§ Resolution reported, "That 131,000 officers, seamen, and boys be employed for the Sea and Coastguard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911, including 17,324 Royal Marines."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed: "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I desire to offer a few remarks to the House on the Report stage of this Vote. They will not be of a contentious character; at all events, not as contentious, or as controversial, as some of those were which were made on both sides of the House on the Committee stage. Nobody will have been surprised that in the Debates in Committee there were subjects of bitter controversy raised in regard to which very different opinions were held on both,sides. Having sat all through that Debate, or during those three days, I think I shall not be inaccurately describing; it when I say that, so far as possible in the circumstances, there was an attempt in all quarters of the House not to discuss the Navy Estimates from the point of view of the party which the speaker especially represented, but to once again resume the position we formerly held to a very large extent upon this question, namely, a non-party one. But, at the same time, it was inevitable that subjects of controversy should arise. I said in Committee, and repeat it now, that if the First Lord of the Admiralty really desires to get rid of party and to get back to what is called a non-party platform, he would have been better advised not to have adopted some of the arguments, or to have made some of the remarks he adopted and made. I only say that by way of protest against the suggestion-to my mind an altogether baseless suggestion-that it is only on this side of the House that an attempt has been made to drag the Navy into politics. This Vote, which we are now called upon to Report,, is one for a considerable increase of the number of men in the Navy. We regard this part of the Government policy as a most important and most valuable proof of their determination to adopt that which is, in our opinion, a new policy in regard 533 to the Navy, and one that is far more satisfactory to us and those we represent than was the policy that was in vogue before the present Estimates were introduced. But we are not alone in this opinion, because hon. Gentlemen who represent the Labour party take the same view. This was the Vote against which they offered their most strenuous resistance. This was the Vote upon which the reduction was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. T. Lough), and in that case he and the Labour party found further courage-after it had seemed to desert them on an earlier occasion-and not only was a reduction moved by the right hon. Gentleman, but he took it to a Division and was supported in the Lobby by a certain number of those who sit below the Gangway. I may remark in passing that the courage which they brought to their assistance was not of necessity very considerable, because they were fully conscious, I doubt not, that when they gave vent to their opinions and supported them by their votes in the Lobby, that whatever might be their strength, the Government would be in no danger.
Therefore they could give effect to their views and run no risk of breaking the coalition to which they are a party. But the fact remains that they apparently attached more importance to this, judging from their actions, than they did to any other part of the Estimates. This is the only part of the Navy Estimates to which they went to the length of voting on in the Lobby.
We support the Government, not because we agree with them in the whole of their policy, not because we think, as the result of these Debates which have been concluded upon the Committee stage, that their policy was all that we could desire, but because we believed that this increase in the number of men is the most striking and valuable proof of the determination of the Government that, so far as their knowledge goes, they will do their utmost to make the Navy fit to discharge its duty by this country. We support them, and we shall support them, but, none the less, it has been made quite clear, as the result of these recent Debates, that there is between the Government and ourselves a clear line of difference. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, dealing with another subject, upon another Vote, made 534 a very definite statement, to which he adheres, and which seemed very adequately and fully to express the policy of the Government. Dealing with the question, of building ships, he said, "We have never built ships before they were needed, and we shall not do so. We have never willingly laid down a ship in excess of the requirements, and we will only lay them down when necessary." There could, of course, be no exception taken to that definition of the Government policy if it were not for the facts which are staring us in the face. The hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Murray Macdonald), in a speech which, if he will permt me to say so with great respect, while I entirely disagree with it, was wholly and unreservedly admirable, both for its courage and the form of the speech, dealt with our attitude in regard to the two-Power standard, and he said you take this particular standard, which has no meaning and no reality, and which is only an academic descripton of what you want; you take that for your policy, and for that reason you advocate this stronger naval policy. Well, for the very reason which the hon. Gentleman gave, we have hitherto stood by, and we do at present stand by, that policy, because we believe it is the only practical method by which we can, acting on advice at the present time, secure for this country a Navy sufficient for her needs. What are the facts? The most important of the facts to which I referred just now is that the First Lord said the Government will not build and will not lay down ships until they are necessary-that is running a risk we believe you ran last year. That means putting us in a position of doubt and danger. However distinguished may be those gentlemen, whether they are sailors or civilians, who constitute the Board of Admiralty, they know now, better than ever before, it is almost impossible that you can be certain, you have got in your possession the information you require in order to be able to say with certitude that so and so was necessary. Last year the Government were compelled to come down to this House and to tell us that a great deal of what they believed up to that moment to be absolutely reliable information-information of the greatest importance, and information which led them in a very large degree to formulate their policy-was altogether inaccurate, and could no longer be relied upon. The Prime Minister told us 535 the Government had relied upon and had framed their policy in accordance with it, yet they felt bound to come here and to tell the House of Commons that they were mistaken, and that it would be necessary to make a complete change.
Fortunately the Government had been able, at all events to some extent, to make up for lost time, but we have always contended, and it was made perfectly clear by some of the speeches delivered from this side of the House yesterday, that by adopting the formula which the hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs condemned, namely, the two-Power standard with a margin, you are making a definite rule which enables the Government who adopt and carry it out to make provision, and the only possible provision, for the future security of the country.
The hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs in a very powerful passage in his speech appealed to this country to take some prominent step towards terminating this vast growth of armaments, and he asked us that if Germany were to decrease her armaments would we not follow her example? That seems to me to be a question that ought not to be asked of us. The question that ought to be asked of us is, If we were to adopt this suggestion and to make the first advance in this direction, can the hon. Member or any of those who advocate that policy say that Germany or any other country which may possibly be in hostility to us would follow our example and decrease her armaments? That is the question we are to ask ourselves. We are responsible to those whom we represent in the country at large, and every step that is necessary and possible should be taken to make this country secure. Having regard to the unquestioned ability with which the hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs approached and dealt with this question, it seemed to me extraordinary that he seemed to fail to appreciate the entire difference between ourselves and all other countries. After all, other countries in their armaments, whether for Army or Navy, raise them and hold them for a different purpose in one sense to that which we have in view. Our Navy is necessary for us not merely for the purpose of self-defence in ordinary times, but that self-defence is emphasised and magnified to an almost incredible degree by the fact, first of all, we are an island country, and, secondly, that your possessions are spread all over the world. The Navy to us means 536 more, aye, doubly more, than it can to any other country in the world. Therefore surely we ought not to ask the question what we should do if Germany or any other country took this or that line. The question we ought to ask is, Do you believe if you run the enormous risk the terrible risk you may run if you were to decrease your Navy, that such a step taken by you would have any effect upon the armaments of other countries or the peace of the world? I am one of those humble people who believe that the old saying is still true: "If you want peace the best way to secure it is to be prepared for war." I believe the worst effort you could make in the interests of the peace of the world would be to be among the first to reduce that portion of our armaments which is of vital consequence to us, and upon which we depend more than any other country in the world.
I recognise, as everybody must recognise, the absolute sincerity of the hon. Member for Falkirk, but I think he takes a wrong view of the situation as a whole, and if his advice were accepted I am sure it would have a very different effect to that which he anticipates. I believe, the impression produced amongst other countries by taking the hon. Member's advice would be that we were failing to bear our responsibilities, and that we were no longer strong enough to carry our burdens. The effect of such a policy would not be to lead other countries to decrease their armaments; on the contrary they would be induced to go on making them stronger and stronger in the confident anticipation that the time would come when Great Britain, having begun the, policy of weakening her defensive forces, would be at their mercy, and would be very easily dealt with by them if only they were strong enough. I do not believe there is any hostility towards us in those countries which are most distinguished by the work they are doing in the increase of armaments. I believe it is impossible for anybody, however wise, or far-seeing he may be, or however great his experience or diplomacy to foretell what the future may have in store for us, or for other countries. The only policy we can pursue, in justice to those we represent, and in order to maintain the peace we all desire to see maintained, is to go steadily forward strengthening our position, and seeing above all that our Navy is strong enough to do all the work she is expected to do. 537 I know it is said by some hon. Members that we are going too far in this direction.
I do not think it is just to say that whatever proposals are made hon. Members on this side of the House would not be satisfied with them, and that we should clamour for more. I think it has been shown by all the speakers who have taken part in our Debates that they honestly believe there are weak points in our armour, and that those weak points ought to be made strong. Nobody can deny that during the Debates on the Navy we have had a number of exceptionally brilliant and businesslike speeches, more especially from those who have made their first speeches in this House. I have had the great privilege-a qualified privilege, no doubt-of sitting in this House for more than thirty years, and having had the good fortune to listen to many brilliant speeches from new Members, I have no hesitation in saying that I have never heard so many well-delivered speeches-showing that those who made them have studied the question and had something to say to the House of Commons-as I have listened to during the last few days. One conclusion to be drawn from that fact is that whether hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite agree with us or not, they cannot fairly maintain that our criticisms of the naval policy of the Government have been factious. We have not used our arguments as weapons with which to beat the party opposite, but I think hon. Members opposite must admit that what has been said in the country has been repeated here. Our criticisms have been the same, and our object has been not to beat the Government, but to do what we consider our duty, and that is to see that the interests we were sent here to represent are fairly put before the British House of Commons.
A suggestion has been made that in supporting the policy of the Government in regard to increasing the number of men in the Navy we have been unmindful of the claims of social reform. That is a charge which, if anything, has less foundation than the other charge to which I have referred. I am one of those who believe that if our country is to maintain her position we must have wide-reaching measures of social reform; but, while I hold that view, I also hold that it is our bounden duty to see that the Navy is in the position which I have endeavoured to describe. I find in the action of the Government, and more especially in the increase of the number of men, a complete justification of the 538 attitude assumed in the speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition, whose absence I regret as profoundly as I am sure every other hon. Member does. I think even the most bitter opponent of the Leader of the Opposition will admit that what has happened in the presentation of these Estimates has fully justified the line he took, and I can safely say, speaking as one who has had the great privilege of being an intimate colleague of the right hon. Gentleman for many years, that there is nothing he has striven more strenuously for than to avoid bringing the Navy into party politics. For the line he took there is in this increase of the men alone abundant justification. I firmly believe that had it not been for the line the Opposition took up and the agitation in the country the Government would not to-day have taken the course they have done. I am not going to cavil or find fault, but I thought it only right, as I listened to the whole of this Debate-and many speeches have been made which convey suggestions with regard to our action and policy pointing in the direction I have indicated-to take this opportunity of saying these few words. I heartily rejoice that the Government have made up their minds to increase the men by this number, and I hope, if they are responsible for the Navy Estimates another year, they will not flinch from any further increase in the number of men if they deem such a course to be necessary. Having put their hand to the plough, I hope the Government will not turn back, but determine, even within the narrow limits they have laid down for themselves to-day, that this course is necessary not only in the interests of the country, but also in the interests of the Empire of which this country is the centre.
§ Mr. WILLIAM PEEL
I hope hon. Members will agree with me when I say that I believe the present House of Commons is immeasurably superior to the last one, both in intellect, character, and in the more equal distribution of parties between the two sides. I think hon. Members opposite have made up their minds to go in for a larger policy, and I hope that policy will be hanging over us for many years if it will prevent hon. Gentlemen opposite from going into the Lobby against proposals in the direction of strengthening the Navy. The number comprising the minority against proposals for a stronger Navy is scanned very keenly both here and in other parts of the Empire, and, therefore, 539 I rejoice that the minority against such proposals has been very small. I have listened for three days to these discussions, and I have listened with great respect to those opinions which are opposed to my own. I confess that I have not been able to gather very clearly what were the precise objections of those who led the attack on the Navy Estimates. After devoting three quarters of their speeches to long denunciations of armaments, because they were said to lead to the development of the military spirit, the last quarter of those speeches was generally occupied by an apology to the effect that they quite understood that it was necessary to have some sort of Navy, and in that way they dismissed the whole of the case they were urging. If you are to have a Navy at all let it be sufficiently strong. The First Lord of the Admiralty said, "Do you think that I, whilst sitting on this bench, have forgotten the standards or the ideals which moved me when I sat upon the back benches. Not a bit of it. I am now in a position to know the real state of affairs, and it is because of this that I have changed my mind, and changed from those opinions which I used to advocate on the back benches." I could not help feeling in spite of the sincerity of hon. Members that there appeared to be an air of unreality about their speeches, and that they were speaking oblivious of the real facts. I am inclined to think that they were placed in the same position as the right hon. Gentleman, and had they possessed the same information as regards armaments and programmes we should not find them in a different position from that which the First Lord of the Admiralty has taken up. I do not think we can be attacked for not producing an alternative policy because the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth has produced a scheme which both in its comprehensiveness and in its detail leaves nothing to be desired. Lord Cromer said in a pamphlet that in the old days when there was any difficulty, or when a crisis arose, a few men got together and quietly settled amongst themselves the measures that had to be taken for defence. I know that cannot be done now, because the whole of our time is occupied, not so much in devising measures for defence as in bringing the facts of the situation home to the minds of the electors. Another point I wish to refer to is the small amount 540 that has been taken for building ships in this particular programme.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member must be careful how he does it. This Vote involves an increase of 3,000 men, and the hon. Member is entitled to ask what is the purpose of it, to consider it, and so forth. The Shipbuilding Vote is a different Vote altogether. He cannot go into details.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member will follow the path trodden by the right hon. Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) he will keep on the straight line. If he gets off that line I may have to call him to order.
