§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
moved:—"That, in the opinion of this House, the declared policy of His Majesty's Government respecting the immediate provision of battleships of the newest type does not sufficiently secure the safety of the Empire."
§ He said: In rising to propose the Motion which stands in my name—although, of course, it is the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition—I fully realise the gravity of the step which we are taking. It is technically a Vote of Censure on His Majesty's Government, and under these circumstances it would be customary and proper that I should be expected to take this opportunity of indulging in a party attack on His Majesty's Government in the vigorous terms which are considered proper on these occasions. But I do not think that my friends, at any rate, will expect that in dealing with a subject of this national importance I should indulge in any language of unnecessary warmth. We believe that our case is so strong that it 40 needs no re-enforcing by rhetoric or invective, and, in spite of the provocation which we received from the Prime Minister in his speech of last Monday, I shall endeavour studiously to refrain from making any attack or insinuation against either the motives or patriotism of those who happen to differ with us on this great national question. At the same time, I cannot ignore the fact that almost the only reply which has yet been vouchsafed to our arguments has been to accuse us of indulging in party spirit. Well, I think the very vehemence of these accusations is the measure of the weakness of our accusers' case. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, of course, are entitled to take this line if they see fit; but I cannot help thinking that the country would be more reassured if they would endeavour to reply to our arguments—if they are able to do so; and if they are able to do so and to refute those arguments nobody will be more reassured than we shall. It is not my intention to apologise for our action; but we have no other constitutional means of pressing our recommendations. It is unfortunate that we cannot propose to strengthen or modify the Government programme without being accused of being animated by party motives. There is no justification whatever for those accusations. They grossly misrepresent our attitude, and the attitude of my right hon. Friend, which throughout this controversy has been patriotic, has been consistent, and clearly unavoidable. I need only add that to those who read the terms of the Motion we are not attempting to challenge the naval policy of the Government as a whole, but only that one portion of it about which the Government have themselves expressed publicly their doubts, and about which they have apparently not yet made up their own minds.
§ The Prime Minister, a week ago, with more than his usual vehemence, and far less of his usual lucidity, referred in very strong language to the panic which had been created in the country. There has been no panic as far as I am aware. There has been very acute and very natural anxiety, and very strong determination—to use the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford—in the country—"to set our teeth and build." The Prime Minister described this anxiety as becoming artificial and manufactured. The right hon. Gentleman should be a good judge, because he was the manufacturer. Whatever alarm has been created in the country—whether well-founded or ill- 41 founded—is due to the grave, impressive, and startling warning which the Prime Minister felt it his duty as Prime Minister to address to the House of Commons on 16th March. However much he may regret the full extent of the effect of his action, he is none the less responsible for it. If he did not intend to arouse anxiety in the country it is very difficult to understand why he delivered that speech at all. The suggestion that has been made in some quarters that the object of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was to frighten a certain section of his followers below the Gangway into supporting the Estimates was a grotesque libel both on his intelligence and good faith. It is quite clear that he intended to arouse the anxiety of the country; but the right hon. Gentleman now appeared to be anxious to allay the panic or anxiety which he had created. His latest speech made on 22nd March—last Monday—so far from reassuring the country, had exactly the contrary effect. He said that the anxiety of the country was absurd. He said that no real apprehension need be felt for another twelve months. Has anyone outside a lunatic asylum suggested anything to the contrary? Everybody knows that we are safe now and for some time to come. The Prime Minister must have forgotten that it takes two years to build a battleship. What we were anxious about is not the position now or the immediate future, but what the position will be in 1911, and onwards. It is necessary we should look far ahead. The question of our national defence is too grave a question to rest on the unaided evolution of Ministerial doubts. To quote the Government's own phrase, "We cannot afford to take any risks." I do not desire to go over the whole ground; but if the Government had adhered to the moderate and reasonable shipbuilding programme laid down in the Cawdor Memorandum, the country would have had four more ships of an improved "Dreadnought" class, two of them being of the "Neptune" class, and the particular danger which has alarmed the country would have been avoided altogether. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us that he was actually glad that we had not got these four vessels. I think he must be the only man in the country who holds that opinion. What is the reason he gave for his astonishing opinion? He said by waiting we should have ships 30 per cent, better than the "Dreadnought." What we complain is that we shall not get the 42 ships at all. After all, it is better we should have ships of 70 per cent, of efficiency on the day of Armageddon than double the number of ships of 100 per cent, of efficiency after the battle is over.
§ I come to the second portion of my task, which is to demonstrate the necessity of the demand we press upon the Government in no party spirit, but in pursuance of what we believe to be a national duty. It is inevitable that we must discuss the German programme of shipbuilding and its effect upon our own. In doing so I cannot see that there is any necessity for us to show any feeling with regard to the action of the German Government, and I greatly regret the denunciations which have been made against Germany's action in this connection. There is no justification whatever for these denunciations. The German Government have acted strictly within their own rights; and it is peculiarly absurd for us to accuse them of treachery when they apparently made no secret of or very little of their intentions. We have no legitimate grievance against Germany. The grievance—if there is any grievance—is against our own Government, which has landed us in this predicament apparently with their eyes open. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs may complain, and justly complain, that the difficulties of his heavy task have been increased by the plain speaking which has been necessary in these debates; but I think he knows me well enough to know that I am one of the last men in the House to wish to embarrass him in the great and beneficent work he is doing, in maintaining the honour and prestige of this country abroad. But if any friction results from these debates, surely the Government is responsible for it by the result of their uncertain naval programme of the last few years, and by their speeches of the last few weeks. Why should the Government place this unnecessary strain upon our relations with Germany? A steady automatic programme—the necessary programme—would have obviated these delicate and dangerous debates, and without wishing to imitate the German example of passing the Naval Estimates without any discussion at all, such programme would constitute a warning to thy world of British inflexibility in the matter of naval supremacy. I think, further, a great mistake has been made by the Government in adjusting their proposed programme by the German declaration of intention. They have put forward that 43 declaration of intention as a basis for their shipbuilding programme, and they have no right to condemn us for examining fully into that basis. We are bound to examine it when it is a matter of life and death, and we are equally forced to come to the conclusion that our only safety in the matter of naval supremacy lies in being absolutely independent of diplomatic results, because all such results are necessarily transitory, and because they cannot remain unchanged the moment the party which has given them has gone out of office. I feel perfectly confident, and I am sure my hon. Friends agree with me, that if anything could be done to come to an arrangement with Germany on this question of naval policy the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would have achieved it. He has done everything that mortal man could do, and where he has failed no one is likely to succeed. We have, it is true, one result, and that is the declaration of intention to which the Prime Minister alluded in his speech of 16th March. We accept fully and without any sort of mental reserve the intention of the present German Government, under present conditions and under present circumstances not to accelerate—as I understand it that is the declaration—not to accelerate their programme more than it is accelerated at the present time. But Governments change and circumstances alter, and surely it is impossible for any Government, even for our own Government to with the best intentions to know or declare what its intentions will be in two years, one year, or even six months hence. His Majesty's Government at the present moment do not pretend to know what will be their intention a few months hence with regard to one half of their shipbuilding programme, or does His Majesty's Government know, and are they withholding it from the House? The only thing that counts in this matter is not what Germany or any other country is inclined to do but what it can do when its present intention or necessities change. A declaration of intention may become obsolete in a week; even the most solemn treaty has been broken in an equally short space of time, and it must never be forgotten that it takes two years or more to construct a battleship. It is futile to attempt to base a programme of shipbuilding upon a declaration which must necessarily be transient, which has been specifically referred to by the Government which has given it 44 as being liable to change, and which is in no sense binding upon the giver.
§ The first duty of the Government is to secure the absolute safety of the country, and the way it can discharge that duty is to ensure the country against all foreseeable risks, and the only way to do that is to assume, as it must assume, that all foreign naval power is a potential enemy, and if any foreign Power—I do not care what Power it is—has created a means by which it can successfully challenge our supremacy upon the sea, then this means must be utilised to the fullest extent and at the earliest possible opportunity. What are these means? The German Government or the German nation has built up in an incredibly short space of time, after patient labour, with far-reaching and minute organisation, by immense financial sacrifice, the greatest ship-producing plant which perhaps the world has ever seen. This, of course, has only been possible as a result of the encouragement and assistance of the German Government, which realises far more clearly than we do the vast national asset they possess in these private dockyards and arsenals. We in this country often talk about our private shipyards, and we urge our private shipbuilding establishments to increase their plant, to develop their resources. We glut them with orders at one moment and starve them for long subsequent periods, unmindful, apparently, of the disturbance and loss and human suffering—I could say a good deal about that—which must result from this spasmodic and capricious policy. I do not wish to labour this point. It must be apparent to everyone who has given any consideration to the subject. I will give one illustration to the House.
A few years ago the British Government urged the armour-producing industry of this country to increase its plant in order that it might be in a position to satisfy the national necessity. That was done, and to-day and for some time past the armour-producing capacity of this country, I understand, has been 45,000 tons per annum. During the last two years, 1907–8, the orders given by the Government to that plant have been–1907, 550 tons; 1908, 13,915 tons. So that in the two years only one-sixth of the capacity of the national plant which the Government wished to encourage has been utilised. How is it possible for any commercial business to exist, much less to nourish, under conditions such as that? It is not that our national resources are inferior to the German, but they are paralysed and crippled 45 for want of steady, continuous policy on the part of the Admiralty. We cannot deny or shut our eyes to German capacity. What are we to conclude from that capacity? Are we to conclude that this gigantic plant which has been so dramatically built up is to be idle, is not to be used, that it has been created merely as an academic exercise? Surely we must assume, and we are bound to assume, that what the Germans can do, what under their naval law they are entitled to do, and what they are demanding provision to do, they may do, though sincere—and I do not doubt their sincerity for a moment—in their intention at the present moment of not utilising it to the full extent. Any less assumption is to take risk which may place in jeopardy the interests of the British Empire, and risk which I do not believe any Government of any side are prepared to take, however great the inconvenience of the financial burden which must result. I am one of those who do not believe that the present Government is indifferent either to the safety of this country or to our supremacy on the seas. I believe it is their desire, as it is ours, to do everything which is right and proper in order to maintain this foundation of our Empire and liberty. But I do fear they have underestimated the gravity of the perils with which we are confronted. The facts they have admitted are grave enough. We now know the German capacity of output is equal to our own in volume, and in speed of building, about which, judging from the Government replies, very little is known at present, and still less is likely to be known in the future—they are equal at least to us. That is the central and dominant fact of the whole situation, beside which the disputed question of our relative strength on certain dates, 1911–12, are comparatively unimportant. We ought never to have been reduced to the position of estimating whether these small differences in calculation in numbers are vital to our naval supremacy or not. I do not wish to deal with figures more than I can help, but I must call attention to the fact that the Government dispute the most serious figures submited by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. The difference between him and the Government rests mainly on the rates of building. My right hon. Friend's most ominous figures were that we may find ourselves in the position in the beginning of 1911 in which the Germans would have 46 13 "Dreadnought's" to our 10; that is if the four ships of the 1909 programme were substantially commenced in November, 1908. And we have confirmation of that from the Prime Minister in his speech of 16th March. I do not think the Prime Minister can deny that. I have it here, and these are the Prime Minister's words on 16th March, Page 961, in the official report:—It is undoubtedly the case that during the autumn of last year there was an anticipation, with four ships which belonged to the German programme of 1909–10, in the sense that orders were given, materials collected, and it may be that in one or two cases, possibly in more, ships were actually laid down.
§ If the Prime Minister's estimate is correct in that matter, then the figures of my right hon. Friend were fully justified. It is quite true that figures of 13 to 10 in 1911 will not be realised if the Germans choose to dawdle over their construction; but it is exceedingly probable that they will have 11 ships to our 10 at that period, and no one disputes—not even the Government—that they will have nine ships to our 10 at that period. The Government further admit that the Germans will have 11 ships to our 12 in April, 1911; they will have 13 to our 14 in the summer of 1911, and, they certainly cannot deny that if the Germans lay down four more ships during the coming summer—and there is no reason why they should not—that they will have 17 to our 16 at the end of 1911 and until March, 1912, and at the best, even if the four hypothetical ships foreshadowed by the Government are laid down at the time stated, we shall have only 20 to the Germans' 17 in April, 1912, or a margin of three if the Government proceed with the maximum of their programme.
§ These figures are beyond dispute, and well within the capacity of the German yards, and we must never forget that behind this great German fleet there lies the most efficient army in the whole world, and how persuasive a land force of that kind can be I think we have had ample demonstration in the last twenty-four hours. Will the Government really assert that their considered opinion is that they will sufficiently and amply provide for the complete and absolute security of the country by the programme which they now propose to the House; because taking their figures only, and putting aside ours for the moment, it is clear that there is only one battleship of the latest class over one Power alone, that is Germany, from January to November, 1911. Do the 47 Government really claim that that will secure our complete supremacy of the seas? Apart from the risks of war, have the Government forgotten the perils of peace? What if our supremacy of one had rested three years ago upon the "Montagu," and what will be the prospects of British diplomacy during that period of the year 1911? It is the commonest of truisms that the influence of a European Power must rest ultimately upon the potential force that lies behind its recommendations, and I am sure that proposition would be assented to by Russia at this moment, but when we realise that England, so far from having a two-Power standard of the latest type of ship, will have a margin of only one throughout the greater portion of the year 1911 over one-Power, rising possibly, but only possibly to three in the spring of 1912, what hope is there of our being able to maintain our prestige in the Councils of Europe. That is the question that I hope the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will answer when he replies. He may possibly and conceivably reply that our margin in that class of ships will be greater, but if he does he will be denying the accuracy of the figures given to the House of Commons by the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty only a week ago. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary will deal authoritatively with this point, but great as is his authority and his influence with every section of the House, which no one recognises more gladly and clearly than I do, I am afraid the country will need something more than his personal assurance that he is satisfied with the margin of superiority of one battleship of the latest class over one-Power, and that Power Germany, in the year 1911. Is that all he had in his mind when he gave his impressive warning to the nation in November last, and when he said, "There is no half-way house in naval affairs between complete safety and absolute ruin."
§ It will be said that "Dreadnoughts" are not everything, and that I have made no mention of "King Edwards VII." and other vessels of our second line which are still efficient, and which will be still efficient in the year 1911. It is true that I have not so far referred to them, but that does not in the least invalidate the force of the argument which I have ventured to lay before the House. If I wanted to make a taunt, I should say, "Have you forgotten the two-Power standard" or, rather, the 48 reason for it? It has been almost forgotten during the last fortnight owing to the sudden realisation of the strength of a single Power, but, although its existence has been threatened, its raison d'être still exists, and I challenge the Government to show that anything has happened to change the possibility of our having, if we do have to fight, to fight two Powers at one and the same time. I say that the preamble of the German Navy Bill expressly recognises that contingency. I am not going to quote the words which have been so often quoted. I take the words that follow. This is a literal translation: "It is not absolutely necessary that the German fleet should be as strong as that of the greatest sea Power, because generally the greatest sea Power will not be in a position to concentrate all its forces against us." In dealing with a situation of that kind we have to recognise the fact that the second Power, whatever it may be, may not be fighting in the same seas, and it may be necessary for us to have a force to oppose each Power against us. If Germany should unhappily be one of those Powers then admittedly, on the showing of the Government's own figures, it will need the whole of our "Dreadnought" strength, in the danger period to which I have referred, to deal with the concentrated German North Sea Fleet, which has just been reorganised for service in the North Sea only, and we shall need some portion of our second line to deal with the German second line as well. In that situation does anyone suppose that the remainder of our second line, such as it would be, would be too strong to deal with the second allied Power on the other flank and also to protect the whole of the other interests which we are bound to protect?
§ If we are to maintain our naval supremacy—if we are to maintain the one-Power standard only, then I admit that during the year 1911, in spite of these alarming figures, our position may be safe; but if we have to fight on two flanks—which is, after all, the basis of the two-Power standard, which the Prime Minister has specifically accepted on more than occasion—then the risks which we shall run in the North Sea would be of the gravest possible description. For this reason we protest against what we believe to be the inadequacy of the Government's published programme, and we demand that whatever the strength of our second line may be, that at all times and at all costs we shall maintain a complete and even a crushing superiority over the one Power which alone 49 of all Powers has the means to overwhelm us in these islands if it is able to challenge our supremacy in the home waters. What exertions we may have to put forth, what sacrifices we may have to make in order to ensure that supremacy, it is impossible for any man to forecast at the present moment, but we can at least deal with the immediate necessities of the moment. The Government claim that those immediate necessities are met by the programme which they have submitted, which will give us 14 "Dreadnoughts" in July, 1911, and 16 in November, 1911, at a period when Germany will admittedly have a minimum of 13 ships of the same class and a possible maximum of 17. ["Oh!"] I do not Wish to go back over these figures—they have not been challenged before. We say that position is grossly and dangerously inadequate. What is more important than what has gone past is: Is it possible to obviate this danger to which I have referred? Yes, it is; and without increasing the foreshadowed programme by a single ship, but merely by converting the hypothetical ships into certainties and by completing them at the earliest possible moment. What is the earliest date at which these eight ships could be completed in the case of national emergency, such as we believe exists? We have made most careful and detailed investigations in regard to this point in quarters best qualified to know, and we assert, without hesitation, that if tenders were invited for these eight ships—or it would not be necessary to ask for eight, because two, I understand, are to be laid down in the Government yards—if tenders were to be invited, not for eight, but for six of these ships of the "Neptune" class—the very latest development of the "Dreadnought" class, and for which drawings exist at the present time—if tenders were issued at once, it would be possible, and we have verified this point from absolute sources of information, to have the first four of these ships delivered in two years and four months, and the second four or two, as the case might be, in two years and nine months from the present time.
§ I challenge the Government to dispute those figures. In that case we should have 16 vessels of the latest type in August, 1911, and 20 in December, 1911, whilst Germany would have only J3 and 17 in the corresponding periods, and this without increasing the total of the Government's foreshadowed programme by a single ship, merely hastening the commencement and transferring certain sums from next year's 50 Estimates to the Estimates we are now considering, and thereby equalising in a fairer manner the expenditure of the two years. In saying that I admit that these ships, constructed under those conditions, would cost more than they would under normal conditions, but that is the price which the country will have to pay for procrastination in the past. Is it not worth while that we should do this to preserve our clear superiority in the latest type of ship? I cannot help feeling that the Government has completely failed to catch the feeling and determination of the country if they hesitate to take this step through any financial consideration or reasons connected with their internal differences.
§ I wish to sum up my arguments. I have endeavoured to show in the first place that the Government itself is to blame for the position in which we find ourselves as a result of its reduction of naval expenditure during the last three years and its latest speeches, that the present state of affairs, which is due to the Government's vacillating policy, has placed an intolerable strain not only upon our relations with Germany, but upon our national finances and also upon our private dockyards and arsenals, that the situation in the near future is not only actually dangerous, but potentially disastrous, that the declared programme of the Navy is not adequate to ensure the complete safety of this country, and that the recommendations which we venture to press upon the Government are not only reasonable in extent, but are in no sense impracticable. That is the case which we feel it our duty to lay before the House, and deeply conscious though I am that I have presented it most imperfectly, at the same time I hope I have not far departed from my intention to present it in as reasoned and unprovocative a manner as possible. Our motion is not so much a condemnation of His Majesty's Government as it is an appeal to them to resolve the doubts which evidently exist in their own minds with regard to one portion of their policy and an appeal to adopt the prudent, reasonable, and, as I think, inevitable course which we honestly and profoundly believe is essential to the security of the Empire. Some hon. Members opposite and their friends in the Press scoffed at our motives and impugned our patriotism. We do not impugn their patriotism. We only say we think they have not sufficiently weighed the facts and the possibilities which arise from those 51 facts. We have stated our case in good faith, and we have a right to expect that we shall be either answered or accepted. There may be some hon. Gentlemen—I cannot think there will be many—opposite who are anticipating a great party triumph in the Lobby to-night. Do they really think that triumph will represent the true balance of feeling in the country in regard to this great question? The taunt has been thrown at us—I think a very cheap taunt—that we are afraid to press this Motion to a Division. Why should we be afraid? Have not we had ample experience in this Parliament of the overwhelming brute force which can beat down all our recommendations and which can equally beat down this Motion? But we are none the less sincere in wishing, in the interests of both parties, in the interests of the national good name, that this mechanical division of opinion between the two great historic parties, both of which have done so much to build up the greatness of this country—this division, suggesting a conflict of opinion which I do not believe for a moment exists in our hearts as British citizens, should be averted if possible. The Government cannot be blind to the fact that amongst the ranks of their supporters, amongst men of every shadow of political opinion outside this House, amongst men who are connected with no party whatever, but who have been long and honourably numbered amongst the sincere advocates of international peace, there are men who passionately desire that the Government should move in the direction that we have indicated.
§ Surely the Government cannot be indifferent to the feeling so spontaneously expressed and so touchingly demonstrated by our self-governing Colonies beyond the seas, who realise just as clearly as we can that the British Empire floats upon the British Navy, and whose feelings at any rate in this matter cannot be set down to party bias or party motives. Will they not listen to them, even if pride demands that they should turn a deaf ear to us? We deplore equally with the Government and just as strongly as anyone can in this country that this great question of our national supremacy, involving as it does the safety of everything we hold most dear, should be dragged even for a moment into the whirlpool of party politics. Therefore, in spite of possible sneers or ironical comment, and speaking on behalf of my. right hon. Friend and those who act with 52 him, I say we shall be only too glad to have an opportunity of withdrawing this Motion now if the Government would endeavour to recognise the force of the arguments which we have laid before them, and if they would reconsider the non-possumus attitude which they have taken up with regard to this one portion only of their naval policy, and accept these eight ships not as a contingency which may be required under possible circumstances but as a certainty, and to be commenced now. That would be meeting, I believe, not merely our arguments, but, I honestly believe, the wishes and the desires of the vast majority of the nation. Otherwise—and I say it with the greatest possible regret—we have no alternative but to proceed with our Motion, not in the interests of any party, but in the interests of the safety of the whole Empire.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
I gladly admit that the tone and substance of the hon. Member's speech have not been provocative, but have been more in the nature of an appeal to His Majesty's Government. But they cannot escape from the form of their Motion nor from the effect which it is bound to have both here and outside. The right hon. Gentleman says he does not want to escape.
§ Sir EDWARD GREY
The right hon. Gentleman has entirely misapprehended my meaning. Is he prepared to give an assurance that this Motion, and the terms of it, and the effect of its having been put down in this House, will not be used for party purposes outside? Whoever takes a step of this kind must be responsible for the consequences of it. I was not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman wants to run away from the Motion, but the speech of the hon. Member who moved it has of course been couched in a tone which will make it easy for hon. Members opposite to withdraw from the Motion if they get an assurance from the Government. I make no complaint of that, and I began by saying I did not complain of the tone or temper of the speech, but we know perfectly well that that is not the way this subject is being treated outside. The point I am going to make is this. If the party opposite thought it essential to put down a Motion about the Navy in the form of a Vote of censure upon the Government they ought to have waited until the last possible moment consistent with 53 national safety for doing so. If I state a point I am not going to run away from it. I state a point in order to have an opportunity of proving it. They say they have. They may think they have, but from the point of view of national safety they are not correct. The object of the Motion is that the Government should immediately issue orders, not for two or for four, but for eight ships of the "Neptune" type. First of all, I say with regard to four of these ships—what I will call the ships which are to be put down hypothetically in the Government's programme—we are not sure that these ships will be required. I know there is uncertainty as to the situation. I admit we may have positive considerations before us in a short time which may make it necessary to act upon the powers which we ask the House to give. But it is also possible that we may have positive information of another kind which will render that unnecessary. In the next place, even if they were in our place to-day they would not, I venture to say, with a knowledge of all the facts before them, order all these ships of the "Neptune" type. If you have to look far ahead you must take into account considerations of design as well as of number, and I am convinced that no Government, standing in a position of responsibility, at this moment would pledge itself to the design of eight new battleships. In the third place, if the orders were issued for all these ships now we should not get the last of them any quicker than we shall if the orders are issued next July. No time would be saved, as I will explain presently. July is the usual month for the Vote for new construction. Then would have been the opportunity, without a Vote of censure, for the question to be raised, and then, if need be, as a last resort, if our attitude was not satisfactory to hon. Members opposite, reluctantly compelled by their conviction of the national insecurity, they could then have launched the Navy as a party question. That would have been sufficient, as I hope to prove, from the point of view of the country and of national safety, and it would at any rate have done something to restrain the tendency to make the Navy a party question outside.
