§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. EMMOTT in the Chair.]
§ (IN THE COMMITTEE.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That 131,000 officers, seamen, and boys be employed for the Sea and Coastguard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911, including 17,324 Royal Marines."
§ Mr. E. G. PRETYMAN
According to long established practice in this House we shall, I believe, continue the general discussion which has already taken place on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair. I think the practice has been that that general discussion can only be continued on the Vote which you have just put from the Chair, and that when we get to Vote 1 the discussion is confined to that particular subject.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The general discussion can be continued on the second Vote if the arrangement is made with the consent of the Chair.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I think it is important for the right hon. Gentleman opposite to understand that there will be no objection on this side of the House to his getting Vote A and Vote 1 at the conclusion of the business to-morrow night. That being distinctly understood, it is immaterial to us whether the general discussion is continued on Vote A or Vote 1, or whether such an arrangement as you indicated is substituted for it. That would be a matter 199 of convenience as long as this is what is desired on both sides of the House, so as to continue the general discussion both, today and to-morrow.
§ Mr. THOMAS LOUGH
Was it not understood on the part of the Government that Vote 1 was not to be taken for some time?
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna)
No, Sir. The Prime Minister said that in view of the representations made to him by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he would put down Vote 1 to-day. It is understood, and I believe that was the agreement, that the general discussion will be taken both today and to-morrow, and that we shall get both the Votes to-morrow.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is always customary to have the general discussion on the first Vote. If it is a matter of general convenience for the Committee to continue that discussion, with the consent of the Chair that can be done.
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is no reason why the right hon. Member should not move his Amendment if he catches my eye.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I think everyone will agree that it is the general wish, which has been expressed constantly from both sides of the House, that Naval Debates should as far as possible be non-party. May I say, and I do not think that this can be disputed, that the only condition upon which Naval Debates here can be treated from the non-party point of view is that the Government and the Admiralty, who are in charge of the Estimates, should prepare those Estimates, not with the view to meeting criticism delivered against them by advocates of any policy from either side of the House but should have regard only to the safety and requirements of the country, and that they should put that consideration only before the House of Commons. Had the Government done that, I venture to say that there would have been no party discussion, and no 200 party note from this side of the House, certainly, in the Debates on the Naval Estimates. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord or the Admiralty that the very note with which he began his speech in the first sentence, showed his view to be that his duty was to steer between two points of criticism. That was the impression made upon me by the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He came here and told us that he had on one side critics who objected to heavy expenditure on the Navy, those known is the Little Navy party; and, on the other side, criticism from the Opposition, who were never satisfied, however high his expenditure might be. What does the history of the last few years show; I mean the history of Naval Debates in this House? I remember very well when it was my duty to defend Estimates on the other side of the House, and when the then hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Robertson) never ceased criticising the size of the Estimates, the dimensions of the Estimates [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is endorsed, and I am glad to have that confirmation. He constantly advocated great reduction of armaments, and that naturally inspired hon. Members on the other side of the House, when the Government, for whom the hon. Member spoke, succeeded to office, to anticipate the fulfilment of those criticisms, and that those criticisms should be reflected in the policy of the new Government.
What was the attitude of the Opposition? For the first three years for which this Government was in office, not during the Administration of the right hon. Gentleman, but in the time of his predecessor, although I was not in the House, I am only stating what is known to everyone who was in the House, and who studied the Debates, when I say that there was practically no party discussion whatever from this side of the House—no party attack whatever made on the Government beyond warnings, serious warnings, from this side as to the inadequacy of their proposals. What happened? Did the Government then come to the House of Commons with a single eye to the safety of the country, or did they yield to political pressure, and where did it, come from? It did not come from this side of the House, but came from their own supporters. They yielded to that political pressure, and certainly did reduce the naval expenditure of this country to a point below the margin of 201 safety. The criticism and pressure directed upon them was to reduce taxation at the expense of naval expenditure,and they did so. What was the result? In March last the Government reaped the fruits of their policy, and had to come down in March and at one and the same time to make alarmist statements, and to make inadequate proposals to meet the situation which they then displayed to the House. Then and only then, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman cannot contradict me, did the Opposition find it to be their duty, and a necessity of the situation, to make an attack upon the policy of the Government, and to insist and to do their best to rouse public opinion throughout the country to the necessities of the situation. The reason they had to do so was that from the course of events which I have been recapitulating, it was perfectly obvious that political pressure was necessary to force the Government to do their duty. That being so, we may say that the Estimates of the current financial year and of the next financial year are certainly not party in this sense: that, so far as concerns the change of policy which the figures of those Estimates indicate, it is quite as much due to the action of the Opposition as to the action of the Government.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I may have some criticisms to make; but my purpose is not so much to complain as to the adequacy of character, as to point out that the reason why we are obliged to have discussions of a party character on this subject is that the Government, in framing their Estimates, instead of considering only the safety of the Empire, have shown that political pressure and the pressure of public opinion is necessary to keep them up to the mark. Another reason why these Debates are rather more party in their character than they ought to be is that both the First Lord of the Admiralty and his colleagues in the Debate yesterday adopted a line of defence which is neither true nor sound when their policy is attacked. When their proposals of this year and next year are criticised they 202 seem to think it an adequate defence if they can point to some particular figure, some particular number of ships, or tonnage of ships, in this particular programme, and show that it compares favourably with the expenditure or tonnage proposed under totally different conditions by their predecessors. Is that a line of defence which can inspire confidence in the right hon. Member and his administration? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] I am glad to find that there are quarters in which it inspires confidence, but I do not think it will do so among those who look to national safety first. Such a line of argument is really puerile. How is it possible to say that because the Government, three or four years ago, proposed to spend £1,500,000 or £2,500,000 on new construction under the conditions which prevailed then, it cannot be necessary for the Government to spend any more under present conditions? Does the right hon. Gentleman maintain that that is a consequence? Does he maintain that because we did not spend on new construction more than a certain amount in the year 1902–3 that therefore proves that the Government are right in not spending more now?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Then what does the argument amount to? The right hon. Gentleman used an argument of a very similar character.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The right hon. Gentleman used an argument which, in my belief, is exactly of that character. He made a close comparison of the tonnage—
§ Mr. McKENNA
I was only answering the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that we had lived upon ships provided by our predecessors. I could only answer that by showing we had provided more ships than our predecessors. That is the only way of answering such a statement.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman may think that we did not provide enough, but there was no means for me to show that we had not merely lived on the ships of our predecessors except by showing that we had provided new ships of our own.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I think the right hon. Gentleman's defence is very wanting in efficiency in itself. If the figures are examined, how does the expenditure compare? He took the expenditure of the last four years of Unionist Government. I hate these comparisons; I do not think they have any value; but I am bound to point out an enormous proportion of the expenditure in the last four years, of which the current year forms one, is in this particular year. How much was spent in the first three years? Very little. It was only after agitation and after public opinion had been aroused that this money was spent. So that even taking the actual comparison it is of no value for the right hon. Gentleman's purposes. The only sufficient answer to the criticisms of the Leader of the Opposition will be for the Government to show that every year since they have been in office they have spent the money required to maintain the Navy at its proper strength. If they can show that, what criticism will be of any avail? If the right hon. Gentleman can show that the Government have done that, I think he will satisfy every critic on the Opposition side of the House.
Another argument the right hon. Gentleman is constantly using is that we have actually gained by the postponement of the expenditure. Is not that a very narrow view to take? How have we gained? According to the right hon. Gentleman himself, we have gained in only one particular, and that is that the ships having been built at a later date there have been introduced certain improvements which made them slightly more efficient than they would have been had they been built a year or two earlier. As far as I am aware, that the is the only advantage claimed. If you push that to extremes, I suppose it would be an advantage if we never built any ships at all, because there are constantly improvements being made. The argument is really of no value at all. On the other hand, what harm is done? Are not sound finance and continuity of effort most important factors of naval strength? Are they not at the root of all construction? We cannot afford to drop building ships for three years, as we did, to reduce taxation which is really required for the Navy and then to have to make up in succeeding years by enormously increased taxation the leeway and the deficiencies which ought never to have existed if the Government had acted on the information at their disposal. If one 204 takes a wide horizon and looks over the whole ground, no man can deny that our naval strength has not gained, but has most seriously suffered, and has only just escaped serious disaster, owing to the laches of the Government in the matter of shipbuilding during their first three years of office.
Now I would, on that question of finance, just make this observation. The hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles)—I have great sympathy with his view—stated that all the reforms in the Navy initiated by the Service itself were good; those initiated by civilians were bad, or mostly bad.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
By the Government; that is the same thing. I will go rather further than the hon. Member, and I will say that I do not know of any naval reform of recent years which has not been initiated by the Service.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Well, that carries us further still. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us of one? No ! These reforms are all were bad, or mostly bad.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I do not know. I go further than the hon. Gentleman, and I do say, and I think it must be so really— because how would it be possible for any civilian Member of the Government, or for any number of Members of the Government, to go and propose the kind of reforms which have been made in the Navy and carried out in that great Service by the Admiralty in the last few years. It is evident that the only people who can really know what changes are required are those who have a practical life knowledge of the Service of which they are members. And I am convinced of this, whether in the Army or Navy, all true reforms must come from those who are in the Service; and that is the character of the reforms which have been executed in the; last few years. But there is one kind of change, one kind of reform, which cannot come from within, and which must come from without. It is a matter peculiar to this House, a peculiar charge on a Government of civilians, and that is the financial 205 arrangements which govern the conduct of Admiralty business. In this matter changes cannot be initiated by the Service. They must be initiated here. In yesterday's Debate the right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact of the difficulties created by taking an Estimate for fifteen months ahead. These difficulties are very real—and that was only half the question, because not only had the Admiralty and its officials to estimate the exact cost for the Service for fifteen months ahead; they have not only to make their prophecy for the next year, but they have also, at the same time, to justify the prophecy made fifteen months ago. You have officers brought into the Admiralty from the sea service whose time is of the utmost value, whose knowledge is even of greater value, and an immense proportion of their time is, I will not say wasted, but is occupied in calculations on a particular point, not as to what work is going to cost, not as to what the construction of a ship is going to cost, but as to exactly what amount, to a small definite sum, will be spent upon work fifteen months ahead. Where the expenditure is in the Civil Service, on a regular scale of salaries, where you know pretty well how many people you are going to employ and what you are going to pay them, there the Estimate can be made with very little difficulty and considerable accuracy. In the sea service, however, you have constantly changing requirements and constantly changing conditions, and I do venture to suggest to this Committee that this is a handicap. And we are handicapped now in a most serious struggle for naval supremacy! We have never since the great war ever found ourselves face to face with a situation when any other Power, taking all the facts and the widest horizon into consideration, was really running us a close race for naval supremacy. Never! I am taking all into consideration, and looking over the widest horizon and looking, not only to today, not only to to-morrow, but looking to the future, and looking not only at the Dumber of ships and men we possess, and not only at the number of ships and men we shall possess in four or five years' time, but looking at the resources behind those ships, looking at the population, at the manufacturing capacity, and at the future of the Empire, so far as it can be foreseen. For surely it is our duty to look at the widest horizon for the future as well as the present, and in the changes which 206 are made see that they are changes which are not going to compare with to-day or to-morrow, but with the future. I say, looking at the question from the widest possible point of view, we cannot, with an eye to the future and to what may be before us, afford an handicap of any sort or description in our naval administration. My hon. Friend in his speech yesterday referred in words, with which I most cordially agree, to the great advantage which Germany has in the elasticity of her financial system. Surely there is clearly an enormous advantage in a business firm, whether it be responsible for managing a Navy, or for managing an industry, that it should have an elastic financial system, which shall cause the minimum waste of time with the maximum of efficiency, and also the maximum of sound financial control. I do not for one moment advocate any relaxation of any reasonable control of this House, and I speak with great diffidence on this question of great importance. I know it is a matter more perhaps for the Treasury than the Admiralty, but I think it is a proper question to raise on a naval Debate, because I do not think any change will be initiated by the Treasury. I think the Admiralty will not only have to ask for it, but show its necessity in the interests of successful and efficient administration.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The elasticity to which I refer is, as I understand it, that the German Admiralty is not tied, I think, to an exact estimate of what expenditure is going to be made on any particular item, on the Estimates on a given date.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The subject is one of very great difficulty, but is that any reason it ought not to be discussed? Are we not here to solve problems of this kind? I do not pretend to come down here with any solution of it. All I do is, with great diffidence, to call the attention of the House to what I believe is the disability under which we are suffering, and which we cannot afford to suffer under if it can be avoided. All I suggest is that the Admiralty should consider the question, and should examine the systems which exist in other countries—the matter should also be considered by the Treasury—and all efforts should be made by some means or other, by grouping—something has been done in that 207 direction in these Estimates—to alter the thing. I notice that the amounts to be spent, for instance, on particular ships in this programme are calculated down to the actual pounds.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No, but that is the figure to which the Admiralty are bound in their expenses for the year.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
But we are voting money for these ships up to a certain amount to be spent during the current year. The Admiralty expect to spend that particular sum. Can the hon. Gentleman really tell us that they know exactly that that is the sum that will be spent?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
It does not seem so to me, because it is obvious that time has been wasted in making calculations that have been of no value, and which they say will not be realised. I confess that that is not a satisfactory state of things. I am not speaking at haphazard, because after six years spent at the Admiralty I know what amount of time was taken up in the most conscientious way to frame, the exact figure which was estimated to be the expenditure during a particular year, and the immense trouble which had to be taken afterwards to verify that expenditure, and to arrange the necessary interchange of money, with the Treasury sanction, from one item to another. I will not labour the point. I only indicate it as a matter which I do believe deserves serious consideration. If any reform is possible it cannot, like the reforms referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn, be initiated by the Service. It must be initiated here, and that is my excuse for referring to it.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that during last Session a point to which I attached most importance—and I did so because I was fully aware that it 208 was a point on which naval opinion was most anxious—was the question of our construction of destroyers—about the adequacy of the number of destroyers possessed by the British Navy. I would like again to refer to the matter. There again the right hon. Gentleman seems to admit that during the first three years, or the first two years at any rate, of the holding of office by the present Government the programme for destroyers was wholly insufficient. It was pointed out, I am aware, on this side of the House, that when the battleship programme was being produced the opportunity ought to have been taken to add more largely to the number of destroyers, especially in view of the weakness of pre-River class of destroyers. What actually happened? I think I am right in saying that the 1906–7 programme, which was-the first programme for which the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman was responsible, contained only two destroyers of the "Tribal" class. The 1907–8 programme contained only five destroyers, so that only seven destroyers of the "Tribal" class were constructed during those two years—or, rather, were laid down during those two years. That was a very insufficient programme. In addition to that, what has been even more unfortunate, has been the rate of completion attained by the destroyers. The right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday—I think there is a misreport here, and perhaps he will desire to correct it—but he says:—The period allowed for construction of our destroyers is eighteen months, and the order will be given in June next. By the end of June, 1911—That requires correction. It is obvious that it should be by the end of 1911. When we look into the present year's estimates you will see the "Mohawk" and "Afridi" class entered for expenditure under this year's Estimates. They were in the Estimates for 1905–6, and this fact must make us "furiously to think." I believe they are both afloat, but they ought to have been afloat many months before they were. Here we have destroyers in programmes of four years ago actually figuring in the Estimates for 1910–11 ! We have also two destroyers, the "Saracen" and the "Amazon," in the Estimates for 1906–7. Are they completed? Are they commissioned?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
They are only just completed. Then we come to the pro- 209 gramme of 1907–8—the "Nubian," "Crusader," "Maori," "Zulu," and the "Viking." I would like to know if any of these are completed yet.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The right hon. Gentleman will admit that there has been a most unfortunate delay in the course of construction.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I hope that unfortunate chapter of delays is at last closed. I must call attention to it, because we have not yet had a period of anything like eighteen months. We have now sixteen destroyers of the 1908–9 programme.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Therefore, we have a period of twenty-one months. While the right hon. Gentleman has told us that the German rate was only twelve months, is it not a fact that the whole of the German 1908–9 programme are now commissioned?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I believe they are all commissioned. The statement has been made over and over again that the German destroyers of the 1908–9 programme are now completed and commissioned, while none of our destroyers of the 1908–9 programme will be ready until September or October next; that is unsatisfactory.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I think September is more likely. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Arising out of that it is pretty clear that the German system of construction of destroyers has been brought to a point of extreme perfection. One cannot help looking at that as an illustration of what may happen in regard to battleship construction. What they have succeeded in doing in regard to destroyers they may also succeed in doing on 210 a different scale in regard to the construction of battleships, and that is of great importance to us if we are to prevent our rate of completion and output of battleships falling into a similar comparative position with the Germans in regard to their output of destroyers. The right hon. Gentleman told us the figures in the Estimates make it perfectly plain that we shall have 102 destroyers, or, with the "Swift," 103, when the whole of the destroyers in these Estimates are completed. Germany will then, I take it, have eighty-four— that is, she will have seventy-two to our eighty-two, but with this year's programme she will have eighty-four to our 102. I think that represents the position. That is exclusive of the pre - river destroyers.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us when he replies how many we will have. I wish now to make some comment upon the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made when he said that there were destroyers which should be available for service under all conditions, and also pre-river destroyers which would not be fit for service under all conditions. What men does the right hon. Gentleman propose to put into destroyers not fit for service under all conditions? Surely it is impossible to foresee what kind of work destroyers may be called upon to perform in the North Sea. Are highly-trained crews to be put into destroyers not fit for service under all conditions? Is that the object of the Admiralty?
§ Mr. McKENNA
I said these destroyers could not be used so far from their base and for so long a time as the later destroyers.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Does the right hon. Gentleman suppose that when a crew is on the destroyer, finding there is work to be done at a certain distance from their base, that they would not do their best to carry it out without other considerations? Are you not imposing limitations which are impossible in war? The right hon. Gentleman must realise the truth of what the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) said as to the arduous nature of service on destroyers, even when these destroyers are absolutely efficient so far as construction and seaworthiness is concerned, and 211 to put men into destroyers not fit for service in the North Sea under all conditions would be madness indeed. I think plenty of work might be found for these destroyers. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that suggestions have been made for the employment of these destroyers in coast defence work, and the organisation of that immense body of men which is now available on our coast—men engaged in coastal work—and who will be perfectly willing to offer themselves to the Navy for that kind of service. If an organisation of that kind were procured, we have in our coast population an asset of immense value in war. It is not available at present, and unless some organised effort is made to train it in time of peace, it will not be available in time of war.
There are one or two other matters which have been discussed in this Debate to which I should like to refer. One is the matter of the scrapping of ships. I think there was some slight misunderstanding on this matter as between the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Admiralty. The Noble Lord said in his speech that the Admiralty had scrapped 154 ships, and that for that policy the Unionists were also responsible. I do not think that anybody will be able to point to one of these ships which have been scrapped that would have been of any value in war, and I, being in favour of the whole of the policy which resulted in the swapping of those ships, feel sure that a great service was rendered to the Navy when these ships were brought home. But that does not in any way reduce the value of the Noble Lord's criticism that you cannot safely denude our foreign stations of these vessels which are necessary for police work. My Noble Friend has not, I think, suggested that the ships that were there were suitable for modern service in that direction. These two points are entirely separate—the scrapping of inadequate ships and the policing of foreign stations, and the furnishing of those stations with the necessary protection. And what is necessary now is not to send back to these foreign stations the inadequate ships that were very properly scrapped, but to build a sufficiency of small cruisers of moderate speed and sufficient offensive power to do the very necessary work which my Noble Friend has pointed out should be done. 212 That is the lesson which I hope the Government will lay to heart.
With regard to the question of stores, that is a question which the House is in very great difficulty in dealing with. In regard to shipbuilding, it is quite true that public opinion in this House largely shares the responsibility with the Admiralty. Details can be gone into here and public opinion formed upon them, but in the matter of sufficiency of stores details of that description cannot, I admit, be given. It is absolutely impossible with regard to the interests of the Service that details of that kind could be discussed on the floor of the House. The result is that the absolute responsibility rests with the Board of Admiralty. I do not like to differentiate between the Members of the Board, but I feel quite justified in saying that none of the Sea Lords would feel justified in continuing to hold office if the necessary stores for which they were responsible were not provided by the Government. They have no other safeguards, and, indeed, no other safeguards are possible. We might ask questions and we may criticise, but we should always be met, and properly met, with the statement that accurate particulars and details cannot, in the public interest, be given.
I am bound to say in that matter I have some little anxiety on the question of cordite. Very distinct particulars have been given to me and I should like the right hon. Gentleman in reply to give me some definite assurance that there are adequate reserves of cordite in this country, and that the manufacturing capacity of the firms which supply cordite, and especially of acetate—which is absolutely necessary to the manufacture of cordite— is sufficient and that in all these particulars the Admiralty is amply safeguarded. The right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that the capacity of output under the old conditions is quite different from the capacity of output under the new conditions. The cordite required to-day is almost all cordite for the single big-gun ships. I need not go into the details, but the right hon. Gentleman is fully aware that the output which was possible of any cordite firm a year or two ago under the old conditions is wholly illusory as a guide as to what would be the possible output under the present conditions, when cordite of a larger size is required, and which takes up 1,500 hours to dry. I do not want to go into more particulars, but I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman can give us satisfactory assurances.
213 I have only, in conclusion, to say that I most fully endorse the well-deserved eulogy which the right hon. Gentleman pronounced upon Lord Fisher for his work at the Admiralty. There is no doubt of the immense ability and energy and atmosphere of work which Lord Fisher carried with him all through his service at the Admiralty, and I feel quite sure that history will recognise, as the country has recognised, the value of the work he has done. No great reformer has ever been able to carry through his work without some friction, and may I say that if in the carrying out of these great reforms any mistakes were made by any man, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that these mistakes should not be charged against Lord Fisher or against any naval member of the Board of Admiralty, but that they should be borne upon the shoulders of the Government of whatever period that was responsible for the changes and reform. Lord Fisher is credited with initiating a kind of reform referred to by the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles). That credit will always be his, and I am sure if there has been in the carrying of them out any friction, every great sailor, such as my Noble Friend behind me (Lord Charles Beresford), will be the first to recognise the value of the great and the immense work done by Lord Fisher, even if all sailors do not see eye to eye with him in regard to that work. There is no more generous man than my Noble Friend, and I am quite certain that he, as well as every Member of the House, will recognise the immense value of the work done, and that the country has never been better served or more honourably served than by the Admiralty when guided by Lord Fisher.
§ Mr. THOMAS LOUGH
moved to reduce Vote A by 3,000 men.
With regard to the Committee which watches over the expenditure on our armaments, I desire to say that I should have been very glad if my hon. Friends had seen their way to take up this question of the increase of the Navy Estimates. The Committee to which I allude numbered 144 Members in the last House of Commons, and I think there must be quite 100 hon. Members in this Parliament who sympathise with our views. It is only natural that under the circumstances we should look with grave misgivings upon these Navy Estimates. We have been told that the Government have 214 a great constitutional task in hand, and that it would be better for us not to perplex them by raising other difficult questions at this moment. I fully acknowledge the weight of that argument, and no man is less desirous of hampering the Government by raising side issues that might draw attention from those other important questions than I am. If, however, the Government desire that course to be followed they should themselves observe the law which they impose upon their followers. I am bound to say that this great increase in the Navy Estimates might have been postponed to a more convenient season, and then it would not have been necessary for us to strike a note of discord at the present time. The Government have, however, decided otherwise, and I feel that no other opportunity will occur for those of us who feel very strongly on this matter to raise this question. Under these circumstances I ask the House to bear with me while I give a short account of the situation as it occurs to me.
My object in moving a reduction of this Vote by 3,000 men is to raise the whole question of the increased expenditure upon the Navy, and to give reasons why it is not necessary at the present time. I think everyone admits that the situation is extremely grave. The Government in power are pledged to economy, and they are pledged against any increase of armaments, and yet we find them suddenly departing from the principles which have been followed in this matter for several years by both parties. This is one of the numerous mistakes which the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth made yesterday when he assumed that it was only the Liberal side of the House that had practised economy in regard to the Navy. May I remind the Noble Lord that the Conservative Government between 1904 and 1905 made a greater reduction in the Navy Estimates than ever the Liberal Government have made in one year. Therefore, a reduction in the Navy Estimates was a common policy adopted by both parties for many years. For some reason or other the present Government have chosen to break away in the opposite direction, and they have this year made the most extraordinary increase in our armaments that has ever before been made in a time of peace. I am not a Little Navy man, and I agree with every proposition that my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn put forward yesterday. I say we want a large Navy adequate to the full 215 protection of our shores and commerce, but my claim is that we have such a Navy, and I would ask the House to follow me while I attempt to justify that position. It has been suggested, I regret to say, on the Government Bench—although it has been put forward with greater vehemence by hon. Members opposite—that we are in a great crisis, and that there is something wrong with us. I deny it absolutely, because our nation was never in a stronger position than it was at the beginning of this year in relation to other countries. We have fortunately disposed of all the wicked and false statements made about our position, but, notwithstanding all that, the Government, after the scare of last year had been exploded, instead of turning back in this matter went on twice as rapidly at the time when the whole justification for such a proceeding had vanished.
