§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That 134,000 officers, seamen, and boys be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912, including 17,099 Royal Marines."
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
In criticising this portion of the Navy Estimates, I am not going to mention one word about "Dreadnoughts," but I am going to do what I have done before on a few occasions on which I have had the honour of addressing the House, and that is to try 46 and urge the equal importance of cruisers, and especially in connection with the protection of trade routes. This year we are fortunate in having an Admiralty Memorandum from which to quote in support of that view. That Memorandum states that the—Really serious danger that this country has to guard against in war is not invasion, but interruption of our trade and destruction of our merchant shipping.Hon. Gentlemen opposite are very fond on Free Trade platforms of boasting about our enormous foreign trade and our shipping industry, but when it comes to voting money in the Navy Estimates a great many of them do not like to pay for what is a mere insurance. It is not only lately that we have had to pay such insurance. Nearly one hundred years ago, in 1813, we spent £21,250,000 on our Navy Estimates. In that year our foreign trade was only £72,000,000, and if we take 47 our Navy as only insuring that, although, of course, it insures a good deal more than foreign trade, it works out at something like 29 per cent. for insurance. This year the percentage for insurance has come down to £4 10s. per cent., or less than one-sixth of what it was nearly one hundred years ago. The Memorandum of the Admiralty goes on to state:—The strength of our Fleet is determined by what is necessary to protect our trade, and if it is sufficient for that, it will be almost necessarily sufficient to prevent invasion, since the same disposition of the ships, to a great extent, answers both purposes.The disposition of the ships to prevent invasion must, I take it, be in home waters, and, therefore, according to the Admiralty, our ships in home waters will be able to protect our trade routes. The Memorandum proceeds:—The main object of our Fleet…is to prevent any ship of the enemy getting to sea far enough to do any mischief before she is brought to action.The idea of that is fairly obvious. Our Fleet, according to the Admiralty, should be able to box up the enemy's cruisers and prevent them from getting through our lines on to the trade routes, or, if they did get out we should be able to send faster and more powerful cruisers in pursuit to look after them. Besides this we know, or we ought to know, the position of the hostile cruisers abroad, and we ought to be able to have our commerce guarded by powerful cruisers; I think all sailors will agree that that disposition of ships in home waters would be perfectly satisfactory for looking after our enemy's cruisers, but I think we have to meet a far more insidious, and a far more dangerous class of ship than our enemy's cruisers, I mean the armed merchant ship or commerce destroyer. Last July I commented on this class of ship. I tried to draw a picture of the fast "Tramp" with a gun in her hold ready to hoist out to position, and with ammunition on board. They use the hospitality of ports as merchantmen for coaling, etc., which would be denied to them if they went out in their true guise. Such a ship is able on the high seas by a mere formula to convert herself into a war ship, and, in the event of war, can get into the position where she could inflict the maximum amount of damage on the trade routes. The First Lord of the Admiralty appears to have no fears on this subject. He based the whole of his reply to me on this that we need not have much fear about this class of ship, because the very fact of them having ammunition on board would invalidate 48 their insurance at Lloyd's. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I venture to say that that was not a very good answer. I do not think that ships which might be able to deal us a very great blow in this way would seriously consider the question of insurance; and, secondly, a great many of those ships do not insure at Lloyd's. They have a mutual insurance of their own, but even if they did move at Lloyd's there is not a single word in any policy of that body that forbids the carrying of ammunition. I venture to say that the reply of the right hon. Gentleman rather breaks down, and we are in this serious position, that undoubtedly we shall have to meet the armed merchantmen. I think the London Conference told us that if it did nothing else. At present we are doing absolutely nothing to guard against them, nor are we likely to as long as the Government take up the position as stated by the First Lord. I think we ought to take this class of ship very seriously into consideration. We ought to consider the whole question of our trade routes and our food supplies, frankly admitting the probability of having to combat this modern kind of privateer which is far worse than the old kind that the Declaration of Paris tried to do away with.
May I state one proposition. I think that in the long run we can only depend for the safety of our food supplies, for our commerce, on a supreme navy, sufficiently strong to command the seas. I think all sailors would agree with that. Most sailors have a great deal of contempt for treaties and declarations and things of that sort, but since I became a sort of politician I am afraid I have become one of those people that we used to call in the service "sea lawyers," and I went to look into these things myself. I think they ought to be all treated strictly on their own merits, and ought to be looked at chiefly with respect to this question—do they make it easier or more difficult for our Navy to carry out the work it has got to do. My second proposition is this, that when we go to war, in my opinion, and I only speak for myself, I think the question of our trade routes will be settled in a few weeks. I think in the few weeks we would have either got command of the seas or lost it. If we got the command of the sea we should have our ships out, and I think our trade routes would be fairly safe. If we had lost command of the sea we had lost everything. If my second proposition is correct that the 49 trade routes would be fairly safe in a few weeks the danger to our food supplies would be during the time we are fighting for supremacy, and especially at the time of the actual outbreak of hostilities. I do not think there is much doubt that, taking the ships which are even now on the sea bringing food supplies to us, that if an enemy really started and organised a scheme of destruction that it could play havoc for the time amongst our food supplies, with the result that a great many people in this country could not buy bread, and so we might have serious internal troubles in the country just at the time when we want to avoid them. Some people think, and I have often heard it said, that since food comes to us in so many ships from so many different places that it is really impossible seriously to interfere with the supply. They say that the ocean is such a vast place, and all the navies doing their worst could not prevent food coming. But London is a vast place, and I always know where to find the General Omnibus running, and those ships of the trade routes follow the same sea tracks, almost with the same precision, as the omnibus follows certain routes through the streets of London. Take, for instance, the grain trade, if I was in command of a cruiser and told to do as much damage as I could to the grain coming to England, and supposing it was in February, March, or April, I would know that during those months practically the whole of the grain supplies came from the Argentine, I should go down to Pernambuco, and I fancy I could do a great deal of damage to the corn supply. On 3rd July, 1903, the position of British steamers bringing food supplies and raw materials was on the four principal trade routes, and those are far the most important routes, in the North Atlantic, 132; South Atlantic, 126; West Coast of France, 86; Mediterranean, 109. At that time we had a good many ships out there, a good many cruisers out there on the trade routes, and at that time we had not seriously to take into consideration the question of commerce destroyers. What is the position to-day. We have a great deal more trade on these routes, we have fewer cruisers to guard them, and we have the commerce destroyer to take into consideration. It is pretty obvious that a well-organised attack on these four routes, if only a few ships were captured on each route, would very seriously disorganise our food supplies, and, what is more, it would put up 50 the war risks on these ships to a very penal rate. We have had some evidence of what a war risk was when people were frightened. In the war in 1812, when our Navy was practically omnipotent, the risk from the West Indies was 18½ guineas per cent. In 1805, before Trafalgar, the risk to the Mediterranean was £23 15s. per cent. After Trafalgar that rate fell to £5 per cent., which is rather a commentary on what a strong Navy will do. I think a great many shipowners will tell you that even 5 per cent. in these days of cut-throat competition would be a very serious thing. What risks do our food supplies run in time of war? This is rather a good time to bring the question up, because of the extraordinary differences of opinion that have been expressed on this subject between jurists, between sailors, between; shipowners, and between lawyers. British ships bringing food to us are, of course, always liable to be destroyed, but Article II. of the Declaration of Paris states:—Neutral Flag covers enemies goods, with the exception of contraband of war.All nations subscribed to this Declaration of Paris, and if food is not going to be contraband it means that we, under this Article II., ought to be able to make certain of the safe passage of food brought to this country in neutral ships. The amount of food brought in neutral ships is very much larger than a great many people seem to think. We can get a very good indication of it from the Food Supplies Commission. On 28th August, 1902, British steamers homeward bound with food supplies and raw material—we cannot separate the two—were 406, and on 26th March, 1903, the number of foreign steamers homeward bound bringing food supplies and raw materials was 256, or nearly 39 per cent. of the total. I think Members will agree that that would be a very valuable proportion of food supplies if we could secure its safe passage in the early stage of a war, which I think would be the most dangerous stage. This safe passage depends on whether food is going to be made contraband or not. We have-had a great deal of correspondence upon the subject lately, and very rash statements have been made, but I think by far the most rash statement has been made by the Foreign Office itself. On 26th November, 1910, the Foreign Office stated:—It is the present practice which would expose to capture or deliberate destruction food supplies borne to-any part of the United Kingdom in neutral vessels in time of war.51 I think that that is a most dangerous statement to have made. I can conceive of nothing which would more prejudice the statement of our views, as we have stated them in the past, and have successfully stated them, than to say that in no case will we admit that food can be made contraband. I think it would be very difficult for us to state that now in view of this statement of the Foreign Office. The best answer to that I think is this. When parties arbitrate and go to a table to make neutral concessions, I take it they bring their best case into court, so that they will be able to drop some of their views if necessary. The Powers themselves came round a table not long ago to make neutral concessions in this way, and it would be in the statement of these foreign Powers, if anywhere, that we should find these rather drastic ideas about food being contraband that are attributed to the Foreign Office. In the Memorandum prepared by the Powers we find that under the head of absolute contraband food was not mentioned except by Germany and Russia. Germany included as contraband only preserved provisions suitable for the troops, and Russia included provisions especially meant to supply the Army. Under the head of conditional contraband, the only ambiguous statement was made by France. All the other Powers said, in effect, that food could only be declared contraband when destined for the Army or Navy.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is not the most convenient or suitable occasion for discussing the Declaration of London, as the First Lord of the Admiralty is not the Minister primarily responsible for it. The matter is only in order so far as it affects the Navy, but it is clear that there is a connection between the two subjects.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
I have not the slightest intention of discussing the Declaration of London. I think it would be out of order so to do. As a matter of fact, I was not discussing the Declaration of London. I was talking about our present position, before the Declaration of London is ratified, as regards our food supplies and trade routes. I have said all I wish to say on the point. I will only ask the Foreign Office how, in the face of what I have said, they can pretend that all 52 these nations now say they are going to make our food contraband. I do not think they can. All I hope is that the Admiralty are taking notice of what the Foreign Office has said, and that, in having these ridiculously few ships on our trade routes at the present time, they are not depending too much on food coming safely to us in these neutral ships, because I think it would be almost impossible to depend on that after what the Foreign Office has said. Whether the Declaration of London is ratified or not, I do not believe we can ever depend again on neutral ships bringing food supplies safely to this country. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to have more ships on these trade routes, stationed there permanently, so as to be a nucleus of protection in case of war. In view of the whole question of the protection of our trade routes, I submit that the very small number of cruisers that the Admiralty is building is totally inadequate.
§ Mr. HANCOCK
During the last few weeks we have been listening to a great deal of what an unfriendly critic might be inclined to call special pleading and reasoning which was very largely sentimental, but what I prefer to regard as very able discussion of some of the most important matters that can ever come under the consideration of this House. If we had heard nothing beyond what we heard last Monday, I think the single statement of the Foreign Secretary would have justified the whole of the time which has been given to these questions. Notwithstanding all that has been said, one fact still remains unassailed and unassailable—a fact of infinite significance not only to the people of this country but to the people of many other countries, namely, that whereas eleven years ago we were not spending, and had never been spending, more than £20,000,000 upon our Navy, today we are spending £40,000,000. In a time of peace when we are told with considerable enthusiasm and no small degree of pride that our relations with all foreign Powers are friendly, still in a perfectly cool manner, as though it were an ordinary, unimportant, trifling, everyday occurrence, it is suggested that we should add to these already enormous Estimates a further £3,500,000. In my opinion the way in which these Estimates have gone up by leaps and bounds to their present enormous magnitude, and the feverish and insane anxiety that Ministers have shown to outstrip all the nations of the world in this class of expenditure, is becoming 53 absolutely alarming. To us as a nation it has become positively discreditable, and I have not the least hesitancy in saying that it is becoming extremely dangerous. These perpetually expanding Estimates on armaments, which have been originated in some cases by scares, engineered by powerful interests who stand to gain a great deal, and perhaps in all cases by incorrect information—where, when, by whom, and why that incorrect information was given we should all be very pleased to know—I say that these expanding Estimates, which put considerable sums of money into the pockets of the "Dreadnought" builders——[An HON. MEMBER: "And into the pockets of the workmen."] True, but let me say, in the plainest language that I can command, that I would infinitely rather see that money spent and those men employed in building, rebuilding, and repairing merchant vessels. I would rather see all restrictions removed from our international trade and that international trade encouraged until it reached its maximum and abundant supplies of necessaries placed within the reach of every living being, than see our money wasted as it is now being wasted upon the provision of vessels of destruction which, in my opinion, are altogether unnecessary.
But why attempt to compare the spending of money in the way proposed with the way I have just suggested? It seems to me that comparison is impossible. The two things will not compare. It is infinitely higher, incomparably grander, and it is transcendently more important and beneficial to spend our money and use our energies in realising the consummation to which I have just referred than to spend them upon means of demoralisation and destruction. The procedure we are following at present may mean that before long we shall see over £100,000,000 of money spent upon our Army and Navy. Whilst it is doing that I want to submit that it is doing a very bad thing for the nation at large. The spending of money in this way cannot, in my opinion, encourage international arbitration. It cannot be a good thing for international trade and commerce. It cannot promote international brotherhood, and I cannot see in it any recognition of those high and eternal principles without which, I am well persuaded, no nation can be permanently and eminently successful. I look at our position geographically, commercially, and financially. It seems to me that it is an absolutely unique position. No other nation has ever come within measurable distance 54 of the position we occupy to-day. If it be admitted that we could do more than any nation in this world to extend trade and commerce, and the feeling of international peace and brotherhood, and promote the highest, truest, and best interests of common humanity, we ought to do it. Instead of doing it we have, I am satisfied, embarked upon a different policy. We are wasting our resources in ironclads, and are doing more than any other nation to fan the embers of national distrust, jealousy, and alarm. We listen with attention and with interest to the statements of our Ministers. But I wonder sometimes—and I am not the only one—whether we really know what their intentions are! I for one would not say that the deliberate and set intention of our Ministers is to irritate and annoy foreign Powers. But is it not possible, and extremely probable, that the effect of the proposals now before the House may be in that direction? I think that the policy that may have the appearance even of threatening, or "tread-on-the-tail-of-my-coat," of "come-along" policy—that may have the appearance even of that—is neither creditable to us nor is it safe.
We all, I presume, stand for naval security. But what an indefinable mysterious thing naval security is! What does it consist of? Where does it begin? Where does it end? When is our position secured? When is it not secure? Is it not a fact that in the political domain there is no subject upon which thought and information is more sharply divided, and upon which there is more confusion of thought than there is upon this question of naval security? Last year we were talking about a two-Power standard. This year we are talking about a three-Power standard. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Next year we may be talking about a four-Power standard. Are we quite sure when we have a fourteen-Power standard that everybody will be satisfied? Are we quite sure that everybody then will feel secure; that there will then be no naval scares and panics? There is a great deal of confusion upon this point. I find that there is a very prevalent opinion that security and efficiency cannot be associated with economy; that no matter how large the Estimates may be that are proposed; no matter how unreal and out of harmony with the true facts of the case the premises may be upon which the Estimates are founded, there is a very general opinion that these Estimates should be passed: in other words, that we cannot 55 associate security and efficiency with economy. By what method of argument and upon what ground people reach that conclusion, I do not know. I know that history, I know that all business and commercial life tell a very different tale. These show that, generally speaking, security and efficiency are associated with economy. I am not aware that a single case can be proved to the contrary. We all know that history also shows another thing: that one of the strongest inducements to inefficiency and insecurity is extravagance. From extravagance springs lack of authority, loss of discipline, loss of control, unpunctuality, perfunctory work, and altogether a lowering of business aptitude and business position. We all stand for supremacy, but I want to ask the House in all sincerity, is this the way to it? Have "Dreadnoughts" given us supremacy in the past, or at the present? Have they ever given any nation in this world any supremacy that is worth having? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] I question it. But the hon. Gentleman will have plenty of opportunity of proving what he has stated. I was going on to say that I stand for supremacy in trade, commerce, education, art, science, all, let me say, that goes to ennoble and enrich common humanity and to exalt nations. I am well persuaded that the spending of money upon "Dreadnoughts" does not contribute to that at all. I am not unaware of the fact that in opposing these increased Estimates we may lay ourselves open to the charge of being unpatriotic. It is not the first time that that charge has been made against some of us, nor will it be the last. I am rather inclined to think that every individual who has stepped out of the common track and who has stood up boldly and courageously for some great reform has been charged with being unpatriotic. We were, I remember, charged with being unpatriotic during the South African war. History proves that the people who were patriotic were the people who opposed the war—[An HON. MEMBER: "Question?"]—and I believe that in the years to come history will prove that the true patriots to-day are the men who are opposed to these expanding Estimates.
I do not know what takes place behind the political scenes. No State or Cabinet secrets ever come my way. I have no means of obtaining information beyond what is common to all Members of this House. But I am firmly convinced that 56 Germany is opposed to war. I am convinced that Germany is making no preparation for war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, I mean what I say, I am convinced that Germany is making no preparation for war. I am also convinced that in the German Estimates there is no justification for the increase that is now being asked for in our own. I am further convinced that the panics and the incorrect reports that have been created in this country have done Germany a very great injustice. Whilst it may seem rather strange to make a statement of this kind—I make it in all sincerity, and I believe it to be true—it is this: that if we in this country had been as anxious for international understanding, arbitration, and international agreement as Germany has been, the relationships between two countries would have been better to-day than they are. I believe Germany desires peace and amity. I think that Germany can see what we ought to see, and what we ought to readily acknowledge, and that is that war cannot do either nation any good; that we have nothing to gain by war, and that by it we have a great deal to lose. The danger is not in Germany. The danger is only in our own midst. To my mind there is no more detestable, no more dangerous, man than the unscrupulous agitator who goes up and down the country trying to make bad blood between nations. I received last week, doubtless with other Members of Parliament, a most scurrilous production, not from any individual, either in this country or in Germany, stating that Germany was preparing to invade our country, that she was on the eve of doing it; and that that was one of the chief reasons why we should oppose Home Rule. If I had any hesitancy with regard to Home Rule before I received that production it would have settled me at once. As a protest against this production I would certainly have supported Home Rule. In addition to these unprincipled agitators we have also the unprincipled newspapers, which are doing equal harm. They are advocating war, and they are advocating it with one of our best customers, with the very nation with whom above all others we ought to cultivate friendly relationships, and remain on good terms. But I want to ask how can we blame these individuals; how can we blame these newspapers, if our own Government, be it Liberal or Tory, is advocating the same policy which we condemn in these individuals and newspapers?
§ Mr. HANCOCK
Yes. I believe myself that some of these newspapers were very largely responsible for the South African War. One day we are advocating social reform. We are told that the object of social reform is to lift up the fallen, bind up the broken, help the unemployed, the young, the infirm and the aged, and to improve human life, so far as we can socially, all the way round. The next day we are advocating the spending of huge sums of money upon ironclads. How can we at the same time travel two directly opposite roads? I submit the one course is going to endanger the other, and possibly has endangered it. We are all convinced that there must be one of two conclusions to this large expenditure upon the Navy and upon armaments. We must either have intolerable taxation or we must have ruinous war, and I hope the Government will yet carefully consider these matters. The democracy are strongly opposed to this expenditure, because they are firmly convinced it is not in the interests of this nation, or of other nations, and much as I admire the Government, and earnestly as I support their policy generally speaking, I am sure I cannot do so on this occasion, because to do so would be to act contrary to my own conscience and to what I honestly believe to be the best interest of the people at large.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made a most interesting speech, but he will forgive me when I say that I think he is labouring under a little confusion in his ideas. If a country is to hope for all those advantages calculated to make it rich and prosperous, and to bring about social reform and other things of a kindred character, it must first of all be properly defended, and if any country is to get all that is necessary in that direction, and particularly if that country is an island, I do not see how the hon. Member's ideas are to be carried out unless we have an adequate Army and Navy. The hon. Member asks what is Germany preparing for? Germany has a right to do anything she likes; if she wants 100 "Dreadnoughts" she has a right to have them, but we have a right to ensure that under no circumstances 58 can she beat our Empire if war should unhappily occur.
§ Mr. HANCOCK
Will the Noble Lord allow me to correct him. I did not ask what is Germany preparing for? I said I did not believe she is preparing for War.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
What can she be preparing for? Her rate of insurance is about £11 5s. per ton of merchant shipping, while ours is only at the rate of about £2 5s. She cannot be preparing to defend herself against Switzerland. I do not find fault with Germany or with her big navy. I have the greatest respect for that nation, and I deplore any mention or any impertinent remarks about her. What we have to look after is that by no addition can any nation destroy our Empire by getting the command of the sea. I believe hon. Gentle men who represent dockyard constituencies are perfectly in accord with myself and others, and that they want the country properly defended. What they think is that we are spending too much money, and I want to show how that expenditure comes about. It is all on account of the attitude of the Government Front Bench. That Front Bench has over and over again given inaccurate information to the country. They told us one year that the Navy was unassailable, and next year they bring forward enormous increases of the Estimate. The two things are not compatible. The hon. Gentlemen said that Germany is not going to war. No doubt the people of Germany do not want to go to war any more than the people of England, but if there should be war the people of England would have something to say in the matter while the people of Germany would have nothing to say in the matter. It is the bureaucracy that would go to war now as they did in the days when they went to war with France, and the people, if it should come about, would find everything already prepared without their having anything to say to it.
The speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day opened up a tremendous amount of scope for argument. His remarks bristled with inaccuracies, as I am prepared to prove, and many of his statements were misleading. He gave the House and the country hopes which, I maintain, can never possibly be realised with regard to the prospect of the reduction of the Fleet. I also find fault with his apologetic tone towards those who have criticised him for doing his duty. It would be better he should come out like a 59 man and defend his policy. A great many Members opposite want to have a Committee on Estimates. I am not at all opposed to a Committee on Estimates, provided you never do anything to take away from the responsibility of the Cabinet. I do not believe the First Lord would object to have a committee. He would object, and so would we, to taking away any responsibility from the Board of Admiralty or from the Cabinet. What would be the result of having a committee? It would be very disappointing to hon. Members opposite. The First Lord of the Admiralty and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Chiozza Money) who asks very clever questions at opportune moments, and writes very clever articles in newspapers at opportune moments, were both of them formerly as convinced by the little Navy argument as any two Members of this House until they got to know something about the matter. Directly he got to know something about the Navy the right hon. Gentleman comes to the Treasury Bench, and, although pledged to retrenchment and reform, he comes forward, and, to his credit be it said, he increases the Naval Estimates for the year. The hon. Member for Northampton is a far more remarkable case, because it was only in 1906 that he made the most violent speech upon bloated armaments, and upon people who were, as he put it, deriving benefit from those armaments, and he wanted to reduce the expenditure on them by £10,000,000 or £12,000,000. Now he comes forward and writes these interesting articles in the "Westminster Gazette," backing up the First Lord of the Admiralty and making out that he is perfectly right in spending more money. I want to show hon. Members opposite I am not at all adverse to having a Committee upon Estimates where we could discuss the question and look into it, but such a committee will not make for reduction, but will increase the Estimates as the right hon. Gentleman and his worthy coadjutor are doing.
The right hon. Gentleman, in the interesting statement which he gave to the House, pointed out that the figure of £15,000,000 for construction included only £1,700,000 for what is really new construction. The rest is for the old programme. The right hon. Gentleman took me to task for pointing that out continually, but I Celt sure the country thought when these Estimates were produced that that £15,000,000 for new construction was for 60 really new construction. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would have taken so much trouble to explain the point as he did unless he knew that idea had got abroad. With regard to ships, we congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on getting better fighting machines at a cheaper cost, but I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a few questions about not having secondary armament. He must give the Committee very good reason why the Board of Admiralty does not like secondary armament. Every other country building these ships has it. For myself I think secondary armament is most necessary. The idea of "Dreadnoughts" fighting actions at five or six miles distance is perfectly chimerical. There is not one day in every three months you could fight at such a distance. It is mist all the summer in the Channel, and fog all the winter, and you can very seldom fight an action at these long distances; and, if that is so, secondary armament would come in very useful.
I have to find fault with the Government for always speaking of one Power. The whole basis of their construction and of their naval policy is regulated with regard to one Power, but there are other Powers and there are many seas, and we should have control in all the seas if we want to preserve our Empire as it is. The right hon. Gentleman never mentioned anything about the Dominions. I am looking forward to the time when we shall have an Imperial policy, when the other five nations will come in with us and occupy the command of the seas with ourselves, and keep the peace of the world. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that our Estimates are only £33,500,000, as against £22,500,000; in other words, we had only £11,000,000 more than Germany. That is a fact, and if you come to think of our coast line of 50,000 miles against Germany's 5,000, and our Empire with 11,495 vessels, with a total tonnage of 13,100,000 against Germany's 2,178, with a total tonnage of 2,790,000, I do not think that the proportion in our naval expenditure can be argued as a sound one if we are to be made perfectly secure, taking the money actually invested. The First Lord of the Admiralty says that is a difference for us of only £11,000,000. I emphatically say that such a margin is not big enough. Taking our increased wealth and responsibilities, we pay much less now as insurance rate compared with what we had to pay in days gone by. I come now to a very important point. The position is 61 not clear to the country with regard to the Naval Law. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said on 13th March, 1911:—That German Naval Law (of 1900) when complete, means a Navy of thirty-three capital ships, including 'Dreadnoughts' and cruisers, as well as pre-'Dreadnoughts.' That is a very serious naval expenditure for any Power.I do not know where the First Lord got his figures from.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The punctuation is wrong; it is only a question of a comma. The thirty-three capital ships covered the "Dreadnoughts" and cruisers of the "Dreadnought" type, and in addition there are the pre-" Dreadnoughts."