I must regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition should have taken what he considers the latest opportunity possible, but what we consider the earliest, to put down a Motion which is a Vote of censure as regards the Navy. It must have this effect. I gladly 54 admit that the hon. Member who spoke and his friends opposite have on many questions of national policy shown the greatest restraint to avoid making them party questions. With regard to foreign policy I cordially and unreservedly admit that that applies not only to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, but to the whole party, and, with regard to national defence, hitherto the Leader of the Opposition has shown no tendency to take advantage of scares, which may have been raised to make that a party question. He has never lent himself to the scare about invasion. He has not made the Army scheme of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War a party question. He has resisted any temptation there may be on those points to do it. I regret that he should not have waited for some vital necessity to arise with regard to the Navy, because to make the Navy a party question, by any unnecessary, premature, or exaggerated anticipation of alarm is the greatest political crime that could be committed.
Now I will proceed to state our position as opposed to that of hon. Members opposite, and I will not do it in the ordinary debating way. The ordinary debating way is that the party on one side should state their extreme view of the case, and should be replied to by the extreme view of the party on the other side. In my opinion hon. Members opposite have stated with regard to the Navy the maximum of improbability. I do not complain of their doing so. The ordinary way for us to reply would be by stating the minimum of probability. I am not going to pursue that course. I am not going to attempt in any way to minimise the seriousness of the situation. I will not reply in the party sense by taking advantage of points that may be overstated on the other side in order to minimise them on this side, because what we are doing to-night is not contending for a party victory. We desire by a just, fair, and reasonable statement of our position to get not victory but confidence. Let me review the situation in that light?
First of all, the House and the country are perfectly right in the view that the situation is grave. A new situation in this country is created by the German programme. Whether that programme is carried out quickly or slowly the fact of its existence makes a new situation. When that programme is completed, Germany, a great country close to our own shore, will have a fleet of 33 "Dread- 55 noughts." That fleet would be the most powerful which the world has ever yet seen. It is true that there is not one of them in commission yet; but it is equally true that the whole programme comprises what I have said, and when completed the new fleet will be the most I powerful fleet which the world has yet I seen. That imposes upon us the necessity, of which we are now at the beginning—except so far as we have "Dread-noughts" already—of rebuilding the whole of our Fleet. That is what the situation is. What we do not know is the time in which we shall have to do it. There is no dispute as to the issue that, in order to meet the German Fleet when it is completed, we shall have to build a new fleet of our own more powerful than any which we have yet got, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will agree to this, that the only element of doubt or uncertainty or difference of opinion is as to the time in which we ought to do it. Let me take up the situation at that point. We know what we shall have to do sooner or later. We do not know the actual time within which we shall have to do it.
The first thing we have got to make sure of is our capacity to build. We have got to keep the situation in hand with regard to our capacity to build. If the situation Is not in hand now we shall have to get it in hand, and as long as we are attending to that point of capacity to build I maintain that there is no loss of time in the action which the Government is taking. What have we to do with regard to that? Take stock of the plant in the country; of, the power which there is in this country to construct ships of this type in order that when we do give orders for ships they will be completed in the shortest possible time; and by that I mean orders not for one ship at a time, but for a batch of ships. The point on which we differ from hon. Members opposite is this, that the important point at the moment is not to order a large batch of ships in excess of what you may possibly need, and in excess of your capacity to construct, so that the last of them will go dragging on over an unusual time. You do not want to do that now, but you may want in future to order a large batch of ships at a time, and you want to have plant to be able to get those ships in the shortest possible time. So the first thing to be done is to take stock of our plant. That the Admiralty has done, and I think that the House ought to have the result.
56 With regard to capacity for building hulls and propelling machinery, our capacity is considerably in excess of the German capacity; and in the manufacture of guns of the largest size we believe that our capacity for output is also superior. The doubtful point of the situation is our comparative capacity for the construction of gun mountings. The Board of Admiralty have already made arrangements with our manufacturers providing for such an increase in their plant as will in the course of a few months from the present time give us an advantage in this point of construction also. It must be understood that the existing plant is fully equal to meeting all the requirements under the present programme, but we consider it desirable to have a wide margin of constructive power sufficient to enable us greatly to accelerate our shipbuilding, and we have no misgivings on the subject of armaments. To make that perfectly clear, I may say that we are not taking into our calculations the amount of plant already allocated for foreign orders. I should be sorry that it should go abroad that we were making such demands on our shipbuilding firms that they are not to be able to carry out foreign orders. That plant is not taken into calculation, and that exists over and above the calculations which I have given. That is what I mean by saying that we are attending to the point at the moment. You may say, "Can you do that without giving the orders for shipbuilding?" and we say, "Yes, we can do it, and it is being done," and if it were needed to spend money for that purpose without giving orders for the ships the money would be spent; but to give orders for a large batch of ships, the later ones of which will not be completed any sooner—giving these orders now simply in order that you might increase your plant—would be a most wasteful way of doing it.
What we want to make sure of is our capacity. That is the real point of urgency, and I say that if hon. Members opposite had accurately gauged and really grasped the situation there would have been no need for this Motion. They could have got that information in the form of question and answer across the floor of the House, and had they desired to avoid placing this Motion on the Paper I understand there would have been no difficulty whatever in giving them that definite information as to the Government's view of the point of urgency and the measures which have been already taken. And on that point I say 57 that is is the Government which has the responsibility, which has got also the fullest knowledge as to what is the point of danger and urgency that is really to be apprehended, and that has got to be dealt with at the moment.
I now come to three other points. One of them I must go over very lightly. I am afraid that it will not be strictly within the limits of order in this debate. If so I must ask the indulgence of the House, and I will turn nothing on it which need lead to debate in this House. As so much has been said in these debates about Germany and so much turns on German construction, I should like to review quite shortly our diplomatic relations with Germany pure and simple. We took things up when we came into office as we found them. The Algeciras Conference was still in progress in the earlier portion of the present Administration. During that time between us and Germany there was, owing to diplomatic engagements of which all the world knows, a period of diplomatic tension, but with the close of the Conference that came to an end, and diplomatic relations proceeded perfectly smoothly,. The mere fact that they did proceed smoothly meant that as time passed on they improved; and the next point was the visit of the German Emperor to London—a visit which was in all respects satisfactory. From that stage we went to a further one—the visit of the King to Berlin the other day, which was equally satisfactory. As far, therefore, as diplomatic relations with Germany are concerned, since the present Government came into office there has been peaceful progression and improved relations between ourselves and Germany up to the King's visit to Berlin. As long as the Morocco barrier which existed at Algeciras was liable to be erected again, of course, we had a certain feeling of discouragement that the improvement of the moment might be again set back. That disappears with the agreement between Germany and France.
And now as regards our future diplomatic relations with Germany, I see a wide space in which both of us may walk in peace and amity. Two things, in my opinion two extreme things, would produce conflict. One is an attempt-by us to isolate Germany. No nation of her standing and her position would stand a policy of isolation assumed by neighbouring Powers. I should like to observe that in recent debates nothing has been more unfounded and nothing more malign in its influence than the statement that any difference of 58 opinion we have had with regard to the question of Austria has been due to the fact that Austria was Germany's friend. On the contrary we have carefully avoided in all our relations anything which was likely to make difficulty or mischief, directly or indirectly, between those two Powers. Another thing which would certainly produce a conflict would be the isolation of England, the isolation of England attempted by any great Continental Power so as to dominate and dictate the policy of the Continent. That always has been so in history. The same reasons which have caused it in history would cause it again. But between these two extremes of isolation and domination there is a wide space in which the two nations can walk together in a perfectly friendly way; and just as there is no reason to apprehend on our part that we shall pursue a policy of isolation of Germany, so also I see just as little reason to apprehend that Germany will pursue a deliberate policy of isolation of this country. If that is clearly understood by the public opinion of both countries, surely each must recognise that the possibilities of peace and goodwill are enormous. But now I pass to my second point, which is the relations between us with regard to naval expenditure. Those have been frequently a subject of discussion, always informally, but without reserve. They have never interrupted the course of diplomacy. The German view of their programme is that it is made for their own needs, and has no reference to ours, and that if we build 50 or a 100 "Dreadnoughts" they will not build more, but if we cease building altogether they will not build one less. We have no difficulty in hearing that view without reproach, and just as little difficulty in saying quite frankly that our own view of our own naval needs is that our expenditure is, and must be, dependent upon the German, although the German is not dependent upon ours. It is essential to us that we should not fall into a position of inferiority; it is essential that we should keep a position of superiority as regards our Navy. No German, so far as I know, has any more difficulty in listening to that view, expressed by us, than we have in listening to theirs. They would admit from our point of view—which is a perfectly natural point of view for us to take—all that can be said, perfectly easily, between people in the highest position of responsibility, without interrupting the harmony of an after-dinner conversation. But public opinion in Germany and in the 59 world at large increasingly measures the probable relations of England and Germany by their respective naval expenditure. An increase of naval expenditure on both sides is undoubtedly viewed by public opinion with apprehension. On the other hand, a decrease of naval expenditure will immediately produce a feeling of increased security and peace. If I was asked to name the one thing which would mostly reassure the world—or reassure Europe—with regard to the prospects of peace, I think it would be that the naval expenditure in Germany would be diminished, and that ours was following suit, and being diminished also. Were there a cessation of competition in naval expenditure public opinion everywhere would take it as a guarantee of the good intentions of the two nations, and the effect would be incalculable.
Let me follow this further. Is it possible, is there any conceivable method, by which this might be brought about? Of course, various arrangements are conceivable. An agreement—a general agreement—to limit or reduce naval expenditure, a comparison of naval estimates year by year in advance, to see whether the modification of the one might not lead to the modification of the other; or even if those responsible, the two Admiralties might exchange information as to the figures of their naval expenditure and the progress of their building. All that is unprecedented possibly, but so is the expenditure. Suppose each Government were to say that in order to stop these scares and suspicions on each side which arise from this constant increase of naval expenditure—in order to stop the suspicion that all increase of naval expenditure or increased speed of construction engenders, that one country was trying to steal a march upon the other—supposing the two Admiralties agreed to exchange information, and put each in a position to say that they knew—that is the only way it can be done. It cannot be done by the German Admiralty saying something to the German Foreign Office, which is repeated to the German Ambassador, then repeated to me, and by me repeated to the Admiralty. That would never dispose of suspicions and doubts as to the actual speed. I will show presently that the statements of hon. Members opposite are greatly exaggerated as to what is actually going on. But I foresee, even if we dispose of those statements at the moment, yet from time to 60 time in the future you will have these excursions and alarums recurring, and I know of no way in which to completely dispose of them unless the two Admiralties would agree to exchange information through their Naval Attaches, or in whatever way the two Admiralties might be satisfied with. Remember, in Germany there is apprehension with regard to our intentions. I am constantly told—not from official sources—but from people who have been in Germany, and who bring back news to me of apprehension in Germany with regard to ourselves; that one of the reasons why German public opinion is apprehensive is that they fear we may be preparing an attack upon them—a most wild apprehension. But see how an increase of naval expenditure, how debates of this kind, must lead public opinion—must foster these ideas in the mind of the public. I do not say this as a reproach against this debate; but in reference to any debate on the Naval Estimates. It means that whenever we debate our Estimates—whenever the Government comes forward and justifies an increase of expenditure by something which Germany has done, you will have that attitude of suspicion with regard to the intentions of each country fostered in the public opinion. All that is being argued is perfectly well known to Germany. Some hon. Members have a difficulty in understanding why, if that be so, there should be any difficulty in coming to an arrangement. It is, in my opinion, no ground for complaint or reproach against the German Government, that they do not enter into any arrangement. We should be glad if they did, but we have never for a moment suggested that it should be a ground of complaint against them that they did not. On what basis would any arrangement have to be proposed? Not the basis of equality. It must be the basis of a superiority of the British Navy. No German, so far as I know, disputes that that is a natural point of view for us. But it is another thing to ask the German Government to expose itself before its own public opinion to a charge of having co-operated to make the attainment of our views easier. That is the difficulty which it is only fair to state. As against that there is no comparison between the importance of the German Navy to Germany, and the importance of our Navy to us. Our Navy to us is what their Army is to them. To have a strong Navy would increase their pres- 61 tige, their diplomatic influence, their power of protecting their commerce; but as regards us—it is not a matter of life and death to them that it is to us. No superiority of the British Navy over the German Navy could ever put us in a position to affect the independence or integrity of Germany, because our Army is not maintained on a scale which, unaided, could do anything on German territory. But if the German Navy were superior to ours, they, maintaining the Army which they do, for us it would not be a question of defeat. Our independence, our very existence, would be at stake And, therefore, it is fair to expect, when we discuss, openly and fully, as we do, our naval questions in this House, dealing fully and frankly with the German position, and the way we are affected by it, that they should bear in mind that for us the Navy is what the Army is to them, and that it is absolutely necessary, that the facts of the case—the full bearings of them—the position in which we may be placed, should be put fully and frankly before our own people. One point I should like to dismiss—as really not relevant to this debate—which has been raised on this side of the House. That is the idea that if we reverse our view with regard to the capture of an enemy's private property at sea, that it is likely to promote an arrangement. Never have we had a hint, a whisper, an indication of any kind that if we changed our view on that point that it would affect German naval policy. For hon. Members in this House to reproach their own Government for an opinion on that point which has never, in this connection, in its bearing on naval expenditure, been made a matter of reproach against us by the German Government, is a mere waste of time. On a matter of that sort the German Government must speak for themselves.
I come to the point which the hon. Member opposite described as a delicate one: the actual statements of intention which Germany has made. I am glad that he said he was sure that those declarations of intention were made in all good faith. I accept them in all good faith. I will first of all give them to the House, and then I will tell the House how they came to be given to me. The declaration of intention which we have from the German government is this. We have been informed verbally, but quite definitely, that Germany will not accelerate her naval programme of construction, and will not 62 have 13 ships of the "Dreadnought" type, including cruisers, till the end of 1912. This has been told us, not in the form of an undertaking, but as a declaration of intention from the most authoritative source. I understand this to mean 13 ships will, or may be, ready for commission as distinct from trial, by the end of 1912. We have also been told that contracts for two ships for the financial year 1909–10 were; promised in advance to certain firms pro; vided the money were granted by the Reichstag afterwards. In addition to that we are informed that these two ships for which orders have been promised in advance, will be ready for trial trips at the earliest in April, 1912, and will not be ready for commission before October, 1912. As regards the remaining two ships of the 1909–10 programme, not covered by this, we are informed that tenders will be called for only late in the summer, and the orders will be given two or three months later. We have not asked the German Government for information. But early in January, some time after we had news that the German programme was, according to our information, being accelerated, I did take an opportunity of making it known that, although we had always been told by the Germans that they were not going to exceed their present naval programme, according to our information there was acceleration. They must, therefore, not be surprised if our Naval Estimates showed a considerable increase. The information which I have now given to the House has been given to me at various times since—some before this debate began in this House; some—and the most specific statements—after the debates in this House on Naval Estimates began. That is a declaration of intention, and not an undertaking. It does not bind the German Government. It leaves them| free to change their intention. But it does dispose of the idea that they were pre; paring to have 13 ships ready in 1910. No Government preparing to have 13 ships in 1910 would have voluntarly made those declarations.
§ Sir E. GREY
Well, December, 1910. But I say that no Government with that in its mind would ever make declarations of intention of this kind. I accept the German declarations of their intention. They have been given to me in a form—and some of them have been given to the German public as well—in which they may be used in Parliament. They were not 63 intended in any way to be given as private information which was not to be used in public, and I accept those declarations, and I give them to the House as they were given to me—as declarations of intention given in all good faith and representing the present mind of the German Government. Now, I must observe that there are certain points not covered by these declarations. In the first place, Germany allows, I am told, six months for trials, BO that if her intention is to have ships ready by a certain date you are entitled to assume that those ships would be ready for trial some six months earlier, and in case of great emergency they would be available. In the next place, that tells us nothing about the type of ship. Within the limits of price the possibilities of what may be built ate known. But observe that on the statement I have given to the House, and indeed on the statement of Admiral von Tirpitz himself made in the Reichstag, these last four ships, the four ships in the financial year 1909–10, are intented to take three years in construction; they are not to be ready until 1912. Orders for two of them were promised in advance last autumn. They are going to take, all of them, at least three years.
§ Sir E. GREY
I say at least three years until they are ready for trial—until April, 1912. The earlier two, if orders were promised in the autumn, will take more than three years, but they will take three years from the official date of April, 1909. The money provided by German naval law allows for a very large amount of money being spent on the construction of these ships. I am only taking the money which the German naval law allows, and, if the rate of construction is to be three years, the amount of money allowed to be spent on these ships is so large that it allows for a considerable superiority of type in those vessels over those already launched. If future German ships are to be all of the type which we know, then we should see exactly where we are, but they may be of a different type. We ourselves may need ships of a different type from any we have already, in order to meet them. Supposing, for instance, we had 20 "Dreadnoughts" of the "Neptune" type—which the hon. Member wishes to order at once—to the German 13, and then we found that of these 13 three or four were vessels of an 64 entirely new type, possessing qualities which could not be counteracted simply by the superiority of numbers of the existing type of "Dreadnoughts," then whatever our superiority of numbers in the existing type of "Dreadnoughts" might be we should still have to build some other ships with new qualities to counteract those particular qualities possessed by ships of the new type. That is a reason for keeping an open mind in regard to the time of ordering the four hypothetical "Dreadnoughts" in our programme. That is what I meant by saying that I believe no Government standing in our place to-day should give the orders at once if there is a doubt about design. It is a reason against giving orders at the present moment for the four hypothetical ships, and also a reason for keeping an open mind as to the need for more ships, whatever our given superiority may be at a particular moment with regard to ships of the "Dreadnought" type. It cuts both ways. It is true there is danger in being too slow in giving orders, but there may also be great danger in being too quick. Taking, at the present moment, the German declarations of intention, they are in themselves a reason why we should keep an open mind with regard to the future needs of the present year. Another point which the German declaration does not cover is the extent to which turrets may be prepared in advance, without orders being given for definite ships. It means this, that your intentions to accelerate is one thing, while your power to accelerate is another. The German intention not to accelerate their programme we perfectly accept, but in all good faith, without any breach of undertaking, even if it were an undertaking, they could accumulate the power of increasing gun mountings, of increasing plant necessary for "Dreadnoughts," and they could accumulate the power to accelerate, supposing the European situation changed and with it their intention. That is a point which, of course, is perfectly open. Then what we have been told tells us nothing about what the situation may be in 1913 and 1914. When these 13 German vessels are completed and commissioned at the end of 1912, according to their naval law, I understand 10 more will be under construction. Supposing, as I say, the complexion of the political sky were to change a year or two hence, with it the German intention with regard to acceleration of their programme would naturally change too, and though these 13 ships might not appear before the end of 1912, 65 yet the 10 which would have come under construction in the interval might appear very rapidly in 1913 and 1914. That is the situation with regard to Germany. I maintain that, on the information which we have and the statements which I have given to the House, it disposes of the extreme apprehensions put forward with regard to the early years up to 1910.
§ Sir E. GREY
I have told the House already the information I have with regard to German intentions. My right hon. Friend said the Germans might have 13 in August, 1911. They have told us that they will not have 13 ready for commission until the end of 1912. That is the situation. I have told the House frankly the points which are not covered by that, and what seems to be the possibilities within that. The House is perfectly entitled to allow for a change of intention providing the House does accept with perfect good faith this as representing the German mind at the present time. Now take our position. We have five Dreadnoughts, in commission. We have seven building and four certainly to be laid down this year—that is 16. I would ask the House to bear in mind what is being done in the capacity of plant. If in the latter half of this year we were to give orders for four extra ships—the hypothetical ships, as I call them—in our programme, and if we found ourselves pressed, and made use of our capacity in the following year, we should have 10 more ships by April, 1913, making 26 in all.
We are asking the House to give us powers, if need be, to order four ships in advance, in addition to those already in the Estimates. Let the House be quite clear what it means. If we do order those ships in advance, it does not mean a limitation of next year's programme; it is without prejudice to next year's programme. If we order them in advance, and find we have got ahead and have the situation fully in hand, no doubt we might dispense with ships next year. But the fact that we have ordered them in advance is not to be taken as any limitation of next year's programme; they are put in this year's Estimates in the form in which they stand entirely without prejudice to the programme of next year. When we come to this point of 1911, really I 66 think we have overlooked the value of our pre-" Dreadnought" ships. Before the first "Dreadnought" was launched in 1906, the fleet which we now have, without a "Dreadought" was the most powerful fleet the world had yet seen. Are we really to believe that the vessels of that fleet have become absolutely useless between then and now? Of course they count, and must count. So long as "Dreadnoughts" are small in number, if we have but a superiority of 12 or 11, or something of that kind, these three "Dreadnoughts" count for a great deal. If our superiority were 16 to 13 foreign "Dreadnoughts," still the pre-"Dreadnoughts" would count a good deal, and when you get in the higher figures, showing 24 to 21 "Dreadnoughts," pre-"Dreadnoughts" count for less and less, and, eventually, when the "Dreadnoughts" have been increased to the maximum point, pre-"Dreadnoughts" would hardly count at all. But observe, according to the German programme, after the next two years, the German output of "Dreadnoughts" is to drop, and, therefore, progressively, as these pre-"Dreadnought" ships become of less and less value, and we continue building "Dreadnoughts" of newer type, our superiority in "Dreadnoughts" will increase as the value of the pre-"Dreadnoughts" falls. If the German programme is altered, that situation is changed. On the programme we have to deal with, I maintain that is a valid argument of considerable force. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not find fault with the power we have taken in these Estimates, which cover eight ships. What they do say is that they will not trust us to make a proper use of that power. Well, Sir, on receiving positive information that acceleration of our construction, if required, we shall, of course, exercise that power to the full. Hon. Members opposite doubt the accuracy of the Admiralty's information. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not complete."] I really think that is most unjust. If the information has not been accurate, on which side does the error lie? Have we underestimated or overestimated? We could not tell that the German Government were going to promise orders for two ships of the 1909–10 programmes in advance before that was actually done. We could not be expected to anticipate the German mind. The Admiralty got information, and they got it very early, that orders for two of these ships had been promised in advance, and no reproach lies upon them in regard to 67 that. They assumed that what was done for two might be done for four, even if orders were not given in advance, still there was a possibility of plant turrets, guns, and gun-mountings being prepared for the other two. I think the hypothesis on which my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty came before this House was that four of these ships—these four for the financial year 1909–10—might be declared officially laid down in April of this year? Was he underestimating the fact? We are told now that tenders will not be invited until later in the summer for the two my right hon. Friend was speaking of. He assumed they would be invited for four, and it is clear that if he erred in accuracy he overestimated, and not underestimated.
