§ [CLASS 8, SEC. I.]
§ [The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley) in the Chair.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ (IN THE COMMITTEE.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £3,444,100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Personnel for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc., including the cost of Establishments of Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911."
§ Mr. DILLON
I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by a sum of £2,000,000. This Vote shows an increase of £4,635,000 over the Estimates of last year. I do not think that the Government expect that the House will vote this money without a protest from those of us who condemn and abhor this policy which has led to this monstrous increase. I have therefore put down this Motion to reduce this Vote by £2,000,000. That may appear to some hon. Members to be an excessive proposal, but I would ask hon. Members what the effect of that reduction would be. The effect would simply be to postpone the completion of some of this monstrous programme of ironclads which is now submitted to the House. Whether that be contract work, as most of them are, or dockyard work, the only effect of reducing the Vote for this year by £2,000,000 would be to postpone the period at which the ships would be completed.
I think I shall be able to show that that would not in any way, even on the most extravagant supposition, endanger the safety of the country. Some of us who have sat through all the Debates on the Navy Estimates during the last three years, and, having studied all the information available on the subject, have come to the conclusion that, neither in the statements nor in the speeches of Ministers nor in any publications open to the public, has there been any substantial justification for the monstrous increase now proposed. That brings me to the question of expert knowledge as against outside ignorant opinion 622 on this subject. I know from long experience that, in Debates in Committee of Supply, we laymen and outsiders, who from the nature of the case can have no special skilled knowledge on naval or military affairs, are always liable to be attacked by the naval and military experts who are so numerous in this House—I am not quite sure that it would not be to the benefit of the House, if they were not quite so numerous—and we are liable to be looked upon as outside ignoramuses who know nothing about the necessities of the case. I have deeply regretted to see, both in the form of the House and in the character of recent Debates, a very powerful tendency to increase the influence of experts in regard to the amount of the Estimates. This matter touches a profound constitutional question. The government of England for upwards of 200 years has been a civil Government, and the very essence of English government is that the experts of the Army and of the Navy must submit their opinion to the Civil Government of the country. I am sorry to say that in my opinion, speaking as an old Member of the House, who has watched these matters as well as an outsider can watch them, and having no expert knowledge on the question, there is a growing tendency to flourish in the face of the House of Commons the opinion of Boards of Admiralty and of Army Boards. In recent Debates Ministers have constantly been asked, "Is this the opinion of the Allay Board or of the Navy Board?" "Have they consented to the Estimates being kept so low?"
What I have stated is a fundamental principle of British Government and of all free Governments, and if you once surrender the control of the Estimates to Army or Navy experts, good-bye to economy or social reform. On this question of expert advice and opinion, and of expert intimidation of this House—because that is what it has come to—I could quote very high authorities, to whom hon. Members above the Gangway ought to listen with respect. The late Lord Salisbury was a great Tory Minister, but he was also a great peace Minister. What did he say on the question of experts? I was recently reading a book which I have frequently studied, namely, Lord Cromer's great book on Egypt, in which are given some of the most interesting extracts I have ever read from the private correspondence of Lord Salisbury. In a private letter to Lord Cromer, Lord Salisbury used these words, "Do not listen too 623 much to the soldiers; they would insist upon our garrisoning the moon to protect us against an attack from Mars." That was the opinion of Lord Salisbury on uncontrolled experts. [AN HON. MEMBER: "They were soldiers."] Does the hon. Member think that the Navy experts are philosophers? Are they impeccable any more than the Army experts? It is their métier. They are so wrapped up in their own profession that they think we civilians exist for no other purpose but to provide funds for the Army or the Navy. I do not complain of that. We all admire these gentlemen, their courage, and their skill; but after all we must claim the right of citizens who have to bear the burden of taxation. I might give one other illustration on this point. About three months ago we had a very interesting Debate on Somaliland, when the experts on foreign affairs, who have now made their way into this House, and the military experts, declared that we ought to send an expedition to Somaliland, at a cost of about a million of money, otherwise the whole prestige of England would be lowered in the dust.
We did not engage in that expedition, to the horror and despair of Lord Curzon and of the experts above the Gangway; but nothing particular has happened except that peace and contentment have settled down on that unfortunate country.
The total increase in the Navy Estimates this year is £5,464,700—an appalling sum. The increase last year over the Estimates for 1908–9 was £2,823,000. The automatic increase next year I put at a minimum of £3,000,000. My own opinion is that I am greatly under-estimating the amount, and that the automatic increase arising from the enormous and unparalleled programme of this year will be far in excess of £3,000,000. But putting it at £3,000,000, what will be the result? That within three years of Liberal Government the Navy Estimates will have been increased by close upon £12,000,000—an increase unparalleled in the history of the country. There is this sinister aspect of the question. Does that increase satisfy the Imperialists, the jingoes, and the experts? Not a bit. We had an opportunity of judging of that in this morning's paper. Last night there was a sinister conjunction of stars of ill-omen at a banquet in the City of London, presided over by Rudyard Kipling, with my gallant countryman (Lord C. Beresford) as chief speaker. They 624 wiped their boots, metaphorically speaking, on the Government, and this miserable increase of £12,000,000 a year was a fleabite utterly unworthy of notice. The Noble Lord, in his speech last March, said "Forty millions? Absurd! Preposterous! Next year it will have to be £60,000,000, or the country is lost."
§ Mr. DILLON
Then the year after, £60,000,000. I say that these enormous Estimates, so far from satisfying the experts and Imperialists, only minister to their appetite, and their appetite increases by what it feeds on. Take the famous memorial presented to the Prime Minister in the joy of their hearts, by the flag officers:—The appeal … has now the public endorsement of no less than 247 flag and general officers, who all thus concur in affirming their conviction that 'National danger does threaten, and that the need of special effort to meet it is urgent.'What did they say then—It will, we think, he generally recognised that no such weight of expert authority has ever before been attached to any communication touching the national safety…4.0 P.M.
It "constitutes a new factor in the situation," and they proceed to say that unless we borrow £100,000,000 in addition to this enormous increase—not as a substitute for it—the country is in imminent danger. And that is the opinion of 247 flag captains. Having had the opinion of 247 flag captains—[An HON. MEMBER: "Flag officers."] That is still more important; they are flag officers. Having, I say, had the opinion of 247 flag officers, what is the use of hurling at our heads Boards of Admiralty and Army Boards? I might go on for a long time giving the authority of experts, but I will only add one more authority, and a very great authority, that is Lord Roberts. What does he say? He declared in a speech in November last year—a speech I have frequently studied:—All the money you spend on the fleet is no use because the fleet may be avoided, may be sent to sonic other part of the world; and unless you build up a great army which is prepared to defend England against the German army and is equal to meet the German army, your fleet is no use at all.That is the thing to which this country is going to be committed if these experts have their way, because—and I speak in all seriousness—can any man imagine that the result of these Estimates are the unbiassed, the uninfluenced, and, I would almost say, the uncoerced opinion of Liberal Ministers? We all know they are not. No matter what statement is made 625 to this House, they are the result of a kind of compromise of what we used to call at school in our youth "the resultant of forces." This, as a term in the statics of finance, indicates the result of the struggle of the Liberal Cabinet and the irresistible pressure of the board of experts. If you are going to be guided by experts what do you eventually find? That it is perfectly impossible to get the experts to agree. I have read and studied all the recognised great experts upon this subject. What do I find? That some of the very greatest experts say that these great and enormous ironclads, costing a couple of millions each, are useless in the North Sea, and that the true way to meet the German invasion—the only true and safe way—is by a swarm of torpedo boats and submarines, and that when you come to defend these coasts you will find these great ironclads of no use at all.
Let us turn for one moment before I deal with the attempt to justify this expenditure to the effect upon the general well-being of this country of this enormous and bloated naval expenditure. We have all heard with great interest and great hope the promises held out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to social reform. We want more money for education. We in Ireland have been waiting for some years to get money for education, which is in a retrograde condition. We have heard about invalidity insurance and other points of that kind. Where is the money to come from? If there is going to be, as seems likely, an automatic further increase of £3,000,000 next year on the Navy, then I do not know where the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to get his money from to carry out these reforms without piling on great taxes. Let me turn to the attempt that has been made to justify this extraordinary increase, because, as we all remember, the one attempt to justify it has been on the score of national safety and national defence. The Navy Estimates for 1909–10 were introduced by the present First Lord of the Admiralty in a speech of a character more extraordinary than was ever made by an English Minister on such an occasion. The chief feature of that speech, which will be in the memory of most hon. Members who are listening to me, was this: The whole programme, the whole argument, was directed against one European Power, a thing which I do not think has occurred in England since the famous days of the French scare, which led to a waste of £11,000,000. It was absolutely grotesque and laughable. But after 626 all the waste was only £11,000,000. The direction given by that speech in the Debate which introduced the Navy Estimates last year, and to subsequent Debates, was in my opinion most uncalled-for and mischievous in the highest degree. Hon. Members will recollect that the main point which governed the whole of that Debate and the arguments which took place was the question as to whether four or eight great battleships should be laid down. Can anyone who listened to that Debate and subsequent Debates say honestly for a single moment that had it not been for the strong statement made as to the action of Germany in secret—and I lay stress upon that word—secretly accelerating her naval construction, the House would for one single moment have listened to that proposal that four additional ironclads should be laid down? One thing I can say for an absolute certainty. The Liberal party would not have listened to it. On 16th March, 1909, the First Lord introduced the Navy Estimates. The increase of the Navy Vote was £2,823,000 for this present year. To justify that increase the First Lord, in a speech which caused an immediate and violent panic in this House, and throughout the country—a violent panic I say—used language which, in my opinion, was entirely unjustified, even if the facts on which the speech was based were correct, well-founded, and true. I do not think it was a wise thing, I always thought it was an unwise thing, for a Minister of the Crown to come down and make a speech raising a violent panic against a neighbouring Power, with which we are at peace, which created the greatest amount of irritation and alarm in that neighbourhing Power. As we know now, the statement, the facts, were absolutely without foundation. I do not think it will be possible to use language sufficiently strong to condemn the character of that speech. Let me give one or two short extracts from it. The whole point, as I said, was whether four or eight ships should be laid down. No one raised much objection to laying down battleships last year. That was really not seriously in dispute. But here is the first sentence that I desire to quote from the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty on 16th March, 1909:—I will deal afterwards with the earlier types of ships and I will endeavour to lay before the House the view of the Board of Admiralty with regard to the value of these ships in the computation of relative warlike strength in 1912 and later years, for that is the period which we have to bear in mind when considering our present programme.627 He never did it. I have put several questions to him, but the right hon. Gentleman has never given an authoritative statement to the House as to the opinion of the experts as to the fighting value of these immense floating battleships. The First Lord of the Admiralty continued:—The difficulty in which the Government finds itself placed at this moment is that we do not know, as we thought we did, the rate at which German construction is taking place." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1909, cols. 933, 934, 936.]This most ill-judged sentence started the panic. I do not wonder that, coming from a responsible Minister of the Crown, a statement of that kind should raise it. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:—The German law provides for four more ships to be laid down in 1910–11. If the construction of these ships were to be accelerated, I understand the four ships of the 1909–10 programme would be completed by April, 1912, and at that date Germany would have seventeen Dreadnoughts' and Invincibles.' But even if no acceleration takes place before April, 1910, this number would be completed in the autumn of 1912... The Board of Admiralty must be in a position—Now mark these words:—if the necessity arisesBecause the whole argument turns upon that:—to give orders for guns, gun-mountings, and armour and for materials at such a time and to such an amount as will enable them to obtain delivery of four more large armoured ships by March, 1912. We shall be prepared to meet the contingency of Germany having seventeen of these ships in the spring of 1912 by our having twenty, and we can only meet that contingency if the Government are empowered by Parliament to give the necessary orders in the course of the present financial year.This was a contingency that has never arisen from that day to this. When these Estimates were submitted I maintain that the First Lord of the Admiralty gave an undertaking to the House that in the event of it being ascertained that Germany was not accelerating her programme, that the four additional ships should not be laid down. Of course, I need hardly say that the Opposition improved upon this from the Government Benches. Here is an extract from the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) said:—Then we shall have fourteen, but in the meanwhile the Germans, if they build their four ships this year, in addition to the anticipated ships they laid down in November, they will have seventeen, as I understand. We should still have fourteen in July, 1911.It shows the insane recklessness of those who are called statesmen. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"] Yes, I repeat the words. For a responsible statesman to get up in his place and amidst a scene of panic declare 628 —and stick to the declaration—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Well, I do not think I am exaggerating the scene in the House in March of last year. At all events, there was a wild panic on these benches, because the Leader of the Opposition said:—Germany will have seventeen of these great Dreadnoughts' in July, 1911, and we shall only have fourteen.The Debate proceeded:—The Prime Minister: In July, 1911?Mr. Balfour: Yes. Of course, that depends on what they lay down this year. It is admitted on all hands that they will have thirteen in 1911.Mr. Churchill: No, no.Mr. Balfour: Yes, that is right. There is no doubt they will have thirteen on 1st April, 1911.Mr. McKenna: My own opinion is that they will have thirteen completed in August, 1911—Remember this date—They will not have thirteen completed in April, 1911. "Mr. Balfour: Therefore I say I was right in my original estimate that we have to count on the possibility of there being seventeen 'Dreadnoughts' to our fourteen in July, 1911, and that even when the two ships laid down next November are built, we shall then he only sixteen 'Dreadnoughts' to the German seventeen, And then if the Germans go on at the rate, which is more than possible, the probability is that they will have on 1st April, 1912, twenty-one 'Dreadnoughts' to our twenty." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1909, cols. 950, 952, 959.]Is there a single man in the House who will stand behind these words? Not one! The language was laughable and absurd.
Well now I come to the intervention of the Prime Minister in the Debate. Here is what he said:—Well, call it March. By that time the Germans will have nine. I am giving the Admiralty computation. That is the Admiralty estimate. By that same month of March the Germans will have nine. I quite agree two months later they may have eleven, but coming to the month of August, 1911, when our programme of this year comes into force, with the first two ships laid down in July, we shall then have fourteen, and in November, 1911, the other two ships laid down in November of this year, having become living entities, we shall have sixteen against thirteen. That is our computation….The Prime Minister went on to say—and I must say that it is an enormously important point, which has been dropped to a large extent out of these Debates:—But I must say, and it is fair and right to the German Government that I should say it, that we have had a most distinct declaration from them that it is not their intention to accelerate their programme, and we cannot possibly as a Government, believing as we do most implicitly in the good faith of those declarations, put before the House of Commons and Parliament a programme based on the assumption that a declaration of that kind will not be carried out….The Prime Minister continued:—We have been told by them expressly and explicitly that that is their intention—an intention not to accelerate, or, in other words, not to do what the right hon. Gentlemen contemplates—what he credits them with …629I said seventeen was a possibility, thirteen is a certainty. It is because seventeen is a possibility that we are taking this power, otherwise we should not take it at all. It is a possibility against which we may have to contend, and we take the power." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1909, cols. 959, 960, 961.]Now I put a question to the Prime Minister: Has that possibility not since been proved to be an impossibility; and, if so, how can he and the present Liberal Government, with any decency in the face of Germany, after that declaration of the good faith on the part of Germany, if she has observed her part in not accelerating her programme, defend his action in laying down these four additional ships? We have the words of the Prime Minister—they are known to Germany—that if Germany did not accelerate her programme these ships would not be required. I pass now to the Vote of Censure.
On 29th March last the Opposition moved a Vote of Censure upon the Government—and let me here call attention to what I believe to be the greatest danger to which this country is exposed, and that is the abominable kind of talk about taking the Army and Navy out of party politics. Party politics are the only instrument by which the views of the people of this country can be made felt, and if you take the Army and Navy and the politics of foreign affairs out of party politics, you leave yourselves entirely in the control of the officials. That is the reason why some gentlemen are so eloquent and vehement in their desire to take these great Departments of the State out of the region of party politics. I warn the Radical Members of this House if they take foreign politics and the Army and Navy out of the region of party politics, they will have very little left in party politics. I come now to the Vote of Censure, and it is a good illustration by the way as to how gentlemen on the Opposition side apply their principles when they think they have the Liberal Government in a difficulty. Here is an extract from the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Arthur H. Lee), who moved the Vote of Censure. He said:—It is quite true that the figures of thirteen to ten, in 1911, will not be realised if the Germans should choose to dawdle over their construction; but it is exceedingly probable that they will have eleven ships to our ten at that period, and no one disputes—not even their Government—that they will have nine ships to our ten at that period. The Government further admit that the Germans will have eleven ships to our twelve in April, 1911, and they will have thirteen ships to our fourteen in the summer of 1911." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1909, col. 46.]That was the interpretation put upon the matter by the hon. Member. I now come to the speech delivered, in reply, by 630 the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He used very extraordinary language, which greatly aggravated the intensity of the Naval panic, and which has been again and again quoted in the controversy which has ever since taken place. He said:—First of all, the House and the country are perfectly 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 shores, will have a fleet of thirty-three 'Dreadnoughts'; that fleet will be the most powerful which the world has ever yet seen….. That imposes upon us the necessity of which we are now at the beginning—except so far that we have 'Dreadnoughts' already—of rebuilding the whole of our Fleet." [OFFICIAL REPORT, March 29th, 1909, col. 55.]That was the most extraordinary and sensational statement, and it created the greatest excitement at the time, and I say it was absolutely unjust to press upon England the necessity of rebuilding her Fleet, as is shown by the fact that at that time he had received a clear pledge on the matter. There was no new situation created by this programme of acceleration, and to speak of rebuilding the British Fleet as if you were to immediately destroy and blow up the Fleet you possessed and put a new one afloat was to make a declaration calculated to excite public opinion and to increase the panic. The right hon. Gentleman went on to explain the assurances given to him by the German Government, and he was very categorical in his statement. He said:—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 have 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—pand 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.And now mark these words:—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 preparing to have thirteen ships ready in 1910. No Government preparing to have thirteen ships in 1910 would have voluntarily made those declarations. 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.Here is the situation announced by the Foreign Secretary who had himself approached the German Foreign Minister and told him that the English Government had reason to believe that the Germans 631 were somewhat accelerating their programme. The German Minister, after communication with his own Government, assured the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the German Government had no such intention, and assured him that they would not have thirteen ironclads ready before the Autumn of 1912, and the Foreign Secretary stated to the House of Commons that explanation and said that he accepted it unreservedly, and that it left reason for keeping an open mind as to the future. I say that was an honourable engagement on the part of the German Government, and what must be the effect upon the Government of Germany if it can be proved, and it is not denied, that they honourably observed the undertaking given to our Minister and that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, at any rate, came down to the House of Commons and used that knowledge in the Debate upon the Vote of Censure, and said that if this German acceleration—for that was the only interpretation that could be placed upon their words—that if this German acceleration did not take place there would be no need for these additional ships. When July came, without attempting to show that the Germans had in the slightest degree departed from their undertaking, this country proceeded to lay down additional ships. That seems to me to be almost a breach of faith. Certainly that action will leave a very bad impression upon the Germans. Here is what the Prime Minister said, in the Vote of Censure Debate:—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 of April, 1912. At that time—I am speaking now of 'Dreadnoughts' and 'Dreadnoughts' only—we shall in any case have sixteen '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 eleven; 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 thirteen. They will certainly have eleven, they might have thirteen, 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 seventeen. 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 sixteen, and if the four contingent ships are constructed we shall have twenty. [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1909.]And then the Prime Minister went on to argue that that provision would be ample in the event of acceleration on the part of Germany He said:—We have assured the House that if the acceleration in German construction goes on—and they have told 632 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.He clearly and absolutely indicated that if the acceleration did not go on, and that the German promises were honourably observed, and if there was no mystery about the matter, the four additional ships would not be laid down. On 26th July, on the Construction Vote, the four additional ships were announced, and not one word or justification for that course was given by the First Lord of the Admiralty so far as the action of the Germans was concerned. I was listening to him very carefully, because I expected something of a conciliatory or friendly tone would be used with regard to the German Government, recognising their fidelity to their intention, or that some explanation would be given as to whether the acceleration had gone on. Nothing of the sort occurred. The words which the First Lord of the Admiralty used were these:—After very anxious and careful examination of the conditions of shipbuilding in foreign countries, the Government have come to the conclusion that it is desirable to take all necessary steps to ensure that the second four ships referred to in this year's programme, should be completed by March, 1912." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1909.]Not one word did he say about German acceleration. I put this question to the right hon. Gentleman:—May I interpose a question? Have the Germans anticipated, or have they adhered their understanding given to the Foreign Office in regard to shipbuilding?Mr. McKenna: I did not think it desirable to go into these matters, but the hon. Member has addressed a question to me and I will answer it very briefly. Three years ago a most earnest expression of desire was made on behalf of the British Government of the day to curtail and restrict the rapid growth of armaments, both in this and in foreign countries." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1909.]The right hon. Gentleman then went on to find fault with the Germans over The Hague Conference—a subject which was absolutely foreign to the question I put to him. He never answered my question, and throughout the whole of the discussion there was not one single word to show that the German Government had departed by a single breath from its intention expressed to the Foreign Office, or that there was the slightest justification for the laying down of these four additional ships. I come now to the Naval Estimates for the present year. The speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary last year on the Vote of Censure and the opinion he expressed gave hope to me and to other economists whose views 633 are so futile in this House, that if it turned out that the German building was not going on at the rate people feared, it would be perfectly possible for the Government to strike a balance this year by not laying down such a large number of ships. But when we came to examine the Naval Estimates we found that the Government calmly proceeded to lay down five instead of four new ships, and they have done that although the German declaration remains unchanged up to the present moment, as far as I have been able to study the declaration of Ministers, that the Germans will have thirteen of these monsters at their service before the autumn of 1912. There is also the fact that the Colonial "Dreadnoughts," as I understand, are to be built quite apart from the enormous programme which we are adding to the British Navy in the meantime. That is all I propose to say with regard to the details of this controversy about naval expenditure. It seems to me to be a most deplorable and disastrous condition of affairs, and I do think the Government owe it to the House of Commons to say definitely whether they consider the German Government have adhered to their declarations or not. When pressed in the Debate last year the First Lord of the Admiralty took refuge in Austria and Italy. He said nothing about Germany. He said they had discovered Austria and Italy were building "Dreadnoughts." Has it come to this, that we are called upon to build "Dreadnoughts" against Italy? I always thought this country looked upon Italy as a friend. Are we to build "Dreadnoughts" because Italy is building "Dreadnoughts"? Everybody who is not an expert knows perfectly well Italy is building against Austria, and because Austria is attempting to build. Austria was the most dangerous case of all. What has become of the Austrian case? I asked the other day in the House of Commons, and the First Lord of the Admiralty was obliged to admit that he knew nothing of any Austrian "Dreadnoughts" being laid down, and up to this very hour the Austrian Government have not been able to get the Austrian Parliament to vote one shilling for a "Dreadnought." All we hear is that the keel of one "Dreadnought" is laid down as a private speculation, and it may ultimately be bought by the Austrian Government when finished, which will probably not be for three or four years. Yet that is brought forward as a reason for these ad- 634 ditional four ships. I say this country is mainly responsible for this horrible and sickening competition in armaments which is ruining Europe.
