§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ " That a sum, not exceeding £7,389,400, be 364 granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of Wages, etc., to Officers, Seamen, and Boys, Coastguard, and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911."
§ Mr. H. S. FOSTER
In rising to resume the Debate on the general Question before the House, I may venture to claim special interest in all Naval matters on the part of the Constituency which I have the honour to represent, and perhaps in a double capacity by reason of the historical and geographical position which it occupies. As, no doubt, this House knows quite well, Lowestoft is the most easterly point of Great Britain, and lies nearest that Power to whom the Government last year besought us to turn our eyes. In addition to that, following the example of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I have been looking up history. The right hon. Gentleman quoted a letter written by Sir John Hawkins in the sixteenth century. It may be of interest to the Committee to know that in the year 1667 a petition was sent up to this House from Lowestoft, principally from those engaged in the fishing industry, asking for the support of this House upon the ground that "these fishermen, the nurserye of seamen, will be enforced to undertake other employments, which will prove a greate prejudice to the nation unless better encouragement be given to them." So successful was that petition, that in the year 1670 an Act of Parliament was passed entitled, "A Bill for carrying on the fishing trade, and for increase of seamen and shipping." The Bill begins with this very interesting preamble:—"Whereas the Sovereignty of the British seas hath been ever (tyme out of mind) a flower inherent in the Crown of England," and it goes on to say that "the fishing trade doth, above all others, breede and increase seamen and shipping." It referred to the fishing industry as "this so advantagious and beneficiable trade, wherein the Crowne, strength, and safetye of England is soe much concerned." It proceeded to enact that which hon. Members opposite would think a somewhat extreme proposal to-day, namely, "that all victuallers, inns, ale-houses, chaundlers, vintners, and coffee-houses "should be compelled to purchase yearly from one to four "good and merchantable barrels of herrings," at such price as His Majesty, by the advice of the Privy Council, shall appoint during a term of seven years. Historically 365 and geographically the people on the East Coast, and particularly in that part which I have the honour to represent, has always had and always will have the keenest interest in naval matters and naval administration. Most certainly the remarkable proceedings which took place on this day last year did excite and has since excited the gravest interest and concern on their part. I suppose there is no question which has been so closely followed, or which has more keenly interested the inhabitants of the: eastern counties than this question of the sufficiency or the insufficiency of our naval preparations. In support of that statement, I may mention that we in Lowestoft have had the advantage not only of the presence last year of a great naval demonstration for the purpose of urging upon the Government that their contingent "Dreadnoughts" should be turned into actual "Dreadnoughts," but also of a visit from the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman). Moreover, the Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara), whom I had the pleasure of hearing for the first time last night, paid us a visit, and I am sure the description I had of him as an able and breezy platform speaker was fully justified. Finally, I had the great advantage of a visit from the Noble Lord who has been called "the Member for the Navy." [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is he?"] The Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford). The proceeding of 16th March last year caused us the gravest anxiety. For my own part, I have never been able to forget almost the ipsissima verba used by the First Lord and the Prime Minister upon that occasion. We shall do well always to remember what then transpired. The First Lord challenged the accuracy of my quotation last night.
§ Mr. H. S. FOSTER
I quoted what I thought was the most pregnant sentence, and one extremely relevant to the point with which I was dealing. It was, I think, the most extraordinary admission ever made by a First Lord of the Admiralty. I will quote it again:—The difficulty in which the Government finds themselves placed at this 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
Certainly:—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 taken into execution. We anticipated that work on the 1908–9 programme would begin on four ships in August, 1908. The preparation and collection of materials began some months earlier. We now expect these ships to be completed, not in February, 1911, but in the autumn of 1910.Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to make a further remarkable statement, which, I think, entirely destroys the effect of his defence yesterday, which was that we could not know the intentions of the Germans. Of course we cannot, but we can know their capacity to produce, and it surely should have been the business of the Admiralty to ascertain accurately, by means of their Intelligence Department and those other means at the disposal of the Government, what their capacity was. Other people at that time knew what it was. The right hon. Gentleman said:—''I think we may stop here to pay a tribute to the extraordinary growth in the power of constructing ships of the largest size in Germany. Two years ago I believe there were in that country, with the possible exception of one or two slips in private yards, no slips capable of carrying a ' Dreadnought.' To-day they have no fewer than fourteen of such slips, and three more are under construction.One would imagine that those slips grew in the night and that there were no sources of information by which the Government could have gleaned for themselves that which was repeatedly stated outside, namely, that the German power of construction had been largely increased and its rate accelerated. The right hon. Gentleman further stated:—Two years ago any one familiar with the capacity of Krupps and other great German firms would have ridiculed the possibility of their undertaking to supply the component parts of eight battleships in one year. To-day this productive power is a realised fact. It. will tax the resources of our own great firms if we are to retain the supremacy in rapidity and volume of construction.I say this naturally produced great alarm and almost consternation in the minds of those who read these words or heard them as coming from the First Lord of the Admiralty concerning a state of things which could not have taken place in secret; which could not have taken place without a very large number of people knowing all about it, and concerning which the right hon. Gentleman was himself notified again and again by warnings both inside this House and outside it, namely, that the German power of accelerating had increased and was being increased. That 367 was not the only serious statement; much more serious were the statements of the Prime Minister. What did the Prime Minister tell this House? I do not believe that ever before in this House has such a grave statement and such a humiliating confession been made by the Prime Minister of this country. He told the House that the two statements he had made in this House as Prime Minister the previous year had turned out to be untrue. First of all, he referred to the paper programme of the German Government, and he told the House:—it might not tie realised and certainly would not be exceeded.He said this turned out to be untrue, and then he went on further and said that he heard that in the autumn—and then he described the situation as most grave—I call the attention of hon. Gentlemen who are ready on platforms to accuse us of being panicmongers, to this statement of the Prime Minister, in which he said that the situation was most grave, and that not only an unforeseen but an unexpected state of things had arisen which was a great surprise to us.
That struck many people outside as being a remarkable confession of want of capacity on the part of our trusted representatives and rulers. It struck many people as extraordinary that it should be possible for the Prime Minister of this country, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, who are entrusted with these tremendous interests, to have to stand up in the House of Commons and confess that this state of things had been going on practically under their noses, and that it was a great surprise to them to find that it existed at all. Then the Prime Minister went on to say that the discovery made it necessary for us to reconsider our programme. Further, he said that the second statement he had made in the previous year had also proved to be untrue, and he said this is an equally serious matter, and he referred to the rate of building, and he had to confess to the House that while he had stated previously we could do in twenty-four months what it took Germany thirty months to do, thereby giving us always six months' margin, that was the case no longer. The Prime Minister referred to this as a most serious development from our national point of view, and he used 368 words which I venture to think will become historic with regard to himself and his Government. He used the word "fatal," and he said:—this is a fatal and a most serious fact.''I am disposed to think that when final judgment is passed upon this Government their attitude towards the Navy will certainly be one of their acts that will be described as most "fatal" to their continued existence.
I confess when I heard the words of almost whispered humbleness of the First Lord of the Admiralty to those of his followers who were upbraiding him in not prosecuting his old tradition of economy I found it difficult to sit patiently by. I hoped and should have expected that the man in charge of our naval defences, so far from speaking with bated breath and whispered humbleness to his followers, would have taken the manly attitude pursued by his long line of predecessors, and would have said, "so far from apologising for the size of these Estimates, I make these demands upon my responsibility as a Minister, and because I am sure my countrymen will not grudge anything which is demanded of them by those intrusted with the responsibility for that which is the first line of defence in this country. But what was the attitude of the First Lord of the Admiralty last night? So far from reverting to the straightforward and manly course to which this House has been accustomed from those in charge of the Naval Estimates, the First Lord was never tired of repeating yesterday that he would not spend a penny more than was necessary. In other words if there, was to be any risk it should be on the side of spending a little less rather than a little more. I should have preferred to hear the First Lord say that this was a matter in which we were not going to run any risks, and chat he would rather ask for more money, provided it was properly expended, and provided that we got proper value for that money—both sides are agreed upon that— but as to the amount he would rather run no risk, and would rather not repeat the unhappy experience that, he and his Government had in the past. It is not so much a question whether we should have just enough to scrape through as it is a question of making sure that our position is strong and unassailable, and that there is not the least margin of risk.
369 4.0 P.M.
What is the vital difference on this Question of naval expenditure separating the two great parties in this House? On this side of the House we are as one man in regard to it. On this side of the House there would not be a voice raised to question the discretion of this charge for the Navy, and as to the unwisdom of cutting down the expenditure that the Government consider necessary for national safety. On the other side of the House we had an exhibition last night — an almost annual exhibition—of a certain number of hon. Gentlemen who always consider it necessary to consistently carry out their principles of harrying and worrying their Government for the purpose of reducing the Naval Estimates, whatever they may be. That has been the experience of the present Government from the time they first came into office. See how fatal it was in its results to this House and to the country. The Government came into power in January, 1906, and they introduced their Naval Estimates, I think, in March. They brought in the Estimates prepared for them by their predecessors. There was not a whisper of any change in the preparation of them. Before this Government had been in power six months there was passed through the German Parliament an Act, an amending Act, increasing the existing naval programme by six battleship cruisers. On 21st June of that year a deputation of Members of this House, nominal supporters of the Government, approached the Prime Minister by petition for a reduction in British naval expenditure. That apparently produced an effect very speedily, for on 27th July there was an announcement made in this House for the first time—seven months after the Government had been in power—that they had abandoned what was called the Cawdor programme, and had cut down for that year one large battleship proposed in the programme. In 1907 there was, first of all, refusal by Germany to discuss with this country the question of the reduction of naval armaments, and by the middle of the year there was a Motion in this House, proceeding, of course, from the other side, to reduce the Naval Shipbuilding Vote. That not having any direct effect, in pursuance of the policy of continually worrying their leaders on this question, there was a Memorial presented to the Government by 136 of their nominal supporters for a reduction of the expen- 370 diture upon the Navy and the Army. That was immediately followed by the corresponding action that you might expect on the part of a strong Power knowing its own purpose. On 9th December of that year an official statement was made in the Reichstag—and I would call the attention of the First Lord to this, that it was fourteen months before the First Lord's statement in this House—that in Germany battleships were being built more rapidly than in England.
In the year 1908, the last year before the fatal date of the Government's confession in this House, the proceedings in this House began by an Amendment to the Address by one of the Government supporters for the reduction of armaments. Before Parliament had been sitting a fortnight a manifesto was issued by a committee of Liberal Members demanding a reduction of armaments. On 25th February the Naval Estimates were produced, and we found that two "Dreadnoughts "were provided to be laid down, as against four by Germany. Again, still worrying their leaders, on 24th July there came along a Memorial to the Prime Ministers from 144 supporters of the Government for a further reduction of British armaments. Before the year was out there was a further provision by Germany. On 20th November Germany made provision for four "Dreadnoughts," while on 26th November a final appeal was made to the Prime Minister by the Reduction of Armaments Committee to reduce the Naval Estimates. The natural result of all these proceedings is to paralyse the hands of a weak Government, so that they endeavour to please both sections of their followers, and end by pleasing neither of them. It constitutes a real danger to the safety of this country, because it encourages the rivals of this country to take advantage of the feeling going on here, and to take advantage of a weak Government being in power to increase their own armaments, to catch up to us, and so to place themselves in a greater position of equality with us. That has been the natural result here. Those Gentlemen who are described as "Little Navyites," and sometimes called the "Peace-at-any-price men," are the greatest enemies of peace. They are the men who, in the long run, unduly place a much heavier burden on the taxpayers of this country, because we know that it is "the strong man armed that keepeth his house." We know that 371 there is nothing so likely to bring about war or to embroil us with our neighbours as the idea that we are getting tired of the great national duty to provide adequate safeguards for our national security.
One other matter I would wish to refer to, and I confess to having read through most carefully what took place yesterday and what has taken place earlier upon this question, and I cannot for the life of me understand where we are in reference to the two-Power standard. The First Lord yesterday made use of an expression which I find was also made use of by the Prime Minister last year. He spoke of the difference between the Government and Members on this side of the House being only an academic difference. In another sentence he says it is a real difference. There must be some mental reservation in the mind of the First Lord, and in the minds of those who used that formula, when they do not frankly state, as it used to be frankly stated on both sides of the House, that by the two-Power standard we mean that our Navy shall be strong enough to meet the combined navies of any two other Powers in any part of the world with a margin—10 per cent, has sometimes been spoken of—with a margin over and above that standard for the purpose of security. I have been looking at the records of this House, and I find that the Prime Minister himself, upon a similar Motion to that which occupied this House in 1902, and again at the instance of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington, made an important contribution to the Debate which I will venture to trouble the Committee with because I think it so admirably describes the feeling of every Member on this side of the House. On 21st February, 1902, the Prime Minister said:—You have seen the German Navy, which did not exist at all, become, as it is to-day, a most formidable element when you are adding up the offensive and aggressive forces of that which may never happen, but it is a duty of the Admiralty to make a forecast of that to which we may possibly be exposed. Go further, both to the east and to the west. Take the case of our kinsmen across the Atlantic. In the United States there is now growing up one of the largest and best equipped navies of the world, and at the very opposite point of the compass our new allies, as I suppose we must call them under the recent agreement, the Japanese, are themselves constructing a navy. It is impossible to ignore these facts when we are taking into account what preparations the Admiralty ought to make to meet the danger to which we are exposed. I think that what is called the two-Power standard represents the minimum of safety. It is far the best form of insurance. This country expends thirty odd millions in connection with the Navy, which is a large sum, I know. I look upon it simply as the premium 372 which we pay to insure the due safety, not only of our commerce but the safety of our shores, and the very existence of Our population in the face of dangers which we all hope may be remote, but against which it is our business to guard.The Committee will observe the Prime Minister, in making that exceedingly able and statesmanlike utterance, contemplated exactly what we had been contemplating— not because we contemplated it as a probability—God forbid that we should contemplate it even as a possibility. Nevertheless it is our duty, in view of what each of the other nations are doing, to maintain that two-Power standard, whether it be against the navies of Germany and the United States or against the navies of any two other strongest Powers for the time being. I do not understand what is the meaning of the mental reservation of the First Lord, or what is behind it. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be very anxious to guard himself yesterday when he was asked across the floor of the House whether he agreed to the definition given by the Prime Minister as to what constituted the two-Power standard. One thing is certain, and that is that to-day we are not maintaining that two-Power standard in the question of naval expenditure. Hon. Gentlemen opposite complain of the Government spending £40,000,000. Why, in this very year the combined expenditure of Germany and the United States amount to £50,000,000, apart from items which, in the case of Germany, are not included in the ordinary naval programme, which come under other heads, and which, I am told, amount to something like an additional £8,000,000 or £9,000,000. I mentioned the grave utterance made in this House on 16th March, but there was even a much graver utterance of warning uttered in this House a few days later. In the face of that, how any hon. Gentleman opposite can get up on a public platform and accuse the Unionist party of being those who wish-to create a scare in regard to our Navy passes my understanding.
I do not believe a graver warning was ever uttered in the House of Commons by a responsible Foreign Secretary than was uttered by the Foreign Secretary in this House on 29th March. He told us, in the first place, that the House and the country were perfectly right to view the situation as grave. Then he went on to point out that a new situation had been created in this country. By whom? By our provocative acts? Not at all, but by the new German programme. The Foreign Secretary pointed out—and 373 depend upon it he had grave cause for wishing to rouse his countrymen to a sense of the position—that the effect of what Germany was doing was that when the German programme was completed "the German Fleet will be the most powerful which the world has ever seen."
Having told us that, what further had he to tell his countrymen? He pointed out that that meant for us the rebuilding of the whole of our Fleet. He said the only question was as to when, but that that had to be done was a certainty. The rate at which it had to be done must depend upon circumstances outside the control of this country. By this, of course, he meant the rate at which Germany was proceeding, but he solemnly told this House, and through this House he solemnly warned his countrymen, that this was a fact which we had got to face and against which we have got to prepare. He said the German fleet now building would constitute the German Navy the strongest navy the world has ever seen, and that it meant for us the rebuilding of the whole of the British fleet. That was a warning which we must pay heed to, and it is one that is writ so large that no man can misunderstand it. Surely that is a condemnation of the neglect of this Government down to that date in reference to having made inadequate provision for our necessities. The First Lord, in his opening statement the other night, said that on the platform there had been utterances accusing the Government of criminal folly and recklessness, and he said he never expected that he would have had to meet charges of that kind in this House. I do not believe in using strong language to political opponents, but I will say that either there was extraordinary ignorance so great that I find it hard to account for it on the part of those having the means of information at their disposal that the Members of the Government have, or else they were so afraid of the continued opposition of an important section of their own followers, that they could not pluck up enough courage to face the situation and demand of this House those larger grants which would have been readily given, and for which they were obliged to come at last and, almost with an apology, to request this House to be good enough to grant by reason of the grave admissions they have had to make in this House. When this Government has again to face—as shortly it will have to do—the judgment of this country, although they may try to make the issue to be decided some- 374 thing else, I venture to say that their action with regard to naval defence will weigh very heavily with a large section of the electors. The Government may endeavour to keep things back from the consideration of the people, and try to divert their attention to constitutional changes; but, after all, there is one thing which is more important to this country than any question of tinkering with the electoral or the constitutional machine, and that is the question of our national security. For that our people have always been prepared to make any sacrifice demanded of them. I think the greatest measure of condemnation which this Government will have inherited will be that they have neglected the most sacred and the first duty of any Government in this country in failing to preserve the naval supremacy of this country. I believe that at no distant date the people of this country will be glad to call in others who will be more ready and willing to put the question of national security above party expediency and see that our naval forces are put upon a basis that will not only be safe, but will give an ample margin of strength so great that we shall be unassailable for the great national work of peace which we have to fulfil for the protection of our national life.
§ Mr. G. P. COLLINS
I rise for the first time in this House to make a few remarks upon the Navy Estimates. I have had the honour myself of being a few years in the Service, and I can assure the House that I will not in any sense endeavour to criticise the Estimates from a Service point of view, but solely from a business standpoint. The principal complaint of the hon. Member for Lowestoft seemed to be that the Members on the Front Government Bench did not take the country into their confidence last year, and in his closing remarks he assumed the air of a prophet and sounded the funeral note under which this Government would go out of office, which, he said, would be their incapacity to maintain the strength of the Navy. It seems to me that the naval scare at the last election has not proved so successful as hon. Members opposite hoped it would, and I venture to suggest that they had better try some other method of gaining office. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford, in his opening remarks yesterday afternoon, said he did not wish to drag party politics into Navy questions, although in the same breath he stated that those who supported the Government had jeopardised the Navy for mere party purposes.
§ Mr. G. P. COLLINS
Yes, I will. In the OFFICIAL REPORT for Tuesday, 15th March (No. 18), column 200, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) said:—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 party note from this side of the House, certainly in the Debates on the Naval Estimates.I think I am correct in saying that the hon. and gallant Member states that the Naval Estimates had not been placed before the House with a sole desire to naval interests, but for mere party purposes. The party opposite are so bankrupt as regards a constructive policy that they have raised this false issue of a naval scare so as to gain the office they seek. Judging by some of their remarks in the public Press they appear to desire to convey to the public that their blood is redder than ours—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is bluer."]—and they wish the country to believe that they possess more patriotism than we do on this side. So far as I can gather the difference between the two sides is that the Liberal Government seek to lay before the House exactly the Estimates which the country needs, while hon. Members opposite seek to press the Government to build more ships and to spend more money upon the Navy than is actually needed. The late Civil Lord of the Admiralty yesterday endeavoured to justify the naval scare in regard to the shortage of stores. He said:—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.
§ Mr. G. P. COLLINS
There are so many Civil Lords on the other side that it is rather confusing. That statement was made by the late Secretary to the Treasury. I know it has been asserted that the stores had been depleted, and the 376 statement of the late Financial Secretary to the Treasury really goes to show that during the past few years the stores had been drawn upon more than they should have been. On Monday afternoon the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth gave his orders to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I was afraid he was going to threaten if those orders were not obeyed to sink the right hon. Gentleman in one of those twenty-seven-knot destroyers about which he complained. The hon. and gallant Admiral on Monday afternoon stated that "we are only one short of what he wanted in battleships," but in his Guildhall speech he asks for ten battleships by 1914. May I point out that he is now going to get eleven battleships by 1913, and I would like to know how he can justify that statement. According to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's policy the Navy Estimates this year should be reduced. Really after these Estimates had been introduced I expected to see the hon. and gallant Admiral cross the floor of the House and support us in repelling the attacks made by the wild men on his own side. There is a big omission in the Guildhall speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth as well as in his speech on Monday afternoon. It seems to me to be a characteristic of irresponsible naval critics, who are so carried away with one idea, to forget the necessary details that make up a homogeneous whole. The omission to which I refer is the provision for submarines. I thought that he might have moved the reduction of the Estimates by £750,000, in order to make provision for submarines this year. He ventured, however, to describe the provisions of the destroyers as one bright little spot in the Naval Estimates. I think he will agree that there are other bright spots in them. I think he will agree that the provision for docks and the provision for "Dreadnoughts" are also bright spots. In fact, it seems to me that there are so many bright spots in these Naval Estimates that they should meet with the unreserved support of the gallant Admiral. It is interesting to compare the criticism of the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Arthur Lee) with the criticism of the Member for Portsmouth. The hon. Member for Fare-ham, in his solemn voice, referring to the destroyers, said—and I think he was justified in saying it if he believed the words— there was a most serious deficiency in the whole naval Service, whilst the gallant Admiral thought the provision for destroyers was the one bright little spot in 377 the Naval Estimates. I would suggest that they might settle their differences between themselves, and if they are unable to settle these differences, that they should call in some mutual friend who would voice the sentiments of the people of this country and proclaim a claim on both their Houses.
When we come to examine the large figure of the Naval Estimates of this year, I think they are the logical sequence of the "Dreadnought" policy instituted in 1905. In that year we had an outstanding superiority in battleships, not only in size but also in number. Having that superiority, I think it was a false policy and a false business move for the country to press forward with their new ship, a ship that would put on the scrap heap past battleships and that would invite foreign countries to enter into competition with us on the battleship programme. Some hon. Members may say that is all very well and good, but it is in the past. Have we not lessons to learn from the past? Can we not apply that argument to the present day position? There may, for all I know, be in the Board of Admiralty offices designs of a ship that will place the "Dreadnought" upon the scrap heap in a few years. I do not know, but I do not think it is outside the range of probability. If that is right, is it wise, from the point of view of efficiency, combined with economy, to press forward with the "Dreadnought "? Would it not rather be better to wait and see what other countries are doing in that direction? Hon. Members opposite often speak about "Dreadnoughts." They forget the fine material we have in the British Navy. It used to be said:—Two jolly Frenchmen, one Portugee,One jolly Englishman, beat them all three.But, to judge from the remarks of hon. Members on the platform, though not so much in this House, they evidently think that three Britishers are required to beat one foreigner. I regret to see this large provision made for increased numbers in the Navy. I think the Committee hardly realise the large sum which the Naval Estimates are burdened on account of our personnel. Ten years ago the cost of our personnel was 9¾ millions. To-day it costs us 12¼ millions. So far as I can gather and judge, the German Navy have some fifty-six to fifty-eight thousand men, costing some four to five million pounds a year. The cost per unit of the British Navy is now £93, whilst ten years ago it was £82. Cannot we alter our methods, 378 perhaps, by imitating the methods that the Territorial Force have followed so successfully during the past few years, and enlist the support of men round the coast and of the skilled mechanical knowledge which is very prevalent throughout the country, and endeavour to build up a very large volunteer reserve for the British Navy. The circumstances are different from what they were a few years ago. Today the British Navy is concentrated round the coast of this country. There is a keenness and a desire on the part of the people to know more about the Navy. Cannot we turn that interest to the benefit of the Navy, and thereby economise in the public service? I would just like to put that one point to the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. ARBUTHNOT
It is rather a difficult thing for a new Member at this stage of the Debate to throw any light upon a novel feature of the discussion, but I should like, with the permission of the Committee, as one who certainly cannot pretend to be an expert in naval affairs but who has always taken a considerable interest in the subject, to emphasise a few points which occurred to me in the course of the present Debate. I listened with very great attention and interest to the speech made last night by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). He spoke with great authority, and with his usual eloquence, for Socialism; but Socialism has many tongues, and there are others who have as strong a right as he has to speak on behalf of those who hold Socialist doctrines. I have here the election address of one who speaks with as great authority as the hon. Member for Blackburn, one whose connection with Socialism dates back to the days of Karl Marx, and I should like to read to the Committee what he said at the last election on this question of naval defence. I can quote him dispassionately, because he has been my opponent on two occasions, and I think he is going to be my opponent on a third occasion. The words which were put into his address are as follows:—Under present conditions our food supply, our national independence, our treaty obligations, and our right of asylum, must be defended by adequate forces.The writer of those words is Henry Myers Hyndman, the leader of the Social Democratic Party. When the hon. Member talks about the incompatability of a strong naval defence and social reform I would ask him whether Mr. Hyndman is not as anxious as he is to see those 379 measures of social reform passed which he has so much at heart. I would ask him also if we on these benches are not anxious to see those measures passed too. If he is so anxious to see social measures passed I would suggest that he should use his influence with the Prime Minister to bring to a close the present position in the House of Commons which makes it imperative that all measures of social reform should be indefinitely shelved. I feel somewhat diffident in offering any criticisms on the Front Government Bench, but what has struck me during the present course of Debate is the extraordinary air of injured innocence of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. One would think it was we on this side of the House who had had to eat up all our words and not they. Instead of coming to the House and frankly confessing that we were right and they were wrong, they have made a series of attacks upon hon. Members on this side of the House for having demanded those very things which the Estimates have conceded.
