-day we had the "Dreadnought" and forty other big ships not more than twenty years old, making forty-one; Germany had twenty, France fifteen, and the States twenty-two. He took the least invidious combination, that of France and Germany, which together had thirty-five; Great Britain had forty-one. Then we had a large reserve of ships over the twenty years limit with which no other nation's reserve could possibly compare. A year hence we should have four "Dreadnoughts," ("Dreadnought," "Bellerophon," "Temeraire," and "Superb,") and forty others, not including the "Inflexible," the "Invincible," and "Indomitable" cruisers, each with eight 12-inch guns. These were really 477 first class battleship cruisers; but he would leaverhem out. This day twelve months then we should have forty-four, as against Germany's twenty, France fifteen, and the States twenty-two—France and Germany thirty-five, Great Britain forty-four. This day two years we should have seven "Dreadnoughts" ("Dreadnought," "Bellerophon," "Temeraire," "Superb," "St. Vincent," "Collingwood," and "Vanguard,") and forty others; Germany twenty-four, France fifteen, the States twenty-five; France and Germany thirty-nine, Great Britain forty-seven. Three years hence the figures would be Great Britain forty-eight, Germany twenty-seven, France nineteen, the States twenty-six; France and Germany forty-six, Great Britain forty-eight. Then he took four years hence. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to forget that the German programme was laid down in three Bills, 1900, 1906, and 1908, full and complete, while our programme was only up to 31st March, 1909. These comparisons were instituted and they were told to go home and be very frightened at the serious outlook.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
was understood to say that the argument was, and he did not think it would be denied, that superiority would be stated year by year in "Dreadnoughts." These would naturally cost a great deal of money, and would involve the construction of other things which would cost a great deal of money, that would have to come on the Estimates, and therefore it would be wise to make some provision now in respect of those big vessels.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
said that the right hon. Gentleman knew very well that the German scheme went down to 1920, while we were dealing with a scheme that went to 31st March,1909. The two were not comparable. This day four years we should have eight "Dreadnoughts," or forty-eight big ships in all, plus any that would 478 come in under the 1909–10 programme to be delivered in 1912; Germany would have thirty; France twenty-one; and the States twenty-eight, Our position then would be forty-eight plus the first-class vessels under 1909–10 programme, as against France and Germany combined with fifty-one. His hon. friend the Member for Lanarkshire seemed very anxious about armoured cruisers and smaller cruisers. Now armoured cruisers to-day, including the "Inflexible," numbered thirty-five; Germany had eight; France, nineteen; the States fifteen. This day twelve months we should have three "Inflexibles" and others making thirty-eight; Germany eight; France twenty; the States, fifteen. In two years, the numbers would be Great Britain thirty-eight; Germany nine; France twenty-one; the States fifteen. In three years we should have four "Inflexibles" and others, making thirty-nine; Germany eleven, France, twenty-two, the States fifteen. In four years Great Britain thirty-nine, plus any laid flown in 1909–10; Germany twelve; France twenty-two; the States fifteen. The position then in regard to armoured cruisers would be one of substantial superiority for this country and by no means one of neck-and-neck competition. He would now deal with unarmoured cruisers. He had never heard Naval experts support the proposition of the hon. Member for Lanark that for every battleship there should be two cruisers.
§ MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON
said that what he had stated was that, taking the numbers roughly, and considering all the subsidiary services, and all the circumstances, they would want two cruisers for one battleship.
§ *DR. MACNAMARA
Then it was not a case of two cruisers to each individual battleship, but that they needed two cruisers to one battleship to meet the general requirements of the case. He had never heard that stated before. But take the most severe view as to unarmoured cruisers (not including scouts) confining them to those exceeding 20 knots an hour and not more than fifteen years old, and how did we stand? 479 He left out the States for purposes of comparison, for there they were few in number. To-day we had twenty-five, Germany twenty-two; France eleven. This day twelve months we would have twenty-five; Germany twenty-five; and France eleven. In 1910, we should have twenty-five; Germany twenty-seven; and France eleven. This day three years the numbers would be Great Britain thirty-one, Germany twenty-nine, France eleven. In 1912 Great Britain would have thirty-one plus the additions of 1909–10; Germany thirty-one, and France eleven. He was rather amazed to hear the anxiety about destroyers. In the 1904–5 Estimates the late Government put in thirteen destroyers, but did not proceed with them. They left them for their successors to build, and as far as he could see they were building them. He need not go into the question of destroyers, because the same sort of comparison held good whether he took ten or twelve years life. With regard to shipbuilding generally, the Government policy was quite clearly stated by the late First Lord when he introduced these very Estimates in another place. This was what he said—This programme suffices for 1908–9; whether, and to what extent it may be necessary to enlarge it next year, or in future years, must depend upon the additions made to their naval force by foreign Powers. His Majesty's Government have every intention of maintaining the standard of the British Navy which has hitherto been deemed necessary for the safeguarding of our national and Imperial interests.That was their position then, and it was their position now. The present Prime Minister on 2nd March this year said—Our naval position is at this moment, as I believe, as the Government believe, one of unassailable supremacy, and such it must remain. The command of the sea, however important and however desirable it may be to other Powers, is to us a matter of life and death. We must safeguard it, not against imaginary dangers, not against bogeys and spectres and ghosts, but we must safeguard it against all contingencies that can reasonably enter into the calculations of statesmen. For that purpose we believe it to be our duty to maintain our standard of relative naval strength.That was their position then, and it was their position now, and clearly they were bound to keep the Navy at all times in what the Prime Minister called a position 480 of "unassailable supremacy," and that need was emphasised by the Report only a few days ago on the proposal for a national guarantee for war risks on shipping. The Members, after having examined the proposition, fell back upon this—We are therefore unable to recommend the adoption of any form of national guarantee against the war risks of shipping and maritime trade except that which is provided by the maintenance of a powerful Navy.Mr. Block, the proposer of the Hague Conference, in a book on the whole question made this remarkable comment—In a very different position is England. Her fundamental interests demand that she shall remain mistress of the seas, everywhere and against every possible enemy, preserving from all dangers not only the British Islands but her maritime trade, her immense Colonies in all quarters of the globe, and those communications by which the riches of the Old and New Worlds are exchanged to her advantage, and from which depend the ebb and flow of her social life. Mistress of the seas, England can be at rest, both as concerns herself and as concerns her Colonies. For her the mastery of the seas is no empty word, and she has every good reason to devote all her resources to the strengthening of her Fleet.As far as he was concerned he felt that though the burden was grievous to be borne and was rapidly growing in its proportions, yet it could only be diminished if diminished consistently with the security of the Empire. He did not mind confessing that in the three months he had been studying this expenditure he had been frequently filled with despair at the dreadful rivalry which civilised people were inflicting upon themselves. Everything was growing bigger and more expensive and was rapidly becoming more obsolescent and obsolete. Fifty years ago the rough standard of cost of a ship was about £1,000 a gun. A 120-gun battleship would cost £120,000, and a 36-gun frigate cost roughly £36,000. Ten years ago the first-class battleship "Cæsar" cost £942,000. The "Dreadnought" cost £1,800,000. Ten years ago the cruiser "Niobe" cost £575,000. The "Shannon" cost £1,400,000. Ten years ago the destroyer "Gipsy" cost £56,700. The "Mohawk" cost £144,000. Five years ago Submarine No. 1 cost £38,000; Submarine C1 cost £48,000. And as he had said not only was everything growing more costly; it 481 more rapidly became obsolete. The "Victory" was forty years old when she fought at Trafalgar and she went into another commission after that. Last year they put on the sale list and? sold a battleship which was completed in 1891. She cost £791,120, and £96,184 had been spent on repairs on her. She was sold for £26,600. In the last five years, omitting the "Montagu," they had sold battleships which had cost, including repairs, £8,500,000, for just over £200,000. Ten Years ago our total not actual estimates were twenty-six and a half millions. They were now thirty-two and one-third millions. Germany's estimates ten years ago were six and three-fifth millions. Now they were sixteen and three-fifth millions. Ten years ago the States' estimates were nine and four-fifth millions. Now they were twenty-five and four-fifth millions. He did not see where it was all going to end. When the first Hague Conference was about to assemble, the late Lord Salisbury said—Unfortunately it is true that there has been a constant tendency on the part of almost every nation to increase its armed forces and to aid to an already vast expenditure on appliances of war. Her Majesty's Government will gladly co-operate in the proposed effort to provide a remedy for this evil Her Majesty's Government will gladly accept the invitation which Count Mouravieff contemplates for a conference to discuss the best method of attaining the two objects specified in His Excellency's note, viz., the diminution of armaments by land and sea and the prevention of armed conflicts by pacific diplomatic procedure.'Mr. Goschen in dealing with the Czar's memorandum made this statement—We have been compelled to increase our expenditure as other nations have increased theirs, not taking the lead, not pressing on more than they. As they have increased, so we have increased. 1 Have now to state on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that similarly, if the other great naval Powers should be prepared to diminish their programme of shipbuilding we should be prepared on our side to meet such a procedure by modifying ours. The difficulties of adjustment are no doubt immense but our desire that the Conference should succeed in lightening the tremendous burdens which now weigh down all European nations is sincere. But if Europe comes to no agreement, and if the hopes entertained by the Czar should not be realised, the programme which I have submitted to the House must stand.He was bound to say that, deplore the fact as he might, he did not see what other than that these statesmen could 482 have said. And after all, heavy as the costs were, and rapidly as they had increased, battles cost more than battleships, and the people of the country had to recognise that, and that war indemnities might very well be naval Estimates multiplied many fold. Therefore, deplore this as he might, he felt that it was upon the unimpaired strength of the British Navy that depended not only their trade and their Empire, and the happiness and safety of our people at home and abroad, but, as he thought, the very foundations of the peace of the world.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
