§ 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. MOLTENO
At the interruption of business last night at Eleven o'clock, I was venturing to point out that the Noble Lord, the Member for Portsmouth, had in his speech attempted to do away with the reassuring effect of the speech of the First Lord with regard to our naval supremacy. The Noble Lord is perfectly consistent in that attempt; he has endeavoured to do away with the reassuring effects of statements of the kind for many years. He had endeavoured to arouse the interest and the apprehensions of this country with regard to our naval position on the Naval Estimates for many years. The arguments he uses do not appear to have carried conviction to the minds of many people. By way of illustration he asked the First Lord if he had taken into consideration the Fleets of Austria and Italy as well as Germany as being ranged against us. That is hardly a consideration, for these nations may possibly be ranged with us. But I do not wish to dwell upon that because I do not for a moment venture upon technical matter nor do I wish to enter into a controversy with the Noble Lord whose knowledge and experience of these matters is very great, but I cannot help remembering that those views of the Noble Lord which he thinks if adopted would save us, were placed before the late Government; and they were also 1982 very seriously considered by the present Prime Minister who referred them to the highest technical Committee and they were given the most careful examination by the Defence Committee so the Noble Lord can hardly expect us to adopt them now. I think therefore we must regard the Noble Lord as an expert and like all experts he expresses his views very strongly and it is for us to test them. The Noble Lord has never been able to carry any body of statesmen with him or to pursuade them to accept his views. I did not rise really to deal with the speech of the Noble Lord but rather to make some remarks upon the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty. I congratulate him upon the clearness, lucidity and force of that statement, and before I deal with the main question, namely, the Colonial position and the place the Colonies ought to occupy in our Imperial scheme, I should like to make one or two remarks upon the First Lord’s statement. I desire to welcome what he has done in regard to raising the pay of the men and the consideration he proposes to give both to men and officers in regard to leave and payment of their expenses on their holidays. I think these are rather important matters, and I think he has done well to consider the personnel of the Navy and the very heavy strain, as everybody knows, put upon them, and I think the time has come when we ought to see that every consideration possible is given in the direction indicated by the First Lord. I should also like to refer to the question of our relations with another Power. I ventured last year in addressing the Committee to suggest that it might be possible to find some arrangement or understanding that would tend to bring about a cessation of the extraordinary rivalry and expenditure of immense sums which leave us relatively in the same position It seems to me that very great advances have been made since then, because on that occasion the First Lord laid down what were the requirements of this country, and since that the German Admiralty have in so many words accepted the views of our First Lord in regard to relative naval strength. I should like to quote the words used by Admiral von Tirpitz. These are the words, taken from the OFFICIAL REPORT:—Last year Mr. Churchill made such a comparison, but he left many gaps open. He said that at that time the ratio of English 'Dreadnoughts' to German was 1.6 to 1, This proportion is in my opinion, acceptable for battleships, and it shows that we do not intend, and also have not intended, to step into rivalry with England. It gives us such a measure of power that it is difficult to attack us, and this ratio will be maintained 1983 by the naval law. More we do not need, and there can be no question of our wanting to act aggressively towards England, for substantial superiority is essential for aggressive action. We have always emphasised the fact that we do not strive after a fleet as large as the English.I think that is very satisfactory, and that was emphasised by the German Foreign Secretary.
The First Lord has made a very valuable suggestion in regard to naval policy. The more one looks at it the more suitable it seems to the situation, and it is one which will certainly give relief to all the Powers who may adopt this scheme. This scheme of arranging with other Powers is not a new one. The Noble Lord, the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) rather derided this suggestion, and treated it with scorn and as being absurd. May I point out that with regard to France some years ago we had the same sorts of naval scares and naval panics. I remember Sir Robert Peel suggested a similar arrangement with France, and Mr. Disraeli himself suggested the very same thing. Now we see an arrangement has been arrived at with France under which we are satisfied that whatever naval preparations are made are not in hostility to us. Why should not the same arrangement succeed with regard to Germany and other Powers? I see no reason why the apprehensions between Germany and this country should not be allayed in the same way. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman followed up that view, and the advantage of his action is now seen in a better understanding all round. I would remind the Noble Lord, when he says that Germany treats us with scorn, that our relations to-day are very friendly, and I do not see why we should not go on and take further steps in the direction of bringing about a better state of feeling between the two countries.
I rose more particularly to discuss the question of the Colonial contributions to the Navy. That is a matter of very great importance, and one which we ought to look into very carefully, because a new departure is now about to be made, and provision must be made for the close association with us of the Colonies in view of the very considerable aid which they are now prepared to give us, we all welcome in the fullest manner the readiness with which the Colonies have come forward to aid the Mother Country; and this is an outcome of the policy of freedom and self-government which has always been 1984 advocated from this side of the House and which has now had the seal of success put upon it when we find these naval contributions made by the Colonies quite voluntarily and without any pressure. We have never had any serious effort made in the Colonies before to really turn to practical effect the aid which they profess themselves ready to give. New Zealand offered us a ship in 1909 during the naval panic, and it was accepted, but she has now indicated that she does not consider that to be a permanent policy. I think it is very essential and desirable that we should not associate any idea of tribute with the aid the Colonies are giving us. It is enormously important for the future contributions that there should be no sort of system of tribute associated with it. The offer is for the Colonies to pay for the ships, and we are to man and maintain them afterwards. Canada makes the offer of a money contribution, and that is a form of aid which immediately involves a very serious question. Does it not follow that by accepting this aid from Canada there must be some sort of association with Canada in deciding how that money is to be spent? Does it not involve many considerations which will have to be considered jointly with Canada? Does it not involve us almost in an Imperial Council, because you cannot accept contributions of large sums of money from the Colonies without a corresponding say as to how those contributions are to be expended? It is not possible to conceive that those contributions will always be continued. Even now we find that the aid granted is accompanied by the condition that it is to be supplemental to the provision made for the Navy by this country. Then the question arises, Where are the Colonial ships to be stationed, and what are we going to do in regard to the suggestion that there is to be a consultation with the Colonies with regard to foreign policy? Those are all very serious matters which may eventually lead to friction between this country and the Colonies.
There is a great danger of friction in having conditions of this kind. It seems to me that it is impossible for us to proceed on the basis that we are to decide here what is necessary for the Empire, and after providing that we are to man and maintain the Colonial Navy as well. If any aid is to be obtained from the Colonies in that way it will really not be 1985 a help but an additional burden to us. There now appears to be a reversal of the Imperial policy so far as it has at present proceeded. When our Colonies had not thought of facing the creation of a Navy of their own the system of money contribution was valuable as evidence of their intention and desire to aid us. That was all very well while that was the position, but now we have great Dominions with great resources not only in money but in men, and the question now arises, What is the form of aid which those Colonies can best give and what is the best form of co-operation with us in naval policy? If we look at it from that point of view we find that Australia, in the first place, gave us a comparatively small contribution. Then she found that unsatisfactory, and decided that she must have a Navy of her own. That view was put forward at the Conference and was accepted, and she now provides her own ships and mans them with our assistance and she maintains those ships. I know it has been said that it is impossible for the Colonies to man those ships. I should like to draw attention to the fact that only yesterday the Minister for Finance of the Commonwealth of Australia pointed out that they had already got an ample supply of men for the Navy and that they had recruited 1,800 men in eighteen months. Sir George Reid told us that the rush had been so great that they had to stop recruiting, so that it is not impossible for the Colonies to man their own ships. Naturally it will take some time before these men are trained, but with our assistance they will eventually be as well trained as our own men. If Australia is in that position I believe Canada can do the same, because the Dominion contains as good material for the Navy as you can find in the whole world. Therefore there will be no difficulty in obtaining men of a suitable class for manning whatever ships Canada might construct. In 1909 a unanimous resolution was passed by all parties in Canada in favour of the creation of a Canadian Navy, and in 1911 representatives of Canada came over to this country and that decision has been accepted by the Imperial Parliament and embodied in a Memorandum, which was part of the proceedings of the Conference—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think we ought to discuss matters of policy affecting the Dominion Parliaments on the floor of this House, and the hon. Member in his remarks seems to be getting dangerously 1986 near that. We can only discuss now matters for which the Ministers here are responsible.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I bow to your ruling. It was not my intention or desire to discuss the Canadian policy at all, except just to mention what had occurred, so that we could understand what took place at the Imperial Conference. That policy was accepted at the Imperial Conference. I presume we may discuss the proceedings at the Imperial Conference?