Of course, we on this side of the House are perfectly satisfied with the increase of ships. We always thought they were necessary, and we are consistent. Hon. Members below the Gangway opposed the increase in the Estimates, and they are perfectly consistent too. But what of the consistency of the Government? They have not brought forward one single argument to show why a large programme which is good this year was bad last year. I have considerable sympathy with hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who are opposing these Estimates, although the Government have done their best to temper the wind to the shorn lamb by postponing the payment for this programme to the very latest time possible. Criticisms have been offered on that point by hon. Gentlemen on these benches, and a defence has been put forward by right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side. A part of that defence was very remarkable. I refer to the statement made by the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty two nights ago, when he pointed out that the present Government were providing, I think, 10.1 of the expenditure, whereas during the last six years they were in power the late Government only provided 9.5 of the expenditure. Yes, but the circumstances were entirely different. When the last Government were in power they had a long period of 380 office before them, and they knew that if they did not make good the money in one year, they would have to make it good in the next year. What is the position now? The end is fast approaching. We cannot say exactly when it is going to come, but we do know that the patient is sick of a mortal disease, and must die at no very distant date. I think, if we are to be guided by the proceedings of Thursday last, when right hon. Gentlemen made their will, we may conclude that they themselves expect that it will not be very long before they are relieved from their suffering. Then we know perfectly well right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members behind them will immediately join with hon. Members below the Gangway in condemning us for their extravagance. There will be the same cry of extravagance and bloated armaments, when the bloated armaments will consist in providing these ships which the right hon. Gentleman should have built in past years, and the extravagance will consist in paying the debts that they have left behind them. At the same time, although I have some sympathy with the Labour party in their position, I cannot say that I have not a considerable amount of sympathy with the Government in their position. Who have made necessary the large Estimates of this year? Is it not hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and those who sympathise with them, who have during past years exercised continual pressure upon the Government to prevent them from providing the money necessary to keep up the Navy? History always repeats itself whenever a Liberal Government is in power. Take the years 1892–1895. In the first two of these years, 1892 and 1893, a programme of two battleships was immediately followed by a programme of eight battleships. During the present Government's first year of office the number was reduced to three. The next year it was three, the third year it was two, and then, finally, it was four, and now we come to a sudden rise of eleven battleships. This means a perennial dislocation in the work of shipbuilding and engineering construction. The alternation of large programmes with small programmes is bad for finance, bad for the Navy, bad for the shipbuilders, and bad for the wage-earners. Skilled men have to be discharged and then taken on again, which means inefficiency, because it is impossible to make a highly skilled mechanic in a day. It means also still further dislocation of the labour market and congestion of the labour market, 381 which is one of the problems which at the present time statesmen of all parties are trying to solve. All this could be avoided by a well settled consecutive programme, and I venture to say that what is more needed at the present time than anything else is a Naval Defence Act similar to that passed in 1888, though I hope that any Government which passes such an Act will not make the mistake of finding the ships and not making arrangements to provide the men. The advantages which will come from a well laid down programme seem to me, in the first place, that from a naval point of view you will be able to standardise the ships and stores, and facilitate repairs, and make the supply of spare stores more easy. Secondly, you will be able to prevent a large number of ships falling obsolete at the same time. Types change, and there is always evolution in the type of ships, and I think there should be a gradual replacement. You will be able to obtain advantages which will affect the shipbuilding yards, and you will be able also to obtain the advantages which were referred to last night by the hon. Member for Evesham, namely, you would lift this question of the Navy out of the realm of party discussion. I endorse fully all that he said when he told us that every naval officer, whether he is a politician or not, deplores this continual discussion and wrangle between parties over naval policy. Nothing would be more welcome to all ranks in the Navy than to see naval questions removed from the arena of party politics. I do not think it is possible to give a better example of the extraordinary way in which naval programmes move up and down than in connection with the destroyers which have been mentioned. I have examined the number of destroyers which have been built since the year 1892, when the class was introduced. In eleven programmes we have laid down six or less per annum. In one year there were thirty-two, in another year twelve, in a third year thirty-five, and in four more years fifteen or sixteen, and this year we have had twenty. There seems to be no method. The whole thing is entirely a question of political exigencies, and I am afraid very often it is a question of making a show. We make a tremendous fuss over a destroyer going about forty knots, at an enormous relative cost, and then we go back to twenty-seven-knot destroyers, which I think those who are experts in these matters will tell us are too slow by several knots for 382 modern conditions of war. We have retained on the list the old twenty-seven-knot destroyers entirely for show. I am perfectly certain that every sailor will endorse the statement made in this House that the 27-knot destroyers are obsolete and are perfectly useless for service in the North Sea. On the other hand, Germany has a well thought out programme, and in the year 1917 that country will have 144 destroyers, none of which will date earlier than 1906. How many we shall have depends entirely upon the dynamic pressure which is put upon the Government of the day, by the two contending parties to which the First Lord of the Admiralty referred last night. This want of method in our programme is bad finance, bad for the Navy, and bad for the shipbuilder. It reduces the question of naval supremacy to a mere gamble, although that question is just as important to the humblest working-man as it is to the millionaire. I wonder if the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have ever thought of this point, that the men who are most strongly in favour of an all-powerful Navy are those who know best what war means. In my own humble experience, some years ago, I have seen 600 men swept into eternity in a few seconds by the ram of a battleship. No one knows better than the hon. Member for Evesham what war means. Nobody knows better what a naval war would be, what the horrors and terrors of it really are, than the Noble Lord who sits for Portsmouth. Men like him are the men who are most strong and outspoken in the demand for an all-powerful Navy, and it is because they think that an all-powerful Navy is the greatest safeguard for the peace of the world and the best way to prevent war. We who sit on this side of the House want peace just as much as hon. Members on the other side. We say by all means exercise diplomatic action and all the influence among Governments which can be brought to bear in order to promote peace, but until the time comes when it will be possible to arrive at some mutual understanding between the Governments of the world, we say it will be rank folly, when other Governments are straining night and day to overtake us and to produce an equal if not a superior Navy to our own, to allow them to go ahead of us in the race.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
I have risen for the purpose of joining my protest to the protests already made on this side 383 of the House against the Estimates of the year, and I desire, in the first place, to raise what is a comparatively small point although it has played some part in the Debate. Frequent reference has been made to the reductions which took place in the programme of naval construction in the year 1906–7 and the two following years. The Members who spoke upon the other side attributed these reductions on the part of the Government to pressure exercised by their supporters on this side. On the other hand, they were used by the Members of the Government as a defence against attacks made upon them by their own supporters. Now I contend that the reductions made during these three years were not made as a result of any pressure exercised by Members on this side of the House. I wish I could congratulate myself that the followers of the Government have ever had so much influence as to secure reductions of that kind.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
We did our best, I do not deny that. I am quite ready to confess that our best was a very small best. The reductions in these years as I understand them, and as they were explained to this House, were made in entire conformity with the statement of policy made by Lord Cawdor in 1905. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO. no."] Yes, let me try to make that good. The Estimates which were laid in 1906–7 were Estimates prepared by the opposite party before they left power, and the statement of policy prepared by Lord Cawdor recommended that there should be four battleships constructed, and that was stated to have been made after the review of the projected programmes of other Powers. These projected programmes had unquestionably been referred to in the first instance in the year 1906–7, and when Vote 8 came up for discussion in this House in July of that year the then Secretary to the Admiralty told the House that not one of the ships that the Board of Admiralty had in view in November, 1905, as to be laid down in the course of the year, had then been laid down, and it was because of the delay on the part of foreign Powers to proceed with their programmes that our programme was reduced from four ships to three. In the next programme— 1907–8—when the Estimates came up for discussion, Mr. Robertson, now Lord Lochee, explained that they proposed to 384 limit the new construction to three large ships, because not one of the ships that the Admiralty had in view when it drew, up the statement of policy in 1905 had yet been laid down. It was in view of the fact that these projected programmes had not been proceeded with by foreign Powers that the reduction was made. It was not the result of any pressure exercised from Members on this side of the House upon the Government, and the reduction of 1908–9 was of exactly a similar kind. They were all made on Estimates presented to this House after a review of the projected programme of foreign Powers, and presented to this House in view of the state of these programmes.
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty has frequently used these reductions as a defence of himself and the Government against attacks from Members on this side of the House. We have always taken our stand, in the first instance, on the fact that the Liberal party was pledged practically to a man to effect a reduction both in the scale of the strength and the expenditure, and it is our contention that not one of the reductions, made in these years was a reduction made consistently with that pledge. I pass from that to refer to a point to which I myself attach very much larger importance. The statement made on Monday by the First Lord in introducing the Estimates was certainly of an exceptional character. He justified the Estimates by appealing to the responsibility of the Board of Admiralty, and he did not mention from the beginning to the end of his speech the Government of which he was a Member. It was the Board of Admiralty, he told us, that was responsible for safeguarding our shores, our trade, and our Empire. It was the Board of Admiralty that was responsible to this House.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
And the Government.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
No, I took the words down. It was the Board of Admiralty which was responsible to this House for framing the Estimates with a due regard to economy. We have heard in recent years a good deal about the encroachments of the great public Departments upon the functions of both the Government and the House of Commons. But I do not think we have ever had so open a confirmation of those encroachments as the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman on Monday. Members do not 385 come to this House as naval experts; they come as men desirous of learning what is the situation in which this country stands in relation to other countries of the world, and of forming a judgment of their own as to our requirements in view of the situation. In trying to form their judgment upon that question they have a right to the assistance of the Government of the day, and I say that we never have had any assistance from this Government, during any of the years in which it has held power, towards the formation of such a judgment for ourselves. The Board of Admiralty has got one clearly defined function. It has nothing at all to do with determining policy, and we in this House have always held that it is policy that determines Estimates. What the Board of Admiralty has to do is to say, "Given your policy you want so many ships and so many men to ensure its success." It is this House, and this House alone, which can lay down what the policy is. If the Board of Admiralty or the First Lord, as representing the Board, came down to this House and suggested, say, that we should have a Navy equal to the four strongest navies in the world, what would this House say? The House would say, that it was policy that determines naval strength, and that as policy is within the hands of Members of this House they would not vote any expenditure greater than that which is justified by the policy which they themselves propose to pursue.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the policy that lies behind these Estimates that are now on the Table. I know that there are Members, particularly on the other side, who have got a perfectly easy and perfectly ready answer to a question of that kind. They say the policy which must determine our naval expenditure is the policy embodied in the two-Power standard. I quite understand that, but I should like the Committee just to look back at the history of that standard and compare the circumstances existing at the origin of the acceptance of that standard with the position in which we find ourselves to-day. That standard was originally a standard determined by the real requirements of this country. It was a standard originally adopted to meet the alliance of France and Russia—an alliance which was supposed to be, and, I think, on good grounds supposed to be, hostile to us, and an alliance which might at any moment have led to war between us and both of those 386 Powers. I say it was that alliance which led to the adoption on the part of this country of the two-Power standard, and it was adopted generally on both sides of the House, and by the country outside, because it was intended to meet the situation in which this country stood in relation to other nations of the world. But that situation passed away almost entirely in 1904. In that year we entered into an agreement with France by which all the outstanding differences which had been for so long a threatening cause of war between ourselves and that Power were settled, and I say that from that day till now the two-Power standard has never found in the country the same general acceptance that it found before that. Since that date the two-Power standard, instead of being determined by reference to the real situation in which the country found itself, has become a pure abstraction. Hon. Members opposite have always stated that it ought to be adhered to, but it is none the less an abstraction with no relation to the position in which this country finds itself among the nations of the world.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
It is its chief virtue in the view of hon. Members opposite, but it is its chief defect in the view of Members on this side. I remember an interesting phrase used by Lord Lochee in reference to it. He was pointing to the origin of the standard and asserting that it was now a mere abstraction, and then he went on to say that it was a mere chimera bombinaus in vacuo. It is a chimera, and nothing but a chimera, to say we are to maintain a Navy equal to the two greatest navies in the world, no matter what our relations with the Powers possessing such navies are, and no matter what the relations of those two Powers are to each other. Take for example Germany and the United States. We are, it is said, to maintain a Navy equal to the navies possessed by those two Powers without any regard at all to the character of our relations with either. We may be on terms of the most absolute friendship with both; there may be no conceivable probability—there may be no probability at all—that any man could foresee a war between those Powers and us, and yet we are to maintain a Navy equal to the navies of both Powers. These Powers may be arm- 387 ing against each other—the relations between the two Powers may be of a hostile character—and they may go on building up a large Navy the one against the other, and yet, though our relations with both may be of the friendliest character, we are to build a Navy equal to both. I say that a standard of that kind is a preposterous standard, and I venture to say that this country will not adhere to it. It is not the standard of practical statesmanship, but in my view it is, as I have said, a preposterous one; it is, moreover, a standard that has no relation at all to policy of any character that any ordinary person can understand.
I come back to the question which is associated with this question of policy. What is the condition of the world at the present moment? What are the relations which exist now so far as the information of ordinary men can understand them? What are the relations which exist between the nations of the world at this moment? I am not wrong in saying that we have an outlook on the world which was practically never more peaceful than it is at this moment so far as causes of conflict are concerned. I should like to be allowed to quote to the Committee that very remarkable statement with which most of us are already familiar made by Lord Rosebery when he addressed the Press Conference last year. He said:—There is an absolute absence of any questions that ordinarily lead to war.…All forebodes peace, and yet, at the same time, combined with this total absence of all questions of friction, there never was so threatening and so overpowering a preparation for war. …We live in the midst of a silent warfare in which not a drop of blood is shed in anger, but in which the last drop is extracted from the living body by the lancets of European statesmen.Then he goes on:—…I begin to feel uneasy at the outcome of it all, and wonder where it will stop, or if it is going to bring back Europe into a state of barbarism, or whether it will cause a catastrophe in which the working men of the world will say, 'We will have no more of this madness, this foolery which is grinding us to powder.'That statement by Lord Rosebery was endorsed a few days later by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who said he endorsed every word Lord Rosebery said, and added:—We are in comparatively calm weather, not in stormy weather, in foreign politics at the present moment but the excessive expenditure on armaments makes the weather sultry.Both of these statesmen agree that there is no real cause of conflict between us and 388 the other nations of the world, or between other nations, apart altogether from our relations to them. The whole source of the threatening aspect of affairs in the world at this moment arises not from any positive difference between peoples, but it arises entirely from the rivalry in armaments. We, on our part, say that we are piling up our armaments not for the purpose of any offensive action against any people in the whole world. Our purposes are entirely defensive. The Germans say exactly the same thing. They, too, have no offensive purposes of any kind. They are entirely concerned with the necessity for defence. The United States say precisely the same thing; so do all the great, Powers of the world. They are all arming, not because they have anything positive to gain from their armaments, but solely in order that they may, according to their own statement, maintain peace. It is a spirit of suspicion that exists in the world at large at this moment that is the sole source of the threatening position in which we stand, and that spirit of suspicion is certainly due to the constant piling up of armaments on the part of the Great Powers. I should like to ask any hon. Member if he can specify any other cause of conflict than these suspicions engendered by every nation watching what every other nation is doing for the piling up of all these armaments. If that is the cause there is one way of removing it, but I quite recognise that it requires a man of very large influence and authority to carry it out. You can remove that spirit of suspicion by reducing armaments. If Germany reduced her armaments this year for the express purpose of bringing about a better spirit in the world should we follow her example? I am perfectly positive that we should be ashamed not to do it. If we reduced armaments will any hon. Member say that that would be without effect on the world?
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
In 1906–7 and in 1908–9 I say we did not do it for any such purpose at all. Neither expressly nor by implication were the reductions made in 1906–7 and 1907–8 and the following year made for the sake of giving an example to other Powers.
§ Mr. LEE
The hon. Member has forgotten the statement made by Lord Lochee in this House on the introduction of the Shipbuilding Vote in July 1906 or 1907, in which he stated that the Government were 389 dropping one battleship out of the programme by way of an invitation to the Hague Conference to agree to a reduction of armaments, and that only in the event of the Hague Conference not agreeing to the reduction of armaments would the Government build a third ship. That is, in effect, what happened.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
Speaking from memory, the statement issued with the Estimates of 1907–8 was to the effect that three would be constructed unless some agreement could be arrived at in the Hague Conference, in which case only two would be proceeded with. That is true, but it is not the kind of example I have in my mind at all, and I deny that the reductions in 1906–7 or 1908–9 were made by way of giving an example to other Powers. In the year of the Hague Conference, 1907, there may be a certain justification for what the hon. Gentleman says, but the reductions in the first and third years were not made, either by implication or in express terms, for the purpose of giving an example to foreign Powers. I repeat that the sole source from which all this piling of armaments springs is to be found in the spirit of misgiving aroused on the part of all peoples simply from the piling up of armaments, and if only there were one country now with spirit and courage enough to give an example, that example would have a worldwide effect. It requires a man of great authority and great courage to enter upon such a policy, but I am none the less convinced that if we had such a man the world would have reason to be permanently grateful to him.
Another point which has been discussed in the course of these Debates is the relation between our expenditure on armaments and our domestic requirements. One of the complaints that we on this side have against the Governments of recent years—I make no distinction between the two sides—is that they are directing far too much of the intelligence as well as the resources of this country towards means of providing defence against possible attacks from outside. That is not the primary task of statesmen. I do not dispute its immense importance. We are bound to maintain armaments sufficient to defend ourselves against any reasonably probable attack from a foreign Power or foreign Powers. I have never disputed that at all. The question really, after all, is as much a question of emphasis as of anything else. I do dispute with all my 390 strength the wisdom of maintaining an abstract standard without regard at all to the relations between us and other Powers, but I do not dispute the other point. I contend, however, that it is the first task of statesmanship, and that it has always been the boast of the Liberal party, and it was at one time also the boast of the Conservative party, that they laid emphasis in the first place on the internal and domestic needs of the people when considering the distribution of the resources of the country, rather than on the question of armaments.
After all, there are two ways of making a people great. One I think is a very temporary and inefficient way, by building great armaments, and, through these great armaments maintaining, at any rate for a time, a great position among the nations of the world. The other is to further the well being of the people of the country as a whole. During the last century, at any rate, that was the primary object of the policy both of Conservatives and of Liberals. There were demands for a great Navy and a great Army made during the last sixty years of last century, and the leaders of both parties then joined in quelling those demands, and in maintaining the strength of our Army and our Navy within the limits of our necessities. The need for developing our internal resources is becoming more and more recognised every year. I will take one case as an illustration of that need. There is not a man in the House who does not recognise that we require many millions more money now than we can actually get for furthering the educational interests of the people of our country, and it would be immensely better for us to use some of the millions that we are spending this year upon these "Dreadnoughts" in improving the intelligence and the character of the children of the country. The people whose physical well-being and moral and intellectual interests are being improved to the utmost possible extent by their Government will have a destiny among the nations of the world which no other nation, whatever its armaments, can deprive it of.
§ Mr. G. F. HOHLER
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House, at any rate, directed his attack against the leaders of his own party, and I thought, if there was one point which was made perfectly clear, it was that the Prime Minister justified his reduction of the building of "Dreadnoughts" upon the ground that he endeavoured at the Hague Tribunal to 391 induce Germany to exercise the same spirit of moderation. We know that that failed entirely. On the contrary, Germany progressed, and therefore, so far as it is suggested that no endeavour has been made to limit armaments, it is not correct. In reference to the question of the Navy of this country, we have been told again and again that it is of vital importance to our people, and it concerns the working classes infinitely more than the wealthier classes of the community. We can remove ourselves; we have larger command of means, but it is the poor who, in time of a rise of prices, would suffer infinitely and to their own undoing. Since I have been a Member of the House I have been interested in the observations which have from time to time come from the Labour Members, and from hon. Members generally. They seem to assume that they represent the democracy and that we do not. I wonder who it is that we do represent? It so happens that I am a representative of Chatham, and I succeed a Labour Member. So Chatham is in this amphibious state—that when a Labour Member represents it it is a democracy, and when I represent it it is something else. Do not let us bandy words to and fro like that. We both represent the democracy on either side of the House, but there are those in the democracy who think with us that this matter of the Navy is a national and not a party question, and they are consistent in the view that we have taken that it ought to be maintained at its proper strength.
In regard to these Estimates, speaking for myself, I am in entire agreement with them, and whether or not hon. Members who have spoken were part of the forlorn hope of thirty-four who led the division against the Government, I cannot tell. If they were not, they were lacking in courage, and if they were, then at least the Government should be grateful to us for our support. I believe that an impartial review of the circumstances of our naval programme quite clearly shows that this expenditure is neither excessive nor unexpected. I wish to quote a few figures. Substantially, the sums which deal with the question of naval construction are, I think, on Vote A, under the three heads: Personnel, Dockyards and Material for Dockyards, and Contract Work. If you take the last four years of the Unionist Government you will find that the aggregate expenditure under 392 these three heads amounted to about sixty-seven millions. If you take the last four years of the late Government, comparing like periods with like periods, you will find that the expenditure under these three heads amounted to fifty-seven millions—obviously a shortage of ten millions on the amount which we considered necessary for the safety of the country. What is the result? We have got to spend it now. Can anybody be surprised? It was the programme Lord Cawdor proposed which was suspended. I accept what the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government said, that they did it with the view of inviting Germany to suspend her shipbuilding. We suspended our programme, but found we had made a futile endeavour to induce Germany to do so. The result is that we are now incurring costs in order to make good what was temporary leeway.
I have listened with great interest to the speeches on opposite sides. Some, no doubt, have been directed against ourselves, but I think I truly represent them when I say that they were more truly directed against the Treasury Bench. What is the standard which those Gentlemen set up? To that question no answer has been made so far. The hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Murray Macdonald) did not assist us. He referred to the two-Power standard, and I understand that he suggested that that meant two Powers in alliance. I never heard such a suggestion before. What is his standard? We have tried conciliation, and we have tried moderation, but without effect. The hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) moved to reduce the Vote by 3,000 men. What is the standard he gave us? He gave us none. A most eloquent speech was delivered by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), but what was the standard he gave? The first suggestion he made was with respect to diplomacy. I am a great believer in diplomacy, but it fails. I wonder whether hon. Members opposite, speaking at a time of extreme peace, are mindful of the breaking of the Berlin Treaty quite recently. That might happen again. I think I am doing no injustice to the hon. Member for Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) when I remind the House that he asked whether we should mind if Germany gobbled up Holland and Belgium. I think we should probably mind very much if another treaty were torn. Where is your diplomacy or good faith in such cases? The fact is that peace is only secured by 393 honourable and sufficient strength. It will not do to imperil our greatness by diminishing reasonable expenditure on our Navy.