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
A comma, or semi-colon, or even a fullstop will not make the slightest difference. The fact is either the right hon. Gentleman has been misinformed or the Admiralty have not read the Navy Law. I will read out the Navy Law, because it is the basis of our naval policy and construction and nothing else is ever mentioned but what Germany does. The Navy Law of 1900 did not suggest or enforce thirty-three capital ships, but enforced thirty-eight battleships, fourteen armoured cruisers, and thirty - eight small cruisers, all to be built by 1917. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman will reconcile that with his statement. It is thirty-eight battleships and not thirty-three as was suggested.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Foreign Secretary spoke of capital ships as meaning "Dreadnoughts" and cruiser "Dreadnoughts," and of those under the law there will be thirty-three, twenty-two "Dreadnought" battleships and eleven "Dreadnought" cruisers. It was that thirty-three to which the Foreign Secretary referred, but he said in addition to those there will be the pre-" Dreadnought" capital ships.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman at all. I have read out what the Navy Law for 1900 is, and does the right hon. Gentleman deny that
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I still maintain my point that the Navy Law provided for 62 thirty-eight battleships, and they were all to be built by 1917. I know the substitutes were to be built, and they have not altered the number of thirty-eight battleships since 1900. Substitutes were to be built for those ships that were twenty-five years old, and the total would have been fifty-two "Dreadnoughts" so-called, or capital ships by 1917. Now I come to the 1906 Amendment under which six armoured cruisers were to be added to the fourteen. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with me there?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That makes fifty-eight ships instead of fifty-two, and that was the effect of the 1906 Amendment. The 1908 Amendment left it at fifty-two ships, but it shortened the life of the battleships from twenty-five years to twenty years, which is a very important point. As a matter of fact Germany will have by that Amendment not fifty-two, because she has added six more ships, making it fifty-eight capital ships by 1917. In my view the Foreign Secretary's statement in this House was totally inaccurate. These are the kind of statements that bring about scares. Every hon. Member in this House was justified in thinking that the Secretary for Foreign Affairs was right when he said thirty-three capital ships, but, as a matter of fact, there are fifty-eight, and that is a difference of twenty-five ships. Next year when the Vote asks for an increased amount of money because of this fact, I think hon. Members opposite will be justified in getting up and objecting, because they have been misinformed upon this point, as they have been misinformed over and over again on all questions connected with the Navy since the present Government has been in power. Hon. Gentlemen cannot deny it. We had a period of economy under the same circumstances, and then you had a period of enormous expenditure. I put this down to the fact that the Admiralty have not got a war staff. I know the right hon. Gentleman and the Foreign Secretary are just as keen as I am to have statements made fairly and straight, but on this matter they are inaccurate, and they cannot get over it. I know the First Lord of the Admiralty is extremely clever, and he has got at his command all the quibbles which lawyers have, but he will not get behind the fact that this information was inaccurate.
On the top of all this, the right hon. Gentleman led the House to believe that he had now got to the high-water mark in 63 naval expenditure and was going to have a reduction. He must know that there can be no reduction so long as Germany goes on building as she is doing and shortening the life of her battleships from twenty-five to twenty years. I will tell the House why I think a reduction in the case of the German Navy is impossible. First of all, there is an enormous amount of money invested in naval industrials and tools and ships for turning out war materials. Then there is the question of the working-men. If the Germans reduce their expenditure, as the right hon. Gentleman wants the country to believe, then a great many German working-men will be thrown out of employment. The reason given for the hurried completion of one of the German battleships—the battleship cruiser "Von der Tann"—was that otherwise a lot of men would be thrown out of employment. In regard to the German Navy Law, I think the House will want some explanation, because the right hon. Gentleman cannot deny my definition is correct. The Foreign Secretary said there were only thirty-three ships. I think the Germans have a right to complain in their Press of the line of action taken by this country. There are many hon. Members who believe the Foreign Secretary meant thirty-three ships without any qualification, and if you find out in a year or two it was fifty-eight I am afraid there will be a scare in this country. The Government want more ships now under the new arrangement. I know they did not say it was a new arrangement when they brought the Estimates forward this time. The case has remained the same from the year 1900, and if that is so, why did the Government build only two battleships in one year and eight in the next. On 15th March, in answer to a question by an hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, who asked the First Lord of the Admiralty a question, the right hon. Gentleman replied that in the 1908 amendment Germany had increased the number of her battleships by four. As a matter of fact, Germany has done nothing of the sort. She never increased her battleships, which totalled thirty-eight in 1900, and they will be thirty-eight in 1917. Therefore we want an explanation why he said the number had been increased by four. In 1906 Germany increased her cruisers by six, but in 1908 she did not increase the total at all; all she did was to say that the life of a battleship should be twenty years instead of twenty-five years. Remember that Germany is going to have a 64 fleet of battleships up to fifty-eight, and she will replace her old battleships by so-called "Dreadnoughts." I know that they are only 10,000 tons, in comparison with the 14,000-ton ships which we are going to scrap and put "Dreadnoughts" in their place.
Then I want to know why the right hon. Gentleman is so satisfied with our margin of ships. Between 13th October and 14th April Great Britain will have twenty-five to Germany's twenty-one "Dreadnoughts." Austria will have two, and our margin therefore will be two. We shall not have finished our new ships during those six months. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that is an adequate superiority, but in that I cannot agree with him. We are building really "Dreadnoughts" against "Dreadnoughts" and not "Dreadnoughts" against our old ships. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to scrap seven ships this year, but we are only building against the German "Dreadnoughts" and not to replace the old ships in the businesslike way that Germany is doing under the Navy Law and its two amendments. The right hon. Gentleman said the other day, in answer to a question:—It is not and never has been the intention to defer laying down the five battleships of the 1910–11 programme to the end of the financial year.As a matter of fact, two were laid down in January, 1911, two were put out to contract in February, 1911, and one in March, 1911. Therefore, that is another inaccuracy which I point out for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman. I wish to speak very shortly about personnel. In the programme I sketched out in my speech to the Chamber of Commerce I said we were 19,000 men short. We are told that the Government are allowing 3,000 men each year. They are joining 5,000 and more each year under the wages for 3,000, because they join for the year right through, and the First Lord of the Admiralty told the House the other day that that was in consequence of the increase of the Fleet. That is another inaccuracy. May I point out that the larger ships we are building take much less ship's company. Why they are joining men now is because they reduced them before 1909. They reduced the number of men in the Fleet, and that is one of the great economies brought about. It takes four or five years to train a man in any department of the Navy, therefore the Fleet must be more or less inefficient for a long time on account of the large number of 65 men who will have to join to make up the shortage. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if, in rejoining, these men he is allowing for the crews of the sixteen ships he proposes to send out to the trade routes. At the present time they have to be manned by Royal Naval Reserve men, who cannot be commissioned only after war is declared. My hon. Friend (Mr. Eyres-Monsell) in his excellent speech, dealt with the cruisers, and therefore I will not discuss that. He pointed out that the real danger is not a war in which you have time to prepare, but a war which will be sudden, and everything organised to attack our trade routes secretly, our mercantile ships being on trade routes at a given moment, and then, like a bolt from the blue, we may find that we have a state of war to deal with.
There is nothing to meet that. You will have to go back to your old policy whether you like it or not. You will have to put cruisers on the trade routes always to be ready for whatever may happen. Until you do that, your trade routes will not be secure, and the food of the people will not be secure. The right hon. Gentleman, with all his boldness, has never said we are not short of men. I will give an instance: When the "Newcastle" was commissioned to replace the "Bedford" in China, certain ships were reduced to nucleus crews in order to get the men. Will the right hon. Gentleman deny that? He may deny it, but it will not follow it is not a fact.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I do not mean to be rude. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord is very well able to take care of himself without those ebullitions from his Friend. Then we come to the trials of the "Neptune." There were no men at Portsmouth, so a crew had to be made up from the following ships—"Invincible," "Illustrious," and "Britannia" to complete the "Neptune's" trials. There were no men in Portsmouth barracks. The "Rocket" was wanted to complete the trials of the 21-inch torpedoes. She could not be commissioned as every man at the ports was required and scraped up to man the "Balmoral Castle" to take the Duke of Connaught to the Cape. Is that a fact? There is the question of reducing the Marines by 225. I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us 66 what he is going to do with the Marines, the finest corps in the world. There is no officer or man of any rating in any ship who does not have respect for the Marines. Are they to be kept in this continual state of irritation, not knowing what is going to happen, whether they are to be done away with or not? The Marines will have to have their officers join exactly as before. All what Sir Frederick Richard called "these haphazard experiments" cost the country an enormous sum of money, and, if hon. Members would look into those things instead of combating the expenditure, they would find the great expenditure was due to the reversal of policy after 1905. The great educational scheme, which was said to be such a splendid scheme, and which to be successful must be entirely modified, was rushed through without any thought at all, total opposed to naval opinion, and opposed by some Members of the Committee who sat on it. We are paying for that now. The basis of everything is to have your officers properly educated, and, if you have an education scheme which is not complete, and which has to be altered, it cannot be for the good of the country or the Service, and it must cost a great deal of money. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make a note about the Marines. It is a very important question.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
The hon. Member opposite, I am sure, does not wish to make a joke. There has been a great number of bad jokes made about the Marines, but they are not a corps to joke about. They are the finest corps the British Empire possesses. I have been communicating with the Board of Admiralty on a great number of questions relative to the improvement in the position of the men, and I must thank the Board for the courteous way in which they have answered my questions and thrashed them out. They have done a great deal, but there are further questions, such as the Engineer Commander's pay, the pay of lieutenants, free kits, Greenwich Hospital pensions, hospital stoppages, dockyard men's grievances, warrant officers, artisan ratings, signalmen, and stokers. They are all questions to which in time, I am perfectly certain, the Board of Admiralty will give attention, and, as with other ratings, see the justice of it, and get 67 the matters put right. The First Lord, in introducing his Estimate, said it was based on the question of war requirements. I deny that the Admiralty know anything about war requirements at all. They cannot know anything about it unless they have a War Staff. All these questions arise because they have not a proper staff to work them out. Let them, as I said the other day, find out what we want, why we want it, and what it should cost. Unless we get a War Staff we shall have these questions continually coming up. Every other nation in the world and even the War Office has got a proper department. I do hope we shall hear something more of that matter. There has been nothing whatever done, or we should never have had that ludicrous Memorandum, defining the policy of defence against invasion, and putting all the ships round the heart of the Empire as being capable of defending the trade routes. It is something worthy of "Punch" or some comic journal. I am not finding fault with the First Sea Lord. He cannot help what he has to write. He has nothing whatever to do with the policy. Hon. Members opposite keep thinking the experts have something to do with the policy. They have nothing to do with it, and I hope they never will, because they are very liable to look at matters from an exaggerated point of view. The policy rests with the Cabinet and with the Front Bench. They have put forward a policy, and whether it is right or wrong is not the question for the experts. The question the experts have to determine is how they are to meet what the Cabinet has put forward as the policy. May I give hon. Gentlemen an instance. In 1880 we had a Committee on the Naval Estimates, and the First Sea Lord was examined by that Committee. He was questioned very clearly on a definite policy, and one question he was asked was:—Do you think the Navy under this policy could carry out all the requirements that would he thrown upon it in time of war?—I do not think about it, I am absolutely certain it can. We might want six more cruisers, but they are not vital or absolutely necessary.A very few months afterwards he put his name to what was called "the Naval Defence Act," which Lord George Hamilton brought in, and in it there were forty cruisers and twenty other vessels for the trade routes, or sixty altogether. That admiral was a most distinguished admiral and a fine seaman. He could not have altered his opinion like that in the course 68 of a few months unless the Government had changed their policy. I am only giving that to show hon. Gentlemen below the Government what occurs with regard to policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Below the Gangway."] I beg pardon. I mean hon. Members below the Gangway. An hon. Member suggests that they are not below the Government, but on top of the Government. Joking apart, this is a very serious thing, and I hope hon. Members will see the experts have nothing whatever to do with policy, and I trust they never will. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) rather chaffed me the other day with regard to a programme I brought before the Chamber of Commerce. The hon. Gentleman will agree with me that chaff like caricature must be a little bit exaggerated to be good, and his chaff was very good. He made out that I wanted six less ships in my programme than the Government are now putting forward. That sort of argument is very good on the platform. If you read half of a speech or do not give the context, you can very often make an extravagant success for yourself. My programme was for twenty-six ships under certain conditions:—What are the conditions? I will tell you. The proposal I am making does not allow for German acceleration, because I do not want my countrymen to pay for something which is not visible; and it does not allow in any way for the Austrian commencement of four battleships. I do not ask my countrymen to lay down battleships and to incur expenditure to meet something not yet laid down elsewhere.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
The Noble Lord told us last Thursday that this did not allow for Austrian commencement and German acceleration, in which case he would want six more. I want to know where are the six more in the London Chamber of Commerce programme, according to the speech of the Noble Lord as reported in "The Times'"?
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I do not know about "The Times." It is generally accurate, but I am quoting the programme given to that meeting. I printed the programme, and I gave away several hundreds of them at that meeting. I will show it the right hon. Gentleman. I have got in the programme twenty-six, and then at the bottom I have it that, in the event of German acceleration or Austrian commencement, I want six more. That is in the programme, and I have just read it out to the House of Commons. More than that, I think I designated it in my 69 speech. Here is a verbatim report taken by the shorthand writer to the London Chamber of Commerce. I said, if Austria commenced and if Germany accelerated their programme, I wanted four laid down in 1909, six in 1910–11, and six in 1911–12. That makes thirty-two to the Government's proposal of thirty. That is what I said to the House. Having explained that, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, who is always perfectly fair, will see that I was correct and that he was not correct in that particular. I listened with very intense satisfaction to the statement by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I have always taken a great interest in this question of the English-speaking nations. Two years ago I made a speech in New York, which was not received very well either by my countrymen in Ireland or by the German Press. The Leader of the Opposition is a great orator. I am not. But he put the point very well when he said that if the nations which make the Empire added to the 90,000,000 of people in the United States, without any alliance or any understanding—if these enormously powerful nations will throw in their power, their weight, their finance, and all that could be combined on the side of peace, it might not stop war eventually, but it would give people time to pause, and, if we only get time when strained relations are there, we should often have no war. How many wars might have been avoided if only there had been a little time for consideration? That is what I think these nations would do and that, I rather gather, is what was in the mind of my right hon. Friend. You are never going to do away with war unless you are so well armed that they cannot attack you; but we may reduce armaments if you get the enormous power of the English-speaking nations on the side of peace, because that will give time for consideration.
May I point out that democracy is always on the side of peace, but, unfortunately, it is more easily inflamed than the community as a whole. That is the great danger of democracy. Let me remind hon. Gentlemen of the Dogger Bank incident, when several poor fishermen were blown to pieces in what appeared to us a wanton way. It was not really so, as the Russians thought they were torpedo-boats. Success does not turn upon what you do and say, but upon how you do it and say it, and if the Russian Admiral had come in and apologised, nobody would have thought any more of this incident. But 70 Democracy was angry, and I am sure that, if it had had its will at that time, it would have gone to war with Russia over that incident, and that would have been calamitous. What drove the United States and Spain to war over the "Maine" incident? It was democracy and the democratic Press. Thinking men in the States, and, indeed, in all the world, do not want war. Why I want the English-speaking people to come together, is to insure that there shall be time for consideration. I hold that if matters can be delayed, the result will be peace rather than war. I am still firmly of the opinion that the Government has not given us what we ought to have in this country as an adequate naval defence in all its details. We are talking of "Dreadnoughts," but the fleet is composed of units; there are many links in the chain. You cannot have one defective or inefficient link, it weakens the whole chain. Your policy is wrong; you have no War Staff, you are very deficient in many of the items that go to make the Fleet as a whole, and until those items are put right, until you have a definite naval policy, which you have not at present, until this Front Bench stops making inaccurate statements to the public, as has been proved they have done—I hope that is not too strong an expression of opinion—we shall over and over again have these days of scares, which will be brought about because the country and thinking people will feel that we are not adequately defended at sea.
§ Mr. LOUGH
The Noble Lord who has just sat down accused me of making a joke at his expense. I desire to say that nothing is further from my idea. I hope I shall not make a joke this afternoon. I feel we are placed in an extremely serious situation. The difference between the Noble Lord and myself, after all, is not so very great. He was asking questions and uttering criticisms in regard to the policy of my right hon. Friend the First Lord. I do the same thing; I ask questions and make criticisms, but whereas the criticisms of the Noble Lord have for their object to encourage the Front Bench in what I think is wrong-doing, the object of my criticism is to bring them back into the right path of peace and economy. It is impossible to forget that it is just two years ago this day that my right hon. Friend the First Lord unfolded his first Estimates to this House. Only two years! But in those two years the Estimates under his charge 71 have increased by thirteen millions sterling, and, although nobody is more prejudiced in favour of my right hon. Friend than I am—I have had associations with him for many long years, not only the opposite side of the House, but at the Board of Education—yet at the price of thirteen millions in two years, he seems to be likely to prove a somewhat expensive luxury. We know what old age pensions have cost us; yet within this period of two years an equally great sum has been spent in addition on one branch of our Estimates alone.
I think the Government should pay some attention to what is going on on this side of the House. The Leader of the Opposition appeared to be somewhat impatient this afternoon at the time we occupied in our criticisms of these Estimates, but surely he will be fair enough to admit that we are raising a very large issue. We think that we are very badly treated, because we are in a worse position when we raise these questions of economy than hon. Members are usually placed in in raising questions in this House. Generally speaking, hon. Members have only to face one Front Bench. That is hard enough, but we have to face two Front Benches; the Leader of the Opposition is always helping the First Lord of the Admiralty, and we poor economists have to fight them both. I said the situation is a very serious one from the Government point of view. The Irish Members have withdrawn their support, and practically the whole of the Labour Members have withdrawn their support from these Estimates. I believe, too, that a large number of Members of the Liberal party support them with the greatest reluctance.
I want the House, in order that it may realise the extent of the difficulty in which we are placed, to remember a little incident that occurred last week. On Monday last we had a Motion brought forward in a very able manner by the hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Murray Macdonald). The Motion dealt largely with these Estimates, yet there was no mention in the course of the debate of the fact that a similar Motion had been moved only five years previously, when it was brought forward by Mr. Vivian, whose absence we all deplore, remembering the work he has done in this House and out of it. The Motion was to the effect that—That this House is of opinion that the growth of expenditure on armaments is excessive and ought to be reduced.72 That was on the 9th May, 1906, and the Motion went an to say:—Such expenditure lessens national and commercial credit, intensifies the unemployed problem, reduces the resources available for social reform, and presses with exceptional severity on the industrial classes…and it therefore calls upon the Government to take drastic steps to reduce the drain on national income, and to this end to press for the inclusion of the question of the reduction of armaments by international agreement in the agenda of the forthcoming Hague Conference.Who had charge of that Motion on behalf of the Government? It was my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. Last Monday we had the same Government, the same Motion, and the same Minister in charge. What happened on the 9th May, 1906? The Motion was carried without a Division in this House. The right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, on that occasion, dealt with the Motion from his place in this House, and, presently, I propose to quote some of the words he used. But I will deal first with what fell from the Foreign Secretary. He said:—Our whole policy is that National expenditure has grown enormously in the past few years, and now we have reached the turning point, and there is a prospect that this expenditure may be considerably reduced without sacrificing National safety.That, then, was the national standpoint. At that time the expenditure was £36,000,000 a year, and the policy of the Government was that it should be reduced. The right hon. Gentleman went on to make a further statement. He said:—A declaration of that kind from a British House of Commons is something worth having.… I believe there never was a time when the relative and Comparative supremacy of the British Navy was greater than it, is now.The comparative supremacy of the Navy was declared by the Foreign Secretary, in 1906, to be greater than ever it has been before! Yet within three years my right hon. Friend came down and told us that the whole Navy would have to be rebuilt, and we have been given these greatly increased Estimates instead of being allowed to pursue those shining goals which were put before us in 1906. We have been turned back into the wicked path of large naval expenditure. I come next to what was said by the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman is very versatile, and, whatever he finds to be the mood of his party, he can always give them a good lead. On that occasion economy was the fashion, and the right hon. Gentleman was not above economy in the Navy. Indeed, he reduced naval expenditure between 1904–5, and, in the following year, his own Estimates were reduced by from three to four millions. But 73 then a General Election was imminent. Why should he blame us to-day for saying a word in praise of the noble doctrines he then enunciated? Let me read what he said on that occasion. He was quite apologetic. He said:—If we, the late Government, erred by having too large armaments, we erred in the patriotic belief that these armaments were necessary. If it can be shown by the present Government, after considering all the circumstances of the case, that these armaments may be diminished, well and good.The right hon. Gentleman always makes good speeches. I only wish that every speech of his might be as good as the one I am quoting from. He not only spoke on that occasion, but he did something. He did not divide against the Motion, but he saddled his party with the responsibility of a Motion declaring that our Naval and Military expenditures were too great, and that they ought to be reduced. The whole party were there, and none of them took part in the two divisions. I think that is a very momentous thing when it comes to be considered. The same Government is in power; it has received the approval of the electors twice since that, and what has happened? Why the very same Motion was last week coldly treated by the Government and its obedient followers, and we were not allowed to pass the Motion which we supported five years ago. I think that is a very strange situation, and that we may well be excused for asking for time in this House to examine it. The speech of the Foreign Secretary has been greatly commented upon because in part of it he alluded to the substitution of arbitration for naval expenditure. Nobody rejoices in that speech more than I do. I am one of the band of Members who have for twenty years past attended the Conferences out of which this demand for arbitration has grown. I was very much entertained by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) speaking of the ideal raised by the Foreign Secretary as Utopian. It is not Utopian; it is the most practical question which is being considered by the nations of the world. Twenty years ago it might have been said that, the proposition was ideal, but that day has gone for ever. Arbitration is at work, and wherever arbitration has been used it has been successful. Wherever great armaments have been utilised they have failed in their main object of bringing the nations together or of settling a quarrel in a way which would be accepted. But arbitration never fails, and therefore it is I thank the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition for his good 74 speech. He made another good one last week, when he accepted on behalf of his, party the principles laid down in the Foreign Secretary's speech.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Yes, they are their principles, I quite agree, and the same as to the French entente, but we, when in Opposition, when we heard of them did not make any frivolous objections. We did not take up any narrow party issue. We did not put the hundreds of questions that the Noble Lord did to this Front Bench. The Noble Lord ought to be really more judicious. He has got the Front Benches with him and he really ought to be satisfied. It is we who have got to fight the position because we are in a difficulty. I was saying in regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that we are all grateful to him for the support which he gave to my right hon. Friend's speech, but what was the object of dragging into this question of armaments which we discussed in 1906 a statement about arbitration? Will the principles of arbitration be advanced by the piling up of our English armaments? I doubt it very much, and much as I admire that speech and the ideal which it laid before us, I think that that ideal would be better realised if we were to exercise every restraint which we safely can on this matter of the restriction of armaments. I wish, however, to reply to the arguments of the First Lord and the Secretary to the Admiralty. They were apologetic as the Noble Lord said. In that I agree with him, but I dislike apologies in politics. If you are going to carry out a certain policy be brave about it and say that it is a good policy, but that was not the tone adopted on this occasion. The right hon. and hon. Gentlemen were apologetic and said they were going to reduce armaments next year. Virtue is a good thing, and it can never be practised too soon, and I would ask them to improve upon that and reduce this year. What is the meaning of our building five "Dreadnoughts" and laying them down next January? What is the use of employing 3,000 additional men, if we are going to reduce next year. There is where we play into the hands of the Noble Lord and frivolous persons, from the point of view of severe economy, like him. That is where we are playing into their hands to-day. We pass Resolutions for reducing the expenditure with the consent of the whole House, and then we plunge into expenditure and go further than anybody else. The chief argument which the First Lord 75 presented was thought by the hon. Member for East North Hants (Mr. Chiozza Money) to be such a splendid argument that he asked some questions about it to-day. We always have a bonnet on this side of the House.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
Since the right hon. Gentleman has made a rather impertinent reference to me, may I ask him whether——
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
The right hon. Gentleman has apologised, and therefore I withdraw the word "impertinent." Does he mean that the question which I put down to-day was put down by arrangement or at the suggestion of the First Lord of the Admiralty?
§ Mr. LOUGH
Certainly. I withdraw what I said if I gave the slightest offence. There is always someone on this side—we are not all equally wise—there is always someone on this side to take the view of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. On the occasion of the Debate of five years ago we had Mr. Bellairs, who used to sit in the House in the same seat as my hon Friend. He had an Amendment to the Motion that I have been speaking about, but what did the Foreign Secretary do? He swept him grandly aside and said, "withdraw your Amendment," and he allowed us to pass the Resolution unanimously. I was alluding to the chief argument of the First Lord in favour of this expenditure. This is the main argument, and I should be glad if it were treated seriously on the Front Benches. The argument is that the German increase of their programme in 1906 and in 1908 justify us in what we are now doing. I put it to my hon. Friend the Civil Lord whether that is not a fair statement of the First Lord's 76 case. The whole argument is based on the supposition that these German increases of 1906 and 1908 was a bolt from the blue, not preceded by anything we did in this House, whereas in 1904, without the slightest provocation, we suddenly sprang up our Naval Estimate to £39,000,000. We raised them in three years from £33,000,000 to £39,000,000, and it was because of our Estimates in 1904 and 1905 being £39,000,000 and £38,000,000, respectively, that the German Programme was changed. Another fact, in 1905 what did we do? We did what the British can always do, and I congratulate the nation upon it. We built a new ship, called the "Dreadnought." If we had only behaved sensibly about it, and not talked about it, that would have been an illustration of national reserve, but, unfortunately, we wanted the fact advertised, and all this House went down on a great beanfeast to see the vessel. Naturally, the Germans said, "What is this; we must do something," so the Germans increased their Programme in 1906 and 1908, wholly because of what we had done in this House.
Are we not driving the Germans again to a further increase by the way these Estimates have been sprung upon this occasion. I do not believe in running down one's own country, but I do regret to say that in this matter of Naval Estimates we here are largely responsible for everything that other nations do, and there are hon. Members in all parts of the Committee who will join me in deploring that we should be apparently going on like this again; one nation putting its nose in front of the other, and always working in this vicious circle of the one trying to answer in the way of expenditure what the other has done. I always think that there is one point throughout the German proceedings which has not received any justice in this House. We are providing for our expenditure out of Estimates. The Germans are providing for theirs by a loan—largely by loan. Why is this matter not dealt with? I hope the representatives of the Government will forgive me for saying that we think that the representatives of the principles of economy on which our party is based on that Front Bench when this matter was brought up should have pointed out the essential difference between a navy built by loan and a navy built out of Estimates. The difference is that a navy built by loan cannot go on building perpetually; there is a limit to it. We have had that limit acknowledged, and it is about thirty-eight ships now. I do not care whether it is thirty-eight or 77 twenty-eight, but the Germans have repeatedly told us that they are going to stick to the programme which they have laid down, and not exceed it.
In this year, 1911, by their programme, their progress is to be reduced, and that makes it a serious thing that we should have chosen the year 1911 for this vast increase of our armaments when you "will remember that we are building out of Revenue, and can go on building still. With such a preponderance as we have we might well have allowed the Germans to get up their Navy without kicking up such a fuss about it as we have done. Another argument used by the First Lord of the Admiralty is, though we are paying £44,500,000 this year—that is the amount of the Estimates which are going to be passed in spite of our protests—he proved in two minutes at that box when challenged that it really only amounted to £33,000,000. That is all fiddle-de-dee. Owing to the German economies in some respects they have an advantage over us, while in others we have an advantage over them. For instance, the First Lord himself admitted that he had built a ship for £1,800,000 that was superior to a ship that cost the Germans £2,250,000. If he pressed the matter still further I believe he would have been able to cut it down lower, but still I believe that comparison is rather unfair. In considering our position the Government and the Noble Lord talk about capital ships and "Dreadnoughts," and if "Dreadnoughts" are to be the main, or the larger, source of expenditure, why on earth not economise in regard to other parts of the Fleet? What do you want with your other fleet of other ships if the "Dreadnoughts" are everything.
