§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for Nottingham has sent me notice of his desire to raise a point of Order arising out of an incident of yesterday's proceedings. If the hon. Member feels aggrieved by anything that occurred, I can assure him I am sorry, but I cannot allow an incident of yesterday to be reviewed to-day. I can only assure him that I, as any other Chairman would do, use my best judgment on occasions as they arise.
§ Sir J. D. REES
With great respect, may I ask you, Mr. Whitley, if I am not in order now in raising the question, of which I gave you notice: What opportunity has a Member of the House, in such circumstances, to ask the Chairman a question as to a decision he has given?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The notice the hon. Gentleman has sent me is a criticism of my action rather than a point of Order. A point of Order can only be dealt with at the time it arises, but, if the hon. Member is desirous of criticising or censuring my action, it can only be done by direct Motion after notice given.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I do not presume to Attempt that. I appreciate your courtesy And kindly answer, but it occurred to me that a point of Order arises to this extent, whereas I—
§ Motion made [26th March], and Question again proposed,
§ "That 146,000 officers, seamen, and boys be employed for the Sea and Coastguard services for the year ending on 31st day of March, 1914, including 18,350 Royal Marines."
§ Mr. LEE
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty will, I am sure, acquit me of any discourtesy in not having replied at once last night to the very long, eloquent, and interesting speech he made to the House. I think he will recognise that owing to the lateness of the hour it was necessary to postpone my reply until to-day. I cannot help referring to the very witty and good-humoured opening remarks of his speech, in which he 1890 referred to certain circumstances which occurred earlier in the afternoon, and drew from them a very valuable naval lesson. But I do not think that he went, perhaps, quite far enough in applying that lesson to his own Department, because it struck me at the time that he should have brought us one step further and demonstrated to the House how important it is that in all matters of war you should not rely upon too narrow a margin being available at the point of contact of what he ventured to describe as the selected moment; because in the more serious kind of warfare in which conceivably we might be engaged, it would not be possible to save one's country with all the oratorical abilities the right hon. Gentleman possesses, by means of talk, however ingenuous, or by raising points of order. And one other preliminary observation I wish to make is, that, after having listened to these debates on the Navy and the Army for a good many years, I am more than ever struck with the unsatisfactory arrangement under which we are obliged to discuss these great questions of national defence.
In the Army debate, for example, the other day, the Secretary of State for War was able to base his arguments, with which we did not agree, with regard to what we call the insufficiency and lack of preparation of our military forces, upon the axiomatic principle that our naval supremacy should be overwhelming, but the question of whether it was or was not was one which we were not allowed to discuss on that particular occasion. Now, when we come to the Naval Estimates, we are not permitted to consider the question of whether our Navy is insufficient, because it might be paralysed and tied to these shores by the insufficiency and lack of preparation of our military forces. I am aware that there is occasionally a broader opportunity of discussing this whole problem on the Vote for the Imperial Defence Committee, but I cannot help thinking that there ought to be a regular annual opportunity—and I venture to throw out the suggestion to right hon. Gentlemen opposite for what it is worth—of examination each year, at the beginning of the Session, of the whole problem. On the operation of getting Mr. Speaker out of the Chair, our National Defence Estimates, Army and Navy, should be lumped and that the Motion should be that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair on Army and Navy Estimates, and the time available 1891 should be lumped together in order that we might have an opportunity of discussing the whole question of national defence as effective both by the Army and the Navy before we come to the detailed criticism of the two Services separately. I think that is a suggestion that might be considered, and would not interfere with any possible discussion upon the Committee for Imperial Defence.
The right hon. Gentleman's speech last night was as interesting as all his speeches are, and indeed I go further and say that his speeches upon the Navy Votes leave very little, if anything, to be desired. His luminous intellect and powers of vivid word painting have appealed to British citizens not only in these Islands, but all over the Empire, and he lays before them the naked terrible peril with which we should be confronted if we allowed any Power or combination of Powers to threaten our sea supremacy. His utterances upon these questions have been the most definite, trenchant, and earnest that it has been my privilege to hear from any First Lord of the Admiralty, but when we come to the actual margin of safety with which he has provided us in order to meet these perils then what a minute mouse is the offspring of all this oratorical labour.
§ Mr. LEE
If the right hon. Gentleman objects to the word "mouse" I might have suggested a rather larger type of rodent, if I did not think it might possibly have had painful associations. But he has certainly overwhelmed us with assurances, and if only perorations were "Dreadnoughts," then he would indeed have provided us with an invincible Armada. He has been in office now for nearly two years, at any rate for eighteen months, and perhaps it is not too soon to undertake a searching stocktaking of his actual achievements and see how far they square with the utterances and undertakings he has given to the House. The claim which he made last year, and I presume again now, was certainly sufficiently wide. He said that the Admiralty are prepared to guarantee absolutely the main security of the country and the Empire day by day for the next few years. These are very satisfactory words, but we do not feel sure that he has provided us with a 1892 sufficient margin of safety, even against the least improbable combination with which we might be faced in time of war. I want to go further and ask him what does he mean by the security of this country and Empire? Does he mean the security, as I am afraid he once did, in a celebrated communication to his constituency, of these Islands which might be affected by dominating the North Sea? Does he include the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and the outer portions of the Empire? And there is one further point on which I venture to lay great stress, and that is: Is he prepared to guarantee such a command of the sea as that the progress of our Expeditionary Army shall be free, wherever and whenever it is required across the sea? I am compelled to ask that question in view of the very widespread rumours that there was an acute difference of opinion between the War Office and the Admiralty upon this question in 1911. I am compelled to ask him whether the margin of strength which he now professes is sufficient to guarantee the safe passage of our Expeditionery Army at once—that is as soon as it can be mobilised and embarked—in case its services are required in any corner of the world—in case, for example, of a sudden emergency in India or Egypt, or other probable cases—because there is not much use of having an Expeditionery Force able to start at once unless the Navy is able to guarantee its safe, or reasonably safe, passage? That is a question which has never been answered, and I venture to say that the margin the right hon. Gentleman has provided is insufficient for that purpose.
Let us examine the actual naval position in home waters and in the Mediterranean, and in saying that, of course, I do not admit for a moment that that should be our sole care. I think very often we have been too much obsessed with what we call the North Sea peril, and we have not paid sufficient attention to the Mediterranean, the Pacific, the trade routes, and the outlying portions of the Empire, and consequently we are now running a new and grave risk by calling in our legions in order to concentrate them to defend the heart of the Empire here in these Islands. The safety of the outer margins are almost as vital to our existence as an Empire, and safety in the North Sea will not prevent disaster if we are found wanting in the Mediterranean and the Pacific and in other seas. In this connection I would remind the 1893 Committee of the almost humiliating confession contained in the Admiralty Navy Memorandum communicated to the Committee with regard to the extent to which we have been compelled to draw in our legions. That was one of the principal arguments for appealing to the Dominions to afford us help in naval matters. There is the vital question of the Mediterranean, and here I would again remind the Committee of the very precise, dramatic and important statement made by the Secretary for the Colonies last autumn, which was endorsed by the Prime Minister, in which he said:—We shall maintain our position there (meaning the Mediterranean), both on land and sea, to as full an extent as we have ever done in the past, and in doing so we shall depend upon no alliance or understanding, actual or implied, but upon our own fortress.The First Lord, in his Navy Memorandum showed that, in 1915, Austria and Italy combined would have ten "Dreadnoughts," and that our squadron of four battle cruisers and four armoured cruisers would not suffice to fulfil our requirements, and that this matter must be reconsidered. We shall have, by that time, no ships to spare in home waters for this purpose. It is, therefore, clear that if this policy is carried out we must practically build a new squadron for service in the Mediterranean, and, what is more, we must begin it immediately. Last night the right hon. Gentleman outlined an interesting future plan or prospect of an Imperial Squadron, composed of ships which are to be contributed by various portions of the Empire, to be formed into a squadron stationed at Gibraltar. No doubt that would have a great effect upon our position in the Mediterranean. Whilst I think that idea is admirable, and well calculated to stimulate the imagination of British citizens in the Dominions, at the same time I must point out that there are two flies in that amber. First of all, you cannot count ships twice. For example, you cannot count the three Canadian vessels in the squadron referred to in another portion of his speech of eight ships of the "Queen Elizabeth" class, nor can you count the "New Zealand" twice in the imperial Squadron at Gibraltar and in our strength in the North Sea. Beyond all that, none of these ships, with the exception of the "New Zealand," can possibly be available before 1916. Therefore, in the meantime, nothing is being done to meet the criticism we made as to the inadequacy of our force in the Mediterranean.
1894 I will return now to the main question. The First Lord said last year, and repeated again last night, that under existing conditions, and for the time only, a margin of 60 per cent. over the next strongest Power was considered sufficient. He was careful to add:—I must not be taken as meaning that a ratio of sixty to 100 will be regarded as a sufficient preponderance under all circumstances over the next strongest I ower.The right hon. Gentleman explained that that ratio would have to be increased, first of all, as our pre-"Dreadnoughts" declined in relative and actual fighting value, and, secondly, if there were any foreign increases not already published. It is quite clear that he never, for a moment, laid down or accepted the standard of 60 per cent. or sixteen to ten as a permanent and normal ratio for the British Fleet, nor did he do so last year. It is really necessary and important to call attention to this point again, because there has been an immense amount of misunderstanding and confusion in the public mind, not only here but in Germany, particularly during the last few months, with regard to this particular question. On the top of that confusion last night, the right hon. Gentleman introduced fresh complications by his proposal for one year's holiday in shipbuilding. In reply to our chief rival on the Continent, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we, on this side of the House, and, indeed, everybody in this country, would rejoice if it were possible to invent any practical check to what I think he called the futile and exasperating folly of an acute competition, which costs an immense amount of money and which leaves the various Powers at the end exactly as they were. We all agree to that, but, after considering the actual proposal being made, I must confess that I see almost insuperable obstacles for carrying it into practice. With every will in the world on both sides of the Channel, obviously this matter could not be confined to England and Germany. Germany would, naturally, and very properly, be concerned with what was going on in the Russian navies. We are a good deal concerned with what is going on in the Mediterranean in connection with the navies of Austria and Italy, and unless you could get at The Hague some sudden conference to meet and to agree that everybody should have this holiday, including the House of Commons, it would, I am afraid, mean a little more than an Utopian vision, which reflects great credit upon the heart of the right hon. Gentle- 1895 man, but which, I fear, will be impracticable when it is further examined.
I notice, within the last half-hour, messages are coming over the tape with regard to the reception of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals in Germany. They also sympathise with these aspirations, but they point out that they have a building law, and that, for one reason or another, they fear that his proposal, however well meaning, is really impracticable. In the meantime, we have to deal with the iron facts of the situation. At this point I must call attention to what was referred to last night as an agreement with the German Government. The right hon. Gentleman did not make this point very specific. He hinted at some agreement, and I presume he was referring to the speech of Admiral Von Tirpitz. There seemed to be some mystery about what he said on this point, but, as far as one could judge from the numerous summaries which appeared in the Press, Admiral Von Tirpitz, for the German Government, never really accepted this particular ratio at all. Therefore, unless there is some confidential understanding between the two Governments, we have really nothing to go upon. Admiral Von Tirpitz added that, in making the speech he did, it was to be clearly understood that he was speaking for himself only, and not for the German Government. Since then we have heard no more of his intentions or of the meaning of his alleged speech. I think that point ought to be cleared up; in the meantime we have got nothing to go upon but the right hon. Gentleman's distinct pledge, which he gave last year twice to the House of Commons and the country, that this ratio of sixteen to ten should be preserved; that it would exclude Dominion ships, and would be dependent upon possible foreign increases and the declining value of our own pre-"Dreadnoughts." The right hon. Gentleman said:—Nothing had happened since to alter that guiding standard.Certainly the right hon. Gentleman's proposal of a year's holiday, even if adopted, would not alter the standard. It would mean that less ships would be built on each side, but the ratio would have to remain; and, having nothing else to go upon, we have a right to expect and demand that the Admiralty should build up to that standard. I am very glad that in dealing with this matter last night the right hon. Gentleman cleared out of the way a mist of misunderstanding which had been 1896 created with regard to the Dominion ships. He told us that they cannot be counted in our ratio of numbers which go to make up the strength of the Fleet, and that is obvious. There was a most definite pledge made by the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that they should not be counted, and, indeed, if they had taken the advice showered upon them by certain Radical newspapers during the last few months, the right hon. Gentleman would not only have been playing a confidence trick of a peculiarly discreditable character upon the Dominions themselves, but he would have been merely saving the pockets of the British taxpayer at the expense of the taxpayers of the Dominions without adding a single ship to the strength of the Imperial Navy. But whilst the right hon. Gentleman has cleared up that question as regards the Canadian ships, and the "Malaya," I do not think he has made the position clear with regard to the "New Zealand." The right hon. Gentleman apparently is counting the "New Zealand" as part of the Navy available for all purposes and for home waters. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that on 27th November, referring to battle cruisers, he said, in reference to the "New Zealand," the "Australia," and the "Malaya"—None of these vessels affect the forecasts of new construction given by me to the House in March last.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Nor do they. The forecasts I gave for the six following years still hold good, and are not affected in any way.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Those forecasts were made at this time last year, in view of all the facts of which we then had knowledge.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The position of the New Zealand ship to be placed at the disposal of the British Government was certainly one of the facts which we considered when arriving at the forecast of the programme which I gave to the House last year.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The six programmes aggregated altogether twenty-five new ships. Those ships naturally do not include the "New Zealand," which is a ship already built.
§ Mr. LEE
I find it a little difficult to follow exactly what the right hon. Gentleman means with regard to this point. I would remind him that the late Prime Minister of New Zealand, who was Prime Minister at the time the ship was offered to the British Government, stated clearly and publicly last autumn that the ship was offered on the condition that it was additional to the British programmes, and that it was in order to strengthen our margin of strength over the next strongest Power. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to depart from the spirit of that offer, and I gather that he does not from his answer. I hope he will consider the point further.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I cannot illustrate the point better than by saying that if the "New Zealand" were by a catastrophe to go to the bottom of the sea we should undoubtedly have to build another ship.
§ Mr. LEE
In that case the right hon. Gentleman means it is included for all purposes, and that, if the New Zealand Government wished the ship to return to New Zealand waters, we should be one ship short. Surely the right hon. Gentleman ought to be providing in his programme of future construction for that possible contingency.
§ Mr. LEE
I will now come back to the sixteen to ten ratio, and merely say that it would be impossible for us to accept it as anything but a temporary arrangement in view of the special circumstances the right hon. Gentleman outlined last year. I can well understand that such a slender margin would be very acceptable to our German friends. Seven years ago they were confronted with a British naval superiority of three to one, and for us to accept a position of sixteen to ten would really be to stereotype that principle of risk which is clearly laid down in the preamble of the Germany Navy Act. The most conclusive argument I have ever heard against it which has been furnished by a very distinguished German writer on naval affairs, Count von Reventlaw, who wrote the other day:—A sixteen to ten ratio would mean that Great Britain would find all her power without exception occupied in home waters.1898 In this article he was trying to reassure his friends in Italy, and he said:—If they will only realise the situation, with the assistance of the figures and the above standpoint, they must come to the unqualified conclusion that the relationship of ten to sixteen, which, as the State Secretary expressly said, might appear only sufficient for the present, would, without exaggeration, afford for Italy's position in the Mediterranean the guarantee that in a war of the Triple Alliance with the Dual Alliance and Great Britain no efficient British ship would be found in the Mediterranean.I am afraid that is the situation. Even if we were to accept the ratio, I still maintain that the right hon. Gentleman is not building up to it, and that is really the gravamen of my charge against him to-day. The programme which he has outlined in this year's Estimates affects, of course, the year 1915–16 only, because three of the five new ships which he proposes to build cannot be ready before April, 1916, at the earliest. On April, 1916, when he gets all his five ships for which he is now asking, Germany will have twenty-six vessels of the "Dreadnought" class, and we shall have thirty-eight, excluding the Dominion ships as we are bound to do. Sixty per cent. above twenty-six ships is not thirty-eight but forty-two. Therefore, on that showing, in the spring of 1916, on the right hon. Gentleman's own standard, excluding the Dominion ships, we shall be four capital ships short, and that gives us a margin of superiority at that date not of 60 per cent., but of 46 per cent. In the spring of 1915, as far as I can make out, the ratio will fall to 43.5 per cent.; that is, thirty-three to twenty-three. I wish to deal mainly with the right hon. Gentleman's programme this year which will culminate in the spring of 1916, and I say that on the figures he will at that date have a margin of superiority of only 46 per cent.
§ Mr. LEE
The spring of 1916. I take that not merely for argumentative purposes, but because it is the moment at which the present programme will culminate. I know that last night the right hon. Gentleman deprecated what he called these intricate calculations, and he reproved people who reckon in numbers; but that has been the invariable method of the Government itself during the last few 1899 years, and obviously it is the only thing upon which we have to go. The right hon. Gentleman last night introduced a new complication into his calculations by saying that you must not count numbers only; what you have to consider is the relative value of the ships you are counting. I think that would be a very dangerous principle to introduce into our calculations. To say, "Our ships being so much better than other people's ships, being as no doubt the Secretary of State for War (Coloney Seely) would say, 'the best ships in the world,' we do not need as many as foreign Powers"—that is a very slippery slope. I was down at Portsmouth Dockyard the other day, and I saw the original "Dreadnought" in dry dock, and the man who was taking me round said, "Yes, sir, that is one of the old timers." I must confess that she looked it, but it is only a short time ago we were told that the "Dreadnought" was able to dispose of the entire German Fleet. I think, therefore, that to ask the House of Commons, or indeed anyone, to adjudicate between the exact relative values of these different types in arriving at our ratio would indeed be a dangerous course, because I must remind the Committee that the torpedo and floating mines in war have no respect for the reputation of a ship, either for its size or gun power, and in times of peace the perils that are run fall just as heavily upon the newest ship as upon the older ship. If the "Montagu" which run on Lundy Island had been a heavier ship with guns of greater power it would not have saved her. It is obvious that we must reckon in numbers and leave out this consideration which the right hon. Gentleman would like to introduce. I say that on those figures with regard to the actual ratio it is essential that we should lay down at least one additional ship this year, making six in all, and, what is more, commence it early. In addition to that we should have to lay down six next year, and even then, with those three additional ships, and even if the "New Zealand" were counted in, we should in 1916 only just have the margin of sixteen to ten, which the right hon. Gentleman claims is sufficient. I remember the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara), in an interesting speech, made about two years ago at the Fishmongers' Hall, said:—A 'Dreadnought' costs something like £2,00,000. The lack of a 'Dreadnought' would cost something like a hundred times £2,000,000.1900 I hope he will impress that view upon the Admiralty at the present time. Speaking for myself only, I am more than ever profoundly convinced that for a permanently recognised standard, not 60 per cent., but nothing less than 100 per cent. over the next strongest Power—that is what is commonly called two keels to one—is sufficient. The Government and the Admiralty are already claiming to build up to 60 per cent. That would leave only 40 per cent. to be provided out of the ships which have already been given or promised by the Dominions and by a very moderate increased effort on the part of ourselves and other portions of the Empire.