There was another statement made to us by the hon. Member for Blackburn. It startled me, I am not a Socialist, and never shall be, but he undoubtedly is, and I have no doubt that he profoundly believes in Socialism. He told us at the conclusion of his speech that Socialism was making war impossible, because the Socialists in the ranks of the Army and Navy made people afraid to fight. If he looks for his Elysium of peace from that source, it is a long way remote from our time. We have had no standard whatever given to us. I am satisfied that in this matter the Opposition—at any rate I can speak for myself—are entirely in accord with the Government on the programme they have proposed, and although I have noticed during the Debate emphatic Affirmations and denials, I do not think anything that has been said has passed beyond fair criticism of that programme.
I should like shortly to refer to a few matters which strike me as being important. First of all, I attach great importance to the personnel of the Navy. I am by no means satisfied that the 3,000 men we are adding to this branch of the Service is sufficient. As to nucleus crews, I have noticed that questions have been addressed to the First Lord from time to time with a view of ascertaining the size of nucleus crews and reduced nucleus crews of the ships, but he has never answered. I think I am right in saying that his reason has been that it would not be in the public interest. I should like to know what was the size of the nucleus crews and the reduced nucleus crews on the battleships of the 4th Division of the Home Fleet in January or December last. I have reason to believe that the reduced nucleus crews were about forty-five to seventy-five men and boys. I wish to know whether that is a true statement of the position as to the manning of these vessels at that time. It seems to me an important matter. I should also like some information in reference to our Marines. The First Lord of the Admiralty has told us that they are to be reduced. I rather gather that the arrangement is not quite complete. I do think that he ought to inform the House what is the true proportion of Marines to the full complement of the ship. Replying to a question put to him by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford), the First Lord told us 394 that the Marines had been reduced by no less than 1,600 men. These Estimates propose a further reduction of 450 men, making upwards of 2,000 since the last Unionist Government left office. I wish to draw attention to the fact that the total body of Marines given in these Estimates number 17,100 men, but there is a matter that should not escape observation, namely, that of this aggregate over 1,600 are band and musicians, and 200 are bugler boys, so that I think I am accurate in saying that we have left, approximately, for fighting purposes 15,000. I should like some information as to the status and position of the Marines. What are we to understand is the relation and the proportion they bear towards the rest of the crew? If we had that information we would be able to form some judgment as to what is to happen to the Marines, and I think it would be satisfactory not only to hon. Members on this side of the House, but also to that gallant body themselves.
As to the question of our dock accommodation, the Secretary to the Admiralty last night enumerated the number of docks. I have no doubt this enumeration was correct, but what I want information upon is this: Has the Government a single dock on the East Coast capable of accommodating a "Dreadnought" for repair? That seems to me a most vital point, and I suggest to the hon. Member that there is no such dock. I would ask: Is it not necessary that immediate provision should be made for that purpose? I assume that the answer which will probably be given is that we have ordered a floating dock which is to be stationed on the Medway. In the Estimates it is carefully said, in reference to the floating dock which is to be stationed at Portsmouth, that we have ordered a suction dredger, and that we are preparing a site for fixing the dock at Portsmouth. I observe that both are to be completed in this financial year, though the Admiralty have made no preparation and no provision for the berthing of the floating dock in the Medway. It may be an oversight, and it may be that some Supplementary Estimate will be introduced to deal with that.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Our view is that there are several deep pools already existing in the Medway where this dock can be suitably accommodated. There is provision in the Estimates amounting to £5,000 for mooring that particular dock.
§ Mr. HOHLER
In the portion of the Estimates that deals with works at Chatham it did not strike me that there was anything which would adequately cover the dock accommodation.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
At page 94 of the Estimates you will find that there is distributed among different items £5,000, a sum which will ultimately be a total of £20,000, to be expended on the moorings for the floating docks.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I am exceedingly obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that information.
There is one other question, that of torpedo boats and destroyers, which strikes me as being of vital importance. I understand that the German Fleet are, by reason of their limited coaling capacity, wholly incapable of leaving the North Sea. They have practically no coaling stations. My view is that the importance of these torepdo boats and destroyers is to secure that that fleet should be kept there as far as possible should the emergency arise. Therefore I do attach the greatest importance to the sufficiency of those boats. I wish now to refer to the question of the workmen in dockyards. There are, as we know, matters which are now before the Admiralty for their consideration—questions of wages—and in the consideration of them is involved the point that was raised the other day by the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald). To the question of the adequacy of those wages I trust the Admiralty will give just and fair attention. I suggest that a wage of 20s. or 20s. 6d. is wholly inadequate when you have got 5s. 6d. to pay for rent, which is the case in Chatham. I am sure that these points are quite open in the mind of the Financial Secretary, and that he will accord me, if necessary, an interview on the subject. The question of wages paid outside is urged against workmen in my Constituency, and the fact that in the dockyards they are working shorter hours than they do outside. My answer is, "You get better work for your money, so that ought not to be taken into account in comparing the standard of wages paid in the dockyard with those received outside." I put that for this reason: It seems to me that the pledge offered by the Government in answer to the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester was not wholly satisfactory, 396 because I do not think that this point was really present to his mind.
The next question to which I would refer is the question of establishment. On this point I do urge on the Government that those men who have served them long and faithfully should not, by reason of the establishment having been closed for three or four years, lose their right to be entered on the establishment because in the intervening period the age has risen to a point that is against them. That is of vital importance, and it is a point in which the men in the dockyard have an immense interest. I appeal to the Government, in dealing with this matter, to deal with it on the principle that they, as good employers, advocating old age pensions throughout this country and unemployment pensions, ought to be forced to provide them, for their own employés, who are anxious to contribute to them. I now wish to refer to the ratings in the Navy. I have had the experience of being brought into contact with a great number of them, and I wish specially to appeal in the case of officers' cooks and stewards. It is thought by the Government that at the age of fifty these men are wholly incapable of cooking further for His Majesty's officers. That seems to me to be the very age that most people are elevated to the Bench, and why on earth people of that age are not qualified to cook food for officers I cannot understand. This regulation has caused great hardship, and I know of several cases of unfortunate fellows thrown out at the age of fifty who cannot get anything to do, and who entered the Navy without any suggestion of a time limit of years, or any suggestion that they could not perform their duties when they arrived at the age of fifty. I understand that it is by an Admiralty Order of last year that these men are thrown out. It is in that class of case that I shall appeal to His Majesty's Government and to the Financial Secretary to try and find occupation for the men who are disemployed.
There are other ratings which in my judgment are also unsatisfactory. The coopers, the painters, the plumbers, and the blacksmiths, starting respectively at 16s. 11d. and 18s., only rise to 21s. and 21s. 6d. for the whole period, sometimes twenty-one years. There is no progressive rate of pay. That is a matter which really deserves to be looked into. There are other matters which I hope to bring before the Foreign Secretary. I only refer to 397 these on this occasion because this is a Debate which not only deals with the importance of the Navy to the country, but in which there is a reference in the Statement of the First Lord to what is being done for the personnel of the Navy and the personnel of the dockyards; and, therefore, I think it not inappropriate, but on the contrary, quite proper, representing, as I do, a dockyard Constituency, and being somewhat familiar with the troubles—and they are numerous—of the men, that I should draw attention to these matters in this House in order that I may, frankly and fairly, discuss them with those who are responsible for the administration of the Navy.
§ Mr. ALLEN BAKER
I cannot conceive how any hon. or right hon. Member in this House can contemplate this new and, in my opinion, avoidable burden without a feeling of sadness, if not of utter despair. At the last Hague Conference our chief representative, Sir Edward Fry, showed that, while in 1898 European countries spent £251,000,000 on armaments, in 1906, the amount was £320,000,000, or an increase of £69,000,000, or upwards of 27 per cent. "This enormous growth," he added, "represents the Christian peace of the civilised world in the twentieth century." I wonder what our representative at the next Hague Conference will have to report if the same rate of expenditure continues during a further four years? There is more than £9,000,000 increase in our Navy Estimates this year over those of 1907–8. What will next year's be? This we are not told, but only that there are five large armoured ships, five protected cruisers, and twenty destroyers; and submarines to cost £750,000. Are these five large armoured ships to be of the same construction as those that are now under construction, or are they to be like those which are proposed for the United States of America, costing probably £3,500,000 or £4,000,000 sterling each? I suppose we have, at all events in these Estimates for this year, a burden to face in the course, say, of the next two years, of not less than £15,000,000 sterling, or perhaps a considerably larger sum. It is not only the intolerable burden of the present year, but what we have to face in years to come, that should produce pause and hesitation on the part of the Committee before passing these Estimates. Already the original "Dreadnought" of four or five years ago is what I suppose our American friends would call a back 398 number, and the present eight, those of last year's programme, will be soon outclassed, probably by the five that are now being talked of, and will soon go on the scrap-heap; so that possibly by the time the last of the five are constructed, we shall be talking of fleets of airships, and these latest "Dreadnoughts" will then become obsolete.
Where is all this mad competition to end? Surely we are approaching at express speed that cataclysm which, as the Foreign Minister said, will sooner or later submerge civilisation. We, in common with other European Powers, are spending more than half of our great and swollen revenues in preparations to kill each other. And, again to quote the Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman said, "It has become a satire, a reflection on civilisation." And, what shall we say of it as a reflection on the Christianity which we as a nation profess and which is also professed by our principal European competitors? How shall we justify this expenditure when there is no cause of quarrel existing between us and any other country? I fully and entirely endorse the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk Burghs in that eloquent speech which he has just delivered. There is urgent and pressing need for long-delayed social reform. The working classes, the unemployed, and multitudes of their children, in this, the richest country in the world, are crying for bread.
In my opinion, it is not meet that we should take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs of war. What is there to justify this expenditure? Certainly not the European situation. We are friendly with every European Power. We know the purpose for which the German navy is being constructed. We have it stated, and we know that they are not constructing their navy with any purpose of attacking this country. It certainly is not acceleration on the part of Germany. That bubble, I think, has been burst, and we have proof to show that there has not been the alleged acceleration that was claimed by the Government last year. It is certainly not the "Dreadnoughts" that Germany will have in April, 1912. As pointed out by the Navy League Annual, the comparative figures are that we shall have at that date 101 battleships and armoured cruisers of 1,493,800 tons, and Germany will have forty-eight battleships and armoured cruisers of 578,120 tons. It is certainly not on account of the feeling 399 of the German people towards this country. Of these feelings we have a thousand evidences; they are of a most friendly and cordial character. All the interchanges of visits that have taken place between the Sovereigns, the visitations between representative groups of our people, the visits between the representatives of the Christian churches and universities of the two countries, have proved, and proved absolutely, that on the part of the two peoples there is no enmity or cause for this policy. If the influence of our Legislators, if those in authority could grasp hands across the North Sea, as have done the representatives of the peoples, we should then, I think, have a chance to redress these heavy burdens in both our countries. I think we have every right to believe that what the German people express through their representatives, and those in high places, as to the feeling of the German people, should be credited, and credited absolutely. In London a few days ago I had the honour of hearing a short speech by Prince Henry at the German Embassy. He said:—I sincerely hope your nation may in future have the same confidence in our Sovereign and our Government as we have in your dearly beloved and much respected Sovereign and your Government.We pledged ourselves in 1906 that we would reduce the swollen expenditure of our predecessors. Instead of that we have permitted ourselves to be saddled with both naval and military burdens entirely out of proportion to our needs for defence, We know that has been the result of the scaremongering Press arid of the conscriptionist party in this House and the other House, and possibly of the campaign of Tariff Reform, but I believe the result has also been very largely owing to a want of highest statesmanship and true courage on the part of our leaders and on the part of the Government. It has been truly said that the scale of expenditure on armaments is dependent on policy. My hon. Friend below me, I think, proved that in conclusive words. Is our policy one of aggression, and are we prepared to become a nation in arms with twenty-three army corps equal to Germany's, or is our aim to be a competition in the arts of industry and peace and Christian civilisation? Our strength and our greatness in the past has been our reliance upon the justice of our policy and the courage with which we have championed the cause of weaker peoples, and our future greatness will depend upon 400 whether we are still prepared to believe that right is might, and that force is no remedy. A well-known American Senator, Elihu Hoot, said:—''The nation which has with it the moral force of the world's approval is strong, and the nation which rests under the world's condemnation is weak, however great its material power.Our own Secretary for War used very true words when he said:—It is not brute force but moral power that commands predominance in the world.I think that a little more of that strength and moral courage which characterised some of our great statesmen in the past would stand us in good stead at the present time. I hope the time will come when we shall have a more excellent way of settling international disputes. No nation took a more leading or more honourable part in establishing the Hague tribunal than this country under the leadership of Lord Salisbury, and with Lord Pauncefote as principal plenipotentiary at The Hague. I believe that now we have it absolutely in our power to make that tribunal a complete success for the settlement of international disputes, by agreeing to abandon the right of capture of private property at sea in time of war. I believe that is the one thing which, if this country had the courage to renounce, would be the means of making possible an agreement with Germany with very little delay. I was delighted to hear that view very strongly expressed in the very eloquent speech of my Friend the Member for West Leeds in his maiden address to this House. I may say it delighted the House, and I hope that many such speeches may follow. The same view was put forward by another hon. Member. Our refusal to abandon the right of capture was one of the reasons why the Conference was not attended with greater success, and why the reduction of armaments did not become an accomplished fact. We have some notable examples of what this policy of coming to a friendly agreement between nations effects. Much has been said about our relations with the United States of America, and I am afraid we forget that a great and notable treaty or agreement was come to with the United States nearly a hundred years ago. This has resulted in our having had for nearly a century the greatest amity and harmony between the two great peoples. Before the war of 1812 the Canadian Lakes were full of gunboats, which were 401 a source of constant troubles between the two countries. The then President had a correspondence with our Foreign Minister on this side—I believe a predecessor of the Noble Lord who sits for Maidstone (Lord Castlereagh)—and in 1817 an agreement was made, to be terminated by either party on six months' notice, for the abolition of all these means of conflict. Since the taking away of the warships from these great inland seas, the greatest peace and harmony has prevailed between Canada and the United States. An agreement was entered into to get rid of that which caused war, and as a result we have had this great prosperity and this peace between the two countries ever since. This is an example that, I think, might well be followed; and it is almost tragic to think that Canada is now being urged or induced to start a small navy which is not required. Another example was that of Chili and the Argentine in 1902–3. There, again, the two countries agreed that all their differences could be settled by arbitration. The result was that each country had two battleships for sale, and our "Triumph" and "Swiftsure" were purchased from Chili at the conclusion of the agreement between the two countries. Then there was an increase of building in Brazil and in Peru; and the two countries (Chile and the Argentine), with the example of Europe before them, are now again constructing naval armaments, not against each other, but, as they believe, against European aggression, and the aggression of surrounding States. These are examples which, I think, might well be followed by the countries of Europe, and in my view it simply wants courage on the part of our statesmen to consider what makes a nation great and to set an example which will be followed. The greatest danger in connection with these Estimates is that our increase will be answered by corresponding increase by the other nations. The facts of history prove this to be the rule, and there is no relative gain of power. Each makes an increase in its armaments no doubt believing it is for self-defence and never for aggression. But this increase of armaments is in itself an assumption that there is another nation, or nations, who are waiting to attack, and so "suspicion breeds suspicion," and battleship begets battleship, and the very increase breeds danger of their use. While no nation is relatively stronger by reason of these increased armaments, all become weaker in both moral and material force. We have state- 402 ments that I think might be very well revived which were made by leading statesmen of the past. Sir Robert Peel in 1841, when the Army and Navy Estimates were only eleven millions, an amount which he thought excessive, said:—Is not the time come when the powerful countries of Europe should reduce the armaments which they hare so sedulously raised? Is not the time come when they should be prepared to declare that there is no use in such overgrown establishments? What is the advantage of one Power greatly increasing its Army and Navy? Does it not see that other Powers will follow its example? The consequence of this must be that no increase of relative strength will accrue to any one Power, but there must be a uniform consumption of the resources of every country in military preparations. The true interest of Europe is to come to some common accord, so as to enable every country to reduce those military armaments, which belong to a state of war rather than of peace.Mr. Disraeli in 1859 said:—Let us terminate this disastrous system of rival expenditure and mutually agree, with no hypocrisy but in a manner and under circumstances which can admit of no doubt—by a reduction of armaments that peace is really our policy.If our policy is a peaceful policy, and if we have not aggression as our policy, then to maintain these swollen Estimates is, I submit, entirely unnecessary for the defence of these islands, and they distinctly provoke an increase on the part of other peoples, while none of the Nations is relatively any stronger. I cannot resume my seat without saying a word as to what I believe is the intense feeling of the Christian communities in this country in regard to this policy of increasing armaments. I am perfectly certain that not only Christian England, but the whole of Christendom is "sick unto death" of the whole business of settling international disputes by force, a method that is irrational, barbarous, and entirely opposed in every particular to the precepts and example of the Prince of Peace. In this Assembly we profess to invoke the Divine blessing on our acts and deliberations. To-day, at the opening of this sitting, we repeated the words, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth." That Kingdom is not one of force, and it is not going to be brought about by an unnecessary increase of battleships. He who taught humanity that prayer also said that, "He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword."
Is it too much to hope and pray for that from this Christian land some great leader may arise who, with commanding eloquence and force, will advocate a Christian method of settling international disputes? Such a leader would rally to his standard untold hosts of those who have 403 borne all too long these militant burdens. And why should it seem impossible that other great countries should follow such a lead?—they, too, are bearing the same intolerable crushing burdens. Between £400,000,000 and £500,000,000 a year the Chancelleries of Europe must find for its armed camp. To alter such a condition of affairs, the growth of centuries, would be little less than a miracle. But the age of miracles is not past—who would have believed possible that miracle in Turkey?—that peaceful revolution which in a single day brought to birth a new nation. It was prophesied that, "A nation shall be born in a day." It was also prophesied that the time shall come when nations shall not lift up the sword against nations, neither shall they learn the war any more. I appeal to this Christian Parliament in these last days, when we profess Christianity, that we should take our part, and take the lead in this great League of Peace.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
I think everyone on both sides of the House will recognise the sincerity that ran through the speech of the hon. Member for East Finsbury (Mr. J. Allen Baker), and also through the speech of the hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Murray Macdonald), who spoke in very much the same strain. If I rise for the purpose of replying to the arguments they have put before the Committee I am sure they will realise that I do so without questioning in any way the sincerity of their beliefs. It is simply because if those beliefs could be translated into a policy for this country they would lead to an irreparable disaster that I feel bound to take this opportunity of dissenting from their views as strongly as I possibly can. The hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs referred at some length to this question of the two-Power standard, which has been debated during the last two days. He was perfectly fair in the account which he gave of the views held by the hon. Gentlemen who sit upon this side of the House. He recognised that our views were entirely divergent from his, and of course they are. He said that the definition of the two-Power standard, which we believed in, not which we set up, because it is a standard which, after all, until recently has been adopted and believed in by both political parties, was a preposterous standard—that is, the definition of the two-Power standard as the next two strongest Powers, whichever 404 they may be, and wherever they may be situated, with a margin above. He called that a preposterous standard, and he proceeded to explain why he thought it was so. He said if you take the next two nations, perhaps one of them, or even both of them, might be very friendly to this country, that they might be two nations even arming against each other, find how then are you going to make your standard apply to them? That was his argument. He said the Powers, or one of them, might be our best friend; that is perfectly true, but we hold just as strongly that the two-Power standard should apply to the two next strongest Powers, whichever they may be, and wherever they may be situated, because, we say, if once you start making exceptions, or making any discriminations whatever, then the whole standard becomes impossible and absurd.
Let us follow his argument to its legitimate conclusion—suppose you exclude one of them—it may be the United States of America, because they are closely bound to us by ties of blood and language and sympathy. You say, "No, we will not count the United States of America, be cause it is," as I always trust it will be, "our best friend." I am sure there is no man in this House who believes more strongly than I do that the possibility of war between Great Britain and America is almost beyond the region even of the most disordered imagination; but we say this standard, which is a formula, if you like, a rule of thumb, is solely for the purpose of arriving at a standard of strength, which shall be sufficient for all possible contingencies. Once you start making exceptions, you might then go and make an exception in the case of France, a country with which you are very friendly; then Japan comes forward and says you are friendly with those countries—
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
Why do you arm against allies with whom you have an offensive and a defensive alliance?
§ Mr. LEE
It is not a question of arming against them—it is a question of computing them in the formula which creates the two-Power Standard. Japan says, "we are allied with you, and surely we also ought to be in the same position as the United States." See where that leads you to. Then you come to Germany, and Germany says, "You made exceptions in the case of all the other Powers, are you not friendly with us; are we the Power against which you are directing your 405 armaments?" The result would at once lead to trouble with other countries. It would necessarily lead to most invidious distinctions, and the only thing which has made this standard hitherto quite unobjectionable to the world at large has been that it has been recognised by the world at large that it applies to all Powers, quite regardless of diplomatic relations, alliances, or anything else. I am quite aware, of course, that the Government has recently qualified the standard by the introduction into it of certain geographical considerations and other matters which no human being has been able to understand. To that extent they have greatly confused and weakened the value of the two-Power standard.
Our position on this side is perfcetly clear with regard to it. We wish the two-Power standard to apply to the two next strongest Powers, quite irrespective of what our relationship with those Powers may be, because it is absolutely impossible to foresee two years ahead what our relationship with any given foreign Power may be. Yet, if you take any shorter period, you run a great risk, because it takes at least two years, if not more, to build a battleship, to make an addition to the strength of your Navy. I do not expect to convert the hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs. He has stated his views quite frankly, as I have stated ours quite frankly. I think he will see, whether he agrees with our reasons or not, at any rate they have some logical basis, and no argument which he has put forward will, I think, weaken us in the view we hold of the two-Power standard. The hon. Member went on to say that the real remedy, in his opinion, for this devastating growth of armaments, this drastic expenditure upon armaments, was that some Power should set the example by reducing their armaments. He seemed quite oblivious to the fact—which I thought very astonishing in the case of a man who has studied this Question as deeply as he must have—that this Government alone of all the Governments of the world have again and again attempted to set a practical example in this matter of the reduction of armaments. Advances have been made time and again to foreign Powers suggesting mutual agreements for the reduction of armaments. Foreign Powers have always refused absolutely to enter into any negotiations of that kind. Then there was the formal action of The Hague Conference. The hon. Member appeared to 406 have absolutely forgotten what took place-with regard to the last Hague Conference. He certainly seemed to have forgotten not merely the speech which was made by Mr. Edmund Robertson, now Lord Lochee, in this House, but also the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty in the year 1907. I have here the actual quotation. In 1906 Mr. Edmund Robertson, introducing the Shipbuilding Vote into this House, used these words:—Instead of the four armoured vessels which it was originally intended to lay down in 1907–8, we propose to make provision for two armoured vessels only, but with the proviso, to be stated in the Estimates, that a third armoured vessel is to be laid down if the proposals in regard to the reduction of armaments laid before The Hague Conference prove to be abortive. Further, the amount to he taken from new vessels to be laid down in. 1907–8 is to be limited to a small sum, and they will not lie commenced till a late period of the year, and this, emphasises to The Hague Conference the good faith of the British Government in its desire to bring about a reduction of armaments.That was the language used by the representative of the Government in this House. In the following year the Memorandum of the First Lord of the Admiralty said:—New construction for the year in the matter of battleships would include two, or, unless an understanding were arrived at with the Naval Powers at The Hague Conference, three large armoured vessels of the ' Dreadnought ' type.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
My point was that the reduction of one in the programme of the year 1907–8 was not produced by desire on the part of the Government, but was determined by the fact that the other Powers had not gone on with their programmes.