congratulated the hon. Gentlemen on his speech, which, if it expressed the sentiments of the, Government, did them credit. If they carried out the principle that they would at all costs keep the supremacy of the sea they would have nothing but support from the Opposition. He was afraid their difficulties at present arose a great deal from the present Government, when they first came into power, not following on in continuity the policy of the late Government. Shortly before the late Government left office, there was a very important memorandum by Lord Cawdor, in which it was stated that the minimum which we should lay down of big ships every year was four. Unfortunately, however, the Government two years ago dropped from four to three, and now they had dropped to two. Germany had publicly challenged our supremacy of the sea, and, therefore, at all costs we must be prepared to meet any contingency. There were differences of opinion with regard to keeping up the two-Power standard with regard to "Dreadnoughts" alone. Sir William White and other gentlemen had expressed their doubts as to whether it was good policy on our part to put so many eggs into one big basket, whether it was not running a risk which the country ought not to run, and whether they would not do better by building battleships of a somewhat smaller calibre like the "King Edward VII." class. As to the question of keeping up a two-Power standard he believed that we ought to keep on the safe side. It might involve a little more money, but until 483 the question of what was the two-Power standard was settled we ought to be on the safe side, and be superior in the two-Power standard of the "Dreadnought" class. How did we stand in regard to that? In the spring of 1911 the calculation was that Great Britain would have eight of these big ships, Germany seven, and the United States four. Therefore we should be in an inferior position by eight to eleven ships. He desired to draw the attention of the Government to the further point that almost all the big type ships being built by foreign Powers were going to be superior to the "Dreadnought" on the question of broadside firing. The "Dreadnought" could fire eight big guns on broadsides while the two big United States ships which would be completed in 1911 would have five barbettes, and would be able to fire ten guns at the same time from the broadside. The three Brazilian and Japanese ships had their barbettes so arranged that they could fire ten guns broadside at the same time. As to Germany, he did not know if the Government knew exactly what kind of ships that country was laying down as regarded armaments. He understood the barbettes were to be arranged in diamond shape so that they would be able to fire ten eleven-inch guns all round at any angle. Then it was said that in the Japanese ships there were to be fourteen twelve-inch guns, which would make them 40 per cent, more powerful than the "Dreadnought" itself. If these figures were correct they put out of court the measurement taken by the Government as the two-Power standard. As to what had been said by his colleagues from Sheffield regarding the giving out of orders for work he desired to say that the question was a very serious one. He was quite sure the Admiralty were doing their best for the taxpayers of the country, but at the same time they ought to consider the workpeople and the chances of their being thrown out of employment. He asked that the Government should endeavour to place the orders more evenly and not in the spasmodic way in which at present obtained. Orders were given in the early part of the present year which would give employment for several 484 months, but many of them were nearly finished, and they were afraid of a period of distress following which would be very difficult to meet. Therefore, they asked the Government to push on with the work. The hon. Member who spoke for the Admiralty had said they had not yet settled their plans for the two big ships to be built this year. Why not? The programme was decided upon last year and now they were told that the plans were not settled.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS
said he understood the hon. Member to say that the design of the ships had not been made. He thought the Admiralty should anticipate matters by placing the orders so as to obviate the distress which would otherwise arise amongst certain people through no fault of their own. Those works had been placed there specially for Government work at the request of successive Admiralty Boards. He remembered one First Lord of the Admiralty, when armour was scarce, pressing them to layout money in order to furnish the armour he required. The question of the supremacy of the Navy was most import to safeguard the food supplies of the country, because 75 per cent, of our flour supply and 40 per cent, of our meat came from abroad. The tonnage of the mercantile marine was half that of the whole world and the £32,000,000 spent upon the Navy amounted to an insurance of only about 2 per cent, upon it. The Prime Minister once said—The two-Power standard represents the minimum of safety. It is our best form of insurance. The country expends £30,000,000 in connection with the Navy, which is a large sum, but I look upon it as the premium we pay to secure the ultimate safety not only of our commerce but the safety of our shores and the very existence of our population in the face of a danger which we all hope may be remote, but against which it is our business to guard.His only hope was that the Admiralty would see that at the very first opportunity the Prime Minister carried out his promise, and he trusted that the money would be forthcoming for a strong naval programme next year.
§ *MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)
said the importation of the larger part of our food supplies had been used as a justification for having a strong Navy. He desired to see peace maintained, but admitted that so long as we remained in the position we were in at the present moment in regard to the food supplies there might be some justification for increasing the strength of the Navy. Sixty years ago we imported one-fourth of our food supplies, but the percentage at the present moment was 75 per cent., and therefore it was necessary for us to keep the command of the seas. We wanted to do all we could to increase our home food production, and then we should be able to economise in regard to the Navy. He did not want to see this everlasting demand year after year for a larger navy, because so long as that demand was made we should never get other countries to economise in regard to their Navy. He thought this was a very important aspect of the question, which ought to receive serious consideration at the hands of all hon. Members who desired to see economy adopted. If we lost command of the seas to-morrow we had not sufficient food to keep us longer than a month, therefore, he would like to urge that some attempt should be made to increase our sources of food production. He did not assert that we ought not to have an efficient Navy. With our Colonies all over the world and being dependent upon our food supplies from abroad, we must have an efficient Navy, but to continue to neglect home cultivation of our food supplies, and then use that as an argument for an ever increasing Navy, he thought, was most unbusinesslike and not right. He appealed to the Opposition to give greater consideration to this aspect of the question. With regard to the employees in the dockyards some of the promises made last year had not been fulfilled. There were five different; sets of employees in the dockyards, namely, the riveters, platers, holders up, sailmakers, and hammermen. It was far more difficult to get some slight concession to these men than to get £20,000 for horse-breeding or an additional £1,000,000 for the Navy. He hoped the present First Lord of the 486 Admiralty would make a new departure and do something to remove the grievances under which these men suffered. The dockyard riveters received 6s. 9d. a week less than the men in private yards. That ought not to be. If they were doing skilled men's work they should receive skilled men's wages. The platers were receiving 10s. per week less. The holders-up were receiving 3s. 3d. a week less, and the, riveters 6s. 9d. per week less in Government dockyards than in private yards. The Government two years ago conceded £60,000 to be paid in additional wages to the dockyard workers, and they also conceded the right of the workers to direct representation in regard to grievances. He expressed his appreciation, of what the Government had done in these matters, but he and his friends wanted them to go a little further and try to remove some of the particular defects to which he now called attention. The sailmakers had asked that their wages should be increased to 35s. a week and the demand had been refused. He could not see the justification for that refusal. He had heard of a case where the work in connection with two ships was partly done at Sheerness. The ships were taken to Scotland where the work was done by men receiving 36s. a week. If the Government could pay 36s. a week to the men who did the work in Scotland he could not see why they could not give 35s. a week to the men working at the Government dockyards. The men who were engaged at galvanising work also asked for 30s. a week. An inspector reported that this was dangerous and unhealthy work, and recommended tha the workmen should not take their food in the place where they worked, and that special clothing should be worn. In consequence of the dangerous nature of the work the men received 2s. extra pay. The men outside who were engaged in similar work received about £2 a week, and in face of this he considered the demand for 30s. per week very reasonable It was not too much to ask that the men in the Government employment should receive the same wages as the men in the service of private employers. He did not wish to be misunderstood in regard to the demands he was making. If the men were asking more wages than other 487 employers were paying, there might be some justification for refusing the demand, but all that was asked was that the same wages should be paid. He moved to reduce the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £2,936,100 be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Summerbell.)