§ Mr. PEEL
I will endeavour to follow in the straight furrow ploughed for me by the right hon. Gentleman. I have never yet, in spite of the attention I have given to these Debates, really been able to gather from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite what precisely in his attitude towards the two-Power standard. He first of all quoted the original statement of the Prime Minister on the two-Power standard, but, of course, since then we have had the revised version of that standard which the Prime Minister dealt with last year, and I should like really to ask a question on that particular point. He then told us that our Navy was not to be equal to the next two Powers with a 10 per cent, margin, but that what we had to consider was the aggressive forces of the next two navies at any particular point. We had to compare with that our defensive forces at the particular point where contact might take place. That appeared to largely diminish the force and value of the Prime Minister's statement; 541 it seemed, in fact, to suggest that we should consider our force as a defensive force, and the navies of the other next most powerful Powers as the attacking force. That, of course, would naturally be contrary to all the proper principles of strategy, and, as that is the only sort of interpretation I can put upon the second statement of the Prime Minister, I should like to know from what point of view the First Lord of the Admiralty regards it-whether he regards it as a clear restatement of that first definite point put before us, or whether he considers it takes away something from that statement, and limits the necessity for preparation and also the size of the Fleet by a particular obligation.
The First Lord of the Admiralty told us that he did not like having programmes. I to some extent agree. His point was that if you have a programme you are almost bound to provide the limited number of ships of that programme, when perhaps in certain cases you would build more than was necessary. I agree it may not be a wise thing to have a rigid and limited programme. The right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted on each particular occasion to consider the facts of the case, and to build the number of ships and to supply the number of men necessary under those circumstances. I quite agree, but when you are considering that particular point you have, after all, to build to some standard, and you are only pushing the question a little further back. I should have thought it was much simpler for the public anyhow, and, of course, these matters have to be considered by the public as well as the experts, even although you may agree with the general proposition of the right hon. Gentleman that you should consider the facts in each case, to have some simple standard of that kind which it is known you have in your head when considering the programme with which you have to deal. The right hon. Gentleman and I think the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) also poured scorn on the two-keel standard, but if the right hon. Gentleman rejects that he ought to adopt the other, which is very simple and intelligible. The German system is possibly the best, because under it you have a very elastic programme. There is great liberty to either accelerate or postpone according to the circumstances of the case.
You have there at least the backbone of a system, and I think the knowledge of 542 that increases the public confidence in two ways. They know that if disturbances or troubles arise, if new information comes to the Admiralty, and if changes take place in the course of the year, that there is power in the Executive to accelerate the programme, and in that way provide for any emergency or any fresh difficulty that may arise. That, perhaps, is impossible under our Parliamentary system, but if it is impossible, it seems to me to make it all the more important that you should have the two-Power standard clearly laid down as the one to which you must adhere. That is all the more necessary because the Government have not got a very good record on this particular point. They have diminished the number of ships, not on strategical grounds, but on the ground that possibly if they did not lay down a particular ship, some other Power might also agree not to lay down another ship. Of course, that scheme proved absolutely futile, but at the same time, the strategical character of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman has to some extent suffered. The Government did not build according to the strategic necessities of the case, but according to their idea of what might be the result of some arrangement with another Power. It seems to me, for that reason, additionally important that you should have your standard clear and definite. We know that on some previous occasion they have abandoned the proper strategic considerations.
The matter goes even further still. We were told last year by the Prime Minister that two of the hypotheses on which he had acted in the past have been entirely falsified, first, as to the question of whether the German programme was to be a paper or real programme; and, secondly, as to the rate at which they were going to build ships. Speaking as a member of the ordinary public, I confess I am still impressed, and deeply impressed, by the statement made by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary last year. The Foreign Secretary then told us that the Fleet would have to be rebuilt, because Germany was going to have a fleet of thirty-three "Dreadnoughts "-he did not know exactly the time within which they were going to have them-and that that fleet would be the most powerful fleet ever seen in the world. That, coupled with the fact that the Admiralty have been ignorant of these two other points, makes one feel that this is not the time when we can qualify in 543 any degree the interpretation of the two-Power standard. Looking at the necessity of keeping to this simple and plain standard, which every man may understand, and which may easily be criticised if it is departed from, and remembering the fact that during the last three or four years we have had a forgetfulness of the strategic considerations by the Admiralty, I think it becomes more important that you should make it additionally clear that you do definitely abide by the standard laid down by the Prime Minister, quite apart from any subsequent gloss put upon it by the right hon. Gentleman under the influence, I am afraid, of a large number of hon. Members on that side of the House, many of whom have happily disappeared, and that we should go back to the old interpretation which everybody can understand and everybody follow.
I will endeavour, in a few remarks I should like to make, to follow the lines laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division, and I will also endeavour to keep to the tone which he adopted. I have, if I may say so with all respect, the greatest admiration for the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman adopts in our Debates. There are two points in his speech to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. He repeated the formula which, I think, has been repeated by very nearly every hon. and right hon. Member opposite, that the best way to maintain peace is to have these great armaments and to be prepared for war. I think that formula has been strained too far. A nation that devotes its time, its energy, its manhood, its ingenuity, and its labour and money to the invention and to the production of great engines of war will not rest satisfied until it has found out whether those engines are successful or not, and the only way to test the success of one of those great engines of war is by the destruction of human life in war. I think that formula, on analysis, will really be found not to hold water.
If hon. Members opposite had their own way in these Debates, they would confine their arguments purely to what I may call the mechanical side of the question. They regard it from a mathematical, mechanical, and financial point of view, and they rather despise any other element being introduced into the controversy. I believe that when you are regarding the 544 equation of international relations, if you rely merely on the number of ships, on a purely mathematical number of "Dreadnoughts" or other ships, and on financial arguments as to exactly how much money is being spent by one Power or another, and you leave out any other considerations, you are really misleading the country and following what I consider to be a very mischievous policy. The country at large naturally look to right hon. Members on both sides of the House for light and leading on this question concerning the Navy. I followed very closely the Debates last year, and I have followed the Debates this year, and to a very large extent they are made up of these calculations as to how many "Dreadnoughts" we shall have at a given time, and how many Germany or some combination of Powers will have; and at last the people of the country begin to believe the safety of these islands depends wholly and solely on these mathematical calculations. I do not believe that that is the case by any means. There are other considerations to be taken into account, and by leaving out of account the many other considerations, we are running a very grave danger. I noticed that in their speeches hon. Members opposite have generally referred to anything connected with diplomatic negotiations as not worth considering, while the efforts of The Hague Conference has been spoken of with more or less contumely. But the last period of fifty years has shown a very great increase in the desire for peace. It has shown that the nations may rely upon diplomatic negotiations and on the growing desire to submit differences to arbitration. We have only to look at the last two years to realise that. If the complication in the Balkan Peninsula had taken place fifty years ago it would have inevitably resulted in war. But by negotiations, by the good sense of the Government, by the strong desire of the nations to keep the peace, these grave difficulties were smoothed over and, as we know, peace was maintained. That would have been quite impossible in years gone by. I am quite sure that is the sort of spirit which is on the increase. After all, what is the reason for war? It cannot be said to be the combative instincts of man. In days gone by, when they walked about spearless and clad in skins, they may have wanted to get at one another's throats, but now, when they go about with stylograph pens and wear trousers, there is no such desire. Neither can it be said that there is any animosity between nations. It is a 545 well-known fact that in the war between Russia and Japan there was no animosity on the part of the Russians towards the Japanese, neither was there any such feeling on the part of the Japanese against the Russians; in fact, they did not want to fight one another. What then, is the cause of war? It is the jealousy of Governments, and very often it is the unscrupulous action of statesmen. Is it too much to believe, in this twentieth century, that there is not some force strong enough to control these? I believe there is. I believe that, just in the same way as science and arts and even commerce have become international, and as the great barriers which have been found to baulk their progress have been broken down, in the same way we shall find, as time goes on, that general social reform among the nations of the world can only be brought about by right feeling and by international understandings.
The question I have put to myself during the Debate which has been going on for three days has simply been: Are our preparations adequate or are they excessive? I have absolutely no doubt in my own mind that they are excessive, and that is why I very much regret that they are for such a very high sum. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) said it was very unfair for Members on this side of the House to suggest that the Cawdor programme had been issued with a view to a General Election closely following, and he argued that it would be just as fair to say that the Government had issued these Estimates in prospect of another election. If the Government in the issue of these Estimates thought they were going to gain votes by them they made a very great mistake. I fear there are a great many supporters of theirs in the country who place this question of excessive expenditure on armaments before any other, and their votes will have been alienated should an election come on. It seems to me that they have drawn up these Estimates of increased expenditure on armaments disregarding the assurances Germany has given us through her Ambassadors, and later on contained in the words of Prince Henry of Prussia. We have said they are only words, and that what we are going to build against is the fact that Germany is building at her utmost speed and is trying to steal a march upon us. I think that is the one way to aggravate this whole question of the burden of armaments. I believe that 546 if we can make a start-and the start rests with us, because we are the leaders in the race-other countries will be only too eager to follow. We all realise nowadays-and the point has been well emphasised by several hon. Members on this side-that there is no advantage to be gained from war even for the victor.
I cannot help feeling some sympathy for my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. He is in a rather difficult position. Other Members of the Government are completely responsible for their Departments. The President of the Board of Trade has a Board which is a phantom. The President of the Local Government Board also has a Board which is a phantom. The Secretaries of State are responsible and able to come down to this House on their sole Ministerial responsibility. The Secretary for War has, no doubt, an advisory body, but the First Lord of the Admiralty, in issuing his Estimates, has to depend on the consent and signature of the other Lords of the Admiralty. He is, therefore, not in the same position of freedom. He is obliged to assume a coordinate responsibility with admirals and other high officials. I have the greatest possible respect for admirals, especially on board their ships, but I do not consider that their share of the responsibility should be part of the share of His Majesty's Government. The First Lord should be free and should take upon himself the entire responsibility, and the Board of Admiralty should act as an advisory committee under him. In that case we should not hear, so often as we do, reports of resignations of Sea Lords under certain circumstances. The First Lord of the Admiralty would be in a far freer position, and I believe that that greater freedom would be appreciated by Members in all parts of the House.
Hon. Members opposite, during the course of the Debate, have made certain lip service to the cause of peace. But I really believe that in their heart of hearts they are not great lovers of peace. I was talking to an admiral a short time ago, a supporter of the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), and he said, in his blunt way, representing no doubt, however, the opinion of many of his neighbours," What we want is really a good war: that will knock all this nonsense of politics out of people's heads." I think that represents the view of a great many supporters of hon. Members opposite, although they find it necessary in this House to utter some decent phrases in support of the cause of peace. This policy 547 of keeping up armaments is in the long run liable to lead to bad results, and it is only by checking this augmentation of expenditure that the maintenance of the peace of the world can possibly be looked for.
I had intended to draw attention to a matter which I am now afraid would not be strictly in order. It was connected with Rosyth, but I understand that particular details should not be introduced at this period of the Debate. Rosyth carries with it two meanings in this House: one is "Dreadnoughts" and the other "granite." I did not want to touch upon either. I rather wanted to deal with the place in relation to the human beings who are working there, and who will in future reside there. Still, as I understand I should be trespassing on the narrow path which this Debate has followed, I will not press it now. I will simply conclude by again expressing my regret at the excessive expenditure. I feel that had not the Government been devoting its efforts to one supreme issue in this Session they might have found considerable difficulty in passing the Estimate.