§ Mr. LEE
The hon. Member is assuming; a good deal. He must remember in addition to those speeches we had speeches by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, in which he stated it was the policy of his Government to bring about international reduction of armaments, and following upon that speech we had the reduction, first of all of one ship for certain, and the offer of a reduction of a second ship in the event of other Powers agreeing to follow our example. If that be not making practical demonstration of what Mr. Robertson described as the "good faith" of the Government, I do not know what is. The hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs went further and said he felt perfectly certain if only a big enough man could arise, and he said it would need a man of great courage, and I think it would, to disarm this country in the confident belief that other Powers would do the same, that it would change the whole condition of things in the world. I think it would certainly 407 change the map of the British Empire, which occupies a very large proportion of the world. Whilst it is quite true that a man may be willing to risk his own life, and the rôle of martyr has always had a certain attraction for some tempers in the history of the world, in this case this very strong, brave man would be risking a great deal more than that. He would be risking the whole existence of the British Empire, and the lives and the fortunes of our people. I remember Lord Courtney, in an article or speech, making a statement on this question about four or five years ago, in which he said that he knew that to take action of this kind would be a risk, but then it would be a glorious risk. That was his expression. I do not think there is anything glorious about thrusting a risk of that kind upon the British people. On the contrary, so far from being glorious, I think it would be a dastardly betrayal of the national interests. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Allen Baker), who spoke very much in the same strain, seemed to have a touching belief in the efficacy of The Hague Conference. Surely, after the experience of two Hague Conferences, even so innocently optimistic a temperament as his might be somewhat damped by the actual results.
§ Mr. ALLEN BAKER
It is damped by the position taken up by this country in not agreeing to get rid of the right to capture private property at sea. That, I believe, would settle the whole question.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
That, after all, is not the primary reason for which the Conference assembled. The hon. Member probably knows that before the Conference assembled the British Government made an appeal, or, at any rate, sent a Circular Note to ascertain whether the other great Powers of the world would be willing to discuss the question of the reduction of armaments at the approaching Conference. What was the result? The foreign Powers, I believe almost without exception, declined absolutely to allow that question to be discussed at the Conference. The hon. Member now wishes to throw all the blame for the failure of the Conference upon the British people, because they maintained the line which they have always maintained with regard to the right to capture private property at sea. I am afraid there are many Gentlemen who are always willing to find fault 408 with their own country, and to believe that every other country is animated by the best motives. If the hon. Member does not think that my views upon The Hague Conference are worth hearing, perhaps he will listen to the views of Lord Lochee—who, I suppose, was a friend of peace—who drew very much the same moral from the proceedings of The Hague Conference that I have endeavoured to draw. On 31st July, 1906, he said:—The previous Hague Conference had expired with a pious expression on its lips that a great service would be rendered to humanity by agreeing to carry out a reduction of armaments. What had happened V In the succeeding five years the expenditure on shipbuilding had risen from £68,000,000 to £100,000,000. In other words, since The Hague Conference met, there had been an addition of 50 per cent, to the naval burdens of the world.I am afraid, human nature being what it is, and I presume it will remain what it is for a good many centuries yet, that once you get people together and put them round a table to discuss armaments, the result will be not a reduction, but probably an increase. The hon. Member for Finsbury said, further, that he did not see how we as a nation could possibly justify the great expenditure which we are now making upon national defence when we have no cause of quarrel with any other Power. Of course, we have no cause of quarrel with any other Power at the present time. Everyone knows that—it was stated' in the Gracious Speech from the Throne that our relations with all foreign Powers continue to be friendly. But the expenditure which is being made upon our Navy to-day, certainly as regards the new programme, is not to meet the necessities of the present moment; it is to meet the possible perils of two or three years hence. No man, however wise or however peaceable he may be, can possibly foretell what the international situation will be two or three years from now. I do not want to treat the hon. Member's arguments too lightly, but when he speaks about the exchanges of visits of societies and of gentlemen of great position and so forth, and suggests that they are going to settle the relations between different countries, I would ask him to look back over history, and see whether previously to the outbreak of war between any two great, countries there was not a constant interchange of international courtesies. I am not sure that the habit of "visits" had come into fashion then, but these things form part of the ordinary amenities of international life, and they have no bearing whatever on the causes which unfortun- 409 ately lead one nation to declare war upon another. It is an unfortunate fact that we have not in these matters to deal with the friendly feeling which may exist between certain individuals in one country and certain individuals in another. We have to deal sometimes with great Powers living under a system of autocratic government—Powers which in the past have declared war against other countries without the people having the slightest desire to go to war, and indeed without their being consulted in the matter at all until such time as they were called upon to take their place in the fighting line. I think the arguments of the hon. Members for Finsbury and Falkirk, whilst they are put forward perfectly sincerely, do more credit to their hearts than to their heads.
I had intended cross-examining the representatives of the Admiralty upon one; or two points of detail arising out of the Estimates; but there are many Gentlemen on both sides who wish to raise points of detail, and who probably are more conversant with them than I am, and I will give place to them. I hope, however, that whoever replies on the Debate will amplify the explanations which have been given with regard to the small provision of money taken for the large armoured vessels in the new programme, and also with regard to the time required in this country to build destroyers as compared with the rate of building in Germany.
I should like to refer to a point in regard to which I have been directly challenged by the Leader of the Labour party, and with which it was suggested last night I had in some way avoided dealing. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) last night made against me a charge which was absolutely unfounded, and, as far as I can understand, entirely the product of his own imagination. [An HON. MEMBER: "He withdrew it."] He did not withdraw it; he only withdrew it if I withdrew a statement which I had made with regard to a totally different matter. If that is the hon. Member's idea of Parliamentary courtesy and ethics I must beg to differ.
§ Mr. BYLES
May I, on behalf of my hon. Friend (Mr. Snowden), say that I believe he intended to withdraw the first statement as soon as it was denied by the hon. Member oposite. I conversed with him afterwards, and I so understood him, though I quite agree that there was an appearance of the lack of complete courtesy of which the hon. Gentleman 410 complains. What my hon. Friend desired was in exchange for his withdrawal to obtain a withdrawal from the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. LEE
I am obliged to the hon. Member. But that, when a man is charged with a something he did not say, the charge should only be withdrawn on condition that he gives something in exchange, is a theory which, if introduced generally into our Debates, would lead to many complications. Let me, however, come to the point in regard to which the hon. Member for Blackburn was apparently anxious to effect an exchange. The Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Barnes) called attention to the fact that in a Debate last year I had stated that there had been a very large addition—I think 38,000—to the number of men employed by Messrs. Krupp. At the time I made that statement I had every reason to believe that it was absolutely true. I made it upon high authority which I had every reason to believe knew the facts. Since the matter was referred to I have tried to investigate the facts further, and to find out whether the figures were inaccurate. So far I have not been successful in ascertaining what the true figures are; but I am prepared to admit, if hon. Members wish it, that those figures may possibly have been an overstatement. On the other hand, as regards the sources of the information put before the Committee by the Leader of the Labour party, I am not able to attach any credence to them. I have investigated the matter as far as I can. I know that the Leader of the Labour party put the information forward in perfect good faith, but I do not think that he knows that it is accurate. The difficulty of finding out anything definite about Messrs. Krupp is extraordinary. I think that even right hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with that. But, after all, the actual number of men employed is of very little importance. What is admitted, and has been stated to the House by the Government, is that the-productive capacity of Messrs. Krupp in munitions of war has been enormously increased. In the course of last year's Debate the First Lord of the Admiralty said:—Two years ago anyone familiar with the capacity of Messrs. Krupp and other great German firms would have ridiculed the possibility of their undertaking to supply the component parts of eight battleships in one year. To-day this productive power is a realised fact.That is the important point—the enormous increase of capacity on the part of 411 Messrs. Krupp. The number of men necessary to enable them to increase their output is of little importance. I am not one to maintain at all hazards that the figures given to me on what I thought to be sufficient authority must necessarily be exactly accurate; but I do maintain that the point of my argument on that occasion was perfectly sound, namely, the enormous increase in power of output. We have had counter-figures, such as were put forward by the "Daily Chronicle" a short time ago, when we were asked to believe upon German authority that out of the whole of Messrs. Krupp's employés only 5,000 were engaged upon making munitions of war, and that the whole of the rest were engaged in peaceful pursuits —making perambulators, I suppose, mowing machines, and things of that kind. Everyone knows that the vast colony of Messrs. Krupp's emplyés are employed, and very properly employed so far as German national interests are concerned, in building up the output of the armaments of that country. Therefore this point which the Leader of the Labour party brought forward, and to which I have not referred to before because I did not regard it of great importance, I have now explained. I have stated exactly what my position is. It is open for any Member to refute anything I have said. That is my position, and has been so for long, and I am not ashamed of anything I have said on the subject.
§ The CIVIL LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Lambert)
The attendances in the House I have noticed during the recent Naval Debate is the best barometer of the anxiety or complacency with which the country regards Admiralty administration. I think the attendance in the House this year is a source of satisfaction to those members of the Board of Admiralty who have had some experience in these matters. We have had a considerable number of speeches delivered. I do not wish for a moment to detract from their ability, but they have been somewhat in the nature of abstract speeches. There have been no real points put in by way of attacking Admiralty policy. Therefore I find myself somewhat in a difficulty to sum up the points which have been made in this Debate. But I have noticed that in some of the speeches made there have been reflected possibly some of the political orations that the country was regaled with during the late General Election. The 412 hon. Gentleman the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. H. S. Foster) commenced the Debate. He said:—That the course of naval administration had proved the incapacity of the Government to safeguard our naval interests.That is a most serious statement, and I would really ask any hon. Gentleman in this House if he can at this moment point to the fact that our naval interests are not adequately safeguarded now, and that they will not be safeguarded next year, and in 1912, and up to the time that this new programme will be completed? That is the real point.
The recriminations that take place as to what this or that hon. Gentleman said are, to my mind, beside the mark. What we want to see is naval supremacy assured. It is, I believe, assured by the programme for which the Government have made themselves responsible to the House in these Estimates. I observe that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Arthur Lee) has repeated what, I think, he said on the first day It was also taken up by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley. That was, that we had not made adequate provision for new construction in these Estimates. I cannot understand how any hon. Gentleman, who, like himself, has been at the Admiralty, can make that charge. As a matter of fact, we are now making provision to the tune of 10 per cent.—10.1 is the real figure—on the estimated total cost of ships in the programme. What was the percentage made by the hon. Gentleman and his Board1?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
What does the hon. Gentleman want more? If it is a satisfactory answer, why does the hon. Gentleman bring it up again?
§ Mr. LEE
We do not think it is any answer at all. But hon. Gentlemen opposite deal with party points. They should remember this: that in the days to which the hon. Gentleman refers, and when we were in office, there was no great emergency as regards the naval situation. The German increase had not commenced. We had not had the speeches made by the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty last year, and it is only because of the great emergency which has arisen, and which was revealed to us by those speeches, that we are asking the Government to depart from its programme and to deal with the emergency, as an emergency, by special expenditure.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
There is no emergency now. The interests of the country, as I told hon. Gentlemen a few moments ago, are adequately safeguarded by the provision the country is making. The hon. Gentleman cannot deny it.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
The hon. Gentleman cannot prove it. When I say that during their twelve years of office hon. Members opposite made no such provisions in their Estimates as we are making I should have thought that this would be a sufficient answer to the complaints. Apparently the hon. Gentleman does not agree. At any rate we think that we are making adequate provision, and no hon. Gentleman can get up at this moment and point to the fact that we shall not have ships enough to maintain the two-Power standard up to the time that this naval programme is completed. What does the hon. Gentleman want more? I suppose he wants two keels to one, or something of that sort. Concerning the remark made by an hon. Member about destroyers, the Board of Admiralty say that we can build destroyers as fast and as well as any foreign country.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
We are taking at the present moment eighteen months to complete our destroyers. No other country completes them in less time. We shall have destroyers sufficient for our purposes up to the time that this programme is completed.
The Germans have completed the whole of their 1908 programme. We have not launched a single destroyer—have not completed a single destroyer.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
That is simply because they have not been ordered. They would have been completed if they had been ordered. That is the real answer. There is no question of saying that we cannot build destroyers as quickly as any foreign country. It is all a question of placing orders. The hon. Gentleman referred to the position of a foreign Power in building a destroyer in, I think, ten or twelve months. That is purely an exceptional circumstance. The "Dreadnought," as the gallant Admiral will know, was built in fourteen months. But you do not do that with every ship, nor can you. As a matter of fact, we are taking about 18 months to complete our destroyer pro- 414 gramme. Twenty-three destroyers of this year's programme will be ready by 31st December, 1911, and that will prove conclusively that the Admiralty is in earnest in carrying out this destroyer programme, and also that it can complete ships with a reasonable certainty within eighteen months of the date of the order. I do not, I assure the hon. Gentleman opposite, want to make any party capital out of this naval controversy.
Some questions were asked, I think it was last night about floating docks. We hope to have both of these floating docks afloat by the autumn of 1911. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochester, I think, said: "You have made no provision for placing a floating dock in the Med-way." As a matter of fact, there is a provision made in the Estimates. My right hon. Friend said, I think, that it was £5,000 for moorings. But we do not want in the Medway, as at Portsmouth, to build works in order to accommodate floating docks. The hon. Gentleman, however, can take it from me that we hope to get this floating dock in position by the autumn of 1911.
§ Mr. FORDE RIDLEY
But the Financial Secretary for the Admiralty stated earlier in this Debate that there is no accommodation for that floating dock.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
We have not, I agree, settled upon the site yet, but the whole matter is being carefully considered by the responsible local officials and the responsible officials at the Admiralty. That floating dock will be in position by the autumn of 1911. Of that I have no doubt whatever.
We were told that we were drawing on the stores. That is a matter which has been dealt with over and over again. But let me turn to what hon. Gentlemen opposite consider as the Bible of their naval policy. That is the Cawdor Programme. This Cawdor Programme was issued on the 30th November, 1905, just before the General Election—at a most unusual time. It states here, page 34:A general revision of reserves has taken place, and a clearance of obsolete stock is in progress. Arrangements for supplying essential stores in time of war, or for emergency, have been developed, and the storage of stores and large reserves in the Government buildings for emergencies in quantities out of all proportion to the turn-over is thus avoided.That is precisely the policy we have been carrying out. That is the policy initiated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Why then 415 they should accuse us in this matter is more than I can understand. On the question of vital stores they will find an efficient supply, and that they are kept up to an adequate margin of reserve, as the First Lord has stated, and as we have made ourselves absolutely sure by inquiries from the responsible officials concerned.
I think it was the hon. Member for Chatham who asked something about the nucleus crew system—as to what were the numbers of the nucleus crews in the "Goliath," "Gloria," and other vessels. My right hon. Friend the First Lord has laid it down that he does not disclose the numbers of the nucleus crews on the various ships. As a matter of fact, how ever, that the nucleus crews are sufficient to keep these ships in good working order was proved—
§ Mr. LAMBERT
That these reduced nucleus crews are sufficient to keep these ships in good working order was proved by the fact that the ships which the hon. Gentleman mentions were in the fourth Division of the Home Fleet. Another ship in the same Division during the manœuvres last June, with precisely the same crew on board as on board the ships mentioned, the "Sappho," had a collision off Dover. Most of the ships were away on manœuvres. The "Trafalgar," with a reduced nucleus crew on board, was ordered to stand by the "Sappho." She received that order at 11 o'clock on the Sunday morning. Despite some delay by the tide she was at Dover at 8 o'clock on the Monday morning, thus proving completely that the number of these reduced nucleus crews is quite sufficient for the purpose of keeping the ship in good order, and fit for emergencies. I think I have dealt with all the points raised in this Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for the Falkirk Burghs is a great advocate of economy. I can assure him and my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, that we also have not lost sight of the idea of economy that we had when we were sitting on the opposite side of the House. These Estimates are the least we can present for the Naval security of the country.
I am sure, if my hon. Friends could only see the situation as I believe they want to see it, or, at least, as my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk indicated he 416 wanted to see it, when he said clearly he wanted adequate naval protection such as the times demand, he must allow the Board of Admiralty to be the judges in that matter. It is only by those experts who are able to judge the relative fighting value of vessels that relative naval security can be obtained. For my own part, I was in the House as Civil Lord of the Admiralty when Lord Lochee made the offer, as the representative of the Government, that one ship in the 1906–7 programme would be dropped if The Hague Conference came to some definite conclusion. I regret that they did not come to some conclusion with regard to the relative merits of armaments. I am sure, although some criticism is passed upon my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, no man would be more glad than he to see some limitation of this terrible race which is having such a paralysing and sterilising effect upon the people of Europe and other countries as well. I was rather sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite, my predecessor in office, I will not say pouring ridicule upon, but suggesting that the efforts of the great Ministers who are endeavouring to bring about a better state of feeling between this country and Europe were unavailing. I hope their efforts will be availing.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
If you do not try you cannot succeed, and I hope these Ministers will go on trying. I know nothing worse than for two or three countries to engage in this terrible race, which is not only calculated to breed bad feeling, but to have such a terrible effect upon the resources of these countries. Personally I am afraid we will have to go back to the fact that the tax gatherer is the best schoolmaster. We vote the Naval Estimates with alacrity, but when it comes to paying them, there is a different opinion. In Germany, although they voted the Naval Estimates in a single night, when it came to providing the money they changed their Chancellor, and it seems to me we shall have to rely on the tax collector, and probably, in the end, that will have some effect in this race of armaments. Though I deplore as much as any man can this enormous expenditure, it is expenditure we believe necessary for the naval security of this country, and no man 417 has been able successfully to deny that the Government has provided amply for the naval necessities of the year.
§ Mr. H. E. DUKE
The hon. Member who has just spoken admirably performed the rô1e of lecturer to the converted Members on this side of the House, who are in favour of the actual provision of such naval strength as is necessary for the safety of the country, but he was not cold towards the inducements held out to him from the benches below the Gangway opposite to do nothing in the direction in which the hon. Member professes his readiness to do so much. I cannot suppose the country at large will regard with confidence the professions of the Government in regard to naval defence while allying themselves in spirit so closely with everything said by one section of their own supporters in the direction of having no defences at all. The hon. Gentleman refers to what he called the party points which were made. He thought it sufficient, so far as our present needs are concerned, to point out to Members on this side that, at any rate, the Government are giving as much, or a little more, provision as His Majesty's Government did, or proposed to do in 1905–6. The hon. Member might as well try to draw a comparison between the present day and Trafalgar, or between the present day and the Battle of Hastings. The whole circumstances have changed since 1906. The hon. Member thinks it is enough to say we did as much as the Government did in 1906, but that does not seem to be a very effective way of meeting points which have been made. There was another party point. The hon. Member referred also to Lord Cawdor's programme. I do not know how many times we have had reiterated the point that that programme was issued on the eve of the General Election. How ungenerous it would be if some Member on this side of the House should point out that His Majesty's Government issued their present programme very near the eve of a General Election. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know?"] Those who live over the summer will have the best means of knowing; it may be His Majesty's Government intend to linger on, but in the present difficult circumstances it does not look like it. I make the hon. Member opposite a present of the point—I will not make it.
§ Mr. DUKE
I did not make it, but I pointed out that it would be as just to 418 the present Administration to taunt them with that as it was to taunt the Ministry then in office with having issued the Cawdor programme on the eve of election —the circumstances would be exactly parallel. I confess that if the Government showed in these Estimates a real design to carry out and make effective at an early date the results of the large expenditure to which they find themselves forced, their programme is a programme which I could heartily believe in, but the difficulty is the performance. They lay down a great programme; they propose hereafter to carry out a great deal, but they have also to do a great deal to reconcile themselves to their friends below the Gangway. There is a great deal of very active profession, but no certainty of very complete performance.
I did not rise to refer to these general questions. I rose to direct the attention of the Board of Admiralty to a subject which was very greatly canvassed during the General Election, and which affects the right of somebody at the Admiralty, if the charges made are just, to enjoy the confidence of the country in a responsible position, and which charges, as far as I know, were never answered. I refer to the alleged treatment by the Government of Mr. Mulliner, whose name is well known to many Members of this House, and who has been a business colleague of some Members of this House. He alleges that because of political differences between him and the Government, and because of some political grievances of the Government against him, he was squeezed out of employment by withholding from the firm of which he was manager valuable contracts which they had to give away. It may well be that that charge was unjust, and that it is unjust, and that it means a serious injustice against those against whom it was launched. If it were a just charge it would be a mean and vulgar abuse of public power, and I desire that some representative of the Admiralty present should deal with this matter. I do not propose to go into great details, but the subject is a very serious one, and relates to the provision the Board of Admiralty makes, or fails to make, for the efficiency and sufficiency of mountings for great guns in the Navy.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Perhaps I can probably reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman upon that point, but I would like to have one thing perfectly clear. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman make himself re- 419 sponsible for this charge, or does he only repeat the charge as a repetition of what he heard? If he makes himself responsible I shall answer him.
§ Mr. DUKE
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman, as he is entitled to know, what my position in this matter is. During the election I, in common with many other candidates, discussed this Question. After the election the whole of the papers relative to it were placed in my hands, and, having read them, I said:—"Here is a matter upon which those against whom the imputation was made ought to have, and ought to embrace, the opportunity of dealing with the imputation made, and upon the documents I have seen has been seriously made, and not merely made by Mr. Mulliner, but persons quite independent of him." The right hon. Gentleman will find I shall deal quite fairly with the information I have—I shall lay it before him, and any person who wishes to follow it up, by giving chapter and verse for any statement I am making.
The seriousness of the matter arises from the fact that it is in connection with the great business of making proper provision for the mountings of great guns. In this country we have had, and still have, what seems, so far as I can understand the matter, the very unfortunate practice of relying upon private firms almost exclusively, if not entirely exclusively, for the production of the mountings of our great guns. The mountings of the great guns is an item of vast seriousness in the construction of battleships, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, a great deal better than I do. Its seriousness is represented by this, that the cost of the mountings of a "Dreadnought" will be between £300,000 and £400,000; that the time occupied in providing them will extend to years, and unless there is absolute co-ordination between the building and mounting, there will be delay, and may be delay at a very critical time for want of proper mountings —that is the seriousness of the matter as I understand it. The provision for mounting the great guns with mechanical mounting apparatus of that kind has been in the hands of private firms since they came into being. It was in the hands of one firm. Competition arose, and there was a combination of two firms—competition was fomented by the Admiralty. At the time when the serious information came to this country about the extension of Messrs. Krupp's works, the position was that the 420 Admiralty was dependent upon two firms which were not in competition, and the seriousness of that is illustrated by two facts. One is in regard to completion in point of time and the date and certainty of speedy provision. Reference has been made to the Argentine battleships. Two firms which were in competition united to tender for the supply of the two big warships for the Argentine—the amount of the tender was between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000. The competition was between England and Germany and America. In point of cost the English tender was 10 per cent, greater; in point of time it was, as far as I remember the details, 20 per cent, worse. That is a very clear indication of what the country may have to rely upon if there is no competition or some better means of supplying our needs in respect of gun-mountings. As to the cost, in the five mountings of a "Dreadnought" there are, I am told, 1,100 tons of iron plating, and it costs between £130,000 and £140,000. The cost of that iron plating in the United States, where it is said manufacturers labour under great disadvantages, is £95 per ton. The price at which His Majesty's Government accepted a tender, under the circumstances to which I refer, or, rather, gave an order in the course of last summer, was £125 per ton. A total of 1,100 tons at £30 excess per ton is a clear indication of a loss of something like £33,000 upon the iron plating for the great mountings of one "Dreadnought" in respect of that one undertaking. It is obvious the Government need to take great care of our interests, both in regard to efficiency and economy.