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I propose to relate my argument to his action. It was there agreed that Canada and Australia should control their own Navy. It now appears to me that the First Lord has rather gone against the decision of the Imperial Conference, and is proceeding to reverse the policy which was then settled. It occurs to me to be a somewhat strange proceeding that, when the Imperial Conference has decided on a certain policy, that policy should be altered without a new Imperial Conference. The suggestion is made to Canada that it is impossible for her to build ships of the requisite power or to man those ships. That seems to me to be going into the direction of confining Canada to a money contribution. I understand that New Zealand has told us quite distinctly that she cannot regard that policy as a permanent one, but that she wishes to associate local patriotism with the support of the Navy. I am sure all who believe in Colonial feeling and aspirations realised that it would be impossible to satisfy those aspirations by a mere money contribution. It must go further. You must associate their local patriotic sentiment in the manning and maintaining of the ships if those ships are to be a permanent aid to this country and if we are to carry with us the continuous interest of the Colonies. A money Grant, as I say, is only the first step in the initial stage; we get beyond that as soon as a Colony is able to maintain a navy herself. If a Colony, instead of giving us the money to build a ship, can build ships herself and man and maintain them, that is real aid more stable and valuable in character than merely providing the money. Colonial representatives in the last few weeks have told us that they are not content with a policy of merely maintaining money contributions. I should like to 1987 quote the New Zealand Minister, who is here now for the very purpose of consulting with the First Lord. This is what Mr. J. Allen said the other day:—The payment of a subsidy by the Dominions to be spent by the British people as the British people wished would not in the long run appeal to their Dominion sentiment and patriotic feelings. If the Imperial authorities would guide the Dominions, if they would use the efforts of the Dominions for Imperial purposes, they would draw from the Dominions much greater sacrifices than before. What they wanted to do was to establish a permanent naval policy, and it could not be said that a permanent naval policy existed either in New Zealand or in Canada under the contributory system. He valued to the fullest extent the steps that had been taken by New Zealand and Canada; but, after all, they were only first steps, and they must be followed by the adoption by themselves of a permanent policy which would endure. What they wanted was the living thing, in which the Dominions would have a vital interest. It did not matter so much for the moment where the 'Dreadnoughts' were built: that was a matter that could be arranged as conditions developed in the future; but what did matter was that it should be realised that the Dominions would not be content with merely putting their hands in their pockets.That is a very clear and definite statement. They will not be content with a money contribution. The question is as to how we are best to avail ourselves of their intention to place their resources at our disposal in time of war. The Imperial Conference decided on a certain policy. That was a policy which would have been a permanent one, and would have been free from all these difficulties, while permitting a free development in each of the Colonies of their own navies. They would have had control of those navies, and Canada and Australia have both said that those navies would have been freely placed at our disposal in time of war. What are the arguments against it? Of course, there are two. One is the argument of urgency. The other is that it would strategically, or from a technical naval point of view, be an advantage to have the Navy under one command, entirely planned and designed as one Navy, and that if we received contributions from the Colonies, we could use them ourselves in a common fund, laying down ships and preparing our operations as one complete whole. I quite agree that is a strong argument, but, when you come to consider whether it can be carried out, you find the political difficulties are too great. We find embarrassment here; they will find embarrassment there. I should like to draw attention to some of those difficulties. We have proceeded politically on a system of complete local autonomy, and I think that is the only system on which you can proceed in re- 1988 gard to the Navy. They provide their own military defence, and they must be allowed to provide their own naval defence or assistance to the Mother-country on the lines of complete local autonomy. They must decide how far they will go. When this question was raised at the Imperial Conference—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is really attempting to discuss a matter which is at present under discussion in the Dominion Parliament, and that is certainly a thing which I should not allow here. The only question he can really raise is as to whether or not the First Lord was justified in taking the measures or steps he did recently, and he must be careful not to trench on the authority of any Colony.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I am very desirous of not doing that. I will now deal with the demand for a consultation with regard to foreign policy from our point of view. Is this Parliament to part with its supreme control over the foreign office? Is it to abrogate its functions as an Imperial Parliament and be subjected to the authority of an Imperial Council? We cannot part with our control of policy, and, if we accept these ships, we are bound to maintain them, and we shall no longer be free to settle our naval strength either in men or ships. They will become an embarrassment to us. There is great difficulty in giving any adequate say to the Colonies in naval policy. The effect of introducing a permanent representative into our Cabinet of Defence would be to change the whole character of the Committee. It would compel the Committee to deal with policy and not merely with executive questions of defence, and it would make the Committee rather an Imperial Council controlling decisions of policy. That is a position which I am sure this country is not prepared to acquiesce in or to entertain at the present time. No one has put that more clearly than the Prime Minister when the suggestion was made at the Imperial Conference. He pointed out definitely and clearly that it was impossible for this country to adopt that policy. I have not the quotation at the moment, but he said it would alter the whole character of the Imperial Parliament if we were to have these Colonial representatives; that the sovereign character of this Parliament would be done away with; and that so far as this country is concerned we have no machinery to sub- 1989 stitute any Imperial Council to take its place. I would like to point out that this system of accepting Colonial contributions for the Navy has led the First Lord of the Admiralty to take an unconstitutional step. The First Lord has accepted a gift from the Malay States. There are many objections to that but I do not propose to go into them now. The difficulty is this, that he has not only accepted that gift but he has actually ordered a battleship on the strength of it. Can the First Lord order a ship and pledge our credit without the authority of Parliament? Is it constitutional for the First Lord to do that? It is quite true that the Malay States may eventually pay for it, but must not the whole of he naval expenditure from year to year on all the ships be provided for by the authority of this House? Can the First Lord go outside of the authority of this House and accept as many ships as he pleases from whomsoever may offer them and commit this country on the strength of that without the authority of Parliament? It appears to me that it is a position which can hardly be argued. It is unconstitutional, I think for the First Lord to take a course of that kind. It is quite true the Malay States have offered to pay for the ship, but what about the duty of Parliament to provide the money for all the ships for the Navy by means of Supply and the Appropriation Bill? If that course should be altered by action of this kind, an ambitious First Lord—I do not say he is an ambitious First Lord—might entirely alter the character of our naval appropriation for the year by accepting gifts of that description. I think we ought to have some explanation with regard to that, and arrive at some understanding with regard to the future.