To-day we see a demand for "Dreadnoughts." To-morrow it will be a demand for destroyers or submarines, or boats of some other kind, and the whole expenditure is increasing at every point. All I have got to say is that we should not have listened to this expenditure unmoved, and we have heard not a word against it from our own Front Bench or the Front Bench opposite. We think, however, that the position of finance is extremely critical. We cannot afford the £13,000,000 extra. Our Consols stand at a very low point. We owe a great deal of money in Ireland to the landlords for their land which we are not able to pay; the programme of social reform is stopped at every step for the want of money, and it it is at this 78 moment that my right hon. Friend takes the step of spending so much extra on the Navy.
We are treated rather badly with regard to the case that we have to make out here. If we urge these principles of economy we are supposed to be suggesting something new to this nation and something different from the principles which have made it great. We can look at this matter from a reasonable standpoint. What is it that the Government have done and are doing? They say in this time of profound peace it is opportune for us to make provision against the risks of war. That is what they are spending all the money for. That is what hon. Gentlemen opposite encourage them to do. If you look back in our history, all the high authorities are against that proceeding and they are in favour of the policy which I am trying to press on the House of Commons. Our policy is to take off burdens in a time of peace, to reduce taxation, and to allow wealth to accumulate in the pockets of the people. That ought to be our policy, and it is my policy at any rate, and all my hon. Friends here agree with me. Look at the policy of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, to which they have at last converted our Front Bench, but no one else on the Liberal side. Their policy is that in a time of peace you ought to lay on heavy taxes and make provisions for the risks of war. I want to quote one or two authorities. First, Mr. Pitt, between 1783 and 1793, when things were much more disturbed in the world than they are now, and during the period in which he was in power all the time. He said, "Let us reduce all our expenditure on armaments to the lowest point," and he reduced expenditure on the Navy to £1,800,000 a year, and on the Army to £2,000,000.
In 1815 Lord Grenville said Mr. Pitt had told him that he attributed the great success which this country achieved in the terrible war which followed, between 1793 and 1803–4, to the fact that he had given the nation rest and followed the principles of economy in a period of peace. Take the next period, after Waterloo. In 1816 the Income Tax was abolished, and until 1841 it was never restored. The ideal of the country was "Now, in a time of peace, let us make the burdens as light as we can, and that is the best preparation for war." This lasted on until 1854, when we had the Crimean War, but what happened after that? The Liberal Government was attacked by Mr. Disraeli 79 because they did not rapidly reduce the naval and military Estimates, and relieve the people of the heavy burdens they had to bear. Lord Palmerston even kept the Navy at a standard of three to two as regards the Navy of France. I could mention Disraeli, Lord John Russell, Lord Palmerston, and, finally, of course, Gladstone. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) is the first statesman of any prominence in this country who has pursued the opposite policy. All the great names I have mentioned adopted the very theory which my hon. Friends have tried to bring forward last week, and which I hope they will take the opportunity of stating again to-day. For my own part, my great objection to the steps which right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench are taking is that it is a Tory policy. It is not the Liberal policy on which we won the approval of the country. If I were my right hon. Friends I would make hon. Gentlemen opposite a present of this policy of extravagance. We won the greatest election that has ever been won in our history in 1906. I have a quotation here from which I could show that this question of expenditure was the one which was most prominently brought forward by us—I firmly believe the one on which we have won three General Elections. I say, then, it is the Tory policy, and it is a sad thing for us to see it adopted by the Front Bench. It is also, with great respect, a provocative policy. There is a chance that if we spring up our Estimates by £4,000,000 there will be a response from Germany and heaven knows where. If I have at all carried conviction with me I have shown that this country has grown great by pursuing the absolutely opposite policy, and I should have been very glad if my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench had seen their way to do that this year.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I have no claim whatever to speak as a naval expert, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will acquit me of anything in the nature of discourtesy if I do not follow him in his observations, except upon one particular point. The right hon. Gentleman taunted my right hon. Friend that, while he condemns the policy of the Government on the ground that their proposals are not adequate to the needs of the moment, when in office in 1905 he supported very large reductions in the Naval Estimates. That is a good many years ago. I apprehend that even the right hon. Gentleman 80 is not prepared to contend that what was right and proper and fitting sixteen years ago must necessarily be right and proper and fitting to-day. That would be an extraordinary doctrine to maintain in view of the difference in the facts of the situation at that time and the facts which are patent to all of us to-day. I rise, however, with the view of supporting the admirable and interesting speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Eyres-Monsell). My only regret is that I entered the House after the beginning of his speech, but I heard the greater part of it, and I offer him my congratulations on a most effective speech on a question which I have myself most warmly at heart. I have had every opportunity of acquiring a great deal of information on the subject as a Member of the Royal Commission on Food Supplies, which was appointed some six or seven years ago. This subject was regarded as of such vital importance to the interests of this country at the time that the then Prince of Wales, who is now the Sovereign of this Realm, consented to serve upon the Commission. That the Commission most thoroughly indorsed the importance of this question is shown by the fact that, after referring to the reference to the Commission in the first clause, in the very first line of the second clause they made this very remarkable statement:—It seems to us impossible to over-estimate the importance of the subject entrusted to our care.To that opinion is appended the signature of every member. The barest recital of the main facts is in itself sufficient to convince anyone who has ever given any thought at all to the subject of the almost unequalled importance of this question. The instructions to the Commissioners were first to inquire into the conditions affecting the importation of food into the United Kingdom, secondly, to examine into the amount of the Reserves of supplies of food, at any given period of the year, and thirdly, to advise whether it was desirable to adopt any measures, in addition to the maintenance of a strong fleet, by which these supplies could be better secured and violent fluctuations in the price of food avoided, this matter being of course the crucial question submitted to the Commission in the view of many of its members. On the information acquired under the first head" the whole Commission was absolutely unanimous. On the second point as to the amount of Reserves in the country there was some difference of opinion, the 81 majority holding that these reserves would never fall lower than six-and-a-half weeks' supply, and that probably only in the month of August, while the minority thought it would not be safe to rely on there being more than five-and-a-half weeks' supply of corn within any period between the end of June and the new harvest in England. The difference of opinion, though considerable, is really of no practical importance, because whether the supply is five, six, or seven weeks, the situation in that respect is unsatisfactory in the extreme. The time has come when the question ought to be dealt with. It may be asked why I have not raised the question before. The Report of the Commission was issued shortly before that General Election which ended in such great disaster to the Unionist party. I had every intention of raising it when the new Parliament assembled, but I had not the good fortune to be a Member of the House. When I came back again there were many other questions of all sorts before the House of Commons, and from that day to this, so strenuous have been the demands upon the time of the Government and of the House, in addition to which I was twice during the discussions upon the Navy Estimates compelled by ill-health to be abroad. I have never been able, for these reasons, to raise this question before. It adds to my pleasure very greatly that I am in a position to support my hon. Friend (Mr. Eyres-Monsell) who raised the discussion to-night.
I propose to confine my observations to the question of our corn supplies, for the reason that all parties are agreed that the consumption of bread is enormously greater than that of any other kind of food in common and regular use in the United Kingdom. For four-fifths of our consumption we have to depend entirely on supplies which must be brought to this country across the seas, and at certain times of the year there remains the fact that our reserves do fall as low, by the admission of the whole Commission, as six or six-and-a-half weeks' supply, and, by the admission of a very substantial part of the Commission, to five-and-a-half weeks' supply only. I do not care in the least which it is myself, but I ask hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House from no party view or feeling whatever, whether that is a position in which a great country like this ought to continue to be placed, considering the enormous interests which would be involved in war, which may be 82 possible between ourselves and one or more of the great maritime Powers. I have stated what was the position at the time when the Commission reported, but I am advised that it is even worse now than it was six years ago, because the practice of the corn dealers and merchants on this side of the water has become more and more to keep as little corn as possible in this country. Their policy day by day grows more common to buy just what is wanted from hand-to-mouth, and, indeed, to keep as small reserves as possible. That is the first part of the proposition I desire to lay before the Committee. I contend that the position is one which it is totally wrong for a great country, with such enormous interests as our own to continue to be placed in a moment longer than can be avoided.
I do not want in the least to exaggerate the position. I do not mean to say that, even supposing a war of this kind were to occur, our supplies would be cut off altogether. That is not my view. That is not what I apprehend as the danger. On the contrary, I doubt very much if, under any circumstances, that would be possible. But what I am afraid of most earnestly, and what we have to guard against, is the enormous price to which, in the present situation as regards the Navy, bread and wheat would be driven up immediately under circumstances of war, if only a very few of the corn ships on which we absolutely depend for the bread we eat from week to week were to fail, by capture or destruction, to reach our shores. That is the whole position. I am afraid of the panic which would ensue under circumstances of this kind, and when a panic of that sort commences nobody knows how far it may go. From the evidence of the different witnesses who appeared before the Commission it appeared that the lowest price at which it was estimated corn could be got would be something like a hundred shillings a quarter in the circumstances I have endeavoured to describe.
The Committee can easily understand the enormous amount of suffering which would be inflicted upon all the poorest classes in this country if that were to last for any sensible period. The evidence on this point was absolutely overwhelming. It came from corn dealers, ship owners, Admirals, and even from the Admiralty itself, that the price would go up to an extent, which no Member of this House, and no-kind-hearted being in the country, could witness without the deepest and greatest 83 regret. I should like to ask the Committee a question which has been asked before. The question has been constantly raised in these Debates. We have had all sorts of assurances—we had them, indeed, upon the Commission—as to what could be effected by the Navy. I have never been satisfied with these assurances, and I wish to ask again to-night: Is it so certain that the naval policing, if I may so describe it, of our trade routes at present is adequate, or can it be adequate at any time with the present forces of the Fleet to guard those trade routes in a manner which would be sufficient to ensure that the great bulk of the supplies would be brought safely home to this country? Again I say I am no naval expert, and I do not even presume to offer an opinion on that point. But I ask Members who are not within the Government circle, who are credited with being naval experts of great knowledge and experience—I ask my Noble Friend (Lord Charles Beresford) and others who are not afraid to tell what they believe to be the truth about the Navy, even if they incur the hostility of the Admiralty on themselves, whether the views they hold do not bear out substantially the views which I have endeavoured to express now.
If the Navy cannot be relied on for this purpose, the next question is: What is the alternative? What is there that can be done to place the country in a position of greater security than it would be in if war were to break out between us and any great European Power within an appreciable time? Well, it seems to me that it is one of the most extraordinary things in these days that all this time the whole British public has been on this question living absolutely in a fool's paradise, from which there may be at any time a most rude and painful awakening and which might quite possibly end in costing us our Empire or almost everything that all of us bold most dear. I ask—What is there that can be done? The best and most obvious answer would be that we should largely increase the existing reserves of corn we have in the country. It is for those who are engaged in practical politics to devise some scheme by which this may be done. I am one of those who think that it is by no means impossible. I believe, on the contrary, from all the evidence we had before us on the Commission, a scheme of this kind might be found and might be adopted that would be not only reasonable, but practicable. We 84 had before us, if I recollect aright, some six or seven different schemes for increasing the reserves of corn in this country, and two of them proposed to accomplish this object by providing what is called free storage for corn within the United Kingdom. I am afraid this is a dry subject, but I will make my observations as concise as I can.
I must ask the Committee to allow me to refer to one scheme in particular, which a section of the Commission pressed at the end and recommended for the consideration of the Government. I may say that even a majority of the Commission went some distance in this direction with us. They agreed that of all the obvious remedies for the present state of things, nothing could compare with a large increase of the existing stock of corn in the country. Not only did they express that opinion, but they went further in their conclusions, and recommended that a scheme of this kind should be tried by the Government as an experiment. At all events, they expressed the opinion that it was worth while it should be tried. There, I am bound to say, there arose some considerable difference of opinion. There was a section of the Commission who, in view of the strong expression of opinion, which all had signed as to the vast importance of this question, thought that the suggestions of the Majority Report were by no means adequate to the occasion. They determined themselves to prepare separate conclusions upon this particular point, and to present them in the nature of a Supplementary Report. I may be asked, under those circumstances, why it was that we did not make a separate report altogether? The very best answer, I think, to that question is contained in the very first section of the Report, which we had to produce out of it. It was in these words:—We have signed the report presented by the Chairman, because or the importance we attach to the recommendation in paragraphs 261 and 262, which points to the storage of grain, rent free, as a scheme which might be tried by the Government as an experiment for the purpose of increasing our supplies of corn and bread in time of war.We did not think that that was going quite far enough, and determined to make clear and definite and decisive proposals of our own. And it should be remembered that under the third head of the reference to them, the Commissioners were specially instructed to advise whether it would be desirable to adopt any measures in addition to the maintenance of a strong Fleet by which such supplies could be better secured and violent fluctuations avoided. 85 The majority were not prepared to make any decisive recommendations of that kind; the minority were, and they declined altogether to take refuge in what seemed to them to be conclusions so indefinite and so vague as to be practically useless either for guidance or help to the Government who had appointed the Commission.
The scheme which commended itself to the minority was a scheme for the free storage of corn in the United Kingdom, one of two submitted to the Commission, and it was put forward by the Manchester Ship Canal Company to this effect. They offered to provide accommodation for the storage of corn in the most approved and modern of elevators on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal to any extent that the Government might desire, not being less than 500,000 quarters of wheat, the storage being free and open to all who might wish to send corn for storage wherever it came from, whether it was grown at home or abroad, and this they proposed to do at a cost to the Government for the accommodation provided whatever it was of 6d. a quarter, if the agreement should last for twenty years, and sixpence a quarter if it should last for a shorter time. Among the advantages claimed for this scheme was that it would offer an ideal site, because the storage would be alongside deep water, available to deep steamers in the midst of a densely peopled centre which was only forty miles inland, and nearer than any other ocean steamer port, to one-fifth of the whole population of the United Kingdom. Drying, so as to render English, as foreign grain, fit for storage, and adding therefore to the value of the English grain, was to be provided, and the whole storage accommodation was to be available for imported and English grain free of any charge whatever. In addition to that——
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I think you will see in a moment. I hold that the Naval Estimates for the year are not adequate and sufficient to provide for the safe transport of the corn that comes to this country, which is absolutely necessary in the event of a naval war between ourselves and one or two great maritime Powers, and I was suggesting that this is an alternative which would relieve us absolutely and 86 altogether of the difficulty that would arise under those circumstances. I will condense my observations as far as possible and will endeavour as closely as I can to avoid going even near to trespassing upon any decision that you may give. Indeed, I think, I have said enough, per haps, upon both sides of the question to show in the first place how urgent the question is, and how dangerous it might quite possibly become; I have endeavoured to submit, as an alternative to the House, the adoption of a scheme which was submitted to the Commission under which an offer was made by the Man-Chester Ship Canal Company, and an offer moreover which, I ascertained not more than two or three months ago, would probably be open still for the consideration of any Government who would desire to examine it. Were that plan adopted, there might be an almost unlimited supply of corn kept in this country; I may be asked what would be the inducement to bring it here. The inducement is this: It might be held rent free; the storage would be provided, with all modern appliances, rent free; but the information before the Commission was to this effect, that storage of the same de scription on the other side of the Atlantic now is at the rate of 3s. a quarter against——
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is going into too much detail. I think that to mention his plan for the storage of corn is in order, but when he proceeds to go into detail as he is doing now, he is really dealing with a matter which seems hardly to be an Admiralty matter at all, but to apply to some other department.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I will conform to your suggestions; but I felt that unless I was able to show how this would work I should have submitted a scheme which would not be understood by the Committee, and with regard to which the question would be very much asked, "How it is going to work?" Of course, if I may not proceed with the explanation any further, I can leave it as far as I have gone. Perhaps I shall be best consulting your wishes and your ruling, and possibly the views of the Committee upon a subject, which is perhaps necessarily dry and uninteresting except to those who have gone carefully into it, by adopting that course. But may I be permitted to say this in conclusion: Another advantage of this scheme was the 87 comparatively trifling cost at which it would be carried out The estimate was made that the keeping of six months' supply in the country would not add more than a ¼ per cent. to the Estimates for national defence in the year 1905, and as those Estimates are very much greater at present, both for the Army and the Navy, the comparative cost of the scheme would therefore be pro tanto reduced. In submitting these views to the Committee I am sensible of the difficulty under which I have had to do so, a difficulty which is not any fault of ours, for in these days, when a Government does not scruple to take every hour of the time of the House from the very commencement of the Session, it is absolutely impossible to find opportunities, however important the subject, on which the views of a great number of people of the country can be put before Parliament, or, at all events, before the House of Commons.
However, I have perhaps said enough, I hope, to arouse some interest in this question out of doors. I know this, that five or six years ago, among the working classes of the country, the interest taken in it was so enormous that it was by them and by their assistance mainly, that the appointment of the Royal Commission was secured. It is full of information, I should have thought, of immense service and advantage to the Navy. I know that if I occupied the position of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to me (Mr. McKenna), and with all the knowledge which all of us possess of the present situation, this frightful competition in armaments, this race in construction between another great country and ourselves, I should have jumped at the opportunity of relieving the Navy of this country of one of the greatest responsibilities which rest upon it at the present moment, that is to make safe for the millions of the people and the poorer classes of this country their supplies of food, and insure that, no matter what complications may exist in the future, what conflicts we may find ourselves in with other nations of the world, no matter what happens as regards temporary defeats or disasters at sea, in spite of anything of the kind, we can rest safe with the knowledge that we have at least an ample supply of food. I thank the Committee for kindly allowing me to make the observations I have made, though there is a great deal more that I would have liked to try to press upon their attention.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by 1,000 men.
I rise with a considerable feeling of responsibility in submitting this Amendment, but I do so in the general interests of security. I may say at the outset that I supported the Resolution so admirably moved by the hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Murray Macdonald), and seconded so ably by the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby). I also supported the Amendment moved and seconded from the Labour Benches. And now that I have the opportunity to move this reduction, I hope I shall get some support, not only from this side of the House, but from hon. Gentlemen opposite, if I can make good my argument that it is on the lines of our security that I move the reduction. I associate myself entirely with the very appropriate remark made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that the whole question really resolves itself into what is an adequate Navy. We are all, I am sure, animated by patriotic feelings. I am certain that not a single Member of this House has any other desire than that of the adequate defence and prosperity of the Empire. I am sure that is the wish of every section and every individual within these islands and throughout the Empire. The whole question, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) well said, is what we really consider to be adequate defence. Before, however, I proceed to my general argument, I wish to refer to a question which I put to the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. McKenna) in reference to the expenditure of which this reduction I propose forms a part. I asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would explain to the House what justification there was for proceeding with an expenditure which was apparently authorised by the House on a forecast made by him, and which he subsequently submitted to be wrong. In answer to me the First Lord of the Admiralty said that he would give an answer in his general statement to the House. Hon. Members will remember what that statement was. If I may say so, the right hon. Gentleman failed entirely to give any real justification for proceeding with the expenditure. He admitted in his speech that the forecast which he had given was wrong, thus affording proof of my statement. He said:—Thirteen days after I made my statement to the House of my belief as to the time when the German ships would be built, I corrected it.That is an admirable proof of my contention as to the right hon. Gentleman's fore- 89 cast. I do not dispute that he himself admitted that it was wrong; still, it is an absolute proof of my contention. Then the First Lord of the Admiralty in another part of the same speech explained his action as being due to the belief that if he were to give his real reason for going on with the expenditure it might cause a scare. His actual words were:—I was really unwilling to say anything at the time which would he calculated to cause a scare.I think the House will agree that this absolutely proves what I said; and we, as Members of this House, are surely entitled—whether we are in favour of a very large expenditure on the Navy, or whether we believe in an adequate navy—to have from the First Lord of the Admiralty and from other Members sitting on the Government Bench, absolute candour as to the actual facts, which would be laid before the House, in justification of any expenditure whatever. I think that involves a somewhat grave reflection on the Front Bench. It is not a question of the First Lord of the Admiralty only, because his speech on the occasion to which I refer, was endorsed by the very grave speech made by the Prime Minister himself in that Debate. Nor do I exonerate the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition from his part in that discussion, but I do say, in fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, that if I had been in his position I should have been guided by the speeches of the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty. I think that involves very grave responsibility. I do not propose to say very much further upon the point, because it has been very adequately dealt with in the admirable speech of the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Robert Harcourt), who gave chapter and verse with regard to the figures and complex calculations in connection with the number of "Dreadnoughts" that we would have in a particular year compared with Germany. I now pass to my Amendment, and I submit that these Estimates are entirely unjustifiable on grounds of security. I recognise equally with the Noble Lord opposite (Lord Charles Beresford) that we should have an adequate defence of our very valuable commerce, our trade interests and our colonies.
We recognise that trade routes require defence, and that all our interests, as the world is situated to-day, certainly require effective protection. I entirely associate myself with the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) in the remarks he made as to 90 a proper defence of the Empire and its interests, and we, on this side, who are supporting the reduction, are as keenly interested in supporting an adequate defence as the Noble Lord himself. The First Lord of the Admiralty is also, I hope, animated by that same desire. His conception of strength, if I am to judge from his speeches—his conception of what really constitutes security—is entirely contained in that obsession about the number of "Dreadnoughts" we have compared with the number possessed by another friendly Power. His whole argument revolves more or less upon that point. Hon. Gentlemen agree, of course, that, above all, we want security; I do not for a moment deny that; but this is only a part of the question; there are many other matters which enter into strength besides that of the excessive armament of a particular ship. What really constitutes security, if I may venture to say so, is the condition of our own people, the state of our trade and commerce, and the state of our finance. If we have regard to the amount of unemployment, to the destitution which exists in this country, to the great struggle to live, to the poverty and miserable condition under which a vast mass of the community exists, I think the Noble Lord will bear me out when I say that in regard to getting recruits for the Army, or to take part in an adequate defence, those social conditions to which I refer are not likely to improve the physique of the men to be recruited, nor are we likely to obtain recruits of the chest measurement and build required for defensive purposes. The physical condition of our people, the great number of unemployed, the large numbers living in poverty, the miserable wages they are paid, are all factors which enter into the question of security and defence. On that part of the subject we find that there is by no means any reason for rejoicing. I will just give a quotation from an article which appeared in one of the daily journals the other day. The writer says:—In all my experience I have not seen a worse case of poverty and misery than this. The man, wife, and three children were all in a state of absolute want. There was no food and no fire, the little ones were half naked, and as for the woman her garments were so scanty as to he hardly decent. And this terrible tragedy, this Englishman's home, was found in the very heart of the wealthiest centre of the Empire. This is one of the five hundred——
§ Mr. D. MASON
My point is that the security and adequate defence of the Empire cannot well be obtained if the conditions are such that you cannot get men strong enough for the Navy.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must not switch the Debate off into a discussion of the social condition of the people in general. If he does that he is out of order. A passing reference to their condition is permitted.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I quite admit that, Sir. It was only a reference that I made. I think the condition and requirements of the people and the question of finance bear on the point, as the hon. Gentleman would have seen if he had patiently listened to my observations.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I was not making any personal complaint against the hon. Gentleman, but there are a great number of hon. Members who also want to speak.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. D. MASON
Surely, in regard to the condition of our people there is a great deal calling for reform and for remedy. But I pass to the state of finance and commerce. I think the House will agree with me in the matter of finance that you must cut your coat according to your cloth; and in regard to the question of our credit, I wish to show how relevant it is to the subject now under discussion. At the time of the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese Navy was supreme, and that of Russia was at the bottom of the list; yet Japan was unable to proceed with that war for no other reason than its enormous cost. The inability of Japan to float another loan either in London or New York, owing to her being a poor country and the burden upon her so pressing was the reason that after the war she was not in a position to demand from Russia, by way of indemnity, a single kopeck. For no other reason than that she was unable to carry on the war; although she had a powerful Navy, she was unable to back it up because of her financial condition. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord C. Beresford) knows that the Navy requires to be adequately financed if it is to carry on a great war, and if we have not the necessary financial resources, this country might compare perhaps with Japan when she was unable to compel Russia to pay any indemnity, because she could not float another loan. Japan, as a result of that war, has been faced with enormous taxation. As the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs stated, her income tax is 5s. in 92 the pound, though the people are comparatively poor. We do not want to approach Japan in our financial conditions, and I submit that we ought to look into our finances in relation to social reform and other questions. At the same time I do agree with the hon. Gentlemen who have just cheered those remarks that in even social reform we must have regard to finance, and that we should look well at all those great schemes for the alleviation of humanity in general——
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is not really discussing the question. He has gone back again to social reform. He must confine his remarks to the question of the Navy Estimates, which we are considering.
§ Mr. D. MASON
My point is that the Navy depends on finance, and, therefore, if we are weak in finance it seems to me that we should regulate our finance ac cording to our naval needs. I submit that our financial position at present is not as strong as many people believe. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] It is quite in order. I am moving for a reduction because I do not think we can afford to have an in crease. If I can show that you are straining the resources of the country by excessive Estimates then I submit hon. Gen tlemen opposite should follow me into the Lobby, because, after all, we are all animated by the same desire. The question is one of security. I submit that security depends on financial strength, and I am moving a reduction because I do not believe we are financially justified in adding to our debt, and in plunging the country into greater financial insecurities in adding to the burdens of our finance. In proof of that I may refer to the question of Con sols. Already reference has been made to the way the German Navy has been financed, and a great deal of discussion has also taken place with regard to Consols. A former Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking with reference to the condition of the Navy, made the very point I am now submitting, and said that in time of peace we should husband our resources; that we should not strain our finances, but have regard to our finances in our expenditure on our Navy. Many writers and others have been saying that since the Trustee Act has been enlarged——
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not a question we can discuss now. I invite the hon. Member to confine himself to naval questions arising on these Estimates.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I bow to your ruling, but if I am unable to show that the Naval Estimates depend on finance then all I can say is really what are we here for. I bow to your ruling. I can do nothing else, but I do hope I have said enough to appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite that finance is a very important matter in regard to the question of increasing or decreasing the Naval Estimates. I suppose I cannot en large on my arguments. I am very sorry, and I must apologise to the House for not being able to do so. On another occasion, perhaps, I may be able to do so. After all, I have risen to move that this Vote should be reduced, and I am prohibited apparently from stating the reason why that Vote should be reduced is because of financial considerations. If I may enlarge on that further——
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has stated at least ten times to the Committee that one of the reasons why he moves this reduction is financial. When I stopped the hon. Member just now he was beginning to argue as to why Consols had fallen, and that is clearly not a question we can discuss on these Estimates.