Let me turn to another aspect of the question, to the provocative effect of these charges on foreign Powers. One of the worst aspects of the whole of the Debate of last year and of controversy which took place was not the increase of the Navy Estimates, but the way in which it was brought about, and the way the whole thing was pointed at foreign Powers. It is an abominable thing, but there are men in this country, who are deliberately and avowedly without any concealment whatever, trying to provoke war between Germany and this country. That is no charge for me to make, because many of them, notably Mr. Maxse, of the "National Review," and many other publications, openly say this war is bound to come, and the sooner the better, because we want it while England is able to beat them. In view of that, the Debates of last year were simply deplorable, because they gave the greatest possible impetus to the agitation. I want to refer to an article in the "Contemporary Review" of April, 1900. It is headed, "The German Navy Case," and it is the best, most moderate, and ablest statement of the German side of this question, which never gets stated in this House, I have ever read. I would ask the attention of the House whilst I read one or two short extracts. Here is what Mr. Michel says:—To this I replied, 'If we are to have a Navy at all, it must be a strong Navy, for a weak fleet is simply a hostage in the hands of a powerful enemy. For us, it is either a strong fleet or no fleet at all. With our world-wide commerce, our infant Colonies, and our immense mercantile marine, your example, your precept, and your practice, taught us that it was impossible to do without a Navy altogether. A weak Navy is a source of weakness and not of strength. One thing I can assure you, that we are not building our fleet with any desire of attacking you. We are building it because we are afraid that you may some day attack us, and that the weakness of our fleet may encourage you to destroy our ships and sweep our commerce off the seas!'Then he alludes to what happened at Copenhagen, a thing which is not forgotten on the Continent:—Have you not afforded us Germans in these later years only too painful a reminder that you are not proof against the temptation to take advantage of a trusting and defenceless neighbour? I have no wish to rake up old sores, but it is impossible for you to understand the suspicion and distrust that prevails in Germany against England without referring to the recent history of South Africa. Rightly or wrongly, to us Germans, the Jameson Raid was an act of piracy much more flagitious and far less justifiable than the attack on Copenhagen,635 He goes on to say:—It was not till after the Jameson Raid that we began to build in earnest.Then he alludes in another passage to the arrest of a German steamer off the coast of Africa, on the plea that it was carrying arms to the Boers, who had more arms and ammunition than they could use. I always thought that one of the most disastrous blunders ever made, and it was that and the suspicion which it caused which created the German Navy League. This man goes on to say:—An England pacific, Gladstonian, free trading, relying upon voluntary service for her armed force—such an England may have as large a fleet as she pleases without exciting any alarm, but an England that is aggressive, protectionist, armed to the teeth by conscription, is another proposition altogether. Against the latter England we must, in self defence, push on our naval defensive forces with the utmost rapidity. We are accused of an act of moral treachery which would justify armed reprisals because we took advantage of the cheapness of materials last autumn and the dearth of employment to lay down two of our 1909 'Dreadnoughts' in 1908, and to accumulate materials for the second pair in advance of what we intended. But there was no intention on our part to hurry up the construction of these ships, nor did we intend to lay down four snore ships this year. What we shall now do depends upon the extent to which your agitators succeed in inflaming public sentiment in both nations.When you go on with this provocative campaign, such as has been indulged in during the last three years, one thing provokes another, and it is a long time before the hope expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be realised and you get back to saner ideas. The Press of this country is doing very little to promote that. Let me give an example—I will only quote one, I might quote a dozen—of the outrageous and, criminal agitation carried on against Germany for the last three years. Let me take an extract from an article written by Sir E. C. Cox in the "Nineteenth Century." These things are not laughable, because, published as they are in responsible English journals, they are quoted in Germany, and they are accepted as representing the opinion of a considerable and influential section of the English people, just as the expressions of certain jingo newspapers in Germany are quoted by the "Daily Mail"—that organ of the Angels of Peace. Here is Sir E. Cox's contribution to the controversy. He says:—How can we meet the crisis? Is there no alternative to this incessant war and competition in shipbuilding? Yes, there is an alternative, and the only possible one is to say to Germany, 'All that you have been doing constitutes a series of unfriendly acts. Your fair words go for nothing. Once for all, you must put an end to your warlike preparations. If we are not satisfied that you do so, we shall forthwith 636 sink every battleship and cruiser that you possess.' When a Liberal Government is convinced of the imminence of the danger, what further need have we of witnesses?That is the effect of such speeches and such Debates as we had in this House last year. I say, in my opinion, the laying down of those four great ships last year, which are responsible for so much of the increase of this year, and will be responsible for a much more disastrous increase next year, is absolutely unjustifiable by anything that was said by Ministers. It was an act of insult to the great nation of Germany, and, if this Government continue on the same lines, they must be content to bear upon their shoulders the burden of the shame and humiliation of being the leaders in this insane and ruinous competition of armaments, which will yet be the destruction of this Empire.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I promised yesterday, when a question was put to me whether it was not possible to give a longer time for the discussion of this Vote, and when reference was made to the fact or to the alleged fact that the Front Benches are in the habit of occupying too much of the comparatively small opportunities which art afforded for the discussion of the Estimates, that so far as this Front Bench, at any rate, was concerned we would exercise a self-denying ordinance. I hope I am not departing from that promise if I venture for a few moments to say one or two words in answer to the speech of my hon. Friend who has just sat down. I have been in this House a long time with him, and I quite recognise the hon. Member is an earnest and strenuous partisan of economy, who has always distinguished himself by his hostility—and I have often sympathised and acted with him—to unnecessary expenditure on our defensive services. I venture to say so far as the present Government is concerned, and, as he has referred to myself, so far as I am concerned, there is no reason whatever, or there is no ground for presumption from our past record that we should suddenly, in a fit of emotional panic, attempt to deviate from the path of economy when at the same time we are prosecuting urgent and essential matters of social reform unless we felt ourselves bound to act as we did in the interests of national security. For the best part of three years I was Chancellor of the Exchequer. During that time I occupied myself, as all Chancellors Of the Exchequer do if they know their 637 duty, in a continuous battle with the spending Departments—I think not altogether without result. In this particular matter of the Naval Estimates we have been reproached with great severity by the Leader of the Opposition with the alleged laxity and insufficiency of our expenditure in the first three years of our term of office. During these three years, whereas according to what was called the Cawdor Programme four of these great battleships should have been placed on the Estimates each year—twelve in all—I think the total number for which we provided was eight. There are some who still think—I am prepared if that question is raised to meet it, but it is hardly relevant now—there are some who think we were remiss in making what they regard as inadequate provision for the necessities of the nation. I do not think so. I think, having regard to the shipbuilding programme of the world as it then was, to the enormous superiority of our Navy in pre-"Dreadnought" ships, and to the fact that new types of ships are necessarily of an experimental kind, and that it is extremely undesirable, in the early years of a new experimental process, to multiply and stereotype classes of ships which may speedily become obsolete—I think we were well advised in limiting our programme as we did. I think hon. Gentlemen will agree—certainly my hon. Friends behind me will agree—that we showed a real desire to pursue economy in matters of naval expenditure, and, unless you suppose that we were suddenly bitten by some heaven-sent, I will not say heaven-sent, but by some gadfly madness which came from some obscure and indescribable quarter, it is difficult to understand how, in a single year, we should suddenly be transformed into what we are now represented to have become, roaring and rapacious jingoes. That is not a description which will be applied to us by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I can honestly say there is no man within these walls who regrets more than I do the necessity for this increased naval expenditure.
There is another point—a very important point—which was raised by my hon. Friend in the speech which he has just made, and which, I agree with him, is a matter for deep regret. I mean the fact that the increase in our naval expenditure should have been associated, in so far as it has been associated, with the notion that we are in any sense hostile to, or entertain hostile designs against, the friendly nation of Germany. Nothing is 638 further from the truth. I very much regret it. I regret, in the interest of international amity and comity, that my hon. Friend should think it worth while to cite from magazines anonymous articles by anonymous writers having no public authority suggesting either on one side or the other—the first article in the case of of Germany, and the second in the case of the United Kingdom—that the reason for the increased naval expenditure which both countries felt themselves bound to incur is that either one or the other contemplates a hostile attack from the other. Nothing is further from the truth. I can say with the most perfect sincerity that our relations with Germany have been, and at this moment are, of the most cordial character. I look for increasing warmth and fervour and intimacy in those relations year by year. I welcome—every man on both sides with any sense of true patriotism must welcome—the various agencies and movements by which the two peoples are getting more and more to understand each other. I do not believe the German Government would in the least subscribe to the view which has been imputed to the German nation in the article just quoted, that our naval preparations are directed against them any more than I subscribe to the view that the German naval preparations are directed against us.
Germany has her own policy to pursue, her own interests to safeguard. She is a great world Power. She has outlying dependencies. She is constantly sending her sons and daughters to the uttermost parts of the earth. Her trade is increasing everywhere. The German statesmen and people honestly and legitimately believe—and it is not with us a question whether the manner in which they express and carry out their belief is politic or wise—that is a matter for them—they believe they cannot maintain their position as a great world Power, with the numerous and constantly increasing interests they are bound to defend in every quarter of the globe, unless they increase their navy. That is, so far as I know, the German position. What is our position? Our position is this. We are responsible not so much for looking after an increasing and newly developing Empire as we are responsible for the defence and security of an Empire which already exists, and we should be false to the trust which the nation and Empire have reposed in this House and in the Government of the day unless we maintain 639 that ample margin of security which is the only insurance a nation such as ours can possess—an insular country with 40,000,000 of people dependent on foreign supplies of food and raw material, and responsible for the protection and defence of dependencies and dominions in every quarter of the globe—unless we maintain an ample margin of security against all probable or even possible risks. I very much regret that the name of Germany has been so frequently introduced into this Debate. It would be exactly the same thing if this increase of naval development which has taken place during the last few years in Germany had taken place in France, between which country and ourselves most intimate ties of friendship and even affection exist. What we have to do, if we are to discharge the trust of which I spoke a few moments ago, is to look at the shipbuilding programmes of the world. You must take into account all possible risks, and you must never sacrifice that margin of safety by which alone we can secure our trade and our Empire. It is in no sense from hostility to Germany that we have had to look at German shipbuilding as being to a very large extent of late years the governing factor in the problem of the margin which has to be secured. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the Debate which took place in March last year. Amongst other things he referred to a speech of mine. I rather gathered that he associated himself with those who thought I had ministered wantonly and most unnecessarily to the creation of a panic. My conscience is perfectly clear on that point. I was replying to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I was endeavouring to show that, with or without good reason, his apprehensions, both of our unpreparedness and of the formidable character of the German programme, were alike exaggerated. At the same time I quite agreed, and I did think it necessary to point out in justification of the Estimates we were submitting to the House, new facts which had emerged, which had at least become ascertained, during the course of the preceding twelve months. What were those new facts? They were, first, that there had been what has been described, perhaps in a not very accurate way, but in a popular way, as an actual acceleration in the execution of the German programme. The second was that there had been a very large and, as we conceived, an increasing growth in the productive capacity of Germany in 640 turning out these instruments of war. Was I wrong in either of those propositions? It is suggested that the consent of the House to the Estimates of last year was procured by misleading information. I adhere absolutely to the literal accuracy of everything I said in that Debate. First of all, what about acceleration? The language I used was this, quoting from the OFFICIAL REPORT:—It is undoubtedly the case—I 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 150910, 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." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1909, col.961]Is that or not the truth? It is not disputed by anyone—it is certainly not disputed by the German Government that materials had been collected and one ship at any rate had been laid down, so that my statement of fact is literally accurate. At the same time, I was careful to take note in the speech to which my hon. Friend referred of the declaration that had been given to them by the German Government that no future acceleration should take place. When I said that an acceleration or anticipation in the sense described in that passage had taken place I was stating that which was true, and which nobody could dispute. As regards the increase in the German power of productiveness, it is not so much a question of volume as of rate, and particularly of the speed at which, owing to the development of their productive machinery, battleships of this class can be turned out. When I speak of the last twelve months I do not intend to convey that the whole development has taken place in that time, but that its existence and its extent had become known to His Majesty's Government in that time. We have been blamed. It is said we ought to have known before, that we ought to have anticipated it. I will not go into that question. I think we took all the precautions we could, and we were right not to act till we were perfectly certain of the facts. In past days, three or four years ago, it was a matter taken for granted—I see many hon. Members opposite who can, bear me out—that the period of construction of German battleships, with the facilities which Germany then possessed, averaged from thirty-six to forty months. As a matter of fact, if you take the five German "Dreadnoughts"—four are actual battleships, one is a cruiser of the "Invincible" class, but for convenience I 641 will call them all "Dreadnoughts"—if you take the five German "Dreadnoughts" now available for warlike purposes, you will find that the time of construction has varied from two years two months for the shortest to two years nine months for the longest. That cannot be disputed.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am speaking of the whole five. I am sure I am accurate. I have all the dates here. The shortest time after laying down is two years and two months, and the longest, for any of the five ships, two years nine months. Can anyone deny that that was an important change—the difference between the period of three years four months and the period of two years nine months and two years and two months in the length of time it takes a German battleship to be constructed? That is nearly the reduction of a half in the length of time which it takes to build a German "Dreadnought." I say that any Government to whose mind those two sets of facts were brought home would be bound to revise its programme if it were to maintain the same margin of superiority which, by the contention of all parties in the State, has been hitherto maintained as essential to the public security. Those are the two new facts to which I committed myself last year, and neither of them has been in the least degree disproved by what has taken place. Now I should like to go on to what has subsequently happened, and what is likely to happen. I draw a broad distinction, as everybody must, between statements of fact and anticipations of the future. I thought the right hon. Gentleman accepted those facts, as, of course, he was bound to do, but took an exaggerated view of the rate at which the German Fleet would be multiplied and increased. What I said was this: In our view the German Fleet—when I am speaking of the German Fleet I am speaking of "Dreadnoughts"—the German Fleet, in the month of April, 1912, would certainly, or almost certainly, amount to thirteen, and it might conceivably amount to seventeen. When you are in doubt in matters of this kind you must always give the benefit of the doubt to the margin of safety, and 642 that is what we did in the programme we proposed last year. We are now in a better position to see what the real facts are likely to be than we were. First of all, I will give the House a brief statement of this class of ships in Great Britain and in Germany. There are at this moment built, ready for war, in Great Britain ten "Dreadnoughts," in Germany five. Those ships are ready for war, ready to be commissioned. There are actually launched—I am now anticipating so far as we are concerned by including amongst those launched two about to be launched in July or August—there are actually launched: Great Britain, six; Germany, five. There are on the slips in Great Britain four, and in Germany three, and so far as our information goes there are ordered, although we do not know that anything has yet been done, in Germany four more. It appears from the official records of the German Government that those four were ordered in the month of April this year. Very probably nothing more has been done beyond the giving of the order, but four were ordered in the month of April. We do not know whether they have been begun; very possibly they have been begun, but we do not know. We know they are ordered. That is the actual statement of the account as regards "Dreadnoughts" at this moment. Now let us come to dates. I will take, first, as the most convenient date, the state of things which will be in existence at the end of 1911. What I am giving now are those actually ready for war.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is an immaterial point. I do not know whether they are in commission or not, but they are ready to be commissioned. They could take the sea to-morrow, and therefore to all intents are ready for war. That is far more important than whether they have been commissioned or not. Assuming that to be the definition, I will take the figures for the end of 1911. Great Britain will then have in that sense of the word sixteen and Germany will have eleven. That is at the end of 1911. Now I will take what was called last year in many of these Debates the critical month, April, 1912. In April, 1912, Germany will have thirteen and we shall have, including the four contingent ships which were authorised by the House last year and which then ought to be ready, twenty.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No. I will come to them directly. I am confining the comparison now to ourselves and Germany. I have stated the position in the spring of 1912. Then I come to the spring of 1913. It may be earlier, because we are dealing now with four ships which have been already ordered—ships which the German Government say they ordered in the month of April of the present year. I am trying to put it off as far as I can. It might conceivably be at the end of 1912, but certainly by the spring of 1913 there will be these four additional German ships. I have brought into the account four contingent ships which were not on the Estimates last year, but to which the House assented last July. Now I take the five ships of the programme of the present year; they will bring us up to twenty-five in the spring of 1913. Then the four additional German ships which are still to come, which belong to the programme 1911–12, and which we may assume will be ready in 1913–14, bring them up to twenty-one. That is the strict actual account as between Germany and ourselves of our comparative strength at each of those dates. We have got to add to the British strength the two "Dreadnoughts" which the Colonies have so generously promised. They must be taken into account. On the other side of the account you have to put—as I have said it is not a question of unfriendly feeling at all, no question of differences, no question of enmity—but we have to take as potential figures for comparison with our own strength the Italian "Dreadnoughts," of which we know there are to be four.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
By 1913 or 1914. I do not like to say much about the mysterious Austrian ships, because the Austrian Government has done nothing so far to indicate its intention one way or another. It may be the Austrian Government will never move in the matter at all, but we do know, as a matter of general knowledge, that there is in course of construction one "Dreadnought," possibly more, in Austria. If that is the prospective state of the account—and I do not believe the figures I have given can possibly be refuted—I have rather, if anything, minimised or postponed to the latest possible moment 644 the dates at which the foreign ships will be completed (wherever there has been a doubt I have given the benefit of the doubt rather in that direction, but I do not think I am far wrong)—if that is the prospective state of the account, I ask anybody if the programme which we are proposing for the present year, which will give us these twenty-five "Dreadnoughts" on the date I have mentioned, with the addition of two Colonial "Dreadnoughts," is excessive, having regard to the number of this same class of ships that will then be in existence in European waters. I agree there may be a difference of opinion as to its sufficiency. I daresay I shall be told by right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the margin I have named is not sufficient and that we ought to accelerate our construction more than we have done. I have no doubt some of my friends behind me will say it is excessive. Is it, however, very excessive? Add them up. Twenty-five British "Dreadnoughts," two Colonial "Dreadnoughts," which by the very conditions under which they are given us must be employed more or less at the other end of the world. Against that you have twenty-one Germans. I do not say "against" in the sense that they are going to be opposed to one another, but as two items on the opposite sides of the account I do not really think that anybody can say that that represents an inflated programme promoted by a sudden access of jingo zeal on the part of His Majesty's Government.
I have purposely spoken at the very earliest moment possible because it is desirable that the Committee should have the actual facts. There is no man in this House who regrets this kind of expenditure more than I do. I see quite as clearly as does my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that every new "Dreadnought" that you build postpones pro tanto the achievement of some urgent work of social reform; but national security, national insurance, after all is the first condition of all social reform. You may say, "Is it not possible to come to some kind of arrangement between the nations of the world, particularly between ourselves and the great friendly Empire of Germany, by which this kind of thing might be brought to a close?" I wish it were. The German Government told us—I cannot complain, I have no answer to make—their procedure in this matter is governed by an act of the Reichstag under 645 which the programme automatically proceeds year by year. That is to say, the year 1911–12 is the last year in which, under the law, four "Dreadnoughts" are constructed, and the rate of construction drops in the two succeeding years to two each year, so that we are now, we may hope, at the very top of the wave. If it were possible even now to reduce that rate of construction no one would be more delighted than His Majesty's Government. We have approached the German Government on the subject. They have found themselves unable to do anything. They cannot do it without an Act of Parliament repealing their Navy Law. They tell us, and no doubt, with great truth, they would not have the support of public opinion in Germany to a modified programme. These are the governing and unalterable facts of the situation for the moment. We must deal with them as facts and make our provision for them. We feel that there is no body of men in this country who would, with more unfeigned satisfaction, put a stop to the construction of these necessary, expensive and wasteful instruments of warfare and thereby divert the money which is so employed to purposes for the welfare and progress of our people. Every opportunity that offers we shall eagerly avail ourselves of in that direction, and in the meantime we ask the House to support the Government in an expenditure which, having regard to the circumstances of the case and having regard to the facts I have cited, though lamentable, appears to us to be necessary for the security of the Empire.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
The naval Debate this year, under the guidance of the hon. Gentleman who initiated it, has been really more concerned with the Debates of last year than with anything which directly appears in these Estimates. I make no complaint of that. I do not think it would be possible to discuss the larger topics of naval policy in 1910 without referring to the Debates of 1909 and without passing in review the circumstances which have led up to the present condition of things. I speak with some hesitation and some reluctance on this question, as I understand the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), in a part of his speech, which I was unfortunately prevented from hearing, accused the two Front Benches of having agreed over questions of foreign policy and also over the questions of the Army and of the Navy.
§ Mr. DILLON
No; that was not what I said. I said there was a custom arising of withdrawing these questions from party politics.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I think I was not unfairly paraphrasing the hon. Gentleman, but I naturally accept the correction which he has just made. He said there is a tendency to withdraw these questions from party politics, and in so far as the tendency of which he complains prevents the Opposition of the day making what is called party capital out of the particular difficulty in which the Government may find themselves at the moment in connection with the complicated problems which are necessarily involved in foreign policy and other allied administrative work, if the present Opposition have, indeed, succeeded in withdrawing these questions, or many of them, from the purview of party politics, we have contributed greatly to the smooth working of representative institutions, and I rejoice that it is by way of criticism on the part of an hon. Gentleman that my name, however unworthy, should be associated with a movement of that kind. But I am not sure that the previous Debates to which the hon. Gentleman referred in his speech fully bear out that statement. I certainly am not conscious, and I certainly do not plead guilty in the smallest degree to ever having used the question of the Navy for party purposes only. Undoubtedly it is a fact that it was a matter of the sharpest controversy between the two sides of the House last year, and one of the speeches to which the hon. Gentleman has more particularly referred—the famous speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—was delivered on the occasion of a Vote of Censure brought forward by the Opposition on the naval policy of the Government of the day. I do not know that in the practice of this House or in our constitutional procedure it is possible to carry party differences to a further point than bringing a Vote of Censure against the Government that for the time being holds the reins of office; and whether we were right or whether we were wrong in the Vote of Censure, at all events I venture to think that we could not be accused last year of having in any way failed in our duty of becoming the critics of the Government when we thought the safety of the State was in question; nor I hope any of us, from whatever party they are drawn, will in future shrink from taking that course, if they think it is necessary, which 647 we took last year, and which, I am sure, we were right in taking, and which none of us have ever regretted taking. The Prime Minister, I think quite rightly, has passed lightly over the differences of opinion which at that time separated the two Front Benches. He referred to the fact that we thought the Government were guilty of haying relaxed the efforts in shipbuilding which they should have made during the two preceding years, and that in consequence we have the tremendous, almost overburdening, and in some respects the gigantic, expenditure to which the House is now asked to assent. Was not that criticism a just one?
The Prime Minister seems to think that there are reasons excusing the Government, but I will venture to ask hon. Gentlemen who are candid critics of their own Front Bench in this matter, and who may he therefore, however much they may object to our attitude, prepared to consider and weigh the contentions that take place between these two Front Benches in a fairer way—I ask them whether, in looking back, they do not think that the Government are now right in making this immense progress, or whether it would not have been better for them to have spread it over a longer period? I would ask them, further, whether panic or anything which could be called by any critic panic, would not have been avoided, whether much irresponsible criticism in both countries in the past might have been avoided, with the consequent heart-burnings, if such necessary modifications as may have been proved to be necessary had been steadily continued from the day the Government came into office? I firmly believe that those years of relapse on the part of the Government have been largely responsible, not only for the gigantic expenditure which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has now got to meet, but for much of the international friction which has arisen. When I say friction, I do not mean between the Governments or between the peoples, but I mean between those who take up these matters in the Press of both countries.
Much of that friction would have been avoided had the Government pursued the even tenour of their way and not for a moment relaxed their efforts, with the inevitable result that they had to put on a violent spurt afterwards. I am not going into that part of the hon. Gentleman's speech in which he discussed—I do not 648 think in a particularly happy spirit—the international relations between the peoples of Great Britain and Germany. I should have thought a speech like his would, of all others, be the most calculated to embitter such international feelings which may exist, fanning into flame any sparks which I am sure might be allowed to die down and reviving controversies which he, more than any other man, has done his best to revive at the present time. But there is one part of his speech of which I think the House should take notice. He quoted an article, written anonymously, in one of our British Reviews, in which he said the German case for a great navy was put more powerfully than he had ever seen in any other presentation of the argument. I listened to the extract that he gave us from the article, and I gathered from it that the reason that the German Government, or the German Navy League, were so anxious to augment their Navy was in order to prevent hostile aggression on the part of this country. Anybody who really puts Germany and England as being in an equal position with regard to navies does not understand the elements of the controversy. The idea that we, whatever our Navy was, could invade Germany is grotesque in the extreme. I have no right to say that the author of the article did or did not believe that; I have no doubt he may have believed it, but that any sane man in any other country thinks that if we had ten times the number of "Dreadnoughts" that Germany possesses, that that would be or could be a threat of British invasion, is an absurdity so great that I am inclined to put all controversialists of that kind out of court.
§ Mr. J. M. ROBERTSON
The question of possible aggression is as regards commerce, not as regards invading Germany.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I am not so sure; that may be the hon. Gentleman's argument. I do not think that anybody listening to the extracts to which I listened just now would imagine that it was the argument of the anonymous author.
