§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 3. "That a sum, not exceeding £59,371, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1913, for the Salaries and other Expenses in the Department of His Majesty's Treasury and Subordinate Departments, including Expenses in respect of Advances under the Light Railways Act, 1896." [Note.—£55,000 has been voted on account]1385
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
It is some considerable time since in Committee of Supply we discussed the Vote which comes under the Treasury head for the Committee of Imperial Defence. I think perhaps it may meet the convenience of the Committee if, at the outset, I make a brief statement of what has happened in regard to both the composition and to the work of this Committee since we last had a discussion on it. The Committee was set up by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), when he was at the head of the Government, and it was in many ways, indeed I think in all ways, an entirely new institution. It consists technically—or did when it was set up, and it has continued to take that form—simply of the Prime Minister himself, and of such persons as he may from time to time summon to consultation with him; and he has the aid of a small expert secretariat, of which I shall say a few words in a moment. It was made clear from the first by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the functions of the Committee had, on the one hand, no reference to policy—policy must be determined by the Cabinet—and on the other hand it is not in any sense an Executive, because, both as regards the Army and the Navy, the Executive responsibility lies in the one case with the Secretary of State and in the other with the First Lord of the Admiralty.
It is not the business of the Committee of Imperial Defence to lay down principles of policy. It is to give advice from time to time in regard to strategical factors and questions of like nature— which vary in their character and in their urgency with the policy of the country— to give advice in regard to these questions to the Government and the Departments which are charged with the responsibility for the administration of our naval and military affairs. I remember well at the time when the right hon. Gentleman proposed the institution of this Committee there were apprehensions, perhaps suspicions, felt in some quarters as to whether its existence and operations might not be found to trench upon the responsibilities of the Cabinet and of the Executive to the House of Commons. Those apprehensions—and I think the Committee has been in existence for the past ten years—have been disproved by experience. I can testify to my right hon. Friend and predecessor, the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who had 1386 great experience of administration both in naval and military affairs, and who at the time when the Committee was set up was not altogether free himself from doubt on this point, after he had served on the Committee a few years, and had attended and presided over its deliberations, was satisfied it was a useful, and indeed an invaluable, addition to our constitutional machinery. Since the Vote was last up for consideration the Committee has given, at least on two occasions, the opportunity of showing, by the elasticity of its constitution, that it can discharge important and hitherto somewhat neglected Imperial functions. Last year we had the pleasure of summoning to the Committee—and they sat with us at the deliberations during three days—the Prime Ministers of our self-governing Dominions. I was in the chair myself, and I was the sixth Prime Minister; for there were five other Prime Ministers sitting round the table. I do not think there has ever been in the history of our Imperial development a more momentous or in many ways a more significant occasion. Of course it is almost impossible to go into any detail in public as to what was done and said upon that occasion. We were all acting, naturally and properly, under the seal of confidence.
There is no reason, however, why I should not indicate to the Committee and the country generally an outline of our proceedings on that occasion. First of all we had a statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the general course and direction of our foreign policy. He spoke with the greatest frankness and freedom in the presence of these Prime Ministers of the various Dominions of our relations with other Powers, and disclosed to them with a candour, intimacy, and fullness which would have been impossible in official or written communications exactly what our relations were with each of the various European and other Powers, and how far those relations affect, and must affect, our naval and military situation. That was followed by a statement, equally full and frank, from the then First Lord of the Admiralty in regard to naval policy, and by one from the Secretary of State for War in regard to military policy. We discussed upon those occasions the co-operation of the naval forces of the United Kingdom with those of the Dominions; the status of the Dominion 1387 Fleets, the flag to be flown by them, and the representation of the Dominions on the Committee of Imperial Defence; the possibility of their setting up, each of them in their own Dominions, some corresponding body to which strategic questions, naval and military in their relation, might be referred. And I am betraying no confidence, I am but repeating what has been publicly acknowledged by all the Prime Ministers present on that occasion, that they were not only gratified by the confidence which was shown in them, but that they went back to the work of administration in their various countries with a fullness and intimacy of knowledge of Imperial relations and of the considerations which govern Imperial policy for which no other opportunity under our constitutional arrangement would have been so fully given. I think if that stood by itself it would be a very sufficient vindication for the existence of the Committee. This year again we have the privilege of having with us, not indeed the representatives of all the Dominions, but a considerable representation from the Canadian Cabinet, including its distinguished Prime Minister, Mr. Borden. They have, at my invitation, attended a meeting of the Imperial Defence Committee more than a week ago, and again my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs spoke to them and to us all on our foreign policy, and the First Lord of the Admiralty on our naval situation. I am glad to say that at a further adjourned meeting which we proposed to have next week Mr. Borden and his colleagues will again attend, and I hope we may arrive at conclusions satisfactory to them and to us.
I do not think it is possible to exaggerate, in the necessarily loose and informal development of our constitutional arrangements as an Imperial Power, the value of a body like this which from time to time—these are two illustrations only; they will be multiplied in the future I have no doubt—give the statesmen of the Dominions and the statesmen of the Mother-country a meeting ground on which they can exchange with the fullest confidence their respective views, experiences and knowledge in regard to those matters which we growingly feel affect not only the Mother-country, but the Dominions as much as ourselves. In regard to the general work of the Committee, I was asked a question to-day as 1388 to how many times it had met. I have had now nearly for five years—I have had seven years' experience altogether—but for nearly five years I have had the experience of presiding over that Committee and I have come to the conclusion, as a result of that experience, that the best and most businesslike way of dealing with matters that come before us is to refer them in the first instance to Sub-committees which are comparatively small in number, manageable in dimensions, and informal in procedure, to take evidence and to go into much greater detail than is possible for the larger body; to refer questions to the appropriate Sub-committees in the first instance, and then when the sub-committee has considered and taken its evidence and reported upon it, to bring up the Report of the Sub-committees from time to time for consideration by the General Committee. The result is that the fuller Committee does not on an average meet more than six or seven times a year, but there are, as I explained to the House, now four permanent Sub-committees which are practically in constant session.
First of all, there is the Home Ports Defence Committee, which deals with questions affecting the defence of our coast, rivers, and home ports. It meets under the presidency of the Secretary of the Imperial Defence Committee, and since I last had the opportunity of speaking upon this Vote it has prepared and presented to the full Committee no fewer than twenty-five Reports, which received the approval of the Admiralty and the War Office, and in regard to most of which effect has already been given. It would not be expedient to go into details of the specific points which the Home Ports Committee considered, but the House may take it from me that in effect they consider the best means of providing for the defence of all the vulnerable points in the whole of our coast of the United Kingdom. Then we have side by side with the Home Ports Defence Committee the Oversea Defence Committee, which used to be called the Colonial Defence Committee. It is now a Sub-committee of the Imperial Defence Committee, and bears this new title. It has in the course of the last two years dealt with a large number of questions of defence affecting not only the Crown Colonies, but also the self-governing Dominions—Egypt, and the defended ports of India, and all of its Reports have been considered by the full Committee of Imperial Defence and by the various authorities overseas to whose 1389 special interest they relate. Further, I have appointed in the course of the last year a new permanent Sub-committee to whose operations I attach the very greatest importance. We call it the Committee for the Co-ordination of Departmental Action at the Outbreak of War.
It is a curious thing there has never been, in all the centuries in which we have carried on with more or less success our military and naval operations, a body which was charged with the special duty of providing in the time of peace for the co-ordination of departmental action on the outbreak of war. Situated as we are, there could be no more urgent need. This Sub-committee which is composed of the principal permanent officials of the various Departments of State, has, after many months of continuous labour, compiled a War Book. We call it a War Book—and it is a book which definitely assigns to each Department—not merely the War Office and the Admiralty, but the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Board of Trade, and every Department of the State—its responsibility for action under every head of war policy. The Departments themselves in pursuance of the instructions given by the War Book have drafted all the Proclamations, Orders in Council, Letters, Telegrams, Notices, and so forth, which can be foreseen. Every possible provision has been made to avoid delay in setting in force the machinery in the unhappy event of war taking place. It has been thought necessary to make this Committee permanent in order that these war arrangements may be constantly kept up to date. That is the third of the permanent Sub-committees of the Committee of Imperial Defence.
The fourth, which has been very recently brought into existence to deal with a new matter, is one which I think the House will agree has become one of ever increasing importance year by year, and is what is known as the Air Committee. It deals with all matters of aerial navigation, both military and naval, in the event of war. These are permanent organisations. In addition to those, we have appointed from time to time, and are appointing, and will continue to appoint, special Sub-committees to deal with particular matters. The Committee will understand that I cannot consistently, with my duty, go into very minute detail with regard to them, but I can give one or two illustrations without injury to the public service, which will, I think, show the kind of inquiry which is constantly going on. First 1390 of all, we have had a succession of Subcommittees. There is one now sitting, presided over by the Secretary of State for War, which deals with local and internal transportation—that is, between different parts of the United Kingdom and the distribution of supplies in time of war. Another Committee is dealing with oversea transport and reinforcements in time of war, and still another very important one is organising wireless telegraphy throughout the Empire. In that matter I am glad to say we have reached very definite conclusions, and I hope very soon we shall have a continuous system of wireless telegraphy, of which the governing stations will all rest on British territory, or territory in British occupation, and which will be conveyed from one end of the Empire to the other without going through foreign soil at all.
We have further Committees dealing with the control of the Press and Censorship in time of war—a very serious matter. That has never received adequate consideration, and in regard to which, as anyone acquainted with the subject knows, the most delicate questions arise; and the maintenance of Oversea Commerce in time of war. I hope the Committee will understand that these are only samples and specimens of the inquiry which is constantly going on by these various subordinate bodies, and the results of which are always reported to the full Committee of Imperial Defence, and by them approved or disapproved or modified, as the case may be. For the purpose of under taking these inquiries, we are able by the elastic composition of our organisations to draw practically on the whole of the public service, and from time to time to take into our counsel, and obtain the co-operation of gentlemen who are not connected with the public service at all, such as Lloyds, great railway companies, and the other great commercial organisations; and I believe in that way we get both a wealth of information and also a width and range of experience and judgment which it would be impossible to obtain under any other conditions.
The Committee will agree that large and important as are its functions, this Committee is not an expensive one. It is the cheapest thing that is done by the Government of this country. You talk, and talk with great reason, about bloated armaments. All I can say is that the Imperial Defence Committee in discharging these very delicate and important 1391 functions, does little or nothing to swell the volume of that expenditure. I deeply regret to say that we have lost during the course of the last few months the services of Admiral Sir Charles Ottley, one of the most distinguished of our naval officers, who was the assistant secretary of the Committee when it was first formed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and when Sir George Clarke, the distinguished Governor of Bombay, was secretary. He succeeded Sir George Clarke, and during the whole of the time I have presided over the Committee has given me the most devoted and invaluable service. I deeply regret the loss of Sir Charles Ottley, and I am glad to think that we have in his successor, Captain Hankey, a man intimately acquainted with the work of the office, and thoroughly capable of carrying on its traditions. The effect from the pecuniary point of view is this. The Estimate that the House is asked to vote is larger than is required. The Committee will be glad to hear that the total cost of the Committee of Imperial Defence is this:—Secretariat, which includes secretary and four assistant secretaries and the necessary confidential clerks, £3,200. In addition to that we have the historical section, engaged in the very important task which used to be entrusted to the War Office, but which I think is more fittingly discharged by the Imperial Defence Committee, that of writing military history, such as the military history of recent wars like the Russo-Japanese war and other military operations. The cost of the historical section is £l,950. The whole thing cost the country very little more than £5,000 in salaries and other expenses. I think, at any rate, the Committee will agree that that is not a very expensive item in our national service. I have tried to indicate, with as much detail as the delicate nature of the subject will allow, what is the work and what are the main functions of this Committee. As I said at the outset, we are most careful not to trench in any way on the responsibility of the Government for the policy which it recommends to the House of Commons. We are most careful also not to interfere with what I may call the autonomy of the great Departments, such as the Army and Navy.
When I say the Committee does not consider matters of policy I ought, in order to make myself perfectly clear, to 1392 add that though it does not determine policy, its deliberations and its conclusions are necessarily coloured and governed by a reference to our international relations. In that respect, since we came into power, and since I have had anything to do with the doings of this Committee, I wish to say with the greatest emphasis, there has been no change of policy of any sort or kind. Our international relations have been conducted now for the best part of ten years, or at any rate for eight years, on perfectly settled and definite lines, and they have not shifted to the right or to the left during the whole of that time. What are they? I can state them in two or three sentences, and only in so far as it seems to me relevant for the consideration of this subject. We cultivate with great and growing cordiality on both sides I our special international friendships. They have stood the test of time, the test of bad as well as good weather, and the consequence of them I do not hesitate to say is that many matters which ten or fifteen years ago would have been the cause of friction and possibly of ill-feeling, and even of worse than ill-feeling, have been smoothly dealt with by mutual accommodation, and have been settled with perfect good will and without any trouble on one side or the other. Be it remembered—a fact which is sometimes forgotten by those who criticise our foreign policy—that the Powers between whom and ourselves these special relations of friendship have existed., and happily do exist, are the Powers with which in various parts of the world we are brought into close and intimate contact with infinite possibilities—if our relations were not what they happily are, as past experience has shown—not only of friction, but even of animosity and hostility. As between ourselves and these great Powers with whom in various parts of the world—Asia, Africa, and elsewhere —we and our subjects are constantly brought into close relationship, the history of the last eight years is, I am glad to say, a history of mutual understanding, freedom from friction, and growing cordiality and loyalty. But when I say that of the Powers with whom these intimate relations happily exist, I say, as I have said more than once in this place and elsewhere, that our friendships with them are in no sense exclusive friendships. I say, and I say this deliberately, we have no cause, and so far as I know no occasion, for quarrel with any country in any part of the world.
1393 We view without the least suspicion or dissatisfaction—on the contrary, we view with equanimity and with more than equanimity—such special conversations and interchanges of opinion as have taken place between Russia on the one side and Germany on the other, and so in the case of ourselves Our relations with the great German empire are, I am glad to say, at this moment—and I feel sure are likely to remain—relations of amity and good will. My Noble Friend Lord Haldane, the present Lord Chancellor, paid a visit to Berlin early in the year. He entered upon conversations and an interchange of views there which have been continued since in a spirit of perfect frankness and friendship both on one side or the other, and in which I am glad to say we now have the advantage of the participation of a very distinguished diplomatist in the person of the German Ambassador. I say our friendships are in no sense exclusive, and for very good reasons. The greatest of British interests is the peace of the world. If, as is unhappily the case, there is in this country, as elsewhere, a growing and a lamentable expenditure upon armaments, both naval and military, there is no Power in the world which does not know perfectly well that so far as we are concerned, so far as we are compelled to take part in that expenditure, we have no aggressive purpose. We covet no territory. We have neither the desire nor the temptation to extend in any way the range of our responsibilities, but those responsibilities are world-wide, and yet we are compelled, as we are, to divert from other purposes more productive and more advantageous to mankind the funds we are now spending for the maintenance in particular of our supremacy at sea. I am speaking what every one in this House knows to be the absolute and literal fact when I say that that expenditure is regarded by us simply as an insurance, and the necessary insurance, of enormous interests, both domestic and external, of which the Government of this country and the House of Commons are, or ought to be, faithful and vigilant trustees.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am sure I am only expressing the opinion of everybody in this House when I say how grateful we are to the Prime Minister for the extremely clear statement he has given us of the functions of the Committee the Vote for which we are considering to-day. I remember well when that Committee was 1394 formed by my right hon. Friend beside me. I thought then it would be of great service, but what has happened since, and the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made, shows that it is really of more value than has been realised by the House, or at all events has been realised by myself. It is, as the House knows, only on rare occasions that this Vote comes up. The right hon. Gentleman has shown us in the clearest way what are some of the duties which this Committee is discharging. We all listened with special pleasure to what he said about the participation in these discussions of the Prime Ministers of the self-governing Dominions, and I may mention, certainly without any intention of claiming credit to our side, as the House remembers, that a Motion was made from this side, supported by my right hon. Friend, urging that an invitation should be sent to the Prime Minister to attend that Conference. The other three Committees, which the Prime Minister has described as permanent Committees, are simply of inestimable value, and the only wonder is how this country could have got on so long without such Committees.
As I have said, I do not wish in the least to minimise—I wish to pay the highest tribute to the value of this Committee— but I think it necessary that both the House and the country should understand exactly what its nature is and what are its limitations. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, it is and must be a purely Advisory Committee. The Government is not bound to follow out the advice which that Committee gives, but more than that, the expert members of the Committee and the political members sit together as equals. The decision, therefore, of the Defence Committee, whether the Government adopts it or not, is not the decision of the expert members of that Committee; therefore I think it is not out of place to point out on what different footings these two classes meet round the same table. Every political member of that Committee has at least the faculty, if he has any ideas, of expressing them clearly. If he could not do that he would not be a Cabinet Minister. [Laughter.] As hon. Members laugh, I will put it differently, and say if he cannot do that he ought not to be a Cabinet Minister. It is not so with the expert advisers. The truth is that I think, as far as my experience goes—I speak from my experience as a business man—that the better that 1395 class of man is, as a rule, the greater difficulty he has in expressing his views, no matter how clearly he holds them. When this Committee was formed a general meeting of the Committee had only, I think, about six political representatives —I am sure the right hon. Gentelman will correct me if I am wrong—but now a much larger number of Cabinet Ministers attend.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Well, on big occasions which are important. The result of that must be that the weight of expert opinion on that Committee is apt to be less than it otherwise might be. I am not finding fault in any way with it, but I think it is necessary that the country should understand that not merely the decision of the Government, but the decision of the Defence Committee may not be the view of the experts who sit upon that Committee. I think it is necessary, however valuable the Committee may be, that the country should clearly understand that, for otherwise there is danger that we might have a feeling of false security from the idea that the policy at any time represents the views of the experts on the Defence Committee.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I still adhere to the view I have just expressed. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not disagree with me when I say that it would be a great mistake for the country to suppose that on all occasions, or on big occasions, the decision of the Defence Committee represents the views of the experts on that Committee. That is all I wish to say on that point. This subject is, of course, a very big one, and what I propose to do is in the main what my right hon. Friend suggested would take place, with the agreement of the Prime Minister, and that is continue the discussion which began on Monday. I should like at the outset to make two observations. There is a section of this House, a very small section, I believe, which always looks upon the Defence Estimates, whatever they are, as too large. On the other hand, we on this side of the House are supposed always to say, whatever they are, they are too small. The advantage of that is the Government is in the middle position. They are able 1396 to say dialectically, as a Member on that bench said on Monday, "as one section says we are spending too much, and the other that we are spending too little, the probability is we are spending the right amount." That is only a dialectical advantage. That does not represent in the least the views of my hon. Friends on these benches. There is no difference of opinion whatever in principles between the Government and us on this subject. We deplore just as much as the Prime Minister does—and he has expressed it in the speech to which we have just listened —the withdrawal from the pockets of the taxpayers of money to be spent unnecessarily on unproductive work. We do not desire to spend one penny more than is absolutely necessary for the security of this country. That is our view. That is always our feeling, and, if I may say so, especially our feeling at this moment. We have the idea, probably hon. Gentlemen opposite will think it is a mistaken idea, without any foundation, that there may be some time a change of Government, and the very last thing any of us would desire would be to commit ourselves in advance to the expenditure of a single penny more than the absolute necessities of the case demand. The other observation is that there is no one on these benches who does not wish to treat this entirely outside of party politics. In my opinion the question of our defensive forces is on precisely the same footing as our foreign policy. What we would like to do would be to be able to do what has been done consistently, during the years we have been in opposition, with regard to foreign policy; and as we have supported the general policy of the Government in foreign affairs, so we should like without the smallest criticism to be able to support them with regard to naval and military defence. If, therefore, I have to say anything by way of criticism, and I do intend to say something by way of criticism, I can assure the Committee it is not said willingly. After the speeches of the First Lord of the Admiralty, both in the country and in this House, I had hoped that just as in regard to our foreign policy, so on this question, all that would have been necessary would have been to say we thoroughly support what the Government are doing.
During the last few years a very great change has taken place before our eyes in the position of this Empire, a change greater, I believe, than has ever taken place in the same space of time in regard to any great country, except as the result 1397 of a decisive war. On questions like this, there is a danger of talking platitudes, and what I am now going to say is really a platitude, because it is so obvious. Ten years ago we not only had the command of the sea, but we had the command of every sea. What is the position now? We have the command of no sea in the world, except the North Sea at this moment. That change has been taking place before our eyes, and many times I have myself been reminded of what happened in the days of the decline of the Roman Empire, when pressure at the heart forced them to call their legions home to Rome. That has happened to us. We have had to call back our legions and to call them back for precisely the same purpose. Nothing shows more how completely what has happened than an incidental remark made by the First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday, when he said that a ship we intended to send to China and a vessel belonging to New Zealand had been retained for Home Service. Let me put it to the House from another point of view. A very few years ago, though our fleet of course was not equal or anything like equal to the fleets of the rest of the world, yet it was so strong that, taking into account the fact it was under one control and that all other fleets were divided, it is not an exaggeration to say it would not have been impossible if a similar combination to that which threatened us in the time of Napoleon had threatened us again, we should have come out of the struggle with some hopes of success. There is no such possibility now. There has been this great change, and it is a permanent one. I do not suggest that anything we could have done could have prevented that change, but I cannot refrain from joining in the criticism which was made by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) on Monday, that we, at a critical and I think a vital time, did everything in our power to facilitate and to hasten that change. When this Government came into office, the first thing they did was to cease to carry out the Cawdor programme. The First Lord of the Admiralty on Monday said this in regard to our naval position:—Cool, steady, methodical preparation prolonged over a succession of years, can alone raise the margin of naval power."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd July, 1912, col. 842.]That is their precept now, what was their practice? In 1906–7, they put down three ships, the next year three, the next year two, and then suddenly the next year 1398 eight. Is that cool, methodical, progressive development of our Navy? Nobody can say what might have happened, but I doubt if there is a man in this House who does not think it is at least possible if at that time, when Germany had definitely shown they meant to rival us at sea, we had shown the same determination to maintain our supremacy as now, that rivalry might have been postponed and postponed definitely. [HON. MEMBERS: "We do doubt it."] Of course, I know Gentlemen who sit on that bench do not agree with me, and, after all, the past is past and we cannot reverse it. What is essential is that we should take care we do not make a similar mistake again. This great change in our position has taken place, and the vital thing for us is to consider whether, as a nation, we are adapting ourselves in the best possible way to the new conditions. How can we adapt ourselves to them? The first corollary of the position in which we now stand is in regard to our foreign policy. Here I am glad to say I have no word of criticism to offer on what the Government have done. The fact that our position has changed has altered our whole position in regard to foreign policy. We can no longer stand in a position of isolation with comparative indifference as to the grouping of other Powers. We cannot do that. Therefore, as I ventured to say two or three nights ago in discussing the Foreign Office Vote—and I only repeated what had been said by the Foreign Secretary—it is vitally necessary we should have a consistent, steady foreign policy, and the keynote of that policy is the very point which the Prime Minister has referred to: steady and persistent friendship with the other two Powers who are united with us in the Triple entente. In this connection, I should be surprised if anyone in the House disagrees with me. This grouping of the Powers on the whole tends towards peace. That is my view, and I do not understand how any other view can be taken. Suppose, for instance, there was any Power which had an aggressive tendency and which had designs on a single Power. They are much less likely to carry out those designs if they know it will not be war with that Power alone, but with other Powers who will come to its assistance. More than that, the Power knows that to have any chances of success it must carry with it the other Powers that are grouped with it, and obviously it is more difficult, if there is any thought of a policy of aggression, 1399 to carry it out if the support of other Powers has to be brought in before the struggle takes place. That, I think, is inevitable, but, of course, it does not mean, and nobody suggests it means, it makes war either improbable or impossible. All I say is it tends in the direction of peace and makes war less likely than if this grouping had not taken place. I listened on Monday with complete disagreement to the statement made by the Prime Minister. He suggested, or at least I so understood him, that it was absurd to consider Italy or Austria as possible enemies. I do not understand that.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It is the same thing for the purposes of my argument. It is perfectly true, as he said, we are united to Italy, not only by good feeling now, but by traditional friendship, and I think it is reciprocal. I think the Italians would be very sorry indeed to go to war with us. But, after all, Italy is a member of the Triple Alliance. It has not done that for nothing; it has formed that Alliance for the sake of some object it thinks vital. They cannot have what they want without paying the compensating price. Therefore, I do say we have the right to consider, if there is any possibility of war with one member of the Triple Alliance, and we would be foolish in the extreme if we did not regard it as possible and even probable, that the other members of the Alliance would take part in the war as well. If the right hon. Gentleman had only meant it is very unlikely we should be engaged in a war with these Powers alone, then I should entirely agree with him. I think it is extremely unlikely, but it is obvious, I think, that in considering our position we cannot leave out of account the existence of the Triple Alliance. The first necessity from our changed position is our foreign policy. The second is the condition of our national defence. It is obvious, I think, we must regard our defence more carefully and subject it to far more minute examination than was over necessary in this country before. I think that is inevitable, and everyone will admit it. On Monday the First Lord of the Admiralty, at the opening of his speech, gave us a description of the effect of the new German Naval Law. It was a description which has been accepted, as I have seen in the German Press, as accu 1400 rate. It was given, not only without rhetoric and exaggeration, but in the most lucid and the most businesslike way, and was all the more impressive on that account. I venture to say, speaking for myself, I have never heard in this House, and I doubt if there has ever been heard in this House, a statement which seemed graver than that which was made by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I know there are Members of this House who think it is wrong, it is provocative, to compare our strength at all with that of Germany. That seems to me an absurdity. The whole object of keeping defensive forces at all is on the assumption that some day we may have to go to war, and, if we consider the possibility of war, we must consider it from the point of view of that nation, whatever it is, which is in the position to hurt us most if war should arise. That is all we mean. It does not mean in the least we have any feelings of hostility or ill-will to Germany. I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman said on that point; and it does not mean either that we do not understand the German position. I remember two or three years ago reading a German book which made a great impression on my mind. I will interpret a single sentence from it:—Disarmament is not a question of practical politics so long as one Power is able, if it wishes, between night and morning to annihilate our mercantile marine and destroy our oversea trade.That is a very natural view for a German to entertain, and, if I were a German, I should probably entertain it too. But that is really our difficulty. The real conflict, the real tragedy, as some great writer has said, is not between right and wrong, but between right and right. The Germans have a perfect right to take that view, but it is a view which is incompatible with our security, for, on a supreme Navy, and on that alone, not only our prosperity, but our existence depends. We have to consider whether or not that ambition is realised, and to take care that we do not allow it to be realised to the point of their being able to attack us on anything like equal terms. That is the whole question in dispute now. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) put it on Monday night in a nutshell, when he asked, "Are you not running it too fine in the proposals which are before the House this week?" That is the whole question. How are we to decide it? The First Lord of the Admiralty practically put it in this way. He said, "The Admiralty have asked what they thought necessary, and 1401 the Government have given them all they asked." That sounds conclusive, but it only means this, that we have got to trust absolutely blindfold to the views of the Admiralty. On a question so vital as this, can we trust it blindfold in view of our past experience. What happened in 1909? The Prime Minister said then, and the Home Secretary said the same thing, that the year before acting on the best advice that the Admiralty could give him, he had made a miscalculation in two vital respects. How can we be sure that they they are not making a miscalculation now? [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not going to happen."] The danger is, what is going to happen two or three years hence?