In the year 1906 the position was that Krupp's works were equal to any one of our works in this country, either at Woolwich Arsenal, Messrs. Armstrong's, or Messrs. Vickers, and Maxim's. In 1906 the Government were warned by Mr. Mulliner of the change which was going to take place at Krupp's works. I am not sure whether the circumstances of that warning are not well known, but they ought to be well known, because only last night there was great controversy as to whether the Government were ignorant of what was going on at Krupp's works. So far as I understand, the head and front of Mr. Mulliner's offending is that he warned the Government and kept warning them for three years, and then, when the fact of his warnings became public knowledge, because of the disagreeable discussion which took place, his dismissal 421 was required from the works of which lie was the manager. The warning was given by Mr. Mulliner in a letter on 11th May, 1906, which was addressed to an officer at the War Office, and from the War Office it was passed on to the Admiralty. The letter was as follows:—Are you aware of the enormous expenditure now going on at Krupp's for the purpose of manufacturing very large naval guns and mountings quickly. We have had a great deal to do with Germany lately, and find that Krupp's have filled up the output of all the big machine tool makers for the next, year or two We estimate that at the present time Krupp's are expending at least a further £3,000.000. This is in addition to the immense works they already possess.Then other details are given, and what is added is:—Their whole scheme seems to be speed of production: for instance, they are making immensely powerful lathes, which will bore and turn a 12-inch gun simultaneously, which they estimate will save at least one-third of the time. They seem to have ordered five machines for turning out the roller paths and turntables for very large mountings, each of these machines costing £5.300. There is nothing nearly so good in this country.I think the writer of that letter performed a public and patriotic duty by presenting that information to the War Office. It was, as I have already said, handed over to the Admiralty. The state of things was as I have already described. The country was dependent for gun mountings upon two firms acting in combination. The Government had command of the factories at Woolwich. In the evidence given before the Committee over which the hon. Member for Barnard Castle presided it was shown that investigations had been made as to the capacity of the foundries and factories at Woolwich, and it was stated by those in charge of those factories and foundries that by reason of an expenditure of between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 made not long ago Woolwich is capable of turning out all the big gun mountings which are required. It is impossible to understand why the Admiralty did nothing in face of these facts to utilise the capabilities of Woolwich. As a matter of fact, Woolwich gets only one-twenty-seventh of our expenditure upon work of this kind, and I am not sum that they get so much as that at Woolwich now. The Admiralty had Woolwich to fall back upon before 1906, and they did nothing in face of the definite warning as to what was taking place, and what was going to take place, with regard to the manufacture of great guns and mountings for great guns abroad.
It may be true that Mr. Mulliner had a personal interest in pressing this matter on the Admiralty. He was the managing 422 director of the Coventry Ordnance Works, and just as the public authorities at Woolwich had spent between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 to provide facilities for these great works, the Coventry Ordnance Works had been acquired by a combination of great engineering firms in this country to provide the means of manufacturing these big mountings and other armaments, and that fact was pressed upon the Government, I daresay, by Mr. Mulliner. I suppose that was so, because Mr. Mulliner naturally would desire that the Coventry Ordnance Works should be considered as competitors for Admiralty contracts. I think that was perfectly legitimate, and it would only have the effect of leading one to consider that Mr. Mulliner had a business interest as well as a public interest in the matter. The Admiralty had those two means of dealing with the difficulty in 1906. We know some Members of the Government are under the mistaken belief to this day that they did not know until 1908 the reason for this large provision which was being made at Messrs. Krupp's works. Some hon. Members still believe that the Government only heard of these facts in the year 1908, but it is obvious that they knew in the year 1906 what was taking place.
In the year 1907 the Coventry Ordnance Works presented designs for big gun mountings. Those works were at the time supplying the War Office with a variety of armaments, and they were also supplying the Admiralty with some armaments which they were entitled to supply, because they were permitted to tender under regulations which made it essential that they should be permitted to tender. Their drawings were rejected in 1907 and again in 1908. In the year 1909 those last drawings which were rejected, without any change in the circumstances of the Coventry Ordnance Works, were accepted and made the basis of an order for a very large amount of money amounting to between £300,000 and £400,000. The condition of the giving of that order is said, not by Mr. Mulliner but by supporters of His Majesty's Government—the "Daily News," for instance—to have been the ridding of the Coventry Ordnance Works of Mr. Mulliner. All that time Krupp's were going on with their preparations. Those drawings were rejected in 1908. In 1909 it was elicited that towards the close of that year the Coventry Ordnance Works would be given a trial order for one mounting, that is an order for a mounting at a cost of £35,000.
423 That was the measure of the strict view the Admiralty took of the capabilities of the Coventry Ordnance Works in the spring of 1909, and that is very material to bear in mind in view of what happened in the summer and autumn of 1909. They were to be permitted to make a trial mounting which would bring them £35,000—if the mounting was accepted when it had been made. The making of that mounting would have occupied the Coventry Ordnance Works not merely for months but for years, and this would practically have left the matter where it was before—in the hands of two firms. That was in the spring of 1909. At the end of March, 1909, there was a Debate in this House upon a Vote of Censure with regard to the laxness of His Majesty's Government in acting upon information which it was supposed they had had or ought to have had in their possession for a long time with regard to preparations for the provision of naval armaments in Germany. That happened at the end of March. Following that incidents occurred which I will not state in my own language, but first of all in the language of Mr. Mulliner, and, secondly, in the language of the "Daily News." What Mr. Mulliner said about it was as follows:—'' After the interview at Downing Street the Admiralty officials referred to commenced an active campaign against me personally. I was unable to see them as I had been in the habit of doing previously respecting work on which my company was engaged.Why was this? Why was Mr. Mulliner prevented from seeing the Admiralty officials about work on which his firm was engaged if he was being fairly handled?
§ Mr. McKENNA
Will the hon. Gentleman give me some indication as to who the persons are to whom he refers? If he will do so I will inquire. Of course, I cannot reply this evening, because the Admiralty must have notice of a charge of this kind.
§ Mr. DUKE
This letter was published in the public Press on 16th December. It was the subject of discussion all over the country, and the right hon. Gentleman himself discussed it at a public meeting in Wales. This letter was common property; the statements in it were notorious, and I am a little surprised to learn that the right hon. Gentleman does not know whether this is an accurate imputation. To my mind the country ought to know all about it.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Oh, yes. I do not deny that. I only said that if the hon. and 424 learned Member would intimate to me who are the particular officials it would be much easier for me to give him a categorical answer.
§ Mr. DUKE
They are described as the Admiralty officials who Mr. Mulliner had been accustomed to see with regard to work which his firm were doing for the Government. The letter is a long one, but I will hand to the right hon. Gentleman a copy of it. Mr. Mulliner went on to say:—At this time we were expecting to receive contracts for large naval mountings. Statements had been made in Parliament to that effect. However, the contracts did not arrive.The statement in the House was that there was to be one trial mounting. The contracts, however, did not arrive.At a board meeting several of my co-directors explained how they had been approached, directly and indirectly, by Admiralty officials with a strong hint that those orders would not Vie given until I left the works.Mr. Mulliner remained at the Ordnance Works, as one knows from the public Press, until toward the end of June, and, I think in the month of July, but not before at any rate, a very large order, not the trial order, not the order of £35,000 to which the Coventry Ordnance Works was to be restricted, but an order without any trial for the whole of the mountings of a "Dreadnought," namely, mountings for five big guns, was given to the Coventry Ordnance Works. There is a sequence of dates which is of some interest. I said I would read the statement which the "Daily News" had published with regard to this matter, and I am able to do it. Although in the press of the election this subject naturally enough was not closely investigated in the Admiralty, it did attract attention in the Press, and the "Daily News" was very candid about the matter. It professes to have information as to the true reasons of Mr. Mulliner's discharge. Mr. Mulliner is referred to in an article of 18th December, immediately following this letter, and this is what is stated:—The answer is simple. An undertaking was given in the summer of 1908 that a trial order for gun-mountings would he given the next year to the Coventry firm. When the time came for the fulfilment of that promise it was carried out.That is a mistake. It was stated in the House that a trial order would be given.But no further orders beyond the trial orders were issued.That is also a mistake. No orders were issued at that time.The reason is apparent to anyone who reads Mr. Mulliner's letter and finds there the disclosure of the proceedings at a secret Committee of the Cabinet to 425 which he had been summoned. His action in regard to those proceedings was brought before his board. Sir Charles McLaren, we believe, agreed with the Admiralty that it had no alternative in the matter. Hence Mr. Mulliner's retirement, from his position. That retirement was followed by the issue of orders to the Coventry Works. Those are the facts of the case.If anyone knows anything about the care of the conductors of a London newspaper, a leading paper in a party interest, with regard to ascertaining facts about a matter which did attract very great attention at that time, it is fair to suppose that the Editor of the "Daily News" took the trouble to ascertain what had happened at the Admiralty; and what the Editor of the "Daily News" says is that Mr. Mulliner told what had happened at a Committee of the Cabinet to which he was summoned. The only disclosure, so far as I am aware at any rate of any disclosure by Mr. Mulliner, was the disclosure that he had warned the Government before 1908 and 1907. He had no other secret, and that was not a secret of the Cabinet. It was his own knowledge, and it ought to have been public knowledge. It is a great pity Mr. Mulliner did not make it public knowledge a long time before he did.
§ Mr. DUKE
The right hon. Gentleman cheers that opinion. I daresay it might have reached the right hon. Gentleman's appreciation if it had been published in the newspapers at the time, because the right hon. Gentleman is one of those who take the view that the Admiralty was not warned about the intentions of Germany, and that it had not any real ground for taking action to meet the action that was being taken in Germany until the year 1908 or the beginning of the year 1909. I have said what Mr. Mulliner stated about this matter. He says:—My directors were told that when they got rid of me the orders would come.The "Daily News" says the same thing, and, when he had gone, the orders came, not the trial order, but an order for the five mountings with the iron plating and the various apparatus involved in the complete mountings of five guns, and an order for £300,000 or £400,000. So far as has ever appeared, Mr. Mulliner's sole offence against His Majesty's Government was the disclosure to the country of the fact that he had warned them three years before of matters of which they ought to have taken account, but of which they had failed to take account. They were made the sub- 426 ject of a discussion on a Vote of Censure in this House, there was the communication from the Admiralty to the Coventry Ordnance Works, and when Mr. Mulliner had gone, then, without trial and without precaution, but with considerable lavishness, orders from the Crown would go to the Coventry Ordnance Works. If that is Mr. Mulliner's only offence, I say this is a state of things which ought not to exist in the country, and if it is to exist in this country, it should, at any rate, exist with the knowledge of the public.
There is one other matter with regard to this subject. It may well be that the Admiralty felt greater confidence in the Coventry Ordnance Works in the autumn of 1909 than they had done before, because in the autumn of 1909 Admiral Bacon, who, as Captain Bacon, had been Director of Naval Ordnance, and I suppose had had something to say to the rejection of the Coventry Ordnance Works' designs in 1907, though whether he had anything to say to the decision that there should be a trial order given in 1908 or 1909 I do not know, joined the board of the Coventry Ordnance Works under an engagement to be their managing director in succession to Mr. Mulliner for a term of seven years at a salary of £7,000.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman means to imply that the fact that Admiral Bacon went to the Coventry works had anything to do with an order being given to them?
§ Mr. DUKE
No, I did not imply anything of the kind. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what my view is about that. It is inexplicable that the same Admiralty which had rejected the design of 1907, and which could only promise a trial order in 1909, should have seen its way to give an order for complete mountings at a cost of £300,000 or £400,000 as soon as Mr. Mulliner had ceased to be managing director there unless it had some reason for increased confidence.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman has not stated what Admiral Bacon had to do with it. I do not understand why he mentions Admiral Bacon's name.
§ Mr. DUKE
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why I mention his name. In 1007 he was Director of Naval Ordnance, and these drawings, as I am told—and;f I am wrong the right hon. Gentleman will correct me—were presented in 1907 and rejected. I am told these are the same 427 drawings upon which a trial order was promised in 1909—an order which was not, in fact, given—and that they are the same drawings upon which the complete order was given in the autumn of 1909.
§ Mr. DUKE
Admiral Bacon, I suppose, was a party to the rejection of these drawings in 1907, and, I suppose, if it is the fact that he is the managing director of the Coventry Ordnance Works for seven years at a salary of £7,000 he will carry out the construction of the mountings. It may be His Majesty's Government regard that as a reason for giving this larger order, but it is not a fact irrelevant to this subject, and it is not a fact without a great deal of interest. Nobody grudges Admiral Bacon this position. At any rate, so far as I am concerned, I do not grudge Admiral Bacon this position, because I could not manage Admiralty Ordnance even as well as the Board of Admiralty. I do not believe anybody grudges Admiral Bacon this position, but it was Mr. Mulliner's position, though whether it was a position of £7,000 a year I do not know. If the position was of the same nature, and if in fact Mr. Mulliner was excluded from that position upon the condition that orders would not be obtained by the works of which he was manager until he was got rid of, then I say that transaction is open to the observation I have ventured to make.
I have seen some of the correspondence which passed, both with regard to the orders which were not given, and with regard to the orders which were given, and also some of the correspondence which passed with regard to the exclusion of Mr. Mulliner from the Board. If I had not seen them, I should not, upon the mere statement of a grievance of a man who had been removed from a position he had held, whatever the political complexion of it might have been, have taken up the time of the Committee of the House of Commons upon the subject. I have stated these facts as concisely as I could. They relate to a matter of great importance in the public service, a matter of the supply of gun-mountings as controlled by the Admiralty. They relate also to a matter of importance in the public service, namely, that of fair play and fair dealing between the Admiralty and managers outside the Admiralty with whom 428 they come in contact. I have laid before the House, not perhaps without some feeling in the matter, but I hope without any unnecessary display of feeling, the ground upon which I at present accept this statement of the facts. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will deal with the matter and be able to give an explanation which will satisfy the Committee that the supply of mountings is being safeguarded without regard to any consideration outside the public service, and that, so far as the dealings of the Admiralty with Mr. Mulliner were concerned, they were not open to that charge of unfairness which he has made against it and which has been followed up by the Government's mistaken supporters in the "Daily News."
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman stated he had seen the correspondence relating to the discontinuance of Mr. Mulliner's employment in the Coventry firm. I do not understand whether that correspondence is between any Member or any official of the Board of Admiralty and the firm, or whether it is only correspondence between Mr. Mulliner and members of the firm.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
I think it is extremely unfortunate that in the course of a general Debate on the Navy a personal matter, more fitted for a court of law, should be introduced. I am sure it is not a matter in which the hon. and learned Member is professionally concerned; otherwise, his conduct would have been indecent.
§ Mr. DUKE
I think the observation of the hon. Member is intended as a challenge to me. I desire to answer it by saying that I have no professional concern in the matter, and that I am as well aware as the hon. Member that both the decencies and the Rules of this House would prevent my having any professional concern in it. I have dealt with the matter because it seemed to me to be a public one.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
The correspondence that the hon. and learned Member has alluded to was communicated to him as an amateur in this case. And, if that is so—
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
If that is so, I think it a little hard that the hon. and learned Member should have treated this Committee as though it were a jury and should have put a case before it ex parte— a case as to which, first of all, this Committee must entirely reserve its opinion; and, secondly, a case which ought more properly to have been introduced on the Vote and not in a general discussion on the Navy. I have followed with much interest the criticisms made on this side with regard to the Navy Estimates. The hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Murray Macdonald) spoke with great fervour, and almost suggested that we should disarm, in the hope that other nations would also disarm. But one must remember that passage in which we are told that—When ii strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than lie shall come upon him and overcome him. he taketh from him all Lis armour wherein he trusted and divideth his spoils.The remedy of the hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs is to have no armour, and therefore nothing to take away and no spoil to be divided. He proposes disarmament, and he looks forward to the time when not merely one ironclad, but many ironclads may be disarmed. He trusts to that universal peace for which he hopes, but of which I, for my part, see no sign. The Member for Finsbury (Mr. Allen Baker) made a very eloquent 6peech, and said all this trouble and all this competition in armaments would cease if only this country would give up the power to capture property at sea. But that power was largely given up fifty years ago, and, in spite of that, wars have not ceased to occur during that period. The hon. Member proposes that in the case of war, and in that case alone, we should abstain from the merciful method of cutting our enemy's communications at sea and should have recourse instead to the bloodthirsty method of cutting his throat. I thought the hon. Member was a man of peace, but apparently he prefers blood to the capture of merchandise.
When the late Government gave place to the present Administration I rejoiced greatly for one reason. The late Government had exemplified the rake's progress in finance, exaggeration of expenditure, and debt incurred, in a way never before seen. I rejoiced that the reign of economy was now to come. I have been somewhat disappointed. Economy seems 430 to be treated rather like the Cinderella of the family—she is left in the ashes, while her proud sisters, the Army and the Navy, stalk through the halls of Parliament, carrying everything before them. Here we have in these Estimates, and in this particular Vote, an exemplification of the result. May I presume to remark to the Committee that this Vote No. 1 is really a Vote on Account. The Civil Service Vote on Account is separate, but the Army Vote is also a Vote on Account. It surprises me that, while hon. Members opposite complain bitterly, strongly, and even acrimoniously of the smallness of the Vote on Account for the Civil Service, they have nothing to say as to the smallness of this Vote on Account for the Navy. The Vote on Account for the Civil Service was for about six weeks — one-eighth of the whole. This Vote for the Navy is only one-sixth of the whole, and will last but eight or nine weeks, and it is suggested that, while they are driven almost to frenzy by the idea of only having a Civil Service Vote for six weeks, they are prepared to accept Supply for eight or nine weeks for the Navy. Perhaps it is a lack of sense of proportion; perhaps they do not recognise that this is a Vote on Account for the Navy.
These Estimates are stupendous. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord talks as though they only amount to £40,000,000, but they are really £42,000,000, because there are Appropriations on Account to be added. There is also the depletion of stores. I do not know if there will be any this year, but last year the item was considerable. In addition, there are the services rendered by other Departments, so that altogether the total will be nearer £43,000,000. Further, it is pretty certain that as this year, so next year, there will be Supplementary Estimates, and therefore the £40,000,000 Navy Vote may amount in the long run to forty-four or more millions. The amount is unparalleled. But I feel bound to accept it because its necessity rests upon information which the Government have, and which they alone can have and are bound to have. There is another reason why these Estimates, large as they are, must be accepted. They turn upon a new series of facts only brought to the knowledge of the Government last year. Last year for the first time the Government realised the rapid and increased rate of progress of the German Navy. The First Lord of the Admiralty has, I think 431 injudiciously, rather sought to suggest that it was not so, but that they knew it before. The fact, however, is it was a surprise sprung upon the Government last year, and for that very reason they projected the four contingent "Dreadnoughts," and for that continuing reason we have now these large Estimates. I would ask permission to add to the excellent argument, as I thought, of the hon. Member for Falkirk a few words on the two-Power standard. The two-Power standard no doubt had its uses. When you had nations, often your enemies, allied apparently in hostility to you, as you had when the two-Power standard was invented—you then had France and Russia thus allied—there was some justification for the two-Power standard. Even then it was only a rough and ready device to amuse the man outside—the man who could not understand either navies or standards. But there was something for it when we were in that position. The hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) goes so far as to say that even if all the nations in the world were your allies, even if they were all united to you with alliances, defensive and offensive, you would still require to have the two-Power standard.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
You are to take into account in arming all your friends and your allies. It depends upon their strength, and therefore, though you have an offensive or defensive alliance with nations upon which it might be supposed that some reliance could be placed, you are not to count it, but you are to treat them as enemies against whom you are arming.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
You cannot reasonably exclude from your Estimates the probabilities of the case. Suppose it is conceded to be quite certain the two greatest Powers will be with you, are you to arm against them? According to the formula you must. According to reason you should not. Let it not be supposed that I am complaining of having a large 432 and sufficient Navy. I am all for that, but the two-Power standard, let me say, is a standard of ships and of guns alone. May I remark to the hon. Member for Fareham that the two-Power standard is in any case an insufficient standard. It is a misleading standard because it applies to ships and guns and nothing else. Take this point. We have 131,000 men, Germany has 52,000 or 53,000, and the United States 60,000. We are, therefore, far above the two-Power standard so far as men are concerned, and after all, men are infinitely more important than ships, which are blind things of steel and iron. Ships and guns will not fight themselves, and there is far more importance in having men in training and brains at the Admiralty for working them. Therefore, the two-Power standard is altogether insufficient, inasmuch as it only takes into account guns and ships.
It not only may be exaggerated in some cases, but it may be insufficient in others to take a formula of that kind. You might really need for safety a three or four-Power standard. Your best method is this: Take account of all the nations of the world which have navies, watch their navies, follow their construction, estimate the number of their guns and men, and come to a conclusion as to who your probable enemy or enemies are to be in the future, and estimate against them, be they one or two or five or ten. That is my method of arriving at the true defence of this country, but when you take the two-Power standard you are adopting a formula which is only intended for those who wish to dismiss the real question, who do not wish to estimate the power of their enemies, but who are content with counting ships and guns, and believe that they have made provision for the defence of the country when they have provided in view of their numbers. That is a very fallacious thing to do. It may be too much or too little.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
I am very much interested in the remarks of the hon. Member, but can he say now whom he would name as the two Powers with whom we should be at war two or three years hence.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
I was trying to explain to the hon. Gentleman that I do not take the two-Power standard, and it is not for me to select two Powers. I am not concerned to select two Powers, because it may be that there is only one 433 Power, or it may be that there are three. His Majesty's Government know that, and our Navy is for all probable enemies. But if you are to believe that your allies will turn against you, and that your friends with whom you have ententes and understandings will oppose you, then the end of it will be that you will have to estimate against the whole world, and there is far more reason in that than there is in this fallacious two-Power standard, which is only intended to amuse those who do not know what danger is and what the Navy is. Let me put this to you about the Army. We are told that we must have an Army adequate to our wants. What arc the standards with regard to the Army? Have you one?
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
Have you got one? And is it the two-Power standard, and, if so, will you arm against Germany and Russia combined, the two strongest Powers?
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
Then there is no standard for the Army. The Government have none, and the hon. Gentleman opposite does not suggest one. Yet if a standard is necessary for the Navy, and if an Army is also required, it is quite as necessary that we should have some standard for the Army as well as for the Navy. I think as yet none has been suggested, and I earnestly hope that the example of the Navy will not be followed, and that it will not be suggested that our Army should be up to a two-Power standard. There can be no standard to my mind. You must exercise vigilant watchfulness. Your friend of to-day may be your enemy of tomorrow. Keep your eyes upon what he is doing, and what he is building; you cannot build "Dreadnoughts" in a month. Instruct your Ambassadors abroad to perform their duties, to spy out the land and tell you what is going on there, and you may have information such as would enable you to know who your enemies will be, and what force you will have to provide against them.
Another of the devices put forward is that we must have a. programme of ship- 434 building. Now what does that mean? The only description that I heard given of it was, that it was something that had continuity. That means apparently that you are to settle in each year, not what you are going to build in that year, but what you are going to build in the next year and the next until your programme is finished. You are to have a settled programme for many years to come. I think that is a mistaken view, because if you were to make a programme beforehand for the sake of continuity, I should think one of the first things you would have to do is to settle the types of your ships, and you cannot do that, because the types are constantly altering, and that which will do very well for to-day will not do for to-morrow. Therefore, I think the continuous programme will be a wrong step, because it would have to be altered from year to year, and that would be, therefore, a most fallacious course. Of course, I know what hon. Members mean when they ask for a programme. What they mean is a loan. They want to borrow an enormous amount of money, and the Admiralty is to be left to spend it as it pleases. That is the most ruinous method of building up your naval power, and it has been recognised to be such on both sides of the House. I think the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) will agree with me that the infinitely better thing is to pay for the Navy of the year out of the Estimates of the year, and, if that is so, I think the programme must be given up, especially as it has been abandoned by both sides of the House, for the reason that if your programme has to be altered every year you cannot spread it over several years.
The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) suggested that the real remedy for all our defects and shortcomings would be a War Staff, but there is a War Staff already. The Board of Admiralty is a War Staff, and that Board, let me remind the Committee, has done its work well when it was a Board and had not a dictator. The War Staff consists of the Board of Admiralty, and besides that there is what is known as the Committee of Defence, and as to that I will say a few words which I think hon. Members will recognise as of some importance. You have already a Committee of Defence, but what, in my opinion, it lacks is something which will make it continuous and its records continuously available. I think there should be a permanent archivist, who should keep all the records, 435 so as to be able to hand them on and show the proposals discussed by the Committee from one Government to another. As it is, Governments come and Governments go, and the incoming Government has but a defective knowledge of the conclusions arrived at in the Committee of Defence by its predecessors. But there is one member of that Committee of Defence, I allude to the Deputy-Governor of Windsor Castle, Lord Esher, who is there permanently. How he got there I do not know. Who appointed him I do not know. What his qualifications are I do not know. But he is there a permanent member. Governments come, Governments go, but the Deputy-Governor of Windsor Castle goes on for ever. And he is not responsible to Parliament.