I understand from questions and answers in this House that the Prime Minister rather justified that course by what was done in the case of New Zealand, when New Zealand offered us a ship and it was accepted. I think that occurrence did not have sufficient discussion in this House and the constitutional difficulty was not raised. But now we have this policy of Colonial contributions, and it becomes necessary for us to see that we take the right road, and avoid the difficulties which confront us. It is desirable that we should have the matter clearly explained and put upon a proper basis. I think that any offer of that kind ought to be brought before the House, and that on no account 1990 ought it to be accepted until it has had the authority and consent of this House for its acceptance. If that is not done, I ask, of what value is the control of this House over the Navy? It is absolutely valueless. We lay down a particular number of ships for the year, and we undertake to build and maintain them and provide the personnel. Is the whole of that to be upset by gifts received from outside over which we have no control and no power? In that case the control of this House over the Navy is a farce. I should like also to have from the First Lord some explanation as to whether it is intended in the future to pursue a policy of this kind which appears to me to be wholly unconstitutional. To return to the Canadian situation, I think it is very unfortunate. I am not discussing anything which has been done in the Canadian Parliament, but I do think it is a very unfortunate situation, and I hope it may be possible to find some way by which the contribution of Canada may be placed upon a footing of national unanimity, and not be the result of a bitter party struggle.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I saw the other day in a Service paper the statement that the Explanatory Statement of the First Lord was "colourless and uninteresting" and the Estimates "unsensational and very difficult of critical analysis." If a comparison be made between that Explanatory Statement of the First Lord on his assuming office, and the speech which he then made, and the further forecasts which followed that Statement in the House, I think that description is not inapt. When we know that description was applied to the Statement and Estimate in many other papers as well, very naturally Members of this House and the country at large looked forward to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman two days ago with rather more interest than usual. We have had that speech, and probably it is the most comprehensive statement that he has ever made in the House of Commons. It was detailed; it was almost voluminous, and in so far as he dealt with certain subjects I do not think there is anyone in the House, to whatever side he belongs, who will disagree with the opinion that he dealt with them well and in a way that would bring conviction to the minds of his listeners. The First Lord was peculiarly clever. I am not sure that those who are not closely critical on naval matters may not have gone away with the feeling that he dealt with every 1991 single feature of naval policy that could be dealt with, and that there was nothing else left. If we take either the Explanatory Statement issued on the 12th of this month, or the speech of the First Lord, it will be found that whilst they are admirable from many points of view, there was an even greater value in the omissions of the First Lord, to many of which my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) in his admirable speech drew attention. It is very difficult in a case of this kind to avoid breaking the Standing Order against vexatious repetition. I am afraid some of my minor criticisms must rather follow the lines of my hon. Friend. Taking first the Explanatory Statement I would like to draw the attention of the First Lord to these comments on it. Perhaps his most important sentence was that in which it says:—Every effort will be made to secure punctua deliveries, and should conditions change and progress improve a further Estimate will be presented later in the "year.That is all very well. We all noted that with considerable pleasure, but I cannot recall in the whole course of the First Lord's speech, any passage on which he told us what this Estimate exactly is to be for. Will it be an Estimate to advance the ships of past programmes which are already under construction, and thereby to endeavour to make up for the delays in which we find them this year? Or is he to take a further Estimate, if the congestion in the shipyards passes away, so that he can lay down earlier than at present intended, the three contract-built ships for which he has only allowed about £30,000 each. He has not told us on what dates he proposes to lay down those ships, or when he intends to order the destroyers, or whether any have been ordered. I do not think it would be going too far to ask him to say about what number or what percentage of superiority we are likely to have of submarines compared with other nations? I would not like to suggest that the First Lord should say anything which would be detrimental to the public interest, but there are certain things which get into the newspapers and in the House we should know about them as definitely as possible. These are points of omission which, as a rule, have previously appeared in the Explanatory Statement. I see no explanation of the unspent money of last year, and the First Lord 1992 said nothing upon the subject. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) made considerable reference to that. Then what explanation has the First Lord to give of the postponement of the small river gunboats. Can he account for that postponement? Will he come down and tell us that he has got a certain amount of money which he cannot spend and which must go back to the National Debt, and yet the Admiralty could not go on with these river gunboats and proceed with their construction? I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that. We had a considerable discussion on the last two Estimates as to a hospital ship. We were informed, if I remember aright, that designs had been specially prepared for a vessel which was to fulfil certain specific purposes in a Fleet in the event of war. What has the right hon. Gentleman done? He has purchased a rather aged merchant vessel, the "Heliopolis," which is to be renamed the "Mediator," and sent to Pembroke for conversion. He probably did that on the advice of the experts, but when a feature has been made in these Estimates of a vessel of immense value if an action takes place at sea, we have a right to expect some mention to be made of it in the explanatory statement or in the speech of the First Lord.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill)
I am afraid I had to trespass a good deal on the patience of the House. I spoke for well over two hours.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
The speech was so interesting that we should have been glad to have heard the right hon. Gentleman for another two hours if he had only dealt with the points he admitted. He might have dealt with them in the Explanatory Statement.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
It is dealt with on page 5.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I have read the Statement carefully, yet I cannot see any reference to the delay in the destroyers of the 1911 programme, five only of which have been delivered as against, I believe, three times as many that should have been in commission by the 31st of this month. It would have been entertaining to hear his explanation why the "Nottingham" and the "Lowestoft" are to cost in construction in the Government yards a matter of £340,000 apiece, when the price asked by 1993 the Thames Ironworks was only £312,000, and was subsequently reduced to £300,000, while a final offer was made to build them for £295,000 each. Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that. There was a further offer by a northern yard to build these two cruisers for £280,000 apiece. It is extraordinary that there should be an increase of £60,000 in the cost of comparatively small vessels under 6,000 tons when transferred from contract to the Government yards, when the Government dockyards are supposed to be able to build vessels cheaper than contractors. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Estimates he will find the prices there as compared with the tenders sent in. I recognise that in a vast Department like the Admiralty it is always quite easy to put one's finger upon little failings. You cannot expect any great business to be carried on without causes for criticism arising in the multifarious details of that business. I do not think it would serve any useful purpose if I were to attempt to deal with the petty grievances, or suggested petty grieances that continually arise and are placed before Members of Parliament, merely for the sake of party talk across the floor, but I wish to dwell upon the main policy of the Estimates, which the right hon. Gentleman divided into two wide sections, materiel and personnel.
In regard to materiel the First Lord, as every First Lord has done, gave us his views as to what our estimated strength would be in the years to come up to the period when the programme he now presents to the House is to reach completion. He then turned to his supporters behind him and said that if it can be proved that this is not sufficient then more will be provided. That is a paraphrase of his words, but I think it is near enough. It is difficult for a layman and a Member of the Committee to put forward an opinion against what the right hon. Gentleman calls the expert advice of those behind him at the Admiralty, but he will not deny that an extraordinary good case was made by the hon. Member for Fareham yesterday, and I hope my hon. Friend will not think me impertinent if I endeavour to cross his "t's" and dot his "i's." It has become a habit to set up a standard. A standard is of very great value for the reason that it permits the British public, who are not very much in touch with the practical working of the Fleet, themselves to find out to some 1994 extent from the various manuals produced our actual strength in the leading features of naval power. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not a fact that all publications sent out from the Admiralty giving information in regard to British ships are supposed to give exactly the same information. I have here the Dilke Return, which is used continuously by the newspapers and speakers for the purpose of comparing details and figures. The right hon. Gentleman will find in that no less than ninety-three discrepancies compared with the Estimates themselves. A small, but very important point is the indicated horse power of the "King George V." class, which is given in the Estimates at 31,000. In the Dilke Return it is stated at 27,000. The horse power and armament of many cruisers are equally wrong when you compare the two Papers issued on the same day from the Admiralty Office.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I shall be delighted to do so. Since the general acceptance of the principle of standards we have passed through three phases. They cover a period of about twenty-five years. First, we had the two-Power standard, which was a standard under which we were to expect to have in the matter of battleships a number equal to the next two Powers, plus 10 per cent. When the present Government came into office in 1906 they entirely threw over that standard, and the reason they did so was, in the opinion of the majority of the Liberal party, that they thought it was too great. We had last year an explicit statement by the First Lord that the two-Power standard, in his conception, is entirely inadequate.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
If the right hon. Gentleman will look at his speech on 18th March last year, he will find that he told us then that the two-Power standard as applied to European Powers—
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I do not think that there is any difference of opinion that that, as applied to the European Powers, is wholly inadequate. That being so, we come to the second phase in standards; that is rather a paradox, because there was no standard. We come to a sort of limp period, when things were done for which no adequate explanation was ever offered. That was the period when ships already agreed upon as necessary for our naval strength were allowed to be dropped, in the hope that a Power, strong in its nationality, recognising the position it was slowly making for itself in the councils of the world, had accepted a series of naval Bills, and who intended, since they were law, to stick to them to the end. That was one of the weakest policies possible, and brought bad results in its train. First, the result was that it encouraged in the minds of a number of possibly hostile Powers the idea that we were weakening. The second and most important thing was that is disorganised the shipbuilding capacities of our private yards. They had built themselves up to expect programmes of four to six armoured ships every year. Suddenly those programmes are reduced. The whole matter was disorganised. Skilled labour went abroad or went over to the Colonies. That in itself was sufficiently bad. I should like to say just here that the suggestion of a naval holiday is more practical in this, that whereas in those days we stopped shipbuilding and asked other Powers to do the same, the right hon. Gentleman now says, which is infinitely wiser, if they will stop shipbuilding we give our word of honour we will do the same. That is an attitude which one can understand. They are not going to adopt it, but it sounds extraordinarily well and allows great praise to him on the platforms of his supporters when they talk of his naval policy in the future.