§ Mr. LEE
That is a very important point. The right hon. Gentleman now says that he has information from the German Government that these four ships of the 1909 programme will not be completed for three and a half or four years. Does he know that in the published Estimates of the German Government given to this House by the First Lord of the Admiralty on 4th March that the first instalments taken for these ships in the German Estimates are greater than those for all the four ships which we intend to complete in less than two years?
§ Sir E. GREY
That is covered by my point. This slow rate of construction of these ships cannot, in our opinion, absorb all the money to be or being allocated unless there is some change of type—I allow for a change of type. It has been stated by Admiral von Tirpitz in the Reichstag that the time is three years. That is not really revelant. The point I was making at the moment was that my right hon. Friend, in assuming it possible that four ships of the 1909–10 programme had been declared officially laid down in April is not underestimating the. situation, but on the contary it is overestimating, because we find that two of these ships will not be officially laid down until much later. The Admiralty were not content with that; they assumed that this promising of orders in advance for the two German ships of the 1909–10 programme was part of a policy of general acceleration. That we are now told is not the case. Admiral von Tirpitz, in the Reichstag, stated the reasons why these orders were promised in advance, 68 reasons which are in themselves inherently probable. I do not desire to press this further than to say that the Admiralty is not open to the charge of having underestimated. Where they got information is was found to cover the facts, and where this information has been doubtful they have given national safety the benefit of the doubt. I am saying this solely in defence of the Admiralty.
Now, Sir, as to the future. It is admitted that the Admiralty hitherto have had their information in time, and has attributed the utmost importance to that information, and given it the utmost scope. Supposing you cannot in future get certain information; suppose you feel in a state of uncertainty, what will you do as regards future construction? We shall do again what we have done before; we shall give the benefit of the doubt on the side of national safety. Positive information would be an undoubted reason for proceeding with rapid construction, but lack of information may also be a reason for proceeding, and whenever there is any doubt we shall give the benefit of the doubt on the side of national safety. Does anybody doubt the use we shall make of the power which the House gives us after the frankness with which the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty came forward with their information? They did not keep things back. The hon. Gentleman opposite said the Prime Minister started the scare. The Prime Minister was replying to a very much more startling statement. But if we had been anxious not to ask the House for larger powers, or afraid of using those powers if we had them, we should not have shown the exceeding frankness of the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty in putting the House in possession of information which they knew must surprise the country and surprise the House. Surely, when it comes to a question between national safety and economy has there ever been a Government in this country which has erred on the side of economy? As between those two things there is no doubt where there is a question of margin of safety, one more or one less, then you may be content, but directly it becomes a question of national safety I am convinced that not only can any Government be trusted to do what is right, but be trusted to do what is right unanimously, and the Admiralty and the Government will be found to be entirely in line.
69 I will, in conclusion, submit to the House the general views on which I approach this great problem. There are those who like and those who dislike naval and military expenditure; there are those who like the martial spirit and those who dislike it. Well, Sir, the martial spirit, I should be the last to deny, has its place, and its proper place, in the life of a nation. That the nation should take pride in its power to resist force by force is a natural and wholesome thing. It is a perfectly healthy pride to have soundness of wind and limb and physical strength, and it has no unworthy part in the national spirit. That I sympathise with entirely, but I would ask the people to consider to what consequences the growth of armaments has led? The great countries of Europe are raising enormous revenues, and something like half of them is being spent on naval and military preparations. You may call it national insurance, that is perfectly true, but it is equally true that half the national revenue of the great countries in Europe is being spent on what is, after all, preparations to kill each other. Surely the extent to which this expenditure has grown really becomes a satire, and a reflection on civilisation. Not in our generation, perhaps, but if it goes on at the rate at which it has recently increased, sooner or later I believe it will submerge that civilisation. The burden already has shown itself in national credit—less in our national credit than in the national credit of other nations—but sooner or later, if it goes on at this rate, it must lead to national bankruptcy.
Is it to be wondered that the hopes and aspirations of the best men in the leading countries are devoted to trying to find some means of checking it. Surely that is a statement of the case in which, however attached a man may be to what I may call the martial spirit, he may at least see that the whole of Europe is in the presence of the great danger. But, Sir, no country alone can save that. If we alone, among the great Powers, gave up the competition and sank into a position of inferiority, what good should we do? None whatever—no good to ourselves because we cannot realise great ideals of social reform at home when we are holding our existence at the mercy, the caprice if you like, of another nation. That is not feasible. If we fall into a position of inferiority our self-respect is gone, and it removes that enterprise which is essential both to the material success of industry and to the 70 carrying out of great ideals, and you fall into a state of apathy. We should cease to count for anything amongst the nations of Europe, and we should be fortunate if our liberty was left, and we did not become the conscript appendage of some stronger Power. That is a brutal way of stating the case, but it is the truth. It is disagreeable that it should be so, but in matters like this I know of no safe way except to look at what is disagreeable frankly in the face, and to state it, if necessary, in its crudest form.
Deeply as I feel, and as the House feels on both sides, the great evil of increasing naval and military expenditure not only here but in Europe, deeply as we feel that we must be prepared to defend our national existence under the conditions which are imposed upon us in our own generation, I am glad that it is not to us alone that this feeling is confined. I am glad that the Colonies, such as New Zealand, recognise that their national existence is one with us in this matter. I appeal to Members on our own side of the House—I make a double appeal—I appeal to them to keep an open mind with regard to the needs of the future, to recognise that the whole problem of national defence, from the naval point of view, may be entering upon a stage more grave, more serious, requiring greater care, greater effort than anything we have yet known. It is because there is doubt and uncertainty that our Estimates contain the unusual provision of power to anticipate the future. I would ask hon. Members not to commit themselves in advance before they have knowledge of future facts before them as to what may or may not be necessary. Judge if you like when you have the full facts before you, but do not pledge yourselves in advance in the period of uncertainty before us to condemn any possible proposals of the Government before they are actually made and you have the full facts before you. Indeed, if the need comes for exercising the full powers which have I been given we shall explain our position and ask for their support. But meanwhile we ask them to stand with us in resisting what seems to be an exaggerated alarm as to the present situation, a mistaken apprehension of the urgent needs of the moment, and we expect their support in resisting an attempt to force upon us extreme views prematurely.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
In the course of his speech the Foreign Secretary 71 passed an exceedingly serious criticism on the conduct of the Opposition in moving a Vote of Censure on the Government, and I could not help feeling that the real difference between us in that matter was as to what is the true Constitutional duty of an Opposition in cases like the present. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that the Opposition had no duty except that of temperate criticism of the Government. I think myself that the Opposition owes just as large a duty to the country and to the Sovereign as the Government itself, and that if they see a policy being pursued which they honestly in their hearts believe is one of danger to the country, it is their duty to say so, and, if necessary, to press that view to a Division in this House. The right hon. Gentleman apparently thought that that conceivably might be so, but at any rate they must leave the matter to the very last minute before taking action. I cannot help thinking that that is not a sound view to take of the duty of the Opposition. If we think the Government are making a mistake, and that further provision is necessary for the national safety, it is our duty to say so, and at such a time as will be effective in securing an alteration of the policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman said—I have no doubt with great truth—that all these debates on naval matters have their bad side, that they increase national jealousy and national alarm. That is quite true, but I feel that the charge the right hon. Gentleman was making was really a charge against the democracy. We cannot carry on democratic government without discussion. Discussion on matters of great external importance like this should be conducted temperately, and I think the discussion, as far as the Opposition is concerned, has been so conducted. But it is impossible to lay down that, because grave difficulties are caused—as no doubt they are—in the conduct of foreign affairs by discussions of this kind, therefore in a democratic Constitution like ours such discussions must be ruled out altogether. I think also that just as there are disadvantages so there are advantages in our form of government. One great advantage that has accrued from this discussion is that it has been made manifest to everybody that substantially and fundamentally the overwhelming mass of the people of this country are agreed that our supremacy at sea must at all hazards be secured. That seems to me to be a matter of great im- 72 portance, and well worth paying a certain price to establish. It is a matter which, if, as we are told, foreign Powers are watching this debate, they will do well to note. Putting aside some very trifling and insignificant exceptions, it is not too much to say that this House is practically unanimous in that resolve.
We are all agreed that we must ha/e an adequate Navy. The real question between us is what is the test to be applied to the adequacy of the Navy. As to that matter, unofficial Members are undoubtedly in a great difficulty. Having no expert advisers, and having to form their conclusions as best they can, they attach naturally and properly, enormous weight to the statements of the official head of the responsible Department made deliberately, not in the heat of debate, but as the foundation of the policy of the Government of the day. Nobody, who has read or listened to the speeches of the First Lord of the Admiralty, can fail to draw the conclusion that the Government have deliberately made the test of the superiority of this country at sea a question of whether we have an adequate superiority in the newest and strongest type of ship, namely, the "Dreadnought." The passage has been often quoted, and I will not quote more than the last sentence, in which the First Lord of the Admiralty in introducing the Estimates said:We cannot be sure of retaining our superiority at sea if we ever allow ourselves to fall behind in this newest and best class of ship.All Members of the House are bound to take that as the test which they must apply to the policy of the Government. I know that it is said now that we may fairly consider or ought to consider all that long list of pre-"Dreadnought" ships, and I observed that the Foreign Secretary repeated that argument. But I also observed that he did not reply to the observation of my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham, that in considering the value and importance of that second line, you must apply the two-Power standard. You cannot assume that we shall be able to use all our pre-"Dreadnought" ships and "Dreadnoughts" in a war single-handed with Germany. Therefore I think that a very considerable deduction must be made from what the right hon. Gentleman said in reference to that point. As far as I am concerned, being only an ordinary Member of the House, without any expert advice to assist me, I think it is absolutely essential that in deciding which way I shall vote upon this Motion I should 73 have supreme regard to the passage in the First Lord's speech, in which he distinctly laid down, for reasons which seem to me exceedingly cogent, that the superiority of this country depends on our superiority in "Dreadnoughts." Let me apply that test to the policy of the Government. In approaching the Government policy I cannot help being struck with the fact that it has all the external appearance of a compromise. It is quite unnecessary for me to rely on the candid and outspoken statements which have appeared, not in the organs associated with hon. Members on this side of the House, but in organs usually associated with the party opposite, specifically—giving names and almost dates and reports of what has occurred in the Cabinet—as to the divisions which have taken place in that body. Without going into those statements, assuming for the moment that they are merely the products of the brilliant imagination of the writers, I think the proposals of the Government viewed in themselves must necessarily be regarded not as a definite and determined effort of a united body, but as the result of a long controversy which has eventuated in a policy which really satisfies neither of the two parties to the agreement. When the right hon. Gentleman says with great scorn that this Motion really means that the Opposition do not trust the Government to carry out their view I can only reply that if the Government consisted entirely of Members in opinion and record exactly like the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Foreign Affairs we should have much more confidence in their determination and ability to carry out a thoroughly satisfactory policy. But in an eloquent passage towards the end of his speech he said that, after all, any Government may be trusted in a matter of national security to do what is right. Surely that is a complete fallacy. We all trust the Government not to betray their country. The most bitter Tory that ever lived does not think that any right hon. Gentleman is a traitor. Of course, we all think that they believe they are doing right. What we do not trust is their judgment. To be perfectly frank, we trust the judgment of some of them, but we do not trust the judgment of others.
Passing to the actual proposals, if you are to try this policy by the "Dreadnought" test, I really do not see how any Gentleman, whether he sits on the Front Bench or in any other part of the House, 74 can possibly defend it. What does amount to? It amounts to this—that in the kind of ship which is essential to the superiority of this country, we are to be satisfied with a superiority of, at one time, 10 to nine, at another time 13 to 12, and another time 16 to 15. How can anyone defend a policy of that kind? If it is essential that we should have a superiority in "Dreadnoughts," how absurd to say that we should be satisfied with superiority of one. It puts us at the mercy of any accident in time of peace, or of any miscalculation of the speed of construction of the opposing Power. I cannot conceive how the right hon. Gentleman, or anybody else, can possibly ask this House to accept the two propositions—that a superiority in "Dreadnoughts" is essential for the safety of this country, and that a superiority of one is a sufficient margin of security. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that, at any rate, there was a great advantage in delay, that if we laid down the "Dreadnoughts" at once we really got no particular advantage in speed, while there was an advantage in delay because we might improve the types subsequently built. As far as laying down "Dreadnoughts" immediately is concerned, what we want is something which shall bind the Government in the face of the House of Commons to lay down those "Dreadnoughts." It must be, I quite agree, a matter for expert advice as to the precise moment at which they are to be laid down. Whether they are laid down next month or the month after must be a question of the capacity of the yards to complete them, and things of that kind. What we want is a definite undertaking which shall bind the Government to lay them down.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
That is the hon. Gentleman's view, because he has not done the Government the honour of listening to their statements, which would have shown him clearly that unqestionably some "Dreadnoughts" are required, that a superiority in "Dreadnoughts" is necessary, and that under the programme as provided no such security is secured. As to the other point—that we ought to wait for possible improvements—I cannot but think that that is an argument which should not be taken very seriously. I remember a friend of mine who would never order books for his library because he was always waiting for a cheaper edition to 75 come out, and it appears to me that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that you must never lay down ships because of possible improvements in the future stands very much on the same footing.
But, apart from all that, we come to the next question, which is, after all, the most serious question of all: On what ground should we believe that the Germans will not build more "Dreadnoughts," and build them faster than their official programme allows? I quite agree that all those questions dealing with foreign Powers are very delicate to debate in this House, but I think it is essential that we should debate and consider them. I therefore do propose to say a few words on this question, believing fully that the greatest caution should be displayed in dealing with the subject, but at the same time nothing is gained, but a good deal may be lost, unless you do your best to put the whole facts before the House when questions arise. We know that the Germans can build. It was put shortly and pithily by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean when he said that we have now to face the situation that the Germans can build as fast and as many ships as ourselves. What ground have we for thinking that the Germans will not exercise that power? It is essential that we should consider what is the foundation of German policy. What is it they want their fleet for? Can anyone suggest any possible reason for the construction of this gigantic fleet, which is to become as high as 33 "Dreadnoughts" in the ultimate future unless that they should be in a position to fight this country. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh."] That kind of protest fills me, I confess, with despair. I cannot see how anyone can possibly protest against that statement who has considered the question impartially. Let him try to get up in the House and suggest any other possible explanation. I do hot say they mean to fight us. That is quite a different proposition. We all heard with the greatest possible pleasure the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as to the great improvement in the relations between this country and Germany, and we heard it with complete acceptance and belief, but that does not prevent the fact that their fleet is designed to enable them to fight us, just as our fleet is designed to fight any two other fleets which may be brought against us, and that is essentially a thing for hon. Members to realise in considering this matter. I cannot see 76 that there is anything in that standard to which we can take legitimate objection, and since it exists we must recognise that it is entirely different to ours. They think that they ought to have a fleet, I will not say necessarily quite as big as ours, but comparable with ours. We think that we ought to have an overwhelming superiority at sea. There is that essential difference between the two Powers at this moment, and it is absolutely essential for a clear understanding of this question that this should be realised. If that is so, and I really do not see how anyone can deny it, is it not clear that all this rather loose and un-thought-out talk about the limitation of armaments is not only not sound in itself but rather pernicious? There is no hope of an agreement between this country and Germany of jointly limiting armaments until we have arrived at an agreement as to what is to be the proportion of those armaments to one another. That is essential, and as long as the Germans think that they should be equal, or nearly equal, to us, and we think that you should have an overwhelming superiority, it is absurd to think that either Power will be content to limit the building of their ships. We heard with great interest of the assurances, in the account given by the Foreign Secretary, tendered on behalf of the German Government. I confess that I have the greatest difficulty in dealing with that statement, and in spite of the very profound respect which I have for the right hon. Gentleman, and of my great admiration for him as Foreign Minister, I cannot but feel some regret that he and the Prime Minister allowed themselves to make public these declarations, because, after all, what do they amount to? Exceedingly little on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing. All that these declarations amount to at the utmost in his view is that it is very unlikely that the immediate programme—the programme to be, begun in the next month or two—will be exceeded. He did not put it higher than that. He said it was very unlikely that they would press on the ships so as to be complete at this time in 1910. After all, have we any right to trust to these assurances in any way? I do not say that we have a declaration of intention by the Government made in absolute good faith, which will vary from day to day, but though I hesitate to say so, unquestionably different views of the ethics of assurances do exist among different nations, and in judging of these matters we have to consider not only 77 what are our own rules, but what are the rules which prevail and have prevailed in other nations as matters of history. I do riot wish to take the matter one inch further than that. I say, in view of these considerations, the only safe course for us is to disregard these assurances unless they amount to binding contracts between two nations, and to proceed with our programme exactly as if they had never been made. I will not attempt to deal further with that rather difficult topic. I desire to say this: I heard with the greatest pleasure the very eloquent passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he contrasted the interest of this country and the interest of Germany in a strong Navy. I assent from the very bottom of my heart to everything he said on the subject. It is a matter of importance from some points of view that Germany should have a strong Navy, but it is far more important to us to have one which is unchallengeable. In this matter I am convinced that the path of safety lies in convincing the civilised world that the people of this country are in deadly earnest. I believe it is only in that way that there is any prospect of a limitation of armaments. We all heard the right hon. Gentleman with profound emotion and profound regret when he described all the vast waste of money which is proceeding owing to the enormous expenditure on armaments. I suppose no one who has given the matter five minutes' thought, whether an earnest Radical or a reckless Tory, but has come to that conclusion. We all recognise the gigantic armaments, and we all recognise their enormous importance to the economy of the civilised world, and particularly the economy of our own country, and it is for that reason I venture to press upon the House that we must not palter in this matter of a large Navy. If we once convince all rivals that competition with us in that matter is hopeless, if we insist—and we have the power to insist—on having this supremacy at sea, there is some hope that sooner or later they will abandon the effort to compete. If it can be shown, and after all there is no reason why it should not in this matter, that a large Navy to them may be desirable, but that it is to us essential, if that fact can be once converted into conviction in the minds of all the statesmen in foreign chancelleries then there is some hope—and I hope in the not distant future—of the limitation of this great burden of armaments, and it is for that reason that I profoundly regret the hesitating—the apparently hesi- 78 tating—policy which has been adopted by His Majesty's Government, and I shall vote for the Motion proposed by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. E. A. VILLIERS
I shall not follow the Noble Lord who has just sat down into the details of the argument he has put before the House. He has maintained the debate at a high level, and for that reason I listened with pleasure to his speech. I intend to confine myself to broad issues. After the most serious statements made the week before last by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Prime Minister with reference to the Naval situation—statements which almost stupefied the House by their gravity and unexpectedness—no one with any sense of responsibility could fail to support the Government in the increase of Naval expenditure. I am not an alarmist, it is quite true; but I, like the hon. Member for Fareham, did not sleep soundly in my bed last night. That was not on account of fear of the Germans, but rather because I contemplated making a speech to-day. I am not one of those who think that "Dreadnoughts" must necessarily have the last word in naval encounters. I am not going to give the world my reasons for the conclusion I have come to. The less said in this House about conversations with naval experts the better, and, putting on one side the mass of panic paragraphs, conflicting technical details, and international possibilities which have been tossed about during the last fortnight, I say that certain salient points force themselves upon me. In order to keep pace with out Continental neighbours we have to concentrate our ships in the Home waters, and practically to reduce to a nominal figure our fleet in the Far East. I was in the East a few months ago. I wish hon. Members could have heard the laments I had to listen to from British merchants in China and Japan owing to the fact that Great Britain had been compelled practically to abandon the policing of those seas to Japan. Our fleet would appear therefore to be only adequate now for home requirements, and this brings me to the second consideration, the great difficulty of finding out at any given moment what these requirements are or may be, and this produces the further consideration that the country has become thoroughly alarmed at the perilous condition which Germany's accelerated programme may place us in. Everyone must know that Germany would have little to lose and much to gain in a naval encounter.