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is a separate Vote for the Committee of Defence, and I think this question should be raised upon that.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
Precisely, I was coming to that. If this officer is to be continued, he should be put upon a Vote and be responsible to Parliament; but he is not on that Estimate, I believe, and, therefore, it is that I have raised the question. I have only raised it, it will require perhaps further treatment afterwards; but if he is to continue, this officer should be put upon the Vote and should become responsible to this House.
§ Mr. G. STEWART
In addressing the House for the first time, I would ask that generous consideration which it always accords to newcomers, and I would venture to address it from the point of view of a man who has had to live the greater part of his life at a distance from his own country, and who has had from his environment some opportunities of seeing naval warfare in the immediate vicinity of the Colony in which he lived. It is from that point of view, and from that point of view alone, and not as an expert, that the few remarks which I address to the House will be directed—the point of view of the layman, and British trader. I should like to draw the; attention of the House to what happened in the vicinity of the Colony where I have lived, which is situated in the China Sea, and I would draw attention to the naval events there in the last twelve years, which would seem to contain a 436 lesson of how naval policy should not be done in one case and how it should be done in another. The first of these events to which I wish to allude arose out of the war between America and Spain. Commodore Dewey, as he was then, left the harbour of Hong Kong, and we who were there might have surmised what that meant, but nobody knew till the next week because there was a breakdown of the cables. He sailed into Santiago Harbour at six o'clock in the morning, and by twelve o'clock in the day Spain had lost a harbour over which she had held undisputed sway for 300 or 400 years. It was a case of daring efficiency being brought face to face with inefficiency and carelessness. If the Spanish fleet had been strong the attempt would never have been made, and even if that fleet had been efficiently manned and properly fought the attack would not have been pressed home probably, and the Spaniards might hold the Philippine Islands to-day. The result of this race is a practical sign of the enormous and terrible effect of sudden and effective naval action, which a country such as ours with many tempting possessions should lay to heart. There is one lesson that is to be drawn from that particular action, and that was that the Spaniards have paid most dearly for a penny wise and pound foolish policy in the treatment of their Navy. If we look at another event we may draw useful lessons. The naval efficiency of Japan enabled her to bring her strength to bear, and by fighting to bring to a finish the great war in which she had to fight for her existence, and it might not be unseemly in a Naval Debate of this sort to refer to that, seeing that the Japanese Navy was cradled in its infancy in this country and nursed by English officers, some of whom are still in the service of His Majesty, and we must feel a legitimate pride and satisfaction that, having cast our bread upon the waters, it has now returned to us in an increased value of the Japanese alliance. The success of Japan stood for the policy of the open door in China, and had Japan failed, beyond doubt there would have been little room for British enterprise in that Empire. It also had the naval effect of releasing from the China coast a very large fleet of heavy ships, which at that time we had to maintain there, and while we are on questions affecting that distant part of the world, might I ask the right hon. Gentleman—for I could not unravel 437 it from the Estimates—might I express a hope that the Admiralty have been able to maintain in the waters of China that service of river gunboats which has prevented piracy? I hope we shall continue our work there, because, if we withdraw, we shall find only too many ready to take our place. I understand the Navy has taken on the submarine defence of Hong Kong, and I hope these very important matters are satisfactorily and thoroughly attended to.
Coming away from these distant scenes, might I ask hon. Gentlemen to remember that it is now about 100 years since the sound of a foreign gun was heard from the shores of these islands, and, humanly speaking, it rests with this Committee as to how long this country may be preserved from that ominous sound in the future. I am sure it is a sound which, if we ever heard it, would give everyone the most profound sorrow, and those Gentlemen who speak from the Labour Benches are apt to minimise the effect it would have upon this country if, owing to repeated efforts to reduce the Naval Estimates, it should be heard again, and the people were afraid that this country had been reduced to a position in which she was unable adequately to face the force she might be called upon to encounter. We deplore the necessity of these enormous armaments as deeply as anyone, but the necessity is not of our seeking, and if we refuse to meet it the result will be absolutely fatal. It is foolish optimism to ignore the things which are going on round us now in various quarters of the world. There are Gentlemen who say that democracy is going to solve this great difficulty we are called upon to face, but does history go to show that 1 The passage of the great Naval Vote in the German Parliament the other day in silence, when the Social-Democratic party represents 30 per cent, of the electorate in that country, is an answer to the claim of hon. Members opposite that the Democratic party is essentially peaceful. And even in the rise of that Democratic tide in Germany, is there not always an underlying danger to this country because if the military caste in Germany thinks it is going to be submerged by the Social Democratic tide, is it not to some extent an inducement to them to rehabilitate their influence by aggression upon the country which even the most friendly Germans—and I have many German friends—consider has already acquired too 438 many of the good places upon this earth? I think the very fact of the Social Democratic party accepting in silence this Vote is one which hon. Members opposite should most carefully lay to heart. There is an old proverb that the man who pays the piper has the right to call the tune, and it would be infinitely wiser for this country to pay the piper, even if it cost us very dearly, and to persist in calling a peaceful tune when we have done it, than to let someone else pay the piper, and perhaps put us to the awful expense of a war owing to neglect and inattention on our part.
This is no question of personal antagonism to our German friends. It is a question on their part of national development, but it is manifestly unwise for us to accept this position. We do not grudge anyone a full share of the sunshine, but it is due to ourselves to see that we are not elbowed ruthlessly into the shade. Supposing such a thing happened as a foreign gun being heard on this coast, what would be the anxiety amongst the industrial population? Business would practically come to a standstill. People could not carry on their daily avocations in peace and quietness, and I can imagine what would be the cost if these ominous sounds were heard. We talk about democracy being peaceful. A hundred years is not a very long time, and attacks on our commerce were made by democratic countries within 100 years by France and America, neither of which countries had crowned heads or even hereditary peers to egg them on. A hundred years in the life of a nation is some time, but in the life of human nature it is nothing at all, and the passions which agitated people within the last 100 years it is quite possible may arise and do the same in the future as they have done in the past. Who can say what would happen if it were known that a great torpedo raid, under officers and crews thirsting for distinction, was levelled against our trade? Who can imagine the position of the Clyde, the Mersey, the Tyne, or the Thames in such a situation? We have only to look at what happened forty years ago even in the Far East, when the "Alabama" was mentioned as having got round the Cape of Good Hope. The American ships clustered together in every port they could find, and were paralysed just exactly as birds cluster round the ground together when a hawk is in the air. Our trade would come to a standstill, and where 439 then would food and wages be for the poor and most necessitous of the country? It is, to my mind, a case where the working classes are really more interested than their better-off neighbours.
The challenge is put out to us practically in a rough and ready manner. This country has the option of increasing its insurance or suffering loss of trade owing to a war in which, if we were successful, we should lose trade, and if we were unsuccessful the indemnity we should have to pay would be too appalling to contemplate. The anxiety which hon. Gentlemen have about our Fleet being aggressive is not borne out by its conduct in years past, and it is unjust and quite unreasonable to think that if we had become as strong as we hope to be we should be equally aggressive in the future. In 1898 the presence of a strong British Fleet was an emollient in the very sharp differences which arose between Germany and America. In 1900 it localised the war at the Cape, and in 1904 and 1905 it certainly prevented the Japanese and Russian War spreading beyond that corner of the world. Therefore, to say that because we ask for a strong Navy we are agitated by an aggressive spirit is an unjust accusation. I do not presume to dogmatise as to how our great difficulties should be faced, but a fixed programme has the benefit of certainty and simplicity, and ensures us against scares of this sort and against enormous expenditure one year and perhaps unnecessary neglect another. We agree that efficiency is necessary and that preparation is necessary. The difference between us is small. The difference is as to what is adequate preparation and what is inadequate. I think it is the truest wisdom of this country, if it errs at all, to err on the side of safety. It is absolutely impossible for us to take chances in a matter of this sort, where the whole structure of the British Empire might be shattered by one very serious naval defeat. We cannot risk such a thing as that, and in backing up the Estimates of the Government—and I offer my congratulations to the First Lord, knowing the opposition he has from behind—we do so in no spirit of aggression. My experience in the great Constituency that I captured in the last election was that the uneasiness in the public mind was produced by three things. First of all, the statements which were made last spring on the Front Bench; secondly, the knowledge that our prepara- 440 tions were being somewhat curtailed by our opponents speeding up their own; and thirdly, on account of the strong party ties which bind parties in this House, a very large proportion of the Liberal party in the last Parliament voted for a reduction of our naval expenditure. The figures which we have before us to-day show that the position was serious, although 120 or 140 Members went into the Lobby and voted for a reduction of the expenditure. These are the feelings which cause uneasiness in the public mind. The fact that credit is now taken for the. Admiralty expenses for six weeks is one which the public will regard with regret. If the Government had taken credit for a longer period, that fact would have tended to give the general public the opinion that the Government were doing what they could to lift the naval question out of party controversy. I regret that the credit was not more extended for that very reason. If we are going to settle our internal differences with free speech and bring about any constructive and great system of social reform, the first step we must take is to see that the country is absolutely free to do it without pressure from without. It is in that spirit I support these Estimates, and if Supplementary Estimates should be called for I shall gladly support them. I hope they will be devoted to an increase in the supply of torpedo-boat destroyers, which seem to be the cheapest and most effective means of providing for our defence.
I wish to draw the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Committee to a matter which has only been briefly referred to in the course of the Debate. As is usually the case during the consideration of the Navy Estimates, the discussion has centred round the "Dreadnought" type of vessel when comparisons were being made between the naval strength of this country and that of other countries, so far a? what are called capital ships are concerned. The hon. Member for the Maldon Division of Essex (Sir Fortescue Flannery), speaking a few nights ago, said the consensus of opinion in the British Navy was that vessels of the "Dreadnought" class —by which, I take it, he means the all-big-gun vessel—would be able to overcome a battleship of the most advanced type built immediately before it. I myself am not inclined to take that statement as entirely accurate. I have reason to believe that there is in the Navy itself a very consider- 441 able number who hold the opinion that the "Lord Nelson" or the "King Edward" type of vessel could cope with a "Dreadnought" in case of battle. It was only a year and a half or two years ago that a naval writer in, I think, the "Morning Post" made a statement to the effect that a ship of the "King Edward" class could sink a "Dreadnought" in twenty minutes, and I believe there are a great number of naval officers at the present moment who hold that opinion. When we consider the advantages claimed for the all-big-gun vessel and for the vessel of the "King Edward" type we find that the chief advantage claimed for the "Dreadnought" type is that it is able to fire a relatively large number of armour-piercing projectiles. On the other hand it has no secondary armament, and I think in considering which type of vessel is best we should look to past experience. I am disposed to think that the Board of Admiralty have not considered sufficiently the lessons of the Japanese and Russian war in this respect. If we turn to the battle of Tsushima, sometimes known as the battle of the Sea of Japan, we find that the Russion vessels which were put out of action by the Japanese battleships were not put out of action so much by the armour-piercing projectiles as by the high-explosive shells which struck rapidy and effectively against the unprotected parts of the Russian vessels. I believe I am right in saying that the Japanese Government, taking these facts into consideration and after due deliberation, have decided not to build in future what we term the all-big-gun vessel. We know perfectly well that in actions which may be fought in the North Sea—and these are the actions which are most likely to take place—there are very few days in the year on which it would be possible to open fire at a range of over 4,000 yards. I think naval opinion on this point is almost unanimous.
The right hon. Gentleman dissents. Perhaps I exaggerated in saying that there are very few days in the year when that could be done, but I believe that on the whole actions will be fought rather at short ranges than at long ranges in the North Sea, and if that be so the secondary armament of our big ships is a matter of vital importance, I am myself inclined to think —this is not only my view; it is also the view of many 442 naval officers—that we are going in to too great an extent for the all-big-gun type of vessel, and that we should turn our attention more than we have done in the past to vessels of the "Lord Nelson" and "King Edward" type. The hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs (Mr. Rees) and the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) both referred to the question of the creation of a Naval War Staff. I myself would like to endorse the remarks of the two hon. Members on that particular question. I believe there is at the Admiralty what is called a War Room. What goes on inside that room I do not know, but I do not think that the organisation which is provided for the strategical necessities of this country are at present adequate or all they ought to be. I would strongly urge the First Lord of the Admiralty to create a Naval War Staff, such as has been created by the Secretary of State for War in respect of the Army. The creation of the General Staff has had, I think, the effect of instilling a new spirit of energy and a desire for knowledge, strategical and otherwise, throughout the Army. I feel perfectly certain that were the First Lord of the Admiralty to create a similar Staff for the Navy a similar effect would be produced.
§ Mr. H. K. NEWTON
Taking part for the first time in these Debates, I am most anxious not to weary the Committee by putting forward at any length my views on the general question of the sufficiency or otherwise of the Estimates. While the Estimates undoubtedly show an awakening on the part of the Government to the principles of their declarations made last year, they fall short just at the critical point of coming down to this House and asking for enough money to translate the paper programme into a fleet in being, within, at all events, a reasonable period. It looks to me almost as if an attempt had been made to neutralise the increase which we have now admitted has become necessary by deferring to rather a late date in the year the putting of the work in hand. We have heard from both sides of the House of the importance of providing sufficient and suitable dock accommodation, especially on the East Coast. I cordially endorse the suggestions made yesterday. The operations of a fleet without ample dock accommodation for repairing must necessarily be very restricted. But, important as is the question of dock accommodation, the question of harbours on 443 our coast, especially our East Coast, is hardly of less importance. I mean, of course, harbours capable of affording safe anchorage to ships of His Majesty's Navy.
It is obvious that as the ships of His Majesty's Navy improve it is necessary to have corresponding improvement in those harbours by, for example, obtaining more accurate surveys and deepening the fairways of the harbour and in other ways, so that not only in times of peace, but also, especially in times of war, ships can use those harbours with safety, instead of finding in them merely a trap. I understand that the policy of the Admiralty in this matter is utterly opposed to making any grant of money to the harbour boards to undertake these national and useful works of improvement. I take this opportunity of suggesting that this policy is bad, both on the grounds of national defence and public economy, because, I submit, the loss and confusion which might result from our ships not venturing to go into a harbour, which was not safe for them, or of taking the risk and coming to grief, would be very much bigger than the small sum required to encourage and enable harbour boards to undertake such very important work as the improvement of the harbour. To illustrate the policy of the Government on this harbour question, I may state very shortly the facts concerning Harwich Harbour, with which I am personally acquainted. In this harbour dredging operations were commenced in 1903 by the Board of Conservancy of the Harbour. The object, of course. was to deepen the fairway and to render the harbour more navigable at low water, especially low-water spring tides. As the work progressed it was shown that the Admiralty chart was very defective, and accordingly the board instructed a very capable naval officer to undertake a fresh survey. That survey was carried through, and an appeal, not perhaps unnaturally, was made to the Admiralty for some assistance to meet the cost of that survey.
The Admiralty answer, which I only put before the Committee as an illustration of their whole policy with regard to assisting harbour boards, was that they were unable to render any assistance, but that they would be very glad to see the gallant captain's plotting sheets, as I believe they are called, with a view to correcting their own chart in their own office. A few years later, in. 1907, they appealed again for 444 assistance, in view of the very heavy cost of the work done and the value of the work to the Admiralty and the very limited resources of the Board. I do not wish to detain the Committee by tracing out the steps that were taken with a view to bringing the Admiralty to a sense of their duty in this matter, but I should like to be allowed to emphasise the position of this particular harbour as an example of the general question. This harbour is used very extensively indeed by the Admiralty. Space, I understand, is permanently reserved in the harbour for some forty or fifty ships of the Navy. The Committee know that ships of the Navy pay no dues whatsoever for the use of the harbour, and, consequently, that the revenue-earning capacity of the harbour, from the point of view of the Conservancy Board, was very much restricted, because berths would be occupied by ships of His Majesty's Navy which would otherwise have been available for vessels of the mercantile marine, paying dues in the ordinary course. Every day the Admiralty are making more and more use of this harbour, and in return they contribute not a penny to the cost of maintaining it, or the cost of improving it. Unless these improvements which have been made had been made the Admiralty would not to-day have been able to use that harbour the way that in fact they are using it. The position is really this, that these operations of which the Admiralty have received the full benefit, have been partially carried out at a cost to the Conservancy Board of upwards of £30,000. The Board is now practically without funds to complete what I suggest are works of national importance. By various shifts and devices they were able to complete the work, but the Board is saddled with a huge debt for more than thirty years, and, what is more, are unable to effect further improvements to accommodate the fleet in emergency for some years. As a result of the work already done ships of the Navy drawing 4 ft. and 4 ft. 6 in. more water are now using that harbour with a safety they could not have experienced before those improvements were put in hand. Therefore I do press most earnestly upon the Admiralty that they should reconsider the question of withholding all assistance from Harbour Boards in work which is obviously so useful and valuable to the Navy as in this particular case. If you look at it from the taxpayers' point of view I suggest that it is very much better business to expend small sums in encouraging Harbour Boards 445 to undertake useful and necessary work of this nature rather than to run the risk of having round the coast harbours which will not be available with safety for our ships in time of war. I am anxious to press on the right hon. Gentleman the desirability of encouraging as far as he can any allocation of contract work to the smaller shipbuilding and engineering yards of the country. It is, I think, extremely probable that in time of war there will be a good deal of congestion in the larger yards, and if we turn then to the smaller yards to help to relieve the pressure on the larger yards it seems to me we shall only be able to do so with any chance of success if during peace time we have taken care to give them some experience in the class of work which we would then want to have performed. I refer more particularly to repairs of the hulls and machinery of smaller craft—torpedo destroyers, torpedoes, and submarines. I am given to undertsand that there are many yards which have a little work occasionally, and such might prove of great assistance to the Admiralty in time of emergency. At the same time I would urge upon the Parliamentary Secretary the desirability of distributing more widely the new construction work in the programme. It seems to me that the country must benefit by having a larger number of firms not only able to build, but to carry out the very special requirements of the Admiralty. The only result of the present policy is that the small yards are unable to get the work or to gain the experience which I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary and the First Lord would prove such a very valuable asset to this country when pressure comes, as it undoubtedly will come in time of war.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I am painfully aware that at the close of a lengthy Debate of this character it is well nigh impossible to add anything new to the discussion. In the minds of some hon. Gentlemen it seems to be the idea that Members of the party with which I am associated are strongly opposed to an efficient Navy. I do not think that anybody can point to any utterance in the speeches that have been delivered from these benches that can give any colour to deductions of that sort. The real difference between us and some other hon. Gentlemen is as to whether the present state of the Navy is efficient, and whether a case has yet been made out for the great extensions set forth in the Estimates. We 446 are all agreed, I think, that it is essential to the safety of our nation that our Navy should be of ample dimensions and of such a character as will ensure that security which is necessary for the life of the nation. But we are not able to admit that any great changes have taken place during the past three years, were it not for the scare that we went through last year, and which, undoubtedly, has given birth to the great inflation of the Naval Estimates of this year. We have been told what the German people would do in the way of shipbuilding. Their Navy Act of 1900 has not, I think, been modified, at any rate to any considerable degree, during the period in which it has been in operation. Despite the startling rumours which were circulated last year respecting the acceleration of the German programme, I do not think even yet we have any evidence of such acceleration. Taking the position, as the German people might have anticipated it to be when their Act was passed, no alteration can be located as between that period and this. I find it to be extremely difficult to understand the policy of the nation and what standard of naval efficiency should be adjusted to that policy. I agree with all hon. Members that questions like the Navy ought to be lifted far above the sphere of party, and I can assure the most anxious hon. Member on the other side of the House that we who are called Socialists or Labour men are desirous to get to understand what is best in the interests of the nation from the standpoint of its security and its safeguarding. The hon. Member for Fareham has admitted during the course of these Debates that he had given his adhesion to two or three different types of standard from time to time. He still believes that the theory of two keels to one is a very good standard, but he has failed to bring the majority even of his own party to that point of view. Therefore he has forsaken it for another, which he has generally recognised in his speech as a two-Power standard. The unfortunate thing is that we have to apply the process of deduction followed by the hon. Member for Fareham a little earlier in the Debate. Like the hon. Member for King's Lynn, I think we have to weigh what is probable or possible in the international world before we can lay down a standard that can be followed for all time. It is said that we should take the two next largest naval Powers in the world and build against them. That does not appear to me to be a logical or desirable policy for this country; in fact, I am 447 driven to the conclusion that it is a policy that will ultimately make this nation bankrupt, because the two next largest naval Powers at the present time are Germany and the United States. Both those nations, particularly the United States, have such huge resources, such potentialities of greatly increasing population, that I do not contemplate the possibility of this country for many years being able to build against those two great nations.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I am very interested in the interpolation of my hon. Friend, and I hope he will avail himself of the opportunity of rising in this Debate, and point out to this nation how it will be able to finance a huge Navy by taxing the foreigner or by the establishment of Imperial Preference. I just sought to make the point that it was utterly impossible for us long to pursue the policy of even that which is now generally understood by the two-Power standard. It seems to me unthinkable that there should ever be an outbreak of hostilities between ourselves and the United States, and, therefore, I fail to understand the wisdom of expending huge sums in creating a force which can never be called into requisition, even according to the standard which is now presently laid down. The utmost the hon. Member for Fareham claims for it is that it is a standard, a rough and ready way of arriving at what is desirable for this nation. I quite understand his adhesion to it, but I have ventured to suggest it does not seem logical or convincing, and is a standard I would not be prepared to accept. I cannot deny the right of the hon. Gentleman himself to accept this standard. I would like to refer to an observation that the hon. Member for Fareham addressed to the chairman of the Labour party. We are glad, and I heartily acknowledge the way in which the hon. Gentleman has admitted that he has failed to. prove the statement that he made in this House, and, I believe, in the country last year.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I will accept the hon. Gentleman's correction. I must confess I regretted that the statement was made just at the juncture that it was, because undoubtedly it very largely assisted in the creation of the scare which 448 swept over the country at that time. My hon. Friend the chairman of the Labour party, the hon. Member for the Black-friars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), like other Members of his party, was so impressed with the statement the hon. Gentleman made that he, with others, at once got into communication with certain sources, with whom we are in touch, with a view to ascertaining whether the statement could be borne out. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham this afternoon states that that information is not accurate, and of course it is perfectly competent for him to exclude that or any other information, but I can assure him my hon. Friend the Member for Black-friars, and others, have made most careful examination, as far as it is possible for them to do, and I can assure him also that the sources from which they have secured that information are reliable and responsible, and that the statements my hon. Friend has made have some basis in fact, and, I think, upon further investigation will be found to represent the real facts of the situation. In the absence of the hon. Member for Blackfriars I feel I am certainly able to say that last night he had no intention of casting any aspersion on the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham, and had I happened to be in his place I would unreservedly have withdrawn the statement after the hon. Gentleman had made his protest in the way he did.
