§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £7,129,700, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of Wages, etc., to Officers, Seamen and Boys, Coast Guard, and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1909."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
I understand that by common consent between the two sides of the House it was arranged that the general debate on the Navy should be continued on Vote 1. This is not permissible unless some such arrangement has been concluded by common consent. I do not rise to make a second speech upon the broad question of the naval shipbuilding policy of the Government, but I wish to repeat a question which I put at some length yesterday and which I will content myself with restating in terms which are, I think, quite unmistakable. The question is whether in the latter months of 1911 there will not be thirteen ships of the "Dreadnought" and "Invincible" types belonging to Germany and only twelve belonging to Great Britain, it being assumed, in the first place, that the ordinary date at which they (both Germany and Great Britain) begin to build is adhered to; in the second place, that the German statutory shipbuilding programme is fulfilled—and up to the present date it always has been fulfilled; and in the third place that the rates of shipbuilding in Germany and Great Britain are, as it has been asserted by the German Minister of Marine, practically identical or largely identical. That is a very clear and specific question which I have isolated from all the details which encumber the debates on the Navy Estimates. I am quite sure that the Government will be doing a great public service not only to the House, but to those of us who are deeply interested in this navel problem, if they 1336 can give us a clearer answer than was to be expected or indeed was possible yesterday from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty to whom I gave no notice and to whom I could give no notice because the question itself was suggested in the course of last-night's debate.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fifeshire,. E.
I do not in the least complain of-the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed himself to the matter or to his putting this question, which I agree with him is of the greatest interest to the community at large. Before I proceed to answer to the best of my ability let me repeat what I said more than a week ago, that I do not think there is the faintest difference of opinion: between us on two points—one of which may be said to involve the other. The first is that we must maintain the unassailable supremacy of this country at sea; and that for that purpose the two-Power standard, as it is commonly called—whether a scientific formula or not—is a good practical and workable one. There is no difference of opinion— as was pointed out by the First Lord of the Admiralty in his Memorandum— between successive Administrations. The question of the right hon. Gentleman, however, does not affect the second question at all, because in dealing with, the two-Power standard you must not simply consider the "Dreadnoughts" and "Invincibles." Everybody will agree that there are other classes of ships which must be brought into account also. I myself am not an expert, but from such knowledge as I have of the subject, I should say that the "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon," although they may not be quite in the same class as the "Dreadnought" and "Invincible," yet are so superior to other battleships, and in some degree so little inferior to the "Dreadnought," that they ought to weigh very heavily in the balance. But, the question put by the right hon. Gentleman is confined entirely to the vessels; of the "Dreadnought" and "Invincible" class. First of all, let us see what the; assumption is with regard to Germany. The right hon. Gentleman's assumption is that in the months of December or 1337 November, 1911—I think I can safely say within the last two months of the year 1911—Germany will or may be in possession of thirteen ships of this class. That, of course, is based on two preliminary hypotheses. The first is that the whole of the German programmes laid down between now and then will be carried out to the letter; and next, that the German rate of construction will be such as at any rate to admit of the building of one of these vessels within thirty months of the date of its being laid down.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I think it is mathematically demonstrable that if the ship takes longer than thirty months from the date of its being laid down, the thirteen vessels will not be there at the time the right hon. Gentleman mentions. I need not say I am not going to discuss whether these two hypotheses are or are not well founded, or whether the Germans will find it possible to adhere to their programme or whether they will be able to maintain this rate of construction. I think there is very grave reasons to doubt whether they will maintain this rate of construction. Let us admit that they will, but it must be clearly understood that it is on these two hypotheses—these two assumptions— that the problem presents itself. Let us look at the other—the British side of the question. By the end of the year 1910—to be quite accurate by January, 1911—when the battleships and cruisers which form part of the programme of new construction for this year will be completed, to put it at the latest, in the month of January, 1911, we shall be in possession admittedly of twelve ships of this class. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's proposition is this. He says: "I admit that by January, 1911, we here shall have twelve ships of this class, but when you come to the month of November or December, 1911, the Germans, if they have completed their paper programme and are able to carry on their shipbuilding in the time I have suggested, will have thirteen. In other words, we shall be one short." That assumes either that nothing at all 1338 is done next year in the way of new construction, for the twelve vessels referred to are provided for in the programme of past years and the present; or that whatever is done in the way of new construction or whatever is proposed, the vessels will be laid down at such a date that they will not be completed in the months of November or December, 1911. I agree that upon there assumptions that will be so, but without in any way forecasting the shipbuilding programme for the next year, I will say this without the faintest hesitation, that if we find at that time there is a probability or a reasonable probability of the German programme being carried out in the way the paper figures suggest, we should deem it our duty to provide and we should provide not only for a sufficient number of ships, but for such a date for laying down those ships that at the end of 1911 the superiority of Germany which the right hon. Gentleman foreshadows would not be an actual fact. I hope that is quite explicit. That is the policy of His Majesty's Government. It remains on record and I think it ought to reassure the House that we do not intend in this matter to be left behind.
§ MR. BRAMSDON (Portsmouth)
said there had been considerable discussion on the subject of providing ships for the Navy, and on the number of men to be employed. He wanted to change the venue of the discussion a little, and to deal rather with questions of the discipline of the men, and of their comforts, and to ask that justice might be done to them in their various positions in the service. He wanted in the first place to say how grateful the men of the Navy were for the great benefits which had been bestowed upon them in the past year. He wished to thank the Admiralty, and his right hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, and those associated with him, for a great number of boons which had been bestowed on the men. He put in the forefront the question of victualling, canteen reform, the reforms-concerning officers' cooks and stewards, and the ships' cooks of the Navy. This; was a very large and comprehensive programme. It meant that the men of the Fleet had had a very great 1339 blessing bestowed on them of better food, cooked and served in a better way. The question of the cooking of the food had been a very long and tiresome subject, but he thought at last the difficulty in connection with the serving and supply of food had been met, and he desired as in some sense representing the men, to thank the Admiralty for the great efforts which had been successfully made in this matter. He wanted to thank them also for the new regulations as to clothing, which had bestowed a great boon on the men. During the past year also there had been established the wireless telegraphy class, creating more petty and warrant officers, and enabling the men to obtain speedier promotion and better positions in the service. He wanted to thank them, too, for the extra pay and the better conditions among the military branch of the warrant officers, but he wished the Admiralty could have seen their way clear to show some appreciation towards the carpenters branch of the Navy, which he thought richly deserved it. He hoped the Admiralty had this matter still under consideration, and that something would yet be done. There had been a new scale of pay for the seamen and signal class, and he understood that that new pay was in some sense a benefit to the men. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would forgive him when he said that the men were unable to appreciate that new scale of pay. They were unable to understand that it was any further benefit. In the First Lord's statement it was mentioned that arrangements would have to be made to meet some difficulties, and he would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could tell him if as the result of the issue of this scale there was to be an extra grant of money supplied, as then the men would understand it would be of benefit to them. At the present time it was a sort of Chinese puzzle, and there were many parts which the men were unable to understand. If his right hon. friend could tell him that it would result in an extended grant he thought they might assume that more benefits were being given to the men. He wished to thank the Admiralty very heartily also for the attention they had given to the numerous letters which 1340 he, as a representative of a dockyard constituency, had had to address to them. There had been a great improvement made this year in the lot of the general body of naval men. Upon this improvement he had to congratulate his right hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, especially as it was a greater advance than had perhaps ever been recorded in any year in modern times or in the history of the Navy. That was a great deal for a Member representing a naval port to admit, but whilst tendering his thanks in that respect he must say that there was a good deal more to be done, and in this connection he would mention the important question of disrating in the service. In 1905, no fewer than 951 men were disrated summarily, which meant that their careers were spoiled, as it were, in consequence of the summary act of the officer of a ship. He took it that the commanders of ships meant to do justice to the men when they disrated them, but it was done in such a summary way and without proper evidence that the men had to contend with a very great injustice. In 1906, 902 men were disrated. He would explain the procedure which was followed in these cases. A man got into disgrace and was put into the report, and on the following morning he was brought up on the quarter-deck; no evidence was taken in writing, but there was some general evidence taken upon which the captain of the ship decided that the man should be disrated. That was especially bard upon the ship's steward, because if he was disrated he was disrated from the position of a chief petty officer to that of a leading seaman, and if once a man was disrated his career was practically gone. He might recover his position in the ordinary military branches after six months if his superior thought fit, but if he was an assistant steward it would take him two years before he could hope to be restored to his old position. He thought the committee would appreciate what that as regarded pay and pension meant, viz., a serious injury to a man throughout the whole of his career, and if the money alone which it meant to him were computed it would mean a very large sum. He wished to make a suggestion to remedy this state of 1341 things, viz., he wanted his right hon. friend to consider the advisability of taking down the evidence in writing, and keeping it as a record. He firmly believed that if that were done the number of cases of disrating would be reduced by one half in twelve months. The men complained that they did not get justice done to their cases as they were not properly considered at this hasty trial on the quarter-deck, and if they tried to get a word in they were told that they were rude and must not speak, and were in various ways prevented from making a statement. This was a very serious thing to many men in the Navy, and he made this appeal, that as the Admiralty had during the past year done so much, they would try and consider this measure of justice which would be very much appreciated throughout the Navy. The existence of a feeling that justice was not done could not be for the good of the service. He also wanted the right hon. Gentleman to consider the question of badges. One set of men got badges and were paid for them, another set of men got badges and were not paid for them, while a third did not get any badges at all. One general system should be adopted so that these anomalies should be done away and all ratings should be allowed badges and paid a penny per day for each. The main question upon which he wished to address the Committee that day was in connection with the status of the engineer officers of the Navy. He supposed that if one were to ask anyone connected with the Navy what was the most important thing in regard to the personnel they would reply