I want to look for a few moments at two periods in our naval progress. The first period I will take is from 1904 to 1910, because it is within the last six years that the crimes which have placed us in this alleged insecure position must have been committed. I say that period was the most glorious in our naval annals. There never was an epoch in which so much was done that excited the admiration of the whole world than was accomplished during those six years I will summarise the facts. In the year 1904 we turned over a new leaf, and resolved that the Admiralty should depend upon brains rather than brawn. The result was that four great new principles were adopted. In the first place the Admiralty avoided a great deal of the expense wasted in this country over our Reserve by adopting the nucleus crew system. This enabled us to have a far greater number of ships in constant readiness, and we were enabled to do with a smaller number of men and be in a better state of preparation than we were before. The nucleus crew system was a complete revolution. I will not labour that point any further, and I only mention it simply to recall it to the mind of the Committee. The second great step we took was the redistribution of the Fleet. In the year 1904 our Fleet was distributed in the same way as it was at the time of the American War, but we have altered all that now. We have ceased to waste our money in the West Indies and other places, where too much money is being spent now in connection with the Army, and we concentrated 216 our Fleet in the place where it might be required, with the result that we have now the strongest and most powerful Fleet that has ever been brought together in home waters.
The third great reform was the scrapping of those ships which were said to be practically useless. The Admiralty fixed its eye on those ships which were said to be neither strong enough to fight nor to run away, and every ship of that character has been scrapped. We want all our ships to be good fighters, and the result of this reform has been that we have made a Navy, which was before largely a sham, into a reality. I now come to the fourth, and what I consider to be the greatest reform of all. We invented a big-gun type of battleship, and that was the greatest triumph of all. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth seems to think that got us into all our trouble because we advertised our invention too much. I agree with him to a great extent; there is a great deal of common sense in some of his asides, and if he only would throw away his party bias I am sure the Noble Lord would get a good deal of sympathy on this side of the House. Such a great invention as the big-gun type of battleship could not possibly be concealed, and it attracted the attention of the whole world. The result was that no battleship was built in Europe until they saw how our invention was going to turn out, and then they determined to follow our example. This was a great alteration. I think I may say that no other Department at Whitehall has ever carried out in so short a period a more useful programme of great reforms than the Admiralty during those six years. I want to sum up the result of all this in strength, because, after all, that is what we have to talk about here. In 1904 we had sixteen battleships, but at the beginning of this year we had forty-four. In 1904 we had fifteen first-class cruisers, and at the beginning of this year we had thirty-seven. In 1904 we had thirty small cruisers and gunboats, and now we have got fifty-six. We had twenty-four destroyers in 1904, and now we have 121.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Yes. We then had sixteen torpedo boats, and now we have eighty-eight. Of submarines we then possessed none, but now we have fifty-nine. [An HON. MEMBER: "What document are 217 you quoting from? "] These figures were published in a well-known paper during the last fortnight. It is a paper which the First Lord of the Admiralty respects more than any other paper—it is the "Nation."
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that we had only sixteen battleships in the year 1904?
§ Mr. McKENNA
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean sixteen battleships in commission in home waters in the year 1904?
§ Mr. LOUGH
Perhaps my figures will bear a little discounting, but I am sure the general conclusion to be drawn from these statistics will not be questioned by any person who knows the facts. In the year 1910, as compared with 1904, which is the last of the six years I am comparing, we put the greatest ships on the sea we ever had. An inquiry took place as to the principle the Admiralty had been working upon all that time, and the principle was this: a system of economic administration had been adopted by both sides, and had been carried out consistently. I will give some figures. I got them out myself, so I think they will be accepted as perfectly accurate. In 1904 the Navy Estimates, including the expenditure on works, amounted to 40.6 million pounds; in 1905 the total was 36.6 millions, and that reduction took place when the Conservative Government was in power. Therefore, the full responsibility for that reduction ought to be shared by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and these attacks on the present Government on that score are most unseemly. In 1906 the Navy Estimates were 34.3 million pounds; in 1907 32.9 millions. These figures show that we had a steady reduction for four years. In 1908 the total went up to 33.5 millions; last year there was an increase of nearly three million pounds, and this year another immense increase has been, proposed. What then was the principle of this period? The reduction of expenditure— economy. The moment the Department became economical it became intelligent, and all these splendid achievements and strengthening of the Navy which have excited the admiration of mankind were accomplished with a steady reduction of estimates approved of by all parties in this House and approved of by the whole nation outside. We had the reduction of 218 expenditure, and we also had greatly improved efficiency and an immense accretion of strength.
I am convinced that that short review will not be damaged. It shows that splendid work can be done without increasing the expenditure beyond £30,000,000 or £32,000,000. I refuse to be classed as a little Navy man, but where I differ from hon. Gentleman opposite is that I try to realise what £33,000,000 and what £40,000,000 are. That is a most difficult thing to do, and it seems to me that no nation should lightly spring up from one figure to the other. I would like also to allude to the period immediately before 1904, to the period between 1894 and 1904. In those ten years we increased our annual expenditure on the Navy from about £17,000,000 to £40,000,000. There was extravagance, and we scattered out the millions in a panic. No Department was equal to looking at whether it got the best results or not. Strength will not be secured merely by the wild expenditure of money. You want to practise the same system and the same policy that we have carried out during the last six years.
I appeal to the Government with some confidence upon this point, because all the right hon. Gentlemen, from the highest to the lowest, are pledged to economy and to the reduction of expenditure on armaments. I will take the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. McKenna) first. We always regarded my right hon. Friend as the hopeful child of the Ministry so far as economy was concerned. I believe in the year before he went to the Admiralty he pondered over the Navy Estimates night and day, and even went so far as to write memorandums to show what great economies might be effected. It is rumoured, and I give it with all reserve, that one or two months before he became First Lord he delivered such a speech on economy to the Cabinet that everyone said he was the man to be First Lord of the Admiralty— "Put him in, and then we will have economy." I daresay he saw in that room these principles marked up—"Reduction of expenditure, efficiency, strength." What has he done? He has blotted them all out and substituted extravagance, and, I am afraid I must add, incompetency and risk of disaster. It is far better for us to pursue those safe methods to which we all pledged ourselves in our quiet moments than to make wild experiments of this kind. I want to allude to another Member of the Ministry who dealt with this matter.
219 I am going to make a quotation from an article in the "Nation," by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Lloyd-George). I would not quote a speech of my right hon. Friend, because his speeches are so delightful that perhaps they are not always considered with such care as a written article. He wrote:—The mistake made by the Liberal Government of 1894 will not be repeated. Sir William Harcourt's great financial proposals raised a large revenue, but it was nut hypothecated to ańy specific purpose.The Liberals raised a great revenue in 1894, and then the wicked Tories came in and applied it to an increase of armaments. That will not be done again. He said:—What was left after the landlords had enjoyed the first cut was frittered away over futile expenditure on armaments. I predict that another concerted effort will be made to raise a fresh naval or military panic so as to rush the Government into the criminal extravagance of unnecessary armaments on laud and sea.This was on 30th October, 1909, and here we have the scare upon us, and are asked to vote £1,000,000 extra for the Army and £6,000,000 extra for the Navy. We are asked to vote it sub silentio, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who wrote that article above the name "David Lloyd-George," in capital letters, requests us to do it. The right hon. Gentleman added:—Liberals will have themselves to blame if they lack the perspicacity and firmness to resist these manufactured cries of national danger.Is not that a justification for my action? Can anyone blame me? As late as 30th October, 1909, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was crammed full of all those noble sentiments, which I must say do him the greatest credit. They are in accordance with all his past professions, both in this House and in the country. He is the man who endeared himself to the hearts of all Liberals by his resistance to that criminal expenditure in connection with the South African War. He largely occupies the place he does both in the Government and in the minds of all Liberals because he was relied upon to fight all expenditure on armaments. The previous Chancellor of the Exchequer had reduced the cost of the Army and the Navy. Then there comes the right hon. Gentleman, who is so deeply pledged to pursue the same policy, and within less than one year he has tuned up the Army Estimates by £1,000,000 and the Navy Estimates by £8,000,000 or £9,000,000. It is extremely difficult to reconcile that procedure of the Cabinet with the professions they made both to the party and the House before 220 they took high office. So far as many of us are concerned, we, at any rate, stand firm. We think excellent results were obtained when economy was practised. We are not ashamed of the days of economy, and, whatever the Government may do in the way of changing those principles, we think it would be far safer at the present time to consider the matter with some little care before any change is made.
I said a moment since that I would also show that the nation approved of these reductions in both our Naval and Military expenditure. The two last General Elections show that the country approved of every step that was taken in the direction of greater economy. The late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman put this forward as the chief part of the programme on which the election of 1906 would be fought. Nobody was alarmed, and the country, which was tired of the waste and extravagance and all the evils that go along with it, did not hesitate to send him to this House with the greatest majority any Minister has ever enjoyed, and to the end of his life he tried to carry out the principles he had announced. But we had another Albert Hall speech. Nothing was said in that speech of an increase of £5,000,000 on the Navy, and wherever Members of the Government went they still preached the doctrine of economy. The Ministry ought to consider carefully whether this pursuing of the expenditure of the scare after all the statements on which the scare was based have vanished, will not bring the Liberal party into great disrepute before long.
It may be asked what my policy would be. It is perfectly clear. Even if we want to accomplish the object the Government have in view, they have gone the wrong way about it. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty last year said the Estimates were precautionary Estimates, and were intended to keep the country safe. This is a bad spirit of precaution. The Estimates have been based on statements which my right hon. Friend cannot prove to be true when they are brought up here a few months after they were made. We cannot now induce right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench to use the word "seventeen." They will not use the expression. Yet our Liberal books were last year full of the statement that there would be seventeen "Dreadnoughts." The whole thing has vanished, and, instead of the policy of waste and extravagance vanishing also, the Government are 221 going on with it when all the reasons alleged for it have disappeared. The true policy would be to reduce the outlay, and to concentrate on necessity within the broad limits of an expenditure of £30,000,000 or £32,000,000. You could within those limits find any particular kind of armament that you require, and could, without disturbing other nations, make your defences perfect. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord Charles Beresford) yesterday said we had fallen beneath the two-Power standard.
§ Mr. LOUGH
When I repeat his statement the Noble Lord begins to qualify it. Any impartial person, when speaking of the two-Power standard, would look at the situation all round. Are we as strong as any two Powers together, taking everything into account? That is the true two-Power standard with which we ought to be content. Hon. Gentlemen opposite first concentrate on "Dreadnoughts," and say, "We are not two to one." They fuss a good deal, and we say, "All right, we will have more 'Dreadnoughts.'" As soon as they get their "Dreadnoughts," they want cruisers. Then, when they get them, they turn round and say, as the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, they are unhappy about destroyers. I say these are details. If we could devote a year or two to the big ships it might be wise to give ourselves fully to that work. We could look to the smaller questions afterwards.
The Noble Lord, when speaking of the two-Power standard yesterday, took expenditure. He said that America would spend £28,000,000 and Germany £22,000,000, making £50,000,000 together. We only spend £40,000,000; therefore we are beneath the two-Power standard. What wretched nonsense this is ! That was based on the supposition that they can get in America as much in proportion to their millions as we can get here, and, of course, they cannot. I do not know how much the £28,000,000 must be discounted, but at any rate it must be largely discounted. I know on my visit to America everything cost me twice as much, including my bed and breakfast, as I would have had to pay in this country, and, of course, the same thing applies in a greater degree to the Navy. The whole basis of the Noble Lord's comparison is perfectly unsound.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that America has got a contract for building two Argentine battleships because they can do them at a less cost than any other nation in the world?
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Then I apologise. I understand it was the hon. Member for the Fareham Division who said that Germany was spending £22,000,000. Let me point out the fundamental difference. Germany, whether rightly or wrongly, is building on loans; we are building upon revenue. Supposing we were to adopt the principle of building by loans, and take loans for a year or two in order to build a greater Fleet, we should then have to stop: we could not go on with loans year after year. It would be nonsense to adopt that policy; we might just as well provide the money out of revenue, as we are doing. Therefore we are measuring a revenue expenditure against a loan expenditure. We are measuring the steady progress we are making in, this country from year to year against the occasional gigantic efforts which Germany puts forward. I do not want to labour that point, but I give it as an illustration of the weak and rotten arguments submitted to the House when statements are made to the effect that we are falling below the two-Power standard. In order to get at the real truth I occasionally put questions to my right hon. Friend, and to-day I asked him how many men there were in the respective Navies. I got an intelligent answer from him—he told me we are providing for 131,000 men, while-Germany and France together are only providing for 115,000 men; therefore, so far as men are concerned, we have a considerable advantage over the two-Power standard. I remember a speech which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made at Reading; he was speaking about our men and our material in the Navy, and he said, "When we point out that we have got three to one in men and three to one in matériel, all the answer the Tories 223 make is, "What ! only three to one? Only three Britishers to one German? Why, we shall be ruined !" That is the sort of answer we get. I think we ought to be satisfied if our numbers are twice as great and our strength is twice as great as that of any other nation. I think it more desirable, seeing we have such a great advantage, for us to go a little more slowly.
I come back to the subject of advertisement. I think we ought not to advertise so much, and on that point I venture to offer hon. Members opposite a humble word of advice. It does not seem to be very patriotic to ask so many detailed questions of the Government with regard to these matters. I believe that if another Government were in power the Liberals would not do it. [Cries of "Oh."] They never did it so far as the Navy is concerned. A public Assembly like this, where everything is reported, is not the place to drag out every detail and to publish failures, if there be failures, with regard to our ships. I have a White Paper which illustrates this point. The Paper gives details as to the shooting in the Navy. It is Greek to me, but I do not understand why such things should be published. Why should not the Admiralty itself deal solely with the shooting of our ships? There is too much advertisement dragged out in this House—certainly in the printed Papers. The Government think it is a feather in their cap because it shows every little step gained. I think they should do all sorts of good things and at the same time hide their light under a bushel. I have been saying this much in support of the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford). Let us get rid of this advertisement wherever we can, and let hon. Members opposite, so far as is possible, restrain their desire for information on delicate and difficult points.
The chief suggestion I have to make is one which I need not elaborate. I think the time has come when we should seriously consider our position with regard to the principle of the immunity of commerce in time of war. I do not know whether it is generally known in this House that the German Navy League bases on the fact that we are not willing to agree with them in this matter the reason for the work of that League in Germany. They always say: "We do not want equality in the matter of the Navy, but we seek for a strong Navy to protect 224 our commerce. Our commerce is developing with great strides, and in many seas it exists in greater strength than even British commerce; but as long as the British claim the right to destroy our commerce and sweep it off the sea in time of war it is absolutely necessary for us, at whatever cost, to develop a great Navy." I think if we could seal a treaty of friendship with Germany by a concession on that point we might abridge our Estimates of expenditure, and it would be an advantage cheaply gained. I say the scare, so far as it has gone, has not helped the Government. I should like the Government to lay it to heart that, though they may carry things through the House, owing to our reluctance to oppose them in any way, in the long run these things will appeal to the working men of this country, who will not approve of this wild extravagance of this throwing additional millions, in connection with this matter, into the sea. Our financial position is in a very strained state at the present moment. We have not yet got the Budget through. We often use very hard words when another country shows a deficit of £28,000,000 at the end of the year. I agree with my Friends on this side of the House in putting all the blame for the present financial straits on the Lords; but, while that is true, we ought to be very careful about incurring additional expenditure of £6,000,000 or £8,000,000, as is proposed. At the General Election we Liberals spoke of nothing but social reform and the mighty expenditure to be made upon it. I stand as one of the greatest of culprits in this matter. I stated that out of the first Budget £18,000,000 would have to be devoted to social reform and to dealing with the question of unemployment. I am told that a leading Member of the Government made a statement to that effect. What are we doing? Social reform was not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, and all the money has been thrown into this wasteful expenditure upon armaments. This will give a great shock to the friends of progress, and if it is not too late I would like to suggest that the matter should be reconsidered. It has not been argued out in the way it should be. We do not appear to be very much pressed for time. Hon. Members around me agree with me in looking with profound alarm at the step the Government is taking. I say it is not wise to take these doubtful steps, and in the hope that even at this last moment the Government may be able to reconsider the matter I propose to move 225 the Amendment which stands on the Paper in my name, and to reduce the number of men by 3,000.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
I only venture to take a small part in this Debate, because I happen to be one of the very few naval officers in this House. I want the Committee to understand that I do not in any way whatsoever pose as an expert. I am giving simply the views and wishes of a very humble sailor. I am afraid I am a long way from having found my House of Commons legs, and I only hope that some Members of this House have themselves felt a little bit at sea while visiting some of our ships, for then perhaps they may be able to extend a little sympathy towards one very much out of his own clement who has been brought up in a Service which strictly discourages talking. The only point I want to raise in connection with the Estimates is the question of the destroyers. I have some slight experience of destroyers and working them at sea, and I consider that our position in regard to them is perhaps the weakest part of our naval programme at the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough) suggested that destroyers were really details, but I am afraid he will not find many people in the Navy who will agree with him in that. It is unanimously admitted in the Service that destroyers will play a very important part indeed in modern naval warfare. Some people outside, and I am afraid also some people in this House, seem to think only of "Dreadnoughts." They talk only of ''Dreadnoughts," as if "Dreadnoughts" were the only things we want, but "Dreadnoughts" without a proper and adequate complement of small craft and destroyers are only half the use they might otherwise be.
I am going to compare our destroyers with the German destroyers. I am going to assume that we are engaged in operations with Germany—not out of any disrespect to that country, but simply in order to arrive at our fighting value. In any operations with that country, the North Sea is bound to be the seat of action, for destroyers at all events, and the North Sea is almost invariably rough. I think it is essential that the destroyers called upon to work in the North Sea—to do sustained work there—should only be those which are absolutely capable of maintaining themselves in all sorts of weather, and under all conditions. For 226 that reason we must count on no destroyers earlier than the River class—that is for sustained work. I have had some experience of the type before the River class. I have been in three different ones, the "Dove," the "Spitfire," and the "Success."; they are very good boats as far as they go, but they are not big enough to work in the North Sea. I think you will find nearly everybody in the Navy admits these facts. I myself have been in one of these vessels when we had to go back to harbour because of bad weather, and that was only in the Channel, not in the North Sea at all, where you get a much nastier sea. These so-cálled coastal destroyers are only destroyers in name. They are really only torpedo boats, and cannot be counted on for this work in the North Sea.
The destroyers which we have, which are absolutely suited for work in the North Sea, are thirty-two of the river class, twelve of the Tribal, and two which we have recently purchased, making a total of forty-six destroyers. They are absolutely ready, and then, beside that, we have thirty-seven in the course of construction, and I think if all of these are pushed on a little more rapidly than the usual time taken for the completion of destroyers in this country, which I think is about eighteen or nineteen months, these could all be ready by July, 1911. With these thirty-seven and the forty-six now ready, we should have eighty-three in July, 1911, and they are all boats really capable of working in the North Sea. I have taken the date, July, 1911, because the First Lord of the Admiralty has himself said that Germany will have seventy-two destroyers ready by that date. These seventy-two destroyers of Germany are all less than seven years old, all good sea boats tested in the North Sea, where they have to work, whereas ours are only tested in the Channel, and they are comparable to eighty-three of ours. The number eighty-three to seventy-two is not a very wide margin; even when these destroyers are worked under similar conditions. I should like to explain, however, very briefly indeed, that the conditions under which these destroyers will have to work—if, unhappily, they should have to work—will be entirely different conditions, and those conditions will operate in our disfavour. Our destroyers will have to go over to the German coasts. They will have to go, first of all, as a flying squadron to act as a screen, because they will go to the German coasts and watch the egresses to 227 the North Sea. On the other hand, while these destroyers of ours are far from their base, or pretty far from their base, the German destroyers will be actually on their base.
The utility of the destroyers depends, not only upon their engines which are suddenly called upon to work at the highest pressure at the shortest possible notice, which must entail breakdowns, but also upon the condition of their officers and crew. I do not know whether many members of this House have ever been to sea in a destroyer and experienced any of the discomforts, but if they have they will not need to be told that a destroyer is not very well fitted up with what are called home comforts, and what I want to emphasise is this: that you must rest your crew and you must rest them adequately in action, because no one will be able to stand for long the stress and strain of war being waged in hostile waters. Our destroyers will have to come back from hostile waters first of all for coal. The Japanese carried out very complete arrangements for coaling under which they had during the war the coal bags ready to be hoisted from the shore on to the vessel, and they had shore men there ready to handle the bags and take them on board, so that immediately the boats came in the crew went off at once to rest. If some arrangements of that sort are not made we shall find that the crew are the only men available for this work. In addition to the opportunity given to the destroyers to obtain coal, the men must have time to clean their furnaces, and the crews must be given a thorough rest, and I think it is clear that if we are going to have a thorough system of rest we can only count on keeping half of these eighty-three boats, that is forty-two on the enemy's coast. That reduces the number of our destroyers to forty-two, as against seventy-two of the other destroyers which is getting perilously near to two to one to our disfavour.
Besides that, German's present programme—this year's programme—may be finished by this date of July, 1911, and that will add a large number to the seventy-two destroyers which they possess, and which I have not included in my calculations. I must say that I think it is a very good thing indeed that the destroyers in our programme are going to be pushed on a little more quietly than they have in the past. I think it is a very good thing, also, 228 that more money is put into this year's programme for destroyers, but even if this is the case I do humbly submit to the Committee that our destroyer programme for work in the North Sea is inadequate, and I do think we ought to have more than two to one, and more than twice the number of destroyers capable of working in the North Sea than the other Power has. I may be called a wild man for saying this, but if I am you will have to include in that name every destroyer officer in the Navy that I have ever come across. We are told that this shipbuilding of ours is insane competition. But is it insane? Surely it is not insane for us, whose very existence depends upon our having the supreme sea power, that we should maintain it. I think we ourselves have been very largely responsible for encouraging this competition, because of our spasmodic shipbuilding, and I do think that this House this week has a very excellent opportunity, in view of its rather complacent attitude at present towards a big Navy, of laying down a definite programme that will insure continuity of shipbuilding. I say, first of all that continuity of shipbuilding would raise this question of the Navy above party politics. The Navy dislikes intensely this question being made one of party politics, and it is doing the Navy no good. Secondly, I believe it would very largely stop this competition, because it would show the world that all parties in this House—not one party—are determined to maintain and secure that unassailable security which alone will guarantee peace in the future.