§ Mr. LEE
Yes, certainly. I wish to say a word or two about the pre-"Dreadnoughts" to which the right hon. Gentleman referred last night. He has clearly explained in the Canadian Memorandum and elsewhere that as these ships decline in relative value they have got to be replaced, and I think we are entitled to some indication as to how long these ships are to be reckoned. He told an hon. Friend of mine, in answer to a question on 8th January, that whilst to-day, in 1913, we have a superiority of thirty-eight over Germany in pre-"Dreadnoughts," in 1920 that superiority of thirty-eight will have fallen to four.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I was answering a question put to me in a particular form, and I stated what the facts would be, applying that particular test.
§ Mr. LEE
Yes, that is quite correct. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that in 1920 pre-"Dreadnoughts" of fifteen years' service will really be available for the purposes of war I do not think he does. His predecessor, the present Home Secretary (Mr. McKenna), told us in 1909 that the time would very soon arrive when only "Dreadnoughts" would count.
§ Mr. LEE
"Soon." There is another question the right hon. Gentleman skated 1901 over very rapidly last night, but which is really vital in the present circumstances. It is the question of the present delays in shipbuilding. That, in our opinion, constitutes the only understandable excuse for the smallness and the postponement of his new programme this year. That is to say, if he tells us that the shipbuilding yards are so congested that it is utterly impossible for them to take further orders, obviously it would be quite useless to give these orders to the extent which would be justified. In any case the position is clearly serious. He told us last year that there was a sum of £1,600,000 which was unspent on the Building Vote and would go to swell the Estimates of this year. The total increase this year is only £1,230,000. Out of that £800,000 goes to other items, which leaves only £430,000 to be accounted for out of the £1,600,000, leaving £1,170,000 still unspent. It is true he suggested that we may have Supplementary Estimates later on. We had Supplementary Estimates last year. It is no good having Supplementary Estimates if you cannot spend the money, and the net result of the position is that the right hon. Gentleman and the Admiralty have confessed that the amount of expenditure which they consider necessary to be assured of the proper naval defence of the country cannot be spent. We remember that we had those signs of congestion on every hand. There was only £28,000 provided on each of the three contract-built ships which are not to be commenced until March, 1914, and cannot be ready before the spring of 1916; we had serious delays in the delivery of destroyers and cruisers, and it is obvious that the Canadian ships, even if they were agreed upon, could not be delivered until late in 1916 at the earliest. I think we are entitled to ask whether the Admiralty can give any assurance that the prospect is improving, that arrangements are being made, or can be made, to deal with delays and congestion in the yards.
We hear now about strikes in the dockyards, and altogether the position—I do not know what the truth is about it—is clearly very alarming. I must point out at the same time that the Government in this matter are clearly not blameless. The evil of this congestion, I do not say is entirely due, but is very largely due, to the spasmodic building policy which they have adopted during the last seven years, by laying down only two ships in 1908–9, and again in 1909–10 No business in the 1902 world, particularly a business of this character, could stand those extreme fluctuations. There was great stagnation of work in the yards from 1906 to 1909, with the result that a very large number of the skilled men emigrated and left this country for good. Now, of course, they cannot be replaced. I do not want to rub in what we call the Cawdor Programme. I know what the answer to it is, that we have as many ships as we would have had under the Cawdor Programme if it had been adhered to. But I do say that these unfortunate results largely come from abandoning a steady, or, if you like, moderate, regular rate of output, and that the action of the Government resulted not only in a direct incentive to foreign competition, but in disorganisation and congestion in the shipyards, to the present shortage of skilled labour, and to the present shortage of officers and men for the Fleet. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says, "Oh, but we have better ships." What is the good of having better designs if no one has the power or the men to build them? That is the position which we are in to-day. I admit that the right hon. Gentleman has the best designs in the world, but he cannot place them. He has nobody to build them.
I leave the question of battleships, and with regard to the smaller types, the programme for cruisers, destroyers, and submarines, I will only say that we wish to suspend judgment as to the numbers, because we have heard rumours, like everyone else, of very interesting possible developments as affecting the type, at which he hinted last night, of these destroyers and submarines, and there is a suggestion that we may even see a reversal of the ordinary process of nature and the production of what I may call an entomological freak, in which the insect reverts to the chrysalis, rather than the normal process, in which the chrysalis merges into the insect. The right hon. Gentleman does see the allusion in the public interest, and I do not wish to press it. With regard to cruisers, I will only say that the statement which he made last night with regard to armed merchantmen and going back to the old practice and providing for like dealing with like gave satisfaction to everyone in this House. We proposed this very thing again and again years ago, and the result was that we were denounced as scaremongers and disturbers of the world's peace. I have detained the Committee at considerable length, and therefore I am 1903 not going to attempt to cover the whole ground of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, or to deal with such questions as the finance of his Estimates, or oil—both of which questions will be dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman)—or docks or labour questions. There are, however, two main points which I must deal with very briefly First, with regard to personnel. In the consideration of the whole of this naval problem, I am more and more impressed with the fact that the problem of the future is the problem of manning. The problem of the Mediterranean is also a problem of manning. Even if you had a squadron for service in those seas, which at present you have not, you could not man it without drawing men from the training and other necessary duties on shore. Therefore to us, perhaps, the most satisfactory feature in the whole Estimate was the increase of numbers. The right hon. Gentleman was a little difficult to follow, but I gathered from his remarks last night that the actual net increase is to be about 7,000 men. I think under the circumstances we must regard that as satisfactory, and I am also extremely glad to see that he has dropped the practice, peculiar to this Government, and continued the old practice, and is not cutting down the Royal Marines, but he is entering 900 more men in that invaluable corps.
The shortage of lieutenants is, of course, admittedly grave. The information which has reached me is that the shortage is such that there are actually insufficient officers of the rank of lieutenant to get the full advantage out of the latest and newest types of various kinds—I will not specify—which are fitted upon the latest ships. The officers we have are overworked; they get insufficient leave, and the result is that there is a drop in their efficiency and a great deal of inevitable discontent. I am not going to criticise to-day the various expedients which the Admiralty have introduced to strengthen the lieutenants' list, but I am glad they are doing something, though again I think there has been a certain lack of foresight in dealing with the question during the last seven years in not looking ahead sufficiently. We have had the Report laid before us; I have not bad time to study it, and I do not refer to it to-day. The last subject with which I will deal is that of aviation. We know that the policy of the Government is to make that the joint concern of the Navy 1904 and the Army, as, indeed, it ought to be. The theory is perfectly right, but I am afraid that it makes it very difficult for us to bring to book, as we should wish to do, the people who are really responsible for the deplorable position of affairs in this country with regard to aviation to-day. When we come to the Army Estimates we are told that it is the other fellow's fault. When we come to the Navy, we are told, "The Army Estimates are passed and we can do no more." The comparative modesty—the characteristic modesty, perhaps I may suggest—of the First Lord in dealing with the subject last night with regard to the Navy, was in such refreshing contrast with the attitude of his colleague, the Secretary of State for War, that really it almost disarmed criticism. In the course of his remarks he deprecated what he called levity and derision in dealing with the subject. I thought that was rather unusual language. We are bound to endorse the implied reproof which he thereby conveyed to his colleague, because we do feel in that matter that the Army side of the question has not been dealt with in the spirit which the House of Commons has a right to expect.
The First Lord of the Admiralty dealt first with hydroplanes, and on that point I entirely agree with him that the work which he has been doing and which the Navy has been doing, deserves the highest praise. My own opinion, and I believe the general opinion on the Continent, is that with regard to hydroplanes we are really in the lead, and that the Admiralty have been doing excellent work. But when we came to the larger airships we were told by the Secretary for War the other day that the larger airships were the business of the Admiralty, that he would have none of them, that to buy Zeppelins was throwing money into the sea. That I presume was merely a synonym for saying that he was handing over the question to the Admiralty. But the First Lord last night dealt with the subject in a more serious spirit, and said we must develop long range airships. That we all agree to. That being so, I am entitled to ask what provision has the Admiralty made? We are told that they have placed two orders abroad. I am informed by experts that they are by no means the best type which have been ordered. I give my own experience last summer when I saw a ship of the Parseval type absolutely outclass the Zeppelin. We have ordered 1905 a Parseval, and there are some suggestions of large rigid ships being built by a firm in this country. Is that all which the Admiralty is doing or considers it necessary to do? The right hon. Gentleman chaffed us last night about drawing lurid and imaginative pictures of what may happen to us from airships. I put this question, when he talks about lurid dangers, and it is really an important question. Is the Admiralty really satisfied that our dockyards and naval magazines and other naval establishments are, even at this moment in the event of war, secure against possible serious overhead attack? If he is not satisfied, how does he propose to protect them? He told us last night that the Secretary for War was supplying forty guns, to "kill that fly," I suppose. Obviously the provision is entirely inadequate. There is another question which I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman, which is even more important, and which is within the range of practical possibilities. Does he consider that the problem of secret rendezvous for a Fleet at sea in time of war is not seriously affected by this new problem of airships? He knows that it is the practice in modern war not to base your Fleet upon a port where it might be attacked, as at Port Arthur, but to take up a position at sea at a given latitude and longitude, and to operate from there. Does he consider it possible, in view of the long range of these airships, to maintain such a base in secrecy, as airships are being fitted with searchlights and wireless telegraphy? If not, what steps has he taken to deal with that question? Obviously it can only be dealt with, as the question of home defence must be dealt with, by ourselves having command of the air—at any rate, of our own air. While the right hon. Gentleman said that Zeppelins are not yet potent factors, and that we should be ready when they were, although they are experimental ships—and we all admit it—they have performed even now great feats in fine weather. Even in these Islands we occasionally have fine weather. The right hon. Gentleman has taught us to look at the selected moment. The selected moment would probably be in fine weather, with a favourable wind. Whatever he may say, nothing can alter the fact that even if we have made a fair advance in this matter from nothing in the course of the last twelve months, we should not have had to advance from that point, and nothing will excuse the 1906 past neglect in dealing with this serious question.
The right hon. Gentleman's speeches are always admirable, but we feel that his performances are disappointing, and that, at any rate, the standard which he has laid down as being sufficient for our naval strength is, in point of fact, inadequate. He told us last night that a small margin of strength means a state little removed from war. We say the margin which he is providing is much too small. We have been forced to put up with it at present in view of his repeated assurances that this is a temporary standard and will have to be increased later. I have endeavoured to show in my remarks this afternoon that he is not even building up to the standard he himself has laid down. I deeply regret that we have had to regard his policy as unsatisfactory, because this question of naval defence, I might almost say of national existence, is so grave that none of us could possibly wish to make any kind of party capital out of it. We approach it, not as politicians, but as British citizens to whom it is the most vital of all interests. The right hon. Gentleman said last night that the Navy must be the first charge upon the resources of the Empire. We, of course, are not in office, and we have no power to influence the naval policy of the country except through the right hon. Gentleman and his Government. Therefore we have every reason and every desire to assist him in his non-party and national task, if he will accept our assistance, but, if he does wish for it, he must see that at any rate we have a right to expect that he should scrupulously live up to the undertakings and pledges he has given to the House of Commons and to the country in his speeches in this House. It is with real regret, as I have endeavoured to show this afternoon, that I feel that he has quite unaccountably failed to live up to his pledges in this matter.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down told us in one part of his speech that the situation is very alarming. That is a very old statement. Certainly his own arguments and the condition of the benches behind him do not point to any acute feeling of alarm in the minds of the party opposite. He told us that the 60 per cent. superiority, which in some undefined way is supposed to be the standard of this country as against Germany, could only be measured in ships—that it was not a standard of superiority, but a standard of ships. Then he pro- 1907 ceeded to completely demolish his own arguments. He told us he had been through the dockyards, that he had seen the first "Dreadnought," and was told that she was now obsolete.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
Supposing Germany had sixteen "old-timers" and this country had ten "up-to-date timers," the superiority would quite easily be with the ten as against the sixteen. Therefore it is not a question of ships so much as it is a question of superiority. What struck me most in the speech to which we have just listened was the absence of any allowance for statesmanship or for intelligence. The one thought of the hon. Gentleman is more "Dreadnoughts," more ships. His statement was equal to a concession that statesmanship is bankrupt, and that the one thing the world has to rely upon is brute force, guided by a certain amount of intelligence. I hope that is not the position to which we have been reduced. I admit quite frankly that the world is rapidly becoming, so to speak, an armed camp, not only by land and by sea, but also in the air, since flying machines have been brought into requisition. Even the merchant service is now to be armed. I think most people expected some prospect of a reduction in the burden which armaments, both naval and military, are now imposing upon the world. Instead of that we have an increase and the possibility of a still further increase before the year is out. The reason for the increase being so small is not due to any change of policy or change of outlook, but to the fact that our shipyards are already overstocked with ships of war building, not only for Great Britain, but for foreign Powers, which may one day be used against our own country. I suppose it is the highest form of patriotism to build for profit ships which the enemy may use to destroy our own nation. There is just this consolation about the present situation, that it is bound sooner or later to bring about its own ruin. It is true that in the abounding prosperity of the present time we can afford to go on increasing our expenditure, but when the day of trade depression comes round, and money is not so plentiful as it is now, a reaction is bound to set in. One of the most interesting suggestions the First Lord of the Admiralty made in 1908 his speech yesterday was that in regard to the suggested holiday. Germany and ourselves were to declare a sort of "truce of God" for a year, during which time both countries would agree not to add anything to their shipbuilding programme. It is quite possible that the German nation is in the same position as ourselves. That suggestion may be accepted, but, if it is, it will probably be for the same reason that makes it desirable to ourselves. Even with a year's holiday it would take us all that time to overtake the arrears of shipbuilding, therefore nothing would be gained. The shipbuilding yards are overtaxed, the whole resources of the country are being strained to provide officers for the various grades in the Navy, and a year's truce would only give the two countries time to make good the deficiencies under which they now labour in these respects.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The right hon. Gentleman says that nothing could be less helpful than that. That is quite possible, but nothing is going to be gained by make-believe, and we have to face facts. The facts are as I have stated, that on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing the work in hand cannot be completed within the time, therefore the Estimates do not make provision for ships already laid down, and nothing at all would be gained even though the proposed holiday were accepted by the other side. I want to deal briefly with another aspect of the question. It is now quite clear that, with the possible exception of the New Zealand ship, the 60 per cent. superiority, which is accepted as the standard over the German Navy for this country, is not to include the Colonial ships. These are to be additional to the 60 per cent. laid down and, despite the criticism of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lee), accepted, in spirit at least, by Admiral Von Tirpitz in the Reichstag. I want to ask whether that is playing the game. The offer was publicly made a year ago that this country claimed a 60 per cent. superiority over the German Navy. The German Admiral Von Tirpitz, accepts that. Now he is told that 60 per cent. does not mean 60 per cent., but 60 per cent. plus as much as we can wheedle or coerce the Colonies and Dominions Oversea into adding to that estimate. I submit that that is not playing a straight game. If the Dominion 1909 ships were meant to be added to the 60 per cent. that fact ought to have been publicly made known, since otherwise it only plays into the hands of those in Germany who regard everything done here with suspicion, just as we have people here who regard everything done there with suspicion, and thereby tend to perpetuate and inflame whatever bad feeling there may be or may have been between these two great nations whose mutual interest is good relationship.
But I have another objection to the attitude now assumed by the Admiralty. These Overseas Dominions contributions to the Navy tend to artificially inflate it. Take for example the suggested Canadian contributions. These are not a gift. They are a loan to be made under certain conditions. Canada pays for building and our Exchequer pays for manning and maintaining the ships. They are liable to recall at any time and under proper notice. If we accept ships from Canada, ships from New Zealand, and ships from the Malay States in addition to what is regarded as sufficient for all our requirements, the Navy is thereby artificially inflated, and if, at any time, for any cause, these ships are withdrawn, or when they are worn out, are not replaced from the same source, the burden of replacing them falls upon this country. It is disturbing the equilibrium which the First Lord of the Admiralty himself held to be sufficient twelve months ago when introducing his Estimates to the House, and therefore from that point of view the proposed gifts, and the actual gifts, may have a serious effect upon the expenditure by this country upon the Navy by compelling us in the future to maintain an artificial motive and an unnecessary standard because all these gifts and offers have now been accepted. But I submit further that the acceptance of this offer without an assurance that they are the free gift of the Dominions making them may have very serious effects upon the Empire itself. We are told that the gifts of "Dreadnoughts" show the unification of the forces of the Empire, which makes for strength and proves to the other nations of the world that Great Britain does not rely only upon these islands for defence, and is able to call to her aid help and assistance from the Dominions which have grown up under the flag overseas. On the face of it that argument looks very plausible, but in its actual working out the effect may easily be the exact opposite. The Government 1910 of New Zealand presented a "Dreadnought" without consulting the people of New Zealand. At the general election following the cabinet responsible for making the gift was overthrown, and those who, like myself, are more or less in touch with feeling in New Zealand, know that a very important element in that result was the spending of the money of the Dominion on this purpose without first consulting the people.