§ Mr. MIDDLEMORE
It is hard to follow the hon. Member who has just sat down. He has laid very great emphasis on the evils of war, but from communications I have recently had with the Detective Department in London it seems to me that the horrors of peace that are enacted in London are more terrible and more repellant than the horrors of the bloodiest field that was ever fought. There is much, I fear, that may be criticised in the Estimates which have been submitted to us, but, among the things which are to be criticised, I certainly should not select the increase in the present Vote. In that matter the Government have undoubtedly taken a step in the right direction. I only wish it were not a hesitating step but a virile stride. It seems to me the most interesting point in this Debate has been the final and definite rejection of the two-Power standard by the First Lord of the Admiralty. We have no standard now which the country itself or the man in the street can understand. I hardly think we have a standard that even an old expert can test.
I think in regard to that the situation is the gravest one possible. Count Cavour did a very wonderful thing in 1849. He predicted that England and Germany would come into collision. Did he see-he must have seen-in his mind's eye Ger- 548 many unified, and becoming the mightiest Continental nation. He must have seen the overflow of her population and her acquiring colonies and coaling stations at the expense of other nations. I wonder if he saw any decay in the national spirit of England, and if he thought at all of the refusal of our people to bear sacrifices for the support of the Navy? I wonder if he thought that 144 Members of this House could deputationise the Prime Minister to reduce the armaments, and if he could have imagined that the Prime Minister would have succumbed to their representations and abandoned the two-Power standard to which he was quite pledged, and say that he gave us in place of the two-Power standard what the right hon. Gentleman opposite stated in these words, "a standard which will ensure our safety against any probable combination of nations "?
I remember very well that Mr. Cobden said that it was the improbable combinations of nations that we had chiefly to guard against, and he gave one or two striking instances of improbable combinations that had actually occurred. But this standard of ships and men which the right hon. Gentleman gave us will not bear a moment's analysis. It is no standard at all. He says, "A standard which will ensure our safety against any probable combination of nations." What does that mean? It means a standard which, in our opinion, will do that, and which in the opinion of the Government of the day will secure us against such a combination. It is not a standard; it is an opinion of the Government in office. It may be the standard of Lord Cawdor, or that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the evil genius of the Government, and the representative of a Little Navy in the Cabinet. It is a fluctuating standard, and it must vary always with the opinion of the Government. If Lord Cawdor were in office it would be strong, but if the Chancellor of the Exchequer held the power, I presume it would be as weak as he dare make it. You have published that standard, and you have given various opinions in regard to what it means, and I would ask, in conclusion, what will your Navy do if it is cast about on one side from Lord Cawdor's programme, and, on the other, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's standard? I cannot tell, but the abandonment of an external standard entirely independent of the opinion of anyone in the Ministry, or 549 out of the Ministry-the abandonment of that seems to me to be an abandonment of common sense, common sanity and national safety.
§ Mr. H. T. CAWLEY
I ask for the indulgence of the House in addressing it, not only because I am a new Member, but also because I have no special knowledge on naval matters. I think, however, there is some justification for Members so situated addressing the House, because in the main the men who are defended by our Navy are men who are ignorant on naval matters. Moreover, the bulk of the men who pay for the Navy are ignorant of them, and the bulk of those who have to decide what size the Navy shall be and the number of men to be voted are mostly people who have no special knowledge on this subject. In a Debate of this kind, therefore, we must look to expert opinion and the arguments brought forward by those who have greater knowledge if we are to form an accurate opinion of the correct size of the Estimates which should be voted. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) said we must look only to the safety of the country, but I cannot think that that is a satisfactory limit, because it is a limit on one side only, whereas we on this side, I believe, wish for a limit on the other side as well. We wish that the Estimates should not only not be too small, but that they should not be too large. We wish that they shall not only be large enough for safety, but as small as possible consistent with safety, and that being so, we are unable to feel the same amount of contempt which is expressed on that side for what is called the Little Navy policy.
We recognise that if there is to be one correct standard, one correct size of Estimates, then there must be Estimates which are too high as much as Estimates which are too low, and it is the duty of every honest man to wish to lower Estimates which are extravagant just as much as it is the wish of patriotic men to raise Estimates which are too low. I think that most right hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit that in theory, but in practice anything in the nature of a demand for Estimates lower than those put forward by the Government is described as a demand for a little Navy, and the men who make it are called Little Navy Men, and are generally regarded, I will not say always, as being deficient in patriotism. For my part, coming here as a new Member, I come with this fact borne in on my mind very strongly, that the constitu- 550 encies of the Northern industrial towns are very anxious for economy upon armaments, and particularly the trade unions and the trade organisations of those Northern towns. Coming with that recollection, as I do, I could not help sympathising with any efforts to get the Estimates as low as possible, and it is impossible for anyone so situated not to sympathise with the suggestion put forward that we should do what we can to lessen the growth of national armaments. But it is impossible for anybody to lose sight of the facts that face us now, and however anxious we are for economy and small Estimates, we cannot lose sight of three or four facts of the greatest importance.
First of all is the fact that we occupy a unique position which no other country in the world does occupy, and, secondly, that in the first place, at all events, our Navy is necessarily a defensive weapon. We have no power whatever with our Navy to conquer the Continental nations of Europe, but there are Continental nations who have a navy almost as large as ours who have the power to conquer this country. We occupy in that respect a unique position. And lastly there is the fact that we have already made advances. It is said that we have not officially approached the Continental nations of Europe, but responsible statesmen in this country have expressed their willingness to do anything they can to enter into an agreement, if possible, with Continental nations. On the other hand, responsible statesmen in Germany have expressed the opinion that the size of their navy does not depend upon the size of ours, and if that is so, what is the good of our approaching them with a view to an agreement as to the limitation of armaments. Another reason why it is hard to follow hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who have spoken against the size of these Estimates is this, that they have most of them, I think all of them, expressed the desire for the lowering of the Estimates without giving us any idea of what the Estimates should be. We have not had a definite standard put forward to which we ought to approach as nearly as possible, and if we are asked to go with them we must know where we are going. We must know what is the size of the Estimates which they require. I have not yet heard from the advocates of the lower Estimates of what size these Estimates ought to be and what is the 551 standard which we ought to acquire. Then we turn to hon. Gentlemen opposite and ask them for a standard, and I muse admit that their standard seems to be almost equally tainted or, if not tainted, contradictory. We have two or three standards put forward from those benches opposite. I think the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Arthur Lee) is responsible for three different standards which he has put. forward. First of all, he put forward, I think in 1908, the two keels to one standard, and he said that was the only safe course, and now he has abandoned it. What are hon. Members to do in the case of an hon. Gentleman who laid down one course as the only safe course and then deliberately adopted another course?
§ Mr. CAWLEY
I will come to the other two. The hon. Member said the other evening that the two-Power standard was the efficient standard, and that happens to be the one which he is now supporting, but in one of his speeches this week he also expressed a desire for a fixed and organic programme like the German programme. That is not a standard, of course, but it is inconsistent with his other two standards. That suggestion of the fixed programme has been put forward by more than one Gentleman on the benches opposite, and to my mind one of the strongest arguments put forward for it was that it will remove the Naval Estimates from the sphere of party politics and from the continual wrangle which takes place every year. I am sure that the First Lord of the Admiralty would be the first to desire that that programme could be established from that point of view, but I do not think you ever can remove Naval Estimates from party politics. I believe they are much too good an asset of the party opposite. I admit that from the Front Bench opposite during this week we have not had any indication of a party spirit, but I cannot agree that they have brought forward the same arguments which they brought forward in the country and that they have not had in the country a recourse to party speeches.
If we are to judge from the somewhat rancorous speech of the hon. Member for Brighton last night, and from the interesting prophecies as to the next election made by the hon. Member for Lowestoft, we shall 552 have to look forward to the same kind of party spirit in the future that we have had in the past. But I think this fixed programme, at any rate, a perfectly impossible one, because who is to fix it? Are hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to adhere to a fixed programme laid down upon this side of the House for the next ten years, if they consider it inadequate? Suppose in the next few years the hon. Member (Mr. Barnes) sits on the Front Bench and brings in a definite, fixed, organic programme for the next twenty years, and suppose right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they come to sit here and! find they have a one "Dreadnought" a year programme in operation, are they prepared to stick to that definite fixed programme? It is an impossibility so long as you have the party system in this country. What does the two-Power standard mean? Everyone talks glibly about the two-Power standard, but hardly two-definitions of it are in agreement. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Arthur Lee) when he came to test whether these Estimates were up to the two-Power standard, took, first of all, the amount which had been spent in this year by this country, Germany, and America, and he pointed out that we were not maintaining the two-Power standard because we were spending£40,000,000, and these two countries combined were spending£50,000,000. Is that to be the test of the two-Power standard?
§ Mr. CAWLEY
I agree that that was not the only test, but, as I understand, hon. Members say that we are to keep up to that test as well as the others. What is the use of a test if you do not keep up to it? You must keep up to it, and to the others as well. When you come to apply your two-Power standard, we find the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford), when he deals with destroyers in the North-Sea, says we must have three, to one, as against one single Power. Very likely it is right, but it is not the two-Power standard.
§ Mr. CAWLEY
That may be so in some tests. If it is the test of money you will 553 not find that. It is entirely irrelevant. Take another test. We have heard a good deal about Austrian "Dreadnoughts" as a. reason for increasing the Estimates. That may be so, but the Austrian "Dreadnought" has nothing to do with the two-Power standard. Austria is not one of the next two Powers, and therefore, if you are considering whether this country is keeping up an adequate Navy, look to your two-Power standard, and Austria will not come into it. Looking around on the tests put forward upon the other side, it is impossible to see in what way these Estimates are too low. The hon. Member (Mr. Arthur Lee) said the provision in past years must have been too small because of the large provision this year-that the provision this year was proof positive that the provision in previous years was inadequate, and was an absolute refutation of the Government's assurance that the provision in previous years was sufficient. To my mind that is absolutely untenable, because what is adequate in one year is inadequate in another. One hon. Gentleman spoke about an interval of four or five years, and said you might as well compare the present day with the time when William the Conqueror landed in England. I do not go so far as that, but it is perfectly possible and probable that two "Dreadnoughts" might be a proper provision in 1907 and five a proper provision in 1910-11. There is absolutely no inconsistency in that. To my mind, nothing has been put forward from those benches that would lead the seeker after truth, the man with no naval knowledge, to regard these Estimates as inadequate. Looking at the sources of information which the Admiralty have, and the grave responsibility which they bear, I cannot help thinking that their information and their feeling of what they owe to the country must lead them to put forward correct Estimates. At any rate, the onus of proof is upon those who say the Estimates are either too low or too high. It rests on hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and hon. Gentlemen opposite. During this Debate every argument put forward by hon. Members opposite against the Government has told with greater force upon those who require smaller Estimates than we have, and every argument put forward by hon. Members below the Gangway against the Government has told with additional force upon hon. Members opposite. I think the onus is upon these two parties to show that the Estimates are either inadequate or excessive, and I sub- 554 mit that they have not discharged that onus.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
The remarkable feature of this Debate in the last three days has been the entire agreement on one point. There has not been a single Member who has not recognised that our Empire is only kept going by supremacy at sea. The whole of the arguments have been devoted to what that supremacy should be and whether these Estimates are too great or too little. There has been singularly little party attack on either side. There have been some party speeches, but I do not think they have been intentionally party speeches. The whole tone of the Debate has been from the national and Imperial point of view, and has shown thorough appreciation of the gravity of the case as far as naval supremacy goes. The speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Murray Macdonald) was one of the most dangerous I have ever heard. It was so honest and so earnest and so thoughtful that I am perfectly certain the hon. Member would convince a great number of men to his opinion. From my point of view I do not think the opinion is sound, because however we look at it it is only armed force that is going to keep us in our position. I honestly and earnestly wish to keep the peace, and the Admiral who said that there ought to be a bloody war, and that the politicians ought to be knocked out, did not give the opinion of the Royal Navy. What we want is peace-more particularly those who have ever seen the horrors of war, which is very often detestable and insane in its management.