Look at it from another point of view. How can we trust the Admiralty in a blindfold way in view of our experience of what the Admiralty have done during the last two or three months only. Take for instance one case. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer held up these £6,500,000, it is a fact—I was told it by the editor of more than one newspaper, and I am sure the First Lord will not deny it— that semi-official communications were sent to the Press by the Admiralty pointing out that this was being done on account of the needs of the Navy. It is obvious that some change must have taken place since. [The PRIME MINISTER dissented.] I will not press that since the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but if there has not been a change I do not think that it was dealing fairly either with the House of Commons or with the public. Take another case on which there is absolutely no room for doubt which shows vaccilation and weakness on the part of the Admiralty; that is their dealing with the Mediterranean. The Committee will remember the speech which was made by the First Lord in March. I listened to it, and I formed the conclusion, as I think everybody did, that what the Admiralty was doing was bringing home from the Mediterranean a squadron there because it was needed at home. Nothing has been said in these Debates that explains this conundrum. If that was necessary then why is it not necessary now? But there is something else which shows how completely their policy must have changed. What the Admiralty are now doing, instead of withdrawing from the Mediterranean, is strengthening our position there.
What has happened during the last three or four months? Everyone in this country believed, and they were allowed 1402 to believe, without the slightest correction on the part of the Government—everyone, not only in this country, but abroad believed—that we were withdrawing this fleet from the Mediterranean to protect us at home. If the Government had really no such intention, is it credible that any sane man would have allowed that idea to go abroad all this time without, correcting it, considering the effect of it, the effect which has already taken place, and which it will take years to overcome, the effect upon our prestige. I know there are Gentlemen below the Gangway and I remember speeches by prominent Members of the Government, in which they mocked at the word "prestige" altogether. I think it is a great mistake. Prestige to a nation is, in my opinion, what credit is to a business man. It is his life. What has happened to my knowledge in Egypt? The Press, which is not favourable to this country, has dwelt constantly on the fact that we are withdrawing from the Mediterranean, and has drawn from it the lesson that in a short time British rule will be removed from Egypt. What about India? I have no knowledge what the effect has been there, but everyone knows that our Indian Empire depends absolutely on our prestige. So long as we are strong, India is a strength to us, but the moment we are no longer believed to be strong it becomes a source of weakness to us. It is vital. Does anybody pretend that this Government would have allowed all this to go on if they had not changed their mind, and that that was the explanation of the change? If, in view of this experience, we cannot trust the Admiralty blindfold, we are reduced to try and consider what the position is for ourselves as best we can, and I am perfectly ready to confess that there are few who from their past training have had less to guide them in the subject than I have. But we must use the best judgment we can. What is the position? I am not going to use any figures except those given by the First Lord himself. In March he said:—We must never conduct our affairs so that the navy of any single Power would be able to engage as at any single moment, even our least favourable moment, with any reasonable prospect of success.In view of what he told us on Monday, can he say that that condition can be fulfilled two or three years hence? What was the position on the figures he gave us. I do not want to take advantage of the right hon. Gentleman's honesty and frankness to make any unfair debating use of the 1403 information he gave us. He gave us it in a most complete way, and there it stands, and it does represent his views. He told us that in two or three years our margin, taking his own definition of our least favourable moment, as against their selected and most favourable moment, would be twenty-nine battleships to thirty-three. He did say something about this yesterday, but nothing that he has said has altered it in the least. I shall be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman will correct me, but I have done my best to put the facts correctly. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out truly there are four of these German twenty-nine that are not regularly in commission. Yes, but we are taking the assumption that the selected moment is the moment of danger for us, and at the selected moment those four ships will inevitably be there. So it does come down to twenty-nine to thirty-three. Let me point out another thing. The First Lord of the Admiralty said there were other factors to be taken into account which would make the conditions more favourable to us. But he said it would not be to the public interest to go into details. I do not ask him or anyone else to say anything not to the public interest. All I will say is that I have not been able, either by studying it myself or discussing with those more expert than I am, to find out anything which modifies the vital comparison.
Take battle cruisers, which are not included. In considering those which we are to have in the Mediterranean I make out that we have six against the German six. That brings the closeness much nearer. I am bound to say if that is the only margin, and taking into account what was pointed out by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and what is obvious to everyone, that naval war is entirely unlike war by land, that a fleet which is constantly ready to strike at a moments's notice—a declaration of war may be made at twelve o'clock and the first blow struck at one—it might, indeed, be struck simultaneously—as far as I can judge that is a margin which is far too narrow. The First Lord of the Admiralty poured ridicule on the idea that there was any difference of opinion in the Cabinet with regard to this question. I think that is making a considerable demand on the faith of the House of Commons. At all events the Radical Press, which, on all past occasions, has had curiously accurate information, has 1404 been terribly misinformed on this occasion. But more than that, there is a difference of opinion in the party undoubtedly. Is it not probable and likely that that difference in the party is reflected in the Cabinet itself? The danger I fear is that this matter has been met by some kind of compromise. On a question of this kind, as the First Lord himself said, compromise is fatal. I really do not want to exaggerate. I am quite sure that if this country really believed that there was danger, they would refuse no possible sacrifice which the Government could ask. But, in spite of all that has been said, does the country, do the House of Commons, do any of us really believe that there is a danger and a vital danger? [HON. MEMBER: "No, no."] I confess that I have the greatest difficulty in believing it myself. I confess it. It is very difficult for anyone to realise something which is not only outside the scope of his own experience, but outside the experience of his father and grandfather before him. My instinct tells me that there is no danger, but my reason, such as it is, is in conflict. When I use my judgment as best I can, in considering what the facts of the position are, I say deliberately that, in my judgment, Lord Roberts did not exaggerate when he said the other day that this country had never been in a position of greater peril. That is my view. Are we sure that the Government themselves are not guided more by instinct than by reason? I think they are. If they were influenced solely by the facts as they studied them we should have been doing something else and something more in connection with these Navy Votes than is proposed now. That is all I want to say, and I am sorry that I thought it my duty to say even as much.
There is only one other point on which I would like to say a word or two before I sit down. It is not a new point, and I have nothing new to say about it. It is the question of our food being stored in peace, so as to be available in war. As the Committee knows, a Commission sat on this subject, and reported in 1905. It seemed to me, at that time, that it could be arranged very easily; but the need for it is greater now. I ask the Committee to consider what the question is. Grain is stored now in some parts of the world all the time. I was told the other day that the Canadian Pacific Railway alone carried all 1405 the year round a stock of grain which would supply us for a month or two at least. I believe, and this Commission rather encouraged the belief, that even if we simply gave the storage rent free the fact that the rent was free would encourage grain to come to this country and be stored. But we cannot rely upon that. If we pay public money we must be sure the grain is there, and there all the time. I cannot say definitely what it would cost, but in my belief it would only cost a few hundred thousand pounds. I do not suggest it in the least as an alternative for naval defence. I wonder if any Members of this Committee realise what our position would be at the outbreak of war? No great nation has ever waged war under the conditions in which we would wage it, that is, depending for its food supply on supplies from outside. The beginning of the war —if there were such a thing—would be the critical time. Suppose one or two big vessels, carrying wheat, happened to be sunk at the outset of the war. The one thing I learned in business experience was this, and I am sure every business man in the Committee will agree with me, that prices do not depend upon what the conditions are, but on what people generally think they are going to be. I am perfectly certain that if that happened there would be a panic in regard to the price of food out of all proportion to the real economic loss involved in the sinking of the two vessels.
I do not wish to dogmatise upon this matter, but I do suggest to the Government that it is worth their while to consider, not in an academic way, if, as I believe, it can be done at a very trifling cost, and without any great disturbance of trade. I know that those engaged in the corn trade at the time of the Commission did think it would upset their arrangements, but, personally, I do not think that would happen, except at the beginning, and they would adjust themselves to it. All I suggest to the Government is that they should have this inquired into, not in an academic way, but with a view to carrying it out at once, if it can be done without much expense and much inconvenience. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite think I have made a panicky speech—a panic of ignorance—I have tried not to. At all events, I have really put my own views, such as they are, exactly as I entertain them. I do not wish the Committee to think that I take a pessimistic view of the prospects of the British Empire. On the contrary, I am 1406 convinced that if we realise the position, and use our resources to meet it, we are in no danger, and that we have all the winning cards if we choose to play them. Let me give one idea, and I am sorry to say I must confess it is not supported by experts, but which has just occurred tome. It seems to me that the development of naval warfare will have this result, that in process of time big battleships will run increased danger in narrow waters. That is my belief. As we are only defensive— for I believe that the Prime Minister was perfectly right in saying that we have no desire for aggression on anybody—I believe that the development of submarines, aeroplanes, and other forms of small craft, will in time make our position more secure, and that it is the immediate future we have most to safeguard.
I have another reason for being sanguine; I spoke earlier of understandings, with Foreign Powers, but the real alliance is an alliance within the British Empire. Like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, I am a Canadian. Although. I have spent most of my life in this country, I have still a very warm feeling for Canada, and I am proud to think that not only has the Prime Minister of Canada shown clearly that he is anxious to help us, but, so far as I can gather from the Press reports in Canada, the guarded expression he has made has been received most warmly throughout the whole of the Dominion. It is not in Canada alone. There are signs that the same feelings are entertained by our other Dominions. I listened with the utmost pleasure to the statement of the Prime Minister the other day that he was ready, whenever those Dominions showed a disposition to share our burden, to share with them the responsibility, and the glory, too, of governing the British Empire. He did not express only his own views. There I am certain there will be no party feeling in this country—we all wish that. What we need is, to quote as nearly as I can remember the words of the Prime Minister,Co-operation in peace and war within the Empire itself.That is the problem; not the problem for British statesmen only, or chiefly; it is the problem for the statesmen throughout the whole of the Empire. If it is faced with good will, with patience, and, above all, with courage, it is a problem which, in my belief, can be solved, and its solution will be the only security for the continued existence and the continued greatness of 1407 the British Empire, and it will also be, in my belief, the best guarantee for the peace of the world.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I beg to move "That Item E (Committee of Imperial Defence)— Salaries and Allowances" be reduced by£100.
I hope that the Committee will not think it presumptuous of me to intervene early in this discussion, and to follow the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I am only too conscious that I am ill-equipped to deal with the large subjects of Imperial concern, but I believe this to be the best opportunity of surveying the whole field, and, as the Prime Minister said in his speech, we can on this Vote really co-ordinate the duties of the Foreign Office and the defensive Services. Therefore it seems a better opportunity to make a protest—if a protest must be made— than on the Votes we have had before us during the present week. I have to voice an opinion which is unpopular, and which is generally despised. It is held by a minority of Members in this House. Although it is unpopular in this House, I cannot say that I have ever found it unpopular at any meetings in the country which I have attended. I do not think that our attitude—I am not speaking for any other hon. Gentlemen, but I know many of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee agree with my views—ought to be misinterpreted or misjudged. We are accused of being unpatriotic; we are accused sometimes, in speeches from hon. Members opposite, of desiring to scrap the Navy; and we are told that we do not sufficiently realise the responsibilities of the British Empire, and that we do not wish to safeguard it against all risks that may occur. I believe that none of those accusations are true. I do not even know that I can legitimately call myself an economist. I am certainly no doctrinaire economist. I have no objection to the spending of money, so long as the money is spent by the right people and on the right purpose, but I think it is the duty of a certain section in this House to keep a very vigilant eye on the expenditure of this country. As to patriotism, I have an almost superstitious belief in the British race, in British characteristics, and in the position of domination which we hold in the world. I do not in any way despise the word "prestige," which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned in 1408 his speech. I believe that the British race is a great and powerful influence in the civilisation of the world, and I want to see that influence continued. I do not want to see anything endanger it.
Further, I am in favour of adequate naval defences, but I acknowledge that I have no belief in the mathematical calculations that we so often hear in this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, before he sat down, could not resist embarking upon those calculations. I do not believe that we can arrive at what is national security by doing sums of this character. I do not believe that any engagement in the past has depended, or that any engagement in the future will depend, upon arithmetic. Two and two make four when they are small marbles of equal weight and size; but two and two do not necessarily make four when you have to take into account the human element, national characteristics, individual variations, and all the different elements which go to make up a national force. Therefore, I do not believe that these calculations necessarily mean security. Hon. Members opposite say we are running the margin very fine. They may be right; I have no idea. When hon. Members on this side of the House observe that we are spending too much, and that by the figures we have more than complete security, they may be right. Behind these figures there is a far more important element to be taken into account—that is the policy which leads up to the present state of affairs. Moreover, I am not a believer, nowadays, in war. I do not believe that war is going to be of any advantage to the victors, and therefore I look forward to war, however great our Fleet may be, however preponderating the power that we hold over all the other Powers of the world, with the greatest misgiving. I do not believe the future of the British Empire is going to be built up on iron and steel. I believe we have come to the parting of the ways. We have got this great position in the world, and I like to think it is the highest position in the world, and we have got two paths open to us. Either we are going to follow the example of Empires which have existed in history before us and build up our future on force, or else we are going to see the folly of such a course and determine to build up the security of our Empire from the inside. It is tempting, no doubt, as matters stand, to take the first alternative, but I 1409 hope before it is too late, we shall wake up to the folly of such a step. The stream of national wealth is being diverted from a fertilising channel into these stagnant pools of destructive expenditure. That is, anyhow, perfectly patent and obvious.
If we are anxious for social reform— and we as a party profess to be—we cannot have social reform together with high expenditure on armaments. The two are mutually destructive. We cannot have them together. Only the other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that unless the nations of the world had a care there would soon be no money for social reform. Money was being invested in guns and warships, and the fever of armaments was the greatest enemy of social progress and the peaceful development of nations. There can be no question of that. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) the other day said this was one of the gravest situations that could be conceived and the Leader of the Opposition to-day repeated that he considered this a very grave moment. I do not think they exaggerated when they said that, but I think the gravity of the situation arises, not from the supposed menace against our naval supremacy from outside, but from the menace which is held out to the national well-being of our people at home —and that I consider to be a very grave menace. The naval expenditure which we have been discussing during the week is most difficult to attack. The First Lord made a perfectly clear statement. We could not complain of anything that he said once we accepted the Estimates at the beginning of the year. There was nothing inconsistent in what he said. It is not the Admiralty that can be attacked effectively in his matter. You cannot really attack the War Office for their expenditure, and you cannot attack the Treasury; you must fall back on the policy that lies under this whole competition, and it is because this Vote allows us to dwell on the underlying policy that I think it is a favourable opportunity for those who consider that the Government are taking a very dangerous course to give the most emphatic protest we can. Last year, when I said that our Naval Estimates would reach £50,000,000, I remember being told by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. McKenna) that my anticipations were mistaken. We know now that within a very few years our Estimates will be £50,000,000. But what makes the situation more serious this year than last 1410 is the fact that last year the First Lord said he hoped we had reached high tide. This year we are told definitely, openly, and frankly that not only have we not reached high tide, but that expenditure is to increase in the years to come. That is what makes this moment of more importance than any that we have yet had, and that is why I agree with right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they say nothing could exceed the gravity of the statement made by the First Lord the other day.
When I come to the policy that lies behind and at the bottom of the cause of the position we find ourselves in, that is where I find myself in complete disagreement with both the Prime Minister and the Lender of the Opposition. I want to allude once more to what appears to me to be a very fatal way of conducting our intercourse with foreign nations. We had a recent instance of it which brings it home. The Foreign Secretary, a very few days ago, on the occasion of the Foreign Office Vote, declared that our relations with Germany were excellent, and that gave us cause for some hope, and was a source of gratification to every Member of the House. But immediately after that we had the First Lord of the Admiralty isolating one European Power and pitting our naval construction ship by ship against that Power. Is it not impossible to maintain relations which are friendly under circumstances of that sort? I do not say that the First Lord of the Admiralty intends to be provocative when he does that. I am perfectly certain that is not the case, but we have slipped into this new manner during the last few years, and so long as that manner persists, it is perfectly impossible that these Powers which are singled out on the occasion of our naval statements as competitors, as possible enemies of ours, can regard us with the same friendliness as those which are not mentioned. Now those preparations have reached such a pitch that war is not regarded as probable or possible, but we talk of it as if it had been decided upon, and as if in the future, at some given date, when our mathematical calculations were sufficiently ripe, war was going to take place. That is the impression that is given. People say to me, "By your own argument war is inevitable; why not have it now, when we are undoubtedly superior?" and I find it extremely difficult to answer if we are always facing a probable war, and that is the attitude that is 1411 taken up by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He is responsible, and in his position of responsibility he has to make full and adequate preparations for war—that I fully admit—but he accentuates the probability of war every time he mentions some particular individual Power.
But what is more to be deplored than all this is the attitude of diplomacy. We fold our hands; we take a fatalistic view; we say, "Whoever was originally responsible we need not discuss; we have to face the facts as they are, and we cannot help it." I do not see why diplomacy should make this confession of weakness. I just now heard the Prime Minister, in his interesting account of what the Committee of Imperial Defence were doing, and how they have got everything mapped out with the greatest precision in the event of war, mention the War Book. I wondered in what Department the Peace book is kept. I wondered if any efforts were made in favour of peace except these occasional diplomatic conversations and these occasional provocative allusions in speeches to foreign nations—whether any great concerted effort was ever made by the Government in order to bring about friendly relations with the one Power with whom if we were on friendly relations the whole of this insane competition would be entirely unnecessary. Our diplomacy is approved by the Leader of the Opposition and has been defended by the Foreign Secretary, and it was alluded to by the Prime Minister to-day. It is the grouping or the balance of power, and I believe when we get to this we really get at the very bedrock and prime cause of the present situation. It is not the least use pretending that the balance of power is a successful form of foreign policy when we have to admit that the whole world is in a state of insane competition of armaments, and that war may at any time be possible. We cannot say that the policy that has brought about the present state of affairs, when we are spending £72,000,000 on national defence and are going to spend a great deal more in the future, is a success. The grouping of the Powers, or as it is called, the balance of power—what does it mean? It means what the Prime Minister referred to in his remarks about our policy, and he used a word which really shows my exact meaning. He said we have special international friendships. Why should we have special international friendships? Is it because we want to 1412 maintain this balance of power? Maintenance of the balance of power means a continual adjustment of relations, continual bargaining, the support of one Power against another, alliances and friendships which are ostentatious, which are open, which the Prime Minister says, are special, and which must give rise to suspicions of hostility in other quarters.
Lord Haldane said the other day there was no reason to suppose that the Triple Alliance was founded on an aggressive basis. What was aggressive was the formation of three Powers to stand up against the Triple Alliance, or the division of Europe into two camps, or this policy of the grouping of Powers which, brings about these strained relations. I believe that, unless this policy is abandoned, the tension which exists between these two sets of Powers will not cease, and that the competition of armaments will continue. On either side we have one Power singled out of the two groups— Germany and Great Britain. In each of these countries we have a Government, a certain section of the Press, specialists and' experts, a small body of jingoes, and last, but not least, those who are interested in the manufacture of the munitions of war. These groups in Germany and Great Britain are conducting the policy of the two countries, continuing the agitation, and making this competition of armaments possible, while underneath the people are entirely out of sympathy with all this sort of thing. They are looking across at one another through this mist of guns and "Dreadnoughts," and they only see that they have common interests; that they are fighting for a common cause, and for the safety and honour of their own country; and they are unanimous for peace. Our Government in this respect in all matters connected with defence, in all matters connected with foreign policy, is untouched by the democratic feeling. It still remains partly aristrocratic, and, to a large extent, bureaucratic. This oligarchy which dominates each country is not in touch with popular feeling. If it were, it would realise that the people, in either country neither desire this competition in armaments, nor have any wish whatsoever to fight with one another. They only desire that their Governments should give expression to the deepest feeling of friendship which could make them unite together against common enemies which exist in both countries.
I think statesmen move in a very narrow groove. They are overwhelmed with work. 1413 They consult Cabinets; they see Ministers; they take the advice of experts, and they form their opinions in an isolated atmosphere, which is hot really in touch at all with the general life of the country. If Ministers were able in matters of this sort to keep in close consultation with the people, to consult the large mass of workers, who, after all, are producing the wealth of this country, and really to keep in touch with educated democratic opinion, they would find absolutely no support whatever for the course of policy they are pursuing at present. They would find that they had no sympathy at all from the great body of the people. This belief in force automatically vitiates the power of judgment, and it accustoms the public mind to entirely false standards of security. The Prime Minister said that there is no cause or occasion for quarrel with any country. He went on to say that relations of amity and good will existed with Germany. We, at any rate, know of no quarrel with Germany. It really appears to me—and I only wish I had the capacity to put it in such a way as to make other people see it more clearly—that it is folly, that it is madness, for us to come down and ask the people of the country to spend these millions and at the same time declare that we have not the smallest quarrel with the Power against whom these preparations are directed. I fully agree that attempts can be made to improve our relations, but we have heard nothing of these. We have heard nothing of a change in diplomacy. We have heard nothing during the recent Debates—no ray of hope has appeared—that there is going to be any mitigation of this competition. We are told that next year and the year after other ships are to be built, and that we intend to go on building and building, and by that means we suppose that we are going to maintain the peace of the world. I confidently believe that is a most mistaken view. I think a Government responsible for a policy of that sort cannot expect that the party behind it will not be divided. A very strong opinion against such a course must be expressed, and expressed very freely.
I do not wish it to be supposed that I deal only in vague generalities. I have a very distinct idea in my mind of what might be done. I believe the concentrated efforts of the Government, the expression of good will, and at the same time the mitigation of expenditure on armaments, would bring about better relations; but, after all, we must abandon provocative 1414 methods in framing the Estimates. We must give closer attention to democratic opinion in regard to our international relations, and lastly we should abandon this policy of alliances, of groupings, of rivalry, and the "balance," and depend upon co-operation, mutual confidence, and united action. If we are simply to fold our hands and bow our heads to what we consider to be the inevitable, we shall find ourselves going down to ruin. I cannot help thinking on these occasions of what we should be saying if we were on the benches opposite. How tremendous our attacks on the Government would be! Just think of the telling and pungent leaflets which would be drafted by my hon. Friend the Member for East Northampton (Mr. Chiozza Money), giving thrilling calculations and devastating figures. Inconsistency is, after all, natural up to a certain point. Most human beings and Governments are inconsistent, but inconsistency of this kind amounts to the abandonment of principles and to complete reversal of policy. At the same time it deprives us of a great safeguard we had against this tendency which, if pursued further, will, I feel confident, only lead in the long run to national ruin.