The most recent illustration of all is what has taken place in Canada in connection with the suggested addition to the Navy from that great country. I have read the correspondence which passed between the Admiralty and the Canadian Government, and there can be no doubt at all in the mind of anyone who knows the facts or who has read the correspondence that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the First Lord of the Admiralty in his communications with Mr. Borden took sides with one political party in the Canadian Dominion. Parties are divided there as to whether Canada should build its own Navy, manned by itself and maintained for the protection of its own shores, or make a temporary addition to the Imperial Navy here at home, and the Memorandum of the First, Lord decidedly took strong sides with one of the parties to that dispute. That is not tending to bind the Dominion of Canada to the Mother Country. Before the First Lord encouraged and suggested the form which the Canadian proposals for helping the Navy should take, he should first of all have assured himself that there was a reasonable degree of unanimity on the part of the people of Canada as to what the form should be, and failing to secure that, he should have been specially careful not to even appear to take sides as between the two great parties out there. Since the present Government submitted its proposals public opinion, and especially working-class opinion in Canada, for which I claim to speak, has pronounced itself strongly against the proposals which are now being considered. They have been condemned by the Western Federation of Labour, by the Farmers' and Grain Growers' Association of Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and other organisations, and I submit that it is a danger and a menace to the unity of the Empire for our Admiralty to accept nominal gifts under conditions which will undoubtedly tend to create bad feeling in Canada and strengthen the party there which stands for Canada as a nation as against Canada 1911 as part of the British Empire. I should like to submit also that there is something degrading in the though that this country should be prepared to accept gifts made under such conditions. It leads to the impression that we are no longer fit to provide for our own defence and must needs go begging round the globe for the Dominions to come to our assistance.
Another point in this same connection. The Admiralty, in accepting the conditions attached to the Canadian offer, and under cover of adding to the naval defences of the Empire, is really introducing a revolutionary change into the Constitution under which the Empire has hitherto been governed. It is not only that these ships are to be manned and maintained out of home funds, but that the Canadian Government is to be entitled to a seat on the Defence Committee. Any gift to which a provision of that kind was attached should not have been accepted by the Admiralty until the opinion of the House of Commons had been ascertained as to how far we were prepared to accept the condition. If the gift had been free and unfettered that position could not have arisen, but when we know that attached to the offer is this further condition, then the Admiralty was going beyond its constitutional powers in accepting a gift with such a condition attached. If the Defence Committee is now to become, under cover of receiving naval help from the Dominions, a sort of inner military junta, to which the foreign policy of the country is to be disclosed, although it is withheld from the House of Commons, if it is to be allowed to carry on its designs and operations in the dark and away from public opinion, it will become a real menace to the civil power and authority of the Empire. Decisions come to by a Committee of that kind would be very difficult to resist, and the function of the House of Commons will be, not to discuss naval policy or foreign policy, but to ratify the decisions of the Committee and find the money for giving effect to them. I submit, therefore, that the Committee should hesitate before endorsing this policy of the Admiralty in regard to these alleged gifts.
I shall not take upon myself the task of moving a reduction of the Item now before the House, but I shall certainly vote against it. There is a party growing up in the world, not only in the British Empire, but in Germany and France, and in Europe generally, which is opposed to all 1912 these further extensions of militarism and naval fighting power. The Governments of those countries may go on seeing no solution of international difficulties other than that of building bigger navies. The working-class movement of Germany and France and most other countries is demanding that these things shall end. The statesmen of the world should find ways and means whereby international disputes would be settled by reason and intelligence and not by the arbitrament of war, and if Governments still retain their belief in the divine power of the sword, and still go on wasting the resources of the respective nations, they are not acting with the consent or by the authority of the working class, who have to provide the money and the men for carrying through these schemes, and who, opposing all these warlike methods, wish to see "Dreadnoughts" relics of barbarism. Statesmen should put themselves in line with the Christian ethic that the business of civilised and Christianised humanity is to settle disputes without destroying life—to settle disputes by trying to understand each other and to find ways and means, by reason and intelligence, for avoiding even the appearance of violence.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Before I criticise the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I should like to reply to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Keir Hardie). I think that what he has said is liable to be the cause of a great deal of mischief in Canada. I hold no brief for the First Lord of the Admiralty, but I do like to see fair play. What happened was that the Canadian Government wrote to the First Lord inquiring whether he would give the opinion of the Admiralty and the experts as to how they should carry out their naval policy. The First Lord sent the opinion of the experts, and not his own, and I do think that the hon. Member is very hard upon the right hon. Gentleman, and that what he has said may make a great deal of mischief. During a long career, off and on, in this House I have often attended Naval debates, but I have never heard a cleverer speech than that which was delivered by the First Lord of the Admiralty last night.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I am sure the Noble Lord does not wish to misrepresent me. If he will turn to the copy of the correspondence between the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Prime Minister of 1913 the Dominion of Canada he will find in the communication, dated 24th January, 1913, addressed to "My dear Mr. Borden" and signed, "Yours very sincerely, Winston S. Churchill," the statement on which I based my statement. If the officer who was asked to provide the statement went out of his way to take a part as between the two parties in Canada, the business of the First Lord was to prevent that going forth.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I need not continue the argument. I put the matter as clearly as I could, and I still think that the views expressed by the hon. Gentleman will cause mischief in Canada. What was the object of the First Lord's speech last night? It was really intended as a soothing speech to the country to calm the great anxiety of the public in view of the warnings which are being taken up by the Press of all shades and parties all through the country with regard to our critical position. He used his usual ingenuity in covering over, to a great extent, many really important points, and he defended his policy with what I may call eloquent theories; but when you read between the lines I think the whole House will agree that he painted a very gloomy picture of the future, and his words will not be read without anxiety. He showed that our sea strength has been gradually overtaken; that it is now being overhauled, and that our strength is not in any way commensurate with our responsibilities. If the Committee will allow me, I would like to bring forward some hard facts to upset the theories which the First Lord stated last night. I have heard the same arguments adduced over and over again in this House, namely, that we are superior on the sea, that we hold our own, and that we hold command of the sea. How is it that these arguments are always followed either by Supplementary Estimates or by an enormous increase in the Estimates of the succeeding year? I will give the First Lord of the Admiralty credit for this: He did not say that we have arrived at the summit of our expenditure. He did not say, like his predecessor, that we are absolutely supreme at sea. He did tell us that we are going to have a Supplementary Estimate, but we wish to know what it is going to be. We believe that the Admiralty would have put forward Estimates for £50,000,000 yesterday if they had been able to spend the money. But it is currently 1914 believed that they could not spend it, and that they were perfectly right in not asking a sum which they could not spend, and so allow a portion to go back to the Treasury.
I remember in March, 1888, the First Lord of the Admiralty came down and made the usual speech about being supreme, and I remember, in December, 1888, getting up and asking for £20,000,000, and that a large number of ships should be added to the Fleet in a time of absolute peace. I remember the First Lord bringing in the Naval Defence Bill in 1889, to carry out that scheme ship for ship, ton for ton, and gun for gun. The First Lord of the Admiralty now tells us that the Estimates are going to increase enormously next year and the year after. He has promised a Supplementary Estimate this year if he can spend the money. The real fact is that the First Lord, on his own showing, has told the country that we are in a critical period, and that he cannot spend the money to give the output of ships that he considers necessary for the safety of the Empire. That is the position. The First Lord has been perfectly honest about it. He wrapt it up in most beautiful language, and the man in the street, after reading the speech which the right hon. Gentleman took over two hours to deliver, might believe that we are in a very satisfactory position, but certainly, if you read between the lines, everybody who knows the case knows that that is not so. I wonder why the Leaders on this side of the House did not call attention to the fact that this critical position must occur this year unless steps were taken in 1909. Many of us called attention to the position time after time, and said that the situation which has arisen would happen this year. The crisis has come, and the First Lord knows it has come. The Government also know that it has come, and that they cannot spend the money they wish to spend owing to the congestion of the yards through the lumping of the whole question at the very last minute. I think, therefore, the First Lord's speech shows that the Navy requirements are in arrears. He shows also that there is no prospect of the arrears being overtaken this year, and that he cannot spend money for what is considered necessary. But he should have spent more money on airships, cruisers, and destroyers. His arguments for not spending money on these classes of vessels do not, I think, hold water. He told us that something 1915 else was going to occur—some wonderful ingenious invention in the way of a fighting ship is going to occur. We have no right to wait for something else. He ought to have arranged so that we could fight, at our average moment, an enemy at his selected moment.
Listening to his speech, I was very much interested when he produced his scheme for the arming of the mercantile marine. It is a scheme which not only I myself, but many on this side, have tried to get for many years. It is the most important scheme of all. It is more important than the building of ships. You cannot build any more than you are doing. It is more important than the joining of men, because it was our real weak spot. I have said before now that the Empire is like a man. You can kill him as easily by cutting his arteries as by stabbing him in the heart. The proper protection of our food supply and raw materials was the first necessity, and if I had been in his position that is the first thing I would have provided for. The method adopted by an enemy would be that of a secretly and suddenly organised attack on the trade routes. Our real danger is starvation and not invasion, and I would rather see what the First Lord has done in arming the mercantile marine than anything he could have done to reinforce the Navy. I hope the Government will also set up granaries. If we had enough ships on every route—six or eight on every route—the position would be better than it is now. I would like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what under this new arrangement has become of the Declaration of London. This scheme for arming the mercantile marine will make a great change in relation to what was said as to the Declaration of London. I am delighted to see that the right hon. Gentleman is taking a real strategic view of the position where there is the most vital weakness we have. I will read what a great German authority has said on the subject of attacking trade routes. General Bernhardi is one of the greatest authorities in Germany, and he is one of the most respected in that country. I hope everyone will read his book, and see what he thinks will be done in war. I approve of the motives of the peace people, but they go the wrong way to bring about peace which ultimately must be maintained by the strong right arm. General Bernhardi says:—The war against British commerce must he boldly and energetically prosecuted and should start unex- 1916 pectedly. The prizes which fall into our hands must be remorselessly destroyed.Further, he said—preparation must be carefully made in peace time for a war on British commerce.We know they have got their places in war and their guns in war. When we brought this up the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, in the superior style of that brilliant statesman, said, "Wait until the incident occurs." I congratulate the First Lord on putting all that balderdash on one side and doing something practical. I have mentioned this first because it is the most important point in the speech, but there are some other points. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the wireless. The more perfect you can get the line of communication the more perfectly the Admiral at sea can prepare, because he knows what he is going to attack and where he is going to attack. The substitution of good battleships for gunnery training battleships is an excellent idea, as those ships can go and take their places in the line now, instead of having all the crews drafted as they were before; but the fact remains that the danger period we have got in this country, which it is impossible for us too much to overtake, is for the next three years.
The speeches and memoranda and letters of the First Lord are all excellent, but they are nearly always contradicted. On the 18th March last he said to the hon. Gentleman that there was no cause whatever for alarm or despondency, that the Admiralty were prepared to guarantee absolutely the main security of the country and of the Empire, day by day, for the next few years. Why, then, did he send that Memorandum to Canada? It beseeches Canada to come to our help, and it denies absolutely what he said in the House on the 18th. What did Mr. Borden reply?—The information placed before us discloses so grave a situation that it calls for immediate action.That is what we think and what any common-sense man would think on reading the Canadian Memorandum. The Memorandum points out that in the year 1915 Great Britain will have thirty-five "Dreadnoughts" to Europe's fifty-one. I do not say that some of those will not be on our side. I hope they will, naturally; but it is a very grave situation, and that is the position we shall be in, because the Government eased off their shipbuilding although they knew that other countries were preparing. There was another good point in the First Lord's speech. For the 1917 first time he has recognised the units of a fleet. I was delighted to hear it. He spoke of the units, which include the auxiliary, the men, and all the details that make a fleet. Up to now the public have been fooled absolutely with the "Dreadnought" craze. Does anybody in this House who thinks at all think that this enormous Empire is going to be lost or saved by one "Dreadnought"? The thing is too silly. What the Government have done with regard to arming those merchant ships is worth fifteen "Dreadnoughts." It is your weak point, and you are facing it.
But the First Lord has recognised that a fleet is composed of units, that if any unit is defective or is not there it may jeopardise the whole Fleet. That, I hope, has been the result, not only of his own ingenuity, but of his War Staff which he created, and for which many of us asked for many years. Anyhow, it is a move in the right direction not to trust to one class of ship a bit more than any commonsense man would desire to see the British Army composed of nothing but heavy Artillery. In my own experience, which is very large, I had once in the Mediterranean six battleships out of eight laid up. Four of them were laid up through unforeseen contingencies. You will always get unforeseen contingencies with regard to machinery. Your ships are boxes of machinery, and you must allow for them, and must have a big margin. So let us stop talking about one ship or two ships as if that would save the Empire. The First Lord of the Admiralty said that there was a proportion of sixteen to ten. What is the proportion which was meant? It may be only against one Power. Does he include Italy and Austria and the Mediterranean?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That is not a proportion for our Imperial responsibilities or for our responsibilities in the Mediterranean. He must then be trusting to France to guard the Mediterranean or intend to have all those ships home the very first moment it looks like warlike operations. It is a proportion that cannot be a sound proportion until the Fleet as a whole would allow us to defend our responsibilities if we went to war. I hope he will alter it as soon as he can. He stated on the 16th January that in April, 1914, Great Britain would have twenty- 1918 nine "Dreadnoughts" and Germany would have twenty-one. Now he is giving four for the Mediterranean, which leaves twenty-five, and he himself gave as a right suggestion as to what he should allow for repairs, maintenance, and docking, 25 per cent.; and he spoke of the selected moment, in which he was also right. Take off the 25 per cent., and that will leave Great Britain with eighteen and Germany with twenty-one "Dreadnoughts" at the selected moment. That is according to his own calculations. That is the calculation that he makes, and it shows a very great risk, and a risk which this country should not for one moment allow to occur. In other words, as my hon. Friend below me said, the right hon. Gentleman's margin of safety is too low for safety. His position is very difficult. It is due to the Cabinet not recognising that it takes a long time to create a Fleet and to get men, and that you cannot improvise either as you are going to do at this moment. Out of his own mouth he has said that he cannot spend the money. He has promised us larger Estimates next year, and he will not be able to spend them. He has promised us Supplementary Estimates this year, and we had them last year, and he could not spend them all. Therefore, the position is grave.
The Government have told us what they want. We know that they cannot spend all that is required. Will the right hon. Gentleman say that the Naval Estimate this year was not to be £50,000,000? He will not. Well, I know it was. The Memorandum to Canada states that in the year 1915 there will be a squadron in the Mediterranean of four battle cruisers and four armoured cruisers. Then it goes on to state that that will not suffice for the requirements of the Mediterranean. I tell him that it will not suffice, and any naval man who is a strategist and who looks into it knows perfectly well that it will not suffice, because Austria and Italy will have their ten "Dreadnoughts." What is he going to do? His slips are full. All his machinery and industrials are full for armour plates, guns, engines, and boilers. Here I want to prove my case. It is a critical moment. There is the danger, and he does not tell you how he is going to meet it. For many years a few of us have been putting these questions. We may get down now. The Press has got hold of it. The Press has realised that there is a danger. The First Lord of the Admiralty has recognised that there is a 1919 danger. I am sorry for him, because he does not see how to meet it. No, more do I. He cannot build, he tells us, as he ought to build. That is the position, and yet he gives us no sort of idea of how he is going to meet these dangers. He talks of future developments of Italy and Austria. There is no future development. The ships are there now, and in 1916 they will be ready to fight in action.
What are you going to do to meet those ships? It may be said, "Build a new Fleet." But you cannot build a new Fleet The whole of your slips are congested, owing to the stupendous folly of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor and of that Board of Admiralty that knew what was going to take place and did not take the slightest steps to meet it. Next year you will try to spend what money you can, but you cannot hurry up. Next year you will have a bigger Estimate, but you cannot spend it. The danger remains, but the margin is not strong enough. You have missed your chance in 1909 when any ordinary common-sense man would have come to the country and shown the facts and prepared, and it would have been very much cheaper. I had the honour of presenting a scheme for £68,000,000. You could have paid it all off under my scheme and would have only had £32,000,000 to pay this year, but you would have had a Fleet in every single particular instead of being 20,000 men short, as you are on 31st of this March, and there was not one of the people on the Front Bench who had the common-sense to see it. [Laughter.] It is no laughing matter. Your Estimate was to have been £50,000,000 this year. My big Estimate, with all commitments for four years, was never over £52,000,000. You could have paid it all out of taxes and been supreme at sea again, and you could have stopped all this competition which, because you niggle at it, will go on until war is certain. My plan would have stopped the war. The plan of that Front Bench ever since it has been in office has been much more likely to produce war.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Now. You are 20,000 men short if you go to war now [Laughter.] It is all very well laughing. I saw it happen often. I saw it happen in just exactly the same way—a snort and a sniffle—when I brought forward my £20,000,000. The War Staff sniffed and snorted. If the First Lord of the Admiralty is not 20,000 men short, why is he joining nearly 15,000 men for each year? He says himself that it takes five years to train a man; so it does; and he says that Germany is not equal to us because she has short-service men, but these men he is joining will not be efficient for the next four or five years, because the ships are filled up with recruits and boys. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I absolutely deny that. It is a travesty of the position. It is absolutely without the slightest foundation. There is not a ship in the Navy which cannot be manned with trained men on the mobilisation of the Fleet to-morrow.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
How many ships have you got, skeleton ships, on which you have only nucleus crews. The right hon. Gentleman does not know. He will naturally have to go to his adviser. I can tell him—the number is 143.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The right hon. Gentleman Shakes his head, but everybody knows, and any boy in the Fleet could tell him, that these reserve ships will not be fit to fight in action for six months. You might want to turn a ship into line when the enemy turns into line and gets accurately into position and his guns bear, and when that ship on the outside has to turn it might throw out the whole line of ships in the rear and expose them to the broadsides of the enemy, while they could only use their stern guns. You cannot count these ships as ready for the selected moment. I have asked several questions on this matter, and I have been told that it is not in the public interest to answer; but it is in the public interest to tell the truth. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman more questions about the men, because I know I am right in what I say about them, and I will prove that I am right. You are going to join 8,500 men this year, while the wastage is 7,000.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am going to join more than that number. We are endeavouring to raise the aggregate number after the wastage has been met. It is not to man the ships now, but to man the ships in three or four years' time.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
You cannot do it. The First Lord of the Admiralty last year was 10,000 men short. The number in 1905–6 was 136,000. You reduced it down to an average of 127,000. You got back to 136,000 last year, and now, according to your Estimates, you are going to have 146,000.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
There was a Supplementary Estimate for 1,500.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
You did not get those men. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us last July that there were 2,000 men in April. I asked him in March a question on a subject and he told me that there were 240 men short. I looked the matter up and I saw that I was right and that he was wrong; and the right hon. Gentleman in manning the Fleet as he is to-day would find, if we went to war, that I am right and he is wrong. Reference has been made in the Canadian Memorandum to the trade routes and it says that in 1902 there were 160 ships on the overseas stations, and that there are now 76. That is what makes our weakness. I do not say it was altogether the fault of the Admiralty that they scrapped cruisers, but I want to point out that nobody can say that the present state of affairs is satisfactory. Why were these cruisers scrapped? Why were the Fleet squadrons all reduced? It was in order that the personnel might be reduced, that being an expensive item. That is perfectly true, but we have this as the result, that you have to join this great number of men in the present year. The First Lord of the Admiralty in the most ingenious way says that the men are being joined in order to meet future requirements. It is nothing of the sort; it is to fill up the vacancies caused by the building of new ships and by the reduction of the number of men previously effected.
