§ Order for Committee read.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. EDMUND ROBERTSON,) Dundee
The statement giving a full explanation of the Estimates for the coming year, which has been presented to the House and the statement which I made in the course of last light's debate, make my task less onerous now. I should have formally moved Mr. Speaker out of the Chair had there not been one or two statements on minor details which. I wish to make, and which did not belong to last night's debate.
The first of these relates to the coastguard, a subject which has excited a very large amount of interest. It is a matter of common knowledge that a strong Departmental Committee has been considering the future of the coastguards, and it has made a Report which will be of great value in deciding upon the question of retaining the coastguard in its present condition in the Royal Navy. The Admiralty have not been able to act upon the recommendation of this Committee, and it has been therefore decided that the subject shall be considered de novo. I hope that as a result of our deliberations an alternative scheme may be formulated that will meet the objections which have been raised to the Committee's proposals. Of course I cannot say more on the subject now. But the Estimates for the coming financial year have been framed on the assumption that no, vital change is to take place this year. It must be understood that certain deductions which would have been necessary in any case, which have no bearing upon the Committee's Report, and which have only been postponed in consequence of the pledge I gave last year to my hon. and gallant friend, must be effected now. There is a recognised redundancy both of men and stations. The natural waste next year will amount to about 300 men, and certain stations no longer required for any purpose associated with the coastguard will be reduced. But no action will be taken which will affect the principle upon which the coastguards is organised. The reduced number of the coastguards 555 will enable corresponding additions to be made to the ordinary active service list of the Navy. In any case the Admiralty do not propose to reduce the life-saving work which has hitherto been carried on by the Board of Trade and by the National Lifeboat Institution. The signalling stations will be maintained as heretofore.
The other matter is a long-standing grievance on the part of the engineering branch of the officers of the Royal Navy. They have long complained that certain expectations of increased emoluments that have been based on certain official documents have not been realised. I am glad to be able to hold out hopes of certain improvements being made shortly in the emoluments of the engineering branch. There are points in regard to those emoluments in respect of which the Admiralty have recognised the existence of a certain sense of grievance, and this they are anxious to remove. Various questions have been carefully considered, and they have reached an advanced stage of settlement, but, as the details have not been yet finally determined, I am debarred from making any more definite statement.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
No; it has only been a question of emoluments. I think I ought to add a word to what I said yesterday about the shipbuilding programme. The usual custom of this House has been to delay the discussion of the shipbuilding Vote until the month of July, and, on the other hand, the Admiralty have always undertaken that no executive effect shall be given to that programme until the House has had an opportunity of considering it later in the year. I think that is the established custom. But this year one vessel will have to be laid down long before the discussion takes place. The Boadicea II.," which is to be built at Pembroke, will be laid down at a comparatively early date. With that exception, nothing will be done with the new programme until the House has had an opportunity of considering it as a whole and in 556 detail, with such amendments, extensions, and improvements as may be advisable. The only other thing I wish to mention has reference to the shipbuilding programme, about which I desire to make an addition to what I said yesterday. The hon. Member for Fareham pointed out that while the new programme was to cost from first to last £7,500,000, we are only spending some £750,000 this year.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I was under the impression that he made a remark about the small amount of money taken from a programme of that size.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. But I find that the amount we have taken is larger than the usual percentage, except in the year 1905–1906, which was a year of unusual exception in building the "Dreadnought." With that exception, the proportion has been rather lower than the sum we have put down this year. I have taken the trouble to find out what provision would have been made in this present year if the Cawdor programme had been carried into effect. It is all put down in black and white. I find that the new construction under the Cawdor programme amounted to £2,000,000 more than the provision made under our smaller programme, yet we are taking more for shipbuilding this year than would have been taken under the Cawdor programme. With another comparatively small programme we propose to spend £20,000 more in 1908–9 than would have been spent under the Cawdor programme. There is one other matter to which I: wish to allude. Complaint has been made by the right hon. Gentle man the Member for Dover based upon a statement made by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, that Germany had more destroyers in the month of December, 1906, in home waters, than we had. 557 The facts are as follow. According to Information in the possession of the Admiralty in the month of July last, Germany as a rule maintained in full commission during the winter months 17 destroyers, 6 divisional torpedo boats, 7 first-class and 12 second-class torpedo boats and 1 submarine. The numbers min Gained by Great Britain in home waters both in summer and winter were: 45 destroyers, 32 first-class torpedo boats, and 20 submarines. But in the first part of December, the period selected by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, the German contingent was increased for the purpose of tactical exercises, by 9 destroyers, and one divisional torpedo boat, which was temporarily commissioned. In this exceptional fortnight there were in full commission: destroyers (British), 45; German destroyer and divisional boats, 33; torpedo boats, first-class: British, 32; German, 7; second-class: British, 0; German, 9; submarines: British, 29; German, 1. The total figures are: British, 106; German, 50; but boat for boat, the British destroyers are greatly superior to the German in size and armament. I beg to move that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Edmund Robertson.)
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
I think we must regard it as a remarkable innovation that the right hon. Gentleman should inform us that he had made his speech introductory of thee Estimates in another debate yesterday, and that, therefore, it is not necessary for him to go into details to-day. This course may have its advantages, but it has also its disadvantages, and I can hardly think that the right hon. Gentleman has give a any sort of adequate explanation of these Estimates, particularly in view of the very exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves in the present year. I hope the House will excuse me if I find it impossible to confine myself to the narrow compass of the Tight hon. Gentleman's observations. I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in defending those Estimates, because he has undertaken the task of defending the indefeasible. The Estimates as we 558 now know them are an abridged edition of the Estimates which were settled upon before the hon. Member for Falkirk moved his Amendment to the Address. They are shadows of their former selves, and my principal charge against the Government is that they are either not prepared to face the necessary expenditure to keep up the two-Power standard which is generally regarded as being essential to our national security, or that out of consideration for purely Party exigencies they are postponing the necessary expenditure, and pilling up the Estimates for next year to a point where they must swamp any scheme of social reform to which they are committing themselves or else they are contemplating political suicide before the next Budget is introduced, and so expect dump the burden which they are shirking on to the shoulders of their successors. With regard to the shipbuilding programme I wish, of course, to postpone any detailed remarks, with regard to technical points until the discussion on Vote 8, later in the Session. But I think the right hon. Gentleman went too far when he asked us to endorse his suggestion that it was a good thing that that Vote should be put off until late in the session, and prided himself upon the fact that the Admiralty could take no steps whatever to commence the shipbuilding programme until that Vote had been passed. Having regard to the exceptional circumstances, I think that Vote should be put down earlier than usual in the session in order that the Admiralty might make a beginning with their programme sooner, especially in view of its exceedingly, modest character. I see in the First Lord's statement that the programme of new construction consists of one battleship of the "Dreadnought" class, one large armoured cruiser, which I presume will be of the "Invincible" class, although we have no information on that subject: six fast unarmoured cruisers of the "Boadicea" class, and sixteen torpedo boat destroyers. That, in the words of Lord Tweedmouth, is an exceedingly modest programme. But my complaint against the Admiralty is that even this modest programme is not being seriously taken in hand, 559 and that whilst the programme is proclaimed the money is not provided. I think we must go a little more closely into the financial provisions of this year as regards the new programme. If we examine them we find that, of all the ships proposed, only one small cruiser of the "Boadicea" type will be laid down in the year 1908. The right hon. Gentleman does not tell us why it is necessary to lay down even that one, but we know perfectly well it is because of the need for work at Pembroke dockyard. As to the remaining five small cruisers of the same class, to cost £400,000 apiece only £6,700 are allowed for each which shows that the Government are not going to begin them until the very end of the current financial year, which for all practical purposes means 1909–10. The case with regard to the sixteen destroyers is even worse. If ever there was a case of urgency, where craft of this type should be laid down at the earliest moment, it exists in this instance. The right hon. Gentleman announced that the Government proposes to lay down sixteen destroyers, but what is the provision in the Estimates? £4,000 apiece, for destroyers which if they are to be of the latest class will cost £120,000 apiece. We can only assume that the, extraordinarily low provision for those two classes of ships which are so urgently needed is the result of the putting down on the Paper of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs. There has evidently been a reduction, but it is a reductio ad absurdum. The programme is in fact practically postponed until 1909–10, and it is quite clear that, the Government does not mean business. The right hon. Gentleman told us just now that the total provision for this year is above the average, but, even if it is, I may remind him that there are very special circumstances connected with the present year. What becomes of the professions of the right hon. Gentleman that he made in outlining the shipbuilding programme of last year when he told us that—The amount to be taken for new vessels to be laid down in 1907–8 is to be limited to a small sum, and they will not be commenced until a late period of the year. This emphasises to the Hague Conference the good 560 faith of the British Government as desiring to bring about a reduction of armaments.I ventured to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman on Vote 8 last year that as the Hague Conference had failed, at any rate as regarded reduction of armaments, if the Government wanted to show good faith not only to foreign countries but to the people of this country they ought to anticipate rather than postpone the shipbuilding programme they proposed. But what they have done is not to anticipate but to postpone it still further—to postpone it almost out of the financial year altogether. The right hon. Gentleman will find it hard to justify the language which he used last year unless he anticipates the programme of shipbuilding in the coming year. But I go further and say that, even if the exceedingly modest programme which has been announced is seriously pushed, it is in no sense adequate to maintain the two-Power standard. I do not intend to go into any comparison of the total numbers of battleships such as is included in the Dilke Return and which is so dear to writers in the Press, because it is really useless. It does not take into account the relative fighting values of ships and takes no account whatever of the new state of affairs that has been occasioned by the introduction of what is known as the "Dreadnought" type. In this connection I notice that the right hon. Gentleman yesterday referred to the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon" as if they ought to be included in the list of "Dreadnoughts." I feel inclined to enter a caveat in that connection, and whist I do not wish to go into details of construction which must necessarily be kept confidential, it is self-evident that a ship which has three knots less speed and which has only four 12-inch guns as compared with ten, can hardly be considered to be of the same class as the "Dreadnought." But, if it is any satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman, I will admit that as regards the ships of whet he called yesterday the pre "Dreadnought" era, we have a sufficient superiority to guarantee to us a two-Power standard. That fact is due to the exertions of past Governments, not only Conservative but Liberal, and notably to Lord Spencer. But I am not sure that it will apply to the smaller 561 types of ship, to the smaller cruisers and destroyers. As regards the new capital type of ship, the "Dreadnought" type, while our superiority over any two Powers may exist at the present moment it is being imminently threatened and the Government are apparently taking no adequate steps to meet the challenge. The right hon. Gentleman, yesterday, in the course of his remarks gave us some very interesting figures, particularly interesting to me because they absolutely disprove the figures given by the hon. Member for Falkirk and his friends in a communication to the Press on the subject of the relative standing of ourselves and foreign Powers in 1910. The right hon. Gentleman told us that at the end of 1910 we should have seven "Dreadnoughts" and three "Invincibles," and that Germany would have seven "Dreadnoughts" and three "Invincibles." I may add that Germany is increasing her "Dreadnoughts" and "Invincibles" at the rate of four per annum. Prance will have two "Dreadnoughts" and the United States six, and in addition six ships of the "Connecticut" type, which are quite equal in armament and in most other respects to the "Lord Nelson." That shows that even on the Admiralty figures we shall fall greatly below the two-Power standard in 1910 and, indeed, that we shall be only just equal to one Power, that Power being Germany. Let us go a little further, because in these matters of shipbuilding one is obliged to look far ahead. It is no good telling us what is sufficient for the present year. We have to look further ahead than that. For the purposes of comparison I will take the year 1918 in which the present German Navy Bill reaches maturity. In that year we find that if the present programme is carried out Germany will have twenty-three "Dreadnoughts" and thirteen "Invincibles"—a total of thirty-six. Against that we have at present seven "Dreadnoughts" and three "Invincibles." That is ten. Therefore in the period from 1908 to 1916, for a battleship takes two years to build, we shall have to lay down twenty-six "Dreadnoughts" in order to equal Germany when her Navy Bill matures, and surely we cannot be content with that. We must have at least a one and a-half times 562 superiority if we are going to maintain anything approaching a two-Power standard, which will necessitate our having by 1918 fifty-four ships of this class. We have ten already so that we shall have to commence at least forty-four ships of the "Dreadnought" or "Invincible" class between now and the year 1916, which gives an average of at least five a year, and yet the