§ Mr. DILLON
That was the argument that they were afraid that England would destroy their ships and drive their commerce off the seas.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Then what was that reference to conscription? What had that got to do with it? However, I do not wish to enter into a controversy with hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House 649 as to the meaning of that article. I only desire to repeat what is absolutely commonplace to everybody I am addressing, that however much Germany might be embarrassed by an unsuccessful sea war with this country she would not be in any vital sense injured. Our existence as a nation would come to an end and to put these two possible opinions into opposite scales is perfectly absurd. It is perfectly absurd to say that we ought to look at the question of the Navy with the same eyes that the patriotic German should in Germany. We have to look at the question of the Navy with the same eyes that the German looks at the question of the Army. It is on the Army that their national existence depends. It is on the Navy that our national existence depends, and if we would only deal with our Navy as the Germans deal with their Army I for one should be content. I do not think I need go back any more upon the controversies of last year, except perhaps to answer the criticism of the Prime Minister—not a criticism advanced in any very controversial spirit—which he suggested in his speech. He said that last year we had made certain anticipations of the possible growth of the German Navy which he at the time deprecated as being excessive and which experience had shown to be excessive. That may be quite true. I think it is quite true. But what we said last year was, Germany is anticipating her programme in 1908. [An HON. MEMBER: "1909."] The anticipation took place in 1908; it was the anticipation of the 1909 programme in 1908. Therefore it is quite evident that it is perfectly legal and may be thought perfectly proper by the German Government to carry out precisely the same course in 1909 or 1910. If she does that or anything like it she will have a fleet of these capital ships which will put us in the minority.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Of course it was my calculation. That is the point. I was defending my calculation. I did not say then that the Germans would do that. I said that was a contingency which must be regarded as possible in view of what they had done. I am as pleased as the Prime Minister or as any little Navy advocate that the Germans did not do it. But I do not think I was to blame, and I do not stand here in a white sheet for an instant because I suggested that they might do 650 it, and it was a contingency which had to be considered. It was a contingency which had to be considered, and I rejoice that the worst that might have happened has, as a matter of fact, not happened. I now turn to comment upon what the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to the future relative strength of these two countries, in connection with ships of the new type.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I purposely did not refer, as the right hon. Gentleman will understand, to the pre-"Dreadnought" ships, because that was not a matter for the moment. I strongly maintain—it is the position we have always held—that we have an immense superiority in them.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I will not revive that branch of the controversy. The right hon. Gentleman will be the first to admit that whatever weight we must give to the three "Dreadnought" ships in the balance of power between us and foreign nations is a rapidly diminishing quantity, and the rate of diminution is an increasing rate. I do not imagine that it will be disputed by the authorities of the Admiralty, and I do not mean to make it a matter of controversy at present, nor do I mean to say anything controversial in what still remains to be dealt with. But there was a peculiarity in the Prime Minister's speech which, I think, has struck everyone who listened to it. He actually found himself bound by the exigencies of debate to put the case at its best for our country. Usually when the Minister responsible for the defence of the country gets up to explain his policy, he puts the matter the other way. He does not say that everything is going to be the very best for us; he says we must imagine things are going to go in the worst possible way. But the right hon. Gentleman, for perfectly obvious reasons, inverted that which is the natural course of argument, and felt himself so oppressed by the small Navy section below the Gangway, that he actually had, as it were, to apologise to the British House of Commons, not for himself, but for the programme he has put forward, by assuming that everything was going in the best way for us. So far did that controversial necessity carry him that, as I understand, he altogether omitted to deal with what might very easily happen at the end of 1912. By his own account of German shipbuilding there is no earthly reason for supposing that we may not at the end of 1912 have only a margin of three "Dreadnoughts" over the German 651 fleet. If German shipbuilding be slower than it need be, and if the ships which might be built in 1912 are, as a matter of fact, not finished until April, 1913, the case, of course, would be much better. Then, as I understand him, we shall have twenty-five ships to the Germans seventeen.
But if the Germans build as fast as they have built, or as fast as we build—I only took down the figures, and I may be wrong in my calculations, but I think at the end of 1912 the position may be that we shall have twenty and the Germans seventeen. In other words, there is no ground, on the Prime Minister's own statement, for thinking that in a little more than two years from the present time the margin of British strength over German strength will be a margin of three "Dreadnoughts" out of a fleet of twenty. [An HON. MEMBEN: "I think the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten the Colonial 'Dreadnoughts.'"] If the hon. Gentleman followed the Prime Minister as closely as I did, he will see that I am going on his lines, and I am leaving Colonial "Dreadnoughts" and non-German ships, Austrian and others, out of account. I am dealing, as the Prime Minister dealt, with the relative strength in "Dreadnoughts." I may be wrong, but I am quite honest in trying to state the case, and if I had given my figures wrongly the very able array of experts I see opposite me would have found the error. Therefore I assume that I am correct in saying that in the later months of 1912 the margin of Great Britain over Germany would be three "Dreadnoughts" and no more. If they are adequately supported by all that is necessary in the way of destroyers and cruisers, it may be that that is sufficient for the national safety, but has this House ever been content with so small a margin? I do not believe that, at all events in the last quarter of a century, there has ever been a time when a single Power has been in that percentage of strength to the British Navy.
The right hon. Gentleman has not made any reference—there was no reason why he should—to the two-Power standard. He said we have to consider all nations alike, which I think is rather withdrawing from the position which the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and I think he himself, have taken up from time to time in the controversies of the last few years. But though I welcome that statement, on the two-Power standard he has said 652 nothing, and I ask the House, and I ask the hon. Gentlemen who are going to vote for this reduction of £2,000,000, whether they can in their whole memory recall a time when, not in relation to two Powers, but in relation to one Power, and that the most highly organised and most efficient Power probably in its management of such concerns as these that the world has ever seen, those responsible for the administration of the defences of this country were content with a margin so narrow over the forces at the command of one single naval rival, however friendly that rival might be? In these circumstances I do not desire to say another word of comment or of criticism. I am anxious to hear how the Debate will develop. I think the general feeling which the Debates of last year aroused through the country have been admirable in their effect upon the work which the responsible Departments have thrown into the problem of defence. If we who sit on these benches and if my my friends around me had anything to do with arousing the feelings and the knowledge of the country to the peril in which we then stood, I rejoice that we took that share in what hon Gentlemen regard as a criminal agitation, and for my own part I do not believe anything has more conduced to peace in the world, and, I will add, to the good feeling between nations, than that movement in which the Government themselves have now taken a part, which at all events shows a general consciousness that we must preserve everything we hold dear for ourselves, and everything we hold dear for other nations, not to relax by one item, not to diminish in expenditure on ships, in expenditure on men, in expenditure on all those subsidiary services which are required to make ships and men efficient, a sum which will be enough to enable us to look confidently upon all the changes and chances of our international relations, and to preserve without fear the peace and friendliness which to every Government, although it may surprise hon. Gentlemen, and to every party and every section of every party, is the greatest and dearest interest which this country can secure.
Mr. GORDON HARVEY
I desire to say a few words in support of the Motion for reduction, though I should have preferred that the amount of reduction had been that which I have placed on the Paper, because I made an attempt to indicate, in the sum of money, the first year's cost of building the five great battleships which form the main part of this 653 year's programme. However, this is not an occasion upon which a specific amount matters very much. We are dealing today with essential differences of feeling and of policy which exist between different sections of the House. The bon. Member (Mr. Dillon) has graphically depicted the scene that some of us witnessed in March of last year. There was no need to recall those circumstances to me, and I think other Members will never forget the proceedings that then took place. The Leader of the Opposition appeared in his peroration to put before the House the idea that the Debate which took place then and the subsequent events had made for the peace of the world and good feeling among nations. I hold exactly the opposite view. I hold the view to-day, as I did then, that the events of that month and the way in which the Debate was conducted in the House were most unfortunate events, and I would, if possible, readily forget them. I think on that day the House was urged into a state of unreasoning panic and alarm the effects of which will be shown on our foreign relations and on our Exchequer for very many years to come. I listened to the speech of the Prime Minister to-day, and I must be allowed to say how very much I feel—shall I say sorry?—at having to differ from him in the advice he has given to this party. I have followed him long, and it is a real trouble to me to have on this occasion to announce that I can follow him no longer in regard to this Vote. The Prime Minister made kindly references to foreign peoples, and I am sure we were all delighted to hear them. I am sure his speech will produce a most excellent effect upon the relationship between us and foreign countries, but to my mind the good effect of what he said must be partially vitiated by the fact that he appeared to see a reason why his Government should provide for the danger of conflict, not with one of the European Powers, but with all the great fleets in European waters. I think if our Government is going to anticipate such a horrible conflict, the programme to-day suggested is inadequate for the purpose it is intended to fulfil.
I venture to think that the Prime Minister did not deal entirely and adequately with the indictment of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Dillon). What was that indictment? It was that we in this House were asked last year to take a certain course for certain reasons which were placed before us, and that that course was 654 taken on the basis of prophecies which have not been fulfilled. We believe that these prophecies have been proved to be unfounded and alarmist, and that the course of action laid down on the basis of them ought to be altered. Surely we have given the expert advisers of the Government long enough time to prove the wisdom of their speculations and forecasts. What has time revealed? Time has shown that every element on which the scare of last year was built up has been falsified. In the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty he said that if the German programme was to be accelerated, they would have by April, 1912, seventeen "Dreadnoughts" and "Invincibles" available for the purpose of war. It was against that contingency—the continued acceleration of the—German programme—that we were asked to consent to the provision of these four extra and contingent ships.
I heard the First Lord make his speech, but I will accept his correction, if he corrects me. I understood him to say—and I am confirmed from having read the speech—that if the German programme was accelerated, the contingency would arise that they would have seventeen great battleships ready for war in April, 1912. All the world to-day knows that the most they can have will be thirteen, and it is extremely likely that they will only have twelve, and yet these four contingent ships are being built by us, and an enormously enhanced programme has been set afoot for this current year. Why? Has Germany continued to accelerate her programme or has she not? I must confess that it was a somewhat bitter reflection to me that, while we were moved by feelings of scare almost to the point of hysteria, while craven cries were ringing in our ears, Germany pursued the policy she announced she would pursue consistently and with dignity all the time.
I want to refer to a Return which is annually published on the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke). I take, first, the great British battleships of from one to ten years old. I find that we have thirty-five of these great battleships and three "Invincibles"—thirty-eight warships in all, with a tonnage of 587,000 tons. Against these in ships of similar age I find that Germany has twenty with a tonnage of 280,000 tons—not half ours. I take 655 the gun-power of these vessels, and I find that there are in these thirty-five British vessels 166 12-inch guns, eight 10-inch guns, and fifty-two 9.2 guns, so that we have a total of 226 guns. The twenty German vessels have 104 guns of from 11 inches to 9.4 inches. Surely that shows an overwhelming preponderance of sea-power at this time, at any rate, in favour of Great Britain. But that is not all. I take the great battleships of Great Britain which are from eleven to fifteen years old, and we are not yet scrapping vessels at fifteen years old. They are supposed to be available for good service. We have twenty of these ships, with a tonnage of 28,000 tons, in which there are eighty guns of from 13.5 inches to 10 inches. I venture to say that, as far as a layman can understand these things, there does not appear to be a single ship in the German navy to pit against these.
Of course, these are not "Dreadnoughts," but do we still agree to count only "Dreadnoughts"? Eighteen months ago we talked of nothing else. The name itself was popularly conclusive of supremacy at sea. Experts would have none other, and the Foreign Secretary, with the idea that "Dreadnoughts" alone meant power, said that we must commence to rebuild our Fleet. Well, who holds that view to-day? There is no unanimity. Among experts there is a doubt and bewilderment all round. I have seen it stated by men of great authority that it might be the case if war broke out that a "Dreadnought" would hardly dare to go into the open sea until things had been made smooth for her by the intervention of smaller and quicker vessels. No doubt it is thought by some that the time may be coming when it would be wise to abandon the policy of these gigantic ships and to put your eggs into more baskets, and that possibly the day might unfortunately come when a gigantic and overwhelming vessel like a "Dreadnought" might be sunk by a livelier ship of a few hundred tons burden manned by a few men taking their lives in their hands. We should think of the interest of the taxpayers in this matter of expenditure. Since 1895 our Naval Estimates have gone up from £19,500,000 to the gigantic sum of £42,500,000, and we can all see that if this course is pursued, in a short time our naval expenditure will reach the gigantic total of £50,000,000 annually. I know that the national safety 656 is the first thing to be considered. We must be safe. There is no good of talking about social reforms, of the condition of the people, if we do not feel that our people are secure. I do ask the First Lord of the Admiralty and his advisers to look again over the list of the great battleships and to see whether, taking the national situation into consideration, it is not possible to bring about a pause in this rapidly increasing and gigantic expenditure. We are a rich country, and of course we can find the money. That financial fairy the Chancellor of the Exchequer has only to wave his wand and untold gold flows into the Exchequer. I am told that the returns of the Super-tax are offering a constant and pleasing surprise as they come in. This is also a country of abounding poverty, and taxes that fall very lightly on the rich fall with overwhelming weight and stress upon the poor. We have not only to provide for the social reform which was indicated by the Home Secretary and which we shall all welcome, but there are many taxes on the necessities of life which weigh heavily on the poor and which ought to be reduced. I have heard those who are in opposition to me in politics find fault with me as a Free Trader because so many millions of revenue are derived from taxes on the people's food. I want to remove these taxes. I want to see something done to carry out the promise of a free breakfast table. Although I acknowledge that national safety must ever be our first purpose, I do venture to urge that we may not be called upon to spend a single penny more than is necessary on armaments. Money which is spent unnecessarily on armaments is money thrown away. I most firmly believe that every unnecessary ship you float and every unnecessary gun you place upon that ship is a threat and a menace to international friendship and security. It is with these feelings—feelings of great responsibility, as differing from my Government and my leaders, that I am going to support the Motion of the hon. Member.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition made a remark that I hope will go right through the country—indeed, through the Empire. They said that in all these Debates as to our naval affairs, and what we think is necessary, we should keep a civil tongue in our heads in regard to what Germany is doing. I have said 657 in this House before, and I repeat it, that Germany has a perfect right to build what ships she thinks is necessary from patriotic views, and it does harm, and infinite harm, for any Member of this House to make speeches which are derogatory to Germany in carrying out what she considers necessary for her defence. I should like to reply to one or two remarks which have been made by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). He began by making a rather extraordinary statement that he condemned and abhorred the policy of the Government with regard to their shipbuilding views. I think the hon. Member will have a certain amount of sympathy on this side of the House in condemning and abhorring that policy, but from quite a different point of view. I am not astonished that the hon. Members who sit on those benches and the hon. Members who sit on these benches are greatly surprised at the line of policy which the Government have undertaken in regard to expenditure on naval matters. The Prime Minister himself, during the last election, said that the Navy was absolutely unassailable, now and for the future. That was only last January, yet between that date and the present he and his Cabinet have increased the Naval Estimates by an enormous amount of money, which he never referred to when he said that the Navy was unassailable. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, very rightly, has called attention to that as increasing the Estimates enormously for next year. If hon. Members will only take the trouble to see how all this was brought about, they will have to throw considerable blame on that Front Bench opposite for the continuous evasions and continuous contradictions in which they have been indulging for the last three or four years in regard to naval matters.
Another remark made by the hon. Member for East Mayo was that he thought too much attention was paid to experts in preparing these Estimates. It would be a lucky thing for this House and for the country if experts had more to do with preparing Estimates. You would not then have the party policy of, for the sake of economy, reducing expenditure one year and running it up to fabulous and gigantic sums another year. We should have continuity of policy and ordinary common-sense. But, on the other hand, I do think that if experts had to determine it altogether it would be a dangerous thing. The Services must be 658 governed by the civil element. It is in accordance with our Constitution. And all I wish is that the civilian element would pay more attention to experts in making their Estimates. The hon. Member was also perfectly right when he said that the money which is wanted for national defence will interfere with the money that is wanted for social reform. I said so the other day, and I believe that the cause was that the Estimates were run down, and then they were suddenly raised up to the enormous price we are paying now. That is why you will not be able to get the money necessary for these social reforms which we all on this side of the House should like to see come about. I come now to the remarks which I wish to make on Vote A. That is the foundation of our naval strength; it is the building Vote. Every other item and unit hinges on Vote A—that is to say, men, stores, docks, and everything else. I want to criticise the naval administration of the Government on three cardinal points. I want to show that the Government have been totally devoid of any definite naval policy with regard to shipbuilding. I want to point out that the emasculated standard, the two-Power standard which the Prime Minister suggested as necessary in May, 1909, leaves no standard whatever of the strength which the British Navy should be; and I want also to point out that the Prime Minister has deserted the traditional principles which have always guided the use of sea power for the British Navy. That is to say, in his speech of 20th May, 1909, he deserted the principles which we have maintained all these years for utilising our sea power at sea.
That want of policy, of ordinary foresight, and of common-sense, and, more than all, the want of the necessary war staff has resulted in enormous expenditure, which I maintain might have been avoided if proper organisation had been made out by a war staff for the Admiralty which at present does not exist. The point the Committee might remember with regard to all this expenditure is that there is nothing that the Government know now that they did not know for four years. Then why was this sudden expenditure brought about which the Leader of the Opposition called attention to a short time ago? We have had scares, panics, and contradictions, and I say that they are entirely due to the want of definite naval policy which resulted in a haphazard hand to mouth manner of shipbuilding Votes during the last three or four years. The 659 position is too critical to waste much time in recrimination, but I must refer to certain speeches to show how we have arrived at the present condition. The Prime Minister's speech in March, 1909, has often been referred to. He used language which astounded Europe, and caused the gravest anxiety both in this country and in the Dominions, particularly in the Dominions, where they actually telegraphed over after that speech to say that they would be glad to help the old country. The Foreign Secretary has also made a very grave speech which is mentioned by the hon. Member for Mayo. Is it for a moment supposed that those right hon. Gentlemen did not tell the truth? They did tell the truth, and it is shown that they did tell the truth at that moment by their subsequent action, and by the enormous expense that has been thrown on the country this year and the immense additional expense that will be thrown on the country next year.
The Prime Minister's words are worth repeating. He said they had discovered grave matters affecting the welfare and safety of the Empire as a whole. He said that these circumstances were not only unforeseen, but were wholly unexpected, and he ended up by saying that when it was brought home to the Government it came as a great surprise. Now, what was the cause of the right hon. Gentleman making that speech? He was referring to the rapidity with which a neighbouring Power was making arrangements to accelerate its naval requirements, and in his speech he referred to the date as November, 1908. I wish the Committee to pay particular attention to this, because I maintain that this is the fact of the Prime Minister not knowing those circumstances earlier which has produced as a result this enormous extra naval expenditure. He referred in very strong language to certain circumstances that had occurred in November, 1908. But the fact was that those circumstances occurred two years and six months before—in July, 1906; and the question has never been cleared up how it was, when the Admiralty knew the fact in July, 1906, they never communicated their knowledge to the Cabinet until November, 1908. The result is—and I beg the attention of the hon. Member for East Mayo to this fact—that we now have this enormous extra expense, because during those two years and six months we were decreasing our naval shipbuilding while 660 the neighbouring country was increasing its shipbuilding by leaps and bounds. Illustrating the complete ignorance of this Eery crucial point, which I maintain is the cause of this very large expenditure now, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said on 29th March, 1909: "The doubtful point of the situation in regard to Germany is our comparative capacity for the construction of gun mountings." And during all that time there was a firm which had put up mountings for creating heavy guns at immense expense that was not allowed to tender by the Admiralty for two years and six months.
I say that hon. Members below the Gangway on both sides, when they look into that question, cannot find fault with this large expenditure on armaments. That is the reason for it. For two years and six months the Prime Minister and the Cabinet did not know that Germany was accelerating to the immense extent it was, and during that time we were decreasing our shipbuilding. There was a personal element introduced in the matter, and the House and the country always dislike personal elements, and they are quite right. But there is a national element in it, too, which ought to be considered and ought to be thrashed out thoroughly. We have a right to know why the Admiralty did not communicate with the Cabinet on this very important point. How do we know that the same thing may not occur again? At any moment the Prime Minister or the Cabinet may come down and tell this House of other new discoveries. Certainly, if they have got no naval policy, as this shows they have not, it must come again. The fact that at one moment you have an immense reduction and the next moment there is an enormous addition to the Naval Estimates, with a further promise of more ships to be built later on, shows clearly that there is no policy. I now turn to my second point: that there is no standard whatever for British naval strength at this moment. The Prime Minister completely abolished the two-Power standard, as we have always understood it, in May, 1909. I remember in 1908 the Prime Minister stated, and it is worth repeating again and again, that the two-Power standard meant an equality in capital ships to the two next strong Powers, whichever they might be and wherever they might be situated, plus 12 per cent. The Leader of the Opposition called attention to the fact that the Prime Minister had not mentioned anything now of the two-Power 661 standard. I am not astonished at that, as he has abolished it altogether, and has started an emasculated standard within six months of his making that speech.
Take the speech made in May, 1909, in which the Prime Minister referred to geographical conditions, and never kept to the point that we should have an equality of capital ships with the two next Powers, whichever they might be. That point has disappeared altogether, and at this moment we have no standard whatever given to us by the Cabinet of the day, because the Cabinet of the day have never told us what they mean by "geographical conditions." I think what happened was that owing to what I call culpable negligence in regard to shipbuilding the Cabinet found that the strength of the Fleet had got too low, and to make that up to the two-Power standard there was an enormous expenditure of money. Than down comes the Prime Minister and gives us this extraordinary exposition of his new two-Power standard, which no one on this side of the House or in the country can understand at all. That is my view of the situation—that there was not enough money, or that the Prime Minister was afraid to ask for the money to make the Fleet up to the two-Power standard which he said, in November, had to be maintained. The Prime Minister has started a new doctrine altogether with regard to the utility or the way in which the Fleet would be used in time of War. On 29th May, last year, in dealing with the two-Power standard, the Prime Minister said:—In dealing with the two-Power standard and the question as to whether or not we in this country have a naval force which is adequate to satisfy that requirement, we must of course not merely take into account the number of 'Dreadnoughts' and 'Invincibles,' but you must take the total effective strength for defensive purposes, as compared with the combined effective strength of any other two fleets for aggressive purposes. I believe that represents clearly and fairly the two-Power standard as it has been understood and acted upon by successive Administrations in this country. Let me say at once, so far as the Government is concerned, we have made no new departure. We have not in any way changed the policy which was followed by Administrations that preceded us, whether Conservative or Liberal." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th May, 1909, col. 1291.]The First Lord of the Admiralty nods his head as if that were correct. Let me read his Memorandum on the "Principles of Sea Power" and what it involves, to the Colonial Conference, in October, 1902:—In the foregoing remarks, defence does not appear. It is omitted advisedly, because the primary object of the British Navy is not to defend anything. but to attack the fleets of the enemy, and by defeating them, 662 to afford protection to British Dominions, shipping and commerce. This is the ultimate aim. To use the word 'defence' would be misleading, because the word carries with it the idea of a thing to be defended which would divert attention to local defence instead of fixing it on the force from which attack is to be expected. The traditional role of the British Navy is not to act on the defensive, but to prepare to attack the force which threatens, in other words to assume the offensive.I think both the House and the country have a right to demand an explanation from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of the reasons which have lead to an absolute reversal of our naval policy. The Prime Minister shakes his head. But I cannot imagine anything more different from the line he laid down as to the way our Fleet should be used in war than the line laid down by this Memorandum sent by the Admiralty to the Colonial Conference. I say that in one sentence he has destroyed the principles on which we have always worked and on which alone we can retain command of the sea. The Leader of the Opposition stated very clearly that our position is absolutely different from that of any other country in the world. We live by the sea, and all our frontiers are sea frontiers. We cannot, like Germany, in time of war have raw material and food sent to a neutral port. We have no neutral ports. We must command the seas absolutely and entirely, and if the right hon. Gentlemen on that bench would only make this country so powerful that we could not be attacked, then we might get some sort of an idea about diminishing armaments, and in a period of peace do something towards social reforms so much needed in this country. But in war command of the seas is absolutely our life and existence, and it is becoming more necessary every day to protect the mercantile marine, on which we are dependent, seeing that the country is becoming more or less done except for its coal. And that control and protection can be ensured without arrogance to any other country. Every other country knows that command of the sea is our life, and, so long as we are the wardens of the sea, nobody will try to wrest that command from us or will ever threaten our supremacy. But it was by our arrogant conduct in regard to what "Dreadnoughts" could do that we put up the backs of other countries, who wished to see whether we were going to maintain the position of bully or not. It was, indeed, that which led to this enormous expenditure. The Government of the day have not the shadow of an idea of how a fleet is to carry out its true business in war. The Leader of 663 the Opposition called attention to our position in regard to "Dreadnoughts." It is absolutely true that in the year 1912 we shall be in the position of having twenty "Dreadnoughts" to Germany's seventeen. I will not say that is absolutely correct, but the possibility remains. We have, however, no right to run any risk whatever.