§ Mr. MASON
I bow to your ruling. As I say my reason for moving this reduction is owing to the strain on our resources, support of that argument I would refer you to the fact that Germany has built up her Navy largely upon borrowed capital. The First Lord stated the other day that he is a strong believer in supporting the finances of the Navy being taken out of revenue. I rejoice to hear that, and I hope it will always be the case, although some Members even on the Front Bench have shown an inclination to entertain the idea of a loan. Take, for example, the position of Germany, which is held up to us as a reason for increasing our expenditure. Germany has largely built her Navy out of loans, and, according to her Secretary of State for the Imperial Treasury, the German Empire had borrowed between 1877–80 about three and a half millions per year, between 1880–90 about six millions per year, and between 1890 and 1900 five and a half millions per year, and so on till 1909, when she borrowed fourteen millions. He goes on to say that the proposed German loan has become rather steadier of late, though at a lower level than before, and that the money market showed a considerable distaste for German loans as for all foreign securities. That to my mind surely must be conclusive proof how little 94 we need fear in this respect with regard to these Estimates, because if Germany is unable to place her loans in time of peace, and apparently she is unable to do so as her Secretary to the Treasury tells us, what reason, then, is there for continually holding up the bogey of Germany as a reason for excessive expenditure. If Germany is unable to place her loan in time of peace, what chance would she have of raising £100,000,000 for a European war? My argument is that we should not follow the example of Germany, and Germany, I am glad to note, is about to decrease her expenditure upon armaments. I believe that the Germans are alive to this question and that you will not find that they will increase their Naval Law. They are-shrewd financiers there and understand that finance is part of the preparations for war.
I submit we should not go on blundering and spending our money making ourselves financially weak, but that we should try to husband our resources in time of peace, and try and get the Income Tax reduced, and increase the Sinking Fund so that we may be financially strong if war or trouble is forced upon us. That is the argument which, in my opinion, is the most convincing one against any further increase. After all, if our Chancellor of the Exchequer were to come down and tell us that he was unable to place any further loans in time of peace would not hon. Members opposite feel that we were practically helpless and unable to defend our interests in any part of the Empire, and that we were rendered futile and weak as to standing up against any other Power. Is that not a convincing argument that we should not wait until that position arrives, but that we should husband our resources and reduce our Estimates, so that we may be able to be forewarned and forearmed in time of peace? If we are to get that position made practical and to bring it within the bounds, so to speak, of politics, we must have regard to the atmosphere that exists between us and other Powers. If we are to bring about a reduction of Estimates we must have regard to the good feeling and amity which may exist amongst the Powers of Europe. I rejoice equally with other hon. Members at the speech delivered by the Foreign Secretary, but I feel, as no doubt many others have felt, that the speech was a little illogical, because he was speaking all in favour of this reduction of Estimates for which I am now pleading, yet his conclusion was that he would vote 95 for the increased Estimates. We were told our relations with other Powers have never been happier, that there is no cloud on the horizon, and that we are about to enter into an agreement with the United States, and all that being so what argument is there left for an increase of the Estimates. If under those circumstances you increase your Estimates what would you do if things were in a disturbed condition, or if there was war. The whole position could not I think be more convincing in favour of a reduction. I hope hon. Members on this side and on the other who are impressed with the arguments I put forward will support that impression in the Division Lobby, and will rise to this occasion, realising that we are entering upon a period when we require the resources of our country for the development and amelioration of mankind.
§ Mr. GEORGE LAMBERT
We have had a very pleasing discussion this afternoon on the Naval Estimates. It was opened by the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Eyres-Monsell) in a most excellent speech, in which he dealt with a matter of vital importance to this country, namely, whether the Navy is adequate to protect the food supply of these islands. That was reinforced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin), who quoted copiously from the Royal Commission on Food Supplies, and suggested that the Manchester Ship Canal should provide some granary accommodation. That cannot come upon the Naval Estimates, and therefore I propose to omit any reference to that subject. The hon. Member for Evesham suggested that we might have to encounter in time of war a number of armed merchantmen which would prey upon our commerce and endanger our food supplies. There is not a tittle of evidence that there are armed foreign merchantmen to prey upon our commerce in this way. We have not had any proof from any source that foreign merchantmen carry guns or ammunition, and I should like to know upon what grounds we are to fear this danger at the present, moment. I am far from denying that foreign merchantmen might be used for the destruction of commerce, but I would remind the Committee of some figures given by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Beauchamp) last Thursday, in which he pointed out that Great Britain in this matter of armed merchantmen would, if necessary, be in an incomparably 96 superior position. He stated that of fast merchant steamers of 4,000 tons and upwards and with a speed of over sixteen knots, Great Britain possessed 102, whereas the next Power possessed only seventeen. Therefore, if it were necessary to arm merchant ships to protect our commerce, we have far greater opportunity of effecting this than any foreign country. From the Admiralty point of view the supply of cruisers provided in these Estimates is adequate for this great service. If you take armoured, protected, and unprotected cruisers, we have double as many as the next strongest Power, and they are also of incomparably greater power.
The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) suggests that these cruisers are not placed in the proper strategic positions. That, of course, must be a matter for the Admiralty to decide. The concentration of our Fleet round our shores was effected by the late Government at the end of 1904. Both Boards of Admiralty, therefore, have considered this concentration to be the best method of placing our Fleet. The Noble Lord went at considerable length into the question of the secondary armaments of our ships. That, again, is a matter which must be left to the Board of Admiralty, who would be guided largely by their experts. But it seems to me, after having been at the Admiralty for five years, and heard all the arguments for and against, that the "all big" gun armament, with the torpedo armament added, is the best for our big battleships. It has the merit of simplicity, and there is also the enormous advantage that these guns fire rapidly with great accuracy, and that when the shots hit they damage to a very considerable extent. If you shoot with a 12-inch gun you will have far more effect than with a 9.2 or a 6-inch gun. That is a very elementary proposition.
§ Mr. GEORGE LAMBERT
I think the hon. Gentleman was a Member of the Board of Admiralty that really started the design of the "Dreadnought," which had an "all big" armament. If you have a good design I think we should carry it on. I understood that one merit of the 97 "Dreadnought" was that it was armed with an "all big" armament. At any rate, the Board of Admiralty consider that this is the armament best suited for our purpose. Anybody who reads the history of the battle of Tsushima will find that the shell of the 12-inch gun was enormously more effective than that of the 9.2 or 6-inch gun. As far as we are concerned it seems that we are on right lines in adopting this principle. The Noble Lord has had considerable discussion with my right hon. Friend as to what the German Navy Law consisted of. I have inquired as to the figures, and it is perfectly clear that the German Fleet to be completed by the year 1920 will consist of thirty-eight battleships, including twenty-two of the "Dreadnought" type, twenty large cruisers, including eleven of the "Invincible" type, thirty-eight small cruisers, and 144 destroyers. There seems to be no doubt upon that point, and I think that is what the Foreign Secretary had in his mind when he spoke the other day. The Noble Lord talked about there being a want of War Staff at the Admiralty. That is a matter at which the Noble Lord has been hammering for years. He referred to the Select Committee of 1888. The Noble Lord was a member of that Committee, and he put some questions to the distinguished Admirals who were called before it. Admiral Hood, to whom the Noble Lord referred as being a very distinguished officer, in reply to a question as to war staff and war organisation, said:—I have frequently heard you make use of the remark that there was not a scrap of organisation for war. I have seen that statement reported in speeches half a dozen times. I deny the accuracy of your statement entirely.That was Admiral Hood's reply to the Noble Lord.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That is perfectly true. Admiral Hood also opposed with all his might the formation of the Intelligence Department, but I carried it by going to the Prime Minister and showing the necessity of it.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
I am suggesting that here is a question which the Noble Lord has brought up time after time——
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
I have not the smallest objection, but I say that a large 98 number of distinguished admirals who have served at the Admiralty must be vastly mistaken if the Noble Lord is right.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
I agree, but, if I may suggest with due deference, it is not probable. I can assure the Noble Lord that the Board of Admiralty has a very efficient staff, and an organisation which, I think, is prepared for war as efficiently as human perfection can bring it. I will not put it higher than that. I will not follow the Noble Lord in his remarks about the personnel. After all, we are asking the House for an additional 3,000 men. The Noble Lord's criticisms have furnished the basis of most of the attacks upon the Admiralty in the Opposition Press. He has complained of our programme, and he has spoken about his programme. He laid his programme before the London Chamber of Commerce, and on 28th September, 1910, he put it forward in an open letter to the Prime Minister. He then said:—I believe that with such a force and its auxiliaries the safety of the country would be reasonably secured in 1913–14.What was that force? That Great Britain—I presume he meant the British Empire—should have thirty-two "Dreadnoughts." By March, 1914, the British Empire will have thirty-two "Dreadnoughts."
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
Thirty-two; the British Empire, including the Colonies. Then, said the Noble Lord, Germany would have twenty-one, which is quite right, and Austria four. We do not accept that interpretation.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
There are only two yet laid down, and it is extremely improbable, I might almost say impossible, that four can be completed by March or April, 1914. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am speaking upon the best information I have. Italy, according to the Noble Lord, will have four "Dreadnoughts." As a matter of fact, the Triple Alliance will have two less than the Noble Lord suggested, and we shall have the same number. Therefore, if we were perfectly safe under his proposals, surely we are perfectly safe now. Taking his own figures the Noble Lord ought to be fully satisfied with the shipbuilding programme that we have put forward. Silence gives consent, so that apparently he is satisfied.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
The hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) takes a very gloomy view of our naval strength and efficiency. He apparently thinks that with the present Government in office everything connected with the Navy and the Army is wrong. We may be excused for not sharing that view. Rosyth, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, comes under the Department for which I am specially responsible, and I can assure him that we are making adequate provision for the coming year. We are providing as much as the contractor can earn, and we hope that he will finish the contract before the contract date, which is September, 1916. If the contractor earns more money we shall be delighted to pay it. I want to dispose of the idea that we are pruning down works for economical reasons. We are carrying them on as fast as possible. The contractor is offered a bonus of £900 a week to finish quickly; therefore, it is useless to say that we are not carrying on Rosyth and other great works as fast as we possibly can. I think I have dealt with all the questions which have been raised, with the exception of one or two raised by my right hon. Friend behind me. My hon. Friend seemed to assume that we are not desirous of economy. I can only say that, having followed the career of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, I can say that when he was at the Treasury he was an economist. He is an economist to-day. There is no man more than he who deplores this great competition which has been forced upon him. I cannot help thinking that my hon. Friends do not give us credit that we wish to expend the taxpayers' money as economically as possible. We do not want to waste the taxpayers' money on "Dreadnoughts," but this is a matter which, after all, is forced upon us. No one can doubt that if you take the result of these Estimates. You have to consider that whereas Britain will have thirty of these big "Dreadnoughts," the next strongest Power will have twenty-one. The hon. Gentleman who has moved this reduction says he is in favour of an adequate Navy. Does he think that is too big a margin? If so, what is his standard?
§ Mr. D. MASON
Does the hon. Gentleman wish me to reply now or later? In answer to his question, I simply say you must have regard, and adequate regard, 100 in any additions to your armaments to a proper financial reserve.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
After all, my hon. Friend will allow me to say that he has failed to see the real point. He wants an adequate Navy. That is the real point. Is the provision we are making more than that?
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
After all is said and done, we have to deal with what are adequate Naval Estimates. I am suggesting to the House that we are only proposing adequate Naval Estimates. My hon. Friend does not dispute that proposition. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) has suggested that the next strongest Power was borrowing money for building ships. That is perfectly true. But a ship that is built with borrowed money is quite as effective as a fighting unit as the ship that is built out of revenue, such as ours are. And I think that in this matter we may congratulate ourselves that we find ourselves paying for our shipbuilding out of revenue. In so doing we are getting better value. My experience of the Admiralty shows me how wasteful the system of loans is. I would strongly recommend the House, on whichever side hon. Gentlemen sit, never to have recourse to loans except in time of very great emergency indeed. That time has not arrived. So far as we are concerned we wish to reduce the Estimates as far as is consistent with national security. I am quite convinced that through the country the great body of public opinion, whether Unionist or Liberal, is in favour of a British Navy strong enough to meet any reasonable combination. That is the basis of these Estimates. As such I defend them here to-night, and I am sure I commend them with confidence to the House.
§ Sir CLEMENT KINLOCH - COOKE
Like the critics of the Government on the opposite benches we on this side of the House find fault with their Naval Estimates, not because they are too high, but because they are not high enough. In my opinion the premium asked is not sufficient to cover the risk involved. The Government have never really faced the 101 position. From the first their naval policy has been a negative one. For three years, when they might have been educating the people to a proper understanding of our naval requirements, they were engaged upon a series of unsound and false economies. They deliberately misled the country. They were propitiating the "Little Englanders," the "Peace at any Price" party, and all the faddists that swept them into Office in 1906 upon a programme of false pretences and fraud. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] What about Chinese Labour?
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
The Government knew then, as they know now, that it is not and was not possible to reduce our Naval Estimates, and at the same time maintain the security of our Empire. Yet what did they do? They set aside the true needs of the Navy and cut down the Naval Estimates in order to make a show of keeping their pledge to reduce the Estimates. It was a dishonest pledge, because the Government knew that it was one that they could not keep permanently. But it was made. And hon. Members below the Gangway opposite are quite within their rights in nailing that pledge to the counter. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny the pledge? In order further to curry favour with the extremists, the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman sent a mission to The Hague. What for? To join in a general talk about universal peace, well knowing that the whole thing was Utopian and entirely disregarding the common-sense view that if you want peace you must be prepared for war. The Government cannot say that in cutting down the Estimates they have acted on expert advice, for they refused to adhere to the Cawdor programme of four "Dreadnoughts" a year, which the naval experts of the Admiralty laid down as a minimum expenditure on capital ships compatible with safety and with security.
In 1906–7 the Government made provision for only three "Dreadnoughts." In 1907–8 they made provision for three "Dreadnoughts"; in 1908–9 for two "Dreadnoughts"—eight in place of twelve. And what was the result of this? Foreign Powers were making hay while 102 the sun shone. In 1908 one Power commences eight "Dreadnoughts" against our two. Yet the Prime Minister (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) again repeated the accusation that when the Opposition were in power the expenditure on the Navy had been unnecessarily increased. Does he adhere to that statement now? I challenge the Prime Minister to say that he does. Does the First Lord of the Admiralty adhere to that statement? I challenge him to say that he does. At last the bubble burst, and in 1909 the country witnessed the sorry spectacle of a Navy scare set up, not by the Opposition, as the Radical Press endeavoured to say, but by the Prime Minister and by the First Lord of the Admiralty, who dare not any longer risk a policy which they well knew would lead, not only themselves, but the Empire to destruction. Come to the changing tune of 1909. "The House and the country are perfectly right in the view that the situation is grave," said the Foreign Secretary. "We did not know, as we thought we did, the rate at which the German construction was taking place," was the plaintive cry of the First Lord. "When we had that state of things brought home to us it was a great surprise," said the Prime Minister. It may be that here we have the real origin of that classic phrase, "Wait and see." All this pressure was brought about—what for? To get a vote for four "Dreadnoughts," because the contingent four still hung in the balance, and but for the pressure brought from this side we might never have got that contingent four. Again, at the January election last year, the Government permitted the statement to be made, and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite will recall it; "they wanted eight, but they won't pay." The Government knew, and every Radical and Labour candidate knew, that for that contingent four not a penny was provided in the Budget; the cost of the four was to come out of the fund set apart for the payment of the National Debt. Then we had the Government's admissions. The First Lord of the Admiralty admitted quite frankly the error of the Government policy. Speaking on 18th October last year, he said:—The Government did give a bold and sincere lead for over three years, but in 1909 they were bound to make a change. They left, no stone unturned to set an example of peace and goodwill, but at the end foreign programmes were bigger than ever.Of course they were. Small blame to them. The German Navy Act was passed in 1900, and the First Lord should have 103 known its import. He mentions amendments. He should have been prepared for them. I say it was his business as First Lord to understand and to know what foreign nations were doing; but it certainly was not his business to get up a Navy scare by making a statement which he subsequently had to withdraw, that the German Government were accelerating the rate of construction. Then we have the Prime Minister speaking on 3rd November last year, with all the weight attaching to his high office, as follows:—No single country can reduce its expenditure and trust, even temporarily, for its own security to the forbearance of more powerful and vigourous navies.Those were the words of the Prime Minister. I wish to ask him why did he do so? Why did he continue to do so for the space of three years? I find no fault with Germany. Germany, as the Noble Lord the Member for Potsmouth has said in this Debate, has a perfect right to have as big a Navy as she likes. What I do say is, let us put our own House in order. Do not let us give a foreign country time and opportunity again to build herself a Fleet, while the Government of this country has a policy framed, not on a national, but on a party basis. Had the Government carried out the Cawdor programme, this country would then have understood the necessity for increased Estimates. Now it has witnessed what I consider an unfortunate precedent in our Parliament history—that is, the First Lord of the Admiralty coming down to this House for the second time within twelve months and making an apology to his followers for his own Estimates. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife seems to think that the cutting down of the Naval Estimates will reduce unemployment. I do not share that view. If you leave off building ships what is to become of the employés in the dockyards, national and private, and what is to become of the sailors. Is not the labour market already overcrowded. I would remind hon. Members opposite that when Germany wants money to build ships she gets it without a murmur. All parties in the Reichstag foot the Bill. Now, as to the programme. Accepting the statement of the First Lord that in the spring of 1914 we shall have twenty-nine, or is it thirty, against the twenty-one of the next strongest Power; whether that is sufficient depends, I submit, upon the standard of sufficiency. Obviously the two-Power standard is gone since only "Dreadnoughts" count.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I think if the right hon. Gentleman will go back to his speech in this House two years ago he will find something very near that. I think I am right in saying that what he stated was that only "Dreadnoughts" counted. Am I not right?
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
But it will come. I say the two-Power standard is gone, and the two keels to one is the standard which counts, because if only "Dreadnoughts" count the two keels to one is the chief question. Nor do we know whether or not that is the policy of the Government. Last week we did hear something about two keels to one, but I am not quite certain whether or not it is the policy of the Government, and I shall not make the statement definitely without some further announcement from the Government Bench. There we must fall back upon the statements of the Prime Minister that we must build against "any possible combination." Upon that question two things must be considered. First, what is a possible combination? and, secondly, we must consider that the British Empire occupies one-fifth of the surface of the globe, and that its component parts are scattered all over the universe, separated one from another by vast intervening seas. As regards the first of these questions, the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) has suggested a possible combination of Germany, Austria, and Italy.
No one can deny such a combination is possible, and so long as the Triple Alliance exists, is not altogether improbable. In the spring of 1914 these countries will have between them twenty-nine "Dreadnoughts," and, therefore, the British Fleet of "Dreadnoughts" will be only equal to, or have a margin of, one against the fleets of such a possible combination. I am not one of those who believe in hostilities 105 breaking out between this country and Germany. I believe the German nation is as peacably disposed towards us as we are towards them, but that does not prevent Germany building a fleet of twenty-one "Dreadnoughts." What for? Not to attack us. Certainly not. The German Imperial Chancellor has stated, and Admiral Von Tirpitz has said:—We build our Navy, not for aggressive purposes but solely because we are convinced we require an effective sea-power for the protection of our coasts and trade.That, I submit; is a clear and honest statement. I accept it, and I am sure the House of Commons accept it, but if it requires twenty-one "Dreadnoughts" to protect the coast and trade of Germany, surely it requires a far greater number to protect the coast and trade of the British Empire. Moreover, Germany, as regards her food supplies, is self-supporting, whereas we have to depend for our food supplies on countries oversea.
If any possible combination is to be the standard we find one possible combination is to equal or be only one short of us. I think that in laying down only five "Dreadnoughts" this year you are doing what is insufficient for our needs. We are told that in the next few years foreign Powers will cut down their programmes. That is the view of the First Lord, but has not the same authority made a serious miscalculation some time ago, and may he not do so again. If we accept the rule governing the reliability of evidence, I cannot accept the First Lord's statement as to the future programme of other countries. He assumes the German programme will go down. Have we any evidence that other foreign programmes will not go up, and, remember, what we have to guard against is not one Power but "any possible combination."
As to laying down ships. We know that ships are not laid down until the winter months, and one out of every two is not, as a rule, laid down until the end of the financial year. The First Lord says that is necessary for the purposes of economy. But is it real economy always to be six months behind. If war broke out between October, 1913, and the spring of 1914 what would be our position then. Even from the Labour point of view surely it would be far better to begin the work on ships in the summer than to wait until the winter months. Then, look at our enormous coastline and our coaling stations and our harbour of refuge, and, above all, 106 our seaboard and commerce, and I speak not alone of this country's trade but also of the trade of our Dominions over-seas. That brings me to a subject already discussed, that of cruisers. Not only is there a reduction in the amount of expenditure upon cruisers already under construction, but there is the serious reduction in the amount voted for the building of new cruisers, which, if I remember rightly, now number four instead of five. The subject is significant in view of the new menace offered to our shipping by the declaration of foreign Powers to convert their merchantment into men-of-war, in other words, into privateers in war time. One of the most serious features in the present situation is the inadequate protection of our trade routes. The responsibilities devolving on the Navy in this respect, namely, the protection of our commerce, have enormously increased in consequence of the altered condition of affairs. Yet the Government do not seem to realise this important fact in the matter of cruisers. This is not a question of comparing one fleet with that of another foreign Power. No nation has a coast line or a mercantile marine equal to that of our country. And what would be a mere inconvenience to another Power would be to us a calamity.
A word about Rosyth. The First Lord of the Admiralty gives September 1915, as the probable date when the contractors will move out. We heard later that it may be possible the Government would have to consider 1916 as the probable time. At any rate I will take the First Lord's statement that he thinks and hopes and believes that the contractors will be out in September, 1915. Surely that depends upon how much money he allows the contractors to earn in the time. It is quite true that the Estimate provides £70,000 more, making in all £325,000 this year for Rosyth, but even then there remains £2,700,000, or an average expenditure for three and a-half years of nearly £800,000 a year. Here again I submit we have a case of deferred liability. The Government should have done more work at the beginning, and the present position is entirely due to the cutting down of the Estimates in 1906 to 1908. I recall a confidential document from the First Sea Lord to the Civil Lord of the Admiralty to the effect that the First Sea Lord "had saved £7,000,000 on Rosyth," and adding, "you need not spoil a willing horse." Has the Committee forgotten that? Last year I asked the First Lord if that was correct, and as he omitted to make any reference to my question I take 107 it he agreed, and that the Government intended to save £7,000,000 upon Rosyth in the first years they were in power.
Like the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth and the hon. Member for Fare-ham I notice the cutting down of the Royal Marines. I think the establishment was 19,800. To-day it is 15,800, a reduction of 4,000 men. I should like to ask what is the policy in regard to the Royal Marines. I asked the First Lord before the Debate closes to give us some idea of what the Government policy is in regard to the Marines. It is time it should now be stated. The Government have been playing ducks and drakes with this magnificent corps. The Royal Marines are overlooked in everything. Even their schoolmasters are the only class of warrant officers in the service not eligible for the higher ranks. Their salaries and pensions are far lower than those paid to schoolmasters in the Navy. Why?
I should like to say a word with regard to Greenwich Hospital. I notice there is much interesting information with regard to Greenwich Hospital, but I see nothing about that portion of the funds which has to do with age pensions and special pensions to men who have served in the Royal Navy, whose circumstances and conduct make them eligible for this form of relief. I believe it is a fact that last year over 1,000 applications reached the Admiralty from men who had reached the age of sixty, and the majority had to be refused on the ground of insufficiency of funds. I am aware that the grant from naval funds was made not long ago, but it cannot be denied that for some years past a portion of Greenwich Hospital money has been diverted to channels other than pensions. I do not know whether the money has been paid back for this diversion, but whether that be so or not I think the time has come when another grant from naval funds should be made. I think hon. Members will agree with me when I say that it is deplorable to see so many old men, many of them maimed and most of them infirm, who have spent their lives in the service of their country, left without the 5d. per day to which, if they are not entitled, they are one and all eligible for.
I must say a word or two about the establishment of the dockyards. Here I wish to congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty upon his statement that the establishment for workmen in His Majesty's dockyards have been reopened. 108 The right hon. Gentleman does not give the date of that important event. I know he wrote a letter to one of the Radical candidates for Plymouth on the eve of the poll in January last year, stating that the establishment, which had been suspended for five years, would be re-opened. Why he wrote that letter I am not able to say, but it was a curious coincidence that its publication coincided with the polling in the Plymouth district. In February last year the First Lord said the establishment would be reopened forthwith, and later he said, "as soon as practicable," and this did not happen to be until the summer. What was the cause of the delay? Perhaps the First Lord will be good enough to tell us. I suggest, and it is only a suggestion, that the delay was not altogether disconnected with the fact that after his Estimates were issued he found the number of men on the establishment was less than in 1909–10, and having in view another election he thought it advisable to go again to the Treasury for a further grant. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
It is very pleasing to me to hear that it is not so, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his denial. The figures given show that the numbers are greater for 1910, and the number employed in the Royal dockyards has gone up by thousands. As I hope to have another opportunity of discussing this question, I do not think I should be justified in troubling the House to listen to me at any greater length, although I should like to discuss the economic question of the decrease in the numbers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] I am very much obliged to hon. Members opposite for desiring me to go on, but I think under the circumstances I will resume my seat.
§ Mr. BARNES
Many subjects have been raised in this Debate, some of them of a momentous and far-reaching character. I am afraid, however, that the House is getting sick of the Navy Estimates. I hope I shall be able to raise a few new points upon the right hon. Gentleman's statement and policy which have not been mentioned. I associate myself with the Amendment that has been put forward by the hon. Member behind me, and I wish 109 to free myself from any share of complicity in these far too high Estimates; having regard to the circumstances of the situation. I should like to remind the House and the right hon. Gentleman of the Amendment which was put forward by the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. George Roberts) last week, and the arguments by which he supported it. It was practically the same Amendment as that which is now before the House, and I want to remind the First Lord of the Admiralty that no answer has been given to the main argument by which that Amendment was supported. My hon. Friend argued, and I think rightly argued, that the present was an inappropriate time for extending the Navy Estimates, having regard to our improved foreign relationships as compared with a few years ago. That argument was entirely ignored. It seems to me that the Government have three methods of dealing with criticism of the Navy Estimates. Sometimes they ignore the argument, sometimes they move the Closure, and sometimes they shift their ground and start new bogies.