§ Mr. YERBURGH
Some writer has said that the most probable solvent of the Empire is ignorance. I venture to say that in the speech made by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Ponsonby) we have had an illustration of the truth of that doctrine. The hon. Member told us that at many of his meetings in the country he found strong expressions on the part of the people against the present, large expenditure on the Navy. I will make the hon. Member an offer. I will present him with a Navy League map of the Empire, which shows in a clear and incontrovertible manner where we are getting our food supplies from, and the wide extent of our possessions. I will place at his disposal the services of a lecturer—not a politician —who will explain in the simplest terms what the Navy means to this country. I venture to say that the feeling of the people to whom he refers will, after they have listened to the lecturer, have undergone a most astonishing change. The hon. Member in dealing with the evil of great naval expenditure said there was no one, either in the House or outside, who would not be too pleased to see the whole of this expenditure devoted to other objects. Under present conditions we know that that is quite impossible. I am 1415 one of those who think that in most things there may be found a certain amount of good and evil. The great expenditure caused by the stress and strain through which we are now passing is an evil from which good has come to the British Empire. Can anybody believe for one moment that if we had not had this experience, which we all lament, we would have had the offer from the Colonies which we have now? I think that is a matter which we may well place in the balance against the evil of this great expenditure. Speaking at the Imperial Conference last year, on a Motion proposed by Sir Joseph Ward, the Prime Minister stated that the representatives of the Colonies and the Dominions could not be admitted to any share in the direction of our foreign policy. Having referred to the delicate character of the matters with which the Imperial Government had to deal in the conduct of foreign policy, and to the responsibility of the Government to the Imperial Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman said:—That responsibility cannot be shared, and the co-existence side by side with the Cabinet of the United Kingdom of this proposed botly…would, in our judgment, be absolutely fatal to our present system of responsible government.
§ Mr. YERBURGH
They agreed then, but my point is that the position is altered. Things have so altered, owing to outside pressure, that now the Prime Ministers of the Colonies and the Prime Minister of this country accept that position. Our Government are actually calling into council the Colonial Ministers not only on matters of Imperial defence, but on matters of foreign policy associated with Imperial defence.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is very important that I should not be misunderstood or misrepresented. I was dealing with a specific proposal made by Sir Joseph Ward for the creation of an Imperial Council. I put the objections to it to the other Prime Ministers. My language had reference to that, and to that alone. I never said anything to countenance the idea that the Colonies should not be brought into closer touch with us, and should not be entitled to be heard with regard to Imperial defence.
§ Mr. YERBURGH
I understand that at that period the Prime Minister held the view that he has expressed to the House in Debate that representatives of the Colonies are not only to be consulted in matters of Imperial defence, but I understood it was stated they are also to be asked to give their views on questions of foreign policy, upon which all our arrangements for Imperial defence must depend. Therefore, it is quite clear that the position has altered and a great step in advance has been achieved. That I put down to the pressure exerted upon us by a great European Power. I am also pleased to note that the Government have decided not to withdraw the flag from the Mediterranean, not only on account of our prestige with Mahomedan Powers, not only on account of our food supplies and commerce, coming across that sea, but on account of the strong belief which the smaller nations, whose interests are in the Mediterranean, have in the British flag. Our flag stands for those small nations for freedom and liberty, and I believe you will do an action which will fill them with feelings of despair if you withdraw our flag from the Mediterranean. With regard to the North Sea, I understand that the position is that we are to have thirty-three ships as against twenty-nine of a foreign Power at a selected moment. With regard to the foreign Power which has been mentioned, the hon. Member who has just spoken told us he considered the mention of a particular Power provocative. I might recall to his memory the words which fell from Cobden. who could never have been accused of a provocative policy. He stated on a memorable occasion in reference to France that he was prepared to vote a hundred million of money, if necessary, to prevent France placing her fleet in a position of equality with ours. There was a case of a Power being picked out. Will any hon. Gentleman charge Cobden with pursuing a provocative policy? You cannot escape these comparisons. It is with other Powers that we must measure our own strength. There is nothing whatever hostile if you measure your requirements by the standard laid down by other Powers. That is your test. There was the two-Power standard in reference to Russia and France before the understanding was come to with these countries. Nobody suggested that that was provocative. Why is it provocative in the case of Germany? 1417 As I understand, at the selected moment the majority of ships we should have in the North Sea would be four. I am putting out of account the ships that are to be stationed at Gibraltar. But the ships acually in commission in the North Sea would exceed by four the ships the Germans would possess. As far as I recollect, the figures given were that Germany would have twenty-five, and an additional four which she could use at a selected moment, making twenty-nine, while our numbers would be thirty-three. Considering all the possibilities that one has to encounter in the case of a great naval war, that margin is perilously small. The First Lord of the Admiralty said that the two things that were observed to naval warfare were the long time it took to prepare the engine with which we were going to fight—the Fleet—and the suddenness with which the attack would be made. It is quite clear that owing to the length of time which it takes to build a battleship whenever, as I trust it never will be, you are engaged in war, you will have to fight the war through with ships you had at the commencement. You will not be able to add to the Fleet by building during the progress of the war. With the ships you have you must fight, unless you can lay hands on the ships which are being constructed in our dockyards for foreign Powers. You will be the target of attack in case of war. The Leader of the Opposition thought that the attack might come in a very short time after a declaration of war; but it may, as often happens, come without any declaration of war. Attacks have been made without these declarations. Does anyone believe for one moment that if a great naval Power was going to attack us we should receive a solemn challenge? We must expect that the attack would be delivered before we got any notice that war was declared, and in modern conditions of warfare you might lose the whole of your margin through one successful torpedo attack. It would not matter whether the ships were stronger and had more powerful guns. The result of the torpedo attack might be the same, and the whole of your margin might go. Any reasonable man would take into account that machinery is liable to injury, that ships may have to lie up for repairs, and that at the selected moment some of the ships might be in dockyards undergoing repairs. We cannot leave out of sight the fact that the use of mines might expose our 1418 ships to very great danger. The Japanese fleet lost a large percentage of battleships in a very short time through this moans. The story has been told of Admiral Togo's battleship. The sailors were seen running from one side of the ship to the other, and it was found that the battleship had passed within a very short distance of a floating mine. If it had struck the mine it would have been blown up, and the whole course of the war might have been changed.
All those points show that we are keeping a perilously low margin, and I cannot understand why the Admiralty have not come down to this House to ask why the Government have not supported them in asking for an addition of four large armoured ships to this year's programme. Further, I hope we shall be told at an early date that the ships of the new programme will be laid down at the beginning of the financial year and not at the and of the financial year. I hope also that we shall hear, when the Prime Minister of Canada returns to Canada, that the ships which we hope may be given us by that great Dominion will not be used by the home authorities in relieving the burden that we ourselves ought to bear, but that those ships will be an addition to the ships which we should construct ourselves. The Leader of the Opposition drew attention to the necessity of providing supplies of corn in this country in case of war. That is a matter to which I have had the honour of directing the attention of the House on several occasions, and it is a matter of the greatest possible importance. I do not know whether hon. Members have read the Reports of the Committee of inquiry into our food supplies in times of war, and of the Committee that sat on the question of National Insurance of Supplies in case of war. Both are matters of supreme importance. It seems to me that you might be able to offer some agreement to the Colonies which would give them that favoured position in their arrangements with us which we consider they ought, to be given. I would like to know whether or not the Committee of Defence is now considering the question of insurance of war risks of our shipping at the commencement of war. That is also a matter of supreme importance. It is at the beginning of war that the difficulty will arise. A few ships lost then will drive our prices to famine heights, and it is upon the poor that all the burdens and difficulties will fall. It is essentially a question for the poorest classes of the community, 1419 and I hope that before long the Government will undertake the insurance of war risks at the commencement of wan I trust that the right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara) in his reply will deal with that, and will be able to assure us that the Committee of Defence is considering this most important matter.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
It is with considerable reluctance that I rise to intervene in this Debate, but I feel myself in a considerable difficulty as far as my relations to my Constituents and to the House are concerned. The Liberal party came into power with the policy of peace, retrenchment and reform, and a reduction of armaments. Yet we find already that we are £l2,000,000 ahead on the Naval Estimates over the first year that that party came into office. I find myself therefore in a considerable difficulty in listening to these general statements that have been made. The Prime Minister, in regard to our relations with Germany, told us that these relations were relations of friendship and goodwill, and were likely to remain so, and that the aims of Lord Haldane were still being pursued. If that be the case, we appear to live in this House in watertight compartments. On Monday we had a very startling statement made to us by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I could not help carrying my mind back to three years ago when we had similar statements made, and we had the First Lord of the Admiralty painting the picture or drafting the picture and the legend below it. And we had the then Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's" and thickening the colour of the picture until it became of a bloodcurdling character. Then I cannot help remembering, in the light of facts three years later, that the terrors then described to us have lost more than half their effect, because I find that the Estimates which were then predicted by the right hon. Gentleman the then Leader of the Opposition were never realised nor anything like it. The facts fall short by at least 100 per cent, of what was predicted. Then, as a humble individual, I begin to think that this process may be repeated, and that history may not altogether bear out the very sad prognostications which were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, and that the facts may turn out 1420 to be much less dangerous and serious. I would draw attention to the great inconsistency of all these alarmist pictures. It seems to be thought that if this House is to be asked to pay an adequate sum for the security of the country, it must first be reduced to a state of demoralisation by the awful picture which has to be drawn, as if we could not agree to what is wanted like men, if it is really needed. I think that we ought to consider calmly and coolly what is the situation and judge of the facts as we find them. Making all allowances from what I can see, the situation to-day is sufficiently serious. That seriousness, to my mind, does not arise from anything in connection with Germany. The whole of the comparisons which are made are utterly unreal. It is said that our entente with other powers was a guarantee of peace, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) indicated that he did not think it conceivable that our entente with them was for agressive purposes, but entirely for defensive purposes, and we should have their aid if attacked and ought to count their forces as well. I think myself it is a danger to compare forces with one particular power and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty realised that when he came to deal with Italy and Austria; but as against Germany he did not hesitate to go into very close detail and comparison. I think we have got to view these things with that calmness and with that courage with which this country always regards any situation. The picture which was drawn was one of unrelieved gloom. It told us that the Cabinet were going to be inevitably committed to the policy of two keels to one, and that while Germany built one ship we should build two. As my hon. Friend pointed out, this is the first occasion on which no hope of economy has been held out with regard to our Naval Estimates; on the contrary, we have had opened up to us a vast vista of naval expenditure quite unlimited in its character. The First Lord spoke of squadrons of six becoming squadrons of eight, which will be raised to squadrons of ten, and the prospect put before the country is one of immense and interminable expenditure. The only relief which we have been allowed was when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) said, "Bad as the possibility of this expenditure is, it is not so bad as a 1421 modern war." But is there not this danger arising from an expenditure so gigantic, that if we are to have this intolerable expenditure in time of peace, the people will say that they might as well have war and get it over?
Why should this country endure this intolerable burden? Disraeli pointed out most clearly that all this expenditure on naval and military preparations would in time lead a country to seek relief from the intolerable burden in war, therefore, the hope that there will not be war is one on which we cannot and ought not to rely. The people will say to themselves, "We want to have it out rather than go on being oppressed by this terrible burden." This is the terrible position to which we have come, and which seems to me to be the result of this policy of force. We wish, therefore, to put in our caveat, and to ask that this point of view may be considered. We have put forward to-day the view that this enormous expenditure cannot be right. Is it not our duty to ascertain whether the circumstances are really of such a character as to render necessary a policy of force. Is it not our duty as Liberals, who came into power on a very different cry—peace, retrenchment and reform, and no bloated armaments—to examine the situation and to ascertain whether that policy is really bankrupt, and whether we are to adopt our opponent's policy of naked force, which they tried to apply universally in South Africa, Ireland, and foreign countries? Hon. Gentlemen opposite have always put it forward whenever they have approached this question, and my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand (Mr. Long) last night, in his admirable, frank and courageous manner, put in plain language that force was the only system on which we could rely. It seems to me very difficult for us to agree that this can be a non-party matter, because, if the policy is naked force, it must have different objects from the policy of conciliation, and I think we ought to have consideration for the views of others living in the same world. May I look at this question from the historical point of view? I see the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Eyres-Monsell) in his place. He endeavoured to deal with the historical aspect of this question last night, and I think he was met at once by the Secretary to the Admiralty. There has always been a possibility of the danger of pure force. It was present to the minds of statesmen throughout the whole of the nineteenth 1422 century, and it was resisted by both parties, and by no one more strongly than Mr. Disraeli himself. He put the case against the policy of armaments very admirably. He said:—It means garrisons doubled and trebled. It means squadrons turned into fleets, and in an age of mechanical invention to which there is no assignable limit; it means perpetual stimulus to the study of the science of destruction.Does not that admirably paint the picture that was seen only a fortnight ago in the Solent, where we saw aeroplanes above, submarines below, and battleships on the water. This policy is to be continued in its quality of naked force. Disraeli, as I have said, protested against it, and then there was the great protest by Mr. Gladstone against the Naval Estimates in 1894. He resigned on the ground that those Naval Estimates were going to commit this country to a policy of militarism. He wrote to Lord Morley, in 1894, as follows:—Owing to the part which I was drawn to take, first in Italy, then as to Greece, then on the Eastern question. I have come to be considered not only as an English but a European statesman. My name stands in Europe as a symbol of the policy of peace, moderation and non-aggression. What would be said of my active participation in a policy that will be taken as plunging England into the whirlpool of militarism? Third, I have been in active public life for a period nearly as long as the time between the beginning of Mr. Pitt's first Ministry, and the close of Sir Robert Peel's, between 1783 and 1846—sixty-two years and a half. During that time I have uniformly opposed militarism.What does history show with regard to that? Does it show that we should have done better by following Mr. Gladstone's advice, or worse, by rejecting it? When Mr. Gladstone resigned we immediately got into a gigantic orgy of militarism. In 1805 Imperialism started on its devastating career. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] Yes, Lord Cromer, looking on from Egypt, noted the change, and told how the wind shifted to that quarter in 1895–98, and how it hurried up the reconquest of the Sudan. In ten years the cost of war and of additional military and naval expenditure was £400,000,000. My point is that we had resisted militarism up to 1895 for our country, and, having been unable to resist it any longer, militarism came upon us with all its force. We have had all these wars, and we have gained certain things and lost others. What has been the effect on the security of this country? Our total annual naval and military expenditure in the same period of ten years rose from £43,000,000 in 1895 to £73,000,000 in 1905. The hon. Member for Evesham told us about the Naval Law Germany passed in 1900. Why was that 1423 law passed? It was passed because of our policy of Imperialism. I would like to quote the language used in support of the German Navy Law by Prince von Bulow, who said:—British policy had undergone an alteration. From the time of the Napoleonic wars down to the seventies and eighties the policy of England was governed by the ideas of Adam Smith and John Bright, and by the principle of non-intervention. The Imperialist movement is now constantly gaining ground.Foreign countries noted, as Lord Cromer noted, this growth of Imperialism, and its first cousin Tariff Reform. What about the second Naval Law passed by Germany in 1908? How did that come about? Germany resolved to spend £40,000,000 on building twenty-four first-class battleships. We built our "Dreadnoughts." Germany then altered her naval law because her existing battleships could no longer be considered battleships of the first class. That was the effect of our policy, and Germany also built a number of "Dreadnoughts." Are we safer now than we were before we built those "Dreadnoughts"? What have we to say in regard to that? The First Lord told us some time ago that we possessed "Dreadnoughts" equal to any other two Powers, but he stated if every "Dreadnought" in the world were destroyed today we should be much stronger than we are. We are spending £50,000,000 on "Dreadnoughts," and we are not stronger but weaker. I am answering the point of the hon. Member opposite who suggested that the Little Navy party were responsible for the great increase of German naval armaments, and the question is whether it is Imperialism or the Little Navy party. Then came 1905 with the return of the Liberal party to power. They came back on the cry of "Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform," and a policy of moderation and non-intervention. They could not, of course, immediately affect what had been done by the other side. Besides that Tariff Reform sprung into existence, and it was threatening the German trade and all other nations' trades. Although there could not be an immediate effect on returning to the peace policy, we did find that matters quieted down when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was Prime Minister, by a policy of moderation, and we had a peaceful state of things in Europe.
Then came the change in 1909. [An HON MEMBER: "By your side."] By both sides. It was then brought home 1424 to us that we had become entangled with, other Powers, and that this Triple entente has not been an instrument of unmixed good, but that it has produced and is producing some serious effects. I cannot forget chat last year in the midst of profound quiet, the country was startled with a threat of war. With so serious a situation, if it were really so, one would have supposed that the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary would have taken the House into their confidence and would have informed the House of the serious position into which this country had come. I cannot help recalling that I heard Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman saying how much he regretted and deprecated threats made to other Powers by public men, and he referred to public men holding far less distinguished positions than that held by the Member of the Government who made that threat. The First Lord told us in March, and everybody tells us in part, that we make our preparations for defence only. He elaborated that and pointed out how impossible it was for us to become an aggressive Power. I was glad to hear him say so; but the serious thing is that we cannot create great and powerful and terrible armaments for defence without exciting suspicion. We are in much the same difficulty in regard to the sea as Germany is in regard to the land. Germany has created a great and powerful army for defence purposes, because its cities have been overrun by foes. We, in defence of our country, have created vast armaments, but there is always the risk that in the hands of ambitious men they may be used for other purposes than defence. Can foreign Powers shut out this possibility? I ask, was defence of ourselves or our interests the object, of that threat of war, or was it used for the purposes of some other Power? The majority of the people of this country undoubtedly desire peace, and most strongly. Our interests need peace. The Prime Minister told us to-day that the only purpose of our armaments was peace, Surely then it becomes a serious matter if we become associated with another Power which, in difficulties, is to receive our support in getting some material object. Whilst you do that you can no longer complain if your armaments are viewed with suspicion. Directly you use threats in favour of another Power, then it becomes very difficult to avoid suspicion, and to think that we are merely building for peace and defending ourselves. I should like to refer to a remark- 1425 able statement in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City. I do not know exactly what it meant, but it seemed to me to be very significant. He said:—I cannot conceive—I do not know the details, and I do not know whether the Foreign Secretary knows them—that the Powers of Europe, or that any Power in Europe. is so insane as to make alliances involving itself in an offensive war in a cause in which it has no quarrel at all. I assume that sufficient sanity is still left among mankind to ensure that this organisation of Powers is on a defensive basis."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd July,1912, col. 865.]I hope that is so. But words of that kind do not give one the impression of a defensive basis. I should like to point out that this is the kind of entanglement against which Mr. Gladstone so strongly protested in regard to the position of this country. What Mr. Gladstone said in regard to that was this, that he believed—That England should keep entire in her own hands the means of estimating her own obligations upon the various sets of facts as they arose, and that she should not foreclose and narrow her own liberty of choice by declarations made to other Powers in their real or supposed interests of which they would claim to be at least joint interpreters.I very much fear the Estimates we are called upon to meet and the increase in the German Naval Law have been in a measure due to that threat. I can only say that the feeling in Germany was very serious. I only mention it now as I would like to ask, Are there no better ways of keeping the peace and getting back to better relations than by armaments and a two-to-one policy indicated by the First Lord? I do not know how far or in what measure that policy is in deference to the opinions of experts. I have alluded to the statement of the First Lord that if all the "Dreadnoughts" in the world were destroyed we would be stronger than we are to-day. That does not speak very well for the experts, who evidently were wrong, and therefore we must always take the advice of the experts cum grano, and with some common sense. I know that you can never allow experts to control your business. I have considerable experience in shipbuilding in the mercantile marine, and I know perfectly well that I would not trust the running of a business to experts. They are men of splendid ability and enormous capacity, but they must always be controlled by common sense and wider considerations and considerations of character. Their requirements have to be harmonised with other requirements. There is absolutely no limit to our expenditure if we are to go on in this way, and if we are to have not only super" Dreadnoughts," but submarines and aeroplanes 1426 and airships. If every branch is to be developed to its fullest capacity and maintained so in time of peace, what expenditure will be necessary? No man can say. It will be unlimited, and we will get to the position described by Disraeli in which mechanical science and invention will spend every penny. Therefore, we must bring in some other and more reasonable principle than the principle of a mathematical formula.
It seems to me that in the position in which we were left on Monday, without a ray of hope, that the policy of two keels to one means leading straight for the re-bar-barisation of Europe, and it means leading the people of this country to rely on force as the only sole means of settling international differences and disputes. Ideas, sentiments, morality, are nothing: no weight or influence is to be attached to thorn and everything is to give way to this mathematical formula. This is what these gigantic Estimates that have been foreshadowed must mean and must lead to. I appeal to the Prime Minister for some explanation of the situation and some coordination of what he told us to-day as to-the admirable relations that exist between us and Germany and between this tremendous scheme of competitive shipbuild-which was sketched for us on Monday. Surely there must be some means of harmonising the one with the other. Here we have two great nations being set in battle array against each other in a time of absolute and profound peace, and when we are told that their relations are friendly. What is the use of peace if we are to have no peace expenditure? What about our resources for social reform? Is not our credit visibly being destroyed? Look at the fall in Consols. I would like to remind the Prime Minister of what he said so recently as 1908, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer:—I have endeavoured to describe to the House what I may call the political limits which circumscribe the finance of the Army and the Navy. Those limits depend upon policy, and policy. I quite agree with my hon. Friend who has just sat down, ought to be determined, not by the opinion of experts. lint by the decisions of the Cabinet, lint I must not be understood as alleging or admitting that even within those limits there is no room and no need for further economy.…I welcome, and t am asking the House leave to-adopt an authoritative declaration in favour of economy, carefully safeguarded, as I think every such declaration should be, by the due and full consideration of our national and Imperial risks. I welcome such a declaration on international grounds as making for peace and good will, and I welcome it also on domestic grounds as a warning to us, a warning which I can assure my hon. Friends the Government did not need to have clamour-ously dinned into their ears, which they are only too ready to take, a warning to all of us in whatever quarter of the House we may sit, to be on our guard lest 1427 we drain away into the channel of unproductive expenditure that reservoir of resources, limited as it is both in area and in depth, upon which alone we can draw for the enriching work of social reform.That statement of the Prime Minister we welcomed at the time, and we believe it must represent his views still. But it is necessary to harmonise the position which he described to-day with the position we heard described on Monday, and to modify one by the other. Speaking in regard to the naval expansion of Germany, here is the language used by the Prime Minister on the same occasion:—We on our side—I say it advisedly—have no reason to witness with suspicion or apprehension any naval expansion there or elsewhere which should simply correspond to the economic and defensive needs of the country, and a rapidly growing population becoming more and more dependent both for food and raw material on overseas sources of supply, and with an expanding maritime commerce which she is bound to protect. Those are perfectly legitimate limits of naval expansion.If that be so, it will assist the chance of coming to some reasonable arrangement with regard to these armaments if we can recognise that it is not from any desire to strike at us, to injure our position, or to destroy our country; but that it is a legitimate insurance for their own legitimate commerce, which is second only to ours in the world. Before we enter upon the vista which has been opened out to us we should like to have some understanding of the position. What is the explanation of the situation if on the one hand we have good relations, and on the other these terrible armaments? Does it really pass the wit of man for two great nations to devise some formula or discover some principle on which we can act, so as not to be automatically brought into this violent conflict by the inexorable workings of the law of two keels to one? There was a time when we were almost at war with France. The alternatives, in Mr. Gladstone's opinion, were war or a treaty with France. Why should we not have an agreement with this country with whom our relations are good, and with whom we have no real political difference? We appear to be fast absorbing all our resources in this competition. Even to-day we can hardly bear the expenditure on the social reforms to which we are committed as well as the vast expenditure now foreshadowed. We could not bear it if it were not for the great and wonderful boom in trade which we have had. When any check comes to that our position will indeed be a very serious one. Consols to-day are lower than we in our lifetime have 1428 ever seen them. That is a measure of the national credit and of the national power of bearing burdens. These insensate preparations for war are threatening our civilisation both in its social and in its moral aspects. They will threaten our liberties. If we organise for nothing but war we cannot do it on a popular or democratic basis. We shall have to go on an autocratic basis, and we know what that meant in the case of the Roman Empire. I hope the idea that force is the only influence will be set aside, and that we shall take into account other influences. I should like to quote, from a speech made by the First Lord of the Admiralty, an extract which seems to me to contain good sense, and to be applicable to the present situation. Speaking at Manchester, he said:—In my judgment, a liberal is a man who ought to stand as a restraining force against, an extravagant policy. He is a man who ought to keep cool in the presence of jingo clamour. He is a man who believes that confidence between nations begets confidence, and that that spirit of peace and goodwill makes the safety it seeks.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
It is true that the First Lord is now in a difficult position. He has to speak as the head of the Admiralty and to put forward the policy of that Department. He said very truly in his speech of March last that the Admiralty must leave to others the task of mending the times in which we live. That is his view as an Admiralty expert, and that is what all experts say. But a very different responsibility rests upon Ministers and upon this House, and even upon the First Lord himself as a Cabinet Minister. Can we leave the matter in that way? Is it not our duty to find some way of preventing this disastrous rivalry? We have to harmonise naval requirements with other requirements, and it falls to the duty of the Cabinet, in conjunction with this House, to bring about a better state of things than that which we see to-day. Before we enter upon this endless vista of expenditure we should ask the Prime Minister whether the door is closed to every other means of bringing about a better state of things, whether there are not other methods of reducing armaments and bringing about better relations. Therefore, while I agree that we cannot be left 1429 behind—I voted with the Government yesterday on that account—I ask that hope should be held out of a better state of things being eventually reached by way of an effort being made to relieve the situation and to get into a position of less strain than that described by the First Lord on Monday as one of immediate and instant readiness for war. We should endeavour to find a formula for reasonable armaments, otherwise the picture appears to be one of unrelieved gloom. War itself may come to be regarded as an absolute relief if we are to have this intolerable burden. The country would back Ministers in any reasonable policy of peace, but there is great danger in this policy of drift, depending upon nothing but the automatic working of a mathematical formula which does nothing to stop armaments or to advance the policy outlined by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman when he indicated that it was our duty to do something to bring about a cessation of this intolerable expenditure and intolerable rivalry in armaments. I would ask Ministers to leave an opening for a gleam of hope and to relax no effort whatever to devise a policy fraught with some hope and not with the despair of the soulless policy of two keels to one.