§ Mr. DILLON
What about the German Government's assurance that they will not have thirteen until 1912?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I do not believe in any assurances of anybody where the safety of my country may be concerned. I want to see a proper defence of our commerce, our shores, and of the whole of our Empire. Make that defence certain and it does not matter what any country or any combination of countries can do. That is not arrogance—that is commonsense. Hon. Members opposite I suppose are just as keen as I am to keep control of the seas, and the only difference between us is as to what is necessary to ensure that control. I maintain with very great respect that, though I may go a little bit further than hon. Gentlemen opposite, still we will be found on the same platform in desiring to keep the peace and stopping those scares and panics which will recur. So long as you do not have a definite policy as to what is necessary in regard to your shipbuilding, and a proper organisation for war made during peace and before war breaks out, so long you will have these panics and scares, these reductions of your shipbuilding Vote one year, and these increases made madly and wildly another. Therefore, there is not so much difference between me and hon. Gentlemen opposite as may perhaps be thought. As to the power of construction in Germany, the First Lord of the Admiralty was perfectly fair in stating that the power of construction in Germany is such that she is capable of having seventeen battleships available in 1912. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister both spoke of margins. My experience of margins is very practical. We shall be, I think, in the position, in 1912, of seventeen "Dreadnoughts" to twenty "Dreadnoughts." That gives you a margin of three. Perhaps the Committee will allow me to keep to "Dreadnoughts," which was the line very properly taken by the Prime Minister. I know that we are superior by three "Dreadnoughts," and 664 very largely superior in other directions; but, unless you have all the units which go to form a fleet in an inefficient state, and none short, you may perhaps jeopardise the whole fleet. The fleet is exactly like an Army corps, which must have all its units—so many artillery and cavalry, hospital service, ammunition service, and all the other branches which go to make an Army corps efficient for fighting. A fleet, besides its battleships, must have heavy cruisers, light cruisers, scouts, torpedo destroyers, mines, submarines, and all the stores and auxiliaries necessary to fit it for practical work. I am obliged, however, to argue in reference to "Dreadnoughts," because the public understand that form of argument better. The Committee will agree that a fleet cannot be efficient without all the auxiliaries necessary to enable the heavy battleships to, perform their work. And that is where immense expenditure will come in next year or the year after. We have been building these heavy battleships, but we have not been making up, as we ought, all the units necessary to their efficiency. On the question of margins, I remember when I was Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, I had a fleet of eight battleships. There occurred then what may occur at any time, that of the battleships I had under my command, three had to be refitted, which meant that they would be away three weeks or six weeks, and I had four more laid up for a considerable time for repairs to machinery. The uprights of the cylinders, as the right hon. Gentleman probably knows, are made of cast iron, and these split; and it took more than five weeks to get those uprights secure. One had a cracked pin that parted, and another had a boiler explosion. Therefore, for some five weeks, and this is a practical point, I had six of those battleships, which, were all first-class ships at that date, laid up through nobody's fault but through unforeseen contingencies—just one of those things that always happen, or may happen with regard to machinery. When I am speaking of "Dreadnoughts" I am speaking also of all the auxiliaries that should be with them. When we come to the command of the sea necessary for our existence we should be so organised so as to be able to act instantly. It is not right for us, and I say it is absolutely wrong for us to run our margins too low, or to have a single doubt in our minds that whatever happens we have such a margin that no matter what any other country or any 665 other two countries do we shall be able to keep the peace and to keep our full supply of raw material.
That is one of the reasons why I thought that the shipbuilding policy was not enough. It certainly was not enough when the Prime Minister and the Cabinet did not know of the two years and a half acceleration by the Germans, because they were decreasing their shipbuilding then. And I doubt if this is enough now with regard to what may happen and with regard to the margin necessary in 1913–14. It certainly is not enough with regard to what the proposals are as to the units which make the battleships effective. In the year 1913 I make out that we shall have twenty-seven battleships, twenty-five of our own, and two for the Dominions, against twenty-one of the Germans, and a possible four for Austria, which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord does not think, or at least never tells anything about them officially. But he knows perfectly well, unofficially, that two of those Austrian "Dreadnoughts" are laid down, and if he does not know, will he allow me to have the pleasure of telling him. I think the four will be ready, and I think the four Italians will be ready. The hon. Member for East Mayo is perfectly right in stating that it does not seem possible that the Austrian four and the Italian four will combine against the British Navy, but very curious things happen in politics. The hon. Member will remember that there is such a thing as the Triple Alliance, and the Triple Alliance, under certain circumstances, might have to join their ships together owing to something that occurred between this country and Germany. I acknowledge the argument that it is not likely, but again I say that we have no right to risk anything as to what is probable or as to what is possible in regard to our defences. Again, I think the margin is far too small. In 1913 we shall be two less under ordinary circumstances than the combined—and I am speaking of "Dreadnoughts," and in them include all those units which make them effective—we shall be two less than the combined "Dreadnought" fleet of the Triple Alliance. That is too small. We have no right to be in that position. I think the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord recognised that position, and I would ask him to explain what he meant when he answered the hon. Member for Armagh on 4th July. The hon. Member for Armagh was asking whether we would have twenty-seven ships 666 in 1913, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord said:—The hon. Member has apparently not taken into consideration the British programme for 1912–13.That rather points to the fact that the Government are going to lay down five ships for this year and call this year's ships next year's ships, because the five ships last year, we were told, were this year's ships, and they were no more this year's than the four contingent ships are last year's ships. The position appears to be this, that the right hon. Gentleman will take money, and he will have to get a Supplementary Estimate. I do not know where he will get the money. I would like him to answer, Is he going to lay down next year's programme next year? The right hon. Gentleman is not going to lay down this year's programme this year. He will not lay it down until January or February, which will be within the financial year, but that is all political juggling. It is political juggling, because the Germans do not do it. The Germans are laying down four ships for this year, this year. And the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord is laying down his five ships for this year next year, the same as he did with the contingent ships. The House was told they were getting the four contingent ships last year, but they never got anything of the sort, and how long they have been in finding it out. The position will be this—if the Cabinet think we are getting too close with regard to acceleration abroad they will be laying down, and I am talking of 1911–12, the five ships of this year and five ships for their new programme. Therefore that is ten battleships they will be laying down this year. Going back a year or two they were only laying down one or two, and how reasonable it is for hon. Gentlemen on these benches to find fault with the policy of the Government. It is all any way, it is all haphazard—one year we have two battleships, another year three, and the next year ten battleships.
Next year, in addition to the ten they are building there will be this extra ten, and with the two for the Dominions they will be actually building twenty-two battleships in one year. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain it. Is he not building ten now, and will he not be building those other ten next year? He has got to build his five this year, which he will build next year. That sounds very Irish, but it is true. According to what the right hon. Gentleman infers, he may build his next year's programme properly next 667 year, and not put it off to the year after. That is my point. Anyhow, the reply to my hon. Friend distinctly points to the fact that he is considering it. I think the House should know whether that is so or whether it is not so, and I daresay the right hon. Gentleman will tell us when he makes his remarks at the end of the Debate. I wish to point out another question that has been referred to very often before, and what I call again, juggling. The country was under the idea when the right hon. Gentleman came forward in the House and told us that he was going to build thirty ships this year, that the enormous expenditure and increase of money for construction was for those ships. As a matter of fact, out of the £13,500,000 for construction this year £11,600,000 is being expended on ships that the House have already approved of. There is only £1,400,000 going for the thirty ships which the country thinks are going to be laid down this year, but are really laid down next year. Out of that £321,000 is spent on these five battleships this year. Why I want to dwell on that is that hon. Members opposite must be prepared for a very large and immense increase in the Vote for construction next year, because we shall see that our margin will be too small with regard to battleships.
The right hon. Gentleman will come down, but he says he will not have a Supplementary Estimate. I think he said that last year, and he had a Supplementary Estimate of £600,000. There will either be a large Supplementary Estimate or an immense increase in the Estimate to finish those ships, because the margin will appear too small to the country under the conditions laid down by the Admiralty at the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman certainly admits the need of ships, but does not admit the need of money to pay for them. That will be the difficulty that will occur in the near future. In his Budget speech the Prime Minister took credit to himself as having saved £8,000,000 on the Defensive Services, comparing 1904–5 to 1910–11. That saving at the wrong moment has brought about the present position. We shall probably pay four or five times over for that false economy at the wrong moment. There is no economy so false as that which makes you pay two or three times more later on than you would have had to pay if you kept at your normal. That is what is 668 occurring now in regard to the Navy Estimates. I do not want to dwell longer on the shipbuilding Vote, and an hon. and gallant Friend of mine will deal with the question of cruisers, but I would impress on the House my view for what it is worth. I must modestly claim I was right before in this House when both sides were violently opposed to me. I brought forward a scheme for the construction of seventy ships at a cost of £20,000,000. I ask the Committee where would we have been in the South African War if we had not had those ships for that £20,000,000? Everybody in the House knows that the Chancelleries of Europe were considering whether we should not be asked to stop that war. It was our Fleet that stopped them from making any such impertinent suggestion—that Fleet, and what hon. Members opposite call scares. There is no scare yet that has ever been produced in this country that has not been justified. Hon. Members laugh, but perhaps they will get up and tell me one. You talk of scares, or so-called scares, but I call it the anxiety of the country, and no greater anxiety was ever created than by the speeches made on the Front Bench opposite. What is the result? You added, with the Supplementary Estimates, £6,000,000 to the Navy Vote, and I do not know what you will add next year. That is the result of the so-called scare. It was the same in 1889. Where would you have been in the South African War but for the so-called scare? It is called a "scare," but it is really people who know what they are talking about calling the attention of the country to matters connected with inadequate defence. When the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) talks about the experts provoking war, I must totally differ from him. No expert who has ever written has done anything in the nature of provoking war. All the doctrines they have laid down and the arguments they have used are with a view to keeping the peace. Peace is the greatest interest we have, and you have no right in any way to jeopardise peace by having the national defences, particularly the naval defences, not adequate to the need. That is my view of the situation.
I hope the First Lord will really realise our position, and take a strong stand now. I believe you want a new Naval Defence Act. I made bold on a former occasion to produce in this House a programme, some part of which has been adopted. I am not conceited enough to say that it was adopted out of my head, but the views of 669 the right hon. Gentleman and mine for once coincided. He has produced five battleships out of the six I asked for; he has produced 4,000 or 5,000 out of the 5,000 I asked for; he has produced docks out of what I asked for; he has produced twenty-three catchers out of the twenty-six I asked for. He is lamentably adrift in regard to cruisers, because the cruisers suggested are leaving our arteries and trade routes without any defence at this moment. We want a new Naval Defence Act. How you are to get the money is not the business of anybody on this side of the House. I and other people have suggested a loan; but the Government of the day, if they adopt a programme, must be responsible for when, where, and how they get the money. You want a new Naval Defence Act, a large addition to the shipbuilding Vote, and a proper war staff to stop all these scares. You want your Navy properly organised and prepared in time of peace. I feel just as confident advocating this increase of the Fleet to run us up to such a position that the whole world will see that it is no use competing—[Ironical cheers.] Is not that better than having scares and possibly war? Then hon. Gentlemen opposite who, quite within their right, want to reduce armaments, will be in a position to do so. An hon. Member shakes his head. But he will be in a better position to reduce armaments if he is very strong than if he is very weak. I am just as keen as he that we should use this money for social reform, and not for this mad, wild, insane competition in armaments. [MINISTERIAL cheers.] Yes, but whose fault was it? The Gentlemen responsible are staring me in the face at this moment. If you had not shown such culpable negligence in reducing your Fleet; if you had known something about your business, or had had a war staff to tell you how to do your business; if, for instance, on the first of every month the war staff had said, giving their reasons: "We are short of cruisers. We are short of men. You are building ships without men; you are building ships without docks"—if that had been done on the first of every month—
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. You will be up to £100,000,000 if you go on with these driblets. If you had had normal shipbuilding every year during those years when 670 the Government reduced its shipbuilding, you would never have encouraged Germany to accelerate, and you would have been in a stronger and better position now for far less money than you have got to spend at the present moment. That is my argument, and I cannot see how any common-sense business man can argue any other way. It is the same with an individual or an industrial concern as with a bureau. If you go on spending, deferring your liabilities, and not paying your rates and taxes, the time comes when you have either to go bankrupt or to get a loan. [Laughter.] I see the financier, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, means that getting a loan is increasing your debt. But any way you can afford to pay interest on that, and to provide a sinking fund to pay it off. If you go on as you have done, deferring your liabilities, you will have to get money somehow sooner or later, and I think you will have to get it by a loan, because you will impose such a tremendous burden when you increase your Navy Estimates to, say, £50,000,000, that the country will not be able to bear it. Posterity will be able to pay it very well, and will be very glad to pay it if you hand over to them the old Empire just as it is. You are risking the life of the Empire. Your own action shows that when the Prime Minister and others on the Treasury Bench created that panic they were telling the truth. The attitude and the action of His Majesty's Government invited other nations to challenge our supremacy, as they have most certainly done. I cannot pay the Government any compliments whatever. I do not think any Government has ever shown such incompetence or have been so extravagant in the management and administration of naval affairs as the right hon. Gentlemen apposite. I want to regain our old position, which was supreme at sea without any doubt whatever. When other countries see that competition is hopeless to wrest from us that control of the sea on which we depend, this competition will cease, and there may then be some chance of reducing armaments.
Before I conclude perhaps the Committee will allow me to make a personal explanation with reference to a statement which I made under a misapprehension on June 8th last concerning Mr. Rollo Apple-yard. In a letter to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Appleyard takes exception to a statement that I made, and informs. 671 the First Lord that he was a civilian, and a duly qualified full member of the Institute of Civil Engineers, engaged in active work. I accept the statement without reserve, and desire to express my regret that I should have been led to believe, and should have led the House to believe, that the facts were otherwise.
§ Mr. BARNES
In the breezy and no doubt technically well-informed speech of the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) there are certain things with which I agree. In the first place, it is unnecessary for him to remind us that the programme we are now discussing will automatically land us in a very much larger expenditure next year. Under this Vote we are called upon to spend only about £330,000 on the construction of the five new "Dreadnoughts" of this year. It is perfectly obvious that that is but a small fraction of the total cost, and, therefore, we shall have to provide the bulk of the money for those ships next year, in addition to the other ships which have been enumerated. It is just as well that the Committee should clearly understand that. I also agree with the Noble Lord—and I think most of my colleagues will be of the same opinion—that a very important factor, at all events, leading to these increased Votes was probably the boasting and bragging about the first "Dreadnought" that was built in this country. I remember the language that was used at the time in all the Service newspapers and in the speeches of admirals and people of that sort, and I think it is very probable that that boasting led to the acceleration, and, I am inclined to think, the only acceleration, of German or other shipbuilding. I also agree with the Noble Lord as to the stupidity of building these immense ships without first of all or concurrently taking the necessary steps to provide for their proper docking, repairing, and overhauling generally. I am sorry that has not been done, but a start is being made this year with the floating dock.
I had an opportunity, of which I availed myself, last March of speaking on the Navy Estimates, therefore I do not wish to go into the matter in detail again. I want to say most emphatically, however, that the expressions of opinion to which I then gave utterance, and the position I then took up, I see no reason to alter, nor have I heard any reason adduced to-day why I should alter them. 672 I believe that the programme is excessive, and must lead to hostile feelings abroad. I believe it is unduly costly, and therefore is, in effect, the alternative to social reform at home. I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer only the other day speak about the questions of insurance against invalidity and unemployment. I heard him plead poverty, and lament the fact that, although these schemes were already prepared, and all ready for submission to the House, that he had not the money, and therefore could not go on with them. I am sorry that Governments can play like this with matters which come so near to the vital needs of the people. I believe it is true that the unemployed problem is not so acute as it was a year or two ago. We are on an ascending scale of employment, no doubt, and in for a period of good trade; but I ask the attention of the Government to the other matter which was mentioned by the Chancellor: that is the matter of invalidity. I know, and many of my colleagues who are constantly in touch with the facts know, that owing to the increased pressure of life, owing to the fact that there is such an anxiety on the part of a man to keep in steady work, that sometimes that man suddenly breaks down, and leaves a family, a young family it may be, to be taken care of by the widow, and to be brought up as best she can. Therefore I say there is no more urgent problem than this of invalidity insurance. For my part, much as I want to spend whatever money may be necessary for the defence of the country, I say that this question of invalidity insurance is far more important that these increased Estimates which we have to-day. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says, "We have no money." I do not accept that statement, or, rather, the excuse Chat there is no money. I believe, if we had a Government thoroughly in earnest, we should have money enough for both purposes. We can have £5,000,000, or, as the hon. Gentleman opposite has pointed out, £4,650,000 increase in this year's Estimates for the Navy, and we cannot get £1,000,000 for unemployment.
§ Mr. BARNES
We are now on the Building Vote, and I believe the money wanted is between four and five millions. This Vote and this programme of the year is the strangest and most topsy-turvy bit of politics that has come about in my life- 673 time. Here we have a Government which came into office five years ago steeped to the very lips in professions of regard for economy. They were pledged right up to the lips in regard to the retrenchment of naval armaments. Now instead of proceeding in that direction, they are, I venture to say, leading the world in a mad race of expenditure. That race is based upon nothing more substantial than the mere vapourings of jingo journalists and more or less disinterested support of their political opponents.
One of the most disquieting features of this Debate to me to-day has been the manner in which the scare of last year has been dealt with by the two Front Benches. It will be in the recollection of everyone what took place last year. We had the two Front Benches apparently fighting with one another as to who could engage in the most exaggerated language on the position of affairs. We had the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Prime Minister giving statements as to, not only the possible, but the probable building of Germany. Then we had the Leader of the Opposition using still more exaggerated language, and saying that, as a matter of probability, Germany would have seventeen "Dreadnoughts" in 1911, I believe, twenty-one, or possibly twenty-five, in 1912. We find to-day the right hon. Gentlemen on both sides coolly ignoring a good many of the statements made in March of last year, and putting a very fine gloss upon the rest of them. Let me remind the House of some of the statements made—I will not say by right hon. Gentlemen—but statements made upon which I believe this policy has been more or less based. We have heard not a single word to-day about the statement made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham (Mr. A. Lee). I have called attention to that statement three times before. I am now going to give the hon. Member another chance.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
The hon. Gentleman called attention to it earlier in the Session. I made a full reply. He was not in his place when I made it.
§ Mr. BARNES
He does not. I was in the House subsequently in the course of that Debate at which the hon. Member was present, and at which the matter was again referred to by one of my colleagues. As I understand it, that statement has not yet been withdrawn. [HON. MEMBERS: "What statement?"] It was one of many statements of an exaggerated character that were made at that time, statements that directly contributed, must have directly contributed, towards ill-feeling between this country and Germany. I know this because I have been in Germany three times since then. Having been on the spot, I know that these statements have contributed to the ill-feeling. I am now referring to statements that have not been referred to to-day, and this is one of them.
§ Mr. BARNES
Two statements were made. First of all, one was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham that Messrs. Krupp were employing 38,000 men more last year than the year before. That statement was obviously and ridiculously untrue. It did not require any refutation, as a matter of fact, because if one had taken the slightest trouble to think of it for a moment, it would be easily seen that no town could absorb 38,000 additional men in a single year. As I have shown, firstly, from official returns from Berlin; secondly, from statements made to me by friends on the spot; and thirdly, from official figures submitted to me by the Chamber of Commerce at Essen, as a simple matter of fact the number of men engaged at Essen that year was a few hundred more than the year before, and the number of men employed by Messrs. Krupp as a whole last year was actually a little less than it was the year before. That is one statement. We have heard not a single word about that to-day. Having served its purpose last year it is allowed simply to slip away into the region of forgotten things. Another statement made was even more grotesque still. It was not made by the Front Opposition Bench, but by an hon. Member sitting behind, who was no doubt stimulated and prompted by the Front Bench. What did he say? He actually told the House of Commons that the Emperor of Germany had some secret arrangement whereby Messrs. Krupp were to contribute the 675 armament for ten ships in a single year. No reference has been made to that today. I say grotesque statements like that, insane statements like that, were the statements upon which these Estimates that we are now discussing have been more or less based. I am glad the Leader of the Opposition is here. I want to make a reference to his speech to-day. I am sorry to add that after all we have got another sort of wild-cat scare started to-day. What are the facts? The Germans, as I understand, have five ships of the first class afloat, and they have other eight ships on the stocks. That makes thirteen. I heard to-day for the first time that four more had been ordered. We have heard a good many statements of that kind—
§ Mr. BARNES
I should have attached considerably more importance to a statement of that sort prior to March of last year. If I know anything of what is passing in Germany it will take the Germans all their time to add these eight ships to the five by the end of 1912. The Leader of the Opposition tells us so.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I did not intend to speak in this Debate, and I think I got all my facts from the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. BARNES
That is a very convenient way of shelving responsibility. It does not alter the statement. I say again, not only have we the statement made by the German Government that they will only have thirteen ships at the outside finished by the year 1912, but we have also to take the capacity of the German shipyards into consideration. Taking that fact into consideration, I venture now to make these predictions which will come out much nearer the truth than the predictions of the two Front Benches last year: that the Germans will have thirteen ships at the end of 1912, and not one more. Nor can they have one more. Yet the Leader of the Opposition—
§ Mr. BARNES
At all events the right hon. Gentleman may have adopted the figures and predictions of the Prime Minister. I take them from him.
§ Mr. BARNES
The Leader of the Opposition has followed the same course as last year; that is to say, he has improved upon the Prime Minister and has devised "Dreadnoughts" out of his own inner consciousness—out of his head or pen. We are told the Germans are going to have seventeen ships by the end of 1912. I venture to say that it is absolutely impossible for them to have anything of the sort. It has also been said that we are only going to have twenty, and therefore we are only going to have a margin of three as between ourselves and Germany. What are we going to be doing all next year? As a simple matter of fact, there are five ships already ordered this year. Well, £300,000 odd have been taken from this Vote for this, and, following precedent, I should say we are going to have not twenty, but with these five ships, twenty-five, plus the two ships of the Australian Commonwealth and New Zealand, a total of twenty-seven. That is my prediction, and the Committee may take it for what it is worth, but I think it is entitled to some consideration, at any rate, when it is compared with that made by the Front Benches last year My prediction is that at the end of 1912 we shall have twenty-five "Dreadnought" ships of the first class, whilst the Germans will have thirteen.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Will my hon. Friend allow me, we shall not give the contracts for the five ships in time to have them completed at the end of 1912. The terms of the contract do not admit of their being finished by then.
§ Mr. BARNES
That may be so. At all events, you are asking for the power in this Vote to build five ships in addition to the twenty already under construction, and therefore there is no reason why you should not have these twenty-five ships before the end of 1912.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The contract would not allow that. We do not intend by the contract that they should be finished in that time.
§ Mr. BARNES
The amount of money next year might admit of their being finished. I am not at all surprised that we should have Amendments, not only from hon. Gentlemen who support the Government, but also from the hon. Member for East Mayo. I think the most unkind cut of all came from the Noble Lord, the Member for Portsmouth, and from the Member for Dulwich last Friday. 677 Having beguiled the Government into this immense expenditure, they now turn round and say they are not responsible. The hon. Member for Dulwich last Friday, and now the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth, and even the Leader of the Opposition himself, throw the entire responsibility for this scare and for the expenditure based upon the scare upon the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty. If we reflect on their action I think it suggests something about base ingratitude. I shall leave them, however, to settle the responsibility between them. All I am concerned about is to absolve myself and my colleagues from any complicity in the expense that has arisen.
We come now to the experts. I was glad to hear the reference made to the experts by the hon. Member for Mayo. The experts have been the "Oliver Twists" of naval expenditure. They always call for more. I heard the Noble Lord plead for large expenditure, so that other countries might not be able to compete with us. I think that was his general idea. It has been the idea of naval experts, so far as I can gather, from time immemorial. They have always asked for more, and when they get it they want still more, and if the First Lord of the Admiralty has any idea of satisfying these experts, I think he had better abandon it. As a matter of fact, we had a statement from experts some weeks ago, signed by 247 captains and admirals, and other people of position of that sort, and what was what they wanted? One hundred million loan? I venture to say if they got that one hundred million loan it would simply incite other countries to come nearer to us, and would lead to a demand for another hundred million loan for shipbuilding. I do not know whether any of these 247 gentlemen are in the pay of the Government. It may be they are only on half-pay. I was looking this morning for a document sent to me a month ago, but could not find it; but I remember sufficient of it to enable me to say it was signed by a large number of gentlemen who are admirals or captains in the Navy, or who had been, and therefore these gentlemen are taking part in political controversy, and are running the country into serious danger, and the point is this: How is it that these high-placed individuals are allowed to do that which is denied to Civil servants?