79 If unsuccessful, she would only be put back to where she was 30 years ago, a self contained and nearly self-supporting Empire, protected from her neighbours by a huge army. If we were beaten at sea our Empire would crumble like a pack of cards. We should lose Australia and New Zealand, Hong Kong and India, while we are struggling at home for our very bread. I represent a Constituency of over 20,000 electors, and I know that I should not be here in this House to-day had I ever given cause for the faintest shadow of a suspicion that I belong to a Little Navy school. On the other hand, I am in favour of peace societies and arbitration leagues. I think the first peace society that was ever started was formed in the drawing-room of my own house. I am one of those who believe that the ideals of the late Prime Minister may yet be fulfilled, though not perhaps in our time. When you come to think that the combined flags of Great Britain and America fly over a quarter of the population of the whole globe—if these two countries once make up their minds to settle all disputes by arbitration, then the peace of the world will be much nearer. But for the moment we must take things as they are. We must prepare for the worst while we hope for the best. I believe a strong Navy means peace. When I went down to the naval review at the time of the Jubilee and saw those lines of iron ships stretching across the sea I heard an American exclaim: "Well, I guess that means peace, anyhow!" Better to be over provided than under prepared. If we are over-provided we may spend rivers of gold in insurance; but if we are under prepared we shall most probably spend rivers of blood in self-preservation. We are the richest nation in the world, and we can, and I am sure will, pay for our security. New Zealand is the most radical and progressive State in the Empire. What has she done? She has preferred self-sacrifice and self-taxation to insecure affluence. To those in the country who maintain that all increase in Navy expenditure should be devoted to social reform, I would say: Of what is the use of decorating your dwelling if you have not got a watertight roof over your head? What use is it to apply alleviations to existence if we cannot preserve that existence itself? What use is it to talk about old age pensions if through want of fore- 80 sight and want of preparedness you have to pay such an indemnity as would make it impossible for you to pay pensions to anybody for at least three generations. But let me recall to the memory of the House the words of one of the giants of our national history—Oliver Cromwell, a man who left an indelible mark on that history. I am sure if his ghost were to revisit Parliament to-day he would not in regard to Empire building, but in regard to Empire holding make use of the motto that regulated the whole policy of his life: "Trust in God, but keep your powder dry." But the Opposition demand an addition to the increase of the Government's proposal—they say we should lay down eight "Dreadnoughts" at once. I believe that number will in all probability be found necessary, but I am prepared to leave the decision as to that and how many "Dreadnoughts" shall be laid down to the Government—to those men who have shown they are thoroughly alive to the situation, and have had the courage to come down to the House and tell the plain, unvarnished tale which we listened to only a fortnight ago. They have taken the House into their confidence, and, surely, the House may give them their confidence in return.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I have been requested by my own party to say a few words in this debate. We have had a clearly defined position on previous occasions, but we think it well that the House should understand how the Labour party view the particular Resolution now before the House. I think we, at any rate, on these Benches are convinced that the Resolution is not inspired so much by the spirit of patriotism as by the desire to serve paltry party purposes on this occasion. We cannot get away from the idea that the desire beneath this Resolution is to embarrass the Government and to increase the public deficit with a view to bringing a spirit of despair into the country, in the hope that the people will then turn to the much-advertised policy of Tariff Reform. I have given some consideration to this question, and I must confess that I view the situation with grave apprehension. Like many other Members of the House, when the Prime Minister made that speech last Wednesday week, I confessed to having been a great deal impressed by it, but when I heard the subsequent speech, on Monday last, I felt that if the right hon. Gentleman had made a similar speech a week previous, we might have avoided much of the fear and panic 81 which has characterised the intervening days. My fear is that the Government cannot entirely repudiate responsibility for the public frame of mind during the last few days. Personally, I have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary to-day with some amount of satisfaction, because I believe it will have the effect of allaying apprehension and of reassuring the public mind when it is circulated throughout the country. I think that in regard to matters of foreign policy we need statesmen more than we need "Dreadnoughts" at the present time. It is often alleged that we who sit on these benches are Little Navy representatives. I have never yet met a Member, even of my own party, in the country who is prepared to advocate that the country should reduce the strength of its naval armaments but we are convinced at the present time that our Navy is already strong enough, and that we need not greatly accelerate the rate of building, but that the normal rates will quite suffice for the purposes of national security. At any rate, we are aware of the fact that the Naval Estimates placed before the House this Session do postulate a great increase in naval expenditure. In our opinion, there is nothing in the international situation to call for the great increase suggested today, and, after all, it is not quite sufficient to submit mere figures and Estimates to the House of Commons. You have got to succeed in convincing the Members of Parliament, and through them the country generally, that this enhanced expenditure is absolutely necessary. [A Voice: "Croydon."] One hon. Gentleman interpolates the word "Croydon." Well, I reply to him to this effect, that in all probability had there been no by-election at Croydon there would be no Resolution of this kind before Parliament. I cannot get away from the belief that my opinion at the outset was right, and it is a question of party and not so much one of patriotism or national security which has inspired this Resolution. Last year the Board of Admiralty supplied the House of Commons with certain statistics which went to prove that our naval supremacy could not be challenged by any probable combination of two Powers. It was then pointed out that the naval expenditure of this country for a given period had been £318,647,170 against £107,927,573 for Germany. In fact, British expenditure during this period exceeded that of Germany and France combined by over 84½ millions. It was 82 also shown, I believe, that the total displacement of British battleships, as compared with German, showed a superiority of more than 3 to 1. It has been constantly declared in this House that we must have a Navy equal to that of any two Powers, with an addition of 10 per cent.; but it seems to me that if other nations view this matter in a similar way to us they might argue that they are not prepared to issue a challenge or enter upon a progressive policy unless they have spent an amount equal to that which we desire to spend to protect us. That seems to me to be the factor that we ought to take into consideration in regard to these matters. And now we are told that this enormous expenditure has almost entirely been wasted, since all we have to do to-day is to have new "Dreadnoughts," because in the coming struggle "Dreadnoughts" alone will count. That seems to be an argument inspired by one school of naval experts. On the other hand, we find a great division of opinion amongst naval experts as to the probable value of "Dreadnoughts" in a naval war, and some even go so far as to argue that another line of battleships will prove far more effective than these great monsters that are now being built. In so far as that is concerned, I find myself in agreement with the Government when they declare that it is unwise to build until we are assured that we have the most effective form of battleship before us. It has been suggested by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon that the programme of building now being carried out in Germany may eventually prove that they have some designs so far superior to "Dreadnoughts" as to involve a complete revision of the whole of our shipbuilding. If that is the case, I feel the Government is wise in not building beyond the possibilities of this particular situation. And we have the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty that although the "Dreadnought" has only been in commission some 27 months, the newest type of vessel which we are building is 30 per cent, better than that class. Well, I think that disposes of the argument of those who claim that the race of shipbuilding should be accelerated. I understand the Motion before the House is to extract from the Government a declaration that not only will the four "Dreadnoughts" which are being built be built, but that the other four "Dreadnoughts" shall be included in this year's Estimates. It seems to me that the 83 further we go the greater demand it is for an increased number of ships. A week or two ago it was argued in a newspaper that six "Dreadnoughts" would meet the situation, but now there is a demand for eight "Dreadnoughts." The Foreign Secretary made an appeal to certain Members of his own party. I cannot get away from the impression that the speech of the Prime Minister was intended to work up a scare in that party. [Cries of "No, no.] Well, I merely stated that is my opinion, and I always express myself with due consideration for other people's opinions. My own opinion is that the speech was intended to create a scare amongst his own people in order that they might vote for the Estimates. There is a section of the people in this country who are desirous of mixing up Tariff Reform with war. Throughout the whole of this Tariff Reform agitation Germany is placed before us as an enemy of this country.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
The hon. Gentleman asks me whether the Prime Minister is a Tariff Reformer. You cannot get away from the fact that there is some relation between the scare about Germany and Tariff Reform. There is in Germany a basis of relationship between ourselves and that country growing up. The representatives of the German democracy believe there is a great deal in this matter, and I know that there are a considerable number of people in Germany who view and who hold that there is in existence a basis of negotiation between the two countries. The world is sufficiently wise to allow us all to prosper, and we should welcome the prosperity of Germany as we should welcome the prosperity of all other countries. National resources are not to be hypothecated for future "Dreadnoughts." The provision for old age pensions are not to be endangered by naval programmes, and the House generally will agree that social reform is absolutely essential if this nation is to maintain its prestige before the world. We are talking here to-day solely about the machinery of this country. We hear very little about the personnel of the Navy, and yet we show an overwhelming preponderance over all other nations. I think the Government will be compelled in course of time to give as much consideration to social questions as they seem inclined to 84 give to national security. We cannot get away from the fact that all the speeches that have been made have had in them the idea that a war with Germany is inevitable. The Member for Marylebone has spoken very clearly on this matter, and he thinks that Germany is building against us and that a war with that country is inevitable. Let us get away from that notion. The great Socialist party in Germany are in favour of peace between this country and their own. At the general election in Germany they formed one-third of the votes in that election, and they are going to adjust the conditions so as to get that power to which they are entitled by their numbers. The hon. Member who preceded me said that, travelling in the Far East a short time since, he was most surprised because of the fact that our vessels of war had been withdrawn from patrolling those seas. We know why. They have been withdrawn simply because in the Japanese nation we have a great ally. What need is there for sending out vessels to that part of the world when we have the friendliest and closest relations with the predominant Power there? I believe it was part of our naval policy, when the Japanese Alliance was entered into, that it would not be necessary for us to maintain our vessels in those waters. We have an entente with France, we are on the friendliest of terms with Russia, and the only possible doubt in regard to our foreign relations is with regard to our German relations. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has told us that though our relations with Germany are of the most friendly kind, we are going to defeat this Resolution because, in our opinion, the very appearance of that Resolution upon the agenda of the House of Commons, and the speeches which have been made in support of it, serve as provocative agencies, which are likely to estrange the relations between the two countries. The party with which I am associated voted on previous occasions against the Government, because, in our opinion, the normal rate of expenditure should satisfy the needs of the country, and because we believed the accelerated rate set forth in the Naval Estimates was not warranted by the circumstances of international relationship. But, having regard to what we believe to be the inspiring motive behind this Resolution, it is our intention to go into the Lobby with the Government in the hope that it will not accede to the exaggerated de- 85 mands made upon them by the Opposition, and that they will see that while their proposals are adequate for the Navy and for national security, this Resolution is inspired by the hope of doing something at a certain bye-election and with the idea of turning it to the favour of one party. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh."] I am not the only person who charges the Opposition with that intention. Many people believe, on both sides of this House, and many in the country, believe that this naval scare would never have been heard of if there had not been a certain bye-election in view. We had a similar experience when the Licensing Bill was before the House not long ago, and when similar scenes were enacted in another London Constituency, scenes similar to those at Croydon to-day, and I say it is because we do not think that the motives which inspire this Resolution are those of patriotism or of national security that we will vote against it. We think our Navy is in a position of safety and of strength, and that normal proposals are sufficient. We feel convinced that those behind this Resolution are not prepared to place taxation on the shoulders of those who are best able to bear it, and it is because we are convinced that the policy of those in favour of this Resolution, if successful, would set back social reform that we propose to vote with the Government, and we hope that a clear issue will be set by this Motion and the Vote which is to be taken on it, before the country.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down ended his speech very much in the same way as he began it, and that was by casting reflections upon the motives of those who sit upon these benches in reference to this debate to-day. He accused us in his opening remarks of being actuated not by the spirit of patriotism, but by paltry motives in an endeavour to make the naval increase part of a policy of Tariff Reform. Well, if we on this side of the House were in the habit of attributing the same motives to our political opponents as they attribute to us the limits of their indignation would soon be reached. But we cannot be so surprised at this form of party recrimination indulged in by hon. Members below the Gangway when we find that on this occasion much of it has been borrowed from the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I must say I was rather surprised to hear the Secretary for Foreign Affairs say at the opening of his 86 remarks that we had gratuitously—he did not use that word, but that was the effect of it—we had gratuitously dragged this Navy question into the arena of party politics. As I say, one must not be surprised at the hon. Member below the Gangway when he gets that idea from the Foreign Secretary. One cannot but regret it all the more that the Foreign Secretary did not recognise that we might consider it to be our bounden duty to raise this question in the only effective manner open to us in this House. I should like to hear the language of the future, of hon. Members, if we, thinking that we found the Navy in an inferior position, had not taken the opportunity we have taken of bringing the matter forward, and if they were able to charge us with complicity on this occasion, when we considered the danger line has been crossed. If it were necessary for us to defend ourselves against the accusation that we were raising this question for party purposes we could turn to our record of the last three years. The Foreign Secretary was good enough to pay a tribute to the Leader of the Opposition and to our party generally with regard to their attitude on the question of foreign policy, but surely, in face of the fact that in the last three years we have never once in this House or outside it made the Navy a party question, although many things have been done of which we did not approve, surely that is primâ facie evidence that on this occasion we believed the position was a very serious one, and that a danger has been approached of such a character that we think our duty would not be realised if we did not raise the matter in the most forcible way at our disposal. The speech of the Foreign Minister, I think, will not do much—I doubt if it will do anything—to relieve or to remove the doubts and the difficulties which are threatening the country as regards the Navy at the present moment. I fancy when we come to sit down and read a speech he has made we shall find it contains several passages of most grave and serious warning to his countrymen, and that it comes to this, that, as he said, we are in a new situation. He only endorsed the arguments of the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day when he warned us of the new situation, and when he told us we are face to face with the necessity of rebuilding the whole of our fleet, and that the only question was really a question of the time when you are to commence to build. Can it be a matter of surprise if we on this 87 side of the House, knowing the view of many Members opposite, look with jealousy and suspicion upon any action of the Government which will have a tendency as we think of throwing this inevitable expenditure further into the future than it should be? We were informed by the Foreign Minister that the question is inevitable. He told us himself that we do not know how many ships of the German programme will be built in the year 191314, and therefore I think we are bound to look as closely as possible at their programme this year to see what ships are laid down by them for the year, and to compare our own shipbuilding at the same time with that programme. The Foreign Minister told us it was a question of time in which the ships can be built, and he made one remark that I, for one, and I am sure a good many others, failed to appreciate. He said that if the demand made by my hon. Friend was acceded to, and four additional "Dreadnoughts" were laid down in this year, there would be no advantage in time, and no time whatever would be saved if they were laid down at once instead of at the time appointed by the Government. I did not understand that. What does it mean? Does that mean that from now to the beginning of the next financial year they propose to lay down these ships if necessary, or does it mean that the Government have made up their minds that to build these ships will be necessary, and that they have as a matter of fact already given orders for the gun-mountings and various things of that kind which require preparation? If that is the case, then I can say the Government are trifling with the House and the country, and it is they, and they alone, who are forcing this Vote of Censure to go to a Division, because if they actually do intend to lay these "Dreadnoughts" down, and if they are already making preparations to do so, then they have only got to say so. We should not be absolutely satisfied, but we would think the danger would be less than we at present believe it to be, and for my part I do not know whether I should be prepared to vote if this Vote of Censure, if taken to a division, were taken. But we have no assurance of that kind, and therefore I suppose we shall go to a Division and vote. Now we have heard a great deal about the declaration of intention which our Government have received from the German Government. Well, of course, I 88 should be the last person who would wish to question the good faith in which these declarations are given, but at the same time it occurs to me, as an ordinary unofficial and unimportant Member of the House, who can, therefore, express himself more freely than others, that in looking at a declaration or intention of that kind you must also look at what the alternative answer would be. We ask the Germans as to their speed in shipbuilding. What answer can they give us? They cannot say, "We did not mean to build so fast"; that would not be a very diplomatic form of answer for the German Ambassador; nor can he tell us that the Government were allowing the firms who have these ships in hand to get on with them as quickly as possible. He would not say that if it were the case, because it would obviously lead our Government to suppose that there was some form of hostility on the part of the German Government to us. Therefore, it seems to me the only answer that he can give through a diplomatic channel would be a declaration of intention to adhere to the programme which was laid. In fact, one may always say that these declarations of intention given by the German Government are a polite and diplomatic way of telling our own Government to mind their own business. Because, after all, it is the business of the Germans how many ships they build and how quickly they build them, and it is our business to find out if we can and to build as many and more and to build them as quickly. In regard to ships of the pre-"Dreadnought" era, I do think the speech of the Secretary to the Admiralty the other day was rather deceptive. Having based the whole of the first day's debate on the one-Power standard, on the "Dreadnoughts" and the "Dreadnoughts" alone, then when he finds the position as to the one-Power standard is rather unfavourable to his Government he drags in the pre-"Dreadnought" era ships to make up the deficiency in the one-Power standard and also relies upon the pre-"Dreadnought" ships to maintain the two-Power standard. I believe it is the fact that the numerical superiority of those two kinds of ships, the "Dreadnought" and the pre-"Dreadnought," is not really the whole question which matters. I believe I am correct in saying that all the sea-going experts in naval warfare will tell you that one of the chief things necessary in a naval battle would be a homogeneous fleet. I believe it is the case that 89 a "lame duck," so to speak, a ship that is less effective in steaming or armament, might be a positive weaknes to a fleet. Therefore your main battle fleet must be homogenous, and must be composed of ships of the same type and capacity as to armament, gunnery, and as regards speed. If you are to have a fleet which is to seek out the enemy's fleet and destroy it—and the best defence is to destroy the enemy's fleet wherever it is to be found, that is our first object at sea—if you are to have that fleet we must have a main fleet which is amply superior to the main fleet of the enemy. Otherwise it stands to reason that if your main fleet is defeated, no matter what other ships you may have, your secondary fleet would meet the enemy and meet with the same fate as your first fleet has met with. That shows that we ought in discussing this question of the one-Power standard as regards "Dreadnoughts," to disregard the pre-"Dreadnought" kind of ships which have been imported into the argument, and which we have to-day. They form entirely a different question.
Look at the narrow margin which even taking the Government figures are allowed us for safety. Take the Government's view that in December, 1910, we shall have ten ships and the Germans eight ships of this "Dreadnought" type. I understood that by December, 1910, the Germans would have eight "Dreadnoughts," and by April, 1911, they would have nine. Let us take it as ten to nine. There is no account then of the "Dreadnoughts" belonging to another Power, a very friendly Power with Germany, and which might be used in alliance with that country. I of course allude to the "Dreadnoughts" which Austria might have by that date. I believe that Austria has ships, or they are ordered at all events, but I do not know myself, and I am not aware that the Admiralty know how far the Austrian ships have proceeded. At all events, if they were not available at that time they would be available soon after, and the narrow margin of the majority which we should have even on the Government's figures is gone. Taking again the Brazilian ships. I ventured the other day to ask if the Government contemplated getting the refusal of the Brazilian "Dreadnought" ships. I did not suggest that we should buy those ships, and I think it would be much better that we should build ships ourselves, because they differ from the ships which we build, but the serious danger would be if those Brazilian ships got into the market, 90 and were bought by any other Power than ourselves. We ought to be in a position to say to the Brazilian Government, if they wish to sell those ships we will buy them, and then they will not pass into the hands of anybody else. Supposing we do not adopt that policy these Brazilian ships can be bought by Germany. Supposing the political horizon was not so clear as the Foreign Secretary tells us it is, and practically the whole of the margin which this Government allows us would in such an event be wiped off. The Foreign Minister took great credit in the debate for saying that he was going to reply not on the maximum of possibility but on the minimum of probability, and, therefore, he was not going to make any ordinary debating points, but I think he might have given credit to my hon Friend the Member for Fareham for putting forward his case in exactly the same moderate way. He never once mentioned during the whole course of his speech the maximum figures used by the Leader of the Opposition the other day. He went on the minimum figures raised by the Government themselves when they put forward their case. But if you take the maximum figures of the Leader of the Opposition the case is so overwhelming that we cannot understand how the Government do not see the force of it. They have no other means of knowing that those figures will not be realised except the German declaration of intention. We know that Krupp's firm have enormously extended their works and have taken on 35,000 men. We know that they have the slips, and that the German law allows them to build these ships if they choose to do so, and we know that a firm like Krupp's could raise the money to build these ships, knowing that the German programme is definitely fixed and that they would get paid. The Government knowing that, and knowing that the German appropriation for the year is more than sufficient to carry out their intention, say that they are perfectly satisfied that these figures mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition cannot be approached, and that it is impossible in 1911 that the Germans will have 13 ships. I believe I am right in saying that those 13 ships are laid down already to all intents and purposes. Even if the hulls have not been laid down, all the preparations have been made, and if we can build a "Dreadnought" in 18 months after special preparation there is no reason to suppose that the Germans cannot build their ships in a similar period of time. I regret that this situation has 91 arisen. I wish we could have gone on as we have gone on for the last three years, perhaps doubting the policy of the Government, but not dragging it into the arena of our party politics; but it is the Government themselves who have taken that position which has made it necessary.
I think everybody is gratified that the Government have accepted the offer of New Zealand, but I think a great many people would have been a good deal more gratified if the Government had accepted the offer now and unconditionally. It seems to me that they are savouring of ungraciousness when they put off the acceptance of that offer till next year. Whether it is so or not, it will lay them open to the suspicion that it then becomes part of our programme instead of something additional or extra to our programme. I think the Government would have consulted the wishes of the country, and I am sure the wishes of New Zealand more, if they had accepted that offer and had the ships laid down as soon as the arrangement could be made.
§ Mr. BELLOC
I rise to address the House very briefly, because I know that the desire I have to explain my vote on this occasion is shared by very many of my own colleagues. That vote must be given for the Government, but it will be given for the Government for certain very definite reasons. In the first place, it will be given because, in the opinion of many who think as I do, the policy decided upon by the Government is a wise and statesmanlike one, quite apart from party considerations. It is a policy which admits of negotiation. I do not say that negotiations will take place. That we cannot tell, but it may be, for all we know, they are taking place to-day. It is likely, very likely, that foreign affairs of that difficulty are not matters for public debate, but these negotiations certainly will be attempted, if they have not been attempted before, in the near future, and they may arrive at anything. On that we cannot express an opinion as yet. But we can express this opinion, that if you are to negotiate, you must negotiate upon a conditional, and not an absolute, programme, and a point which has been missed in the course of this debate is, that the German programme is in a certain sense conditional also. The German Government has the right to build, or not to build, on certain lines given out by their Parliament. Therefore, that this programme of 92 ours should be conditional is, I think, an essential feature of negotiation. There is a second reason which will cause me to vote for the Government to-night, and in mentioning that second reason I do so with some little hesitation, because I know it is a pronouncement which I have no authority for making. It is merely an opinion, and I put it forward as an opinion. I cannot but believe that in the present temper of Europe, and in the present temper of this country, after the very grave news of the last few days, that before we go far on in this year of 1909, at any rate before we come to the end of it, these four extra ships will be laid down. I say so without any desire to express a word more than a general opinion, which, I think, with average information, has been come to on the matter. I do not say that three weeks ago one would have been so certain as one is now, but as things are to-day, and unless they brighten in the international sphere in the next few weeks, I believe that that order will be given. I listened with the greatest care to the well-reasoned speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and to no part of it with more care than that in which he asked if the Government had or had not taken the precaution to find the material for these four extra ships. I have no knowledge as to that, but I have very little doubt that that precaution has been taken. I do not know that my vote would have gone with the same ease and certainty if the policy of four "Dreadnoughts" and four "Dreadnoughts" alone had been laid down. I think under those circumstances it would have been the duty of anyone who thinks as I do to have protested against the exiguous nature of the programme, but I vote tonight on those two grounds—first, if you are to negotiate, it is essential that your programme should be conditional; and, secondly, that the margin which this programme gives us will, in my opinion, as the international situation now lies, certainly be effective. I cannot sit down without adding that an opinion of this sort is dissociated, and I think it is well that other speeches made in this debate should be dissociated, from the party system. If you put sand into the bearings of small things it is dangerous in large things, and in international crises, it is fatal. I will not enter into the argument as to whether this Vote is brought forward as a party move. I shall vote for the Government for the two reasons I have given, which seem to me to be 93 weighty, and to be sufficient. Our diplomacy has just received what I can only describe as a very severe check. It has not been perhaps our fault, and I believe in the temper which certain rivals are in today as against us, it is necessary for any man who supports this comparatively moderate programme to do so, after having given his voice in favour of what he regards as the duty of the country, and of every man in the country, which is, in the matter of national defence, to give the only thing we can give—we are not a conscript country—in financial sacrifice, and in personal effort for complete security—we are the only country whose strategic position enables us to boast of that—of our shores. Personally, we are all ready to give it, and I go so far as to say, and I shall say it to my Constituents, who are artisans, and many of them poorer than artisans, that it is equally important with social reform. A man gives his life for his country, but does not give his life for social reform. The extra taxation involved—I must echo what has proceeded from the benches of the Labour party—a very sound remark—need not, with the resources, with the unanimous opinion of the country behind us, involve any diminution in the programme of social reform.