Two years ago my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle mentioned the speech of Admiral Tirpitz, which was absolutely in conflict with the statement made the day before by the First Lord of the Admiralty. What was the answer? The Closure was moved and carried immediately my hon. Friend had resumed his seat. The third method is when the right hon. Gentleman feels it is necessary to stimulate the interest and fears of the House, and then he starts them upon a new subject. Last week my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich put statements forward at least worthy of some consideration and reply. He said that, as compared with a few years ago, the foreign relationships of this country had been wonderfully improved, and he pointed out that our relationships with France, Germany, Russia, and other countries were better now than they had been. No answer was given to that argument and no reference was made to it except by the Leader of the Opposition, who admitted that our foreign relationships were better, but stated he thought that did not absolve us from having a sufficient force to maintain the safety of our shores and our commerce. When I came to this House some five years ago we had fixed up an agreement with Japan, and we were told that a reorganisation of the Navy was taking place, and ships were being brought home from the Far East. I mention that not 110 as having any bearing on these Estimates, but as being a factor to be considered upon the question as to what was necessary to protect our shores.
§ Mr. BARNES
No; and we shall not have a treaty with Germany so long as hon. Gentlemen opposite talk as they do. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hancock) was referring to the excessive character of these Estimates for the building of ships as not being in the best interests of the class we represent, but hon. Members opposite argued that expenditure of this kind was good for labour. I want to protest against the idea which seems to be prevalent that we on these benches take a narrow view of this matter, and are favourable to anything being done simply because it may employ labour. It is perfectly true that if you build a lot of "Dreadnoughts" you employ a good many engineers and workmen of that sort, but you are at the same time making a great draft on the resources of the country, and probably putting others out of employment. We have to consider, not only what is in accordance with the narrow interest of some working people, but what is in the interests of the country as a whole. It is from that point of view that I approach this matter, and I say these Estimates are excessive, against public policy, and against the best interests of the country, including the working people.
I have heard many speeches in favour of these Estimates, and as I have listened to them my mind has harked back to speeches made many years ago, and it seems to me that there are certain characteristics running through all of them. The hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) said that our speeches were distinguished by a lack of common sense. May I retort by saying that I have no hesitation in saying that his speeches are distinguished by a lack of logic and a plain disregard of plain facts. I know the speeches of the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) and others contain a thin veneer of polite expressions about other countries, but, looking through that thin covering of conventional words, they only say, "Give us more 'Dreadnoughts,' more cruisers, more men, and more money, and the nation will be safe." They forget that for twenty-five years they have been having more "Dreadnoughts," and year by year the country has been committed to 111 inflated armaments of this character, and you are no nearer national safety than ever you were. To hear hon. Members opposite, one would think they had adopted the position of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, who last week said these ships and the possession of them created a great danger, because the possession of them created a desire to use them. Whether that view is held or not, it seems to me that national security cannot be obtained in this way alone, because, while we go on preparing, other countries simply follow in our wake, and at the end of it all we are relatively in the same position as we were at the start; in fact, the cries for armaments that fill the minds of many hon. Members of this House seem to me like a man taking to drink. The more armaments they get, the more they want, just the same as the more a man spends to assuage his thirst the more thirsty he becomes. There is, however, this difference. Whereas they dip their hands into the people's pockets, he, poor devil, only spends his own money. One speaker said the Government were only concerned to throw the blame for things on the other side. I thought at the time there was a considerable amount of truth in that. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) the last time he spoke at all events seemed to be mainly concerned in showing that these Estimates were not due to anything he and his colleagues had done. He was disposed to throw the blame on to the other side of the House or anywhere else if he could. The main argument running through his speech was that these Estimates were in consequence of what other countries had done during the last ten years. It is said that figures cannot lie, but figures may be sometimes used to give a very inadequate and partial view of the truth, and I think I shall be able to show that is so on this occasion. Before dealing with the figures of the hon. Member let me deal with another set of figures.
The hon. Member for East Northamptonshire (Mr. Chiozza Money) last week asked several questions of the First Lord. I do not want to offend, or to suggest any arrangement about the matter, but I venture to say that those answers were misleading and had the effect, even if it was not the intention, to convey misleading figures to the House. The hon. Member asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what was the relative increase of German and British expenditure and of 112 men from the year 1904 up to date. He was given the answer that Germany had immensely increased her men, and expenditure since that time. Of course she has. He did not mention, however, as he might have done, that 1904 was the high-water-mark in expenditure of money and in the putting of men into the Navy of this country. Since then we have rather receded and have only reached high-water-mark again this year. He was told, I believe—I am speaking from memory—that Germany had increased her men by something like 19,000 from the year 1904 up to date. If he had gone backwards from 1904 instead of forward, he would have found that the British Navy had been increased from 92,000 to 131,000, an increase of 39,000 men, and, if he had gone back another three years, he would have found that the British Navy had been increased by something like 46,000, or as many, I suppose, as there were at the time in the whole of the German Navy, from the eldest admiral down to the newest cabin-boy. That shows how misleading these figures may be.
In order to get at the true genesis of the increased naval expenditure, not only in this year but in recent years, one must go back to the time mentioned by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), when Lord Randolph Churchill resigned his office and wrecked his career rather than assent to Estimates amounting to £12,000,000. Let me give the figures of the relative increase of expenditure of Germany and other countries from that time to this. I find that in 1887, the year for which arrangements were being made when Lord Randolph Churchill resigned, we spent £12,000,000 upon our Navy, to France's £8,000,000, Russia's £5,000,000, and Germany's £4,000,000. Ten years later we spent £22,000,000 within a few thousands; France had gone up from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000, Russia from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000, and Germany from £4,000,000 to £6,000,000. The other countries, as a matter of fact, had not up to 1897 started in this mad race of armaments but something happened in that year to give them the stimulus that was wanting. It was the Diamond Jubilee year. We were coming to the end of a long and great reign, which had been characterised by great advances in scientific and economic knowledge, and to some extent by social progress, and we proceeded to celebrate the event in characteristic fashion by the waving of flags, by much jingo exercises, and by 113 putting an immense Fleet of ships into the Solent, and then crowing about it and, by inference, telling other countries how small they were. The day after the Naval Review "The Times" came out as follows:—The Fleet is certainly the most formidable that has ever been brought together and such as no combination of other Powers can rival. It is the most formidable and far-reaching weapon the world has ever seen.We were further told that it had all been done, and that this Fleet was brought about without withdrawing a single ship from any single foreign squadron. That made an immense impression abroad, as no doubt it was intended to do. Were our fire-eaters satisfied? Not a bit. From that day onwards they shouted for more and more, until we got in 1904 up to something like £40,000,000 spent on the Navy. Then, by way of getting a fresh start, we had the "Dreadnought" in 1905, and there was more crowing about it. Now, as a result of all this, we have our Estimates up to £44,000,000, which is £1 per head of the population—man, woman, and child—or £5 per family of five. Hon. Gentlemen having fanned this flame of patriotism, or national vanity I should rather call it, and having induced other countries to start in our wake, seem rather surprised, and, I am inclined to think, not a little bit concerned to find how successful they have been, and now some of them talk about a loan. I wonder if they have ever thought that other countries can play at that as well as us. I had a document sent me the other day from one of those presumptuous and preposterous leagues, the National Service League, I think it is called, and this document stated that there are some 530 officers in the Navy and Army in favour of a loan of something like £100,000,000 to give us a new start on the Navy. After all we have been longer in this business than any other country, and therefore we have a larger weight hanging round our necks than any other country. I believe our National Debt amounts to £760,000,000, or something like that. I wonder if it occurs to those people that Germany's National Debt amounts to a third of that—I mean the Imperial Debt. I know a good deal might be said about the State owing a good deal of money, just as our municipalities do; but their Imperial Debt is about a third of ours. Again with regard to America, they have double our population, and but one-half of our National Debt. It seems to me that after all ships on trust do not offer a very promising solution of the difficulty. 114 I may be told that I am arguing against my own country and in favour of another country. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition rather chided my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) last week because he said he was always arguing in favour of other countries and against his own. Why should he not? Why should I not? After all, we have great examples to follow in this respect. If one goes back over the history of our own country, we find men like John Bright and others who have stood up on many occasions, as we are endeavouring to stand up now. It is no dishonour surely to tell one's country when he thinks it is in the wrong. That is the position we take up. We yield to nobody in love for our country; we yield to nobody in our desire to see it adequately protected. But it seems to me there is much more to be said than that, and we on these benches are going to take upon ourselves the responsibility of saying when we think this country is being badly advised. I rejoiced at the speech we had the other day from the Foreign Secretary. I join in the chorus of approval which has greeted it, not so much because of the reference to the Anglo-American arrangement and what might come out of that—indeed, there might be some danger incidental to that—but I rejoiced in that speech because of its responsible tone and because that tone was in such marked contrast to that of the speeches we have had during the last year or two from those in responsible positions.
I hope something will come of that speech, and that we may not only make better friends with. America, but better friends also with Germany and other countries closer to us and with interests which are the same as ours. How is it going to be done? These Estimates on the one side, with the speech which has been made on the other, are a mockery and a snare. The Estimates do not bear the speech out. I want more of the spirit of the speech on the part of the Government, and less of the spirit of these increased Estimates. I fear that these Estimates will have the effect of increasing the suspicion and distrust of us on the part of foreign nations. I have had some experience of industrial negotiations, and I know how a mountain of trouble that appears insurmountable when people are fighting at long range with one another is reduced when they come face to face with each other and learn just exactly the points of difference. I believe it would be 115 just so in regard to this matter. We have only to deal more frankly with other countries and they will deal more frankly with us. The speeches on which these Estimates are based were speeches that thought evil where there was no evil. Let me first say that the First Lord had a great chance last week of which he did not avail himself. He had a good opportunity of rehabilitating himself in the opinion of this House and of the country, and of doing something which would add to the chances of peace throughout the world. He should have come forward and frankly and honestly said, "I made a mistake a few years ago." But instead of that he quibbled and, in effect, he stuck to his statements of fact about German expenditure, but said he had been wrong in regard to the inferences to be drawn from that expenditure. While he withdrew the inference that Germany was building faster, he set up the inference that if Germany was not building faster then she was building bigger. I think it is a good job that he did not insist on that second inference, as, if he had done so, it would have started another bogey equally baseless.
If the building of bigger ships is to be taken as an unfriendly act towards other countries, what have we been doing, and what have other countries been doing? Have we and they not been increasing the size of our battleships every year, and are not our biggest battleships thousands of tons in excess of the biggest battleships built by Germany? If the scare two years ago had been based upon the mere statement of fact as to Germany's expenditure and the inference as to Germany's rate of shipbuilding, then I think the most charitable thing would be to congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on getting a lot of cry out of a very little wool. Those who were here two years ago will probably be able to carry their memories back to the time when there was not only the question of German shipbuilding acceleration, but statements were made as to Germany's capacity for shipbuilding, and predictions were made as to what Germany would be able to do. Statements were made not only about Germany, but about other countries, and it was these predictions and these statements that produced this scare which we subsequently found to be baseless. We were told that Germany could build a ship in about two years and two months. We were told that Germany 116 had, in 1907, started with a ship called the "Nassau," and had laid down two other ships in the same year, and we were also told that those ships were expected to be finished in the year 1909. But the first was not finished till May last year, and the others have only been finished since September last. I think we may say that the Germans have never finished a first-class ship in a less period than three years. We have been watching the course of events, and I say that the Germans have not until now built a first-class ship from the time they started on the collection of material until the armament was put into her in less than three years. As a matter of fact, it has been considerably more. The right hon. Gentleman the first Lord, on the 16th March, 1909, said: "I am informed "—I should like to stop here, and I should like to know the information on which the statement was based. I should like to know who is the highly-placed, and, no doubt, highly-paid, individual who found this mare's nest for the First Lord of the Admiralty. The First Lord said:—I am informed, moreover, that the collection of materials and the manufacture of armaments, guns and mountings have already been begun for four more ships, which, according to the Navy Law, belong to the programme of 1909–10, and we have to take stock of a new situation in which we reckon that not nine but thirteen ships may be completed in 1911."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1909, col. 934.]As a matter of fact, the naval experts had described the five German ships in course of construction as a species of nautical indigestion. The fact remains that we have got now twelve "Dreadnoughts" to their five, and if I am any prophet, although I have heard a good deal said of what is going to happen in the beginning of 1914 I should say that probably we shall have almost as great an excess of "Dreadnoughts" over Germany and even over the two Powers in conjunction with Germany then as we have now. After all, we have got to go a little closer to it. Let me refer to the other statements about the building of the other countries. On 26th July, 1909 the First Lord of the Admiralty came down here and said that at that time "the shipbuilding of foreign countries was going on apace, two countries, Italy and Austria, having declared a definite programme of four ships of the largest type. In Italy one of those ships has been laid down, the second is to be laid down immediately, and the remaining two in the present year." It has not been stated now that instead of those last two ships being laid down in that year as a matter of fact they were not 117 laid down until the back end of last year—1910—and in all probability neither of them will be finished in 1914, and I think it is very probable that they will not be finished until the back end of 1915.
The same as to the four ships of Austria. We were told on the same occasion that there were four ships to be laid down by Austria. I asked a question about these ships less than a month ago, and was told that not a single halfpenny had been granted by the Austrian delegation to pay for them, although two were on the stocks of a private firm, and it is just as open to the British Government as it is to the Austrian Government to buy them. I say that not more than two of the Italian ships or the Austrian ships will be finished by 1914, that the Germans will have twenty-one, perhaps not more than seventeen, and that we shall have thirty-two "Dreadnoughts," including the two Colonials, and exclusive of the two built immediately before the first "Dreadnoughts," which, in the opinion of many naval experts are quite equal to "Dreadnoughts." So that, taking these two ships into account, by 1914 we shall have thirty-four ships to the Triple Alliance's twenty-five at the very outside.
The statements which were made, however, are the sort of things that have induced the House of Commons to support the Government up to now in regard to these Estimates. I believe that the Estimates are far too large, and it is statements of this character that have induced the country to go on spending more and more every year until now we find that the expenditure of this country is £30,000,000 more than it was twenty years ago, and if we add the productive capacity of the men to this £30,000,000, I should think it possible we are spending and losing altogether £40,000,000 more as compared with twenty years ago. I refrain from commenting or dwelling upon what this money might do: it might do much to relieve the bent backs of the workers; it might brighten and lighten the homes of many; but I should be called sentimental, to refer to such topics. But I would mention one fact which ought to have weight, and that is that a quarter of this money spent additional this year, as compared with twenty years ago, would wipe out every item of indirect taxation which now presses upon the people of this country, and obtain for us that free breakfast table that has been so much talked about for a generation. I see only two ways of 118 relief, and there is the method mentioned by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) of getting something in the nature of an Estimates Committee. I do not know whether that would solve the matter or not, but looking at it in the larger way, I see only two methods of relief, and those are, better international relationships, and immunity from seizure of merchant shipping in time of war. I rejoice that the speech of the Foreign Secretary has perhaps to some extent contributed to the first method of relief. At all events I shall look forward hopefully to that speech having an effect upon German public opinion, and upon public opinion in other countries, and I think it behoves every single one of us in our position of responsibility to help forward that great end. But there is a second method, and that is the exemption of the merchant ships at sea from seizure in time of war.
I have heard much surprise expressed at the Germans building a great Navy during the last few years. But I do not think we need be very much surprised about that because after all the Germans thirty years ago had not a ship upon the sea. They now have 5,000 of them carrying passengers and 3,000,000 tons burden in the shape of freight. It stands to reason that in view of the attitude adopted by this country at The Hague Conference to protect their shipping in the event of war—it is only reasonable to suppose that the Germans also would desire to have a Navy at all events to protect their commerce as we have a Navy to protect ours. For these reasons I am against these Estimates, and I shall support the hon. Gentleman if he goes to a Division, which I hope he will. We oppose them because in the first place we think them ill-timed having regard to the international situation and having regard to the automatic dropping of the German programme next year. We oppose them because they will increase mistrust and suspicion on us on the part of foreign nations; we oppose them because we believe the money is needed for other and better purposes here at home; and we oppose them because we believe they have been obtained by false pretences; that is to say we believe they have been obtained on statements that were made two years ago that were untrue and have been admitted since to have been untrue.
Finally, and above all these reasons, I at all events oppose these Estimates, and I speak now perhaps for myself and my colleagues on these benches—and I do not 119 want to concern my hon. Friends behind me—I oppose these Estimates for another reason over and above all these reasons, and that is because we, as the Labour party, are going to act in concert with the Labour parties in other countries. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil last week mentioned the fact that there was a growing interdependability between country and country at the present time, capital was being invested more and more from one country into another, and, therefore, there was a change coming about in the situation. I believe that is one thing that is making in the direction of peace. We have now a division of interests, not so much vertical as horizontal, not so much as between country and country as between class and class. We on these benches are sometimes charged with creating that class antagonism. We have no more to do with it than with the law of gravity, but we recognise the fact of these class antagonisms and we are taking stock of the situation in conjunction with the working people of other countries. We are forming parties in this country and in other countries to voice the interests of the working people. We know that the working people in other countries have their Labour parties who have voted consistently against claims on the part of foreign Governments for Navies of this sort. We are going to do the same thing. We are going to act in unity with them because we believe the spending of this money to be unnecessary from our own point of view, and for our own national safety, and because we believe that this Navy expenditure and vast expenditure of this sort creates vested interests and creates that anti-social feeling amongst us which is altogether opposed to the realisation of the ideals that we have in view, and opposed to getting forward with that lightening of the load of poverty that the people of this and other countries have to bear.
§ Mr. HOHLER
The speech to which we have just listened is one of interest, and I honestly believe that Members on both sides of the House are with the hon. Member in his desire for a reduction of armaments. The only question is what is practicable? He told us that the working men of all countries were endeavouring to band together with a view to the reduction of armaments. We all rejoice to hear it, but I have watched Debates in the German Reichstag on the question 120 of armaments, and was there a single vote to raise any protest against their Bill? Was there a single vote to raise any protest against their increased armaments? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I think not. I looked carefully, and I certainly did not see it. Meanwhile let us have regard to what the hon. Member said as to the origin of this growth in German armaments. Does he really attribute it to the peaceful review on the Jubilee of the late Queen. What should there be that should induce that ship building in other countries, and why in one nation alone? Do not let us be blind to the fact that our conditions are wholly different from those of Germany. She is a great Continental Power, and if in this Debate those who are opposed to what we believe is reasonable and necessary expenditure could have added this fact, that England was a great Continental Power, then I agree that this expenditure would be extravagant and unnecessary. In Germany that is the position, and in this Debate, no matter from which side we speak or from what point of view we approach the subject, we all end by ultimately comparing the ratio of expenditure between Germany and this country. That is what we really have in our minds, whatever we choose to say, and in my judgment this expenditure is reasonably necessary for the preservation of this country as a great maritime country. I have yet to learn that our Navy has ever been a menace or has ever induced war. On the contrary, it has always hid the effect of inducing peace, as the last fifty years and upwards witness.
After so much has been said as to the adequacy of the programme and as to its excessiveness I do not propose to add anything, because the Debate does not wholly obliterate from my mind a Debate I first heard in this House a year ago. Much of the argument we then had we have had again this year, and I really think I may truly say that, subject to the question of the price of Consols and Trustee Investments, the subject has been fairly well exhausted. I wish to say a word or two on the condition of the men of our Navy, and particularly their condition in age. I endeavoured last year to raise the question of the Greenwich Age Pension. Undoubtedly that fund, consolidated and dealt with under the Act of 1865, was intended, and can only be dealt with generally for the benefit of the whole Service. That was unquestionably the view first taken, and age pensions were granted at 121 fifty-five and at seventy in the first instance, subsequently reduced to sixty-five, to the men of His Majesty's Navy. Things went well, but there was one great mistake in my judgment from my knowledge of the men who are wanting the pension—men upwards of sixty—and it is a matter that really calls for reform. The mistake was that the pensions at fifty-five were 5d. a day, and at seventy-five they were 9d. I have looked at some figures, and I find that in 1885–6 there were 3,000 odd who were in receipt of 9d. a day and 4,000 odd in receipt of 5d.
See how the position is changed to-day. There are now in receipt of 9d. 5,800 odd, and in receipt of 5d. 2,800 odd. If this matter is not dealt with the fund will be, in fact, absorbed by persons who receive 9d. a day, practically to the exclusion of those who are entitled to the receipt of 5d. I want to urge upon the Admiralty the consideration as to whether it would not be proper to reconsider whether this fund should not be distributed on the basis of 6d. to everyone from the age of fifty-five instead of giving the increase of 9d. at 75. One great blot upon this fund has been the creation of the Seaman Pensioner Reserve in the year 1870. I believe the Order in Council granting, as it did, an age pension of 5d. to seaman pensioners at fifty was nothing more nor less than a misapplication of the fund. If the country wanted seamen for a pensioner reserve the country ought to have paid for them. It had no right whatsoever to cast the burden of providing for the reserve that the nation required upon a charitable fund to which the whole Navy were entitled equally as they attained the age of fifty-five. The result of that was that the men got it at fifty who joined the Seaman Pension Reserve—a privileged class. It is quite true that in the year 1892 that abuse was recognised, and it was so far remedied that in that year the pension from the age of fifty to fifty-five was made a charge upon the Naval Fund, but the vice is still continued that at fifty-five these men of the Seaman Pensioner Reserve go automatically upon the Greenwich Hospital Fund.
§ Mr. HOHLER
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty says "No, no." He may correct me if I am wrong. I have only got the Admiralty regulations to guide me, and I ask why have not the Admiralty Regulations been altered if, in 122 fact, I am wrong in telling the Committee that that is what the Regulations say? They automatically retire and come on the fund at fifty-five. There is the injustice. I could give an infinity of cases of men at sixty to sixty-four who are not yet in receipt of a halfpenny, while those men who are on the Seamen Pensioner Fund, a privileged class, get on the fund at fifty-five. The Admiralty some years ago endeavoured to help these men. Many of them are entitled to these pensions equally with those who receive them, but they die without getting them. Many of them are at an age when they ought to be receiving ninepence, but they are not even receiving fivepence. The Admiralty did assist in this matter, and there was a Vote for the sum of £16,000 provided out of Admiralty funds to give pensions of fivepence per day, to which they were entitled, to men who had joined the Navy prior to 1878. I know an infinite number of men who joined the Navy prior to 1878 who have not got a halfpenny yet. I wish to point out further that if you look into the numbers who are in receipt of fivepence a day, you will find that there are 2,980. I ask the Committee to observe that of these 1,850 are members of the Seamen Pensioner Reserve, and get £14,000, only allowing a balance of £2,000 to go to the other men. My point is that these seamen pensioners ought to come off the fund, having got in automatically at fifty-five to the exclusion of the rest of the men. If my information is correct, the men of the Navy who are on that fund number 1,100. That is the general body, if you exclude the seamen pensioners numbering 1,850, and the balance of 2,980. What do I find? I know that not only in the dockyard towns, but elsewhere throughout the country, there are infinite cases of men of most excellent character who would only be too glad to get fivepence, but they cannot get a farthing. It is a matter that requires to be looked into.
I ask the sympathetic consideration of the Admiralty to another point. I ask whether the time has not come to review the circumstances and conditions under which the fund was founded. It would be infinitely preferable to give sixpence to everybody at fifty-five than fivepence and ninepence under the present system, because so many will die without getting a single halfpenny. We have now old age pensions.
§ Mr. HOHLER
The point I have made about these pensioners is one which I am satisfied requires most careful consideration. There are two or three other points to which I wish to draw attention. They relate to the conditions of service in the Navy, and are very important. I want to refer to the position of engine room artificers who rise to be chief artificers, and to ask the Admiralty to consider whether they are acting—I will not say unfairly—but whether they are acting with that due consideration to the promotion of the men which in justice should be given to them. Under Order in Council the Admiralty are empowered to appoint 170 chief artificers. In point of fact there are only eighty-three, and the result is that among artificers there is a deadlock in promotion. Some of these men have no hope, unless promotion is accelerated, that they will get promotion to the position of chief artificer under eighteen years. I want to know why the Admiralty, having taken the power under an Order in Council to create a greater number, have not done so. They are a most important and loyal body of men in the Navy. They entered the Navy as skilled men, and they say, "If we had not entered the Navy, but had pursued our trade in civil employment, we should have been in an infinitely better position than we are in now." I do not think that is right. I think it is a feeling that should be destroyed at the earliest moment in the Navy. The Admiralty have the power, and I ask if they will exercise it. Another point about the engine-room artificers is in regard to the promotion of those who pass their examinations for the rank of chief engine room artificer. I ask that their promotion in the future should depend upon that. I have been told that would lead to endless complaints. I cannot understand it. Why should not a man who is ambitious, anxious, and intelligent, if he passes his examination, not have the benefit of it? Why should one who has neglected his opportunities to the last moment and allowed two or three years to elapse before passing his examination come at a later date and step over the man who has passed his examination earlier? I venture to suggest that the true principle in all these matters is public education, and that promotions should depend on those who educate themselves, showing their intelligence and passing 124 examinations, and not go by mere seniority of persons who have neglected opportunities which were open equally to all.