§ Mr. BARNES
Well, they are on pension. I venture to say if the facts were known a large number of these men are in the pay of the country in some way or other, and, that being so, it ought to be a matter of honour with them to leave these matters alone. I think the expert view is entitled to every consideration on matters of technical knowledge. If these gentlemen were concerned with questions of the construction of ships they would be entitled to consideration. The Government are responsible for what amount of money is spent, and it is a matter outside the range of the expert altogether. These Estimates are supported on two grounds, and two grounds only. First of all, there is the fact that they have been based on the consideration of Germany's relative position to ours, and also upon the consideration as to the alleged elasticity of the German Naval Bill; and, secondly, as to the possibility of German finance. In regard to the first of these, I believe the German Navy Bill is simply running its normal course. It was increased in 1906 as the result of later and more scientific information about the lifetime of a ship, and the Navy Bill, which was started in 1900 to get a navy of a certain size in the water for Germany, is simply taking its normal course, and in the course of the next two years the number of ships to he added is considerably less. For that reason I consider the present time is auspicious, not for inflating our armaments such as we are now doing, but for the reconsideration of the whole matter with a view to the reduction of armaments by mutual understanding between ourselves and Germany.
There is the further point of view of German finance, and here one must have regard to the political situation in Germany. I believe the political situation in Germany is such that it will be impossible to satisfy the German jingoes by starting another big German naval programme. Such a prospect is altogether impossible. I have been in Germany with my friends, and we have met all classes and conditions of people, and from everyone we heard intense hostility to the taxes already imposed for this and other purposes. The German Socialist party has stood four- 679 square against the Navy Bill of Germany not only against the increase in recent years, but against the Navy Bill from the beginning. There is nothing more clear than that the German Socialist party is increasing its strength, as proved by every election in recent years. I have been informed by a German Socialist delegate to the Reichstag that their party has been largely augmented, not merely by increase of Socialists—that is going on, of course—but by a very large number of people outside the Socialist ranks altogether; and that is the most significant feature of the situation. Going back a month or two, I find that the head of the German Admiralty made a statement in which he said—and I hope some reference will be made to this by the First Lord when he speaks—that "there have been no overtures on the part of the British Government in regard to the reduction of armaments." I take that to be an indication that the German Government was willing to consider the matter if something was done from this side.
The member of the German Reichstag, to whom I have alluded, wrote to me the other day, enclosing me an extract from an official organ of the German Government, and there it was stated on behalf of the German Government—so he put it to me—that the German Government would not accelerate the building of the now outstanding ships, and the programme of the coming year would only be one of holding up to the standard of the German fleet. I think that indicates a specific view on the part of the German Government. For my part I believe all this base scare about the Germans is absolutely groundless. So far as the great mass of the German people are concerned they want to be at peace with us. The German Government have, I think, justified their plea for a fleet. Their commerce since the time of the German Confederation has increased by something like 250 per cent. I believe the Germans now depend to the extent of 25 per cent. for their foodstuffs on foreign countries, and, therefore, most of these considerations, which apply in our own case for a big Navy, apply also as far as Germany is concerned. Therefore, there is no reason why we should be afraid of Germany as we are. But there are some people in this country who are never so miserably happy as when living in a bogey atmosphere, just like some of those women who rehearse their feelings by 680 reading trashy novels about deserted wives and cruel husbands. I remember three distinct sets of scares. The first arose in connection with Russia. There were people with their eyes turned towards the end of the earth who were always talking about the Afghan Frontier or Constantinople, and connecting them with some terrible raid by Russia until I verily believe there were a number of people in this country who went in such fear of Russia that they were afraid they would find a bear upon their doorstep every morning. A little while after that it was France, and there was much talk about Fashoda and the long spoon. That passed away, and now it, is Germany that is the bogey.
I venture to say in the light of the information I have obtained, and in the light of the information that has been given to this House, that the bogey about Germany has been more malicious, more mischievous, and more costly than any of the others that preceeded it. There is absolutely no justification about what is stated of Germany, and therefore I hope and trust that the hon. Member for Mayo will stick to his Amendment. I should have been more glad to have voted for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rochdale, because I think it raises the matter in a more clear form. However, I shall vote gladly for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mayo. I know there will be a good deal said to Members on this side that the time is inopportune. It will be said no doubt the constitutional issue is at stake. So far as I am concerned I believe the constitutional issue is almost as dead as Queen Anne, but even if it were there will always be something else. During the five years I have been in this House there have been discussions upon the Army and Navy every year. It is said to us "just pass these Estimates this year and you will find next year they will be less, and therefore we ask you to be loyal to the Government and vote for them this year." I hope my hon. Friends will not be put out by that kind of talk on this occasion, and they will go loyally into the Lobby with my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo in favour of a reduction of these armaments which I believe altogether unnecessary. At all events, speaking for myself, I shall do so, and, in doing so, I am convinced I shall be casting a vote as much in favour of the interests of the class which I specially represent here, as any vote I have given since I came here. In saying 681 that I do not speak as a fanatic who would refuse to Vote necessary moneys for the defences of the country, but because I believe the moneys we are now asked to Vote by these Estimates are altogether excessive, and because they keep back those problems in which I am primarily concerned and which have to do with the bettering of the conditions of the great mass of the people of this country.
§ Mr. WALTER F. RICE
I noticed in the statement which the First Lord of the Admiralty issued in 1908 the following remark:—The new construction for the year will cost £7,545,000, and of this sum £6,795.000 will be spent on the continuation of ships already under construction.When we come to the Estimates of this year we find the First Lord of the Admiralty says:—New construction for the year will be £13,279,000, and of this amount £11,850,000 will be spent on the continuation of ships already under construction, and £1,429,000 on ships of the new programme.Do hon. Gentlemen wonder at the reason of this great increase? The answer is given by the First Lord in 1908. He adds these words:—To what extent it may be necessary to enlarge next year or in future years, must depend upon the additions made to the naval forces of foreign Powers.I am very glad to think the Admiralty and the present Government have realised the position and given us these extra Estimates. I welcome them, but I do not say I am absolutely satisfied. I wish the Admiralty was spending more money this year on the five large armoured ships they are laying down. We are going to spend less on those five armoured ships than they have already spent up to date on the four contingent ships. In 1905 the Admiralty laid down that there ought to be four large armoured ships built every year, but in 1908 we find they only built two. It would to my mind be a great thing for the contractors and workmen of this country if we had a normal and steady shipbuilding programme instead of these spasmodic jumps up and down which we have had lately.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget statement was, I think, rather optimistic. He mentioned that he hoped the year after next we should find the German programme decreasing by 50 per cent. I think that was very optimistic. I should like to give him a little bit of advice, the same advice the Prime Minister gave to us, namely, "Wait and see." I notice that at a meeting of the General Committee of the National Liberal 682 Federation, held at Leamington last year, there was a long discussion on the question of the Navy, and one gentleman, not a Member of this House, mentioned that if there was one thing the Government came into office upon it was the pledge to reduce the expenditure both on the Army and the Navy. It is not for me to say if there was a pledge of that kind given or not by hon. Members on the other side of the House, but I am very glad and thankful to think that anyhow his Majesty's Government at this moment do realise our position and the absolute necessity of spending these large sums on the Navy. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Byles) was also present at this meeting, and he made no bones about the question at all. He simply said the Navy was too big already. I cannot understand the feelings or the position of a man who can say the Navy is too big. A small Navy would be the most useless thing it is possible to conceive. We might as well have none at all. You would not laugh very long; you would soon find your country in the hands of somebody else. Last year the "Daily News" had a leading article on the question of the expenditure on the Navy. It was very nervous lest the Government was going to produce too large a programme, and, in the course of the article, referring to a large expenditure, they said:—It would burden our finances to the point of bringing peril to Free Trade.That is a very remarkable statement of the "Daily News." Free Trade cannot produce the money for "Dreadnoughts." If you produce "Dreadnoughts," you imperil Free Trade. That is the objection of the "Daily News" to these "Dreadnoughts." You are imperilling Free Trade if you do it. I welcomed the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) earlier this year when he said:He believed that, irrespective of party, the great majority of the people of this country were. under no delusion as to the vital necessity of keeping our fleet in a position of unassailable supremacy In his opinion, weakness was more likely to be provocative of war than strength. Strength was a security for peace. It was no good halting between two opinions. Either they should scrap the whole British Navy at once, or, as far as was humanly possible. make it invulnerable against attack.With those words I fully agree. I remember a few years ago an American visitor, who was in this country, went round our fleet during the great review at Spithead. He did not speak a single word from morning to night whilst he was going round the fleet—not a word could be got out of him— 683 but when it came to the time to land, and he stepped ashore, he just ejaculated:—I guess that means peace.I thoroughly agree. If you have a big Navy, you will have peace, and you will not have peace without it. The First Lord of the Admiralty was equally good when he said:—No matter what the cost, the safety of the country must be assured.I could have wished he had added the word Empire, but no doubt he had that in his mind at the time. He also added this:—we should be prepared to meet the contingency of Germany having seventeen of these ships in the spring of 1912 by our having twenty.I put this to the First Lord of the Admiralty: Does he think those figures are keeping up the two-Power standard? May we have a statement from him this evening as to exactly what the Government mean by the two-Power standard? We have had two or three different statements on the subject. May we have it now definitely laid down exactly what they mean? There is one Member of the present Government who, I suppose, is not so very anxious for this expenditure on the Navy as some of his colleagues. I refer to the Home Secretary (Mr. Churchill). Last year he was certainly very agitated about this question, for he took the trouble to write a letter, a column and a half of the newspaper, to Mr. Ritchie, the chairman of his association in Dundee. There are one or two points in it to which I should like to refer. After drawing the attention of Mr. Ritchie to our pre-"Dreadnoughts," he added these words:—If in 1912 the German Navy shall have strengthened by thirteen 'Dreadnoughts' the British Navy will possess sixteen, and if the German Navy shall have been strengthened by seventeen ships, twenty new British ships will have been commissioned. In view of these tremendous margins of safety—Tremendous! Where is the tremendous margin of safety?The cries of sheer cowardice with which the air is filled contribute a good deal more to the gaiety of other nations than to the dignity of our own.Where is the cowardice? Is he saying the Prime Minister, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs were cowards for drawing our attention to the state of things last year? I do not believe there was any scare at all; but a grim determination went through the country that they wanted the ships, and they meant to build 684 them. The Home Secretary further said:—We must not now begin to build the ships that will be wanted in 1913, and the years that follow. Those ships will be better built next year and the year after. They will be stronger ships; they will be newer ships; their effective lives will begin later and will last longer.That is obvious, but if you go on those principles you will never build at all.What is required is steady building, not panic building.I wish the Government had adopted that policy a little earlier, and had kept up a regular steady ship-building programme every year instead of this vast increase this year. What we want, to my mind, is continuity in shipbuilding. I very much regret that the First Lord of the Admiralty should have last year said:—There is no such thing as continuity of programme.I hope he has changed his mind, because, until we have continuity of programme, and until both parties agree as to what is really necessary, I am afraid we shall not get this naval question out of party warfare. I should be very glad if we could do so, but, until we come to some arrangement as to what is absolutely wanted, it would be very difficult to do it.
I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will tell us to-night what the United States and Germany are spending this year on new construction. Last year we only spent very slightly more than the United States, and we spent £500,000 less than Germany spent on new construction. That is not keeping up the two-Power standard. I asked the First Lord of the Admiralty earlier in the year what would be the armament of the new "Dreadnought" cruisers in Germany, and he told me he had no official information. I hope by this time he has official information. The following appeared in the Press as to what the armaments of the new German cruisers would be. Can he tell me if there is any truth in the statement?The three newest 'Dreadnoughts' on the stocks will he armed with twelve 12-inch guns, in addition to a secondary armament of ten 65-inch, 45 calibre quick-firers, capable of throwing twelve 154lb, projectiles a minute.If that is true, I hope we may have an assurance from him that our "Dreadnought" cruisers will be quite equal, if not better than those. We must take notice of the wording of the German Navy Act, 1900. That was the period when Germany was building her Navy, and this Act laid it down that Germany must have a Navy of such strength that, even for the strongest Naval Power, a 685 war with her would involve such risks as to imperil its own supremacy. It was the German Emperor who declared, "The trident should be in our fist." As we know, at this moment the trident is in our first. The German Emperor must have known that, and could not have been thinking of anybody else when he used that phrase. He having used it, we must keep it in our minds, and be ready for any emergency. If we do not have a supreme Navy, the rate of interest in this country will go up; insurance rates will also increase, and I maintain strongly that you cannot have a strong foreign policy unless you also have an absolutely supreme Navy.
§ Mr. BELLOC
May I explain that the interruption I made in the speech just de livered by the Leader of the Opposition was not made with any intention of discourtesy. I am afraid my tone was misunderstood. I only made it because that sort of interruption represented the very point I desire to make upon that speech, namely, that the public fears or public panic with regard to the purposes of Germany towards this country are exaggerated. I emphasise that opinion, however, on rather different grounds to those held by many of my colleagues. It is not that the German Empire appears to be particularly pacific at the moment. I cannot recall, during the whole of the forty years which have elapsed since it was established, any public statement by any of its chief men, which would enable one for a moment to assume that it had that regard to the necessity for maintaining peace and the same ideals as the older and greater civilisations possess. My reason for believing that these fears are exaggerated is that I do not see in the organisation of modern North Germany that efficiency for aggression which so many of my fellow subjects detect. That North Germany is a very great Power is obvious, and I need not insist upon it. That it has a great conscript army well organised, and that its finances are in very good condition may be also true. But we do not know, and we cannot judge, whether it has any moral superiority over the other four great conscript modern organised Powers. I do not say that they are right in all they assert about their military calculations, but I do submit that there is no ground for the exaggerated state of mind which obtains in certain quarters in this country.
686 There is exaggeration of the power of Germany in the English mind, and it is an exaggeration we should do well to get rid of, because, in the immediate past, some of our statesmen and some Departments of our public service have been led by the nose to take advice in a roundabout way from the German Emperor. I think it is time we should take a more general view of the situation. I consider it my duty to support the Government on this occasion. I am profoundly convinced that the power of North Germany—of Prussian Germany—is grossly exaggerated by publicists and by statesmen in this country. You can exaggerate the offensive purposes of that Government—I do not mean the offensive purposes of Prussia with regard to ourselves alone. But the evil, or rather the peril, which you cannot exaggerate, is the now nearly 200 years old tradition of the Prussian Government that contract and bond do not count between Christian men, and that when occasion comes you may by any means in your power strike and destroy your enemy. That is the continuous tradition of that particular centre of European power. It is regrettable, and we do not often mention it. I may, perhaps, be wrong, speaking as a private individual, in mentioning it in such an Assembly as this, but at the same time it is true, and it is of vast importance to ourselves. I suppose most people are familiar with the circumstances of the Ems Dispatch, and I want to remind the House there would never have been the war of 1870, with all the vast consequences which followed upon that war, had not a document been deliberately falsified for the purpose of making war, and had not the signature of a leading statesman of those days been forged. When you are dealing with a Power of that sort, even if it be not the strongest kind of Power, it is a power against which you must ever be on your guard. This sort of thing is always deprecated by men who speak with the responsibility of present, past, or expectation of future, office.
We have been told that the masses of the German people—of the Prussian people—do not desire war, that the Socialist party is growing, and that popular feeling would not allow offensive action on the part of the Prussian Government. The hon. Member who made that statement probably knows more of Prussian and German society than I do. I have only one short journey through Germany to my credit. But I would ask the 687 hon. Member whenever, in the past 150 years, have the masses of the poorer subjects of Germany been able to affect the policy of the reigning classes? There is not in all Europe a body of men less capable of virile political initiative and of bringing pressure to bear on their own Government—there is no body of men less possessed of democratic sentiment and power than the industrial masses of North Germany. If the Government of North Germany—if the Prussian Government—think the moment opportune for taking action, it will not matter a snap of the fingers what the masses of the poorer population in industrial towns or agricultural plains think. Those masses dare not, even in matters vital to their own interest, move at the present time. They have no power of initiative. No one can deny that. We all agree it is right that responsible men should not emphasise this fact, and that they should ask private Members not to emphasise it. But some one must voice it, not because we believe the enemy to be so strong, but because we know, from his past acts, that that enemy will be prepared to put down anything which may stand in his way, and we stand right in his way.
There is another reason why I think it my duty to support the Government on this Amendment. The building of a Navy, and of a supreme Navy, is an economic question, and it constitutes one of the most important functions of the State. It is the general opinion of economists that our economic power of development in the immediate future is unfortunately likely to decline, compared with the power of other countries. The long peace we have enjoyed they are now beginning to enjoy, and the inevitable result may be that the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Spaniards, the Russians, and the Austro-Hungarians will all in the near future possess economic powers of development more rapid in comparison than our own. If that is the case, we have to consider not only the peril of immediate and possible adversaries combining under that old formula, the two-Power standard, but we ought to be ready to meet any combination or any likely combination not expressed in terms of particular nations, but expressed in the abstract terms of any possible two stronger Powers. That must be guarded against not only by thinking of particular possible adversaries, but by remembering that anyone may in a short 688 period become the adversary of anybody else. As to what exactly the Government should do in one year or another, and whether they are asking too little or too much for naval expenditure, does not so much concern me.
In common with many Members of this House, I do not understand the naval question. I do not know how much it costs to produce a fleet; I do not know what amount may be wanted in a particular year; but I do think that, side by side with the evils our party system produces, this good is produced, that when men responsible for the Government of the day, acting on the best expert opinion, divorced by thousands of miles from the game which is played in this House, when the men responsible declare that a certain thing is necessary, then any Member of this House who does not pretend to any detailed expert knowledge of the question feels it his duty by his vote to support the responsible Administration. I further think that that is the best representative action which a man, however strong he may be in his desire for economy, however keen he may be for spending money on social reforms, can possibly take. The people who send us here are exactly in that frame of mind. They, too, do not know what a Navy costs. They are not experts, but they do demand that their representatives in Parliament shall conform to the considered opinions of the Administration with regard to the necessities of the country. For these reasons, and in spite of the fact that I think that the power of North Germany is exaggerated and that the scare and panic are ridiculous. I shall certainly support the Government.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
A few nights ago an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, sitting below the Gangway, made a remark to the effect that he did not think naval officers ought to be allowed to have seats in this Assembly. I confess to feeling somewhat hurt at the time, as, after all, we were a fairly harmless class. But, having listened to some of the speeches made by Members of the Little Navy party. I almost sympathise with the view held by those hon. Gentlemen who dislike having anybody in this House who has some real practical experience of what our Navy should be. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been called to task many a time in many speeches for the remarks he made about the Navy in his Budget statement. 689 He tried to make out that the amount of this shipbuilding Vote was un necessary, and that we on this side of the House were scaremongers. I regret as much as anybody that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have made those remarks about the Navy, but I think, to give him his due, he has been absolutely consistent all along in this respect, and if we ever learn the true history of the present Cabinet we shall discover that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has always opposed increased expenditure, and is the real head of the "Little Navy" party in this House. I think it is much more serious when the First Lord of the Admiralty goes down to the country and makes the same kind of remarks. "Where are the scaremongers now?" asks the right hon. Gentleman. The country knows very well who were the "scaremongers," if the Government like to apply that term to themselves, and it also knows perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman himself was not unsuccessful in that direction last March. Personally, I do not in the least mind being called a scaremonger. To anybody brought up in a gun-room "scaremonger," as a term of reproach, is a most elementary one. On the contrary, I think I should be proud of the title if I thought anything I had ever said or done had induced anybody in this country to realise this very serious problem of our Naval policy as it was realised last year. The right hon. Gentlemen opposite are doing themselves a grave injustice by not taking to themselves the credit which is justly due to them for having awakened the country to the grave state of our naval policy last year; for having for once lifted that veil of mystery which they seem to love to draw over naval affairs. I have a much stronger argument. I deeply regret the remarks of right hon. Gentlemen, especially the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for they must have the inevitable tendency of dragging this question of the Navy back into an atmosphere of party politics from which I had hoped and believed it was emerging.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer wants the country to think that he cannot proceed with his schemes of social reform because of this increased expenditure on the Navy, and that we, the panic-stricken Tories, were responsible for forcing this enormous expenditure. It was not we on this side of the House, it was the party opposite who came into power in 1906 and 690 were led by the "Little Navy" party then. They economised on the one thing they could not afford to economise on, the Navy. They showed weakness where strength was needed, and gave a deliberate opportunity to a rival Power, an opportunity that the Power was longing for, and of which it took full advantage. We are paying now, and paying dearly, for this so-called economy of the "Little Navy" party. The members of that party practically dictated the policy of the Government in 1906, and in doing so they played a sort of "poker" with our naval programme, the sad thing being that they played the game very badly and that they played it with a stake they had no business to play it with, namely, the supremacy of our Navy. In 1906, when this Government came into power, they only built two ships. In 1907 they only built three large ships, and in 1908, after repeated warnings of what would happen, they reduced that programme to two "Dreadnoughts" a year. In 1908, when we reduced our shipbuilding programme to only two "Dreadnoughts" a year, what did Germany do? She altered her Navy Act and increased her shipbuilding programme of "Dreadnoughts" to four. It is that increase we are now paying for, and it is not too much to say that that increase was directly the result of our weakened naval policy in 1906 and 1908.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
I am talking about what happened in 1908 when we only laid down two "Dreadnoughts." It was in that year that Germany doubled her programme.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken in thinking that in 1908 Germany doubled her programme.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
I maintain that Germany's programme was two ships annually up to 1908 and it has been four since. They built three in 1907, but that was right at the end of the year. If we had maintained a firm policy we should not have had Austria and Italy entering the lists also in building "Dreadnoughts." I should have thought that those past events had taught us the failure of economy as applied to the Navy; that economy on the Navy is the most expensive policy we could possibly pursue. This is the worst possible time for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to throw out hopes to the 691 "Little Navy" party. The right hon. Gentleman says that in two years' time Germany is going to reduce her programme by 50 per cent. We all hope that she is going to do so, but the only way for that to be brought about is for us not to waver for an instant in our shipbuilding programme, not to let a murmur be heard in this House against it which might give the idea—I believe the false idea—that there is a large or influential party in this House anxious to cut down our expenditure on the Navy. May I say in passing that the units that make up the Fleet are quite as important as the big ships, and, as I said last March, we have not got enough destroyers.
I want to deal with the most important question of the protection of our trade route by our cruisers. It is a commonplace to say that we of all countries depend upon our seagoing commerce, and to say that that commerce must be protected. The necessity of that protection has, I believe, been increased by the Declaration of London. The Declaration of London will have the effect, amongst others, of making all food coming into this country, whether carried in our own ships or in foreign bottoms, be contraband of war. Therefore the adequate protection of the trade routes becomes of vital importance to us. Our great weakness in this respect is the reduction in the number of cruisers and small craft we have now on foreign stations. In North America, at the end of 1902, we had fourteen; now we have nine. In the Pacific, six; now two. South-east America, three; now none. At the Cape, fifteen; now three. East Indies, ten; and ten now. Australia, twelve; now nine. China, thirty-six; and now twenty-seven, ten of which are river gunboats up the Yangtse. We ought to have more small cruisers abroad on the spot in case of an outbreak of hostilities, because the first part of the business would be the worst. There ought to be more ships on those stations to form the nucleus of a larger and better system of trade protection. I will examine as an example one route along the southeast coast of America, the Argentine route, which supplies us in the spring with a very large amount of our food supplies. Living as we do from hand to mouth, a cessation of those supplies for any length of time would be a great inconvenience to us. On the southeast coast of America we have not got a 692 single ship: we had three. I want to give an idea of the very large number of British ships out there. Leaving Monte Video and Rio most of them call at Pernambuco. It is the trade route between Pernambuco and the Cape Verde Islands that I want to say something about.