Then from that we reach the period of the right hon. Gentleman himself, and he made that very remarkable speech upon which he got praise from every quarter of the House. I want him to realise that my criticism is intended to be entirely moderate and fair. He took the whole House bluntly into the confidence of the Admiralty. He informed the country exactly the objective against which the Admiralty was building, recognising that we and the Germans were of a sufficiently powerful calibre in regard to our national mentality to stand straight speaking, and 1996 he then told us that what was necessary was, in the opinion of the expert advisers of the Admiralty, a 60 per cent. margin in ships of the "Dreadnought" type. So that I shall not get into difficulties later on, he also added that the 60 per cent. was to allow for certain oversea obligations. The whole country, and certainly the Committee, rather approved of that suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman as being an earnest of better things to come, particularly when we remember that he told us that you did not want the two keels to one standard yet, but the time might come when that would be necessary. It suggested to our minds that we should hear something more about that this year. Let us see where that 60 per cent. has carried us. We have undoubtedly got it this year, and we have undoubtedly got it next year, but is he going to give this Committee his absolute assurance that during every month of 1915 and 1916, even including the "New Zealand," we shall have a 60 per cent. majority in Home waters in ships of the "Dreadnought" type as against Germany? Can he give the Committee that absolute assurance that at any time, including the "New Zealand," we are going to maintain that 60 per cent.? I submit that he cannot give that assurance, and if the First Lord states it as the expert opinion of those very distinguished officers he has collected about him that to ensure at all times the safety of this nation we require 60 per cent., if he is going to make a mistake in his percentages, in the interests of national safety the percentage ought to be on the increase side and not below that 60 per cent.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I withdraw Home waters. Sixty per cent. outside the Colonial ships, and I will let the right hon. Gentleman take in the "New Zealand." What is the case of the "New Zealand"? Am I right in putting this as a possible explanation of the situation, that it was known prior to the right hon. Gentleman's speech last year that the "New Zealand" was to be an absolute gift to us, and therefore to be incorporated in our Fleet exactly as the Admiralty desired until the time it was placed on the scrap heap, that New Zealand as a Dominion would have no further hold over the ship, and no right to recall it, and, in fact, it became as much a part of our Fleet as the "King George" or the "Orion"? He told 1997 us yesterday that if she were to run ashore the Admiralty would at once have to replace her. But the "New Zealand," according to the words of the ex-Prime Minister, was given, not with the intention of being part of our Fleet, but as an addition to any computation that the Admiralty might make. The right hon. Gentleman must accept that at all events. It would be very interesting to see how he gets out of that particular dilemma. He got out of the dilemma of percentages in a very clever way. He has practically left his 60 per cent., and he has gone on now to the individual strength of ships. That is the new method.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
You did not bring that into your percentages. We want to stick to percentages, because the right hon. Gentleman in his speech last year emphasised the value of percentages in counting up ships. I have the quotation:—In time of peace we measure the relative naval construction of two navies by percentages, and that is perhaps as good a way as any other."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1912, col. 1553, Vol. XXXV.]There is no doubt he thought he was going to continue that method of computation. Now he finds he cannot give an absolute guarantee in view of the delays. Finding he cannot give it he is bringing before us a new claim in the superior type of our ships. But his argument there was entirely deceptive. I interrupted and asked whether or not he drew the distinction between "Dreadnoughts" and super "Dreadnoughts" at the difference between types of ships or from the time they were built, but he said—positively the First Lord of the Admiralty stated—that the distinction was drawn at the particular period of building.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Between British "Dreadnoughts" and super-"Dreadnoughts" it was drawn at the class of ship; but in regard to foreign ships, I have treated those ships which were contemporary with British ships as being of equivalent value.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I was going to show that up to a point it would not be a disadvantage. The "Kaiser" happens to have a big displacement, but she is in fact not a super-"Dreadnought" in comparison with the "Orion." Therefore we do not consider her a super-"Dreadnought." But is he going to tell me that the "Orion" is a super-"Dreadnought" in comparison with the successor to the "Kaiser" class? When you come down to taking individual types of ships, in what a difficulty we should be placed if the vastest of our ships happened to be sunk by mischance or by sudden torpedo attack! If a designer comes forward and builds one or two large units equal in their fighting capacity to five or six of those which have gone before, and if that designer is a member of a foreign nation, and the ships are owned by a supposititious enemy, where has the argument of the right hon. Gentleman gone to in which he takes individual ships and does not allow numbers to count? It seems to me that what the right hon. Gentleman is endeavouring to do is to excuse himself for the delays which are taking place in the programmes of the past two or three years. There lies the whole crux of the question. The right hon. Gentleman told us there was congestion in shipbuilding. The natural result of congestion is shortage of skilled labour, and, on top of that, incipient labour troubles. Obviously at the time when the yards are wanting every single man they possibly can get that is the time the agitator gets to work. That is the difficulty he is meeting now, but I would ask the Committee not really to place too much strength upon the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman. May I put this to him? Will he tell the Committee that if he were to send out the tenders now for the three battleships, which he is going to in fact to put off until next year, he would get acceptance for those tenders, to build them within thirty months, laid down in July? Is it not a fact that there are at present at least five stocks capable of taking "Dreadnoughts" which are empty and that when the "Ajax" has left Scott's yard on the Clyde they will not have a big ship under construction?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I have never said it would be impossible to lay down the three contract battleships at an earlier date.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
Then why does the right hon. Gentleman say he cannot take more money because of the congestion in the shipyards? That surely does away with the whole of his excuse.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
That referred to the continuation programme—the great number of ships which are now under construction. I can only urge their construction forward. I do not think it is in my power to prevent any delay that occurs.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
What the right hon. Gentleman has just said is a great argument for what I was going to put forward. The whole difficulty is that whereas it is easy, or rather, I should say, possible to build a ship of 17,000 or 19,000 tons in two years the difficulty of constructing one of 27,000 or 30,000 is infinitely greater in the same space of time.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
Take the case of the "King George V." She was commissioned twenty-two and a half months after being laid down, but the right hon. Gentleman knows that she could not go into action to-morrow.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I think there were some small alterations made during the last fortnight, but the ship could take an effective part in any operations in which she might be engaged.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The hon. Gentleman says that great ship was commissioned twenty-two and a half months from the time she was laid down. Naturally, there may be some defects to remedy after a new ship has been commissioned.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
Nevertheless the circumstances in the case of the "King George V." were perfectly unique. The question I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman is: Why not extend the period of construction to thirty months? If that were done, there would be six months in hand for possible delays. I do not want them completed earlier. It would be unfair to the right hon. Gentleman to ask that he should guarantee that the ships he is going to lay down will be ready at a particular date. I understand that it is 2000 proposed to spend no more than £28,000 a ship this year.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It must not be supposed that £28,000 represents the limit of the work which can be done on these ships, in the year. It is well known that the instalments to the contractors are not paid until three months after the work has been done. There is a premium paid on work done before the contract time.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
Then I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to put down these ships four or six months earlier.
I wish to refer to another point. During the past three or four months I have gone round the shipyards, and I have had interviews with a number of shipbuilders. They say that in times of congestion such as this the Admiralty should give warning as to whether or not they are likely to be called upon to tender. The shipbuilders cannot when running their yards as commercial concerns keep their slips open on the chance of getting Admiralty orders. There is nothing that could have given greater pleasure to the critics of the First Lord's speech than his reference to the arming of merchant ships. For my own part I have been opposed to the taking of a big sum to be spent on cruisers which might soon become obsolescent. I think the proposal that we should be prepared to fight like with like will meet with general approval. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had not had to fill up his speech with "I hopes" and "ifs." I have been a sympathetic critic of the right hon. Gentleman, and frankly admired his energy and enthusiasm, but, while there were points in his speech which I endorse, I feel considerable anxiety as to the position of the Navy in 1915, 1916, and 1917, and the years that are to follow.