§ Mr. FELL
In the discussion which has taken place in the last fortnight on the Naval Estimates, in the scare which the Prime Minister said has been created, I think there is only one bright spot in the whole course of events which have followed on one another so rapidly and that has been the spontaneous offer by a Colony on the other side of the world to come to the assistance of the Mother Country if the need exists, and that they themselves would bear the cost of one of these great battleships. I can picture the other side of the world when the telegrams were received of the Prime Minister's speech, and what a surprise it must have been to them to learn that our rivals can build ships as fast as we can, and that within two or three years the supremacy of this country on the seas might possibly be imperilled, or at any rate the margin of our security would be small, and no one could say what the position might be two years hence. I can understand them asking each other: "What can we do? Is the old country in this position, that the margin of security that holds this Empire together is almost gone. If it is want of 'Dreadnoughts' we will build one, two if necessary. We will do anything in our 94 power to maintain supremacy." All that arose on the first telegram from the Prime Minister without the slightest arriére pensee of any kind. The Prime Minister thanked the Government of New Zealand for the offer to defray the cost of the immediate building and armament of a new "Dreadnought," or, if necessary, two. He accepted the offer, but he said: "So far as the coming financial year is concerned the provisions and powers for which sanction is being asked in the Naval Estimates now before Parliament afford ample security." I do not know whether that means security for next year. If he meant that it provided ample security for two or three years hence I do not think he brought forward sufficient evidence to warrant the cable which he sent out. But, anyhow, he told them there was ample security provided in the Estimates for the coming year. He went on after thus slightly putting them off to say:—In view of the uncertainty which exists as to the character and extent of the demands which may be made on the national resources in the following years, the offer of the New Zealand Government to bear, within that period, the cost of providing one first-class battleship of the latest type, and of a second of the same type, should subsequent events show it to be necessary, is most gratefully accepted by His Majesty's Government, and the time when it may become appropriate to give effect to that spirited proposal will be communicated by letter.That does not seem to me to be an answer framed in the spirit of the offer—a generous offer which was made without any condition or any qualifications. It is accepted, but it is accepted with the statement that it is not wanted this year, and we will consider how it can best be carried out in the proposals of the next year. I suggest that we should look at this offer in the spirit in which it is made. It was an offer of a battleship immediately—an offer that if we were running the slightest risks they would do all in their power to minimise those risks. It was not an offer made to lighten our building programme for next year. The telegram of the Prime Minister in reply might be construed in some way to lead one to suppose that in framing next year's Estimates we might take into account the fact that New Zealand had offered us a battleship. But surely that was not the intention of the offer. The offer was not subject to any conditions. They would be too proud to make an offer under these terms. It was an absolute offer of the immediate construction of a battleship. It was on seeing the answer of the Government to that offer that I put down the question which I had to-day to inquire of the Prime 95 Minister whether he regarded the offer as an offer of a battleship or one to be taken into account next year when the Estimates were framed. And he referred me to the reply which has been received to-day from the New Zealand Government that—The Government and the people of New Zealand sire much gratified at the acceptance of the offer. Their sole desire is to assist the Empire, as far as New Zealand's resources permit, in maintaining the national supremacy. They feel that the Imperial Government can best determine what shape and at what time the contribution will promote that end.That is exactly the reply I should have suggested they would send. It is the spontaneous reply which follows on such an offer as this. New Zealand has a population of 1,000,000, and if we made a similar offer it would represent an amount of about 170 millions. If you take only the grown-up population of New Zealand it is equivalent to a tax of about £10 a head. This reply has been received now, and the matter will be conducted in the future, I sincerely trust, by correspondence, and not by cable. I hope no cable will be sent in reply to this which may in any way damp the ardour of our friends on the other side. Personally, I consider that this offer, coming from one of our great Colonies on the other side of the world, will show foreign Powers that, in threatening this country and in building against us, they are not threatening only these little islands in the Atlantic, but they are threatening an Empire which is scattered all over the world, and that they will not have in the future to deal with us alone, but with this scattered Empire which their very action in proposing to attack us in the way they are doing is only consolidating. On that ground I congratulate the House on this offer, and I think it has done more, and it will do more, to cause the strengthening and consolidation of the Empire than anything which has happened in my time.
§ Mr. J. T. WALTERS
We have been spending a considerable amount of time during these debates in ascertaining precisely how many "Dreadnoughts" will be completed at some given moment of time, but it appears to me that during these discussions, while endeavouring to elucidate that point, there has been made manifest a very much more important aspect of this naval question, and that is the facilities that we possess for the production of battleships and armaments, and a comparison of these, with the facilities now possessed by other countries. The Noble 96 Lord who spoke a little while ago seemed to think the mere question of ordering a given number of battleships was not material as to the time when they should be completed, that whether you ordered four or eight made very little difference, and that the eight could be delivered as quickly as four. The really important question we have to consider is what are the facilities that we possess, and how can we best organise those so as to be able to produce a regular supply of battleships, and to be in a position, if necessity should arise, to considerably accelerate the rate at which they can be produced. We have all been impressed by the wonderful improvement in the facilities which have been provided in Germany, and it becomes even more significant when we realise how marvellous is the organising policy of the German people. We may be quite certain that they did not put down these slips and private machinery and organise an elaborate system for the production of battleships merely for occasional use, but that they will make the utmost use of their plant and machinery regularly and continuously.
When we turn to a comparison with this country it is very easy to under-estimate the facilities which we possess. If you were to carefully enumerate them the House would be surprised to discover what our capacity is for the production of battleships and armaments. But I think we should be even more surprised to discover how very spasmodic and uncertain is the method we apply to deal with these very facilities.
Take as an illustration last year's Estimates. They were passed in March. Then plans were prepared and tenders drawn up and the orders were placed in November of the same year. I find that drawings of certain parts of the works required were not ready until February of the present year; so that practically 10 months had expired before we did anything to carry into effect the Estimates which we passed last March. The German programme, on the other hand, which was also passed in March, was commenced the following week, and their construction is 10 months ahead of ours, and all their facilities have been fully occupied. What I have said as to our programme means that the men who finished the work of the previous programme in July had nothing whatever to do from July until the following February, and the major part of the costly and elaborate plant put down, both in Government yards and private yards, for the construction of guns, gun-mount- 97 ings, arms, and the work of battleships generally was practically unemployed for something like six months of the year. Obviously, if you want to accelerate your process of building and to have more expedition in the production of guns, armaments and other works for a naval programme, you want better organisation of facilities than we possess; and when the Foreign Minister told us this afternoon that the Admiralty had now been endeavouring to ascertain what were their resources and were attempting to reorganise those resources, so as to put their productive capacity on a proper basis, that seemed to me to be a very much more important thing than ordering a large number of battleships at the present moment.
I do not want to emphasise the working aspect of this question; I may find some more suitable occasion for doing so; but from the standpoint of the proper utilisation of our national resources and bringing ourselves into line with the productive activity of our great rivals it seems to me to be of the utmost importance that we should take careful stock of our resources and put them on such a basis that we can make the very best and most effective use of them when occasion requires. Therefore, it appears to me that the policy of the Government of having the four "Dreadnoughts" now and deferring placing the orders for the remaining four—that is, assuming they decide to build eight "Dreadnoughts" in the current year—is very much better than to give out orders for the entire of them now, so that the capacity of the different firms and the Government arsenals should not be overtaxed, and that they should organise their productive capacity to deal promptly with four "Dreadnoughts," while in the meantime they could collect machinery and materials for the remaining four if occasion requires them. By proceeding in that way it seems to me that eight "Dreadnoughts" could be completed in the manner that would confer the greatest advantage on the workpeople employed, and just as quickly as if the entire eight were ordered now.
A second advantage of this is that we cannot then be accused of a provocative programme. If we were to order eight "Dreadnoughts" at once it might be said that we had not an open mind on the matter, that we were setting the pace and stimulating the production of armaments, and that the fault lay with us and not with our competitors. But if we keep an open 98 mind on the question while organising our productive capacity to the utmost, and let the question of the other four battleships be dependent on the activity of our rivals, then we certainly are not responsible for bloating armaments or increasing expenditure. We are simply following the lead that is given to us, as we must follow it, because for our very national existence we must maintain our naval supremacy. Therefore, it seems to me that instead of provoking armaments we should be simply following the lead. That seems to me a very much better policy than that of ordering the eight battleships now. If the Admiralty will only use all the resources that they possess, and make an effective organisation of our dockyards, arsenals, and private yards, and if they make proper use of the machinery at their disposal, I venture to say that they need have no fear of any competitor in the production of armaments. We have the start; we have experience, knowledge, and skill; we have splendidly-organised private yards in this country, and if all these resources are put into a condition of continuous regular production of armaments we shall be able well to hold our own in competition with the various nations.
The thing we have to fear at present is this uncertain, sporadic plan of shipbuilding by which we build three battleships in one year and eight battleships in the next. This causes the maximum amount of inconvenience to workmen. When you have the large programme you collect large bodies of men from other industries, and when that is over they are disemployed, and the maximum of disturbance and misery are caused in various trades concerned. It is far better that we should have a steady programme year after year, with the men continuously employed, so that the plant and machinery put down may be employed economically, and that the cost, by reason of the continuity of administration, may be reduced to a minimum. With reorganisation on these lines we should have no reason to fear our competitors. I support the Government because I believe that the programme they propose already to this country shows that they are alive to the exigencies of the case, and that while they are doing all that is necessary to maintain our naval supremacy, at the same time they are not doing anything to stimulate the activity of our competitors, but are simply preserving that supremacy which is necessary to our very existence.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I rejoice that the hon. Member who has just sat down has brought the debate back to the real point of gravity which underlies the naval situation. That point is not so much concerned with the number of units respectively being built by Germany and Britain at the present time or likely to be built within the next year or two; it lies in the extraordinary development of German industry. It lies in the fact that Germany is one of the three nations of the world who are able by their own resources to build a great Navy and to sustain it. There are only three such nations in the world—the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany. These are the only three nations capable of sustaining a really great Navy. The facts as to the recent development of the iron and steel industry lie at the foundation of the question we are discussing; and it cannot be too clearly borne in mind that the iron and steel position, of which the building of battleships is only one branch, or rather, more correctly, is several branches combined, has entirely changed within recent years, within years which are quite clearly within the recollection of the youngest Member of the House. Indeed, if we go back only as far as the Boer War, say the year 1899, we get this remarkable and significant fact. Taking the iron and steel trade of the world in 1899, Great British production had risen to 9.9 milpig iron against just over eight million tons produced by Germany. In other words, at the beginning of the Boer War we had a lead. In 1907 the British production had risen to 9.9 million tons, while the German production had risen to 12.9 million tons. That is, while the British production had increased by 0.5 million, the German production had increased by 4.8 million. I gather from one or two indications on the faces of Gentlemen opposite that they will find a very ready explanation of these facts. One has always to be careful about jumping too readily to conclusions. If it were the case that that was dependent on the cause, which I see only too readily influences the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, those facts would also obtain in regard to France and Russia, and the other nations that practice a Protectionist policy. We have to go deeper than that. It is because we have to go deeper than that, and that the causes are so important, that they demand the very closest attention of the British people at this time.
100 We are face to face in this novel situation with a profound historic fact. We are face to face with the fact that at last we, the pre-eminent nation in ship-building, have actually got in this House to reconsider our shipbuilding programme, not in the light of the two-Power standard, but, so far as the latest type of battleship is concerned, in regard to a one-Power standard. It is a profound fact, the gravity of which cannot be exaggerated by any language that any hon. Member can use in this House. And I say it is not enough in this connection to stop at 1912 or at any other date. We have got to look forward. We have got to recognise that the nation which possesses a bigger iron and steel industry than ourselves—I refer to Germany; if I gave the figures for steel they would be just as striking as the figures for pig iron, but I do not wish to detain the House, as so many hon. Members desire to speak—but in regard to a country like Germany which possesses a greater iron and steel base than ourselves, if the Government of that country, inspired by the thoroughness and efficiency which mark every department of German life at this time, backed by a two-Power educational standard, and a two-Power standard of training which, as was brought out in question time the other day, deals with such details as the confinement of factory women, that nation if it wished to devote to shipbuilding those qualities of thoroughness it possesses, and its resources in the branches of the iron and steel manufacture which are concerned with the building of warships, if it wishes to do that, then we have indeed met with a very formidable competitor—a competitor which I beg to submit to the House is very different from the one we met with in France.
France had not the natural resources to bring to bear on this matter that Germany has brought to bear. Concerning ourselves merely with her material resources, Germany as a competitor is in a class by herself with regard to shipbuilding. Our shipyards are still unrivalled in the world, but something more than shipyards are required in building battleships. What we have got to do is provide the means of economic and industrial expansion for the trades which are concerned in making up the different specialised branches of the iron and steel industry which deal with this matter. If a larger iron and steel industry is controlled by a Government with a steady policy, and if a smaller in- 101 dustry is backed by a Government with an unsteady industrial policy, then there can be only one result of competition between the two. I say unless the Government of this country has its eyes open to these facts, unless it makes itself acquainted with the remarkable German development of the last ten years—to go no further back—then it will go hard with us in the question of naval policy in the future. We have to rely both on public dockyards and on private dockyards, on public and on private arsenals, and the captains of industry who control private arsenals cannot be expected to provide the means of economic industrial expansion unless they have a steady flow of work. What does all this, which is clear to me, mean? The meaning of it is that the naval policy of this country must not be a party question. In all respects hon. Members opposite have dissociated themselves, I am glad to hear, in this debate from any considerations of party. But I do not think that they have answered the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary when he pointed out that they had taken not the latest, but the earliest, opportunity of making this a party question. But I do not want to insist upon that. I want to treat this matter in what I am saying—for what it is worth—purely as a non-party question. That is the first thing; that the naval policy of this country must be lifted above party. In the second place, the Admiralty must keep in close touch with the iron and steel industry. Here you have a captain of industry who is installing, let us say, a new plant for the manufacture of armour-plate. What does it mean? New plant in such a trade as that is an expensive matter. A single item of plant may cost £10,000. A captain of industry is not likely to embark on a £10,000 expenditure, or, perhaps £100,000, in an industry where his plant may lie idle next year, the following year be fully employed, and the next year be idle again at the caprice of different Governments. There must be a settled arid continuous policy. I rejoice to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary that the Admiralty is now in touch with those departments of industry which are concerned with specialised branches in which we have most to fear in respect to getting behind Germany. There is another point I should like to refer to, and it is this. I could not follow my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the other day when, as it seemed to me, he begged the House to erect water-tight compartments 102 between the "Dreadnoughts" and the pre-"Dreadnought" ships. I cannot myself admit the existence of any watertight compartment. It seems to me that the "Dreadnoughts" are a most integral part of a modern navy, and it is quite impossible to consider naval strength without considering them in the first place. Of course, it is perfectly true that while the number of "Dreadnoughts" is small, the pre-"Dreadnought" ships count for a great deal. But obviously every year that passes reduces the size of the pre-"Dreadnought" factor. It matters not whether you have 30, 40, or 50 of these ships, every day is making them obsolete, and every day is reducing them as a factor. That point, it seems to me, is perfectly clear, and I cannot help thinking that the Prime Minister, in the speech in which he detailed to us the great list of 40 pre-"Dreadnought" battleships, that he was—if I may say so—putting them a little out of focus. It seems to me that the true focus was given by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty in the speech in which he introduced the Naval Estimates. He did not forget the pre-"Dreadnought" ships. I am within the recollection of the House in saying that my right hon. Friend put it: "What about the 'Duncans,' the 'Canopuses,' and so on?" He put them in their proper focus, reminded us that they were ships which will count less and less as time goes on.
May I address a word or two to my hon. Friends opposite of the Labour party. I heard it said to-day on their behalf that the Socialist party of Germany are very friendly in their intentions to this country. I do not doubt it. I rejoice to think it, but I may say—and they will forgive me if I point out—that the Socialist party in Germany, if it counts for a great deal in numbers, and for a great deal in the life of the people, is not in charge of the German Government, and it is in spite of the existence of that great Socialist party that the Germans are now building "Dreadnoughts." We have to look at facts as they are. If my hon. Friend, who reminded us of that, had also said that in three or four years time the Socialist party in Germany would be in charge of the German Government, then I would be inclined to attach a great deal more importance to the particular view put forward than I do at this particular moment. We have to reckon with the greatest army in the world, soon to be backed by the greatest fleet of "Dreadnoughts" in the 103 world, wielded, not by a Socialist Government, but by a more or less autocratic Government.
There is another argument, that is the question of economic waste. I hope I shall never be guilty of saying anything in this House that would suggest that I was asking for the expenditure of an unnecessary farthing. At the same time I would remind hon. Friends opposite that there is another thing to consider besides public waste. That is private waste. If they bend their energies, not so much in endeavouring to reduce naval armaments, as to endeavouring to see to it that the right people pay for the manufacture of them, I think that would be more to the point. I notice that it is not infrequently urged on behalf of some of our friends—that it would be an excellent thing to give work to the unemployed by reclaiming our foreshores. But if it is worth while to give work to the unemployed by reclaiming the foreshores, the Labour party ought to think it worth while, even from an economic point of view, to find work for the unemployed by defending our foreshores. Surely one is as economic a process as the other. With regard to the size of this expenditure, and the many things which I have heard said on that point, I must confess that I am astonished in respect of the fears for bankruptcy for this country expressed by many because of the present naval expenditure. I may point out a very conclusive fact in this connection, and that is this. I do not possess the figures as to the amount paid for motor-cars in the year in this country; but I am quite prepared to affirm, from my own knowledge and close investigations, that in the financial year 1909–10, for which this country is proposing to spend eight or nine millions' in warships, it will certainly spend more than nine millions in motor-cars. I think that to hold that a country can afford to spend 9 or 10 millions in motor-cars, but cannot spend 8 or 9 millions in warships—if they are necessary—is unwarrantable. I would like to end as I began, by pointing out that we have not so much to fear from the present development of the German navy as we have to fear from the great social, industrial, and national development of the Germans, of which the "Dreadnoughts" are one of the symptoms. I submit that the present naval scare will not have been in vain if it leads a considerable portion of the people of our country to awake to the 104 fact that we are not the only country in the world, and that we have to see to it in every department of our life, and not merely in the building of battleships: we have to see to it that we keep ourselves upon a higher level of endeavour. At the present we are not doing that. "Dreadnoughts" are not merely built on the slips, they are also built in the schools. It is for us to produce masters and men capable of controlling industry, and to serve under the captains of industry. I very much fear from my observation—and it has been as close a one as time has allowed me to devote to it—of the two nations that we are in great danger of falling into the rear because we are not giving as much attention to seeing that the nation reaches its highest point of efficiency. The two-Power standard for the Navy I have always urged, but I say that we shall not attain to that, we shall not keep our present lead of Germany, unless we also adopt, if not a two-Power at least a one-Power standard, for the training in our schools both of captains of industry and units of industry.
§ Mr. F. W. VERNEY
I desire to corroberate and confirm the speech of my hon. friend as to the extraordinary increase in the mercantile marine of Germany. I would remind the House that about 30 years ago the German mercantile marine hardly existed, but in 1907 it consisted of no less than 4,430 ships with a tonnage of 2,630,000 tons. Now this enormous increase in the German mercantile marine has taken place under very extraordinary circumstances. When Bismarck gave up free trade for Germany and imposed protection on that country he made one important exception—he excepted the shipping industry entirely from protective duties in Germany. When some hon. Gentlemen on the other side think of how Germany has increased her mercantile marine under the Protective system I wonder how many of them are aware of the fact that Bismarck did make this wonderful exception with the result that we now see. Another fact in connection with the extraordinary energy of the German people was brought out in a very interesting article two or three years ago in the "Nineteenth Century" by a writer who had evidently studied German economics very closely. The distance from the German sources for the supply of material to the ports and shipyards is on the average no less than 400 miles; that is to say, they have to transport the material for German shipbuild- 105 ing an average of 400 miles, and, in several cases, over 1,000 miles. I wonder how those who are engaged in building ships in our country would feel if they had to transport the raw material on an average 400 miles before it reached the place where it had to be used for the purpose of shipbuilding. In regard to this enormous increase in the mercantile marine of Germany, surely we, as Englishmen, should be the first to recognise the—putting aside all hostile or possibly hostile intentions against us—the reasonableness of the argument which has been used over and over again in this country that, as an insurance for the mercantile marine it is extremely natural to expect the Germans to increase their Navy. I cannot help thinking that it is. Although I fully admit that it is not in the least sufficient to account for the very large number of "Dreadnoughts" being constructed, I still think it is quite sufficient to account for a very large increase in the German Navy and the number of ships they build. I would venture to suggest to the House, as has been done I think in a very marked degree to-day in the wonderful speech we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that we might put aside the talk of Germany as a potential enemy, at any rate to some extent, and look upon her as an actual friend.
I cannot help thinking that the actual friendship of Germany ought to count as something. Those who have visited Germany have seen the extraordinary cordiality between Germans and Englishmen, and we should only too gladly remember that the Germans are of the same race as ourselves; their language has the same roots as our own; our religion is their religion, and for every reason there may be for hostility there are at least 100 reasons for friendship between the two nations—reasons which I personally believe will long continue in spite of suggestions that may be made to the contrary. To leave the ships and to come to the personnel, I find from a recent statement that in 1908–9 this country voted 128,000 men. There was a naval reserve of 50,000. Germany voted 50,000 men for her navy; France 56,000; and then, to look a little further back, and just to remind the House of the pre-"Dreadnought" history of the last ten years, what was our expenditure? I quote from a man who is known not so much as a politician as an extremely careful statistician, Lord Avebury. He wrote an article in the "Nine- 106 teenth Century" in 1905 in which he told England this: That while the total expenditure on armaments by Italy, Russia, Germany, and France had increased in ten years by £27,000,000, Great Britain had increased hers by £50,000,000. I cannot help thinking that our enormous expenditure in the ten years, before a single "Dreadnought" was put into the water, had something to do and has something to do still with the increase of armaments in other countries besides our own. I do not wish to use the language of blame to any Government, but I think it is high time that we should look these facts fully in the face. It is difficult, at all events for me, to believe we have spent on armaments double, or not very far short of double what has been spent by four of the greatest military Powers in the world for the ten years before the end of 1905. We must remember in the event of a great naval campaign that although the first shock of battle will be an extremely important matter it is not the whole of it, and if we remember that there is a chance of a protracted campaign, what is in all probability likely to happen? The first line of battleships may be very seriously damaged, and what will come next? What we call the pre-"Dreadnought" ships, and how do we stand in reference to them? I have here one of the latest statements made in the House of Lords by Lord Tweedmouth in regard to this matter. He gave a list of battleships excluding all under 10,000 tons and over 25 years of age. They included ten ships of 10,500 tons, giving an aggregate of 105,000 tons; there were 17 ships of 15,000 tons each showing an aggregate of 205,000 tons; there were five ships of 14,000 tons showing an aggregate of 75,000 tons; and all those classes of ships Germany does not have on her list at all. It is not until you get to the next class of 12,000 or 13,000 tons, of which we have six with an aggregate of 78,000 tons, that we find that Germany comes in. Anyone who can grasp the extraordinary supremacy that Great Britain has in the ships immediately preceding the "Dreadnought" type need have no anxiety if the whole Navy is contrasted, because then we get an immense superiority over any other two Powers. Under these circumstances panic is not only out of the question but even anxiety may be undue and unnecessary.
I most heartily support the Government in their Vote to-night. It is easy to rush into an expenditure in such a case as this, 107 which the whole nation must repent later on. I have been told by naval constructors that nothing changes so rapidly or so completely or unexpectedly as machinery, and that you may easily have the machinery of to-day superseded in four or five years' time by machinery far better and absolutely inconceived or inconceivable to-day. I remember making an investigation into the comparison of the growth of steamships and sailing-ships, and I was informed by some large ship-owners in Liverpool that there were times in the history of steamship construction when the machinery increased so rapidly in improvements that actually sailing-ships were built for fear of the rapid improvement of machinery, which would make recent machinery comparatively obsolete. I believe figures can be given to show that that has been the case in times past. I cordially support the Government in their present policy because I believe it to be justifiable on economic as well as patriotic grounds, and because I believe it is a proper and necessary defence of the interests of the country at large.
Attention called to the fact that 40 Members were not present. House counted, and 40 Members being found present—
I have listened with interest to the remarks which have fallen from the hon. Member for North Paddington. The hon. Member spoke of the progress of Germany almost as if he had made a discovery. I cordially agree that if as a result of this debate it is impressed upon the minds not only of hon. Members of this House but also the people of this country that the people of Germany, far from being the rather benighted people held up to our view for several years past subsisting under conditions far below the standard in this country—if it impressed upon us that far from that being the case the Germans are a most able, capable, and far-seeing people, I do not think this debate will have been in vain. I have listened with a peculiar sympathy to the hon. Member's recommendation that the Government Departments of this country should work in close co-operation with the industries of this country. I am sure those are sentiments which will be shared by the party on this side of the House. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his speech appealed to both sides of the House to trust the Government to do 108 what was right in the emergency with which we are dealing to-day. It is obvious, even if we concede every point made on behalf of the Government with regard to the naval position now and within the next two or three years, that in 1912 the margin of our superiority will at times be a slender one, even taking into consideration the question of single Power only and not a two-Power standard. Therefore any contingency which threatens that margin should be very closely watched and safeguarded. The Member who spoke from the Front Bench on this side mentioned the case of the "Montagu." If cur margin had happened to be that of a single battleship there was a case when it might have been swept away.