As giving an idea of the very large amount of British shipping on that route I will state that a British ship would pass any given parallel of latitude at least every four hours, or six ships per day; that is giving an average speed of ten knots. At any given moment there are sixty British ships between Pernambuco and the Cape Verde Islands. Moreover, in the Consular report of Brazil of 1908 it is said that of all the shipping that enters Pernambuco 62 per cent. is British, and I think we may fairly state the same proportion on the route from Pernambuco to the Cape Verde Islands. That means that besides the six British ships passing the same parallel of latitude every day there are three foreign ships. Besides the sixty British ships at any given moment at sea between those two points we have thirty foreign ships, and in the spring of the year practically all those foreign ships, or most of them at any rate, are bringing food to England, and, under the Declaration of London, are liable to be contraband. To be perfectly on the safe side I will only take British ships. I want the Committee to imagine a commerce destroyer or commerce destroyers in possession of that route at the outbreak of hostilities. Near the Cape de Verde Islands, although I am afraid the Admiralty would have no official information on the subject, a foreign Power really might use a part of their merchant vessels for this service, and with this great advantage over us that we do not know what they are. All they have to do is to get on a trade route, hoist up a gun out of the hold, break out a pennant at the mast, and then for the captain to open an envelope and bring out and read his commission, and then start the vessel as a commerce destroyer. This gives them the great advantage that we do not know what they are until they have actually got into this position, and I think that really does constitute a very dangerous state of affairs. We must remember that it will take six days for the cruisers from England to get south of the Cape de Verde Islands with an average speed of eighteen knots, because the difficulties of coaling would be very great. If the ships in these seas did not know that war was going on 693 without the cruiser having the slightest chance to come up with them, the commerce destroyer would have the opportunity of destroying the whole of those sixty ships if they interfere with the operations of the enemy. I say they could sink all those sixty ships besides all the others that left Pernambuco before they got news of hostilities. But when they had got news I think the case, as far as food supply is concerned, would be very nearly as bad, as I think this would mean the disorganisation of our food supply, at any rate temporarily, for a period of three weeks, and after that the supply would be spasmodic and intermittent. I do think that this interruption of that important food supply might so disorganise our home forces as to prove perhaps fatal to our plans. In conclusion, on the whole of this shipbuilding programme I would beg the Committee with all the earnestness that I am capable of not to be led away again into that violent cry for economy as they were in 1908. If we now stick to this heavy and large expenditure for another two years I think we might then safely take the step of reducing our shipbuilding programme; but I think that for every one ship that we build now we shall save three or four in the future, and we shall insure at the lowest rate that which we mean to insure—namely, the supremacy of the sea.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
I have listened with extreme interest to the most excellent speech of my hon. Friend opposite, adorned as it was by the knowledge and the modesty of a sailor, and I wish most particularly to deal for a moment with the extremely important question which he raised at the end of his speech—a question which I venture to think is of infinitely more importance than that of how many millions of money you are going to spend on "Dreadnoughts." I think so because those observations concern the Declaration of London, which deals with the rules of the game, and if you will let me make those rules I will undertake to beat you, however strong you are in "Dreadnoughts" or anything else. I entirely share with the hon. Member his fear as to the effects of the Declaration of London against ourselves in case of warfare. There is not an Article in that Declaration which is not against England, not one which is not in favour of any possible individual enemy. It deprives us of the power of searching the vessels of pretended neutrals who are under the convoy 694 even of a torpedo boat. It deprives us of the power of blockade, and it deprives us of almost all the naval powers which that still more wretched and miserable Declaration of Paris left to us. But I think my hon. Friend opposite has a little failed to realise the practical working of it in regard to the interference with commerce. He has taken one of our important trade routes, and he has suggested an enemy with commerce destroyers. Of course, if these are cruisers known to be such I presume that on the outbreak of war our Admiralty will pretty well know where every one of those commerce destroyers and will look after it, and if the Admiralty does not know, I shall hang this Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara), or whoever is responsible, on a lamp-post in Parliament Square.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
I said "armed merchantman," which, I think, would be put upon a different footing.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
I was coming to them, and there is indeed one of the most stupendous advantages created in favour of the enemy by the Declaration of London if, which heaven forbid, we should ever allow it to be ratified; and it rests with this House to say whether it shall be ratified, and some of us will have a word to say before it is. But if it is ratified it would leave to the other Powers who maintain the doctrine the right to send out merchantmen with their guns in the hold and to transform them into destroyers on the outbreak of war. That, as the hon. and gallant Member put it, gives the captain power to read a paper on the quarterdeck, to break out a pennant—and there you have your commerce destroyer. But what is she going to do? The hon. Member suggests that she is going to seize 20, 30, 40, or 100 of our vessels and sink them. Does he suggest that?
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
But that is not commerce-destroying; that is piracy. I have read the Declaration of London myself, and I think he has read it a little wrongly. The Declaration does permit, in certain circumstances, the destruction of vessels carrying contraband or enemies' cargo. I am coming to the question of what is contraband, which is quite another matter. It gives the right to capture vessels carrying contraband or contraband of war, and we will assume that food is contra- 695 band. No doubt, in certain specified instances, a cruiser or commerce destroyer might destroy a vessel, but the hon. Member suggests that she can always capture and sink a vessel carrying our commerce.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
I do not think that is exactly the wording, though it comes to that, and my hon. Friend will remember that is exactly what the Russians did with two or three of our vessels in the late war. They sank two and burned another. That really does not perhaps make part of the new Declaration of London, but it is a monstrous and outrageous rule and one of the worst rules possible. In my opinion, the rule which ought to hold now is the one which always has been held in the old time, that an act like that was an act of piracy, and every man engaged in it, every British cruiser, should hang at his own yard-arm. That is my conclusion, and I would only say that if we are foolish enough to agree to that Declaration of London, which throws a certain amount of respectability over these acts, we shall deserve everything that happens to us in the next naval war. But it is not so easy. You capture your English vessel laden with corn, and you are going to sink her. What are you going to do with the crew—a hungry crew of at least thirty or forty? If you capture a hundred ships you will have 4,000 men to look after. Are you going to keep them on board your man-of-war, or your commerce destroyer? It will be extremely difficult. Are you going to kill them—to make them walk the plank? That is impossible.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
And then sink the merchantman? You would then want not one commerce destroyer, but two. The practical difficulties are very great. If I were a commerce destroyer—if I were a merchantman and had broken out my pennant and declared myself to be a man-of-war, it would be as false as it could be. A vessel can only be truly commissioned from one of her own ports. But assume that this is possible under the Declaration of London, and that I have done it. If I were a commerce destroyer and had cap- 696 tured a vessel worth half a million of money I should not sink her; I should send her home.
The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
I am afraid I must say this is going a little too much into details on the Declaration of London. It can only be referred to in relation to the programme of shipbuilding.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
With much contrition I allow it, but it is so fascinating a subject, and so important, that I followed a little more at length the remarks which the hon. and learned Gentleman made. I will only say that I not only earnestly trust, but I think every hon. Member should require, that before that Declaration of London is attempted to be ratified, or any Act under the name of a Naval Prize Act attempted to be passed, to legalise any part of it, the fullest opportunity should be given for the fullest possible Debate. To come back to the main question, I do not myself like this increase in Naval expenditure. I cannot forget that the Prime Minister, when fresh from his election in April, 1906, said it was the mission of the Government to economise, and above all to economise in the Army and the Navy. I do not like it, but, nevertheless, I mean to agree to it for the simple reason that I do not know what secret information the Government may have. I know that things are somewhat menacing across the seas, we will not say where, and I feel bound on the whole to accept the statement of the Government that they do not need the expenditure of this vast sum of money. I myself have always doubted it. I doubted the scare when it was made, but it was made on these benches. It is no use blinking the fact. There would have been no scare but for two speeches which were made from this Front Bench last year. But it was encouraged and exaggerated on the other side. It is in their rôle. It is part of their plan to spend as much money as possible. I am perfectly certain that it was with some regret and with some misgiving that the Government thought itself forced into this tremendous increase in naval expenditure.
Let me now have a word with the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford). I do not suppose there is a more popular man, and I am quite sure there is no better Admiral in the Service than the Noble and Gallant Lord. But this is not an admiral's question. This is a question to be decided 697 upon information in the possession of Governments, and of Governments alone—not even of admirals. The Government alone has the sources of information from which they can determine what kind of naval enemies they will have to meet, if any, and if ever. That is why I feel myself bound to leave myself largely in their hands. The Noble Lord denounces the "Dreadnought" idea. I think he is probably right in that.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I never denounced the "Dreadnought" class of ship. What I said was that she is not so superior to the "Lord Nelson" as she is to the others. What I denounced was the arrogant pretension that she can sink the whole fleets of other nations. That is what has run us into this expenditure. We were quite right in building "Dreadnoughts."
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
That may be so, but I think this race, which was begun by the "Dreadnought," must have been followed up by other nations, because they did believe that she could sink everything she met. I myself believe that this is a particularly unfortunate moment in which to have embarked on these enormous ships. They carry an enormous number of men, and represent an enormous amount of money, and would be exposed to a terrible new risk if they were at war, for this is just the moment when the hornet is taking her place among the fighting machines. The torpedo has increased in range and the submarine has become very much more effectual than it ever was expected to be, and any one of these things, if it once got home, would sink your "Dreadnought" and away go £2,000,000, and probably a thousand men. Therefore, I think the moment is unfortunate. But if I may go a little further in criticism than my Noble Friend, with whose objects and ends I am always in entire agreement, I would rather take him to task for complaining that we have no definite policy and no standard. I think it is impossible to have a definite policy in naval affairs for more than a year. It depends upon what other nations are doing. It depends upon the changes in the designs of ships. How can you pledge yourself now to the sort of ship you will build five or ten years hence, or to the number of those ships? It surely must vary. I am quite sure my Noble Friend will feel that you cannot definitely pledge yourself to a definite policy. Then he says 698 there is no standard. That is very true. I believe the Government have no naval standard in their mind, but I think it is extremely difficult to have one, because there, again, our standard must depend upon what other nations do, and it must also depend upon their present, and probably their future, attitude towards ourselves. Suppose for a moment that all the world were at peace and in formal alliance with us. We have got to that with most of the leading Naval Powers already. Japan, America, and Russia are our friends. But suppose we had an offensive and defensive alliance with Germany. The case for building "Dreadnoughts" would largely disappear. At any rate, it would be diminished. My belief is that if we were friends with all the world we must still keep up a large naval force, for we are a maritime people, and, whatever others do, we must keep strong upon the seas.
But I certainly lament this scare. I believe it to be altogther unfounded. My conviction is that it is not we who should be afraid of Germany, but rather poor Germany who on the sea should be afraid of us. It is not they who are menacing, but us. We have set up a Rosyth; we are setting up stations on the Eastern Coast, and I am profoundly convinced that a great many people in Germany believe we intend to repeat the exploit of Copenhagen, and go into her rivers some day and destroy her fleet; and I am profoundly convinced that they think we can do it if we like. I earnestly trust that no such attempt will be made. If you ask me to be afraid of the German army I will be, but I refuse to be afraid of any German navy. It is manned by landsmen at the best. They are men of three years' service, and a third of the whole of their crews are landsmen fresh from the plough. They have none of the instincts of the sailor. The sea is not in their blood, and, although they are very good in high and scientific things—I believe their guns and their ships are good—in the elementary things, such as veering cable when it comes on to blow, I think they are incapable of the elements of seamanship. At any rate, they are not so capable as we are. Our sailor-men are seamen by nature and seamen by training, and I cannot, with the best will in the world, feel that terror of the German navy that many of my countrymen seem to have acquired. If I am going to be afraid of anything German, it will be not that end of the dog, but the other—the army. I see my hon. and gallant Friend has come 699 back with the Declaration of London; but perhaps I may inform him that we are ruled out of order on that subject to-day. I earnestly trust that we shall have a real good opportunity of discussing a Declaration which will be, if passed, the death knell of British supremacy at sea.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
As a humble landsman I feel rather shy in addressing the Committee when we have had so much naval talent and such brilliant speeches, but, as I have taken some little interest in naval matters, I may be allowed to address the Committee for a very short time. I think the speech made by the hon. Member for Sal-ford (Mr. Belloc) is one which deserves considerable attention. The hon. Member put the case of this country and of Germany from a point of view which has been real in the minds of many people of this country. He pointed out that, as a matter of fact, the Prussian Kingdom in the past has not been too nice in its international relations. He pointed out with irrefutable truth that the war between France and Germany in 1870 was brought about by a forged document, but he did not instance the war with Denmark and the war with Austria, which were brought about in an equally unexpected and unsatisfactory way. Therefore I think we ought to be much impressed by what the hon. Member said, because, as he pointed out, however well intentioned the people of Germany and the members of the Reichstag- might be to keep the peace, and even if the Socialists were to greatly increase their present number, they would not have the power, although they had the will, to keep the peace if the German bureaucracy desired to fight. In connection with this, I do think that we ought to keep the fact in mind that Germany is not ruled by its Reichstag, and that the opinion of that Assembly may be overborne by the bureaucracy. Attention has been drawn by an hon. Member to what I consider to be the unsatisfactory state of our destroyer building programme and the number built at the present moment. I know that this is a matter of considerable controversy in which a layman like myself must speak with some diffidence. It is a matter of considerable controversy among naval experts how you should class destroyers, what ought to be considered efficient, and what ought not to be considered efficient. I think the only safe plan for this country is to adopt the 700 standard set up by our most likely—I will not say our most likely, but by the country which most nearly approximates to us in strength, namely Germany. Germany has laid down that automatically after twelve years a destroyer ought to be replaced, and if they have come to that conclusion, it seems to me that to be on the safe side we ought to adopt the same standard, I would ask the Committee to put before themselves what would be our destroyer strength in May, 1912, two years hence. At the present moment we have 150 completed destroyers, and besides these we have thirty-seven building. This year's twenty have just been ordered, and will be ready by November, 1911, so that in May, 1912, we shall have 207 completed destroyers. That seems avery large number, and if they were all efficient and up to date, they would be more than sufficient for our needs, but we must undoubtedly, in order to get a fair comparison with Germany, deduct from the 207 all the old 27-knotters, thirty-six in number, and also all the vessels of more than twelve years old, forty-seven in number, which leaves us on 1st May, 1912, with only 124 effective destroyers, including those in this year's programme. Germany at present has got eighty-five destroyers completed, and there are twelve more building, making ninety-seven. There have been twelve more ordered in this year's programme, and when these are completed Germany's total will be 109. If, therefore, we compare our strength in May, 1912, with the German strength, and take twelve years' limit as the Germans do, we shall only have 124 destroyers as against Germany's 109. Surely that is not a satisfactory state of things.
The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) stated that the way to carry on war was not to be on the defensive but the offensive. If, therefore, we were unfortunately engaged in war with a great Power in the North Sea, we should not be content with having our destroyers round our coasts, but we should send them out to the Elbe and elsewhere to blockade the enemy's ships. How would that be possible if we had only a margin of twenty or sixteen above Germany? How could we possibly hope to hold them with such a very small superiority? It seems to me that we are dangerously behindhand in the matter of destroyers. An hon. Member, who dealt with the question of cruisers, has proved that the number we possess is inadequate. 701 We have heard that in 1912 our preponderance of "Dreadnoughts" will only be three. I have proved, at least to my own satisfaction, at any rate, our destroyers will be 124 to 109. Surely, if that is the case, hon. Members who go in for a reduction of armaments ought really to see that the present state of things is not satisfactory. We have, not heard anything to-day in this Debate about the two-Power standard. In November, 1908, the Prime Minister said he adhered to that standard, but in May last year he whittled it down by excluding the United States Navy. He might as well have excluded Germany or any other Power. Why choose the United States? It has been said that we shall not be engaged in hostilities with the United States, but it seems to me that it is just as likely that we shall be engaged in hostilities with the United States as any other country. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members say, "No," but if you begin to exclude one country, you ought to exclude all the countries with which we are in friendly alliance, even more than the United States. Therefore we have the two-power standard now officially excluding the United States. In 1912 Germany and France will have twenty-three "Dreadnoughts" to our twenty. Where is the two-Power standard there? In 1913 Germany and France will have thirty-nine "Dreadnoughts" to our twenty-five, plus the two Colonial ones, which we ought not to count in our available strength. They are not under our control. I am perfectly sure that as soon as possible our loyal Colonies would send these ships to our help. But it is almost certain that they cannot be here when the decisive battle is fought. We cannot count them as ships which will be in the forefront of battle. The two-Power standard for "Dreadnoughts" is absolutely gone. We have barely got a preponderance over one-Power in destroyers and we have an inadequate number of cruisers. Therefore I do think that hon. Members who support the reduction ought to be satisfied and not persist in the course which they are adopting.
§ Mr. WILKIE
I trust I need no excuse for intervening in this Debate. As I understand we are dealing with ship construction, and as a ship constructor I should like to say a word or two. I do not propose to follow the various speakers in the proposals, assertions and assumptions which they have made to-day. In nearly all these Debates hon. Members 702 are drawn into prophecies. I remember on the last occasion when I took part in one of these Debates, I think last year, the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) took me to task for asserting that you may have all your "Dreadnoughts," your destroyers, and the submarines—those deathtraps to our people which ought to be either improved or avoided altogether—yes, I was pleased to hear the Member for King's Lynn a moment ago contend for the superiority of our men, while I was in favour of an efficient Navy, efficiency meant being efficient in men as well as efficient in equipments and in means of destruction. The Secretary to the Admiralty stated that his object was to have the best article possible for our vessel, with which I agree, but I think he will agree with me that the next best thing, in order to have the advantage of an efficient Navy, is to have efficient men as well as efficient ships.
§ Mr. WILKIE
That is the point to which I wish to bring the Committee back for a moment. I listened carefully to the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford), because I had a lot of correspondence with the south of England dockyard towns as to what certain of the Members returned at the last election were going to do for the working man, and though I listened very patiently to the Noble Lord I never heard a single word from him on behalf of the workers, neither in the ship-constructing department, in the yard, or aboard the ship. We have been told that the cause of this extra expenditure is because of the decrease of the shipbuilding programme of recent years, followed by violent fluctuations or of what the workman would call a hunger or a burst; and he also told us, on the other hand, that it was because we built the "Dreadnoughts," and boasted of them, and proclaimed that nobody had any "Dreadnoughts" but ourselves. Well, plenty of others have them now. But who commenced the "Dreadnoughts"? Who were the cause of that boasting? The party of which the Noble Lord is a Member. They started the very thing which he deplores, and now they blame other people for the result of their own action. I come now to the question of the working men whom the Admiralty employ, and I should like, as a practical man, to draw the attention of 703 the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty to this matter. He, I believe, is a practical man in another line. How is it that the Admiralty draw this distinction between skilled labourers and labourers, and where then would the skilled mechanic or the skilled ship constructor come in? This has been a puzzling matter for many years. They call, roughly, rivetters, drillers, and others skilled labourers; but in one sense we are all skilled labourers — every tradesman and artizan to the highest mechanic is a skilled labourer. We have no such distinction outside. Let me say at once I am not at all anxious to bring outside practices inside, or to take inside practices outside. What I want is to deal with the things as they are. And if we now take the difference between skilled labourers and labourers and tradesmen and mechanics, why not fix some apprenticeship and give some lead to the country?
We continue in our craft to support apprenticeship. Why not continue it with that work? We once did the whole of it. It is now given to lesser paid men. Several concessions have been made in wages, and I thank the Admiralty for the concessions which they have given for some of the men. I have no brief for all those men, but I have for a considerable number. But if the Financial Secretary will allow me to put it in this way, I may say that he takes the whole of the gilt off the gingerbread so far as this advance is concerned by immediately stating that the new rate of pay which is created will be regarded as special, and will be awarded only to a limited number of men who are employed upon more skilled operations and are actually at a machine the whole time as a responsible workman. That is the very thing I complain of. The Admiralty themselves ought to be model employers, and I agree that they are in some respects, but where they are not I trust they will excuse me for drawing attention to the fact; for if we are to have the Fair Wage Clause insisted upon on the one hand as regards outside firms we should have it also on the other hand insisted on as regards the Admiralty. This new regulation simply means that they are getting the best class of work done at those rates which are not skilled craftsmen's rates. I find on Page 19 with regard to skilled labourers employed at a machine that they are to receive higher remuneration where they are skilled labourers who are 704 regularly and continuously employed as responsible workmen on dangerous wood work machines. I hold that these men should be described as skilled tradesmen and not as skilled labourers at all. These men should be classed as tradesmen in the trades to which they belong. Then those skilled trades such as shipwrights, ship constructors, ship joiners and others contend that the Admiralty do not pay a rate equal to the rate paid by their competitors in ship building, the outside ship builders, and that therefore they do not comply with the Fair Wages Clause.
If the Admiralty could give me an assurance that they will do what has already been done by the Secretary for War in his Department, namely, allow this matter to go to a Committee of the Board of Trade, it would cut short my remarks. The joiners and others are not paid rates which are paid by your own contractors who do your work outside, and if the First Lord of the Admiralty would grant my request to do what the Secretary for War did, it would at least have the effect of shortening matters. For myself I do not see why, if that course could be adopted by one great spending Department of the State, it should not also be adopted by the Admiralty. As to the question of demarcation, I will not touch upon it here; it is a domestic matter which we arrange among ourselves. There is another case which perhaps does not altogether come within the shipbuilding Vote—I refer to the ship carpenters on board our warships. They have been trying to get their case before the responsible officials of the Admiralty, and have failed. The men of whom I speak in the old days were the only skilled mechanics on board ship.
§ Mr. WILKIE
I thought I should be called to order, but I only wanted to make a passing reference to that class of workman. They have never had any alteration for over a quarter of a century. Other trades have been brought on board, but the whole structure of the ship still remains in their hands. Yet these ship carpenters are the very men who have been overlooked—the men who keep the ship afloat in cases of emergency. Another question which has been repeatedly before the Committeee is that of pensions. A number of workmen have petitioned that their higher rate of pay should be counted whenever they get the pension. They have been 705 put up to the rate of 35s. per week, but that is immediately reduced by the deduction of a contribution towards the pension fund. If our association in connection with the trade received a similar weekly payment they would be in a position to grant the workmen much more than the Admiralty give.
The complaint is that when the pension is paid it is calculated on the lower rate of wage, after the contribution has been deducted; but the men contend that it ought to be paid on the higher rate, namely, that which is really their wage. When the workmen asked that this should be conceded to them they were told by the Admiralty that they had no power to consider the request, as the matter was governed by the Superannuation Act. That, however, does not answer the complaint. I want to know by what legal authority you take 1s. 6d. from the men's wages. It is not done in any other branch of the Government service—not in the Post Office or the Army, or any other Department. Is there any legal right by which you are entitled to make this deduction? In case of death the whole amounts paid by the men are retained by the Admiralty. I think it is a very great hardship on the workmen that they should have this deduction made from a wage which, after all, is not very great. I am, of course, asking for more money. Yes. but I am asking for it to save life, not destroy it; I am asking for it to improve life, not to extinguish it. The matter I submit ought to be considered by the Admiralty, and if they have no power under the Superannuation Act then they ought not to deduct 1s. 6d. per week, or whatever is the amount of the contribution. One word as to the conditions of work. We find that in other trades there is blood poisoning, but investigation shows that blood poisoning is far more prevalent among workers in the shipyards than one would believe. In the case of huge vessels, with double bottoms, and submarines also, an immense amount of white and red lead is used, and we have had a number of cases of blood poisoning—one very recently, that of an intelligent man who was a member of our association. He had to work on one of the submarines, and in his case the Admiralty, I admit, have been very generous in the way they have treated the orphans of that member. What we want is that every precaution should be taken to see that the rules are carried 706 out. It is not compensation we want; it is the safety of life and limb of our workers.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has raised various questions which I think it is desirable to dispose of forthwith. The First Lord of the Admiralty will reply to general questions of policy before the Debate closes. I have not one word of complaint to make, on the contrary, that the hon. Member should have raised these matters. It is my duty and my pleasure to do what I can to reply to him. The workmen in the dockyards, of course, represent a very considerable body of men. They numbered, on the 11th of June, 35,867, and it is interesting to note that the number on the 1st January, 1906, was 27,974. This is owing to the larger operations on which we are engaged, but into which I will not go, as my right hon. Friend will deal with the general question of policy. My right hon. Friend is aware that every year the Board of Admiralty visits the yards. We propose to go to Devonport next week, then to Sheerness and Portsmouth, where we will listen to the men's petitions. I am very glad indeed of an opportunity to give every consideration and care to the representations which the men make from time to time. As a matter of fact, since 1st January, 1906, the amount of wages paid to the men in the yards is over £70,000 per year more now than it would have been if the corresponding rate of pay had been maintained. That is an estimate, of course. The principal classes benefited are the labourers, shipwrights, joiners, riggers, and smiths. There have been a great many other concessions, but those represented the largest number of men. The minimum rate for labourers has been raised from 20s. to 21s., and the skilled labourers from 21s. to 27s. to 22s. to 28s. in the case of the hired men, and from 21s. to 25s. 6d. to 22s. to 22s. 6d. in the case of established men. The shipwrights have been increased 1s. per week.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Will the hon. Gentleman kindly refer me in the reply to the petitions where the labourers are raised to 21s.?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Member thinks I am referring to this year's reply, but I am not. They have been raised since January, 1906. The organisation of the yards with regard to unskilled labour 707 enables us to give more continuous employment. In addition to the rates of pay there are other concessions. Since 1906 we have made the working hours uniform at forty-eight hours per week, in place of an average of forty-eight hours. I was very glad, as an old schoolmaster, to have had the opportunity of assisting in the provision of improved facilities for the boys to attend school. In regard to plumbism, I can send my hon. Friend ((Mr. Wilkie) the whole of the dockyard regulations, and I shall be glad to hear from him whether he thinks they are sufficient to secure immunity.