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, who had replied for the Government, had not dealt with the questions raised by his hon. friends who were associated with him in the representation of Sheffield. The hon. Gentleman had really given the go-by to those questions. His answer amounted to this, that Sheffield got three-fifths of the only orders it was possible to give in this direction. He himself maintained that that answer in no way dealt with the complaint made. Hon. Members had not asserted that Sheffield had not got its proper proportion; they said the total of which that proportion was a part, was not sufficiently great. The proportion now given was not such as to keep employed in anything approaching their capacity the great works which had been made, built, organised, and extended in successive years, almost entirely at Government invitation and in Government interests. It followed that this question of the equal distribution of orders in one year as compared with another was largely a question of State interest. He was sure the hon. Gentleman, although he said Sheffield got three-fifths proportion, did not wish to treat the demand cynically. It was a matter of very unfair suffering and they were by no means satisfied with the answer. The suffering could to some extent be avoided. He hoped that in future years they would not arrive at such a position that the Government would say they could not introduce any Supplementary Estimate, because even if the designs had been ready the keels were not ready. He thought if a more consistent and better organised policy had prevailed with a view to avoiding the present unnecessary suffering, the Government would have found itself in a better position to pro- 488 vide against the complaint which had been made, but not met.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB (Rochester)
said that, though he was not a dockyard Member, he represented a constituency near a dockyard, and he was naturally very much interested in the question of dockyard employment. While he wished to pay his tribute to the Admiralty for the care and consideration with which they had dealt with the grievances brought to their notice, and while he believed they were doing their utmost to concede the points on which a satisfactory case had been made out, there appeared to him one matter of more than passing interest which called for comment. It was a matter of absolutely national concern, and one of particular importance at the present time. He referred to the question of the re-opening of the establishments. It was a matter of concern to the Royal dockyards, and he believed that it was one in which all the employees there were intensely interested. He knew that the argument was used that the non-effective Vote was so heavy that it required careful consideration before any additional burden was put upon it. He wanted to emphasise the fact that the non-effective Vote was composed largely of what was nothing more nor less than deferred pay. The hired men were receiving better wages than the established men, and that which was kept from the established men was paid in the shape of pensions. It seemed to him that this was a matter of paramount importance, because at the nation's expense young fellows were being apprenticed in the Royal dockyards. They learned the shipbuilding secrets which were essential to make vessels useful, and yet after they had served their appenticeship and vast sums of money had been spent in that direction, a positive premium was put on their going to private yards. The owners of private yards were naturally glad to avail themselves of the services of men who had been apprenticed in the Royal dockyards because they had been so well skilled in their work. One of the reasons why he pleaded for there opening of the establishments was that, after all, the men who were established had a greater stake in the country 489 and were unwilling to lose their employment. They were to a large extent the backbone of the dockyards. They felt greater security of tenure in their employment, and, therefore, they took a greater interest in the local concerns. There were a vast number of men who by careful thrift had bought their own houses and they were now living in them. Then, again, in regard to apprentices he did not think it could be denied that the establishment was held out as a positive inducement to them to enter the service. It might be said that the Admiralty were now in a position to dictate their own terms for the opening and closing of establishments. He agreed that it was so in time of peace, but it was possible to conceive a time when the Admiralty would not be in such an advantageous position, in time of national emergency and in time of war. The men who would then be wanted might make demands which otherwise they would not insist upon. He thought it was practically admitted that strikes were almost unknown in the Government dockyards. That was due to the fact that the established men recognised that they had very much less cause for throwing up their work and following some of their confreres into a strike. Certainly the establishment men had a leavening influence upon the hired men next to whom they worked. They had no need of a better illustration of the danger of this matter than that presented at the Devonport dockyard last week. Last Monday a strike occurred which affected the work on the "Temeraire" battleship, as the result of the engineers' strikes in the North-Eastern district of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, when forty-five engine-fitters, four coppersmiths, and two blacksmiths on the "Temeraire" were called out. The strike was also likely to affect the same firms of contractors employed on the battleship "Collingwood," and there was a possibility of a delay taking place in the completion of those battleships. It must be remembered that engineering and shipbuilding were progressive sciences, and the Admiralty would admit that the life of a vessel was not a fixed factor. Any delay caused in building ought therefore to be taken out of the life of a battleship as an effective weapon. Strikes were almost 490 unknown in the Royal dockyards, and that said very much for the discipline of the men and the character of the general supervision; but he hoped that the Admiralty would not take advantage of their immunity in that respect in the past; and in view of the possibility of a time of national emergency when there might be a very great temptation to hired men to dictateterms, he trusted that the Admiralty would reconsider this question of the reopening of the establishment. They had been told that the matter had been referred to the Cabinet and the Board of Admiralty, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, whom they were all glad to see as the representative of the Admiralty—he was of opinion that the First Lord should always be in this House rather than in another place—would be able to give some assurance that the establishment would be re-opened, to the advantage of the nation as a whole. This question was also of much importance to all the Royal dockyards. He would like to emphasise the natural and geographical advantages of Chatham dockyard. Objection was taken to it on account of the long approach by the River Medway. If only the Admiralty would spend as much money for dredging the Medway as on dredging at Devonport, Chatham would continue to be one of the finest dockyards in the country. He had heard that the sinking of a barge would block——
The hon. Gentleman is not in order in discussing dockyards. He must keep to the Items on the Vote. Chatham may be a good dockyard or not; but that has nothing to do with the shipbuilding Vote.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB
said he would renew his request to the hon. Gentleman to deal in his reply with the re-opening of this establishment.
§ *MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said he would not attempt to follow hon. Gentlemen who had discussed this Vote with an imaginative power which would have done credit to the best naval novelists of the day, but he strongly deprecated the proposal the hon. Member for Central Bradford had made for 491 the appointment of a Committee of this House to overlook naval expenditure. That was the paramount duty of the Government, and if the Government did not see that the money voted by the House was properly expended it should cease to be a Government. The appointment of such a Committee would weaken the responsibility of the Government. As with the hon. Members on the Labour benches, the party to which he belonged professed their desire for perfect peace if that was possible of attainment, but the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, was greatly concerned that there had not been sufficient expenditure on munitions of war in his own constituency. That showed some discrepancy between altruistic aspirations and actual facts. He would not consider the ethical standards of the expenditure on munitions of war, and he did protest against the absurd proposition that expenditure on the Army and Navy was of an unproductive character. The united voice of the Labour Party said that they should reduce the expenditure on the Army and Navy because it was unproductive, but every individual voice on those benches was raised to complain when any reduction of that expenditure in their constituencies was effected. These two positions were utterly incompatible. Expenditure on the Navy and Army was not only the most productive of all expenditure because it insured the maintenance of peace and continuance of industries; but it was actually in itself productive immediately and directly, as well as indirectly and finally. He hoped after the experience they had had that day they had heard the last of the contention that naval and military expenditure was unproductive. He took it that it would be in order on the Shipbuilding Vote to ask why the Admiralty did not provide for a battleship for the China station, as, in his opinion, one ought to be provided, as the other great naval Powers had done.
The hon. Gentleman will not be in order in dealing with the distribution of the Fleet. He might be in order if he is able to say that the 492 Fleet is not sufficiently large to reinforce the squadron on the China station.
§ *MR. REES
said he wished to submit that it was altogether out of the question that because this country had a great and valuable ally in Eastern seas, we should leave that ally to do the work which we formerly did ourselves. He found that other great Western Powers had battleships in those seas; and he submitted that we should have some ship in those seas which would better represent the power and might of the British Navy than the "Highflyer," which was an inferior ship, in the East Indies. He trusted that he would be in order when he said that when the Admiralty were scrapping so many ships as they did they should have provided in some way that our flag should be flown in places where it was absolutely necessary it should float in order to maintain our prestige, which, after all, was a most valuable possession, from the most mercenary point of view, and made it possible to reduce actual garrisons.
§ MR. MADDISON (Burnley)
asked the Chairman if the hon. Member was not discussing the distribution of the Fleet.
said that the hon. Member was most ingenious in trying to evade his ruling. The point which the hon. Member was raising came under Vote 12.
said it was a different thing mentioning a point casually in a speech and discussing the policy of it. The right hon. Member for Dover was in perfect order.
§ MR. REES
said he would then leave the subject seeing he had not been able to bring it in within the four corners of the Vote before the Committee. He urged that the First Lord in dealing with the Estimates should endeavour to take into consideration the points he had put before him, and which he regretted the rules of the House did not allow him to enlarge upon.
§ MR. JENKINS (Chatham)
said he wished to support the Amendment. The question of dockyard promotion was not a new one. In March, 1906, the late Secretary to the Admiralty on behalf of the Government pledged himself to bring about a reform in the direction he then mentioned, and that the Admiralty would pay wages equal to those paid by private firms in other parts of the country which did Government work. The House was interested and accepted that pledge in good faith. Let him say that it was to the credit of tha Admiralty that they had granted an advance of £60,000 a year to the whole of their employees; but that amount was not equal to what they should have provided had their pledge been strictly carried out. In the dockyards there were several grades of labour which did not now receive the trade union rate of wages or the rate paid to those employed in the private yards of the country. He had great pleasure in taking advantage of the facilities afforded by the Admiralty, and when going round the dockyards had met with the greatest courtesy. But in presenting the petition he had to face the fact that the Admiralty had apparently taken the average from the returns of the Board of Trade which were taken from the wages paid all over the country, which was manifestly unfair. That was only a typical case. There were, however, classes of men in the dockyards for whom he pleaded more particularly. He complained that the Admiralty did not treat the skilled labourers fairly. Every man who applied for dockyard work must be physically sound, and must produce the highest credentials; he must be a steady and sober man, and then, after years of application, he received 22s. a week for working on the country's ships. He would never rest 494 satisfied until these men were in receipt of not less than 30s. a week. That might seem at first sight a strong demand. In course of time these men were removed from one grade to another. The skilled workman rose from 22s. to 28s., but by far the greater number received 25s. per week, which was manifestly unfair. They were trained men; a riveter was doing the same work as was done by what was called a boiler-maker outside, and for which the outside man would receive 30s. a week. He would not touch upon the naval programme, as it appeared to him that the Opposition generally were in favour of it, judging from the fact that they had all left the House, but he certainly hoped the Government would adhere to the pledge given two years ago. Having dealt with the wages of the skilled labour he applied to the Admiralty on another ground. These men were sometimes reduced and sent back to what was called the bo'sun's gang and were reduced to 22s. a week, and he asked if they were only sent to the bo'sun's gang for a short time and then put back to their regular work that they should count that time as if they were in their regular work and receive the same pay as before. He also wished to know what the Admiralty's intention was in regard to a further diminution of the established list. He found that in 1907–1908 there were in the dockyards 6,947 men on the established list, and in the list for 1908–1909 there were 6,510, or a reduction of 437. He was pleased to note that there had been an increase of 3,962 men on the hired list, but he asked the Government to consider the question of the established list, because there were a number of men who had been looking forward to the time when they would be established, and who might at any moment be dismissed by a new rule. The establishment of these men should not be difficult, because of the economy in shipbuilding in the dockyard. He had gone into the Estimates and taken out the cost of three ships which were built, one at Newcastle, one at Barrow-in-Furness, and one at Glasgow, and lie had taken out the cost of a similar ship built at Pembroke. Each of these ships was 418 feet long and 73¾ feet broad and 8,515 tons. The cost of the three 495 ships built in the private yards was £3,437,228 or an average of £1,145,742 per ship. Each of these ships cost £14,427 more than the "Warrior" cost to build at Pembroke. If that figure were multiplied by three, the total of £43,281 was obtained. Why should that amount go into the hands of the private contractor and the country lose the benefit of it when it might be used to advantage for the extension of work in the dockyards? It might be said that he was an advocate for the extension of work in the dockyards. So he was; when in the dockyard the work could be done, the men paid trade union rates, and even then the cost would be less than in private yards. He was prepared to say that on eight ships built in private yards £250,000 might have been saved to the country if they had been built under the same conditions as was the "Warrior" in the dockyard. He therefore asked the Parliamentary Secretary and the House, if it could be proved that in the dockyards the work could be expedited and done as well as the work could be done in private yards and at less cost, why thousands of pounds worth of machinery should be lying idle in the dockyards? Why should such things be, unless there was something behind it? There were, he understood, six cruisers to be given out, and he appealed to the Parliamentary Secretary to see that these ships were distributed about the dockyards, where there was not sufficient work at the present time.