§ Mr. BAIRD
I have always wondered, in listening to the speeches of hon. Members who hold the opinions expressed by the last speaker, what it is they really propose. They say that they are not opposed to having a fleet. But a fleet can only be useful if it is adequate to the requirements of the service it is bound to discharge. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby) was annoyed apparently because we are in the habit of calculating our naval strength an accordance with the strength displayed by one particular Power, and because Germany is that Power. Does he desire that we should calculate our naval requirements in accordance with the fleet of Switzerland or of Portugal, or of any other minor Power? The Fleet is not built for the amusement of the thing, but because we require it; and we require a Fleet strong enough to secure our commerce, our trade, and our food in times of peace, and to make it very unlikely that any other nation will attack us. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs—I am sorry he is not here, but there are many others who agree with him—asked where was the peace-book. He said that the Prime Minister alluded to 1430 the war-book. If you want a peace-book, I do not think you can do better than inscribe on the first page the old text, Si vis pacem, para bellum. That is the only kind of book that has been found of any use, and why we want to improve upon it now in the face of the experience of the whole world beats me. Last night an hon. Member, who made an interesting and remarkable speech from the benches opposite, referred to Fashoda, and said that he had been turning over in his mind what would be the best policy for us to pursue in order to prevent the outbreak of war. I happened to be at Fashoda at that time. We had no war for one reason, and for the only reason which will ever prevent war, namely, that we were then so strong that the only Power likely to take us on at war found it too big a job and did not do so. That is what prevented war over Fashoda, and that is what will prevent war.
The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Molteno) advocated the discovery of a formula. I speak with humility, but with a certain degree of assurance on the subject of formulæ, because it was my duty to serve for twelve years in the Diplomatic Service, where a large part of our business is to find fortmulæ. A formula is very well in its way, but as a means of maintaining peace I think the Secretary of State will agree that it is necessary that is should be backed up by something much more concrete. I would recall to the hon. Member's recollection an instance in connection with the Balkans in the year 1908. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, after a great deal of trouble, and by the exercise of much diplomatic skill and ingenuity, hit upon a formula which seems to meet the requirements of the case. All went well until the ally appeared in shining armour, and then there was no more said about formulæ. When the shining armour appeared the formula went down. I cannot imagine why hon. Members opposite take the view expressed by the hon. Member for Dumfries, the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs, and particularly by the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. D. Mason), as to why we civilians who have been in the Diplomatic Service advocate armaments. I can assure him that his admiration for the Diplomatic Service is not reciprocated by members of that Service. I have seen occasions when the calm atmosphere of a Chancellery has been rudely disturbed by an outburst of Ian- 1431 guage which we are accustomed to associate more with Limehouse than a Chancellery, but which, I may say, to use the phrase of the Prime Minister, is picturesque, but not inaccurate. You will find that such outbursts are generally produced by somebody in the Chancellery reading a speech of the kind delivered by the hon. Member opposite. I have seen it scores of times. It is not because we doubt the good faith of the hon. Member. He, like the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs, believes in union and united action, but he wants no alliance, no entente. What is the meaning of that? You want to act in concert with people, but you do not want to act in concert with the people we are acting with now. You want to be chopping and changing the whole time. If you do that, you will find not only that nobody will want to act in concert with you, but that we shall be left out, and shall return to a position which was possible twelve years ago—a position of splendid isolation—but which would annihilate any nation, however rich or powerful, to-day. The only alternative to that position of isolation is the position of acting with a group.
May I say one thing more before leaving this subject of the present distribution of the groups of the Powers of Europe? Hon. Members opposite are fond of taking up the cudgels for Germany. I have nothing to say against Germany, but do not hon. Members opposite think that it is time that the Germans themselves began to take the line that they take in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "They do."] Well, if they do, they manage to hide their light under a bushel very successfully. I read carefully the German newspapers, and when it seems necessary an account of the proceedings in the Reichstag, and I do not know that people in responsible positions in Germany say in regard to Great Britain anything that is in any way comparable to the language used by hon. Members opposite in regard to Germany. On the other hand, we do not find Germans rebuking their fellow-countrymen because they think it necessary to take defensive measures. You do find Englishmen decrying the measures which the whole country admits to be necessary in the interests of peace, and advocating the adoption of a line which has been attempted by the Government, and in which I think the Government went much further than they needed to have done in the very direction which hon. Members now advocate. Let hon. 1432 Members remember what the Government have done. I do not blame them for it. I think they were perfectly sincere, and, if they had been right, it would have been to the advantage of the world. Hon. Members will remember that our representatives at The Hague Conference were entrusted with a proposal for arriving at an understanding with a view to the limitation of armaments. That proposal was refused point blank by Germany. There is no getting away from that.
The answer of Germany to that proposal for a reduction in armaments, which was introduced by His Majesty's Government in perfectly good faith, was to increase her armaments. You cannot get away from that fact. What is the use of pretending otherwise than that, whatever Germany's designs may have been, at any rate that increase of armaments did put Germany in the position, if she desired to do so, to question the supremacy of the sea with us. That is what we have to consider. The idea that you can do all that is necessary by formulæ or by speeches, or by banquets, or by diplomatic conversations, or by using any other methods except the methods used by Germany—methods which Germany respects, and which the world respects—is to proceed on the assumption that these are making for peace while they may be making for war. The sooner we really treat international affairs on a business footing in the same way as one treats one's own private affairs the better it will be for the peace of the world. Because we find it necessary to safeguard our interests, is that a necessary menace to Germany? On the contrary, surely we would deserve the contempt not only of ourselves but of the world if we did not safeguard those great interests to which we have succeeded, and which it is our duty to develop. It is for that reason, and without in any way using minatory language, or in any way wishing to display hostility towards one Power or another, that I think we are right in doing what we propose. Surely we have to realise that the peace of the world has been and is kept by these ententes and by the balance of power till some more efficacious means are found. In regard to the particular Vote, I have got here a number of quotations and speeches from German newspapers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! oh."] If hon. Members want them I shall have pleasure in giving them. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They say "No" because they know the contents of these 1433 Quotations and the point of these speeches.
Let hon. Members realise that these words have been spoken and written in Germany. If Germany is desirous of a proper understanding with us let them stop all outbursts of hostility and of unfriendliness towards this country and we shall be perfectly ready to treat them. HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! oh," and "The National Review.'"] If hon. Members will interrupt me one at a time I will be able to deal with them, but I cannot undertake to focus a volley. If hon. Members would like me to give the quotations, I will. Before I give them let hon. Members remember that the First Lord of the Admiralty said that Germany had, quite rightly, pursued her policy relentlessly through a generation and that she had not been deflected one way or another. I do not complain. There is no reason why Germany should not adopt the policy she has adopted. She looks at it from her own point of view. Our business is to look at the matter from the British point of view— not. the international point of view. Let me begin with the speech made by the German Emperor in 1898, when we were having a baddish time in South Africa. He said that Germany now had to prepare a great fleet. He took steps to see that Germany should have a great fleet. Germany has got that fleet, and that fleet is being increased to a degree which was shown by the First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday in his speech. There has been no slackening. There has been a constant increase in the construction of that fleet. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite contend that there is no menace of any sort in that fleet to our interests [HON. MEMBERS: "They do not."] They do not! For once I am in agreement with them. All I can say is that that fleet has been constructed, and that it has been increased, and it will put Germany in a position, if she desires to use it against us, of being able to do so. Here is a quotation which Is get from a book published in 1900: "Deutschland beim Beginn des Zwan-zifsten Jahrunderts":—We consider a great war with England in the twentieth century as quite inevitable, and must strain every fibre in order to be prepared to fight that war single-handed.I have many other quotations, but I do not propose to continue them indefinitely. But it is quite futile to suggest that the position does not constitute an element with which we have to reckon.
§ Mr. BAIRD
I have nothing from the "National Review," but I am glad the hon. Member studies it, because I think he will find a good deal in it. But what I want to speak of particularly, if I had not been led off by the speeches of hon. Members opposite, was the question before the House: this Vote for the Imperial Defence Committee. The House will admit that we are at present in a transitional stage as regards our policy as a world Power. We see now that the Dominions are coming to manhood; they are determined not only to take a hand in bearing the burdens of Empire, but they have expressed their natural desire to have some say in whether there shall or shall not be war. It would seem that the Defence Committee provide the only machinery which exists in our Constitution enabling the responsible statesmen of the Colonies to meet on a footing of equality and to come to agreement with regard to these questions. I think it is a transitional stage, because, obviously, this is not a completely satisfactory state of affairs. The Prime Minister foreshadowed, with the approval I think of every Member of this House, the development of the Committee in the direction, I suppose, of still closer co-operation than that which at present takes place. There was another point why, I think, everybody welcomed the statement of the Prime Minister in respect to the work of this Committee, and that is that it is designed for the co-ordination of foreign, and naval, and military problems. There is one problem in connection with foreign affairs which I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary a question about. That is whether provision has been made in addition to requirements for the protection of these shores, for the purpose of showing our flag in other parts of the world? That is a very important matter. Hon. Members may not think this prestige of much consequence. Perhaps they will allow me to give an example of how prestige docs act in a concrete case.
I happened to be travelling up to the Court of King Menelik in Abyssinia at the same time as other foreign missions. Each of the other foreign missions handed over their gifts to the various chiefs of the countries which they passed through, 1435 and we also gave gifts according to the custom of the country, but our presents were always a great deal smaller than those of the missions of the other nations. I overheard a conversation on this point between two natives of one of the countries. One said: "What are all these people?" The reply was: "These are all people who are tributaries of our Emperor, and they have come to pay tribute." Then said the first: "What are the English?" The reply to that was: "The English are less afraid than the other tributaries and so they bring smaller presents." That is very much the way in which prestige works in dealing with foreign nations, and particularly in dealing with, I will not say barbarous nations, but nations more or less in an elementary stage. There is a great necessity in cases of this sort for us to show the flag as often as we can. I do not contend, of course, that you are going to show the flag in Abyssinia. That is not my case. But as the First Lord said yesterday, you cannot bluff in these matters. It is no use sending an old boat full of masts and spars, because you find some other country following you with an. up-to-date vessel. I allow there is some difficulty in this matter, for I confess that if we require all our ships for the protection of our coasts and shores—and the burden of the complaint on our side is that you are getting them on that basis—it is quite feasible for hon. Gentlemen opposite to say: "How do you expect us to find ships for every purpose that you describe?" Still, I trust this point will not be lost sight of by the Government, particularly in view of the great importance which is attached to this point by the Germans—and rightly so.
I remember in the Argentine that after a great deal of correspondence on the matter the Admiralty found it possible to send out a small squadron. This had a very good effect, but unfortunately the United States sent out a squadron of sixteen of their best battleships and Germany had sent one or two, and these completely washed-out the effect of our four ships. Perhaps I should not say completely washed-out, but it did depreciate the value of the visit of our ships. I do attach great importance to this display of naval force on fitting occasions in peace time as in the ease of the Argentine. Hon. Members will recollect how humiliating it was when there was trouble in Jamaica to find that a United States ship was the first 1436 one that went out. After all, surely we ought to be able to look after our own places. You say it costs money. Are you quite certain that the country is not prepared to find that money. If not, well then, it is no use talking about being a great Power. The maintenance of our position in the world is bound to become more and more expensive, and unless we are prepared to find the money in the same way as other countries, we must look out for a baddish time. May I, in conclusion, remind the House of a speech that was made last Sunday by the French Prime Minister. The French Prime Minister said:—In dealing with all these matters we have never lost sight of the necessity of maintaining effective and daily increasing the efficiency of our alliances and our friendships, nor of the value which a great and laborious democracy must attach to the maintenance of peace.And he went on to say:—But as strong nations are the only nations whose friendship and alliance are sought after, and since they also are alone capable of paralysing warlike aspiration in others, we have considered the development of our naval and military power as the most pressing of the obligations of the Government, and all the steps taken by the War Minister and the Minister of Marine to strengthen our Navy and Army have been prepared and carried out in complete harmony with the intentions of the Government.I think when we find our friends taking that line we cannot help seconding them, and if you regard the speech of the German Emperor which he made at his meeting with the Emperor of Russia the other day, when he said, "There was no cause or reason for any change in the balance of power to maintain peace in the world," then I think that those who are opposed to the policy which the Government are carrying out at the present time in the interests of the peace of the Empire are taking a great responsibility. That policy is one which constitutes no menace to anyone: it is a policy about which we can say, as the German Chancellor said in the Reichstag about the German policy:—We provoke and threaten no one, but we protect our rights, and we shall not allow ourselves to be deterred or hindered by anyone.
§ Sir GEORGE SCOTT ROBERTSON
I think we must all be very grateful to the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken for the reserve he has shown concerning those quotations from newspapers. I do not for a moment think they would do the slightest harm one way or the other, but it is just as well we did not have them. We should have replied from this side with quotations from certain newspapers which would make the copy he proposed.
1437 I should like to say how interested all of us were in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby). It was so eminently sincere that I am sure it gained the respect of the whole House, but unfortunately I am afraid I am quite unable to agree with him. One of his points was that so much could be done in the way of removing these great burdens of armaments by diplomatic measures. I think he over-praised and overestimated the value of diplomacy. What does diplomacy rest upon after all? It rests entirely upon the force of the country which is represented by that diplomacy. I admit it is not a very pleasant reflection that that should be so. Morally, I dare say, a great deal might be said against it, but, as a matter of fact, as has been again and again said, diplomacy exercised by great and powerful nations is more important than the influence diplomacy brings to bear when the diplomat represents merely a weak nation. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries County followed very much I think in the same strain, but I do not really know where it all leads to. At the present time, supposing we did do away with armaments as suggested, should we not be somewhat in the position of a man in his shirt is a room full of armed men? With great regret I listened to the ordinary course of those brickbat Debates which go on in this House. We know exactly what it is that comes from either side. We know how one set of persons will quote history of one day, and another person immediately answers with the history of another day.
The question we have to deal with is the question of Germany, and here I want to join issue with some of my hon. Friends. They simply think that if you get some other word than Germany it will have some peculiar and potent force. Everyone knows who we are talking about. If you call Germany "X" it makes no difference, we only deceive ourselves. What is the use of humbugging? We do not humbug the Germans nor humbug ourselves, and we are face to face with the critical position at the present moment which we ought to thoroughly understand in our hearts, and the position raises fundamental issues quite different from that suggested by the hon. Member for Osgoldcross yesterday. He said Germany had thrown down the gauntlet to Great Britain. I do not believe for a moment she has done anything of the sort. 1438 What has happened? The real resource and inspiration at the present moment was, of course, Sedan. Germany became a nation and a young Empire, with all the natural aspirations of youth. She has to go on in her policy, and at is absolutely certain to my mind that it is a perfectly natural development which is taking place in Germany. Her trade, her commerce, her industry have enormously increased, and I think we do not properly look at the position even with the eyes of the German people, yet it seems to me to be pretty plain. Germany has increased so enormously in her power and industry and commerce that she is dependent considerably upon her navy. The First Lord of the Admiralty suggested that the German navy was a luxury. The senior Member for the City of London remarked that if in a fight at sea England were defeated, England would cease to exist. He also went on to say that if in a naval combat Germany were beaten, Germany would still remain the strongest military Power on the Continent. I entirely deny that; Germany is so dependent now upon her industrial and commercial resources that the very existence of Germany rests upon it.
What is the root basis of all German strategy? It is this: That she must act with the greatest rapidity, with the greatest decisiveness, and that she must, ensure success. She must act rapidly because of the financial difficulties to Germany. We know how it is estimated that, in a land war Germany would be paying something like £1,000,000 or, at any rate, £900,000 to the 3,000,000 men she would call out. We know also that in the first six weeks the expenditure would be no less than £122,000,000, and, whatever her resources are, we soon see how quickly they would come to an end, and the extreme difficulty Germany would have in obtaining supplies of money and loans from her allies. Therefore it is the most prominent basis of all German strategy, and it is displayed everywhere—the training of her army, the training of every branch of her service—that the war cannot and must not last long, and if you add, as you might do, the cost if Germany had a land war at the same time she had a naval war, you see how much greater the urgency and necessity for bringing the war to a speedy close. The great reason why Germany is building up her fleet is that she may be able by some decisive action to overwhelm this country 1439 in the near sea. If on the other hand Germany has not that power, and if it is true that she fears that we have the power o of causing her to drag out a long and tedious war, she feels beforehand that her existence is at stake. That is the position as between us. Germany must end the war rapidly with extreme rapidity if she found herself at war with this country.
I wonder what is the root basis of our strategy. It is I suppose the apprehension of this great power of the German fleet acting in that way, and I wonder if we are right. Are we solving the problem by bringing these "Dreadnoughts" and super - "Dreadnoughts" and heavily armoured cruisers here into the North Sea? That is a point upon which there is at least one school of thought which believes we are entirely wrong. They believe that the foundation of trust in the "Dreadnoughts" is an unstable and wrong foundation. It started, of course, with the Russo-Japanese war. There, after the initial success of the Japanese and its great moral consequences, it was found that the torpedoes did not have the overwhelming triumph over the ironclads anticipated at the time, and that was the reason, of course, why the "Dreadnoughts" and the pre-"Dreadnoughts" have been at a premium. But of course it is not taken fully into account how vastly and how importantly the torpedo itself has been developed and improved since those clays. We know it was the 11-inch torpedo the Japanese had, and we know how backward the science of them was when compared with these days. We also know for instance that the Japanese were compelled, owing to the few torpedo vessels they possess, to be very careful of their use when they could not disguise their approach.
All these things have been changed, and the torpedo at the present moment is so powerful, and its range—I believe it is 7,000 yards—is so great with 300 pounds of gun-cotton at its head, and it is directed so accurately, that the whole conditions of warfare have changed. I was interested in what the Leader of the Opposition said, and I should like to know if there is not a good deal in his suggestion that owing to submarines and mines and torpedoes and aircraft as well, it is extremely likely one might say that the North Sea might be entirely closed during the war. If that is the case, as may be possible, what would happen to all the ships? They 1440 would be locked up in their harbours, although I hope our ships will not be locked up in that way. I believe that this has a most important bearing upon the general strategic position. That may be a question to be decided in the near future, but it has a very important bearing on the possibility of the invasion of our coast by Germany. That really is the main fact at the present moment. But can that be done in any possible circumstances? Can we be invaded, or can a raid be effectively carried out at the present moment? I am convinced that the thing is impossible. It could only be done as a surprise, and absolute secrecy could not be obtained.
I am quite prepared to argue the point from the very beginning in every detail from the moment the troops were assembled on the quays, ships collected, fittings changed, the crossing of the trade lines, and the dangers of trying to land on our shores. I am quite certain that every one of those contentions could be confuted by argument. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, by argument"] Yes, that is the difficulty. We may be wrong, I admit, and that is the main reason why I most strongly support the suggestion of the First Lord of the Admiralty. We may be wrong, but in my opinion it is only a question of time. I believe that in a certain time the possibility of invasion, or of a big raid upon this country, will be held by every rational-thinking man to be absurd. I should like to say in this connection that if a foreign country like Germany could not possibly put a big force on our shores, equally we cannot send an Expeditionary Force to Belgium or Holland. I notice that the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery), who is interested in this subject, shakes his head. I should like very much to ask him if he thinks there is at the present moment an Admiral who would undertake to convoy that Expedition and guarantee its safe arrival. I do not think it is possible. The remedy for this is in the question of time. We want time for two reasons. Of course, the time may be extended to twenty years. First of all, we want time to enable the whole of the Empire to be organised under a system of Imperial defence. The other reason is one which I am sure the hon. Gentleman opposite did not sympathise with in the least. The second reason why we want time is to give the opportunity for the development of a natural, healthy public democratic opinion in Germany and in this country. We want time for that. I 1441 believe the Labour party in this House the other night voted against the proposals of the First Lord entirely, under the belief that they were sympathising with the German Socialist party and thereby doing great international service. They do this under that belief on every occasion when these questions come up, both in Germany and in this country, because they always steadfastly vote against any increase of armaments. Those are my points.
We want time, and for that reason we must spend every penny which our experts at the Admiralty believe to be necessary for the protection of this country. I believe that after twenty years, or perhaps less, the whole of the circumstances will have changed altogether, but in the meantime we must have safety. I have pointed out how frightfully Germany would be damaged by an unsuccessful war, and how all her interests and every industry would be dislocated and upset, but to us it would mean something more, for it would mean absolute ruin. To be unsuccessful would mean to us not only the loss of our sea power, but our predominance at sea. Our supremacy means not only the right to work, but the right to live. I was hoping that the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth would speak in this Debate, and I am sorry he does not intend to do so, because he is always interesting and sometimes amusing; and every now and then he says something illuminating. I was very much impressed with his remark as to it being quite out of the question for us to try and close the Mediterranean. I entirely agree with him. It is quite certain it would not be merely a question of the loss of prestige at all. The closing of the whole of the Mediterranean would be an action which would arouse all civilised countries against us. I wish the Noble Lord had explained how otherwise we could effectually have blocked the Mediterranean, except at Gibraltar and Aden, so that no ship could possibly pass through.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
My point was that to do that first you would rouse the enmity of every nation which had commerce in the Mediterranean, and the next point would be that you would require a fleet so enormous to have any chance of success that it would be altogether prohibitive.
§ Sir G. SCOTT ROBERTSON
My real point was in connection with the new 1442 mechanical appliances, such as mines, submersibles, torpedo boats, and craft of that kind.
§ Sir G. SCOTT ROBERTSON
My argument is as to the possibility of the North Sea being closed in the way I have described. For the reasons I have stated, I have the greatest satisfaction in supporting everything that the expert advisers of the Admiralty have themselves suggested at the present time. I am quite sure it is not too little and it is not too great. If we cannot trust our experts at the Admiralty, the only thing to do is to turn them out, and to get others; but, while they are in their present position, I most certainly shall give them my entire support.
§ Mr. AMERY
The hon. Member who has just sat down challenged me to reply to his argument that it would be impossible for Germany to send an invading army here at the same time as we sent an Expeditionary Force on the Continent in the possible contingency of a war between Germany, France, and England.
§ Sir G. SCOTT ROBERTSON
That was not my argument. I said that Germany could not send an invading force to this island for the same reason. I did not say at the same time.