Superannuation is, of course, a burning question at the yards. A man gets, say, 25s. per week as an established man, while, as a hired man, he had 26s. 6d. per week, the 1s. 6d. per week being taken off for his superannuation. My hon. Friend say that the man ought to be superannuated on the 26s. 6d. per week, but he is not the only person by any means who comes under superannuation on his establishment rate. That is common throughout the Service. It is calculated by the 1s. 6d. per week he pays £117 during the thirty years of establishment, and, assuming an expectation of thirteen years of the pension, he receives a total of £585, at £45 per year.
§ Mr. WILKIE
Have you any idea what is the average amount of pension received? My information is that it does not work out to even ten years.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was taking the ordinary expectation of life. Our difficulty in the matter is a legal one. The Superannuation Act lays it down that the annual allowance shall be according "to the annual salary and emoluments" in an established capacity. It is the legal view, and the view of the Treasury, that 26s. 6d. does not represent the salary and emoluments, but it is the 25s. Therefore we are estopped, without going into the merits of the case, from doing what the hon. Member desires. We have not been able to do so up to the present, and I could not now hold forth any prospect of doing so. We cannot pay the fixed superannuation on the higher scale.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No, I am afraid I could not. As to the men generally, we are entitled to say that we do spend considerable time and pains in endeavouring to hear their grievances and to meet those that are reasonable.
§ Mr. WHELER
As the representative of a dockyard constituency, may I say with reference to the petitions from the dockyards, we have been waiting a rather long time for the answers, and there is a feeling of great disappointment amongst most of the petitioners at the answer that they have received. However, we must be thankful for small mercies, and we are glad that at any rate the skilled labourers have received an increase. But I think that something should have been done for the hammermen. They are a class who ought to receive far more attention than they have received, bearing in mind the work they do and the way in which they do it. The total increase of pay, amounting to £70,000 is, I think, a complete answer to the "Little Navy" party with regard to the amount of increased employment and better wages involved in a large naval programme. If the programme were cut down, the logical outcome would be that the staff in most of the dockyards would have to be reduced, and a large number of skilled and unskilled labourers and mechanics discharged.
I should like, as a new Member, to give my impression of the speech of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman appears to have given up entirely the two-Power standard. That has been the standard by which we have been guided in the past, and it will be a bad day for the country when so little is said by responsible Ministers on the question of the two Power standard. I hope we shall be told whether or not that standard has been definitely abandoned. I do not think we ought to look at the question of our naval armament as a question of "Dreadnoughts" versus social reform. Without "Dreadnoughts" we have not confidence; without confidence we cannot carry on industry; and without industry and the means of employing our people we cannot provide those happy homes and satisfactory incentives to work which must go in conjunction with all schemes of social reform for the betterment of the people. When the hon. Member for Portsmouth was speaking about the various units of the fleet, I thought there was one which is mast important but very much neglected, namely, docks, 709 especially floating docks, which we want, but have not got, and which are essential not only when our battleships are disabled but in many cases for repairing ships before they go to war. We have only two of those floating docks, and only one will be on the North Sea. None of us wish to consider that that will be the battleground of the future; still it is a danger zone, and must be considered as such. The question of floating docks ought to be considered in conjunction with the other units of the fleet. In regard to our lines of commerce and the provision of cruisers, when one considers the enormous extent of our coast-line as compared with the coast-line of Germany and the increased responsibilities which must fall on our cruisers, any comparison between ours and the German fleet is absolutely fallacious. I hope before the Debate concludes we shall have from the Government a statement as to what is going to be their future policy and whether they really consider that a margin of three in "Dreadnoughts," which may be the only margin we have in about two years time, is a satisfactory margin for the safety of the country, and whether they intend to abide by it, in view of the enormous commercial responsibilities of the Empire. Reverting to the dockyard question, I congratulate the Government on again starting the establishment system. I am certain it will have the effect of keeping the best class of men, those who have been brought up and trained in the dockyards, so to speak, and I hope that, having been re-started, the system will never again be given up.
§ Mr. JOHN ELLIS
In supporting the reduction which has been moved, I desire to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) in reference to experts. The Vote before us is not a matter to be decided by experts. The hon. Member quoted Lord Salisbury; I could quote Mr. Gladstone. I remember a conversation I had with that great Statesman on this very question of experts in naval and military matters. At the end of that conversation Mr. Gladstone said, "Throw the reins on the neck of the Services, and they will ride you to destruction." That was the doctrine held by Lord Salisbury and Sir Robert Peel, while Sir James Graham always dealt with these matters in the House of Commons from the lay point of view. Therefore I do not follow the experts. If they once control us, Heaven help us. Nothing worse could befall a great public Department than 710 that the Minister should allow himself to fall into the hands of his experts. Like lawyers, they are good servants, but very bad masters. I think the Committee will agree that this Vote, according to all tradition, raises the question of policy rather than that of details. The question for each one of us to face in this matter of Naval armaments is how fast we require our pace to be. It is impossible for anyone who has sat in this House for a number of years, and listened to the terrible words of 16th and 22nd March of last year, not to think of it. Therefore I am not surprised, as the Leader of the Opposition seemed to be surprised, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo and other speakers have alluded to what transpired then. As I understand this new departure—and it is a new departure—the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth thinks that it is unfortunately a new departure, and that we ought to have kept on a more even level all through.
§ Mr. JOHN ELLIS
There is much to be said for that from one point of view. But this new departure was recommended to this House last year in respect to what had taken place in one particular country. In March Germany was mentioned. In July, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo pointed out, that country was never mentioned. Two other countries were brought forward, Italy and Austria. In respect to none of these to-night has any attempt been made for a single moment—I do not know whether it will be by the First Lord of the Admiralty—but no effective attempt was made by the Prime Minister to support the arguments which were put forward on 16th March of last year. That is surely a very striking fact? Here we have embarked upon this most extraordinary, unheard—of, unprecedented demand of £40,000,000 sterling for the Navy. We are going along on a mad career on a foundation which is proved to be false and insecure; for none of the anticipations—I am not going into the particulars of these precious sums in arithmetic, which have been made as to the number of ships and so on, but which in the end are very confusing, and, to my mind, do not carry conviction—have been realised. I am looking, as I said at the outset, to the pace at which we are going, and the direction towards which our 711 faces are set. The Prime Minister, in the Budget discussion the other night interposed to point out that after all the figures of increasing armaments were not so very great as was sometimes supposed. He did not seem to me to deal very effectively with these figures, for he forgot to mention this fundamental fact, that the first period which he gave, and which he was comparing our present figures with was a period in which the expenditure was falling. This is a period in which the expenditure is rising. This is a salient point. As everybody knows perfectly well the figure of naval expenditure and naval construction is not only enormously greater this year than last, but it is going to be greater still next year. That is the point at which we have to look. It is not even going to be just greater, but the percentage of the increase has risen.
Where are we going? It is impossible for anyone to say at present. The figures, to my mind, are most alarming. I am told that it is only part of the policy which was decided upon a year ago. On the 20th July of last year I took a similar course to the hon. Member for Mayo, and moved a reduction. I accepted the whole responsibility of my act. One hundred Members of this House voted for that reduction. My action was brought up against me at the General Election in January. Of course, I was called what I suppose is a term of opprobrium—"a Little-Navy man," and all the rest of it. I do not know that it did me permanent harm. We are told that this is in consequence of the policy decided upon last year. But this is a new Parliament. A good deal has happened since then. I venture to think that we, every man of us, are bound to review the circumstances of the case in the light of recent events. The circumstances, I believe, have completely changed since this policy was entered upon in March of last year. The figures with respect to the various fleets are in themselves most striking. No one can read and examine carefully the Return made on the motion of the hon. baronet, the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke) without seeing beyond the slightest dispute—withoutgoing into the nicer items of arithmetic—that we in this country have unquestionably an overwhelming preponderance not only with regard to one other country, but to every Navy abroad. Even the hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn, with all his 712 great knowledge of the sea and seafaring matters, used an expression this evening that this was a most unfortunate moment to enter upon the construction of so many of these vast vessels. Everyone knows now that they are rapidly becoming obsolete, and to embark, to invest so many millions sterling on what have been called "floating machines" which seem to be out of date so quickly is not what a commercial man who had any respect for his own affairs would think of doing. It would not be done if he were buying engines or machinery. Therefore we find ourselves here, on 14th July, unquestionably in a position of unrivalled superiority. I will not pursue that subject. The magnitude of the sum before us I have already dealt with. That we are proceeding at an accelerated pace down hill I have already mentioned. I will not dwell here and now upon the fact that we upon these benches, we of the Liberal party—I speak now as a Member of that party—feel gravely concerned in this matter. I quite agree that taunts from the opposite benches are not easy to answer. When before my Constituency in 1900, 1906, and 1910. I promised, seeing that I was alarmed at the increasing expenditure, that I would do my best in this House to stop that increase. Therefore I feel it my bounden duty to those who actively supported me to discharge that obligation. I also do so because the Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted that the millions turned into this unproductive channel—this channel of destructive engines of war—is taken from objects which are dear to everyone of us. We all like to profess ourselves in favour of reform, but I will not labour that point. The Prime Minister himself has over and over again used the very strongest language in connection with this matter, and I shall never forget hearing him use those words that this expenditure was devastating and sterilising. These were very serious words coming from the Prime Minister of this country. This expenditure is devastating and sterilising inasmuch as it turns the golden stream from objects which lie at the heart of every one of us, such as the promotion of social and moral reform, helpful and uplifting in the eyes of the people. This enormous expense on armaments does not, as some Members say, tend towards peace. It rather tends to provoke a spirit abroad which we must all deplore. That grates upon me most. The Prime Minister, in very strong language, at the end of his speech the 713 other night on a Bill that was before the House, when he was referring to the action of certain hysterical and misguided people and the mischief they were doing to their cause by the employment of certain means used these words: "Those who take the sword shall perish with the sword"—words not often uttered in this House. I suppose it must be acknowledged, and I am one of those who acknowledge it reluctantly, that resort to force must be on occasions regarded as necessary whether it be in individuals or in the States and nations. Our nature has made us so. But surely it will be admitted by everyone that the greatest triumph of civilisation is the limitation and narrowing of that application of force. States are beginning to realise the advantage of the substitution of the process of ordinary law for the arbitrament of force.
We all know that much progress is making in that direction in international affairs. There is growing up most happily between nations a strong feeling of that kind. At the present moment what I venture to call one of the greatest law suits is going on between this country and the United States of America. What would formerly have led to war in a single month has in this instance been submitted to the arbitraments of the ordinary processes of law. That is a process and procedure which we hope will develop and be made world-wide. At all events, we hope for its adoption within the continent of Europe. But above and beyond that there is the growing feeling in favour of peaceful methods, in the solidarity of the people of the civilised world. There are signs in very nation in the increasing communication and visits between the representatives of the various elements in different nations, and these are multiplying and growing. Nations are gowing more and more dependent upon one another; they are feeding one another; they are clothing one another; they are financing one another; they are exchanging projects and ideas with one another. That is the direction I venture to say in which our minds on this occasion should turn. It is because I believe that great naval armaments such as we have in these Estimates, and because I believe the direction in which the Government are going militate against what I have indicated, namely, the growing solidarity of nations and the tendency to submit differences to arbitration—in a word that they will not promote peace but militate against it— 714 that I most unhesitatingly, though with a certain amount of sadness of heart, give my vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ Mr. LEE
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has at least the courage of his convictions, and we respect him on that account. He told us that he is not only going to work for the reduction of the Navy Estimates upon this occasion, but that he has done so before, and that although it was used against him in his election he none the less takes the full responsibility. We always respect anyone who has the courage of his convictions, and evidently the right hon. Gentleman's constituency are very indulgent with him. They have not only forgiven him for having voted for a reduction of the Naval Estimates, but they have absolutely, in spite of the fact that he has proclaimed himself in favour of the old Liberal watchwords of Economy and Retrenchment, returned him to support the present Government. I congratulate him upon his constituents. Before I proceed to the subject-matter of the Debate I feel bound to say one or two words in regard to an attack, or rather a complaint, made against me by the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Barnes). He seems to regard a certain statement in a speech I made a year ago much as Mr. Dick used to regard King Charles' head. He complained that I had not replied to a certain charge he made against me. The trouble is that when one does reply the hon. Gentleman is always out of his place. Despite the fact that he says he was in his place three months ago, I find to my horror that I occupied two columns of the OFFICIAL REPORTS replying minutely to the very point that he says I did not reply to, and I do not think, having given that very full explanation, which he will find if he wishes in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the 16th March, page 410, it would be right for me to take up the time of the Committee again by going over the same ground. He may not be satisfied with my explanation, but it is the best I can give and it is the only one I can give. I would not wish him to think I was guilty of any discourtesy to him in ignoring any complaint he might make against me.
This Debate, I think everyone will agree, has taken a somewhat unusual course. The attack upon the Estimates has proceeded not mainly from the natural opponents of the Government, who are in favour of a stronger Navy, but almost entirely from 715 the natural supporters of the Government, who wish to see the Navy reduced. Whilst the three divisions of the Coalition, if I may so describe it, has been engaged in smiting the Government from behind, from the flank, and even in front from below the Gangway, of course, we on this side are waiting to see if they really mean business, and, if so, to what extent. If they really mean war against the Government in this matter it will again be the duty of the Opposition, as it has been so often in the past, to defend the Navy against the attacks of certain sections of the Liberal, Labour, and Irish parties. I feel inclined to ask why is this attack so belated? Why did not we have this matter pressed to its extremities in March last, when the Government made disclosures with regard to keeping up the naval strength of this country. Why was not the attack pressed then, when the Government first laid their proposals before the House? I suppose the only reason must be that the Coalition was then engaged in the congenial task of attempting to pull down something else. Now that a period of enforced idleness has come upon them "Satan must find some mischief yet for idle hands to do," and they must be pulling down something, and they are selecting the British Navy as the corpus vile for their experiments. I wish to refer, with all the respect I can, to the point of view put forward this afternoon by speakers on the other side of the House, and notably by the Leader of the Labour party, the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes), the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and others who are banded together in this movement for a reduction in the Navy Estimates. I am quite ready to believe that they are perfectly sincere in their belief that the British Navy is too strong, and that it is desirable to reduce it. Whilst I do not deny for a moment that their motives may be patriotic, I do venture to contend that their judgment is astray. I go further and say that they and those who think with them have been more responsible than any one else for the great increase and the great spurt in shipbuilding which has taken place in Continental countries, because they have created the idea that the traditional British determination to maintain our naval supremacy is weakening or was weakening until a short time ago, and that there was an opportunity for other 716 nations to catch us up, if only they developed their resources and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.
The point to which I wish particularly to draw attention is that these gentlemen who sincerely believe they are doing a national service in trying to reduce the Navy seem to be influenced principally by the idea, and, as I think, the perfectly absurd and perverse belief, that if you make adequate provision for the national defences you cannot make adequate provision for social reform. It was put very well by a speaker in the Debate on the Budget:—You have got to choose between the Navy and social reform.That seems to me to be a strange delusion. Yet I do not blame some Gentlemen for holding that belief, because it is one which has been sedulously and unscrupulously fostered by many who know better, or ought to know better. It is a vicious and cruel argument. It is the sort of argument which was used in a leading article in the "Daily News" the other day. On 7th July the "Daily News" said:—Were it not for the enormous increase this year, the country would have been equipped with most admirable systems of insurance against unemployment, sickness, and invalidity.It is infamous to tantalise the poor and more ignorant of the classes of this country by preaching to them this false and cruel doctrine. It is practically saying to them, "Burn down your house and see what a magnificent roast pig you will get." Undoubtedly, if you neglect the proper provision for the defence of this country, then you are burning down your national house, you are destroying the very separate existence of this country in which we all have to live, and I say it is an infamous argument to use when seeking the votes of the working classes. I am thankful to say there are some Members of the working classes, and some leaders of the Socialist party who are honest and wise enough to recognise and tell the truth about the matter. We have seen a notable illustration of that in the last few days, in a letter that appeared from Mr. Hyndman, who, I think, even Members of the Socialist party will admit has done as much for the workmen as anyone in it to-day. Mr. Hyndman has written a letter to the "Morning Post" within the last few days, in which he has combated that view as strongly and, as I think, as wisely as it is possible for any man to do. There have been other prominent members of 717 the Socialist party who have done the same. What is the result? They are at once repudiated and they are driven out of their party, a party which, whatever else it will do, will not tolerate freedom of thought or speech or independence of character. Whatever gentlemen below the Gangway may say, we have not got to choose between the defence of this country and social reform. We have got to have both, and we have got to pay for both whatever expense is necessary.
§ Mr. LEE
I think the hon. Gentleman has lost himself for a moment in catchwords from the last General Election. He has forgotten we are not being asked to pay the greater portion of these Naval Estimates until long afterwards. At any rate, whether we are willing to pay for them or not, we have got to pay for them, and we have got to have both national defence and social reform. It is perfectly clear that without the safety which a supreme Navy alone can give, any great schemes of social reform are a mere mockery and delusion. That fact was admitted by the Prime Minister this afternoon in an impressive passage of his speech, when he said:—National security is the basis of all social reform.That being the fact, I cannot understand why responsible people should try and create the idea in the minds of the poorest of the classes of this country that they have got to choose between one and the other.
After all, what will be the real position of this country in the event of our losing, even for a moment, our control of the sea—not merely if we lost our supremacy, but if it were effectively challenged, for the result would be in that case almost equally disastrous? In the first place, if it became possible for any nation to effectively challenge our supremacy on the sea there would be an immediate collapse of our national prestige, and in the event of any international question arising we should either be ignored or have to submit. The next effect would undoubtedly be, as was clearly stated by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his remarkable speech last March. I think every Member of this House will remember the language used by the right hon. Baronet. He said that if we fell out of the competition we 718 should cease to count for anything, and in many things we should be lucky if our liberty were left. I believe no truer words were ever spoken. And, lastly, it is perfectly obvious the effect in case of war would be that the first brunt of the misery of the war would inevitably fall on the masses to whom hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway principally address their arguments. They would starve directly the pressure of the war came upon them. That fact has been admitted in categorical terms by the present Lord Chancellor, in a speech he made in the House of Lords in 1906. We have got to pay for adequate national defence and for social reform. When the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) said he was not afraid of the Budget running up to £300,000,000 or £400,000,000 sterling, he was, apparently, only thinking of spending the whole of that money upon social reforms; but surely he is too sensible a man not to realise that such a Budget would argue enormous national wealth, and he must also realise that to be rich and unarmed is to invite aggression, humiliation, and disaster. Apart from that general question, and without touching for the moment on the more technical points which are raised upon this particular Vote, I contend that whatever opinions may be held as to the exact number of ships we have got, or are likely to have by a certain date, the country and the Empire are entitled to have an ample margin against all contingencies in this matter of naval defence. At the worst, even if the point pressed by the hon. Gentleman opposite is correct, that, as a result of these Estimates, we shall have a greater number of ships than is absolutely necessary, even then we shall have been only a little extravagant. I think we have been over-economical; but even if we have been a little extravagant, the result will not be without benefit to the nation. I am one of those who are not so obsessed with the catchwords of political economists as to believe that shipbuilding in the Navy can be classed as absolutely unproductive expenditure. I do not believe that for a moment. One might just as well say that money spent on insurance is unproductive expenditure. Is it possible to say that one of the greatest of our national industries, which provides almost a higher percentage of employment than any other branch of industry, is, in itself, necessarily unproductive expenditure? I assert it is nothing of the kind, and if it be, in the strict sense of political economy, 719 all I can say is that the phrase "unproductive expenditure" is as futile as are most of the catchwords of political economists. There is a favourite argument which has been frequently advanced by the hon. Member for the Tyneside Division (Mr. J. M. Robertson) that if only we were to give up the right of capture of private property at sea we should cease to be faced with this tremendous competition with Germany and other countries. I believe that to be an absolute delusion. Certainly, in the case of Germany, it is based on an entire misapprehension that that German Fleet has been built up primarily, and is intended for the protection of commerce. I believe that is not either entertained or advanced for a moment by any responsible German authority.
§ Mr. LEE
It may have been advanced in one of those speeches which cause one's hair to stand on end like the quills of the fretful porcupine, but I confess I do not regard the president of any Navy League as necessarily a high official authority. It has never been denied by any responsible German authority, and I would remind the House of the speech made by the German Emperor himself on 3rd July, 1900, when he declared that the ocean was indispensable to German rights, and that in the future no great decision must be consummated without Germany and the German Emperor. That is practically the position the Prime Minister took up this afternoon when he said it was the national ambition of the German people to play a great part in the world, and they thought it necessary to build up a Navy to enable them to maintain that position. Their fleet is not primarily intended for the defence of commerce as is proved by the preamble of their Navy Act of 1900. This was admitted not only by the Prime Minister of that day, but it has been stated today by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Belloc). I cannot imagine what would have been said had that hon. Member's speech proceeded from any one on this side of the House. Germany, I firmly believe, has no desire to go to war with this country or, indeed, with any other country, but we who depend absolutely for our national existence on a supreme Navy have got to take cognisance of certain facts which cannot be 720 denied. In the first place, there is the enormous expansion of the German Fleet which has necessitated the doubling of the German Naval Estimates even during the short period the present Government has been in office. Then there is the immense increase in the shipbuilding capacity of Germany, and also the fact that the proposals put forward in this country for an agreement as to some reduction of armaments have been refused even consideration by the German Government. Those are the hard facts of the situation which we have to consider. They are facts which are undisputed. No hon. Gentleman has been able to disprove one single statement made by the Government last year.
It is quite true the Government itself is apparently divided into two sections on this matter. There is one section—I am thankful to believe the stronger—which believes in the case put forward by the Government to-day and is prepared to stand by it. There is another section which ridicules the danger and decries any additional expenditure on the Navy. During my short political career I have never listened to such speeches as those which have been delivered during this and the last Session by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister responsible for the national expenditure and, therefore, for the Navy Estimates—speeches in which he has made no pretence of loyalty to his colleagues in this matter of naval policy; speeches in which he has sneered at the expenditure for which he is responsible. He talks about "futile expenditure on armaments," "building navies against nightmares," "mythical armadas," and "navy scares." If he believes that those are epithets which can properly be applied to the policy of his colleagues why does not he refuse the money? He is the guardian of the nation's purse. Why does he not either refuse the money or, if he cannot do that, resign? He is occupying a peculiarly ignoble position in taking up the attitude merely of vilifying expenditure which he dare not refuse, although it is his duty to do so if he thinks that expenditure is not justified. What does the Chancellor of the Exchequer mean by saying that the German programme of shipbuilding will drop by 50 per cent. in 1912? How does he know it will drop by 50 per cent.? In any case, even supposing there is no amendment of the German Navy Bill as there has been so many times in the past, does he not know that the reduction only applies, in any case, to battleships, and 721 that there is no reduction in the number of cruisers, destroyers, submarines, additions to the personnel, additions to the docks, and everything else which goes to make up the German Navy Bill I Battleships are not everything. Yet the right hon. Gentleman thinks he has established a case for a reduction of our expenditure when he tells us the German programme of battleship building is going to drop by 50 per cent. two years hence! I do not know what the Germans are going to do two years hence. Past experience has shown that this Navy Bill is not only capable of almost indefinite amendment and extension, but that it has been almost indefinitely extended and amended when the time has arrived. I am not yet convinced that the Germans, having established this enormous building capacity, having placed themselves in the position of possessing one firm alone, the firm of Krupps, being able to supply the component parts of eight battleships per annum—I am not convinced they are going to drop their programme of having all their dockyards turning out two battleships only per annum two years hence; that they are going to allow this plant, which has been acquired with gigantic sacrifice, to fall into decay solely from disuse.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I do not think the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that I said Krupps can turn out the component parts for eight battleships yearly.
§ Mr. McKENNA
What I said was not yearly but in one year. That is quite a different thing, as I will explain later on.
§ Mr. LEE
I have known for some time that the right hon. Gentleman is a past master in the art of hair-splitting, but on this occasion he has surpassed himself. We on this side contend that our only safe course is to maintain the two-Power standard in the fullest possible sense. Whilst the Prime Minister gave us some qualms last year in a celebrated speech in regard to his interpretation of the two-Power standard, we hope, from the language he has used to-day, that he has once more 722 placed that standard upon an intelligible basis. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about our not having merely to consider this or that Power, but having to take the Power x. If he takes the Power x for dealing with one Power, I hope he will take the Power x plus y when computing the two-Power standard. That is the only rational and safe way in which that standard can be interpreted. The two-Power standard is the only rational standard we have got, just as the German Navy Bill is the German national policy. The Preamble of that Bill expressly challenges the two-Power standard, because it lays down that the probabilities are this country will not be able to be in a position to fight any two Powers at one and the same time with any chance of success. Therefore we have arrived at a situation where the maintenance of the two-Power standard is more vital than ever. If anything else is needed to show that, it is afforded by the situation in the Mediterranean, where we have a sudden accession of naval power threatened by a country with which we are on friendly terms, but which is allied in the greatest possible way with Germany in the North Sea.