§ Captain MURRAY
We have heard a great deal in the course of the Debate about numbers so far as "Dreadnoughts" are concerned, but we have heard very little about what, in my opinion, is just as important, and that is the design and armament of our capital ships. This is a subject in which in previous years I have taken a keen interest, and it is within these limits I propose to confine my observations to-day. The First Lord in his speech the day before yesterday made what to my mind is a very important Statement. He said:—But the strength of navies cannot be reckoned only in 'Dreadnoughts'"—2001 That was emphasised by the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford), who spoke yesterday. The First Lord went on to say—and the day may come when it may not be reckoned in 'Dreadnoughts' at all. When, therefore, I am attempting to forecast, not for this year only, but for a series of years ahead what our construction in capital ships will be, I hope it will be understood that numbers ought to be taken as units of war power and of money power which the Admiralty will, if they think fit, when the time comes, express in a different form."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913, col. 1769.]That statement was, to my mind, a most important one. It is not necessary to emphasise to the Committee the importance of sea power to this country and to the British Empire at large, but if sea power be important, it is essential that our ships should be designed on correct principles, in other words, that the fighting machine should be the most effective that brains and science can produce. There is one further aspect of the matter in that connection to which I should like to call attention, namely, it is not only the brains of the designer which should be brought to bear upon this problem, but the brains of the tactician and of the man who may be called upon to take ships of the line into battle. The question I wish to ask to-day is this: Is there any accepted principle, based upon tactical requirements in battle, that governs the design of the ships of the line. I propose to examine briefly the trend of our shipbuilding policy, so far as our capital ships are concerned, and, in order to do that, I must enter into the question of guns and armour. What is the present tendency so far as guns and armour are concerned? The tendency appears to be to increase the calibre of our primary guns and to use armour of ever increasing thickness, and if that tendency is pursued to its logical conclusion, it must eventually mean that ships, instead of having a displacement of 30,000 tons, will require 40,000, 50,000, or 60,000 tons displacement, and over. The question I wish to ask is: Does this tendency to increase the calibre of the gun and increase the thickness of the armour produce the most effective and the best fighting machine? It has to be remembered that the bigger gun—that is to say, the increased calibre—leads to thicker armour. There is a continual race between the projectile and the armour. A 12-in. gun is produced. Shortly afterwards thicker armour is produced, in order to keep out the projectile from the 12-in. gun. The result has been that a short time after that again there is produced a 13.5-in. gun in order to pierce the exist- 2002 ing armour; and so the race proceeds. But it has always been found, so far, that in the end the gun wins. A 12-in. gun throws a projectile of 850 pounds, which will pierce 17-in. Krupp steel at 8,000 yards. If the range is under 8,000 yards it will pierce all armour which is now carried by a battleship. A 13-5-in. gun throws a 1,250 pound projectile which pierces 12 inches of Krupp steel at 12,000 yards. When you have produced an armour-piercing projectile which will penetrate all existing armour a great deal of your armour is perfectly useless, and a subsidiary result of putting on so much useless armour is that you put into armour 5,000 tons, it may be, in the case of a battleship, of displacement which otherwise might be put into guns.
§ Captain MURRAY
The armour-piercing projectile must hit in the right place to do the damage. I quite see the hon. Gentleman's point. I am assuming for the purpose of my argument, and must assume, that the armour-piercing projectile strikes the armour in such a way as to penetrate.
§ Captain MURRAY
I must assume that for the purposes of my argument. Further, I assume that at present the armour-piercing projectile will pierce all existing armour, and that therefore a great deal of the armour which you have put on your battleships is useless, and that you might employ that weight more efficiently by putting it into guns. That is my argument, that your battleships will be better fighting machines and able to exercise more offensive power if a great deal of the armour were replaced in terms of weight by guns. To pursue that argument a little further, the size of guns and the thickness of armour raise this question: Will an enemy be defeated more quickly by having his guns put out of action and his personnel disabled or by being sunk? An examination of the actions which have been fought in modern times, in the Manchurian war and elsewhere, shows that in the majority of cases the guns have been reduced to silence and 2003 the enemy defeated before the ships foundered. It is interesting to note in this connection the number of hits that are recorded. In no action in the Russo-Japanese war did the hits amount to more than about 6 or 7 per cent. of the rounds fired, except perhaps in the battle of Tsushima, but from the results of that war it has been estimated that 100 hits with 12-in. or other guns, which they used, were required to put a ship of the line out of action. That will give some idea of the number of rounds required to ensure victory. Whatever be the thickness of the armour you carry, the deciding factor is superior gun power—that is the ability to deliver a greater number of effective blows in a given time with the largest number of the smallest guns that will do the work. This definition of superior gun power as opposed to the one-calibre, single-blow doctrine, is finding every year a larger number of adherents both inside the Navy, as I think the Noble Lord knows, and out. I am quite confident that the Board of Admiralty itself, as instanced by the remark which I quoted from the First Lord, and also as instanced by the reintroduction quite lately of secondary armaments, has at last begun to think these things out.
§ Captain MURRAY
I do not quite understand the First Lord. It is open knowledge that for a time there was nothing heavier than 4-in. guns in the "Dreadnoughts" that were built, but now there has been introduced a 6-in. gun.
§ Captain MURRAY
But does the First Lord mean to say that when a ship of the line comes into action and gets to 3,000 or 4,000 yards it is not going to use 6-in. guns against the opposing ships of the line?
§ Captain MURRAY
I very courteously beg to differ from the First Lord. I think it perfectly patent that when ships of the line come into action the present super-"Dreadnoughts," armed with 6-in. guns, will be very glad to have them, and I will go further and say that when that time comes they will say they wished they had 2004 more. At any rate, I think that the reintroduction of what they call the secondary armaments does show that the Board of Admiralty has begun to think these things out. The question that I desire to ask is, Has this tendency to reintroduce smaller guns gone far enough? Imagine an action in the North Sea. Last year and the year before, talking about secondary armaments, I said that there were not many days in the North Sea on which it would be possible to go into action at a range of over 6,000 yards. I said there would be something like sixty-five days, and the Noble Lord interrupted and said there were hardly any days at all on which it would be possible to go into action over that range. That being the case, it must, pro tanto, diminish the value of your big guns. I attempted to show a little earlier what in my opinion would be the value of small guns as opposed to the large guns in a case of that description. I would like to make one more point in regard to the observations of the First Lord of the Admiralty in reference to weight of broadside, which appears to bear upon this important question. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his speech a few days ago, said:—During the three years' period, which will close in March, 1914, the heavy guns in the battleships of the First and Second Fleets in Home waters will have almost doubled their numbers, and in weight of broadside they will have almost tripled.I submit to the First Lord of the Admiralty that it is an error to compare the fighting power of ships by the total weight of their broadsides. I think, if I may respectfully say so—I do not suggest that the First Lord of the Admiralty carries it too far—that it has been carried too far, and that it may be carried too far. Let us compare the weight of broadsides on the "Orion" and the "Rio Janeiro"—the weight of the one is 12,500 lbs., and in the other 12,900 lbs. The "Orion" will have ten effective guns in action against fourteen on the "Rio Janeiro" at long ranges; and, when you come to decisive ranges, the "Orion" will have only ten as against twenty-four of the "Rio Janeiro," which means the firing capacity of the "Rio Janeiro" may be three times more than that of the "Orion." The difference, according to the number of guns in action, is a very important point, as it bears upon this particular topic which I am now discussing. I asked, at the commencement of my remarks, whether there was any accepted principle, based upon the tactical require- 2005 merits of battle, upon which our ships are designed, and I am glad to see the remarks which the First Lord of the Admiralty made in his speech about battle cruisers. I took it upon myself, on the Estimates last year, to criticise the design of the "Queen Mary," which was at that time being launched, and I am very glad to see that the First Lord of the Admiralty has now laid down the principle that the most expensive ships in the world ought also to be for all purposes the strongest. That foreshadows a change in design so far as the battle cruisers are concerned. But does not this emphasise the point I have been making, that there is no accepted principle upon which the ships of the line are laid down? The "Queen Mary" and other vessels of that type were designed and laid down on lines thought out by the powers that be of that time. Very shortly after they had been launched it was found that they were not of a type such as the present powers that be consider to be the most effective fighting machine. I only suggest that this bears out the point which I have been endeavouring to place before the Committee, that there appears to be no accepted principle upon which battleships are designed and laid down, and I do suggest to the First Lord of the Admiralty that something should be done in order to ensure that what now apparently appear to be mistakes made in the past shall not be repeated in the future.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