§ *MR. W. T. WILSON (Lancashire, Westhoughton)
appealed to the First Lord to abolish classification in the director of works' department and to do away with the anomaly which existed between that and the construction department. The Admiralty claimed that they paid the standard rate of wages in the director of works' department, but they did nothing of the kind. The joiners in that department started at 30s. a week and rose in time to 32s., whilst those employed in the constructor's department' were paid 33s. 6d. per week. He asked that the joiners in the director of works department should be paid the same wage as the joiners in the construction department. The anomaly existed that men doing the same work, in the same place, and 496 with the same tools, on the same class of articles, were differently paid. The man who made a door for one of the naval hospitals and the mechanic who made a door for the ship, the one requiring no more skill than the other, were differently treated. He submitted that the men employed in this department were entitled to be paid the same wages as the men employed in the construction department. The labourers in the director of works department at present had 1s. or 1s. 6d. a week less than the labourers employed in the construction department. He could not see why that should be so. Of course, they knew the peculiar methods which were adopted in connection with the dockyards. In the Royal dockyards, they had unskilled labourers who made shelves and bins for His Majesty's ships. These unskilled labourers were paid wages varying from 22s. to 28s. a week. He did not wonder, therefore, that the Government were getting work done cheaper at the Royal dockyards than in the private yards where the standard wages were paid for doing this class of work. He hoped that the Government would live up to its promises and its reputation as a model employer of labour. It was not acting exactly as a model employer to put unskilled workmen to do the work of skilled artisans. He wished also to draw attention to the fact that a distinction was drawn in the case of workmen who went to His Majesty's dockyards abroad. Practically speaking they drew the same wages in the dockyards, but if they went abroad the allowance varied from 15s. 2d. for one class of workmen to 21s. for another class of workman. He did not see why there should be this differentiation in the allowance given to workmen going abroad. He thought they ought to be placed on the same level. He had been told that the matter would be considered; still, he desired to draw the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to this particular phase of the question. Another point to which he desired to call attention was that skilled workmen had been discharged, and in the course of a week or two had been taken on as unskilled workmen and set to superintend unskilled workmen who were doing work usually done by skilled artisans, and had to see to 497 it that the work was properly carried out, a course which he thought most unfair. He hoped the Admiralty would do their utmost to see that the same class of men in the same yards were paid the same rates of wages. He knew the answer had been that they paid the same rates as in the builders' shops, but the builders would never raise wages so long as the Government paid low rates of wages. They were to a certain extent dominated by the rates of wages paid in the Government dockyards. He therefore strongly appealed to the Government to raise the wages of these men to the level of their mates in other departments. If they did not get a satisfactory reply, he hoped his hon. friend would press his Motion, to a division.
§ MR. MADDISON
said he always felt a good deal of sympathy with the representatives of the Admiralty upon these occasions, because they were surrounded by faithful men from dockyard constituencies who all wanted to do, and generally did do, their duty to their constituents. They had, however, to look at the matter from the standpoint of the nation as a whole. His hon. friends representing dockyard constituencies would contribute to that theory. He had been a little amused at the course the discussion had taken. The hon. Member for Sunderland, who represented a division nowhere near a dockyard constituency, had shown a great deal of attention to the employees in the dockyard. If it were disinterested it was very commendable, but, while he believed very much in high motives, he tried to find some reason for what went on in the House, and he had come to the conclusion that the hon. Member for Sunderland was really a very great friend of the private shipbuilder, because he knew very well that under present conditions the private yards were more likely to hold their own than if some of his suggestions were adopted. The hon. Member who had just spoken had very moderately put forward the claims of the men in the various dockyards, and he (Mr. Maddison) was very much interested that the Admiralty should maintain the status of crafts in the dockyard. He attached more im- 498 portance to that than even to wages, and thought that wherever the Admiralty did anything which tended to deteriorate craftsmen they did an injury to the cause of industry generally, and to the dockyards particularly. He had been very sorry that they had had to be troubled in Committee of the House with various complaints. He knew no place less fitted to discuss these details than the House, which as a rule always went wrong on details; and he still held that the Admiralty and the trade union representatives might come closer together and save troubling the Committee with questions on which not 5 per cent, of the Members could possibly have any knowledge. The hon. Member for Chatham was not content with putting forward claims for the workmen; but, as a dockyard representative, he naturally tried to prove that this Construction Vote would be better if it were mainly confined to the Royal dockyards. They had had, however, three speeches which had demonstrated to the satisfaction of the hon. Members that the Royal dockyards were places where low wages prevailed, where the handy man was put in the position of the skilled man, where the labourer was put to supervise practical, skilled work, and where, in fact, those conditions upon which trade unionists constantly insisted were reversed. Notwithstanding that they demonstrated this, they came constantly to the House and told the First Lord of the Admiralty that there ought to be more and more work given where labour conditions were worst and where trade unionism prevailed least. That did not seem to be logical.
§ MR. JENKINS
I said I was prepared to prove that you could build ships in the Royal dockyards as economically as in private yards and pay trade union rates of wages.
§ MR. MADDISON
said the hon. Member was prophesying. He had a very poor opinion of prophets, ancient and modern, and he did not believe there would have been any of old, if there had been Blue-books. A Blue-book killed prophets. The hon. Member for Chatham and his colleagues, the best of trade unionists, were constantly wanting more 499 and more work given to the Royal dockyards where, according to their own view, lower wages were given and there were worse conditions and the non-observance of that status of crafts which appealed to him so much. If they wanted better conditions, then they must reverse their tactics and encourage the Admiralty to give more and more work to private yards where trade unions had a better grip of the employers. Was it true that construction in outside yards was so much dearer than in Royal dockyards? That was the important point. In the first instance, whilst they could always ascertain to a penny what a ship cost in outside yards, there was not a man living who had discovered within a good many thousand pounds what a ship actually cost in the Royal dockyards. The hon. Member had said it was very difficult for a juvenile mind to go through the Naval Estimates, but it was a much more difficult thing to get at these minor matters. Even if they got ships built as cheaply in private yards, the hon. Member would not suggest that they should abandon all the valuable machinery and plant that lay outside dockyards in the case of an emergency. They had to take into account all that enormous reserve power which the shipyards of the country gave the Navy absolutely for nothing. When a contract had been given for a ship and it had been fulfilled, the account between the nation and the contractor had ceased, but it remained true that there could be no more suicidal thing to do than to take all shipbuilding orders into the dockyards. He wanted them to go both to the dockyards and to the private firms, and he thought it would be a very wise thing not to enlarge the area of construction in the dockyards, and to find whatever extra construction they wanted in outside yards. They had listened to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty with a good deal of genuine satisfaction. They thought they saw in it that sense of all-round responsibility to the nation which they regarded as the highest statesmanship. The hon. Member for the Montgomery district had put forward the proposition that expenditure on armaments was as productive as any other expenditure. It was almost hopeless to discuss with an hon. Member who did not see the economic difference between expenditure on lathes and looms and on 500 battleships, for while it was true that up to a point the economic position was exactly the same, namely, that there was labour expended in the making of a warship and in the making of a loom, the parallel ceased there, because when the battleship was completed they never got a penny return for it. It would be scrapped in ten or fifteen years, while the lathe and the loom went on making reproductive wealth. Therefore they asked the First Lord not to carry this insurance bill to too great an extreme. It was all very well to indulge in a peroration about its being cheaper to keep the peace than to have it broken. They had heard all those things from foreign Ministers and they were very glad the First Lord did not fall into that temptation. What would people think of a business man who was so fond of insurance that he insured up to 50 or 60 per cent, of his expenditure? They wanted the greatest care exercised in this construction vote. They wanted no haste. They wanted every penny considered, for they did not get a penny for this Admiralty Vote but it came from the hard labour of thousands of people, and there was no higher trust than to be the guardians of the nation's money.
§ MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
thought he understood the Secretary to the Admiralty to say that the ships which were now manœuvring had been mobilised at a moment's notice. Did that apply to all the ships? He had also told them that everything was getting dearer. But they had saved £1,000,000 a year in three years by using up stores which had been provided by the Unionist Government. If they were redundant they had no business there, and the Admiralty had no business to buy them, and it was surely the business of the Government to have an inquiry into it. It appeared to him, in spite of what the Secretary to the Admiralty had said, that in modern battleships at all events, we were not building up to anything like a two-Power standard. In the winter of 1911 if the present building programmes of Germany and Great Britain were carried out, according to the Prime Minister, Germany would have thirteen battleships of the "Dreadnought" type, and we should have only twelve. From 1905 to 1908 Germany had laid down 225,000 tons of armoured ships, Great Britain only 501 220,000 and America 112,000, so that it was not even a one-Power standard. This year Germany was laying down four large armoured ships of about 20,000 tons each and was spending on them £1,800,000, whilst we were spending this year only £280,000, less really than a sixth There was certainly no two-Power standard about that. The case was even worse in ocean-going destroyers under 12 years old, and he thought 12 years was usually taken as the life of a destroyer to be really useful. Germany had forty-eight and Great Britain only thirty-eight, and in those building and projected Great Britain had twenty-five and Germany twenty-four. Many of our torpedo craft could not be effectually used in the North Sea. They were not built for it and had not sufficient coal-carrying capacity. If we were to be able to watch for German exits into the North Sea we must have three torpedo craft of some sort to Germany's one, because the strain of blockading a port was so great that they must be relieved every two or three days. In regard to torpedo craft suitable for the North Sea it appeared very doubtful whether we had even an equal number. In the construction of these destroyers for 1897 to 1907, we had only laid down sixty-four to Germany's seventy-two. We were also very short of medium cruisers of which in the Channel Fleet there were only three to every fourteen battleships. We were so short of these and of torpedo craft that our big battleships and cruisers could not stop out in the North Sea at night if we were at war with Germany. At present the Navy was the only thing we had got. The Auxiliary Forces were to a great extent destroyed and were not likely to be used at all events for a year or two, if ever they were. It certainly appeared to him that the Navy had been sacrificed to a great extent to collect money for social reform. It might be right or wrong, but it appeared to be going on and the expenditure next year would be bound to be heavy. It made one begin to wonder where the money was coming from. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that he was going to find money for social reform by reducing the amount which was being spent upon hideous mechanisms for human slaughter. He thought that unless we kept up our 502 Navy to its proper strength, we should be likely to have a good deal of human slaughter in the future. History proved that no country had succeeded in keeping off war except by being well prepared for war. At the present time we were not safe because we were short of torpedo craft and swift armoured cruisers to do scouting work. They knew that a very large sum of money had to be provided during the next two or three years for various purposes, and if the Navy was to be made sufficiently strong to make this country safe, it was very unfortunate that the First Lord of the Admiralty had not told them how he was going to do it, and where he was going to get the money from.