There were continual remarks on both sides of the House as to recognising that the Fleet, and money devoted to the Fleet, was a form of insurance, and the Secretary to the Admiralty, in a previous speech, pointed out with great clearness what our rate of insurance was in comparison with Germany, and if you are to judge it by that it opens up the question from a very interesting point of view. We pay £3 per ton of mercantile shipping, that is to say, you take the Naval Budget as the rate of insurance and you divide that by the tonnage of the mercantile shipping belonging to the Empire, and we pay £3 per ton. Germany, and I speak always with great respect of Germany, pays £5 6s. per ton. Look at the position. We absolutely exist by keeping the sea roads. Germany does not exist by that at all, therefore those of us who work out the facts are more or less anxious when we see a country, Whose main 555 defence must always be military, starting an enormous programme and making a rate of insurance which is so clearly beyond their needs. I can quite imagine anyone who feels strongly on this question of spending money on defence saying he would not have a Navy at all. That is a reasonable proposal from one point of view, but to have a Navy and spend all these millions, and to have a doubt as to whether it could carry out the duties it would have to perform in war, does not appear to me reasonable. You are metaphorically throwing the money into the sea. I agree with the efforts in the cause of economy, but I put efficiency a long way in front of economy, and I should like to see a Navy which would stop all these scares and would stop the shade of a shadow of an idea that it could be attacked at all, and if once we had a Navy of that character, I am perfectly certain it would be very cheap, no matter what the insurance was.
I was very gratified to see that the Admiralty were going to join 3,000 men. It is a move in the right direction, but, of course, I do not think it is quite enough. They may not have been able to join more than 3,000 men, because I know the difficulties of the schools and training establishments. But our crisis will be about 1913 or 1914, and if we have to join, as I believe we shall, many more men next year, you will be putting the morale of the Fleet down to a lower level, because you will have such a very large number of men who are new in the Fleet, and to get bluejackets or Marines, or any of the first-rate men in the ship ready, will take from five to six years. I would much rather that they had joined 5,000 men, instead of 3,000, but I recognise that there may be difficulties of the character I have stated. The shortage of men is known thoroughly throughout the Service. We are short of men now to what we ought to be, and if we are short now, it increases this difficulty, which I wish to prevent, when we come to the final crisis.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to reduce the number of short service men. They are not suitable for the Service, and they are bad for discipline. The ordinary men do not like them at all. I had about thirty or forty in the ships I commanded, and personally I say that if ever I had to go into action I would rather have got rid of the lot for that simple reason. The First Lord will 556 remember that he paid me the honour of coming out with me in my flagship, and I endeavoured to impress this upon him. There are such things as "gun shys." If you do not drill men properly it is almost impossible to preserve discipline among them when they are waiting for the action of heavy guns, because they are not accustomed to it. Imagine what it would be in actual battle to have undisciplined men in the midst of the concussion not only of their own guns, but the splinters flying from the enemy's guns. You cannot train your men too much for this terrible affair which a battle will be with modern battleships. I wish die right hon. Gentleman to tell me that he will think of lessening the number of short service men. The petty officers do not like these men. They are always giving trouble, and they are not the class we want. I can assure the House that on-every ship I went on board of I could pick out every short service man. I communicated with them very often. I said to one, "Why did you join?" and the reply was, "I had nothing to eat ashore." When I inquired, "Do you like it?" the man said, "No, sir." "Do you wish to keep on with it?" I asked, and the answer was, "No, sir, not if I can help it." They deteriorate the lower deck. They are not the men we want behind us when we go into battle.
I must really protest against the reduction of the Marines. It is very detrimental to the Service. There is no finer body of men in the world, and you can turn them to anything, except perhaps the wheel and other quartermasters' jobs. But those men are the most valuable you have got, because they are military-trained, and ready. With the nucleus crews of the ships and the ordinary men the Marines have always worked, and with these men you can go out and fight. If you send drafts on board a ship, you may have to fight an action to-morrow or next day. Well, I say, although I am a naval officer devoted to bluejackets, that I would rather take trained men and fight than take bluejackets drafted from different ships and not knowing anybody. The commissioned officers knew every man, and I say that these Marines ought not to be reduced. I cannot do better than quote Lord St. Vincent on this subject. He said:I never called on these men but they more than realised my highest expectations. If ever the hour of trial and real danger should come the Royal Marines will be found the country's sheet anchor.I quite agree with Lord St. Vincent, and so does everyone connected with the Navy 557 from the Admirals down to the second-class boys.
As to men, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he intends to man the twenty-six reserve ships-that is, what is now called the Fourth Division and used to be called the Special Service ships-with other than Royal Naval Reserves. It will take over 17,000 men to man these ships, and with the present number of men you have in the fleet you will be unable to man these ships. I do not say that you will not do that with Reserves, but remember, that with shells bursting all over the place and about them you must have disciplined men with courage. You must have the greatest pluck-that pluck which only discipline gives-to keep the men together, and they must be trained together for war. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell me what he is going to do with these ships. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he gave expression to a curious sentiment the other day. He said that the manning had nothing to do with the availability of the ships. But the object of a ship is to fight, and what is wanted is availability to fight. Will he kindly make a note of that, and explain to me what he means. This question of the manning of the Fleet is a question of the men. You may have the biggest fleet, the best guns, armour, boilers, and engines in the world, but the whole question of winning a fight for this country if you are called upon in battle rests upon the personnel and upon the training of the men, their efficiency, and their confidence in each other, both officers and men. I may tell you that at this moment the Navy has never been so well during the fifty years I have been in it as it is now as regards personnel. The men are quite excellent. I have often said that they may not be born gentlemen, but they have all the characteristics which make gentlemen-the sentiments of pluck, chivalry, and good comradeship, and they are devoted to their officers and the officers like them. These are the sentiments of one and all, and they are the sentiments which we want in our men if we go into action. Remember that spirit is necessary to win an action in these days, and I tell you that a naval war will be one of the most shocking things possible to conceive in this world. Many hon. Gentle-men have read the accounts of the Japanese and Russian fights. Can anything be more horrible? Can anything call for greater loyalty, courage, and comradeship? Depend upon it, the fleet that has 558 best trained men who have worked most together is the fleet which will be most successful in action. I would rather take into action a smaller fleet, with men properly trained and properly drilled, than a larger fleet manned by untrained men and men suddenly thrown together. The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles) expressed a great fallacy, if I may respectfully say so, the other day. He said we were a two-Power standard in men. I suppose he meant in numbers. But he must remember the work we have to do. I pointed out the other day what the extent of our coast lines and our trade was. The question of guns, or tonnage, or numbers, has nothing whatever to do with it. The real question you have to consider is the work you have got to do. Remember the work you have to do is to defend the Empire in time of war. You have to look at the amount of work which will be thrown on the Navy if it is ever called upon, and more particularly if we were short in the number of ships and short in the number of men. The hon. Gentleman will agree with me that in case of disturbance it would require more police in Hyde Park than in St. James's Square.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
The hon. Gentleman is not quite satisfied with that argument. I am sure he will be satisfied with my argument that what you have to count is the work you have to do and not merely the number of men you have. There have been several remarks made in this Debate about experts. I do not think they were all quite fair or just. The Cabinet is responsible for the strength of the Fleet, the allocation of the Fleet, and the foreign policy which guides the Fleet, and nobody else. People talk about experts resigning, and, though you may sometimes have a man who is independent and who resigns, not caring very much about the matter, it is the business of experts to remain and to do their level best under the circumstances, no matter whether they agree or not with the Government. A speech was made by my right hon. Friend near me, and I re-echo what he said. The question of party in the Navy or with anybody belonging to the Navy is foreign to our ideas and our education, and there is not a single officer in the Navy who ever cares a fig about party. When at sea our business is to obey orders, whatever party is in 559 power. I have been blamed for making the Navy a party question. I have never done it in my life. I resigned from that bench some years ago in order to carry the £24,000,000, and now when I felt seriously on the question, I did not go out to the country, but I went to the Prime Minister and told him all I knew. It was the right and proper thing to do. I hope the First Lord will see how serious the question of men is. You may build up as you like, but you cannot buy training, you cannot buy experience, and you cannot buy the comradeship and discipline which make men ready to fight. Of all the serious things connected with the Service, the most serious would be if you were undermanned. I am very glad that the Admiralty are adding 3,000 more men. I hope they will join 5,000. I am sure that next year they will have to join more. The effect of having untrained men, if we got into war, would be very serious.
§ Sir CHARLES W. DILKE
Some great artists have rejoiced their friends by returning to the manner of their earlier days. My Noble Friend (Lord Charles Beresford) will receive the congratulations of the whole House for the greater portion of the speech which he has just made, and which is an absolute return to his earlier manner when he was here many years ago. He then used to attach supreme importance to men as against material, and it is a curious fact, I believe, that the only subject on which the rival Navy Leagues agree is the inability at the General Election of their speakers to induce anybody to listen to anything about any naval question except the number of "Dreadnoughts." The Noble Lord has left the General Election and the government of the Navy as a whole, and has put the question of men first again in his speech. That is thoroughly applicable to this particular Vote. The Noble Lord has raised some questions which I think should receive attention. These questions have been raised by one who knows the difficulty of speaking freely in regard to foreign navies, but as they have been raised, I think we ought to ask the Government to tell as much as they feel they can on this subject of men. I will only add that, supporting the Board of Admiralty, as I have pretty steadily done in this House, I have always been inclined to rely upon and act upon the unanimous reports of technical committees 560 appointed by them. Before the sitting of Sir Edward Grey's Committee, which contained some very considerable naval experts upon it, on this very question of manning many of us thought, and the whole House of Commons used to think, that it was the duty of the Admiralty, or it would be wise on the part of the Admiralty, to call on the merchant navy and to use the merchant navy, as it were, for training its men or training its boys. There was a continuous reliance upon the argument that the Navy must be in a bad way about manning, because the number of seamen of the English race, as contrasted with Lascars and Chinese, was declining, in spite of the increase in the number and tonnage of the British mercantile fleet. The training of these seamen was no longer what it had been in the old days on account of the use of machinery and the extent to which crews were made up of mere lads. Sir Edward Grey's Committee did not publish its reports, but it took evidence from all sides, and a good deal of that evidence was seen by those interested in the subject, and a great many Members of this House were able to see the whole or parts of the Report of that Committee. Of course, it published a short report, but it did not publish its full report or the evidence. But we all learned, and the House learned, that the Admiralty were justified in not taking upon themselves any responsibility for training mercantile seamen as reserves for the Fleet.
The opinion of the country has changed on that point and the whole course of thought was altered from that time, and the country generally accepted the Admiralty's position. Are we in a position of great superiority over the German fleet, for example, or over Continental fleets owing to our very long service and the very short service on the part of the majority of their men, but not all their men? We are told that the efficiency of the German seamen in the Imperial navy is very high. Naval officers are inclined to quote the German navy as a whole as second only to our own. The fleets that count, I suppose are the American and Japanese fleets, the French fleet, which from the point of view of personnel was always very good, the German fleet, and ourselves. The Americans are generally put aside, because hitherto, though they have now greatly improved during the last few years, their quality has varied. They have had some first class crews of excellently 561 trained men. Others were made up differently. During the last few years there has been a change. The Japanese, of course, have this advantage, that their fishermen are much more like the old merchant seamen than any other seamen in the world. It is said that 5,000,000 Japanese subjects go to sea every day to fish. Many go great distances, and a large proportion of their fishing is done a long way off, while vast numbers go out every day for short distances, and they go under all sorts of circumstances in which they get a good training; of the German, French, and our own fleet we know the actual facts pretty well regarding the length of service.