that it was the question of discipline. Unquestionably it was. Our ships would be nothing and our personnel would not be able to be properly organised if it were not for the discipline carried out in the most effectual manner. That discipline meant that every man connected with the military branch of the Navy —he meant the fighting force of the Navy—should readily respond to the order of his superior officer and carry out that discipline which alone could bring about the best results in all matters connected with our ships and the fighting of our ships. That existed throughout the military part of the Navy, but there 1342 was one part of the ship in which that discipline could not be said to be carried out with that perfection that it ought to be, and that was in the engine-room and stokehole part of the ship. The men were loyal enough and respectful enough, but unfortunately, the engineer officers who had charge of them, and who had their supervision, had no control over them, no command over them, and when he told the Committee that the Engineers' Department of His Majesty's Navy consisted of one-third of the whole of the personnel of the Navy they would see how important this question was. There were few hon. Members of this House who knew that the engineer officer, no matter what his position was on board ship, had absolutely no power to enforce an order except that he could in case of disobedience take a man to some officer of the military branch. They ought to have some departmental power. This was not a matter that had arisen to-day, but one which arose many years ago. The engineer officers of the Navy demanded that there should be amongst the engineer officers of the Navy disciplinary power to command and control their men. In the case of war what was more important than the engine department of His Majesty's Navy? The ready response to an order, the way in which it should be carried out, the readiness for war, in fact, the instant an order was given that it should be immediately complied with throughout the whole of the engineer's staff, he thought they would agree were matters imperative. Let them consider that there was a war going on, and that the ships were either chasing the enemy or being chased by the enemy. In. that particular case one could easily see that the parts of the ship which stood the most severe strain were the engine departments, because if they had to chase another ship it was absolutely imperative that the whole organisation in connection with the engine department should be placed on a perfect footing, and every order should be immediately obeyed; and the same thing applied if they had to organise the chase from an enemy or had to approach the enemy; but no power whatever was given to an engineer officer to punish his men, however 1343 slightly. He could not keep his men in even for an hour, he could not give them extra work for an hour, he could not stop their leave for an hour, and he was not able to give the slightest possible punishment in order to control and command his men. He had no control or command of his men as he should have. In two navies of the world which had recently been engaged in battles, an alteration in this respect was brought about. He referred to the United States and Japan. The United States had given to the engineer the position of a military officer, and so had Japan. After the great battles with the Russians, the Japanese had come to the conclusion that the engineer officers in their department should have complete command and control of their men, and that they should be made military officers. Indeed, the Admiralty themselves had admitted that this was a proper thing to do, because the new officers to be created were to be military officers, and they were to have the same powers as regards the command of their men as officers in the executive branch of the Navy. With reference to the old engineer officers and the present military officers he would like to read to the Committee a statement made by Lord Selborne, who, was First Lord of the Admiralty in a previous Administration. Lord Selborne said:—I ask you and the country, What is the most important thing on board a battleship to-day? The machinery. I defy anyone to give any other answer. It has been said that these engineer duties proposed for executive officers are not really duties for combatant officers. Brushing technicalities aside, who are the combative officers? I say he (the engineer officer) is one of the officers essential to the fighting of a ship. It might be very unfortunate for a ship, but if you land every doctor, surgeon, servant, chaplain, and accountant before action, the ship could be fought just as well as if they were on board; but if you landed seamen, marines and their officers, the ship would be helpless, as she would be if you landed the engine-room personnel.He hoped he had made it clear that the engineer officer of the future was to be, and in fact, was admitted by the Admiralty to be a military officer with control and command of the men under him. But then they would have this anomaly, that when these young officers came to be commissioned officers, they would, in accordance with an 1344 answer given by his right hon. friend, pass into the engine-room, and they would have this peculiarity, namely, engineer officers under the new regime with military authority, while the old engineers, holding higher positions than they, would have no power of control over their men. He wanted his right hon. friend to tell him what was to happen in such a case, would the military officer, in any respect, have command of his senior officer? Such a thing as that would be ridiculous. It would be the reductio ad absurdum, because they would get back to the anomaly under these regulations that the military officer of junior rank would take precedence in certain cases of officers of superior rank. He thought the Committee would fully understand the relative rank which existed between officers in the engineer branch and those of the military branch. There were lieutenants of the military branch, and commanders and captains, and some few years ago the Admiralty, in considering this question, conceded military rank to the engineer officer, but without conceding military control or military powers. The engineer officers had consistently and persistently pointed out that unless they get power of control over their men, it would be a positive danger to this country should there be at any time in the future a battle fought when the urgency and importance of the discipline and organisation of the Fleet became absolutely necessary. The present engineer officer would remain in the Navy for some fifteen or twenty, or twenty-five years. Yet there would be in the Navy young men holding military positions, and unless something was done to bring about a change it would be a great disadvantage to the Navy and to this country in time of trouble. The only way to enforce discipline was for the engineer officer to have respect shown to him by those beneath him, and how could a man have respect shown to him when he had no power to enforce his orders? Why, in civil life a man had power to discharge. Of course, they could not do that in the Navy. What engineer officers asked for was really more modest in character. What they said was that they wanted the power to punish on a similar basis to that of the Marine officers of the ship. Marine 1345 officers of the ship had control of nothing like the proportion of men that were under the engineer officers in the Navy. There were 34,000 men in the engine departments of the Navy, and if anything arose to create discord, it would affect the security of the ship and lead to that want of readiness for war and ready response to orders which were so necessary. If the orders of the Engineer Department were not fulfilled in a perfect manner, then he suggested that a very serious danger would arise. He thought the House was entitled to say to him that if this thing had been going on so long, why had this measure of justice not been granted to the engineer officers before? He would tell them why. It was simply prejudice on the part of the officers who now had command in the Service. They did not like to concede to other branches the position which they themselves held. At the same time the House might say: "But surely we shall get the new officers and, in the long run, things will right themselves." He would be very sorry if that view were taken for a moment, because it must be fifteen or twenty years before any military officers could obtain high positions which others held at the present time; and if they had friction between the two it must be to the disadvantage of the Navy. Let him again read what Lord Selborne said upon this question, in a speech which he made in another place. He said—There is a school which says 'Let things alone'; but things, when they are great forces, will not let you alone, and it is not my idea of the Junctions of the Board of Admiralty that it should sit still and be moved in spite of itself by forces which it did not recognise until it -was overwhelmed by them. Again, I am told that everything that is given to any other officer is so much detracted from the value of the executive officers' positions. That is base coin, and it exasperates me when I hear it jar on the counter.There had been several Departmental Committees on this question, and he thought he was light in saying that there was only one answer to this point, and that was that the power to control and command their men, the power of punishment, must be given to the engineer officers; it was the logical outcome of all discussions and all reasoning. There was a Committee presided over by Admiral Douglas, which sat not very long ago, and in which 1346 this question was asked to be decided. The Committee sat for some time. It was composed of some six executive officers, four marine officers and four engineer officers, and the result was a Report which used most hostile and injudicious language on the part of the military branch of the Navy. His right hon. friend on a question being asked him by the Member for Dulwich, as to whether this Report was to be made public, and in reply to two other questions, said—This Report is still under consideration. As the Committee was appointed for the confidential guidance of the Board in contingencies which have not yet arisen, it is not proposed to publish the Report.He would like his right hon. friend to promise that the Report would be published, because he believed if it were published it would be in itself a sufficient justification for all that the engineer officers demanded. It would show the reason why there was a very great necessity in the organisation of the Service. He hoped that even now his right hon. friend would consider the advisability of making this Report public. What he was afraid of was that his right hon. friend, acting on the part of the Admiralty, would have the usual stereotyped answer which had been given in reply to this question so many times. He would say, perhaps, that the matter was not ripe yet, and was still under discussion. But the matter was ripe, and it had been discussed twenty or thirty times. They kept on giving concessions to the engineer, and he observed, in connection with the First Lord's statement, that now they proposed to give the engineers more pay, which they had been demanding for years, and which they deserved. But on this very vital question which the engineer officers of the Navy had asked for several years—that they should be given not anomalous military positions, but a real power of control over their men, so that they might be able to punish them in a departmental way for breach of duty—they had fever got a reply. It was not meant that the engineer officer desired to assume the powers of the captain of the ship; all he wanted was, in connection with his own department, that he might be able to give some correction to his men—all he wanted 1347 was that he should have the same power as a marine officer at the present time. He thought it was called seven days 10A. He could stop their leave or their grog for seven days or less, or he could keep them in for an hour to discharge extra work in consequence of disobedience on their part. He introduced this question solely from its national importance, and because it was demanded by every engineer officer and everyone who had any knowledge whatever of the duties of the Engineer Department of the Navy.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
said the pronouncement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although extremely satisfactory as far as it went, did not materially advance the question of whether or not the Government were going to adhere strictly to the two-Power standard. The fact that we were going to have a superiority of heavy ships over Germany in December, 1911, did not put forward the question of the two-Power standard any further than it was before. Though probably the majority of Members opposite were perfectly sound on this point of the two-Power standard, there was, as they knew, a considerable section of them which accidentally or otherwise seemed to be led by the hon. Member for Falkirk, who did not appear to think it necessary to maintain that standard. There was nothing in the hon. Member's speech to show really what he meant in reference to the two-Power standard. His Motion was that there should be a reduction of armaments because of the friendly relations which at present existed between this country and foreign nations. The burden of the hon. Member's argument was that there was not now the same necessity for heavy armaments as before the Japanese Alliance and the Agreements with France and Russia. He would like to ask the hon. Member and those who followed him what they meant by there not being the same necessity for the same armaments. Did they mean that we had more than a sufficient margin over the two-Power standard or, as on the whole he gathered from the speech, that we should give up the two-Power standard altogether and go back to the one-Power standard.
§ Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present.