I wish to call attention to a phase of the subject which has not yet been referred to—I mean the question of aeroplane supremacy. The position has been explained, but I do not think it is yet fully realised. Here is a case where the greatest initiative has been shown and progress made by Germany. Special factories have been constructed at great expense for the building and equipping giant airships of the Zeppelin design. I do not refer to aeroplanes or small dirigibles, which have their uses for purposes of war, but whose value yet remains to be proved. In Germany they already have in commission one of these large vessels, and at the end of this year four more will be complete, while next year and in the years to follow Germany will be in a position to produce one of these vessels in any six weeks of the year. The vessel already commissioned has attained altitudes of nearly 6,000 feet, and travels long distances at the rate of 35 miles an hour, which is faster than any liner afloat. Only the other day a journey was made from Friedrichshafen to Constance and back, a distance of 140 miles, in four hours. The distances which have been accomplished, not under the best of weather conditions, are equivalent to a voyage to England and back, and the vessels can carry supplies for a journey of twice that distance. In addition to the crew required for the manœuvring of the vessels, they have lifting power sufficient to carry between one and two tons of explosive matter. The difficulty of landing on land or sea has been overcome. In the face of that, I say, that British initiative and enterprise has never appeared to less advantage. We possess absolutely no knowledge or experience of this type of vessel. Our experiments have been con- 109 fined to smaller vessels, such as the aeroplane or the non-rigid or semi-rigid dirigible, which have so far been conspicuous by their failure and utter inadequacy. In the Estimates this year a sum of £19,000 only has been placed aside for experiments upon this object, and that sum includes the amount usually spent upon the war balloon department, and is not even a special amount ear-marked for experiments in this direction. Contrast with that the action of Germany, where they have already spent about half a million of money in experiments) and in the danger period which we are discussing they will possess a fleet of between 24 and 30 of these vessels. Can anyone believe that these people are wasting and squandering their money or energy in these experiments? The cost of a vessel of this kind compared with that of a "Dreadnought" is infinitesimal. As a matter of fact a fleet of 20 could be built for the price of one "Dreadnought." It is a fact that should not be ignored that in the year 1912 there will, or can be, in existence a fleet of 24 of these vessels, capable of carrying explosives in large quantities and of travelling long distances, at speeds with which no battleship afloat can compete. In the face of the total failure of this country to attempt anything to combat this state of things, it is idle to deny that that is a consideration which should cause us grave concern. The Foreign Secretary appeals to us to trust the Government; but here is a case in point where the Government has not shown initiative or activity, or extended encouragement to inventors and others to place this country in a position to compete with her rivals. Germany by her initiative and by spending money freely and on scientific lines has far outdistanced all her rivals. I earnestly hope the matter will not be further neglected, but that some proper and comprehensive steps will be taken to place Great Britain in a line with her rivals upon this great and important question.
§ Captain KINCAID-SMITH
I wish to explain the vote which I propose to give upon this Resolution. The Foreign Secretary has made one of those important speeches of his which, as a rule, carry much weight in the country and go far to mould public opinion; but personally I could not see anything in his arguments or in the speech which tends to weaken the outstanding fact that if naval supremacy is to be measured in "Dreadnoughts" alone a margin of one or two is a 110 ridiculous thing to aim at. If we calculate the German naval armament, combined with the Austrian naval armament, as it seems to me, especially after what has happened in the last few weeks, we shall have to do, a margin of one or two disappears altogether. The Foreign Secretary's chief argument was that if you make preparations for rapid construction you have done practically everything necessary. Having made preparations for rapid construction with a view to being able to build a large number of large vessels rapidly, perhaps the same standard of a very small margin will be considered sufficient. Therefore I do not think that that argument will allay the public anxiety which is now felt throughout the country. A stranger listening to this debate would have felt surprised at the utter absence of all reference to the two-Power standard. We seem to have forgotten all about the two-Power standard. It is never mentioned at all, and, personally, I am not surprised that we do not talk very much about it. I have never thought myself that we are going to be able to permanently maintain the two-Power standard if other countries, and notably the United States, choose to build up their navies. An hon. Member stated that if the United States choose to build up their Navy—and there are a good many influential people in the United States in favour of such a policy—it will be absolutely impossible for this country to keep up the two-Power standard. I will go further, and say that a good many people in this country do not realise that even if we maintain the two-Power standard it does not give this country anything like the naval superiority which it did 15 or 20 years ago. Fifteen of 20 years ago we had fewer naval competitors, and the two-Power standard gave us a fleet equal to half the ships of the world, but as foreign navies have increased the two-Power standard gives Great Britain a smaller proportion of the naval power of the world. For myself, and those who believe with me in the necessity of the two-Power standard being maintained, the fact that it gives a smaller naval superiority is the real justification for a more reliable Army for home defence than we have under the present system if you mean to get the full strategical value out of whatever naval armaments you do possess. We have heard with great gratitude in this country of the offers by New Zealand, Australia, and other Colonial Dependencies to provide this country with 111 large battleships, but personally I do not believe very much in an offer which is only a temporary expedient. It is not of the same value as a permanent arrangement, and I cannot myself believe that it is possible to have any permanent arrangement under which the Colonies are going to provide very large and substantial contributions towards Imperial defence until in the future—perhaps 15 or 20 years hence—we have an Imperial Federal Parliament in which they will have an equal say with us in matters of Imperial defence and foreign policy. Then we may have substantial contributions to enable us to maintain the two-Power standard, but until that day comes I do not look upon Colonial contributions as anything more than small, temporary expedients. An hon. Member on the Labour benches took exception to a remark made by the Noble Lord the Member for Marylebone when he said that the German fleet was of course being built with the object of waging successful war against the British fleet. It is very natural.
§ Captain KINCAID-SMITH
We hope to maintain a fleet equal to those of two other Powers, so that we can, if the necessity arose, wage successful war against them, and why should you object to a great country like Germany building a fleet to wage successful war against us? It is quite natural, and I do not see why anybody should object to it.
§ Captain KINCAID-SMITH
Why do we want a fleet equal to others but for the purpose of waging successful war against two Powers? [An HON. MEMBER: "To protect our commerce."] Yes, to protect our commerce and also to wage successful war. Cannot these Gentlemen realise how Germany has progressed enormously during the past generation? Cannot they realise how her mercantile, marine has grown? You now meet on the seas 10 of her ships as against one 20 years ago, and in that great country the desire to possess a naval force to protect her commerce and her colonies is quite natural, and if we neglect to have naval armaments able to protect our own possessions it is inevitable that that country will grapple with us so that these possessions may fall into their hands.
112 If hon. Gentlemen will realise how that country has progressed they will see the reasonableness of these armaments. Several hon. Members have made speeches in favour of the two-Power standard. When they say that they axe going to vote for something which is not much more than a one-Power standard I cannot see much consistency in that, and, speaking for myself, I shall vote for the Resolution and in opposition to the Government.
§ Mr. W. R. W. PEEL
I think the only Member who, speaking on the other side of the House, has given whole-hearted support to the Government is the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Buckinghamshire. Other Members have found admirable arguments for supporting this side of the House, though I am bound to say most of them concluded by stating that they were going to vote in support of the Government. The hon. Member for North Paddington made a speech with the whole of which I am almost entirely in agreement. He pointed to the necessity, first of all, for developing the iron and steel industries in this country in connection with shipbuilding, armour, and gun mountings. The only point I wish to impress upon him is how enormous progress and superiority in technical matters has been attained by a country whose people, according to his own statements at election times, are entirely fed upon horseflesh and rye bread. There has been much criticism on the other side of the House as regards the reasons for this Vote. We have been told that the Leader of the Opposition has largely contributed towards what is called a scare. I do not think that people who are not responsible for the Government can really create a scare in comparison with those who spoke with the responsibility of the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty. In my opinion there is no scare at all, because when there is a scare people lose their heads and rush about clamouring for something they know not what, but on this occasion there is no hesitation whatever in the country. They know perfectly well what they want. They know the formula of the two-Power standard, and they are concentrated on the thought that eight "Dreadnoughts" should be laid down in the coming financial year. I think, when the Prime Minister spoke of the manipulation of the excitement in regard to the Navy outside, he did not reckon with the real situation in the country, or with their determination to
113 maintain the naval strength. I confess, after listening to the speech of the Foreign Minister, I was more disappointed than ever. I thought the facts he disclosed made the situation even graver than it appeared to be after the speeches of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Prime Minister. He told us—in fact he warned us gravely as to the new situation which had arisen. He told us that after a certain number of years Germany would have a fleet of no less than 33 "Dreadnoughts" cruising about in the North Sea—by far the most important fleet that ever appeared in any waters in the course of history. He dwelt also on the enormous progress Germany had made in developing slips, yards, and methods of producing gun mountings, guns, and armour. He went further in this direction than any statement yet made by the First Lord of the Admiralty. So that whatever may be the outcome of this debate, we are confronted, I am afraid, with a very disquieting situation. We know that a Power very little distant from our shores will have in the near future, and the further future, a fleet of enormous dimensions, built up to the latest standards, very powerful in comparison with any fleet that we may ourselves be able to bring against it. We have been told also that we have lost or that Germany has gained the power of rapidity in construction, which we flattered ourselves we always possessed before. That means that we shall not be able to wait in future to see what are the schemes of other countries, but that we shall be compelled to lay down our programmes and ships rather in anticipation of the programmes of other countries. The other disquieting fact is in the difficulties in obtaining information by the Board of Admiralty. One would have thought, of course, that it might be difficult to find out about the orders placed for guns, mountings, and armour by other countries, but knowing the number of slips in Germany you would have thought it would have been an easy matter to find out the number of ships laid down. And yet the First Lord of the Admiralty tells us that as regards one of the anticipated ships of last year's German programme he could not say whether it had been laid down or not. Some hon. Members have discussed the question whether it is not possible by negotiations with foreign Powers or agreements to limit the rate of production of armaments or the growth of foreign armaments. The Foreign Secre- 114 tary made a contribution to that discussion. He said he thought possibly something might arise, not by negotiations between the Foreign Secretaries or Foreign Ambassadors, but by conferences between representatives of the different Admiralties. But even he saw very great difficulty in this, and hardly anticipated that any really advantageous result would come from them. I am not at all opposed to the idea of these periodical representations between the countries with a view to the limitation of armaments, because we all entertain very strongly the desire not to spend all this money upon armaments if it can be avoided, and I am quite willing that some expression should be given in our diplomacy with other countries. No doubt there are moments when these representations might have effect. But I am entirely opposed to those representations being constantly repeated. If they are they will lose their whole force and validity, and we shall put ourselves in the position of merely complaining of the growth of foreign armaments instead of building up according to the requirements of our commerce and for our defence. I am one of those who think that the limitation of armaments is a far more difficult question than disarmament altogether. After all, supposing we made an agreement with any country to limit our armaments, what suspicion would arise, what reports there would be that ships were being laid down; we should have a constant rush, as it were, of communications, and constant reports in the Press, and we should live in a state of constant tension. I believe, for these reasons, the limitation of armaments is even more impossible or difficult than disarmament itself. Much, of course, must depend with regard to the limitation of armaments on the degree of credibility that we place on the statements of foreign countries, and a great deal has seemed to turn in the course of this debate on the statements which have been made by Germany as to the number of ships it is going to lay down and as to the rate of progress. As an unofficial Member, I feel very great difficulty in giving credibility to statements of that kind made by Germany or any other countries, because, if you look back at the history of Germany of the last 40 years, and at the history of the diplomacy of Germany during the three wars—at the events leading up to the Danish War, to that between Germany and Austria, and the Franco-German War, and the famous Ems telegram, I say it requires- 115 some credibility—or shall I say some gullibility—to put absolute faith in the statements of German diplomatists. Many Germans have made some very frank statements on the subject. They have said whether we build 100 "Dreadnoughts" or none they will build exactly the same, and will not be moved one way or the other by the number of "Dreadnoughts" we can build. That is a statement which I find very hard wholly to credit, because it seems very difficult for any country to regulate its forces except by the measure of the forces of the nations it may come in some sort of contact with. I am not very much moved by the statements about German intentions, knowing how much they may vary, and I am not much concerned about the various alliances and connections we may form with foreign countries. The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech delivered last week, at least definitely adhered, so far as words are concerned, to the two-Power standard. In spite of all that we have heard about the "Dreadnoughts" and the ships that Germany is building and the United States, he still adhered to that formula laid down now for 20 years. But we have never heard of any definite, correct statement of the relation of the pre-" Dreadnought" power to the "Dreadnoughts" themselves. We have heard a very disquieting statement from the First Lord of the Admiralty. I should like to hear a very definite statement about the pre-"Dreadnoughts" and the "Dreadnoughts." It may be that the pre-"Dreadnoughts" in their armaments and their armour have a superiority over the "Dreadnoughts." There are two schools in the Navy on this point. There are distinguished admirals and builders who believe in 9.2 guns, owing to foggy weather. But, assuming that you have fine weather, no one can compare the armaments of the pre-"Dreadnoughts" with the "Dreadnoughts" without realising the superiority of the "Dreadnoughts" broadside. You will know from Admiralty sources what comparison can be made between these two different classes of ships—the First Lord of the Admiralty told us that we do not want any increase in the fleet because when these new vessels are built in 1912 you will be able to do away with the other vessels and have "Dreadnoughts" in their places. But if you have eight 'Dreadnoughts" laid down we shall have no superiority over the Germans. There are immense risks to which we are exposed when 116 the margin is so narrow. Look what happened in the Japanese war. War between us and any other Power would be sudden, unexpected, and also terrible. There are risks of war, and we have no security, for instance, against floating mines. There is another point. The whole tradition of our Navy is that if we take the sea we should take the offensive. If war should break out it is essential that we should take a vigorous offensive.
In our Army actions we have been content to muddle through and win our victories at the end, but as regards the Navy we must win the first action. Our fleet must get an overwhelming victory in the very first action. The Prime Minister took credit to himself for the slow development in our shipbuilding. He anticipated the building of a new class of ships. That is a very dangerous argument. It was apparently an afterthought in his mind, and had some reference to The Hague Conference. I have always regarded the two-Power standard as having one immense advantage. Under it we need not calculate how many ships we have, or the number of ships we are going to build, or estimate the number of ships any Power was going to deal with in its next programme. That is one of the criticisms that I have to make upon the particular methods of the Government in dealing with the situation that has. arisen. There is a contingency programme of four of the same vessels to be laid down or for which materials are to be collected. This contingency depends on the rate of German construction, and were further ships than those in the German programme to be laid down we should follow with more. I conceive no language, I will not say more dangerous, but at any rate more provocative than that. You are not dealing with the two-Power standard at all. You are watching the action of another Power, regulating your shipbuilding closely by that Power, and you are taking your four ships or your eight ships or 10 ships irrespective of how for the moment the "Dreadnought" programme of one particular Power may be developed. Now I should feel far more happy about the Government programme if I felt certain it is settled purely on strategic considerations. It is impossible not to feel that in the mind of the Government some weight has been attached to the section of opinion on their side of the House which is in favour of reducing the Navy. It is impossible not to feel that some consideration generally has been attached to the question of finance, and that some un- 117 easiness was felt by the Government owing to the fact that the Estimates are higher this year than ever before except during one year of Unionist Administration. Some Members look with apprehension on this race of armaments, and they are apt to say that this country has set the rate of shipbuilding. Where, they ask, will this insane competition in armaments stop. I have no fear upon that score, because in that competition for armaments we feel we are building for the vital necessity of our existence, and that we depend, as no other country in the world depends, upon our sea power. We know further that the proportion of our Navy to our sea trade is smaller than that of any other great countries with their navies, and if you add to the export and import trade the home-production trade, which is estimated to be six or seven times as much as our export trade, and then if you take a comparison on that basis with the percentage the Navy bears to that vast trade, it is infinitely smaller still. And I think that when estimating these matters our Navy must be taken to be an insurance not only for our foreign trade, but an insurance for our home trade as well. I quite admit the contention that Germany has altered as regards its home trade, that its Navy was never meant to be vital to it, but that it is far more necessary and important now than 10 years ago, and that it relies upon its Army first, yet the amount of its export trade has so largely developed that that Navy has become infinitely more essential than 10 or 12 years ago, and yet at the same time the insistence and dependence of this country on its Navy must be infinitely greater for many years to come than the dependence of Germany on its Navy. Therefore, if you are to be engaged in the war of competition between these countries I have no doubt that that country whose whole life and vitality is dependent upon its Navy must vanquish in the course of competition that other country which depends as much upon its Army as its Navy for its development.
§ Mr. HART DAVIES
I think it is not altogether fair, as some Members on this side of the House have said, to lay the blame of this naval scare upon the Opposition, because after all it was the Government that began this naval scare. I do not know what their object was exactly in beginning it, and I would suggest as it is begun and as it is very desirable that it should not last long, the Government should put an end to it as soon as possible. And they would put an end to it if they 118 say that the proposition they make for these four "Dreadnoughts"—I suppose they will have to build them if the Germans go on with their programme—if they would only say they will make these provisions instead of leaving it an open question, and then the panic will disappear. I cannot imagine myself why they do not say so. They will have to lay down these ships, and why not make preparation? It is very desirable that this naval panic should last as short as possible. It would be very desirable if possible that it should not have existed at all, and that debates such as we have been having should be as rare as possible and as little prolonged as possible. It is very difficult to say anything in debates of this kind without dragging in Germany and her policy, and it is difficult in that way to avoid giving offence to a friendly country. I do not think these debates make for national amity, and I shall be very glad when the scare is over. It was not a very cheerful prospect that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs presented to us this afternoon. It seems we are now in a state in Europe which really, if it goes on, will end in the negation of civilisation. It seems to me a most extraordinary thing that we should spend half our income in defending ourselves against each other. That is the state of Europe, and I do not see any immediate escape except it be brought about by the absolute weariness of the people to pay taxation. All modern armaments are very expensive, and war is more expensive still. It seems to me there can be no other end of it except perhaps the growing intelligence of the people and the absolute absurdity of spending his money in trying to injure each other and the weariness of taxation. In this connection the Germans have not yet begun to realise the expenses of a fleet. They have not begun to build with their own money. The burden of money borrowed on interest does not come home in the same way. This year the Bill has come in, and we know the difficulty they will have in Germany in raising the 25 millions that will be necessary this year. Everybody in Germany is aggrieved that their class is going to be taxed, and say other classes ought to be taxed, and you find in Germany extraordinary difficulty, quite as much difficulty as we have, to raise £25,000,000 for their naval and military preparations. One can only hope that as time goes on, as civilisation goes on, and as the working classes of the country make themselves more and more 119 heard in international matters—one can only hope that gradually out of weariness of taxation the nations of Europe will come to see the monstrous absurdity, and worse than absurdity, of supplying these huge sums of money for armaments which ought to be spent upon social reforms and in promoting the happiness of the people of the country, and not go on with this extraordinary system of piling up armaments against each other. That is the only hope. Meanwhile our duty is perfectly clear. We must always remain in an impregnable position. We cannot help it. That is one of the burdens of civilisation that we have to bear. But we ought to spare no effort to induce every kind of international friendliness and amity, and in that way only can we rest in the hope that some day the nations of the earth will grow wiser, and this monstrous burden of armaments will be gradually lessened.
§ Mr. J. R. SEDDON
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Taunton, especially in the first part of his speech. It may be an indication of lack of party loyalty, but I am glad to think that I have not the same suspicion that he has against the Germans. His remarks, so far as I am concerned, were not only improper, but impolitic, and display the type of mind that I personally am glad I do not possess. I am free to confess that when I first heard the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Prime Minister I was profoundly impressed by their statements. I have not had the opportunity that has been given to many men in this House of studying for years our foreign policy. I had the necessity thrown upon me very early of earning my own daily bread; but as soon as I heard these weighty statements I felt the duty thrown upon me to look into this question, using all the means at my disposal, and I confess that then I was susceptible to certain influences which I am afraid cannot be borne out by my own inquiry. This Vote of Censure, as I understand, is not of a party nature, and there has been protestation after protestation that it is not a party issue, but I would only ask the right hon. Gentlemen to read such papers as the "Daily Express," or to go down to the Croydon election and listen to the speeches of their emissaries and of their paid satellites, on every platform and by means of gramophones, where they have weariedly reiterated, "Eight 'Dreadnoughts,' eight 'Dread- 120 noughts,' we must have eight 'Dreadnoughts.' "In fact, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover has created a new nursery rhyme:We want eight, and we won't wait.I am sorry we cannot deal with these children of a larger growth—these petulant children—in the same way that we deal with juveniles when they have given expression to the opinion that they will not wait. I hope the Government will stiffen their backs and let him and his friends wait for their "Dreadnoughts" after all this scare which they have created in this country.
What is the offence we charge against Germany It is that Germany has been minding her own business. She has during the last half-century probably developed quicker than any European Power. ["Hear, hear."] I know the cause of those cheers, but hon. Gentlemen and myself do not agree as to the causes of that development in Germany. I believe that it is through their higher form of education and their greater consideration for the workers, and if we had the same in this country their standard would not be so far in advance of our own, so far as social questions are concerned, as it is. But what is the point of the charge? Here is a great people, and we need not insult them because they are a great people. Here is a great people whose mercantile marine has developed enormously. Their over sea trade has enormously grown, and year by year they are becoming more dependent for food and raw material upon supplies from across the sea. That has led them into a naval propaganda and a naval programme, and we are asked to believe that this great nation, driven by the exigencies of its own need and by circumstances for which we are to a certain extent responsible—this nation is pursuing this policy with the idea of forcing a war upon England, claiming an indemnity which will cover all her costs, and then she will become the mistress of the seas and the master of European diplomacy. If I thought that was so I am here to say there is no cost too great to prevent a collision between these two peoples and rivals. If I could believe for a moment that behind German activity there was a deliberate and diabolical attempt to invade this country, then I am prepared to give all the support I can to thwart that idea and intention. But if we examined our own history during the last 25 years we shall be slow to throw the whole of the blame upon 121 the shoulders of Germany. Twenty-five years ago we had as our imminent enemy France, and a possible combination of France and Russia. We altered the whole standard which existed prior to 1885, and which had always been three to two against France, and we inaugurated the two-Power standard, the object of which was to meet any coalition between France and Russia. Many things have happened since those days. We have arranged with France what is called an entente cordiale, And that has removed any fear of danger between France and this country, so far as Egypt is concerned, and which I believe had something to do with settling the question of Morroco. We have also entered into an alliance with Japan, and that has secured us, so far as we can and so long as it lasts, peace and security in the East. We have also had an agreement with Russia, and these things have settled all points of difference between us, and what we desire has also been secured to us by practically a triple alliance between this country, France, and Russia. But while this has been proceeding the Admiralty have also been changing their policy. Hitherto we have had scattered all over the world battleships and cruisers, and I think wisely under the benign influence of these treaties which have been formed the whole question of using our battleships has changed in the last 10 or 15 years. If I am correctly informed, eight out of fourteen battleships that used to be in the Mediterranean have been brought home and settled in home waters. In addition, from the Far East two battleships have been brought home. Moreover, armed cruisers have been brought home from the North American stations, and the battleships and the armed cruisers that have been brought home have been sent out again with their base in this country. What does all this concentration mean Whom can it be against? We are at peace and have a treaty with France and we have entered into a treaty with Russia It is not against them that this naval force is concentrated at the present time. If I were a German and I saw all this concentration, and being isolated by the treaties that England had formed, I should come to the conclusion that there was a design upon me as a German, and I believe that what has contributed to the unrest and suspicion between Germany and this country has been this altered policy of concentration. At the time that Germany entered upon their ambitious programme in 1900 she was con- 122 fined to building a certain class of battleship by the physical disability which existed at Kiel. But we went on building "King Edwards" and ships of that sort, and in 1905 the first "Dreadnought" was laid down. I have seen it stated in a responsible journal that many of those who claim to be experts in naval matters, stated, not with bated breath and behind closed doors, but stated to the world by all means they had, that one "Dreadnought" could engage singly the whole of the German fleet. That being so, I am not surprised that the German nation altered their policy, at great expense, both in shipbuilding and in deepening the Kiel Canal, and that she began to build "Dreadnoughts" after what had been said and done by this country. But I want to know, and I am really anxious for information: What is the policy of this country? Is it supremacy we want? We had that in the pre-"Dreadnought" period. I have a very strong suspicion that what we are after is a policy of beggar-my-neighbour, and if we are going to do that, let us do it in real downright, whole-hearted fashion. I gather from the income statistics that there are something like a million and a quarter people who receive annually £585,000,000. They have something at stake. The Tariff Reformers never tire of telling us that in Germany the workman gets just as high wages as he would get in this country, so that, from the workman's point of view, his loss would be sentimental rather than financial; but for these wealthy people the financial loss would be serious, in case of successful invasion. Surely these patriotic gentlemen are not beyond paying an insurance for their great position? If they are anxious to have "Dreadnoughts" galore, I do not care how many they have if they pay for them. If they give up the odd 85 millions, they may have a few luxuries less, but possibly that would be better for them. I would recommend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to appeal to these men to give up the odd 85 millions for one year, and you could then have 40 "Dreadnoughts" and demonstrate to the would-be patriotic spirit of the wealthy people as well as their voluble claims for a great Navy. I sometimes think the remarks of the late John Bright are true. He said:—There is no actuary in existence who can calculate how much of the wealth, of the strength, and of the supremacy of the territorial families of England has been derived from an unholy participation of the fruits of the industry of the people which has been wrested from them 123 by every device of taxation, and squandered in every conceivable crime of which the Government possibly could be guilty. The more you examine this matter the more you will come to the conclusion which I have arrived at that this foreign policy, this regard for the state of Europe, this excessive love of the balance of power, is neither more nor less than a gigantic scheme of outdoor relief for the aristocracy of Great Britain.These are the words of a man whose voice often thrilled audiences in this Chamber, and I am convinced that what he said then is equally true at the present time.