§ Mr. HENRY TWIST
Perhaps the House will allow me to say, when, for the first time I crave its indulgence, that I cannot, on the subject that is now under Debate, bring any expert knowledge to bear; neither can I presume to have the same knowledge of details which a naval officer, speaking as a Member of this House, can claim a but I rise to speak against these Estimates from a standpoint which I believe need not be described as that of an extremist, although I stand quite opposite in my view of what is essential and necessary in this matter to the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford). The Noble Lord is an extremist of extremists, and it seems to me that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer budgetted for nothing else than the Navy, he could not do more than justice to the Navy from the Noble Lord's point of view. It does seem to me- 229 an extremely strange thing that as civilisation advances the cost of armament increases. One would have hoped that the cost of all the engines of war would have depreciated and been reduced as Christianity and civilisation advanced and as man realised something more of the spirit of brotherhood; but it does seem, from the Debate proceeding now in this House, that while a great many in the course of an election talk about matters of this sort like archangels, they talk on a level of barbarism when they come here to discuss the question of armaments. I heard with very great surprise a short time ago the Noble Lord the Member for Hornsey (Earl of Ronaldshay) make this statement:—That the primary duty of n nation, and the largest occupation of a nation should be the use of arms.I am sure that that is a very inept piece of philosophy. I have always been taught to believe that the first duty of any rational, sane and civilised nation is to provide the essentials of healthy, happy life for all its inhabitants and all its citizens. When we are being called upon to increase the expenditure upon the Navy I am bound to confess that it seems to me that both the Estimates and the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty introducing them to this House were framed to propitiate the Opposition and to try to stifle criticism upon that side of the House rather than to save the Government from what they might deem to be an approaching dilemma. During the election the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) came to the constituency which I have the honour to represent. He came with a flourish of trumpets as a sort of Empire missionary, and he there made a speech which I will not say was classic, but it has become notorious. He said:—We want eight and we won't wait.I confess there was some element of truth in that prophecy, for the Opposition are not waiting very long before the completion of it. He declared that we were passing through a historical epoch, but I submit it was a hysterical epoch, and one which was created for a purpose. A Noble Lord declared yesterday that the reason for the increase of this expenditure was false economy in the last four years, but I have a suspicion that it is not that economy that hon. Members complain of in their hearts, and that what they are opposed to most of all is the expenditure of money on social reform 230 during the last four years. When one bulwark of their policy does not save them from having to pay for some amelioration of the sufferings of the poor, then they rely upon swollen armaments to absorb the money with which any well-disposed Government might do something to meet the desires and the interests of the poor of this country. The House of Lords, on the one hand, and swollen armaments, on the other, form the eternal Scylla and Charybdis between which the best aspirations of social reformers come to grief. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, it has always seemed to me, prefer to waste money upon armaments rather than spend it upon social reform.
Last year the First Lord made a statement in this House comparing our new construction with that of Germany, and he said he thought Germany would possess seventeen battleships of the "Dreadnought" type by the end of 1912. I think he himself will now admit that that Estimate of the acceleration of German building was not well founded, the statement having been made, which we have no right to discredit, in the German Reichstag, that Germany will only possess thirteen ships of the" Dreadnought" type at the end of 1912. Yesterday we were told that this country will possess at least twenty by the end of 1912, and, including the Colonial ships, twenty-seven by the end of 1913. If, on the First Lord's own showing, this twenty at the end of 1912 is a satisfactory state of superiority over the seventeen German ships which he then supposed they would possess, it seems to me that the four contingent ships provided for last year were unnecessary, and that the increased Estimates this year are all the more unnecessary. On the Government's own showing, they might have been dispensed with, and that standard of superiority of twenty to seventeen might have been maintained. I believe the reason underlying all these claims for increased armaments is that, somehow or other, it has got into the heads of Englishmen, some of them, at any rate, that it is the duty of England to hold the balance of power amongst all the nations in the world. That is a policy which cannot be pursued without running this nation into bankruptcy. It seems to me a proposition the reasons for which have passed away. We are informed that £13,250,000 are to go this year for new construction, as compared with £8,750,000 last year. But the most important point in these Estimates is 231 that £1,500,000 are being subscribed for beginning new work, and that the completion of those ships which are begun by that instalment will cost the country from twenty to thirty millions. We need not look for any reduction in the Estimates for many years to come, and that which was in 1880 ten millions, in 1890 fifteen millions, in 1900 thirty millions, and in 1910 forty millions, may very easily be forty-six or forty-seven millions next year. Therefore the old watchword of retrenchment inscribed upon the Liberal flag has shrunk to the measure of a figleaf, with which they cover the nakedness of their extravagance. What is the relative strength of the Navy of Germany compared with our own? England to-day has, all told, 411 ships against Germany's 203. She has a peace strength, with reserves, of 188,000 men at her disposal, as against Germany's 117,000.
This plea has been pub forward, that it is essential for England's safety that she should maintain the two-Power standard. I should like to ask where this proposal had its birth? I understand this two-Power standard to mean equal to the two strongest naval Powers plus 10 per cent. Behind this proposal there is the assumption and the supposition that if ever England goes to war on the sea there will be a combination of nations against her and she will not be permitted to fight any other nation single-handed. Are we to suppose that England would have no nation in the world supporting her? Would England have no allies if, as was suggested yesterday, there was a combination between Germany and America, which is to me unthinkable. If it is logical to argue that there is almost certain to be a combination of two Powers, in the event of war, against England, it is equally logical to assume that all the rest of the world will be against England and that we should arm sufficiently to meet the whole world. I cannot understand the argument of those who argue for a big Navy from this standpoint. They argue that every different ship which we build, every additional gun we construct, every addition to our armaments, is a message of goodwill, and assurance of peace and a safeguard against war, but directly they hear of a ship being built in Germany they conclude that it is a token of ill-will, and that it is the intention of that country to go to war. The Germans are as civilised as Englishmen are. I believe they have no more intention of doing harm to England than England 232 has of doing harm to her. Any conclusion arrived at upon such a hypothesis seems to me totally illogical. Those who urge an increased expenditure are not peacemakers but pacemakers, and pacemakers ultimately will ruin this country in the realm of finance.
I agree with the Mover of the Amendment that one of the great reasons for the increase in the naval construction in Germany is the attitude that this country took up at the Hague Conference in 1907 in refusing to subscribe to the policy of immunity of merchantmen in. time; of war. The Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) said last night, very bluntly, that one of the great reasons why we require a big Navy was because we had been the bully of the seas, and I assert that the spirit of the bully was manifested on that occasion, in that we did not extend our hands to those nations which were willing to agree that trade routes and the streams of food supply should be left untouched in time of war. Germany is approached by the seas by a mere lake, and she must inevitably keep her trade routes free from attack. Are there no methods of maintaining the peace of the world other than by huge armaments? Is there no other method of living at peace with your neighbour than by holding a bludgeon over his head and by perpetually clenching your fist and putting it in his face? I believe safeguards are growing every year which will ultimately render huge armaments unnecessary. Financial interdependence, the trading relationships between nations are becoming so complex that it seems to me it will not be profitable for any one great nation to seek the destruction of another. If Germany should destroy England in a fit of passion or because of swollen ambition she will destroy at least some of her best customers and some of her debtors. And there is also the knowledge that Germany, by attacking us, would create financial havoc and disorder to her own condition, and the opposite would be true if we were to attack Germany.
I oppose these great armaments from another standpoint. I hold that so long as this country spends the huge sums it is spending upon armaments we can hope for very little amelioration for the suffering millions of this country. We are too poor to spend money upon matters which I believe are infinitely of greater importance than that of extending the so-called defences of our shores. I remember, 233 during the lifetime of the present Government, a Commission sitting to inquire into accidents in mines and asking for a grant of £10,000 for the purpose of experimenting as to whether coal dust would or would not create or accelerate explosions in mines. The Government was too poor to grant £10,000 and private individuals had to subscribe the money, and now it is accepted by every expert that not only will coal-dust accelerate explosions, but even an explosion may be created by coal-dust itself if the initial stages are produced. On the other hand, we can only get a paltry £200,000 for the relief of unemployment. Forty times the salary of the President of the Local Government Board is all we can get for nearly 1,000,000 men and their dependents tramping about and becoming unemployable because of the fact that they are unemployed. For education we can find £11,000,000. Eleven millions for putting brains in and £70,000,000 for blowing them out. You say England is in peril. I know a greater peril than either a shrinking Navy or a shrinking Army. I know a greater peril than reduced armaments, and that is the poverty of her toiling millions, out of whom all this money is to come as a contribution of blood drawn from their veins. But the poverty of these people is a greater peril to the supremacy of our country than reduced armaments. To continue starving your people and go on spending money, in new armaments which should be spent" for their relief is like a knight of old starving himself to buy a coat of mail which he had not the strength to bear on his shoulders.
Of what use are ships unless you have men? A great deal of this Debate has turned on personnel. I ask you to pay greater attention to the personnel than you have done in the past by seeing to it that the social and industrial life of the people is such that they will have something to love in the country they live in, and something to fight for if they are called upon to fight.
I oppose these Estimates and swollen armaments because, it seems to me, they are not only organised and proposed, but that they put us, in effect, on the very level of barbarism itself. In one direction we are asked to abolish feudalism, and in another direction we are asked to go towards barbarism. I am thinking what even a tithe of these millions would do for the aged poor, the hungry children, and the unemployed people of this 234 country. It seems to me to be quite true that the nation will perish which continues to build great ships, to construct guns, and to spend money in this way, without due consideration for the social and industrial well-being of the people. That nation will certainly perish, as past empires have perished, which does not bring into its civic and political life the influence of the great moral law, and which is eternally talking about its supremacy and what it is going to do. I want to see a rational Navy as well as a national Navy. I do not look to hon. Gentlemen opposite, or the party to which they belong, and I am afraid I shall have to cease to look to the Liberal party for any hope of peace, retrenchment, and reform. It is said that "The love of money is the root of all evil." It is if you spend it on armaments. I do not look to crowned heads, or Cabinets, or political parties to ultimately evolve the peace of the world. I look to the growing solidarity of the democratic movement, to the good feeling which is growing up between the working classes of all nations, and to international understandings which, believe me, will grow from year to year, and which, in the end, will be more powerful than crowned heads or Cabinets in settling this evil and wicked question of war. In saying this I am breathing the spirit, the desire, and the aspiration of millions of my fellow creatures, not only in this country, but in every civilised country in the world. As a lover of my country, I say that England has led the way in a great many humanitarian causes which have resulted in the uplifting of humanity. She is, perhaps, the greatest colonising Power in the world; she has expanded and consolidated her Empire, and I look to my country to lead in the grand procession of nations towards international peace. I trust these Estimates will be opposed—I could hope successfully opposed. I say that whatever it might cost me personally, politically, socially, or in any other way, there is no Vote on which I would more like to vote against any Government than this, and I shall go into the Lobby with the same conviction as that with which I speak and vote against these Estimates, wicked and wasteful as I look upon them to be.
§ Mr. MIDDLEMORE
I think the best answer to this speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Twist) is to refer him to the German shipbuilding programme, and also, perhaps, 235 to the preamble of the German Navy Bill of 1900. We on this side of the House value social reform and the improvement of the well-being of the people as much as the hon. Member, but there will be no social reform, or old age pensions for the poor, and the dividends of the rich will be imperilled if we suffer a single defeat to our Navy. I am dissatisfied with these Estimates, and for a reason precisely the opposite of that expressed by the hon. Member who has just spoken. I believe they are inadequate, in consequence of the steady curtailment of our programme between 1906 and the present day. I believe we cannot put ourselves in a safe position with anything less than a loan. I do not see why the Government should object to a loan. They are dealing with a good many now, and I do not see why we should not have a loan to protect the safety of our country as much as a loan to protect the dignity of the Government. Let me test what I say as to the need of a loan, and as to the inadequacy of the present programme. What did Lord Cawdor and Sir John Fisher, as he then was, say in 1905? The responsibility of the whole of the Board of Admiralty, the right hon. Gentleman says, is involved in the statement. They said:—While they [the Board of Admiralty] anticipate at present that an output of four large armoured ships a year should suffice to meet our requirements, there will to no difficulty whatever in increasing this amount to whatever extent may he necessary in consequence of any increase in naval power abroad. The public cannot rely on this reduction being continued in future years if foreign countries make developments in their shipbuilding programmes which we cannot now foresee.?That was their minimum programme in 1905—four capital ships of the "Dreadnought "class. That was their minimum programme before the Germans had extended and accelerated theirs. What have we and the Germans been doing in regard to the capital ships since this Government came into office? We have provided, in 1906, three aganst three; in 1907, again three against three; in 1908, two against four; in 1909, eight against four; but no money was provided for the eight with the exception of something in the Supplementary Estimates. In 1910 we are providing five against the German four, but the money is so inadequate that this provision can hardly be reckoned upon. The Government have not provided twenty-one ships against eighteen. They have only a programme for eight of them, and it seems to me that as regards the two-Power standard the Government have three times 236 failed to provide for its being maintained. The First Lord of the Admiralty said the other day the whole Board were responsible for the programme. They were responsible for the programme which they declared was the minimum one in 1905.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Member is mistaken. What he is quoting from is Lord Cawdor's statement, which has nothing to do with the programme of the year. What I stated was that the Board of Admiralty were responsible for the Estimates to which they appended their names. They did not append their names to Lord Cawdor's statement.
§ Mr. MIDDLEMORE
They did not append their names to the statement, but the estimates were founded upon the statement. They are one and the same. Well, the same Board that gave us the 1905 programme gave us also the 1908 programme of two ships. Which was right? Is not the explanation of the discrepancy between the 1905 and the 1908 programme that the Admiralty were subject to pressure? Mr. Robertson, now Lord Lochee, when he sat on the Treasury Bench, admitted when he was challenged by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Arthur Lee) that the Estimates of 1908, after they had been submitted to the Admiralty and put before the Cabinet, had been subjected to considerable reduction. Of course, the striking feature in these Estimates is the extremely small sum Voted for a considerable programme. Thirteen and a half millions have been Voted as a total sum for shipbuilding: £1l,750,000 applies to contract work and £1,400,000 for the new programme, and £600,000 only is devoted to the five armoured ships and five cruisers. Surely that is preposterous. Surely it is playing with the country to vote only one-twenty-fourth or one-twenty-fifth of what is required for these ships. I think it would have been better and honester to have had one armoured ship and one protected cruiser, and to have spent that money on them, than to have distributed it over ten ships, and more or less to have humbugged the country in doing so. I think it would have been franker with the country to have done so.
I wish to say a word about destroyers. That subject has been most admirably dealt with by the hon. Member for South Worcestershire (Mr. Eyres-Monsell). What has the Government done since 1906 except promise? The road to a very bad place 237 is said to be paved with promises. They promised sixty-three ships against the German sixty between 1906 and 1910, and they have only given us seven up to a few days ago These are sixty-three promises and only seven performances. Now Germany has completed all her 1908 programme.
§ Mr. MIDDLEMORE
Her 1908 destroyer programme. She has completed it all, and pressed into the service forty-two destroyers against our seven. That is, she has beaten us by six to one. Out of 187 destroyers built, building, or programme, eighty-six were launched before 1900, and are getting old and worn out, and the days of their usefulness are rapidly passing away. Of these eighty-six there are thirty-eight which were launched between 1895 and 1897, and these are done for. The Admiralty are afraid of taking them at full speed. I remember asking the right hon. Gentleman if he was willing to order a certain number of these destroyers to be taken at full speed. He shuddered, and said "No." I asked him if they could go full speed one hundred yards. He gathered himself together then, and said he thought they could, or perhaps more. They are done for. A large number of these destroyers ought no longer to be on our lists. It seems to me that the Government have been running the Navy on theories supplied to them by "Little England" Members of this House. You cannot protect the shores of this country "by theories, or by paper programmes. You can only protect them by hard, floating facts and by realised programmes.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has recommended as a panacea for all our naval difficulties that we should raise the necessary money by loans.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I do not understand how borrowing the money for our annual requirements, instead of finding it out of our annual revenue, is going to assist us in determining how many ships we ought to build, or how, in the long run, it is going 238 to assist us in maintaining an adequate Navy. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that though he could find a precedent in the case of Germany for the system of borrowing in order to meet annual expenditure on the Navy, yet if he carries his investigations into German finances a little further he will find that Germany does not borrow for the maintenance of her Army. Germany recognises that the maintenance of the Army is a permanent interest for the German Empire, and I hope we shall also recognise that the maintenance of the British Navy is of permanent interest for the British Empire. Akin to this subject of loans is the subject which was referred to by the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Eyres-Monsell), who in a most excellent maiden speech spoke of the desirability of our having a definite programme. No doubt it would be convenient in many ways, and certainly it would be very convenient for me, if Parliament were to lay it down once for all how many ships were to be built for a certain period of years. But let me point out to the House the difficulty in which we might find ourselves under that system. We build solely for the reason that we have to maintain a standard of supremacy over any construction that may be undertaken by any foreign nation. We cannot lay down in advance that three ships a year, or four or five or six ships a year, will be an adequate provision for the British Navy, for say a period of ten years to come, because if any foreign nation were to build more we should have to build more. But equally we should hold ourselves at liberty if any foreign nation builds less that we, too, should build less.
I rather fear, therefore, that a definite programme would really amount to this— that we should always build the number of ships contained in the definite programme as a minimum regardless of what foreign nations did, and if they increased their programme we should find it incumbent on us to increase our programme also. I hope that the Committee, tempting as this method appears to be, will not be misled by it, but decide that we should also this year, as we did last year, frame our Estimates in accordance with the requirements of the coming year. That is what we have to meet—what Navy will be in existence in the coming year or in the years 1911–12 and 1912–13? Those are the years for which our present provisions are made, and we can only judge of the amount we ought to undertake by what we know is being done, or will be done, by foreign 239 nations during that period. My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Twist) expressed an earnest desire that we should have a rational Navy. I am entirely in sympathy with the views expressed by my hon. Friend as regards the urgent need for social reform and as regards the necessity of cutting down expenditure upon armaments so far as it can be done with safety; but I did not gather from my hon. Friend that he laid down any standard of Navy which he would regard as rational. Let me say at once that the only standard we would regard as rational is a standard which would ensure our safety against any probable combination of enemies, and I submit to the Committee that that is the standard which the Government have solely in view in framing these Estimates.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I confess I should not. All nations have got to run their risks. No amount of provision we could ever make would be sufficient against the improbable, or, I might say, the impossible. Improbable as it may be, it is conceivable that the whole world might be joined in alliance against us. If it is, we must take our risk. What we have to do is to foresee—I will not say all possibilities—but all possibilities which come within the region of probabilities. I would not be understood by that as saying that I conceive it probable that we shall be engaged in war. I do not conceive it probable, but in estimating the probable combination of foreign Powers that might be brought in line against us, we must consider probabilities, and not what is really only a practical impossibility. The hon. Member for Evesham spoke with considerable knowledge and interest to the House upon the subject of destroyers. In one respect, although I do not quarrel with the figures he gave, I think I can reassure him. He said that the recent German destroyers from the year 1903, taken from the same period as our River class of destroyers, can be compared in power with the British destroyers. I do not think that that is an inference which can fairly be made.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The type of German destroyer is a type which is suitable for the North Sea, but I do not think it is 240 reasonable to suppose, and I do not think it is true, that the twelve early German destroyers, from the tonnage of 413 tons or the next with 418 tons, or the next twelve up to 520, are to be compared with our destroyers of the River class, the smallest of which are 550 tons, and which run up as high as 1,000 tons. The very largest German destroyers are only 670 tons. There are twelve up to 670 tons, twelve to 637 tons, and the remainder of their destroyers only range from 413 to 520 tons, and are considerably smaller and less powerful than the later British destroyers. With regard to the actual figures, there will be at the end of 1911, when the whole of the present German programme of destroyers for the coming year is completed, seventy-eight destroyers in Germany dating from the year 1903—that is to say, dating from the same time as the British River class. That figure seventy-eight has to be compared with the figure 102, not including the "Swift," which we shall have of all classes of destroyers, from the River class onwards. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) asked me what the number would be, and I think he stated it was eighty-four. As a matter of fact the figure is seventy-eight.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The answer given by the right hon. Gentleman was that there would be seventy-two German destroyers, and I added twelve for the present year's programme.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The right hon. Gentleman must have asked me the question for the 1902–3 programme: that was before the River class. The earliest River class was laid down in 1903, but all the earlier German ones were very much smaller and less powerful than the British boats of the same date. Let me turn to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough). He complained that the Government have departed from the principles of economy which they have always advocated on the platform and in this House in earlier years, and in particular my right hon. Friend stated that he always regarded me, and that my actions in the past justified him in regarding me, as an advocate of economy. Is it not possible that I may not have changed my character? Can the right hon. Gentleman conceive it to be the fact that I am still as strong an advocate of economy as ever I was, and may it possibly enter the limits of his imagination that I have been 241 impressed by facts and by the necessities of the British Navy which have induced me to make myself responsible in this House for Estimates of this kind? It really is conceivable, if the right hon. Gentleman will believe me—
§ Mr. McKENNA
It is conceivable that, with an earnest desire to save the taxpayer from all unnecesary expenditure upon armaments—feelings which I share to the full—nevertheless my right hon. Friend, if he had found himself in the same place as I find myself, and if he had placed upon him the responsibility of securing the safety of our country and of maintaining a Navy adequate for that safety, would have felt himself under the necessity of doing exactly what I have done. I would ask him to believe that it is possible that Gentlemen, whom my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn humorously describes as "placemen," may yet retain exactly the same feelings, views, and ideals as they had when they sat on the Back Benches; and it is only the circumstances with which they are confronted and the knowledge that they have which compel them to make themselves responsible for Estimates which are necessary for the security of the country.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I have found the quotation—it was on 3rd August last. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking then, said:—The twenty destroyers in this year's programme will be completed in July, 1911, so that the figures I have quoted relate to the period covered by the present programme, which will be completed by July, 1911, and at that time, on the dimensions we have given, we shall have eighty-four against Germany's seventy-two.Those are exactly the figures I gave.
§ Mr. McKENNA
If we take the period stated by the right hon. Gentleman himself—that is to say, if we take the date at which the first destroyer of the River class was laid down—from that period Germany will have seventy-eight at the end of 1911, and we shall have 102.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
These are the dimensions—seventy-three destroyers of over 400 to 670, a mean of 530 against our mean of 770.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Oh, yes, Germany had six destroyers of 430 laid down in 1902, six more in 1903, and onwards, and Germany will have at the end of 1911 seventy-eight against our 102.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I have counted the twelve in this year as well. The actual figures are six in each year from 1903–4, 1904–5, to 1905–6, and in 1906–7, 1907–8, 1908–9 and 1910–11 there have been twelve in each year. Therefore it is only in recent years Germany has laid down twelve in each year, and in the earlier years she laid down six in each year. My right hon. Friend referred in particular to the number of men. We have asked this year for an additional 3,000 men. I think I have already stated the whole of the circumstances to this House as regards the additional number of men. They are actually required in order to make up the existing complements of existing ships. The remainder of the men enlisted this year will, by the time their training is completed, be ready to form the complements on the new ships which are now being built. I can assure my right hon. Friend, on the subject of the personnel, that the numbers have been examined with the closest attention, and I think yesterday I gave him reasons for thinking that, at any rate in this particular matter, the greatest regard has been had to economy. That is to say, that we have cut down the men to the mimimum in every case where they were meant to be employed in service which was not war service, or potentially war service. We think it necessary that our numbers should be adapted to all requirements, and, as I explained yesterday, by this process of cutting down the number of men not necessary in time of war, we have been able to effect a saving of 3,000 men, who, added to the men we are asking for now, are the men required to serve on the new ships as they are completed. Last year Parliament sanctioned a programme of a certain size. These ships are now being built, and when they are completed men must be found for them, and I am asking this year only for what is indispensably necessary in order to find complements for our new vessels. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not find it necessary to go to a Division.
§ Mr. McKENNA
On the subject of the total amount of the Estimate, on what principle would my right hon. Friend wish the Board of Admiralty to act? Would he lay down any standard of shipbuilding? Would he agree that we ought to build in accordance with the two-Power standard, not the two-Power standard as viewed in some quarters, but the two-Power standard as defined by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister? If he agrees with that standard of construction as that no which we ought to conform, then I challenge him to show that in these Estimates we have gone beyond it. I may say that the distinction at this moment between the two-Power standard as defined by the Prime Minister and the two-Power standard as denned by the right hon. Gentleman opposite is merely an academic distinction, because the two next Powers, or the three next Powers, to Great Britain are so nearly equal that it makes very little difference which you take. Still, using the term two-Power standard in the sense in which it is used by the Prime Minister, I ask my right hon. Friend if he agrees that we ought to build up to that standard, or whether he will continue his opposition to Estimates which do not go beyond that standard?