§ House counted and forty Members being found present,
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
(continuing) said there was a certain amount of doubt in certain Members' minds as to the exact meaning of the mover of the Resolution, but they had no doubt as to the exact meaning of the hon. Baronet who seconded it, and who said in the most plain and straightforward way that the reason for a two-Power standard was gone, and that no attempt should be made in the future to keep it up. The hon. Baronet also warned the Government in very strong terms that if all the members who sympathised with the Motion voted against the Government, His Majesty's Ministers would be in a minority. That was a point which it would be well to clear up. They had had a comparatively specific statement from the Government that they were determined to maintain the two-Power standard, although they had refused to allow those words to be introduced at the end of the Motion the other day. They also had it from the mover and seconder of the Resolution that a large section of members opposite felt so strongly on the subject and held the views which were held by the hon. Baronet, that if they had allowed themselves to vote according to their feelings and consciences they would; have voted for the Resolution. That was a very serious state of affairs. He did not approach the question at all in a Party spirit. He believed the majority of Members opposite agreed with him rather thin with the hon. Member for Falkirk. But it seemed worthy of being cleared up, and the House and the country should know what section of the present Members of Parliament felt that we could safely fall off from the standard which this and preceding Governments had set up as being absolutely necessary for our welfare. He hoped the hon. Member for Falkirk would make it perfectly plain what he meant. Let him say in specific terms that the time had come when it was no longer necessary to maintain the two-Power standard, so that they might know exactly where they were and what they were voting on. 1349 Abstract resolutions no doubt gave an opportunity for Members to express their views.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
submitted that the question of the two-Power standard and the general reduction of the Navy was the whole essence of the debate. He regretted that in the whole of these discussions the representatives of the Admiralty had sheltered themselves too often and too completely behind the expert advisers of the Admiralty, and he submitted that they had entirely misconceived their position with regard to the Navy and the position which the Admiralty bore with reference to that House, and which that House bore with reference to the Admiralty. In a debate on affairs dealing with the Home Office or the Board of Trade it was very rarely that one heard the responsible Ministers quoting the permanent Civil servants who were their subordinates. The Admiralty was subservient to that House in precisely the same way as any other great public department, and the Secretary to the Admiralty was absolutely responsible for all the acts that were done, whether by himself or by the Civil Lord or by the naval members of the Admiralty, or the Civil servants employed in the office. In all departments Ministers were to a cert-in extent guided by the experience and advice of Civil servants, but it was not more so in the Admiralty than in other offices. The right hon. Gentleman regretted very much the newspaper campaign against the Home Fleet. He (Mr. Craig) did not regret that the Home Fleet had formed the subject of so much discussion in the public Press, and he was quite sure that Members who had listened to the debate would agree that all was not what it should be with regard to the Home Fleet. He thought the explanations with regard to the nucleus squadrons of the Home Fleet given by the Civil Lord, and the supplementary figures given by the hon. Member for Fareham, would go very far to endorse the opinions which many people and many news- 1350 papers had previously made up their minds to on this subject. The explanation with regard to the ships in the dockyards for repairs was entirely unsatisfactory. He questioned whether any hon. Member, unless he was very well versed in naval affairs, knew really what class of ships belonged to these nucleus divisions and what class did not. They had been told that when a ship in one of the other fleets was sent home for repairs it was generally necessary to send out another ship to take its place. He would like to know whether the ship so sent out was ever taken from one of these divisions of the Home Fleet, and if so, did the ship which was sent home take its place in the nucleus squadrons. A ship was not going to be sent home from the Mediterranean or the Atlantic for repairs unless there was a comparatively serious need, and if that was the case the ship could not be in a very efficient condition for the carrying out of evolutions at sea, and therefore she did not form a very important part of a nucleus or any other squadron. The hon. Member for Fareham had shown that the Portsmouth division at any rate was not in an efficient condition, in fact, could hardly be said to be in a condition at all, because there were only two out of six ships fit at the moment to go to sea. If that was the case with the Portsmouth division it was a fair inference that the Plymouth division was not in a very much better condition. The Secretary to the Admiralty had spoken of the Home Fleet as a whole as being a real fleet in being. He was afraid his conception of a real fleet in being was very different from that of the right hon. Gentleman for with the exception of the Nore division, so far as he had been able to gather, it was not in a ready and efficient condition for war. He saw that the Nore division had gone-to Invergordon for gunnery practice. Of the six battleships of the latest type-which it included only four had gone, and it was hardly correct to say that the-"Majestic" and the "Cassar" were of the latest class. The "Majestic" was over ten years old. He thought they might claim that instead of being in an efficient condition there was a most 1351 lamentable want of homogeneity about the Fleet. It was divided into three parts which very rarely assembled under its Commander-in-Chief. With regard to the new programme, the Civil Lord in a rather impatient and peevish way had said he wished Members would not be continually harping about what other countries were doing. That was n very extraordinary statement. How could they male up their mind what our programme was to be unless they knew what other nations were doing? It was of the very essence of our programme to keep pace with the shipbuilding prgramme of other countries. The hon. Gentleman probably referred principally to Germany. There had been a great deal of nonsense talked about the danger of mentioning the doings of Germany or any other nation. It might be that the right hon. Gentleman or the Leader of the Opposition had to be guarded in their statements, but lie had no misgivings and no fears of creating any unpleasantness in any country by what he might say, and he had no hesitation in saying that to his mind a great part of their calculations as to the size of the Fleet must depend on what other countries were doing, and especially upon what Germany was doing. They were constantly being informed in the Press and in the House that the great increase which had lately been made in the German Fleet was not in any way directed against us. Tie could not characterise that statement as anything but nonsensical. The Germans, to his mind, had but one central idea in rapidly building up their Fleet. They had determined if possible to construct a Fleet equal to ours, and (he saw no reason why they should not frankly admit the fact, and with equal determination set themselves to the task of keeping ahead of them, as he was quite sure the present and each successive Admiralty would do. He hoped the question of whether or not the House and the country were thoroughly determined to maintain the two-Power standard would be disposed of at an early date definitely and once for all. He considered that that was (h? most important question in naval matters they had to discuss, and although they were content with the statement made by 1352 the Ministers responsible for the Navy, they wanted to know to what extent the feeling voiced by the hon. Member for Falkirk existed on the opposite side of the House.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB (Rochester)
wished to say how very dissatisfied he was in common with some others with the reply of the Civil Lord to certain questions that had been asked with reference to the establishment. For years past the establishment had been held out as an inducement to men coming into the Royal dockyards. Now for some months the establishment had been suspended and a great incentive had been taken from the men, and they were entitled to some fuller explanation than they had had. The Civil Lord had practically replied that the matter was now being considered by the Government. He assumed that that meant the Government were considering the matter in conjunction with the Treasury as distinct from the Admiralty. He wished to emphasise the discontent there was in dockyard towns because of the want of faith in this matter. He pressed for an assurance that the First Lord would use his influence with the Cabinet to see that justice was done. He wanted to refer to another matter which did not brook delay. Provision was made for further dredging operations in the River Medway. They had been told in days gone by that the docks at Chatham were not sufficient to take in the "Dreadnought," but that could not be argued in the case of the cruiser class, and what he pressed for to-day was some assurance that in the allocation of the cruisers included in this year's programme, Chatham would be considered. He pleaded for a Royal dockyard as distinct from a private yard. He hoped one of the cruisers would be allocated to that dockyard. He and his friends were convinced that it would be more economical for the nation to carry on a certain amount of new work in conjunction with repairs. As to the dredging of the Medway, during the past few days he had witnessed one of the dredgers at work. There he found hoppers were in attendance, and on the soil being taken from the bed of the river it was taken right down the Medway over 1353 Sheerness bar, on past the Nore, and right out beyond Barrow Deeps to the Black Deeps, a distance of thirty-five miles, or seventy miles there and back. Some time ago they were told by the Admiralty that one of the difficulties in connection with Chatham dockyard was the silting up of the bed of the Medway. One of the contentions of the Admiralty, though he did not admit it, was that from the great clay holes in some of the creeks of the Medway the soil silted back with the outgoing tide into the bed of the river. Some time ago the Admiralty bought a large marsh called the Hoo Marsh, just off Gillingham Peach, and adjoining it was a creek. He would suggest to the Admiralty that they should make some alteration in the dredging operations. Instead of having hoppers alongside of the dredgers, and the consequent delay in the carrying away of the soil, and especially in view of the fact that there were not a sufficient number of hoppers to keep the dredgers all at work, he suggested that some of the many barges obtainable on the Medway might be employed. These barges could deposit the soil at the back of the Hoo Marsh, which an attempt was being made to reclaim by the deposit of ashes from Chatham Dockyard. Besides saving expense on account of the lesser distance which it would be necessary to carry the soil, employment would be given to much local labour. There were at present a large number of unskilled workmen sadly in need of employment. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would show that the words he had used since the present Government had been in power were justified and that the interests of Chatham would be very really safeguarded.
said these were questions which really ought to be raised on Vote 8. They did not arise on the general discussion.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB
said he would leave these matters. He wished to emphasise the need which was generally felt as to the fortifying of the East Coast. The nerve centre had now been transferred to the east as distinct from the south, and, therefore, he urged that greater attention 1354 should be paid to that part of the coast and especially the lower end embracing Chatham. That was an ideal base, and he asked the Secretary to the Admiralty to use his influence to secure its retention as a first-class naval dockyard where new construction and repairs might go on side by side.
§ MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Bynstaple)
said he desired to raise a question which was of considerable interest to his own constituency, namely, the question of the coastguard. He was not quite satisfied with the statement which the Secretary to the Admiralty made the other day. The duties of the coastguard, he understood, were threefold. They had to look after war vessels on the coast; they had duties in connection with the prevention of smuggling; and last, but by no means least, they had a considerable amount of duty so far as life-saving was concerned. Unfortunately there was a somewhat mixed and muddled jurisdiction with regard to the coastguard. It was somewhat difficult to see where that of the Board of Admiralty ended and that of the Board of Trade began. There was, for instance, a wreck recently near Hartland Point, and a Board of Trade inquiry was at once ordered. At his request the Board of Trade undertook to inquire into the efficiency of the coastguard service. That was to say, the Board of Trade inquired into the efficiency of men paid by the Admiralty; but, to make confusion worse confounded, the gentlemen who sat on the Board of Trade inquiry were naval men, who, therefore, had to judge of tie efficiency of the department they formerly served. One question entirely within the jurisdiction of the Admiralty was whether there was to be an increase or a decrease in the service, or whether it was to be abolished. It was on that point that he wished to speak, and he would deal only with their duties in relation to the saving of life, because in his opinion that was the most important duty now confided to the coastguard. The right hon. Gentleman stated the other day that there was an admitted redundancy of men and coastguard stations. He would be able to prove that in respect of his own constituency that remark did not apply. The seaboard of the division he represented was of a peculiarly 1355 dangerous description. The cliffs rose almost precipitously from the sea and in times of storm they were nothing more nor less than death traps for mariners. He had received a letter from Lynmouth in which the writer stated that there were only two coastguards and there ought to be three. That station was very much undermanned, and the men could not perform their life saving duties properly. In regard to Morte Hoe he had received a letter from the vicar containing the following—There has been a coastguard here since the year 1870, First one man, and a few years later two were stationed here up to quite recently when they were removed. Now the watching the coast at night is done by members of the rocket brigade by order by telephone from Ilfracombe. These men are labourers who after a hard day's work are called upon in turn to turn out and watch for four hours at a time at 2s. 6d. per call. The head of the brigade is my gardener and he calls upon men as required. They are not bound to go and he may call a man from outside, but after a hard day's work a man is not fit to turn out in the teeth of a gale to watch the coast. The beat is from Rockham Bay to the end of Woolacombe sands which includes Morte Point and the Morte Stone outside, where I can show from the church burial registers, scores of men have lost their lives. There is no day watch.… The beat from Rockham to the end of the sands is one of the most dangerous of this dangerous coast, and I speak as one who has known it well for the past fifty years, and if there is one part of our coast which needs the coastguard service it is here.He did not say that these men did not try to do their duty when called upon, but after a hard day's work they were not fit to go out and watch the coast on a stormy night. He did not think that the lives of men should be left to such a watch as that decribed. He went further down the coast and came to that part in the midst of which Clovelly is situated. Only a week or two ago a ship was wrecked there and lives were lost, but no coast guard saw the wreck or gave any assistance whatever. He could tell the right hon. Gentleman of a tragedy which happened on that part of the coast which might move him. On a very stormy night the schooner "Goonlaze" was wrecked close to Cockingeton Point. There were three men on board. One was drowned at sea; and two were washed on to the beach. One of the two died almost immediately and the other managed to climb up the 1356 cliff, but dropped down dead from exhaustion. If there had been a coastguard patrol watching that part of the coast they would have seen that ship in difficulties, because the evidence showed that she burnt flares, and these men might have been saved. Moreover, these men were in the Royal Navy Reserve, and their valuable lives were lost to the Navy by the neglect to watch that part of the coast. He sincerely trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would consider this question favourably. He was glad to see the Civil Lord of the Admiralty present, because the hon. Gentleman knew this coast well and, he was sure, had every sympathy with Devon sailors and fishermen. So far from abolishing the coastguard there was every necessity for the number of men employed in it being increased.
§ MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the Committee that if it was found that Germany had more vessels of the "Dre dnought" type than we had in 1911, the number of our battleships would be increased. The right hon. Gentleman had also said that the Government were very strong in their determination to keep up the two-Power standard; but he would ask how the right hon. Gentleman was going to manage if one of the other Powers—say America— took it into her head to build six or seven ships of the "Dreadnought" type? He asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if it would be possible in that not improbable event for this country to build battleships so as to keep up to the two-Power standard? He noticed that the hon. Member for King's Lynn had made the very definite statement which the Civil Lord of the Admiralty did not deny, that Germany at the present time had more unarmoured fast cruisers than Great Britain, and also—which he himself believed was the case—that Germany had more torpedo craft that could be effectively used in the North Sea than Great Britain had; and further that at the present time our other torpedo craft were too far from their base. If that were so, it must be a fact that our big battleships and big cruisers could not keep at tea in the North Sea at night next week if they were 1357 wanted to do so, because they would have no fringe of small ships round them to protect them at night. Surely that was a very dangerous position. From the little he knew of land warfare, it seemed to him to be exactly the same as if there was an army containing artillery in South Africa with an enemy all round it and no outposts stationed at night round the army to protect it from surprise. The Secretary to the Admiralty must know that the British admiral of the Channel Fleet made a trial of what torpedo craft could do against battleships and cruisers, and the result was that the admiral gave four battleships torpedoed. It would be very pleasant if we woke up one morning and heard that four of our biggest battleships had been torpedoed during the night! He had also information from men who were at the show that four other armoured vessels were also torpedoed. Some of the torpedoes were lost, and the Admiralty had therefore issued an Order that no more torpedoes were to be used at night. If that were so it meant that our torpedo flotilla could not practice at night when torpedoes were really dangerous, and when they were of most use. He wanted to call attention to the very insufficient pay which our ordinary seamen received. This was the cause of grave discontent in the Navy at the present time. With ordinary allowances an ordinary seaman got 1s. 7d. a day, and out of that he had to pay £5 a year for the upkeep of his clothes, which were often rendered unfit to wear in getting back torpedoes fired during practice and in other ways. The officers were often obliged to order the men to get new clothes at a cost of 10s. 6d. to the men, although sometimes the officers paid for the new clothes out of their own pockets. This was because the men got so angry about the spoiling of their clothes and having to pay for new ones through no fault of their own, that they were apt to go on shore at the first opportunity and get into trouble. Then the men had to pay £10 or £12 a year for extra food and also travelling expenses when they had a chance of going home. In the Navy men were allowed to marry, and he asked the Civil Lord how he thought these men were to provide for 1358 their wives and families and pay rent for their houses out of their small pay. Of course it was impossible to be done; and the officers in the Navy were continually receiving the most heart-rending letters from the starving wives of their men. The Civil Lord laughed.
§ MR. HUNT
Well, the hon. Gentleman smiled; but in any case he had taken very great care to state what he had been actually told by officers who had charge of these men. They told him that there was very serious discontent in the Navy at the present time on account of the state of things he had described. If that were the case the Government were paying not only sweaters' wages but bad sweaters' wages to the only men who could prevent the invasion of this country and the destruction of the Empire. If the Government were to be good employers they ought to be good employers, above all, to the only defenders of this country who could at present be depended on. Nobody could pretend that the Territorial Army could at the present time save the country in the event of any approach to a serious invasion. Last year he had given figures showing how much less carpenters, shipwrights, blacksmiths and other skilled workmen on board ship were paid compared with the same class of workmen in the dockyards, but hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench had taken no notice of his complaint. These men on shipboard had much more discomfort and worked harder than the men in the dockyards, and instead of being worse they should be better paid. He thought it a most extraordinary thing that the hon. Member for Glasgow, one of the most prominent of the Labour Members, should have told the Committee that he did not disapprove of the workmen who were discharged from Woolwich being obliged to emigrate in order to obtain protected work in protected Canada and Germany which they could not find in free trade Britain.
§ COLONEL SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said he wished to emphasise what had fallen from the hon. Member 1359 for Barnstable as to the great importance of retaining the coastguard if we were to maintain the life-saving service in a state of efficiency. He ventured to point out to his hon. friend the Civil Lord that since he spoke on this question last week, the necessity of increasing the coast guard had been proved in the most dramatic fashion. Many men's lives had been saved by that service, and one man in the lifeboat service had been drowned in rescue work during the late gales. In three cases the lifeboats would not have been launched but for the warning given by the coastguard. If the policy of reduction of the coastguard had been pursued the lives of many men saved from wrecks last week would assuredly have been lost. This was a really urgent matter. For instance, Greenore was one of the cases where the lifeboat was partly manned by the coast guard in consequence of the reduction, and it was extremely difficult to obtain a crew, and the lifeboat in case of necessity would have to put to sea for rescue work short-handed or with a less efficient crew. He also hoped that the coastguard stations would be put in communication with each other in order to be efficient for the purpose of saving life. The case of Sidmouth would appeal to his hon. friend because it was near his constituency. There, there had been a coastguard communication and one coastguard was left, but this was not found satisfactory, and this week that one coastguard had been removed, so that no means of communication now existed upon that dangerous part of the coast. These two instances would prove how important this matter was. He wished for answers to three simple questions so as to enlighten the House as to what was meant by the term "redundancy in the amount of stations," and whether at any time the words meant a considerable reduction of the coastguards, to which he contended the House of Commons had never assented and which it was now called upon to support. The first question was whether his hon. friend could undertake on the part of the Admiralty that, where the coast required watching for the purpose of saving life in case of shipwreck, the coast would continue to be watched as in the past by His Majesty's coastguards. His second question was 1360 in places where the coastguards assisted in launching the lifeboats and the maintenance of the rocket apparatus. Would the hon. Gentleman undertake that the coastguard should be maintained in order to assist with life-saving and in the management of the rockets? Thirdly, would the hon. Gentleman undertake, if he found it necessary to make any reduction at all of the coastguard service, to consult with the officials of the Lifeboat Institution and the Board of Trade, so that those who were responsible for the 290 lifeboats around our coasts might know where they stood with regard to the manning of lifeboats and the watching of the coasts? In conclusion he would point out to the Committee that this was not a matter of expense. The coasts had to be watched and the duties of the coastguard had to be fulfilled, and the question was whether this was to be done by men of the Royal Navy who had done it in the past so admirably or by another set of men. It was a matter of book-keeping between the departments, and it would be a deplorable thing if the service which had done such work in life-saving in the past were displaced, and the best life-saving work in the world jeopardised in any way in order to carry out a matter of book-keeping. He did not move the Amendment he had on the-Paper, because he anticipated a favourable reply, but if he did not get it he should move and proceed to a division.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
said he went fully with the hon. and gallant Member in what he had said with regard to the coastguards, but while expressing his approbation of what he had said he could hardly accept one statement in which he apparently contemplated that the expenditure upon the coastguards was to be dealt with as a matter of book-keeping between Government Departments. He did not look upon it in that light at all. Unless there was an increase in the Board of Trade Estimates proportionate to the decrease in the Navy Votes it was obvious that the Service was going, he would not say to be starved, but to be reduced. He assured the Financial Secretary that the coastguard excited a very real interest not merely on the 1361 seaboard or seacoast. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke from below the gangway opposite represented a great seaport, and one might assume that he was specially interested in the coastguard service; but he (Lord Balcarres) represented an inland constituency, and he was perfectly certain that that class of district also was often indirectly if not directly affected by this service, and also very much interested in its maintenance. The question he wanted to ask the Civil Lord was about cordite. In the First Lord's Memorandum at page 5, the announcement was made that last year a committee of experts— a very distinguished committee—was appointed to consider a very important question about the danger of cordite when stored. Acting upon the recommendation or at all events subsequent to Lord Reay's Committee, the War Office had determined to spend a large sum of money on cooling apparatus—refrigerating machinery. He wished to know whether he was not correct in saying that in the present financial year a considerable sum had been devoted to that purpose out of savings. The hon. Member said last night that £300,000 had been spent on that service, and another £500,000 was apparently being required. But this committee recommended that all cordite which had been long in a hot climate should be destroyed; again the Government had acted upon that recommendation and accordingly that particular cordite had been so destroyed. Would the Secretary to the Admiralty be so good as to tell the Committee what was the value of the cordite destroyed? Apart from the point, with which he was sure hon. Members would agree, that all dangerous cordite must be got rid of, even if it cost a considerable amount of money to do so, he would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would tell him what the sacrifice involved had been. Further, and he did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would think this was an improper question on his part, it would be interesting to know what period was covered by the words "long in a hot climate; was it a matter of months or years? He would not press the right hon. Gentleman on that point, but it was important from the financial standpoint, because if we 1362 could not keep cordite in a hot climate for more that a few weeks or months our cordite bills would increase steadily. He thought this wais important in view of the large reductions on the votes for the particular services for ammunition for guns, projectiles, and making of cordite. On the Votes for 1908–1909 enormous reductions were being made amounting to some £400,000. That was in itself rather alarming, and when this reduction come on the top of the scrapping of a large amount of cordite, which had, been kept at stations south of the line, it became much more serious. He hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would deal with that point. There was one more question he wished to-put to the Government. Last year they understood that money was likely to be provided in this year's Estimates for a range finder, but he could not find it in the Navy Estimates at all. The Estimates were not comprehensive, and it was not easy to put one's finger on any particular item, and he would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would tell him in what Vote that item appeared, and how much it amounted to. He would also like some amplification of the First Lord's statement about cordite and the exact value of the stores that had been destroyed owing to the Report, of Lord Reay's Committee.