§ SIR JOHN BENN (Devonport)
said that dockyard Members were getting quite used to the gibes and jeers of the hon. Member for Burnley. They all agreed with what he said about spending money on lathes and looms, but some of them believed that without battleships behind them the lathes and looms would not always have work to keep them going. He was afraid that the First Lord of the Admiralty might be discouraged if they did not say a word or two in regard to the work to which the Government had put their hands. To listen to some of the speeches one would think that the Government had made no attempt to recognise trade union rates of wages in the dockyards, but as a dockyard representative he wished to bear testimony to the excellent work which the Government lad done in that direction. The institution of the round-table conference with the men had been one of the best things done in recent years. But notwithstanding this, there were several corners which required looking into. The hon. Member for Burnley had said that since this new system had been set up t was not proper that the House of Commons should be called upon to discuss the details connected with dockyard labour. He asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to give them a pledge hat this useful annual inspection of he dockyard wages should continue, and in the course of that inspection he desired that special attention should be paid to some sections of labour 503 which, in his judgment, up to the present had not received that due reward to which they were entitled. It would perhaps be invidious to mention names, but there were some corners which still required attention, and if they were attended to he was sure that in the future they would have little cause to complain. There was one thing which gave the Committee great dissatisfaction, and it was that the greater part of the £60,000 which had been added to the cost of dockyard labour had been largely devoted to the lower, ranks of labour. He agreed that the wages of the labourers were not princely, but they compared very favourably with the wages paid for that class of work outside the dockyard. With regard to the abolition of the establishment a feeling had grown up that if the men insisted upon trade Union rates of wages they had only a right to enjoy those conditions apart from any question of the establishment, and there had been a suggestion that the establishment should be abolished and trade union rates and conditions set up. He wished to take that opportunity of saying that the men in the dockyards desired to retain the establishment, and he would be glad to have some assurance that the First Lord of the Admiralty was prepared to stand by them on that point. If they got the establishment plus the wages paid outside they would secure an ideal condition of labour. It was unnecessary for him as the junior Member for Devonport to tell the Committee that he believed in building as many ships as possible in the Government dockyards. He had no desire whatever to interfere with private dockyards, but if the Government spent large sums of money setting up costly plant and machinery it was the duty of the Board of Admiralty to see that that plant was properly occupied. When that had been done by all means let the private dockyards have all the work they deserved. With regard to the work done in the Government dockyards they had succeeded in regard to the speed of building and the cost in competing favourably with any of the private dockyards in the country. [Hear, hear.] He was glad to hear that the hon. Member for Chatham agreed with him. He felt that such splendid work had been done to get their dock- 504 yards right that he would be sorry if the work in that direction should be discouraged by this contemplated reduction of the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty, more especially under present circumstances. It the annual interview was continued he had no hesitation in saying at a dockyard Member that they had reason to be very grateful and hopeful for the future.
§ *MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)
said that with regard to the closing remarks of the hon. Member for Devonport he could assure him that the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty was not in the least danger, because it did not arise on this Vote, and as this would probably be their last opportunity for discussing naval matters this session the right hon. Gentleman's salary was safe at least for this year. He totally disagreed with the views of the dockyard Members in regard to the placing of orders for ships, because his view was that the Government dockyards should be kept for repairs. In the past the Admiralty had experienced great inconvenience through ships being built in the Government dockyards when the docks were required for repairs. Not long ago the "Dreadnought" occupied one of the docks at Portsmouth for 150 days during one year and this was the only dock available for large battleships at Portsmouth. The Secretary to the Admiralty had reminded them that the First Lord of the Admiralty and himself had only been three months in office. He thought he might say that both of them had commanded the admiration of the House by showing such a mastery of the details of their work in so short a period. He did not altogether agree with the remarks of the Secretary to the Admiralty in his references to disarmament. The hon. Member had quoted Lord Goschen on this point. They all desired to bring about disarmament, but the conclusion drawn from Lord Goschen's attempt in 1899, and the examples this country had set, was that in every single case the result had been an increased naval programme. Lord Goschen's offer, which was made in 1899, was followed by the German Navy Bill of 1900. The reductions suggested in 1905 were followed by the German Navy Bill of 1906, and 505 our reductions last year were followed by the great German Navy Bill of 1908. The Secretary to the Admiralty had referred in an instructive way to the rising cost of ships. The monster cruiser of to-day cost as much as four "Blenheims," which was the monster cruiser of some twenty years ago. But it was the same with regard to motor-cars and all kinds of machinery. Everybody constantly had to "scrap" their old machinery and put in new plant. He was astonished that the Admiralty jargon had been used again that evening about mobilisation at a moment's notice, because this mobilisation had been discussed weeks and weeks in advance. On the question of loans, he was becoming a convert to the views of the Opposition, and he believed that the Liberal Party, in spite of all the opposition they had shown to loans for Admiralty work, would have to revert to the old policy of loans within a year or two. It was impossible to go on meeting naval expenditure without loans. One-fourth of the German Navy Estimates had been provided for by loan, and he thought we should be justified in meeting that rival expenditure by a resort to loans once more. His hon. friend had pointed out certain omissions in the German Estimates in connection with works, etc., but he did not think he had referred to pensions. Pensions amounted to a very large sum in the British Navy Estimates, but a similar item did not appear in the German Navy Estimates at all. They appeared on the Civil Estimates in Germany. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover had referred to the absence of the Fleet from Colonial waters. That had taken place as the result of the concentration of ships in home waters, but there was another side to that statement. We had abandoned the Colonies, and the excuse for that was that we had a great Fleet in the Mediterranean which could reinforce the Colonies in case of need. But we had practically abandoned the Mediterranean, and the result was that this policy could be carried no further. We had now completely concentrated the Fleet in home waters. The time might come, in spite of all their wishes to the contrary, when we might require to send a large force to the Far East, and he thought it was doubtful 506 whether we should be able to do so while at the same time providing against attack from Germany. His hon. friend the Member for Fareham had pointed out that the programme framed in November was to lay down, ships fifteen months later. The plans of the "Vanguard" were fixed upon in November, 1906, but it was not laid down till March, 1908. The reason for that was given in the following passage in the First Lord's Memorandum for the year 1902–3—What is required is to know exactly how many ships of each class are wanted and by what dates, and to arrange for their commencement accordingly. It is not always possible to commence ships at the end of the financial year consistently with their completion at the required time, but I am clear that there is often a substantial administrative convenience in doing so. The consideration of new designs, or the improvement of existing designs, is a long and anxious task; and when a decision has been arrived at it takes months before the sketch designs can be worked out in every detail so that the dockyards or contractors can build to them. The preparation of the estimates is such a tax upon the time of the Board during the latter half of the financial year that the earlier portion of the year is clearly indicated as that in which this all-important question can be most conveniently studied. It follows that the consequent labour of working out the designs in detail brings us towards the end of the financial year; and if ships are laid down then there should be no check or delay in their subsequent construction.That raised a very important question. Owing to their having postponed the building of "Dreadnoughts" or battleships the Admiralty were faced with the prospect of having in accordance with the Prime Minister's declaration to lay down ships earlier in the financial year than usual.