§ Mr. McKENNA
My hon. Friend mentions America, but it makes no difference whether we take America or any other Power, because the distinction is an academic one. If we are not to take the two-Power standard, I am entitled to say to my right hon. Friend, when he objects to these Estimates, what standard would he take? How far should the Government go? What is the standard of safety which you consider satisfactory when we are are taking the men? Like everybody else, I am not particularly anxious to find money for the Navy. I am sure we should all greatly prefer if we could have an expenditure of £10,000,000 instead of £40,000,000; but when you are responsible, and when you have got to decide what Navy you will have, you must accept some standard up to which you will build. You must have some view as to what your policy is to be, and satisfy yourselves that the country 244 is safe. My right hon. Friend did not assist me there. He set a value on some kind of ships and lets go others, but any naval expert will tell him that we must have a Navy in its entirety. We could not have a surplusage of battleships without the necessary smaller ships. You must have each part of the Navy supplied with a view to its being in proportion to the whole, and unless my right hon. Friend is prepared to adopt some other standard, and those who agree with him are prepared to put their fingers upon the particular parts, and say that the Government have exceeded the principles with which they avow themselves to be actuated, I do not think they will have made out a case for opposing this Vote. The increase is due, of course, to the number of ships, and to their very great cost. What would my right hon. Friend do? Would he build ships of less power than are being built by foreign nations? Would he say, when ships of a certain size are being built by other nations, that our ships shall be smaller, with weaker guns and less armour? If the standard is fixed by other Powers at a certain size and at a certain cost, are we to fall below that cost and size? If not, there is no alternative but to accept the condition. What are we to do? Are we to drop behind? My right hon. Friend did not say that for one moment. He is in favour of the supremacy of the British Navy, but if he be determined on that, I know of no way of doing it except to find out what foreign nations are doing, what the power and size and cost of their ships may be, and to build ships of at least equal power and size. I know no other way of securing our supremacy at sea. I maintain that the Board of Admiralty are thoroughly well informed.
§ Mr. H. S. FOSTER
I will. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman is as follows:—The difficulty in which the Government finds itself placed at this present moment is that we do not know, as we thought we did, the rate at which German construction is taking place.
§ Mr. H. S. FOSTER
I have not the whole quotation here. I wish to be quite fair. I happened to have that quotation in my hand, and I did not know I should be challenged.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I have got it here. The next sentence is:—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.How could we know what is going to happen in the future? We do not know at this moment, and nobody could know, not even the hon. Gentleman himself, the rate at which the German law is to be carried into execution.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Even if the hon. Member were responsible he would still not know the rate at which the German law is to be carried into effect. What I have stated the Admiralty do know, and did know, is that they knew what had actually taken place. That is the only thing we could know. No Government and no Admiralty can know what the intentions of a foreign Government may be as regards the future, and it is that I say the Government do not know. It is quite true, inasmuch as the German Navy Law ascribes to each year certain annual expenditure, that we assumed, and everybody assumed, that their system of expenditure was similar to ours, and that the money ascribed to any one year would be spent within the year. We have since learnt that is not so, and that money may be held from year to year, or spent in earlier or in later years. Consequently, at what rate the German law will be carried into execution—
§ Mr. H. S. FOSTER
Surely there was something more. It was told to this House that the Government had made the discovery that the Germans had the power to turn out ships at a much higher rate than our Government.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I speak on behalf of the Admiralty, and I challenge the hon. Member to produce the statement I stated that the Admiralty were informed and had been informed. The hon. Gentleman stated the Admiralty did not know.
§ Mr. McKENNA
How absurd. When I am challenged on behalf of the Admiralty I answer on behalf of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I will deal with what my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lough) has said. I can assure him that we have not proceeded, in the Estimates we have presented to the House, one inch beyond the requirements of the year. Let me remind him that, no matter what his desire might be to cut down these Estimates, that, as to the great bulk of them, he is committed. Parliament has authorised the Admiralty to enter into all the necessary contracts for building the four contingent ships of last year. Consequently, the House of Commons is committed to that. The only thing the right hon. Gentleman is not committed to is the new programme for the ensuing year. Under the new programme we asked the House to authorise us to build five large ships, five small cruisers, and twenty destroyers. I ask my right hon. Friend whether he considers that to be an excessive amount in view of the fact that one country alone is authorised under its programme to build four large ships, two small cruisers, and twelve destroyers?
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to give any estimate of how many the Germans will have in March, 1913, the date carried by the present Estimates?
§ Mr. McKENNA
It is so difficult to name the precise date or the period that a ship will be ready, and when my hon. Friend says how many will Germany have in 1912, or 1913, or 1914, it depends precisely on what he means. If he means what they can have, and if, as an hon. Member suggests, construction should be accelerated, and the period of six months is not spent in trials, and the opening up of machinery, and that the ship is put into commission 247 at the earliest possible moment when it would be available for war, then they will have in 1912 seventeen such ships in the course of the year 1912.
§ Mr. McKENNA
There will be seventeen ships in such a condition that they can be made available in 1912.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Yes. That would be only by not going through the customary period of trials and the opening up of machinery and other things.
§ Mr. McKENNA
At this moment. But she may lay down four more early in the current financial year, and those four can, if required, be completed in the course of the year 1912. That is my information. My hon. Friend may take it for what it is worth. It is information founded on what has been done in the past. I do not know that Germany will have seventeen commissioned in 1912. I have no means of saying, but I do say that the power of construction is such that she is capable of having seventeen ships so far advanced as to be available for war in the course of the year 1912. Consequently I say she will have on the same footing twenty-one similarly available in the course of the year 1913. Happily for our Estimates after that year the German programme is confined to two ships per year. We then can have a prospect of being able to reconsider our own programme.
§ Mr. MIDDLEMORE
Does the right hon. Gentleman think the Germans may not reconsider their own programme?
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman knows as much about that subject as I do. What the Germans will do in 1911 is open to everybody to conjecture. I ask if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lough), in view of the programme on the law of Germany for the year 1910–11, of four large armoured ships, two large cruisers, and twelve destroyers, whether our programme is excessive, of five large armoured ships which will be laid down in January 1911, that is to say, under the terms of our contract those five large armoured ships will be completed in January, 1913. Play has been 248 made on the amount of money which is being taken for these ships, and we are pressed to take more money, and apparently with the intention of laying the ships down earlier. In our view of the progress of foreign navies, we do not want those ships before January, 1913. If that be the case, why should we spend money on them earlier? Let hon. Gentlemen opposite bear this in mind, and I am sure they will agree with the truth of it; you never require to have your ships earlier than you need. Delay the ships to the last moment you require them, because the later a ship is laid down, the better it is. Equally it is true you must lay down your ships in time to have sufficient. Surely the Board of Admiralty are the best judges of the time?
The right hon. Gentleman said with great truth that there are certain questions upon which the House must rest upon the authority of the Naval advisers. He said with perfect truth that there are questions upon which it would be contrary to public policy to obtain information in this House, as the First Lord of the day will always be bound to reply that he is unable to give reason for his action because it will be contrary to the public interest that he should do so. It is necessary that the House must rely upon the expert advice which the Board of Admiralty receive. He challenged me to lay my hands on my heart and tell him in all sincerity whether I could say that my Naval advisers were satisfied with the supply of cordite. There are a great many questions like that on which I cannot go beyond my advisers. It would be contrary to the public interest to do so, and in these matters I ask the House to accept the assurance which is conveyed by the signature of the Estimates by the Board of Admiralty. That is why I speak of the signatures, since they convey to this House the assurance that in the opinion of the Board as a whole those Estimates are adequate. As I said yesterday, I can well understand hon. Members from entirely opposite points of view criticising the Estimates and saying they are excessive, but it is not legitimate so long as it is not possible to open up the whole grounds upon which the Board of Admiralty act. It would necessarily imply giving information of a kind which ought not to be given. The House must accept the assurance which is conveyed to them when these Estimates are signed by the whole of the Board of Admiralty. I think I have given my right hon. Friend a satisfactory answer. I have given him the best 249 answer I am capable of. I would endeavour to give him a better answer if he would define more precisely what is the exact standard the Government ought to maintain.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Yes, we are building submarines. We have a great many of them, fifty-five, and are laying down a certain number each year. It is necessary to complete those submarines which are already under construction. I confess my right hon. Friend is justified in calling attention to this. I observe in all the discussion about destroyers no mention has been made of submarines. I know that it may be said destroyers and submarines serve a different purpose, but they also serve a similar purpose. They both carry the same weapon, and I am not so sure that hon. Gentlemen will find themselves, should ever war unhappily occur, justified in their refusal to consider the submarine as an element in estimating your total destroyer strength. The hon. Member for Chelmsford said that I seemed to have framed the Estimates with a desire to steer between two classes of critics—on the one hand, those who always complained that the Estimates were not enough and, on the other, those who complained that the Estimates were too large. I can assure the hon. Member that in framing these Estimates I have not had regard to criticism. When I say "I" I speak in the name of the whole Board of Admiralty. We have had but one object in view, and that is to find out what is necessary, and to present to the House the programme which in our judgment we conceive to be required. It is true that I mentioned that I should have to meet criticism of both kinds, and I think the Committee will agree that I have had to do so; but such criticism was not the ground of the Estimates of the year. The hon. Member complained of the action of the Liberal Government over a period of four years, and said that we had not maintained any steady standard of expenditure. It is extraordinary how short memories are. If I had not the figures in front of me I could scarcely have believed that the hon. Member had ever been at the Board of Admiralty or had been a Member of a Conservative Government which itself reduced the Naval Estimates to a level within £200,000 of the lowest figure at which they have stood in these years.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The right hon. Gentleman has misapprehended my criticism. I hope I did not say one word about the actual level of expenditure being maintained. What I said was that expenditure must be Maintained equal to the necessities of the year; and I particularly said that the necessities of one year vary very much from the necessities of another.
§ Mr. McKENNA
That is exactly the principle on which the Government have always acted. We have never built ships before they were needed, and we will not do so; we will never willingly lay down a ship in excess of the requirements, but we will lay them down when they are necessary. The hon. Member said that we must take a wide horizon with regard to the expenditure on the Navy. In 1904 the Estimates were nearly £37,000,000. In 1905–6 they were reduced to £33,000,000; the hon. Gentleman himself reduced them. In 1906–7 they were £31,472,000, and the hon. Gentleman and his Friends took credit for issuing a statement showing a reduction of £1,500,000 on the Navy Estimates.
§ Mr. McKENNA
These Gentlemen say that you ought to maintain an even level of expenditure. What did we do? For two years we kept the expenditure at practically the same amount. It was the hon. Gentleman and his Friends who reduced it to that level. We kept it at the same figure in the ensuing year; it was raised by close upon a million the year after, and since then, I regret to have to say it, and it is in no boasting spirit that I make the statement, we have steadily increased the expenditure on the Navy.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
Did not the right hon. Gentleman drop a ship each year from the Cawdor Programme?
§ Mr. McKENNA
There is no such thing as the Cawdor Programme. Lord Cawdor, in the month of November, when his Government knew that they were about to go out of office, and that they would not have to pay for what was suggested, issued a statement, in the course of which he said that it would be a desirable thing that four ships should be laid down each year. But what was more material than the statement was the fact that that Government left behind them certain 251 estimates of expenditure. The Liberal Government adopted those Estimates, and spent the money. When it is said that they dropped a ship from the Cawdor Programme, they dropped an expenditure of perhaps £50,000, because in the Cawdor Programme the ship was to be laid down so late that there was practically nothing to be spent on it. When it is said that they dropped a ship, I say that they maintained the proposed expenditure. The expenditure is what governs the Navy, and that in 1907–8 was only £200,000 below the Estimates which we inherited from Lord Cawdor. Since then the Estimates have steadily risen. I only state these facts in the interests of truth, and not in the least because I am glad that the Estimates are high. I hope, the facts being as they are, that we shall hear no more from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite about the Liberal party having starved the Navy.
The hon. Member also spoke about the German elasticity of finance. In many ways no doubt, if you desired to build up a Navy in a hurry, it would be an advantage if you had not to pay within the financial year for the expenditure of the year. But the argument which is good against a loan is also good against this elasticity. Our annual system is the safeguard both of economy and of future Parliaments. We dare not commit the future as regards the Navy. If we borrowed or had this elasticity of finance, which amounts to the same thing, if we did not pay our way within the year or so nearly within it as to enable us to catch up at any moment, our naval requirements and commitments are necessarily so great that the time would come when the accumulation of debt would overwhelm us. The elasticity of German finance, as I understood the hon. Gentleman, was that they need not meet within the year the expenditure of the year.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I never suggested anything of the kind. What I suggested was that it is unnecessary, as regards each particular detailed item, to estimate exactly what will be spent upon it within the year. At any rate, I suggested that it caused great difficulty and great waste, both at the time of estimating and in the year after, if the expenditure on each detailed item had to tally with the Estimate. The last thing I should wish would be to depart from the system, certainly as regards ordinary expenditure, under which 252 during the year the money for naval expenditure must be paid out of revenue. If a great naval programme was required, some special measure might be necessary, but as regards the ordinary programme, I should be the last to desire that we should leave any part of the expenditure of one year over to another.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am glad the hon. Member has made this statement, as I misunderstood what he said. I am entirely at one with him. But let me remind him that what he desires does in fact largely obtain now. With Treasury consent we can transfer from one Vote to another within the Navy Estimates, and without Treasury consent we can transfer from one sub-head to another within the same Vote. Every year, while the total Estimates which we present to the House are maintained, there are necessarily large transfers within that total from one Vote to another. I am glad to say that the Treasury do not hold us strictly to the precise estimate on each item presented to the House, but allow us to transfer surpluses on one Vote to make up deficiencies on others.
The hon. Gentleman asked me for an assurance that our reserves of cordite were satisfactory. In the course of the election it was stated that our cordite reserves were inadequate. As the matter was new to me, I felt the greatest alarm, and took the earliest opportunity to make inquiries from our authorities at the Admiralty. When the statement was made so boldly on the platform, I thought there really must be some danger. But I am happy to be able to assure the Committee that the statement was absolutely devoid of foundation. Our cordite reserves are quite satisfactory. We do not anticipate any difficulty whatever in meeting all the naval requirements. I trust, as I give this assurance on the authority of the experts, the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Does that apply also to the power of output? I heard nothing of any statement during the election. My question was founded on information to which I attach great importance, and was entirely apart from any statement that may have been made in the course of the elections. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give me an assurance that there are ample reserves, and that the capacity of output is at least equal for supplying the year's requirements of cordite within the year.
§ Mr. McKENNA
As I have said, I am able to answer the question without consulting my experts expressly on the point, because the question was raised during the election, and I then made inquiries. I was told that there was not a shadow of foundation for the charge, and that in all the respects to which the hon. Member refers there was an adequate supply. The manufacturers have means of supplying all the cordite we require for the large guns, and our reserves are complete. On all these points I am able to give the hon. Member the most complete assurance.
In conclusion I should like to clear up a misunderstanding which may exist in the minds of some hon. Members with regard to a statement made yesterday by the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford). The Noble Lord, referring to some proceedings in which he was greatly concerned, before a Sub-Committee of the Defence Committee, stated— I have refreshed my memory by "The Times" report—that evidence was given before that Committee that German tramp ships carried guns. My only reason for making a statement now is that I should not like it to go out that it was even considered by the Committee whether the German tramp ships did or did not carry guns. I refreshed my memory this morning by reading the minutes of the Committee, and I can assure hon. Members that no evidence was given on that subject. It was not a subject of inquiry before the Committee, and the Noble Lord's memory is entirely at fault on the subject.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
What I said was that the evidence before the Committee pointed out that the trade routes were not properly defended. I myself made the statement about the German tramp ships having guns. The evidence before the Committee was the two letters to which I referred as having been sent to the Committee, stating that the trade routes were not adequately defended, and to that I adhere.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I thought my answer had met the point of the Noble Lord. He knows that the evidence given before the Committee was confidential, and, of course, I cannot go into it. I will only say again that, having refreshed my memory this morning and looked through all the correspondence, that no letters were produced upon the point he puts before the Com- 254 mittee. The point he mentions was not before the Committee, and I do not want to go into it because it has no interest except to the Noble Lord himself.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I cannot understand what the right hon. Gentleman means. I tell him distinctly that a letter came before the Committee. He knows I cannot say what it was, because it was secret. But there was evidence given by another officer on the question of trade routes that they were not properly defended. I make that statement again, as strongly as ever I can make it.
§ Mr. McKENNA
One officer had sent a letter, and in consequence of that he-had been sent abroad. There is not the smallest foundation for any such charge.
§ Mr. McKENNA
And another statement, was that another officer had sent a letter which had been presented to the Committee. We have the letter which was referred to, but it was never produced before the Committee.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I should not have intervened in this discussion or taken a part in the Debate, which has been very largely carried on between the right hon. Gentleman and his own Friends, if it were not for the fact that in the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman has aroused on this side of the House, at all events, some considerable doubt as to what he means the position really to be in regard to the two-Power standard, and also in regard to what took place in the Debates last year, where, as I will endeavour to show very briefly, the Committee were left in some very considerable doubt. The First Lord of the Admiralty, at the end of his speech yesterday, expressed himself somewhat strongly as to the desirability of these Naval Debates being conducted in a non-party manner. I entirely agree. He expressed the hope that the Navy should not be, and ought not to be, a party question. I entirely agree. Yes, but if that is the real desire, I submit that the First Lord is not adopting a course which is likely to lead to it when he suggests that the Memorandum which my 255 right hon. Friend below the Gangway called attention to, namely, the Cawdor Memorandum, was issued by a Government which knew they would not have to build the ships. If that statement is to have any importance at all attached to it, it can only be that it is intended to convey the suggestion that we being in office took advantage to issue a Memorandum which we only issued because we knew we should not be called upon to carry it out. That statement coming from the First Lord of the Admiralty is, I think, especially unfair, because, although I have never had the great privilege of serving in the Admiralty, I know from those who have that the preparation of this Memorandum and the preparation of the programme which the Board of Admiralty put forward for use, was commenced a long time in advance. I have not the smallest doubt that this particular programme was prepared in the ordinary way, and, therefore, it can not be said—
§ Mr. McKENNA
Oh, no, it was not. It is a question of fact. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman his statement is not correct.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman means. I am here between two of my hon. Friends who were members of that Board of Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman was not a member of that Board of Admiralty. He succeeded at a considerably later period. He now tells us that he knows that this Cawdor Memorandum was not prepared in the ordinary way. Well, I think he ought to tell us what he means.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I will. A Memorandum is usually prepared by the First Lord, and accompanies the Statement given to this House—given at the opening of the Session. This Memorandum was issued in the month of November, an absolutely unprecedented proceeding. It could only have been undertaken in anticipation of the General Election.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The right hon. Gentleman tells us what he knows of this Memorandum. Then he goes on to give reasons why this was done. I venture to submit that he has no authority to estimate the reasons which actuated Lord Cawdor; but, at all events, if this was a 256 mistake, an irregularity committed at the time, it was that that particular Cawdor Memorandum was issued very much earlier than the present Lord tells us is the practice of the Admiralty to issue their Memorandum and programme. I am told by both my hon. Friends that the Memorandum in question was a special Memorandum, and that it was issued in a perfectly regular way. There is no justification whatever for the statement that it was issued merely as a shop-window dressing, to be an advertisement of a policy which it was not intended to carry out. Even supposing the First Lord has a justification for his view, even supposing he really believes that this was not a deliberate declaration of policy by the responsible First Lord and his advisers, and by the Government, is he adopting tactics which are likely to put the Naval Debates on a non-party platform, when, at the conclusion of a Debate which has been conducted, as everybody who has listened must admit, in a perfectly fair way and from a general point of view, and not in any sense from a party point of view, he launches this sudden charge? The charge may be a perfectly good one. It may be very effective as a matter of party tactics. The right hon. Gentleman may be entitled to make it, but he cannot tell us he does not want tactics of that kind, and then turn upon us and say that we are making the Navy part of our ordinary political platform.
There are two matters, in which we have been left in doubt. It may be that I am more than usually stupid. If so, my failing must be shared by many of those around me, because we were absolutely unable to make out what the intention was the right hon. Gentleman desired to convey to the Committee and the country in regard to the two-Power standard. One of my hon. Friends behind me asked the right hon. Gentleman when he was dealing with the two-Power standard whether he intended that that power should be equal to two Powers that might probably be against us, and the right hon. Gentleman would not take that. The right hon. Gentleman then came back ultimately and told us—and I hope that is the position he means to assume, because I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the importance of it—that he stands where the Prime Minister stood. The Prime Minister's declaration was perfectly clear. The Prime Minister said that the naval power of this country should be equal to that of the two next 257 strongest Powers whoever they may be and wherever they might be. That is the standard for which we contended through last year. That is the standard which I hope—though I am not quite clear—the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty on behalf of the Government now adopts and is prepared to maintain. May I assume that?
§ Mr. McKENNA
And he is prepared not only to accept the answer of the right hon. Gentleman to a question across the floor of the House, but the considered statement of the Prime Minister made in the course of a subsequent Debate.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Why "Ah"? If the Prime Minister has made a considered statement, which is very well known to the right hon. Gentleman, is it reasonable to put to me as the policy of the Prime Minister an answer to a question made on the spur of the moment at a previous time? The right hon. Gentleman knows it is unfair to put it to me that that answer represents completely the policy of the Prime Minister, when he knows that in the considered statement in the course of Debate the Prime Minister laid down the exact words in which he denned the two-Power standard.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I did not make myself clear. I quite see where I have misled him. He went on in the speech he has just delivered to deal with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough). He told him he was quite alive to the fact that it was the case of America which was being raised. He told the right hon. Genlteman that it was perfectly immaterial which country you take. He said that between the two sides of the House there was no real distinction — the difference was only an academic one.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I said that it did not matter which definition you take in the present year, inasmuch as the first three Powers were all so nearly equal that you 258 might take any two. [HON. MEMBERS: "Academic."] Therefore the distinction is academic.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
Very well, then. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by that that for the present, so far as we can foresee—and nobody expects that we should go into the limitless future—or foresee the things which are hidden from us—does the right hon. Gentleman mean us to assume that the two-Power standard rests now where it has been put—as I have endeavoured to put it? Or does the right hon. Gentleman desire to limit it? We ought to know. We are entitled to know whether the Government have deliberately adopted a position that the strength of the Navy must be to-day what it last year was held to be by all parties, irrespective of which side of the House they sat, that the two-Power standard strength of this country should be equivalent to any other two Powers; or are we to understand that that position is to be abandoned, and that there are to be limits to it which we would regard as involving possibly very dangerous consequences to this country?
§ Mr. McKENNA
The definition given by the Prime Minister was in the course of Debate on 26th May, 1909. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well the well-known definition which the Prime Minister gave. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."] It is this:—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, you 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 and effective strength of any two other fleets for aggressive purposes.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there was an element of vagueness in that language which caused a very considerable amount of agitation in the minds of those who desired to understand what it really meant. To-day, when I listened to the First Lord of the Admiralty, I thought that time, which had led him to make very considerable changes in his opinion, and in his policy, in regard to Admiralty matters, might have also led to the adoption by him of the view that it is necessary that there shall be no misunderstanding as to what is meant by this two-Power standard. I now gather that, after devoting a considerable portion of his speech to this part of the case, that we are back to where we were. The language is very cloudy and very difficult to understand, but I understand that we are 259 not in a position to say that the Government to-day holds the view that has hitherto been held by British Governments—that the only security for this country is to be found in a power that is equivalent to the next two strongest Powers. If that be so, all I can say is, while I rejoice, as we all do, at the improved Navy Estimates which are now before the House, I none the less profoundly regret that the Government should see any reason to abandon a position which has hitherto been held to be inseparable from the safety and security of the country. With regard to another matter the First Lord of the Admiralty made an interruption that I was astonished to hear, and so were many other people. He was challenged by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. H. S. Foster) as to the statement made by him that there had been no confession of ignorance on the part of the Government last year, because we could not separate the First Lord of the Admiralty from the statement of the Prime Minister. We are talking of the whole Government, and it is to their utterances we are entitled to call attention when dealing with this Question. On this matter surely there can be no misunderstanding.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I hope the right hon. Gentleman is not going to make the point that I separated myself from the Prime Minister on this Question. The hon. Member for Lowestoft referred to something which I had said then referred to something that the Prime Minister had said. I had not got the Prime Minister's words before me, and I only replied, "That is not what I said."