only provision the Government is making in this first year is two. I think these considerations give us some cause, for thought. As far as one can see it is absolutely essential that if the Government are going to translate their somewhat hesitating professions of yesterday into action they must lay down at least five "Dreadnoughts" next year. But anyone who has any knowledge of the shipbuilding trade must object to such sudden fluctuations as are necessitated by your proposal to lay down two this year and five next year. This must disorganise not only dockyards but all the shipbuilding industry. If you are going to do this kind of Work economically and efficiently you must provide for some sort of continuous and steady programme such as is provided, for instance, in the Cawdor Memorandum. If the principle laid down in the Cawdor Memorandum of laying down four armoured ships each year had been carried out this fluctuation need never have occurred. The Admiralty is not only going to disorganise the shipbuilding industry but the armour plate industry, the armament industry which provides ordnance and mountings and so forth, a course which I think in the interests of all ought to be avoided if possible. As regards armoured cruisers of the pre "Invincible" type I believe we have ample provision, but we are short of small cruisers and of torpedo boat destroyers. The Government recognise this by proposing six small cruisers and sixteen torpedo boat destroyers; but here again they provide the programme, but they do not provide the money. The question of destroyers particularly is exceedingly serious. The destroyer has a very short life. It is laid down in Germany as twelve years and we lay it down as eleven or less because I find in the Navy Estimates in the table of depreciation, that we write off 9 per cent. for 563 eleven years of the value of destroyers. The right hon. Gentleman gives us certain figures about the number of German detroyers that are in commission as compared with British destroyers, but no figures as regards the number of German destroyers that are in existence as compared with British destroyers. If my figures are right the Germans have eighty-four destroyers of eleven years or under built and twelve building compared with our sixty-six built, thirteen building, and sixteen projected. The Germans thus have ninety-six to our ninety-five. That is not maintaining the two-Power standard in that exceedingly important class of ship. The Germans have in fact a numerical superiority of efficient vessels, and are increasing their flotilla regularly at the rate of twelve per annum. The right hon. Gentleman gave us to understand that the German boats are inferior to ours. No doubt some of the earlier types are inferior to our later types, but the later German types, of which twenty-five are already in existence, have unusually high speed and sea-going qualities and are armed more heavily than the great bulk of our destroyers, with the twenty-three-pounder gun as compared with our twelve-pounder. We are undoubtedly paying the penalty of being pioneers in this matter of torpedo boat destroyers. We first introduced them, and half our boats, unfortunately, that were laid down a long time ago, are obsolete or worn out, and that fact is clearly pointed out by Lord Tweed-mouth in his explanatory statement. He tells us that a number of these boats are in such a condition that it is a great question whether it is worth repairing them. We know indeed they are not worth repairing. The enormous expenditure caused by the breakdown of destroyers in the recent manœuvres is not due to bad seamanship, but to the fact that the boats are worn out and are not fit to go on with their work. The mistake we made was not replacing them in time. The question of replacement has been left too long. As a result there is a gap, and now the Government are forced to make frantic efforts to recover the ground lost. They have put down sixteen boats this year, but again, they have not 564 provided the money. What is the good of announcing a programme if they do not provide the money necessary to carry it out? This question of replacing our destroyers is vital and urgent, and it must be pushed on with. I believe the Government will find themselves forced into a position where they will have to introduce a Supplementary Estimate to deal with this-matter before the end of the present session. Now I come to the question of docks and works to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. This is of the utmost importance, because it is here that we find one of the gravest defects in the Government's naval policy. What is the situation? We are building this huge fleet of "Dreadnoughts" which, by the year 1918, must consist of fifty or more of these monster battleships, and the Government are taking no steps to provide the necessary docks to keep these ships in fighting condition. It should be remembered, that a dock takes three times as long to build as a battleship, and the Government are only now proposing, after shilly-shallying for years over this question, to construct only one new dock at Rosyth and they are going about even that in a leisurely and half-hearted manner. It is a matter of immediate urgency. The very minimum the Government ought to do is to build not one but two docks at Rosyth and add two more docks at Chatham or somewhere in that vicinity to deal with the needs of the Fleet operating in the North Sea. At present the nearest available docks for these big ships is Devonport. At Portsmouth there is one dock capable of accommodating a "Dreadnought," but it is almost impracticable to use it at present or until the new dock is finished seven years hence. In the meantime the Germans are building eight docks of this class in the North Sea, but all those docks and works and the widening of the Kiel Canal are not charged to the Navy Estimates but to the Ministry of the Interior. The Secretary to the Admiralty has been taking great credit to the Government for abolishing the loan system, although they have not really abolished it because they are going on building works under loan. I am not 565 defending the loan system, but even if it was a bad system at any rate we got the work done and we got the docks and harbours, whilst under the present system adopted by the Government we get nothing at all. I think I have said enough to show that the position is serious, and that the need for these docks is very urgent. With regard to the stores it is very difficult for us to believe that the effect of the redistribution of the Fleet and the scrapping of certain ships produced a surplus of stores to the extent of £3,500,000. I am not prepared to accept the statement that the true surplus was so large, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us a definite assurance that the standard of reserve of stores has not been reduced under the present Administration. I find that during the last three years of the late Government the average annual outlay upon new stores was £3,700,000 and the annual issue of stores to the Fleet, £3,600,000. During the three sets of Navy Estimates for which the present Government is responsible the average expenditure for new naval stores is £2,620,000 and the annual issue £2,600,000 which shows a drop of £1,000,000 per annum in the issue of stores to ships. And yet we are told that the ships are more at sea, and that there is more gunnery practice. If that is so, how are we to explain the reduced annual expenditure of over a million sterling on stores. Do the ships now carry less stores? Then with regard to guns, ammunition and torpedoes I find there has been an enormous reduction not only last year but for the coming year, amounting as compared with the last year of the late Government to 37¾ per cent. in expenditure on guns, 40 per cent. in ammunition, and 47 per. cent in torpedos. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the torpedo was a horrible instrument and he regarded even it appearance with horror. But whilst his humanitarian and aesthetic objections to the torpedo may do credit to his heart they hardly justify him in reducing the Vote for torpedoes by 47 per cent. What can it possibly mean? The Admiralty is boasting that the number of ships in commission is larger and the men are getting more gun practice, and yet the amount of ammunition required is less. 566 This can only mean one thing, that our reserve of warlike stores must have been depleted. If that is so, for without an adequate reserve it is almost impossible to bring a war to a successful conclusion the action of the Government is not only disastrous but almost criminal. With regard to the Home Fleet I have taken considerable trouble lately personally to investigate the truth of the statements made about it, and allow me here to express my thanks to the First Lord of the Admiralty for having given me facilities for doing so. As a result I have come to the conclusion that the Admiralty has only itself to blame for most of the hostile criticism which has been directed against the Home Fleets if the Admiralty had been content to call this Fleet the First Reserve, which it is, instead of the First Line instantly ready for war, which it is not, then the controversy I have alluded to need never have arisen. No one denies that the Home Fleet is an immense improvement over the old Reserve, but it is not a Fleet of full fighting efficiency, it is not instantly ready for war, and it is no use pretending that it is. In regard to the materiel of the Fleet, what is the situation? The Home Fleet, exclusive of the Nore Division, consists largely of ships sent home from the sea-going Fleets because they are in need of overhauling, and whilst undergoing that process they are shown as constituting a portion of the Home Fleet. As soon as they resume their fighting efficiency these ships are drafted back to the sea-going Fleets, and their places are taken by other lame ducks. As regards personnel, no ships with nucleus crews can pretend to be fully efficient, and any Fleet which is always changing its compositions and its commanders must necessarily be unfitted for instant service. A good deal has teen made of the recent "test mobilisations," but they only show that there is a sufficient number of men kept in barracks to fill up these nucleus crews to the full complement. This is satisfactory to know, but it does not constitute instant readiness for war. The Nore Division is invariably described as being complete in all respects and instantly ready for war. It has, in fact, been described as being the squadron delite of the Fleet. It Consists of 567 six first-class battleships, six first-class armoured cruisers, five smaller cruisers, and forty-eight destroyers, and they are represented as all being ready for immediate service. The flagship of this this Fleet is the "Dreadnought," and it has been the flagship since March, 1907, but it only appeared at the Nore for the first time about three weeks ago. Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman was appointed Commander-in-Chief on 5th March, 1907, of this Fleet with the "Dreadnought" as his flagship, but in the intervening period he has had to hoist his flag on eight different ships, of all classes down to and including a destroyer. Often no less than three battleships at a time have been in the dockyard and during that time those ships have not been replaced. I was down at the Nore last Thursday, and I found that out of the six battleships three were in dockyard hands at Chatham. Special efforts have been made for some time to bring the Nore Division up to a state of good repair in order to take part in the cruise which is to commence on 9th March. That cruise, no doubt, will commence on that date. But of the six battleships three—the "Dreadnought," the "Bulwark" and the "Majestic"—will alone be ready to start, and a fourth—the "Cæsar,"—is to be brought round from Devonport, to raise the strength to four. The other three battleships of the Nore Division will be left behind in Chatham Dockyard. I think these facts may be explainable on the basis of the Home Fleet's being a reserve fleet, but they are not explainable on the ground that the Nore Fleet is a "spear point" and the quintessence of readiness for war. It would be better if the Admiralty were to withdraw some of their flamboyant pretensions with regard to the Nore Fleet. They would then disclose the true state of affairs, which would be not discreditable to the Admiralty, and would be in every way creditable to the officers and men concerned. I do not propose to enter into any more details. As to whether the total provision in the coming year's Estimates is enough to preserve the two-Power standard, and consequently the safety of this country, I know that the right hon. Gentleman last night read a document which he had been authorised by the Admiralty to read, and 568 which stated that the proposed shipbuilding programme would maintain that standard. Possibly it may, so far as the coming year is concerned, because the great efforts which foreign Powers are making cannot produce fleets in commission before two years hence. But there is no indication in the Estimates that the Government is looking ahead, or that the two-Power standard will be maintained in ships of the new type when the foreign programmes reach what I may call their first stage of maturity at the end of 1910. Then we shall only just equal Germany—a serious and alarming admission—and our alarm is not allayed by the extraordinary performance of the Government last night. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave some sort of verbal assurance that the two-Power standard would be maintained, but he flatly refused to have that assurance recorded on the journals of the House. The right hon. Gentleman is willing to do business on the nod-and-wink principle, but he has a lawyer-like horror of committing himself to writing. The only solid fact we have to go upon is that the Liberal Party flatly and vehemently refused to give a formal endorsement to the half hearted professions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in so doing repudiated the two-Power standard. That fact, coupled with these disastrous cheeseparings made at the last moment in response to political pressure—
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
I put a direct question to the right hon. Gentleman. Does he deny that the Navy Estimates have been cut down since the hon. Member for Falkirk put his Amendment to the Address on the Paper? [Mr. Edmund Robertson made no response]. He does not deny it because he knows that he cannot deny it. That fact alone sufficiently proves that the present Government, whatever their merits or demerits in other directions, are not trustworthy guardians of the national defences.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
thought that a few remarks ought to be addressed to the House on this occasion as to the naval programme by those who had given some attention to the subject and who had no party feeling of one kind or the other with reference to it. He would confine his remarks to topics which were germane to this debate—topics which they were not likely to deal with so efficiently when they were in Committee of Supply. There was an obvious difficulty in the way of those who had always supported the Board of Admiralty in the large naval programme which was thought necessary for the safety of the country, and who at the same time believed that a great economy should be made on the other fighting service of the State. It was impossible on the Navy Estimates to be in order in discussing these economies. They could only be raised on the Army Estimates to which they were germane. Neither had he the smallest reason to be afraid of the present naval condition of the country. It was as satisfactory now as when they declared it to be fully satisfactory last year. Sir George Sydenham Clarke, the Secretary of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, although he showed in his latest writings that he differed wholly from the present Board of Admiralty on many points—with respect to the all big policy; to the "Invincible" cruiser class, and although he was not in favour of the general cruiser programme, yet on the main point—the safety of the country and the present sufficiency of the Fleet—nothing could exceed the absolutely satisfactory character of the declaration which he had made. It was dated last July and published in September after he left the Secretary ship of the Committee of Defence to assume the Governorship of Bombay. The statement referred to the position of the Fleet in the summer of last year. Sir George Sydenham Clarke also evidently thought the small shipbuilding programme of the present year sufficient. It had already been stated that not more than two big ships would be laid down. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had, he thought, quoted Sir George on the other side, but he was convinced that what he wrote in July 570 represented the view which he held when he left the Committee.
§ MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)
said he quoted Sir George Sydenham Clarke on some other questions altogether, namely, the distribution of the Fleet and the new training scheme.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said the efficiency scheme was a wholly different matter, in which he was inclined to agree with his hon. and gallant friend. In regard to the distribution of the Fleet his hon. friend suggested that Sir George Sydenham Clarke thought that there was increased danger of the invasion of the country. That, he thought, Sir George Sydenham Clarke would be prepared to deny. He himself had not the slightest fear of our present naval position—no increased fear as compared with last year. The German programme had been increased and certain other programmes had been retarded, and it was too early to begin to talk of safety or danger in connection with our shipbuilding programme. The Government committed themselves last year to the two-to-one standard against Germany, and they committed themselves last night to the two-Power standard. The two-Power standard was probably not so high as the two-to-one standard against Germany. The American Fleet was supposed to be superior to the German, but they were not building according to their programme of last year. Our programme in the long run, as his hon. friend opposite had said, must involve gigantic expenditure if executed. He did not in the least blame the Government for going slow. He thought there were good international reasons for going slow—as slow as was consistent with safety. But they must look ahead as to their financial obligations, because next year was sure to heavier in any case, and it might be very heavy indeed. There was a strong argument in favour of the continuity of orders, but the case m that matter was not quite so strong as had been put to the House for the reason that there were at present being built in this country for a foreign nation the two; biggest ships in the world. The question of the financial 571 responsibility of next year, and the year after, affected very closely the programme for dock accommodation. The shipbuilding programme they could afford to discuss on the shipbuilding Vote, so far as it was necessary to discuss it, but the docks problem ought to be raised on this occasion. There was certainly no ground for party recrimination with regard to docks. The necessity for a large establishment in a safer place than the Channel had been raised for many years, and that was fully recognised when Rosyth was brought before them. And the late Government had promised to spend money at Rosyth. Both parties had shirked the expenditure which both declared "necessary." It had to be recognised that the Channel would not be safe for big ships in a great war. He ventured last year to suggest that they should look forward to the time when a war might occur—he was no believer in war; he did not think it was in the least probable—and the use of mines in the Channel might be made to such an extent that the Channel would become too dangerous for any admiral to take his fleet into it if he could help it. The decision of the late Hague Conference had greatly increased the natural alarm on that head. Before the last Hague Conference the use of these mines was looked upon as abominable. It fell under the general provisions of the first Hague Convention in two places, that all was not allowable in war. The first Hague Conference had most distinctly discountenanced the employment of these awful engines of war, but no agreement had been arrived at. It was last year stated by the Admiralty that they hoped that an agreement would be arrived at forbidding the use of mines. That agreement was proposed and was fully discussed. We had not yet the protocols, but we knew what was the result. The result was, after full discussion by the civilised Powers of Europe, that France and Germany joined in declaring that nothing would induce them to limit the use of mines in war; and that other Powers, Japan leading, consented to forbid them, although many of them did not count. Japan, after the matter had been discussed and decided, said: "As you do not forbid them, we will use them for all they are worth." France 572 and Germany had since greatly increased their mining and technical departments for the preparation and laying down of mines. After full discussion by the principle Powers which could under any circumstances engage in a European naval war, it had been decided that it was perfectly legal, as they put it, to use floating mines to any conceivable extent. There was a little prohibition in regard to mines which had drifted from their moorings in territorial waters; but prohibition of the use of floating mines on the high seas was absolutely vetoed. France and Germany had protested against any limitation of their use whatever. Could any one believe that it would be safe to trust a fleet in the Channel to make for Plymouth, Portsmouth, Dover or even Chatham on all of which so much money had been spent? One small named steamer could carry and start 30,000 floating mine. No one who knew the tides say, between Bembridge and the Needles, would assert that with twenty or thirty thousand mines floating up and down with the tide it would be possible to use such ports. It was admitted that we should have an important naval base in the future somewhere in the north to take their place. That would involve a very serious—an enormous expense. The present Estimates contemplated the creation of one dock only, which, in the long run, was hardly likely to be sufficient. He was not blaming the policy of the late and the present Governments in the least. It was an inevitable policy, and the money to carry it out had to be spent. The Government on the previous night stated that they had finally decided to go on with Rosyth. So did the late Government at one time, but they afterwards dropped proceeding with it. But the national sense of what was necessary would insist on going on with the works at Rosyth, and it would cost a great deal of money. For that they must prepare in advance. His hon. friends behind him looked upon him with great suspicion in regard to this matter; but he contended that if the Navy Estimates were greatly diminished, such was the belief of the country that our safety lay first in the Navy, that they would certainly have to put 573 these Estimates up again by a great deal more than they were able to knock off now. The right hon. Member for Dover had said the previous night, that the late Unionist Government had made provision for the accommodation of our large new ships, but that the works at Rosyth were now almost derelict. His point was that they had been left derelict by everybody. Everybody knew that national provision for these large new ships must be made, but unfortunately it was a case of terrible national expense. It was a rather technical argument, but in all recent discussions immense importance had been attached to the element of dock accommodation in connection with speed. It was universally admitted that the "all-big" policy giving great speed to battleships was an advantage to Powers if they had accessible docks for their big ships; they were white elephants if there was no base for them. That led necessarily to the creation of those great docks and basins. The late Government started a policy of increased docks for big ships at Portsmouth. But he contended that that was not a safe policy. It would be impossible to remove large supplies from the Stores Department at Devonport and Portsmouth. Such portswere useful bases for the Fleet in peace but there must be a secure war base. These were matters of universal admission. He did not think that anyone would contest the statement he had made about the present condition of the question regarding floating mines as affecting this whole programme. He was not an alarmist about war. He had told the House year after year that our present naval position was one of perfect Safety, of great, of overwhelming strength. His right hon. friend would admit that he had been a very steady supporter of the policy of the Admiralty, even if he did not always approve of their methods. By their own confession and admissions, honestly and straightforwardly, they were forcing the country to consider in advance an enormous provision of money in a few years time. Whether shipbuilding it would be necessary next year could not be said, because that depended on other programmes which might or might not be executed. However, the expenditure 574 next year must in any case be great, and that on Rosyth would be heavy when it did come; it was declared to be a work of necessity and could hardly be put off without a word being said about it on this occasion.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
I am bound to associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. I think that what the right hon. Gentleman has said cannot be too strongly impressed on the House and on the country. I accept the statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty that we are maintaining the two-Power standard, which is recognised as the standard that, for our naval and national safety, we must maintain. But the serious aspect of the case is not the position in which we stand to-day, but the position in which we shall stand within a few years unless we make large new efforts to overtake or to equalise the building policy of other Powers. The Admiralty by their programme of this year, have I think, made practical admission that there is a great deal of force in some of the criticisms addressed to them last year, when it was attempted to impress on them the need for a small cruiser programme. The right hon. Baronet, whose knowledge of this question I recognise, says that on that point he is a heretic. At least a heretic in the sense that he does not believe in that necessity; but I think he is a heretic in the sense that a great body of expert naval opinion is against him.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I think that naval opinion, and the opinion of the Admiralty itself, is against him—that a programme of small cruisers is not merely necessary at the present time, but is overdue and ought to have been begun before this. If that be true, whatever be, in practice, the amount of money you take for ships laid down, where ships are overdue you ought to take the most money that you can spend. Except in the case of a single ship which the Admiralty are going to construct at Plymouth, the only steps taken towards the 575 construction of the five overdue small cruisers has been the placing of orders, but no work will be done upon them this year. And let me say that once this necessity for these small cruisers is granted, it is not met by the present programme. If you have a very heavy shipbuilding programme in hand and you see an opportunity of lessening the programme in the future, then delays may be excusable and justifiable; but when everything points to a heavier programme in the future, I say it is wrong to delay the progress, as the present Estimates bear witness, of vessels which the Admiralty consider to be a first necessity. What I have said of cruisers applies equally to destroyers. We have, as has been already pointed out by my hon. friend, on the admission of the Admiralty a great number of old and obsolete destroyers, very costly in repair and not economical to maintain, and I am quite certain that the Secretary to the Admiralty would not contradict me if I said that if we had occasion to mobilise the whole of these old destroyers and send them to sea, we could only get them there with the expenditure of a very considerable amount of money on repairs, and we could not keep them there by any amount of expenditure whatever. They are so old that, as my hon. friend said, they are practically worn out, and a week or so cruising at sea would send them back unfit to go to sea again without the most extensive refit, and perhaps not possible of repair at all. Again, I say in the case of the destroyers, the sixteen which are put on order this year and for which we have again only a token sum to be provided do not exhaust the programme. It is not as if they completed it and we could then hold our hands as to destroyers, because you will have to build a similar number next year to take the place of other aged or ageing boats, and next year and the year after and the year after that you will have to have again an item for new cruisers and destroyers to be laid down in order, not to increase the strength of our fleet, but to replace vessels which are passing into disuse. There can be no likelihood in the next two years of the Admiralty doing their duty in regard to the Vote for new construction in this respect. But what about the Vote for new construction on the first line or 576 capital ships. On the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty itself, if a certain acceleration which is possible and which is not only possible but certain, takes place in foreign building we stand at the end of 1910, according to his calculations, exactly equal to France and Germany. I take the right hon. Gentleman's own calculations, but let me say to prevent misconception that I do not accept his calculations, for the reason that he included in them the "Lord Nelson" and others which are not vessels of the same type. The Civil Lord may think so, but he will not find any naval officer who will say that they are.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. LAMBERT,) Devonshire, South Molton
I do not say that they are of the same type, but many experienced naval officers value these ships very highly.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Does the First Sea Lord advise him in that respect? Well, I may take it that he does not, and he is good enough authority for me. I, therefore, do not accept the calculation which the Secretary for the Admiralty made as being accurate, but I take his calculation which showed us that in 1910 we should only have a bare equality, including the "Lord Nelson" type among those ships of the capital type with France and Germany But a bare equality is not the two-Power standard, and France and German have not the two greatest navies, and on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, by the end of the year 1910 we shall have failed to have maintained the two-Power standard, and if we go a step further to 1911, we shall be very much worse off. It is therefore very clear that in addition to a fresh programme of cruisers and destroyers you must have next year a very large programme of capital ships—four or five of these capital ships. I do not say that it is necessary to lay these ships down now for the sake of maintaining a two-Power standard any more than the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, but what I do say is that you are piling up all these liabilities for future years, you are throwing forward to the 577 future a burden which will place an intolerable strain upon your finances or upon the finances of those who then occupy that Bench. And what is the moment at which you are doing this? I could understand your taking full advantage of every chance of postponement if your present Vote for new construction was at a very high level, but we have the First Lord of the Admiralty boasting in this Paper that the Vote for new construction this year is the lowest that has been taken for any of the past ten years; that is to say, that at the time when we are within close touch of a call for extraordinary exertions you reduce the new construction Vote to the lowest point that has ever been known. That is reckless finance of the worst kind. It is an evasion of your obligations, and it is placing upon the taxpayers of next year, and above all of the year after, burdens which you are attempting to conceal from them at the present time, but which it is inevitable that you or your successors will have to demand. Before I leave the construction, let me say that I have attempted to make some calculation as to what this burden might amount to. I admit fully the extreme difficulty of anyone without official information to help him forming any sort of calculation which is worthy to put before the House on this subject, but according to the best calculation which I can make the present programme would involve for next year a new construction Vote of, say, £8,000,000 without the addition of a single shilling for a single fresh ship being laid down, whereas the total construction voted this year is only £7,500,000. I think that is a sufficiently serious prospect. But now look at other things. There is Rosyth. I do not, if I may be permitted to make this protest, accept for the Government of which I was a Member, and for myself and my colleagues the censure that the right hon. Baronet in his desire to adopt a perfectly impartial attitude passed upon us.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