§ *MR. BELLAIRS
said they had to consider next year for a moment or so, too. He asked his right hon. friend when the designs would be ready for all the armoured ships to be built in 1909, so that they might be laid down in accordance with the Prime Minister's declaration. They did not want to be told early next year when the House met that the designs were not, ready though the ships were wanted. They 507 did not want to be put off with a statement of that kind. The First Lord of the Admiralty had said that the programme of 1908 only took into consideration the shipbuilding until the end of 1910. That was not a complete statement. What they did was to lay down by the end of the financial year of 1908 the programme which was to safeguard the position to the end of 1910. Therefore the 1908 programme must be considered as safeguarding the position at the end of 1911, unless they were going to lay down the 1909 programme earlier than usual. They had the declaration of the Secretary to the Admiralty that Germany might have completed by the end of the year 1911 thirteen "Dreadnoughts" while we had only provided under this programme for twelve. That was precisely the question which the Leader of the Opposition raised. Another question was, did the 1908 programme take into consideration the German naval programme? He doubted it, and he would tell the Committee why. On 2nd March, 1908, the Secretary to the Admiralty stated that our programme of 1908 was settled in July, 1907, or some time before the German naval programme had been settled, and he used these significant words—I trust the House appreciates the significance of that declaration.He wished the House to understand that the 1908 programme which had been framed in July, 1907, did not take into account the increases made by the German Navy Bill of 1908. He thought that was an important point for his right hon. friend's consideration. In July, 1907, the Civil Lord seated that the Admiralty had no information as to any German "Dreadnoughts" having been laid down at all. Now it was known that in that very month a number were laid down. They knew from the First Lord of the Admiralty that four "Dreadnoughts" and two cruisers had been laid down. One was a 15,000 ton cruiser, and it belonged to the 1906 programme and it was a very efficient ship. But he omitted to say that three more "Dreadnoughts" had been ordered by Germany at the beginning of the present month or the end of June. The names 508 of the firms from whom they had been ordered were known. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would have acted more frankly if he had mentioned that they were ordered. The question which had been raised as to the position of Germany at the end of 1911 largely hinged upon that. If they were ordered at the end of June it followed, as would be admitted by anybody who was familiar with the rapidity with which the German shipbuilding yards could cope with their work, that they could have them out by the end of 1911. There was no controversy now on the question that Germany was able to build as quickly as ourselves. The "Defence" which was included in our 1903 programme had not yet started on her trials. He stated in 1906 and 1907 that unless we went in for regular programmes we should inevitably be faced with a large programme in 1908 or 1909, and that was precisely the position which had arisen. When the last Government left office they issued a Memorandum calling for four "Dreadnoughts" every year, and pointing out the benefits of regular programmes. The present Government in their first year reduced that programme by one "Dreadnought"; in their second year they reduced it by another; and this year they had reduced it by two. The upshot as he sincerely believed was that the necessary programme for next year would be six "Dreadnoughts." This inflated programme of "Dreadnoughts" had been caused by the reductions of past years. If we had six "Dreadnoughts" in 1909 we should be let in for an expenditure of £11,000,000, whereas two in 1908 would only have cost £3,500,000. That was a huge fluctuation in expenditure. It was exactly the same in regard to cruisers. We had only laid down one cruiser since 1902–3. Nobody denied that that had let us in for the large programme of six cruisers this year, at a cost of about £2,000,000. It would let us in for another six cruisers next year. As to destroyers we had provided for only twelve in the last four years, not counting the sixteen this year, just at the very moment when the ninety destroyers provided between 1893 and 1896 were falling obsolete. We should be faced with a programme for sixteen destroyers this year at a cost 509 of £2,500,000, and inevitably we should be faced with a programme of twenty-four destroyers next year. He did not know whether his right hon. friend had ever cast his mind over the British programmes of the past twenty years, but if he did so he would find that there had been enormous fluctuations, while the German programmes showed that there had been a constant and steady output. In 1892 we provided for no armoured vessels, and in 1899 fourteen were laid down. There were thirty-six small cruisers laid down in 1888–9, but in the three years 1904–5–6, when the original thirty-six cruisers were scrapped, none at all were laid down. As to destroyers, in the period from 1893 to 1896, ninety were laid down; but within the lat four years only twelve had been laid down, just when these destroyers had reached the age-limit of twelve years allowed in Germany. Now that was totally against the Admiralty policy as laid down by the representatives of the Admiralty at various times. The Admiralty never paid attention to the documents issued in past years. Though there was heard a great deal about continuity of policy from the occupants of the front beaches, as a matter of fact there had never been a continuity of naval policy. In 1902 the then First Lord issued a Memorandum, in which he stated—I am also of opinion that, when it is possible consistently with the requirements of the Navy, there is a great administrative advantage in a steady and constant, as opposed to a fluctuating, Vote for new construction.That was the very doctrine he had been preaching; but ever since then they had had anything but a constant, steady policy of new construction. His right hon. friend rather ridiculed the two-to-one Power standard as regarded Germany. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that the two-to-one Power standard in its application to France was much older and ranged over a greater period of years than with reference to Germany. His right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary, on 1st March, 1904, said—In 1885 the standard set and maintained by Mr. Gladstone's Government was to lay down two ships for every one laid down by the French Government.510 In that period there was also a two-to-one standard of expenditure on material. He found that in 1901–2 we spent £2.01 to £1 spent by Germany; in 1906–7 it was £1.9 to £1; in 1907–8 it was £1.5 to £1; in 1908–9 it was £1.18 to £1. This was accounted for by the fact that since the present Government came into office they had provided for less tonnage than Germany in the programme of corresponding years. Never before in the history of the country had there been a period when we laid down less tonnage than our principal naval rival; and the result would be that we should have an inflated programme in 1909. In 1859 there was a Treasury Committee on Admiralty Estimates, and that Committee compiled elaborate tables showing that for every year from the middle of the eighteenth century we had always maintained the two-to-one strength against France in battleships, and more than two to one in cruisers. His right hon. friend had been specially hard on the hon. Member who had demanded a two-to-one standard in "Dreadnoughts"; but who were the people who taught the country that "Dreadnoughts" made every other class of ship obsolete? It was the principal naval advisers who gave such an opinion to their chiefs, and constantly encouraged the view that any nation which possessed "Dreadnoughts" could afford to disregard fleets of existing types. As regarded the two-to-one standard the Secretary to the Admiralty himself gave away the case entirely. He gave the Committee the figures for three years hence: Eight "Dreadnoughts" and forty battleships, or a total of forty-eight, as against Germany and the United States, with eleven "Dreadnoughts" and forty-two battleships, making in all fifty-three. The policy of the Admiralty had hitherto been a two-Power standard compared with the two strongest navies in the world, with a margin of 10 per cent, and he appealed to the late Civil Lord as to whether this was not the case. Then on that basis instead of forty-eight battleships we should have fifty-eight three years hence; therefore he presumed his right hon. friend was going to have a very extensive programme of battleships next year, to make up the deficiency of ten. 511 He wanted to have an explicit declaration from the First Lord as to whether the two-Power standard meant a combination of the two strongest foreign naval Powers in the world. They were entitled to such a statement in order to know where they were. If they took the most modem battleships and worked it out by the age-period, so as to include only the battleship, launched or projected after January 1st, 1902, we had twenty-two as against nineteen in the United States Navy, and seventeen in the German Navy; that was twenty-two against thirty-six. The supremacy on which the Treasury bench relied was entirely a supremacy in the older class of battleships built before 1902. These included ships which had no armour on the water line at the bow or stern which might be raked by small guns. Of this older class we maintained twenty-six as against twenty-two in the United States and Germany. But even that did not redeem our position so as to give us anything like a ten per cent, superiority over the two strongest Powers. A great deal had been heard about scrapping obsolete cruisers, but the essence of the cruiser was speed, and to lump in 16-knot cruisers in comparison with other Navies was completely to mislead the Committee. Taking cruisers built since 1900, when there was a rise in speed, the comparison between Great Britain and the United States and Germany was as thirteen to twenty-seven. He included armoured cruisers which would be kept with the fleet and would not be available for duties away from the fleet. We had great supremacy in armoured cruisers but not in the cruisers capable of being used for the defence of commerce. When the First Lord came to deal with destroyers, he included in that category torpedo boats, which were called coastal boats, because they could not reach the coast of Germany at full speed. What was the use of such destroyers for blockading work in German waters? We had eight scouts with destroyer armaments, and he took these as equal to sixteen destroyers. This gave us as compared with Germany ninety-six to eighty-four in destroyers belonging to 1898 programmes onwards, and eighty-four to seventy-two in destroyers 512 belonging to the 1900 and subsequent programmes; but by 1910, when Germany would be in possession of her completed programme of destroyers, all those built previous to the year in which the Navy Bill was introduced would be regarded as obsolete. He would like to know why the British Admiralty should have a lower standard in regard to the age of obsolescence of destroyers than the German Admiralty? That was directly opposed to the policy of the Admiralty which was to scrap vessels when they came to need too many repairs. The country would be led into a colossal bill for repairs if the Admiralty went on tinkering with these destroyers after they were twelve years old. He believed that the programme which this country would have to frame would be six battleships per annum, built in two and-a-half years, six cruisers, built in two years, and twenty-four destroyers. He calculated that that would involve a new construction vote in 1910, of £12,740,000, which would be the highest on record. It would keep the two to one standard against Germany, and the two-Power standard against Germany and the United States. It would recover the two to one standard against Germany in fast cruisers in six years, or in 1914, and the two to one standard in modern destroyers also in six years. There was one other point on which, they had heard discussion. The Secretary to the Admiralty had said that there was not a single nation in the world that was not copying the "Dreadnought" design. Now, the essence of that design was that all these ships had big guns, but every nation had supplemented these big guns by 5, 6, and 7 inch guns, while the "Dreadnought" had no small guns except 12-pounders and these of course were no use in a naval battle; while she exposed a far greater superficial area unarmoured than ships had hitherto done. The "Dreadnought" had created a rivalry which would cost this country very dearly. Our ships in 1904 were built on the lines of those of foreign countries, but they were superior to those of the foreign countries, but we could not say now that our "Dreadnoughts" were superior to the battleships built by foreign Powers. 513 The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord, Mr. Edmund Robertson, as he then was, boasted that the provision for new construction was the lowest on record for ten years. Lloyd's return stated that the mercantile shipbuilding of the country was in the most depressed condition it had been in for fourteen years. It would have been wise statesmanship if the Government had anticipated the 1909 programme, and come to the relief of the shipbuilding industry, for they would have been able to place their contracts far cheaper than it was likely they would be able to place them again. It was perhaps too late to appeal to the Government; but there was to be an autumn session, and it would be open to them to say then that they proposed to lay down their new "Dreadnoughts" at the very beginning of the next financial year as well as other necessary vessels.