§ Mr. H. S. FOSTER
Surely the right hon. Gentleman will do me the justice to say that, in reply to his challenge, I did quote him, and then I quoted the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I do not want to make any unfair use of any language which the right hon. Gentleman used or may have used without realising the obvious interpretation that might be placed upon it. He quoted his own language, and I regret that when later on the Prime Minister came to deal with the subject he appeared to us to say, "I have nothing to do with that. I stand upon my own words." I do not want to make any unfair use of that, but whatever may have 260 been the right hon. Gentleman's reference in that speech, he will not deny he professed himself very much disturbed and rather indignant when it was said that the Government made a confession of want of knowledge in these Debates last year. Surely there can be nobody in this House or out of it who heard the Debates at that time—I was in South Africa —or who read them in the newspapers as I did who formed any other impression than that the Government had to come down here in sack-cloth and ashes and make a confession of ignorance and tell the country that they had been mistaken.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I am going to quote them, and I think nobody will deny who reads the quotation that it justifies the statement that the impression derived by all who read these Debates was that the Government had been misled, that they had suddenly acquired fresh information, and in face of it were compelled to adopt a different policy. As I say, I was in South Africa and I did not hear the Debates, but I read them with the greatest possible care, and I discussed them with many others who read them also, and unquestionably in all quarters the one impression was derived that the Government had suddenly become possessed of knowledge of a most serious character, and many people wondered that they had not got hold of it before, which made it obligatory on them to come down to the House and to make a confession and an announcement that they would have to take certain action in consequence. The right hon. Gentleman challenged me to quote something which the Prime Minister said. I will do so. On 16th March, 1909, the Prime Minister said:—I was not of course committing myself precisely to the number of months, but I did maintain that we had a substantial advantage in the rate of construction which would always enable us to quickly overtake them (the Germans) when the event occurred. I am sorry to say that that, is not the case.And a little further on the right hon. Gentleman said:—I will venture to say this without attempting to excite anything in the nature of unnecessary alarm in this country, that there has been such an enormous development as to he so serious a development from our national point of view that we could no longer take to ourselves, as we could a year ago with reason, the consolation and comforting reflection that we have the advantage in speed and the rate at which ships can be constructed.
§ Mr. McKENNA
That is not an admission of ignorance. He said a year ago we had the greatest speed. Where is the exhibition of ignorance?
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
Not at all. The whole point of the statement was that the Admiralty last year made that announcement to the House, that they were compelled by circumstances to tell the House and the country that they had suddenly acquired information which induced them to change their plans.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
Then where do we stand? I listened yesterday to the speech of the hon. Member for Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes). I do not agree with the hon. Member; he knows that, but I feel that he puts his view before the House with courage and earnestness, and knows what he is talking about. Why did he make that speech yesterday? Has there been no change in the Admiralty policy and in the attitude of His Majesty's advisers? Is it not well known that the policy of to-day differs materially from the policy at the time before these speeches were made from which we have quoted, and does not everybody know that from the time when the Prime Minister and the Government made these statements in this House twelve months ago the whole situation has changed with regard to the position of this country, and that that change in the situation was forced upon the Government? It is that change in their naval programme which has been attacked and criticised by hon. Members below the Gangway, who tell us in perfectly plain terms that they rebuke the Government for going back upon their old plans and statements, and they tell us there was no necessity for doing so. Where, I ask, do we stand? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty says there has been no admission of want of knowledge and no change. What, then, is the meaning of the speeches we have had, and what is the meaning of the announcement made by the First Lord yesterday that he felt the immense responsibility of coming to this House and moving Estimates of the vast character for which he himself is personally responsible as head of the 262 Admiralty? I will not chop words as to whether there has been a change or not; I, for one, as we all do on this side of the House, rejoice that the Government have seen fit to adopt a bolder and a more patriotic policy than that which prevailed previously. I confess I think they have made a wise change, and I hope they will continue to progress along the same path as they have taken now. Some hon. Members opposite suggest that we on this side of the House are neglectful of social reform, and are ready to spend large sums of money upon the Navy while we are unwilling to find money for other purposes. That is a charge for which there is no justification. We do believe that the maintenance of the Navy is essential not merely to the greatness of the country, but to the prosperity of the people. We do believe that without a strong Navy to do our work in all parts of the Empire social reform would have no real effect upon the people, and it is for these reasons that we advocate the policy for which we stand to-day; and while we rejoice that the Government has given, signs of a policy of greater wisdom and greater strength than that for which they have been hitherto responsible, we naturally desire that they should not limit their operations to their present commitment, but that they should realise that the strength and the safety of this country depends upon the maintenance of the Navy as a two-Power standard, and we also hope that they will not pass by with contempt the suggestion made by my hon. Friends behind me, and my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire in that admirable speech to which everybody listened earlier in the afternoon with interest and attention, showing in various ways that there is still much to be done if the Navy is to be made sufficient for its duty. We hope that the Government will listen to these recommendations coming from well-informed and experienced quarters, and if they are responsible for these Estimates again that they will give effect to many of them in their new proposals.
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
I have ventured to interrupt the First Lord of the Admiralty, I hope only with his courteous permission, on several occasions, and I am going, as briefly as I possibly can, to endeavour, as far as an inexperienced Member is able to do, to respond to the challenge he threw out to those of us who think these Estimates are excessive, as I do, to give some reason for the faith that is in them. I am not in favour of a cheap 263 Navy, and I am perfectly prepared, as the right hon. Gentleman invited us to do, to show what standard we shall keep up to. As far as I can understand these grave and complicated matters, I should say the standard which the Government themselves, in their Estimates of last year, propounded for the country was a right standard, but that the anticipations upon which they were based have not been realised. My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington and my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Twist), in a most eloquent first speech, covered a good deal of the ground with facts and figures which I should have found it necessary to put forward. I think there has been a great deal of controversy between the First Lord and my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Lough) as to the special point of the German seventeen. In a question which he put in this House, upon the same date as the First Lord produced his Supplementary Estimates, my right hon. Friend suggested that the German seventeen in March, 1912, was the reason, and the only reason, which justified the British total of twenty on that date. I think the right hon. Gentleman the First-Lord of the Admiralty denied that this was the specific reason—I do not think it would be wise to waste the time of the House with long quotations, but I will just quote three lines from the Debate of 16th March last year, which, I think, justifies the contention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty said:—We shall be prepared to meet the contingency of Germany having seventeen of those ships in the spring of 1912 by our having twenty.And the Prime Minister, speaking in the same Debate, said:—It is because seventeen is a possibility that we are taking this power, otherwise we should not take it all.And, therefore, the House will recollect that there has been very great distinction between the Debate of last year and the Debate of this year. I saw in "The Times" of 12th January, 1910, a very brief but I imagine accurate, extract from a speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty. He is reported to have said in that speech:—By the time Germany will have thirteen we will have twenty.As I understand it, that is our case. We regard it that the reply to the German thirteen is sixteen. The First Lord of 264 the Admiralty is here reported as saying that the proper answer to the German thirteen is twenty, therefore we are going four beyond what we were being at that time invited to support. Now as to four German "Dreadnoughts" in the 1910–11 programme. I ventured yesterday to interject a question, and the answer to my question, I think, is the fullest statement we have on the subject. I understand that those four vessels in the 1910–11 programme are not laid down or ordered at the present moment, although an order may be given as early as 1st April. We are now in March, 1910, and we are still contemplating the date of March or April, 1912. What did the First Lord of the Admiralty say yesterday? He said that:—From the date of the official order or the date of laying down, the ships take two years and two months to complete.That is the minimum estimate for German construction which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. It is perfectly obvious from the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave yesterday that these four German ships cannot be completed by March, 1912, and the completion must be at a considerably later date in the year. May I say a few words in regard to the two-Power standard, and the general question of German acceleration in construction, because I want to understand clearly whether there has been any change of policy. All the fuss and excitement in the country arose on the special question of the acceleration of the earlier ships of the four vessels belonging to the 1909–1910 programme. As for the "Ersatz Frithjof" in the Debate of 16th March last year the First Lord said:—I know one ship has actually been laid down.On 26th July the First Lord said that the Germans laid down five ships in the year 1908–9, but only four of them belonged to the programme of the year, and the fifth was laid down in 1908 under the programme of 1909–1910. That, he added, was an acceleration of which the only possible explanation that could be given is that it was desirable in the opinion of the German Government to have the ships completed as early as possible. The deduction I draw is that the First Lord asserted in this House last year that a particular German vessel, the "Ersatz Frithjof," had been actually laid down before 1909—I believe he said some time in the autumn of 1908. As official information is rather limited this year in 265 this House I turn to what the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean has called in this House "the ordinary sources of information," namely, an excellent article in "The Times" newspaper, in which it is stated that with regard to the "Ersatz Frithjof" and the Cruiser H, they were not laid down until April, 1909.
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman stated on 3rd March in answer to a question that the date of the official order was 8th April. Do I understand that there is a distinction between the official order and the laying down of the ship?
§ Mr. McKENNA
The "Ersatz Frithjof" was laid down very early in the year, long before 1st April; the cruiser was not laid down before 1st April, but in each the official date of the order was 8th April. The "Ersatz Frithjof" was under construction when the official order was given.
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
I am not in a position to judge whether what the right hon. Gentleman says is the same as he stated last year.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am not stating anything which the German Minister has not stated. He has said that the "Ersatz Frithjof" may have been laid down earlier by the contractor. The German Minister stated that the reason for this was that although the order was not officially given until later, notice was given that the order "was coming, and the reason why the work was proceeded with earlier was in order to find employment for the men. The fact that it was laid down earlier I do not think is disputed.
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
I understand the First Lord generally adheres to the view that there has been a very great German acceleration. Now, on Supplementary Estimates, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) threw out the proposition that the Germans could not build in less than thirty-six months, and he was contradicted by the First Lord. But last night the hon. Member for King's Lynn, whom I at any rate have always regarded as an authority, said exactly the same thing. Therefore, ignorant persons like myself, who imagine this acceleration has been rather exaggerated, have got some slight excuse for our 266 opinion. As for the two-Power standard, my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lough) was taken to task for mentioning the "Nation." I will quote from the "Observer," which I understand is not a Little Navy organ, but a paper which distinguished itself not long ago by saying that Germany in this matter had committed an act of moral treachery which would justify armed reprisals at once. The "Observer" took Germany as having thirteen, and not seventeen, of these vessels, and they took the United States as having six, and that would make the right hon. Gentleman's programme in "Dreadnoughts" alone twenty, not counting the "Lord Nelsons," to nineteen possessed by Germany and the United States together in March, 1912. I maintain that that is a two-Power standard largely in excess of any declaration which the First Lord of the Admiralty or the Prime Minister has ever made, because it included the United States and counted the two-Power standard in "Dreadnoughts" alone. The "Observer" newspaper thinks there will not be seventeen until April, 1913. In that case it would mean twenty-five British to seventeen German. But, ex hypothesi,according to the statement of the First Lord last year, we were to be satisfied with a margin of twenty to seventeen. I am glad that in the course of this Debate the hon. Member for Fareham has definitely thrown over the standard of two keels to one, and we may take that question as settled. The Secretary to the Admiralty subjected the hon. Member to an amusing cross-examination by quoting some remarks he made in July, 1908—
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
It is not a question of throwing over a standard at all. All along I have said that two keels to one is a good standard, but the only standard officially adopted, not only by the Unionist Government, but by Liberal Governments, has been the two-Power standard, and that is the standard which I support.
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
I was a little surprised "when I saw the hon. Member intervene upon the Supplementary Estimates. When the Secretary to the Admiralty was accusing him of being a wild man, in favour of two keels to one, he rose and said, "I have not said anything of the kind." Therefore he threw it over. What we require is an interpretation by the Government of the two-Power standard. I have been in a position of 267 some little difficulty as to what that interpretation was. I remember that the hon. Member for Fareham was the originator of the first definition in a conundrum he propounded to the Prime Minister in the form of a question, and it was laid down as giving us a 10 per cent, margin in capital ships. I was a little curious to know what "capital ships" meant, and I put a question to the First Lord asking him to give me an official definition of the term. The answer I got was that the Board of Admiralty have never sanctioned the official use of the term "capital ship," and they do not think it expedient to do so. That was the definition given by the Government.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
The term "capital ship" is an old eighteenth century term applying to a ship which is capable of lying in the line of battle, and it was used and accepted in that sense by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
But that would not mean "Dreadnoughts" alone, although the hon. Gentleman's friends last year always interpreted it in that sense. As for the two-Power standard, my historic knowledge is not very great, but I think I am right in saying that the two-Power standard used to mean France and Russia, and nothing else. Now it seems to be accepted that the two-Power standard may mean anything you like, except Germany and the United States. The First Lord of the Admiralty was quoting—I fully admit it is the proper authority—the Debate raised on a private Member's Motion on 26th May of last year. The definitions there are not very quotable, but I can certainly quote from the Debate of 1904 on very large Estimates—they were apologised for at that time, but there is no apology in the First Lord's statement this year—repudiations by the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for War (Mr. Haldane), by the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir E. Grey), and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke), saying in varying terms that you must leave the United States out of account in this two-Power standard as being in a very special position. There is a quotation I have here from the First Lord of the Admiralty, which, I think, may be of interest to right hon. Gentlemen opposite. This is a general summary of the First Lord of the Admiralty with regard to that special point. 268 On 26th July, 1909, he said, in answer to an interruption:—Tile Prime Minister lists repudiated, on behalf of the Government, the idea that, this country can or ought to build ships numerically equal to those that may be built by Germany and the United States.I was interested to see in an excellent magazine called "The Navy"—an organ, I believe, of the Navy League and destined for the special confusion of the "Little Navy" party—an article on the two-Power standard by Rear-Admiral Sir S. Eardley-Wilmot, in which, any hon. Member can see that he selects as a two-Power standard two European nations, and therefore France, and not the United States. I think we are fully justified in making a general reference to-this enormous growth of expenditure. If any hon. Member will read the very eloquent and temperate speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made on the Vote of Censure last year, he will see a reference to this excessive expenditure as being "a satire and a reflection on civilisation." The right hon. Gentleman added that if it went on to this extent "it would sooner or later submerge that civilisation and must lead to national bankruptcy." With that high authority, I think those of us who criticise these Estimates are fully justified in rising in our places and calling attention to this terrific growth of expenditure.
§ Mr. A. BURGOYNE
I would plead for the special indulgence of the House. In the first place, the subject before the Committee is one of peculiar difficulty and one which requires both experience and age. In neither of these can I claim to excel, but I take comfort in the thought that "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings," etc. Again, I chance, and perhaps it is a misfortune, to be the editor of a Naval Annual, and I am given credit, I fear without justification, for possessing a certain knowledge in naval matters. I find considerable diffidence in consequence of this in speaking in front of my hon. Friend the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford), and I trust any criticisms I may make will be received in the spirit in which they are intended. I realise that criticism is very easy. I realise that it is far easier to obstruct than it is to construct, and I realise, too, that it is easy to criticise when the Estimates have risen to an amount that has never before been reached, but I do lay down as an axiom that because the Estimates have greatly increased this year upon last year, and because they are large 269 this year, they are not therefore necessarily sufficient for the needs of the nation. That surely is the right way to regard things.
Turning to the two-Power standard, which has been largely discussed, I would be glad if I might reply for one second to the hon. Member who has just sat down. He has suggested in unmistakable terms that he does not intend to include the United States in computing the standard of two Powers. Again, I think the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Twist) said he did not know whence the two-Power standard has arisen. If he goes back to the days of Lord St. Vincent he will find that the two-Power standard was then accepted, and that in the time of that small Committee of three admirals that sat in the late eighties it was definitely laid down that the two-Power standard should be the next two strongest Powers, and that we should be strong as against those two Powers in ships of the line with a 10 per cent, superiority. The two-Power standard has been brought forward so that we might have some standard easily understood of the people. We are not desirous, therefore, of creating enmity with this Power or that. Our desire is to set up something so that the least learned in these matters may come forward and, by a, short perusal of the Dilke Return or some other authoritative paper, decide whether we are up to the standard of efficiency. Why should we leave out this or that Power when definition is really at the root of the standard? We leave out the United States because they are friendly and speak our tongue. Nobody will believe that the United States and ourselves are going to war, and therefore we cut them out. We come next to Germany, and we are told they are building a fleet to maintain that amity of nations in which we all delight, and so we cut out Germany. Then we come to France, and theentente cordialehas made the possibility of war with France no longer to be thought of. So bit by bit we find the only two possible Powers with which we are likely to go to war are Tahiti and Peru. The standard to be set up is not one of hostility; it is purely one so that the people may know that to which we build.
We know well that public criticism centres generally round the "Dreadnought," but it is unwise to believe that "Dreadnoughts" alone constitute our full strength. At the present moment we have ten "Dreadnoughts" completed, or practically completed, and there are but seven 270 "Dreadnoughts" in the, whole of the rest of the world ready for purposes of war, four belonging to Germany, two to the United States, and one belonging to our ally Japan. We are, therefore, in a peculiarly strong position to-day; but, under the provisions of this new programme, we find, if we accept the definition of the two-Power standard that I have just given to the Committee, that we shall in January, 1913, have twenty-five ships. Germany at the same time will have seventeen ships, and, if we add the United States ten "Dreadnoughts," we find that we shall be in a minority of two ships as compared with the next two strongest Powers. If we add the two Colonial "Dreadnoughts" we shall be exactly equal to the next two strongest Powers. But are we to take the two "Dreadnoughts" from our Colonies to maintain the supremacy of the fleet? Are we to add them in? Were they given that we might meet the embarrassments of an Exchequer? I do not think so. Surely they were put forward as a token of good friendship at a time when the Colonies thought we were embarrassed by the attacks of possible enemies from without.
There is one little point that I approach with very great diffidence, by reason of the fact as I have just said that I happen to be the editor of a certain naval annual. I receive letters from various countries in which details are given that should not always come to light, and I received from a foreign country details that would not have been given by the First Lord of the Admiralty had I questioned him on the subject. I bring up, therefore, this question of the secrecy of our naval subjects with considerable diffidence. It has been said that it would be well to give details of new vessels to be built to the Press, because they are easily learnt, but I submit with all deference that if foreign Powers desire to discover the plans we are making, we should not make it easier for them so to do. The "Neptune" was laid down on l9th January last year, and within a month of that time I received details as to the disposition of her guns. If I were to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty the disposition of those guns, he would tell me, and quite rightly, that it was not in the interests of the country to give them. Are there not some means whereby we could so hide the various details of our naval construction that they could not come out to a foreign Power before we in this country are able to learn them?
271 The question of secondary armaments has not been brought up. It is a detail point, and one rather of a technical nature. We have studiously avoided putting secondary armaments in our "Dreadnoughts." We started putting in 12-pounder guns, and then we went on to the 4-inch weapon. From that, so far as I can learn, we have not yet departed. Every other Power has retained as a secondary armament guns of 5-inch, 6-inch, or 6.7-inch calibre. I am sure the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) will agree with me. Possibly the Admiralty will say they have the highest information which has led them to believe they are upon the right track. Are we entirely right, and are they all on the wrong track? I do not suggest it would be in the interests of the country for the Admiralty to disclose every new feature they put into the ships, but if we could have a definite assurance that the principle we have adopted of all big-gun ships without secondary armament is the correct one, then a certain number of us who take a deep interest in the detail construction of the Fleet would be a little more happy.
Now I come to the matter of armoured cruisers. The First Lord of the Admiralty was rather pleased at the idea that during the first four years of the Liberal Government they laid down in every type of ship a superiority in tonnage as against the four previous years when the Conservatives were in power. He mentioned battleships, armoured cruisers, protectors, and destroyers. He would be the first, I feel convinced, to accept the "Invincible" class of armoured cruiser or battleship amongst the "Dreadnoughts." We have an immense superiority of armoured cruisers proper—thirty-five to fifteen of America, and nine of Germany, or thirty-five to twenty-four of those two Powers. But not one of those armoured cruisers was laid down, ordered, or constructed by the present Administration. We have at the present time in figures a great superiority in protected cruisers, but the protected cruiser, to fulfil her work, must have an adequate speed, and I think the Committee would accept twenty-two knots as the adequate speed, and as the only speed that would be accepted by a scout to-day.
I do not know whether that will be accepted by the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth, but twenty-two knots is the minimum, and of protected cruisers of that 272 type ordered, or built, or building, we have twenty-eight as against: twenty-one for Germany. Of these eight are of the "Scout" class, and carry no guns larger than 12-pounders; their business, therefore, would be not to fight, but to run away, and, in running away, they would be faced by the fact that their speed of twenty-five knots depends on triplicated engines, and they would, in all probability, be run down by cruisers driven by turbines belonging to a hostile Power. Therefore the provision for protected cruisers cannot be said to be adequate to our needs. Of destroyers we have thirty-six of twenty-seven knots, and I suggest that of those thirty-six you will not find half a dozen that can steam four hours on end at the rate of twenty-two knots, the speed of our latest battleship. Then again we have sixty destroyers of thirty knots. I wonder whether ten of those could maintain the speed of the "Invincible" class of battleship? Of what value will they prove to be if they have not sufficient speed to reach the vessels which they have to attack? The situation pleases no one. I can quite understand it would be difficult for any First Lord of the Admiralty to frame a programme which would meet with the absolute approval of every Member of this House. But, because the programme is based on the necessities of the situation, I cannot see that, therefore, it necessarily meets every demand that we have made, with the knowledge of the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth to support us. What I would like to see would be the two keels to one standard. I would gladly see our Fleet placed in a position of such safety and superiority that none could challenge it. But that could only be attained by means of loans, and that, of course, is bad finance. That being so, we must be content with matters as they are. I am afraid I have wearied the Committee, but it is a very difficult thing for a young Member getting up for the first time to address a House like this. I am extremely grateful for the kindly hearing the Committee has given me, and I would like to conclude with a few words from the late Poet Laureate:—The fleer of England is her nil in all;The fleet is in your hands,And in her fleet her fate.
§ Mr. OGDEN
I am in a peculiar position in addressing the Committee. When I came into this House a few weeks ago I had the fullest desire to support the proposals of the Government. Indeed, I felt 273 myself to be an ardent supporter of the policy of the Government, as far as I understood that policy, as enunciated at the General Election. I am still an ardent supporter of it, but I confess frankly that during the course of the election I never heard, and so far as I know none of my Friends heard, of it being the intention of the Government to propose an increase of £5,500,000 in the already great expenditure on the Navy sanctioned by the Estimates of last year. On this point I agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth—it is one of the very few points on which I do agree with him—that if this had been made perfectly clear at the General Election to the electors of this country it would have profoundly modified public opinion in regard to the claims of the Government to continued support from the electors. Here we have an appaling increase in the demand made on the country for naval expenditure, and I submit that nothing but imperative and overwhelming necessity could justify such a demand. I listened with very great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) yesterday, and I have not yet heard any answer to it. It seems to me to be perfectly clear and undeniable that the grounds on which this House granted the enormous amount which was voted last year to the Navy proved to be absolutely unsubstantial, and that events have shown that those grounds have vanished into thin air. That being so, one would have imagined that the necessary and logical consequence would have been that a programme following upon that would have shown some diminution. What, then, is the justification for this great expenditure and this enormous increase in expenditure which is desired this year?
It is well within the knowledge of hon. Members of this House that a progressive increase in Naval expenditure has taken place during the last few years. In 1907 £3,500,000 was asked for the Navy as an addition. In 1908 an increase of £1,000,000 was asked for. In 1909 it sprang up nearly £3,000,000 sterling, and the consent of the House, as it appears to me, was obtained by rather panic statements, that were made on both sides of the House on that occasion, and this year we have an enormous and almost unprecedented demand for an increase of £5,500,000 even upon the large demand of last year. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in introducing the Estimates yester- 274 day, indulged in a classification which appears to me to be by no means complete. He said he expected criticism from two classes, from two different points of view. One was that this very large expenditure on the Navy was excessive, and the other was from hon. Members to whom no expenditure on the Navy was sufficient. I submit that I do not belong to either of those classes. I am quite willing where the necessity is clearly shown to exist to support an expenditure, however reluctantly, which I consider to be demanded by the clear and undisputed necessities of the case. I should like to say on this point that I dissociate myself entirely from the cheap sneers of want of patriotism which are made in this House upon hon. Members below the Gangway. It does not appear to me that they have given any evidence of a want of desire to maintain the integrity of the Empire or the adequate demands of the Navy. But what they ask, and what we all ask and have a right to be told, is that we ought to have it clearly demonstrated that the necessity exists.
There has been some discussion in the course of this Debate as to what has been the origin of this mad race in armaments between the different Powers of the world to-day. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) attributed the origin of this race to what he described as the absurd advertisement of the "Dreadnought" vessel. I am bound to say that I agree with him to this extent, that every advertisement of that vessel was absurd in the interests of our own Navy and was absurd also, having regard to the inevitable effect which such an advertisement would produce among other nations, and if anybody said that the introduction of one "Dreadnought" was sufficient in itself to secure the sinking of the German Fleet at the beginning any outbreak of hostilities, I can only say that it appears to me to be a very foolish and ill-advised remark to be made on a subject of that kind. But I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth that that was the real origin of this race in armaments. I think the real cause was anterior to that. It has been suggested earlier in the day in Committee, and I cordially agree with the suggestion that probably the real cause of the immense race in armaments existing between the different Powers to-day is to be found in the Foreign Secretary's refusal to grant immunity to merchant vessels in time of war. We had a proposal by our greatest 275 naval competitor that merchant vessels in time of war should be immune, and I cannot for the life of me understand how it is that this country should refuse a suggestion of this kind.