I desire to say a few words, first of all, with reference to the speech made by the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day. If we had read that speech, and had not known who delivered it, or had not known the circumstances in which it was made, with the exception of that portion of it dealing with the policy of shipbuilding, I think anybody would have said it was a very good speech. But when I read it, knowing the surrounding circumstances and knowing who it was that delivered it, then my opinion of that speech was, and is—though I would not go so far as to use Shakespeare's language by saying that it was "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"—that it signifies simply and solely that the First Lord of the Admiralty has at a long last realised the fact that his own Department and his predecessors in office have been extremely remiss in conducting the affairs of the Admiralty in the past. I must confess that it made me 2006 feel rather angry to hear the First Lord of the Admiralty uttering platitudes, as he did throughout his speech the other day, as though he was giving vent to brilliant new ideas which had never entered the heads of anybody else before, and that he was the first person to realise the very elementary truth of our naval position—truths which I must say have been self-evident and lying open for anybody to learn during a great number of years. This is one of them I should like to refer to, and it occurs towards the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech:—I must, before I sit down, explicitly repudiate the suggestion that Great Britain can ever afford to allow another naval Power to approach her so nearly as to deflect or to restrict her political action by purely naval pressure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913, col. 1789.]I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman who is going to repudiate and who are the people whoever suggested, or have been suggesting, that Great Britain should ever allow any other naval Power to approach her so nearly as to deflect or to restrict her political action. Surely that is the point hon. Members on this side have been pressing on the Admiralty during the last five years, and therefore it comes very badly from the First Lord to come down here and say who is going to repudiate such a suggestion when nobody, so far as I ever heard, except some Members sitting on the back benches opposite, ever made such an absurd suggestion as that. Later on the right hon. Gentleman said:—For more than 300 years we alone amongst the nations have wielded that mysterious and decisive force which is called sea power. What have we done with it?The right hon. Gentleman tells us a great many things we have done with it, and I should like to tell him one thing he and his friends on the Admiralty have been very nearly doing with it, and that is they have been perilously near throwing it away during the last five years, and of putting us in the position of losing that sea power on which we have spent so many lives and so much treasure, with all it means to us. The right hon. Gentleman told us we have suppressed the slaver and we have charted the seas, and a lot of things of that sort. Sea power means a great deal more to us than anything stated in the First Lord's peroration It means our very existence, absolutely our existence as a nation. That is a fact which I do not say the right hon. Gentleman does not appreciate and know perfectly well, but he sat, not as First Lord 2007 of the Admiralty, but as a permanent Member of the Government and as a Member of the Cabinet, and allowed the Navy to be reduced and to be neglected to such an extent that to-day we find ourselves in a position that he is unable to deny the allegation. In fact, he has said in his Memorandum to the Canadian Government that in 1915 we shall be in a position of almost inferiority to that of Germany. There has been a chorus of modified praise of the right hon. Gentleman for his speech, and for what he promised and what he says he is doing this year with regard to the Navy. I say it is our duty to remind him, in the first place, that it is only now—I do not say it is too late, but it might have been too late—that the Government have seen the error of their ways, and have at last been brought to realise that the position of the Navy is not what it ought to be, and that we have gone far towards losing that supreme command of the sea which we have held for so many years. I think it is a great mistake that we should treat this matter purely and solely, and discuss it purely and solely, from what is proposed in this year's Estimates. We have got to look at the matter from a larger point of view. We on this side who have during all these years of stress with regard to the Navy diligently endeavoured to keep the question of the Navy outside party politics, have tried very hard to do that—
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I do not know about the election at Croydon in 1909, but I know that at elections I was many times sorely tempted, and I have pointed out what the Radical party was doing with regard to the Navy. On the whole we have managed to keep it out, and I am thankful to say we have kept it out of party politics. Had the state of affairs that existed a few years ago continued, then I think it would have been absolutely impossible for us to have kept the Navy out of party politics. I need not say I am very glad indeed we have been able to do so. I notice that in the Army Estimates a Minister of the Crown made a statement foreshadowing the time when there would be a great military question of universal service, and he deliberately pledged his party beforehand, and I presume with the knowledge of his own leaders, when that question became more and more a press- 2008 ing subject it would be treated as a party question. I am glad to say we have never done anything of the sort, and we still intend to keep out of party politics as far as we can on the Army also. I would also like to note the very pleasant change in the whole tone and atmosphere of the Debate on the Navy Estimates this year compared to the tone and condition of affairs which existed a few years ago. I would like to point to the conspicuous absence, not only to-day, but for days past, of the hon. Members who used to sit on the back benches opposite and used to call out for a huge reduction in the Estimates year by year. I am glad to see that they have not even the face to come and face us oh this occasion. First of all the Government and then the people on the benches immediately behind them, and finally the Gentlemen behind them again, and below, used to say that the time for reducing—
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are only five Members present on his own side?
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
What has that to do with my argument about the "Peace at any price" party? We do not need to be here so far as they are concerned. I am referring to the hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs (Mr. M. Macdonald) and to the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby), who, during 1906, 1907, and 1908, used to make speech after speech beseeching the Admiralty to reduce the Estimates, and suggesting a standard of strength which would long ago, if it had come into being, have simply meant our absolute ruin and destruction. I am glad to see that those hon. Members, with the exception of a prominent example below the Gangway, have not been present, or, if they have, have discreetly held their tongues. I would like to contrast the action of our Admiralty during those years with the action of the Germans quite lately. I am not referring on this occasion to a naval action on the part of the Germans, but to a military action. Here we have been all these years since the Radical party came into power up to the time when, by sheer necessity, they have learned the true facts of the case and are now endeavouring to make up for lost time, and how does that contrast with the action of Germany within the last few months? Owing to events that have taken place in the Balkan Peninsula, Germany realised that her 2009 position as a military Power will be, and is, considerably different from what it was before the war began. She does not wait, as the Admiralty would have done in a similar position, for six years to see how its position was going to be affected. She takes hold of the problem without losing a moment, and has passed an ordinance by which she is going to increase the strength of her army by from 100,000 to 200,000 men, and is also spending £50,000,000 additional. I say that that is the true patriotic course for a nation to take. It compares most favourably with the wretched waiting policy that has been observed in every Department—not only by the authorities of the War Office, but also by the Admiralty—during nearly the whole of the time the present Government has been in power. The other day the Secretary of State for War told us that the Aeroplane Department of the Army was in a most satisfactory condition; that we had the finest aeroplanes in the world, and so on. The First Lord of the Admiralty has told us much the same thing with regard to the Navy. The real fact is that the Admiralty and the War Office deliberately allowed every other country in Europe to get miles ahead of them before they began even to think of aeroplanes or to organise an Air Department at all. That is not the way that the defensive departments of the country should be conducted. We ought to do what Germany does when she sees a danger—go straight for it and tackle it at once, instead of allowing years to pass, during which the country is in a state of uncertainty and danger. But that is the very last thing that our people do, and in this respect the Admiralty have sinned, perhaps more seriously than any other Department during the last five years.
With regard to the programme, five big ships are to be laid down this year. We do not think that that is enough. We ought certainly to have had six. I was inclined to moderate my criticisms on that point, for this reason: I understood, apparently erroneously, that, even if we wanted six ships, we could not lay them down, because, owing to the congestion in the shipyards, there would not be room for a considerable time for more than five ships to be laid down. But the hon. Member for Kensington (Mr. Burgoyne) told the Committee, without being contradicted or questioned by the representative of the Admiralty, that there are actually five slips which are either at the moment available, or will be available in a short 2010 time, on which big ships could be laid down. My hon. Friend (Mr. A. Lee) tells me that the First Lord said that it could be done. I was not aware of that. That fact certainly alters our criticisms, because apparently we could lay down an extra ship, and many of us think that two extra ships would not be too much. The First Lord admitted in his Canadian Memorandum and in his speech yesterday that during the period of three years upon which we are now entering, our superiority will be very slight indeed. I cannot understand why in a matter of such vital importance to every interest in the country there should be any holding back on the part of the Admiralty, especially when Members opposite admit, by action and by speech, that we have been remiss in the past. Seeing that one more battleship would put us in a considerably better position, I cannot understand why the money that is necessary is withheld.