I wish to refer to another point on three other ratings in the Navy—the boatswains, the gunners, and the carpenters. In regard to the carpenters the position is quite indefensible. They are highly skilled shipwrights. They have passed an examination as arduous and as difficult as the engine room artificer, and undoubtedly, if they had pursued their career in the various dockyards, they would have considerably higher wages than they have, and they might be earning as chargemen, I am informed, as much as £200 or £300 a year. In the Navy these are the worst paid ranks, I may say, of the whole of these artisan classes: I call them artisan ratings for the sake of comparison. They get inferior treatment to the artificer, and they so remain to the end of their career. That is a great injustice, and they have a strong case for revision. The rate of payment fixed thirty-four years ago was never altered to meet the existing conditions of to-day, and this should be at once remedied. The senior Member for Ports mouth (Lord Charles Beresford) is in entire sympathy with me in this matter, and so I believe are commanders, officers, and everybody who knows anything about them or is connected with them. They are men whose services are priceless. They are constantly commended for the work they have done, and I ask the favourable consideration of the Board of Admiralty for the case of these carpenters who really are shipwrights. Those three ratings have the greatest disadvantage of any rating in the Navy. Only 8 per cent. of those three ratings can obtain the rank of chief war rant officer. I ask that that percentage may be increased. It is considerably lower than that of any other branch in the Navy, and the time has come when something should be done for them. Further, their numbers should be in creased and promotion made to go with ranks at stated ages, which is a matter greatly to be desired, and for which the men are particularly anxious. Those are my chief points so far as the Navy is affected, but in my Constituency I have to deal with infinite grievances in regard to both the Navy and also the dockyard men. One matter which arises on Vote 15, is——
§ Mr. HOHLER
It is in regard to a scheme for workmen's compensation that has been framed by the Admiralty, and if it cannot be discussed now——
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has informed me that it arises on Vote 15; it is a rule of the House that if a matter arises on a specific Vote, the discussion on it ought to wait until that Vote is reached.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I bow to your ruling, but if I may state the point you will appreciate exactly what I wish to say. The point arises in regard to a scheme which has been formulated by the Admiralty If it arises on that Vote I will not say a word upon it now.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am taking the hon. Member's own statement that it arises on Vote 15. I have not looked at Vote 15 myself to see.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I think it does arise on that Vote. I quite accept your ruling; I only wish to thank the Committee for the very courteous hearing they have given me. I know that the matter is not so interesting to many of them as it is to me, but I can assure hon. Members on both sides of the House that if they only had to deal with the sorrowful cases of these men who have served their country and are serving their country they would fully agree with me that they deserve as much consideration as the mere question of ships or the naval men.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
On a point of Order, I wish to ask your ruling whether it has not been the custom in the past to allow rather a wider discussion, particularly on matters of policy, on this particular Vote, and if it is possible for us to do the same to-night?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member had been in the House during the last hour he would have seen that a very wide discussion has been allowed.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I am not sure that my hon. Friend who sits beside me (Mr. D. Mason) intends to press this Amendment to a division. If he does I will vote against it. I do not think he has given the Committee any good reasons for his Amendment. He began his speech by saying, what is a commonplace on our discussions 126 on the Navy, that he desires the security of the nation. I remember very well a statement to that effect, prefaced the speech of the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. J. M. Macdonald) in a recent discussion. I remember that the seconder (Mr. Ponsonby) of his resolution so far forgot the lead that was given him by the mover that he proceeded to say he thought it was our duty to reduce the Navy and let other nations do whatever they please. I am not quite sure that that particular point of view presented itself as carrying out the idea of security for the nation. So also with my hon. Friend who sits beside me: I could not detect in anything that followed his observations with regard to security any good grounds that he showed us for supposing that if we reduced the present Navy Estimates we should secure the thing which he so much desires. It was the same with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for one of the Islington Divisions (Mr. Lough). He also expressed the idea that we ought to be secure with regard to the command of the seas, but he failed to meet the whole point before the Committee.
Here are certain Estimates proposed by His Majesty's Government. In what respect can those proposals be modified while securing the safety of the British Empire? That is the whole point; and I do submit to the Committee with all deference that no one on this side or in this House—at least so far as I have followed the speeches—who has spoken against the Estimates, has given a very specific cause to show in what particular those Estimates could be modified, while securing the safety of the nation. I have looked out most anxiously for evidence on that point, and unfortunately have failed to gather that evidence. My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington began by charging against the First Lord of the Admiralty that he had added £13,000,000 in a few years to the Naval Estimates of this country. I am afraid that that is rather an exaggerated view of the figures. So far as I can read the figures in 1907–8, the Naval Estimates amounted to £31,000,000, the actual expenditure. I am speaking of the actual expenditure apart from interest on loans which is the only proper way to regard it for the purposes of comparison.
In 1911, the financial year on which we are not yet entered, the estimated naval expenditure, calculated on the same basis, is £43,000,000. Very likely that figure may not be reached, but if it should be reached, 127 that will be an increase of £12,000,000 on the amount in 1907–8. But that is to compare the forthcoming year with the year in which my right hon. Friend reduced the naval expenditure of this country. If that year is to be used as a basis of comparison, then surely my hon. Friend who makes the comparison, ought also to give credit to the Government for having reduced the naval expenditure to £31,000,000. It is not very long ago that we looked forward to a reduction of naval expenditure in this House. The Liberal party entered this House in 1906 with the determination to reduce the expenditure. The point is, did they reduce it? Did they keep their promise? The answer to the question is plain, from this fact, that, if we compare the estimated expenditure of the coming financial year with the expenditure of 1905–6, which is the last financial year in which the Estimates were prepared by hon. Gentlemen opposite, we find a rise not of £13,000,000, of which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lough) spoke, but of between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000. Surely that is significant, not so much of the financial extravagance of His Majesty's Government as it is significant of the fact that they kept their promise, that they did actually reduce the naval expenditure of this country, and that they did their very best to keep their pledges made when they were out of office.
My right hon. Friend proceeded to accentuate this fact by referring to a motion moved by my Friend Mr. Henry Vivian, unfortunately no longer a Member of this House. That motion was submitted on the 9th May, 1906, and at that time the naval expenditure of this country was £36,000,000. Within two years the Government reduced that £36,000,000 to £31,000,000. In other words, they not only accepted Mr. Vivian's motion, but they carried it into effect by reducing the £36,000,000 to the figure of £31,000,000. What has happened, asked my right hon. Friend. One thing that happened was that the Government no longer enjoyed the value of the counsels of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lough) who spoke this afternoon. If he will forgive me, a more important thing that happened was this: That the Liberal party, in pursuance of its pledge, cut down the Cawdor programme from four capital ships to three, and again from three capital ships to two. That is a point on which my right hon. Friend asked a question which, curiously enough, he found himself unable to 128 answer. As a matter of fact, the Motion of Mr. Vivian was moved in May, 1906, and the German Fleet Law was amended in June, 1906, one month after that Motion was submitted and carried unanimously in this House. Within one month after the Front Ministerial Bench accepted Mr. Vivian's Motion, and, after the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition counselled his party not to vote against that Motion, the German Government carried the amendment of the German Fleet Law, and they carried it on such a basis as to add to the German Fleet six "Dreadnoughts" in six years. Yet my hon. Friend, faced with these facts at one and the same time, speaks of our having given "provocation "—provocation is the word used—to the German Government. I need not reiterate what I have already brought out sufficiently in this House and this Committee with regard to the further acceleration of the German Fleet Law in 1908. An answer was given on this subject to-day by my right hon. Friend, and the matter was commented upon by the Noble and Gallant Member opposite. The effect was this: that it accelerated—and I use the word with deliberation—the German Fleet Law, and added in the four years to 1908, in effect, the building of one additional "Dreadnought" in each of those four years, thus raising the production under the German Law first from two to three, and then from three to four "Dreadnoughts" per annum. So it followed that in the year in which the Liberal Government reduced the "Dreadnoughts" laid down from four to two the German Government increased its provision of "Dreadnoughts" from two to four.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
If my hon. Friend can show me that a shell made with borrowed money is less effective than one made with money voted on the Estimates, then I will vote for his Amendment. What does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) propose? The German Government will be laying down four "Dreadnoughts" in the new financial year. The proposal of His Majesty's Government is to lay down five "Dreadnoughts." and the measure of the extravagance of His Majesty's Government may be found in the ratio of five to four. My hon. Friend beside me spoke about finance. May I direct his attention to this point? If you cut down the provision of the new programme of five "Dread- 129 noughts" to four, you would scarcely affect the new Estimates. The Estimates will not go down, although you bring the programme down. I am speaking about the present Estimate. The point is raised that the present Estimates, as Estimates, are extravagant. The present Estimates, whatever they are, are not the result of what we are doing now; they are the result of what this House of Commons has done in the past. So that my hon. Friend is seeking to condemn on this occasion the House of Commons of last year and the year before for voting certain programmes. I will carry that a little further. Let us suppose they take up this position, that the provision of thirty "Dreadnoughts" in this country, as compared with twenty-one "Dreadnoughts" in Germany, in the spring of 1914 is an excessive allowance. I confess I fail to see it myself; I fail to see how the provision of thirty "Dreadnoughts" in the spring of 1914 is an excessive allowance, in view of the fact that Germany intends to provide, and has securely provided, twenty-one "Dreadnoughts" by that date. I do not agree in any way with hon. Gentlemen opposite that we ought to take the Triple Alliance into account in that connection. I prefer to confine my argument to the comparison of one nation with one other nation. Let us make that comparison alone, and with that comparison sufficiently striking we can afford to leave out the question of other countries. Merely taking the ratio of thirty to twenty-one, I make the claim without going further that that is not an excessive provision. I think I am entitled, if my hon. Friend is going to carry this Amendment to a division, to repeat to him the question which was addressed to him by my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, and that is, if he does not agree with thirty to twenty-one, with what does he agree?
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
Adequate, but what is adequate? Is twenty-nine, is twenty-eight? Are we to lay down five or four and a half, or four, or what number are we to lay down? That is the question that has not been precisely answered. I can only suggest to him, if he is going to vote against the Government that he should confide to the Committee exactly what is adequate provision to those twenty-one which the Germans will have in the spring of 1914. May I point out further on the financial point, that if the present Estimates were reduced it would not be merely 130 a matter of cutting down the programme of the new financial year, but it would be a matter of cutting down the programme of old financial years. So that we are not merely asked to cut down the provision of thirty as compared with twenty-one, but to cut down the provision of twenty-five as compared with twenty-one. The only method by which we could secure a substantial reduction of the Estimates of the new financial year would be to stop the building of the ships which are now on the stocks. That is to say, we should resign the supremacy of twenty-five over twenty-one, which would be secured by carrying out the resolutions which were come to by the House of Commons last year and the year before. I may claim for myself that I not only desire that we should have great social reforms, but that I have devoted the best part of my life and the best part of my work and thought to secure social reforms for this country.
I set myself, I do not say with what success, most earnestly and most seriously to study those questions in order to bring about social reforms. And I can claim also that I would not consent to these Estimates if I thought for a single moment that they brought to a standstill social reforms in the United Kingdom. Need we have any fear on those grounds? Let me submit one or two considerations. It is generally admitted, and if not by hon. Gentlemen opposite, it is at least by hon. Gentlemen around me and below me, that this country has a higher range of wages and of salaries and of profits than the German Empire. That is well known to every man who has studied the subject. What does that mean? It means that we have got a higher taxable capacity than the people of the German Empire. What do the Germans do? The German people are not only providing Naval Estimates of nearly £23,000,000 this year, which excludes works and exclude pensions and exclude many things we put on our Estimates, and which are, therefore, not merely equal to £23,000,000, but a much larger sum. They not only provide that sum, 25 per cent. of which is loans, I agree, but they are carrying out social reforms. It was pointed out only the other day that the German Social Insurance scheme called for an expenditure of £40,000,000, and that a new social insurance scheme will call for an expenditure of £50,000,000 per annum. And I am speaking in terms of English, and not German, money. Is it not clear that if the Germans can afford to spend that much money that we can afford to do so?
131 Let me remind my hon. Friends of what the taxable capacity of this country is. The Income Tax payers of this country total about 1,100,000 up to 1,200,000. It is now pretty well established and admitted that they have an aggregate income of 600 millions per year. Yet my hon. Friend appears somewhat agitated because this country is spending about three millions and three-quarters more upon its Naval Estimates than it did last year, and some £6,000,000 more than it did eight years ago. My hon. Friend may rest content that the taxable capacity of this country is still as much to be relied on after these Estimates as before these Estimates, and it is because I am well assured of that that I am also well assured that we need not be in the least afraid that after passing these Estimates giving His Majesty's Government permission to spend this money upon this purpose, that no good object of social amelioration or social reform need suffer because of what we have done May I remind my hon. Friend if he is going to a division of some words which were recently uttered by a very distinguished Member of this Assembly. His words were:—The Liberal Government intend to have a Navy that will give us an incontestable superiority, and no sacrifice would appear too heavy for their assurance of that superiority.Those words are not the words of a Jingo. They are the words of the right hon. Gentleman, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I welcome as much as anybody in this House the utterance which was made the other night by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary with regard to a projected agreement between this country and the United States. I am glad to think that in an earlier debate this year which took place only a few days after this Parliament opened, when I had an opportunity of speaking upon the Canadian Reciprocity Agreement, that I ended up my speech by expressing the hope, which I have often expressed outside this House, that the time may come when between the congeries of States we call the British Empire we might see an agreement with the United States of America. I am one of those who look forward not only with hope but with faith and confidence to the achievement of that great ideal. I believe that in the final consummation it will be found that the English-speaking peoples will hold in their hands the peace of the world, and I would not vote for these Estimates if I thought 132 the voting of a penny of the money and of the large sums we have before us were a barrier to the achievement of that great idea. As I conceive we raise no such barrier when we pass these Estimates. All that we do is to provide for the security of our country. As my hon. Friend, like the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Murray Macdonald) the other day when he moved his Resolution, put that in the forefront of his speech, I ask him to remember it before he carries his Amendment to a division.
§ Mr. WHELER
The speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has, I think, gone far to show that one of the great reasons of the high Estimates is the indecision and the undoubted desire of what is called economy by the Government in cutting down the Cawdor programme several years ago. If they had not gone in for that economy, which the Germans had a perfect right to take advantage of, and if they had not cut down and reduced the number of armoured ships which we hoped would have been laid down year after year, I cannot help thinking that the House of Commons would not have been called on to vote this very heavy expenditure, which we all naturally deplore.
Another point which, I think, has not been touched upon to-night is that these Estimates are for the maintenance and upkeep of what we must always consider our first line of defence, and that in comparing the Estimates with those of Germany we have to remember that Germany, in providing for her navy, is not providing for what she considers her first line of defence. If her navy were practically annihilated Germany would be in a far different position from that in which we should be if our Navy were destroyed. Germany has always considered her army as her first line of defence, and when we see that, in addition to keeping up her army, she is increasing her expenditure on her navy year by year, we have to judge her from an entirely different standpoint, and to realise that she means to have two highly efficient Services as compared in our case with one Service of a supreme character, backed, as it must be, by an Army, but an Army which cannot be compared in numbers with the armies of the great Continental Powers. We have heard very little to-night about docks and dock accommodation. Comparing the Estimates of this year with those of last year we appear to be very little "forrader" in that respect. The 133 work at Rosyth is progressing very slowly indeed, and the floating dock at Portsmouth is retarded. I hope, however, that the floating dock in the Medway, in which I am naturally more interested, will not be retarded in any way, but that it will be completed, as the First Lord has stated, before the end of the year. Even when that is done our position as regards dock accommodation for "Dreadnoughts" will be most unsatisfactory. From Glasgow down the North Sea to the Medway, according to answers given across the floor of the House, we have only one dock suitable for a "Dreadnought"—that is the Stephenson Dock on the Tyne, and by the end of the year there will be only two. I understand that for purposes of calculation the dock on the Medway is taken into consideration when speaking of docks and dock accommodation on the North Sea.
In making comparisons with other nations I do not wish to make them in any unfriendly way, but when we hear that the great German Empire have at present eight docks suitable for ships of the "Dreadnought" type, and when we remember, as we must, that the North Sea might be the scene of naval warfare, one cannot help thinking that if we have only two such docks the position is not at all satisfactory. It has been argued that if one of our ships suffered severely it would be possible to take her round to Portsmouth and remove her from the zone of war. On the other hand, it must be admitted, seeing that we want docks suitable for "Dreadnoughts," that we should have those docks somewhere on the North Sea in order to be ready in time of need. On the question of floating docks I understood the First Lord to say that possibly one might be removed to Rosyth. Does that mean that either the Medway or the Portsmouth dock will be replaced by another dock, or that one of those docks will be taken to Rosyth? That seems rather a cutting down of the programme, and I cannot help thinking that this portion of the programme has suffered from the pressure which has been brought to bear on the right hon. Gentleman from the benches behind him. On the question of economy, I understand that these floating docks are very much cheaper than the others. I am told that a floating dock can be built, with moorings complete, for about £300,000. If they are so much cheaper, why are we not going to have more floating docks in preference to spending enormous sums of money on stationary docks and stationary works as at Rosyth?
§ Mr. WHELER
I was under the impression that floating docks, with the necessary appliances, could be produced at a far lower price than a stationary dock, and that in addition to paying less money for them they could, if necessity arose, or if the danger zone were transferred from one side of the United Kingdom to another, be removed to where they were most needed. In any case, we are having two floating docks, and I would ask why if they are found to be satisfactory the experiment should not be carried further and floating docks constructed in other parts of the United Kingdom? I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having carried out a most successful scheme of dredging at the entrance to the Medway below Sheerness. Those who are interested in that district, as I am, and I think every naval man, must be gratified that that dredging has been carried out successfully, a channel of twenty-six feet having been thoroughly cleared into the harbour at Sheerness. If that dredging remains of a permanent character, as I understand it probably will, I would suggest that it should be carried further up the river in order to make it easier for big battleships to go up and down from Chatham. The right hon. Gentleman informed me last year that Gras-pan Reach, or the place where the dock is, is within two miles of Sheerness. That means that it must be six miles from Chatham. If the right hon. Gentleman decides to work that dock from Chatham as against Sheerness he will undoubtedly have considerable additional cost to pay, from the fact that he will have to convey the men backwards and forwards, six miles instead of two. I am told that one way or another the additional cost will amount to £15,000 a year. I have also been told that in order to make the dockyard efficient for the purpose of working that dock an estimate of not much more than £7,000 for machinery would make it efficient for any purposes that might be necessary. In conclusion, may I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman especially on the opening of the establishment in the dockyard. I can only say that I hope he will be able to increase the work still further in order to keep what we want to see kept in the dockyard, the best class of artisans.
§ Mr. STEPHEN COLLINS
Whilst I came to this House a supporter of the present Government five years ago, I also came here pledged up to the hilt to economy both in naval and military expenditure. For that reason I went into the "No" lobby last Thursday with a small party. I am very sorry to have gone against the Government, and also very sorry to go against my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, whose career, if I may say so, I myself have watched with great interest and pleasure. But I represent a constituency which is to a very large extent a working-class constituency. And I make bold to say—we will leave out of account for the moment the dockyard constituencies—that the far greater number of the working-classes of this country, and of the working-class constituencies would go in for economy in our Naval and Army expenditure. We have evidence of that in the support which the Labour party has given to economy throughout this Debate. I believe the large mass of the people—as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) said just now in that moderate, well-reasoned, and eloquent speech which he gave us—that the working-classes, not only of this country, but of all other countries, are getting tired of these bloated armaments. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee), in his speech on Thursday, seemed to have rather dark forebodings for the future. He referred to the three Power standard, and the possibility—I will not say he said the probability—of Italy taking up arms against England. To me the very mention of Italy in this connection is unthinkable! To think that Italy, which owes so much to this country, would ever take up arms against England is a thing not to be thought of! I do not believe she ever would do so; no matter what the circumstances, or the stress she may be in. I think, therefore, we may altogether dismiss that thought from our minds. Again the hon. Gentleman said that we must have a costly Navy. But costly things are not always the best things, nor do they always produce the best things. Take a simple instance: look at our friends from Scotland. What makes the Scot both physically and intellectually the strong man that he is? Not costly and elaborately prepared dishes. [An HON MEMBER: "Porridge."] Quite true, simple porridge! I leave hon. Members to draw the inference: I will myself carry the illustration no further. I and 136 many hon. Members rejoiced last Thursday to hear those noble closing words in the speech of the Foreign Secretary. I was very glad to hear that such expressions of goodwill were given towards that speech by both sides of the House. I rejoiced to hear the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I very much regret that there was only one jarring note, so far as I know. I am sorry to say that that came from Ireland. I wish the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) was here. He said that those sentiments of the Foreign Secretary were all very fine: they were just poetry and sentiment. Well, the world, and even the House of Commons, is ruled to a very large extent by sentiment, and I think the Foreign Secretary is the last man to just dwell upon, or give forth utterance of sentiment only. There was a great deal more than sentiment in that speech. I would appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman if he were here to remember that in that great cause which he has at heart, and which I also have at heart, the pacification of Ireland, there is very much sentiment indulged in. I have indulged in a little of it myself, and I hope to indulge in a little more of it before that happy time comes for the fulfilment of Ireland's desires, which I hope will be shortly.
§ Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR
May I interrupt the hon. Member for a moment. I heard my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo make that speech. I do not think his motive was the one which is now attributed to him by the hon. Member. What he meant to say was that the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs were throwing dust in the eyes of the people behind him in order to get this expensive Vote which my hon. and learned Friend was against as much as the hon. Member who is now speaking.
§ Mr. STEPHEN COLLINS
I should be the first to rejoice if that is so, but I do not believe that the Foreign Secretary was throwing dust in our eyes at all. I think he was making a straightforward, eloquent appeal. It has gone the world over, and will have a far-reaching result which all of us on both sides of the House will equally rejoice in. I am very glad also for the change which has come over even the House of Commons in the last few years in relation to war. I was very glad to hear last Thursday, and also to-day, the speeches of the Noble Lord the Member 137 for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) when he said that war was not only horrible but wicked. I was also pleased to hear him appeal to the English-speaking nations to join in a League of Peace. I think that was a great move forward. May I, with all respect, ask the Noble Lord to go one step further. I should like to see him go on a mission of peace to Germany. The Noble Lord has had a great and distinguished career. If he will go on a peace mission to Germany I will go into the "Aye" Lobby to urge the Government to vote him a "Dreadnought" to go in, so that he may use his persuasive word in the cause we have at heart. Great and distinguished as the Noble Lord's career has been in the past, he would, if successful, bring upon himself a glory which would far exceed any of the work that he has done in his long career as one of our greatest seamen. I hope he will think over that.
A great deal has been said about Germany to-day. I am very glad to know that there is a different spirit on the other side of the House about Germany. I have not heard so many of those searching and leading questions lately about German ships, implying that Germany is our enemy. The Members of the Opposition even are cultivating a more friendly spirit towards Germany. I hail that with delight and with profound gratitude. I trust that the day is fast coming when we shall look differently upon Germany. After all, Germans are our blood relations. We have a great trade with them, and it would be a bad disaster for us ever to go to war with them. What did the ex-Chancellor, Count von Buelow, himself say, in manly words, upon this subject. He said:—We do not dream of conjuring up a war with England. Such a war would be the greatest piece of good fortune to the trade rivals of both countries; such a war would destroy German trade and seriously damage British trade. I cannot conceive the idea of an Anglo-German War should be seriously entertained by sensible people in either country.I hope we shall all remember that. Let hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides remember these words of the late Jeremy Bentham:—Whatsoever nation should get the start of the other in making proposals to reduce and fix the amount of its armed forces would crown itself with everlasting glory.I ask that England may make the first start and commencement in that respect. The First Lord of the Admiralty last Thursday said that we had reached the high-water mark. I hope we shall remember 138 that, and we, at any rate on this side of the House, will remember it. But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that when the tide has reached the high-water mark it cannot stay there. Someone long ago tried in our own country to keep out the tide. Canute, we are told, tried to stop the tide. It cannot be done, and if we have reached high-water mark in respect of naval expenditure there must be a receding of the tide, and it is to that that many of us on this side of the House look forward. Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman not to misunderstand the comparatively small numbers that went into the Division Lobby upon this side of the House against his proposals the other day. I voted against the Government in respect of one matter, and I voted against them with regret, because I have been always a loyal supporter of the Government, and a good many others would have voted against the Government if they voted according to their true convictions; and I warn the Government, now that they have reached the high-water mark in naval expenditure, if they do not help it to recede it will be a difficult matter for them in the future. I ask the Government to take to heart the eloquent speech, and especially the latter part of it, of the Canadian Prime Minister the other day when speaking about Canada holding her own as a nation. I ask the Committee to listen to this part of it.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is travelling a little wide. I would ask him not to travel so wide of the question under discussion.
§ Mr. S. COLLINS
Then I shall keep this quotation for another time. Whether I shall go into the Lobby with the Mover of this Amendment I am not quite certain, and I will give my reasons. If the hon. Member had moved an Amendment for a "Dreadnought" less I would have voted with him, but his Amendment is to reduce the number of men by a thousand, and I do not think that is wise. We have the men, and I suppose with the ships we are going to build we shall want more men, so I really cannot see the wisdom of reducing our present number a thousand, hut on the whole I am against this extravagant expenditure. I was pledged up to the hilt in 1906 to vote for economy in our Navy, and when all the signs of the times are pointing to the dispersal of the war clouds, I greatly regret the Government should have seen fit to ask their loyal supporters to vote for another increase.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LEE
I do not rise for the purpose of making a speech. I understand the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty wishes to reply upon the whole Debate, and I wish rather to concentrate his attention, if I may, upon those points which we brought before the House in the course of the Debates, and to express the hope that he will reply to them. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was kind enough to refer to me rather pointedly, and suggested that I had set up a new three-Power standard for this country. I cannot plead guilty to the charge. I have been in this matter a humble searcher after truth. I want to know, like a good many other people of this country, what is the standard that has been accepted by the Government to-day, to which they are to build, otherwise it is impossible for us lay Members of Parliament to understand from their Estimates whether the Admiralty is or is not doing its duty. We were told at question time to-day by the Prime Minister that he had clearly laid down the two-Power standard in May, 1908. For reasons we all understand and regret, he was absent last week, probably does not know that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has in his absence laid down an entirely new standard, a new variation of the two-Power standard which we never heard before, a standard which he said was to reply to any two Powers in European waters. That is the first time we have had that definition. It was on account of that that I was perhaps indiscreet enough to-day to ask the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that the Cabinet apparently are not decided as to what the two-Power standard really means, that it might be withdrawn in favour of a standard the Cabinet and the country could understand.
We have had an indication of what that standard would be from the Admiralty Memorandum laid upon the Table of the House a few days ago. It clearly disclosed the fact that in the opinion of the Admiralty the standard we ought to attain is a two keel to one standard. That is the plain interpretation of the Memorandum which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to explain. I think myself he will not be able to disprove it, but he should reply upon it and state to us what is the standard at the present time to which the Admiralty is building. The hon. Member who has just sat down accused me of laying down a new standard 140 of which I am quite guiltless, namely, a three-Power standard. I may remind him that I pointed out in the course of the previous Debate, according to the figures that we had at our disposal, that some time in the year 1914 we should very probably be faced with this—that this country will have in European waters, to adopt the Secretary of Foreign Affairs' phrase, twenty-nine capital ships of the "Dreadnought" type. It makes no difference whether in the early part or at the end of 1914, because it must be remembered that the ships which are going to be built under these Estimates will be ready presumably in March, 1914, and that no other ships can be ready in the normal course until March, 1915. Therefore, for the purposes of my argument any period of 1914 is sound. We gather from published statements that in the course of 1914 there will be in European waters belonging to Powers which compose the Triple Alliance twenty-nine ships of the "Dreadnought" class, or rather capital ships of the "Dreadnought" or "Invincible" classes. With out setting up any suggestion that we have got to fight the Triple Alliance—which has never been suggested from this side of the House—we say, taking the Prime Minister's own words in a speech made on the 2nd March, 1908, the standard which is necessary for this country is one which will give us absolute command of the sea against any reasonable possible combination of Powers. That being the case, we venture to suggest that a strength which will give us in 1914 twenty-nine capital ships of the "Dreadnought" class as contrasted with a possible twenty-nine of the Triple Alliance is not giving us a margin of superiority which we are entitled to re quire if the safety of this country is to be absolutely preserved.