We have to consider that fact, and, under the circumstances, in view of the extra strain which has been thrown on us in the next few years it is difficult to understand why the Government should have seen fit to procrastinate in laying down the five ships of this year's programme. Here we have a situation of admitted urgency, and yet the Government are wilfully putting off the laying down of those five ships of this year's programme, of which they have approved, until the latest possible moment, and as the hon. Member for Portsmouth said, those five ships cease to be in this year's programme at all, and are forced into the programme of the year that follows. The right hon. Gentleman told us that this did not mean that the ships were not to be commenced at an early date, but it was owing to some difficulty about book-keeping. I should be very glad if he will explain why it is that it should not be possible to pass through the books of the Admiralty a greater sum than about one-fifth of the cost of one ship in pressing on the construction of these five "Dreadnoughts." He cannot suggest that it is not physically possible to lay down these ships at an early date. In the case of the two great building yards, Portsmouth and Devonport, two of the building ships will be vacant before the 723 end of August this year, as I think the launch of the "Orion" and the "Lion" have been fixed for the 20th of August or thereabouts. Therefore these slips will be ready to lay down these ships upon before the end of September. Why should not the Admiralty fill these slips, and why should they allow them to remain vacant until we arrive at the new year? If they choose to lay clown the ships, as they could before the end of September, they would be able to get in at least six months' work upon them before the end of the financial year, and in that way advance us to a point where the position—I will not say of peril, but the position which the Prime Minister disclosed in his speech to-day when towards the end of 1912 we might have only twenty "Dreadnoughts" to the German seventeen might be mitigated. I think we are justified in pressing upon the Government that they should take action in that direction. By way of conclusion I will only say this, that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway taunt us with being scaremongers and having created scares. I pass by the point which has been made with justice that if there was any scare it was in the first case started by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I am not in the least ashamed of the taunt that we have been in any way instrumental in arousing the country to their position. At any rate, if we have been scaremongers, we have produced some results.
§ Mr. LEE
The hon. Member prefers to measure these matters in money. I prefer to measure them in ships and naval strength. At least, by our agitation we have done much to strengthen the Navy. In the four years which preceded that agitation the average programme of the Government was three battleships, two cruisers, and seven destroyers per annum. Since the agitation that average has risen to seven to eight battleships, five to six cruisers, and twenty destroyers per annum. Whilst it is quite true that we are not carrying on any very active agitation at present on the matter it is simply because we are getting results, and we shall be quite ready, if the occasion arises again and the Government is backward in doing its duty, to resume our agitation. One thing that is clear in our minds is 724 that we cannot afford to take risks in this matter of Naval defence. I do not belong to the dashing and young school, which is represented by the right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Seely). He likes taking risks, and he thinks it is somewhat chicken-hearted on our part to insist on having a great superiority of strength. Only a short time ago he said:—A man who now fears the safety of his country must have forgotten that we are a people who have again and again in the glorious past shown that we can fight even in a numerical inferiority.The right hon. Gentleman belongs to a dashing and gallant school to which I have no pretensions whatever, but we have no right to put the people of this country, still less the unfortunate men of the Fleet, in a position where they may have to fight in a position of numerical inferiority, and our first duty is to see that under all circumstances, under all possible combinations which can be brought against us, we equip them with the means of bringing the fight to a successful conclusion. The risk which the right hon. Gentleman thinks so attractive and glorious is a thing which invites war, and war, if it comes or even if it is threatened. means untold misery for the masses of our population even if we are victorious, and if we are not victorious, if we lose the command of the sea even for a day, we have lost it forever. It will not be then a Government drawn from this or that side of the House which will decide under what form of Constitution we are going to live or what our particular variety of fiscal system will be. It will be the foreign conqueror who will decide that, and it is because we on this side are not willing to take any risks if we can avoid it that we are going to oppose the Amendment and support the Government in this Motion, not because we think their naval policy is above reproach, but because, at any rate, they are better than the company which they keep.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I have listened to practically the whole of this Debate except during the brief intervals when I have had to get some refreshment. I think I have heard everything that has been said. Although the Admiralty has been criticised on both sides of the House, I should like to say at once that for my part I do not think we have anything whatever to complain of. The criticism, so far as I have been able to judge, has been extremely fair and, in my opinion, extremely natural. There is a predilection on the other side of the House for 725 what I cannot help regarding as exaggerated armaments, and they find the programme of the year insufficient. There is a predilection on my own side of the House—a predilection which I share—for sober armaments, and I am equally not in the least surprised that some of my hon. Friends are under the impression that the Admiralty has made greater demands upon them than the occasion warrants. I will endeavour to reply to the arguments on both sides, although I fear that in doing so I am very likely to be misunderstood, as I was misunderstood in March of last year. But before I come to the general arguments I should like to say a word as to the speech of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. A. Lee). He is a good party man, and he has a perfectly natural desire to drive a wedge into the solidarity of the Government. He has unfortunately found it necessary to assert that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not been fair to his colleagues in some of his assertions about the Navy. Let me say at once that for my part I sympathise entirely with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I will explain why. He came into office as Chancellor of the Exchequer a little over two years ago, and he was almost immediately confronted with a large demand for an increase in the Navy Estimates, a demand which he did not anticipate. That is a kind of demand which no Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whatever party he belongs, likes to have to meet. It is not a pleasing thing for any Chancellor of the Exchequer to be confronted year after year with an increase in the Navy Estimates, and so far from complaining against my right hon. Friend, I think, on the contrary, that the hon. Gentleman opposite ought to recognise the patriotism with which he has acted by imposing the necessary additional taxation in order to meet this demand. The hon. Gentleman asked me why the laying down of the ships of this year's programme was to be so long delayed. Well, we lay down ships in order that we may have them ready and completed for war at such a time as will give us a superiority—the necessary superiority—over the ships of foreign Powers. We do not lay down ships merely for the sake of laying them down, and if we defer this year's programme and lay down our ships in January and March it is because we do not think it necessary to have them completed at the earliest till January and March, 1913, and I may say at once that if in January and March, 1913, they were 726 not necessary then equally it would not be necessary to hurry on the construction of these ships. Then the critics of the Admiralty desire us to lay down so many ships every year in regular routine, regardless of our requirements for the ships. We lay down the ships which we think necessary. My hon. Friends may consider that we lay down more than are really necessary. But I can assure them that we only lay down because we believe them to be necessary and not in order to fufil any general idea of carrying out an average programme per annum. We shall have in the spring of 1912 twenty battleships, large armoured cruisers of the most modern type. That programme, that construction, was described by the hon. Member for East Mayo as monstrous; and he further said that the proposal to add to that number by an additional five, power to build which we are taking by the present Vote, also was monstrous. Now, if my hon Friend the Member for East Mayo holds the view that it is not the business of the Admiralty to build superior, and considerably superior, to any other Power at sea in new construction, then I join issue with him at once. If he thinks that we ought to take the risk, that we ought not to have a superiority, or that we ought to have just a bare superiority—
§ Mr. McKENNA
I only put it as a hypothesis. If my hon. Friend takes that view I join issue with him at once, and there is no possible meeting-ground between us. But on this exceptional question, as far as he and I are concerned—because in most other respects I believe we on most questions see almost eye to eye, and for many years I do not remember an occasion on which he and I went into different Lobbies—I only say that if he held that view with regard to new naval construction I should have to part company with him. But I understand he does not. He takes it as axiomatic as I do, that we should have not merely a bare superiority but a considerable superiority—I do not speak of two to one; nothing of the sort—but that we should have a considerable superiority over any other Power in new construction. Do not let the hon. Member go off on to another point. I am dealing with one point at a time. He agrees with me upon that, that we ought to have a fair superiority over any other Power in new construction. Very well. Let us examine the facts. We 727 have got, as the Prime Minister has stated already, of this new type of ship ten at this moment, ready when required, and another Power has five. In addition to those ten ships, including two to be launched next month, which I think ought to be treated as launched, we have got six launched, and the same Power of which I have spoken has got five launched. We have got four more on the slips, and that Power has got three more on the slips; and that Power has given the orders to four contracting firms—I have the semiofficial account here—for four other ships, the orders for which were given last April. We have ordered nothing more at this moment, but I am asking for sanction to order. I ask my hon. Friend at what moment would he say to me in respect of what class of ship I have got an exaggerated superiority? I have got ten against five actual; I have got six against five launched; I have got four against three on the slips, and I have got none ordered at the present moment against four. After all, the Admiralty is responsible for the safety of the country. At what point would he say to me, "You ought not to give any more orders"? He says now that I am to give no more orders this year. Mark the consequences. How do we stand? If I do not give an order, as he would wish, for these five, under the German law—I name Germany because it has been so often mentioned—the Germans are entitled for acceleration, merely on the procedure of this year, to give an order for another four large armoured ships next April. I cannot get permission from Parliament until next April to lay down any more. They would have seven on the slips against our four, and four more in order. Does my hon. Friend think that in those circumstances I should be doing my duty in not asking power from Parliament to build an additional five? Surely he would not say to me that was an adequate number—ten built against five built; six launched against five launched—then it would be three on the slips as against seven on the slips, and none ordered against four ordered. These would be the actual conditions if the Admiralty took no steps to lay down any ships this year, and unless we take powers to lay them down now. We only propose to give the orders in the month of October or November next. We do not lay them down until January or March, and unless we take power what 728 would be our position face to face with this other Power. I think it is agreed between us that in new construction we are not seeking for equality, nor for bare superiority, but for safe superiority, and I challenge my hon. Friend to go into the Lobby against me. If he had stood in my position, if he had been responsible, as the Government are responsible, for the safety of the country. I am sure that he would have asked Parliament for the same sanction which I am asking for at this moment. It must not be forgotten that it takes time to build ships, and unless we lay them down in sufficient time we cannot catch up.
I have said this upon the general question, and I hope I have said enough to reassure my hon. Friends that we have had no exaggerated ideas. I have spoken only of the general question, but I would not like to pass away from the subject and come to the detailed criticism without saying something about the animadversions—I will not say charges—with regard to the speeches of last March. The House of Commons is always a very fair body, and I am sure I shall not appeal in vain to the House when I ask hon. Members to take account of the fact that on the question of the Navy Estimates I have always to have regard to the two sides at the same time. I have never concealed anything from the House. I have never attempted to disguise or explain away the real position. I have endeavoured always to state absolutely what I know, neither more nor less; but I stand in the position that, while my words are very liable to be understood on one side of the House in one sense hostile to me, on the other side of the House they are liable to be understood in another sense hostile to the view I have taken. I distinguish between the two views. With regard to what was said last March, two quotations have been made to-day from the speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo made a charge against me, and his observation was received with considerable applause in one quarter of the House. He read some words of mine. I apologise to the House having to read a speech of mine. The words which he quoted were:—The difficulty in which the Government finds itself placed at this moment is that we do not know, as we thought we did, the rate at which German construction is taking place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 15th March, 1909, col. 934.]There my hon. Friend stopped. In the next sentence I went on to explain the meaning of those words; what it was we 729 did not know, and the explanation that I gave immediately does away with any argument which could be adduced from that one sentence by itself. I went on to say:—We know that the Germans have a law which, when all the ships under it are completed, will give them a Navy more powerful than any at present in existence. We do not know the rate at which the provisions of this law are to be carried into execution. We anticipated that work on the 1908–9 programme would begin on four ships in August, 1908. The preparation and collection of materials began some months earlier. We now expect those ships to be completed, not in February, 1911, but in the autumn of 1910. I am informed, moreover, that the collection of materials and the manufacture of armament, guns, and mountings have already begun, for four more ships, which, according to the Navy Law, belong to the programme of 1909–10"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1909. col. 934.]There I stated exactly what it was we had not known, and exactly what the facts were. Those facts are true, they have never been denied. What we did not know was a matter which was not ground for giving rise to a scare. What would have given rise to a scare would be if we had made exaggerated estimates as the result of our want of information. Did we give exaggerated Estimates?
§ Mr. McKENNA
My hon. Friend says we did. I have shown what the state of construction is at the present time, what it is at this moment. It was stated by the Prime Minister, and I have repeated what the state of construction is. I say we gave no exaggerated Estimates, and I will tell my hon. Friend why. He says the Estimates were exaggerated because it has been asserted on behalf of the German Government that the German ships are not completed in three years, thirty-six months when the ships are given out to contractors, and forty months when in the Government dockyards. I am quoting the official statement. I should be the last person to contradict any official statement or to deny that anything which is asserted on the part of the German Government is not absolutely correct, but we have got to take into account, not the time between the giving of the order and the commissioning of the ship, the point which is always taken by the right hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Lough), the time when the ship joins the high-sea fleet; but we have got to take account of the time between the laying down of the vessel and its readiness for war. It is entirely within the discretion of the Government when a ship is ready 730 for commission and when it is commissioned for the high-sea fleet, but it is ready for war all the time, and has got its crew all the time.
§ Mr. McKENNA
We have not the same system. A very long time elapses after a ship is completed before it joins the high-sea fleet, which alone is reckoned as the time for the completion of the vessel. We have to take the time when it is ready for war, and I think the hon. Gentleman, who is a very fair controversialist, will admit that that is the right time for us to take.
§ Mr. DILLON
I never alluded to that before; I was not sufficient of an expert. What I referred to was the declaration of the German Government, repeated over and over again to our Foreign Minister, that they would have only thirteen ships in the late autumn of 1912.
§ Mr. McKENNA
That is what is understood by the words. When the Prime Minister said they had five ships ready, my right hon. Friend interrupted him and said they had only two. That is perfectly true in the sense of being in the high sea fleet, but the whole five are ready and could be fought to-morrow. Therefore, we are differing only as to words in this controversy. Those who are responsible have to deal with the facts. We cannot run risks; therefore we have regard to the state of construction of the ships, not to the time when they join the high sea fleet.
§ Mr. DILLON
Not one word of that explanation was given by the Foreign Secretary when speaking on 29th March last year; and I venture to say that every Member of the House understood him to mean that there would be only thirteen ships ready.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I must take all the blame for that; it was my fault for not having made it clear that there is a great distinction between the completion of building and joining the high sea Fleet. The first commissioning is for trials; then a long period elapses before the ship is finally commissioned. But the ship is ready when it is commissioned for trials. 731 These are the facts we have to take into account, and the Board of Admiralty, with no desire to spend the taxpayers' money unnecessarily, have not been able to satisfy themselves that any less Vote than is now asked for would be sufficient to give us security. Our motto is to he safe, and to be sober. If we asked the House of Commons for less than we are asking now we could not be sure of being safe; but I am certain that if we asked for more, we should not be sober. I, therefore, in the strongest terms I can, recommend my hon. Friends to accept the programme which is now presented. It is quite true, as stated by the hon. Member for East Mayo, that every programme that you accept in one year necessarily involves you in expenditure in the two succeeding years. These ships take at least two years to build, and their cost runs over three separate Estimates. Therefore, I readily admit that in accepting these five ships the Committee will inevitably commit itself to expenditure—necessarily large expenditure—in the ensuing two years. But, on the other hand, if the Committee were to refuse these ships now, I am sure that before this financial year had elapsed the House of Commons would be confronted with a demand far in excess of what I am asking now. The figures could be worked up to show a more exaggerated need—the element of insobriety would have its chance. I would ask the Committee to accept these sober figures, and to accept also the assurance that I give them that I am asking them for no more than may be reasonably demanded in the name of safety.
Let me pass from the general topic to some of the points of detail that have been put forward. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Evesham Division (Mr. Eyres-Monsell), if he will allow me to say so, has so engaging a manner that however one may disagree from him one would not wish to fall out with him. He raised the very important matter of the protection of our trade routes, and upon that argument he based a demand for a considerable increase in the number of our cruisers. In view of the fact that I have only ten minutes in front of me, I cannot follow him through the whole of his argument. I would only address to him two warnings. He speaks of the possibility of merchantmen bringing out their guns, receiving a commission at sea, hoisting a foreign ensign, and becoming armed commerce destroyers. I would remind him 732 that before a ship can do that it has to have guns and ammunition on board.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Well, whatever the hon. Gentleman's opinion may be of my knowledge or that of the Admiralty on the subject, I think he will pay some respect to the knowledge of Lloyds—
§ Mr. McKENNA
I did not say lawyers, I said Lloyds, the great insurance office. The hon. Gentleman should know that these great merchantmen are all insured. Their insurance would be invalid if they carried ammunition. They would have to declare it. They cannot even store it in foreign warehouses as is so often supposed, for the very same reason, that warehouses do not take the ammunition. This notion that ships can in a moment suddenly blossom out into men-of-war, with all the apparatus of men-of-war, is at the present time a delusion. I am not saying what may happen in the future. Nobody can tell. We may see new conditions. We may see merchantmen that are not insured at Lloyds. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Certainly, I admit anything as to the future. I do not know. But I do know what happens now. I do know that at this time the notion that these great merchantmen could be turned into armoured vessels of war is a mistake. The conditions do not exist under which they could. They do not carry the guns or the ammunition. Therefore, whatever may be the prospects for future years, at the present time there is no ground for the Admiralty altering their policy on that particular point.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Did the right hon. Gentleman not say on 16th March, 1909, "Our commerce, if unprotected in war in remote seas, would be open to attack by foreign armed merchant vessels specially commissioned for the purpose as ships of war."
§ Mr. McKENNA
I have not disputed that. I have stated distinctly I was not referring to what might happen in the future. I said a few minutes ago we cannot answer for what might happen in 733 the future when the conditions are different, but certainly upon the particular trade route mentioned by the hon. Member, between the Argentine and the Cape Verde Islands, the conditions which he supposes could not exist. Therefore there is no ground at the present moment for any change in the Admiralty policy in that regard.
Perhaps the Committee will allow me to mention the fact that the work at Rosyth Dockyard has now reached such a stage that it will be soon become necessary to order the second dock, which was always part of the plan of the original scheme. I mention this to the Committee because it would not be proper, when I had an opportunity of mentioning it, that I should withhold from them this important fact. No work will, in fact, be begun at the present time, but the moment is approaching when it will be necessary in the present construction to have regard to the fact that a second dock will be requisite at Rosyth. I will only refer further to one statement made by the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth. He recited an incident within his own experience when he was Commander of eight battleships, that, owing to some
§ accident, six were laid up at the same time.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Yes. That is an experience we must always guard against, and it is because equality or bare superiority would not suffice that I entirely agree with the arguments he used that there might be a contingency owing to accident of that sort when bare superiority would vanish. But the Noble Lord must not himself forget that these accidents happen to both parties. While we require superiority that will guarantee us against accident, we do not need always to regard that as a contingency that will necessarily happen to us alone. May I ask the Committee, as the Prime Minister undertook an opportunity for a Division should be given, to allow the Vote to be taken now?
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,444,100, be Granted to His Majesty for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 70; Noes, 298.737
|Division No. 100.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Hardle, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury E.)||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||O'Dowd, John|
|Barnes, G. N.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Boland, John Plus||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||O'Malley, William|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Hazelton, Richard||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Brady, P. J.||Hodge, John||Pointer, Joseph|
|Brunner, J. F. L.||Hogan, Michael||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Holt, Richard Durning||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Byles, William Pollard||Hudson, Walter||Reddy, Michael|
|Cameron, Robert||Jowett, F. W.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Joyce, Michael||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Clough, William||Keating, M.||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Clynes, J. R.||Kelly, Edward||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Cullinan, J.||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Seddon, J.|
|Dillon, John||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Shackleton, David James|
|Doris, W.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Snowden, P.|
|Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Twist, Henry|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Callum, John M.||Walsh, Stephen|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Meagher, Michael||Watt, Henry A.|
|Glanville, H. J.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Glover, Thomas||Molloy, M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Patrick O'Brien and Mr. Haviland Burke.|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Mooney, J. J.|
|Hackett, J.||Nolan, Joseph|
|Hancock, J. G.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Barnston, H.|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Bagot, Captain J.||Barran, Sir J. (Hawick)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Baird, J. L.||Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)|
|Allen, Charles P.||Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)|
|Anderson, A.||Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.)||Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Balcarres, Lord||Bathurst, Charles (Wilton)|
|Arbuthnot, G. A.||Baldwin, Stanley||Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Beresford, Lord C.|
|Armitage, R.||Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Bird, A.|
|Ashley, W. W.||Barclay, Sir T.||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Hamersley, A. St. George||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Boyton, J.||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Brassey, H. L. C. (N'thamptonshire, N.)||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Brassey, Capt. R. B. (Banbury)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Palmer, Godfrey|
|Brigg, Sir John||Harmsworth, R. L.||Pearce, William|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Harris, H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Burgoyne, A. H.||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Haworth, Arthur A.||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)|
|Butcher, J. G. (York)||Hayward, Evan||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Butcher, S. Henry (Cambridge Univ.)||Hemmerde, Edward George||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Buxton, C. R. (Devon, Mid.)||Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Pretyman, E. G.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Henry, Charles S.||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Higham, John Sharp||Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)|
|Calley, Colonel T. C. P.||Hillier, Dr. A. P.||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Campion, W. R.||Hindle, F. G.||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Proby, Colonel Douglas James|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hohler, G. F.||Radford, G. H.|
|Cator, John||Hooper, A. G.||Rattan, Peter Wilson|
|Cautley, H. S.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood)||Hughes, S. L.||Rawson, Colonel R. H.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hunt, Rowland||Rice, Hon. W.|
|Chapple, W. A.||Hunter, Sir C. R. (Bath)||Ridley, Samuel Fordo|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Clay, Captain H. Spender||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Coates, Major E. F.||Jackson, John A. (Whitehaven)||Robinson, S.|
|Colefax, H. A.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Kerry, Earl of||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Keswick, William||Rutherford, Watson|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||King, J. (Somerset, N.)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Knott, James||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lambert, George||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Lawson, Hon. Harry||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. M. (Bootle)|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis||Schwann, Sir C. E.|
|Crossley, Sir W. J.||Leach, Charles||Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B.|
|Dalziel, D. (Brixton)||Lee, Arthur H.||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Dawes, J. A.||Lehmann, R. C.||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Levy, Sir Maurice||Smith, H. B. (Northampton)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness)||Lewis, John Herbert||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lewisham, Viscount||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Dixon, C. H.||Llewelyn, Major Venables||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lloyd, G. A.||Starkey, John R.|
|Du Cros, Arthur P. (Hastings)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Duke, H. E.||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsay)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Stewart, Gersham (Cheshire, Wirral)|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Strauss, A.|
|Elverston, H.||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Summers, James Woolley|
|Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Sykes, Alan John|
|Falconer, J.||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Falle, B. G.||Macmaster, Donald||Tennant, Harold John|
|Fell, Arthur||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Fisher, W. Hayes||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Terrell, H (Gloucester)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. E. A.||M'Laren, Rt. Hon. Sir C. B. (Leics.)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||M'Laren Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Fleming, Valentine||Mallet, Charles E.||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Fletcher, J. S.||Marks, G. Croydon||Thomson, W. Mitchell (Down, North)|
|Forster, Henry William||Mason, J. F.||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Foster, H. S. (Suffolk, N.)||Menzies, Sir Walter||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Foster, J. K. (Coventry)||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S.W.)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Tryon, Capt. George Clement|
|Furness, Stephen||Millar, James Duncan||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Gastrell, Major W. H.||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Valentia, Viscount|
|Gibbs, G. A.||Mitchell, William Foot||Verney, F. W.|
|Gibson, James P.||Mond, Sir Alfred||Verrall, George Henry|
|Gilmour, Captain J.||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Ward, Arnold (Herts, Watford)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Goldman, C. S.||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Morpeth, Viscount||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Grant, J. A.||Morrison, Captain J. A.||Waring, Walter|
|Greenwood, G. G.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Mount, William Arthur||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Gretton, John||Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Muspratt, M.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Guinness, Hon. W. E.||Neilson, Francis||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Newdegate, F. A.||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Hall, E. Marshall (Toxteth)||Newman, John R. P.||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Norton, Capt. Cecil W.||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Wiles, Thomas||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)||Younger, George (Ayr Burghs)|
|Wilkie, Alexander||Worthington-Evans, L. (Colchester)||Younger, W. (Peebles and Selkirk)|
|Williams, P. (Middlesborough)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Winterton, Earl||Yerburgh, Robert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Gulland.|
|Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)||Young, W. (Perthshire, E.)|
|Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
Question put and agreed to.
§ And, it being after Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again To-morrow.