You reduced the number of men the moment you came into office for the sake of economy and because some people bawled on the benches below the Gangway opposite. Here we are, with our responsibilities and our riches increased, more 1922 dependent every month on the punctual and certain delivery of our food and raw material, yet you are taking cruisers off the line over which our food is conveyed. In 1906 we tried the plan of being chivalrous and magnificent, and we reduced our shipbuilding. The Germans put their tongue in their cheek and, laughing at us, increased their shipbuilding. In 1906 we reduced by three heavy ships, and Germany increased by three. In 1908 you again indulged in this lavish sentimentality, saying that the money was wanted for social reform, and you reduced shipbuilding by two, while Germany increased by four. You spend millions of money, but not enough, so that you are beaten, and the money is thrown away. Germany was quite right in increasing her number, and it is her business and not ours. What I urge is that we ought to put down sufficient ships for our defence, and never mind what other nations do at all. It does not matter what any other nation may do, so long as we take care to put ourselves into a position of such strength that we cannot be beaten. Achieve that result and then there will be no war.
You are far more likely to get war by shilly-shallying in building ships, two one year or more the next, or by going to Germany hat in hand. I must say that the First Lord of the Admiralty did act in a bold manner, but I did not like his language at all; I did not like the tone of it; his method was good, but his tone I did not like at all. Sentiment is not in his nature; it is only to appease those below the Gangway opposite that he uses that language. He proposes to have a holiday in shipbuilding. Why, if you put that in "Punch," you would find many to smile at it. It is absurd to suppose that the Germans think that it is real practical politics. It is all done for people below the Gangway opposite—those people who are always wanting to pull down our defences. The right, hon. Gentleman knows that just as well as I do, and such proposals are of no use in the world. It is absurd to suppose that Germany would accept it, and the right hon. Gentleman himself saw the folly of it when he said that it was just possible that other countries would not. Of course they would not, and for a man of his great intelligence and astounding ability I am really surprised at his proposal. Such a proposition, he will forgive me for saying, is not calculated to do any good whatever, save to make people laugh. As far as the Estimate goes, I have said that the 1923 right hon. Gentleman could not spend all the money. He told the House in 1911–12 he was going to spend £44,392,500, and he actually spent £42,414,256, so that would mean that nearly £2,000,000 went back to the Treasury. This year the right hon. Gentleman is asking for £46,309,300, but if you take £2,000,000 from that amount—
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Because the money was not spent. As a matter of fact, you are really taking very little more than you took last year, notwithstanding the pledges of the right hon. Gentleman last year and this year, which, as clearly as ever they could point, showed that we were in a critical position. The reason he cannot spend the money is that there is a shortage of artificers, of specially trained men, of riveters, fitters, and steel workers. The First Lord of the Admiralty knows that, because he impressed it upon the Canadians in his Memorandum. This year you are going to take £200,000 each for the dockyard ships, and you are only taking £28,000 for three contract ships. There will not really be any ships at all, because they will only be laid down within a few weeks of the close of the next financial year, and you will not get those ships until 1916, if then. The idea that this programme of five ships is going to add enormously to our strength is a mistaken one; it will not do so until after the danger period, which is the next three years. After the next three years, if anyone wants to fight us, they will have to fight the British Empire and not only England. But at present we are not strong enough, if we were suddenly called upon to go to war, notwithstanding the beautiful language of the First Lord of the Admiralty. I have dealt with the personnel, and I may say that we shall have a diminution of ships as well as of men. There is no mistake about that, because circumstances would not allow the Dominion ships to be manned by Dominion men. In his letter to Mr. Borden on 24th January the right hon. Gentleman said:—The prospect of being able to co-operate to any great extent in manning Canadian units is much less now than it would have been at the time of the Imperial Conference in 1909.The First Lord further said:—All our manning resources are strained to the utmost limits. Officers and skilled professional ratings cannot be improvised or obtained except by years of skilful training.1924 This enormous influx of newly recruited men means apparently that they have to be improvised. Our ships will be full of recruits for several years to come because they reduced the personnel of the Navy for five years after they came into office. I am glad to see that the idea of doing away with the Marines is abandoned. They are one of the finest corps in the world. I would like to point out to the First Lord that he is going to have a shortage of fifty-eight sub-officers and 175 warrant officers, or a total of 233. You have got that in the Estimates, and you will want those men by and by. Why is this being done, because I do not think it is a wise proceeding at all. It is stated that in 1906 the Admiralty could not make out what would be the future of the arrangements for the Navy. That is true, but in 1906 the Manning Committee put forward a proposal for from eight to ten thousand men extra for the Navy. What happened? Hon. Gentlemen on the bench below the Gangway opposite wanted to economise.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
What did the Government do in 1905, in the last year before they left office—did they not reduce the Navy Estimates by £3,500,000, and the personnel by 2,100?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That is perfectly true, and I raised my voice against it just the same as I do now. I have never taken a party line in this. I sacrificed my political career by resigning from the Front Bench opposite years ago. I am not abusing party at all. I abuse my own party a great deal worse than yours.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
The hon. Gentleman referred to 1906. If he will read the Debates of 1905, he will see that the reduction took place in order to reduce the Tea Duty a penny in the pound, before they went to the election.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That is a political question. The hon. Gentleman will realise that the number was increased again to 136,000.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Any way, those 10,000 men were not joined. That was a 1925 very serious question, and it is what has made this shortage now. The First Lord denies that there is any shortage, but it is true, and I will point out directly how short we are. The German increase from 1904–5 has been 28,600, and we have only increased 6,400 in the time, because of the reductions in between. The First Lord says that there is no shortage of men. Let me tell him this; a few years ago, the men's times were, about two years in harbour, and one year at sea, and now it is about two and a half years at sea, and one year in harbour. That is causing great unrest and discontent in the Service. The officers and men are overworked; they are loyal and subject to discipline, and they adhere to discipline, but the fact of the matter is that the Service is short-handed. There is one point in the Estimates which is very good, and I suppose the Secretary of the Admiralty had something to do with it, and that is that the number of men put down is the maximum, and not the average. I suppose he learned that from the First Lord's predecessor, who always stopped recruiting when he got to the average. He stopped recruiting the last year he was in office and the year before. He did not come up to the numbers voted but up to the average. I do not say he was not justified in doing so, but the result is apparent now. With regard to the question of pay, I am glad to notice from the speech of the First Lord that he considers the recent change is only an instalment. It is perfectly well known the Admiralty wanted to give more, but the Treasury objected. I hope the First Lord will adhere to his statement that this is only an instalment, and that they will pay the men properly. I think, too, the coastguards ought to be included.
I am glad also that the First Lord is going to take up the question of leave, and I think it will be better for him to go back to my plan of Friday to Monday once a month instead of Saturday to Monday twice a month. You should make the men as comfortable as ever you can; keep them as strict as you can; they will respect you for good discipline, but do not have anything about their social arrangements or domestic arrangements or about their travelling which is unfair. By letting them away for three nights once a month you will have them two Sundays on board, so that the captain could inspect every man of them. The First Lord will not agree with me when I say that the education scheme has entirely broken down. We all said it would break down. If it 1926 has not, why are you joining three different lots of officers, and how is it you are short of officers, and that you have got to go to the lower deck, and to the Royal Naval Reserve, and that you have this extraordinary proposal of public schools, which will not work, with boys of eighteen, juniors who joined at fourteen. Why do you not promote the E.R.A.'s.? You will be short of engineering officers in the very near future, and why not promote these men who have done loyal work on the lower deck? They are skilled artificers, and I hope that the First Lord will think of them in his scheme for increasing officers. To say that the education scheme has not broken down is not in accordance with facts. It was a scheme for common entry, and had three links in the chain. One link has gone, as you are joining the Marines under the old system; then you have only two links left.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The right hon. Gentleman says "No," but he knows I am right that they are joining the Marines on the old system, and you have not common entry. You will be short of engineering officers, and if your scheme was so successful, why are you bringing in these different classes to make up your number of officers? You call it an emergency measure. It is a very bad look-out to adopt an emergency measure in matters that take a long time, and which you cannot possibly arrange all of a sudden. That is especially so in the case of officers, and it might prove a very dangerous thing when you came to the selected moment in war. The right hon. Gentleman's scheme as to disciplinary measures is excellent. The punishments were not suited to modern requirements, and a great number of them were childish, and the officers said so. The new scheme of punishment is very good, and will make for better discipline. As to the aerial fleets, I am sorry the Government do not seem to realise what an aerial fleet not only may do, but will do. Every other arm we have ever had in the Army and the Navy has been more or less an improvement on what we used before. The bullet was an improvement on the bow and arrow, and the breech-loading gun was an improvement on the muzzle loader and steam was an improvement on sail, but none of them revolutionised war. Submarines were mobile lines decidedly. This thing will succeed, has succeeded, and 1927 must succeed. The only possible way you can meet it is like with like.
The Home Secretary's nonsensical ideas of saying, "Stop and deliver," and "Move on there," and suplying the man with charts and hailing him to come down, and "we will make you a prisoner," that is ludicrous. Joking apart, I think this is a very serious thing. Remember it is a cheap thing, and you can run up a great many of them cheaply. The man who said that this new weapon had removed us from being an island, said what is perfectly true. It has removed one of our great natural defences, that of being an island. It will not, in my opinion, be so serious for dropping bombs, but if it drops fire cylinders, of perhaps a hundred pounds weight, with a sensitive fuse, you would have a fire you could not put out, and which would produce immediate conflagration. Dropped over arsenals and magazines and places like that, you might have a very grave catastrophe, which might affect your campaign. It is a thing to be very carefully looked into, and I deplore that the Government have not taken a more serious view of it, both in the Army and the Navy. I hope that they will look into it more than they have done, and that they will feel that we have now to get the mastery of the air as well as of the sea. It is a weapon which is singular, because, for the first time in the history of the world, it can revolutionise warfare, and it is the only weapon which has done so. We are outclassed and outmatched; we know we have started too late; therefore, we ought to take a larger sum of money, and this is where the right hon. Gentleman could have spent more money. You could have very effective and tremendous results cheaper than you could have them in any other direction. Great progress is being made and the progress is satisfactory, says the First Lord. That is the usual politician's remark. Germany has from fifteen to twenty aircraft, each costing £30,000, as I am informed by one of the great airmen, and they can remain four days in the air. The First Lord said that he had put down £321,000 for naval aircraft. Is that so? I cannot find it in the Estimates.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The total expenditure on all services connected with the air included in the Navy Votes is £321,000.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That includes pilots, maintenance, and so on. Anyhow that is better than I thought. I was very glad to hear the First Lord's remarks on the question of oil. Oil has many advantages no doubt, and it has a terrible lot of disadvantages. There was a great advertisement about it, very much like the "Dreadnought" advertisement, but that has calmed down a bit. Has the First Lord reduced the flash point? If not, it is absolutely impossible for it to work on many ships. Reducing the flash point has nothing to do with the seaman or the constructor; it is a chemist's and engineer's question. We shall have most carefully to look at the dangers which might occur, even after the flash point is reduced as the most scientific men say it should be. I am glad that the First Lord said that our great motive power must be coal. We have got coal in this country. Oil in tanks in reserve is very easily destroyed; you cannot destroy coal. We have not the command of the oil supply, and it would be a fatal danger for us to have an oil-fuel Navy. The First Lord referred in kindly words to Germany. I was very glad to hear him do so. But there are two sides to this question. I have absolute sympathy with all those who wish to say kindly words to Germany. I would rather say nothing at all, because kindly words are sometimes misunderstood. But let us hear the other side. I have already quoted General Bernhardi. His book was published only last October. He is known throughout the world. The Radical Press, in reviewing his book, said that he was a man to be taken into account, and that his warnings should be heeded. What did he say?A general arbitration treaty between two countries affords no guarantee of permanent peace.I believe the general situation makes a war with England inevitable.The German Navy must attack England without a declaration of war to ensure success.Even a Commander-in-Chief should be given right without reference to Berlin to attack as the chance might pass.I have read these words, not to cause bad blood or bad feeling, but in order that the Committee might see that there is another side to the question. We ought to mark these words of a perfectly honest man, who thinks he is saying what is right for his own country. I agree with the Radical papers that he is too big a man to ignore, and that if he says these things he means them. If you read his book you will see that he knows all our weak places. He knew that very weak place of the want 1929 of protection of the trade routes. He knows them all, and he has put in his book how he would attack them. We ought not to pass all that by as if it did not mean anything. It should be looked into and, without making any offensive reply, or any reply of all, we ought to see that our defences are such that those suggestions cannot be carried out. I agree with the eloquent peroration of the First Lord. He said:—We may justly claim that naval supremacy which is vital to Great Britain is also a part of the commanding treasure of mankind, and that in maintaining it effectually against any challenge we pursue no selfish or unworthy end.That is a fine peroration; it is good language; it is good common sense; the only fault about it is that it has not the merit of fact. We do not command the sea. We cannot command the sea so long as we are neglecting the air and discussing every other month as to whether we have one ship or two ships over the next strongest Power. The First Lord knows perfectly well where we are inferior. He has made a very good move by sending the "Swift-sure" to the East Indian station. He is beginning to see the weak points. I again repeat that the danger period is three years, and you cannot make up either in ships or in men during that time. I should like to see much more money spent on the air. I am perfectly delighted at the arming of the mercantile marine. But we are not overwhelmingly supreme against one Power alone, and I say that the First Lord of the Admiralty cannot spend the money to make such an output as the Government regard as the minimum of defence. I am very much obliged to the Committee for listening to me for so long, but I thought it my duty to criticise the different points to which I have referred.
§ Sir J. COMPTON-RICKETT
I shall not venture to speak on the technical points raised by the last two speakers, but I shall address myself very briefly to some common-sense considerations arising out of one item in the speech of the First Lord. We are told that the vessels now building and to be built on behalf of our Dominions are to be concentrated in a group, whether they be cruisers of a fighting character or not; that they are to be sent about the world, first of all, to show themselves, so to speak, or to advertise themselves in our own ports; and that then they are to be stationed at Gibraltar for the purpose of being sent, in the event of the outbreak of war, to any one of our Dominions which might be threatened with 1930 attack. Considering that these ships are the last word of navy construction, that, they are fighting ships equal to any ships now being constructed for the home Navy, I submit to the First Lord that if war broke out it would not be a time for courtesy or politeness, or for the consideration of any question except that of smashing as soon as possible the fleet of the enemy in the home waters, thus incidentally and consequentially preserving the integrity of the Empire. Unless we are able to destroy or hold the fleet of the enemy concentrated in the North Sea and intended for attack upon these coasts, all other provision, in either Australia or New Zealand or Canada, goes for nothing. The Empire is bound to go to pieces if we fail in the home seas. That being so, surely the most efficient defence of the Dominions consists in defeating as rapidly as possible the attack upon these Islands.
What is likely to happen? is the nation attacking us likely to send a "Dreadnought" to thread its way up the St. Lawrence, to alarm the harbour of Sydney, or to threaten Melbourne? No Great Power would adventure its first-class ships to attack our Possessions abroad. It would at the most send out a second or third-class ship for raiding purposes, one that it could afford to lose, or one which, when it had made its raid, could slip into the port of a neutral and be disarmed. We are not likely for one moment at the commencement of war to have to meet any attack of a serious character in our Dominions or Possessions other than these Islands. Hence the First Lord is perfectly right in inducing the Dominions to lease or to lend their vessels to us in order that we may utilise them in the best way for their own defence. If a cat is attacking a nest, surely the whole fight consists in the mother bird defeating the cat as she climbs the tree. If the mother bird is caught and destroyed, the cat will soon seize and destroy the nest. There is no chance for the other divisions of the Empire if we cannot at once face any attack in the home seas. That is, I am sure, fully appreciated by our Dominions, or they would not have taken the step they have done, in spite perhaps of a good deal of local feeling in favour of local defence. Local defence goes for nothing, because if the war is concluded in our favour no one is likely to attack our Possessions abroad. If we fail at home the nexus of the Empire is broken, the Empire falls to pieces, and the fragments, such as Canada and other 1931 States, will, by a process of gravitation, be joined to the United States and so forth.
I think we may congratulate ourselves for the moment on the reduced strain in competition. But whilst we and Germany have got on well, we must remember that that reduced strain in competition is due to one fact, and probably one fact alone, namely, the change in the military situation on the Continent. The change in the position of military affairs in the East of Europe, the enormous sudden demands of Germany, France, and Russia, and the tremendous sums to be expended on the army in those countries, make Germany more prepared for the moment to talk about the relation of sixteen to ten, or, at any rate, to suspend the severe competition which has been going on up till now. But that does not mean that the position is altered. The problem that we have to meet still exists. No one in this House really believes that Germany has designs on this country for the mere pleasure of attacking her, or with the desire of seizing any of our possessions abroad. She would not be allowed to retain them; she would not be able to retain them. That is not her object. Her object is to have a free hand in Europe, and she knows that we hold, for the time being, the balance of power. We have not created the situation, but we unfortunately have to suffer from it. We cannot blame the State which causes the difficulty, and which will prevent any permanent condition of peace until the difficulty is removed. If we had a foreign State in occupation of the counties of Cornwall and Devon, with Plymouth in the hands of that State armed against us, we should never rest, and never allow Europe to rest until we had redressed that wrong. I may remind the House that the fortress of Metz in Lorraine is 216 miles from Paris, and that Plymouth is 225 miles from London. It is for diplomacy for other reasons and in other ways to settle the burden that rests upon the States of Europe. Upon this country in particular the first real claim, the first real demand upon our resources involves our continually augmenting our resources to meet the competition of the forces of Germany. If we can arrest that competition no doubt it would be of very great advantage, for this reason: it is so much easier to stop increasing than to decrease. If Germany raises her force still higher, she is unlikely to abandon that standard, and hence we 1932 will be compelled permanently to maintain a higher standard of Navy force than is really necessary. If we can secure a Stock Exchange holiday at this time it would give time for reconsideration, and possibly some causes which at this time make for unrest and danger to Europe could be averted, or, at any rate, agreement come to.