We meant to go on with Rosyth. We meant to provide there a dockyard laid out and planned and capable of extension just 578 as the present Government intend to do, and to avoid the waste in which we have been involved in the case of old establishments by their being laid out upon a small system, and at a time when development could not be foreseen, and we took the steps and the only steps that were in our power at that time to do so. We bought the land; we no sooner got the land than we sent an engineer down to make his plans and we put a Vote in the Estimates for Rosyth, which the present Government cut out when they came into power, and which they now tardily restore.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
The Cawdor Memorandum and other documents showed that the pressure came from the Board of Admiralty not to go forward to Rosyth.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Baronet is mistaken. I speak as having been the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, and unless my memory entirely misleads me we had sanctioned a scheme, not a full scheme, but a portion of the original scheme at that time, which was not to go under a loan, but on the Votes, and was to be pressed forward as rapidly as possible. Since that time two years have passed, and we are now looking forward to another year. After three years it is not possible to admit that if the Admiralty want to to make the utmost progress possible with this work they cannot spend more than £30,000 on account of £3,250,000 in the present year. That is all that is provided in these Estimates on account of Rosyth. When once you begin works of this kind it is the very worst economy to dawdle about them. That may enable you to save on the Estimates of a particular year, but it involves your carrying on your capital expenditure for an indefinite time. Once you have got the land and your plans the only economical plan is to press the work on as quickly as possible so that you may derive the advantage of the work at the earliest possible time. Here I come to a question. It is said in the First Lord's statement that the Rosyth works will take ten years to finish. I am well aware that to put the coping-stone and finishing touches on these works is a very lengthy 579 matter, but what I want to know is when will these works, the dock and the basin, reach a point at which they can be used if we have occasion to use them? I take as an illustration of my meaning Portland Harbour. Portland Harbour was available for defence against torpedo attack for which it was intended long before the work was actually completed. I can understand that work will be going on in connection with Rosyth long after the dock and basin and so on have reached a point at which they can be used if we want to use them. In the meantime against this huge liability of £3,250,000 only £30,000 is provided in the present Estimate. How much shall we want next year? £330,000 at the very least and very likely £500,000. I call this present figure an illusory one. Then I notice another big work mentioned, the new lock at Portsmouth connected with the dock. £65,000 is taken on account of a cost of little under £1,000,000. What shall we require next year—I suppose £200,000. These are the increased liabilities with which the House is now face to face for next year's Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday that the automatic increases amounted to £745,000; that there was a transfer from loan account to Votes this year of £390,000; and that there would be a sum of £870,000 to be so provided out of the Votes this year. Rosyth will require £300,000 more; Portsmouth lock, £200,000 and new constructions must mean another £650,000 altogether. If I am in any way near right, you have already got a sum of £2,400,000 additional expenditure which will appear in the Estimates next year, and which will be more than repeated in the Estimates of the year after. Yet this is the year which you have chosen to reduce the Vote for new construction to the lowest figure at which it has stood for ten years, and at the same time you reduce the provision for new works on Vote 10 by nearly £500,000. Is that prudent and sound finance? The liabilities which you will have to incur in order to carry out your responsibilities next year and the year after are so great that I am driven to think that the Government either do not mean to carry them out when the time comes, or they hope to evade them somehow, or else 580 they intend to be somewhere else when the bill is presented. This is a system of deferred payments; I am not sure whether it is not a system of living on post-obits. I think we have a right to protest against these enormous works being knowingly thrown on future years, and presently to be whittled or scraped away in order to serve the passing financial needs of the Government, and enable them to present this year a more favourable Budget than they have any real right to lay before the country. The Estimates which we have before us this year in no sense represent the average burden which the Naval Estimates will inflict upon the country during the next two or three years. That is a burden which must in any case very largely increase within the next two years, and the present is a singularly inopportune moment for cutting down your Vote. The right hon. Gentleman made a statement yesterday which took me by surprise. He said that the late Government had reduced the standard of reserve of scores at home. Perhaps he will tell us in what respect. I have consulted with my hon. friend who was at the Admiralty and he agrees with me that there must be some mistake, and I should like to know exactly to what the right hon. Gentleman refers. I want him, if he will, to turn his attention to the value of the stock of naval stores given on page 245 of the Estimates. We are told in the First Lord's statement that owing to the concentration of the Fleets, and to the closing of certain naval stations abroad, the Admiralty have had a great stock of surplus stores on which they have been living during the past few years. And the extent to which they have been using the stores is given in the First Lord's statement. Why does that not appear on page 245 of the Naval Estimates? I see that the value for 1st April, 1907, was £4,755,000 in round figures; and the value of the stock on 31st March, 1908, was £4,305,000 a reduction of £450,000. But the First Lord tells us that the Government had lived upon stores to the extent of £1,250,000 in that year. Why does not this statement show £1,250,000; why does it show only a reduction of £450,000? The estimated value of the stock on 31st March, 1909, as given in this statement, 581 only shows a reduction of £160,000. The First Lord's statement shows that the Admiralty are going to withdraw stores to the extent of £500,000. What is the explanation of this discrepancy? There must be some. The only explanation which occurs now is the statement given on page 245 of the Naval Estimates, but when you come to inquire into the actual stocks in hand in some way it is totally misleading, and does not show what it purports to show. They are presented in perfect good faith, but when we come to a case of this kind, I am glad to have an opportunity of drawing the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to it, and of asking him for an explanation.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
I think we should have some fuller statement from the Government than has been offered to the House, either in the speech made by the Secretary to the Admiralty yesterday, or in what he calls his subsidiary remarks this afternoon. I have to thank him for his courtesy in giving some information in reply to a question which I put before him yesterday. But I did more than put a question. My right hon. friend who has just sat down returned to the same point and put it very forcibly before the House. We are not satisfied with the provision of smaller craft made by the Government, and we are not satisfied with their determination not to proceed immediately with the construction of smaller craft. It is altogether inadequate to the present situation that the right hon. Gentleman should say that we are spending about a tenth of the total cost of construction this year, and that this is the usual figure. We are debating these Estimates under unusual circumstances. We are debating Estimates which have attracted a good deal of attention in many foreign countries. After all, we cannot ignore certain facts which preceded the introduction of these Estimates. There was the diplomatic failure of the Government at the Hague last year. I do not know whether there is any connection between cause and effect, but that failure has brought about what a foreign newspaper describes as a bold attempt on the part of our competitor to wrest from us the 582 supremacy of the seas. It has been a failure because of the struggle behind the Ministerial scenes, between those who think that we may make reductions and those who hold other opinions. These Estimates are hailed as a moral triumph by the party described as "the anti-armament party," and this afternoon the representative of the Government had to admit by his silence that the Estimates had been modified. That being so, we are entitled to have some fuller statement on this question of smaller craft than we had yesterday afternoon. This is no party attack we are making. I really appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to disabuse his mind altogether of the idea that when we ask for information on matters of public curiosity, we are covertly assisting or attempting an attack upon the Board of which he is so loyal a member. We are doing nothing of the kind. We look to him and only to him, not merely as a Member of the Admiralty Board, but as the proper and responsible Minister whose duty it is through this House, to give information in respect of questions that we ask. It is our duty to ask those questions and press for information upon points which excite curiosity in the public, because curiosity soon changes into suspicion and suspicion into alarm. There is this curiosity which has changed to suspicion, verging upon alarm, in connection with the making of an adequate and timely provision of smaller craft. Our argument with respect to that has really been on all fours with the argument addressed to the House by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean upon the other question of the provision of docks. He said that the "all-big" policy leads to the necessity for the provision of docks in good time. We say that the "all-big" policy leads to the necessity of providing a greater number of smaller craft in time. By the "all-big" policy is meant of course having vessels of a large type like the "Dreadnought," but to such vessels the smaller craft are what the cavalry are to the Army, and act as scouts. As we are committed to that policy of building great vessels, and as other countries are competing with us in that policy, it is clear that we must 583 make adequate provision of smaller craft up to the new standard rendered necessary by the "all-big" policy. I am not, in saying that, making any attack on the Board of Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman, dealing with this very point last year, accepted, and we all accept, absolute responsibility for the great change made in 1904–1905, as regards the "all-big" policy. But my right hon. friend pointed out that a great change of that character carries with it collateral necessities, and the great point is whether the collateral necessities are being met as they arise and as they are seen. We now know that a larger number of smaller craft must be provided if ships of the "Dreadnought" type are to discharge their functions in safety. Are they being built in adequate numbers? I think not. Take first the cruisers. That falls under two heads, one of minor importance and one of greater importance. The one of minor importance is that we should be able to show our flag abroad. Are these six cruisers of the "Boadicea" type to show our flag abroad, or are they being built to be an advance guard of the fleets in which we have such large and costly vessels? Or, again, are they being built for both purposes? If they are being built for both, is not the number totally inadequate? Upon that point I think we are entitled to some fuller information. I do not pretend to exclusive information, of any kind or character. In common with those for whom we speak, those members of the public whose curiosity and suspicion nave been aroused, we can only look to some official or standard books. If we take information of the kind which is contained in the Dilke Return, or the Navy List, there would seem to be thirteen cruisers with the Fleet and twenty-four in the Reserve. Is that enough when you have adopted the "All-Big Policy," and when you are committed next year to a programme of "Dreadnoughts" in comparison with which your present programme sinks into insignificance? If you have not the cruisers necessary for the present programme already, you have not cruisers necessary for the future programme. If the future programme is going to entail great augmentation, in 584 creasing from year to year, is it not sound finance now to proceed with the part of the work which is necessary and complementary to the whole of the work in order to distribute the financial burden more evenly over the period of years? I pass from the cruiser part of the subject to the more particular point upon which the right hon. Gentleman gave me some information this afternoon. Last year he was pressed by the Leader of the Opposition to give the relative distribution of destroyers in home waters appertaining to the German fleet and to our own. This afternoon—and I thank him for it—he gave us some information upon that point. I am not for a moment suggesting that the information which he gave was derived from a particular date which suited one view or another of this matter. It is far too important a question to be bandied about as a subject of political controversy. I want to have as much information as the right hon. Gentleman thinks can be given without injury to the public service, and to all that information we are entitled. I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that if we compare our torpedo destroyers with the German torpedo destroyers and divisional torpedo boats at the time when the German torpedo squadron was reinforced, we had in home waters 45 torpedo destroyers, and Germany had 33 of such boats or their equivalent. On the face of these figures I cannot admit that that proportion is an adequate or a satisfactory one. I do not want to go in detail into this matter, and in all that I say I beg the House to believe that I am not selecting any Power as one with whom we may in any probability come into conflict. We have to think of the defence of this country irrespective of these questions of world politics, but we have to recognise that the traditional policy of this country has changed. There has been Orientation, and we have now to look East. We have to recognise that the North Sea is a far wider sea than the British Channel. We have to recognise that the North Sea has not one, but two egresses from which such an attack might be delivered. We have to recognise in naval questions, as I think upon Army questions, that you want a real preponderance if you are to prevent absolutely an attack being launched from an egress. The watching of defiles, whether at sea or on shore, is the same, 585 and no man in his senses, if he had the natural defences of the country to which he belonged in his care and keeping, would attempt to watch two egresses with proportion of only 45 to 33. The fact that the North Sea is a good deal wider than the British Channel leads for another reason to the necessity for a greater provision of these boats on which the safety of your big battleships depends. It is farther to get there and back. We are sometimes assured that we shall be able to relieve torpedo destroyers by other vessels, and that they will not have to return to port. But who is going to risk the British Empire on the chance of an oil tank to supply fuel or a collier to supply coal to these vessels in time of war? When the country understands this it will demand that there shall be a sufficient number of boats to give the necessary relief if these defiles are to be adequately watched. The case I am laying before the House is that your "all-big" policy demands a large extension of the torpedo destroyer policy. In answer to that we are told that the Government are laying down sixteen torpedo destroyers and that they do not intend to spend a penny upon any one of them until the shipbuilding Vote has been taken in July.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Allow me to make my point clear. I am I hope, temperately, protesting against the usual practice being followed under unusual circumstances. That is the whole of our case. This year is far more exceptional than the year which the right hon. Gentleman cited. You ought to proceed with the construction of these eyes of the fleet now if it is to be safe from the point of view of defence and if your finance is to be sound, because you will have to spend a great deal of money in future years. The figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave me by no means tally with some other figures drawn only from publications, and not based upon any secret intelligence, but which I cannot altogether dismiss from my mind as having some bearing upon this point.