We used to be told in this House that the French personnel was always very high, second only, if even second, to our own, and that personnel was on the three years' service. It was on a nominal five years' service, and a nominal four years later on, but an actual three years' service. The French, of course, we know have constantly increased the number of long service men, the paid men as against the ordinary conscript sailor, and something like half the seamen in the French fleet are now on the footing of the long service men in our own. The German fleet have, so far as I know, a larger proportion than the French, and, of course, the French have a larger proportion than we have of very short service men. How do they manage to get this extraordinary efficiency on the ordinary length of service which they give the men. That is a question that has occurred to us, and which I think must be faced. The number of short service men in our fleet, of whom the Noble Lord now has reasonable and no doubt justifiable doubts, is very small, as lie said. Their introduction has been since Sir Edward Grey's Committee, and it has been on the scale suggested by that Committee. There was a Report-I forget whether it was published or not-five or six years ago upon the extent and nature of that experiment. It is just possible that it is necessary for us to have a larger experiment rather than to get rid of the change altogether, because Germany has succeeded so well in providing highly efficient men with a short service.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
They do not pick them so very much. They have to take them from the ordinary military con- 562 scription from all sorts of places. A large proportion of the men in the Navy is not found from maritime conscription in Germany. So that they cannot all be picked. The average length of service in our Fleet is extraordinarily high. I do not know how the Admiralty figures are arrived at, but I believe that they put as high as over nine years the average length of service. That is an extremely high figure when you consider all of which it is made up. We do not know, and I do not think anybody knows, what is the exact German average, but it is a very low average. The overwhelming majority in Germany, and more than half in France, are short service men. I am not one of those who are alarmed at any chance of failure in the number of our men. The Admiralty have always told us that they have looked ahead, and that they have made those increases from time to time which were required, for five years off, so far as they can see by their building programme-of course, not to man every ship on first mobilisation. My Noble Friend knows that there are not many admirals who would care to handle fleets composed of all the ships we have in the first instance.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
Yes, and you may take the inferior ones out when you may want them later on, but you are without them in the first instance. Then, of course, we have now been told that the loss in naval actions of ships not sunk but damaged and unable to take part in further fighting, or temporarily out of their work, is higher than the loss of men. That is to say, there is not now, as there used to be, a special call on men after a short period of war, but you have more men, for you have men for whom you have not got ships except ships of an inferior quality, and therefore I am not alarmed myself. I have always believed the Admiralty's statement that they do look ahead, and that we have sufficient men. But on the other point my Noble Friend has raised in my mind a doubt. I do not think it is a subject upon which the special advisers of the Admiralty can entirely be trusted, because, of course, the Navy is a highly conservative service, and they might be wrong. It is just possible that Germany might be right and they might be wrong, and I shall be glad to hear anything which my right hon. Friend has got to say upon that subject.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna)
In the first place, I would like to associate myself with my right hon. Friend (Sir Charles Dilke) in his observations in relation to the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth. I can say, cer-certainly for myself and the Board of Admiralty, that we should most cordially welcome all criticism put forward by the Noble Lord in what my right hon. Friend has described as his earlier manner, and I hope he will pardon me if I regret that, so far as I am concerned, he should ever have thought it necessary to depart from that earlier manner. There is no need to reply at length to the questions addressed to me by the Noble Lord and my right hon. Friend, because my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary (Dr. Macnamara) will reply to the Debate as a whole. The particular question to which I wish to reply is the subject of service, and the point put by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean as to how we compare with foreign fleets in this respect. We are the only nation in the world which have got a long service in the true sense. I think most naval officers in other countries would be disposed to envy us in that respect, and would be the first to recognise that the British Navy has a great advantage. Perhaps in saying that it may be suggested that I am acquiescing in the criticism of the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth on the subject of such short service as we have introduced into the British Navy. These short service men were introduced primarily for the purpose of building up the Fleet Reserve. The Noble Lord asked me whether we could man the whole of our Fourth Division ships, the ships that used to be called ships in Special Reserve, with active service ratings. I think, in answer to a question yesterday in the House, I stated that we could not do so. We rely, to a certain extent-a considerable extent, I may say-upon our Reserve in order to complete the complement of the Fourth Division of the Home Fleet. Our active service ratings are more than sufficient to man the whole of the First, Second, and Third Divisions of the Home Fleet, and to man part of the Fourth Division of the Home Fleet; but we must rely on the Reserve for making up the full complement of the Home Division. It is necessary for us, therefore, to build up a really capable Reserve, and, in furtherance of that, we have various classes in the Fleet Reserve now, all of which, I believe, will prove to 564 be fully sufficient for the manning of the Fourth Division ships.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by joining these short service men in the Naval Reserve with some of these long service men who go into the Reserve? He does not mean joining together these short service men?
§ Mr. McKENNA
After five years the short service men go into one section of the Reserve. My right hon. Friend (Sir C. Dilke) approached the question from the opposite point of view to the Noble Lord.
§ Mr. McKENNA
No, but in discussing the question he pointed out, with perfect truth, that here you have the German fleet, in which the men are short service men, and it is extremely complimentary to them that their efficiency is so high. Here you have a fleet with only 25 per cent, of long service men, and with these materials the Germans obtain a very well-trained fleet. If the Noble Lord complains that our Fleet Reserve is in part made up of men who have had only five years' service, I would point out that the best of the German reserves consist of men who have had only three years' service. The difference, therefore, I think, is not altogether against us. It must be remembered that the German fleet is recruited from men who are in the main landsmen-they are ordinary military recruits.
§ Mr. McKENNA
They conform to the ordinary standard of the German people, and they are not men specially selected for the navy. They are not volunteers-there may be a certain number of volunteers, but they are in the bulk made up of conscripts who are compelled to serve. The Noble Lord put his case in this way-let us have a Navy which will be so strong or above competition with other navies, that we may feel absolutely secure and peace assured. In furtherance of that view he takes the short service men and says they are not so good as the long service men, and that long service men should be put in their place. But the difference is the question of cost-it is far cheaper to have short service men. Where does the argument really lead? Does experience really justify it? Ten years ago 565 Estimates to the amount of £40,000,000 would have been thought to be beyond the bounds of possibility of competition, and would assure us peace. But the fact is that all the increase in expenditure, and all the improvements that you may make, whether in your material or in selecting your men, only raises the standard of expenditure without putting a stop to competition. Competition depends upon something quite different. It depends upon whether the object to be attained is considered to be worthy the sacrifice. I am sure that everybody will agree that if the expenditure of half a million, one million, or two millions would secure the cessation of competition, to bring about this, we should be only too ready to incur it; but we cannot entertain that hope, and we are bound to consider how peace and the safety of the country can be secured without spending money which it is not necessary to spend. We have only got a few thousand short service men in the total Fleet, which is now 131,000 men. Our short service men are, nevertheless, five years' men, and after they have served the five years they pass to the Reserve. I admit the experience of the Noble Lord. I do not dispute that his trained and practised eye will be able to select the short service men very easily from among the others. Nor do I suggest that the short service men are as good for all purposes as the long-trained seamen; but, in spite of that, I would ask him to acquiesce in the system which is now established as a result of the recommendation, the very powerful recommendation, of the Committee, and as a system which is only carried to a very limited degree. As a matter of fact, I have only taken 300 for next year, as against 500 in the current year. I ask him not to press his criticism on the Service, but wait until further experience will have justified either our defence or the criticism which he is now making.
§ Mr. LEE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions with regard to the Marines? Is it a matter of policy on the part of the Admiralty to continue the reduction of the Marine force, or is the reduction which has been made only sporadic, and will not be repeated? My second question is, Who are the men who are to man the two first-class cruisers which are being built for the Colonies? Obviously extra provision will be required for many of those ships which are to be borne upon our lists.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The cruiser built and paid for by New Zealand is an essential part of our own Navy, and the men will be supplied by us, excepting so far as New Zealand supplies them; but we anticipate that we shall supply the bulk of the complement ourselves. The Australian ship will be manned by Australia, but whether Australia can herself provide all the men is not yet certain. So far as she cannot furnish the men, we shall lend the men to her, but the payments of the men will be made by the Australian Government, and not by this Government. It must be remembered that at the present time we have at the Austration station, as near as my memory serves, nearly 3,200 men, or something very near that figure. Of course, when the Australian unit is established, these men will be set free. We have now, however, men in the Fleet to lend to Australia, and more than enough to supply both the Australian unit and the New Zealand ship. With regard to the question of Marines, our policy in reducing that force is simply to bring the number down to the level of war requirements. As the hon. Gentleman knows, owing to the system of training, Marines require that they should serve half their time in barracks. The result has been that we have a large number of Marines who would not be required in war for the manning of ships; that is to say, our peace complement is in excess of our war requirements. As the Noble Lord pointed out, we should require to fill some reserve ships with reserve men. In the case of the Marines, the peace requirements being in excess of war requirements, if war broke out suddenly we should have on our books a number of Marines for whom we had no special appointments. The system has not been changed; it is merely that the number of Marines has-now been reduced to war requirements. The force is even now, to a very small extent, above war requirements, but it has been reduced to the number which would be required for the manning of ships with a full complement of Marines. That has been the principle on which we have acted, and in working out that principle the reductions have now been completed. It must not be understood that I shall confine myself to such a number as fifty or a hundred, but in pursuance of the-policy no large reduction is to be made.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
The Marines are now far longer at sea than they are in barracks. The really good 567 point of the Marines is the military discipline that they get in barracks. The marine improves in barracks, while a bluejacket deteriorates in barracks. The Marines used to be in barracks half their time, now they are at sea nearly the whole of their time.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, I have the list of those who served under me last. The majority of the Marines spend at sea a length of time far in excess of the time they are in barracks, and they are thus deteriorated in those military qualities which we all respect in them, and which are so useful.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Noble Lord will remember that the Marines are originally trained in barracks, and therefore they get an impetus from that training. It is quite true that if you are to keep down the number of men to war requirements-that is to say, if you are not to maintain a number of men whom you would not require as Marines in time of war, then you must alter in some degree their, distribution in time of peace. The Marines, in consequence, are kept longer at sea than formerly, so as to give a shorter time in the barracks. We are thereby enabled to reduce the number of Marines, without reducing the number available for war service. I do not think that the character of the Marine has in the smallest degree deteriorated as a result of that system, and I can assure the Noble Lord that the general pride felt in that body is thoroughly justified, even at this moment, in spite of the changes that have been made.
§ Mr. PAGE CROFT
I wish especially to refer to the position which is taken up by those who regard the Naval Estimates of this year as too high. The Leader of the Labour party, in speaking for hon. Members who sit on the benches opposite, said that a formal proposition should be made for the reduction of armaments, and so ease the burden both on ourselves and upon Germany. I hope, however, that we may take the word of the First Lord of the Admiralty that we are not going to put ourselves into the undignified position of going to other Powers and making ourselves ridiculous by proposing a reduction of armaments when we are the strongest naval Power in the world. The hon. Mem- 568 ber for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby) recently told us that, because we were the strongest Power, that is a reason why we should reduce our Estimates. If he were engaged in a political campaign, and his organisation had sufficient money to finance twice as many meetings as his opponents could hold, and he was to go to his opponent and say, "Now let us reduce the number of our meetings." I think his opponent would realise that such a proposal would put him in a worse position still. Obviously it is the second and third greatest Powers who ought to make a move in that direction, and not the greatest Powers-a course which would give a false impression to those to whom these suggestions were made. I should suggest to those who oppose these Estimates that there have been very large sums of money spent in unremunerative work done by the unemployed in the last few years, when you might have had those men employed in ship construction.
It is far more profitable to increase the personnel of His Majesty's Navy by 3,000 men rather than they should be set to work by corporations to make duck ponds in the public parks, and rob the ordinary working men of the corporations of work which would naturally be theirs in the future. We have also heard that the party on these benches have been responsible for the naval scare. I think it was miscalled "a scare," but at the same time we have had the satisfaction of knowing that practically what we asked for has beer, granted.
I think all the world has realised, and everybody in the British Isles has realised, that it was the utterances of Ministers that made the feelings of the country uneasy, and that everybody understood the warnings of Ministers' speeches except the Ministers themselves. In this House the Government are so many Dr. Jekylls. They warn us of our precarious and undignified position. When they go out into the country they become Mr. Hydes. They call us scaremongers, and suggest that we are making use of the Navy for party purposes. I only hope that as a result of these Debates it will be possible to hear very much less about the Navy on the public platforms. Another point brought out by those who desire a reduction of armaments and a reduction of men is that they place such great reliance on the pre-" Dreadnought "battleships. It seems to me the greater reliance put on the pre-" Dreadnought" battleships the greater the strain 569 is going to be in the future, when their natural day is passed. Then we shall be compelled, unless we do not keep up to the two-Power standard, to have more rapid construction in the future. Also, it appears to me that in 1913 we shall find ourselves far too near the danger-line in the comparative position of our Fleet and the Fleet of another nation in Europe. We shall have to maintain the two-Power standard, and we shall particularly at that time, even if that Power does not build up to its full possible strength, to consider the United States of America. I can conceive nothing more wicked than a naval war between the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race, but I think the Government, which failed to provide for the two-Power standard, taking the United States into consideration, would be taking a criminal course.