Let us just for a moment look at this question not from a Jingo point of view, but from the point of view of the wellbeing not only of this country but of Germany as a great industrial country. I have in my hand a copy of a telegram that came from the German Reichstag today. It is sent by the Social Democratic party, who to-day have moved a resolution demanding an International Convention for the reduction of the naval expenditure and for the abolition of the right of capture. That I welcome with the whole of my heart. Our alliances must count for something. Not very long ago—the sound has scarcely died in the streets of Berlin—our Sovereign was welcomed and acclaimed by the populace of that country. Are we to understand that these two Monarchs, who professed in emphatic language their desire for amity and peace between the two countries, were bluffing one another, or are we to understand that on the part of one of them there was a deep Machiavellian desire with cunning to do something to the hurt and injury, after all the professions of friendship which were made, to the Royal Monarch of this country? I am not in the habit of shouting my loyalty from the housetops, but I am as sincere as those who do. If I thought for one moment that our Sovereign could be so easily deceived or that the German Emperor could be guilty of such diabolical cunning, I should lose my faith, not in humanity, but in ruling houses, altogether. I believe these things count for something, but apart from that we have also some time. I believe the precautions taken by the Government are sufficient. I believe they have wisely ordered their programme not to excite the jealousy of Germany, but to give them, what I may subscribe to myself whole-heartedly, an intimation that so far as they are concerned as a naval Power, we are not prepared to take second place against any Power in the world. But I would like to endorse the sentiment expressed in that very able speech of the 124 Foreign Secretary that it is not wise to put so many eggs in one basket. I remember reading some time ago a statement made by Lord Armstrong, who, I think, will be taken as an authority upon ship construction. Speaking some time ago, he said that past experience has shown that all vessels of the battleship class when first designed have been deemed almost invulnerable, yet no sooner are they completed than modern invention proves them to be quite otherwise. I think it is a wise policy to mark time and watch developments. I think we are also wise in giving an understanding to Germany that what we require is peace and amity between the two nations. So far as I am concerned I believe that this Vote of Censure is not only impolitic, but it is criminal. I believe that the people of this country never more passionately desired peace than they do at present. Yes, but they do not want "Dreadnoughts." We know that the "Daily Express" and the noble Member for Horsham want "Dreadnoughts," but the breadwinners of the country know full well that their real help is not war, but science and education. We who sit on these benches claim to represent the common folk, who know the struggle of life, and who know that this building of armaments is crushing the life out of this nation and Out of Germany and every other civilised country. And I am prepared not only to vote against this Vote of Censure but to exercise whatever little power I have with those whom we represent to keep their heads cool.
They had not lost their pluck, but they remember if they are to have the full fruits of labour and if there is to be more security in their employment, and more security in their economic conditions, it can only be by universal recognition of the necessity of using the proceeds of their wealth to build up the stamina and morale of the men and women of the nation rather than to spend it on implements of destruction either for Germany or anyone else. I have tried to master the whole of the details of this particular question. It is a strange commentary that we have spent the greater portion of one Session in discussing whether the children in our elementary schools should be taught the principles of Christianity, which means peace, and yet we have the hon. and learned Member for Walton saying at a public meeting that there is no use in talking sickly sentiment to Germany. We are trying to translate those Christian principles into actions, and then we are told 125 they are sickly sentiments. What a lesson for the Christian and for the heathen whom we are trying to convert to our Christianity. We believe that the industrial democracy of this and other countries are coming nearer together. This telegram is a demonstration that we want the proceeds of the wealth to build up the health and well-being of the people and not to be used on "Dreadnoughts" or other instruments of destruction.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
The hon. Member who has just sat down has said he believed that there was a passionate desire for peace on the part of the workers of this country. There is not one of us on this side of the House but will associate ourselves with the Hon. Member in that statement. We do believe that it is the passionate desire of the people of this country that peace should be preserved, but may I point out that this country for a long course of years, in fact for generations, has had the supremacy of the seas and has never abused the position that she has occupied. Her Navy has always made for peace. It has always been a guarantee of peace throughout the world. To-day the policy of the Government and the policy of this country is in no wise changed. Our policy is a policy of peace, but we believe that we can only secure that peace by preserving our sea supremacy, concerning which the hon. Member asked the House, whether it was the intention of this country that this Government should secure the preservation of that supremacy. I do not think that any Government that has directed the course of affairs in this country during the past two or three generations has had any other idea than the preservation of the supremacy of this country upon the seas. This afternoon we heard a very remarkable speech from the Foreign Secretary. I think myself it was a most pathetic speech. I will explain what I mean. The right hon. Gentleman said, and said truly, that Germany had an immense Army, and her ambition now was to have an immense Navy. An immense Army plus an immense Navy meant for her the absolute domination of the North Sea, and the picture that the right hon. Gentleman drew of the position of England with her small Army and her inferior Navy is one which will be reported not in Unionist papers throughout this country tomorrow but throughout the Press of all parties as representing the position to which England would be reduced if she had a Navy which was less 126 than the German Navy and an Army which necessarily in point of numbers must be less than the German Army.
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman was one which, if intended to produce a feeling of satisfaction and a feeling of confidence in the action of the Government, has, I believe completely failed in its object. The right hon. Gentleman is always deliberate, careful, and moderate in his statements. He recognises that those elements of diplomacy on which hon. Members below the Gangway have placed such reliance and hon. Members opposite have placed such reliance have completely failed. This Government came into power, I believe, with the sincere intention of instituting economy in expenditure in the Army and the Navy. This Government sent its representative to the Hague Conference with the idea of producing an effect upon Germany and the other nations there assembled in the interests of peace and in the interests of an arrangement by which the naval armaments of the competing nations of the world should be readjusted. During that time Germany took occasion to increase her Army. Nothing that we said had any effect on Germany. The hon. Member who has just sat down has said that if it was the intention of Germany to secure control over the North Sea by a dominating Navy, and eventually to attack us, it would be a diabolical thing. There are none of us on this side of the House and no Members on the other side of the House, but would say it would be a diabolical thing. But diabolical things have been done in the past, and will be done in the future. The interpretation of Germany's ambitions, to my mind, are not diabolical. Germany has a vast national ambition. It is to secure such a place in the counsels of Europe that she can achieve what England has achieved in the past by the dominance of her Navy, by her potent voice in the councils of the nations. We cannot quarrel with that ambition, which is a natural and a human one. A great people, as the German people are, desire to hold first place in European politics, and they will naturally secure the only means by which that power can be preserved, sustained, or built up, and that is by a great Army and by a great Navy.
Some thing has been said to-night about our alliance with Japan. I am one of those who have felt from the beginning that our alliance with Japan, while a useful temporary measure, is not a measure upon 127 which we can place a complete reliance. We have withdrawn from Japanese sea ships—as has been said by the hon. Member who has just sat down—intended to be concentrated in our home water. It is a dangerous thing for this country, to my mind, to rely upon any alliance, no matter what it may be, in regard to our naval supremacy. The time may come when readjustment of our strategical policy would have to be considered. If to-morrow we were in danger in the East there would be no certainty that we would not have to employ ships in those Eastern waters, and as has been very ably pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham, our position is now one of competition for the one-Power standard, for a position of superiority in one, two, or three battleships over Germany, and if in the accident—those terrible accidents of international competition—that we should be brought into conflict with Germany in any near period, the whole of our "Dreadnought" force, which is the only force at the present time which may be considered to be a full fighting force, would be launched against that one Power. To compete against the other world Power, if there were another world Power in competition with us, we would have to employ that second-class Navy, which, the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has told us, must ultimately be scrapped. If there is one thing which has come out of the debate this afternoon, out of the speech of the Foreign Secretary, it is this: that the only thing that we have to depend upon in the future is our congregation of "Dreadnoughts," is our navy of "Dreadnoughts." Against these you have to set the "Dreadnoughts" of Germany, the "Dreadnoughts" of Austria, the "Dreadnoughts" of the United States, and the "Dreadnoughts" of other nations which are building up the new style of navy, the big-ship navy, upon the "Dreadnought" type. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty said in his speech the other night that the ships which we have considered heretofore as being powerful, and as giving us a two-Power standard, must disappear. They must be scrapped. If that is the case we are left with only one vehicle, one engine of power, that is our "Dreadnoughts." As has been pointed out so constantly in the debate to-day, to depend upon a superiority of one ship or of two ships over our competing rival is a reliance upon chance 128 and upon accident which we ought not as a nation to be subjected to. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary this afternoon said that we had a certain means whereby armaments could be reduced, and that is an arrangement between the two Admiralties by which each would give the other information as to their programme, and which would enable each country to regulate its shipbuilding output accordingly. The right hon. Gentleman gave us very little hope that such an arrangement could be entered into between Germany and this country, and in view of the recent negotiations to which the hon. Member for Salford referred, and of the comparative failure of those negotiations, I think we cannot rely upon a possible arrangement between the two Admiralties whereby the output of our shipbuilding yards could be regulated by a common understanding. I have one word more to say. I have listened with great respect to hon. Members opposite, and I hope that in the few words I have to say they will extend to me that courtesy which we on this side have shown to other Members of this House. I have only one word to say, and it is in regard to the Colonial offers and the contribution offered by New Zealand. I do not think the importance of that offer can be overestimated. When you understand the difficulties which Colonial Governments have in making contributions to our Navy at all, when you have in view the fact that they have democratic governments which desire the control of expenditure, I do not think you can overestimate the importance of the offer which New Zealand has made; and I felt that the reply of the Government was not as whole-hearted—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"]—not as whole-hearted as it might have been. I felt that New Zealand had offered, friendly and freely, a gift to the present, and it should have been accepted as a gift to the present. If we need more "Dreadnoughts," then the "Dreadnought" offered by New Zealand, or the two "Dreadnoughts," to my mind should have been accepted frankly and freely for this year and not for next year. It is an unusual thing, I venture to submit to the Prime Minister, that a gift—so important, so significant as made on the part of a Colonial Government, or on the part of any Government—offered to this Government in its time of difficulty should be met with a tentative and conditional reply. I realise as completely as anyone can that if we admit these contributions from the Colonial 129 Governments the whole question is raised as to their voice in the foreign naval and military policy of this country. It is a grave and important question. But grave and important as it is, it can be met, and it will be met, by a full understanding on the part of the Colonial Governments, and by a full understanding on the part of the people of this country that a gift of this sort sets a precedent which cannot possibly be overestimated, and which is as important as was the assistance lent during the South African War. I venture to say that the action of the New Zealand Government represents a stage in the progress of naval defence and the defence of this country and the Empire which we ought to take to heart, and which we ought to value to the utmost. That offer ought to have been met by a frank acceptance not contingent upon any possible accident in the future or upon whether four more "Dreadnoughts" were necessary at all.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I am anxious not to trench unduly upon the limited time which is available to the right hon. Gentleman opposite to say what he has to say in support of this Motion. In any case, I should feel that I have no excuse at this moment for any lengthened intrusion on the attention of the House, inasmuch as the case for the Government has been stated completely, exhaustively, and, as I believe, unanswerably by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. No one, I believe, accuses my right hon. Friend of being what is called a "Little Navy man," nor is there anybody in any quarter of the House who believes that he, in deference to supposed Cabinet exigencies, would lend himself as a party to a compromise which impaired, or could for a moment impair, the most primary and paramount of all national interests. My right hon. Friend defended, as I think if it were necessary I should be prepared to defend, the proposals of the Government in these Navy Estimates, not as a middle course between two extreme views, but upon their merits as being at once the most prudent and effective means of promoting the end which all of us on both sides have in view—namely, the maintenance of Imperial security and the unchallenged continuance of our command of the sea. I have been accused by more than one speaker in the course of the debate—and I think by the hon. Gentleman who made this Motion—of having at any rate contributed by the speech I made here a fortnight ago to create or 130 to inflame a national scare. [An OPPOSITION MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Well, Sir, notwithstanding the cheer of the hon. Member, my conscience is particularly clear in that regard. I said what I did in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, who had, as I thought, in perfectly good faith, but upon information which was not equally perfect, presented an exaggerated view of the situation. I expressly disclaimed any cause for public or national anxiety. It was not a case for anxiety, but a case for precaution. But I should, I think, have been wanting in my duty both to this House and to the country if I had not upon such an occasion pointed out the emergence of two new and grave factors, both of them phenomena of the last 12 months—in the first place, the acceleration, which is not disputed, of the German programme, and in the next place, the enormous increase which has taken place during the same time in the productive capacity for shipbuilding purposes of the German nation. I am not going at this stage of our discussions into any detail in matters of figures. Let me point out once more what the situation will be, so far as it is possible to forecast it, in what has been called the critical month—the month of April, 1912. At that time—I am speaking now of "Dreadnoughts," and "Dreadnoughts" only—we shall in any case have 16 "Dreadnoughts." That is not taking into account the four ships of what I may call the contingent programme. The Germans at that time will certainly have 11; but for the statements which have been made in Germany, and to which of course we are bound to have regard, I should have been disposed to say that they would have 13. They will certainly have 11, they might have 13, and if their rate of production was accelerated in the same way, and to the same extent as it has been, they might conceivably have 17. That is the absolutely outside estimate of the possible potential German strength in "Dreadnoughts in the spring of 1912. We shall, as I have said, in accordance with the actual programme, necessarily have 16, and if the four contingent ships are constructed we shall have 20. Now, Sir, if we have 20 "Dreadnoughts" as against 17, and at the same time possess, as we shall then possess, as I have pointed out before, an enormous preponderance—a preponderance of 40 battleships against 20, with more than double the tonnage in the one case than in the other, and in armoured cruisers a preponderance of somewhere be- 131 tween three and four to one, it is ridiculous for anybody to say that if that programme is carried out this country's superiority over Germany will not be well and adequately maintained.
I said something a moment ago about the German expression of intention—the intention, that is to say—according to Admiral von Tirpitz' statement, which has been repeated to us—that they would not in any case have these 13 "Dreadnoughts" of theirs in commission until near the end of the year 1912. I quite agree that you ought not to build your naval policy upon declarations of intention. There is really no satisfactory way in the long run of dealing with this most deplorable competition in naval shipbuilding except, as my right hon. Friend has told us to-night, either by agreement upon both sides to slacken the rate of construction, or, if that be impossible, at any rate by the grant of reciprocal facilities to authorised persons for the ascertainment of the actual progress of shipbuilding, both in one country and in the other. I am sorry to say that both these ways of escape appear for the time—I trust not permanently—to be blocked. That being so, while we pay every regard to declarations of intention, as I said a moment ago, we cannot build upon them. Hence, having neither of these two ways of escape, we are obliged by the simplest and most elementary requirements of precaution to act as though the present intention of Germany may peradventure be subsequently modified, but to take also into account that their present productive facilities will certainly not be diminished. That is the ground on which the Government have put power into the Naval Estimates of this year to build, if the need arises, what are called the four contingent ships. Now I come—and here again I am only recapitulating what my right hon. Friend said better and at greater length—to the crucial question in this debate. Why, if you contemplate the possibility of building, and for the reasons I have indicated, these four additional ships, do yow not lay them down at once? That was the question put in the very temperate speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion. Surely the answer given by my right hon. Friend is a conclusive answer to that question. In the first place, I think it is clear enough in the speech of my right hon. Friend, but I wish to make it perfectly clear before the House goes to a Division.
132 In the first place, you will gain nothing of any sort or kind by ordering the four ships now instead of waiting until July. They will be no more ready for effective service if ordered now than if ordered then, and in July, when the Shipbuilding Vote comes on, which is the proper occasion to discuss that, we may or may not be better informed than now. At any rate, there will be the additional experience which that intervening time will give. In the meantime, let me point out that what is far more important in the interests of national security than this, you might almost call it, academic laying down of four ships, is that you should increase and put on a permanently satisfactory footing the productive capacity of the country. That is by far the most important matter in the whole of this Naval question. The Government have already taken steps, and will continue to take steps, to secure that our productive facilities in these matters, and not particularly in shipbuilding, in which we are not in the least behind, but in construction of turrets, gun mountings, armaments, and equipments for these new sea monsters, are kept abreast of those of any other country in the world. That is my first answer. That is not merely a matter of sentiment, but a matter of business. My next answer is an equally good one. It has already been anticipated by my right hon. Friend, and it is a very important point which I hope the right hon. Gentleman who follows me will deal with. I foreshadowed it when I spoke a fortnight ago. The very fact that the present German intention is confined, as we are told, to the output of 13 "Dreadnoughts" by the end of the year 1912, coupled, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, with the financial provisions of the Germany Navy law, ought to make us cautious and to hesitate before we commit ourselves to at once laying down a huge batch of "Dreadnoughts" at the present time. There has been constant progress in the development of these original "Dreadnoughts." Even in the present stage of evolution, as the First Lord of the Admiralty told us the other night, the "Dreadnoughts" we are now building are 30 per cent, greater in efficiency than they were originally. That is a process you cannot arrest. It is always going on. There is development and improvement in the amount of displacement, in the horsepower, and in the armaments, and anybody who knows anything of the German nation—their ingenuity, their scientific 133 knowledge, and the intelligent forecast which they often make even in advance of our own industrial efforts and of what are going to be the types of the future—anybody who has any real adequate conception of the extent to which that faculty prevails will, I think, agree with the Government that it is far wiser for us not to commit ourselves at once to laying down eight ships of a type which in two years' time may prove to be totally incapable of meeting the new vessels which are going to be put on the stocks in Germany. The most elementary considerations of business prudence suggests to us that in that respect we should hold our hands. For reasons I have already given, quite apart from that, we lose nothing, and we may gain everything by not committing ourselves at once to the laying down of these ships. How do we stand in regard to the whole of this matter? His Majesty's Government took such steps as they could to bring about something in the nature of an agreement, which, by one means or another, would put a stop, or at least impose a check on both sides, to this lamentable expenditure on the instruments of destruction. These steps have not hitherto met with success. We are therefore, I agree, driven back on the simple duty of taking such precautions, whatever they may cost, as are necessary for our national security and for the maintenance of its only effective safeguard—our naval superiority. For the due performance of that duty we have asked powers of the House of Commons—powers which I believe have never been asked for before—powers which, fully exercised, will meet the requirements of the present year. We have assured the House that if the acceleration in German construction goes on—and they have told us it will not—or if the actual course of things is shrouded in concealment and uncertainty, we shall not hesitate to exercise the powers which the House has given us. That is the situation, and yet the House of Commons is asked to censure us. What does such a proposal mean? It means, and it can only mean, one thing—that the House distrusts either our intelligence or our good faith. It means, to put it in another way, that in the opinion of this House we are not worthy of the responsibility or adequate to the trust which we hold. It means that in the judgment of this House the security of the Empire is not safe in our hands. Now we are getting to the point. It means that you must look else- 134 where. [An HON. MEMBER on the Opposition side "Croydon.] It means that you must look elsewhere for fit and trustworthy custodians of our national safety. That is the issue, and it is for the House to decide.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
This is not a party question. The right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech by a most judicious appeal, if he will allow me to say so, to the party loyalty of his supporters. I take it that there never was an occasion when such an appeal was more required. I do not in the least doubt the response. I do not think that a mere appeal to party loyalty, however appropriate to the occasion, is a substitute for argument. But I am bound to say that on this question not only the House, but the whole country is deeply moved.
I have been accused of advocating the building of more "Dreadnoughts" from a purely party spirit, but when the party opposite has been in Opposition—I have known them in that position, and we may perhaps know them again—I have never known that it was one of the Radical party's characteristics on a vital question to hesitate to move a Vote of Censure on the Government of the day. On this question I have pleaded with the Government for the three years that they have been in power. I will not read extracts from my old speeches, but if any hon. Gentleman will take the trouble to read them he will find that when the Government announced their intention to drop one of the "Dreadnoughts" in 1906 on which they had decided, and my speeches in 1907 and 1908, they will see that I anticipated all the great points which we have now before us—every one of them—the absolute necessity of counting your fleet of the future in "Dreadnoughts," and not in other ships, the rapidity of the Germans in building of "Dreadnoughts," the growth and great increase in the German power of output—all these three points, which are the crucial and critical issues of this controversy, I brought before the House to the best of my ability, and in no party spirit, followed by no party division, year after year. And this year, 1909, when the question has reached what I conceive to be not merely a critical, but a dangerous phase, I waited during three nights' debate for some hope from the Gentlemen who now carry the destinies of the country in their power before I ventured upon the step of asking this House to have a formal debate, to take a formal decision upon a 135 matter in which, I believe, the interests of this country are vitally concerned. Will anyone say that that procedure is one which is of a party type? Never have I, on any question of this kind, said one single word which could either weaken the hands of the Admiralty in providing what I believe to be necessary for the safety of the country upon any great or critical occasion, on any occasion when possibly some great international complication was imminent or perhaps had even occurred. These are the occasions when the patriotism of party are afforded play. These are the occasions upon which men who differ from the Government of the day yet sink their differences lest they should weaken their nation in the eyes of either its actual opponents or its immediate potential opponents. We on this side of the House, at all events, may look back upon our political past and feel we have nothing to reproach ourselves with. I ask, do hon. Members opposite remember the events, as I well do, of 1876 and 1880, and events still more recently, of 1900, and in regard to them, can the party opposite say the same things of themselves? The right hon. Gentleman absolved himself, I think most fairly, from arguing this case, because it had been already argued by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and he—I will not say sheltered himself behind the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, because that would be conveying an imputation which I do not mean to convey—but he accepted as a full statement of the naval case the speech made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs earlier in the evening. It was a very able speech It was a very temperate speech, and with a great deal of that speech, with all of that speech, as far as I can remember, which dealt with foreign affairs, the Department of the right hon. Gentleman, and a great deal of it did deal with foreign affairs, and foreign affairs only—with all that part of his speech I am in hearty agreement. I think he said a great many things which were well worth saying, and he said them extremely well, but where the right hon. Gentleman failed is where he came to the point upon which we are going to divide to-night, which is: the policy of the Government of which he is a distinguished Member, with regard to the provision which they have made, and are in process of making with regard to first class fighting ships of the newer types, 136 When it is boiled down to its essential elements, what is the defence of the right hon. Gentleman, adopted by the Prime Minister? What does it amount to? He says, in the first place, that we ought to have confidence in the Admiralty information.