§ MR. BELLAIRS
May I ask whether the figures the right hon. Gentleman has been furnished with by the Admiralty, as I understand they refer to a question raised by me, include nine instructional destroyers, absolutely unfit for blockade, and the destroyers which were under repair? In that case he will find that I was right in saying that we had fewer destroyers ready in full commission in home waters at that date than the Germans.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Perhaps the hon. Member will make that point in his own way. What I wish to lay before the House is not the result of any private documents, but conclusions deduced from the English. "Navy List," Lord Brassey's well-known book, Janes's "Fighting Ships" and books of a similar type in Germany. They may be inaccurate, but the fact that the information is of an alarming character justifies us in pressing for fuller information on the point. Using only those sources of information which are open to anybody who chooses to study them, and if I am wrong nobody would be more happy to stand corrected than I shall be, I would take first merely the distribution of such boats in home waters. Without going into the question of the modernity of the boats, but taking British and German destroyers and divisional torpedo boats, the information goes to show that we might claim forty-eight with full crews and seventy with nucleus crews, or 118 altogether. Similarly turning to the German publication, I believe about three years ago, Germany had between ninety and 100 such boats in three flotillas, two always at sea and one on shore, but in the last three years they have brought that number up to 112 such boats in five flotillas. I am not touching the question of which are the most modern boats yet, but if there is anything in the arguments I have laid before the House, such a proportion as 118 to 112 is alarming and even dangerous and calls for immediate action. The circumstances are unusual and preclude the Government from following the usual practice of putting down 10 per cent. of the total cost and deferring any action until the late summer. We cannot only look to the number 587 we must also take into account the type of such boats. Again basing myself only upon publications of the character I have described, I believe I am right in saving that we have of the most modern type thirty-four complete and thirteen building, or forty-seven in all; and Germany has eighteen completed and thirty building, or forty-eight in all. That is equality, whereas you want a superiority of at least two to one. If we go to boats of an older type we have still a great preponderance I readily agree, but that wanes rapidly as the years go by. Of ten-year old boats we have sixty-eight against their twenty-six, of old boats we have forty against three, and of obsolete boats we have none and they have forty—155 British against eighty-one German. But if in the most modern boats they have an equality we must push on with new construction. I would not again have addressed the House after what I said yesterday unless I knew there was curiosity, suspicion, and alarm upon this point, and it is the duty of the Government to give the House the fullest information. In asking for it we are not criticising the Government or the Board of Admiralty, but doing our duty and asking them to discharge theirs.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
thought the House had some reason to be dissatisfied with the opening statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty. The administration of the Navy was one of the largest questions which the House of Commons could discuss, and it must to an outsider seem a curious thing that the Minister responsible for the Navy should consider that he had discharged his duty in the discussions of this matter by referring to two small matters only. He had dealt lightly with the doing away with coastguard stations and had also made some slight addition to his remarks of the previous day on the shipbuilding programme. No doubt many Members were glad to hear that the coastguard service was not going to be done away with, but probably the preponderance of feeling in the House was to the effect that there was a considerable redundancy in coastguard stations and that modern conditions had rendered a considerable number of them no longer useful. The 588 telephone, for instance, made intercommunication much more easy than was formerly the case. The fact, too, that smuggling had practically disappeared and that there was very little probability of its ever becoming general again had undoubtedly rendered unnecessary a certain number of coastguard stations. On the other hand were life-saving appliances which were better worked by coastguards than civilians, and there was also the lifeboat service of which the coastguards so often formed so important a part. The work of coastguards in regard to life-saving opperations, lifeboats, etc., made it desirable that there should still be a large number of stations left, but, on the other hand, he thought there were a certain number of them which were redundant. With reference to shipbuilding, all the Secretary to the Admiralty had said was that he would give an undertaking that nothing would be done until June or July. So far as Unionist Members were concerned, they would have been much better pleased if he had given an undertaking in exactly the opposite direction. Instead of waiting until July they would like to see the extremely small programme in the year's Estimates begun at once. Their complaint was that the Government, instead of hurrying on and providing that a fair share of the cost of the programme now before the House should be borne this year, were as much as possible deferring such provision to future years when in consequence the Estimates would, be inflated to an extent which nobody liked to contemplate. As to the general question, since they discussed naval matters a year ago a great deal had happened, and two things in particular, which made discussion easier. The Hague Conference had come and gone, and the Resolution of the hon. Member for Falkirk had also come and gone. Last year hon. Members were much handicapped by reason of the fact that the Government constantly reminded them that they were in negotiation with other countries on the subject of disarmament; and that it would be wrong to suggest an increase in our armaments in view of the fact that one of the principal objects of the Hague Conference which was then about to assemble was to do away with 589 armaments as far as possible. The Opposition anticipated all along that very little would come out of the Hague Conference; their anticipations had unfortunately been realised, and we were in exactly the same position as before the Conference. The discussion of the hon. Member for Falkirk's Motion on the previous day had not been in any sense satisfactory; it was ambiguous, and there was not a clear issue before the House at any time. The result could not therefore be said to have been at all definite. But, at the same time, both the House and the country would have come to the conclusion that this Parliament was as determined as other Parliaments had been in the past that the armaments of the country, especially the naval armaments, should be kept at such a point that we should have a preponderance over every possible combination of enemies; in other words, that the two-Power standard should be maintained. That being so, he and his friends had expected that evidence of this determination would appear on the Estimates, but when they looked at that document very grave misgivings arose in their minds as to the manner in which the Government intended to maintain that superiority. At the present time we were in an undoubtedly secure position and had an aggregate of more than the two-Power standard. That was admitted, but he and his friends did not admit that the Government were taking proper steps to ensure that that superiority would be kept up in the next few years. He was convinced that so soon as the country realised that we were getting behindhand in the matter the people would make it plain to their representatives in Parliament that they would stand no tampering with our naval position. The shipbuilding programme of Germany rendered it necessary that certain ships should be added to our Navy; and it seemed to him bad finance and bad business that as we had within the next few years to provide four or five big battleships per annum they were not going to begin building at once. They knew the type of ship they would have to build, because it was not probable that there would be any change of importance in the models of those big ships 590 which would compensate them for waiting another year. Any modification that experience might show to be necessary would probably be in the matter of guns or internal arrangement and not in the hulls which ought therefore to be hurried on at once. It was a great waste of time and energy to defer building, for dockyards would be taxed when the crush came. As to the distribution and constitution of the three or four great fleets of which the Navy was made up, he had no serious criticisms to make except in regard to the Home Fleet End in the matter of cruisers. The Home Fleet should be the one always ready at a moment's notice to face a sudden outbreak of war, but in reality it was the least prepared for such a crisis. The Home Fleet this year consisted of six battleships stationed at the Nore. Perhaps the House was not aware that it was made up of three divisions—one at the Nore, one at Portsmouth, and the other at Plymouth. It seemed to him that that could not be considered a sound grouping of ships. He had always understood that the Home Fleet was the Fleet of all Fleets intended to be ready at a moment's notice to meet the first warlike action of the enemy. He could conceive that the Channel Fleet might be able to do so, but he could not conceive that the Home Fleet as at present constituted and commanded would be able to meet a sudden descent, upon this country from German ports The six ships in the Home Fleet were totally inadequate to meet a resolute, attack from Germany, which he said without hesitation was the country against which those ships were directed. Before the Home Fleet could be in a position to do anything of the sort it had to collect its outlying divisions at Portsmouth and Plymouth, where the ships had only nucleus crews on board. He thought that when it was put to the test, tie ships with the nucleus-crews would not be ready for sec in a few hours, but would probably take a matter of several days. Under those circumstances, he did not see how the Admiralty could possibly expert them to place confidence in a Fleet consisting of from eighteen to twenty battleships when only six of them were actually at sea and 591 in fighting trim. The mere fact that the Fleet was divided into three groups was a great obstacle to the officer commanding that Fleet. It was impossible for any Commander-in-Chief to do justice to the ships under his command when he commanded them perhaps only once or twice during the year, and then only for a very short period. His hon. friend the Member for Farehem had pointed out that the whole centre of gravity had shifted from the south of England to the North Sea, and it seemed to him an extraordinary thing that our weakest Fleet should be placed in the position where we were most likely to be attacked. The one Fleet which had to face the enemy at all times was the Fleet which for some reason or another was kept at a smaller point than any of the others. He ventured to say also that it was in a very much less efficient condition. He understood the hon. Member for the Fareham Division to say that the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet had raised his flag on seven or eight different ships, but he had been under the impression that the Commander-in-Chief of that Fleet had no flagship, but that he had an official residence on shone. He thought the whole of the Home Fleet should be concentrated in or about the Nore, that it should be in full commission and that the Admiral in command should live at sea and not on shore. With reference to cruisers, many naval men complained that the number of these vessels attached to the battle fleets was much too small. They pointed out that the cruiser squadrons might be in other parts of the world on the outbreak of war, and that in fact they formed separate and distinct fleets. Under these circumstance they held that the cruisers attached to the four great fleets (and these cruisers must be distinguished from the cruiser squadrons) under the present groupings were totally inadequate for the purposes for which they existed—namely, scouting, locating the enemy, and keeping the Fleet free from the attacks of the enemy's torpedo boats and destroyers at night. To do that work properly it was evident that a large number of cruisers had to be employed. He trusted that the Secretary to the Admiralty in his reply would be able to hold out some hope that further energy and expedition would 592 be shown in the matter of the provision of docks. It was a most anomalous state of affairs that they should be building enormous ships like the "Dreadnought" and the "Invincible" and have no place to put them when they wanted repair. The amount proposed to be spent on Rosyth this year was ridiculous. He supposed the explanation of this was that the Admiralty desired to meet the views of those who supported the Motion moved yesterday, and had put off absolutely necessary works which would have to be executed within the next few years. In the interest of sound finance, he submitted that it would be very much better, and it would be treating the country more honestly, to put down a fair share of the cost of all the new ships and works to this year's Estimates instead of spreading it over and postponing the evil day to later years.
§ COLONEL SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said he understood from the statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty in regard to the coastguard that the Admiralty had definitely decided not to entertain the proposal made from some quarters to abolish the coastguard altogether and hand over their duties to another body, such as the Board of Customs. If that was the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made, he could only say that all who were interested in the merchant service owed him s debt of gratitude for making it. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it would enable the Admiralty to consider and discuss the whole matter de novo. He would state the reasons which had prompted him and others on that side of the House in urgently pressing the Government not to interfere with the present arrangement by which the coastguard performed their duties. The Navy had been singularly successful in recruiting, and those who had studied the subject believed that the fact that there was a coastguard service to which they could go had a great bearing on the efficiency of the recruiting. The duties of the coastguard in peace and war could not be performed so efficiently by any other body of men as by those of the Royal Navy. The hon. Member for South Antrim had stated that some of their 593 work could be done by telephone. He had yet to learn that the telephone could deal with such matters as floating mines in narrow waters, and the position of ships on dark nights. Nor could the telephone perform any of the duties of the coastguard in connection with life saving. The coastguard had to look after the property which was cast ashore in case of shipwreck. That was a very important duty, and no body of men who were not strictly disciplined could perform it efficiently. He had occasion once to address a meeting at a coast place when a ship ran ashore. He went to the shore, and it was discovered that the ship contained rum, and anyone who was there could see that it required a highly disciplined body of men to cope with the difficulties which arose. The points which interested him most of all were two other duties that fell to the coastguard service at present. They had to watch our coasts in peace time for possible wrecks, and in the event of ships going ashore they had to assist the lifeboat services in working the rocket apparatus. As to the watching of the coasts, it was only a body of men like the coastguard who could be entrusted with that duty. He had been present at inquiries where it was stated that the coastguard had failed to see a wreck. If the coastguard sometimes failed, how much more would a body of men who had not the splendid traditions of those men of the Royal Navy? The coastguard had proved that they were essential to the lifeboat service. They worked the rocket apparatus, and that was a most difficult piece of work. Hon. Members would agree that that most important and difficult work should be entrusted to men who were most highly disciplined, and that class of man was to be found in the Royal Navy. Not only did they save life by the rocket apparatus, but their record in saving life themselves was most extraordinary. He had been furnished with some figures in regard to this matter by the Lifeboat Institution. In 1905 there were 423 occasions when lifeboats were launched, and of these launches 166 took place on notification being given by the coastguard, and most probably if the coastguard had not been there the lifeboats 594 would not have been launched; 397 lives were consequently saved. In 1906 there were 421 launches, of which 132 were notified by the coastguard, and 696 lives were saved. In 1907 there were 409 launches, of which 165 were notified by the coastguard, and 932 lives were saved. It would be going too far to say that had it not been for the coastguard all these lives would have been lost; but it was safe to say that had there not been a coastguard some of: the 932 lives would, in point of fact, not have been saved. In regard to life-saving and showing an example of courage, he would give another set of figures which was indeed extraordinary. Eighty-eight years ago, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, with the consent of the Government, decided to issue silver and gold medals for acts of gallantry in saving life. Of the 1,247 silver medals no fewer than 239 had been received by the coastguard, and of the 100 gold medals which were awarded on rare occasions of exceptional daring, thirty-one or more than a third had been received by the magnificent coastguard. A record so fine as that must prove that in this difficult matter of saving life at sea, where so much often depended on the initiative of one man, the coastguards had fully discharged their duty. Therefore, in conclusion, he urged the Secretary to the Admiralty to make it plain to the House, as it had not been made quite plain from other statements current, that the Government did not intend to take the duty of saving life at sea from the gallant men of the coastguard and hand it over to the Board of Customs or any other department.