§ Mr. AMERY
The only answer is that undoubtedly I believe the British Government did intend to send that expedition if circumstances arose. I shall be very glad to explain exactly what I mean. I believe that if such a contingency as that of war had arisen last year, it was the intention and certainly the duty of the British Government to send an Expeditionary Force over to the Continent at once, and I believe they would have been able to do so. I do not wish to dwell particularly upon the hon. Member's speech, but I should like to associate myself wholeheartedly with what fell from him in reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire and the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs, namely, that you cannot divorce policy from armaments. Policy is not a substitute for armaments; it is simply the ordinary, normal expression of the strength you have. Your diplomacy is like the paper money of a great bank, the value of it depends upon the gold and the solid cash in reserve. You talk of using a wise, tactful policy as a substitute 1443 foe your defensive preparations. You might as well talk of a wise and tactful use of your cheque book as a substitute for having money at the bank. The only security of your interests and of peace is a wise, temperate, conciliatory foreign policy, coupled with such defensive preparations as will enable you to carry out that policy and safeguard your interests. There is nothing new in that policy. That is the policy which the British Government has carried out in the past with remarkable success. I should like to traverse entirely the account given by the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire of the history of the last twenty years. When Mr. Gladstone made the statement which the hon. Member quoted we were just entering on a most dangerous and critical period, namely, the colonial expansion of France. Russia and Germany, and that expansion brought us again and again in 1895 and subsequent years to a series of crises in regard to West Africa, Siam, and Fashoda. Hon. Members will recollect President Cleveland's message and the German Emperor's telegram in that conned ion. In each of those cases, besides the reasonableness of our policy, we had the effect of the influence of the strength of our battleships behind us, and that enabled us to secure peace and preserve our legitimate interests. Any one of those cases might have produced a war which would have cost us a good deal more than the £400,000,000 referred to by the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, and have left an enduring legacy of hatred and bitterness behind, whereas our strength, coupled with our conciliatory temper, led to that very system of friendships which we enjoy at this moment with those very Powers with whom we were so often almost on the brink of war.
I trust the same policy, the same combination of a readiness to compromise on everything that is not absolutely essential to our existence, and a determination to safeguard our interests and our existence, will bring us peacefully out of the same difficult position we have to face to-day. It requires, as the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said, time, and it requires great patience and courage on the part of this country, and a real facing of the magnitude of the problem with which we are confronted. For my part, I do not consider the First Lord of the Admiralty in the speech he made on Monday faced the magnitude of that problem. I am 1444 not going to go into the question of the position in the North Sea. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Leader of my party (Mr. Bonar Law) and my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) that the margin seems excessively fine. What I should like to bring out, and it was brought out by my right hon. Friend at the beginning of this afternoon, is that to ensure even that narrow margin, in order to meet the menace arising in the narrow seas, we have abdicated the primary function of the Navy in the defence of the British Empire. The primary, the essential function of the Navy, which nothing but the Navy can fulfil, is to command the seas which unite our scattered Empire, to keep open the ocean highway for our supplies of food, for our even more indispensable supplies of raw material, and for the passage of those troops which may be required to safeguard and protect any part of the Empire. That is the first and most indispensable duty of the Navy, a duty which nothing else can fulfil, the duty of commanding all the seas of the world. I do not mean by that we must necessarily have an overwhelming Navy in every sea at one and the same time. That is not my suggestion. What I do mean is that as long as we have an Empire scattered in all the seas of the world it is essential for the existence of that Empire that within a reasonable time, and before irretrievable disaster could come to any part, we should be in a position to command the sea any-where. To-day we are utterly unable to command the sea anywhere in the world except in the narrow seas round our coasts. We have lost the command of the sea all over the world because we are using our tremendous Navy for one purpose only, for the continuous passive defence of the shores of this country.
Let me take the question of the Mediterranean. I have no objection to our Navy not being in the Mediterranean at this or at that time, or to its being withdrawn for a time, if we can bring it back into the Mediterranean if it is wanted; but the position to-day is that we dare not send a squadron into the Mediterranean if danger should arise there for fear a greater danger might follow. What is true of the Mediterranean is equally true of other seas where British interests are no less important. Take the case of the Panama Canal, and take the contingency of as Power hostile to us who wished to injure our interests in those seas. What have 1445 we to support our diplomacy in those seas? Nothing. Suppose Japan wished to abandon the Alliance and to attack Australia. What could we do? Hon. Gentlemen may say there is no reason why Japan should do anything of the sort. There is exactly the same reason as there was for Italy to declare war on Turkey when she thought she could take Tripoli, and the arguments used by hon. Gentlemen opposite are arguments which might very well have been used to the Turkish Ministry in favour of keeping the garrison of Tripoli low. We have got to face the fact of a most dangerous and intolerable situation. We exist absolutely at the sufferance all over the world of other Powers as long as this question of the narrow seas is not settled. The question is how are we to extricate ourselves out of this impossible and intolerable position? There are to my mind only three alternatives by which a solution can be found. There is one alternative which I only mention in order to dismiss it. It was mentioned by the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire in a tone of despair. I believe no serious statesman on any side of the House has discussed the alternative of putting an end to this situation by a sudden declaration of war. I not only believe such an act unnecessary—I do not believe war is inevitable if we adopt the right policy— but. I do not even believe it would necessarily be successful, and certainly it would be against all the traditions that animate the foreign policy of this country. The other alternative is that we should accept the fact that a great Navy, large enough to make sure against the danger of a German invasion, should be permanently anchored to the coast of England, and that we should build up by loan or otherwise a new Navy to maintain the command of the sea and defend our Imperial interests. I say if we adopted that policy we could not carry it out under Navy Estimates of £70,000,000 or £80,000,000, and it might be more. Even with that policy you would have no power of giving a really effective counterstroke. You would still be risking more in war than your opponents would be risking.
I should like to put to the Committee what I believe to be the only true solution to this problem, and that is to liberate the British Navy for its proper function of commanding the seas of the world, whether the narrow seas here or the Mediterranean or the Atlantic or even the Pacific, by providing a Defence Force on land in this country which would make 1446 invasion a dangerous and difficult task. That would make it possible for the Navy to attend to its proper Imperial task for a few weeks without the danger of invasion and of ruin. It is not only the most effective means, but it is far the cheapest means. You could at a cost of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 added to our present Army Estimates ensure something which you could not ensure by the cost of another £30,000,000 added to our Navy Estimates. To use a great Navy for the incidental defence of this country is a good policy and a cheap policy, but to use a costly modern Navy for the main and sole purpose of defending this country is costly folly. At present we cannot make sure of our allies; and cannot count on them in the same way as other Powers, because we cannot give them that which is essential to their safety. If we could give our friends and allies an Expeditionary Force twice the force we have to-day, then I think we could reckon on their support in the Mediterranean with certainty. I want to bring home to the Committee the fact that the situation to-day is different in kind as well as in degree from the situation which formerly existed. We have to meet to-day not only a naval menace such as we met in the competition with France and Russia, but a direct military menace to our existence because we are now dealing with the concentrated menace of a Navy which has the greatest Army in the world behind it. I know I am asking for a great deal more than hon. Members on that side of the House are prepared to give, but the experience of the last few years has shown us we are gradually opening our eyes to the situation, almost from month to mouth. The eyes of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench and of the House at large are being opened. Barely a year ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer used the following words when speaking about the prospects of this year:—There will be a fall in the statutory provision for German shipbuilding, and that will involve a necessary reduction in our Naval armaments unless some new menace which we cannot foresee is imposed upon us. The First Lord of the Admiralty, and I think the Prime Minister, have already indicated that we have reached the climax in our Naval expenditure, and next year we may look forward to a substantial reduction, to be followed in the succeeding year by a still greater reduction "—OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th May, 1911, col. 1868, Vol. XXV.]This year we have Estimates of £46,000,000, next year, I believe, they will be £48,000,000, and in the following year £50,000,000. New and unforeseen, but very "foreseeable" menaces may arise 1447 which may compel us to increase our Estimates still more. All I ask is that we should open our eyes now and adopt a whole hearted policy instead of going on with a policy of driblets, a costly policy, and one which may land us in disaster. At the same time, I recognise that to maintain the defence of this Empire on the shoulders of the taxpayers of these two islands is a task which in the long run will be impossible. It is coming home to this House now as it ought to have come home to it years ago when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) vainly tried to bring it home to it We cannot go on existing on the basis of these islands. It is only by having the wider material basis of the British Empire that we can both maintain our safety and enable our civilisation to develop without the crushing burdens of excessive taxation. But in order to make that possible there are two things we have got to do. We have got to build up the strength of those who are willing to help us. The amount of help the Dominions can give us is dependent upon their growing population. Every measure we can take in this country to help those populations to grow and to help the revenues of those Dominions to increase is a direct contribution towards the solution of this problem. Every quarter of wheat that is brought from Canada means that you can maintain on the land in Canada under the British flag a man who contributes to the taxes of the Dominion, which taxes we trust will, in some proportion at any rate, and the more they grow in greater proportion, contribute towards the safety of the Empire as a whole, and thus lessen the burden we should otherwise have to face. You are also maintaining a man who in his own person may be ready to serve side by side with the citizens of this country, as he did in the South African war, and as I believe he will again in any other great war. The other necessary condition, and it has been referred to more than once in these Debates, is that if we wish them to share in the burdens of responsibility we must give them a full and equal voice in our councils. At present they enjoy what a Canadian Member of Paliament described in a debate some years ago as—a maimed, emasculated British citizenship.They have no voice in the control of the British Empire, but that voice, when they 1448 pay for it, they must be given, and it can only be given by building up a true Imperial Constitution in which every citizen in the Empire has the same position and the same voice. Meanwhile we must go on improving our machinery for full and continuous consultation. I rejoice in what the Prime Minister has told us to-day about the work of the Imperial Defence Committee. "But what is desirable is not that the representatives of the Dominions should attend once a year or at an occasional conference, but that they should attend continuously and of right every sitting of the Imperial Defence Committee, that they should have some prominent member of their Government deputed permanently to that particular task, one absolutely in their confidence and absolutely also in the confidence of the British Government. It is no less necessary that the deliberations should include deliberations on foreign policy, and that it should become a true Committee of Policy and Defence and not a Committee of Defence only. That is the first necessary stage: the ultimate stage can only be a true Imperial Constitution for a united Empire. Meanwhile, the burden must be borne by this country; but it should be realised in time how great and how heavy that burden will be.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
The hon. Member who has just spoken with so much ability adopted an alarmist tone with which I find myself quite unable to agree. He suggested that the only satisfactory policy of defence for this country would be a system of universal service, and he conceived we could maintain a conscript Army and at the same time a Navy of no less magnitude than we have at present. It is a large and tempting topic, but I do not propose to follow the hon. Member into it except so far as is necessary for the purpose of replying to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in his most interesting speech, a statement which was repeated by the hon. Member for South Birmingham. The provision indicated by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty for the year 1914 has been described as cutting it too fine, and, in support of that criticism, figures are quoted from my right hon. Friend's speech of the 22nd July, in which he stated that at the end of 1914 we should have a minimum of thirty-three and a maximum of forty-one battleships fully manned and in full commission, 1449 figure is twenty-nine. These figures were quoted by the Leader of the Opposition in the form of thirty-three against twenty-nine, and, as so stated, the preponderance of strength no doubt at first sight would appear to be inadequate. Such strength against which the comparable German as the British Fleet will have in the year 1914 in battleships depends upon the provision made during the time it was my duty to fill the post of First Lord. Consequently, for the strength of the fleet in battleships in 1914 the present First Lord is not in the least responsible, and upon my shoulders must rest the whole of the blame. I am content, however, to take the blame, but I think I shall be able to show from my right hon. Friend's speech that there is not the smallest ground for any anxiety in the year 1914. In the passage which I have quoted the First Lord of the Admiralty was speaking of the battleships which he would then have fully manned with active service ratings. He stated that, in 1914, the provision of the German Admiralty was that they should have so many active service men as would enable them to keep in full commission ready for war twenty-nine battleships, while it would be the policy of the British Admiralty in the same year to have in full commission or fully manned with active service ratings forty-one battleships. It is possible that tinder the disposition of the fleet eight British battleships might be at Gibraltar and there would appear therefore to be a balance of thirty-three battleships, fully manned with active service ratings, against twenty-nine German battleships, also fully manned with active service ratings. But my right hon. Friend stated a qualification, which he could not amplify yesterday, in the fullest and clearest terms, and I think it is necessary, if not for the satisfaction of hon. Members in this House at any rate for the satisfaction of the public outside, that attention should be called to the language used by my right hon. Friend. In speaking yesterday, he said, referring to the statement made in another place by Lord Selborne:—I see that Lord Selborne, speaking yesterday in another place, referred to me as having said that in the near future we should have only a margin of four ships in the North Sea.That statement had gone out to the public, and had created a certain amount of grave anxiety. My right hon. Friend went on:—Nothing that I said ought to support so very inaccurate and inadequate and misleading a conclusion.1450Nothing that I said ought to support so very inadequate and misleading a conclusion in regard to the naval strength of this country. Let the Committee look at the facts. We shall have thirty-three battleships, that is what I said, in full commission, by the time that Germany has twenty-five.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Yes. My right hon. Friend continued:—That is the fact. We shall have a Fifth Battle Squadron of eight more, fully manned with active service personnel against the four German parent ships which are in the reserve. We shall thus have a total of forty-one battleships manned with active service personnel against a total of twenty-nine.My right hon. Friend went on to explain that eight of the ships might be at Gibraltar, and he continued:—But they will very frequently be in home waters— very frequently, and we shall arrange that they are in home waters at such times as it may be considered that their presence will be required, and they will certainly be in home waters at any time when the Fifth Battle Squadron is cruising away from its home port, and consequently is not instantly available. Therefore, I am stating the absolute British minimum of fully commissioned ships at thirty-three on the ground that we shall have always four out of the live squadrons immediately available. I am contrasting this absolute minimum of fully commissioned ships instantly available with the absolute maximum which might, under certain circumstances, be available on the German side."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1912, col. 1239.]My right hon. Friend stated the facts in the clearest and fullest manner, and I want the House to consider the total available force on both sides, and to come to a conclusion as to what the policy of the House of Commons ought to be. Take the manning strength. This year Parliament will provide for a total personnel of 137,500 men. In the same year the German provision will be 66,783, so that in the personnel provided this year by the two countries we have more than two to one. We must not run away with the opinion that that is excessive. It is not. But on the face of it it is not an inadequate provision, particularly when we remember that the great bulk of our men are long service men, while only a small proportion of the Germans are long service. What provision is there of battleships? In 1914 —I take the personnel two years earlier, because it takes time to train the men—in 1914 we shall have 62 battleships under twenty years of age, while Germany will have 36, and in all respects, when the ships are compared, they show a very marked superiority on our side. We have the great superiority of 62 to 36 in numbers. We also have a great superiority in units, and with this great preponderance it would appear, on the face of it, that there is adequate provision made for the year 1914. What was the statement of my right hon. Friend? He gave the total strength 1451 in numbers and material, and he stated how the Admiralty proposed to distribute their men and their ships. The ships are there and the men are there, and they propose to make a distribution so that there will be 33 or 41, as the case may be, against a possible maximum of 29. Is not that a point which we may safely leave to the Admiralty, provided that they are satisfied that they have a total sufficiency of strength to draw upon? That is the point to which criticism should be directed.
In my experience there is no office in this country which is better served than the Admiralty. We have most competent men there in every rank, and I am sure there has been no decline in competence under my right hon. Friend. I should not have had any hesitation when I was there in accepting the advice of the naval experts as how best to control the total force which they had at their disposal, and I am sure we shall be right if we accept the advice of the naval experts now, provided we are satisfied that they have got a total sufficiency of force at their disposal, and that they are making the best possible use of it. The real fact is that when you come to compare ship for ship, our thirty-three to their twenty-nine, nobody can have a doubt as to our superiority. Of these twenty-nine German ships, three belong to the class which carry only 9.4 guns, ten more belong to the class which carry 11-inch guns—pre-"Dreadnoughts"—and there are sixteen "Dreadnoughts" of which four carry only 11-inch guns, and none of the remainder, I believe, will carry anything more than 12-inch guns. You have to compare those twenty-nine ships against a British fleet no ship of which carries guns of less than 12-inch, and all the modern ones carrying guns of 13.5-inch. The fact is there is a real superiority in power. I am sure—without the suggestion that there is the smallest ground for scares—we may leave it with confidence to the able, competent and experienced advisers of the Admiralty to determine what the distribution of our Fleet shall be.
§ Mr. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I desire to put a few points as concisely as possible in support of the necessity of Imperial cooperation in a wider sphere than that for which the Imperial Defence Committee was established. We are admittedly in face of a great naval crisis, and we may not have 1452 time to immediately form the permanent organisation which must be created for an Empire co-operation in defence. Meanwhile temporary measures may have to be taken, and with these I do not propose to deal to-night, but to refer to the matter from a broader point of view. The Prime Minister of Canada on Monday, at the dinner given in his honour by the London Chamber of Commerce, said:—All the Dominions were actuated by a sense of loyalty to the idea that the world-wide mission of the British Empire should be pursued, not only by men in these Islands, but by men in the Dominions as well, and that they were not afraid of the responsibilities of Empire however weighty those responsibilities might turn out to be.Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted; and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I, for one, feel that, after such an expression of opinion as that uttered by Mr. Borden and his colleagues, which has been reiterated by many oversea statesmen, if we do not take some immediate steps in response to this latest message from one of our leading Dominions we shall be neglecting our opportunities and abusing the trust which has been placed in our hands. It is for us to make a definite move. We have had expressed over and over again the opinion that the people in our Dominions are looking to the Mother-country to make that move. We want their co-operation. Many of us think that it is of vital interest that we should have the co-operation of our Dominions, but we certainly as yet appear to be taking no active steps in that direction. Barely a year ago a memorial was presented to the Prime Minister, reading as follows:—We, the undersigned Members of Parliament, representing various political parties, are of opinion that the time has arrived to take practical steps to associate the Overseas Dominions in a more permanent manner with a conduct of Imperial affairs, if possible, by means of an established representative council of an advisory character, in touch with public opinion throughout the Empire.That was one of the most, representative memorials ever presented. It was signed by 294 Members of all shades of political opinion. What has been done since that was sent in? I earnestly ask that some encouragement should be given to us in this matter to-night, and that the Government will tell us that they intend to do something. We shall welcome any action from them, if they take some official steps in this matter. If the Government, agreeing with the objects, do not know 1453 how to proceed, let them call the representatives of the Dominions together again, not waiting for two or three years for another conference, but asking them to come in, say, six, eight, or twelve months' time to a special conference. If that conference is called by this country, and the Dominions send their representatives here for the special object of ascertaining how we can create some Imperial Council or Senate, I am convinced that the result will be to find a way for giving the Dominions their rightful share in the councils of our Empire. Knowing, as I do, the mind of our overseas kinsmen, I declare that until we in this country create some constitutional methods for providing for their representation in all matters affecting the welfare of the Empire as a whole, we shall never attain the desired end, namely, the wholehearted co-operation of our Dominions in all matters concerning defence and relating to the interest and welfare of the Empire. What am I asking the Government to do? Does it not amount to this? We have in our Empire trained statesmen, who have brought up from infancy to manhood an independent and progressive people, owning territory larger by far than that over which our statesmen rule and offering difficulties of such a nature as our statesmen have ceased to regard. I suggest that advantage should be taken of that experience. In a critical period of our history, such as we are now going through, would it not be of great advantage to us to have the co-operation and advice of such men, equal in ability, integrity and loyalty to any Member of of the House of Lords, or of the House of Commons, and equal in ability to any of those men who have demonstrated their great, ability in the various services of the Crown. You will get that ability, integrity, and loyalty of which these men in our Dominions have as much as those in this country. Only yesterday the Canadian Minister of Marine, Mr. Hazen, in receiving a deputation from the Imperial Maritime League, said:—So far as any question of permanent policy is concerned, the people of Canada feel that if they are going to enter into any policy that may be regarded as a policy of partnership, they must have adequate representation. As to the form that representation may take, it is not desirable that I should say anything now. That is a matter for very serious consideration indeed, but the feeling is that there can be no partnership of that sort unless the partners have a voice in the management and guidance of affairs.Such utterances encourage us, and there is not a Member of this Committee who does not wish to have their counsel, their 1454 co-operation, and their advice, if we can find some basis on which to secure it. If we ask for it, and seek for it in the right spirit, we shall get it. If we say, "Come, we want you, we welcome you: come right in to our counsels," see what an answer we shall get from our Dominions—an answer prompted by deep loyalty and devotion to our King and flag, such as no one ever dreamed of. It is obvious to all that the desire for Imperial co-operation has grown in a miraculous manner during the last six months. There is no question of party upon this matter. For my part, I should rejoice if, as a stepping stone, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand—in fact, all our Dominions—were asked to nominate representatives to the Imperial Council of Defence, upon which we had such an instructive speech from the Prime Minister this afternoon. If that were done, I feel that it would prove the first step towards forming a great Imperial Chamber, which so many of us desire. This, however, is not the time to enlarge on such a subject; only let me plead, why wait, why dilly-dally? I hope that the Secretary for Foreign Affairs or the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Dr. Macnamara) will give us some statement as to the views of the Government, so as to encourage those of us who are keen on taking this great step. Our Empire is worthy of great deeds. Canada's message through her representatives in this country demands an answer, and men in the great Dominion of Canada will be disappointed unless some answer containing a word of encouragement is given to those who look forward to one great Empire with its component parts working together for the peace and prosperity of all. We must not forget that this Empire is as much theirs as it is ours. We all realise that the Dominions have taken and are taking the pick of our citizens and the best of our blood. I rejoice that it is so, for in that way we are taking care that the British element in the great Dominions, overseas shall predominate, which in my mind is a matter of very great importance for the future of our Empire.
But the point is, do we wish to drive out from our counsels those who leave us and go to Canada and Australia? While they are here they participate in our counsels and have a voice in the management of the affairs of their country; but when they go there, though many of them may wish to continue to work for the welfare and benefit of the Mother-country, they are 1455 absolutely voiceless and there is no way in which they can make their voices heard and their opinions expressed. The Minister of Trade and Commerce in Canada, one of the greatest orators of the present day, recently said the time must come when it will not be a question of emigrating when a man leaves the Mother-country to go to Canada or Australia, but he will move his home from one part to another part. And when that day arrives we shall have become a great and powerful, united people. Words like that stir the hearts of all those who have travelled in the Empire and worked in it as much as I have, because it gives one a broader vision, and we shall benefit vastly if we can only unite to us the men who have gained great experience and a wider outlook. Cannot we find the means of enabling them to share in the responsibilities and decisions of this Empire? Canada has demonstrated time after time her right to come into our counsels. We do not ask her to prop up a tottering Power or to support an infirm parent; we ask her to take her rightful share in the Government and the defence of our Empire. The day we can send that message out will see a turn in the history of this country which I do not think the most sanguine can picture. If we once can get the Empire united for defence— and you will only do it by giving representation and a voice in the councils of the Empire—you will get nearer to the state to which one or two hon. Members have already referred—the day when war will become impossible. We all hope, when the peace of the world is assured by a great, powerful, and a prosperous and united Empire, the great United States will also join and create the biggest and most powerful combine the world has ever seen, by the unity of the Anglo-Saxon race, for the peace and the prosperity of the world for all time.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
In a Debate like this it is absolutely scandalous that there are not more Members of the Government on the Front Bench. This is, perhaps, the most important Debate of the year, or at least a Debate on the most important subject which has been debated for several months. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. McKenna) said the ships were there, and the men were there. It is a, curious commentary on his statement that the men were there, that the First Lord of the Admiralty has himself stated that he had to bring back ships from the 1456 Mediterranean and from Gibraltar in order to transfer their crews to the Third Battle Squadron. The right hon. Gentleman also said that with a minimum of 33 ships we were amply secured against a maximum of 29 ships which the Germans could bring against us. That statement is absolutely contrary to the statement of the First Lord himself in March that we should have a 60 per cent margin. A 60 per cent, margin over the 29 ships of the German navy would give us 46, and even if you count in the eight ships which are supposed to be coming home from Gibraltar, or at any rate are available in a few days, we have only got 41 which are either immediately ready, or will be ready within a very few days. That does not give us our 60 per cent, margin. But leaving out the eight Gibraltar ships, the figure of 33 does not allow for a single ship being in dock for repairs, and I should like to know upon what day of the year the whole 33 will be found in absolute commission with not a single ship in dock, possibly for some minor repairs, or perhaps for repairs which take a great deal of time, like repairs to the training machinery for the guns.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The Debate is ranging over a very wide field. It is not out of order for a certain amount of repetition of arguments which have been used on a previous day.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I am aware that some of these arguments have been used; but the argument that no allowance has been made for ships in dock has not been mentioned either on Monday, Tuesday, or to-day. Even if anything approaching it has been mentioned, I should like to emphasise it still more, and to say that we on this side of the House have no intention of letting the country go to sleep on this matter. We intend to attack the Government on every platform that we can. We think that the provision of ships to meet this great crisis—because it is admitted to be a grave crisis by the First Lord and by the Prime Minister himself—is inadequate, and we have a perfect right therefore to urge that greater provision should be made. Lord Selborne in another place has advocated the provision of a new fleet off "Dreadnought" battleships. The objection which the First Lord stated to that 1457 was that we should not have men to man them unless we placed in reserve other ships which were not yet obsolete. I venture to say it is of the utmost importance that not only should we have a superiority in ships, but that we should have a sufficient number of ships to replace others, and that those ships should be of the most up-to-date and powerful description. If there was no question of money, I am perfectly certain that these ships would be laid down at once.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Dr. Macnamara)
They are not wanted.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
The right hon. Gentleman says it is not a question of money, but that they are not wanted. I venture to say that from our point of view they are wanted. The matter of £16,000,000 they would cost is a mere bagatelle compared with the tremendous risks this country will run if we do not lay down this number of ships. To begin with, the Mediterranean is to be left by us with four battle cruisers and four armoured cruisers, while in 1913 there will be a fleet consisting of six "Dreadnought" battleships and cruisers belonging to Italy and Austria. In 1914 they will have nine battleships and cruisers of the "Dreadnought" description. I say the provision we are making is inadequate, and therefore if only to reinforce the Mediterranean, the laying down of these additional ships is absolutely necessary. The First Lord gave the figures yesterday of the number of battle cruisers, and if you deduct from that number the four to be stationed in the Mediterranean, you have exactly the same number of battle cruisers which Germany has. He said:—We shall have eight battle cruisers when Germany has four in the fourth quarter of 1913. In the fourth quarter of 1914 we shall have in when Germany has five, and in the fourth quarter of 1915 we shall have ten when Germany has six, and those are the total figures.If you deduct the four we have in the Mediterranean, we will have only six to six. I say that the provision of battleships and battle cruisers is inadequate, but we are asked to believe that the expert advisers of the First Lord have told him that they consider that should be amply sufficient. Expert advisers, we all know, have to cut their coat according to their cloth. They have been told that there will be this amount of money available, and that they will have to make the best arrangements they can with that money. But I do not believe that they would not 1458 welcome the laying down of a greater number of battleships and battle cruisers. There is no provision in the Supplementary Estimate for cruisers to protect our trade routes. There is no acceleration in the building of the five ships laid down last year, and no acceleration of this year's programme, which is to be begun this year and in the early part of next year, except as regards submarines and certain other vessels. There is no acceleration of battleships.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain where. I have not heard it mentioned by the First Lord or seen it in the Estimates. There is no provision for these cruisers for the trade routes, and they are exceedingly important. All over the world our prestige largely depends on the flag being shown. I am quite certain that every naval officer deplores the fact that we have had to withdraw our ships from the foreign stations. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was done by the Unionist Government."l I dare say they were withdrawn by the Unionist Government, but all the same what I say is perfectly true, that all naval officers deplore the fact that we have not a sufficiency of cruisers on the trade routes. I know very well that it is of enormous use to have them. I myself saw a case where the showing of the British flag resulted in the quenching of a revolution. We had a corvette and a gun boat in the River Plate, and the revolutionary ships were bombarding Buenos Ayres for three clays; there had been heavy loss of life. They ceased firing upon our representations and threats that if they did not cease fire we should have to open on them. I was a midshipman in one of the ships myself. That was a case where, by having the British flag out there, it resulted in the stopping of the revolution, because within twenty-four hours the whole of the revolution was stopped. That enormously added to our prestige. There is hardly a ship of the British Navy at present on the South American coast. On the Pacific Coast there are only, I think, two sloops of a thousand tons which are nothing like the sort of ships we ought to have on that coast, extending for many thousands of miles. As regards destroyers, I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman, who is very optimistic, considers that our 143 to Germany's 120 gives a sufficient 1459 margin in 1913. I do not believe it is anything like a sufficient margin, nor do I think that those in the Navy think it is anything like sufficient.