It would appear to me that we have everything to gain from the immunity of merchant vessels in time of war. We have more of them to defend than any other nation, and if any advantage accrues to one of the belligerents because of the immunity of merchant vessels in time of war, it appears to me that much the largest part of that advantage must necessarily belong to the nation with the largest number of vessels and the greatest property to defend. The reply was an uncompromising refusal of this suggestion. What then would a patriotic German necessarily say to himself? He would say: If our German vessels, which are increasing in number, and if our merchant trade, which is growing, is not to be immune from attack in time of war, it becomes an absolute necessity that we should have the naval power necessary to protect them. The Germans, therefore, began to set about the large increase of their naval strength that we have witnessed during recent years, and the great advance of German naval construction really dates from that time; and I do not see how patriotic Germans could adopt any other attitude than they have adopted in response to what is an undoubted challenge from this nation, having reference to their merchant fleet in time of war. Therefore, the terrible responsibility of this great increase of armaments appears to me to lie at the door of the British Government. This crushing burden, which is scarcely less than the expenditure on a war, is a responsibility which we must carry; and I do not think it is possible for us to divest ourselves of the responsibility so long as we maintain a hostile attitude towards proposals for immunity of merchant vessels in time of war.
The most effective preventive to the growth of armaments would be the evidence of a conciliatory disposition on the part of the British Government to foreign Powers, and I have not the slightest doubt that from the time that we really and earnestly and honestly display the desire to show a conciliatory spirit towards our great naval rivals that we shall see a diminution of those terrible and crushing burdens of increasing armaments. What is to be the end of it? We have the action of Germany in reply to our refusal to con- 276 sider her request in the increase of her naval construction, and that, necessarily, because of the maintenance of the two-Power standard in this country, means that we must increase ours to an even larger degree. Their response to that is to make another large addition to their Navy, and we must reply to that by another large construction also. There is action and reaction, to which there appears to be no finality. What can the end of a policy like that be if it is going to be pursued by the great Naval Powers for an indefinite period? It does not require any power of prophecy to see that a catastrophe of an appalling kind must overtake the nations of the world if we continue in that way. My hon. Friend referred to the weighty remarks of the Foreign Secretary:—If it goes on at the rate at which it is increasing, sooner or later, I believe, it will submerge civilisation.Those are the words of a responsible and a calm statesman, and I venture to say that they are worthy of the most serious attention on the part of all those who really desire to see a condition of improvement in the condition of affairs in this and other countries.
So far from the rate of increase on armaments being maintained it is patent from the Estimates which we are considering that that rate is increasing and accelerating, and, therefore, the approach of that disaster is sensibly nearer because of these very Estimates than it was at the time the Foreign Secretary made that very weighty utterance in this House. In the meantime what becomes of Social Reform? I must say I cannot dissociate the question of Social Reform from the consideration of expenditure on armaments. I am not disposed to believe, at any rate, that the public with which I am most familiar— that portion which I have the honour to represent in this House, will permit an indefinite postponement of Social Reform merely in order to provide the sinews of war for this great and unnecessary increase in the armaments of this country. I believe strongly and seriously that the indefinite postponement will produce a social revolution in this country, and that society itself may be submerged. In the interests of stability at home, as well as all over the civilised world, it is highly necessary there should be some cessation of the increase in this expenditure on armaments. To the toiler who has to find the money for the expenditure, and who has waited with marvellous patience for the cessation 277 of these demands, there is something of tragedy in. the position which makes all these discussions academic and unreal. I do not think we should be justified in passing these Estimates unless a much better case is made out for the expenditure of this large sum of money. If a sufficient case can be found, then with the very greatest reluctance some of us will vote for this enormous expenditure of money, but unless it can be shown—and I am far from satisfied that a case has been made out—we shall be quite unable to give our support to the Estimates before the House.
Mr. LEVERTON HARRIS
The very interesting subject of immunity of property at sea from capture in time of war has been referred to already. It is a subject which has been discussed several times, and not at all on party lines. There are Members on both sides of the House who hold the opinion, and I myself have given expression to it, in favour of the policy of making merchant shipping and property at sea immune from capture. The hon. Member who last spoke referred to the aspect of the case so far as it concerned the toilers of this country in the matter of expenditure. I think there is another point of view in which the interests of the toilers may well be looked at, and I propose to deal with that particular aspect. I happen to be one of those unfortunate persons who are engaged in the shipping industry, and I often ask myself, How would it be with our shipping in time of war? Will the Admiralty be able to give that ample protection which will be necessary to protect our oversea trade and safeguard our great trade routes? As a shipowner I must confess that the two-Power standard never seems to be complete or entirely satisfactory. I say, as a shipowner, because the two-Power standard deals entirely with capital vessels—vessels that go into the line of battle in time of war, and it leaves out of account the number and size of our Mercantile Marine and the great length of the ocean routes which have to be protected and kept open in time of hostilities. To me it is an incomplete standard, because it neglects altogether the effect which will be produced upon British trade and commerce and the consequent great industrial upheaval of commerce by the destruction of the shipping of this country by commerce destroyers. I am well aware that the supporters of the two-Power standard tell us that, provided we have a Fleet large enough and strong 278 enough to defeat the combined forces of any two enemies we may have to meet, all will be well with our oversea trade, and we shall be masters of the sea and able to regulate the commerce. In my opinion this is a profound delusion. Exactly the same opinions were held one hundred years ago. There were sanguine people then as there are to-day, and it is very interesting to observe how the opinions which they expressed were falsified. At the commencement of the war with America in 1812 we had on the American station eighty-five effective fighting ships against sixteen or eighteen belonging to our opponents. Some time ago, in a commercial newspaper, I came across a very interesting note, which I propose to read. Hostilities were commenced in the year 1812, and this was published in the year 1813. This note said:—The public will learn, with sentiments which we shall not presume to anticipate, that a third British frigate has struck to the Americans. This is an occurrence which calls for serious reflection, this and the fact stated in one paper yesterday that Lloyd's List contains a list of upwards of 500 British vessels captured in seven months by the Americans—500 merchantmen and three frigates.Then the note went on to say that anybody who had predicted such a result of the American War a year previously would have been treated as a madman or a traitor. If a similar fate were to befall British shipping carrying the rich cargoes it does at the present time I venture to assert that a great social and industrial upheaval would be produced in this country. Yet there will be a most profound temptation to our enemies in the event of war to indulge in tactics of commerce destruction. Take the case of Germany. It is well known that a policy of commerce destruction forms part of the organised programme of Germany should that country go to war. I was interested in the remarks made by the First Lord in answer to the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth with regard to the equipment of German merchant vessels for the purpose of commerce destruction. Last Session the right hon. Gentleman was asked whether it was a fact that German merchantmen were fitted, or ready to be fitted, with gun-mountings so that in time of hostilities they might take the sea as commerce destroyers. The answer given on that occasion does not, I think, tally with the answer given to a similar question by the Noble Lord. It was to the effect that it was against the public interest to make any declaration on that point, and that is 279 practically equivalent to saying that such a position existed. If it be true, and should we go to war with any great naval Power, we may depend upon it that no money will be spared, and no effort will be wasted in order to produce very grievous effect upon this country by attacking and destroying our commerce. The harm which can be done is not confined to our shipping alone. The shipowner is very well able to lake care of himself. He can insure against war risks, he can lay his vessel up in dock till the war is over, and his interests are almost negligible, compared with the interests of people who depend for their food and employment on the corn and raw material which we import into this country. Let me take the cotton trade as an example. I do not know how many people there are who depend for their livelihood upon the cotton trade, but I imagine that if I put the number at 3,000,000 I should be pretty near the mark. It is often forgotten that these 3,000,000 and millions of other persons who are employed in our other great staple trades will depend in time of war for their wages and their employment upon the protection which the. Navy will be able to give to the shipping that brings the raw material to our ports. Upon the measure of protection which the Navy will be able to give to our shipping rest the premiums of war risk insurance. If the Admiralty fails to give sufficient protection to allay the feelings of panic and of alarm in the minds of the underwriters— and I speak as an underwriter of twenty years' experience—it is no exaggeration to say that the majority of those 3,000,000 people and the others engaged in our great staple trades will be thrown out of employment, and we shall have a state of starvation and unemployment in our great industrial centres comparable only to what would exist in a city in a time of siege and famine. It is upon commerce defence, then, that depends the desperate problem of having to deal with immense masses of starving and unemployed people, a situation which would be bound to have the gravest bearing upon the successful conduct or happy termination of any war.
For instance, if the cotton manufacturers of this country had to pay for their raw materials 15 or 20 per cent, more than the competing cotton manufacturers in other countries had to pay for their raw material, our great export trade to neutral countries would absolutely cease, and some two-thirds of our mills would be thrown idle, and enormous masses of starving 280 people would be turned out into the streets. It is a very small rise in war risk insurance which will produce a very large increase in the cost of raw materials coming to this country, because the cargo that the ships carry has to bear not only the insurance on the cargo itself, but the insurance on the ship which carried it, which is added to the freight. In 1905 I gave evidence before the Food Supply Commission, and I put in a table to show what the effect would be of a 5 per cent, war risk insurance upon the price of iron ore imported into this country. The figure of 5 per cent. was given by one of the expert witnesses as the probable figure which would be paid on the cargoes of ships crossing the British Channel. I showed, I think conclusively—the figures have been used since by authorities—that a mere premium of 5 per cent, would double the price of iron ore imported into this country. That was five years ago, and since then the dangers, which were very great even at that time, have been immensely increased by the provisions of The Hague Conference and by the Declaration of London. With some sort of childlike innocence, we have become the easy victims of foreign diplomacy. In a sort of mad hunger for reduced armaments we have been persuaded to give away ancient principle after principle connected with our property at sea which we have upheld in the past in the face of all nations for many years, and these concessions which we have given have, instead of reducing the large sums of money which have to be spent on naval armaments, rather increased them. What are these principles which have been abandoned at The Hague Conference and the Declaration of London? I think principally they are four in number, and each of them either prejudices and weakens our strength at sea or imposes new, heavy and costly responsibilities upon the Navy. The first of these is, that we have in recent years legalised commerce destruction at sea. The second is, that by the Declaration of London we have permitted the sinking of neutral prizes, and thereby given away what the Foreign Secretary called, in his despatch to our representative at The Hague Conference, "our ancient doctrine of the prize courts of this country for two hundred years." Thirdly, and this is the most important of all, we have enlarged the conditions under which food becomes contraband of war, and, lastly, by the abandonment of the doctrine of continuous voyage, we have allowed other nations to 281 make their food supply secure from any interference from us.
What are the facts? Under the Declaration of Paris of 1856 privateering was absolutely abolished, and my opinion is that nothing could have been better for this country. There are other points in the Declaration of Paris which I do not agree with, and which I think are great disadvantages for us, seeing that the shipping of no other country offers so large an area for commerce attack. Out of every two ships at sea of over 100 tons one flies the British ensign. We trade with every country in the world, and in every ocean of the two hemispheres, and really there is no other country which, to the same-extent, depends upon its shipping for its food and raw material. In fact, I do not think there is any country that depends absolutely upon its shipping at all except possibly Japan, since every country that we are likely to be at war with can obtain everything she requires, whether food or raw material, by means of the rivers or the railways of the friendly nations which surround her. Germany, for instance, can get everything she wants through the Belgian ports of Antwerp or Rotterdam, through Holland, France, Austria, Switzerland, Russia, or Denmark. We have none of these advantages, so that whilst privateering or commerce destruction might possibly be some inconvenience to our opponents, it could not possibly do the same profound amount of harm that it might do to the food supply and trade of this country. The abolition of privateering by the Declaration of Paris was a very great advantage to this country, but in 1907 we attended, in the interests of peace, The Hague Conference, and there we were persuaded to agree to terms and conditions which practically meant the re-institution and legalisation of privateering, if not in name, at all events in fact. By a process of very simple rules and regulations every nation now is able to commission and put on the high seas in any part of the world any number of commerce destroyers, and all that is required is to give a commission to the officer in command, to have a piece of bunting flying at the masthead, and to have on board a gun which will throw a projectile 200 or 300 yards. With such an equipment the most profound damage—almost as great as can be done by a battleship—can be done to the shipping belonging to this country, and to neutral shipping engaged in time of war to carry 282 goods or food to this country. To show how much damage could be done, I had taken out for me, some time ago, the number of vessels that pass a given point between Cape Town and Plymouth. Assuming that the Suez Canal were closed in time of war, the whole of our Eastern trade would be diverted round the Cape. It would appear that there would be two ribbons or streams of British shipping sailing between Cape Town and this country, and vice versa, the individual units of which would be only separated one from the other by an average distance of one hour. That is to say, a person stationed at a given point on that route would see one British vessel pass him in the space of half an hour. [An HON. MEMBER: "One hour."] No, there are two streams, so that there would be a vessel passing a given point every half hour. I give that statement simply to show the incalculable amount of damage, not only actual but moral, in the markets of this-country, the Stock Exchange and Lloyds, which could be produced in the mere space of two or three hours by a commerce destroyer of one of our opponents who happened to get on that great trade route. No one can estimate the damage that might be done, or the effect this might have on prices in this country, and I feel that the legalising of commerce destruction by this easy and simple process, which we have agreed to at The Hague, has enormously added to the great obligations that rest upon our Navy.
I pass on to the Declaration of London, because it appears that foreign countries, not satisfied with having obtained our concurrence to the creation of commerce destroyers, next proceeded to make their operations more deadly and more effective. In that what I may call precious document, the Declaration of London, signed last year, and which the First Lord in his Statement mentions as likely to be ratified before very long, we have abandoned one of our most ancient principles which under international law we have always maintained in this country, namely, that no neutral ship can be sunk. It is a point that we have constantly raised. Most Members of the House will remember the Debates which took place on the case of the "Knight Commander," where we made a protest against the action of Russia during the Russo-Japanese War. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said in his letter to our representative at The Hague Conference, 283 which I have already mentioned, that this is a principle of international law which this country has upheld for at least 200 years. It will be evident to everybody that if a commerce destroyer is enabled, when she finds she is inconvenienced, to sink a prize which she has captured, instead of taking it into port, the range of operations is very much increased. She has not to leave her course to conduct these vessels into port; and, consequently, in giving way as we did in the Declaration of London, and in admitting that the sinking of a neutral prize, when the taking of the vessel into port would be inconvenient, and would involve danger to a warship, or the success of the operations in which she is engaged at the time, which means anything, because the officer in command of a warship can always say that the success of war operations is in danger by taking prizes into port, we have added enormously to the responsibility of our Navy to protect our food supply in time of war.
There is one other direction in which the Declaration of London has immensely increased our responsibilities. Hitherto in this country we have always held that under no circumstances, except in the case of supplies which are being sent to a beleaguered city, can food be contraband of war. Referring, again, to the instructions sent to Sir Edward Fry at The Hague Conference, I find that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs clearly laid down the principle, so far as this country is concerned, that we must insist that food and provisions are to be considered non-contraband except in the case of supplies going to a beleaguered city. In the earlier part of the remarks I have addressed to the Committee, I pointed out how much more greatly this country depends on shipping for its food supply than other countries which can obtain their food across frontiers, and, of course, any legislative arrangement we have come to which makes our food more likely to be contraband must Ht this country more than any other. On several occasions we have given expression to the principle that food cannot be contraband of war. It might be expected that the considered decisions we have laid down as to what constitutes contraband in the case of two countries at war with each other would be insisted upon in any international treaty in which we might be concerned. In the Declaration of London we have departed from this principle, and we 284 have agreed to conditions which make food to be presumed to be contraband of war, and as such liable to be seized if that food is sent to any merchant—commercantis the French word employed—resident in the country of the enemy and supplying the enemy, and also that all food going to a port that is a base of supply of the armed force of the country is to be considered contraband. I would like to ask what port there is in the United Kingdom which, in time of war, will not impose the taint of contraband upon all the food that goes into it. Any foreign enemy could say that a bushel of wheat sent through Liverpool to a regiment of Territorials at Lancaster constituted Liverpool a base of supply. That, perhaps, is too narrow a definition, but at the same time when we are engaged in hostilities there is no doubt at all that the enemy would put the widest interpretation upon the term "base of supply."
The strange thing is that in this same Declaration of London, whilst we prejudice and imperil the food that comes to this country, we make more secure the food that goes to the country occupied by our enemy. The reason is that we have departed from the principle of continuous voyage, and that instead of looking to the ultimate destination of food supplies, we now look to the port at which the food may have to be discharged. We have laid down in the Declaration of London that food going into a neutral port, whatever its destination may be, whether it is destined for an enemy or not, is not to be considered contraband; and consequently cannot be touched by us. The situation is that Germany could obtain all the food required in war through Antwerp or Rotterdam or any other neutral port, and we could not lay a hand upon it; whereas all the food coming into any ports in this country, if those ports were interpreted by Germany as ports of supply, would be presumed to be contraband of war, and would be liable to be seized. Anyone who realises how intensely grave are the consequences which hang upon the proper defence of our shipping must have very disquieting feelings about the very small and entirely inadequate protection which is being provided for it. I think the First Lord appreciates the gravity of the situation as much as anybody, as was shown by the very ominous words which he used last year, which, I think, reflected the misgivings of the Navy Intelligence Department and the Committee of Imperial De- 285 fence. He said, addressing the Committee of this House on Naval Estimates:—There is no tuition in the world which has anything like the same dependence on foreign trade that we have. Its loss to us would he a vital blow; to any other nation it would be merely an inconvenience. Our commerce, if unprotected in remote seas, would be open to attack by foreign armed merchant vessels, specially commissioned for the purpose as ships of war Victory at sea in home waters would not necessarily protect our foreign trade, nor would it necessarily bring the war to a close. On the other hand, defeat in the home waters would certainly end the war. and would he the surest means of protecting the antagonist's foreign trade. I make these observations merely by way of a brief explanation of our special need of cruisers, and to show that calculations of battle strength in which they are all reckoned as available in home waters, are based on an incomplete appreciation of their true functions.We want to know definitely how many suitable vessels there are of sufficient speed and sufficient coal capacity to remain long at sea, to protect half the tonnage of the world, which we own, and at least 50,000 miles of great trade, routes in time of war. In a paper published, I think, last year, Admiral Sir Edmund Fremantle put the number at fifty. When you come to deduct from these the vessels that necessarily must be in port undergoing repairs, or refitting, or coaling, I think the numbers will be reduced to a point which raises very grave consideration. In the evidence given before the Food Supplies Commission a rather startling answer to a question was given by the Secretary to the Board of Admiralty on behalf of the Board. He said:—If any portion of the naval force at the disposal of the Admiralty were deflected from the main operations of the war for-any purpose of whatever kind, the general conduct of the operations must of necessity suffer, and the entire course of the-war might be injuriously affected.So we know perfectly well we cannot look to any help from our fighting fleets, and that we shall have to depend on those ships that are specially put aside for the protection of our commerce; and I trust that when my hon. Friend replies, as I hope he will reply, he will give us an indication of the actual number of vessels that can be specially appropriated for commerce defence. This is the situation in which we are placed to-day. In the efforts for peace and to reduce armaments, hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think, have very gravely aggravated the danger to which we are exposed and the responsibilities which rest upon our Navy. Other nations, it is quite true, sympathise with our aspirations for peace, as long as they have got everything to gain by the concessions which we make. At The Hague and in the Declaration of London we have abandoned our over-sea trade and we have opened the door for its destruction. We have imperilled our food 286 supply while securing that of foreign countries, and we have greatly added to the responsibilities which rest upon the Navy, and which we have not given it the means to meet.
§ Sir WILLIAM GELDER
I rise not so much to offer any criticism on the Government building programme. I and many others regret the necessity for this increased expenditure. It does seem to be somewhat of a reflection upon modern times that in the twentieth century we are found spending excessive sums upon the Navy when the money could be far better appropriated for social purposes. It does seem to be a sad commentary upon the programme of the Peace Conference at The Hague, in which many of us took part. And I am not sure that we, as a nation, are altogether free from censure in this matter. We claim to look abroad and to blame the Germans and other nations for their efforts to increase their naval strength. I think if we went back into history we should find possibly that we first set the example of moving forward in this direction. I am sure that even at the present day it is not beyond the wit and the intelligence of Statesmen to devise some means whereby this race for supremacy in maritime matters will be stayed and to provide some limitation to our armaments. I have very considerable sympathy with the attitude which the hon. Member for Glasgow took up in this particular. At the same time I do not see what the Admiralty could have done in the immediate present position, having regard to what Germany has done, save to go forward with the programme; and I think if it is necessary to strengthen our Navy at all it should be strengthened in all its parts. That is the reason why I have risen to offer one or two remarks at the present time. All these adjunct's of the Navy, as well as the ships themselves, should be considered; and I note here in the Estimates that there is one most important factor which has been left out. The First Lord of the Admiralty is reported to have said on 9th July, 1909, that there was a serious want of docks on the East Coast, and I find in the evidence that no provision is made to meet that serious want. If it was serious a year ago, with the increased shipbuilding programme that we have in hand to-day it must be more serious than it was then. There is no attempt made in this programme to make any provision for a naval base or for a 287 floating dock anywhere from the Medway up to the Firth of Forth. The whole of our East Coast is absolutely exposed and undefended. This is a most serious matter, and should not be overlooked by those who are responsible for the Navy. I note that the hon. Member for Plymouth yesterday said there is general confusion about the docks, it being supposed that we want them only in the case of war. We want docks for ships before war breaks out to get their bottoms and bows, etc., cleaned, in order that the ships of the Fleet may have the same speed. If you have one ship out of dock fourteen months and another three months there is a difference of four knots in speed, and that will mean a difference of four knots to the whole fleet. If this be correct, does it not point to the fact that we ought to have the greatest efficiency in the provision of dry dock or floating dock accommodation at the nearest point where our Fleet is for the time centred? I suppose that our Fleet more than ever will manœuvre about in the neighbourhood of the North Sea. In that case I conclude that it will be perhaps 250 miles further to send any of the disabled Fleet to the Medway or to Rosyth. Therefore I want to impress upon the First Lord the necessity of considering some provision for dock accommodation upon the Humber. We have just listened to a very cogent and closely reasoned speech from the hon. Member opposite, in which he pointed out very clearly our isolated position in case of war with respect to our food supply.
That is a matter of very serious moment. If our bases are so far removed our Fleet in the North Sea cannot possibly have that security that it would have if we had some naval centre in such a position as the Humber. There is all the great shipping on the East Coast to preserve, bringing in greater food supplies than to any other part in the Kingdom. Our bread grain is brought to the neighbourhood of Hull and Grimsby for the supply of the whole of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the Midlands. Therefore, if our food supply is likely to be at all threatened, we should have provision made in the centre of the East Coast for a naval base and also for a repairing dockyard. The reason I specially rise at the present time is that surveys have been made on the Humber. It has been reported as a suitable place for a naval base and dockyard. They have 288 deeper water there than at any other place, I believe, on the East Coast. At the present time the Great Central Hail-way are making a dock at Immingham— the only place where the deep water is to be found for this dock. Within the next year or eighteen months—and no provision, is made for any naval centre or dockyard— the cost of making such a dockyard will be very much increased, if not rendered impossible, by the fact that the railway company has monopolised it all for mercantile purposes. Therefore I would urge upon the First Lord of the Admiralty the necessity of not further delaying this very essential work—a work admitted by himself to be a serious one—on the East Coast. If the want was great a year ago, with our increased Navy that want must be greater at the present time. These things are net carried out in a year or in two years. The estimates have to be prepared, and the work takes a considerable time. But this is a matter of urgency, and it is closely identified and connected with our naval programme. We spend increased money on our ships. I regret very much that we have to spend it, but we ought to provide them with suitable and convenient naval bases in the nearest neighbourhood to where the ships are placed.