The position of nations and empires in the world has changed very rapidly in the last twenty years, and more so than has happened in many previous generations. It is impossible for us in these days, when monetary interests unfortunately so influence the Powers and ambitions of nations to make absolutely certain that we may not have to reckon with any particular Power though we happen to be on the best terms of friendship with them at the present time. Only bad business men hesitate to scrap their plant and build up new machinery, new workshops, if they find that their competitors are starting forward in that direction. It is only fools who hesitate if they are dealing in highly inflammable goods to insure against a great fire. If war comes it comes so rapidly that in this country we should have no time for construction. It will not be a matter of six months, six weeks, or even six days, it is far more likely to be a matter of six hours. Then it is we shall require to see that we have got sufficient men and ships immediately ready. I would suggest that the civilised world was not shocked at the time of the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, in spite of the fact that the sea supremacy of the East was practically taken from the Russians before they had any notice of the Japanese attack. I can only conceive that the naval power which would engage with this country would be in hopes to take us by surprise, and that the attack would be very unexpected so as to have some hope of success. As a mere layman it seems to me not impassible that some five "Dreadnoughts" might be sunk at an unexpected time. If that happened, unless we have 570 a sufficient margin so far as we know, in capital ships of real fighting power, we might suffer a reverse in the year 1913, or thereabouts. It is the burden which tempts the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to ask us to reduce our armaments and the number of men that are engaged in the manning of our battleships. I venture to think that the burden is also realised by everybody on this side of the House. The burden is growing very nearly unbearable. The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) speaking last night, said of Germany and the United States:Both those nations, particularly the United States have such huge resources, such potentialities or greatly increasing population, that I do nut contemplate the possibility of this country for many years being able to build against two great nations.I must confess I heartily agree. It seems to me it will be almost unbearable, with the mighty human organism of the German Empire, and the growing population of the United States;-it will be extremely difficult for us to bear the burden. But it has got to be borne, and in my opinion it can only be borne in one way. I was asked last night by the hon. Member for Norwich to describe how it could be borne. I do not wish to introduce any vexatious question into this Debate, but I stated; as my private opinion that it could be borne by the union of the Empire as a whole. When we consider that Australia, with 4,500,000 of population, has this year undertaken a Navy Loan of £3,000,000, I say that within the Empire lies the possibility of the mighty Fleet which will be necessary if we are going to compete with the mighty empires which are growing up around us in various parts of the world. I believe that the only way that we can establish that union of the Empire is by encouraging our Colonies in every way. I need not point out what the way is in my opinion. We should try to divert the stream of emigration to out Colonies; so as to make them more powerful, and we should endeavour to do everything possible to build up their commerce. Then I am perfectly certain that Australia will not only be ready to have ship construction amounting to £3,000,000, but that the Empire as a whole will be willing and able to devote at least one-quarter of the Estimates which are necessary in order to keep the Fleet of the British Empire supreme in the future. Therefore, I hope that those who desire to see a reduction of armaments, or, at any rate, no greater increase in the future, will look to what, in my 571 opinion, is the only possible way, namely, by the bringing of our Colonies into our councils, and by the establishment of a union throughout the Empire-in fact, and in every respect.
§ Mr. F. W. VERNEY
What interests me most in the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) was the reference to the question of insurance. If I understood him rightly, he said that Germany spent about £5 per ton on her mercantile marine and that we only spent £3.
§ Mr. VERNEY
I do not think the Noble Lord could for a moment suggest that we too should spend £5 per ton.
§ Mr. VERNEY
I am very glad to get that statement, because I think I rather misunderstood him. One cannot help remembering the comparative size of the mercantile marine of the two countries. I see from the last figures in "Lloyds Register" that the German mercantile marine for 1910 totalled 4,266,000 tons, and ours, taken from the same source, amounted to 18,700,000 tons, so that, of course, it would be quite ridiculous of us to embark upon a £5 insurance on that figure. I venture to call attention to this question of insurance in regard to the marvellous growth of the German mercantile marine. That is a possible method of looking at the matter, for, after all, we cannot but admire the wonderful energy which has prompted the nation whom we used to call a nation of landsmen to increase so enormously in recent years their mercantile marine. The figures are most remarkable. I find that in the year 1878 the German mercantile marine was a little over 1,000,000 tons. In 1900 it amounted to 1,737,000 tons; 1906, 2,469,000 tons; 1907, 2,629,000 tons; 1908,2,790,000 tons; and for 1909-10, 4,266,000 tons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad to get those cheers from the opposite benches on that, because I wanted to account, if I may, at all events to some extent, for the growth in their navy by reference to the growth in their mercantile 572 marine. I think that tells entirely against the idea of any scare being got up in this country by reason of the growth of the German navy. Having given the figures, I wish to quote from a most remarkable speech of the German Ambassador delivered a few weeks ago in London. He began by saying:—We are a peace-loving nation, and are far from contemplating any war of aggression, for the reason that our national aspirations would not be advanced by war now that we have accomplished our national unity. Every nation, however, and more especially one which is developing as rapidly as Germany is from the commercial and industrial point of view, has aspirations which vary in the course of its evolution. The demands of our home market have increased considerably, yet not to the same extent as the capabilities of production. We must therefore depend to a very large extent upon export trade, and in order to secure this trade we must seek commercial relations abroad, and try to preserve those already made. This is the real meaning of that frequently misunderstood expression ' Weltpolitik.' Our policy of commerce is directed towards the peaceable acquisition of new markets. The weapons with which this policy of conquest is carried on are intellect, industry, skill, and knowledge. As a matter of fact, no markets can be gained by brute force. You cannot compel anyone to do business with you at the point of the bayonet. I have never believed that among the commercial and industrial nations in this modern conception the destruction of one of two rivals could mean advantage to the other. The victor would no longer be able to sell anything to the vanquished, and he himself would have destroyed; a good customer.I hope the House will agree that it is no waste of time to quote words of that kind spoken by one in the position of German Ambassador. After all, he represents here the Emperor of Germany, and as representing him he made one of the most pacific speeches ever made by an Ambassador in the course of diplomatic history.
I will call attention to one more set of figures. The total exports and imports of the United Kingdom have increased in a perfectly gigantic fashion in the last ten years. In 1899 they were £814,570,000, and in 1908 they were £1,050,025,000. Surely from every point of view, and particularly from the point of view of insurance, we must trust those at the head of affairs to gauge as accurately as possible the necessary increase and to avoid unnecessary extravagance. The Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) will probably agree in thinking that unnecessary extravagance in armaments means just that kind of offensive step which he would be the last to encourage. The speech he delivered a few minutes ago, which I followed with great interest, struck me as a very pacific speech. It seemed to me to be the speech, not of a man who wanted war, but of one who wished to avoid it in every honourable way. Some of us took 573 great interest in The Hague Conference. I was one of those who hoped and believed that a Conference of that kind would diminish the chances of war. But there was a dreadful irony in what followed The Hague Conference. We all know the old Latin proverb, Si vis pacem, para bellum. It seemed to some of us that the motto after The Hague Conference was, Si vis bellum, para pacem. We were all prepared for peace; we all wished it. England took a very leading part. We sent as our representative Lord Paunce-fote, than whom there was no diplomat more distinguished whom we could have sent, and no man who had lived more constantly in the atmosphere of peace, or had done more in his own career to encourage peace by diplomatic work. I do not suppose that anyone among all the diplomats of Europe went to The Hague Conference with a greater idea of promoting peace than did Lord Pauncefote. Yet what was the result? Within a few months of that Conference the most awful war of modern times had broken out, and the irony of it was that the head of one of the countries most closely engaged was the very, man who had appealed to the Powers of Europe to reduce armaments, on purpose to avoid the dread arbitrament of war.
It seems to me that some things have been said in this Debate which had better have been left unsaid. Let me instance one of them. Quotation has been reduced to a, fine art. I protest against clipping quotations-quotations which do not give the real impression of the speech, but stop just where they ought to go on. I would allude particularly to a quotation made by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. H. S. Foster), from the speech delivered by the Foreign Minister on 29th March last year. I am sorry the hon. Member is not present. It is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman said:—First of nil, the house and the country are perfectly right in the view that the situation is grave. A new situation in this country is created by the German programme. Whether that programme is carried out quickly or slowly, the fact of its existence makes a new situation. When that programme is completed, Germany, a great country close to our shore, will have a fleet of thirty-three 'Dreadnoughts,' and that fleet will be the most powerful which the world has ever yet seen. It is true—I do not think the hon. Member quoted this sentence:—That there is not one of them in commission yet it is equally true that the whole programme comprises what I have said, and when completed the new fleet will be the most powerful which the world has yet seen.574 The right hon. Gentleman also said:—What we want to make sure of is our capacity. That is the real point of urgency.
§ Mr. VERNEY
I was going to return to that sentence. I think it comes in better afterwards. I do not wish to leave out anything. I merely wanted to point out that the Foreign Secretary answers his own argument later on. He said:—What we want to make sure of is our capacity. That is the real point of urgency; and I say that if hon. Members opposite had accurately gauged and really grasped the situation, there would have been no need for this Motion.That Motion was the Resolution moved by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Lee), in these terms:—That, in the opinion of this House, the declared policy of His Majesty's Government respecting the immediate provision of battleships of the newest type does not sufficiently secure the safety of the Empire.I will now return to the sentence which the hon. Gentleman wished me to quote. I do so gladly:—That imposes upon us the necessity, of which we are now at the beginning-except so far as we have ' Dreadnoughts' already-of rebuilding the whole of our fleet.That is quite true, and that very argument strengthens the point of view I wish to put before the House. A little later the right hon. Gentleman goes into the question of capacity at considerable length. He says:—With regard to capacity for building hulls and propelling machinery our capacity is considerably in excess of the German capacity—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that we are now discussing the number of men to be employed in His Majesty's Fleet. That is the only Question before the House.
§ Mr. VERNEY
I bow at once to your ruling, and will refrain from going into the quotation which I should have been glad to have been allowed to give. There is one other point I wish to mention with regard to the men. The Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) will probably agree that when talking of the two-Power standard in regard to men, you have to consider not only the number of men, but also their quality. If he himself did not explicitly say so, he at any rate implied that no men in the world were superior to the men in our own Navy. We have now 131,000; a year or two ago the number was 575 128,000. I believe that only a few of them are short service men. All the rest, and perhaps he would include the short service men, the Noble Lord would say were as fine specimens of humanity as you could find in the world.
§ Mr. VERNEY
At any rate, all the others. Therefore I think, tested by the number and by the quality of our seamen, there is nobody who would not admit that we have a Navy extraordinarily efficient and sufficient at present for the purposes for which it is required.
§ Mr. FALLE
As the junior Member for the greatest dockyard in the Kingdom, I had hoped that I might be allowed to wander uncontrolled through the mazes of the Estimates but although I have been fairly assiduous in attendance I have not been fortunate, and we are now confined to a particular Vote. My qualifications to speak upon the Navy Estimates are perhaps the usual ones. I cannot be called exactly an expert; I am certainly a landsman and a lawyer. I shall not on that ac count attack my Noble Friend the senior Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford), but, on the contrary, shall back him up in everything. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Verney) has just referred to the German Ambassador. I think it was the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) who first quoted the German Emperor's speech. I hesitate to mention the old saying of Sir Henry Wootton that:—an ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the Commonwealth.[HON. MEMBEBS: "Oh."] We know, of course, that in this country the Diplomatic Service is an honourable service, and that such a thing is impossible. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars said that at the same time he preferred the authority of an Ambassador to the authority of the Front Bench. But, of course, even the Diplomatic Service have to obey orders and to follow instructions. There is, however, no man on the Front Bench who is under any obligation so to do. Perhaps so far as "may" is concerned right hon. Gentlemen may be under an obligation to follow the advice and instructions of the different groups which keep them in power. But so far as the word "must" is concerned they have at 576 least an honourable escape. I trust I am in order in referring to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackburn, because in his speech he uttered a few words which are, I consider, bbellous to my own Constituency. He said:—The result of the last General Election proves that the Navy scare had no effect whatever except in one or two naval towns like Portsmouth, where the people, for selfish interests, desire to plunder the taxpayers' pockets.There was no naval or other scare at Portsmouth, but there was a thorough and a reasonable appreciation of the dangers of the situation, and there was also the fact that they looked upon the proceedings and programme of the Government as absolutely inadequate. The hon. Member for Blackburn says:—The people, for selfish interests, desire to plunder the taxpayers' pockets.I think that was a statement absolutely unworthy of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackburn. It is a statement which can only recoil on himself. There were none of these people, I feel quite sure, amongst the electors who returned the Noble Lord and myself as their representatives.