I should like to say a few words on another matter affecting Imperial defence, namely, the garrisons. The Prime Minister, in the very interesting speech with which he opened this Debate, stated that one of the Sub-committees of the Imperial Defence Committee dealt with the Overseas Defensive Forces. In Egypt we have a very weak garrison at the present time. We have only four battalions of Infantry, a Cavalry regiment, and a very small force of Artillery. I venture to say that if this Sub-Committee of the Imperial Defence Committee has ever gone into the matter of the garrison in Egypt, or if Lord Kitchener has reported, as I presume he has, on the question, very strong representations must have been made that the garrison there ought to be increased. If it cannot be done from home forces, cannot we do what we have done before and send a few battalions of Indian troops to reinforce the garrison in Egypt? In Malta we have only five battalions of Infantry and eight companies of Garrison Artillery —four thousand or five thousand men—in an island of 117 square miles. I believe it has never in its history had so small a garrison It has been conquered by the Romans, Vandals, Goths, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, and Sicilians. Then it was held by the Knights of Malta, by the French, and afterwards by us. I venture to say that never since Saint Paul was wrecked off Malta has the island been held by such a miserably small garrison as we have there at the present time. Gibraltar is held by a still more absurdly small force. At present we have two battalions of Infantry and seven companies of Garrison Artillery. I do not suppose that we have anything like 5,000 men at Gibraltar. Gibraltar was held during the siege 130 years ago by 5,382 men, reinforced by another 1,000 men by Admiral Rodney in the middle of the siege. Even now, when we are going to make Gibraltar one of the bases of our Fleet, we cannot afford apparently, when we have a population of 45,000,000, to have more than two battalions of Infantry and seven companies of Garrison Artillery to garrison this most important place—the key of the Mediterranean. Surely the Defence Committee must have made some representations in the matter, and we can only conclude that 1460 the Government have turned a deaf ear to the representations.
To go a little further West, we have in Jamaica a very fine harbour at Port Royal, the most important harbour in the West Indies, which would be of enormous importance directly the Panama Canal is opened. We are doing nothing at all to strengthen the garrison there or to strengthen the defences of the harbour, while within 150 miles the Americans are heavily fortifying the port of Guantanamo. There are strong rumours that General Ian Hamilton made some report upon this matter about eighteen months ago, but nothing apparently has been done. We have one battalion of coloured troops, and, in addition, we have one company of Garrison Artillery. As far as I know, they have to fight with guns which could not possibly fight a respectable armoured cruiser, let alone a battle cruiser. It is impossible that the company of Garrison Artillery could fire more than a few 6-inch guns. I asked a question about four months ago as to what was the number of guns at Port Royal, and I received the usual answer that it was confidential. That information is absolutely secret, as far as this House or this country is concerned; but it is known to everybody who lives on the island and to every single foreign Power who likes to take the slightest trouble to find out. This question of the garrisons is an extremely urgent and important one. It is all very well to have weak garrisons and withdraw men when we contained the Mediterranean at all times with a strong fleet. When you remove the fleet, then you must strengthen your garrisons, and I hope that if, at any rate, the present Government do not intend to reinforce the Mediterranean Fleet with anything stronger than those four battle cruisers, they will see that the garrisons of Malta, Gibraltar, and Egypt are at least doubled in strength. If they do that, I believe that the Defence Committee will have done enormous service to the British Empire.
§ Mr. LEACH
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down made from his point of view a rather interesting speech. I notice, however, that he threatened the Government with his opposition and the opposition of his Friends on all platforms of the country as opportunity presents. Judging from the fulness of knowledge which he possesses I should think that he would be soon able to persuade the people of this country to his way 1461 of thinking, and that we may therefore expect a General Election very shortly. I consider his speech quite an alarming one, and I hope he will forgive me if I have no intention of following. I should like to say a few words on the general question before us, the question of the Navy. I am not a naval expert nor an Army expert, I have not the fulness of knowledge on these matters to enable me to speak with the same authority concerning them as the hon. Member who has just sat down, and I am dependent largely upon what others tell me. I rather looked to the Government, who ought to have, and probably will have, the best information, and try to act upon the information which they give to us. Speaking as a layman; a citizen, and a taxpayer, I look at the Navy from that point of view, and, like all inhabitants of these islands, I recognise the importance of a strong and efficient Navy. I agree with what has been said by a good many men in this Debate that our very life as well as our trade and commerce, our freedom, and our home must depend upon a strong and efficient Navy. There are three things that strike me as necessary for the Navy. First, that it should be equal to the protection of all our food supplies. We are dependent upon other countries for our food supplies, and we ought to be able to feel quite sure that our Navy is equal to preventing us from being starved to death in any conditions that might arise.
In the next place it ought to be equal to the protection of all our trade and commerce. We are a great trading nation and send our ships to all parts of the world, bearing away our manufactured articles and bringing back to us payment in the shape of raw material, as well as the manufactures of other countries. Then it ought to be such as should make us fairly secure from armed invasion. Those are things about which there can be no dispute. Of course, I agree with many Navy Members who have spoken that if we are conquered at all it must be from the sea, and therefore we must be strong at that point. Now I want to ask if, in the opinion of those who are best able to judge and those responsible, if our Navy is equal to these three conditions. May we feel secure from the risk of starvation; may our merchants and manufacturers continue to ship their goods to distant parts of the world and to give their orders for material and goods to those distant parts; and may we rest in our beds 1462 at night without the fear that when we wake up in the morning the Germans or somebody else will have taken possession of our country? If we can be satisfied on these three points, surely we ought not to ask for more. I have heard nearly all the speeches made this week and made some months ago on these Navy questions, and have noticed that some of the Members who have spoken have tried to make it appear that we are in imminent danger, and that we are in great risk not of losing the necessities which I have mentioned, but of being conquered by some other Power. What does the Government say to this very important question? And what does the First Lord say who, after all, I suppose, is the responsible spokesman of the Government on these subjects? Speaking in this House on the Navy Estimates on 18th March, he said:—we possess more "Dreadnoughts" than any two other Powers in the world to-day, and if all the "Dreadnoughts" in the world were sunk to-night—and if they could be sunk without the loss of a single life—personally I would almost wish that they were all sunk—our naval superiority would be greater than it is at the present time.The right hon. Gentleman, speaking in this House, said:—As far as pre-"Dreadnoughts" are concerned, it is unmatched in the world. We have the situation well in hand. There is no need whatever for panic or alarm."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1912.]That has been told to us by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I was very glad to hear him say it. And what more ought we to require than such statements —if those who make them have the authority and the right to make them—as those I have just quoted? Why are we constantly afraid? I have noticed with a good deal of regret that in many speeches made in this House on Navy matters since I came into it they have been tinged by fear of the German nation. I am wondering why we should always be afraid of our German neighbours. I believe that Germany is as anxious to be at peace with us as we are to be at peace with her. Anyone who sets those two Empires one against the other is the enemy of both. I want to see myself, however, if possible, less money spent on armaments. I want to see more done for social reform. We have had, and we are having, I am glad to say, a boom in trade. Great amounts of money are coming into the national coffers. I bitterly regret that these armaments swallow up so many millions, and 1463 that so few millions are left for social reform. Very little has been done for the poor and for those who need our help. I am not unmindful of what this Government has done. I think that the great pension scheme, on which we spent £12,000,000—and I do not forget the great Insurance Act, in which I have perfect confidence—will keep the wolf from many a door. I could mention other ameliorative measures; still, I feel that there has not been so much done as I should like to see done. Why has there not been more done? Why do we not remove the tax upon sugar, which is necessary? Why do we keep the 5d. on tea? Those taxes have not been removed because of the enormous expenditure on the Army. Each year we spend about £44,000,000 for the Army. During the last ten years we have spent on armaments no less than £365,255,000.
The Navy, I regret to say, costs now at least £10,000,000 more than it cost in the last year of the Conservative Government. These figures are not only enormous, they are appalling. Sad it should be true that we have to spend these great sums on all these armaments when we are at peace, as I trust we long may remain at peace, with the world! It is because of this great growth of armaments that great social reforms are now long overdue. It is these armaments which absorb the millions we take from the luxuries of the rich and from the necessities of the poor. It is these armaments which make the middle-class people in time of peace pay 1s. 2d. in the £ Income Tax, and makes the struggling tradesman pay 9d. in the £. It is these arge taxes on sugar and tea and other necessaries which I wish to see removed. As long as this race of armaments continues, and so long as there is this suspicion of Germany, there is little hope of anything being done. I am not here to advocate, as some have said, the abolition of our Navy; it could not be abolished, even if we wished to destroy it. We cannot sell our ships as the London County Council sold their steam-boats.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
Is it in order, Sir, for the hon. Member to refer to the county council's steamboats? We are discussing the Navy.
§ Mr. W. PEEL
Will I be allowed in reply to refer to the county council steam-boats by way of illustration?
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
There are other Members who wish to say a few words on the subject before the Committee.
§ Mr. LEACH
I very seldom trouble this House by speaking, and no Member attends more regularly than I do, and very few Members listen more than I do to the speeches. Further, very few Members make fewer speeches than I do. I shall endeavour to keep within the rules of order. I am one of the most earnest supporters of the Government, and few Members on this side have supported them more steadily than I have. But this continuous growth of the expenditure on armaments is straining the loyalty of some of the best friends of the Government. I should strongly urge, if I had any influence with them, that they should not spend one penny more than is necessary for our safety, so long as the expenditure is on the three lines I have indicated. I have listened to these discussions with some care, and I have learned several things. First, the Government, and those who are familiar with these matters, tell us that the expenditure we are making is absolutely necessary, and that they are not spending one penny more than is required. It has been asserted on the other side that a strong and large Navy means peace. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) has again and again said that if we had a big Navy we should secure peace. These are all things that have moved me very much, but I think it would be well if the Government set itself, if it has not already done so, to improve, as far as possible, our relations with the great Empire of Germany. It seems to me sad that we can only protect ourselves from what is an imaginary foe by this large expenditure of money. We are at peace, and can be at peace. We are in friendly relations with most other countries, and why not with Germany? If some of the money spent in other ways could be spent wisely in promoting friendly relations between Germany and ourselves, it would be all to the good. I hope that the Government in all these matters will 1465 spend as little money as may be necessary, but when they assure us that the expenditure is absolutely required, I believe the country will give them whatever they want.
§ Mr. PEEL
I wish to refer to what the First Lord of the Admiralty said about the "Dreadnoughts." He was trying to defend himself against the criticisms brought by Lord Selborne. It was a curious defence, because at the end of it he admitted the figures given by Lord Selborne, thirty-three against twenty-nine "Dreadnoughts," as being a possible combination two years hence. He defended himself on this ground, that if you compare the ships making up the thirty-three and the twenty-nine, putting numbers aside, you will find that the fleet is far more powerful than it appears to be in point of numbers, admitting the numbers, therefore; that Lord Selborne had dealt with. Let me deal with the numbers. We know that we have, first of all, three squadrons of eight ships each, with one other battleship, making twenty-five. We are to have eight in 1914 at Gibraltar. There is another squadron of the Second Battle Fleet with nucleus crews which can be brought up to full strength on mobilisation. The First Lord in making his speech said that, of course, the difficulty might Arise when this squadron was cruising, as it might cruise with those nucleus crews, there was then the risk, and in comparing you have to take their selected moment with your average moment, that we would only have twenty-five battleships against a possible twenty-nine, because you have got the four extra battleships of the German fleet ready for action, that do not require mobilisation, and that can be brought into action almost immediately, or, anyhow, whenever they choose. So there you have twenty-nine and twenty-five; but the First Lord said, "We will do our best to see that one of two things happens. If the fleet with the nucleus crews is cruising we shall see that the eight ships at Gibraltar shall be at sea, and, vice versa, if the eight ships are not at sea, and we must remember they are three and a half days' sail from this country, in that case there would be no cruising with the nucleus crews." That is what the whole thing depends upon, because if anything goes wrong then we would only have twenty-five battleships against twenty-nine. It seems to me that the margin there is very thin, and indeed it really depends on one of those sets of 1466 ships, one squadron, being here when the other squadron is at Gibraltar. I think that presents an aspect of considerable risk, and is not as satisfactory, considering the numbers, as we might wish.
I am very glad we are developing our organisation and our provision for war. It is very satisfactory indeed in this country, where we are not notable, or not noted, for our improvisation that we should be, as the Prime Minister told us, preparing ourselves by laying plans for aspects of war when they might arise. It has always been noted as one of the defects and weaknesses of democratic government in comparison with governments more concentrated and more permanent, that however good in peace, it is not so good in conducting a war or in maintaining adequate defences for long periods of years. For that reason it is satisfactory to find the work of the Committee of Defence which was established eight or nine years ago. The First Lord, when he was criticised for the delays which occurred between 1906–9, took credit to himself for those delays, and said, "here we are far better off than if we had those on our naval programme, because we were able to develop a far finer type of ship when we did build in 1909, than if we had been building steadily in those three years." That is really a delightful way of explaining the matter when we know that that was not the reason. The results were very unfortunate, but the First Lord says, "Oh, no," and that it was a remarkable act of prescience; and that during those three years they were looking forward to have the eight magnificently developed "Dreadnoughts." I think that is a very unwise observation of the First Lord of the Admiralty to make, because after all the Germans might turn round and say, "you told us that it was for the purpose of inducing us to diminish our navy and to cease our shipbuilding programme, while now you turn round boldly and say it was a well and carefully laid plan in order to have a finer fleet of battleships three years later." I do not think that is the way to induce Germany to cease building. I know that we have got the reputation abroad of being the most perfidious people under the sun, and that sort of explanation would really seem to lend some colour to it. We know that that was not the explanation, and that it was a mere afterthought to say that what took place in those three years was a carefully thought 1467 out policy with which our opponents subsequent action seemed to fit in. I think it would be very much wiser in dealing with questions of reduction, for the First Lord not to try and hold out those illusory hopes of reduction in future years. I looked through the opening speeches of several years past, and I find we are always being told that though the Estimates are high this year, yet next year or two years afterwards, if nothing else happens, we shall be able to reduce our expenditure. I think it would be far better not to say those things, and not to attempt to buoy the country up with false hopes, and disappoint them with the expectation that in two or three years time we shall be able to reduce the weight of our naval programme. With reference to the number of our ships, may I be allowed to say that the First Lord left out one of the conditions. He told us what is, of course, the fact, that mobilisation on sea is far more rapid than on land, where you have got to assemble your Army Corps and Divisions. It is also true, however, to say that diplomacy is far more rapid than it used to be. If you look at the stresses that have taken place between nations during the last ten years, you will find that matters come to a crisis far more rapidly than they used to in the old days, when pourparlers were exchanged between nations for months and for years. The Leader of the Opposition alluded to the fact that now-a-days you might have the declaration of war at 12 o'clock and the attack at one. I ventured to interrupt that there would be no declaration of war. If you look at the history of wars during the last century you will find that in a great majority of those wars there was no declaration of war at all; a blow was struck before any formal declaration was made. Therefore, when you rely upon ships at Gibraltar, ships with nucleus crews, and mobilisation, you have to remember that there may be very little time before you have to meet the great and terrible brunt of war.
I join with those who criticise our extraordinary action in the Mediterranean. While I am delighted to hear that the Mediterranean is not to be abandoned, I cannot understand why it should have been necessary that we should lose prestige, as we did, by the House and the country being left for several months under the impression that, if the Mediterranean was not to be altogether aban- 1468 doned, at any rate our position there was to be greatly weakened. A loss of prestige may have a great effect in war, and give your enemy an enormous moral advantage, because it enables him to strike with a confidence and vigour which he would not otherwise possess. An hon. Member opposite referred to the possibility of our sealing up the Mediterranean in time of war. What would be the effect that that would have on the situation here? We draw a large amount of our food supplies and raw material through the Mediterranean, and the fact that we had abandoned the Mediterranean, and that none of our ships could get through, would have a very serious effect on the strategic position here. We might be forced, owing to the pressure upon us in the Mediterranean, to fight possibly at a disadvantage with the German fleet at a time when we did not wish to join battle with it. Therefore it is impossible to omit the question of the Mediterranean from the consideration of the strategic position here. It would in fact be an effective blockade of the coasts of this country. With regard to the question of a larger Army, to which reference has been made, I am certain that one of the factors in the German shipbuilding programme is the great weakness of our Army. If our Army for defence was far stronger there would be less temptation to Germany to go on building a stronger navy. If she felt that our fleet was not all; that if the fleet were overcome even then we should not be beaten, because we had a strong Army in this country, I believe that some of these additional naval programmes and amendments of the naval law would not be brought forward.
I do not agree that we are paying at present an excessive price for our defence. If you take the percentages, you will see that, large as are the figures of the Navy Estimates, the amount compared with what we have to defend is not excessive. We have a great advantage in being an Island Power, but that advantage brings immense disadvantages with it. One of those disadvantages is that our life and vitality is largely outside these Islands. We are very proud of our immense strength and of our vast export and import trade. Under any conditions, with a large population in these Islands, that trade must be large. If we have Tariff Reform it will mean only some change in the direction of the trade; our export trade must be larger than it is to-day. That being; 1469 so, we cannot compare ourselves with a country which is more self-contained or has larger territory than we have. Therefore, taking into account the conditions that are forced upon us by our insular position, by our vast trade, and by the necessity of having coaling stations in various parts of the world, if you calculate the percentage on our external trade, omitting for the moment all consideration of our home trade, I do not think you can say that, large as it is, it is an excessive charge to secure complete safety. I feel strongly that if we utilise the whole of our great resources, in spite of the dangers which undoubtedly threaten us to-day, there is really no fear for us in the future. I feel as strongly as anyone that whatever may be said of alliances and the difficulties into which we may be brought by them, the grouping of the great Powers in Europe has done more for peace than any isolated system, such as is advocated by some hon. Members opposite, could possibly do. But we cannot rely for our defence in the Mediterranean on France or any other Power. Our real defence is to be found in our great Dominions, and in the organisation of the resources of those Dominions lie our strength and our safety.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
Throughout the Debates of the last two or three days almost every speaker has agreed that the situation is serious. It is indeed serious, though not, I believe, so serious to England as to the cause of civilisaation generally. I do not believe that England is in any danger of invasion or attack, and I am still patriotic enough to believe that if the Germans or any other nation invaded this country we should be perfectly able to repel them, and that we can still hold up our heads in the comity of nations. I regard the situation as serious in the cause of civilisation. There are times in history— there have been in the past, and I believe this to be one—when an opportunity is given to nations either to move forward in the path of progress, which is the normal condition of the universe, or, by failing to prove themselves worthy of the task, to fall back into oblivion and obloquy. If this occur, this country will be as responsible as other countries for the result. We, like all other nations, are piling up armaments. For what purpose? For the purpose of a war which every one of us would deplore, and from which every one of us would shrink with horror. A war between two nations such as Germany and England 1470 would be a crime against humanity. If it occurred, the world at large would say that the nation that had brought it on had been guilty of the greatest crime imaginable. The question, however, arises whether we, at the present moment, are not taking steps which will make that war more likely. A great majority of the people imagine and argue that the possession of a great army and a great navy is a security for peace. It is so argued in this country; it is specially so argued in Germany. You find no German who does not take that view. He will say that the German nation has been able to preserve the peace of Europe for forty years, and has done so by means of the enormous-army that has made Germany invulnerable to attack. He will also tell you that this is the object of the German fleet. He will say, as indeed appears in the original law, that the object of Germany in establishing that fleet is that the most powerful nation should hesitate before she attacks Germany; thereby, he says, Germany can maintain the peace of the world.
There are indeed no greater friends of peace than are the Germans generally. They are not an agressive nation, and they repudiate altogether the idea that they are anxious to attack. They believe that they are the guardians of peace, and they attribute their influence to the fact that they have these great armaments. I venture to think that, the Germans—-and we ourselves—have fallen into error in regard to this question. It may be that for a time peace may be maintained by these great armaments, but there can be no doubt that the very existence of these armaments, and certainly the continued construction and reconstruction of them, tend to bring about a condition of affairs in which war becomes more likely than peace. What is our own experience on this question? The British nation has been extremely friendly to wards Germany. We have had no quarrel with her. We have never come into armed conflict with her. Until quite recent years we may say that Englishmen have looked upon the Germans as their natural relations and friends. We cannot say that now. All through England there is a feeling of suspicion of Germany. There is not the same feeling of friendliness towards Germany that there was before, and the cause we all know is due to the fact of the establishment of the German fleet. Precisely the same thing has happened in Germany. The right 1471 hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, in the article which he wrote for "Nord und Sud," expressed his opinion that there had been growing up for many years a feeling of antagonism against England amongst the German people. I believe he was mistaken as regards the date of this change. With the exception of a small circle of military people that feeling of antagonism towards England, which I am sorry to say undoubtedly exists at present, had never permeated the masses of the German people until quite recently. The change is one that anyone who knows Germany has been able to see growing within the last two or three years at the outside. What is the reason of it? The reason is that the Germans have become aware of the fact that this nation has been concentrating her fleet in the North Sea, and they regard this as a menace to Germany.