But, before I tell you what he says, let me call the attention of the House to something which he did not say, and which the Prime Minister himself did not say. They absolutely refused to say one single word about the year 1911 and they refused to say a word about the year 1911, although much against my will, I interrupted the Foreign Secretary, and asked him what he had to say about it. He said absolutely nothing about the relative strength of Germany and of this country in the year 1911, which, I think, was a very grave omission on his part. He told us in his speech that he was not going to treat this question in the ordinary debating fashion—he was not going to put the extreme case on his own side, which, he said, was the way in which the Government usually replied to the Opposition, and he suggested that my hon. Friend near me never had, on his part, put his case in that extremist fashion. From our point of view, that was to do the greatest injustice to my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend did not use figures that he might legitimately have used representing, no doubt, the extreme case—but extreme cases where the safety of the Empire is at stake are permissible—he did not use those figures, but the Government figures from beginning to end. My hon. Friend based every part of his argument, every step of his most admirably reasoned speech, not on figures which we might have legitimately taken, but upon figures which the Government themselves have laid before us. According to the figures which the Government themselves have laid before us, what is the state of things in 1911, that year so mysteriously omitted from the speech of the Foreign Secretary, and so unfortunately left on one side in the complementary speech of the Prime Minister? In 1911, by the Government figures, the majority of the British Navy in these ships of the newest type will be only one "Dreadnought." The superiority of the British Navy over the German Navy—over a single Power—in the year 1911 will be one and one only. When the Foreign Secretary tells us the Government have taken the House into their confidence, and when the Prime 137 Minister follows him, and says he agrees with the complete and perfect statement of the case made by his colleague, why did not they remind the House that under their shipbuilding programme in these ships of the newest type the superiority of Great Britain will be one and one alone, not over two Powers, which I admit would be not unreasonable, having regard to our strength in other ships, but that our strength over a single Power will be one and one alone in these ships of the first class? These are not our figures. They are the figures of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Why was not a word whispered of this when an appeal was made to the confidence of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to trust to the Government and their powers of safeguarding national interests? I am aware what their reply is. They have made no reply this afternoon. So far as they have ever made a reply, what is their argument? It is that our superiority is insignificant and almost negligible in the matter of "Dreadnoughts," but it is so great and overwhelming in the matter of other ships that we need be under no anxiety. Has any answer been attempted to the argument which the hon. Member for Fareham gave upon this point, admirably put, as I thought, and reinforced by my noble Friend behind me the Member for Marylebone later in the debate? After all the theory of this country, irrespective of party, has been that we should have a two-Power standard. If you got into difficulties—and Heaven forbid that we should—I hope there is no prospect of it, I do not see a cloud even the size of a man's hand—which should two years hence involve us in complications with more than one Power, and if you find yourself practically with little or no margin of superiority in this, the most important type of ship, do you think that you can truly say in the language of the Prime Minister that our superiority at sea is not only unchallenged but unchallengeable? I am afraid you could say nothing of the kind, and I do not see that under the plan of the Government our prospect is necessarily going to be much better in later years.
Of course, I admit that when you get I beyond 1911 you are involved in a mist of I hypotheses which may well confuse the issue, because you do not know, and you cannot know, how much the Germans I mean to do. You know what their present intentions are, because they have told you, and I have not the least intention, I need hardly say, of throwing discredit upon 138 their declaration of intention, but you have not the least idea what they are going to build. All you know is what they could build, and if they use their building power to its undoubted and admitted capacity their position in 1912 and afterwards is as perilous, as by admission it is, in regard to first-class ships—our superiority is as small—I will put it in that way—as by admission it is in 1911. I only want to argue this fairly, and I understand that the First Lord of the Admiralty dissents from it. Does he say this superiority in first-class battleships, I mean in ships of the "Dreadnought" type, in 1911, is more than one?
§ Mr. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman said on March 18th—he will find it in the Official Report, in col. 1277—that Germany will have 11 ships in April, 1911, and we shall only have 12.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The German Government have since explained that they will I not have 13 ships in commission until the end of 1912. These figures that I gave them referred to ships in commission. It appears certain now that the German ships will not be ready for trial before that date. If you take off the time for going on trial we shall at every point in 1911, even on the figures which I gave before, have a superiority of three.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I understood that this is the Government in whose naval forecasts we are to have absolute confidence. It was in March, 1910. If anybody wishes to look for the reference he will find it in col. 956 of the official report. The Prime Minister observed that their calculations of German strength had been very carefully made. It was on that same day, col. 959, that the Prime Minister observed that he quite agreed that Germany might have 11 ships by May, 1911.
§ Mr. McKENNA
May I interrupt again? These ships on our calculations would be complete for trials. On that same date we should have 14 ships completed for trials.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
The safety of this country for 1911 is to depend upon the distinction between a ship which is ready for trial and a ship which is ready for commission. I think that the right hon. Gentleman who interrupted me 139 most courteously and appropriately must admit that his interruption has left us with these two conclusions: In the first place that when the Government spoke only a week ago upon the Navy Estimates they did not really know the condition of the German preparations. That is the first conclusion. The second conclusion is that even on the hypothesis that they are now inclined, on the authority of the German Government, to adopt, their preparations for safety for 1911 are of the most shadowy and illusory character. May I interpolate this observation. These speeches were made by the Government in March on the Navy Estimates. One would almost suppose from what the Prime Minister said that it is an inappropriate date on which to deal with the building programme of the country. But it is the proper time. The Secretary of State appeared to think that we ought to reserve our discussion of the amount of the Shipbuilding Vote until we came to Vote 8. It is quite wrong. It is perfectly true that in July, 1906, on that Vote, I made the speech to which I have already ventured to call the attention of the House, but that was because on that Vote the Government declared an alteration in the policy which they had announced in March. The proper time for dealing with your general programme is not on the Building Vote, for the most appropriate discussion as to the type of ship—the proper time is when the House is asked to survey its Naval policy—that is your Vote A and 1. May I just ask the Government what are the grounds—we have seen how much confidence is to be placed in the Government with regard to 1911—and we are asked to give them, with that lesson before us, absolute carte blanche for 1912. And it was an appeal for 1912–1911 being most judiciously omitted—it was on an appeal for confidence with regard to 1912 that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister turned to their followers below the Gangway, and asked for their support. Why are we to give them that support? We are told that we ought to have great confidence in Admiralty information. What ground did the Foreign Secretary give for having confidence in Admiralty information? He had to admit that the Admiralty information had been wrong. He had to admit that all the statements made—or a great many of the statements made—by the Government with regard to Ger- 140 man anticipation of the 1909 programme, a week or ten days ago, were incorrect. [Cries of dissent.] Is that denied? [Cries of "Yes."] Very well, though I do not know that hon. Members gain very much by these denials. This is the second denial of statements I have made. What did they tell us with regard to the German anticipation of the 1909 programme? They told us—I am not sure that they were absolutely consistent in their statements—at all events, in many of their statements—that materials and preparations were not made with regard to these four ships, and that of these ships, one certainly had been laid down, another possibly. That was their statement. Is that their statement now? [Cries of "Yes."] Well, it is not the statement of the Foreign Secretary.
§ Sir EDWARD GREY
What I said was, orders had been promised in advance to two firms. That left it open to the firms to begin work if they pleased. I expressly mentioned qualifications, and said that it was possible that within the four corners of that German statement the turrets and other things had been prepared, without giving definite orders for ships.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Yes; but the statement I made was that 10 days ago the Government gave us wrong information. Now we know exactly what they believe at the present time. What they believe at the present time is that orders were given to two firms, subject, of course, obviously, and inevitably, to the assent of the Reichstag, that they should build certain ships.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
"Had been said," exactly. That is what the Prime Minister said on 16th March.
"It is undoubtedly the case," col. 961, as I am always being contradictedI speak with as much reserve as I can about it, because I want to keep strictly within the verifiable truth—that during the autumn of last year there was an anticipation with four ships which belonged to the German programme of 1990–10 in the sense that orders were given, materials collected, and it may be that in one or two cases, possibly in more ships were actually laid down.Very well. Now I put it to any impartial Member of the House—[MINISTERIAL laughter.]—I quite understand the House laughing, there must be very few; still, at any rate, there should be some—I put it to them whether those two statements are identical. The first was that orders, hypothetical orders, were given to two firms; the other was that one ship was laid down; another ship was possibly laid 141 down, and the materials were collected for two more. These statements were regarded as not being inconsistent. I will not press the point further. I do not imagine that any Gentleman, if he had heard the first statement ten days ago, would have felt the disquiet with which he heard the other statement. After all, I need not dispute with hon. Gentlemen opposite whether the Admiralty are always right in their information. The Foreign Secretary told us they were not. What is the use of arguing on the point when the Foreign Secretary admits it?
§ Mr. BALFOUR
It was not your point, it was your statement. I imagine the right hon. Gentleman's point was that though the Admiralty erred, they always erred on the side of the National safety. ["Oh, oh."] Yes, yes, but they erred. Do not suppose that I am using that admission of the Foreign Secretary as a criticism of the Admiralty. I am not using it so. [Cries of "Oh."] I am not. If hon. Gentlemen wait a moment they will see what I am using it for. I am using it for a much more important purpose. It is that I do not believe it is in the power of the Admiralty or of any organisation—however well constituted, to know with certainty and security what is going on in Germany. You are told the Admiralty cannot know; of course they cannot know. What is the deduction from that? The deduction from that' is that it is perfect madness, from the national point of view, to depend for your national safety on a small margin. Now I want to go to the real essence, and the real issue on this great question. The Government are depending upon small margins. Although their information is, by admission, inaccurate, and necessarily inaccurate, although they know that the capacity of Germany for building is as great as our own, and that we cannot be sure what they are doing, yet the Government depend upon a margin of one in this year, a margin of two in the other year, and a margin of three in the third year. Is that the way national Interests should be treated? The right hon. Gentleman asks us to wait until July, when the Government will consider what the necessities of the situation are. Sir, the necessities of the situation are undoubted and immediate, and you have not got to wait till July to know them. What is the plan of the Government? The plan of the Government is to build four ships, 142 and do nothing but prepare four ships another year. How long does it take to prepare four ships for the year 1910? The right hon. Gentleman suggests in his Memorandum that the amount of time is three months, but I give him four. Therefore, it is no use ordering your ships on these Estimates until the end of November, the beginning of December, or the beginning of January next. What we say is that you ought to have the power to build these four extra ships at once. But you have not got them, and by your Estimates you cannot get them. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, we have given directions to the contractors to do what is more important than ordering ships, namely, to prepare the plant for the gun-mountings and all those lengthy and costly operations which are necessary before a ship is completed." When did the Government come to the conclusion that these new preparations must be made? The Government knew in November last that the Germans had ante-dated their orders. I should have thought that the most common prudence would have enjoined upon the Government the necessity of telling the great contractors in this country that they must be prepared for larger orders. Did they do that in December? Did they do it in January? Did they do it in February, or did they do it in March? Why, Sir, I do not believe the Government did it till the Vote of Censure was on the Table.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman has made a most serious statement and I take this opportunity of saying that it is absolutely without any foundation in fact. The orders were given in January. [Cries of "Withdraw, withdraw!"]
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that in January the great manufacturers who deal with gun-mountings were informed by the Government that they must make preparations for a large additional output of gunmountings? Does the right hon. Gentleman say that?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes. The arrangements were made—I cannot say the exact day, because I have not the papers here; but, according to my recollection, we had a Committee on the subject in the Cabinet, the whole matter was gone into most carefully, the contractors came before us, we entered into a full investigation of the situation with them, and the arrangements were made. [Cries of "Withdraw."]
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Of course I accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. But I am bound to say—I should not be behaving candidly to the House if I did not—that I saw one of the great contractors only three days ago, and he had received no such notice. ["Name!"] I will give the name to the Government. ["Name!"] I am perfectly willing to give the name to the Prime Minister or the First Lord of the Admiralty. But may I say here we have the Government always coming down and telling us that they are treating us with the fullest confidence in the matter, and that every important and material circumstance in regard to this most critical affair has been laid before the House. By their own admission—I agree with them—this is one of the most important and critical affairs, and it has never been brought before us at all until the Vote of Censure came on. We had three days' debate on the appropriate occasion when the Estimates were before us, and not one word was breathed of the fact that the Government immediately after—as I understand it now—or at any rate six weeks or two months after they heard of the German anticipation, gave notice to our great contractors that they were to prepare the plant necessary for the gun-mountings, turrets, and all those matters which are notoriously always the longest and most difficult parts of great ships of war to bring to completion. What I say is that if the Government knew of this on the Navy Estimates, they ought undoubtedly to have brought it before us, because unquestionably the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was quite right when he said that that was the most important announcement, or the most important statement, he had to make in regard to our preparedness for meeting the shipbuilding programme of any rival power; but we have heard it to-night, and to-night for the first time.
The minutes at my disposal are drawing to a close, and I certainly do not wish to trespass unduly upon the time of the House. May I say this in conclusion? Even by the Government's own admission, taking every fact as they would have it, treating all their information as absolutely accurate, looking forward with the sanguine forecast with which they look forward to the building programmes of other nations, I say they are working on too small a margin of naval strength. Undoubtedly it is a far smaller margin 144 than we have been accustomed to in the past, and it is a margin which we are using: in a time when a far greater strain may be put upon our naval and military resources than the whole history of our country for a hundred years shows. My critics below the Gangway, perhaps, will not admit it, but I say that I have never been an undue alarmist about these questions of invasion, but I do say that, whether your position is good or bad, it is now undoubtedly worse than it has been for generations, and that because it is worse, for that very reason, you require a larger margin of naval strength. I say in the second place, that you cannot allow, and that you ought not to allow, what you are going to allow, a steady relative diminution—I am not talking of the absolute strength of the two Navies—in the strength of this country compared with either the two-Power standard or the one-Power standard to go progressively on without, as the process goes on, diminishing the credit and increasing the alarm of the great productive and commercial classes of this country. We have carried on our great industrial work in the absolute certainly and security that the fleet is going to guard our shores. Whether the fleet will be sufficient in 1911, 1912, 1913, and so on, for the moment, I put aside, because all must admit that if the fleet be sufficient, it is, at all events, far less sufficient than it has been in the past. The relative strength may be enough, but it is a diminishing strength, and I defy you to have that diminishing strength with the country keenly alive to the dangers before it without inflicting a great blow on that feeling of security which, after all, is the basis of all enterprise in this country.
There is only one other observation with which I will trouble the House. Much has been done in the last twenty years, chiefly by this country, and I am glad to think with general assent, not a little by the party to which I belong to introduce a system of arbitration by which countries who do not mean to quarrel, and do not wish to quarrel, may have those inevitable differences that must arise from time to time amicably and honourably settled without the amour propre of either I side being in the least affected. These | are adequate for this purpose, but not; adequate to keep the peace of the world if there is ambition on the part of any State whatever, not aroused by those small differences, but dominated by larger ambitions, and more widely extended views. The only security in that case is the 145 security of the law of Europe—the security of those treaties by which the less powerful States may feel that though they be less powerful, they nevertheless are members of a civilised community of nations to whom they can appeal, and appeal with security to the law of Europe, which is above them all. Will any man say that that public law has been strengthened in the last few years, the last few months, or even the last few days? I grieve to say that, so far as I can observe the tendency of public affairs, that which is ultimately the great basis, although I am afraid I shall not live to see it, of peace and security among civilised societies—that great organisation of the public law of Europe—shows signs not of strengthening and growing, but of weakening and fading away. In these circumstances more than all others it behoves the country which has been at all times desirous of peace, whose first interests are peace, whose great desire is to see some peaceful quality among the great nations of Europe—I say it behoves it at this
§ time, above all other times, to see that its Navy, which is an organ of peace, shall be beyond all precedent and beyond all doubt the greatest in the world. It is because I cannot make out after all the explanations of the Government; it is because I cannot believe after surveying their policy of the last three years; it is because I cannot think after being brought as an unwilling confidant into the Cabinet quarrels, that in them this great trust can be securely reposed that without doubt and without questioning I shall ask you, Mr. Speaker, to put the question from the chair, and shall undoubtedly vote for the Motion.
§ Question put: "That in the opinion of this House the declared policy of His Majesty's Government respecting the immediate provision of battleships of the newest type does not sufficiently secure the safety of the Empire."
§ The House divided. Ayes, 135; Noes, 353.149
|Division No. 42.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Forster, Henry William||Morrison-Bell, Captain|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Gardner, Ernest||Newdegate, F. N.|
|Ashley, W. W.||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham)||Oddy, John James|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gordon, J.||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.)||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gretton, John||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Baring, Capt. Hon. G. (Winchester)||Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston)||Peel, Hon. W. R. W.|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Guinness, W. E. (Bury St. Edmunds)||Percy, Earl|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Haddock, George B.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hamilton, Marquess of||Pretyman, E. G.|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Heaton, John Henniker||Renton, Leslie|
|Bull, Sir William James||Helmsley, Viscount||Renwick, George|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hill, Sir Clement||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Hills, J. W.||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Houston, Robert Paterson||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hunt, Rowland||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Cave, George||Joynson-Hicks, William||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebane, E.)||Kerry, Earl of||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Wor'c.)||Keswick, William||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Clark, George Smith||Kimber, Sir Henry||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Kincaid-Smith, Captain M.||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Coates, Major E. F. (Lewisham)||King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)||Stanier, Beville|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E.||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Starkey, John R.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Staveley-Hlll, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham)||Talbot, Rt. Hon. J. G. (Oxford Univ.)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Long, Col. Charles W, (Evesham)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott-||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred. Dixon||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Doughty, Sir George||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||M'Arthur, Charles||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Du Cros, Arthur||Magnus, Sir Philip||Winterton, Earl|
|Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Faber, George Denison (York)||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Fader, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Mlddlemore, John Throgmorton||Younger, George|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Fell, Arthur||Moore, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir A. Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.|
|Fletcher, J. S.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jackson, R. S.|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Jardine, Sir J.|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Jenkins, J.|
|Agnew, George William||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)|
|Alden, Percy||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Dobson, Thomas W.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Duckworth, Sir James||Jowett, F. W.|
|Armitage, R.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Kearley, Sir Hudson E.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Kekewich, Sir George|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)|
|Astbury, John Meir||Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)||Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster)|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lambert, George|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Lamont, Norman|
|Barker, Sir John||Erskine, David C.||Langley, Batty|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Essex, R. W.||Layland-Barett, Sir Francis|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Esslemont, George Birnie||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.)|
|Barnard, E. B.||Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Everett, R. Lacey||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Barran, Sir John Nicholson||Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Falconer, J.||Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral)|
|Beale, W. P.||Fenwick, Charles||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Beauchamp, E.||Ferens, T. R.||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Findlay, Alexander||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Bell, Richard||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Lupton, Arnold|
|Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R.||Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport)||Fuller, John Michael F.||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Furness, Sir Christopher||Lynch, H. B.|
|Bennett, E. N.||Gibb, James (Harrow)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Gill, A. H.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Bertram, Julius||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Mackarness, Frederic C.|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)||Glen-Coats, Sir T. (Renfrew, W.)||Maclean, Donald|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Glendinning, R. G.||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Glover, Thomas||M'Cullum, John M.|
|Black, Arthur W.||Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||M'Crae, Sir George|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Grant, Corrie||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Greenwood, Hamar (York)||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)|
|Branch, James||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||M'Micking, Major G.|
|Brigg, John||Griffith, Ellis J.||Maddison, Frederick|
|Bright, J. A.||Grove, Archibald||Mallet, Charles E.|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Manfield, Harry (Northants)|
|Brodie, H. C.||Gulland, John W.||Mansfield, H. Rendall (Lincoln)|
|Brooke, Stopford||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Hall, Frederick||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)|
|Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Marnham, F. J.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)|
|Buchanan, Rt. Hon. Thomas R.||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Massie, J.|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester)||Masterman, C. F. G.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-sh.)||Menzies, Walter|
|Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Hart-Davies, T.||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Middlebrook, William|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Harwood, George||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Byles, William Pollard||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Mond, A.|
|Cameron, Robert||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Money, L. G. Chiozza-|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Haworth, Arthur A.||Montagu, Hon E. S.|
|Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Hazel, Dr. A. E. W.||Montgomery, H. G.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Hedges, A. Paget||Morgan, G. Kay (Cornwall)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Helme, Norval Watson||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Morrell, Philip|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Henry, Charles S.||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||Myer, Horation|
|Clough, William||Higham, John Sharp||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Hobart, Sir Robert||Nicholls, George|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W.)||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Nicholson. Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Hodge, John||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Cooper, G. J.||Holden, E. Hopkinson||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Holland, Sir William Henry||Nussey, Thomas Williams|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Holt, Richard Durning||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Hooper, A. G.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Hope, W. H. B. (Somerset, N.)||Partington, Oswald|
|Cox, Harold||Horniman, Emslie John||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Horridge, Thomas Gardner||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Crossley, William J.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Hudson, Walter||Perks, Sir Robert William|
|Dalziel, Sir James Henry||Hutton, Alfred Eddison||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Hyde, Clarendon G.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Idris, T. H. W.||Pirie, Duncan|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Pollard, Dr. G. H.|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Sherwell, Arthur James||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Priestley, W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Silcock, Thomas Ball||Wardle, George J.|
|Pullar, Sir Robert||Simon, John Allsebrook||Waring, Walter|
|Radford, G. H.||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Rainy, A. Rolland||Snowden, P.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Raphael, Herbert H.||Soares, Ernest J.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Spicer, Sir Albert||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Stanger, H. Y.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N.W.)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Stanley, Hon. A. Lyulph (Cheshire)||Whitbread, S. Howard|
|Ridsdale, E. A.||Steadman, W. C.||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)||Strachey, Sir Edward||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Robinson, S.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)||Williams, A. Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)||Williamson, A.|
|Rogers, F. E. Newman||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)||Wills, Arthur Waiters|
|Rose, Charles Day||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Rowlands, J.||Thomasson, Franklin||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E.)||Wilson, J. H. (Middtesborough)|
|Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Tomkinson, James||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Toutmin, George||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Winfrey, R.|
|Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)||Ure, Alexander||Wodehouse, Lord|
|Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Verney, F. W.||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Sears, J. E.||Villiers, Ernest Amherst||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Seaverns, J. H.||Vivian, Henry|
|Seddon, J.||Wadsworth, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Joseph Pease and the Master of Elibank.|
|Seely, Colonel||Walters, John Tudor|
|Shaw, Sir Charles Edward (Stafford)||Walton, Joseph|