I want to say a word or two on the question of the Royal Marines, and I am very-glad to have heard the Noble Lord take up that question so thoroughly. I must frankly admit to feeling somewhat disappointed by the replies from the Front Bench. There is a further question I should like to say a few words upon, the subject of the engineers. I should like to say at once that the replies-I will not call them evasive, but unsatisfactory-which we have received from the Front Bench is causing very considerable dissatisfaction amongst a fine body of men. Without the engineers we cannot take our ships into action, and without them we cannot, after the action, pursue the enemy. The question is of enormous importance. These men ask that they should be given executive authority on their own ships. We have spoken of the American Navy, and I now tell the House that in the American Navy these gentlemen have since 1899 been given executive authority. The position of the naval engineer is one of enormous difficulty. He is a man, it seems to me, who has, as the poet has said, to—Abide in the heart of an eight-day clock The death he cannot see.That is a kind of bravery, frankly, I very much admire, and it is a kind of bravery which I for one do not possess. He must stay there in that steam pen of his, where 577 at any moment a shell may reach him, or he may be blown up by a torpedo. He cannot see the course of events, or have any idea how the fight is going on, and if he is killed he must be killed practically in the dark. That is the kind of thing I think that no fighting man-and we are all fighting men, even those of the peace party desires. Even with that responsibility cast upon him, the engineer is allowed no executive power whatever, while his comrade in the American Navy is given that power. Many of these men joined the fleets when 2,000 or 3,000 horsepower was considered great, and 100 lbs. steam pressure was also considered enormous. Now the steam pressure is up to 300 lbs., and we have 40,000 horse-power. We have vessels that are almost the size of a small town, and the population of the engine-room is that of a large village, while the men we put in control of these, engines and engine-rooms have no executive power whatever. These men ask, I think, not unreasonably that that power should be given to them. The hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of the fact that German insurance was £5 6s., and ours was only £3. Does that not only prove that if the Germans are spending enough, we are not spending enough; and if we are spending enough, that the Germans are spending too much, and they are spending it only with an object? We have been told that the feeling that prompts these armaments is a feeling of suspicion. That is also possible, but there is also perhaps the feeling of envy, and a feeling that we have all that others may want. We have all the places, as the Kaiser said, "to the sun," and if we are not able, or competent, or strong enough to keep them, others may see no reason— for my own part, I see no reason-why they should not take them from us.
The reply of the First Lord of the Admiralty on the subject of short service men rather alarmed me, for I have seen through a good many short service men. He said they were to be used for the Reserve. Surely if they are not thought good enough for active service it is hardly worth while picking them as a Reserve ! I have had some of these men working for me at home. They certainly have not the physique, and certainly are not the kind of men I should care to go with sea with, landsman as I am. The hon. Gentleman opposite has said that during a war there would be no great call for ships, but there would be a great call for men 578 after the ships were injured. But if he has read the records of the Russo-Japanese War he would find that after an engagement the morale of the men was such that they required a rest, and in many cases it took a very lengthened rest before they recovered their morale. I should like to have spoken a little on the subject of dockyards and hired men, but I understand that these subjects are outside the scope of to-night's Debate.
§ Mr. W. P. BYLES
The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed and the Noble Lord whose very interesting speech I listened to a short time before are both Members, I believe, for Portsmouth. There have been several other speakers from dockyard constituencies. I cannot help thinking that in a sense their evidence is tainted on the subject that, is engaging the attention of the Committee. [Laughter.] I will explain why when the hon. Gentleman's laughter has subsided. We are here voting a very large sum of money for the conduct of the Navy. Our constituents will have to find that money. The constituents of the hon. Gentlemen to whom I am referring will be the recipients of that money, and we all know that the cobbler thinks "there is nothing like leather." I am not in the least surprised the Service men should recommend large Naval Estimates, but I do think that the House may receive their arguments with some considerable discount. My views are probably well known. I have expressed my hostility to these Estimates by going into the Lobby in the only Division which has taken place during this week's Debate. To do otherwise would have been to deny the cherished convictions of a long political life and to fall away from the protestations which I have consistently made to my Constituents. But why should the Government drive me to this course? I do it with the greatest regret-with the greatest pain. Nobody could be more anxious than I am to support the Government now in power, and especially so because they have taken in hand what I regard as a great, essential, and very difficult reform. Then my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, dealing with the Estimates the other night, said he regarded them with dismay. Well, the nation wants something more than that explanation of them. Last year both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary came into the House, and both made important speeches commending their policy to the House. I myself should have been 579 very much better satisfied if, in making so extraordinary a demand upon the House as is now made upon it-the Liberal Government is, we have often been reminded, pledged to a policy of retrenchment-the Prime Minister had himself come here to commend his policy and to face the music. One would gladly have heard also from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs some defence founded upon the foreign policy of Great Britain of this demand for large armaments. I would have liked the right hon. Gentleman to explain the bearing of his policy upon these armaments, and the bearing of these armaments upon his policy. I would have liked him to say whether we have any military engagements with France, Russia, or any other country which have any weight in the determination of them. Above all, I would have liked him to say whether his efforts towards an understanding with Germany in regard to naval armaments have made any progress since last year. I do not think it is quite fair that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty should have been left alone upon the Front Bench to be bayed at by Tory wolves, and it is not quite fair to the House to leave us in the dark and to have a terrible policy of this kind sprung upon us-a policy which will be interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as a defiance to Germany: a policy which tens of thousands of religious people, of moralists and humanitarians in the country, regard as the obsession of the doctrine of physical force and a denial of the potency of higher moral influences. The position of the Front Bench also during these Debates tends to leave the impression, and it has left the impression, of lack of unity in the Cabinet. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] It does, indeed. It makes me wonder, for example, what my right hon. Friend the Secretary for India is thinking of these things. I would like to know his view.
§ Mr. BYLES
I know he is, and I daresay that he is very glad of the shelter he has secured. I should also like to know what the First Commissioner of Works and my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland think of these Estimates. The names of these Gentlemen were, I noticed, absent from the Division List the other night, and therefore I would have liked them to have been here to support the First Lord of the 580 Admiralty in the demands which he is making. I do not like the suggestion that the great portfolios of the State are in water-tight compartments. Either this policy is the policy of the Admiralty or it is the policy of the Cabinet. If it is the policy of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I say frankly I do not trust him. I cannot trust him to formulate the policy of the Government. If it is the policy of the Cabinet I say, with great respect, they ought to be here to defend it.
There have been a great many references in these Debates to what I may call the "Retrenchment party.'' It must not be assumed, as it has been, that its numbers are insignificant. It was sneered at this afternoon because of that, but I say it must not be assumed that it is to be numbered by those who went into the Lobby the other night. I am sure the First Lord himself knows there are a great many people who share these views, and that they are amongst his most earnest supporters in other matters. It is true that he dismissed us with a sentence, I might almost say with a sneer, and at once left us and devoted himself to what he called "the platform arguments of the Opposition," which he said he knew would not be repeated here, and which had been effectively answered by the General Election.
These Estimates are on a very great and unprecedented scale. The appetite begins to grow upon what it feeds. A year ago we were told by the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty that we were perfectly secure, even though the four contingent ships were doubtful. No programme has been enlarged. Germany is doing exactly what was laid down in her naval law at that time. Yet now we are confronted with a new and huge expansion, and this is not even to be the end. Far from it. Next year this record in expenditure is to be broken, even if the Liberals remain in power. If the Tories come in Heaven knows what lengths they may go to.If they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?These proposals of the Admiralty, sanctioned as they were by the Government, are a departure from the best traditions of our party, from the counsels of their great predecessors, and even from their own better convictions. Old Members of this House who were here last year remember the very grave and solemn speech of 581 the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The right hon. Gentleman said:—It is true to say that half the national revenue of the great countries in Europe is being spent on what is, after all, preparations to kill each other. Surely the extent to which this expenditure has grown really becomes a satire and a reflection upon civilisation. …If it goes on at the rate at which it has recently increased, sooner or later it will submerge civilisation; sooner or later it must lead to national bankruptcy.These are very grave words. There are many other eminent men who have warned the House and the country against this growth in national expenditure. There were many eminent Tory statesmen who did so who might be remembered by hon. Members opposite, such as Sir Robert Peel, Lord Beaconsfield, and later, Lord Randolph Churchill, who threw up a brilliant career rather than consent to an increase in the Navy similar to that which we are asked for to-day. At any rate if there is no Tory voice to be raised against this vast expenditure I cannot remain silent.
Retrenchment is the centre of the legend of the Liberal party. What has become of it since 1906? Without it peace, in my judgment, is in danger, and reform is relegated to the Greek Kalends. A good deal has been said about removing the Navy from party considerations. May I ask my colleagues in this House of all parties for one moment to listen to the case that presents itself to me, as to what we are really doing at this moment. The ingenuity of man is being constantly employed in devising this machinery of death. A complacent Government provides ample and unlimited funds which they draw from a patient and toilworn people. All the resources of science, all the forces of nature are employed—steam, electricity, the very winds of heaven, on land, on sea, under the sea, and now in the sky overhead, and for what? To destroy human life, to destroy property which has been gathered and fabricated by human industry—nay, worse, to provoke quarrels, to engender suspicion, distrust, and animosity between people who have no quarrel, and who do not desire to quarrel, who have no conflicting interests, and who, but for these preparations and the evil spirit which provokes them, would live side by side in amity and concord, in friendly rivalry, mutual aid, and co-operation, exchanging with one another the products of their skill and industry. That is what we are doing, that is what 582 these Estimates mean, and I do think that as citizens of the Empire we should try and consider whether there is not some other way of building up our greatness than by magnifying these engines of destruction.
I may be fairly asked what is it that I would suggest. I can only say I have never lost an opportunity in season, and, I am afraid, out of season, since I entered this House, of urging upon the Government of the day to strive to bring about mutual agreement with regard to the limitation of armaments. As long ago as 1894, I questioned the then Prime Minister, Mr. Gladstone, and he replied in a sympathetic tone, no doubt, that the moment had not yet arrived. The moment has never arrived from that day to this. The Navy is now three times as big as it was. We have had the Czar's Rescript and two Hague Conferences, and we have a growing desire all over Germany and this country for some accommodation to be arrived at between those two great hitherto friendly nations. I ask, Is it past the wit of statesmanship to find the solution and to put these proposals in form? It is sometimes said it cannot be done until nations agree upon a policy of arbitration and of submitting their disputes to arbitration. If that be so I might remind the House there is an organisation in existence called the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which has now 2,000 members from the Parliaments of the world, and 150 or more members from this House who are, every one of them, committed to the principle of settling international quarrels by law and not by war.
The only answer we get to all our pleas is a demand for five more monsters of destruction, monsters which we were told only the other night were never expected to fight. There is no man in this House expects, and certainly no one hopes, they will ever go into war. They are destined for the scrap-heap. Twenty years hence all of them will be on the scrap-heap. I would like to remind the House once more that the burden of these armaments on ourselves and on the neighbouring populations of Europe is very terrible. It must end, as the Foreign Secretary said, in submerging civilisation and bringing the nation to bankruptcy. The statesman who will find a solution for these matters other than providing these monsters of destruction will be the greatest man in history.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. E. C. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
A great many points in these Debates have been discussed over and over again, and, as the hon. Member for North Buckingham said, a good many things have been said which it would have been much better to have left unsaid. I propose to deal with one or two things that have not been said. I wish to allude to a complaint made by the First Lord of the Admiralty that those sitting on the Opposition side of the House have obstructed and made it more difficult for him to maintain the two-Power standard and obtain the number of men which he requires in order to make the Navy efficient. Nothing could be further from the thoughts of hon. Members sitting on this side of the House than to obstruct the right hon. Gentleman's efforts to strengthen the Navy. It is entirely because of the insufficient and unsatisfying answers which have been given to our questions relating to the Navy that we have had to put those questions over and over again. I will give the House a sample. Hon. Members on these benches ask questions with regard to the ' Dreadnought" or the "Invincible" class as to construction and the satisfactory working of their guns and machinery. The First Lord replies that he has not got at the moment information regarding that particular ship, but he can give information regarding another ship, as to the working of which he has never heard any complaint and which has carried out the purpose for which she was constructed. Consequently we have found it necessary to put down a great many questions. I asked a question the other day with regard to the Coastguards, because I wanted to know what reduction had been made. Having obtained that information, I asked if any further reductions were about to be made, and I was informed that the policy of the Admiralty would be declared from time to time. I trust the time has now arrived. I see that the reductions provided for in these Estimates reduces the number of Coastguards from 3,267 to 3,120, or a total reduction of 147. I would like to ask the Secretary for the Admiralty to give us an assurance that there is no further idea of reducing the Coastguards beyond the point which has now been reached. Not only are the Coastguards a very useful body of men for the purpose for which they were originally intended, but they are also useful to guard our coasts and warn the various stations when a ship is in distress. A great many bluejackets 584 when they join the Navy look forward to one day passing into the Coastguards, and that is a great inducement for them to join the Navy. They look forward to the time when they will be able to join the Coastguards, and be able to live at home with, their families, and yet in the event of war be able to fight for their country. The First Lord stated that the destroyers of the River class can keep to sea longer than the twenty-seven-knotters. Does the right hon. Gentleman imagine that the German nation are to wait for fine weather to pick a quarrel with us?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That has no reference to the Vote we are now discussing. The Vote under discussion deals with the men only.