Of course, a great deal depends upon the speed of building. Do we know what the speed of building is in foreign countries? A great deal has been said about the speed of ship building in Germany. We have the Prime Minister's own clear categorical statement made upon the Ship-"building Vote last year, when he told us that the speed of building of the first five German "Dreadnoughts" was two years and two months for the shortest and two years and nine months for the longest. I know it is possible to make the period anything from two years ten months to ten years if you like to occupy the time in trials. The only question with me is reckoning the capability of a Power for the purposes of warfare is when the ships are 141 completed and ready for the purposes of war. The Prime Minister has told us that the German "Dreadnoughts" took two years two months and two years nine months, and this statement has been corroborated by the hon. Member for East Northampton (Mr. Chiozza Money), whose articles, coming from an unexpected source, have given a great deal of satisfaction to those who believe in sanity in considering these naval matters. He told us that the "Nassau" took two years and three months, and the "Von der Tann" took two years and three months. That being so, I do not think it is safe for us to reckon that the speed of building on the Continent of Europe will make it impossible for these twenty-nine ships of the Triple Alliance to be ready by 1914. My first contention is that our strength, so far from being excessive, as was suggested by the hon. Gentlemen opposite, leaves no margin whatever, not even the barest minimum, to preserve our absolute and unassailable supremacy of the seas in 1914.
With regard to cruisers the Civil Lord who spoke on this subject shortly before the dinner hour told us that, in the opinion of the Admiralty, the provision of cruisers was entirely adequate. That view has been disputed by my Noble Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford), and by my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. Eyres-Monsell), who made such an interesting speech to-day, and they both pointed out quite clearly that although we might have enough cruisers for battle purposes and be able to maintain our supremacy in home waters and prevent invasion, that did not meet the case. The main case was the protection of the trade routes, and that is a matter entirely outside the protection of this country from invasion, although those two things appear to have been confused in the Admiralty Memorandum. The case which was made, and which has not been met is that on the trade route our merchant ships are exposed to exceptional risks from the attacks of armed merchantmen. We ask what provision is the Admiralty making to deal with that new form of attack, which for the first time has been made clear to us as inevitable as the result of discussion centred round the Declaration of London. That we have not been told. We say that in addition to our battle fleet to preserve our supremacy in home waters, we want to know what cruisers are available to act, so to speak, as policemen on the beat of our great trade routes along which our food supplies are 142 brought to this country. The Civil Lord told us that this danger had been suggested, but he said that there is not a tittle of evidence to show that any foreign merchants' ships are fitted up for this purpose. But is there a tittle of evidence to show that they are not capable of being used for that purpose? We know that it is the intention of the Powers to refuse to abandon the right to use their merchant ships for that purpose, and we have to provide against that possbility. The only reply given to that argument was that we are in a much better position because we have a great many more merchant ships.
This country has stood out against this practice of privateering, and we consider that it would be in the best interests of the civilised world if that custom were abandoned, even though, according to the hon. Gentleman, it might confer a certain advantage upon us. I am not considering whether it would be an advantage to us or not. We should like to have it abandoned, but other Powers refuse to accept our view. As it is not to be abandoned, and the danger exists, I think we are entitled to ask what provision the Admiralty is making to deal with that danger; what provision of cruisers they are making, and how they can contend that the very exiguous programme of cruisers they are proposing this year is sufficient to meet that danger. With regard to works, the Civil Lord had something to say about the Department over which he presides. He assured us there had been no negligence with regard to the works portion of the Estimates. That does not meet the point we have endeavoured to make with regard to these works. We see from the Estimates that, in addition to the provision for this year for Rosyth, there is outstanding £2,689,000 to be spent upon that dockyard under the present scheme. The First Lord told us the other day that the contractor had assured him that he would clear out of the works by September, 1914. The First Lord thought that was a little optimistic, and suggested he would be out by September, 1915. If the contractor, who probably knows as much about it as anybody else, is correct, then by September, 1914, those works will be practically completed. Some time in the year 1914–15 the whole sum due for these works will have to be paid. That means that in the next three years the Admiralty, if the contractor is justified, will have to find the huge sum of £2,689,000 out of Estimates on account of this one work alone.
§ Mr. GEORGE LAMBERT
No. The main contract the contractor has in hand at the present time is £2,250,000, and the other works, of which the hon. Gentleman is speaking which are comprised in the total works, are for buildings and other Departmental works, which will have to be executed after the main contract is performed.
§ Mr. LEE
Of course, I accept that: The main contract is for £2,225,000, instead of £2,689,000. I am taking it from the Estimates. I have no other knowledge. "Naval Depot, Rosyth, total estimate, £3,365,000. Probable expenditure to 31st March, £350,000. Further amount required for building of works, £2,689,000." I divide that for the three years, and I find the Admiralty will have to find an average of £700,000 a year for the next three years upon that one work alone. Then there is the Portsmouth Dock, £570,000 outstanding. That, I understand, is to be completed in two years. That is £285,000 more per annum for that work, making a total, as I reckon it, of nearly a million, if not quite, per annum during the next two years to be found for those two works alone on the Works Vote. The right hon. Gentleman, when he finds himself in a rather difficult place, holds out hope to his hon. Friends below the Gangway of great reductions in the coming years. Yet there is to be a million or thereabouts added on the item of works, in addition to the shipbuilding programme. The hon. Member for Kennington reminded us of Canute. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find himself in a very similar position; and I hope he will have equally good sense when the next year comes and be able to point out to his followers that it is quite hopeless to keep back the waves by any influence which he can exercise if he is going to preserve our national safety.
There is only one other point on which I wish to touch, and that is with regard to personnel. The right hon. Gentleman has told us there is to be an increase of the personnel of the Fleet this year, and we rejoice to see it. I think he might well go further. It is proposed, I understand, very shortly to strengthen the Third Division of the Home Fleet by drafting into it ships of the "King Edward" class which immediately preceded the "Dreadnought," and yet with the present strength of our personnel it will be necessary to keep those at half crews. I do not think that is a satisfactory position for a squadron of that importance 144 in our Home Defence, and it points in my view to an even further increase in the personnel in years to come. We have heard no explanation from the Admiralty with regard to the reduction of one branch of the personnel, the Royal Marines. I spoke about that the other night; and it has been referred to by other hon. Members. I can assure the First Lord it is a question very deeply felt by many people who have no political connections whatever with the Royal Marines, but who have seen them at work, and realise that the Royal Marines are a corps which have no equivalent in any other branch of His Majesty's Service. They are equally valuable on sea or land. As I said the other night, they are drawn from a strata of the population which otherwise is hardly tapped for recruiting purposes. They have been steadily reduced under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, but never yet have we been vouchsafed any statement why they have been reduced. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the policy of the Admiralty? I hope he will take advantage of to-night to do so.
I will only say this in conclusion. We have addressed to the right hon. Gentleman a certain number of questions which I hope he will answer very fully. I hope he will once more harden his heart—I will not say to the blandishments but to the arguments and to the unjustifiable attacks which have been made upon him from below the Gangway on the other side of the House. What is the general substance of the complaints of these hon. Gentlemen. We have had speeches from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough), and from the hon. Member for Mid-Derby (Mr. Hancock), and Coventry (Mr. D. Mason), and the burden of their arguments was that whatever may be necessary in certain contingencies there is no necessity for spending this money now; that the wiser course is to wait and not to spend money in times of peace preparing for war, but to wait until some great emergency arises and then we shall have the Treasury full to overflowing. It seems to me these Gentlemen forget that it takes at least two years to build a battleship, and if they wait until war has broken out then they will not have need to waste money at all in building ships.
The hon. Member for Coventry gave a financial statement of great interest, and he told us the real trouble was that the strength of our Navy was out of proportion to the strength of our finance; that 145 we ought to consider our financial position and then build as much of a Navy as we can afford. That seems to me the most foolish argument that can be put forward. Either you have to have national security or you have not? If you have national security you must pay for it; whatever it costs and whether that takes up a larger proportion of our national income than the hon. Gentleman opposite, for example, thinks it prudent to expend upon his cigar bill. It is not a question of a proper proportion of our national income which we can afford for the purpose. You must afford it to your last penny, as it is a question of national safety. Our Navy must either secure for us our unassailable supremacy on the sea, and in that way our security in these islands, or else it is absolutely worthless, and any money expended on it at all is expenditure which is both useless and inexcusable.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I do not pretend to wind up this Debate now with what I am going to say, as I understand the Eleven o'clock Rule is suspended. I only propose to reply to such questions as have been addressed to me so far. The hon Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) has put to me a series of questions which I will reply to at once. He asks me, in the first place what is the policy of the Admiralty in regard to the Marines? The policy of the Admiralty is to maintain the Marines. There is no intention to destroy that ancient and most valuable force. It is perfectly true that the Marines have been reduced in numbers, but the reason is extremely simple. In determining our numbers in any branch of the Service we have regard to requirements for purposes of war. It appeared, upon a thorough overhauling of the numbers of the Marines, that we had more men on the peace establishment than we should actually require in war, and we have therefore reduced our existing numbers down to a figure which is only 500 in excess of war requirements. That is the explanation, the only explanation, and the complete explanation of the reduction of the Marines, and if my memory serves me—I will not be sure on the point—the reason for that reduction was already established in the time of the Board of Admiralty when the hon. Member for Fareham was himself a Member, and we have only been carrying out the admirable policy which was then established. I do not think with that explanation and with the assurance that there is no attempt to undermine the Marines anybody can be dissatisfied with our 146 bringing down the total numbers to war requirements.
§ Mr. McKENNA
It depends upon whether we have a larger number of ships which carry Marines. We do not carry Marines on board destroyers, for instance. A very large number of the increase of men in the last two years have been absorbed by destroyers, a very large number also have been absorbed by the additional complements required for our very fast cruisers, and that does not affect the Marines. Again, submarines do not carry Marines. The consequence is that all the increases of personnel which have been required for the reasons that I have given have not been applicable to the case of that particular branch—the marine branch. Then the hon. Gentleman asked me whether it was prudent to allow the "King Edwards" to be put into the third division with half crews, and he pressed for the reason why we should not increase the number of our men in order to maintain the "King Edwards" with full complements. I must remind the Committee that the whole of our manning arrangements are based upon war requirements. On the outbreak of war the "King Edwards" and all the other ships of the Third Division would be within a few hours filled up by their full complements with active service ratings. The men are there, but they are not carried all of them on board the ships. As to three-fifths of the complement, only are they on board. It must be remembered that in time of peace we have very large numbers of men who are engaged in teaching and in being taught in barracks, and these men would be under mobilisation instantly available within a few hours to fill up the complements of our Third Division ships. Every man is earmarked for his own particular ship. It is only a question of drafting him from the barracks on board. If I were to do what the hon. Member suggests, and ask the Committee to give me so many more thousands of men in order to fill up the third division ships with full complements in time of peace, I should have more men than I should require in time of war, and I should have nowhere to put my men now in barracks 147 teaching and being taught. The only rational way to dispose of our men is to settle the number of men that we require upon mobilisation. We train our men for war, not for peace, and we require therefore such numbers as are necessary to mobilise our Fleet upon the outbreak of war. We have those numbers. In time of peace we must adjust our organisation and training so as to do the best we can with the numbers that we have. This answer is equally appropriate to the observations made by the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) with regard to various incidents that arise in time of peace. He stated that when the trials of the "Neptune" took place men had to be drafted from some of the Third Division ships in order to make up a complement for the trials. That may be true, but nevertheless on the outbreak of war the Third Division ships from which the men were drafted would have their full complements.
§ Mr. McKENNA
We are short of men, from the Noble Lord's point of view, in peace. We are not short of men for war. Every ship that we want available on mobilisation has got its full complement of men ready.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee how he is going to man those sixteen ships which are supposed to be ready for war, and are lying up in harbour with sixty men on board each?
§ Mr. McKENNA
As to the Fourth Division ships it would be undesirable to disclose in public our full manning arrangements. Does the Noble Lord suggest that I ought to disclose them?
§ Mr. McKENNA
If the Noble Lord knows it he does not require any further answer. I am dealing with it perfectly seriously. I desire to explain to the Committee as fully as it is proper for me to explain what are the arrangements for mobilisation with regard to these ships. We have allowed in our manning arrangements for a considerable proportion of Fourth Division ships to be manned with active service ratings. The number that we shall have available for active service ratings will be sufficient to enable us to mobilise immediately a considerable section of our Fourth Division ships.
§ Mr. McKENNA
It is undesirable to state the proportion. Beyond the active service ratings we have our Fleet Reserves, and we rely upon them to fill up the full complements of our ships.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am disposed to think, although there will be a considerable wastage of men in war, the wastage of material will be even greater. Whatever wastage may take place, it must not be overlooked that we have a very large Fleet Reserve. Upon mobilisation, such ships as are instantly required we shall be able to fill up immediately. Other ships we shall be able to fill up with reserves and active service ratings as they are needed. It must always be remembered that this is not a question of the ideally best. It is a question of the comparison with other navies. The Noble Lord would like as the ideal best hundreds of cruisers and still more hundreds of destroyers.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I must ask the right hon. Gentleman not to put words in my mouth. I have put down in my programme to the London Chamber of Commerce everything I wanted, and why I wanted it. There are no hundreds in it. There are thirty-six cruisers, and I think you should build twenty-seven more than you are building. You are building four to do the work of thirty-one.
§ Mr. McKENNA
As a matter of fact, we have got at the present moment cruisers not far short of 100. We have cruisers of all kinds—protected and unarmoured. We have, in addition, thirty-four armoured cruisers, the minimum speed of which is over twenty knots. There is no Fleet in the world that can get within measurable distance of our Fleet in the matter of cruisers. The whole complaint on the subject of cruisers is entirely beside the mark. We have got ample cruisers.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I do not say for any reasonably probable combination in the matter of cruisers, but I say for any possible combination.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am dealing with cruisers—armoured cruisers, protected cruisers, and unarmoured cruisers, and not including "Dreadnoughts." Upon these three classes of vessels we have an overwhelming preponderance. It is perfectly true that we require that preponderance, because for the reasons stated by hon. Gentlemen opposite we are bound to protect the trade routes. We have the means of protecting the trade routes. Whatever else may be said by hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the present state of the Navy, it cannot be alleged for a moment that we are short of cruisers.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I beg pardon. The hon. Gentleman is missing the point. The point is that it is possible and more than likely that other countries will arm their merchant ships—[HON. MEMBERS: "So can we."]—and that we have not got cruisers on the trade routes to protect these routes against these armed ships. That is the point, and the other questions are going beside the question.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I admit that other nations claim the right to arm their merchant ships at sea, but so far as that is concerned, I do not think we have anything to fear.
§ Mr. McKENNA
If we know of the commissioning of the ships. I think that is a matter we are fully competent to deal with. If other nations claim the right to commission merchant ships at sea, we do not admit that right. I am not so sure that the Noble Lord opposite has taken the full meaning of that. If we do not admit the right of other nations to commission ships at sea, we shall have to await events, if unfortunately any episode occurs, to see whether any ship was commissioned at sea. It would be undesirable at present to enlarge upon the possible consequences, but when hon. Gentlemen talk of the subject as if it were a settled matter that ships will be commissioned at sea, it must never be forgotten that we do not admit the right. If ships were commissioned at sea, the Noble Lord may be quite satisfied that we are fully equal to deal with the emergency. A ship commissioned at sea cannot stay at sea very long without coaling. The fast merchant ships that the Noble Lord speaks of cannot steam fast very 150 long, and our ships will be in time on all trade routes to prevent all very serious damage. It will be time enough to consider how to act with regard to ships commissioned at sea when the emergency arises; but so far as our arrangements are concerned, I would ask the Noble Lord to rest satisfied, if he can, that every necessary precaution will be taken in order to protect our trade routes, and to accept my assurance now that we have an adequate number of cruisers of all kinds in order to carry out that duty. Then the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lee) has spoken of Rosyth and the great burden which it would throw upon our Estimates in coming years. He has omitted from his calculations of £2,250,000, the initial large contract, the fact that we have paid, or shall have paid at the end of the coming year, I think, over £600,000 of that sum. We shall, therefore, only have to pay the balance before 1914, assuming the contract work to be completed on the date estimated by the contractor. I admit that there will be an additional charge for the present year for Rosyth. I do not admit that there will be an additional charge for the present year for Portsmouth. His statement that a million will be added to the Estimates next year leaves out of account the fact that we have already provided for the current year fully half a million for these large works. He must only reckon in the ensuing year the difference between the current Estimates and the Estimates of 1912–13.
§ Mr. LEE
I am taking from the right hon. Gentleman's own Estimates the amount expended to 31st March, 1911, £350,000, further amount to be found this-year £325,000, total £675,000; subtract that from the total of £3,365,000 and it leaves what he calls in his last column net amount required for completing work, £2,685,000.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman; has deducted the £675,000 from the total estimate for works amounting to £3,300,000. But the contract upon which we are now engaged is not a contract for £3,300,000, but for £2,250,000, and the £675,000 has already been paid in respect of the charge of £2,250,000. Beyond £2,250,000, the difference between that and the £3,300,000, will have to be met in years after the present contract is completed. That is to-say, it cannot become chargeable upon the Estimates until after 1914 at the earliest.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am sorry if that is so. They are so familiar to me that I may have overlooked the fact to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I admit that we shall in the course of next year have to meet an additional charge, a heavier charge than we have to meet in 1911–12, for loan works. I have, on the other hand, something in my favour. I hope that by 1912–13 we shall not have to spend a single penny on completing loan works. Hitherto I have not only had my own works to meet, but I have had to meet a charge in paying off final instalments of loan works. They are very valuable works, and I have nothing to say against them, only I have something to say against the method of payment for them. Floating docks will also be finished in 1911–12. So I have reasonable ground to hope that Vote 10 will not be seriously increased in 1912–13. But of this I can assure the hon. Gentleman, I foresee that, if there is no change in foreign programmes—and it is always subject to that hypothesis—and on the assumption that the German Fleet Law is not further amended, there will be a reduction of the Estimates in the year 1912–13, and anybody who studied the Estimates would be able with safety to come to the same conclusion. Then the hon. Gentleman referred to the fact, or alleged rather, that the provision of battleships and cruisers of the "Dreadnought" class is insufficient, because, he says, in 1914, some time during that year, the Triple Alliance will have twenty-nine battleships and we shall only have the same number in European waters. He has omitted several factors from the account. Assuming, which I doubt, but assuming it to be true, for the sake of argument, that the Triple Alliance will have twenty-nine of these ships some time in the course of the year 1914, I hope the hon. Gentleman will not leave out of account the great value that is obtained from unity of command instead of division of command. That is one factor in favour of the British twenty-nine against the Triple Alliance twenty-nine. The second factor in our favour would be that behind these twenty-nine ships we should have a great preponderance of strength in 1914 against the Triple Alliance. A great preponderance of strength. I dislike very much, I very much deprecate, having to enter into these comparisons; I am very much against it. We are on a footing of the most perfect friendship with all the Powers, and it cannot avoid having a minatory appearance to talk about the great superiority of this 152 class of ship or the other class of ship, and I do apologise to the House for being driven into these comparisons.
But I can assure hon. Gentlemen that upon any fair examination of the case, or any fair statement of the relative strength of the navies of the world, there is no ground for insisting, or for alleging, that we shall not be adequately safe in the year 1914. I come last of all to the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, to reduce the number of men by 1,000. The ground for the reduction which he puts forward is that we should look rather to the security of our credit, and that our shipbuilding programme is imperilling our finance. With great respect to my hon. Friend, I cannot help thinking that he has somewhat missed the point of the naval preparations. Whether navies are built upon a 4 per cent. credit basis, or a 3 per cent. or a 5 per cent., does not much matter when it comes to war. The gun will shoot just as straight, if the man behind it knows how to shoot, whether it is a gun paid for or not. But I can assure him of this, that if the man behind the gun does shoot straight and wins the battle, then credit will follow fast enough. He has illustrated his case by the example of the alleged inability on the part of Japan to raise a loan for the war. Whatever the facts may be as regards that——
§ Mr. D. MASON
My point was that Japan was anxious to come to an agreement on a war because of inability financially to continue the war.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am willing for the sake of argument only to accept the history of the case from my hon. Friend, but after all, however bad the credit of Japan may have been she had still won in the war, and Russia, whose credit apparently was superior, for she had no difficulty in raising money, had lost. So I do not think the illustration helps his argument. I must remind my hon. Friend that there was a famous King in history who was rather actuated by the principles which move my hon. Friend. Let me remind him of the fate of Ethelred the Unready. He did not believe in ships. He believed in financial resources, and when the Danes came he did not fight them, but bought them off out of his financial resources, and did so again and again. But the day came when the Danes thought it better to get hold of the financial resources for themselves. 153 I believe my hon. Friend, if he examines his history, will find that a strong Navy is a good foundation upon which to build up credit, and that if there were a general feeling abroad that our Navy was no longer the first Navy in the world, and that we were unable to carry out Imperial responsibilities, that our credit would fall very much faster than it will fall because we ask for the thousand men to which my hon. Friend objects.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not desire to misrepresent me. I stated I was in favour of a Navy. He misrepresents me in stating that I said we ought to depend entirely on financial resources. I said both.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I know my hon. Friend said he wanted an adequate Navy, but he never stated what that adequate Navy should be. I am entirely at one with him, but there is only this difference, that I have put to him what I think adequate, and he has never told me what he thinks adequate. The programme which I have ventured to submit to the House is my conception of an adequate Navy, and I believe that it will maintain the credit of this country. The hon. Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) charged me, because I take it as a charge, with too apologetic a tone.
§ Mr. McKENNA
If I apologised for proposing Estimates, which it is only my duty to propose, I should be greatly to blame. I am not aware that I have ever apologised for doing my duty. I do not apoloise for these Estimates. I have explained and I have defended them. It is no apology for the Estimates when I say that I regret the necessity of having to introduce them, that I sympathise with the feelings of those who dislike armaments, that I dislike this competition amongst nations as much as any Member in this House; but I am doing my duty in proposing these Estimates, and as long as the duty is imposed on me to see that our Navy is adequate for the protection of the interests of this country, I shall endeavour to fulfil my duty
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
On a point of Order. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer me that very important question as to the inaccuracy of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I heard the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and in listening to him I am sure that he made no inaccuracy at all. He was evidently misreported. What ho stated was that under the German Fleet Law Germany will have, in 1920, thirty-three "Dreadnoughts," including cruisers—he called them capital ships of the "Dreadnought" class, battleships and cruisers alike—and that in addition to these thirty-three she would have her pre-" Dreadnoughts." That statement was literally true and accurate. The source of the information to the Foreign Secretary was myself. I gave it to him on the Bench immediately before he rose. The number of "Dreadnoughts" which Germany would have in 1920 was twenty-two battleships and eleven cruisers.
With regard to the second statement—a reply which I gave to a question in this House—the Noble Lord asked me how I came to say that by the 1908 amendment of the Law there would be an increase of four battleships to the German Navy. Strictly speaking, that answer, as the-Noble Lord has pointed out, was not accurate. Ultimately there will be no increase in nominal numbers. But by the amendment of 1908 four ships of upwards of 20,000 tons were added to the German Fleet to take the place of four third-class battleships of 4,000 tons, and the four ships of upwards of 20,000 tons each will be in the Fleet before the four third-class battleships of 4,000 tons each pass on to the ineffective list. It is quite true, therefore, to say that in the long run one four will balance the other four; and if it can be said that the third-class battleships going on to the ineffective list really matters, my statement was not strictly accurate. But in substance it is an addition of four ships of over 20,000 tons.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly answer the two questions which I put to him? One was with reference to the Greenwich Hospital Fund—whether he would be prepared to make a grant out of the Naval Fund for the reasons which I gave. The second was why, after stating on 10th December that the establishment would be reopened in the dockyards, it was postponed until the summer months?
§ Mr. McKENNA
With regard to the Greenwich Hospital Fund, we have already given a very considerable amount, and I cannot promise to do anything more.
§ Mr. NIELD
I wish to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to cases of individual hardship, indicating, I think, a class of case in the Navy of which this House ought to have cognisance. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman assures me I shall have another opportunity I will resume my seat, in order that the general Debate may go on.
§ Mr. DOUGLAS HALL
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will grant some indulgence in the way of augmenting the Greenwich pensions. In my constituency it is a matter of great moment to many men who have served in the Navy. I constantly have people coming and begging me to assist them to get these pensions. It seems to me that if it is right to give one qualified man a pension, it is right to give it to all of them. It is a mean and beggarly spirit to show for a rich country like this to say that they cannot do it. There is an enormous amount of money spent on other matters, including the increasing of Ministerial salaries, that the Government might at least try to do something to augment the Greenwich pensions. The amount of aid which the Government has granted for the Greenwich Hospital Scheme has not increased since 1839. Since that date we have spent millions more upon the Navy: we are increasing its personnel by thousands; yet the assistance by the Government to the hospital has not increased in the least. In 1865, and for twelve years afterwards, every man in the Navy who was qualified received his pension without quibble. Yet now when we are so much richer, and although the age for the pensions has been raised, yet men, we find, have to wait for years and years, and then do not get them. In addition to this I would like to point out that the Government deliberately rob this charity. First of all there is the Naval Pension Reserve, which is paid entirely out of Greenwich Hospital funds; that is to say, the great inducement for men to join the Naval Pension Reserve was that they were to be paid their pension at the age of fifty instead of fifty-five, out of Greenwich Hospital funds.