I must refer briefly to the egregious proposal of the First Lord that there should be a year's holiday in the matter of shipbuilding. I have seldom heard a more childish and ridiculous proposal made by a responsible Minister. It is childish, in the first place, because there is not the faintest possibility of its being accepted or even being taken seriously by the Power to whom it was addressed. Whether the First Lord was really serious in making it I cannot say. Nor can I say whether he addressed the offer to Germany or to the hon. Members who used to sit on the back benches behind him. I am inclined to think that it was addressed to those hon. Members, because they are the only people whom I can understand being taken in by anything so extremely childish. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) was taken in by it. He will probably inform us later on. Germany certainly will not be taken in by it, as the criticisms in this morning's papers clearly show. To make such a suggestion at the present time is very undiplomatic, not to say unpatriotic. In Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's time the Liberal Government went on their knees to Germany, begging and beseeching her to restrain from increasing her armaments. They did everything they could, and many things they ought not to have done, in the endeavour to get Germany to arrest her shipbuilding programme. They failed utterly and absolutely. The Germans, quite properly, went ahead with their programme, and have now a considerable number of ships. Having that 2011 experience before their eyes, one would have thought that the British Admiralty would have said, "We have done our best to induce these people to reduce armaments. We have been unsuccessful. Therefore, the only thing to do is to see to it that we have such an overwhelming Navy that they will be compelled, sooner or later, from sheer inability to keep up the competition, to cease building, and in that way to effect a reduction in armaments."
Apparently that is not the attitude taken up, and now, at a time when it is less likely than ever that it would be favourably received, this suggestion is put forward. From the point of view of our entente with France it is a most deplorable proposal. It apears to me that while France—France being, not our ally, but our best friend on the Continent—is engaged in tremendous rivalry and competition with Germany in the matter of land armaments, we propose to Germany that we should for the time being cease our rivalry in sea armaments, and thereby reduce the amount which Germany will have to pay for her armaments by the amount of one year's new construction. I do not know what that amounts to, but it is certainly several millions. I do not think that that is a particularly friendly act towards France. The country should make up its mind once for all that, whatever the cost, we must get back to the position of supremacy in which we were five or six years ago. Until we do that we can never be safe. We shall be in the position which the First Lord repudiated when he said that Great Britain could never afford to allow any naval Power to approach her so nearly as to be able to restrict her political action by purely naval pressure. It is the duty of everybody in this country, no matter what sacrifices may be necessary, to demand that we shall be put into such a position that that which the First Lord repudiates shall never take place.
With reference to the Canadian and other Colonial contributions to the Navy, I am sure I speak the mind of every Englishman when I say that we are deeply grateful to the Colonies for the way in which they have come to our assistance in this matter. I recognise to the full the constitutional difficulty which surrounds the offer of these ships and the way in which they are to be treated by us. I think really that the House of Commons 2012 at the present time, at any rate, is not quite the proper place to enter into a full discussion on that point. I think obviously this is first of all a matter as between the Colonial Governments and the Colonial Office of this country as to what position exactly these ships are to take in our Fleet. The hon. Member mentioned another very important and very interesting point, namely, the constitutional position which arises in reference to the ship or the sum promised by the Malay States. It opens up a very interesting point. But I may inform the First Lord of the Admiralty, so far as this side of the House is concerned, that we will treat him very lightly if he oversteps the bounds of legality in (his matter. I quite see the point of the hon. Member, and I think it is one that perhaps ought to be made more clear on another occasion.
I have said something about aeroplanes. I do not think we are at all well fitted with aeroplanes. I acquit the First Lord of the Admiralty of any blame, any more than the collective blame which lies with the whole Government in this matter. I think considering his statement he has done very well during the past year. He told us, as the War Secretary did the other day, that what has been done in respect of aeroplanes in other countries was not a serious matter. That is nonsense. It is a very serious matter, or may be. Some people think that aeroplanes are not as valuable as weapons of war as other people at present suppose them to be. They may or may not be so, but supposing they prove to be very successful as weapons of war, supposing that other countries are well supplied with them and we have none, where are we? The Government of this country, it seems to me, always takes the wrong action. They wait until these things have been proved to be useful or not, as the case may be, taking the risk of the danger that may be inflicted upon us in the meantime. That is wrong. We know what Germany has done. Germany sees the possibility of them being useful in war, and she knows therefore that if another country lays in a large stock, and they prove to be useful, that she may be confronted with that danger, and she guards against that possibility by providing a large number of airships. We ought to do the same. The policy we have pursued of waiting to see whether these aircraft are useful or not is a mistaken policy, and one that in the long run is bound to lead us into danger.
2013 One more word with reference to the Colonial ships. The Committee should remember—I do not know whether anybody has really appreciated the fact—that splendid as this gift of the Colonies is, and greatly as we appreciate it, it is in reality very little use to us during what I call the danger period of the next three years. These ships, with the exception of the "New Zealand," will not be ready until 1916–or later. We all know that what is called the danger period into which we are now entering will then probably be over. We hope it will be over, if nothing intervenes in the meantime by the beginning of 1916. Therefore we say that the First Lord in the statements he has made in his speech really does not paint the situation quite as frankly as he ought to do. He has not emphasised that which I think it was his duty to do—the period of danger through which we are about to pass during the next three years. I trust that that period will be successfully surmounted. I know most people say we have managed to muddle through in worse times in the past. I quite admit we have. We have a wonderful genius for muddling through, but at the same time it is a very bad business, and we might try it once too often. I repeat it is a very bad business for this country, which has only to keep up one Service in a thoroughly efficient state, and that is the naval service. I think we ought not to leave a single thing to chance, and I am sorry to say that year after year we leave a great many more things than one to chance.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am not going to detain the Committee more than a few moments, but I cannot allow the remarks which have been made by the hon. Member who has just sat down to pass unnoticed. He seemed to regard the Liberal party as being in office simply and solely to discredit the British Navy.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
We know perfectly well that in the last year of the Unionist Government, 1905, that that Government reduced the expenditure upon the Navy by £1,500,000, and reduced the personnel by 2,000 men. This Debate shows conclusively that the Navy was never better administered than at the present time. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) was genially vituperative. I have been long enough in the House to realise 2014 when the Noble Lord adopts that attitude everything is well with the British Navy. Hon. Members on both sides of the House must have been amused by the spectacle of the First Lord being attacked by a Beresford-Hardie attack on the flank. The Noble Lord admonished the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil because of his attack on the First Lord with regard to his dealings with the Canadian Parliament, and immediately after the Noble Lord and the hon. Member joined hands to attack the First Lord in unison.
Personally, I feel a deep debt of gratitude towards the First Lord, because I believe he is the first man who has realised the enormous importance of the East Coast of the North of Scotland for the defence of this country. One of the greatest mistakes in the whole of modern British naval policy was the cession of Heligoland to Germany. Ever since that the whole of the East Coast of Scotland has been in perpetual danger from a descent from Kiel Harbour or the German shore. That was a Unionist mistake. I am glad accordingly to see that we have now got Rosyth in the Firth of Forth and that the First Lord sees the importance of this matter; and we are indebted to him for the personal attention he has given to this urgent problem of the defence of the East Coast of Scotland. The First Lord of the Admiralty recognised that one of the most convenient natural harbours for defensive purposes in the whole of the United Kingdom was the harbour of Cromarty Firth and Invergordon. I am glad to see that in the Estimates he has been wise enough to put down £160,000 for defensive purposes there. I would like the Civil Lord in reply, to explain what exactly the amount is to be expended upon. I trust the First Lord will pursue his journey further north and go beyond Scarpa Flow, round to the Island of Lewis, where there is an equally good harbour, where, in the past centuries, attacks from the northern parts of the Continent of Europe were made on this island. I am told also that the harbour of Stornoway is one of the finest for defensive purposes, and I do trust that when the right hon. Gentleman arrives at that harbour he will re-establish the naval school for the Naval Reserve. In days gone by the Naval Reserve, I am glad to say, had a great many representatives living in the Island of Lewis, and I think it would be in the general interests and in the interest of economy and of the 2015 local community if that school were revived. I wish to express on behalf of my Constituents, and indeed on behalf of the whole nation my thanks to the Admiralty for having recognised that there is in the North of Scotland an excellent harbour for defensive purposes and for being prepared to utilise it effectively in the national interest.
§ Mr. GRETTON
I wish to refer particularly to one feature of the speech delivered by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He was, I think, very unfortunate in the phraseology which he applied to the shipbuilding programmes of other countries. It was hardly necessary to describe the policy of foreign Admiralties as stupendous folly—
§ [ROYAL ASSENT.—Message to attend the Lords Commissioners. The House went, and, having returned, Mr. SPEAKER reported the Royal Assent to the Consolidated Fund (No. 1) Act, 1913.]