§ MR. McKENNA
replying first to the question of the Member for Sunderland as to the wages paid to skilled labourers in the dockyards, as compared with the wages paid to riveters, platers, and holders-up in the private yards, recognised the fairness with which the hon. Member had stated the case, but said he hoped he would be able to persuade the hon. Member who raised the question that this was not a suitable occasion on which to move a reduction on that account. These men were not engaged to do the complete work of riveters, platers, and holders-up. They were, as the name employed, labourers who had some skill, but not the complete skill of the trained artisan. They might be doing the rough work of a riveter, plater, or holder-up at various times, but they were not trained in those trades. The hon. Member had argued that the men who did that work should be trained men, but the difficulty in a dock yard was that there was no out trade in the town, and, if there was not employment for the fully skilled men in the dockyard, he could not get employment outside. It was thought better, therefore, to give the rougher work of the riveter, plater, and holder-up to skilled labourers, and to leave to the skilled artisan only that part of the work which only he could do. It was really a question of by which method most constant employment could 514 be maintained in the dockyard. He was rather disposed to think that if the hon. Member's suggestions were carried out a hardship would be indicted on the skilled artisans. The case of the "Hermione" was new to him and he would certainly enquire into it to sec what could be done. A complaint had been made as to the lack of contracts for Sheffield. What was it proposed that the Government should do? Were they to lay down ships not in accordance with national requirements, but in order to be in a position to give armour contracts to Sheffield? No one was more anxious than the Admiralty to spread the armour contracts over the whole country, but it was impossible to do this. The Navy was built according to the requirements of the nation for the time being. The Admiralty built ships in order to secure our safety on the seas, and they could not undertake to lay down a definite number of armoured ships in each year in order to secure a uniformity of supply from Sheffield.
§ MR. JAMES HOPE
said it was admitted that there would be an increase in the building programme next year, and what he suggested was that some of the money to be voted next year should be anticipated so that the armament work could be given out and staffs prevented from being broken up.
§ MR. McKENNA
was not sure whether he appreciated the hon. Member's point, but if he did, he was afraid the Comptroller-General would have something to say with regard to any such anticipation.
§ MR. McKENNA
Do I understand that the hon. Gentleman suggests that we should bring in a Supplementary Estimate this year for ships not to be built until next year?
§ MR. JAMES HOPE
said he understood there were two ships authorised to be built, but the designs were not complete. He suggested that the designs should be hastened and a Supplementary Estimate brought in.
§ MR. McKENNA
said the designs were complete, their ships were to be a repeat "St. Vincent" and a repeat "Indomitable." In his opinion the Admiralty ought not to be called upon to increase the shipbuilding programme except in the case of naval needs.
§ MR. JAMES HOPE
suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should put forward the Estimates for next year.
§ MR. McKENNA
thought he could not carry the point further. The question of dockyard establishments was engaging the attention of the Admiralty, and the suggestions that had been made were, in effect, being considered at this moment. He agreed that it was undesirable to fill up our dockyards with shipbuilding instead of leaving them free to carry out repairs. At the same time it was desirable to have a certain number of ships built in the dockyards, and the Admiralty were considering the question whether they should not build some of the new cruisers at Chatham. He could not, however, give a promise on a subject which was under consideration. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had asked as to the preparation to be made next year in order to meet possible contingencies. Nearly every speaker had referred to Germany in relation to our shipbuilding programme. In using any comparison of this kind he was sure that it was not done with any idea of hostilities or of any anticipation that hostilities would occur during the building of this programme or of any future programme. The Admiralty only took a particular programme in order to arrive at a standard for shipbuilding. His hon. friend had attacked the policy of the Government on many grounds, but he thought his argument in one respect was not quite verified. He had told them that the "Dreadnought" was not superior to the ships that had preceded it, such as the "King Edward VII" and the "Lord Nelson," and went on to say that prior to the appearance of the "Dreadnought" this country had an unprecedented superiority over foreign nations. If our ships, prior to the appearance of the "Dreadnought," were superior and we had in those ships an overwhelming superiority, then that superiority was maintained, for the 516 copying by Germany of the building of "Dreadnoughts" would not weaken our relative strength.
§ *MR. BELLAIRS
said that he expressly said that the ships recently built had no superiority over contemporary ships, and that we had lost ground in consequence.
§ MR. McKENNA
said the "Dreadnought" cost a great deal of money, but he thought in proportion to its power we got our money's worth. He would not agree with his hon. friend in at one and the same time condemning the "Dreadnought" and asking them to build more "Dreadnoughts" merely because Germany had built more, whilst admitting we had a great superiority in ships prior to the "Dreadnought." His complaint was that we were very badly off in respect of torpedo-boat destroyers. He had in his hands some figures which he had not earlier in the afternoon, according to which between 1896 and 1908 we launched no less than 165 torpedo-boat destroyers.
§ MR. McKENNA
said they were all efficient vessels. Germany, during the same period, launched ninety - seven. Within seven years, according to the Return, Great Britain launched ninety, and Germany ninety-three. During five years Germany built a great many more torpedo-boat destroyers than we did, but in the last two or three years we had rapidly gained again. As our old ships built in 1896 and onwards had become out of date, the new boats built last year and this year and which we should no doubt continue to build, would maintain for us the ultimate superiority over Germany in this particular class of boat. He could not follow his hon. friend through the whole of his argument. A good deal of it appeared to be directed, not so much against the policy of the Admiralty, as against the distinguished admiral who at the present moment filled the office of First Sea Lord. This hostility to the First Sea Lord biassed him a little and did not enable him to see in quite a fair light what the policy of the Board of Admiralty might be. He 517 was much obliged to the Committee for the reception they had been good enough to give to the proposals of the Government for this year. He hoped the Committee would be satisfied that, although the programme of new construction for the current year was small, the Government were this year spending a great deal of money in completing former programmes. They were actually completing out of the Estimates this year no less than eight battleships of the largest type and no less than four cruisers also of the largest type. They were also completing three other cruisers of very considerable type, and laying down five cruisers of the improved "Boadicea" type and one of the old "Boadicea" type. The actual amount under construction this year was, therefore, enormous, and did not in the least ratify the statement that they were providing for less tonnage this year than Germany.
§ MR. BELLAIRS
My statement was that during the period of the Liberal Government they have provided for less tonnage than Germany. The tonnage under construction has nothing to do with the present Government. The tonnage under construction has been provided for by the last Government. I am alluding to the tonnage of your programme.
§ MR. McKENNA
said he did not think that even that statement could be regarded as accurate. The present tonnage under construction, with the exception of the "Lord Nelson," which was not yet finished, had all been the result of the programmes of the present Government.
§ MR. McKENNA
Yes, I agree, and the "Invincible." He had stated, he hoped, enough to show that the Government were fully alive to the necessities of the Navy, and he could assure the Committee that the Government would bear most amply in mind all that was necessary to secure the safety of the country even as far ahead as 1912.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
asked if the right hon. Gentleman could hold out any hope to the Committee that they would have an opportunity of considering the new programme at an earlier date of the session than had been the case hitherto.
§ MR. McKENNA
said he quite appreciated that something might turn next year upon the date at which the ships were laid down. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that the Admiralty, being fully conscious of that fact, would have their plans ready in time to enable them to lay down the ships earlier should it appear to be necessary to do so. He was not in the least sure yet that it would be required to lay them down unduly early. They had to watch what the progress was amongst other Powers, and if they were satisfied that they were required to be laid down earlier than usual the Admiralty would be prepared with their plans to do so.
§ MR. BRAMSDON (Portsmouth)
cordially agreed with his hon. friends the Members for Devonport, Chatham, and Rochester in reference to the question raised by them, and he could add nothing to what they had said. He wished to ask the First Lord whether he could give them a correction or explanation of the statement of the hon. Member for Burnley that the Admiralty could not tell by thousands of pounds what ships cost in the dockyards. That was a very bold statement to make, and if it were true it would reflect discredit upon the Admiralty. Was it not, on the other hand, true that the Admiralty knew exactly what ships cost at the dockyards? He rather thought the hon. Member for Burnley, who did not seem to be any friend of the dockyards, had succeeded in this instance in giving them a gratuitous advertisement.
§ *MR. SUMMERBELL
in asking leave to withdraw his Motion said the right hon. Gentleman would not desire to misrepresent what he had said. They had no desire to do anyone out of employment at all. What they asked was that if these men did skilled work they should have skilled men's wages. 519 Inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman had intimated that he would inquire into the other two cases he hoped he would include the joiners and the other three sets of men.
§ *MR. GRETTON (Rutland)
hoped the First Lord's statement might convey more confidence to the country than it did to Members on that side of the House. The Government, he thought, admitted that they would have seriously to consider next year a very much increased programme of construction. In the programme before the country this year they had taken considerable credit to themselves for the great expenditure they were making on ships which were already in hand and for the considerable expenditure which they were making on repairs. In the two last sessions constant criticism had been made that repairs in the Navy had been falling into arrears and considerable effort would have to be made to catch them up. The Government had had to devote a very large sum indeed to construction already in hand, and they took great credit to themselves for the fact that they were proceeding with the repairs which had fallen into arrear, which the ex-Secretary to the Admiralty stated last year he had strongly urged upon them to push forward at a much greater rate in order that the fleet might be maintained in a state of efficiency. Their criticisms had been abundantly justified by Estimates this year. He wanted to deprecate any attempt to turn a Naval debate to Party advantage and he only wished these Navy questions might be placed in the same position as that now happily occupied, by foreign policy and be freed from party bias and party feeling, and that both Parties unanimously united to support a policy of economical construction which would ensure the safety of the country and maintain the peace of the world. The country undoubtedly looked with great alarm upon the steady persistent progress which had been made in the construction of new ships abroad. A great deal had been said about the new capital ships which were described as the "Dreadnought" class and some speakers had put forward the opinion that those ships put all previous construction out of account. He 520 did not think any serious critic of Naval affairs would hold that view; but, however great the margin might be now over two Powers, undoubtedly it would be necessary for us to proceed with the construction of ships of the new type on such a scale that we might equal any two Powers combined, as we had done in the case of the old ships which were rapidly becoming absolete. If their hopes were not realised we should fall more and more into arrears and they would eventually find themselves face to face with a panic programme and a heavy loan to make up deficiencies. The Navy was the root of our national existence and any parsimony or cheeseparing upon the service would simply be imperilling the existence of the country. We could best avoid war and the calamities of war by maintaining a policy of ship construction which would guarantee us against any possible aggression. In that way, and that way only could we assure our own safety and maintain peace.