§ Mr. FALLE
I want to call special attention to a matter which I mentioned to the First Lord of the Admiralty, which led to a transaction which I shall not attempt to characterise, because I have no language at my disposal which I think meets the circumstances. That is the so-called gift, the so-called offer, of the Federated Malay States of two and a quarter millions to this country. There are four Federated States, and they are in a most curious position to this country, which is a trustee of these countries. These four States. Perak, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, and Selangor, are nominally ruled by Sultans. In reality they are ruled by a Chief Secretary, by High Commissioners, by four British Residents, and the four Sultans. There are about 1,000,000 people in these four States. The Federated Malay States are said to have made this offer at a time when there was what I call bogus news as to offers from certain Indian princes of a large number of "Dreadnoughts." At that time, therefore, the offer of these States did not meet with that recognition from the public which it otherwise would have undoubtedly received. The offer passed un-noticed. How was that so-called offer made? This is the official account of how that offer was made. The Chief Secretary saw the senior Sultan, the Sultan of Perak, and gently suggested to him that the four Malay States should offer two and a quarter millions of money. The Sultan was, of course, overjoyed at the idea of taking his people's money. We had gone there to protect these people, and to prevent the Sultans robbing them. Suddenly the white man turns round and suggests that the Sultans should give the hard earned money of these poor people to the white man—that is, to this great country. Naturally the Sultans were delighted They wanted to know what was coming to them. I have in my hands a copy of the "Singapore Free Press." It gives us clearly what it thinks of the transaction.
The Sultans come from a brave people. In the old days each would had led a small army against the other with the intention 1933 of wiping him out. That is the use they would have made of the money in those days. Nowadays they use their money by handing it over to the State of the white man. What was to be given to the Sultans? An extra gun in their salute, so that instead of six or eight guns they might have seven or nine. The Sultan of Kelantan, the neighbouring state to the four Federated Malay States, is called a feudatory. He is in a different position. He has been made a honorary K.C.M.G. The Chief Secretary who delicately suggested to these four Sultans that the money should be given has been made a K.C.M.G. That I should think is one of the most expensive honours that has ever been given to any man. It works out at about £600,000 a letter for the brown man's money, which we should have held as trustee for that man. But the expense to my mind is not in money; it is in the honour of this country; the honour which I say we have abused in taking the money of these men. The governing body of these four States consists of a High Commissioner—an Englishman; a Chief Secretary—an Englishman; four British residents—Englishmen; and four Sultans. To these the Chief Secretary suggested that they should give two and a quarter millions to Great Britian.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
I do not think it is in order for the hon. Member to discuss this action in relation to Crown Colonies of the Empire or the Dominions.
§ Mr. FALLE
It was the great point made by the Secretary for the Colonies that they were not in the position either of the Crown Colonies or the Dominions, but I naturally obey your ruling at once. I asked the Premier a question on this point. His reply was that the matter was on all fours with the case of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, and that there was no new principle involved.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
We are not now discussing the proposed gifts to the Royal Navy by the Dominions, and it is not open to the hon. Member upon this Vote to criticise the acts of those who 1934 have given or propose to give these gifts to the Royal Navy.
§ Mr. FALLE
The offering of Canada amounts to something like £7,000,000, and there are about that number of men, women, and children in that great Dominion. The offer from the Malay States amounts to about £2,225,000, and the population of that State is about 1,000,000 people, so that the sum per head in the case of both those offers is easily worked out. The two offers, we were told, were made upon exactly the same subject, but it seems to me that the offer in the case of one, an absolutely free white State, was not quite on the same footing as that from the Protective State. The next difficulty arises in regard to what was asked in this House on several occasions, first by myself, and also by hon. Members sitting opposite, as to this policy. Are we to have an offer from the Sultan of Socotca of a torpedo, or from Basutoland of a cruiser, and from the Rajah of Sarawak of, say, an aeroplane? Is Egypt going to fortify Alexandria, and to build a dock there for us? Can we imagine Lord Kitchener suggesting to the Khedive that such a thing should be the case? Personally, I cannot imagine any such thing, and I think, as we are strong and they are weak, we should refrain from accepting that offer, at any rate until the House of Commons have been consulted. To my mind, that offer is not one that this country can honourably accept. Every man has a right to his own opinion on that point. When once a certain ruler took money from what is considered an odious tax, he said, non olet. To my mind, this money does not come under that head at all, and I think the consent of this house should first be obtained, and I think if the facts were known, and the party Whips were taken off, I have not the slightest doubt that it would not have been acceptable. I want to say a few words upon the subject of the pay of the men in the Navy. That is a point on which I have peculiar opportunities of understanding, as I am the representative of one of the greatest naval ports in the Kingdom.
§ Mr. FALLE
I say that with all due deference to Devonport. The pay of the ordinary seaman is 14s. 1d. a week, and the pay of the A.B. is 17s. 6d., including his food. I do not include his rating, 1935 because his lodging on board ship is not such as you would give to a dog. It is as good as you can get, according to the designers, but I think the designers are at fault, and that the first consideration should be that these men should be properly housed. We hear of consumption in the Navy; there should be no such thing. These men get consumption, not because of want of fresh air, but because of the foul air they are forced to breathe in their sleeping berths. I say every one of these men is better worth £1 a week than any man on the Front Bench opposite is worth £500 a year. That only means that Jack is worth a great deal more than £1 a week. You take a sailor, and you expect a twenty-four hour character from him. At any moment of the twenty-four hours his character must be very good or excellent. You expect from him superior discipline, and you expect him to have a very good and exemplary character if he is to succeed, and during every one of the twenty-four hours he is ready to risk his limbs or life, and you pay him 17s. 6d. a week. You pay ordinary unskilled labour in the dockyard for a forty-eight-hour week 22s. If the sailor loses a limb in certain circumstances he gets a pension. If he loses his life his widow gets 5s. and each one of his children 1s. 6d. per week. It is a shame. The other day we heard of a heroic action of some sailors, who set out voluntarily, and on their own initiative, to plant our flag at the South Pole. All honour to them. They went, as I say, on their own initiative to do a great act for a great country. Almost in the same week we heard of the loss of a cutter in the Persian Gulf with officers and men. They went in obedience to orders. Where they are we do not know. The coast has been searched for wreckage, and for all we know these men are slaves to some slaver which they tried to intercept. I do not know that any real effort was made to discover whether these men were drowned or whether they are slaves. I think that is a matter that should engage the very serious attention of the First Lord. I suppose they were drowned. I hope they were drowned, because they would be far better off than being slaves in the hands of the piratical Arabs on that coast. The country undoubtedly forced the Government to provide for the dependants of Captain Scott and his followers. They gave the widow £200 a 1936 year; they gave her the honour that would have fallen to her husband, and they pensioned his children. It was only right and just and proper for the Government to do that. But what is going to happen to the wives and children of those men who were lost in the Persian Gulf? The First Lord says he cannot reconsider the scale of pensions, and the nation has not yet forced his hand; therefore, the widows and children of those poor men, who lost their lives fighting for England in obedience to orders, are to receive the large sum of 5s. a week and 1s. per week for every child. If you send your dog to the Home for Lost Animals or to the Dumb Friends League, it will cost you 2s. 6d. We provide for certain people, but we absolutely neglect the widows and children of those men who have been scorched to death or drowned in the Persian Gulf. They have gone there and we pass them by unrecorded and unrecompensed, with a pension for those left behind of the nature I have stated. Their children received 1s. 6d. per week. We pass a law to put down what we all consider infamy and we call it the White Slave Traffic, but we allow the greatest Department of this Government, upon which we depend for our honour and safety, to deliberately manufacture in this way subjects for the White Slave Traffic, and if these poor people do not become entangled in that traffic, if they are not forced to drink the cup of infamy and eat the bread of shame, it is no thanks to the Government, but the fact that they come of honest, good, clean-minded folk who respect themselves and who respect the names of the men who have lost their lives in the service of their country. The system is a wicked one and calls for immediate reconsideration. I am quite sure the Secretary to the Admiralty is just as strong in his heart on this point as I am myself. We are spending a great deal of money, and I see no reason why those who lose their limbs and health, and the children and widows of those who lose their lives for their country, should not be properly looked after.
§ Mr. FALLE
Ten years ago we did not have the advantage of the presence of the hon. Member who has interrupted me, but with his presence we hope to get these things, and we hope he and his party may sometimes vote for their own class. 1937 Every year large sums of money which are voted are not spent. Last year there was a large sum unspent, and this year there is a comparatively small sum, but it all goes back to the Treasury to be revoted, and I should like to suggest that those surpluses should not go hack to the Treasury, but should be set aside to form a nucleus which would provide a decent sum for the people I have mentioned. There may be difficulties in the way, as I know there are difficulties in the way of every new suggestion, but I do not see any particular reason why what I have suggested should not be carried out. I do not care what the plan is that provides for these difficulties, but I insist that proper provision should be made, and I am sure the country would gladly and freely give permission that this money should be used for the benefit of those who have served their country in this way. I think the time is not far distant when this will have to be done no matter what Government happens to be in power. Unless we pay our men properly, what can we expect? At Portsmouth I find many men whom I should like to keep in the Service leaving. They are dissatisfied because there are not enough chances of promotion, and they see nothing in front of them. The Secretary to the Admiralty knows it as well as I do. The Navy men and the Marines, both red and blue, receive about half of what they are worth. We rely upon their discipline, loyalty and pride in the Service. These men in the Navy see other men striking for an increase in their wages. They read of the strike of the engine drivers on the railways, and they read about a driver being discharged because he takes two rums hot and is declared to be drunk. They read that in this case the Government send down a special Commissioner who takes some small evidence, the result of which is that Driver Richardson is reinstated.
These men in the Navy consider themselves underpaid and they consider that their widows and children are shamefully treated. Has the Government ever heard of the mutiny at the Nore, and will it not learn in time? Is there no one on the Treasury Bench with the brains of a statesman who will see this danger in time, and who will recognise that these men have the greatest claim upon us, and that it is our duty to put an end if we can to this state of unrest in the Service, and thus snake the Navy what it should be, that is, absolutely 1938 contented? The right hon. Gentleman opposite knows that there is very great unrest in the Service, and he knows the cause of it. If we had an absolutely contented Navy we should increase the efficiency of our fighting force by more than another "Dreadnought." I am absolutely convinced of that, and I make my statement after very considerable experience of the greatest naval port in the Kingdom. My Noble colleague has spoken of the engineers and the engine-room artificers, and I hope we shall hear something more when the right hon. Gentleman comes to speak of that six shillings of which the engineers consider they have been robbed. Hon. Members have heard what gratification it is to us to know that the Royal Marines are to be increased. They are the finest force in the Kingdom. There remains only the coastguards, and I trust that magnificent body of men is going to receive very careful attention from the First Lord and the Financial Secretary. At any rate, at this moment they have a number of causes for discontent. Those causes should be looked into and eliminated. My colleague ended his speech by referring to the peroration of the right hon. Gentleman. In that peroration I see the words:—We have suppressed the slaver.I hope at a later date to draw attention to those remarks. I think that the right hon. Gentleman could not have heard of San Thormé and Principe.Is there any part of the world where the White Ensign does not revive associations of good feeling and fair play?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913, col. 1790.]I will tell him where it does not, and that is in the bight in which those two unfortunate islands are situated.
I do not think anyone who heard the statement of the First Lord yesterday could fail to be struck with two most salient facts. The first is the reorganisation which has taken place in the existing forces of the Fleet, and the second is the reorganisation and the economy of personnel which is either afloat or ashore. He has been able with an addition of only five capital ships and with an addition of 5,000 men to raise the First Fleet in home waters from twenty-two battleships in full commission to twenty-nine, and, further, he has foreshadowed that with the addition of the five ships to be brought into commission this next year and the addition of the 7,000 men he proposes to raise the first two fleets in home waters from thirty 1939 to forty-five battleships. In addition to that the battle cruisers are to be increased from four to eight. The point that struck me very much in listening to the First Lord's speech was the proposal which was made last year, and which is again repeated this year, of instituting in the new programme a complete squadron of a particular class of ships. In this case a complete squadron of light-armoured cruisers is to be laid down whereby we shall get on a certain date a uniform, homogeneous squadron, which certainly must be of enormously increased value to any commander-in-chief. I am sure everyhody who has had any experience of organising men must realise how hard it is to economise in men who are employed off the active service ratings, whether it may be in the military forces or in the naval forces of the Crown; and the fact that the First Lord has been able by economies in men who are perhaps enjoying shore or other duties to raise the number of men who are available for service during peace conditions by 2,000, and to raise the number who will be available and immediately ready for war by 6,000, is a matter on which I think the nation may well congratulate him.
Another striking point came out in the First Lord's speech last night, namely, his intention to approach the shipowners of this country to arm their merchant ships so that they can be used in case of war. I think all students have realised that the danger our shipping would experience would not be so much from the armed cruisers or destroyers of a hostile fleet, but would mainly, or almost entirely, be from armed merchantmen. Armed ships have not the accommodation on board to take on the crew of a captured and sunk merchant vessel. Battleships cannot afford the crew to put on a prize ship, and armed merchantmen have the enormous advantage of great power of speed. I am glad the step has been taken at once—I do not think it could have been any longer delayed—to arm our merchant ships in case of war. I should be very glad to know how far a response has been received from the shipowners of this country, and I would press the First Lord and the Admiralty generally to put this matter of arming the liners to the fullest legitimate expense, because the food supplies of this country are gradually coming more and more in liners. There is, in addition to that, a distinct advantage in training the 1940 crews of these merchant ships in the use of guns, because in time of war we should have that reserve of trained men to fall back upon in case of emergency.
I want to bring before the attention of the Financial Secretary the conditions of labour and employment in His Majesty's dockyards. Last year an increase of £41,000 was allocated by the Navy Estimates to the dockyards of this country. These advances were made on three distinct principles. First, the 1s. rise in the wages of unskilled labourers and the 6d. rise in the wages of the shipwrights employed in the dockyards was an all-round flat rate rise. Since then there has been another principle employed of giving a 6d. rise to the engineers and boilermakers. The third principle applied was a 1s. rise to the maximum and minimum skilled labourer. I think the men appreciated the flat rate rise, although I admit the shipwrights did not seem to get the rise to which they were entitled. A flat rate rise all round seems to me a sound principle when an increase is to be given. The average rise is also a sound principle, because it has the effect of raising the lower-paid men to the general average rate of wage. But when you come to examine the principle of increasing the minimum and maximum, although it is a distinct advantage to men of the minimum class, there are a large number of men between the men of the minimum and the men on the maximum who experience no rise at all. Consequently, I would press upon the Admiralty, when they do give an increase to their workers in the dockyards, that it should invariably be on the all-round flat rate basis, such as is given in the civil yards throughout the country, or that it should be on the principle of the average increase, and that the system of increasing the maximum and minimum should give way to the other two more equitable and fair systems.
A point has been made in several of our debates with regard to the value of the privileges which dockyard workers enjoy in Government service. I admit fully that those privileges exist, but I do not think they are of the value which the Admiralty put upon them. There is, in the first place, the pension at the end of service. A man in a Government dockyard who is on the establishment himself contributes to a very large extent to that pension., In fact, he contributes from 1s. to 1s. 6d. per week out of his ordinary wage. The pension is not of such immense value as 1941 would seem to be the case, because only 17½ per cent. of the men in the yards are able to come on to the establishment. Consequently, you cannot claim that the value of that pension is so great as the stress which is laid upon it by the Admiralty when they reply to our requests. Another privilege accorded to them and which is classed as being one of the equivalents of pay is the medical benefit which they enjoy. Since the passing of the Workmen's Compensation Act it is hard to say that it is so immense a benefit as is made out. Further, the men in the yards, whether they are hired or established men, all have to pay under the system of national insurance, and that must detract from the value of the privilege. There is the four days' holiday in the year. That, of course, is a distinct advantage to the men. With regard to the forty-eight hours a week, it must be remembered that length of work is also given in the civil yards where higher rates of wages are paid. Then continuity of employment is held up as being another advantage.
That continuity of employment is a system which is of great value both to the Admiralty and to the men. In civil life we find that a firm would prefer to keep on its own hands rather than put on new ones. Finally, there is the question of the bonus to hired men. That works out, if a man earns about 36s. a week, to an equivalent of about 8d. a week on his ordinary wage. I admit that all these advantages are considerable, but I am very doubtful whether they are of the value which is placed upon them by the Admiralty. A shipwright may be earning 36s. a week in the dockyards, but a shipwright outside is earning perhaps 40s. a week, consequently the value of these privileges is estimated in that case at 4s. per week. Take another trade, the joiners. You find their wages in the dockyards are 34s. 6d. per week, but, on the other hand, the wages outside are more than £2 per week, so that the value of these privileges is calculated at 6s. per week. There is a great feeling at the present moment in the dockyards that the men are not getting their full share of the trade prosperity which is going on throughout the country. I am prepared to admit that the Admiralty are in a very difficult position. Their Estimates are going up by leaps and bounds, but I do think that it is essential they should consider some of the points which I have tried to put before them, particularly on the question of pay, 1942 if they do raise the wages it should be on the flat rate scale, or they should raise the average of the rate in that particular trade. Then there is a point which I wish to put to the Financial Secretary with regard to the piece-work prices which are paid in the dockyards. At the present moment it is quite possible to find two workmen belonging to different categories of workers, who may be employed on identically the same work, with the same hours, and on exactly the same conditions. It is possible to have shipwrights and joiners both employed on planing decks, and yet, because their standard rate of wages is different, you find that the piecework rates on which they work are also different. Some twelve months ago it was found necessary to do away with one particular trade of wood-caulkers because they were often put to shipwright work and received different remuneration. It would be better to class them all as shipwrights. In the consideration of this question, with regard to piecework, the Admiralty should treat all men who do identically the same work on exactly the same basis.