It is not right that the services of any reserve should be paid for out of the charity instead of out of public funds. If the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to pay the Naval Pension Reserve their pensions 156 of 5d. a day from the age of fifty-five to sixty it would add considerably to the funds of the hospital. If also the Government would take upon their shoulders the 1s 6d. per day special pension which is given for hurt and accident incurred while in the Navy it would be well. The men of the Royal Navy are excluded from the benefits of the Workmen's Compensation Act. It seems to me mean for the Government to throw upon the charity a debt which they ought to pay themselves. The course I suggest would enable more men to receive the Greenwich pension. The men feel it a great grievance that they do not get their pension. There is a lot of picking and choosing which is to a large extent detrimental to men joining the Navy. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can see his way to make these few concessions, and also to increase the grant so as to give more satisfaction to these pensioners.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Just a word or two in reply to the questions addressed to us in regard to the Greenwich Hospital pensions. There is no legal claim on the part of the men for the age or increased age pensions. It is a matter in the discretion of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. DOUGLAS HALL
I think there is a legal claim for the men who enlisted before 1879. That was admitted, and it was one of the inducements under which they joined.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That is a very natural presumption. There was at that time I believe money enough to give every eligible man a pension, and the presumption was set up because of that. But if the hon. Gentleman will look into the matter he will see a distinction between those who are eligible when there is plenty of money and those who are entitled. The difficulty now is the number of pensioners eligible represent a larger class than there is' money for. It is only naval life pensioners that have any sort of eligibility. What we do at the Admiralty is to select as recipients the oldest and most necessitous candidates so far as the money will go. There have been three suggestions made in the course of this Debate which I heard with great interest. The present rate is: age pensions, 5d., and increased age pensions, 9d., and one hon. Member asked, Why not give every one 6d.? I shall consider that, but I cannot hold out any hope that it will be adopted, or that the 157 Admiralty will entertain it. An hon. Member suggested we should pay "hurt money" out of Naval funds. We are always ready to consider suggestions from any part of the House, and this matter will be considered, but I cannot say what will be done and it would not become me to hold out any hopes. The third proposal is that we should put the Seamen Pensioner Reserve upon Naval funds from fifty-five up to such time as they would otherwise come upon the Greenwich Hospital pensions. That has been done from the 1st of April last year. What happened was this. When the Seamen Pension Reserve was established in 1870 it was made an inducement to recruitment that at fifty and subsequently at fifty-five they had a right to come upon the Greenwich Hospital pensions. What we did from the 1st of April was this. We have taken off the Greenwich Hospital Fund from the age of fifty-five to the average age at which, in other circumstances, they would come upon the Greenwich Hospital Fund, all Seamen Pensioner Reserves, and made their pensions a charge upon Naval funds.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
We have to consider if a man has a reasonable competence, and that some other men are more necessitous. The Seamen Pension Reserves came upon the Greenwich Hospital Fund at fifty-five. We have now taken them off the Greenwich Hospital Fund at fifty-five up to the age they would otherwise come upon the Greenwich Hospital Fund, that is sixty-four, and made them a charge upon Naval Funds. If the hon. Gentleman will refer to page 168 of the Estimates, Vote 14, he will see that under the head of "Pensions and Gratuities to Seamen and Marines," the amount estimated shows an increase of £45,000. I think a considerable portion of that is due to the fact that we have taken the Pensioner Reserve off and kept him on Naval Funds until he reaches the age when, together with other applicants, he might come on the Greenwich Hospital Fund. Whilst I shall be quite prepared to consider the other two proposals put forward, I am sure hon. Members will be glad to hear what we have already done.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Will the Admiralty make a grant en bloc without reference to what has been done?
§ Mr. ROWLAND HUNT
The First Lord of the Admiralty has told us that we have an unlimited number of cruisers. If that is so why have such an enormous number of other cruisers been drawn from all over the world? How is it that Jamaica has no British cruisers? If we have all these cruisers why are they not distributed over the non-European seas so as to protect our trade routes? That would be an enormous advantage for the protection of our food supply. Where are all those cruisers? Surely there is some sense in that. Is it not true that outside European waters there are thousands of miles of unguarded spaces of sea where there are no cruisers at all? Is it not true that outside European waters we have only got twenty-seven cruisers? How are those twenty-seven cruisers going to guard our food supply in time of war? It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to jeer and chaff, but it is the working classes of this country who are going to be affected most if we have a war without being prepared for it. How are those cruisers going to get out in time if war breaks out suddenly and the German merchantmen have got their guns and ammunition on board? The numberless cruisers we are said to possess could not get there in time; our great ships would be caught and probably destroyed, with the result that food would be at famine prices in this country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know what that would mean. The hon. Member for Blackfriars told us it would be much better for us to spend this extra money on social reform than on the Navy. Let me ask the hon. Member on what we could spend that money to better advantage than upon making the people safe? What would become of social reform if we were conquered by another country? Hon. Members opposite ought to be able to see that point at any rate. The First Lord admitted that in 1914 the Triple Alliance might have as many "Dreadnoughts" as us. We shall not have nearly double the number of "Dreadnoughts" and cruisers in home waters possessed by a single Power, and it was upon that assumption that Sir Arthur Wilson laid it down that invasion was practically impossible. We shall only have twenty-nine. Italy and Austria will probably have eight "Dreadnoughts" in the Mediterranean in 1914, and it seems to me—and I shall be only too glad if hon. 159 Gentlemen opposite can show me I am not right—that, unless we abandon the Mediterranean, and leave Malta, Egypt, and the Suez Canal without any reasonable protection whatever against Germany's two allies, Austria and Italy, we must have at least eight "Dreadnoughts" in the Mediterranean. That only leaves us with twenty-one "Dreadnoughts" in the North Sea, against Germany's twenty-one. Germany will certainly be the aggressor, and as she can choose her own time, we shall probably be in actual inferiority in time of war. If Germany makes a sudden attack upon us, just as Japan on Russia, and if she gets one blow home before we are ready, we shall be done for. Hon. Gentlemen laugh, but that would be a great tragedy for the people of this country.
We very possibly might have two or three "Dreadnoughts" injured even in peace time. I saw a big line only a few days ago in the "Daily News," "Two British 'Dreadnoughts' nearly lost." I do not think that is much of a war paper. That is one of the accidents that might happen to us. The House will remember that the Japanese actually lost two of their best battleships in one day. If these facts are as I have put them, and I do not think they can be contradicted—we could not move one "Dreadnought" out of Home Waters if our Colonies or Dependencies were either threatened or actually attacked by another Power. Every single "Dreadnought" would be wanted every single day to give us a fair chance against Germany. We should be absolutely at the mercy of America or Japan or any other country who had battleships. That is a very dangerous position in which the Government ought never to have let us be placed. A reverse in the North Sea would simply be overwhelming so far as we are concerned. In 1914 we shall only have twelve "Dreadnoughts" to Germany's ten. When the Government came into power Germany had no fleet of any kind, and it was of that that the German Emperor complained so bitterly. On the two occasions when the Government reduced their shipbuilding programme Germany at once increased hers. Does that look like peaceful intentions?
I really think hon. Members opposite should take notice of men like Mr. Hyndman or Mr. Frederic Harrison. They, at all events, are against anything 160 Imperial: they are anti-Imperial. Yet Mr. Hyndman has warned us that the German social democrats state that their Government are steadily preparing for war against us. And at the other end the German Emperor has declared that the command of the sea must be in German hands. Surely then, for us, a powerful Navy is an expensive necessity: for Germany it is an expensive luxury. That is why hon. Members should look things in the face and see where events are tending. The loss of the command of the North Sea would, for us, mean the end of the British Empire: the loss of a naval battle by Germany would make very little difference to that country: it would merely frustrate for a time her dreams of worldwide ambition. The rulers of Germany look after the interests of her people a great deal better than our rulers look after the interests of our people. I wish hon. Members opposite would try to get that into their heads. I know it is a very difficult matter when it is a thing they do not want to believe in. But it is the million of Germans born every year that the German rulers are determined to fight for: they intend to find land, food and occupation for them under the German flag. Can we really blame them for it? We won our Empire by fighting: can you blame the Germans for attempting to take it from us by the same means? Germany, at the present time, has no colony where a white man can rear a family and consequently she is determined to gain a place for her surplus population where they can live and multiply. That is our danger as far as Germany is concerned. It is the force of circumstances that is driving Germany to expand. We have further complicated matters by the Declaration of London, under which all the food stuff coming to this country, even in neutral ships, is allowed to be confiscated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Very well, it is so.
§ The CHAIRMAN
He can discuss the Declaration of London in so far as it affects the Navy, and the size of it. In so far as that is concerned he is entitled to discuss it, but he must not deal with it generally.
§ Mr. HUNT
The reason I was going to state is because we have no ports which are not connected by rail with places where food is kept either for our Army, or for the 161 Territorial Force, or for some forces of the Crown. That is the reason that the Declaration of London is so dangerous from the naval point of view, because our food stuffs coming here can be captured, whilst food stuffs come to Germany or other Continental nations through a neutral port, and our cruisers cannot touch them. It is a one-sided arrangement, and what in the world induced our people to agree to such a plan as that has always been something I do not understand.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now going too far. He must confine himself to the Declaration of London as it affects the size of our Navy.
§ Mr. HUNT
I am sorry, Mr. Chairman, that I got over the line, but I may say that if we had plenty of cruisers always on our trade routes it would not so much matter, because we could protect the ships, but we have not got them. We have not been told where they are, we know they are not on our trade routes, but that they are drawn to all quarters of the world. The great danger of this shortage of cruisers is that we cannot protect the millions of tons of foodstuffs for us coming over-sea, and if we are not protected by the Declaration of London we can be starved. That is what is going to be done. We have also entirely failed to prevent the enemy turning his merchant ships into what are practically privateers. All over the world by wireless message the enemy could communicate with his merchant ships. The Germans would be prepared for emergencies—as they always are—and they could bring out their guns and ammunition and fit up their merchant ships, and as our cruisers will not be on the spot, they can, under the Declaration of London, capture our ships and sink them, as the matter is left to the discretion of the captain of the vessel.
It is all very well for the Law Lords to argue that they probably would not do it. The Germans do not do it that way. They have a good idea of looking after their own interests, and they would very easily find an excuse under the Declaration for sinking our ships if it was inconvenient for them, which it certainly would be, to take them into port. If a dozen cargoes were lost in that way, the panic alone would send foodstuffs up to probably 200s. a quarter. Germany possesses something like 120 of these merchant vessels, which she can turn into privateers 162 anywhere in the world, and it is generally held, though the First Lord of the Admiralty does not seem to know it, that Germany will have the guns and ammunition ready. It seems to me that the Government have deliberately neglected to provide for the safety of the country, and for the safe keeping of its power, and because they have neglected to provide cruisers to protect our food supplies they have made it almost certain that we shall be starved into surrender and ruin when our next great naval war cornea about. For these reasons the Cabinet ought to be impeached for treason before the tribunal of the British people, whom they have deceived, and I sincerely hope if disaster comes they will not be let off the punishment they so thoroughly deserve.
§ Mr. LEES SMITH
We have now had the explanation of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary to the Admiralty as to the circumstances under which the contingent ships of 1909 were laid down. That explanation was received with some protests from the Labour party, but was received in silence on these benches. The right hon. Gentleman must not, therefore, make the mistake of thinking it was regarded as satisfactory. Only about three weeks ago, because a foolish letter appeared in an obscure Irish newspaper, the whole machinery of the Constitution was called into effect to avenge the slight upon this House. In my opinion the lack of confidence that the right hon. Gentleman has shown in this House, and his actual disrespect to the House, are a hundred times more mischievous than the act which was punished three weeks ago. The right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary to the Admiralty have not, I think, explained away the facts of the situation. They obtained consent for these four contingent ships by laying before this House certain very alarming information. Within a fortnight he found he had unwittingly misled the House, but he still pursued his course. He utilised the confidence which the House extended to him and went on in his course and laid down the ships.
§ Mr. McKENNA
My hon. Friend must not misstate. I did not get the Vote for the four contingent ships until July. It cannot be said that I used the confidence in a statement made on 29th March in respect to a Vote only given in July.
§ Mr. LEES SMITH
If the right hon. Gentleman wished to avoid creating 163 alarm I should have thought he would give to the correction of his mistake which had created the alarm at least as much publicity and importance as he gave to the statement of the mistake itself. He says he corrected the mistake on 29th March. I have read the Debate and I find that he did not make any speech at all on that occasion. All that occurred was that he interjected an interruption into the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. That is to say, the original statement was made under circumstances of gravity, and even solemnity, that actually stunned this House. The correction of it was interjected into a speech of somebody else, and quite naturally the scare went on unaffected by the right hon. Gentlemen's correction for the simple reason that the fact that he made it was realised by practically nobody in the country and by few people in the House. The right hon. Gentleman says he wished to avoid creating alarm. I am not speaking only for myself, but for others who agree with me when I say that it is the function of a Liberal First Lord of the Admiralty to do something to allay the alarm and exaggerations which may from time to time arise from the Opposition Benches. But the method to avoid alarm is to tell the House and the country the full and true facts and leave it to their good judgment not to be permanently deluded.
§ Mr. LEES SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has to stand between two fires. I do not think he pays much attention to the fire at his back. As to the fire that comes from the Opposition, I think it is his business to stand up against it, and, without being frightened by it, he should not withhold from this House the essential facts it has a perfect right to know. That is a statement I did not expect to hear from a Liberal First Lord of the Admiralty. I think what I have said is the kind of thing a private Member ought to say. It has been said from the Labour Benches, but it has not yet been specifically stated on behalf of the Liberal party. The party machine will roll over this episode and obliterate the difficulties in which the right hon. Gentleman at present finds himself. Let there be no mistake about the fact that there is on these benches, and in my own Constituency and many others, the bitterest 164 resentment against the attitude adopted towards the House of Commons. I have been obliged to say what I have been saying not about the right hon. Gentleman, for we all know that he is not alone concerned. The Prime Minister himself said later, quite generously, that the action of the right hon. Gentleman was the action of the whole of the Cabinet.
The Cabinet have made very great demands upon our party loyalty. The power of the Cabinet is increasing at the expense of Members. The position only remains tolerable if we can always feel that the House is being fairly treated by those into whose hands the power is passing. In this matter I think one ought to say that the House was not being fairly treated. That kind of action does a great deal to weaken the confidence that we feel, or ought to feel, in those at the head of affairs. I do not, however, propose to oppose this Vote. I do not think that that is illogical, because in this discussion there have been only two points which have been debated. One has been the actual magnitude of these present Estimates. The other has been the action of the Government towards the House of Commons two years ago, action which we could only debate this week because it was only fully revealed last Monday. I feel very strongly indeed about the matter. I am willing to support the Government now, but I venture to make these remarks because a great many Liberals feel, I am sure, the truth of what I have said, and I think it would have been wrong if the occasion had been allowed to pass without any protest from these benches.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I do not think we ought to go to a Division without some recognition on the part of this House and of the country of the great help which our Dominions beyond the seas have been in keeping down these Estimates. If it had not been for the help which has been given and been promised by our great dominions, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the Empire we should not be discussing a £44,000,000 Budget but much more probably a £46,000,000 or £47,000,000 Budget; and I look forward to the time when the help given will be still greater than at the present moment. If it had not been for their help we should have had to maintain squadrons not only in the North Sea and the Mediterranean, but in the Pacific and many other parts of the world. A 165 little over ten years ago it was announced in this House that the Australian Contingent was first coming to help the Mother Country in the South African campaign. We know how that help developed into the valuable service which our kith and kin did for us in that great war. May we not hope that if in the future there should be some great fight we shall have the help of our sister dominions
§ across the sea just as they helped us in the South African War?
§ Question put, "That 133,000 Officers, Seamen, and Boys be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912, including 17,099 Royal Marines."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 21; Noes, 233.167
|Division No. 74.]||AYES.||[11.45 p.m.|
|Chancellor, Henry G.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Lansbury, George||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cockermouth)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Hall, Fredk. (Yorks, Normanton)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Hancock, John George||Martin, Joseph||Wadsworth, John|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Grady, James|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Parker, James (Halifax)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. David Mason and Mr. Barnes.|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Pointer, Joseph|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Corbett, A. Cameron||Higham, John Sharp|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Hill, Sir Clement L. (Shrewsbury)|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Hills, John Waller (Durham)|
|Allen, A. Acland (Dumbartonshire)||Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninlan||Hinds, John|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Croft, Henry Page||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Crooks, William||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Dalrymple, Viscount||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey W. A.|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hunt, Rowland|
|Bagot, Lt.-Col. Josceline||Dawes, James Arthur||Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel|
|Balcarres, Lord||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S. (Glasgow, C.)||Jessel, Captain Herbert M.|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, S.)||Essex, Richard Walter||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Barnston, Harry||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton, M.||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Fell, Arthur||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Fisher, William Hayes||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Beale, William Phipson||FitzRoy, Hon. Edward A.||Knight, Capt. Eric Ayshford|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Fletcher, John S.||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Forster, Henry William||Larmor, Sir Joseph|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||France, Gerald Ashburner||Lawson, Hon. H. (Tower Hamlets)|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Furness, Stephen Wilson||Lee, Arthur Hamilton|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Gibson, Sir James Puckering||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Bigland, Alfred||Gilmour, Captain John||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. P.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Glanville, Harold James||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Boscawen, Col. A. S. T. Griffith-||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Lyttelton, Rt. Hn. A. (S. Geo., Han. S.)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Goldman, Charles Sydney||Macklader, Halford J.|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Grant, James Augustus||Maclean, Donald|
|Boyton, James||Greene, Walter Raymond||Macmaster, Donald|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Greenwood, G. G. (Peterborough)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Greig, Colonel James William||M'Curdy, Charles Albert|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Gretton, John||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||M'Laren, F. W. S. (Linc, Spalding)|
|Burn, Col. Charles Rosdew||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. (Pembroke)||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Guest, Hon. Fredk. E. (Dorset, E.)||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Marks, George Croydon|
|Campion, William Robert||Gulland, John William||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hall, Douglas B. (Isle of Wight)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas|
|Cassel, Felix||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Cave, George||Harris, Henry Percy||Morgan, George Hay|
|Cawley, Sir Fredk. (Prestwich)||Harwood, George||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. (Honiton)|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Mount, William Arthur|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Hayward, Evan||Neville, Reginald J. Neville|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Helmsley, Viscount||Newdegate, F. A. N.|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Clyde, James Avon||Henry, Sir Charles S.||Nield, Herbert|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Paget, Almeric Hugh||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Webb, Henry|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Rotherham)||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel||Weigall, William E. G. A.|
|Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Shortt, Edward||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Perkins, Walter Frank||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Peto, Basil Edwards||Starkey, John Ralph||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Stewart, Gershom||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Pole-Carew, Sir Reginald||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, W.)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Sutherland, John E.||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude|
|Pringle, William M. R.||Tennant, Harold John||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Pryce-Jones, Col. Edward||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Quitter, William Eley C||Touche, George Alexander||Winfrey, Richard|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Toulmin, George||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Valentia, Viscount||Wood, Samuel Hill (Derbyshire)|
|Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Verney, Sir Harry||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Ronaldshay, Earl of||Walker, Col. William Hall||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Rose, Sir Charles Day||Walrond, Hon. Lionel||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Rowlands, James||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master of Ellbank and Mr. Illingworth.|
|Rutherford, J. (Lancs., Darwen)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|St. Maur, Harold||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I understand the status of artificer engineers and engine-room artificers has been altered, and that there has been created a new rank whereby the stokers can obtain warrant rank—warrant mechanicians. Under this particular rank it is necessary for stokers to undergo a training similar to artificer engineers. This is a very important question, and has caused considerable discontent in the Service. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to think I am against stokers attaining warrant officer rank, and I think anyone who understands the Service would be glad to see stokers attaining that rank, but it necessitates a costly scheme in training for men who have never undergone that before, and has resulted in friction throughout the engine-rooms of His Majesty's, ships.
§ The question I wish to ask is whether the artificer-engineers and the engine-room artificers could not maintain the watch-keeping duties at present efficiently carried on by them, but of which, under the new system, they are to be deprived, that right being shared, if not entirely taken away, by the warrant mechanicians raised from the stoker ranks. With regard to the shortage in the Marines, I am not satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. I know that the total reduction shown on the Vote is merely 225, but it is in fact infinitely more than that. The reduction is from 17,185 to 16,960.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
But the total in 1906 was 19,800, and in 1904 over 20,000. I notice, however, that there are added seventeen band boys and sixteen warrant officers. Will the right hon. Gentleman 168 explain whether the Marines are to be turned into a corps of musicians, and why sixteen more warrant officers are required for a considerably reduced number in the ranks?
§ Mr. McKENNA
With regard to the first point there is no novelty about it. This system of adopting warrant rank for mechanician-stoker dates back to the Cawdor Memorandum of 1905. We have been carrying out the system now for six years, and this year for the first time we shall get the rank established. So far as the engine-room artificers are concerned, I have given guarantees, which I am prepared to act up to, that no engine-room artificer who entered the Service before the Cawdor Memorandum shall have his chances of promotion injured by the introduction of warrant rank for the stokers, and I think that that is all the hon. Gentleman is fairly entitled to ask. The hon. Gentleman gladly recognises that the stokers ought also to have a chance of rising to warrant rank, and provided that by the system we have introduced we do no wrong to the engine-room artificers, I think it must be admitted that the arrangement we have made is a satisfactory one.
With regard to the Marines, the hon. Member rightly points out that the total reduction, which began in 1904, amounts to over 3,000. It is a fact that when these reductions commenced the Marines were over 3,000 above their war strength, and we have reduced the corps approximately to war strength. It is still slightly above, but only about 500. The reduction has not affected the efficiency or utility of the corps in war, but it has effected a material economy, which was thoroughly justified by the requirements of war service.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the information he has given; but upon the subject of the stokers, may I inquire whether he proposes to issue a General Order whereby the men themselves will understand how they will stand in the future?
§ Mr. McKENNA
Yes, I have myself told them again and again that the engine-room artificers have nothing to fear from the introduction of the mechanician warrant rank.
§ Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN
There is one point that the right hon. Gentleman has not answered, that is in regard to the watch-keeping duties. Would the watch-keepers placed in the watch be the superior officers of the men who have had the greater training in engineering? That is the crux of the whole problem. Engineers in the Mercantile Marine are compelled by the law of the country to go through an examination for their engineer's certificate, whereas in the Navy exactly the same type of men are going to have men who simply have been trained as stokers occupying a position of superiority over them. That is the real point of grievance. If the right hon. Gentleman can explain that position satisfactorily, it would do away with a good deal of the friction which does at present undoubtedly exist.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The House will realise that out of the thousands of stokers we are likely to get but a likely few who are really capable of rising to any appointment which may be open to them. These, who are all picked, have to pass a very severe examination; they are trained in watch-keeping duties, and, having shown themselves fit, they are allowed to rise.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The right hon. Gentleman has quite missed the point. The engine-room artificer goes through an apprenticeship; he is then trained in the Service, and he is a skilled artizan. The other man begins as a stoker. Let me give an instance. An admiral puts an engine-room artificer in his barge. He will not drive the barge quite so fast, and it will not break down; the skilled artizan keeps his eye on the little things, and puts, say, one right that happens to go wrong. Put the stoker in charge. He drives ahead, perhaps to disaster. We all want stokers to have warrant rank; personally, I have applied for it for years, and have written for it. But the way it has been done is not satisfactory in the engine-room. Stokers are splendid men; but you are 170 going to put them as warrant officers in the engine-room, where they will be senior to the skilled artizan ratings. It will not be satisfactory. There are plenty of billets you can give them as mechanicians. Let the stokers have warrant rank, and a great deal more than you are going to give them, but do not cause needless friction. You cannot have a man put over skilled artizans in the engine-room who has not been apprenticed as an artizan, and have that engine-room satisfactory.
§ Mr. G. BARNES
Like my hon. Friend who has just spoken I have brought this matter before the Committee on several occasions. I was one of a small committee appointed some years ago to go clown to the ports and to inquire into the matter. We made certain recommendations and pointed out certain things of a technical character that the stokers might do. And where the men might be selected to fill these positions and giving them warrant rank without displacing artificers and without breaking faith with the artificers. I have heard the statement about breaking faith and do not charge the right hon. Gentleman with breaking faith, but I do not see how it is possible not to reduce the chances of promotion to a body of about 2,000 men by introducing into them a number of other men from another rating altogether. The whole scheme involves breaking faith with these men trained in the ordinary way at the expense of their parents, and who are now to be displaced by a number of men at the age of twenty-six or twenty-eight years when it is impossible to train them in mechanics. I object to the whole scheme because I believe it involves drawing for officers of the Navy on a very small section of the community who send their boys to Dartmouth, Osborne, and other places, and pay large sums of money for them. For my part, I want to open up the scheme, so that the sons of workmen will have a chance, as they had before this scheme came into operation, of being engineer officers in the Navy. It is now closed to them, and the engineer officer is taken from a small class of the community who have money, but who may not necessarily have brains.
§ Mr. PETO
I desire to ask a question as to chief gunners: I want to know if, in the case of these men, it has not been the rule in the Navy to give two years' service at home and two years' service abroad, and whether it has not frequently occurred recently that chief gunners who 171 have been at home for a few months, and with practically no notice at all, have to break up the homes they have made at Portsmouth and elsewhere, and go abroad again on a few hours' notice. A case was brought to my notice where only between nine o'clock in the morning and five o'clock in the afternoon a gunner was called upon to go abroad again. I want to know whether this rule is fairly administered, and whether it is true that the best man and the most skilled gunner are most frequently required to serve abroad whereas those who are less efficient are kept at home in comfortable billets. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us some information as to how this rule is administered.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Member is obviously confusing service abroad and service in home waters. It is obvious that the number in home waters is much larger than abroad. If the hon. Member will bring any individual cases to my notice I shall certainly be very happy to look into them, but so far as I am aware every effort is made to do justice to all the officers and give each in turn a certain amount of shore work.
§ Mr. PETO
I do not wish to bring forward the long list of names supplied to me, because that would naturally give to the right hon. Gentleman the names of all those warrant officers who feel that they are aggrieved by the way the service is administered, and that would not be desirable in the interests of the men concerned.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Why not? I frequently have requisitions made to me of this kind and the interests of those concerned are not prejudiced. Any man with a grievance has only got to make it known to me.
§ Mr. WILKIE
Some of the men, the Naval shipwrights, have had no alteration in their ratings for the last thirty-four years. The hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler) mentioned the carpenter and the skilled shipwright. The point I wish to put before the Committee is that while there have been some new ratings proposed the old ones have not been advanced. I cannot understand why the Admiralty stick to fossilised old notions. You tell us that the safety of our country depends upon our Navy, and may I point out that the safety of the ships depend upon the skilled shipwrights and the carpenters 172 aboard. I will quote on this point no less an authority than Vice-Admiral Prince Louis of Battenburg who, speaking at the dinner of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, said:—In the days when ships were hearts of oak, the connection of the Navy with the Carpenters' Company was obvious. The predecessors of the Company built the ships, and well built they were, because those who went out in them felt that they were safe in battling with the elements and in fighting the enemy in their stout sides. The carpenter of the ship and his assistants were enormously important people in the old days, but what was perhaps not generally known in these' days of steel ships was the fact that the carpenter was still an enormously important individual. The carpenter no longer worked in wood, but in metal of all kinds. Like other great people—such as the Lord Mayor and the Pope—the carpenter was a man who was always spoken of by his office and not by his name. That, he thought, was a distinction in itself. There was no doubt that the carpenter on board ship was a most popular person. Everybody tried to be on good terms with him, because all felt that sooner or later everybody was bound to go to the carpenter for something. If there was a fire, a collision or grounding, the carpenter was the man sent for, and he was supposed to propose instant remedies for everything.That being so, what we do ask is that they should be put on an equality of rating with the new rating the Admiralty are establishing, as on their work and their ability depends the safety of the ship.