§ Mr. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I bow to your ruling, Sir; but I was just coming to that very point, namely, the immediate and considerable reduction in the number of men which must take place if the twenty-seven-knotters were to attempt to put to sea in rough weather, when the inevitable result would be that they would promptly convert themselves into permanent submarines or temporary coast destroyers. In view of this contingency I think that it would be most unwise to make any reduction in the personnel of the Navy. I wish to refer to the views which have been expressed by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) and others belonging to his party. I should have thought that they would have been the very first to advocate an increase in the number of men employed in the Navy. They are constantly complaining of the want of employment, and yet they vote against an increase of the number in the Navy, where the men can be employed in the best possible way in a thoroughly healthy calling. Hon. Members opposite go into hysterics if we suggest Tariff Reform, because they are afraid it will raise the price of food, although they are perfectly willing to risk the price of food going up to famine prices in the case of an outbreak of war. As the Government are anxious to get Vote A I will conclude by asking for a reply to my question.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
The Admiralty are always ready to give every consideration to any proposal coming from any quarter of the House calculated to increase the efficiency of the Navy, and I take this opportunity of saying with 585 what pleasure I have listened to the large number of very able maiden speeches which have been delivered during the course of the four days' Debate. With regard to the hon. Member for North Salford, I do not know that I need dwell upon the dark conclusions he appeared to draw from the absence of some Ministers. May I remind him that these are the Estimates of the Government, and if the Ministers mentioned by the hon. Member are not here to defend them, I have no doubt the reason is that they think they have left the Estimates in very good hands during their progress through the Committee and through the Report stage. That is an obvious explanation which I venture to give the hon. Member.
As to the Royal Marines, which the Noble Lord opposite asked a question about, the First Lord of the Admiralty made some reply which I may, perhaps, be allowed to amplify in some degree. I remember in the Debates of last year and the year before there seemed to be an idea that there was some sort of prejudice against the Royal Marines. That view has not been expressed to-day, because it is obvious that nobody could have any prejudice against such a splendid and historic force. For two centuries the Royal Marines have been the honoured and invaluable ally of the Navy, and no one can have any prejudice against them. In my small way I have watched them for many years with great pride, and I know how well they bear their proud title of "Per mare, per terram." As our needs change we must adapt ourselves to those needs. The real question we have to ask ourselves is: What work have we got to do; and that common-sense observation must be applied to the Royal Marines.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was coming to that point. I was saying that we must adapt ourselves as time goes on to our needs. The introduction of steam as a means of propulsion keeps a larger number of the ship's company below than used to be the case in the old days, when they were almost entirely employed upon deck. That is one great revolution. The proportion employed to-day on deck, owing to the development of steam power and other means of propulsion, is becoming less and 586 less as compared with the proportion employed below. That is one general proposition. As the First Lord of the Admiralty pointed out, the number of Marines required is determined by war needs and not by peace needs, and the standard upon which the numbers is fixed at the present time is that every ship required for war shall have her full complement of Marines. Although in the Vote the number has been reduced, the number asked for to-day is in excess of our war requirements. Our general policy is to have a fixed proportion, and that is the only policy which can determine the number.
The hon. Member for the Handsworth Division made a complaint that the answers given to questions from this bench by the representative of the Admiralty were not satisfactory. It is not for me to defend the First Lord of the Admiralty, because he is quite capable of doing that for himself. In my opinion, the right hon. Gentleman is always ready to give the fullest information, but, of course, he is bound to consider the public interest in any information he gives. Possibly consideration of that kind may have been wrongly interpreted by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I would certainly not wish the First Lord of the Admiralty to answer any questions against the public interest, but we do complain that he has been rather curt to us.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I know very often that considerations for the public service make a Minister appear curt when that is the very last thing in his mind. The question of the Coastguards is, of course, very important. It is one upon which there is a very great deal of misunderstanding in the public mind, and possibly in this House. The Coastguard service in 1856 was transferred from the Customs to the Admiralty to make better provision for the defences of the coast of the realm, for the more ready manning of His Majesty's Navy in case of war or emergency, and for the protection of the Revenue. At that time there was undoubtedly a considerable amount of smuggling, and the stations were fixed, not with regard to the dangerous character of the coast, but with regard to the protection, of the Revenue.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Their position was determined mainly by that, and it was the duty of the Coastguards to protect the coast for revenue. The Coastguard men 587 are not pensioners; they are active service ratings, and can be mobilised at a moment's notice. They have undoubtedly, as everybody knows, in the ordinary work of controlling the coast for the protection of the Revenue, lent most admirable service in watching the coast for wrecks. Let me pay a tribute1 to the gallantry and readiness they have always shown in the matter of lifesaving. They have always been ready to lend a hand, but they have acted as volunteers, just as the hon. Member would, no doubt, act if the occasion arose. It is not part of their business, and they are not there primarily for that purpose; but, in case of a wreck, they have gone out with the lifeboat and have voluntarily and very graciously rendered willing service. There have, no doubt, been considerable changes since 1865, and, because of those changes, an Inter-Departmental Conference went into the matter recently, and a number of recommendations were put forward. In the meantime a number of stations not needed for the protection of revenue had been closed. The number borne on 1st January last was 3,273, and we proposed that it should be further reduced to an average bearing of 3,100 for the year, not as the result of the closing of any stations, but because of a reduction in the complement of the stations.
§ Mr. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I asked if the Government contemplated making any further reduction. With regard to life-saving apparatus, there is a very great feeling of uneasiness that the present system is not as efficient as it was.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I do not know that I am entitled to express my opinion upon that as a Member of the Government. It is not really the function of the Admiralty. These highly trained men have not been placed in these stations for that purpose, although they have rendered that service; neither were the stations originally built for watching the coast for wrecks; they were built for another purpose. The reductions will certainly not be beyond what is stated in the Estimates.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I ought to have said for the year. I cannot speak for the future, because the whole system may be remodelled and put upon a different basis entirely. These reductions, at any rate, will not be the result of the closing of any 588 stations; they will be the result of a reduction in the complement of the stations, and, apart altogether from any view we may have as to what our functions in this matter may be, we shall watch carefully the case of stations where there are lifeboats and life-saving apparatus. I cannot, perhaps, without expressing any further opinion myself, do better than react the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty:—The recommendations of the Inter-Departmental Conference on the Coastguard have only been partially carried out, and, as announced in Parliament, the force is being retained round the coast on the establishment provided for in the Estimates for 1909-10, care being taken to continue assistance where hitherto given at all places where lifeboats and life-saving apparatus have been established. The establishment of the Coastguard as so fixed is 3.100.There could certainly be no organic change in this force without coming to Parliament. I think I am quite authorised to say that. I do not for a moment wish to underestimate-no one could-the vital importance of this question of watching the coast for wrecks. All I am trying to do is to make the Admiralty position with regard to this matter, what the function of the Coastguards is, and what it was originally put there for, perfectly clear. I do not think I should be entitled to go beyond that at the present; time. I do not know whether I might now ask, as Vote 1 has to come on and I know there are hon. Members who want to raise some questions on that Vote, the Committee to let us have this Vote.
§ Mr. J. C. WEDGWOOD
The Financial Secretary of the Admiralty, in the course of his speech, alluded to a sort of idea that there had been a prejudice in the Admiralty against the Royal Marines.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I think there is no prejudice against the Royal Marines, but I do think there is a sort of feeling in the Admiralty against the engineering branch of the Navy. I raised the question three years ago and got very satisfactory answers, but there has been no change in the policy of the Board with regard to the engineering branch of the Royal Navy. Unfortunately, we have not at present any representatives of the naval engineers in the House. Some years ago we had Mr. William Allen, the Member for Gateshead, who adequately represented their point of view, but since his death there has been no representative of the naval engineers 589 in the House, and their interests in consequence have not, I think, been looked after as they should be at these annual Debates. Their power and their scope are ever increasing with the increase of our Navy. These new ships, running up to 70,000 horse-power, will, I believe, require a staff of something like 400 engineers, but the engineering officers of these ships have no power of controlling their men otherwise than by the influence of character.
There is always considerable difficulty in exercising power or authority over men without the power of punishment for any offence that may be committed. There was a case only the other day brought to my notice of a man in the stokehold who refused to obey the orders of an engineer thirty years of age. He was brought before the chief engineer and still refused to obey. He was then taken before an officer on deck of only twenty-one years, and the order being again repeated to him he obeyed it on the spot. One can imagine the feelings of the engineering officers after they themselves have been disobeyed seeing an officer on deck promptly obeyed by a man on their own staff, the representative of 300 constantly under their orders. It cannot be good for the discipline of His Majesty's Navy that this grievance should go on year after year in the engineering branch absolutely unredressed. The difficulty is going to become more acute in future. Next year under a new scheme of training sub-lieutenants D will be doing service afloat. They will be doing duty in the engine-room under the orders of the old class of engineers, men of excellent training and standing, but who are slighted by the Admiralty and put deliberately into an inferior position to these juniors going on under the new scheme. This inferior treatment of the engineering branch of the Navy is bound, not only to have a bad effect upon efficiency and discipline in the Navy, but also to have a bad effect upon the new scheme of training. When these new lieutenants are selecting a branch of the Navy to take up, you cannot prevent them choosing the executive branches which are honoured by the Admiralty, such as the torpedo, gunnery, and navigation branches, and avoiding by hook or by crook the engineering branch. There is no doubt that you will get the failures in the engineering branch. In that department where you require the greatest possible exercise of ingenuity, 590 that department where brains and constitution are almost more important than in any other part of a ship, you will be getting, I will not say the worst, because they are all good, but you will be getting the least good of your sub-lieutenants. I should like the House to grasp for a moment what it is that these engineers on board His Majesty's ships do. They have by far the most important and dangerous work on board the ship-dangerous not only in time of war, but supremely dangerous in time of peace. With the terrible high-pressure engines of to-day, the very slightest accident may mean a horrible death, and over and over again we have had engineering lieutenants going down into the stokehold through the scalding steam in order to rescue some of the hands from certain death. The whole stokehold staff may, in fact, be killed by a boiler explosion. Day after day they run these risks in time of peace, and in wartime, if they had the right to elect whether they would serve in battle on deck or below, they would choose the deck, because then there would be a chance of dying in the water instead of in the scalding steam. These people are doing splendid service in the Navy. They are drawn from all classes of society without prejudice, and, although they have been labelled engine-drivers, there is now a proper appreciation of their services, and it is felt that these engineering lieutenants and commanders should be put into the position which their successors under the new scheme are bound to have. They ought to be put on a par with the new people coming from the training colleges. There is no reason one can possibly see against this change except mere prejudice at the Board of Admiralty. We have over and over again raised this point in Debate, and we have received pleasing words from the representatives of the Admiralty in this House, but on every occasion the favourable consideration which they have promised to give the proposed claim has evaporated before the breath of the Admiralty down below. I think the time has now come to reconsider the position and to put the engineers of the Royal Navy into the position which they ought to hold now, and which they are bound to hold in the near future.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the Resolution reported [11th March] from the Committee of Supply, and then agreed to by the House, be now read:591
§ " That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 184,200, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911."