We look upon the Navy as a form of national insurance, and the real difference between us is that we on these benches say that every pound spent in insurance premium beyond what is actually necessary is a waste of national resources. Therefore, it means that we have to be convinced that it is absolutely essential that this extra outlay should be incurred. I cannot exonerate the hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House from their responsibility in this matter. It is only a little over four years ago since they were in office. They then were acquainted with the shipbuilding programme of the German people, and they did not think it well to stimulate construction. In those days, I believe, the evidence goes to show that they relaxed efforts in that direction. Last year we had statements made, and I associate myself with the hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, when they stated that the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty were in a considerable degree, responsible for the panic 449 which swept over the country. Certainly they made speeches to us, leading us to believe that a new situation had been created and that the position of this country was in grave peril. What has impressed me most is that nothing has yet been adduced to prove those statements. We were told that the German people had so accelerated their programme that they would have at least seventeen "Dreadnoughts" at the critical time—I believe, the spring of 1912. In fact, some who were less careful in their arithmetical propositions went so far as to state that the Germans would have twenty-three, or, I believe, according to one statement, twenty-five "Dreadnoughts" at the time. We have the assurance of Admiral von Tirpitz and the German Ambassodar that the Germans will have no more than thirteen "Dreadnoughts" in 1912, and that not until the close of that year. I believe our shipbuilding programme, as now out lined, shows that we shall have twenty-two by that period, and I would respectfully say that the point is this, that this programme has been based upon the statements that were in circulation last year. Therefore, in my opinion, all such expenditure far exceeds the actual needs and circumstances of our time. I do venture to express the hope that the nation may, as some hon. Members have hoped, be led to take greater interest in naval affairs. Nothing but good can result from a diffusion of interest amongst the people. I believe that that greater diffusion of interest is to be noted not only in this, but in other countries. Hon. Members from these benches have drawn attention to the growth of democratic sentiment in other countries. I know that some hon. Members are inclined to discount the value of that growth; but I believe there is a greater friendship growing up between the working classes of the various countries of the world. This in itself must make for peace, and I think is a circumstance which ought not to be discounted, but rather hailed as a most welcome sign. It is sometimes stated that the German Social Democratic party does not exercise the influence in German affairs that might be expected of it. It is quite true that that party represents one-third of the votes cast at the Reichstag election in 1907, but unfortunately, owing to an unjust electoral system, the votes that that party secured do not obtain effective representation inside the Reichstag. I think we may honestly say that at least one-third of the German nation have, by their allegiance 450 to the Labour party of that country, demonstrated their desire for a more harmonious understanding and an arresting of this extreme expenditure on armaments, in the conscious knowledge that it is only by the establishment and the endurance of peace that the well-being of the working classes can be fully developed.
I am apprehensive that the constant growth of this expenditure, both on the Army and on the Navy, is fraught with considerable danger to the working classes of the country. I candidly confess that I would not be quite so much alarmed were the incidence of taxation properly adjusted. It is an undeniable fact that the present incidence of taxation falls unduly hard and oppressively upon the working classes. Therefore all this increased expenditure must in large measure fall upon them, and there is a considerable danger that their lot may be rendered harder and more difficult as the expenditure increases. Nevertheless, I was pleased last night at the observation of the Secretary to the Admiralty, in which he put forward the view that increased expenditure on the Army and Navy will not be regarded as a reason for staving off great questions of social reform. That seems to mean that if social reform is to have adequate financing the question of taxation must be tackled, so that taxes shall fall in larger measure upon the shoulders of those best able to bear them, and of those classes who, because of the large amount of property that they own, derive the greatest security from the maintenance of these large forces.
§ Mr. FOOT MITCHELL
As a new Member of the House, making his first speech, I would claim the indulgence which has already been granted to many who have preceded me. Unfortunately, I come very late in the Debate; consequently many of the matters to which I had wished to refer have already been taken up, and they have been so carefully and thoroughly discussed that I feel it will be better for me to pass them over and confine my remarks as shortly as possible to one or two particular points. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his opening speech, foreshadowed that there would be discovered in this House two parties—one wedded to retrenchment and the other seeking for increased expenditure. His forecast has proved to be absolutely correct, all the speeches in the Debate, I believe, having pointed to the fact that there are only those two parties in the House. As far as I can remember, there has not been a 451 single speech in which the policy and Estimates of the Government have been absolutely and thoroughly approved. Under such conditions, we cannot but feel that the policy is one of compromise. I know that the First Lord stated that such was not his intention, and that these Estimates were put before the Committee only as providing for the absolute needs of the British Navy of the present time. But I do not think that that will appeal to the country. The people would support and uphold any Government that realised to the fullest extent that the Navy represents the Empire's life-blood, and that sea supremacy must be maintained under any circumstances and under all conditions. The two parties in this House might very reasonably be compared to the wise and the foolish virgins. Both parties unquestionably want lamps. They quite agree that lamps are the right and proper thing, but they do not agree as to the lubrication that is necessary to make those lamps perfect.
While we welcome the improved programme which the Government have put forward, we feel that they have not as yet gone far enough, and that there is great room for improvement in many particulars. The Secretary to the Admiralty said that no practical criticism had been made with regard to the Estimates. In my opinion, some most excellent criticisms have been put forward, but I do not think that they have been categorically answered, or that Members on this side have been given those replies which they might reasonably have expected. I appreciate that the Government have undoubtedly gone half-way in meeting the demands made upon them in consequence of the increased armaments of other countries, but the Debates have clearly shown that serious deficiencies still exist in the Estimates. First of all, there is no question whatever that there is a shortage of cruisers. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty as to whether this is not a suicidal policy, because the country lives by the sea, and through the sea; and, unless our trade routes are thoroughly protected, unless our possessions are likewise protected, we may find ourselves in an extremely difficult and unsatisfactory situation simply because, although we have got the lamp, as I said before, we have not supplied the necessary oil to make the provision a complete one.
452 I think it has also been shown that there is a shortage in torpedo boats such as would be suitable for service in the North Sea. This matter has been ably referred to, and I will not refer to it further, but I should certainly like to have an assurance on the part of the First Lord of the Admiralty that the number of torpedo boats which it is necessary to have for the service of this Empire will be put in hand forthwith, and that the disparity which exists between ourselves and other countries will be remedied at the earliest possible moment. Again, we have the question of docking accommodation. That has been very considerably dealt with. We have also had several replies upon the subject of docks. My own opinion is that if we were forced to embark upon a war at the present time—which God forbid—our docking accommodation for large vessels of the "Dreadnought" type would not be sufficient; that the docking accommodation which has been provided up to the present time is not what it should be; neither has proper provision been made in order to make it as complete as our neighbour to whom reference has so frequently been made. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth came to this House armed with a further experience. In the most patriotic spirit he explained the position of many of the most interesting points in connection with the Navy as he found them from his own personal experience. What is the result? He is called a scaremonger, and none of the weak points upon which he lays his finger, so far as I can see, have up to the present time been cleared up.
I quite agree that this question of the Navy should not be made a party question. But since I came into this House I find that it is hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches who seek to make it so. For example, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, I think—the matter has already been referred to some extent this evening—when it was pointed out that a larger amount should be spent upon construction work than is provided for in the present financial year at once makes it a party question by producing a comparison with that of a former Conservative Government. As has been very justly stated, the position to-day is an entirely different one. Although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I do not think we can compare ourselves with ourselves. We want to see what has been done 453 last year, and when we find that it is necessary to find a larger sum proportionately than has hitherto been spent it is the duty of the Government to provide it. Charges have been brought in a most unwarrantable manner against some hon. Members on this side of the House. They are charged with having made certain statements during the General Election in relation to the Navy which entirely misrepresented the state of affairs. I wholly disagree with a statement of that character. I do not think that any alarmist reports were circulated by Members on this side of the House. The note of alarm was rung by Members of the Government themselves, on 29th March last, and by the Prime Minister. It was the Government themselves who caused the alarm, and who brought about that inquiry which became so general throughout the country. I myself represent neither a dockyard, a cathedral city, nor a university, but I represent a constituency which is very largely composed of those who are termed working men, and I find that they take a very deep and intimate interest in the question of the Navy. As has been so very aptly set forth to-night, there is every reason why they should do so, because their daily bread depends upon the strength of the Navy and the ability of that Navy to be able to protect our seas, and so allow us to get the food which we are so dependent upon, and which we know for a fact would only last us for some three weeks or a month, if unfortunately we were to meet with defeat, and our shores were to be surrounded by a hostile fleet.
It is quite true that we have no right to question Germany's motives, or to say that she should not build a fleet which is entirely beyond that which would be commonly considered necessary to protect her ports and possessions and to guard her commerce. But we want a Navy for this country which no Power dare to attack. That is our national insurance. That will ensure peace, and cost us very much less than war. It has been pointed out by the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Montgomeryshire, that we, as a nation, possess the pick of the earth, and we do. There are envious eyes cast upon those possessions which, I am certain, if we were not in a position to guard and protect, would be very soon gobbled up in the manner that one of my hon. Friends below the Gangway suggested would be the way that Belgium and Holland might 454 be disposed of. There is one point that I wish to further refer to, and that is in connecton with a reference which was made by the First Lord of the Admiralty in his Statement for this year in relation to fuel and stores. The Statement mentioned that:—A large number of tanks have been provided for oil fuel, and additional tanks have been arranged for in order to keep pace with the arrangements consequent upon the increase in the number of ships fitted to burn this description of fuel. Facilities for the supplying of oil fuel by contract at a number of ports have also been considerably added to particularly in the direction of taking advantage of the shale oil industry.This is a question which, as far as I am concerned—and I think it will appeal likewise to a great many Members of this Committee—it is high time that some very urgent steps were taken in regard to which will largely increase the facilities for men-of-war, torpedo boats, and all ships using liquid fuel in place of coal. We know that, in the first place, it is very much easier to handle it, that it does not require so many stokers, and it is placed upon the ships with a very much greater facility. I would also like to refer to the question of the coaling of destroyers. If a sufficient supply of liquid fuel were kept in order that they may be able to use it, I think that the difficulty mentioned by an hon. Member yesterday might be very greatly assisted, and that it would very much help in the work of these particular boats. I suggest to the First Lord of the Admiralty, in view of the fact that oil fuel is rapidly displacing coal, that the amount of provision made in these Estimates for supplies of this article is not at all sufficient. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) referred to the possibility of the manœuvres being put off in consequence of a strike being imminent in the coal trade, which points, I imagine, to the stocks of coal being extremely small. If there is any ground for the statement that the manœuvres might be put off in consequence of a possibility of a strike in the coal trade, I think it would be very desirable that large stocks of liquid fuel should be kept in hand to provide for emergencies of that character.
First of all liquid fuel does not deteriorate in quality and does not lose in weight, and you can always depend on having a supply ready at any particular point if you have sufficient tankage to hold the stock, and in view of the fact that that tankage can be put up at the very low rate of 15s. per ton to provide tankage and storage for many years I think the 455 Admiralty might reasonably take into consideration the desirability of very largely increasing their provision for the using and burning of liquid fuel. In the American Admiralty they have, I believe, under construction storage for 25,000,000 barrels, or about 4,000,000 tons of liquid fuel, which I understand they contemplate using for the service of their navy.
I should like to call attention also to the use of benzoline or petrol. I do not see any provision made in the Estimates for this particular article. I know it is very largely used by submarines and used in His Majesty's service for the fleet, and I think, therefore, it is very necessary that some arrangement should be made whereby a supply of this article should be available in case of war. I understand that in Germany the Government have a call of some 15,000 tuns of this spirit, that is to say, that in the event of the outbreak of a war or sudden emergency, they would be able to lay their fingers upon 15,000 tuns of this spirit for use in their navy. I think some such provision should be made in this country, and that we should not be wholly dependent upon the possible chance of being able to find it when the necessity arose. I shall be very pleased to register my vote on behalf of the Naval Estimates, because I think they are an advance in the right direction, and while I am not satisfied that the Government have gone far enough, yet I hope that the points that have been brought to the special notice of the First Lord will receive such consideration that we shall be called on at a later date to vote Supplemental Estimates in order that these suggestions may be carried out.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has given to the House some very interesting information on the subject of oil, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman, as I believe that is a subject on which he may be regarded as an expert, the Admiralty will be only too glad to bear in mind the observations he has made on the subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) raised before dinner the case of Mr. Mulliner. I did not understand from the outset whether the hon. and learned Member made himself responsible for the truth of the allegations he made in this Committee, or whether he merely repeated them as statements which had been made to him, but as regards the truth of which he could accept no responsibility. I do not know 456 if I have correctly interpreted what the hon. and learned Gentleman said when I say that he himself did not take any responsibility for the statement he made.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. and learned Member told us quite frankly and fully the source of his information, but he did not express any personal feeling as to whether he believed it or not.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. and learned Gentleman does not quite appreciate, although he is an old Member of the House, what is the duty of a Member of Parliament. I desire to know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman himself believes in the truth of these statements. If not, I shall not answer; but if he assures me he does believe in the truth of the statement he made I shall answer him. That is the reason I ask him whether in repeating the statements he himself has taken sufficient interest and care before he repeated them in this House to investigate them so as to justify him in believing the truth of them. If he has I will answer; if he has not, I do not think I will trouble the Committee.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I think the Committee-will agree that in these circumstances my best course is to leave Mr. Mulliner to his hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
The Committee do not think anything of the sort At any rate, a part of the Committee do not agree with what the right hon. Gentleman suggests.
§ Mr. McKENNA
That may be so. The case of Mr. Mulliner was raised upon most of the Conservative platforms at the last election, and now only one hon. Gentleman in this House has ventured to get up and repeat the allegations Mr. Mulliner made, and even he dare not stand up in Parliament and say he believes in the truth of those statements.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I think the Committee will exonerate me from making any reply to the absolutely baseless charges which have been made against the Admiralty. Let me now turn to other matters, and I will deal with them very briefly. The hon. Member for Finsbury, in the course of his speech, referred to the subject of the capture of the enemy's property at sea, and he expressed the view, which is very largely shared in this House, that if the Foreign Office were to agree to an alteration of the International law upon that subject it would result in a serious reduction of the Navy Estimates. Those hon. Members believe, moreover, that in the long run this course would prove advantageous to this country. Let me put before my hon. Friends one or two points of view somewhat different from their own. If the Navy is to be used as an engine of war it can be used either for the purpose of destroying the commerce of the enemy or of protecting our own commerce. It can also be used for the purpose of convoying an army intended for the purpose of invasion or of protecting this country against such a convoy.
In this country the second purpose of a Navy, so far as it is an offensive purpose, cannot be utilised. We have no Army upon a footing comparable to the arms maintained in Europe, and I hope we shall not have. It follows from that, that for offensive purposes, our Navy could never be used for the invasion of a foreign European Power. We can use it for defensive purposes against invasion, but not for offensive purposes. On the other hand, when we turn to the other purpose which the Navy can perform with regard to the defence or attack upon the commerce, we are in a peculiarly favourable position for offence against all European Powers.
Our strategic position, from the point of view of attack upon commerce, is such that we are quite as well placed as any of our European friends could be. I do not say that we should shut the door against a new international agreement for the moment—I am only putting another point of view—but if by an international agreement we tie our hands and say we will abandon the offensive power of the Navy in the attack upon commerce, we have deprived ourselves of all defensive power in the use of the Navy. The only other defensive use is to convoy an invading army. It is no advantage to destroy ships 458 of war unless thereby you obtain control of the commerce. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite appreciate my point. The mere destruction of ships of war will not bring the war to an end. Of course, you want to destroy ships of war if they can injure your commerce, destroy your trade routes, or assist in the invasion of your shores, but the mere destruction of ships of war will not stop a war.
§ Mr. PAGE CROFT
Does the right hon. Gentleman believe in the maxim that it is the first duty of a fleet to attack and defeat the enemy's fleet wherever it is to be found?
§ Mr. McKENNA
Yes, that is an excellent maxim, but it is entirely irrelevant here. Our supposed enemy, if he has an army, retains the power of offence against us, and although our commerce may be secure, do you suppose that international regulations would always be regarded as binding? Although our commerce would be secure, we should be bound to maintain a Navy in order to prevent an invasion, and we should find ourselves in exactly the position we find ourselves at this moment, that while it was true a Navy would not be required to defend our commerce, we must retain a supreme Navy for the purpose of defending our shores. We must be confronted with these alternatives or we must have an Army so great that no nation would dare to invade us. If you give up that you must retain a supreme Navy. Now, it is argued that if once we agree to that foreign Powers will reduce their navies—at least, that is what is alleged. But once we agree we should still have to retain a supreme Navy. It is said that although for war purposes we should be perfectly innocuous against an enemy for defensive purposes, we should be safe if our Navy is supreme. If you abandon the power of attack or offence it is said you will be able to save yourself so many millions spent in a way which no one in the House regrets more than I do. It is said you will be able to save those millions, and in the long run the country would be better off. That assumes that if we were willing to accept the proposals which have been made in the amendment of the international law upon this subject foreign nations would agree to reduce their navies upon the principle that we should still remain supreme. I think it is common ground between us that we should still retain a supreme Navy in order to prevent 459 invasion, but that supreme Navy would be on a smaller basis, because the standard would be lower throughout the world.
What did the Foreign Secretary say in this House, and what have I said after him? If a proposal is made to us upon that basis we are willing to consider it. It was so stated last year, and I do not think any Government can possibly be expected to go further than that. We, who have been challenged as the great enemies of international peace because we spoke in that way of what is regarded as a great international reform, say we are willing to consider any proposals that are made providing they be brought forward upon the only basis which can give security to our nation.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Our experience of making proposals has been very unhappy. With the most complete sincerity and with the most complete good faith, three years ago we made a proposal at the Hague Conference, and we went further, and stated that if the proposal were accepted we would reduce our programme, the programme left us as an inheritance by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, by a still further ship.
§ Mr. J. M. ROBERTSON
You expressly refused to consider the question of the capture of commerce at the Hague Conference.
§ Mr. McKENNA
No, that was not the condition at all. After all, what we say in this House is not confined within the limits of these four walls. The statement I have made to-night, like the statement made by the Foreign Secretary last year, has been publicly made in this House. The statement of the Foreign Secretary is known in every Chancellery in Europe. It cannot be said it is a mere question of finesse as to which side puts it forward first. I do not think anybody but my hon. Friends could possibly ask the Government to go an inch beyond that. In making that proposal, we did it in the interests of peace and in order to reduce these great armaments. Look what we are giving up. My hon. Friends are very prone to speak in laudatory terms of the military practice in respect of the capture of private property as compared with the naval practice. We only capture private property because we want to stop commerce. That is the only 460 way in which we can bring pressure to bear upon the enemy. It is not the value of the property we care about; that is not the naval view at all. When a military force takes possession of a country, it forbids the enemy to use the railways or the roads. A military force can hold the railways and stop the roads, and, when they hold the railways and stop the roads they hold the commerce. When we hold the sea we do not hold the commerce unless we put a penalty upon those who venture to use it. We treat the seas as a road, and we say, "You must not use that road under penalty of losing your goods." When we say we are willing to consider proposals put forward on a different basis, I appeal to hon. Members to see the advantage we have in defensive power in attacks upon commerce; but if we can secure the peace of the world and reduce this gigantic burden of armaments this Government would be willing to consider any proposal. We cannot go further than that, and I do not think my hon. Friends ought to ask more than that.
My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles) spoke of our men, and stated that we had more than the two-Power standard in men. After my experience of last year I cannot tell my hon. Friends and hon. Members in this House how unwilling I am to make any explanation about anything. If I say exactly what the facts are, immediately everything is twisted and turned; it is alleged that the Admiralty were ignorant, and only admitted under pressure that they had not done their duty, and every explanation which is given in justification of the Estimates is immediately twisted by irresponsible speakers on the platform. It is immediately turned into a charge against the Government and twisted into a reason for creating a new standard. If I explain how, when the numbers are properly considered, although we are asking for a total of 131,000 and Germany has 57,000 and America and France something like the same number, our numbers are not in excess of the two-Power standard, and give the reasons, why I shall at once be told we have not enough men, and that I have admitted in the House of Commons that a considerable number of men in Vote A are not really available for war. I shall be challenged to contradict my own statement and to increase the numbers in the Navy. I ask my hon. Friend to believe that the Board of Admiralty have taken every relevant fact into consideration. They have framed these Estimates with considerable 461 knowledge of the facts and in the genuine belief that they are necessary, and not more than necessary; and, after these three days' discussion of the Estimates, I hope my hon. Friends will accept my assurance that, as a Member of the Board of Admiralty, I have given the closest personal attention to every detail, as also has ray hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and my hon. Friend the Civil Lord, so that we are able to answer for the advice given to the Board by the Naval Lords with a certain degree of knowledge of the facts to which their advice relates and in confidence that the Estimates put before the House now are sufficient, but not more than sufficient.
§ Captain TRYON
I have been listening to this Debate almost continuously since it began, and, if I may say so, the right hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) made the best point for voting against his own Resolution. He told us that the First Lord of the Admiralty is strongly in favour of economy, and has worked hard for the sake of economy. That seems to me to prove conclusively that the present Estimates are absolutely necessary. I have seldom heard a better argument delivered by anybody against a resolution that they were proposing. I have noticed another point. We are continually told the Unionist party have brought forward on the platform vague statements. I do not think they are any more vague than the charge. We have had no substantiation of that charge. We have been told that things have been said on the platform, and the First Lord said that he did not in the least anticipate there would be anything said in this House like what has been said upon the platform. What has been said upon the platform by the Unionist party? I remember that at meetings of the Unionist party last May we criticised the proposals of the Government. We said it was not enough only to definitely promise four "Dreadnoughts." We were right; it was not enough. We said that not only must the "Dreadnoughts" be definitely promised, but that they must be begun within the year. Again we were right. I would remind hon. Members on the other side of the House that so far from what we say on the platform not being said in this House, what we said on the platform last year has been acknowledged from the other side in this House to have been right. After all we are entitled to ask whether it is said now. I gather from the Leader of the Labour party that we have to thank 462 the Unionist party for the present attitude of the Government. We hear that the Liberal Government has surrendered its whole policy of economy to the Opposition. In the opinion of the Leader of the Labour party the present more advanced programme of the Government is directly due to the efforts on the platform, in the Press, and in this House of the Unionist party in recent times. I am very happy to thank the Leader of the Labour party for this acknowledgment of the services rendered to the country by the Unionist party. I hope the country will recognise the fact. I have been immensely interested to hear the exceptionally brilliant attack delivered against the Leader of the Labour party by one of the Members of that party. I am glad to notice there is still independence in the Independent Labour party; we are getting doubtful about its existence. In a very excellent speech one of the Labour Members said he looked on the Navy as necessary. But that is not the attitude of the Leader of the Labour party, who tells us that international finance is simply making the weapon of war almost impossible. I believe the first Hague Conference was held fifteen or sixteen years ago, and I know of no great change in the commerce between various countries or in the finance of various countries since that Conference was held, yet there has been war after war in which almost all the great countries have been engaged, the one most conspicuous exception being the country which is most fully prepared for war, and this I commend to the attention of those who look on armaments as leading to war. When the Leader of the Labour party goes on to argue that the thing which is continually happening can never possibly occur—that war which is continually happening is suddenly going to stop, I think it is apparent that there is insufficient foundation for his claim. I notice, and I hope the country will notice, the programme which the Leader of the Labour party has announced and the wording which he has adopted. He quoted a German authority, a Labour leader in Germany, who said that "not a man and not a farthing should be voted for this policy," and he endorsed that policy with regard to our Navy. That is a very serious thing, and I trust A will be a serious thing for any Labour Members who stand by that policy when they go back to their constituents and say that they are not prepared to support the Navy.
463 10.0 P.M.
I wish to allude to the question of the two-Power standard. We were told by the First Lord of the Admiralty that the Prime Minister has made a considered statement on this subject. That seems to be a little hard on other statements made by the Prime Minister. I do not know whether they were unconsidered, but we do know there have been statements by the Prime Minister which have been reconsidered. That is, perhaps, another issue. The old policy of the two-Power standard had two advantages—firstly, it referred to no particular nation; and, secondly, it was a clear and simple j formula. But we have had complications introduced by the present Government. They have brought into question calculations about our total effective strength for defensive purposes as compared with the combined effective strength of any other two nations for aggressive purposes, and they have said that that shall be the standard. When I am talking of aggression I am dealing with the strategical and tactical use of the Navy when war has once begun, and I should like to know since when the Admiralty has laid it down that the policy of the Navy is to be a defensive policy when war has broken out. I believe the First Lord of the Admiralty, in a recent Debate, acknowledged the duty to attack the enemy's fleet wherever it might be. If so, how can it be said that the Navy is assuming a defensive policy. I know of no strategical authority, no great admiral, in the past or present, who will acknowledge that the attitude of the British Navy in war can possibly be a defensive attitude. But as we have come to the question of experts and admirals, I notice that no less name than that of Nelson has been brought into the controversy. I notice a cartoon in the "Westminster Gazette" in which the shade of Nelson is made to say, "We used not to talk in my days about two keels to one, or a two-Power standard with 10 per cent, margin," and the spirit of Drake is made to say, "Nor in my time neither. We liked the odds to be against us; the greater the odds, the greater the glory." I do not know whether that is the policy of the new Peace party on the back benches, but I think the Liberal party before they quote Nelson might take some trouble to ascertain what his views were on this matter. Nelson's great doctrine with regard to numbers was this, that only numbers could annihilate, and I suggest before you appeal 464 to Nelson you should study what he said. Why did he say that only numbers could annihilate? Because he wanted to bring the war to an end at the earliest possible moment, and when you think of the position of this country, the interests we have to guard and the waterways we have to keep open, it will be seen that we want an overwhelming Navy because of the number of duties it has to perform.