§ MR. LAMBERT
I will deal shortly with the more general questions which have been raised by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I think I can assure my friend the hon. and gallant Member for Abercromby Division that in the matter of life-saving proceedings the Admiralty are fully aware of the strong feeling that exists, and will do nothing to interfere with the efficient discharge of the life-saving duties at present undertaken by the coastguard. My right hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty has always endeavoured studiously to keep the Naval Votes free 595 from politics, but I think that the hon. Member for Fareham verged dangerously near party politics in his introductory remarks. Personally, I have never attacked the policy of my predecessors, but it does seem to me that, when we are told that great alarm exists in the country and that the Admiralty are guilty of disastrous cheese-paring, and when other epithets of a like character are employed, they savour more of the platform than of serious debate in the House of Commons. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer was more modest, but I think he dealt principally with the question not of this year's, but of next year's Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman said, What terrible liabilities will be thrown on next year's Estimates; next year's Estimates will have to bear the cost of a new lock at Portsmouth and a new dock at Rosyth and other matters. And the right hon. Gentleman totalled them up to a very considerable sum. I should think that if our liabilities are to be so great next year the wise and prudent course to take is that we should be as economical as we safely can be this year [An HON. MEMBER: "Only now?"] and every year. I wish to deal with the central portion of the indictment brought by the Front Opposition Bench. We are told that we are not preparing or have not a sufficient ship-building programme, and especially of big battleships. I cannot understand how any man can bring a charge like that against the present Board of Admiralty with the facts that must be in the possession of the public mind. Take the question of the big ships—the "Dreadnoughts." And here I must say that it is an extraordinary doctrine if we are to rule out such splendid ships as the "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon." These ships were laid down in 1905 and they will be ready for sea in April. Surely we should not leave such splendid ships out of account.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
The Secretary to the Admiralty deliberately instituted a comparison in terms of "Dreadnoughts." Does the hon. Gentleman say that the "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon" embody the "Dreadnought" type, or em- 596 body any of the particular features of that type?
§ MR. LAMBERT
It is very difficult to go into the details of the types; that must be left to the experts. But I would remind the hon. Gentleman that many naval experts value very highly indeed the "Lord Nelson" type. Let me deal with actual facts, and not with programmes on paper ranging up to 1916. Sufficient unto the day is the building programme thereof. We have one "Dreadnought" in the water already commissioned at the Nore. We have three "Dreadnoughts" constructing and three big cruisers That is to say, we have seven big ships—one in the water, three launched, and three cruisers which will be ready soon. Not a single foreign Power has a single big ship in the water; and yet after all, we are told that we are a cheeseparing Government. Let me take the big batttleships that are building. For my part I do not wish to make invidious comparisons with any foreign country, but as they have been made a basis of comparison I must do so too. The hon. Gentleman said that up to the end of 1910 we should have only an equality in these big battleships with Germany. On the German stocks at the present moment, i.e., building—not one is launched—they have four big battleships and two cruisers. We have ten big battle ships in the water or building plus the programme of this year. Then again there are the two ships, the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon." I think it must satisfy any reasonable mind that we have at the present moment a sufficient building programme to meet all reasonable contingencies.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
Does the hon. Gentleman deny the accuracy of the figures given by his colleague the Secretary to the Admiralty, which stated that the number of "Dreadnorghts" at the end of 1910 would be the same in this country as in Germany?
§ MR. LAMBERT
I am giving the hon. Gentleman the figures of the ships that are on the stocks now. I do not take up the number that will be reached in 1916. 597 I regard that year with great complacency. Moreover, I say that this country with its great ship-building facilities can cope with any emergency that may arise in the future, and that we are in a position of overwhelming strength now. Nobody can deny that. The figures show that since the building of big battleships commenced the Admiralty have provided amply for a sufficient margin in case of contingencies. I may now deal with the hon. Member for Fareham's description of the Home Fleet. The hon. Gentleman, so far as I understand, found the Home Fleet on inspection more satisfactory than he expected. A good many complaints were made last year about the Home Fleet, but the hon. Gentleman has examined it for himself—an example which might be followed by hon. Members who have found fault with the Admiralty. The hon. Gentleman said, however, that the Home Fleet was under-manned. Of course, there are three divisions of the Home Fleet manned by nucleus crews, but there are at present at the Nore five battleships, eight cruisers and twenty-four torpedo boat destroyers manned for any instant emergency.
§ MR. LAMBERT
My hon. friend must know that I do not carry all these details in my mind. The figures I have given were supplied to me within the last few minutes. It is said that there are a great many ships laid up, but a ship may be in a dockyard and yet be ready instantly for fighting purposes. The admiral's bath may be out of order and the ship will be brought in to put it right, but the admiral's bath being out of order does not diminish the fighting efficiency of the ship. As to destroyers, the expert advisers of the Admiralty tell us that the sixteen to be laid down will be of an improved type and sufficient in number to meet our coming wants. I can emphatically assure the House that there is no shortage in this type of vessels. Surely that ought to be satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman and to any person who values the expert advice which is at the disposal of the Board of Admiralty. Then 598 we were asked by the right hon. Gentleman some questions about the savings on stores. That is a policy we inherited from our predecessors. The late Board of Admiralty appointed an Establishments Committee to regulate the amount of stores to be kept. The Committee made certain recommendations, which were all practically adopted by the Board over which Lord Cawdor presided. We have simply carried out in this matter the policy of our predecessors, and maintained the standard required by the Committee.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I referred to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman on Monday as to the standard of reserve at the home stations. I understand that there may be some reduction in the standard in small articles easily purchasable at any time, but that there has been no reduction in the reserve of guns and ammunition. That is, of course, important.
§ MR. LAMBERT
A letter appeared in the public papers yesterday charging the Government with some niggardliness in this matter. I know the right hon. Gentleman did not allude to it, as, of course, he would not take his information I from the Press, but I can assure him that the reserve of guns and ammunition is maintained at present fully up to the standard fixed in 1900. The allowance of practice ammunition has been increased of late years, and neither are reserves being depleted nor is less ammunition being used for practices than in past years. I hope that statement will dispel some illusions—[Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN: Hear, hear]:—which might be, if un-contradicted, created in the public mind. Complaints have been made about Rosyth's not being proceeded with, but in expending large sums of money great care has to be taken that they are spent to the best advantage. The same observation applies to the Portsmouth lock. We have invited a most eminent firm of outside engineers to see whether they can find any better plans than the official advisers of the Army. I think in a matter of spending such large sums of money we should take precautions that the public money is not wasted. 599 It is essential that the Board of Admiralty should exercise deliberation and care to secure an economical use of public money.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
May I ask for an answer to my question as to when the works at Rosyth will be available for use as distinct from being finished.
§ MR. LAMBERT
That is very difficult to say, but as far as can be seen they will be available in from five to seven years. I am giving that statement with great reserve, because engineering difficulties may be encountered and other unexpected difficulties may arise. I do not think that there is any point of importance that I have not dealt with, but I hope I have dispelled the alarm which was alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, and which he thinks exists in the public mind. May I say that if there was any alarm about the Navy those Benches would have been more crowded than they are to-night. I remember very far back when we had a full dress debate as to the Navy the House of Commons presented a very different aspect from what it does now. I can assure hon. Members, and I give the assurance on behalf of the Board of Admiralty, that we are determined to maintain the Navy in a position of adequate strength and I hope matchless efficiency.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
The points with which the hon. Gentleman has been concerned in the speech we have just heard are points1 that must be raised again. I do not think he fully appreciated either the force of the arguments or the character of the questions that have been addressed to him. The contention about the Home Fleet urged by my hon. friend near me was in the main this, that in the Home Fleet were counted ships which were no permanent part of that Fleet, and which were in dock accidentally. My hon. friend stated that he had reason to believe that ships that were counted in the Home Fleet were in reality under repair, that they had come from a foreign station to the ports where they were repaired, that 600 during the process of repair they were counted as ships in the, Home Fleet, and that directly they were repaired they went back to the foreign station. My hon. friend said truly that you may call those ships part of the Reserve, but that you have no right to call them part of the Home Fleet ready for instant service. That is a point on which we shall ask questions again, and on which the hon. Gentleman has given us no information.
§ MR. LAMBERT
The Home Fleet is organised in three divisions, two, with nucleus crews, at Portsmouth and Devonport, the remaining one at the Nore, chiefly consisting of fully-manned ships.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Does the hon. Gentleman call that an answer to the question? I thought I put the matter clearly, but I have evidently not reached the intelligence of the hon. Gentleman. Are any of the ships counted in the Home Fleet ships that came here from a foreign station because they were in need of repair, and when repaired went back to the foreign station? I do not mean that there is any discredit in-having such ships; but the Admiralty appear to talk as if these ships were part of the Fleet, instantaneously ready to deal with any emergency, whereas they are not. I hope on the proper Vote the Government will endeavour to show us that the torpedo destroyers and fast cruisers which we have at present are not merely equal or superior in number to those of any fleet likely to be brought against us, but so superior in number and in quality that they can deal with the defensive position or with the special strategic position which we shall have to occupy in the North Sea, under which it appears to us that we may require not merely numerical equality, but great numerical superiority. That argument has nothing to do with the two-Power standard. I am speaking of a single-handed struggle with some great naval Power, and I say that probably the conditions of that struggle would involve our possessing a much greater force of torpedo-boats to deal with all the questions of watching, observing, and carrying out the scouting duties of a fleet than our opponents 601 possess, if we are to be in a position of safety. The hon. Gentleman has given what in my opinion is a perfectly satisfactory answer on the subject of stores. I give full credence to his statement as to the standard of 1900 being fully maintained, but I hope he will explain what has puzzled us—that there appears to be a reduction of 40 per cent. in the amount of ammunition provided and a reduction of 47 per cent. with regard to torpedoes. The last question on which we must press the Government further is the relation between these Estimates and future Estimates. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman below the gangway (Mr. John Ward) is going to deal with—whether with the general expense to the community of maintaining the Navy, or a minor issue. If he is going to deal with the big issue, I beg him to note that the Estimates we have before us this year are illusory Estimates from the point of view that they are not specimens of what we must have in succeeding years, if the avowed policy of the Government is to be maintained. They fail, and they fail completely for two quite separate and important reasons. There will have to be spent over £2,000,000 on automatic increases—the increased expenditure on Rosyth, on ships now laid down, and other matters. In addition to that, if we are to maintain our position in regard to other great Powers now engaged in building formidable vessels, you will have to lay down a large number of "Dreadnoughts" and armoured cruisers. It is impossible but that your Naval Estimates will rise, and rise immensely, and what I complain of, and what I am bound to complain of at the present moment, is that the Government are really endeavouring, and did endeavour last night, to show a diminution in the Naval Estimates, taking this year as their standard. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that our Naval Estimates were down, I think, by £1,500,000 as compared with the Estimates for which the late Government were responsible. That comparison is absolutely illusory and misleading, and if the Government are really going to carry on the traditions which they profess, then do not let any one, whether he be chiefly 602 interested in the maintenance of our naval superiority, or whether he attach more value to the reduction of armaments and the consequent reduction of expenditure—whatever point of view he takes, do not let him base any hope or argument on the Naval Estimates of this year; but let him look to next year, or the year after, or the year after that, and contemplate the building and other programmes, not by the policy of the late Government, but by the policy which the late Government and the present Government have in common. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down tried to satisfy us with an assurance that at the present moment we have adequate naval strength. So far as this year is concerned nobody denies that proposition. We accept it. But what we say is that the year 1908 consists of twelve months like any other year. It will soon be over, and when 1909 begins you will find that the expenditure, which, I admit, is not inadequate for the immediate necessities of the 365 days of this year—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, you will find that you are bound to look, not merely at the adequacy of a particular sum for a particular year but at our naval policy as a whole; and if you look at it as a whole, then you will see that this year is an absolutely illusory year, and everybody, whatever their views, whether they go with the minority who voted last night or with the majority, all may be sure of this, that if the safety of this country is to be kept up, naval expenditure will increase, and economists can only hope for some diminution in their burdens so far as the Navy is concerned if the Government fall short of those professions in regard to the two-Power standard and other collateral issues, of which they have hitherto given us satisfactory assurances, but on which, I frankly admit, the somewhat hesitating language they used last night has filled me, at all events, with the deepest misgivings.