§ MR. McKENNA
said he should be pleased to answer the Question upon Vote 12 which dealt with the distribution of the Fleet.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. BELLAIRS
asked whether the designs of the ships would be ready so as to allow any "Dreadnoughts" required to be laid down early in the next financial year?
§ MR. McKENNA
said they would. The Admiralty were fully alive to the point raised by the hon. Member and the designs would be ready in case of emergency.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 2. £4,157,000, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Materiel.521
§ 3. £7,220,700, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Contract Work.
§ MR. GRETTON
said that it appeared from the small sums of money involved that the contracts would not be commenced until late in the financial year. He asked if the First Lord could put them forward so that a large amount of the work could be completed this year.
§ MR. McKENNA
was not sure of the direction in which the hon. Member wished him to vote. Two battleships laid down this year were to be built at Devonport and Portsmouth, and of the five protected cruisers the Admiralty would, after the representations made that evening, consider the question of building one in a dockyard. There would be four protected cruisers on contract, as well as numerous torpedo craft and submarines. It must be remembered that all armament and machinery was built by private contract. Upwards of £7,000,000 was being spent this year on contracts.
§ MR. GRETTON
said the right hon. Gentleman had not grasped his suggestion, which was that the contracts for four cruisers and some torpedo craft should be issued as soon as possible in order that work might be pushed forward. Anything further might be made up by Supplementary Estimates later in the year. He now proposed to withdraw one cruiser from contract. It seemed to him that there was stronger reason now for giving the remainder of the work out to contract without delay than when it was originally proposed in order that employment might be maintained.
§ MR. McKENNA
said the Admiralty determined the number of ships and the times at which they should be laid down on naval considerations alone. It was impossible for the Board of Admiralty to put forward a proposal for the enlargement of their programme in order to find work in a particular dockyard, and the nation would have cause to complain if they were specially taxed for that purpose.
§ MR. GRETTON
said the sooner the contracts were let the better would it be for the nation. It would have the additional advantage of providing employment.
§ MR. BELLAIRS
asked whether the cost—which he understood to be about £240,000—of two destroyers which had been purchased was to be met by a Supplementary Estimate or by a saving on other Votes.
§ MR. McKENNA
replied that it was anticipated the amount would be found by the latter method. The two boats were up-to-date Destroyers, approximately of the River class, new, and of the very best type.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,286,400, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1909."
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said the next Vote was the Victualling Vote, and there were some hon. Members on the Opposition side who were anxious to discuss this Vote. If the right hon. Gentleman got £12,000,000 or £14,000,000 through, he thought he ought to be satisfied.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £258,700, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Medical Services, including the cost of Medical Establishments of Home and Abroad, which will come in 523 course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1909."
§ MR. JENKINS
said he exceedingly regretted that there was an increase on this Vote of £10,000. The Admiralty had given the dockyard workers the right of stating their grievances direct to the Board through their own representatives, but British Jack Tars could only have their grievances brought forward through Members of the House. When these men enlisted in the Navy they were told that hospital accommodation would be free, but much to their regret they found when they had been in hospital for thirty days a portion of their money was deducted from them. In the Army a different state of things existed. No matter what time a soldier was in hospital he received accommodation free. He wished the seamen to be treated in like manner, and that deductions should not be made from their wages.
As I understand this is one of the conditions in regard to their wages. This Vote is merely for the expense of the medical establishments.
§ MR. McKENNA
said the deductions to which the hon. Member referred to were to be found on Vote 1. The Board of Admiralty were at present inquiring into this matter, and he hoped to be able to give a reply upon it when they next discussed Vote 1.
§ MR. JENKINS
said he wished to make an appeal to the Chairman. Seeing that this money was being voted for the upkeep of these particular institutions, was he not in order in speaking on this Vote when, had he chosen, he might have moved the decrease of the Vote?
said the hon. Member would not have been in order in 524 moving to decrease the Vote to discuss the question he was now wanting to raise. That question arose on the Vote for the wages of the men. What was now being discussed was the way the hospitals were conducted and the way in which the men employed in the hospitals were paid.
§ MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said he wished to ask a very direct and comprehensive question. What had the Admiralty done to improve the medical service of the Navy; what had they done to improve the hospital service of the Navy? He did not want to go into details, but it was much to be desired that some information should be given as to the medical staff—their quantity, quality, and pay. The hon. Member below the gangway had referred to the desirability of the same working conditions being provided for both the Navy and Army. Had anything really been done to improve both the naval medical and hospital staffs? He rather gathered that nothing had been done.
§ MR. McKENNA
said that the hon. Member opposite had opened rather a large field of inquiry. There had been no particular complaint as to either the medical or the hospital staffs in the Navy. The Board of Admiralty had always endeavoured to improve the hospital service on its administrative side. During the past year no special work had been done except, perhaps, in respect to Malta fever, and proceedings had been taken to discover the cause of that disease.
§ MR. McKENNA
said that the discovery had been verified last year, and he believed that it had been proved to arise from drinking goat's milk. Of course, during last year endeavours had been made to eliminate the fever from Malta and the Mediterranean Fleet, but he could not give the hon. Member more precise details as to the work done 525 by the medical staff. If the hon. Member wanted information on a special subject he would see if it could be got.
§ MR. CLAUDE HAY
said it was obvious that the right hon. Gentleman knew nothing about this Vote. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh," and "Withdraw."] The right hon. Gentleman had said that the cause of Malta fever had been discovered last year, while his hon. friend the Member far St. Andrews Burghs said that that improvement was effected a year and a half ago. He asked whether there
§ had been any increase in the medical staff of the Navy during the last twelve months. Had there been any increase in the number of nurses? Had there been any increase in the number of comforts for sailors suffering from diseases in the naval hospitals? Had there been any special inquiry into the diseases to which sailors were liable? Had anything at all been done this year?
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 167; Noes, 5. (Division List No. 186.)527
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Fell, Arthur||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Ferens, T. R.||Marnham, F. J.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Findlay, Alexander||Massie, J.|
|Armitage, R.||Fullerton, Hugh||Meehan, Francis E.(Leitrim, N.)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Glendinning, R. G.||Middlebrook, William|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Glover, Thomas||Mond, A.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Morrell, Philip|
|Barker, John||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Morse, L. L.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Gulland, John W.||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Gurdon, Rt Hn Sir W. Brampton||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)|
|Beale, W. P.||Hall, Frederick||Nicholson, Charles N.(Doncastr|
|Beauchamp, E.||Harcourt, Robert V.(Montrose)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Bell, Richard||Harvey, W.E.(Derbyshire, N. E)||O'Dowd, John|
|Ballairs, Carlyon||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams(Devonp'rt)||Haworth, Arthur A.||O'Malley William|
|Benn, W.(T'w'r Hamlets, S. GEO.)||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Bethell, Sir. J. H.(Ess'x, Romf'rd)||Hobart, Sir Robert||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Hogan, Michael||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Holland, Sir William Henry||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Brodie, H. C.||Holt, Richard Durning||Price, Sir Robert J.(Norfolk, E.)|
|Brooke, Stopford||Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N||Radford, G. H.|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Idris, T. H. W.||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Jackson, R. S.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Jenkins, J.||Renton, Leslie|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Joyce, Michael||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Kearley, Sir Hudson E.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Kekewich, Sir George||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Kelley, George D.||Roberts, Sir John H.(Denbighs)|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Lambert, George||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Corbett, C H (Sussex, E. Grinst'd)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis||Rowlands, J.|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.||Russell, T. W.|
|Crean, Eugene||Lee, Arthur H.(Hants, Fareham||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Crooks, William||Levy, Sir Maurice||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Davies, David(Montgmery Co.)||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Scott, A. H.(Ashton-under-Lyne|
|Dawar, Sir W. Howell, Bristol, S.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Seddon, J.|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Maclean, Donald||Seely, Colonel|
|Dickinson, W. H.(St. Pancras, N)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Shackleton, David James|
|Duckworth, James||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||M'Callum, John M.||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan||M'Crae, Sir George||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Summerbell, T.|
|Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Maddison, Frederick||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Thomson, W, Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Tomkinson, James||Wedgwood, Josiah C.||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Ure, Alexander||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Verney, F. W.||Whitehead, Rowland||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Vivian, Henry||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Walsh, Stephen||Wilkie, Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Joseph Pease and Master of Elibank.|
|Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.||Williamson, A.|
|Waterlow, D. S.||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Keswick, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES Mr. Claude Hay and Major Anstruther-Gray.|
|Gretton, John||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
Bill read the third time, and passed.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £13,900, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Martial Law, including the cost of Naval Prisons at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1909."
§ MR. JENKINS
appealed to the First Lord of the Admiralty to put lower deck men on the same footing as regards privileges of trial as were enjoyed by officers. He pointed out that whilst martial law was trial by jury and that a captain who lost his ship was tried by a court-martial, the lower deck men could be tried and punished at the whim of the captain. Although he quite agreed that discipline must be maintained, at the same time he believed if a lower deck man was tried by a jury they might not take the harsh view that was taken generally by the captain. He knew of a case of a ship's corporal who was reduced for a very minor offence, with the result that his pay was reduced, and he was subjected to the ridicule of the crew. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see that all should come under the same law.
§ MR. BELLAIRS
asked the First Lord whether he would adhere to the rule invariably followed in the service of holding a court-martial whenever a ship was lost. When a destroyer was lost last year on Malta Breakwater no court-martial was held. When he raised the question in the House last session no answer was given, and when he put down a written Question it was not answered until after the House had risen. That 528 Answer said it was not the invariable practice to hold courts-martial. But the only precedent that could be found to substantiate the view was a case in which a coastguard cutter, and not a warship, was lost.
§ And, it being Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Thursday; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.