§ MR. ANNAN BRYCE (Inverness Burghs)
wished to associate himself very strongly with what had been said as-to the necessity of retaining undiminished the numbers of the coastguard service. Already a great deal of mischief had been done by the reduction of the numbers, and he was sure consequences still more deplorable would follow if the policy which the Admiralty seemed to have been thinking of adopting was carried any further. There was another way other than those indicated in which the maintenance of the coastguard service at its full strength was of value to the maritime districts of the country, and that was in helping to detect invasions of the three mile limit by the foreign trawlers which now infested our coasts. Before the Dudley Commission in Ireland, a gentleman from East Down gave evidence as to the great depredations on the coast of that 1363 county since the removal of the coastguard stations. The same kind of evidence would, no doubt, be forthcoming from many parts of the country where trawlers plied their avocations. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not allow the diminution of the coastguard to go any further.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devonshire, Honiton),
as representing a constituency with a considerable seaboard, strongly supported the maintenance of the coastguard there. It was a place beset by smugglers in former times, and a great deal of smuggling was done along that coast. He would not forecast the effect of legislation which was before the House, but it might result in a great scarcity of liquor, and the cliffs and valleys of the coast of the constituency which he represented would be very convenient landing places as in former times. He most earnestly hoped that this most valuable force would be maintained.
§ MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
said the hon. Member for South Antrim was anxious as to the views of the gallant fifty-six who went into the lobby in favour of a reduction of armaments. He, at least, as one of the fifty-six, was very strongly in favour of the two-Power standard being maintained, and he thought the country would admit that others in that body were more anxious to reduce expenditure on the Army than expenditure on the Navy. The Motion was for the reduction of either or both Services, and not particularly the Naval Estimates, and so far as the Naval Estimates of this year were concerned, he had perfect confidence in the Estimates put forward by the Government. But he had risen to say a word or two in support of the proposition put before the House by his hon. friend the senior Member for Portsmouth. He wished to deal with the question of the status of the engineer officers of the Navy. It was not perhaps an interesting subject to this House, but he had himself had the advantage of serving at College for three years with the engineer officers of the Navy, and he had had, therefore, a special opportunity of judging both 1364 of those officers and of the relative status of the naval officer on deck and the engineer officer below deck. Now these engineer officers in the Navy were specially selected men who had come up from Keyham, and from the dockyards, and were usually picked men, gathered from the lower middle classes of this country. They had to undergo a series of stiff examinations, and they had to attend special schools of mechanics, mathematics, and other branches of knowledge. Then as soon as they got into the Navy, these officers had charge of the most important part of the ship. They had not only the propelling machinery in their charge, but, in battleships, they had no less than 110 auxiliary machines in their charge—the air compressing machinery, the hydraulic machinery, the machinery for turning the guns, the machinery for hoisting the shells, and the machinery for getting coal into the bunkers. All this machinery was in charge of the engineer branch of the Navy; these officers had to control over one-third of the whole personnel of the Navy, and, in his opinion, their duties were so important that they should have every possible advantage given to them by the Admiralty, in dealing with the problems by which they were confronted in our naval service. Now these engineer officers were treated in such a way as absolutely to impair the fighting value of the Navy. If the House would allow him to speak personally on the matter, he would like to go back to his experience at the Royal Naval College, at Greenwich. There were engineer officers on one side and executive officers on the other, but they were not allowed to mess together, to do their lessons together, nor to live together during the whole three years he was there, and during that time he did not suppose that he exchanged half-a-dozen sentences with members of the executive branch. The system of the separation of the engineer and the executive branches begun at the college in that way, was carried on, though happily not to so great an extent, throughout the naval service, and it was in order to break down that curious social and fictitious barrier between the engineer officers and the executive officers of the Navy that he now ventured to address 1365 the Government. The Government had recognised this to be a disadvantage to the discipline of the Navy, for in 1902 they introduced a system of joint training for torpedo work, for gunnery work, and for engineering work or for the work of the Marines. In 1902, under this scheme officers, including engineer officers, were being trained together, and they were going to receive exactly equal treatment and status in the Navy. That would make them all right in twenty, twenty-five or thirty years' time, when they were filling posts in the naval service and all the old engineering officers had gone. But, meanwhile, they would be perpetuating this double classification of our naval officers, those who were below deck and those who were upon deck. It was in order to break down that barrier immediately, to make the working of this scheme more practical, and to make the fusion earlier than it would otherwise be effected, that he ventured to urge the Government to deal at once with this question of the engineer officers, and to put right now their position relative to the fighting branches of the Navy. Were we to wait twenty-five or thirty years and leave this sore festering in the middle of the naval service? The Committee fully understood that the engineers' grievance was not connected with pay. They did not ask for any more wages; they did not ask for a rise of salary or better treatment in that respect. What they did want was to be treated as though they were the equal in rank of deck officers. They wanted their status to be made quite clear, and to have the rights and powers which the engineer officers were to get under the new Osborne scheme in future. At present one could only say that they received what must be called contemptuous treatment at the hands of the Admiralty. They were treated in a manner which was positively humiliating to the engineer officers of the service, and which derogated from their position in relation to the men under them. All the engine-room hands, the artificers and stokers saw their own officers set on one side and treated in a humiliating manner, not only by the Admiralty, but by the excutive officers of the ship. It not only made their work 1366 unpleasant, but it made it positively more difficult than it otherwise would be, to get discipline in the engine-room and in the stoke-holes. The engineer officers wanted their charter, to to speak. There were six points in their charter. Their first point was that they should have control over their own men, instead of indirect control through the hands of the deck officer, who might be a lieu-tenant, and very often a junior officer. Really, they wanted to be put exactly in the position of the officers of the Royal Engineers of the Army. They asked that the naval engineers should be the exact counterpart of the Royal Engineers of the Army. Could the House imagine a major of the Royal Engineers bringing up one of his men on some trumpery charge before the captain of Artillery? Yet that was exactly what happened in the naval service. The engineer officer had to bring his man before the lieutenant on deck; he had to bring his charge sheet, and refer it to him before he was allowed to do anything in the matter at all. If the conditions under which the engineer officers had to work at the present time were explained to the Committee, they would think that they were back in the time of Charles II. The whole power was taken away from the engineering branch because they were not considered to be fighting officers, just as in the time of Charles II. the master of the ship was not supposed to be a fighting officer. The first point was, then, control over their own men. Their next point was that they rejected absolutely and entirely the idiotic title of "engineer lieutenant" and "e0ngineer commander." What they wanted was that the title should be "Lieutenant E." or "Commander E." just as they had "Lieutenant N." or "Commander T." Engineer officers were classified as non-combatant, but if it came to that, the danger in the engineering branch was infinitely greater than on deck. He had never gone down into the stoke-hole when they were working under forced draught, without an inward prayer that he might get out again alive. If an hon. Member went down into the stoke-hole, on a trial trip, when the engines were at full speed, he would appreciate what were the duties of the engineer staff of the Royal Navy. They 1367 worked in a temperature of 110, and they ran the risk, if a shell or a splinter of a shell got into the engine-room, of being par-boiled without the possibility of escape. The hatches were battened down, so that, in action, the position of the engineer was probably the most dangerous part of the service. Engineer officers asked not only to be given control of their men, but that they should be given now, and at once, the title which future engineer officers were to hold. The third point was as to the uniform of the engineer officers. They did not want to have a uniform which was distinct from that of the fighting branch of the service. What they wanted was that all officers of the Navy should have exactly the same uniform, because they did not desire that their men and the country should see that they were distinguished as inferior in rank. If they were put on the same basis as the other officers, the country would get much better service out of the engineer officers. These were three points—control, title, and uniform, and he asked the right hon. Gentleman to give the engineer officers now the privileges and position which they were bound to hold in ten or fifteen years, and give them as quickly as possible in order to make these men satisfied with the service. At present engineer officers were not permitted to sit on courts martial, though men of their own department were perhaps being tried for a technical offence. If they were to be allowed the rank of military officers, then, ipso facto, they would be members of the court martial. Then there was the question of a representative on the Board of Admiralty. It was really absurd that one-third of the personnel of the Navy had no representative on the Board of Admiralty. There was nobody representing machinery on the Board of Admiralty. We rushed into first one class of boiler and then another, the Belleville, the water tube, and turbine machinery, yet there was not at the Admiralty any skilled officer representing the engineering branch of the service. The sixth and last point of the engineer officers' charter was this. The engineer officer had to draw up a report upon his machinery, but he was not allowed to sign that report; he had to take it to the executive officer who was possibly half his age, and might not have so 1368 much education. This executive officer went through the report, altered the grammar and spelling, and tried to make little alterations just to show his authority. It was these pin-pricks which seemed to make a man's life more miserable than anything else. These were the six points—the question of status, uniform, title, a seat on the court-martial, a representative on the Board of Admiralty, and the right of the engineer officer to sign his own report and not have it signed by an officer who knew nothing about it. Of course the whole of this difficulty had grown up from the fact that engineers thirty or forty years ago, even civil engineers, used to be looked upon as "engine drivers," and were spoken of as "oilers," and with an adjective in front of that. They were looked down upon as mere mechanics. But the engineer branch had become more and more important, and would become still more important; and until they made the members of that branch satisfied with the service, until they they gave them a position equal to, and face to face with, the other branches of the service, they would not get the personnel of the Navy to work smoothly.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. EDMUND ROBERTSON,) Dundee
the fourth day of the naval debate, and I suppose I must count it as a personal failure that I have not be n able to obtain e single farthing of the money which is required. The noble Lord asked me a question about cordite, but I have not got the information on that matter, which is relative to Vote 9. I suggest that either a Question should be put at Question time, or that the matter should stand over to Vote 9. I can add nothing to the multitudinous statements I have already made on a question of general interest to the Navy. It is a subject of complaint by hon. Members behind me and by some hon. Members opposite, that the time has been occupied during the debates by Members of the two Front Benches. I know I have made a good many speeches, but it has not been my fault, and it has been with great unwillingness that I have prolonged my remarks, and then I did not allow them to go beyond what was absolutely necessary. My hon. friend raised the 1369 question of the new scale of pay, and whether it will involve an increased grant. It will, and the amount of the grant will be £10,000. The two most important questions relating to this Vote are those referring to the engineer officers and the coastguard. My hon. friend who spoke at the beginning, and my hon. friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme who followed later, will not expect me, I am sure, to give them the answer of the Admiralty to the question which they have raised, if only for this reason, that I do not think that I had any notice of their intention to raise it, certainly not of the exact scope which it was going to take. I was a little astonished to hear from my hon. friend who spoke last that the engineers had no complaint to make on the score of pay.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
But they have a grievance as regards pay, and on that question the Admiralty's decision has now been reached. The pay of engineer captains is to rise from 35s. to 40s. a day (the existing minimum and maximum rates) by two annual increments of 2s. 6d. instead of five annual increments of a 1s. a day, so that the maximum will be reached in two years instead of five as at present. As to the engineer commanders, who have bitterly complained an the matter of pay; the rate of 24s. a day is to be granted after sixteen years seniority. There are other modifications which are of too technical a character for me to trouble the Committee with. The ages for compulsory and optional retirement are to be reduced. A new scale of retired pay, a new and improved scale, framed on the same lines as that for officers of the military branch, is to be applied in the case of officers accepting the new conditions. Good service pensions will be introduced for the first time for engineer officers. I mention these things as regards pay, but not for the purpose of staving off the much larger but not less material question of status which we have been discussing to-day. I do not hesitate to express my sympathy 1370 with that point of view in regard to the grievance of the engineer officers, and I admit that the new condition of things that will be brought about by the training of officers in the future necessitates a reconsideration of the relations between the old engineer officers and the new engineer officers, and the executive officers. But my hon. friends will not expect me to give a definite answer at the moment to the suggestions which they have made. But I am bound to make them this concession, that I will faithfully report to the Board of Admiralty the strong arguments that have been used to-day, and the perfectly specific and clear character of the reforms demanded. Beyond that I am sure that my hon. friends will not expect me to go to-day. As to the question of the coastguard, I am not surprised at the interest excited on both sides of the House. The proposals for the abolition of the coastguard have been considered by a Departmental Committee. The Admiralty, however, have undertaken to consider the question for themselves de now. My hon. and gallant friend has asked me whether those parts of the coast requiring to be watched for life-saving purposes will continue to be watched by His Majesty's coastguard. To that I can give an answer in the affirmative. His second question was —Will the coastguard be maintained wherever they assist in any material degree in manning and launching lifeboats, and in working the rocket apparatus? The answer is "Yes." And the third question was—Will the Admiralty confer with the Lifeboat Institution before making further reductions % I do not know that the Admiralty could very well do that, but, if I might offer myself as a substitute for the Admiralty, I would be glad to hold such a conference as my hon. and gallant friend has suggested. I hope the Committee will now allow me to take this Vote.
§ MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)
moved to reduce the Wages Vote by £100. He had, he said, listened to the statement made by the Government with regard to the coastguards and the answers given to questions, and they did not appear to him to have gone to the root of the matter. The Government were 1371 reducing the coastguards and the amount of the Vote which supported them, and yet they said that the coasts would be patrolled, that the life-saving apparatus would be served, and that the lifeboats would be manned by the coastguards. How could that adequately be done if there were continual decreases in the coastguards? Last year there was a decrease of some 300 men, and an equal decrease in the Vote. This year the amount was to be reduced by £1,495, and the men by 363. This would reduce the total to 3,500. Three or four years ago it was well over 4,000. That was a very considerable reduction, and the coast must either have been over-patrolled in the past, or it would be under-patrolled in the future. Coastguardsmen must be thirty-eight years of age, have served eight years continuously in the Navy, be either trained gunners or seamen, and recommended by their captain. The men in the Navy were picked men, and coastguardsmen were therefore picked men from picked men, and the very best trained men in the country, and the last men whom he would have thought they would wish to reduce. The question affected his constituency particularly. He had had many letters expressing considerable anxiety with regard to the reductions which had taken place. He knew of a small coastguard station where there used to be four men, and where now there were none, and where the cottages of the men had been let for lodgings. He did not know whether that would be the desire of the House. It certainly was not the object with which the cottages were built,
§ and for which the coastguard, service was instituted. It did not appear to him that sufficient explanation had been given why so much as the amount proposed should be knocked off the Estimates for coastguards this year, and he was therefore bound to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item B (Coast Guard, Wages and Allowances) be reduced by £100."— (Mr. Fell).
§ MR. MALLET (Plymouth)
said he had intended to ask some questions in relation to certain Naval Rating, but as the right hon. Gentleman had given the assurance that there would be other opportunities for raising questions of that kind, he would not prevent the Vote being taken now.
§ COLONEL SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
appealed to the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth not to press the Amendment. He had taken a leading-part in this matter, and he would say that with respect to the three points he put to the right hon. Gentleman he did not anticipate getting so complete and so favourable a reply. All those interested in the life saving services of the-coastguard were deeply grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the reply he had given.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 46;: Noes, 235. (Division List No. 35.)1375
§ The Vote was agreed to.
§ 2. £2,306,700, Works, Buildings, and Repairs at home and abroad.
§ MR. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
thought it would be for the convenience of the Committee if he made a few introductory remarks in introducing this Vote. He promised in his brief statement to endeavour to cover the most important of the subjects with which the Vote was concerned. This Vote represented an apparent decrease of £451,700, but that apparent decrease was in reality an increase, as last year there were loan works completed out of revenue and borne on Vote 10 of £870,825, whereas this year the loan works on Vote 10 amounted to £307,000, a decrease of £563,825. The total of the Vote did not represent total works expenditure this year, because they were spending a balance of money for which they had borrowing power of £896,925, which, together with the amount of Vote 10, brought the total expenditure on works to £3,203,625. The decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pay for works out of revenue, instead of introducing a new loan Bill, meant that they would have to bear upon Vote 10 £2,246,180. Had this not been borne on Votes, there would have been an increase in the annuity of £117,000 a year for twenty-nine years. This was a very good sample of paying as they went. The annuity this year which represented the borrowings of past years was increased by nearly £50,000, and the amount was £1,264,000. The cost of dredging a-mounted this year to £107,800, and it was proposed, in addition to the ordinary dredging, to dredge the bar at Sheerness. A certain depth of water in the new channel at Sheerness was required to facilitate the passage of vessels over the bar, and they wished to bring it to a depth of 26 feet below low water at ordinary spring tides, so that large vessels 1376 should not be unduly delayed by tidal conditions in getting in and out of the, harbour. Then there were large new commitments in the Vote, the first being for the new lock at Portsmouth. There had been some delay in that matter, but it had not been the fault of the Admiralty. They had employed a very eminent outside firm of engineers, who-sent in an excellent report, but, to the credit of the Works Department, the scheme of that department was equally good, and it was therefore decided to goon with the scheme of the Works Department. The normal length of the new lock between caissons would be 850 feet, the width at the entrance 110 feet, and the depth over the outer sill at low-water ordinary spring tides 33 feet, in order to-enable a ship of the "Dreadnought" size to get in and out without imperilling the other ships in the basin. The scheme included the erection of a pumping-station, which would be capable of pumping the new lock and the old locks and docks. The present state of the work-was that the drawings were completed, the quantities were nearly completed, and it was hoped to invite tenders either in April or in May. The time of completion stated in the contract would be four years.
§ MR. JOHN WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)
Are you going to invite tenders publicly, or only from selected firms?
§ MR. LAMBERT
thought only from selected firms. The Admiralty had-very carefully to investigate the financial standing of these firms, in order to see that they were capable of carrying out a work involving a cost of nearly £1,000,000. Another new commitment was that at Rosyth. In 1900 the late Board of Admiralty appointed, a committee to inquire into the dock accommodation for the ships, then existing, but the policy of scrapping old ships obviated the immediate necessity for new 1377 dock accommodation. Still it had been shown that on the East Coast a dock was needed, more especially since the "Dreadnought" era. The "Dreadnought" could be got into Chatham at certain states of the tide, but the locks were not large enough to enable ships of that type to go into the basin for repairs and for other purposes. The great work to be carried out at Rosyth had been very fully described in the newspapers. He would be willing to answer questions with respect to it which hon. Members might ask. The basin would occupy 52½ acres, the entrance lock would be 850 feet long and 110 feet wide, with sufficient depth at low water to allow battleships to get in, even fully loaded. There would be a dry dock 750 feet long and 100 feet wide, which would be sub-divided into two parts should it be required for smaller craft. The works were capable of expansion in the shape of the new basin and other docks. The £3,000,000 included the works he had stated, and also the necessary workshops, oil fuel storage, and cambers for destroyers and submarines. With regard to the progress of the work, the contract drawings were well advanced, and quantities would be shortly taken out. There was only £30,000 placed in the Vote for the work at Rosyth, but any contractor could only earn a small amount of money this year, because he had to get his plant and other necessary materials ready. The hon. Member for Stoke had made some reference to the rumour that in boring they could hardly get to the bottom of the mud. He could assure the hon. Member that a very satisfactory foundation had been found. At a moderate depth they had got to rock or glacial clay which he was told was a very good foundation indeed for works of this character. The design had been very carefully considered by those who had experience in designing and constructing Government dockyards.
§ MR. JOHN WARD
asked if the design was the work of the same gentleman who had been sent by the late Government in 1903 to study dock construction on the Continent?