§ MR. JOHN WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)
said there were one or two considerations to which he desired to call attention, 603 especially in view of the speech delivered by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. He thought it was pretty plain that all the hopes of the Labour Party in regard to a reduction of expenditure were doomed to failure in the years to come. He thought it was pretty evident from the decision of the Lords of the Admiralty that Rosyth was now to be constructed and the work proceeded with. In addition to that, other docks at different naval bases were to be made adequate for the accommodation of vessels of the larger class now under construction and already completed. He thought that that in itself showed that their hopes were to be dashed to the ground so far as naval expenditure was concerned. Let them take Rosyth as an illustration. It was estimated that that one dock for the accommodation of vessels of the "Dreadnought" class would cost £3,000,000, and it was further estimated that it would be completed in five or seven years. They would be extremely lucky if they got it completed in that time; but even if they did, it meant that they would have to begin next year and count it as one of the years. That meant an addition to the Estimates next year of considerably over half a million under that one head alone. It was quite clear, therefore, that their hopes of a reduced expenditure on the part of the Admiralty and of the War Office were entirely illusory. In addition, he understood that it was contemplated to proceed at once to the letting of the contract for the new lock at Portsmouth, which was to cost nearly a million of money. He did not know how long that was to be in course of construction, or whether they were to assume that it would be about five years, but judging from the geological formation, and seeing that the site was well known, they ought to be able to estimate the cost both in time and money to a fraction. At any rate, there must be a sum of £200,000 per annum added for that purpose alone. Hence, without taking into account anything extra for shipbuilding, he could see from the discussions which had taken place that afternoon that there would be £700,000 or £750,000 added to the Naval Estimate next year, and for the next five or six years on the construction of dock 604 accommodation for our ships. If they were going to maintain the policy practically decided upon by the Government last night, though it was not included in the terms of the Resolution, then they were in for a very considerable increase of naval expenditure under any circumstances. The Labour Members had not had very much opportunity of discussing this subject yesterday, but he might say for himself, and he dared say that he might speak for some of his Labour friends, that, though they had no foreign policy—and they saw no necessity for fashioning one, seeing that there was no prospect at present of their being called upon to decide it, though if they were called upon he dared say they would be able to do so, because necessity was the mother of invention—yet they had very definite ideas about this subject of naval supremacy and naval defence, however much their general views might be in hostility to the increase of expenditure on the Army. The Labour Party thought that the Army was generally used for aggressive purposes, but that statement would not apply to the Navy, which was our first line of defence. He acknowledged that there was scarcely a subject under the sun that he would not arbitrate about, but he would not arbitrate about the cession of a single inch of our country to any other Power. When we were not manly enough to defend our shores it would be time for us to give better men a chance. But so far as the defence of the country was concerned the Labour Party were prepared to do all that was necessary in that direction. They saw no reason, however, why all that was necessary to make the Navy efficient could not be secured by reducing a useless branch of the public service. It was suggested that we should have a striking force of 160,000 men. He believed that that force could be reduced to 60,000, and the other 100,000 dispensed with. That number would be ample. Great economies might be made along these lines; but so far as the Navy was concerned, however much they might desire to see reductions, it was clear from the discussions that the majority of the Members of that House had decided upon a policy which made it utterly impossible that those reductions 605 could be carried out. On Rosyth there was a possible expenditure of £500,000 a year, and they knew that the engineers had sunk to a depth of 100 feet and come upon swamps. He would not be surprised if for the next two or three years the estimated annual cost of the construction of the base at Rosyth was nearer £1,000,000 than £500,000, and they would sooner or later be called upon to decide whether they were prepared to go to that enormous expense or not. He did not think there was any need for alarm. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, whose knowledge was unrivalled, had stated most definitely that so far as the present position of our fleet and our power on the seas were concerned there was not the slightest cause for alarm, and it was lucky for the House and the country that that was so, because he was afraid that if they ever allowed this branch of the service to get into such a condition that there was honest and genuine reason for alarm, panic would drive them a lot further than they were ever prepared to dream of now. Under these circumstances, while they were prepared to support only that portion of expenditure which was proved to be necessary, they were prepared unquestionably to agree to it, but they wanted a corresponding economy in another important branch of the service where he did not believe they got enough nor could they ever hope to get anything like a decent return for their money.
§ MR. BELLAIRS
asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the designs of the armoured ships of the 1909 programme would be prepared in advance, so that if they had to lay them down early in 1909 there would be no delay whatever.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I can only give the hon. Gentlemen the answer he must expect. I cannot off-hand decide that. I will communicate the suggestion to my Naval colleagues. That is all I can say.
§ MR. GULLAND (Dumfries Burghs)
, in moving "That this House is of opinion that, in the interests of the men in the Royal Navy, effect should be 606 given to the suggestion of the Victualling Committee of last year to raise the money allowance in lieu of the spirit ration, and that the issue of the spirit ration should be discontinued in the case of all new recruits, whilst preserving to them the money allowance in its place," said he wished to call attention to a small question of domestic economy. The Motion standing in his name was one in the interests of the men. After all, the success of the Navy was determined by the character and capacity of the sailor. Everyone liked the British sailor. He was the most popular man in the country. The community was greatly interested in his welfare and would gladly see him made comfortable in every way. He would like to draw attention to the needs of Scotland in one or two points. The Fleet was going now a great deal into Scottish waters, and at such places as Invergordon, there was great need for a social institute. He hoped the Admiralty would take that matter into consideration, and would also remember when a base was established at Rosyth that something in that line should be done there. He would limit himself to the report of the Committee on canteen and victualling arrangements. Many of their recommendations had been given effect to. Some were a great help to temperance, because every improvement of the condition of life diminished the force of the temptation to drink to excess. For instance, the cookery staff had been enlarged, and the tea ration increased. Another recommendation was that more attention should be paid to coffee-making and that proper appliances should be provided for the making of coffee, also that there should be a provision of fresh milk for seagoing ships, and generally that there should be a greater variety of diet. Then the Committee proceeded to make suggestions with regard specifically to temperance, which were very simple and elementary in their character. The men now had a Government ration of 10d. a day which included an item for rum. They got one-eighth of a pint of grog or as an equivalent half a pint of wine, half a gill of spirit, or one pint of porter. That alone cost the State rather over three-sixteenths of a penny a man, no duty being paid. A man who did not 607 take the rum ration got a money allowance of nine-sixteenths of a penny a day, and the men who took the money allowance were marked in the ship's ledger T, which stood for temperance. The Committee suggested that instead of marking temperance men with T, the grog men should be marked G, and they further suggested that the money allowance for those not taking the rum ration should be raised to a full penny a day. Those recommendations were not made by teetotal fanatics, nor even by ignorant landsmen, but by naval experts who knew all the circumstances. They could not actually recommend these points, because they were outside their limits, but they were so impressed with the advisability of giving effect to them that they made the suggestions believing they would do much to promote temperance in the Fleet. He believed the suggestion was concurred in by most, if not all, naval authorities. He knew the right hon. Gentleman was very sympathetic, but the suggestions had not yet been carried out, and the object of the Resolution was to express the feeling of the House and if possible to get the Report carried out. The first point, the change of the letter T and the letter G, seemed small, and yet there was a great difference. This grog was a relic of the old times that had gone. The system had gone in civil and in military life, and it was time that it went in naval life. Nowadays there was a great responsibility upon employers, and in this case the State was the employer. There was no other employer that paid part of the wages in spirits. The force of public opinion would be directed against such a way of paying wages, and it was altogether out of date to have the system continued where the State itself was the employer. Public opinion nowadays had a great deal to do with how employers treated their employees. There was, for instance, a great outcry against the living-in system, but unfortunately in the Navy that system could not be prevented. If the change was made it would show the desire of the employer that the men should be temperate. The rule should be abstinence and the exception grog. At present the money allowance for those not taking grog was too little. It was against the regulations for 608 a man to pass on his tot or sell it to another. Yet this was frequently done because the money allowance was so small, and that of course resulted in some men having too much grog, which did not make them any fitter for doing their work. At present 25 per cent. of the men in the Navy were marked T and the proportion was increasing by 1 per cent. annually. That was highly gratifying, and he was sure the number would increase faster if his Motion was accepted. A penny a day was 30s a year, and he would like to have the money paid at stated times, so that the men would know perfectly that they were getting, it in lieu of their grog, and not mixed up with other payments. To carry out the scheme would cost the nation £15,000 extra, which was a mere bagatelle compared with the millions spent upon the Navy, and he was sure the money could not be better spent. He appealed to all parties in the House. Hon. Members opposite talked about forcing people to be temperate. This did not do that. It adopted a policy of moral suasion, accompanied by pecuniary inducement. This proposal would allow a man to fix his own time limit. The latter part of the Motion was the logical outcome of the first part, and it provided that there should be no issue of spirit rations to new recruits. Under the present system for the first two years service a man got no grog, and his suggestion was that that policy should be continued all the time with the new recruits. The objection had been made that the men would not join under those conditions. If there were men who only joined for grog, the Navy was better without them. On the other hand, there were those who would not join the Navy at present because of the drinking habits, of the men and the ridicule that was directed against the men who did not drink. One paragraph of the Report of the Committee emphasised the advantage of adopting in peace time a victualling system that would work during war. He suggested that they should prepare some system of that kind to prevail in time of war. It was absolutely essential during war to banish strong drink from their ships. He could give instances where this had been done with great success. The Japanese Navy, which 609 copied the British Navy, at first gave grog on our plan. They began with a very liberal allowance of rum, and then this was displaced and their native drink was substituted. Even the native drink had since been discontinued, and now there was no drink allowance in the Japanese Navy at all. They were aware, from the splendid fighting record of the Japanese Navy, what a success that had been. In the United States there used to be a grog allowance, but Admiral Foote used his personal influence so strongly that his ship the "Cumberland," became a temperance ship and every man upon it was a temperance man. During the Civil War in 1862 the United States Navy found it essential to banish drink from their ships, and in that year a Bill was passed providing that "from and after the 1st of September the spirit rations in the Navy of the United States shall for ever cease," and five cents, per man was substituted. All the authorities in America united in showing that the system adopted there had been a complete success. He hoped it would be a long time before the British Navy had to take part in a war, but he thought they should be prepared for it in this way as well as in the more expensive ways. By his Resolution he was only asking the Admiralty to give effect to the Report of their own Committee appointed to consider another matter. That Committee felt so strongly on this point that they made the suggestion he had quoted. The adoption of this Resolution would have an excellent effect on the character and the work of the men, and consequently on the efficiency of the Navy. He begged to move.