We have undoubtedly the fact that the accretion of these armaments has brought about that very feeling of unfriendliness which never existed before we had this enormous increase of armaments on both sides. This feeling has extended amongst the peoples of the two countries. After all it is the sentiment of the people that we have to count with. I do not believe that wars are going to be occasioned in the future by Kings or even by Governments. It is now to the interest of Sovereigns to keep the peace. It is also, I believe, the earnest desire of the Governments of the world not to go to war. War will occur if the temper of the peoples renders it inevitable. It is the temper of the people that I venture to think we have to consider. How is this building up of armaments affecting the temper of the people? It certainly stifles the voice of the peacemakers. It is extremely difficult now, either in England or Germany, to make advances in the direction of peace between the two countries. In this very House four or five years ago there was a large proportion of Members who would have stood up and protested and voted against an increase in our armaments. Now there is, I regret to say, only a small proportion. What has brought that about? It has been brought about by the increase of armaments that has taken place in Germany. Most Members here feel, desirous though they may be of advocating the cause of peace, that the menace which the 1472 German fleet undoubtedly holds over this country's destinies compels, them to be careful as regards their votes on a question of expenditure on armaments. Therefore the voice of peace in this House has been stifled owing to the action of the German Government. It is precisely the same thing in Germany. The sentiments that exist in this country are in operation also in Germany. In Germany they have a peace movement. It is not so advanced as the movement in England, but at the same time within the last few years it has been growing with great success. I noticed the other day a leading article in one of the peace journals of Germany having reference to the debate in the Reichstag that took place on the Government's proposal for the new law increasing the military and naval armaments of Germany. Let me read a few words from that article:—The majority of the Reichstag have indeed voted in favour of the Government's proposal for increased armaments, but it cannot be denied that the debates were quite different to those which took place twenty, or even ten, years ago. It is beyond doubt that the spirit of peace has made its way in, and has found expression in the speeches. The problem of disarmament, which formerly was regarded as something unheard of and never to be mentioned, is now looked upon by all the speakers as a matter worthy of discussion. Discussion has begun and discussion is the means whereby political changes are brought about.That is the view held by the peace makers in Germany with reference to the Reichstag, and it is the duty of all in both countries to encourage that spirit of peace which undoubtedly has entered into the politics of Germany. Are we on our side doing anything to encourage it? On the contrary, we are doing the very thing which places obstacles in the way of the advocates of peace in Germany, when trying to make the Germans more friendly towards us. I noticed that a correspondent in Berlin, the other day, writing of the effect in Germany of the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty said this:—What the Anglophobes and the armour-plate Press will think is sufficiently obvious, and it would be useless to pretend that the advocates of an Anglo-German rapprochement are likely to be much encouraged. I Fresh oil on the flames of the Navy League agitation is the general summary, or as others put it, "If ore power to Tirpitz's elbow.'That is the effect on public opinion in Germany of the action we are taking here to-day, and I think that justifies those of us who know something of the feeling in Germany in trying to show at any rate by our votes this evening that there is a party in this country who are willing to make great sacrifices to help the peace move 1473 ment which exists and is progressing amongst the Germans. Why is it that Germans are so suspicious of us? It is because they are being constantly told by the militant section in that country that the British nation is anxious to attack them. The Prime Minister said to-day that there is no Power that does not know we have no aggressive purpose. I believe that is true. I believe there is no Government that thinks for a moment that the British nation has any aggressive purpose, but there are plenty of people who do. All through Europe there are people who are convinced that this country is desirous of attack, and that is the difficulty in the situation. We are labouring under a widespread misunderstanding existing on both sides of the North Sea with respect to this probability of an attack by one nation on the other. We imagine that the German Government and nation are anxious to bring about an unprovoked attack upon this country. But curiously enough that is the very position in Germany, as there are in Germany a large number of people who have become convinced that this nation is anxious to attack them, and as far as I have been able to fathom it, this mistake has arisen in the following way.
The ordinary sensible man in Germany does not deem it to be within the bounds of possibility that Germany should engage in an unprovoked attack upon this country. They refuse to believe that anyone can think it possible, and they argue with a great deal of reason that not only would it be wrong but extremely unwise for Germany to do so. She lies between two nations, Russia and France, either of whom are ready to take advantage of any difficulty in which Germany would find herself, and if Germany attacked us, she would find it very difficult to get out of that position unscathed. The Germans cannot understand that we can have any idea that they will attack us, and the consequence is while they find it impossible to imagine that there could be any apprehension of an attack by Germany upon British shores, they ask why do we want to concentrate our enormous Navy in the North Sea. And then comes the man who goes about and says that the reason for the concentration in the North Sea is not for reasons of defence, but in order that this country may be in a position at a moment's notice to attack Germany. I will read an extract from a statement made by a gentleman who, I believe, is not an 1474 out and out antagonist of England, Vice-Admiral Hoffman. He says:—England has a complete coast defence in the shape of mines, submarines, torpedo boats, etc., and at the same time she now pretends to recognise the peaceful intentions of Germany. Yet she is, nevertheless, bringing together this enormous force in the North Sea, a force which acts, not as a pacifying element, but merely as a continual threat to Germany.That is the view made so much of in Germany, that the existence of our North Sea Fleet is intended to be a continuous menace to Germany. I believe we have made a mistake from many points of view in concentrating the whole of our Navy in the North Sea. A right hon. Gentleman deplored the fact that we were thereby forced to withdraw our ships from other parts of the world. I also think it is a very unfortunate thing that we should be compelled to withdraw our ships from other parts of the world where they are undoubtedly useful, solely because we imagine it is necessary to keep the whole of our fleet in the North Sea in order to ward off a sudden attack from Germany. Is there no means to hand by which our fleet could return to its duty of watching over the interests of our subjects in different parts of the world? The hon. and learned Member for Birmingham suggested that we should have a stronger military force at home to resist attack and personally I would rather have that strengthening of the military power at home than this fleet kept as a menace to Germany in order merely to defend our shores. We could attain this result by an agreement with Germany. T believe an agreement with Germany is by no means impossible. If we want to preserve the permanent peace of Europe, the best nation with whom we could join would be Germany. That in itself would assure the peace of Europe.
Many Germans are anxious and perfectly ready to come to an agreement with this country. We know that at the present moment the Government in Germany is anxious to come to some agreement with this country, and it will be a disgrace to us and to them in these circumstances if we can not arrive at some understanding. The Prime Minister himself has told us that we are in perfect amity with the German Government, and that being so there must be some means whereby we could come to such an agreement as would render it unnecessary for us to be always anticipating a midnight attack upon our shores on the part of Germany. I venture to say to the Liberal Government that the Liberal party 1475 which has worked for them and placed them in power has done so largely because they believe that a Liberal Government would press onward the attainment of some system of arbitration or other peaceful method of settling disputes. If this Liberal Government goes out of office after six, seven, or eight years without having achieved anything in that direction they will not have proved loyal to the party that worked for them and placed them in power. It is a terrible thought that at this moment the civilised nations of the world should be so fearful of each other that they cannot afford a man or a ship to put an end to the atrocities which occur in the uncivilised parts of the world. One of the difficulties that prevents every Government from interfering in the cause of humanity is the knowledge that by doing so they may bring about a cataclysm due to the existence of their own enormous naval and military preparations. It lies with us and Germany to put an end to this condition of affairs. I believe our Government is anxious to do it, and I only hope that in the course of another year or so the opportunity which has been presented to us by the coming of a man like Baron Marschall von Bieberstein to this country will be taken advantage of, and that we shall find, at no long distance of time, that it will be unnecessary for us to expend these vast amounts of money in providing armaments which do no good to the human race.
§ Mr. AUBREY HERBERT
Nearly every hon. Gentleman opposite, and a great many hon. Members on this side, have said the great thing we all desire is to find some way by which peace can be maintained between this nation and Germany. But it was left to the hon. Member for Dumfries to say that that medium should be a formula. A formula has very often been responsible for an explosion in a laboratory when it was not understood, but no formula ever won a victory, or has ever been responsible for peace, except in the nursery. It has been left to the hon. Member for Dumfries to discover that a formula is really a marketable article, and that you can exchange it for a battleship. That will no doubt not only meet his desires, but it will also satisfy the ambitions of all those on the Continent who are not our allies, for they would like us to keep all the formulæ and allow them to keep the "Dreadnoughts." The hon. Member spoke about Imperialism, and he seemed to 1476 think that the Imperialism of the British Empire was something that was manufactured by a small clique and governing body. He profoundly misunderstands the spirit of Imperialism. I believe Imperialism is a race instinct. You see the same thing going on in Bulgaria, in the United States, in Greece, and in Japan. All mankind are arming themselves for this reason: that as nearly all the areas of the world that can be cultivated are occupied by civilised races, it is a race between the nations of the world now who shall starve and who shall live.
When the hon. Member implied that the Imperialism of this Government was something for which the Government were responsible he went beyond his brief. After all, the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have also been elected by the people as well as the hon. Member for Dumfries, and it is impossible for the nation as a whole to control foreign politics. After all, an omnibus is run for the convenience of the people, but you cannot have the hands of every passenger on the reins of that omnibus. With reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs, he said we had spoken with contumely of his views on this side of the House. I would not call him unpatriotic, but I complain of his argument, and I should like to see his creed put into a syllogism, and it would read something like this:— "Great force is a bad thing. England controls great forces, and therefore controls bad things. The imprisonment of Miss Malecka was a bad thing, and at all costs England should liberate Miss Malecka, and control the policy in Northern Persia." The hon. Member said that when two countries engaged in war, the country which came out victorious would not always be the gainer. Does the hon. Member believe that the country which does not gain the victory and is defeated would not come out the loser and suffer enormous damage? It seems to me that all these arguments are not levelled against out fleet, but against every kind of authority. Hon. Members who use those arguments forget that the Debates in this House are held under the aegis of the majestic shadow of the constables who-stand outside. If you want order you must have authority, and if you want authority you must have force. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs said that the policy of the Government was directly contrary to the feelings of the people of 1477 this country. I think the people of this country have a better memory than the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs, and they remember what has happened in the history of the last thirty years. They remember that it was Germany which singled out and struck to the dust Denmark. It was Germany that humbled Austria and caused a quarrel with Franco, and then exacted an enormous indemnity from France. Does the hon. Member opposite come down to this House with any guarantee that, the whole traditions of Bismarckian policy have been forgotten by Germany? The hon. Member spoke of the necessity of acting in a united manner but how does he propose to accomplish that unless we have understandings.
The hon. Member opposite is a Liberal, and I imagine that he desires that the Liberal party should remain in power. If that is so he desires that the Liberal party should have a majority. If he believes that there is anything at all in our Empire, equally if he is logical he must believe our Empire should have a majority, and unless we have a supreme fleet we cannot keep our Empire. I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite that our fleet really exists for three purposes: (1) the defence of our food supply; (2) the protection of these Islands, and (3) the safeguarding of the Empire. I think the Government, with its modern eye, which sometimes has less wide a vision than had the ancestral gaze, has only looked at one of those points. It has looked at the possibility of a raid on the Eastern Counties. Having those three objects in view, you have also various critics as to the functions of the fleet. You have the strategists, the diplomatists, and those who, like the hon. Member opposite, belong to the Little Navy party. Now the present situation does not satisfy the strategists, it does not satisfy the diplomatists or the Little Navy party, for the reason that it provides no kind of guarantee against the repetition of scares such as we have experienced in the last three years. In the last three years we have had two or three scares, and the result has been new fleets and new sacrifices, but, unfortunately, it does not end there, because there has been a great deal of discussion. As long as you analyse your own forces and enumerate the number of your ships it does nobody any harm, but when you make comparisons of your armaments with those of your neighbours they are bound to be odious. I feel that that kind of discussion and all this talk about 1478 peace leads infinitely more in the direction of war than of peace.
It seems to me we have three courses open to us. First of all, we could resign the Imperial position we have got. We are none of us ready to do that. Secondly, we can go on as we are doing now by leaps and bounds sometimes, but rather more often by jerks and jumps and patchwork, raising defences that are thrown into shadow before the great, defences of other nations. Thirdly, we have another course, and I believe it is the course which Germany in our place would take. We can say, "with the good feeling which exists for us among certain nations on the Continent, with the more than good feeling, with the affection that exists for the Old Country amongst the Great Dominions, and with our great resources of wealth behind them, we will invoke all those resources. We do not mean to fight, but we have that wealth and that loyalty behind us, and with those two forces we can defy any hostile combination on the Continent." If we do defy any hostile combination, that combination will cease to exist. That is paying a high price for prestige, but I believe, whatever price we pay for prestige, it is very much cheaper to have it than not to have it. There was one argument used fairly often on the other side of the House. There has been rather a confused connection which hon. Gentlemen opposite have tried to trace between the oratory of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the naval construction of foreign Powers. Sometimes they seemed to think the oratory of the First Lord of the Admiralty gave rise to that naval construction, and sometimes they thought the naval construction gave rise to the oratory of the First Lord of the Admiralty. That seems to me at this stage an irrelevant discussion. It seems to me unprofitable. It is rather the genesis of the eagle we are discussing when we have the eagle now with beak, talons, and claws ready to do a good deal of harm. I say all that is irrelevant. When a man is on the precipice he does not go into the origin of species, and he does not discuss Darwinism. It is for us to look forward, and not at causes.
There are two things we cannot deny. The first is that the Mediterranean is abandoned by our fleet, and the second is that a war is going on. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us we are very shortly going to reoccupy the Mediterranean, and we need not fear very much because Austria and Italy have had 1479 divisions between them in the past, and Austria and Italy have always been sympathetic to this country. I answer: "Where there are prophecies they shall fail, and where there are hypotheses they shall fade away." It is quite true that Austria and Italy have been friendly to us in the past. The Austrians are a people congenial in temperament to the English, and so are the Italians. Why have they been in sympathy with us? It is because, if we have not a community of interests, at all events there is no kind of antagonism of interests between us. If the First Lord of the Admiralty is relying upon a community of interests and if we are building—and it is too late to deny it now—against Germany, then there is a very much greater community of interests between Germany and Austria than there has ever been between Austria and England. I even go so far as to say the land policy of Germany and of Austria in the South-East of Europe are so close to each other that they can hardly be distinguished. I will only just say this about Italy. Nobody in this House will think I am speaking with any animosity towards Italy. If a man can have a second country, Italy is my second country. It has been my home, and I have a great many friends there. Supposing one day Italy has to decide upon fighting either against a coalition without British help or against Great Britain with the help of a coalition, then I do not think you could blame Italian statesmen if, in spite of affection for Englishmen, they put nationality before sentiment and considered the lives of the people before any old tie that might bind them sentimentally to this country.
I should like to state this as fairly as I can. This is only a partial and temporary abandonment of the Mediterranean. We are given to understand it is only a temporary abandonment because we mean to reoccupy the Mediterranean, we are told by the First Lord of the Admiralty; and it is only a partial abandonment because we are fortunate enough to be so friendly with France that we can ask her for her good offices. That is not a position for which I care. The man who looks to a friend to protect the honour of his women does not enjoy a very high reputation amongst his neighbours, and the nation which looks to another nation to safeguard her food supplies and protect her flag equally does not enjoy a very high reputation among nations. It is done 1480 sometimes. A small and weak country sometimes gets a foreign Consul to look after her interests, but it is not done unless the nation is small and weak or the interests extraordinarily petty. To ask France to safeguard our mutual interests is one thing, but to ask them to assume the responsibility of those duties of which we are divesting ourselves is a totally different thing. Nobody can say we are weak, that we have a small interest, or that it is incumbent upon us to make a kind of beggar's prayer to our best friend or to make a pawnbroker's bargain. This is one of those two things, because we are able, if we wish, to perform these duties. It is not a question of ability. It is simply a question of willingness. I should be the last ever to suggest we should make diplomacy public. That cannot be done. At the same time I would say this. If you are going to rely upon another nation, if you do not have guarantees, you run a very great risk; and, if you do have guarantees, see where they lead you. If you have guarantees, you must have a definite pledge, and you must have a public alliance. If I were a Frenchman, I should very much doubt the wisdom of having an alliance with Great Britain when her Territorial Force is as slight as it is. If you have an alliance at the present moment with France, you are stimulating, you are emphasising, and you are doing all that you can to make permanent the hostilities in the two groups of Powers of Europe. You are doing your very best to make those hostilities permanent which really need not be permanent, and which at any moment almost might fade away.
There is one other argument which I should like to bring before the Committee. A new chapter has started in Turkey. A new situation has been created, and you now have certainly got the wisest Cabinet that Turkey has had for the last thirty years. In that Cabinet you have a Foreign Minister who has had a brilliant career as a solider of Turkey and who knows Englishmen, and in his son, the Minister for Marine, you have a man who knows the European situation and who knows Germany. I will not go through the list of all those Ministers. Not one of them but is experienced. There is not one who does not know England's power. It would be very impertinent on my part to attribute opinions to them, but I say, without fear of contradiction, that the experience of these elder statesmen will lead them to look to 1481 strategy at the present moment rather than to politics. You cannot expect a man like myself, who feels that he not only represents the British constituency, but stands in this House for friends in the East, you cannot expect hon. Members like myself to be content when we see the Mediterranean and the whole Turkish coast abandoned by our fleet. After all, as long as we are strong the Turks are our friends. When we are weak we can hardly blame them for looking for another insurance. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, to whom I have already referred are always very anxious to look after the liberties of the natives of Egypt, of the Soudan and of India. It is very creditable to them. They can hardly accuse me of not having the same ambition. But what I would ask them is this: Suppose you withdraw your fleet, do you believe that Egypt will be able to govern herself, not only with equity, but independently against all comers Do you think she is not likely to slip back into the chaos from which we redeemed her? Is not anarchy just as likely once more to overwhelm her Government? I know there are a great many Gentlemen in this House whom nothing will convince that the age of peace is not coming. There are those who believe that they can stop the Armageddon as easily as the Wells-Johnson fight was stopped. But the fight will come between Latin and Ottoman, between Anglo-Saxon and Slav—there will be no power in the world to stop the conflict.
Nobody in this House denies that we are a peace-loving people; we only want to continue our way in tranquility. We do not want either the blood or taxes of war. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been quite terrible enough in the past. If these things happen in the green leaf what will happen in the dry? It seems to me it is infinitely better to pay even a high insurance than to incur the loss which we should otherwise undoubtedly suffer. We have seen a policy we have disliked in the Mediterranean, and if we had not had the power we have we should have seen a great deal more of that policy. Neither the annexation of Bosnia, of Herzegovina, nor of Tripoli are monuments of justice in this twentieth century, but they have not touched our interests very closely: there are, however, other parts of the Ottoman Empire interference with which would touch us more. Suppose for instance, the Hinterland of Aden was occupied; suppose the pilgrim traffic to Mecca was interfered with; suppose the 1482 island of Crete were occupied. All these things, I think, would touch us very deeply and would very gravely affect this country. When the issue is put clearly before the people, whether it be before the Canadians who are redeeming the wilds of civilisation, or whether it be the dweller in the slum, or whether it be the South African who has fought against us, but is now at peace with us. when you put the issue fairly and squarely before these people, and ask them whether you shall invite the help of another nation to maintain your interests, or whether they prefer we should shoulder our own responsibilities, I am assured they will answer that, at whatever cost, old sacrifices must not be forgotten, nor the help of the future thrown away.
§ Mr. LONG
I dislike very much to interfere with hon. Gentlemen opposite who wish to take part in this Debate, and if I may venture with great respect to give them advice, I would suggest to them that they must not blame me; they must blame the arrangement of the business of this House which gives only one day for what will be universally admitted to be the most important and the most interesting Debate which we have had, or are likely to have, during this or any other Session. We are indebted to the Prime Minister for what I believe is a new procedure in regard to business. We have rarely had two consecutive days' Debate upon national and Imperial defence, but, thanks to this arrangement, we have had two days dealing with the Navy and a third dealing with the Committee of Imperial Defence. There is one suggestion I have to make to the Foreign Secretary, which I hope he will be good enough to pass on to the Prime Minister, and that is that on another occasion he shall give us four days instead of three for the whole Debate, and one day shall be devoted to an Army Debate. This would make the procedure even more interesting and complete than it has been this week. Before I pass on to our view of the situation, I want to say a word about the Amendment immediately before the Committee. I do not think anybody who has listened, as I have done to this Debate throughout its whole length, or who has listened on previous occasions to speeches of hon. Gentlemen who oppose what I hope we may call after to-day's Debate, without exaggeration, our national policy, will fail to believe that their opposition comes from the 1483 highest possible motives. But surely this Debate, if it stood alone, must convince the impartial listener that their policy is one fraught with the greatest possible danger to the country.
To what is it that they object? They object to what they are pleased to call the immense armaments and swollen Estimates. I have listened to speaker after speaker, and nobody can deny their ability any more than one would presume to deny their bona fides. But now we are approaching the end of this Debate, I would point out that no practical suggestion has been made by them. There was one remark which I heard with very great regret. The hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs, pointing to this side of the House, said, if we, speaking of hon. Gentlemen opposite, were sitting on that side of the House, how should we be acting and voting to-night? It has been my lot and fortune through a long political career to have to attack my political opponents, and, to the best of my poor abilities, I have not spared them. But I have never made against them a charge so grave and, to my mind, so offensive as that was. What does that statement mean? It means that hon. Gentlemen opposite are speaking and voting and are going to vote to-night for the Government because it is a Government, and because they are sitting there, whereas, if they were in opposition, they would speak and vote in a different sense. It could have no other meaning. I hope that the hon. Gentleman said in the excess of his zeal more than he meant, and I still more hope that he does not accurately represent the views and opinions of those among whom he sits.
Coming back to the policy which he and his friends advocate, what is it? They begin by making a statement with which we all agree. Everybody desires peace; everybody profoundly regrets that it is our duty, as we conceive it, to advocate a great Navy and an efficient Army. There is nobody, wherever he may sit in this House, whatever his political views may be, who would not, if he could consistently with his honour and his conscience, oppose the policy which involves the spending of millions on navies and armies, and which, if it were not adopted, would release that money for other purposes. There is no monopoly amongst those hon. Gentlemen who support this Amendment in those views; they are held universally. We are driven to ask ourselves what is the best method by which this peace which we all 1484 desire, this freedom from war and all its horrors, is to be secured. What is the suggestion which comes from those who are opposing the policy of the Government? It is, as I gather from all the speeches I have heard this afternoon, that there is to be some policy of diplomacy. One hon. Gentleman suggested that there should be an arrangement with Germany, yet he and those who agree with him have constantly attacked us because they say that we mentioned Germany as a possibly hostile Power. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot on the floor of the House suggest that we should enter into some diplomatic arrangement with Germany, without admitting that they themselves take the view, which every person of common sense must take, and which involves no offence to Germany if it should be taken, that we have to consider the position of the great German Empire in all the arrangements we make with regard to our Army and Navy. The suggestion was that some diplomatic arrangement should be made with Germany. One of my hon. Friends asked, "What kind of arrangement do you mean?" and the hon. Member was wisely silent. It is easy to talk in generalities about diplomacy doing this or that, it is easy to talk about diplomacy rendering navies and armies unnecessary, but I venture to say there is not a man who loves his country, who faces facts, and "who takes the trouble to read history, who does not know perfectly well that, however much you may desire peace, however much you may regret the tendency to increase armaments in all parts of the world, you cannot, if you are true to your own country, neglect the interests of your country and the liberties of your people, which you would do if you were the first to abandon the Navy, which is our first line of protection, and the Army which is essential to us if we are to play a part in the history of the world.
I think we may leave the criticism which has come from those hon. Gentlemen to the Government against whom it was really directed. I do not know—and it is not possible to tell—until the Division is taken, what is the strength of the party who are supporting this Amendment. I hope it will be found that it is not great. I believe it will be found that it is not great. But whatever proportion the strength of that party bears to the general numbers in this House, I believe it is much smaller in the country at large. I believe that whatever may be our divisions upon 1485 ordinary domestic politics, however acutely we may be separated upon this question or that of ordinary domestic interest, the great masses of the people of this country are absolutely determined that if there is a need for armies and navies in the world, this country shall be adequately provided for and established in a position to hold her own. Therefore, I do not think the Government have very much to fear in the opposition which hon. Gentlemen opposite have offered. I believe that that opposition is small in this House; I believe it to be smaller still in the country.
It is a very good thing for us and for the country that we have had an opportunity of debating this general question of Imperial Defence in all its bearings. We have had two days of Navy Debate, two days during which we have discussed the Navy on the First Lord's introductory statement and upon the Vote for Construction. Before I say a word or two about that, I should like to thank the Prime Minister for the statement that he made when presenting this Vote this afternoon. It was to many of us very interesting to learn that among other things the Committee of Imperial Defence had established a Committee whose business it is to co-ordinate our public Departments in preparation for war. I venture to say that is one of the most valuable steps which has been taken by this Committee, and if they had done nothing else, they would have justified their existence by taking this step and making this too long delayed preparation, which ought to be made and which is essential if we are to be prepared for the difficulties which we may at any time have to face.