§ MR. LAMBERT
said that the design of the dock had been very carefully 1378 worked out in the Department of the Admiralty by gentlemen qualified to do so. Preliminary steps had been taken in regard to a smaller but still important public work, and these had been brought to a successful issue. He referred to the Loch Long torpedo range. Torpedoes had to be be proved and adjusted, and that could be only done by running them a certain distance. The disadvantage of the present range at Portland was that it had only a length of 3,000 yards, while, owing for the extraordinary improvements which had taken place in the manufacture of torpedoes in recent years, a range of 7,000 yards was required. Moreover, the torpedoes were at present manufactured at Woolwich, and in the course of transit by rail to Portland their mechanism was often deranged. After searching round the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland the Admiralty officials had selected Loch Long as the range that best fulfilled the requirements for testing torpedoes. It was necessary that the range should be in a sheltered position and as free as possible from tidal influence, and that there should be as little interference as possible with ordinary shipping. The factory would be erected at Greenock. Negotiations had boon in progress for some time, and he was glad to say there had been a disposition on the part of the owners of the land, of the corporation of Glasgow, and of all concerned to allay rather than to raise difficulties. The Admiralty hoped that they would be able to protect the rights of the public and yet create an efficient torpedo range on Loch Long and erect a factory at Greenock. The estimated cost of this work was about £113,000, including the purchase of the land. The Admiralty also had in hand the extension of the dock at Haulbowline from 410 feet to 600 feet, it order that it might take battleships of the most modern class. The contract had been let, and good progress has been made.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said that the discussion on this subject of Rosyth had been commenced on two occasions previous to this year, and this year on going into Committee of Supply when he himself 1379 spoke, and on the previous day when the matter was taken up by the Leader of the Opposition in much detail. Up to the present time no answer had been given to the contentions put forward on those occasions. The Works Vote had been explained by his hon. friend in Committee fashion. The Committee had been reminded of what had occurred owing to the dropping of the Works Bills, and the gradual discontinuance of the expenditure of loan money. On the whole, the Works Vote this year was much lower than the Admiralty believed it would be last year or the year before. That statement did not rest on ordinary private gossip, but on an official document. In the Appropriation Accounts which had been circulated last week, there would be found official correspondence between the Treasury and the Admiralty which contained the following passage:—24 July, 1906. Apart from the necessity of the work, my Lords are anxious to adopt this course, having specially in view the desirability of relieving as far as possible, the Navy Estimates for 1908–9, which must, as a consequence of the discontinuance of the Naval Works Loan, reach an abnormal figure in that year as a result of works expenditure.Now, that abnormal figure had not been reached; and he submitted to the Committee, as a matter of public policy, that when looking forward to the certainty of a very large increase in the Navy Estimates, either next year or the year after — and they would be enlarged, at the lowest view, in the face of the pledges given to keep the Navy up to the two-Power standard — it would have been better to have executed in the present year every possible branch of Naval works which was beyond all doubt necessary. He was entirely at one with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the belief that we had spent out of our loan money large sums which had been wasted. The House and the Government did not hold a tight enough hand on these works, and ought never to have thrown on loan a great many of the least important of them. But there were important works, docks and basins in which big ships could be accommodated, and these by universal admission should be made as rapidly as possible. Big ships were worse than useless if there was no dock or basin accommodation for them. They must accept the authority of experts for details 1380 of construction, but the policy of construction of these works was admitted by all. The case which had been made by the critics needed some reply, so that in the next year's Estimates the policy of the Admiralty, as laid down in the official correspondence two years ago, might be carried out, and all the necessary works should be rapidly executed in the coming year. As a matter of economy in the actual building of such works, he believed it was better to build them rapidly than spread their construction over a period of eleven or twelve years. In the case of Rosyth the land was purchased many years ago, but the execution of the works had been constantly put off, although small sums of money had been spent on soundings and the like. All the information as to Rosyth which his hon. friend had just given had been given them in the same speech last session.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that they had been constantly informed that the Admiralty were prepared to state to the House that the works at Rosyth must be carried forward. The necessity for a safer base on the East Coast was much more pressing this year than last. That could not be denied after the results of the Hague Conference. The use of mines was contemplated by foreign Powers in a much greater degree than formerly, and the increase of the German mine establishment, by means of which 30,000 mines could be laid from each of two ships, was notorious. There was no doubt about the unsafety in certain possible wars of Portsmouth as a base, and they were all agreed that some base on the East Coast was necessary.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that it was admitted by the present Government, as it had been by the last Government, that there must be a new base further north than Chatham. The present Government had put its need very high indeed, and they could only 1381 draw the inference from the correspondence that they had accepted the responsibility that immense expenditure should be incurred in the present year, and not put off. His right hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty on 2nd March this year announced that the Government had finally decided to proceed with Rosyth for the reasons which were given in the Memorandum, and in that they were told that the necessity for the work was now apparent. From the point of view of good construction and good finance was it wise to put off the expenditure again this year, and then to spread it over ten years of time? The limited establishment of one dock and one basin contemplated was only to be completed in eleven years. He believed that was bad economy from the financial standpoint, and he believed it was also from the engineering point of view as well. The Secretary to the Admiralty had said that surely time must be given to make contracts. He thought the delay of the late Government was not justifiable, and surely the time required to make contracts was not a whole year, and these contracts might have been made a year or a year and a half ago. The need for this expenditure had long been foreseen, and it seemed to him that there was a plain case of avoiding to meet in the coming financial year a far larger proportion of this admittedly necessary expenditure than had been taken in the Estimates now under discussion.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire Fareham)
said he found himself in very close agreement with the right hon. Gentleman who hid just sat down, and he did not think it possible to reinforce in any way the very strong argument which he hid put before the Committee. He did not wish in following the Civil Lord to go again into the old question as to the merits or demerits of loan expenditure. It was a very much debated subject and lie would only say this with regard to it. He quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet that under a system of loan expenditure they did not get the same close supervision of expenditure that they did under the Estimates and that 1382 undoubtedly in the past there might have been objections on that score.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
assented, and said that in certain cases the system might have led to extravagance, but under it they did get the works. They got the money necessary for the works at the time it was wanted, whereas under the system instituted by the present Government, which might be a sounder system from an economical point of view, the pressure which had inevitably to be put upon the year's Estimates delayed necessary works and made those works individually more costly on account of the long period over which their construction was spread. The right hon. Baronet had commented very naturally upon the singularly small provision for new works in this year's Votes in view of the facts that two new large items had come upon the Votes and that loan expenditure had very largely been stopped. He thought that that circumstance required a little more explanation. They had really gone back in the expenditure on new works to the old average, as far as he remembered it, that existed in regard to Vote 10 whilst the loan system was in full operation. He thought the Committee would see the results in the case of the two largest items that had been specially referred to, the new lock at Portsmouth and the Rosyth base. He was aware that the Civil Lord had put forward the technical excuse which was quite sound, that if they did not begin the work until a certain period of the year they had to let the new contractor get his plant upon the ground and the expenditure of the remaining part of the year must be small. That was true, but their answer to that was, why did not the Government let their contracts sooner? That was the point, and whilst he was quite ready to admit that the late Government might have furthered this matter a little more than they did when they were in office, at all events they did get it to the point where the scheme of Rosyth had been worked out and submitted to this House in August, 1905, when he held 1383 the office of Civil Lord. That scheme was drawn precisely or nearly precisely in the same way as that which the Admiralty had now communicated to the House, and they advanced the matter so far that they put a considerable estimate on Vote 10 for that year which they handed on to their successors and they were prepared to let the main contract in June, 1906. They were apparently at that point just as far advanced as the Admiralty was to-day. Therefore two years had elapsed in which apparently nothing had been done beyond making the very interesting model which had now been placed in the tea-room. He did not think the hon. Gentleman could contend that the delay had been in any way necessary from the technical point of view; it had merely been occasioned by financial considerations. Then there was very much the same story with regard to the Portsmouth lock, which was a very urgent work, because, as he pointed out last year on more than one occasion, the safety of first-class battleships costing a million and a half sterling had been imperilled by the impossibility of getting them into the basin at Portsmouth except through passages not really large enough to admit them with safety. The hon. Gentleman told them he thought two years ago that the Admiralty recognised this matter as being of the greatest urgency, but those two years had elapsed without any progress being made. The excuse was that they wished to consult different experts as to the best plans. He refused to believe, however, that the Works Department of the Admiralty, which contained some of the most experienced engineers in the world in these matters, were unable to design such a comparatively small affair at this Portsmouth lock but the Admiralty said: "No, we wish to consult outside experts." They did consult outside experts and they admitted that their own plan was the best and they had adopted it. Really the whole of the delay had been quite unnecessary, and this vitally necessary work, of which they ought to have had nearly 50 per cent, complete now according to the hon. Gentleman's estimate of the time it would take, was not commenced. The contract was not going to be let till the middle of this year, and 1384 practically for four and a half years to come the only available dock for "Dreadnoughts" at Portsmouth would! be practically unapproachable. That was a very serious state of affairs. He did not know that there was anything to choose between the urgency of that work and the work at Rosyth. At any rate he thought they were entitled to ask the Government to explain more fully than they had done why they had not pressed on these works before, and why it was not possible for them, as suggested by the-right hon. Baronet, even now to press on at a greater pace than was apparently contemplated by their provision in the Estimates. The right hon. Baronet had said that the Rosyth base would not be ready for eleven years. He hoped that he was pessimistic about that, because: he understood the Civil Lord to say the other day that in five or seven years they would have the base in use.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that was merely the official figure of ten years. It was spread over ten years and did not begin for a year.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
hoped that it might be possible to accelerate; these works; it was really more economical in the long run that expenditure should not be stinted, and he hoped that everything possible would be done to press forward these works at the greatest speed. He was aware that there was a great deal of controversy as to whether Rosytk was or was not the best place for this base, but if there ever was any doubt in his mind—and sometimes a base further north had appealed to him— he thought it must be set at rest by the cutting of the Forth to Clyde Canal. If that Canal became a fact, in addition, to the commercial advantages into which it would be improper to enter now, Rosyth would have behind it not only a short cut from the North Sea into the Atlantic, but the almost unlimited shipbuilding and repairing facilities of the Clyde. Then it would not be necessary to spend as much money upon ship building plant, and Rosyth would become a port of the utmost importance, almost the most important naval port in the Empire. Under those circumstances he-hoped that the Admiralty would give 1385 its benediction to the efforts that were being made in Scotland to have this great venture taken up as a commercial Undertaking, and, if necessary, give financial assistance. He was sure that if financial assistance were given by the Government they would be more than repaid by the advantage which would accrue to the Port of Rosyth. Before he left the question of Rosyth he wished to urge upon the Government, now that they were going to let the main contract and undertake the work, to recognise that one dock in that position was an absolutely inadequate provision in view of the growing size of the fleet. He was delighted to see in the model in the tea room that there were two sites laid out for future docks, in addition to the one that had been laid out for construction. It was absolutely certain that these extra docks would be needed, and would be needed before they could be built, because of the large new construction of these ships of the "Dreadnought" class, which would be very far advanced long before the docks wore built. There was an absolute dearth of these docks on the East Coast and it would be cheaper, save time, and be more economically efficient to undertake that work now rather than to put it off to some future time. In settling the final dimensions of the docks he hoped the Government would be careful to look far enough ahead. In the past no Board of Admiralty had ever been able to look far enough ahead in the matter of the size of the dock? The result was that years after their construction the increase of size by only a few inches meant an overwhelming expenditure, whereas if the extra space had been allowed and foreseen at first the extra cost would have been very small indeed. Consequently he urged the Admiralty to err on the side of size if need be, even if there was a little additional cost. As regarded Chatham he could not help feeling that in addition to Rosyth docks it would be absolutely necessary to have additional accommodation at Chatham. It had been stated that a "Dreadnought" could not be docked at Chatham. Under the peculiar conditions of that port it was impossible to enlarge or repair the existing lock entrance, because if they did the whole 1386 dock would be rendered useless. Therefore it was essential to have at least, two more docks at Chatham, capable of accommodating a "Dreadnought." He felt that the general position in regard to the scarcity of "Dreadnoughts' "docks in that region where they would! probably be most needed was a very serious one. They had been told that such docks existed already at Hong-Kong and the Caps, and that there were two at Gibraltar, and he believed, four at Devonport, all capable of accommodating a "Dreadnought," but in the North Sea on the East Coast there was not one, and yet within a very measurable distance of time, some three years hence, they would have at least twelve "Dreadnoughts" afloat. If they started to-day they could not build the new docks in time. It was essential that the docks should be built even before the ships, and he urged the Admiralty to take this, matter in hand at the earliest possible moment. The borrowing of money for such necessary work as this ought not to be allowed to stand in the way, and whatever system of finance was adopted these docks ought to be constructed as soon as possible.
§ MR. HOLT (Northumberland, Hexdam)
said that he did not propose to enter into any discussion as to the expediency of undertaking the proposed works at Rosyth. He would like, however, to ask if he was correct in assuming that the plan now on view in the tea room with regard to the docks at Rosyth was that which had been definitely adopted. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty had said that he expected to get that plan complete for £3,250,000, including an engineering shop and requisite machinery. It seemed to him that it would not be a bad bargain at all if he got all that provided for the sum which had been named He wished to know if for £3,250,000 the Admiralty were going to get the whole of the dredging done outside the basin as shown on the plan.