§ Sir CLEMENT KINLOCH-COOKE
It is with considerable diffidence that I rise to intervene in this present discussion, but, representing as I do one of our great dockyards, I may perhaps claim the indulgence of the House to make a few observations on the Naval Estimates. First of all, I should like to offer my congratulations to His Majesty's Government, on what may not altogether be inappropriately called a deathbed repentance. The security of the country, or, as I prefer to call it, the security of the Empire, as it has been during the last rive years, is now, I understand, to be restored, and as an earnest of future watchfulness we are informed by the First Lord that the Estimates for 1910–11 are designed to fulfil the pledge given by the Prime Minister with regard to the two-Power standard and the 10 per cent, margin. For myself, I have my misgivings as to whether these expectations will be realised. Indeed, after listening to the Debate this afternoon, I think I shall have to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will kindly give me some definition of what the Prime Minister means by the two-Power standard. If the First Lord is able to assure us that the Government intend at all hazards to 289 accept and to maintain the two-Power standard, as we understand it, that is a standard with regard to the next two strongest Powers, whatever they be and wherever they are, then I think we on this side of the House have something to congratulate ourselves upon. For it cannot be denied that we have never ceased to remind the Government of the risk they were running in refusing to heed the warning note of the Cawdor statement, a statement drawn up, I would remind him, in consultation with the same naval adviser, whose services to the State the First Lord has not failed to eulogise. For what reason the Government desired to effect the savings they have effected since 1905 in the Navy Estimates I have never been able to understand. Handicapped they have been no doubt by the, fact that a considerable section of their own party have recorded their vote against the extension of armaments. Be that as it may, those savings were effected at the expense of security. That is admitted by the First Lord himself.We do not know, as we thought we did, the rate at which German construction is taking place.That was said by the First Lord in introducing the Estimates last year. When we had that state of things brought home to us it was a great surprise to us, said the Prime Minister. I now supply the reference the First Lord asked for this afternoon. If those words do not imply that the Government had done things they ought not to have done, or left undone things they ought to have done, I confess I myself do not know what they mean. The anxiety of the First Lord for saving had assumed such proportions that even the First Naval Lord was obliged to remonstrate.There has been a saving of £19,000,000 effected in the Estimates of 1904–6.I remember reading in a very excellent article that appeared in "The Times" of last year.Six millions in Estimates, six millions in works approved of and in hand, seven millions at Rosyth. He did not spur a willing horse.Those statements were credited to Lord Fisher, and I should be glad if the First Lord is able to deny the authenticity. So grave had the position become, that following on the statement of the Prime Minister and the First Lord, and the still more startling statement of the Foreign Secretary on 29th March, that the great Oversea Dominions of the Crown became alarmed, and as in the case of the South African 290 War, they at once came forward with offers of aid. Then followed the outcry in this country, and the Imperial Press Conference, which largely occupied itself with discussing the defences of the Empire and the serious nature of the Navy situation, a situation I would venture again to remind the Government his Majesty's Ministers were themselves the first to lay bare. Forced by the feeling in the country, the four contingent "Dreadnoughts" were at length laid down, just in time to save the Government from experiencing the full effect of their supineness when the appeal to the country came. Throughout the General Election supporters of the Government did not hesitate to say on Liberal platforms, and the statements were never, so far as I am aware, contradicted by any Ministers of the Crown:—They want eight and they won't pay.When it was self-evident that not a penny of the new taxes imposed by the Budget was allocated to ship construction. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Very tardily the Government have seen the errors of their ways and repented, and although hon. Members below the Gangway on opposite benches do not appear to approve of this repentance I think I may say that we on this side of the House entertain no such bitter feeling. We rejoice to think that at last the Government has made and brought forward these Estimates, which, if they do not meet all we have asked for, at any rate go far in that direction. So far as I understand, no direct opposition is to be expected from those hon. Members who do not share the views of the First Lord; and, so far as I have been able to read, the Liberal organs of the Press are likewise content with a slight remonstrance. Even the "Daily News" dismisses the Navy Estimates with, I think, what is called a leaderette, and excuses itself from further attack on the ground that in the tense position of the public mind it is to be feared the Estimates will pass almost unchallenged. The real meaning of all this silence time alone will reveal. I do not for a moment suggest that it has anything to do with party tactics. No doubt the result of the last election has been accepted by the Government and the Small Navy party, as well as the Liberal Press. The country, however, 291 is determined at all hazards to have a strong Navy, and His Majesty's Government have at last grasped the fact.
Much, however, as the new Estimates are, £321,114 is to be expended on the new armoured ships, or less than one-fifth of the cost of one ship, and less than the amount expended last year on the four contingent "Dreadnoughts." This seems to show, I think, that the five capital ships will not be laid down until the end of the financial year. As regards the new cruisers the amount voted is only £120,000, less than that provided in the last year's Estimates. We come to the personnel. The number of seamen is to be increased we are told by 3,000. I am inclined to agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) that this number is inadequate, and that an increase of at least 5,000 should have been provided for. If I remember rightly, the First Lord has on more than one occasion said that no increase in the personnel was required, because in the new ships fewer men were necessary. But I see in the Memorandum that this increase in the personnelis necessary in part to meet the requirements of the new ships, and I take it the First Lord has changed his views in this respect. I find that since 1905 the Navy has been decreased by 1,000 men, so that it would seem that the net increase is 2,000, and not 3,000. I am altogether against the short service system. It takes six years to make a sailor, but if a sailor, as soon as he is of any real value, is to be allowed to leave the active service, I submit that that cannot make either for the efficiency of the Navy, or for our preparedness in time of war. Moreover, these men find it very difficult to get civil employment. Their training at sea does not fit them for work on land. Hence they go to swell the ranks of the unempleyed. So much for the general question.
I now come more particularly to Devonport. In the Navy Estimates for 1909–10, provision is made for the expenditure of £267,767 on new ship No. 2, now being built in Devonport Dockyard and called the "Lion." In the Estimates for 1910–11 provision is made for the expenditure of only £96,723 on new ship No. 2, a difference of £171,044. This amount is so considerable that it would appear to indicate that the slip on which the "Lion" is being constructed, and which is one of the largest and best equipped slips in the Royal Dockyards, will be vacant for several months 292 when the "Lion" is launched. My fears are corroborated and intensified by a local report which has reached me that the "Lion" will be ready to go off the slip in July next. I understood the First Lord to say the other day that we should find the date of laying down the new ships in the Estimates. I have been unable to find the reference, but I believe the First Lord subsequently gave 11th January as the date for laying down ship No. 2. If that date is correct, according to my information the large slip at Devonport is likely to be vacant for six months. This will mean that a considerable number of workmen in Devonport will be unemployed from July to January. I shall be exceedingly glad if the First Lord will give me the date at which the "Lion" is expected to be launched, and the date when the new ship will be laid down.
I see from the 1909–10 Estimates that £l,717,191 is allowed for expenditure on new construction, and that the sum for repairs and refits is £141,417. If you look at the Estimates for 1910–11, you will find that the corresponding amounts are £1,752,570 and £111,113, respectively. So that the total sum provided for new construction, repairs, and refits during 1910–11 appears to be only £5,000 above the total for the-year just closing. If this be correct it does not seem that Devonport Dockyard will benefit much from the very large increases in this year's Estimates, while there is considerable risk of thousands of skilled workmen being thrown out of employment during the autumn and winter months. There are two slips at Devonport, but only one, so far as I know, has been occupied since the last of the "King Edward" class was launched. I would ask the First Lord if it is not possible to utilise the second slip when certain necessary alterations have been made. I quite admit the advisability of giving a certain amount of Government work to the private yards, but at the same time it should not be forgotten that private yards can always secure work by private competition, whereas the Admiralty have always refused, and I have no doubt rightly refused, to allow the Royal dockyards to extend themselves commercially.
I should like also to call the First Lord's attention to the condition of things in the Keyham extension. At present the basins appear to be used only for reserve ships to lie up in, and these ships are only lying up because there are no men to man them. The workshops are silent and some of the- 293 machinery is unpacked. Millions of money have been expended on the Keyham extension, but so far it seems to have proved of little practical value to the nation. When does the First Lord expect that a different condition of things will prevail in the Keyham extension?
Next I come to the question of establishments. Provision is made in the Estimates for the employment in all the Royal dockyards of 32,539 established and hired men, as against 29,951 for the year just closing—an addition of 2,588. So far, so good. But on examining the establishment numbers I find that whereas in last year's Estimates provision was made for 6,245 men, this year provision is made for only 5,928. That moans that for the ensuing year the establishment will be reduced by 317. When told by the First Lord a week or so ago that the establishment would be opened forthwith I did not understand that a reduction in numbers was contemplated. I fear that the decision of the Admiralty will not make for efficiency or assist in attracting to the Royal dockyards, much less maintaining in them, the best skilled labour in the country. The whole object of the establishment is to have ready in case of emergency a body of workmen skilled in all the technicalities of naval shipbuilding, on whom the Government may call at a moment's notice to execute any work that may be required.
True, at present you can obtain sufficient labour from outside, but this was not always so. In the more prosperous times it was no easy matter to obtain the labour necessary for building a battleship. I am told on reliable authority that when we started building battleships at Devonport in 1896 sufficient men were not available, and in order to construct the "Ocean" resort had to be made to an advertisement. No doubt, in these days of less prosperity and chronic unemployment, that position would not probably arise; but it must be remembered that in time of emergency all the private yards will be working at full time, and when that happens I need not remind the House that you cannot count on a glut of skilled men ready and willing to enter Government yards at Government rates of pay. On the other hand, the hired man, seeing his chance, if not upon the establishment, will quickly transfer his labour to the private yard where higher wages are paid. You must have a sufficient reserve of workmen in the Royal dockyards, just as you must have a sufficient reserve of sailors in the Royal 294 Navy. The bigger the Navy the bigger the establishment should be. I need not remind the House that the Navy of this year is larger than the Navy of last year, and that in quite recent times its size has doubled and even quadrupled. Meanwhile what has been the position of the establishment? Has it increased in proportion? I am afraid not, and yet logically this is what one would have expected to be the case. But, setting aside the question of increase for the moment, surely nothing appears on the Estimates to justify the decrease in the establishment. It cannot be justified on the ground of a decrease in the Navy, nor do I think that it can be justified on the ground of security, although we were told some little while ago that we all might sleep peacefully in our beds. Certainly the alarming speeches of the Prime Minister, the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Foreign Secretary last year rather point to the possibility of increased anxiety. I must therefore, I think, press for some statement from the First Lord as to the reasons which have led the Admiralty to decrease the establishment. For myself I believe that in a time of national crisis we shall want a much larger permanent staff of workmen in the Royal dockyards than it is possible to maintain under existing circumstances. If we are to have peace we must be prepared for war, whether at sea or in the dockyard. Surely, then, the business of the Admiralty should be not to lower the establishment, but rather to increase it. Consider what is wanted: men thoroughly acquainted with all the technicalities of shipbuilding, men that the private yards when in full work are always on the look out for Surely these men should be encouraged by all possible means to remain in the Government employ. In this way, and in this way only, can we be certain of retaining their services in the hour of the nation's need. I most earnestly, therefore, appeal to the First Lord to reconsider the decision to reduce the establishment.
Closely connected with the question of the Establishment is that of pensions. I was pleased to hear from the First Lord that the case of those workmen who since the suspension of the establishment in 1907 have passed the age of pension eligibility will in no way suffer from the Government policy in respect to suspension. In regard to pensions, I think I am correct in saying that half the period of hired time is allowed to be added to the period of established time when the established 295 workman reaches the pensionable age. For some years it has been the custom in Devonport Dockyard to establish shipwright apprentices two years after they have served their time in the yard. Of late this custom has fallen into disuse, and, as may easily be imagined, a hardship is thereby inflicted on a set of responsible and absolutely necessary workmen who entered the yard and served their apprenticeship in the belief that this custom would be continued. Here, then, I submit we have a very just grievance, and one which not only affects the men themselves, but affects the efficiency of Devon-port Dockyard. Let me recall to the First Lord's memory a speech made in this House, I think, as long ago as 1882 by Sir George Trevelyan, then Secretary for the Admiralty. He said:—The shipwrights of the dockyards appreciate being Government workmen, and the Government encourage them in that view, because— to speak quite plainly—it is a matter of life and death to the country to have in crisis of a war a great body of skilled workmen on whose services the nation may count as it counts on the service of its bluejackets and marines.So it is with the shipwrights of to-day. They, too, appreciate being Government workmen, but, alas! the policy of the Admiralty and the policy of the Government do not encourage them in that view. So that it is possible—to speak quite plainly—that in a crisis of the country we may not have a sufficient reserve of shipwrights in the Royal dockyards to meet the emergency.
Again, I would draw the attention of the First Lord to the small number of skilled labourers borne on the establishment, and to the practice prevailing in the Devonport Dockyard to substitute other branches when filling vacancies caused by retirement in the ranks of skilled labour. Perhaps the First Lord will allow me to suggest that a better state of feeling would be created if, when vacancies occurred in the establishment, they could be filled by men selected from the same class as that in which the vacancies occur. With regard to writers, I notice in the First Lord's Memorandum—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I think to enter into that subject when there is a special Vote is perhaps a little away from the point. The hon. Gentleman should keep to the general character of the Debate—the size of the Navy.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I was under the impression that I could speak on the 296 point on the subject of dockyard matters, otherwise I should not have ventured to trouble the House. I regret very much I have exceeded the limit, and perhaps I may have another opportunity of speaking on this subject.
§ Mr. A. G. C. HARVEY
My object in rising is simply to put my own position and the position of several of my Friends who are supporters of the Government before the representatives of the Government. I want to make my position clear. The First Lord of the Admiralty, when he came down to the House yesterday to make his opening statement, conjured up before the House two sorts of critics he would have to meet. In the first place, he expected to be criticised by those, he said, who might think he was spending too little upon naval construction, and again he remarked he anticipated criticism from those who would say he was spending too much. I think before the First Lord of the Admiralty almost began his speech he must have felt convinced that by the munificence of these provisions he had won the warm admiration of the first class of his critics. At any rate, I have noticed that there has been very pleasant amity between the Front Benches upon this point, and it has been very little disturbed by criticism. I do not grumble. I like to see both Front Benches in the highest good humour, even though it costs something to the country. Then I think he felt well convinced that the criticism would not be serious, but, in any case, I think we can assure him that he demolished any possible criticism in the easiest possible manner.
But now we turn to the other class of critics—those whom the First Lord expected would complain that he had been unduly extravagant in the demands he was about to make upon the National Exchequer. The First Lord made absolutely no attempt to convert this class of critics, and I myself belong to that class. I think it is all the more strange that the First Lord should have taken this course, because this class of critics, who think that the Estimates are unduly extravagant, is really represented almost entirely on this side of the House. It is represented in these parties who usually act with the Government, and it is largely representative of that political party to which the Government itself belongs.
I would like to assure the First Lord of the Admiralty that in the part of the 297 country which I represent and in which I know these Estimates are much disliked, I would like to assure him that they are putting upon their party loyalty a severe strain, and that for many of us it is only the exceptional circumstances of the time that prevent us taking a very extreme course indeed. I have often wondered why this Government attach so little importance to the opinions of its own followers. Of course, that occurred several times, to my astonishment, during the last Parliament, but I venture to think that in the new circumstances under which this Parliament exists it would be wise for the Government to pursue some more cautious course. I want to ask the House, if I may, to hark back for a moment to what occurred last year. I particularly wish to recall the right ton. Gentleman's attention to the plain position as it existed for many of us on this side of the House.
Last year the First Lord of the Admiralty came down to this House, and he asked permission to build, as that year's programme, four large battleships, being an extension of the programme of the years that had gone before. But he was not content with that, and he made a demand of a most extraordinary character. He asked the House to consent, should certain contingencies arise, to the preparation of four additional ships to be laid down upon the 1st April this year The conditions upon which lie made that demand were most clearly defined, and I wish to refresh the memory of the House, reading briefly from what was said upon that occasion. He said:—We shall in the course of lid I have sixteen of these ships of the 'Dreadnought' type against thirteen for which Germany have already made provision. The German law- provides four more ships to be laid down in 1910–11.And then he goes on to say that the construction of these ships were to be accelerated; that the four ships of the 1910 programme would be built in April, 1912, and on that day Germany would have seventeen "Dreadnoughts" and "Invincibles," and he says:—It is against such a contingency that they ask the House to provide these four additional 'Dreadnoughts.I wish to remind the House of what the Prime Minister said. He said:—We have taken power if the necessity should arise that is if the acceleration of the German programme goes on, to lay down on the 1st April four additional ships.It is perfectly obvious from the answer the First Lord of the Admiralty gave in this House only yesterday, and the statement he has made that this acceleration 298 has not taken place, at any rate it has not taken place in the German dockyards. Notwithstanding that the First Lord of the Admiralty has taken these four additional skips, and he is now asking us for five more in this year's programme, an immense addition on anything which has taken place in recent years, and what I complain of is this that he has taken this course without any attempt to justify himself in the opinion of this House, and without any adequate explanation to us. No explanation has been made. There has been a great deal of doubt as to the number of ships which Germany and Great Britain will possess at certain periods, but I must say, frankly speaking, I cannot reconcile the two statements that the First Lord of the Admiralty made yesterday—one in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Birmingham—and one in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Montrose. They seem to me to be two contradictory statements. But I take the larger figure that the First Lord gave in answer to one of these questions. He said that Germany had laid down thirteen vessels, and four would be laid down this year. That makes seventeen ready and in preparation.
How does our position compare? We shall have, against seventeen, twenty-seven vessels if we include the two Colonial vessels, and that appears to me to be an enormous and unnecessary surplus. I really must inform the First Lord of the Admiralty that unless he can fully justify the programme before this Debate is over I shall feel myself obliged to put down an Amendment to reduce the Shipbuilding Vote of this year. The right hon. Gentleman appears to be nervous about raising naval scares, but I think this is a somewhat belated repentance. I do not desire another scare—Heaven forbid! —but I do ask the First Lord to take the House of Commons a little more into his confidence. I, for one, feel very uneasy at certain expressions I hear let fall from time to time concerning the Board of Admiralty, composed largely, I fear, of men dominated by gentleman who, in the words of the First Lord of the Admiralty, do not go out of power, and do not hold their positions on political grounds. I have a restless feeling coming over me that the growing power of these extra-Cabinet officials may, perhaps, dominate the Cabinet that it ought only to advise. If that is so, I venture to prophesy that at no distant date a great difficulty will arise in the public service which will have to be met with 299 a very strong hand and a very strong man. I am aware that the great naval Department of this country must have at its disposal the best expert advice; but I am a business man, and I know, how good as servants experts may be, and how bad and extravagant masters they make if you let them have too much rein.
We have on this Question a lack of information. I cannot account for the course which the Government are pursuing, and a question of this sort comes over my mind. We hear a great deal about treaty arrangements entente cordiales,and things of that sort, but I am beginning to ask myself whether these arrangements do not fasten upon us some of those enormous burdens which are very difficult to bear. We are openly building in this country against the German programme, and if this course is carried on with proper discretion I, for one, make no quarrel; but I would urge the Government to take great care lest they should be suspected of building against the German people. I am quite certain that neither side of this House bear the German people any ill-will. I am glad to know that, and I thoroughly believe it. I venture to remind the House that in their present frame of mind the German people may do much to assist us in our peaceful desires if we take a temperate course at the present moment. I desire, above all things, that no suspicion of enmity should come from our proceedings on these Estimates—I mean enmity between us and the great German nation. The German nation at the present time are resentful of the burdens that then-rulers are placing upon them, but if enmity should arise between nation and nation the Germans are a very proud and patriotic nation, and we might possibly before we know where we are drive them into the arms in Germany of those who may possibly be favourable to rivalry with us at sea. The friendship now growing up between these two democracies fills me with hope for the future. I believe it will be fruitful of lasting good, and I believe it is a natural and useful alliance. For these reasons I do hope we shall act cautiously and do nothing to endanger the growth of that amity which makes so much for the public weal.
§ Mr. FORDE RIDLEY
I rise as the representative of a Division on the Medway which is affected by these Estimates in order to call attention to one matter, 300 and question the First Lord of the Admiralty upon it. I consider the right hon. Gentleman skated very lightly over this question when he made his statement on these Estimates. I wish to refer more especially to the case of the floating docks which it is proposed to provide at Portsmouth and on the Medway. I find myself entirely in accord with the hon. Member for the Brigg Division of Lincolnshire on this point, and I wish he had pressed his point home more than he did. Upon referring to the statement which the First Lord of the Admiralty placed in our hands, I find that he says:—After careful enquiry as to the best means of meeting the docking requirements for the immediate future two large floating docks, capable of taking in war vessels now building or likely to be designed, have been ordered, and will be completed during 1911.I call the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty particularly to the word "immediate future," and I would like to remind him that although we have heard a very great deal in this Debate about the building of "Dreadnoughts" and "Invincibles" and destroyers, all of which are essential to a fleet, still I think he will agree with me when I contend that it is equally necessary we should have adequate accommodation in the way of dry docks and floating docks, in order that these "Dreadnoughts" may be of any use whatever in time of war. If there are not sufficient docks placed in such a position that they can be used by the "Dreadnoughts'' which are at any time engaged in action, we should very soon find that these big ships are useless, or worse than useless, because if they go into action, they will require in all human probability to go into dock after being in action, and if they cannot get to some place of refuge, where they can be docked, they may fall into the hands of the enemy and be used against us in time of war.
I should like to point out that in this statement we are informed that only £10,000 of the £30,000 voted last year for floating docks has been expended. I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty why it is that the full amount has not been expended on the construction of these docks? It rather looks as though there has been delay in the construction, and that they might have been proceeded with at a much more rapid rate than they have. I also find that there is no reference in this statement to what the total cost of these floating docks is likely to be. No figures appear in the Estimates on this point, or at least I have not been able to find them. 301 I should like to know from him, when he replies, what is going to be the total cost of those floating docks. I should also like to ask him whether he has made any provision for the accommodation of the floating dock to be provided for the Medway. That seems to me to be an important and pertinent question, and one on which we can rightly ask for some information. In this statement to which I refer hon. Members will note that he says the floating docks will be completed during 1911. What does he mean by "during 1911 "? Does he mean in the early part of that year or at the end of that year? That is another question I should like to ask him, and I am sure it would be to the satisfaction of this Committee if he would give us a plain and straight answer.
With regard to the docks upon the East Coast to which the hon. Member below the Gangway on the other side of the House referred, he has pointed out that there is only one dock to be constructed upon the East Coast of England. If the Government are providing so much money for extra ships and destroyers, as well as for big ships, why is it they have not found it necessary to provide more dry dock accommodation upon the East Coast? It is admitted by themselves that the probable sphere of action for those big ships would be the North Sea. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that at present we have only one dock upon the East Coast, whereas Germany has one already in existence and has two at present building. Those are points to which I am sure the First Lord will be ready to give us answers. They are simple and straightforward questions. There are other points "which one might raise. I do not propose, however, to occupy the time of the Committee any longer at this late hour, but I will ask him, when he replies, to give us an answer to those questions.
§ Mr. PHILIP SNOWDEN
Like the last two speakers, I do not intend to detain the Committee more than a few minutes. Anything I might have said in an earlier stage of this Debate has already been stated by speakers with far more ability than I can command, but I feel so strongly upon this question that I can hardly bring myself to give a silent vote upon it. I should like to state, therefore, the few reasons why I shall go into the Lobby with the right hon. Gentleman who has moved the Amendment should he press it, as I hope he will, to a Division, I have listened to nearly all the speeches 302 which have been made during the last two days, and especially the speeches from the Government Benches, with an earnest desire to discover some justification for the enormous Estimates which the Government are now submitting to the House, Estimates which impose an appalling burden upon the country, and are a violation of Liberal principles and of Liberal pledges.
If there was one thing more than another -which we were promised when they took office four years ago it was a reduction of expenditure on armaments. The text of every speech delivered by the late Prime Minister (Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman) in the country was the need for retrenchment in that direction. During the first two years of tenure of office of this Government undoubtedly a serious attempt was made to try and prevent this waste of millions, but when Liberal Imperialism obtained control of the Cabinet then Liberal principles and Liberal pledges were thrown to the winds, and the Radical element in the Cabinet proved too weak to prevent this surrender to jingoism. It had not the courage to dissociate itself from the new Liberalism. I would ask, Is there a Liberal living who, five years ago, would not have laughed to scorn the suggestion that any Liberal Government would propose Navy Estimates to the extent of over £40,000,000? I venture to say no Tory Government would have ever dared to make such a proposal, for if it had done so the Liberals would have raised such a howl of protest in the country that the proposal would have been defeated. I want to know the ground upon which these proposals are defended. We have had no satisfactory explanation from the Front Bench up to the present. The First Lord of the Admiralty has not attempted to justify these demands; he has assumed the character of the "Bogey Man." He says: "Whist, whist, whist. I could tell you things, but I dare not."