I must touch for a moment upon a particular grievance on the part of hired men. I do not believe I shall have very much sympathy from the Financial Secretary. The pensions of the hired men are not State pensions. They are self-maintained pensions to which they have been paying for years. They have been put off from year to year with the statement that it has been under the consideration of the Admiralty. I know representations have been made by the National Council for obtaining pensions for State employés, asking for further information and assistance in the matter. Last year when the Estimates were before the House the Financial Secretary said he would be willing to receive a deputation to go into this question with the men. I do not know What steps are being taken by the Admiralty in this matter. I trust we may have some answer from the Financial Secretary.
At the present moment the men do not really understand or know whether the Admiralty are in favour of this claim or against it. I believe it would be in the interests of the workers if they would give a distinct and categorical answer as to whether they will give the loan of the Government actuaries or assistance in administrative management. It would be 1943 almost better to tell them, once for all, that there is no hope whatever of getting anything like a pension with the assistance of the Admiralty. A point was raised by the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) last year with regard to the bonus paid on the death of a hired worker to his widow. It does occur that a man dies within a short time of reaching fifteen years' service and of attaining his eligibility for the bonus. If he lived he would be invalided, and would be entitled to a sum of money allowed to him by the Admiralty. The Admiralty should recognise that the man has attained almost the fifteen years in which he would be entitled to a bonus, and, if so, they should grant to the widow of such a man some definite fixed sum, either half of what he would have got if he had lived, or some particular sum, and not leave her entirely dependent upon the Compassionate Fund of the Admiralty. She has now no knowledge of what she may get. I am prepared to admit that in cases in which I have applied to the Admiralty representatives they have given a compassionate allowance in definite cases, but it is the uncertainty which is more galling than the fact of the amount, although the amount is small. I wish that some definite scheme could be introduced whereby a widow should know that she would have something in the time of need.
There is another point upon which we applied to the Admiralty for information last year, and that was the inequality of the treatment of the hired boys and the apprentices in the dockyards. I am aware this is rather an old question. These questions come up year after year because they are always under consideration, but when we feel, as representatives of the dockyard, that there is a real grievance in existence, our only possible plan is to repeat our case year after year when the question comes up. I believe the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. J. Ward) would not have got so far as he is to-day if he had not pressed his questions so strongly with regard to promotion from the ranks. This case is so simple that I am almost ashamed to take up the time of the House with it. The apprentice enters a dockyard after a competitive examination, and he goes through the apprentice period. The hired boy enters at the same age without the same competitive examination. When they come to count up what the time for the pension should be you would 1944 think that they should be considered as being, if anything, in the same position, but it works out in exactly the opposite way. The hired boy counts his time for a pension from the age of sixteen, while the apprentice, who passes an examination, counts his time from the age of twenty-one or twenty-two. I know the Financial Secretary will tell us that it is not entirely in the hands of the Admiralty, but I wish he would press the Treasury to look into the matter and see if these legitimate grievances which exist cannot be somehow put right before another year. There are several things which have been done during the last year which have been received with great gratification by the men—for instance, the extension of the nine days' leave with full pay to the chargemen of labourers who were not included last year, only the chargemen of trades being included. This has given considerable satisfaction to the men who got 3s. per week added to their wages. Among the chargemen of labourers last year, certain men were selected, but I never could understand why the particular class of chargemen of painters were excluded from that Grant. Perhaps the First Lord will see whether it is possible to include them. All through the dockyard, at least in the dockyard I have the honour to represent, a large number of men throughout the yard have received a slight increase of pay. For that they are distinctly grateful to the Admiralty, and I desire to convey their thanks to the Financial Secretary. The question of the introduction of additional apprentices throughout the dockyard is another matter in which the men are vitally interested. The men who were in charge of the apprentices gain something through having apprentices under them. At the present time when the skilled trades, such as shipwrights, are at a low ebb, the introduction of a large number of apprentices would be of great value. A number have been introduced into Pembroke Dockyard, and I should be glad to see as large a proportion there as there is in other dockyards. Further, the extension of the establishment to men in the Works Department has been received with great satisfaction by the men in that grade. At the present moment there is undoubtedly considerable difficulty in raising sufficient men for the Fleet. It is necessary to take boys and train them from the beginning of their service. I beg the Admiralty to carefully consider Whether it would not be practicable, wise 1945 and advantageous, to form a naval training barracks for men in the Navy which would particularly recruit throughout Wales. I believe the men of Wales would answer well to the request of the Admiralty, and would support such an institution. Milford Haven, which I have the honour to represent, seems admirably suited for such an establishment, and I hope the Admiralty, in considering how to find the men necessary to man the Fleet will consider the desirability of establishing a Welsh Naval College.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
No one can say that the Naval Estimates are sensational. Compared with the advance in armaments on the Continent, they may be described as almost modest, if not humdrum, but viewed from the standpoint of naval supremacy, on which, to quote the picturesque language of the First Lord,stand our lives and the freedom we have guarded for nearly one thousand years,the programme for the coming financial year falls very far short of meeting the requirements necessary for the security of the Empire and the defence of our trade. Nominally the expenditure shows an increase for the present year of about £1,250,000, but in reality there is a decrease, since the First Lord told us last July that of the sum voted for the current financial year £1,600,000 remained unspent, that sum would have to be revoted in the Estimates in the current year.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
That is not what the House or the newspapers actually understood. The expenditure on ships in hand is cut down by nearly £750,000, while the sum allocated to new construction has declined by over £605,000, and of this £28,000 only is to be spent within the year on each of the three contract ships. If my contention on this point be correct, obviously these ships cannot pass into the fighting line until the summer of 1916, or later still. With regard to the battleship programme, we have in being for 1915 only a two-ship programme against the three-ship programme of Germany. Even if a Supplementary Estimate be taken, and it is possible for the five battleships to be built in the ordinary time, I contend that 1946 we have not even then the requisite margin of 60 per cent. without counting the "New Zealand." In fact, the First Lord of the Admiralty admitted to-day, under what I venture to call a severe cross-examination, that he intended to count the "New Zealand" in the 60 per cent. margin. But not only has he counted the New Zealand ship in his margin for the North Sea, but he has also counted it in the new squadron of the five Dominion ships it is proposed to station at Gibraltar. I think the Financial Secretary wilt agree that you cannot count the same ships twice over. Yet that is clearly what the First Lord has done. I say that in these circumstances it was the obvious duty of the Admiralty to make provision, not for five battleships, but for six. I pass to the Mediterranean. With regard to the position at Malta, what did the First Lord tell us last year? Did he not lead us to believe that our naval strength in the Mediterranean would be greater in the future than it has been in the past? But will it? As the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) pointed out, it is not impossible that with the new programmes of Italy and Hungary, our position in the Mediterranean will be one not of equality, but rather one of inferiority.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Nor will the Dominion ships help the matter, because they are going to be stationed at Gibraltar, unless of course they are to be stationed there in place of the squadron of which we heard so much last year. The First Lord bids us take comfort in the fact—these are his own words—that,in conjunction with the Navy of France, our Mediterranean Fleet would make a combined force superior to all possible combination.A remarkable statement, look at it how you will, and one I think the Committee will agree somewhat difficult to reconcile with the recent pronouncement of the Prime Minister as to our understanding with France in the matter of armaments. In one case we have the Prime Minister repudiating an obligation on our side of any kind, and in the other we have the First Lord of the Admiralty relying for the safety of our Eastern Empire, our trade and our food supply, upon the assistance which he presumes will be ready at any moment to be given us by France. As to the question of the expenditure of the money, the excuse put 1947 forward for not spending the money is, to quote the First Lord's words,the extreme congestion in the shipyards arising from the extreme demand upon our shipbuilding plant, and especially upon our skilled labour supply.I say emphatically that it is the business of a Government to govern, and that it is the essence of government in naval policy to have at the disposal of the Admiralty sufficient means to meet the national demand. It is ridiculous to say that the requirements of the Navy are to be subject to dockyard facilities. That is tantamount to saying the safety of the Empire and the security of our commerce are absolutely in the hands of the owners of private yards. Did not the right hon. Gentleman tell us that our financial resources are greater than those of any other foreign nation? If that be so, why does he not use those resources and provide the necessary accommodation? Look what Germany has done in the matter of dockyard facilities? What Germany has done, cannot Great Britain do? The obvious way of meeting the difficulty is to increase the accommodation of the Royal yards. Provided funds are available it is quite easy to have more slips, at least in some of His Majesty's dockyards, capable of taking ships of the "Dreadnought" class. With regard to the question of the scarcity of skilled labour, if the First Lord refers to the shipwrights in the Royal dockyards, the Admiralty have only themselves to blame. So long as they underpay these skilled mechanics so long will there be a scarcity. Already dockyard shipwrights are leaving to join private yards. The hon. Gentleman admitted that to me in answer to a question the other day.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
No, I did not say large numbers. I said they were going. But I do not quibble about the question of numbers. It is sufficient that the Financial Secretary agrees with me that shipwrights are leaving the dockyards to join private yards. I will tell him something else which is within my knowledge, and not within his, and that is there are two shipwrights who are leaving one of the Royal yards in this country for Australia, and one of them is an established man and so entitled to a pension. If these shipwrights were paid a proper wage, do you suppose they would leave a pension 1948 behind and go out to Australia? The First Lord tells us that to keep pace with labour conditions outside increases have been made in the wages of the dockyard employés. That is, on the face of it, a fact. A certain amount of money has been placed at the disposal of the Admiralty by the House for the purpose of raising the wages in the dockyard, but in many cases these increases have been forced from the Admiralty by criticisms passed upon Admiralty policy from this side of the House. It is true that last year the Financial Secretary was able to announce a rise of 6d. in the weekly wage of the dockyard shipwrights. That brought his stipend up to 36s. a week, but what is that compared with £2 Os. 6d. on the Tyne for new work and £2 3s. 6d. for repair work? The difference is so startling, that you can scarcely complain if the dockyard shipwright thinks he is hardly fairly treated by a rise of 6d. a week in his pay. To use a colloquial expression, the excuse put forward for cutting down construction is very thin indeed. To my mind it coincides too nearly with the policy of the Government to allow the most impartial critic to come to any other conclusion than that the Government have not yet grasped the true inwardness of the bedrock principle of naval policy that if you want peace you must be prepared for war.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
It would take a very long time to explain what men get pensions, and I do not think the Committee would care to hear me discuss the question. It is an intricate one. Some men in the Royal dockyards get pensions, others get none at all. Only 17 per cent. of the men are on the establishment, and they get the pensions, while 83 per cent. are hired men, and get no pensions at all. The men on the establishment who get pensions have to pay 1s. 6d. a week towards them. As regards the men on the Tyne I have quoted a somewhat low figure. I might have gone as high as £3 or £3 10s. With regard to cruisers, ships of that class have three duties to perform. They have to give assistance to the battle fleet, to protect our commerce in time of war, and to display our naval strength to the world in time of peace. The question we have 1949 to answer is can our fleet of cruisers and the equivalent vessels be considered sufficient for the purposes in view. The Admiralty answer is yes, but public opinion says no. Taking cruisers, gunboats, and sloops, in 1904 we possessed 207 vessels coming within that category. In 1912 we only had 117. These figures, if they prove anything, prove that a considerable number of vessels of this type have been removed without being replaced. Then why is no provision made in the Estimates for second-class protected cruisers? At present we have forty of these ships against Germany's thirty, yet to a great extent we depend upon this class of vessel for the protection of our overseas trade. Compare the sea-borne trade of the two Empires, and ask yourself if the ratio of forty to thirty is equivalent, or anything like equivalent, to the respective values of the sea-borne trade either in money or in volume. Moreover, in scouting cruisers for the Fleet in the North Sea as well as in the Mediterranean we are hardly more than the equal of one foreign Power. The laying down of eight light cruisers is excellent in its way. No one will find fault with that, but in no sense does it meet the national demand for a large increase in this class of vessel.
With regard to destroyers, the first question to ask is: Why are we cutting down in this direction? For the last four years we have been laying down twenty destroyers annually. Suddenly our programme is cut own by four. The First Lord said last night that small or fast cruisers and large submarines are making inroads upon the functions of destroyers. That may be. But Germany is laying down twelve destroyers this year. Taking the destroyers launched within the last twelve years, the German figure stands at 106 and the British figure at 115. That result can by no stretch of imagination bear out the First Lord's statement last year that our requisite standard in destroyers is higher than it is in "Dreadnoughts." It may be, of course, that, as in the case of the Mediterranean, the First Lord suggests that our destroyer fleet must also be counted with the destroyer fleet of France, and presumably with that of Russia. This suggestion, if made, at once draws attention to the fleet of the Triple Alliance, and an examination of that would, I fear, hardly help us out of the difficulty, seeing that the Triple Alliance fleet of destroyers is only 15 per cent. inferior to the numbers given for the Triple Entente.
1950 I now come to personnel. I confess to a little difficulty in understanding the First Lord's statement with regard to the position of the personnel. It is always difficult for the lay mind to follow questions of additions to the Navy because, first of all, there is the average to be considered, then sometimes you will find that the numbers do not come up to the average, in other cases they exceed the average; it is not at all easy to form any accurate conclusion as to how many men have been enlisted in one year and what is the wastage. Of course, we know that the statement has been made that so many men are going to be added to the Navy in one year, but we also know that they are not enlisted in that year. The First Lord is now asking Parliament to sanction an addition of 7,000 men. Is that sufficient? The Committee have heard what the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) has said. We are told that a saving has been effected in other directions and that much is expected from the Royal Fleet Reserve instituted last year. But it is difficult to see how the right hon. Gentleman can get on without adding at least 10,000 men. He says he will be content with 146,000 in 1914. I think the number should be 150,000. Remember you have to train these men. At the Naval Conference, in 1907, the late Lord Tweedmouth said:—You can have the most magnificent ships, guns and armour and everything else, but if your men are not properly trained, your guns, your armour, and your ships are absolutely useless.The First Lord tells us this year, and his predecessor told us the year before, that the increased personnel is due mainly to the requirements of the new ships now being placed in commission and under construction. If that statement means anything, it means that no single seaman, much less officer, out of those added this year can be utilised for effective purposes in the manning either of the new ships now being placed in commission or the ships we are voting money for to-night. The fact is that our Fleet is altogether undermanned and has been so ever since the present Government were responsible for the Navy Estimates. In accordance with the Little Navy policy followed from 1906 to 1909, no single addition was made to the Navy. Nor was anything done with regard to adding men, even in the scare year of 1909–10? Although the Foreign Secretary came down to the House and informed us that the country was perfectly right in the view that the situation was grave, yet not a single man was added to the Navy. While 1951 in 1910–11, when the shortage had reached something like 2,500, did the Government make any addition? In that year they added 3,000, and in the next year a like number, making in all an addition in six years of 6,000. Last year 3,500 were added, so assuming that no shortage takes place in this year's enlistment, there would be an increase in the Navy since 1906 of 5,645. If to this number you add 8,500, again assuming that there is no shortage in the enlistment, and also that on 31st March, there is no excess in the enlistment for last year, the Government will have added to the Navy from 1906 to 1914, a little over 14,000 men against Germany's increase from 1912 to 1914 of 12,400 men, or, taking Mr. Churchill's amended figures, 7,000, a little over 12,500 in seven years against Germany's 12,400 in two years.
In the last nine years the Triple Alliance have added 43,000 officers and men, of which Germany alone has added 30,000, and France about 8,000, and therefore if we except Russia, it will be seen that up to 31st March, 1913, the additions made to the British Fleet stand at the bottom of the poll, and a very long way behind Germany. I do not hesitate to say that with the existing personnel we cannot put a sufficient number of ships in commission to ensure the safety of the Empire and its communications. With four-fifths of the German fleet fully manned and in permanent commission, the second and third divisions of the home Fleet ought to be supplied with crews which would ensure them being ready to be brought into the fighting line at short notice. A ship with a reduced nucleus crew on board might as well be laid up in dock for all the use it would be during the first week of war. It is the natural result of the Government's cutting down policy in the personnel of the Navy that emergency measures have had to be adopted in order to obtain an increased number of junior officers at the earliest possible date. It is as the result of this disastrous policy that the First Lord was compelled to admit to Mr. Borden that "all our manning resources are now strained to their utmost limit." It is an appalling fact that for the last six years we have been building ships without making adequate provision for manning. That is the indictment which I bring against the Government, and to which indeed the First Lord himself pleads guilty by the statement he makes 1952 in his Memorandum to which I have already referred. Whichever way you look at it, you cannot make the Naval Estimates bear out the promise made by the First Lord at Glasgow last year that—we shall make it clear that other naval Powers instead of overtaking us by additional efforts will only be more outdistanced in consequence of the measures which we ourselves will take.It may be that we are not yet overtaken, but to say that other naval Powers are more outdistanced in consequence of the measures we are now taking, whether in ship construction or in addition to the personnel, is to say not only what is inaccurate, but what is obviously untrue.
One reason for the shortage in the enlistment was the low rates of pay prevailing amongst all ranks of the lower deck. Last year I had an opportunity of bringing this fact before the House, and, with the knowledge that the Government majority went down to thirty-six on the Division which followed, I was not surprised that in the following July, when the Government had before them the further fact that under the new law Germany was joining 15,000 officers and men, the First Lord should announce that he proposed in the autumn making an addition, which to some extent might be taken as meeting the case brought before him in the preceding March from this side of the House. Having taken our advice, the First Lord has obtained a record year of recruiting, but one would have thought, in view of the boast made that the Admiralty possess all the necessary information, that when arranging new ranks and rates of pay for the lower deck the First Lord would have done so in to manner that would cause the least amount of dissatisfaction. Referring to the point yesterday he said that he was satisfied with the methods in which the funds available had been distributed. Apparently he would have us understand that general contentment prevails on the lower deck, but general contentment does not prevail.