§ MR. HOLT
said it seemed a very cheap price for what the Admiralty hoped to get and he trusted it would work out at the estimated cost. With regard to 1387 the time occupied in construction, he found himself in accord with what had already been stated; his view was that if this work was to be done at all it ought to be done promptly. He assumed that the entrance lock would be the last thing to be finished but he suggested that it might be possible to use the emergency entrance at an earlier date because in that case they would get the use of the graving dock considerably earlier than otherwise. Was there any reason why they should not be able to get the use of the graving dock before ten years had elapsed? Another suggestion he would make was that they should mate the graving dock Mg enough to take in two "Dreadnoughts" at one time. For such matters as the painting of the be toms of ships and small repairs there was no reason why they should not have two ships in the dock at once. The only inconvenience they would encounter would be that the repairs to both ships would have to be simultaneous, because they would have to go in and out together. If the Admiralty adopted his suggestion they would not need duplicate gates and machinery. He agreed with the hon. Member for Fareham that there was a tendency not to look far enough ahead and allow a sufficient margin for future development. The "Dreadnoughts" and the "Invincibles" were called very large ships, but there were ships in the mercantile marine much longer and as he did not think it wise to assume that warship he specially criers might not attain the dimension of the "Luetania." he suggested that it would be a wise thing for the Admiralty to reconsider the dimensions of the proposed graving dock at Rosyth. He also wished to know whether it was intended to spend any money in erecting a new shipbuilding establishment at Rosyth. No case had been made out for any additional shipbuilding establishment, and it would be a great relief to many hon. Members if they had from the Government a specific pledge that it was not intended to establish a ship-building yard at Rosyth. He assumed that what the Government were asking for now was a transfer and not a new licence, if he might be allowed to put it in that way. He assumed that something was going to be 1388 taken away from some of the other ports in order to compensate the taxpayer for the additional expenditure which must be annually incurred for the upkeep of Rosyth. He knew that a reduction in the expenditure at any of their great naval ports generally meant the loss of a couple of seats to the Government, but he thought in he interest of the taxpayers it was their duty to put it strongly to the Government that they should in entering upon this expenditure do something in the interest of the general body of taxpayers to reduce naval expenditure at other places.
§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
said it was with some satisfaction that he heard the hon. Member for Fareham urge upon the Government that they should take into consideration the question of supporting the scheme for the widening of the Forth and Clyde Canal. He remembered ten years ago when the Liberal Party were sitting in Opposition they drew attention to this question of the Forth and Clyde Canal, and they were then met by nothing but a blank refusal. Of course it was better late than never, and he was glad to hear that project now being advocated by an expert like the hon. Member for Fareham. This question could not be pressed with too much urgency, not only from the point of view of its strategic value, but also on account of the great commercial advantages which would accrue not only to Scotland but to the whole of the Empire. He did not hesitate to say that in any other country but ours such a great public work would have been long ago undertaken, not only from a naval point of view, but also from the great commercial advantages which it would confer. He hoped that the Admiralty in view of the close proximity of an unparalleled supply of granite on the coast of Scotland would find out some way of using native stone instead of foreign for the construction of the docks at Rosyth. It would be a thousand pities when a supply of perfectly unequalled stone was available almost on the spot if the owner of those local quarries were not given an opportunity of tendering upon equal terms with the foreigner. This was a question of immense importance to the people living on the east coast of Scotland, and he 1389 strongly urged this point upon the attention of the Admiralty.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said he felt certain the Secretary for the Admiralty must have been greatly impressed by the unanimity of feeling with regard to these very necessary works. Some hon. Members had spoken on this subject in previous years and what struck him most that afternoon was that the position was very much the same, as the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean pointed out, as it was a year ago. He felt sure the Admiralty would have had behind it the whole country and the whole House, if they had decided to spend next year £500,000 upon the docks at Rosyth.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he felt certain that no hon. Member representing labour would have refused to support the Admiralty had they come to such a decision. Any one who had studied the question could not help but feel great anxiety about the future. One hon. Member had already stated that any other country but this would have pushed forward such, works with much greater expedition.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said that Germany was in a far better position than this country with regard to the new ships of the "Dreadnought" type and their possibility of coming home in time of war as wounded ships. On the East coast we had absolutely nothing. Portsmouth was a possible port in time of peace to house a "Dreadnought," but in time of war it was admitted that all the Channel ports must be counted out as places of absolute refuge and safety. We had, therefore, to look to Rosyth. He thought that it was a very serious thing that in 1911 we would have twelve "Dreadnoughts" and not a single port on the East Coast which could give those ships a home. In time of peace it was supposed to be unnecessary. But they had to talk about a state of war, and the fact that 1390 the Army and Navy were fighting machines was sufficient for them to-insist that they should be in such a state of preparation and in such a condition, as to be ready to fight at any moment. That was the spirit which animated the countries which the hon. Member had quoted as being progressive and decisive, in the matter of their great naval and military works. No one could travel in. Europe without being struck with the tremendous military work which one found on the borders between France and Germany. Those countries with land boundaries must have gigantic military works and they never allowed them; to fall the least behind. Germany was applying exactly the same assiduity, the same constant attention, the same determined system of construction to her sea defences as to her land defence.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he would like to think that this country was giving the same devoted attention to necessary naval works that Germany was giving to her naval and military works. He did not think these debates upon Rosyth and Portsmouth gave one absolute confidence that the Admiralty were doing all that could be done. Much had been said about the Loan Acts and building upon loan. He agreed it was a very wicked kind of business, but it had its advantages.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said that "wicked" might not be the proper word, but as a general system building on loan was not satisfactory. He wished, to point out, however, that in abandoning the policy of loans and making it a sort of righteous act they might be sacrificing too much. At present, according to the naval programmes, we should possess twelve "Dreadnoughts" within, three years, which would have no real home, no place of refuge, and no base on that coast where they would probably be most needed. There might be an emergency arise under which we should, have those ships on the water with no base for them to retire on. The Civil 1391 Lord to the Admiralty had said that it would be five or six years before the docks at Rosyth would be so far complete as to allow a "Dreadnought" to take refuge there. He thought they might safely add another two or three years to that estimate, because he had never found a Minister defending this position anything else but optimistic, and if they made allowances for the optimism of the Civil Lord and his colleagues, it might safely be said that we should not have twelve, but eighteen "Dreadnoughts" upon our waters without a base for them in the North Sea upon which they could rely. That was a very serious thing, and what he had foreshadowed was quite possible. Such a problem might be thrust upon them, not by any act of Germany or France, but through the great Powers in the East, which might provoke complications in Europe at any moment which might bring about an international conflagration. In the precipitation of such a conflict we should be faced by a situation for which we were not prepared. He was sure no Member of the House hoped that any such peril would arise within the next eight, ten, or twenty years. They all desired peace, but they all realised at the same time that the safety of this country, the safety of its trade, territory, and everything which Englishmen held dear, depended upon the efficiency of the Navy, and upon the naval works supplied by those responsible for the Government of this country. It was not predominance alone that was required, but crushing capacity—a capacity to crush the strongest opposition that could be brought against us. If the Government had thought it well to devote £500,000 or even £1,000,000 to the establishment of such naval works, he thought they would have had the whole country behind them. It seemed to him that the representatives of the Admiralty tad to face in this House a situation which they scarcely expected, for they had not been attacked from the Opposition side of the House. They had found out what he believed was the sentiment of the people of this country, viz., that there should be adequate naval expenditure for all necessary naval works.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
wished to ask one question in connection with the docks at Rosyth. There seemed to have been a general opinion that once this work was undertaken the quicker it was completed the better. The question he wished to put was whether the Board of Admiralty, in calling for tenders, would intimate to the contractors that the time taken to finish the work would be a consideration in awarding the contract, and that if necessary, the Admiralty would pay a somewhat higher price in order to secure the use of those works at an earlier date.
§ MR. LAMBERT
promised that he would put the suggestions which had been made before his colleagues as strongly as he could.
§ MR. CARLILE
said that with regard to the production of torpedoes at Greenock, he wished to know whether, if the work was to be transferred from Woolwich, the men now engaged on the work at Woolwich would be transferred to the Greenock Factory.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said that the men at Woolwich were skilled in these matters, and it would be essential to transfer them. As far as he was concerned he felt sure the Admiralty had no fault to find with the discussion which had taken place. With regard to the money which had not been spent, they had been met with some great engineering difficulties, and therefore it was not the fault of the Admiralty. The delays which had occurred were mostly due to the weather. The Admiralty had hurried on the works but it was a matter for the contractors, and if they had not done the work the Admiralty naturally could not pay for it. The suggestion which had been made by the hon. Member for Hexham would be taken into consideration. The hon. Member had drawn his attention to the fact that the new dock at Rosyth would not accommodate the "Mauretania," and that gave him a little surprise. He had brought the matter to the attention of the Admiralty, and they had told him that they could 1393 make the dock so that it could easily be lengthened. The suggestion made by the hon. Member that they should put two ships in one dock was a very excellent one, and he promised that it should be considered. He asked the House now to allow this Vote to pass as they wanted to get on with the works, and they could not make any progress until the Vote was passed. If there should happen to foe any matters of detail which he could answer privately a further opportunity would be given.
§ MR. J. M. HENDERSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said that there were merchants in England and Scotland who brought into this country large quantities of Norwegian granite, and they were trying to sell it under a series of pretences that it stood a greater strain than either English, Scottish, or Welsh granite. Such statements were absolutely untrue, and he asked the Admiralty to guard themselves against them. If they would only test Scottish granite they would find that it would stand the strongest possible test.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
promised that the remonstrances and protests which had been made would be borne in mind, and the Admiralty would examine for themselves the qualities of the various kinds of granite. He would guard against being misled by any of the statements which had been referred to.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
protested against the action taken by the contractors in regard to what was done at Haulbowline. At the last moment the Irish contractors got Norwegian granite substituted, and this caused a very great loss of employment in the locality. As Scotsmen and Welshmen had protested against this unfair importation of foreign granite he thought at least one Irish Member might be allowed to say a word.
§ SIR JOHN BENN (Devonport)
said that when the right hon. Gentleman was considering granite he hoped he would 1394 bear in mind that Cornish granite was the best of all.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN (Cork, E.)
said he desired to support the protest which had been made by his hon. friend the Member for North Cork. Undoubtedly a large number of working men in his constituency had complained very bitterly of the action of the Admiralty in regard to this question of foreign granite. Excellent granite could have been obtained in the immediate neighbourhood just as lasting and useful as the Norwegian granite. Good granite was also to be obtained in the North of Ireland. But to go to Norway when excellent building stone could be obtained in the local quarries almost adjoining was action which deserved very strong condemnation.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.