While thanking the Prime Minister for that very important announcement, I would like to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he would kindly clear up one point upon which there is some little doubt in the minds of those who heard the Prime Minister's statement to-day, a doubt which has been more than once alluded to in previous discussions, but which has never been cleared up. We all understand—and recognise the necessity for it—that the Committee of Imperial Defence cannot interfere actively with the Executive, who are responsible for our Navy and Army. It is quite obvious that if they were to take action of that kind, it would be a root-and-branch interference with our system of Government. What we are not clear about is how far the Committee of 1486 Imperial Defence accept the responsibility for the general policy which the Government of the day adopts. I do not think it is unnatural that among the majority of the people in the country, who are not familiar with the ways of Government, and who, of course, are not familiar with the ways of the Committee of Imperial Defence, there should be a general impression that the Committee of Imperial Defence is a special safeguard to the country, that it exists to give advice, but that it also, in a sense, generally supervises the policy adopted in regard to National Defence, and we ought to know whether we may assume that in the measures adopted, either in regard to the Navy or to the Army, they have their approval, and that, generally speaking, they consider that they are adequate; because it is quite obvious that if the Committee of Imperial Defence exists only for the purpose of giving advice, which may be totally disregarded by the Government of the day, and there is to be no notification of this, as, of course, there cannot be, it is quite obvious that the Committee of Imperial Defence may be rather a danger than a safeguard, and what are its exact powers ought to be known, and it would be a very great convenience and help to us if the Foreign Secretary would tell us what they are.
With regard to the Debate we have had upon the Navy, I have listened to the whole of it both days, and, like others who have spoken from this side of the House already, I can safely say that to-day, as throughout the whole of my political career, I have clone my best on every occasion to approach these questions of national defence from a non-party aspect, and I have never used my criticisms of the Government of the day in regard to national defence as party political weapons. But it is extraordinarily difficult when you believe in your heart and in your conscience that the policy of the Government is not adequate, to make that clear without appearing to involve yourself in a party attack. I hoped at the commencement of Monday's Debate that the result would be to enable me to feel that everything is being done which could be done. I am not talking now of any scares —I am talking of plain facts which are known to every man who reads newspapers. Basing my conclusions upon that knowledge alone, I believe we are face to face with a great crisis in our history, and I should have hoped, and I think most 1487 people would have expected, that these two Debates on Navy questions would have been very different from what they actually have been. Anyone who has listened to these Debates may be satisfied with the policy of the Government, or may be dissatisfied, but he will go away feeling that what has happened has been a fight between the two sides of the House, an attack and a defence of the policy of the Government of the day. If we are right who believe that the situation is a very serious one, surely what we ought to have been doing would be to approach this question of Imperial defence as business people, regardless altogether of party considerations, regardless altogether of whether this party or that had made a particular mistake on a particular occasion, but anxious and determined to find out the truth and to do what is necessary. That has not been the character of bur two-day Debate.
I believe, at all events speaking for myself, that the great danger which confronts us in our administration in regard to Navy and Army questions, and national defence, is the variation in our policy. I am not going to dwell now upon the action of the Government—I only mention it as an historical fact, and not because I wish to frame an attack upon the Government —but we all know that the party opposite were returned by an overwhelming majority in 1906. They came in pledged to a policy of economy. There was economy in the administration of the Navy and Army. What happened three years after-wards? It was suddenly discovered three years afterwards that the country was not prepared for the danger it had to face, and a sudden effort had to be made. That policy, I am afraid, is being repeated to-day. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in support of this argument, referred to what has happened in reference to the Mediterranean. May I remind the Committee that here at this very moment, the eleventh hour, we have indications of the same difficulties that beset the country in 1906 and 1907? The policy of the abandonment of the Mediterranean, which was announced in clear language by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and which was understood, in the sense we all understood it—by everybody in the country, including newspapers of whichever side—made impressions which up to the last moment were never removed by any contradictions 1488 from the Government or the First Lord. It was not until it was perfectly apparent that, while the country might stand a good deal, they would not stand the abandonment of the Mediterranean—it was not until that was made clear unmistakably, that the Government changed their policy as we heard on Monday last. I do not say that because I want a stone to throw at the Government. I say it because I maintain that there is to-day the same policy of change and inconsistency that brought us into all our difficulties on the previous occasion. The First Lord is indignant with us if we suggest that the abandonment of the Cawdor programme really meant mischief. The right hon. Gentleman says that it meant so many ships less of a particular type, and that we have others of another type. That is not the point. If the Cawdor programme had been carried out, you would not only have had the ships, but you would have had fully trained men. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite who bless and praise the Government for their policy of reduction doubt—does anybody doubt—that the impression conveyed by that policy was that the country was not in earnest, and that, above all, this country was not pursuing a steady, determined, and continuous policy?
Hon. Gentlemen opposite object to any comparisons with other countries, and especially to any reference to the great Empire of Germany. What I am going to say, though it may not please them, cannot offend anybody interested in the German Empire, I say this policy of increased armaments, whether it be wise or foolish, shows that the action of the great German Empire during the past fifteen years has been wonderful, that they have shown the utmost self-denial and steadfast determination to go along the path of increase in the Navy and the Army so that they, at all events, shall be in a position whenever the time comes to do what they think necessary. Has our policy been the same? Are we not suffering to-day because our policy has lacked such consistency and determination? In this last appeal which I am going to make I ask the Government to take steps to-day and in the future, which will obviate the possibility of a recurrence of what I regard as a most unfortunate experience. Our position is perfectly clear. We have listened to these Debates with a keen anxiety to be able to say to the Government, "We support you in all you are doing." That is a line which we cannot 1489 take. These two days' Debates on the Navy have confirmed us in our view that you have a great crisis to face. We believe your proper course as regards the Navy will be to accelerate your building programme and increase the number of your ships. That, however, the Government are not prepared to do. We have no option but to accept their decision while protesting against it.
The Prime Minister made an announcement, which we all heard with unqualified satisfaction, that we are fortunate enough to-day to receive the cordial co-operation and support of the great. Oversea Dominions, those sister kingdoms of which we are so proud. I hope with all my heart that the work well begun may be well continued. I hope with all my heart that this may result in the real union and federation of the Oversea Dominions and the Mother-country for the purposes of defence. But I cannot believe that it will be possible to work out any really satisfactory scheme unless the Oversea Dominions can be assured that there will be greater permanence, greater continuity of policy of the Mother-country than there has been in the past. How can they be expected either to co-operate with us in deciding what the policy is to be and in co-operating with us in bearing the burden unless they are satisfied that they are entering into partnership with somebody who will have the consistent policy which they will pursue with determination to the end. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to a subject which is bound up intimately with this question of the supremacy of our Navy, our food supply in time of war. I wish to refer to our food supply in time of peace and war. For the life of me I cannot understand the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite who talk about social reform, and claim to be—though I do not admit the claim— the special representatives of democracy. We know it is a fact, though one to be regretted, that whether in peace or war we are dependent absolutely upon supplies from other countries for the food of our people. Surely in the interests of those millions of people who must be fed, and whoso misery would become acute even by a slight increase in the price of food, it is essential that our Navy should be supreme and able to protect the food supply coming here from all parts of the world. In this respect I wish we had heard something in these Debates. There was a suggestion made more than once by 1490 my Noble Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford), who has taken so active a part in these discussions for many years, and many of whose predictions have been verified, while many of his suggestions have been adopted, that something should be done with regard to our mercantile marine in order to enable them to take their part in protecting our food supply. We have heard nothing of that. We have heard nothing of any proposals for food storage in the case of war. These are all great questions which affect the country, apart from the supremacy of the Empire. They ought to be dealt with, and dealt with by any Government which is really alive to its responsibility. I said, before the Prime Minister returned to the House, that I hoped this most excellent practice which he has adopted of giving us two days on the Navy and one day for this Vote will be improved upon by giving us an opportunity for discussion on the Army Vote about the same time. I think it is very remarkable that throughout the whole of this very interesting Debate we have heard a great deal about the Navy, a great deal about the foreigner and a great deal about general questions, but no reference whatever has been made to the Army. With the time at my disposal it is impossible for me to deal with this question even briefly, but I will say just this much, I do not believe there is any country in the world excepting our own which proceeds upon the policy of strengthening and increasing its Navy without accompanying that increase of the Navy with such strengthening of the Army as may be thought necessary. Yet we keep these questions separate.
Not one word has been said about the Army, yet is there anyone in this Committee to-night who really believes that our Army is in as satisfactory a position as it ought to be. Is it possible—I will not say is it possible—is it wise and prudent to neglect the opinion of men like Lord Roberts and Lord Milner—men who are great soldiers, great administrators, and great statesmen? Instead of laughing at their opinions, discuss them here, and see whether they are wrong. If you are able to show that, then, at all events, you will have done as much as you can to convince us in regard to this question. We have had only a brief discussion upon some of the most important branches of the Army this year. I hope the Prime Minister, on a subsequent occasion, when he is responsible, will enable us to include 1491 the Army Vote in this Debate, which we cannot so well do at present, not having had the Army Debate immediately preceding this Debate upon the Navy. I do not Want it to be suggested that in anything I have said or which has been said on this Bench there has been an attempt to make party capital out of this great, this overwhelmingly great question. We are, as the Prime Minister has told us, at the comment of a completely new method for our Empire. He made an announcement to us the other day of the greatest importance with regard to our Oversea Dominions. All I have to say is this: I wish him well in his task if he is going to try and bring about an arrangement by which the Oversea Dominions and ourselves shall stand together with us in order to bear a portion of this great Imperial burden. Is it not the fact that a great opportunity has come to him and his Government, and that it may be possible not only to include our Oversea Dominions in the responsibility, an a share, at all events, of the control, hut that it may be possible also to put the administration of our Army and Navy —this great question of National and Imperial Defence—upon such a platform that they shall in reality, and not in name only, be non-party questions, so that they may be discussed here from a standpoint on which both political parties can arrive at strong agreement. I believe that would be an enormous advantage to this House; I believe it would be an enormous advantage to this country, and I believe it would do more to secure that peace which can only be secured if this country is adequately prepared for war; although we hope and pray that war may never come.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
I will begin by answering as best I can two questions which the right hon. Gentleman opposite specially addressed to me. One was with reference to the possibility in future Sessions of not only following the precedent of grouping our Debates in Supply, as we have done this week, in the Committee of Defence and the Navy Votes, but to improve upon that precedent by still further grouping so as to bring in one day specially for the Army. I think it is the opinion of the Government, and I think it is the opinion of the House as a whole, that these three nights' Debates have been put to good 1492 use in the sense of taking a general survey, a more general collective survey, than would have been possible if the Debates had not been put down in this way. Though I cannot, of course, give any definite pledge at a moment's notice. I do not think the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman is at all out of place. I think it is one very well worthy of consideration, whether we should still further extend the grouping so as to bring the Army in equally. It is not a question of an extra day, it is a question of grouping Debates so that the attention of the House can be focussed on one, great subject and the different branches of that subject; and so that the Debate can be carried on with consecutive thought on the subject; and no doubt I should think is rather to be encouraged.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me a special question about the responsibility of the Committee of Defence. On the point of responsibility I think we ought to be absolutely clear and definite. Responsibility must rest with the Government and the Government alone. The Government cannot begin to share its responsibility with anybody. Therefore the responsibility for any decisions must rest with the Government. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the Committee of Defence, for instance, could generally supervise policy. I should answer that distinctly in the negative by saying we cannot share our responsibility. Of course the value of the Committee of Defence is this: The Committee of Defence being in existence, the Government, although responsibility for whatever decision is come to rests with it alone, does not come to decisions on questions of this nature without there having been previous consultation with the Committee of Defence, and without having before them the view of the Committee of Defence on the question. So far there has not arisen any case of the decision of the Government being at variance with the previous resolution come to by the Committee of Defence. It is not impossible there should be in future such variance, but I do not think it is probable, because there are so many members of the Cabinet present at the Committee of Defence that any decision of the Committee of Defence must, at any rate, come before the Cabinet backed with the recommendation of several Cabinet Ministers; and in the next place, the Committee of Defence, though it has 1493 no responsibility and no power to supervise policy, a body which contains experts and Cabinet Ministers sitting together is no doubt a body which, though purely consultative, will carry such weight that I think it is very unlikely that the Government would overrule or reverse on an important matter the opinion which had been expressed by the Committee of Defence, including several of its own Members. That, I think, is the real function of the Committee, and an important one. Without any breach in constitutional practice, and without any innovation in the Constitution at the same time, it is a real safeguard that decisions are not come to without having behind them the opinion of experts, and of very careful consideration of those most qualified to judge.
There are some other points in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, especially on the question of the Navy, which were answered by anticipation by the First Lord of the Admiralty last night. For instance, the question of the effect of dropping part of the Cawdor programme was really dealt with by the First Lord the other night, and I will not go into it further. I should not have risen at all, but for the fact that a reduction has been moved, especially with reference to foreign policy, and the effect of foreign policy upon armaments. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) was not a speech in favour of that reduction, and as I wish to give reasons why we cannot agree with the views put forward in support of that reduction, I must confine myself to the particular points dealt with more especially by the Mover of the reduction. Of course, there are many things said by those who are supporting the reduction which we would all like to say, and would say if we believed they were true and would have the effect which those who say them believe they would have. There are, of course, things which we may all agree in saying and all agree with. The burden of the expenditure on armaments cannot be overstated. The Mover of the Amendment said that democracies were not in favour of this large expenditure. I quite agree that democracies have perhaps more reason than anyone else to wish that the expenditure should be reduced. You may say it is a pity that democracies should be so helpless to get their own way. It is also a pity that Governments should be so helpless. There are forces at work which in time, I think, will have their effect upon 1494 this expenditure on armaments and in diminishing the prospects of war. I hope that public opinion—by which I mean international public opinion—will steadily solidify and harden in favour of appeals to another tribunal than that of force in international disputes. I think also that the increasing financial interdependence between nations will make itself felt, and that as armaments increase it will be more and more brought home to people that to use for war the enormous machinery which has been created for war is bound to produce a financial catastrophe even to the victor. All that, I hope, will make itself more and more felt.
But that is taking a distant view, or a view distant as compared with the party point which has been pressed upon us to-night. The point pressed to-night is that our diplomacy or our foreign policy is responsible for the expenditure upon armaments. If our democracy is anxious to have armaments reduced it must find a partner somewhere. Alone it is very helpless in the matter. One thing that I felt, first of all, in listening to the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs, was the great injustice he was doing to the British Government in speaking as if it was their policy, and their policy alone that was to blame for the expenditure on armaments. If you will look at Europe as a whole it is not naval expenditure, so much as military expenditure, which is the greatest burden on European nations. Is it our policy, or our expenditure, that is responsible for military expenditure? We have not initiated it, we are not sinners in that respect; we have not provoked it. That, at any rate, is due to some force outside our policy, and outside anything we have done in this country, because, with our Army kept within the limits it is, nobody can say that we are responsible for the growth of the great Continental armies.
As regards naval expenditure, it is true, of course, that we have the largest Navy, but is it not also true that precisely because of our insular position, precisely because our Army is kept within such limited bounds, it is exceedingly difficult, and would be more difficult, for us to set the example of reduction with regard to naval expenditure. I believe that to rip up—because that is what the hon. Member for Stirling really wishes—to rip up that foreign policy which has been pursued for the last thirteen years or so, is to make things not better, but worse at the present 1495 time. He wishes us to have no special friends in foreign policy. Is that not going dangerously near to, and might it not at very short notice bring you back to, the policy of splendid isolation? What would that mean? People who advocate it think that it is going to mean being equally friends with everybody. It might for the time perhaps. But there is something else that it may mean: it may mean finding yourself on terms of diplomatic friction with one nation after another in turn. How was it when we had that policy? Take the twenty years from 1880 to 1900. You had, I do not say dangers, but you had talk, at any rate, of war during those years with France, Russia, and Germany in turn. There were outbursts of friction between those countries, not altogether at different times. If you revert to that policy, a policy which you could only pursue at times when your two-Power standard, though literally true as a two-Power naval standard, meant something very much more—because it meant practically a European standard—if you revert to a policy of that kind rashly and recklessly, you may possibly find your selves face to face with a situation in which you are building ships, not calculated with regard to the navy of one or two Powers, but the navies of a great many more. The policy of the hon. Member for Stirling is one which has always found itself cooling towards anyone with whom this country is on terms of friendship and turning towards any country with which there is friction. What he said to-night is not in the least new to me. Twenty years ago, as Under-Secretary, I heard exactly the same sort of speeches made with regard to France or Russia.
Now we are great friends with France and Russia, with whom we had so many causes of friction, and if you allow that cordiality to diminish, you will find those causes of friction revive. The warmth of that cordiality is necessary to overcome what would otherwise be magnified by the Press and public opinion of the different countries, and cause diplomatic friction where we touch in different parts of the world. The Prime Minister said, "Why not keep these friendships?" I do not for a moment believe that you are ever going to make new friends, or any friend worth having, by abandoning old friends, when those old friends are prepared to stand by you. The hon. Member for Stirling deplored what he called the balance of 1496 power, or separate diplomatic groups. Did he notice the other day the official communique quoted in the House by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bonar Law) —and I quoted it, too, a little time ago— issued by the German and Russian Governments? I have not the exact words by me now, but the sense was that the maintenance of the existing groups had proved itself essential to peace.
That is not an opinion of mine, but is an official communique after the meeting of the Russian and German Emperors. Did the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs notice that; and if he did, why did he not refer to it, because anyone listening to his speech with these things left out would imagine that it was we, and our foreign policy which had been responsible for the separate diplomatic groups in Europe? We did not initiate these groups, and when you find at the present moment the maintenance of those groups being referred to as essential to the preservation of peace, is it not fair for us to ask people who urge that these groups should be abandoned to bear in mind that if you are going to start on that policy you are going to begin by running counter to the expressed opinion of some other very important foreign nation. I think the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs hardly thought out all the consequences of his policy when he said the Triple Alliance was the first group founded, and that that was all right because it was purely defensive. He missed the point that other groups were founded afterwards. What does his statement mean? It means, if you think it out, that each member of the Triple Alliance is entitled, reasonably and consistently with the peace of Europe and the diminution of armaments, to have two allies and that no other nation is entitled to have even a special friend. That is not really a possible policy. And supposing we had altered our foreign-policy, is it really to be believed that whatever else its effect, it would have an effect upon naval expenditure in Europe? I know people hold it would have had that effect, but the difficulty in dealing with speeches such as have been made in support of this Amendment is that at one moment it is made a reproach to ever mention Germany at all, and at the next we are invited to defend ourselves against the charge that our foreign policy is responsible for German naval expenditure. You cannot mention Germany without mentioning the German navy. Germany does not desire it herself. It is 1497 really our foreign policy that is responsible for the German navy—our foreign I policy of the last eight or ten years. Why not take the word of the Germans themselves as to what their policy is? The statement in which it was announced in Germany that she was to develop her big naval policy began as far back at 1897, and her policy was announced in the Preamble of her Naval Bill in 1900, and that policy was stated to be this:—In the present state of things there is only one way of protecting Germany's commerce and colonial possessions. Germany must possess a fleet of such strength that war with her would shake the position of even the mightiest naval power.That is the definite object announced in 1900. Do not then let us say that this policy of ours, pursued steadily since 1900, is responsible for that. Surely when you are thinking of the causes of the building of the German fleet it is not leading to a just conclusion to overlook one very possible and obvious cause, which is that a great and growing nation generates power not necessarily for aggression and with no special design, but because it wishes to be powerful; and when statements are made as to what German public opinion would be, surely you ought to bear in mind before you blame the British Government for German navy increases that there is nothing received by German public opinion with more suspicion than the idea that proposals should be made to the German Government by any other Power for the limitation of armaments. That at once causes an outburst of German public opinion, and all this talk about agreements for the limitation of armaments is not, I believe, really very interesting to the German public unless people will talk not in generalities, but say definitely what they mean. Will hon. Members on this side who blame the British Government for the German navy increase and wish there was an agreement for the limitation of expenditure, say on what basis they mean that agreement to be made? Is it on the basis of the inferiority,
§ or the equality, or the superiority of the British Fleet? Unless you are prepared to go definitely into those questions and say what you mean, you cannot expect German public opinion to be interested.
§ I will not restate the general line of our foreign policy again. The Prime Minister has already done it, and it has been done previously in the Debate. But in answer to the reduction which has been moved, I can quite understand it is natural when you do not like a thing to blame your own Government. But look at it fairly. See the forces which have made for military expenditure and see how the groups in Europe were initiated and made, and you cannot fairly say there are not great forces which have nothing whatever to do with our policy which have been making for those results. If we were to let our Navy fall into a position of inferiority we should lay the whole Empire bare. Even if we were a self-contained island not dependent upon sea communication, we could not allow our naval superiority to be impaired unless we are prepared to keep up an Army on a very different scale. We do not advocate that. Whether you look at it from the point of view of communication within the Empire or from the point of view of the protection of these Islands our naval strength is essential. All we can do to demonstrate that we have no aggressive desires and that no friendship we have with anyone else is directed towards aggressive designs against another Power, we are doing and shall continue to do. But as we are at the present moment we cannot but say that the Navy Estimates which have been presented to the House by the Government are absolutely necessary in the interests of the country.
§ Question put, "That Item E (Committee of Imperial Defence—Salaries and Allowances) be reduced by £100.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 39; Noes, 331.1501
|Division No. 161.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Goldstone, Frank||Mclteno, Percy Alport|
|Alden, Percy||Hancock, J. G.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Hogge, James Myles||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Bentham, G. J.||Holt, Richard Durning||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Home, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Jowett, Frederick William||Wlison, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Chancellor, Henry G.||King, J. (Somerset, N.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Clough, William||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Lansbury, George|
|De Forest, Baron||Martin, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Ponsonby and Mr. Murray Macdonald.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Duffy, William J.||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe|
|Adkins, Sir D. Ryland D.||Duke, Henry Edward||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Leach, Charles|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lee, Arthur Hamilton|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Elverston, Sir Harold||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Allen, A. A. (Dumbartonshire)||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary)||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Lloyd, George Ambrose|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Essex, Richard Walter||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Faber, George D. (Clapham)||Low, Sir F. (Norwich)|
|Armitage, R.||Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Falconer, J.||Lundon, T.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Farrell, James Patrick||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Baird, J. L.||Fell, Arthur||Lynch, A. A.|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Ffrench, Peter||McGhee, Richard|
|Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.)||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Macmaster, Donald|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Furness, Stephen||MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Gibbs, G. A.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Gilmour, Captain John||McCallum, Sir John M.|
|Barnston, Harry||Gladstone, W. G. C.||M'Curdy, C. A.|
|Barton, W. W.||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Goldsmith, Frank||M'Laren, Rt. Hon H. D. (Leics.)|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Greig, Colonel J. W.||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Gretton, John||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Griffith, Ellis J.||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Malcolm, Ian|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Bigland, Alfred||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Boland, John Pius||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Meagher, Michael|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Gwynn, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Boyton, James||Hackett, John||Millar, James Duncan|
|Brady, P. J.||Haddock, George Bahr||Molloy, Michael|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Mooney, J. J.|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Morgan, George Hay|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Morison, Hector|
|Butcher, John George||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Muldoon, John|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Munro, R.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Harwood, George||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.|
|Cassel, Felix||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.|
|Cator, John||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hayden, John Patrick||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Cave, George||Hayward, Evan||Newman, John R. P.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Hazleton, Richard (Galway, N.)||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Nicholson, sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Nield, Herbert|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Henry, Sir Charles||Nolan, Joseph|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Norton, Captain Cecil W.|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hickman, Col. T. E.||Norton-Griffiths, J.|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Higham, John Sharp||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Hill, Sir Clement L.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hills, John Waller||O'Connor, John (Kildare. N.)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hill-Wood, Samuel||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hinds, John||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Dowd, John Thomas|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||O'Malley, William|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Neill, Dr, Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Hope, Harry (Bute)||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Crooks, William||Horner, Andrew Long||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Crumley, Patrick||Hughes, S. L.||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Cullinan, J.||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Jackson, Sir John||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Davies, Ellis William (Elfion)||Jones, Rt.Hon.Sir D.Brynmor (Sw'nsea)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Peel, Hon. William R. W. (Taunton)|
|Dawes, J. A.||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Delany, William||Joyce, Michael||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Keating, M.||Pole-Carew, Sir R.|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kelly, Edward||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. c. Scott||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pretyman, E. G.|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Kilbride, Denis||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Doris, W.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)|
|Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Pringle, William M. R.||Sanders, Robert A.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Sanderson, Lancelot||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Radford, G. H.||Sassoon, Sir Philip||Wason, Rt. Hen. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Raffan, Peter Wilson||Scanlan, Thomas||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Webb, H.|
|Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport),|
|Rawson, Colonel Richard H.||Sheehy, David||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Spear, Sir John Ward||Whyte, A. F.|
|Reddy, Michael||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Wiles, Thomas|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Redmond, William (Clare)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Starkey, John Ralph||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Stewart, Gershom||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Sutherland, J. E.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas)|
|Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Talbot, Lord Edmund||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Tennant, Harold John||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Ronaldshay, Earl of||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Rose, Sir Charles Day||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall||Younger, Sir George|
|Rothschild, Lionel de||Touche, George Alexander||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Salter, Arthur Clavell||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)||Wadsworth, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)||Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ And, it being after Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next, 29th July; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.