I should like to mention two ratings—the carpenter and the shipwright—both these ratings have not received due consideration from the Admiralty. Everyone knows that the carpenter is a most important man. A far more correct name for the carpenter would be constructive warrant officer. The carpenter-lieutenant and the chief carpenter have been entirely left out of consideration in the new ranks and pay. Two apprentices joining the dockyard and obtaining the same number of marks after serving their time, join the 1953 Service, one as a fitter and the other as a shipwright. The fitter enters as engine-room artificer with the rating of chief petty officer, and gets 5s. 6d. a day. The shipwright enters at 4s. a day with the rating of leading seaman. They work up to the rank of warrant officer, with the following rates of pay: Artificer engineer 8s. 6d. a day, after five years 9s. 6d., and after ten years 10s. 6d. The carpenter on promotion gets 7s. with rises of only a shilling after five and ten years. On promotion to chief rank the carpenter gets 10s., other mechanical officers get 11s. 6d. and on promotion to lieutenants 13s. and 14s. 6d. respectively. You are asking the shipwrights to break their contract. That you do not deny. Possibly you suppose that the altered conditions are so attractive that these men will prefer to accept them rather than leave the Service. Will they? The pay of the shipwright according to the new scheme is based on the average of 5s. a day, and a pension of 17s. a week from the age of thirty, together with an average pension up to the age of sixty which gives £1,796. The pay of an established shipwright from the age of thirty up to the age of sixty, based on the present rates, gives £2,691, or a difference of £895, from this sum deduct free rations at the rate of 6s. per week from the age of thirty to forty equal to £256. That leaves £739 which the shipwrights claim to lose by accepting the new scheme. No doubt if you paid the naval shipwright as he ought to be paid, and in proportion as he would be paid in civil employment, and gave him the rank of chief petty officer which he ought to have you would have plenty of shipwrights, and the men would only then be getting what they deserve and nothing more.
I was glad to hear the First Lord say that the Marines were going up, and that he had assisted them by giving them certain rises. May I point out one matter which otherwise might escape attention? You are giving certain commissions to the ranks in the Marines, but make a stipulation that the candidates shall be under twenty-five years of age. You are only giving two commissions. Do you not suppose that owing to the very condition you have made, men who have failed, say, at Sandhurst, will pass through the ranks and get those two commissions? I would suggest another condition, that the two commissions be given, not to men under twenty-five years of age, but to quartermasters or sergeants. If so, we would have men of a certain age, and be cetrain to get 1954 two men from the ranks, a result which under present conditions you have not the slightest chance of reaching. There are other matters to which I might refer. On Vote 8 I shall take the opportunity of reviewing the position of the Royal dockyards and calling attention to the great discrepancies in the rates of pay given to men in the dockyards and to men outside. I also hope to draw attention to another very important question: That under present conditions no pensions in the Royal dockyards can be given to or earned by the hired men. Eighty per cent. of the men are hired men, and it does seem a hardship that every one of these men should leave the yard without any pension whatsoever.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I must apologise to hon. Gentlemen opposite for making a second speech to-night, but I cannot be here to-morrow. I do not wish to make many general observations, but there are one or two larger questions arising out of the speech of the First Lord to which I wish to refer. It seems to be generally recognised now that all our troubles and difficulties in shipbuilding, manning, and one or two other subjects to which I shall refer presently, arise from the experiment or neglect, whichever it may be called, in the years 1906, 1907, and 1908, when our programme in all particulars was so largely reduced. But I think that we have gained something even from that. If it has done nothing else, it has had a most salutary effect upon those Gentlemen in this House and in the country, and upon that portion of the Press who honestly believed, no doubt, that an experiment of the kind would have the effect of reducing expense Upon armaments and bringing about what they hoped for and were so constantly advocating; and there is no doubt that the expression of that feeling was very great in this House and in the country, for these gentlemen had a large following, and until the experiment was actually tried it was obviously impossible to lay down as an absolute fact that it would not succeed; but it was tried, and the fact that our Navy Estimates are to-day verging on £50,000,000 is largely due to that experiment; but it is a great deal better to my mind, and I am sure that there is not a single hon. Member who will not agree with me, that we should have a Naval Estimate of even £50,000,000 than that we should have saved money and run even more serious risks than we are running to- 1955 day. I for one feel that, provided we can get over the anxiety of the next two or three years, and can realise the great ideal common now to both sides of the House, that we are to have a great Imperial Navy based upon the Empire and not based upon the British Islands, then more good than evil will have come out of that incident—but only provided that we can get over the dangerous interval of the next three or four years.
The First Lord paid the German Admiralty a very high compliment, but he need hardly have done that because we paid them a very much higher compliment, and one which I am sure they will appreciate very much more even than any eloquent words of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The compliment we paid was when we concentrated practically the whole of our naval forces in the home waters. It was obvious to the world that that was a forced concentration, and I suppose no higher compliment could have been paid to the German Navy, to the German Admiralty, and the sacrifices of the German nation, than that concentration of the British Fleet in home waters. Of course its consequences were a little unpalatable to us. Concentration naturally involved a great loss of power in outlying seas, and a loss, not only of material, but of moral power. It is only within the last year that it has been apparent to us, how that loss was to be made good, but now, thanks to the self-denying efforts of our Colonies and outlying parts of the Empire, that very trouble is being made good, and I, for one, think that, from all points of view, nothing could be better, nor fit better with the present naval situation, than that the outlying parts of the Empire should provide a force which will restore the balance in the outer seas, and leave the British Islands to be wholly responsible for necessary concentration in home waters. It must be, I am sure, a very great satisfaction to the Colonies, when they see that the ships which they are going to provide, are going to be used in a manner which will be, from all points of view, desirable and satisfactory both to this country and the Colonies.
The first point I desire to raise is a financial one. It has been, for many years the practice of Parliament, and I hope the practice will never be departed from, that all unspent money at the end of the financial year is to be returned to the Sinking Fund. If I were to make any general 1956 proposition on that point, it would be entering upon a matter which would be out of order on the Naval Estimates, but the suggestion I have to make is that the House should take into consideration whether that very admirable rule is properly applicable to money which is provided by this House for new construction in the Navy. That money is totally different from money voted for other purposes. In some countries, and I believe in Germany, it is treated very largely, if not entirely, as a capital expenditure. We very wisely treat it not as capital expenditure, but as annual expenditure, to be met out of the Votes. I think there is no prospect of anyone suggesting any change from that practice. But it is one thing to vote money once, and another thing to vote it twice over, which I must say I think is somewhat quixotic, and somewhat contrary to the general lines on which any business should be carried on. Money to be spent on repairs, or spent in the ordinary service, is voted as a particular expenditure for a particular twelve months. You allot the pay of the men under Vote 1 for twelve months; you allot expenditure for the average amount of repairs required during twelve months; you have a definite period of time, which requires a definite expenditure, and any money, which is not spent, is rightly and properly returned to the Exchequer. But the money voted for new construction is not voted for twelve months at all; it is money voted for a particular ship, and, as the First Lord of the Admiralty pointed out, it is an expenditure which may spread over three financial years.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
The money is voted to be spent on the ship in that year, and not for the whole period.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
That is where I differ from the hon. Member. It is that narrow and restricted view which, to my mind, is the cause of all the trouble. If you look at it from a plain business point of view, you will find that the House of Commons in passing these Estimates, undertakes to spend, say, £2,500,000 upon a particular ship; that is the real transaction. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] The other is wholly subsidiary, and it is merely an annual subdivision of the payment. The effective action of this House is to set to work to build a particular ship, which is to cost two and a-half millions of money, and that expenditure may have to be spread over three years. To insert 1957 a wedge into that expenditure, because during its currency it passes beyond the 31st March, and to say that, if you do not spend exactly what was voted for the year, then the difference between the Estimate and what is spent is to be returned to the Exchequer, is really to cause the money to be voted twice over.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
We spend a certain amount of money on construction each year, and not in regard to the particular ships to be built.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
If the hon. Member looks at the Estimate he will find that the effective action of the House is that certain ships are to be built, and the Estimate authorises the ships to be laid down, and the total cost of each vessel laid down is put against it.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The hon. Gentleman mixes up paper figures with reality. The reality is that the House takes real and effective action in ordering a certain ship to be laid down, say, at the cost of two and a half millions of money, and the House is responsible for finding the two and a half millions. It enters into a contract with the shipbuilder for two and a half millions of money, and I would ask whether the hon. Gentleman suggests that the building of a vessel might be stopped before the 31st March?
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I am afraid I cannot argue the point longer with the hon. Gentleman. My point is that these contracts are for the ships of a particular programme in a particular year, and there is a certain definite expenditure entered into with the contractors for the building of those ships, and the money is voted in each year as required. There are, I do not deny, two sides to the question, and the matter is one which requires careful consideration. It is one of the balance of convenience. The new factor which brings it forward prominently to-day is the enormous increase in the Construction Vote. We see, from the words of the First Lord, how easily money may remain unspent. He said yesterday:—The Estimates of this year would, indeed, have been substantially higher but for the extreme congestion in the shipyards arising from the extraordinary demand upon our shipbuilding plant and especially upon our 1958 skilled labour supply, which are the characteristics of the present moment. It would be no use my asking Parliament for large sums of money which would not, as far as can now be foreseen, be earned by the contractors, but which would only inflate the Naval Estimates purposelessly and have in the end to be devoted to the payment of the National Debt.That is a great restriction upon the Estimates of the First Lord. A little further on, he said:—A delay of six or seven weeks in the execution of current programmes makes a difference of nearly £2,000,000 in Estimates of the year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913, cols. 1752 and 1753.]Thus, if there were labour troubles in the dockyard, six or seven weeks' delay would involve the re-voting of two millions of money. It is obvious a strike of that great importance would coincide with a time of financial difficulty in the country which would be greatly aggravated by having to re-vote the £2,000,000, and thereby spend it twice over. The question how the control of the House of Commons would be effected is one of the greatest importance. In my opinion it is worthy of consideration whether the effect of a change of this kind might not be [...] strengthen rather than to weaken the control of the House of Commons—you have for the last ten years underspent £4,691,987. That was the difference between the provision in the Estimates compared with the actual expenditure on new construction. The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty asks if all that money was returned or surrendered. It was not, but that is the amount which would have been surrendered if the whole of the unspent money had been returned to the Sinking Fund. It was not returned, because power rests with the Treasury of sanctioning any money which has been voted for one of the Naval Votes, being expended on another Naval Vote which at the time may require further expenditure, so that the House has not got the real control which it sometimes thinks it has over this money. I do not think that is a power which ought to be withdrawn from the Treasury. I think it is very important and very necessary that that power should be exercised, but I do say that the fact of this money having to be returned to the Treasury, if it is not spent on new construction, puts a premium on the spending of the money upon other Votes, not necessarily for the requirements of that year, but which might be more properly voted in the year that is to follow. There is not much difficulty in keeping the control of this House over expenditure which is obvious to it, and which it sees on the Paper for every year. 1959 If the change I suggest were made it would be obviously within the ken of the House, and there is not a single Member on either side but could see how much was voted for and spent on new construction in any year. The House would thus have complete control. Under the present system the House thinks it has got complete control, but it is really very much less than you suppose, because without minute consideration, more properly given upstairs, it would be very difficult to ascertain the effects of the transfers between the different Navy Votes. Therefore I suggest that the real control over finance would be better, and there would be less excuse for transfers if this perfectly plain straightforward method were adopted with regard to the money voted for new construction. None of these arguments apply to any other but that, and I personally would oppose such a change as to any other Vote in every possible way. In regard to the New Construction Vote, which is a definite Vote for a definite purpose of a capital nature, I say it is wholly unbusinesslike to adopt the present system and, unless it can be shown that the control of the House is materially advanced by that system, I do suggest that the point I submit is worthy of careful consideration. The next subject to which I wish to refer, is the question of destroyers. I noticed with great satisfaction the language used by the First Lord in regard to this matter. He rather hinted at some change in the character of the vessels which are to do the work which destroyers are now supposed to be able to do. I do not wish to go into details but to point out how very unsatisfactory the position is at this moment. The one quality for a destroyer is speed. I think everyone will agree with what the First Lord said yesterday:—In the sphere of naval competition everything is relative. The strength of one Navy is its strength compared to another. The value of a ship depends almost entirely upon the contemporary ship which it may have to meet."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913, col. 1756.]I suppose it would be admitted that a British destroyer might have to meet a German destroyer, and, if we are to make that comparison, the comparative speed of those two vessels would be a very fair test of their comparative value. I have taken the trouble to ascertain, as I believe, with accuracy, the speed of the German destroyer flotillas. They build twelve each year. Those of the 1907–8 programme had 1960 a speed of 30 knots; 1908–9, 30 to 32 knots; 1909–10, 32.5 knots, and 1910–11 and 1911–12 the same speed, 32.5. So that you have there sixty destroyers, exclusive of this year's programme, and they are always laid down earlier than ours, with a speed of from 30 to 32.5 knots. Nearly all, except quite the earliest of these, have a speed of 32.5 knots. When we come to the speed of our own destroyers, we see in the Navy Estimates that of those now under construction, only two, the "Arrow" boats, have a nominal speed of thirty-two knots, one other has a speed of thirty-one knots, others twenty-eight and twenty-nine knots, while the class which are most recently out—the "Druid" class—have only twenty-seven knots, and the "River" class have only twenty-five knots. With the exception of the "Tribal" class, which has been built a considerable number of years, it may be fairly said that the general speed of the destroyer flotilla upon which we now reckon has no more than an average of twenty-eight or perhaps twenty-eight and a half knots. These figures cannot be disputed.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It is a very complicated argument, which could not with advantage be fully developed here. All these speeds have been find, not by politicians anxious for economy, but by naval experts making the best use of the materials in their hands. British destroyers, on the whole, cost more than German destroyers, ship for ship, and the qualities which they possess are the result of expert views, which are really much too complicated to be done justice to by anything that could be said here.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I do not ask for a detailed discussion. We can only judge by the results. If the German experts succeed in getting better results than the British experts, I think this House has a right to complain.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It is not possible to judge a destroyer by its speed. The strength of the vessel, its sea-keeping qualities, its gun power, and general naval qualities, must all be taken into consideration. As a layman, I rather sympathise with the line of argument developed by the right hon. Gentleman. But he should not suppose that this result is due to any laxity or policy of drift. It is due to definite decisions on highly technical points.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I am not attempting to argue technical or expert points. That 1961 would not be desirable here. But the duty of this Committee is not to investigate technical matters, but to judge of the results which are produced in the Navy by those for whom the occupants of the Treasury Bench are responsible. I adhere to my point. I will only say that, so far as I have been able to test naval opinion in regard to sea-keeping qualities, strength, and general efficiency, the German destroyers have lost nothing in comparison with the speed which they have succeeded in attaining. In gun power they are slightly inferior; the difference is perfectly plain. Here is a rather interesting point of which the Committee should take note. Up to the last programme the guns on our destroyers were 4 in.; the guns which the German destroyers carried were 3.5 in. Now we have gone in the exactly opposite direction. The latest German destroyers, instead of having a larger gun, have gone to a 3.1 in. gun, and they have two double torpedo tubes. They have increased their torpedo power and their speed, but have reduced their gun power. We have gone in exactly the opposite direction; we have increased our gun power, but have not obtained the same speed as they have. I say this, because it arises out of the First Lord's own statement. According to the First Lord,the British torpedo-boat destroyer has been constructed with a double purpose. Its primary purpose is to cut down and drive from the sea by gun power the torpedo craft of the enemy.But how can a twenty-eight knots destroyer cut down and drive off the sea a 32.5 knots destroyer?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
The First Lord continued:—Its secondary, but not less important purpose, is to attack the great ships of the enemy's fleet by the torpedo.I am beginning to think, from what the First Lord said, that it is being borne in upon the Admiralty that the class of destroyers which we now possess are not really suited for the one purpose or the other; and that if you are to run down the 1962 destroyers of the enemy, you must have vessels which are faster and more powerful for that purpose. I may say, in passing, that the light cruisers themselves, according to the Estimates, have a speed of only 25 knots. I hope that those which are going to be laid down later on will have a higher speed. Those now under construction—the "Dublin," the "Southampton," and the "Amphion"—have a speed of only 25.5 knots, so that they will hardly be suitable for catching destroyers with a speed of 32.5 knots. As for the second purpose, that of torpedo attack, speed is no longer of the first importance, but invisibility is more important than speed, because no visible craft can really approach a powerful vessel in daylight. So far as scouting is concerned, there is another fact to be taken into consideration, namely, the increased speed of the battle cruisers and the large cruisers. The essential of successful scouting is high speed. This duty can hardly be effectively performed against a modern battleship by a destroyer whose speed is not greater than 25 knots. Therefore, the low speed of our destroyers appears to me to be a real danger.