§ MR. FERENS (Hull, E.)
said he rose to second this Amendment. He associated himself with everything his hon. friend had said in appreciation of the men of the Royal Navy. The Resolution contained two propositions. In the first place it suggested that the Government should put into force the recommendation of the Canteen and Victualling Committee, 1906, viz.: "To encourage temperance amongst the men we suggest raising the money, allowance to 1d. per ration in lieu of the spirit." Secondly, it was proposed that all new recruits 610 should be paid the allowance without the option of liquor. It was not proposed to interfere with the contract made with the men who were now in the Navy. They must be allowed to continue as at present if they wished it, and they had no right to interfere with the bargain made with them when they joined the Navy. The supply of daily rations of rum was a survival from the dark ages. It was quite out of date, and in the interests of efficiency, good order, and discipline it should be abolished so far as new recruits were concerned. It would probably be said that yesterday was spent in the advocacy of economy in the Navy and to-day they were proposing an increase in naval expenditure. It was quite true that the increase from nine-sixteenths of a penny to one penny would involve an expenditure of perhaps £15,000 a year, but he maintained that this outlay would prove to be a real economy and would be returned with compound interest in improved conduct, alertness, and generally increased efficiency. The Secretary for War was continually telling them that although the number of the Army might be reduced, it did not follow that its efficiency was less. He felt that the efficiency of the Navy would be increased if the young fellows upon joining did not get rum rations, which often created an appetite for liquor which some of them went to extremes in satisfying on shore. The foremost men in the Army and Navy were strong advocates of temperance. Lord Roberts, in season and out of season, preached the advantages of temperance to soldiers. Lord Kitchener on his march to Khartoum discovered intoxicating liquor with his forces, and he had it poured, out into the desert sands. Sir Frederick Treves, when on the march to Ladysmith, said—It was not the tall man nor the short man that fell out of the ranks, but it was the drinker, and he was as clearly marked as if he had been branded.Lord Charles Beresford, himself an abstainer, was doing his best to spread temperance amongst those serving under him. He had recently listened to an eloquent speech made by the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth when he gave most convincing testimony as to the advantages of the influences brought to 611 bear upon the men in the Navy to be temperate. Last year the Secretary to the Admiralty stated that 25 per cent. of the men in the Navy did not take their tots of rum. The Times, yesterday, in an interesting account of a contingent of Marines now on the way from Vancouver, had stated that the victualling arrangements had been much upset because so large a proportion of the men—more than one-half—were abstainers. This tendency should be encouraged, and they should try to make it easier for the men to do right and more difficult for them to do wrong. A commander in the Navy had favoured him with his views on this question and he would read them to the House—Rum, spirits, a ration—part of provision allowance to men in Royal Navy—now only allowed to be taken by men over twenty years of age. Age limit used to be eighteen, extension to twenty (two years at sea without it) has been great factor in inducing men to do without altogether.The expense incurred by labour, stowage and guarding (i.e., sentry and other precautions) probably cost more than the difference to make up the allowance to Id. per day in lieu of tots.It is said by some who know that the tot of grog is worth 1d., and probably more than 1d. to a man if sold surreptitiously; and that this goes on to some extent amongst the men is well known, as much as 3d being given for a tot, and one case of a hard bargain is quoted when a tot was actually sold for 6d.But the fact that grog can be, and is, sold (though contrary to regulations) for more than the allowance in lieu, is a temptation for a man who does not drink his tot to take it up and sell it instead of stopping its issue.It is generally acknowledged by commanding officers and officers in responsible positions that the grog ration is a principal cause of insubordination in cases which frequently occur in afternoon (after grog is served out); many cases being traced to the effects of grog, particularly amongst cooks of messes and others having facilities for drinking more than their own tot. Also the effect of the grog generally seems to make men less alert and less fit for the exacting duties now required of our sailors in all departments of the Navy.Encourage the voluntary stopping of grog, because it results in more efficient men, of greater benefit to the State, and a return of much greater value than the proposed allowance in lieu of grog.The State will be getting a very good pennyworth.This was the third time of asking, and he hoped the Admiralty would now consider favourably this small reform. He had much pleasure in seconding the Motion.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that in the interests of the men in the Royal Navy effect should be given to the suggestion of the Victualling Committee of last year to raise the money allowance in lieu of the spirit ration, and that the issue of the spirit ration should be discontinued in the case of all new recruits, whilst preserving to them the money allowance in its place,"—(Mr. Gulland)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
thought he had shown in his speech last year the fullest sympathy with the object of the Amendment. The Victualling Committee had calculated, on the basis of the existing number of temperance men, who took the money equivalent to the spirit ration, that the proposed increase in the allowance would involve the cost to the State of £15,000 a year. It was found, however, on a revised calculation made at the Admiralty that the cost would not be quite so large, or only £12,500. He had to confess that no provision was made in the Estimates this year for this reform owing to the pressure which had come from all sides in favour of other interests. But it would be considered in the future; and he would take it upon himself to recommend it to his colleagues at the Admiralty. He thought the Admiralty ought first to know what was likely to be the number of men that would come forward to claim this increased allowance-He therefore was going to suggest to his colleagues that they should call upon the Commanders-in-Chief of one of the home ports and two of the large sea-going fleets, to report, first, the existing number of temperance men, divided between men over twenty and boys under twenty; and, secondly, the number of men who would be willing to go on the temperance list if the non-grog allowance was increased to one penny. Then there was the more doubtful point, raised on the second part of the Motion that the issue of grog should be abolished altogether, at first in the case of recruits, and ultimately in the case of all the men. He believed the Victualling Committee were not in favour of the abolition of the spirit ration, unless it were found, at some time or 613 other, that the great majority of the men were, of their own free will, taking the grog money in lieu of grog. They thought that if such a step were taken hurriedly and arbitrarily, in advance of public opinion on board ship, it must almost necessarily lead to the sale of spirits in the canteen without official supervision, or to what was a worse state of things, systematic smuggling on board ship.
§ MR. LEIF JONES (Westmoreland, Appleby)
said he must express to his right hon. friend some little disappointment at the character of the statement he had made that evening. After all, his hon. friend did not come before the House unsupported by the authorities whom the right hon. Gentleman had appointed to look into the matter. It was perfectly true that the Canteen Committee did not recommend this alteration, but they put it forward as a suggestion and only refrained from recommending it because they felt that that would be going beyond the functions for which they were appointed. He had certainly hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have announced that he was ready to provide the small sum of money that was necessary for carrying out this suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman had said it did not depend on him, and that he was going to consult his colleagues at the Admiralty and the Treasury. The point he wanted to put was this. The right hon. Gentleman had said he could not carry out the suggestion, because with the £34,000,000 required for the Navy he was not able to find the £12,000 necessary to carry it out. What he wanted to know was whether if there were any savings on any Vote in that £34,000,000 the first use the Admiralty, in the exercise of their power of virement, made of that saving would be to provide the £12,000 in question The right hon. Gentleman had said he could not carry out the second half of the Resolution because the Committee having considered it did not recommend it. They said nothing about it in their Report. He understood they were against it. In the second case the verdict of the Committee was accepted as decisive, and it was rather hard on those who desired this reform that the 614 recommendation of the Committee in its favour should be set on one side. He pleaded that the right hon. Gentleman should carry out the suggestion of his own Committee.
§ MR. LUTTRELL (Devonshire, Tavistock)
urged the Government to consider carefully the suggestion which had been made to them. It seemed to him that there was everything to be said in favour of acceding to the request. His right hon. friend had told them that the cost would be even smaller than was generally supposed, and that, for £12,500 they should be able to get rid of the issue of spirit rations to the men of the Navy. The House had heard a good deal about the necessity of maintaining the two-Power standard. But it was necessary to keep up the moral standard as well as the physical standard, and most of the offences in the Navy were to be traced to drunkenness. We were behind other nations in this respect. Japan and America had been in front of us for many years in this matter. Unless we kept up the moral standard of our men we could not expect to keep up the standard of efficiency in the Navy. He thought the money required to carry out this reform would be extremely well spent from the point of view of efficiency. In America so long ago as 1862 the following Resolution was passed—The spirit ration in the Navy of the United States shall for ever cease and thereafter no distilled spirituous liquors shall be admitted on board of vessels of war except as medical stores and upon the order and under the control of the medical officers of such vessels, and to be used only for such purposes.Rear Admiral Preble of the United States Navy, stated—Three-quarters of the minor and all the major punishments of the men and a large proportion of the courts martial of the officers either originated in drunkenness or could be traced to drink. I am clearly of opinion that the Navy has been largely benefited in its personnel by the prohibition of distilled spirits on board ships, though the officers at the time looked upon it with dismay.The following lines showed how popular the change was—Jack's happy days will soon be past,To return again, no, never,For they've raised our pay 5 cents a dayAnd stopped our grog for ever.615 Now, no commanding officer would recommend going back to the old system. Though he would not advise his friends to go to a division, he urged in the most strenuous manner that the Government should accede to the request.
§ MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
said that this was a step in the advancement of the great question of temperance which everybody professed to believe in, but which few carried out in practice. He was exceedingly sorry that the Government had not taken more interest in it, because it had been found everywhere else that where the allowance of drink was taken away, and an allowance of money substituted, it had always done good. The right hon. Gentleman lad said that he had no recent or authentic information from America, but he gave some sort of opinion of the man in the street that smuggling went on in the American Navy, and that there was also drinking in the canteens. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had given no proof whatever that that was the case, and it was utterly wrong to make such charges against the American Navy without proof. Exactly the same thing had been said regarding Sunday drinking in Scotland. It was said that as a consequence of Sunday closing, shebeens had sprung up and that there were all sorts of means of getting drink on Sundays. Everybody who knew the facts of the case, and made a proper inquiry, was aware that these charges were entirely untrue. The stories in regard to drinking in canteens and smuggling in the American Navy had about the same amount of truth. The right hon. Gentleman had said an inquiry would be made; but that was how awkward subjects were got rid of, and by this time next year there might or might not have been an inquiry. Indeed, the Government might not be in power twelve months hence, and he wanted them to do something at once while they were in power. He wanted an assurance from the Treasury Bench that this was not to be a mere inquiry, but that something would be done as soon as possible; and he was sure that it would do as much good as the abolition of the drink allowance had done in the American Navy and in our 616 own workhouses, infirmaries, and other institutions. He had not the slighest doubt that our sailors (a fine body of men) would gladly avail themselves of the money substitute for drink, and that they would do good to themselves and their families and to the temperance cause by showing a good example to the rest of their fellows. He (Mr. Morton) was always anxious to do something in the cause of temperance, and he was aware that strong drink was not necessary or useful to anyone, male or female.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he could assure the hon. Member that it was his intention to institute a real inquiry into the subject, and if his own recommendation could do it he would put a stop to the drink allowance. He appealed to the hon. Gentleman to allow the vote to be taken, if a division was thought necessary, so as to get the Speaker out of the Chair.
§ MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said he was sorry that he was unable to respond to the request of the right hon. Gentleman, but he had experience of what it was to raise important questions in the absence of Mr. Speaker from the Chair. It was much less easy to discuss then subjects which were of vital interest. A great deal had been said about our being able to maintain our Navy at the two-Power standard. He was strongly in favour of a strong Navy.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is not the Question before the House. The Question is an Amendment relating to the drink allowance in the Navy.
§ MR. CARLILE (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
said that, while he had very much sympathy with the Resolution before the House, he should say that there was one very ominous expression in the speech of the seconder, and that was an expression very often heard in certain quarters: "We ought to make it easy for people to do right, and difficult for them to do wrong." He had always noticed that whenever that observation was made it was immediately accompanied by a proposal to rob somebody. However, on this 617 Occasion there did not seem to be any proposal of that kind, and therefore one felt sympathy with the Amendment. But it ought to be made perfectly clear that there would be no tyranny about this business. They were so accustomed to attempts being made in some parts of the House to put them in leading strings with bibs round their necks, which they associated with children, that they were rather suspicious of this Amendment. He thought if a man was accustomed to have his tot of rum and desired it he should have it under proper control.
§ MR. CARLILE
said he knew that something was said in the Amendment about recruits, but recruits to the Navy came from all classes and of different ages, and he did not think it was right to tyrannise over them. He had not himself taken any drink for thirty-two years, and got on very well without it; but he did not think it was right to lay down a hard and fast line and say that these recruits were not to get a little liquor in a properly conducted canteen if they wanted it. He thought it was a matter for sincere congratulation on the part of everybody in the House that 25 per cent. of the men in the Navy were total abstainers. He was quite certain that they were all the better for it, even in the severe climates to which they had sometimes to go. Still, he did not want to put our sailors in leading strings with bibs round their throats, and he hoped that if the matter was left in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman it would be properly dealt with. It would be a sad thing if the result was to lead to secret drinking.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.618
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put accordingly, and agreed to.