But there really has been no justification for this request for the authority of this House to spend more than £40,000,000 sterling on one branch of the service. Of course, I can imagine a number of reasons which may have induced the Government to embark upon this cruel and wasteful expenditure. It may be that they have come to the conclusion that a Great Navy cry is good electioneering. That has been the electioneering monopoly of the Tory party in the past, and I venture to assert quite seriously that if the Liberal 303 party think it is going to serve their party-ends, and that they can defeat the Tories in Jingoism, they are making a very great mistake. The result of the last General Election proves that the Navy scare had no effect whatever, except in one or two naval towns like Portsmouth, where the people, for selfish interests, desire to plunder the taxpayer's pocket. If the Liberal party think they can conserve the interests of their party by taking up this Big Navy cry I can assure them in all sincerity that they are taking up a cry which is likely to bring their party to a speedy and well-deserved ruin. There is another reason which might be advanced to account for this departure from everything which we associate with Liberalism, and that is that in spite of the humiliation that has been heaped upon the First Lord and the Prime Minister for their speeches made last year they may have been impressed by the "Daily Mail" latest naval expert, and that they believe in the menace of the German invasion. I do not think that anything could be more deplorable, anything more criminal, than the writings and speeches of certain people in England and in Germany during the last few years. Granted that Germany was building a Navy against this country, I think that any unprejudiced person must admit that she had ample justification for her anxiety. For years a section of the British Press have been openly advocating war against Germany. It is not long ago since a Civil Lord in the late Administration opposite boasted of Rosyth as a pistol aimed at the heart of Germany.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
There is an old saying, "If the cap fits, wear it." I made no reference to the hon. Gentleman. I spoke of a Civil Lord in the last Tory Administration.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
And the only Civil Lord? [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Who was it?"] I did not make the statement as regards the hon. Gentleman, and of course I accept his denial, but I will 304 make a charge quite as serious as that against him. Twelve months ago the hon. Member made the statement that Krupp's factory had nearly doubled the number of men they had employed, and they had increased in a short period the number of their men by 38,000, and the inaccuracy of that statement has been repeatedly pointed out to the hon. Gentleman twice within the present week, but he has so far refused to withdraw it. Everybody is perfectly familiar with what has been going on with regard to this matter during the last two or three years. As I said just now: we have a class of newspapers in the country who have been openly advocating, a war with Germany. Then, again, it is not long ago I saw that one of our leading daily papers issued a placard on which, in large letters, were the words, "The Coming War with Germany." In addition to this, by our own foreign, policy, by our alliances and understandings with Russia, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, we have given Germany the impression that we wanted to isolate her, so that we might attack her at a favourable opportunity. It is no wonder, therefore, if there does exist in Germany a feeling of distrust of this country, because we have led the way in this cruel competition for armaments. An Admiralty paper published last year showed that in the preceding ten years we had spent £318,000,000 upon our Navy, whereas Germany had spent less than one-third of that sum.
I am not saying for a moment that Germany is blameless in this matter. There is in Germany, as there is in this country, a Jingo party trying to foment strife between the two countries, but the self-interest of the people of both countries is opposed to such an idea. They look upon the prospect of war between these two people not only as a moral crime, but as an act of insane folly from a commercial point of view. There is, I know, in Germany, a widespread belief that this country begrudges Germany her commercial prosperity, and that we are anxious to cripple her nationally, to ruin her commercially. I had a conversation not long ago with one of our Consuls in Germany, and he said that it was almost an everyday occurrence for terrified Germans to come to his office and ask if it were really true that England was about to invade Germany. Count von Buelow was right when he said there are no two countries in the world which depend so much upon 305 each other for national labour as do England and Germany. Nearly 10 per cent, of our export trade goes to Germany, and England is Germany's best customer, and two countries which have such valuable trade connections have no other interest but to live together in peace and amity. But suppose Germany is building a navy for the purpose of self-defence, she is justified in so doing. Germany is a great commercial nation, with a foreign trade which is large, and which is growing, she imports one-third of her food supply and enormous quantities of raw materials for manufacturing purposes, and with the existing rules of naval warfare a large navy is absolutely essential to Germany as a means of national defence. Therefore, when there are reasons so obvious and so satisfactory to explain the naval programme of Germany, why should we resort to jealousy and suspicion and to the imputation of vile and sinister motives? Every Member of the House must have read the speech of Prince Henry of Prussia two or three days ago— a speech which breathed nothing but the kindliest motives towards this country. The late Imperial Chancellor, the present Imperial Chancellor, and the German Ambassador to this country have all recently given expression to similar sentiments. I want, therefore, to ask the Government if they believe those expressions of sympathy and good intentions on the part of Germany. If they do, there is no justification whatever for the Naval Estimates which are now proposed. If they do not believe them, it will be more honest to put an end to the mockery of the profession of friendly relations and to bring the matter to an issue at once.
There is one other reason that I might suggest in explanation of these gigantic Navy Estimates, and that is that the Government have decided upon a policy of beggar my neighbour. That is a very risky and a very expensive and dangerous game to play. Twelve years ago the Colonial Secretary tried that policy and it cost this country hundreds of millions of treasure and tens of thousands of lives, and it is no more likely to be successful to-day. A policy like that must end in the impoverishment of both parties to the contest. That is a game from which both sides suffer. Therefore I can see no sensible or satisfactory reason at all for these Estimates. Much as we who sit on these benches oppose war, I am sure we should not hesi- 306 tate for a moment to vote any sum, however large, if we were convinced that it was absolutely necessary for the defence of our own shores; but surely the only way of maintaining national and international peace is not by means of armaments. Are there no other courses open to the Government? Is diplomacy helpless in the matter? I know it requires considerable courage to suggest that moral principles should be applied in matters of international diplomacy, but it is the first duty of the Government, and especially a Liberal Government, to do everything it can by undertakings and understandings with foreign countries to lessen the need for large armaments. What have the Government done in that direction? They have done nothing. Reference has been made by one or two speakers to the question of the immunity of maritime commerce during the time of war. Why have they not done that? We are alone among the great Powers of the world in insisting on the right of capture, and so long as we do take that position we give Germany justification for a large navy. If we would only put ourselves into line with other nations in that matter, and if after that Germany were to continue to build her navy, then I admit there would be some justification for assuming that it was intended for other purposes than those of national defence.
I oppose these Estimates on the old-fashioned Radical ground of economy. I do not associate myself with the position taken up by some Radicals that a huge expenditure on armaments must be regarded as a substitute for expenditure on social reform. I will not excuse the Government from costly schemes of social reform because money has to be spent on the Navy. I will not betray the poor in order to protect the property of the rich. If there is money for "Dreadnoughts" there shall be money for the unemployed, or we will make every hall in the country ring with our condemnation of the Government. I oppose this expenditure because I know that the fact that there is this expenditure on the Navy will be used by this Government, or succeeding Governments, as an excuse for the moderation and insufficiency of the reform proposals they put before Parliament. We who were in the last Parliament know that every defect in the Old Age Pensions Bill was excused on the ground that there was not money to make the pensions bigger. We are asked to vote £5,500,000 for more "Dreadnoughts," which, if handed over to 307 the Development Commissioners, would almost temporarily solve the unemployed problem and would be a national investment of a remunerative and profitable character. I oppose these Estimates also because I know that a good part of the additional taxation will have to be paid by the working classes of the country. Those who are powerful enough to force this policy upon the Government are powerful enough and selfish enough to see that no part of the cost is paid by themselves, and I warn the Government that by the line they are pursuing they are likely to strike a very serious blow at our Free Trade policy. They are playing into the hands of the Tariff Reformers. They have come back after an appeal to the country, partly on the Budget, with a small majority. That shows the difficulties of getting a right and just incidence of taxation. They are playing into the hands of Tariff Reformers, because Tariff Reformers will be able to go before the electors in the country villages, in the cathedral cities, and in the University constituencies and make out that we could construct as many ships as we like, without a single penny of cost to this country, by the simple device of taxing the foreigner to pay for the ships. And, finally, I protest against this expenditure on behalf of the International labour movement. Our Socialist comrades in the German Reichstag are at one with us in opposing these naval forces as being a barrier in the way of the promoters of International peace.
We know that hon. Members who sit on those benches sneer at our claim to speak on behalf of the workers of other lands. I know that there is a regrettable amount of misunderstanding and antagonism still among the workers in different countries. But I tell this House that every year these barriers are being removed, and that a better understanding and a kindlier feeling are springing up among the democracies of all lands. And in that lies the hope of peace. It is not in the courts of kings nor in the chambers of diplomacy that the war problem is going to be solved. The workers of all the lands are increasingly recognising that militarism and that capitalism are the common enemies of the workers of all lands. Thirteen millions of men in Europe to-day are enrolled under the red flag of Socialism, and in that fact you have a stronger safeguard of peace than in all your battleships and all your armed camps 308 Do you know why the peace of Europe has been maintained during these long years? The chief reason is that the great Powers of Europe dare not trust their armies and their navies because of the growth of Socialism and internationalism among the rank and file; and we would not have it assumed, because we believe in the spread of a spirit of internationalism that we are unmindful of the fact that our own country has the first claim upon our attentions and our devotion, and upon our affection. Like the late Prime Minister I would like to see this country at the head of a great international league of peace. I would like to see my country heading the nations of the world along that road which leads to the flowery realms of peace. I know that that ideal is far from realisation, but I would rather cherish that ideal and work for it within my present opportunities than support proposals such as those which we are now asked to endorse. I shall oppose these proposals because I believe that they are not necessary, and I believe that they are opposed to the promotion of international goodwill, and I shall oppose them because I believe that they violate those eternal moral principles which should guide the conduct of statesmen and of nations.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
On a point of Order. Will the hon. Member be good enough to substantiate or withdraw the statement he made just now? I ask him in all friendliness, because it is a statement which might do considerable harm to a Gentleman who had held an official position on this side of the House, who had been a Civil Lord of the last Administration. It must have referred either to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) or my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee), or myself. The hon. Member made the statement that Rosyth was a pistol held at the head of Germany. Will he either substantiate or withdraw that statement?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
So far as it applies to the hon. Gentleman who interrupted me I did withdraw it, and when he has withdrawn the statement to which I referred I will do so again.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
Before I reply to the eloquent speech which we have just heard, I desire to answer the questions asked by the hon. 309 Member for Rochester (Mr. Ridley) in respect of the very important matter of docks. We have at the present time in home waters thirteen docks, and eight are being built, making twenty-one in all. Two of these are floating docks. We have five Government docks—one at Portsmouth and four at Devonport, and five building and projected; a dock and lock at Rosyth, to be completed in 1916 at latest; a dock at Haulbowline, to be completed early in 1911; the dock at Portsmouth, to be ready in 1913; and a dock at Portsmouth, in addition to the present scheme, to be ready in 1913 or 1914. There are two floating docks, in respect to which the hon. Gentleman asked me the precise time. They will be ready in 1911, but I am afraid that I cannot answer at the present time. There are, in addition to the Government docks, eight docks capable of taking "Dreadnoughts." On the East Coast there is the Hebburn Dock, although the ship probably would have to be lightened in that case. And there is the provision, as the hon. Gentleman knows, of the dock and lock at Rosyth. Of the two floating docks proposed, the estimate in 1909–10 was £30,000. The hon. Member asked why we are not going to spend more than £10,000. These floating docks are all on a scale capable of lifting anything afloat or likely to be afloat. They are something on a very much greater scale than we have ever attempted before, and there have been delays in the design. The hon. Gentleman said he could not find in the Estimates anything for the coming year in regard to these two docks. I think that is because they are treated as ships, and not as works. In the case of the first the estimate is £170,400, and in the case of the second £164,900.
§ Mr. RIDLEY
I asked the hon. Gentleman also to tell me what had been estimated in addition for the floating dock for "Dreadnoughts." Will the hon. Gentleman give me an answer to that?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
There is a sum of money—I cannot say off-hand what amount —taken in the Supplementary Estimates provided for the necessary dredging at Portsmouth.
§ Mr. RIDLEY
I asked the hon. Gentleman a question particularly in regard to the Medway. I am convinced in my own mind it is not possible to accommodate a floating dock in the Medway. No doubt there will be great difficulty to find accommodation in that dock, and what sum 310 is estimated to be provided for the accommodation?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
There is no sum. I was referring to the dredging at Portsmouth to make the berth. We are quite satisfied we can find a proper site in the Medway, but at the present time we have come to no definite arrangements in respect to it.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
We hope accommodation will be provided and that the dock will be ready in 1911, though I cannot say at what time it will be ready in 1911. With regard to this proposed reduction, it is perhaps desirable that I should say a word or two in response to the speeches which have been made. I listened to those speeches, one or two yesterday, and several to-day, with the greatest possible respect. They have been speeches which breathe the greatest possible depth of conviction and intense sincerity. It is very curious that, although my name is at the foot of these Estimates, I entirely share the feeling of dismay which those speeches indicate, and I take leave to say that there is no man in this House, either on this side or the other, who views this rapidly progressing expenditure on armaments with greater misgivings than I do. I have got a very special reason for misgivings. I sit day after day in my present office, and have been for two years endorsing expenditure upon instruments of war, which become more costly every day, and become more rapidly obsolescent and obsolete as they become more costly. Here are forty millions proposed, and the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) was quite right yesterday when he said that there will not remain in twenty years' time, of this particular expenditure, a single ship fit to take her place in the line. I have no doubt whatever we shall dispose of a good deal of the fruits of this expenditure at something like 1 per cent. 311 of its original cost, and we shall scrap a great deal of the rest. I quite agree that the hon. Member for Blackfriars Division was quite right, and the hon. Member for Montgomery Boroughs (Mr. Rees) was quite wrong, when the hon. Member for Blackfriars said that certainly, from an economic point of view, this was, I think he said, wholly unproductive expenditure. I agree it is almost wholly unproductive expenditure.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Certainly, and if the hon. Gentleman were to engage in laying out a railway he would give employment to a great many British families that would be continuous in productive expenditure. It gives employment, of course, to British labour, and to that extent it is productive. I did not say wholly unproductive, I said almost. It is productive, certainly, but not productive in the sense of the illustration I am giving. After all, what are we to do? In national defence we are bound to take the world as it is; we cannot afford to take it as it ought to be. You must certainly work towards ideals, but I think that at the same time, and I am sure that at the same time, you must keep your eye very closely on existing facts. It is not necessary to repeat what has been said so eloquently. There is nobody here and nobody outside this House who harbours any ill-feeling at all against any of the peoples of the world anywhere. Their prosperity is reflected in ours, and we wish to see with all of them friendly relationships strengthened and cemented; and all of us, I have no doubt whatever, wish to see the settlement of International differences take the form of peaceful arbitrament more and more as time goes on. Of course, that is our most ardent desire. I associate myself entirely in the expression of the hope of the Labour Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) that we should associate ourselves with any and every endeavour to call a halt in this deplorable burden which, unquestionably, civilised countries put upon themselves. Notwithstanding that, I am bound to point out that there are several vital considerations that we have always to remember. We are an island people. We depend enormously for our daily existence and our daily occupation upon seaborne food 312 and raw material. The great sea highways, as I see them, are really the arteries of our national existence. Intercept our food supplies for a week, and where should we be? A penny increase in the price of the quartern loaf means an increase of £13,000,000 a year, eighty per cent, of which would be borne by the working classes, many of whom have little or no reserve, and some of whom, I am sorry to say, have always between them and absolute destitution the thinnest possible partition. Therefore I view the British Navy as a sentinel under whose guardianship the people of this country go to their daily work and earn their daily food free from any reasonable anxiety as to the possibilities of successful attack. The hon. Member for Rochdale referred in terms of cordial affection to the late Sir Henry Camp-bell-Bannerman. We have had some quotations from the "Nation "; perhaps I might give another. The late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, writing in the "Nation," in March, 1907, said:—If our fleets be invulnerable they carry with them no menace across the waters to the world, but a message of the most cordial goodwill.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I have quoted his statement from the "Nation," of March, 1907, and I entirely endorse that view. It has been said that these Estimates are costly. They are horribly costly. The Member for Wigan suggested that they were framed with a view to propitiate the Opposition, and other Members have said that we have been pushed into +hem by the pressure of what are called "hotheaded patriots." Those Members are quite wrong. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) also is wrong. We have not taken up these Estimates in order to lead tie country into Tariff Reform. Quite the contrary. Nor are we actuated in what we have done by the new naval correspondent of the "Daily Mail." Those who say that we have produced Estimates beyond the actual needs of the moment in consequence of pressure are quite wrong. We have framed these Estimates for a single purpose, and there is not a man in the House, wherever he sits, who would not have done exactly what we have done if he had all the facts before him. We have framed these Estimates, serenely oblivious of pressure from whatever quarter it might come, with one single purpose. We have framed them, as our duty compels us to do, simply for the purpose of making 313 national safety amply secure. It is said that it is very costly. That is true. The Member for Blackburn justified the German expenditure on armaments on the ground of her commerce and merchant shipping. I agree that that does not wholly cover the ground of the case he put; but if the hon. Member will make that sort of contrast in regard to these Estimates, and compare them with our merchant shipping, he will find that a very much larger sum than we are asking might be justified.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I urged that there was reasonable justification for Germany's naval expansion, because we refused to be a party to the new principle of friendship.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I do not want to refer to Germany, except, of course, in the friendliest way possible. The hon. Gentleman was instituting a comparison between Germany's right to build up a great navy because of her commerce and merchant shipping. But carry that comparison into our merchant shipping and our Navy. There are 13,250,000 tons of merchant shipping belonging to this country— more than all the rest of Europe put together. There are £1,000,000,000 worth of food, raw material, and manufactured goods brought on the high seas to and from this country in the course of the year. The hon. Member should consider this expenditure in the light of an insurance on that £1,000,000,000 worth of goods and that 13,250,000 tons of shipping. I think he will find that, comparatively speaking, these Estimates come out pretty moderately after all from that point of view.
I do not want to push the matter too far. Like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars, I want this £40,000,000 for old age pensions, for unemployed insurance, for better education, better housing, and the colonisation of this country by getting more people back on the land. But people should not say that so long as you spend this money you cannot have it for social reform. It is necessary to have national safety, and social reform cannot be proceeded with unless you proceed with it under cover of national safety. Therefore, I make this fundamental proposition: Having secured national safety, we must have the money for these pressing, urgent matters of social reform. We must protect this country just as much against the ravages of decay from within as well as against the possibilities of successful attack from without. What I say is this: 314 it is no good halting between two opinions. You have either got to scrap the lot—I can understand that whilst I cordially disagree with it—or we have got to see that our Navy is absolutely all-powerful. I do not understand the man who comes without any standard at all to me, and says, '' I will agree that £35,000,000 or £36,000,000 should be spent, but not £37,000,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who said that? "] I am using it for the purpose of illustration. But the right hon. Gentleman who says the amount is too much does not give us an idea of what he would spend.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am bound to say that I may be very obtuse, but I did not follow the right hon. Gentleman. But may I say that it does not seem to me to be any good whatever halting between two opinions in this matter. You want to make perfectly sure that what you are spending your money on is up to the standard of your requirements. I do not quite see the logic or the wisdom of the position taken up by those who protest without giving us any specific ground upon which we could work. It seems to me if you take any other course than this your course is ridiculous, it is dangerous, it is wasteful, and it may be disastrous. I do not pretend to represent the working classes of this country any more than any other man. I represent a very poor constituency, and I believe honestly that the temper of the poorest of our people upon this matter is that they share the sentiment which I have tried very imperfectly to express. That is my experience with reference to this matter. They resent the charges which have recently been made against the efficiency of the Navy—[HON. MEMBERS: "By whom?"]—by those who ought to know better. They know that the Navy is all powerful, notwithstanding what may be said to the contrary. I say that the working classes know that, and they rejoice in it.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I hope the hon. Member will concede some little intelligence to the working classes.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
They were told that the Navy was unassailable a very few months ago, and now they have got to pay £40,000,000. They now know it.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
As a matter of fact a few months ago they were told they had a Navy the like of which the world had never seen, and when the display took place at Spithead Tory journal dictionaries were ransacked for superlatives of admiration to describe the wonderful efficiency and the all-powerful strength of the British Navy.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The Noble Lord should not have said it. The Noble Lord ought to calibrate his facts. I say the working classes, us I understand, share the sentiments I express. They know the Navy is all-powerful. They resent the charges made against it, and they intend it shall remain all-powerful as a great protecting arm, and, grievous as the
§ burden is, it seems to me they recognise they have no alternative—admitting fully the needs of social reform—they recognise that, and they are glad and cheerful even with their small means and the heavy demands upon them to bear this burden, and I believe the vast majority of them will bear these charges cheerfully and patriotically.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Will the hon. Member move to report Progress after the Division, and then he will have first place tomorrow?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to carry out to-morrow the arrangement we have arrived at?
§ Question put, "That 128,000 officers, seamen and boys be employed for the said Services."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 34; Noes, 225.317
|Division No. 9.]||AYES.||[10.50 p.m.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Holt, Richard Durning||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Barnes, George N.||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Snowden, Philip|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Jowett, Frederick William||Sutton, John E.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Clough, William||Martin, Joseph||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Mooney, John J.||Twist, Henry|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Nolan, Joseph||Wardle, George J.|
|Glanville, Harold James||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Glover, Thomas||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Hackett, John||O'Grady, James|
|Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Parker, James (Halifax)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||T. Lough and Mr. Keir Hardie.|
|Hazleton, Richard||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Beckett, Hon. William Gervase||Colefax, Henry Arthur|
|Adam, Major William A.||Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Bentham, George Jackson||Compton, Lord Alwyne (Brentford)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Beresford, Lord Charles||Compton-Rickett, Sir J.|
|Allen, Charles Peter||Bird, Alfred||Cooper, Richard Ashmole (Walsall).|
|Arbuthnot, Gerald A.||Bowerman, Charles W.||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Brigg, Sir John||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Burdett-Coutts, William||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Cory, Sir Clifford John|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Buxton, C. R. (Devon, Mid)||Courthope, George Loyd|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Carlile, Edward Hildred||Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Craik, Sir Henry|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Castlereagh, Viscount||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot|
|Barclay, Sir Thomas||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Croft, Henry Page|
|Barnston, Harry||Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Crossley, William J.|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Dairymple, Viscount|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Cleland, James William||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lambert, George||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Rees, John David|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lawson, Hon. Harry||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis||Ridley, Samuel Ford|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness)||Leach, Charles||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Lehmann, Rudolf C.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Levy, Sir Maurice||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Lewis, John Herbert||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Llewellyn, Major Venables||Rutherford, William Watson|
|Foster, Harry S. (Lowestoft)||Lloyd, George Ambrose||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Gelder, Sir William Alfred||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Gibson, James Puckering||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Wor. Droitwich)||Seddon, James A.|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Mackinder, Halford J.||Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B.|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Macmaster, Donald||Shortt, Edward|
|Goldman, Charles Sydney||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Simon, John Alisebrook|
|Goldsmith, Frank||M'Arthur, Charles||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Gretton, John||M'Laren, F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Soares, Ernest Joseph|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Mallet, Charles Edward||Stanier, Beville|
|Gulland, John William||Manfield, Harry||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington)||Marks, George Croydon||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Hancock. John George||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Sykes, Alan John|
|Harris, F. L. (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)||Middlebrook, William||Tennant, Harold John|
|Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Millar, James Duncan||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Mitchell, William Foot||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Toulmin, George|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hayward, Evan||Morpeth, Viscount||Tryon, Capt. George Clement.|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Munro, Robert||Valentia, Viscount|
|Henry, Charles Solomon||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.||Verney, Frederick William|
|Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon. S.)||Nellson, Francis||Vivian, Henry|
|Higham, John Sharp||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Hills, John Walter (Durham)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Hindle, Frederick George||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Hodge, John||Pearson, Weetman H. M.||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Perkins, Walter Frank||Wilson, T. F. (Lanark, N.E.)|
|Hunt, Rowland||Pete, Basil Edward||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Pretyman, Ernest George||Worthington-Evans, L. (Colchester)|
|Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Johnson, William||Primrose, Hon. Nell James||Younger, George (Ayr Burghs)|
|Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Proby, Col. Douglas James|
|King, Joseph (Somerset, North)||Radford, George Heynes||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Raffan, Peter Wilson||of Elibank and Mr. Fuller.|
|Knight, Caption Eric Ayshford||Rainy, Adam Rolland|
Original 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 to-morrow (Wednesday); Committee to sit again to-morrow.