On the question of the oil supply, we come to a danger created by the somnolent attitude of the Admiralty. The Admiralty appear to have been nearly in a state of atrophy in the years 1906–7–8, because I can say from personal knowledge that when the Liberal party succeeded to office at the end of 1905, there was an Oil Committee sitting at the Admiralty. The future of oil fuel had been thoroughly realised; the matter of oil supplies, to which the First Lord referred, had been taken in hand from a business point of view; and the Admiralty were then in a very favourable position by reason of having taken up the question in time. Had that Committee been allowed effectively to carry on its work from the time the Liberal party succeeded to office, we should have been in a very favourable position. We could not have failed to be, because we were well in front of those commercial interests to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. After three or four years that matter, like every other important matter, was allowed to lie absolutely dormant, and now the right hon. Gentleman tells the House of Commons that there are great difficulties because we have got no really effective oil supplies under our control, and that a Committee is sitting continuously to 1963 remedy that state of things. That arises from no other reason than a gross and most culpable neglect of this most important question during those years to which I referred. It will cost us dear, very dear; the ground which has been lost can never be regained. There is one question I want to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, and one to which he did not refer when he was speaking on the new entries that he proposes to make of young officers. I understand that he is entering yearly thirty youths of seventeen or eighteen.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
That is a very large number entering yearly. I believe many naval officers consider it to be wiser to spread those entries over a rather larger period—but that is a detail. The important point is this: What steps do the Admiralty propose to take in regard to the congestion of promotion which must follow this very largely increased entry? There is already a very serious congestion in the lower ranks, the ranks of commander and lieutenant. Have the Admiralty the matter in hand? Is it being considered? This is a matter that must be considered beforehand: it cannot be left till the last moment. More steps will have to be taken than exist to-day for enforced retirement in the Navy. A very simple calculation will show how that, in many cases, if they live long enough, officers will be 100 before their turn comes for promotion. That must have a very serious effect on the inducements for the best class of boy to enter the Navy. Of course, the manning is the great trouble. I would like to make observation on the interruption of the First Lord to-day. He said every fully-commissioned ship was fully manned with trained men; at all events I understood him to say so.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I said on the general mobilisation of the Fleet that every ship that puts to sea will be manned with trained men.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
You naturally require to call out the Reserves for the ships of the Third Fleet which depends upon the Reserves.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Naturally. I was not referring to it, but I understood the First Lord to say that every ship in commission 1964 was fully manned with trained men. That was my point.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
And of the Second Fleet, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, 50 per cent. have their complement on board, including practically all the higher trained ratings. The rest of their crews are in the barracks undergoing their training, their essential training—not recruits' training—but training in gunnery and torpedo work. On the mobilisation of the Second Fleet the ships would have their complete complement, for all these men would march down from the barracks, and go on board.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Apparently even the ships in full commission have not got their full complement of men. Here, for instance, I see a recent announcement in the Press amongst the official Admiralty news, "The Admiralty have decided as a temporary measure to increase the number of boys allowed on board ships, a corresponding reduction being made in the proportion of able seamen." It is difficult to reconcile these statements, and I am sure the First Lord will understand that we are obliged when we see that, and when we hear the statements he made yesterday, and compare it with the written statement he sent to Canada, to believe that he is an optimist. If he does not speak here as an optimist in what capacity does he speak to Canada, because the only way in which these two statements can be reconciled is that the First Lord speaks here as an optimist, and that he speaks to Canada as a pessimist, and reading between the lines as I do, I conic to that conclusion, and I agree very largely with the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Lee) to-day, and I arrive at the conclusion that as far as our naval strength goes we may have a bare margin of safety; but if we have that for the next two or three years it is a very bare margin, and we must regard the situation with considerable anxiety, and the Committee must recognise that continued and serious effort will be required if that margin is to be improved upon in the years to come.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I should like to give expression to the feeling of great satisfaction with which one of the announcements made by the right hon. Gentleman has been received in every quarter, and that is the proposal he makes in regard to the spirit ration in the Navy to reverse the present practice of issuing grog to all except those marked "Temperance" on the register, and to make the money payment of nine-sixteenths of a penny the rule instead of the exception. That is a matter which has been urged upon the Admiralty for many years past. Last year the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to give me an undertaking that this matter would receive the most sympathetic consideration during this present year, and he has fulfilled that undertaking in the most satisfactory way. I should like to take this opportunity of conveying to him the gratitude, not only of a very large number of men in the Navy who are keenly interested in this question, but of a great many others outside the Navy who have anxiously sought to procure this much-needed reform. The matter was brought before the right hon. Gentleman in one of the recommendations of the Victualling Committee of 1907 over which a distinguished naval officer presided. It is not therefore only a suggestion of a body of teetotalers and temperance men—and in giving effect to it I feel quite sure the right hon. Gentleman has sought to consult the wishes of those people entitled to speak as naval experts, and I trust sincerely he is prepared to go a little further when considering the second recommendation of the Committee, to whose first recommendation he has already given effect. It suggested that instead of giving nine-sixteenths of a penny in lieu of the grog ration the allowance should be one penny. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will keep in view that this proposal will be more likely to be successful in inducing a very large number of men to join the temperance party. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will also keep in view that this will be a step towards the abolition of the grog ration in the Navy. Although we lead the world in seamanship, naval power, and naval resources, in this matter we have lagged behind other countries. The United States abolished the grog ration during the Civil War in 1862, the Japanese Government has abolished it several years ago, and Russia abolished it last year. I am glad to know 1966 that two of the Canadian warships already put into commission have started without a grog tub. I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty to accept my assurance that this reform will be welcomed in many quarters as the first step in the direction of abolishing the grog ration.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
There are several points which have been raised upon which I should like to make a few comments and the other criticisms upon the First Lord's statement I prefer to leave to the right hon. Gentleman to reply to before the Committee stage closes. The hon. Member for North-East Lanarkshire (Mr. Millar) has made some remarks which we appreciate in regard to the rum ration. We think great results will follow from our reversal of the present practice. All men over twenty years of age are eligible for the ration, and, if they like, they can ask for the money in lieu of the ration, and then they get nine-sixteenths of a penny a day. That is the amount allowed to them in lieu of the ration and that is the present practice. What we have now proposed is that, when a man reaches twenty years of age, he will automatically be eligible for the money allowance, and if he wants the grog instead, he will have to ask for it. That, of course, is a reversal of the present practice. My impression is that the simple reversal of the procedure will go a very considerable way towards reversing the figures as they exist to-day. My hon. Friend has asked us to allow one penny a day instead of nine-sixteenths. May I point out that that would cost, on the figures got out after 1908, when the Victualling Committee made a recommendation, anything between £25,000 and £30,000 a year, and the Committee were not clear that this increase would promote temperance in the Navy, and, therefore, we could not recommend it. I hope my hon. Friend will rest satisfied with the simple, though I think far-reaching, change which will be initiated by making the men ask for the grog instead of getting the grog or having to ask for the money.
The hon. Gentleman opposite (Captain Pretyman), who has been Financial Secretary himself, made an interesting suggestion with regard to our financial procedure. He called attention to the fact that, year by year, large sums of money not expended had to be surrendered to the Treasury, and that is a fact. We surrendered in the year 1911–12 £1,978,243. Some hon. Members 1967 have spoken of that money as if it affected only the Estimates for 1913–14. That is a misapprehension, because it is not so.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
There is no misapprehension on this side. The First Lord said that surrender would not affect this year's Estimate, but next year's Estimate.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It would affect this year's Estimate, and not last year's. The surrender of 1912–13 has not been arrived at, and cannot be until the appropriation is complete. I estimate that we shall surrender on the Estimates for 1912–13 the expenditure under which will be complete on Monday next, anything between £200,000 and £250,000, but for the year before, the actual surrender was the large sum of £1,978,243. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says you ought to look upon the money voted for new construction as a capital charge, you ought to carry it on year by year, and you ought not to have to surrender it. I do not think he referred to other Votes. He really means that we should carry forward year by year the unexpended amount under Vote 8, the Construction Vote. Naturally, I could not express any opinion upon that, because it is a far-reaching proposition; but I would remind him that it is not quite so inelastic, because we get temporary sanction so long as we do not exceed the total voted to us to meet the deficiency in one Vote out of the surplus on another, and Parliament gives its final saction in Section 4 of the Appropriation Act at the end of the Session. If it would satisfy the hon. Gentleman, I will give him the undertaking that as far as I am concerned, as the Financial Secretary, I will give the matter consideration, but I shall have to look at it seriously from the point of view of Parliamentary control before I can go any further. The Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) and I got into a sharp conflict as to the Custance Report on the question of common entry. The present system was introduced by Lord Selborne in December, 1902, and his scheme I say most emphatically still holds the field, although time and experience has shown the necessity of modifying details. You must, of course, learn by experience. That would apply 1968 even to the Noble Lord. That scheme laid down what is known as "common entry." Prior to that you took the three branches, the executive, the engineers, and the Marines, as the result of a different training from different sources. This, winch I say is a great and good scheme, takes all from the same age from the same stock, in the initial stages, and gives them the same initial training.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
And so it does to-day. That is the point at issue between myself and the Noble Lord. It is a question of the Marines. I say the genius of the Selborne scheme was to take all from a common stock, have a common entry at the same age, and train them altogether up to a certain point. That scheme still holds the field. Nothing which has happened since its initiation and nothing in the Custance Report affects the basis of that scheme. It is quite true that in order to meet prospective shortages in officers as the result of the great expansion in the Fleet we have had to take emergency steps. Both the entry from the Royal Navy Reserve and the entry for boys of a greater age are entirely emergency expedients. We have at the same time direct entry for a portion of the Marines, but still a boy going to Osborne may become a Marine. The Noble Lord does not challenge that. The same system which was originally laid down, the Selborne-Osborne-Dartmouth system, is the main system which governs our operations to-day.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The point urged in 1902 was that it was a common entry for all three branches. Now that is altered. A boy can enter as a cadet or engineer. Say he enters as a cadet, he may become a Marine, and the Marines are now entered on the old system. Therefore, the scheme breaks down as a whole.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
If the Noble Lord thinks that because we have an additional method of entering a certain number of Marine officers it breaks down the Selborne scheme, he is welcome to that. On the other hand, I say that the system of entering boys at Osborne and Dartmouth for any service, for the executive, the Engineers or the Marine, still stands. 1969 That the Noble Lord will not deny. The Selborne scheme still holds the field. With regard to the Custance Committee's Report, we propose, against the finding of the Committee—the matter is very important—to raise the age for entry by eight months. That is not recommended by the Custance Report; in fact, they recommended against it, but I am profoundly convinced that from many points of view it is a wise step to enter these boys eight months later. I am sure that we shall, as a result of these additional eight months, get boys whose general foundation of education is of such a character, compared with the old time, as will enable them more rapidly to acquire the specialised training we need for our Service. There is another point of vital detail, and on this we are in agreement with the Custance Report, that is the effect of the fees at Osborne and Dartmouth upon the area of our selection. Entries take place three times a year. We want, say, seventy boys. We get, roughly, 200 applications. It is obvious to anybody that that area of selection ought to be widened. Undoubtedly it is the fact, and the Custance Committee are right in calling attention to it, that it is the fee—£75 a year for four years and £50 a year for the next three years, and other expenditure cast upon the parents; I do not say it is more expensive than the old system—it is the fee to-day which materially limits the area of our selection, and I have not the slightest doubt that it is the cost which prevents the entry of many suitable boys who might become cadets. I think that is specially true, after very careful consideration, of the boy who wished to be an engineer cadet in the old days. In the old days he entered Keyham for a fee of £40. We used to get from twenty-five to thirty-five boys, and admirable material they were. To enable us to cast our net wider, the Custance Committee recommended a system of bursaries. I am of opinion that that needs very serious consideration. If you adopt a system of bursaries you must either have competitive examinations, which means the revival of the crammer, who is always objectionable, but particualrly objectionable for boys of tender years. If there is not competitive examination, it means nomination by the First Lord and the Board of Admiralty with possible charges of misuse of patronage. Either of these is objectionable, although the objections are not insuperable. Both these require very 1970 serious consideration. Another way to widen the area of selection would be by all-round reduction of the fee. Which of these plans will be adopted it is not for me at this juncture to say. We select 70 out of 200 applicants on an average three times a year. I do not think 200 is enough to enable us to make a proper selection. It is a rather serious handicap and we intend to make recommendations which will at any rate, as we hope, enable us to cast the net wider.
The last matter I will trouble the Committee with is the very important question raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Guest) and the hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke), and I make no apology for spending the rest of my time upon it, because it affects the lives and fortunes of 50,000 men, the employés in the dockyards. It is a fact that the increase in the cost of living and in a number of districts of rentals leads to constant representations as to the inadequacy of the present wage, and side by side with the increase in the cost of living all round you have a boom, in the shipbuilding industry especially, good and continuous employment, and wages which are up to the high-water level un to date. These two things together, the high wage and continuous employment outside and the increase in the cost of living and rental, cause us to be presented again and again with claims for increased wages. It is a fact that in certain trades at this moment the weekly wage in the dockyard is not so great as the weekly wage for corresponding work, not in the locality of the dockyard, but in the private yards of the North particularly. The weekly wage at this moment is not so high in certain trades as the weekly wage, in the North particularly, although I should challenge the statement that the weekly wage in the dockyard was not as good as the weekly wage for the same kind of work outside in the locality of the dockyard. The Government desire to treat these men sympathetically, and the greatest pains are taken to examine thoroughly year by year the petitions they present. Every year the yards are visited. It is the function of the Board generally to hear petitions, and last year in the distribution of business that duty fell to my lot. The decisions are promulgated. They were promulgated last year on the 22nd July, and all increases of pay dated from the 1st August. I observe that some of 1971 these men, and I dare say some Members of the House, have described this annual hearing of petitions as a farce—
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Yes, "a solemn farce." I think that is a curious comment to make. Last year, as the result of the hearing of the petitions on the number of men engaged, the wages sheet was increased on the rates of wages to an extent of £41,000.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
Will the right hon. Gentleman contrast that with any other firm employing the same number of men?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I take exception to that description of it as a solemn farce. In six years, since the time of Lord Tweed-mouth, on the numbers now employed, the increase of the rates resulting from these various petitions, is roughly about £140,000. There are many other considerations which must be taken into account besides the weekly wage. Our men undoubtedly enjoy privileges—I am not going to put them too high—which are not invariably shared by workmen who are privately employed. In the first place undoubtedly they have greater continuity of employment.
§ Mr. BARNES
Has the right hon. Gentleman considered that if he gives greater continuity of employment they give greater efficiency?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I have already had that in the course of the Debate pointed out to me. Every labour representative must know that it is an important consideration to be relieved to a great extent of the anxiety attaching to unemployment. I lay great stress upon that fact. One in six of these men—and the proportion is higher so far as mechanics are concerned—as none of the Works' men are established, and very few comparatively of the labourers—one out of six cannot be dismissed except for misconduct, and he is pensioned at the end of his service. I admit he pays substantially, as the hon. Member for Chatham pointed out just now, to his retiring allowance. Out of the six, then, one may be established, or more than one, and they also have a pension. Of the other five, four of them I am fairly certain have fairly continuous employment as hired men.
§ Mr. HOHLER
In the Government Service these hired men are all discharged at sixty, and, as a rule, they are all paupers at that period.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
At that time they get a gratuity of one week's wages for every year's service. That is not the usual practice in an outside industry, and even if they are "stood off" after seven years' service on reduction and the same after fifteen years' service for anything save misconduct they get one week's wages for every year's service. That is a consideration, and I wish to insist upon the importance of this continuous employment which I do not think I have overstated. In the shipbuilding trades in 1908 the trade union returns show the unemployment month by month reached a mean for the year of 23.2 per cent. That is the trade outside. In 1909 it was 22.1. In the engineering trade in 1908 the mean was 10.3 among trade unionists and 11.6 in 1909. Though the Government weekly wage is not at the present time as high as in certain yards outside, yet I am entitled to call attention to considerations involved in the continuity of employment which our men enjoy. Our men work 48 hours a week, and if you divide the wage by 48, I think you will find it goes very much nearer the outside rate which would have to be divided by 51, 52, or 53. We are under no obligation to make a profit on our transactions, and I do not know that our men are driven to the extent which may be experienced by those who have to make profits for private yards. In the last seven years we have awarded £100,000 in gratuities to hired men and will treat the case of these men sympathetically, as I have always done. If service in the Royal dockyards does present features more favourable than outside, still the fact remains that the money earned every week in certain trades is not so high as some of the wages in the private yards, and it is perfectly natural that the men should press this upon us, and they do so. I listen to their petitions in each yard. I have already heard the petitions in the various dockyards except those at Portland and Pembroke which I hope to hear the week after next, and at Haulbowline, which I will probably hear the week after that. They call attention to the fact that in certain cases their inside rate per week is not so high as in the private yards outside. That fact has already received my serious consideration, and when the hearing of the petitions has been 1973 completed I shall lose no time in placing the matter before the Board of Admiralty, who will review the situation and promulgate their decisions. It would be improper for me to anticipate what those decisions will be, particularly as the petitions of three establishments have yet to be heard. I have said enough to show that the Board of Admiralty will be compelled, after examining the comparisons which the men make with outside rates of wages at the present time, to give due weight to the circumstances attaching to our service, and they will have to consider whether in respect of certain classes of workmen our rates do not stand in need of revision. After examining the petitions of the men and weighing their privileges so far as we can, we shall certainly have to consider whether, in respect of certain classes, our wages should not be revised. I feel bound to point out that when the workmen in Admiralty employment compare their weekly wage with the weekly wage of men in corresponding outside employment, then they have not completely covered the field of observation. Certain other things have to be taken into consideration. Let me say this further. If the workman in the dockyard says his wages are lower than the outside wages, and that he must follow outside rates which have reached high-water mark at the present time, then he must expect to find, as a consequence, that, if those outside wages should fall, his wages should come down in a way corresponding with the outside wages. All I can say is that we shall expedite the hearing of those petitions as much as possible. We shall promulgate the decisions of the Board certainly earlier than last year, and I have not the slightest doubt that they will be in good time for Vote 8, if it is taken at anything like the usual time. Though I can give no definite assurance—it would be quite improper to do it, because the matter has not been before the Board yet—I repeat that there are certain rates which, on comparison, I believe, will compel the Board seriously to consider whether, in these cases, our rates will not need some revision.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
When the hon. Member for Chelmsford was speaking he suggested that any money not spent on construction should not be surrendered. I 1974 ventured to disagree with the hon. Member when he made that statement. I do agree with him in this, that it is not very convenient on the Navy Vote to discuss a matter of the kind, because we cannot go fully into all the considerations; but there is this consideration, that the new Construction Vote applies only to the Navy. It is the one Vote which governs and controls all others. According to the amount of that Vote so the Vote for men, pay, pensions, and everything automatically rises or falls. Therefore, if the House surrenders its control over the Vote for new construction, it goes a long way to surrender control over all the Votes of the Navy. I could not gather why it is desired to do so. The hon. Member had himself drawn attention to the fact that the First Lord of the Admiralty had said that he did not see his way to spend any more money than what he had asked for, and if he did see his way he would come to this House and ask for it. That seems a very desirable way of keeping our control over the money voted by this House. It would seriously hamper the authority of this House if we lost control by allowing Estimates to be made which it was impossible to see any way of expending in the year, and then to allow the Admiralty to regulate the Vote and use the money as they thought fit. There is a much bigger objection—that is the objection of the difficulty of maintaining Parliamentary control at all, once you begin to mix up the finance of two years. It is essential to our finance that all the money should be voted for each year. I do not wish to go into the question now, because it is not a naval question. It refers to all Votes. But I may refer to the very interesting speech of the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) earlier in the evening. The Noble Lord, who made one of his breezy speeches, said that his object was to do away with the reassuring effect of the statement made by the First Lord. The Noble Lord—
§ Committee report Progress, to sit again to-morrow (Friday).
§ The Orders for the remaining business were read, and postponed.
§ Adjourned at Two minutes after Eleven of the clock.