I will only go on to one more point, and that is the question of the home defences of this country. I regret that the home defences of this country cannot be debated as a whole, because I believe that for the strategic use of the Navy a strong Army is absolutely indispensable, because any great military weakness at home would mean that the Navy would be hampered in its strategy and tied up to our shores. Therefore I do not agree with those who look upon the Army and Navy as antagonistic. We hear the suggestion that the Army should be cut down and the money should be spent on the Navy, but a weak Army and a weak Territorial Army means that the Navy is enormously impeded in war for want of proper support. I do hope the provisions made by this House will show the other nations that we are determined to maintain our supremacy, and I am one of those who most sincerely wish that this Vote for an increased Navy could have been carried unanimously by this House and no opposition offered, but, if not, I hope the Government will acknowledge that in regard to their Estimates for an increased Navy they have received the support of the Opposition, and their defence has been directed, not across the floor of the House, but across the Gangway and against their own people. I can assure them that we are prepared to support them in their efforts to secure peace, and I hope we shall secure peace in spite of the Peace Society.
§ Mr. W. H. DICKINSON
The speech delivered by the hon. Member (Mr. Allen Baker) has certainly had a very remarkable effect. We have had a statement from the First Lord with regard to the intentions of the Government in respect to the capture of property at sea, which is far the most important they have made for many a long day, and one which, I am convinced, will have its effect in other quarters of the globe. We do not object to the proposals to-day merely upon the ground of money, but chiefly because some of us think that they will end in aggravating the very danger that we 465 desire to avoid. We hold that the system which has been crudely stated as two keels to one, or the two-Power standard, has already proved a failure. For years we have been trying it, and the result is that all over the world the expenditure on the Navy and Army has increased enormously. We get no nearer to a solution. Our position is no safer than it was before, for the moment that a foreign Power spends £l, we spend the same amount, and the consequence is that we do not seem to be advancing one step towards any more secure position, or any more satisfactory solution of the great question of international arrangements and negotiations. In 1894 when Mr. Gladstone had before him the question of a considerable increase in the money which was proposed to be spent upon the Navy he took that opportunity to resign office, and, as we know from Lord Morley, one of the principal reasons why he took that course was that he felt he could not turn his back upon his former self by becoming a party to swollen expenditure, for his name stood in Europe as a symbol of the policy of peace, moderation, and not aggression, and his view at that time was clearly that the policy of increased armaments was one which did not conduce to peaceable arrangements between the nations. Our experience ever since then has proved how just he was in his appreciation of the real condition of affairs as between the nations of the world, for no sooner had we started on that system than the Germans began to build their fleet, and in 1898 the Act was first passed under which their fleet is now being constructed. I believe if we could look into the inmost secrets of the German Navy we should find that it has been this country that on every occasion has brought about the increase in that Navy.
The first increase was in 1900, and it is very probable that the words which are an the preamble of the German Navy Act had some reference to England, for the very simple reason that there had been the experience of the Boer war, and they knew the dangers to which they were then subjected at the hands of England. The same thing happened in 1908, because at that time we had started our "Dreadnoughts," and, as the Noble Lord told us, if we had not advertised our "Dreadnoughts" the Germans would not have commenced their policy of building those larger ships. Therefore it seems to me that all our policy in the last two years has had 466 the very opposite result which we anticipated. I am not concerned myself about the extra £5,000,000 this year. I am inclined to think that we can bear it very well, and the only question is on whose shoulders the burden should fall. If we can put the burden on the wealthy war-mongers who clamoured for "Dreadnoughts," then it may be a very good thing. It may act in the same way as the treatment given sometimes when it is difficult to deal with a lunatic in an asylum— you give him a douche of cold water. I believe that in this country and other countries it may be the only way of bringing the wealthy circles to their senses to make them bear the cost of these armaments. What I am more concerned about is the effect of these proposals and other similar proposals upon the people of this country, and upon the people of Germany. Things change very rapidly, and I believe that far more depends now than ten or fifteen years ago upon the public opinion that is moving through the people of a nation. It certainly is the case in this country, and it is getting more and more to be the case in Germany. There is no denying that in each of these countries there does exist in the minds of the masses of the people very considerable anxiety as regards the intentions of the other. We have in this country a very general feeling of anxiety. We are told by gossip and by speeches that we are liable to an immediate invasion from the German nation. How has this been brought about? It has been brought about very largely by the propagandism of various societies and individuals, some of them very well intentioned and others not. The first thing which has brought it about is, undoubtedly, the German fleet. It has suddenly come to the knowledge of the people of this country that Germany has a very powerful fleet building. They have not been aware, as other people have been aware, that that fleet has been in course of construction for some years. Then we have all over the country organisations started for the purpose of instilling feelings of patriotism into the people. These organisations, no doubt with good motives, have kindled a feeling of suspicion and distrust on the part of our nation, and in order to further that idea we had at the recent election for the first time this most serious question of international relationships dragged into the political arena. But the remarkable thing is that the very same process has been going on in Germany. I do not know whether 467 hon. Members have read closely the words used by Prince Henry of Prussia the other day when speaking at Hamburg. There is one sentence to which I attach a good deal of importance. He said he had gained during his visit to England the impression that there was absolutely no idea of aggression against Germany in English Government circles. He was addressing a German audience, and with intentions which are perfectly clear. He evidently desired to improve the feeling of friendliness between the two countries, and he goes out of his way to state that there is no idea of aggression in England against Germany. I believe that very few people in England would believe that the Germans are really filled with any anxiety about it themselves, but it is a fact that there is anxiety in Germany. A year or so ago the Vienna correspondent of "The Times wrote that a large and increasing section of the people entertained fears of an eventual British naval attack. How has that be-en brought about? Very much like our own anxiety in this country. There have been formed in Germany several very powerful organisations for the purpose of popularising their fleet. Ever since the fleet has been commenced, and the cost of it has fallen upon the people, there has been great difficulty in Germany in making the vast inland population understand the necessity for that fleet. And accordingly, with the very best of motives, organisers have been travelling about through the country for the purpose of making the fleet popular, and making the people believe that they wanted it very badly. And one of the stock arguments that have been used for the purpose of showing that the fleet is necessary is that they have to guard against a fleet massed in the North Sea, ready to strike them at a moment's notice.
On the occasion of the King's visit to Germany last year most of the German newspapers assumed a very friendly tone. The King's personality and his actions and words were so friendly that he was very well received, and the papers as a rule, even those generally most hostile to us, contained very kindly articles. But most of them pointed out what the difficulty hitherto had been, and several of them made reference to the fact that they never understood the action of this country in massing our fleet in home waters. We know why we did it. We believe that it was only a good strategical move. 468 But it was made use of as an argument in Germany in order to show that the Germans had something to fear from us by reason of this massing of the Fleet in home waters. Last summer there was an article in one of the German magazines by an admiral, pointing out the defence-less condition of the ports of Germany, and how important it was that they should be fortified at the very earliest possible moment. Now we know that all this idea is baseless, that there is really no intention of our attacking Germany at any moment. Hence we have this unfortunate position of affairs. We are piling up our armaments on our people from a fear of invasion by Germany, and the Germans are piling up their armaments from a fear that should any Continental dispute arise we would attack them with the object of destroying their shipping and their ports.
We are labouring in both countries under a hideous misunderstanding, which it is the duty of this Parliament and of this Government to do its utmost to remove. Is the action which we are taking one that is calculated to remove that anxiety? I fear it is not. I notice in the "Daily News" to-day a telegram from Berlin with reference to what was said in the Reichstag yesterday. Count Kanitz, referring to Great Britain, said that the statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty in the House of Commons on Wednesday last showed that Germany's peaceful assurances had been useless. That is the impression that is being created by our discussion and our proposals now— that this increased expenditure shows that the attempt of Germany to make peace has been useless. I daresay that those words may have been used by someone who did not know the real facts of the case; but, at any rate, that is the effect which these proposals had on this particular speaker in the Reichstag. However, at least we can attempt to remove the misunderstanding that exists at home. Will the expenditure that we are incurring now allay anxiety here? I am very doubtful whether it will have that effect. I believe it tends rather to increase it, because the persons who are going about the country raising all sorts of fears about a German invasion will say that they have reason behind them, since even this Government find it necessary very largely to increase their own fleet. And our people, too, in this country do not seem to understand really what is the true attitude that is taken by the people in Germany. Speaking 469 at a banquet of the Berlin Committee last year, Prince Bülow said:—I hope that our guests and Christian brethren, will take the conviction home with them, and there maintain it, that on this side of the North Sea there dwells a. peaceful and industrious people which, even as its Government, heartily desires to live in neighbourly friendship with its brothers across the Channel.That is the feeling of the vast mass of the German people. The German nation itself, whatever may be the case with a certain small circle of persons, does desire to be friendly with this country. But our people ask what the enlargement of the German fleet means. The Germans have their own explanation about it, and I believe it is an explanation that we can take to be bonâ fide. If you discuss this matter among Germans you find that those who are best disposed towards England and all movements in connection with peace, base their case on very simple-facts. They show that the trade and commerce of Germany have increased enormously. If we compare the figures of 1870 with those of 1906 as to the tonnage entered and cleared in the German and British ports respectively, we find that the amount passing in British bottoms in England has been multiplied by three, and the amount passing in Germany in German bottoms has been multiplied by seventeen. I do not know what the cause is. But, one way or another, the increase in the commercial shipping of Germany is very much larger than that of any other country. If the total be compared with that of France, it is found that in 1870 the amount of merchandise that passed in and out of Germany in German bottoms was the smaller. Now the Germans have £20,000,000 and France has only £12,000,000, so that Germany's commerce has increased very much more rapidly than that of France. Another point put forward by Germany is that she is bound to have protection for her commerce, because geographically she is shut into one sea. They point out that if they were to have a war with France that country could do more harm to German commerce than in 1870. Therefore, they have to protect their commerce against other nations than England. Most Germans will tell you that really they are as anxious about a French attack as they are as to what England may do. The First Lord of the Admiralty has referred to the question of giving up the right of capture of private property at sea. I will not attempt to argue that question at this moment. We have had Debates on this subject, and I only wish we could have a full Debate on it again. We know that there 470 are arguments even from our own point of view for doing away with it. There are very learned Members on the other side of the House in favour of abolishing the right of capture even in our own interests. There can be no doubt about this that if Germany's commerce was protected against capture, Germany's justification for a great fleet would be gone; and we should find that Germany would be far more ready to accept some arrangement about the limitation of armaments. But it is one of the reasons why Germany has been unable to accept any discussion about a partial limitation of armaments. Germans have always held that they could not agree with us alone on this question. There was a very instructive article in the "Berliner Tageblatt," which discussed this whole subject. This paper is of a peaceable tendency, and sympathises very largely with the feelings that have been expressed on this side of the House. That paper pointed out that it was impossible to carry out a system of disarmament unless, from the German point of view, it was generally applied to all the nations of the world, and, therefore, while pressing for general disarmament, it pointed out that the proposals which had been made by England could never be accepted. Perhaps, as showing the trend of German opinion, and how ready that opinion is for any offer of arrangement in regard to this question, I may be allowed to refer to an important article that appeared in one of the Conservative newspapers not long ago, the "Kreuz Zeitung." It was referred to in this country, and it was criticised from both points of view in this country and in the other. The gist of the article was that all proposals for disarmament or limitation which came from England or anywhere else were really impossible, and that the very fact of the proposals being made, and the effect of them, was to generate ill-feeling in Germany, which found expression in the Reichstag passing the Navy Budget without any Debate. That led up to this:—It must now be asked what Germany can do-to restore to the English their shaken feeling of security against a sudden and wanton German invasion, and thereby silence this controversy about naval armaments Frank speech alone will hardly effect anything. The only thing that remains is an agreement, a written assurance that neither of the two Powers is after the other's properly. There is a new Chancellor who is bound by the actions of his predecessor only so far as contractual naval arrangements is concerned. About the present English Cabinet it has at least not aggravated the situation. This has been done only by the Opposition. It seems to be our duty to indicate what 471 in our opinion is the only practicable way out of the impasse of suspicion and distrust. If it is followed the inuendoes about German shipbuilding would cense and it would probably soon appear that the circle of those who advocate a reasonable limitation of the outlay upon our Navy are much more numerous than has hitherto become apparent.That appeared in a Conservative journal of considerable standing, and it was recognised as being written by some one of position and influence. The two important points that appear to me are, first of all, it suggested there is a way for agreement—by agreement about territory; and, secondly, that if we could come to such an agreement, the number of people in Germany who would wish to have a limitation on the outlay on the Navy would be discovered to be very much greater than it is at present. With those ideas, which appear to be moving in the mind of Germany—whether it is in the minds of those in authority or not, I do not know; I am only referring to what at present appears in the public Press, and is evidently being discussed among the people of Germany— surely we ought to be able to take one step ourselves in advance, and come to some arrangement which would in future enable us to limit the enormous expenditure upon our armaments. The situation has changed extraordinarily in the last two or three years, and I believe it is very largely because of those international courtesies which the hon. Member for Fareham rather ridiculed. Those visits have undoubtedly enabled the various sections of the two communities to understand each other, and if we can only understand each other thoroughly, Germany and England might easily come to some permanent agreement which would ensure for ever peace between the two nations.
§ Mr. GEORGE LLOYD
I sincerely regret that this Debate has not been allowed to conclude without a Motion for reduction. In view of the recent tearing up of the Berlin Treaty, in view of the very serious state into which all Europe was plunged quite recently, and in view of the still serious crisis which prevails all over the Continent in the diplomatic relations between one country and another, one would have thought that the peace party might have for once learned a lesson, and realised that we have to look ahead, and that you cannot, because of present friendships, say you have not a future enemy. I heard with great pleasure the most revolutionary utterances of one Member of the Labour party against his chief, in which 472 he laid it down that the Labour party, at any rate, are not in favour of a small Navy, and that the only difference between them and us is as to how big the Navy should be. They wish to have moderate expenditure commensurate with safety; they lay down the axiom that a big Navy is essential; they only wish to have due economy in the provision of that Navy. That is a very important utterance, which I think should go from one end of the country to the other, and every Labour Member should endorse it.
My remaining remarks will be addressed entirely to the Little Navy party, who have made some remarks practically in favour of the abolition of all armaments. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] There are one or two who propose such a reduction in the Navy as would make it absolutely ineffectual, and that I consider to be equal to abolition. It has always seemed to me a remarkable fact that the peace party, or the humanitarian party as they are sometimes called, who put tremendous pressure upon our Foreign Minister to interfere with some other country, owing to some question of misrule or the oppression of subjects abroad, are the very party who are always in favour of a reduction of the Naval Estimates. Time after time, whether in connection with Armenia or the Congo or Macedonia, these same Gentlemen have demanded that the Government should at a moment's notice interfere, sometimes quite rightly, sometimes quite wrongly; but when the Minister asks for the supplies for that naval strength which alone makes his despatches worth more than the paper on which they are written, they are immediately refused by the very Gentlemen who are always urging him to use that Navy. Before I sit down there is another point I should like to make—also an abstract point—and that is the tremendous magnetism which naval strength has upon the minds of our over-seas Dominions. Surely amongst the most ardent advocates of arbitration whose confidence has not already been shaken by recent events at The Hague, I think there are none who do not want to maintain every single additional tie that binds us to our Dominions oversea. No means are of such importance as the tie of the Navy. We have conceded to our self-governing Dominions almost every attribute of independence. They conclude their own commercial treaties. We do not interfere in any of their internal administration problems. The only reference which they make to us is on foreign affairs, 473 and I suggest to the Committee that it is only so long as we maintain a sufficiently strong Navy, and a stronger Navy than any other Power in the world, or combination of Powers that are likely to come against us; only so long will our self-governing Dominions turn to us for the administration of their foreign affairs—a privilege which I conceive is most valuable for the unity of the Empire, and one which is not to be forgotten when we are discussing naval problems.
For the rest I do not think that any tardy provision on the part of the Government, any tardy recognition of their duties, national and Imperial, will ever exonerate them—certainly never in my mind—from the charges which we have made against them in this country recently. The mere fact that they are now trying to repair the situation, which will not be free from anxiety for another three years, simply because at the point of the popular bayonet they have found their small naval policy so unpopular, I do not believe will cause anyone on our side of the House to absolve them from responsibility in that respect. I do not believe that the country ever will show renewed confidence when they read these naval Debates.
§ Sir OWEN PHILLIPS
The hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Pancras repeats the old exploded myth that the building of the "Dreadnought" started all other nations building larger ships. Anyone who follows the history of shipbuilding will know that from time to time larger ships are built, and that when larger ships have once begun to be built other nations and other people follow the example. As it has already been pointed out in this Debate, the country that began to build larger ships was Japan. People talk of the "Dreadnought" as if it was a very large ship. It is true that it was a larger ship than England had previously built. But even a "Dreadnought" is only a ship a little over 500 feet in length. At the present time we have commercial ships being built 800 feet in length, and in the near future I feel certain we shall have ships over 1,000 feet in length. Therefore out friends who are opposing the big ships will have to make up their minds that within a very few years they will see that it probably will be absolutely necessary for this country, if we are to maintain command of the sea, not only to build larger "Dreadnoughts" than at present, but ''Dreadnoughts" probably more than 474 twice the present size. The recent elections have not been in vain if they have impressed upon Members of this House that the mass of the people of this country are in favour of a very strong Navy. I, personally, have always been prepared to support any reasonable expenditure that is necessary to maintain our naval supremacy, and I believe it was largely because the Government realised this last year and promised us the eight "Dreadnoughts" that they were returned to power again. Unless they had shown that they were in earnest in meeting the building that was going on across the North Sea by Germany, and that they were really in earnest and determined to build a Navy strong enough in all circumstances to maintain the command of the seas, I do not believe they would be sitting on the Treasury Bench at the present time, and I am glad that in the present Estimates they are carrying on the sound policy they started last year. The hon. Member for St. Pancras (Mr. Dickinson) and some other of my hon. Friends on this side of the House are in favour of immunity for private property at sea in time of war. No doubt that is a very charming idea, but I hope it will not come about in our time. The days of the supremacy of this country at sea will be numbered when it gives up the right it has always exercised of capturing the enemy's property in war.
It is said that Germany shows a great interest about the British Navy. Does the hon. Member for St. Pancras really think that the Germans believe that the British Navy is really going to interfere with the people of Germany? They think nothing of the sort. The Germans only object to our building "Dreadnoughts" and to our keeping a strong and powerful Navy because they believe that their aspirations, which induced them to pass that Bill authorising them to build a number of big men-of-war, will never materialise so long as we continue the present policy of the Government. I congratulate the Government upon this policy. I think the Estimates, both of this year and last year, are in every way satisfactory. It is said that Germany is shut in by the North Sea. Having no naval experience, I do not want to question whether it is possible for the British Navy to keep the German navy within the North Sea, but at least I have the authority of the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth, who recently stated that it would be absolutely essential for the British Navy to make such provision on the West Coast in time of war as on 475 the East Coast, and if, as he pointed out, two months ago, it was absolutely essential to have more graving docks upon the West Coast, then it is evident that he at least does not think it is possible in time of war to keep the German navy within the North Sea. If that view is correct, then I think it is very important that the Admiralty should seriously consider the question of providing more docks, not only on the East Coast and the South Coast, but also on the West Coast.
§ Mr. GEORGE J. SANDYS
I wish to allude to the action of the Labour party on this national question of the Navy. The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division prefaced his remarks by saying that he had very little hope of being able to say anything which would affect the issue in the Division Lobby, and subsequent events have proved the truth of that statement. There is no question that the speeches and votes of the Labour party have a great, though not an increasing, influence over the industrial classes of this country. They must remember a thing which I am inclined to think they sometimes forget, and that is that they occupy a unique position of responsibility. They enjoy the confidence of thousands of the working classes, not only of those whom they represent, but of working men throughout the length and breadth of the land, who look to them to redress their social and industrial grievances and to lead and instruct them on great national and Imperial questions. For this reason I maintain that the attitude of the Labour party is of very considerable importance. Those hon. Members who sit on this side of the House, for these reasons regret the attitude which the Labour party has taken up with regard to this question of the Navy and questions of national defence generally. Their attitude on this question is inconsistent—perhaps I should not use that word, but I am bound to admit that a party which, after employing all the eloquence which undoubtedly it possesses in favour of an Amendment which they themselves introduced, finds it possible to walk into the Division Lobby and record their votes almost unanimously against the policy they have been advocating for nearly two days in their speeches—after that performance, any other inconsistency must appear somewhat trifling. When the Army Estimates were under discussion one hon. Member of the Labour party used as an argument 476 against any increase in the expenditure upon the military forces of the Crown the fact that in the event of an attack we could depend upon our Navy to protect I us. I was glad to see one exception in the hon. Member for Norwich, but he does not appear to represent the spirit of the rank and file of his party. Now that the Navy Estimates are under discussion, hon. Members belonging to the Labour party appear to be equally opposed to expenditure on the Navy on the ground that war is not likely to occur at all. The undoubted influence which the Labour Members possess in influencing the views and judgment of the working classes on this great subject is exceedingly dangerous. I maintain it cannot be seriously contended that the understanding which we were told by them exists between labour organisations in this country and in other countries of the world is any ground for thinking the dangers and possibilities of war have almost been removed. We have no ground whatever, I believe, for supposing that we are on the threshold of a new golden age, an age of universal peace and prosperity and, I suppose, of universal Free Trade. We have no ground for supposing anything of that kind will occur, when we shall be justified in turning our swords into ploughshares and our battleships into sewing machines, and when war shall have ceased and international disputes shall be settled by arbitration. We must, as practical men, dismiss these ideas as dangerous fallacies. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), in his eloquent speech last night, stated that national and international peace should, in his opinion, be maintained not by armaments, but by the moral principles of international diplomacy. We are always told that the Labour party are men who have been brought into contact with the practical facts of life, but their attitude on this question would be quite different if they would view it in the light of their own practical knowledge of life, instead of drifting about, as they seem to be doing at the present time, in an atmosphere of idealism and unreality. Many hon. Gentlemen opposite who are Members of the Labour party must, in the course of their career, have acted as diplomatic agents in cases of disputes between employer and employed. When they were successful in such cases they must have realised that, at any rate, in nine cases out of ten, they succeeded not because they applied the 477 moral principles referred to, but because it was understood on both sides that unless the concessions demanded were granted the men were prepared to strike. The principles which in their own experience they must have seen hold good with regard to disputes between individuals, are surely equally true with regard to disputes between nations. As in trade disputes, so in international disputes. Successful diplomacy depends, not upon the application of moral principles, but upon the power to strike. I am aware that with regard to national and international questions the Labour party do not care very much for any of these things. They are the advocates of social reform and of industrial reform and the improvement in the conditions of the working classes in this country. We all doubtless acknowledge that these aims and objects are excellent in themselves, but what use is all this magnificent programme of the Labour party unless they are assured that the industries and the industrial classes of this country are adequately protected against the dangers and possibilities of foreign attack 1 Again, while the Labour party are anxious to protect the workers of this country, we all know that their policy of protection does not extend to the protection of the goods which the industrial classes produce.
§ Mr. SANDYS
The Labour party regard this flow of foreign produce to our shores as a beneficient stream which brings prosperity to the country. Surely, from their point of view, it is absolutely necessary that the highways of the sea should be kept open by an adequate Navy, so that those conditions which they consider so highly satisfactory may be continued with safety. It is absolutely neessary that the Labour party should realise that a supreme Navy is necessary, not merely for the protection of the Empire and for the safety of these islands, but for the well being of those very industrial classes in whose interests they profess to speak.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported to-morrow; Committee to sit again to-morrow.