§ Mr. GRETTON
I was offering to the Committee, when I was interrupted, some remarks about the phraseology and manner of the First Lord's speech, in proposing to this House for its consideration the suggestion of a one year's holiday in shipbuilding. In this country and this Assembly we quite well understand that that is only a piece of window-dressing very useful for the Government of the day, but the purpose of it is not apparent and easily understood in foreign countries. They do not quite understand why the suggestion was made, or the manner in which it was addressed to the world at large. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire (Mr. Molteno) made what, in the opinion of many of us, are somewhat unfortunate criticisms in regard to the gifts of ships by some of the Colonies towards the British Navy. I do not think it is wise to criticise too closely the form in which those gifts are made, and I deprecate criticisms of the kind the hon. Member has made. No doubt there will be further developments in the future, but it is not for us to endeavour to force the hands of the Colonies, whether they are Crown Colonies or otherwise, into any particular line of action. That is a matter of negotiation and consideration for the statesmen of the day representing the respective countries.
2016 The hon. Member appeared to think that the right line was that each of the Dominions should have its own independent fleet. The First Lord was perfectly right when he pointed out the military advantages of having one homogeneous Fleet. There is not only the difficulty of collecting an allied Fleet from various parts of the world, but there is also the difficulty of using it as a homogeneous whole. Anyone who investigates this subject will realise, throughout the pages of naval history, the difficulty of using an allied force under different commands, and this has often proved fatal to the success of the cause for which that allied force was fighting. The battle Fleet and its auxiliaries, from a military point of view, ought to be one homogeneous whole. I am not now criticising in any way what has been done by the Dominion of Australia, because the patrolling of distant waters is very different from the organisation and management of the battle Fleet of the Empire, which, on military grounds, must be organised on a somewhat different basis. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire raised a matter which is pertinent to the consideration of this question. He said that the assent, in some form or other, of the House of Commons ought to be obtained in regard to these contributions of the Colonies towards the Navy in order to meet the constitutional position. The House of Commons is being committed to future expenditure, which it will have to undertake, and it is only right that we should have some voice in the matter before the money is voted. Surely a token vote could be put down to meet the case in order to meet the constitutional position. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire appeared to think that the presence of representatives of the Dominions upon the Committee of Imperial Defence would be an infringement of the constitutional position. I do not wonder that on these matters hon. Members opposite often get into confusion as to what is the constitutional position, and they show considerable ignorance in dealing with these questions.
In this matter the constitutional position is in no way involved. The Committee of Imperial Defence is not a part of the Constitution, and has no responsibility under it. It is purely an advisory body for advising the Government of the day. The Constitution places the power with the Government of the day, and the 2017 Committee of Imperial Defence can in no way share either the power or responsibility for exercising that power, because that must remain with the Government. I think the association of the representatives of the Dominions with us in matters connected with Imperial defence is desirable, and I think that would be a convenient way in the future of bringing our great Dominions into consultation with us on Imperial questions. I rose mainly to deal with two questions, and one of them is the admission that the laying down of more ships has not been restricted because there is no more accommodation in the dockyards. I think there must be some other reason. Clearly another "Dreadnought" is wanted, because the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) ascertained from the First Lord last night that he is counting the "New Zealand" as part of his standard for the strength of the Navy, which he is clearly not entitled to do under the terms attached to the gift of that ship. Therefore, I think we ought to lay down at once, not five but six ships this year. Why has there been this delay? We know there has been some difficulty in finding the skilled labour in the shipyards, but that is not the real difficulty.
I would ask the First Lord if it is part of his difficulty that he cannot procure in time a sufficient number of the new and larger gun-mountings and larger guns which he has put in recent ships, and which, we understand, he proposes to mount the new ships in this year's programme? If that is so it shows that this question has not been thoroughly investigated by the Admiralty, and that provision had not been made before the country was committed to a new type of gun-mounting and a new type of gun. It has been pointed out constantly from this side of the House in past years that delays in the construction of ships are going to occur unless the Government proceed on a regular programme with foresight as to what they are going to do in succeeding years. I venture to make one suggestion. It has been made before, but it was not then found to be practicable. I do not think the Government at that time, however, were very seriously trying to do anything in this matter. I would suggest that labour difficulties, strikes, lock-outs, or trade disputes which involve cessation of work might be eliminated from causing delays in building contracts with the Admiralty or with the War Office. There is no difficulty in ascertaining in any 2018 works what proportion of the output is intended for the Admiralty. Everyone in the works concerned knew in years past that there was a Government contract, and it was always a source of satisfaction to employers and employed that they did work for the British Government. I would suggest that when a trade dispute occurs which involves a cessation of work the Admiralty contracts should be exempt from that cessation, and that both employers and employed, when a contract is entered into, should agree that work should not cease, but should continue on the old terms until the dispute is settled, when the new terms arranged between the employer and employed can be applied to the contract. It seems to me a great pity that the nation should be placed in a dilemma because of disputes between employers and employed in dockyards. I think it should be eliminated as far as possible from the calculations of the Admiralty.
I want to call attention to one matter which is not mentioned by the First Lord in his Memorandum, but which is set out in the "Distribution of Admiralty Business." Last year the First Lord agreed with the view I then ventured to express that it is desirable that the business of the Navy should be administered by the Board of Admiralty under the direction of the Cabinet of the day. There is another principle which I think no one will dispute. The business of preparation for war or of conducting war—and after all the Admiralty is a war organisation and nothing else—must be divided into two sides: command and supply. A great deal may be said about the new Civil Lord and the confusion his presence on the Board must sooner or later inevitably bring into the business of the Admiralty. The new arrangement to any business man is quite inexplicable. The First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, under the First Lord who is the representative of the Cabinet, must exercise the functions of command. It is so laid down in the distribution of business. The First Sea Lord has to use the Fleet, the Second Sea Lord has to man the Fleet, and the Third Sea Lord has to equip the Fleet. If the First Sea Lord has to use the Fleet both in peace for training and exercising and in war, giving the orders to bring it into effective action, he must have under his direction all those Departments and all those functions which properly belong to that portion of the command of the Fleet. It is rightly laid down 2019 in this distribution of business that it is his function to see to the fighting and sea-going efficiency of the Fleet, and its organisation.
Then we come to a function which I think does not belong to him: mobilisation, That clearly has to do with manning and is not part of the business of using the Fleet. It is the business of the Second Sea Lord and of the Third Sea Lord to prepare the Fleet and to hand it over to the First Sea Lord to use it. Mobilisation is part of the business of manning. There is confusion in introducing that part, a very important and complicated part, of the business of the Admiralty under the supervision of the First Sea Lord. In the same way, a little lower down it will be found that the Second Sea Lord's duties are set out to be manning and training of the Fleet. I may be wrong in understanding that to mean the preliminary exercises connected with the schools and barracks ashore. Clearly that would come under the Second Sea Lord's supervision. If, however, it means the exercising and the instruction of the officers and men, then that clearly ought to be under the First Sea Lord, because he must instruct them in the use to which he intends to put the Fleet. I would suggest that the proper provision, the logical provision, and sooner or later the inevitable provision is that mobilisation should be transferred to the Second Sea Lord, to whom it properly belongs, the Sea Lord who is responsible for manning the Fleet, and that the training of the Fleet afloat and the education of the Fleet ought to belong to the First Sea Lord, whose business it is to use the Fleet whether in peace or in war.
I see that signals are put under the Second Sea Lord. Signals have nothing to do with manning, but a great deal to do with the use of the Fleet, and should be under the First Sea Lord, and not under the Second Sea Lord. If I am right in this argument, and I think there is a great deal to support it, the Director of Operations on the Naval Staff, the Director of Intelligence, and the Director of Education ought to be under the First Sea Lord. The Director of Operations prepares plans and schemes for war. The Director of Intelligence ascertains what is being done by our possible enemies, and, when war occurs he obtains intelligence of what our enemies are actually doing. The Director of Education is responsible for directing the mind of the Fleet. It is 2020 trained in a way in which it is to be used by the officer who is responsible for using it. I want to make one other reference to the duties of the Third Sea Lord. In this Memorandum I see that the first place is given to the design and the material of the Fleet. I think that far too great importance can be attached to variations and details of design. That is the landsman's view. But the sailor man attaches primary importance to sea-going efficiency, to the number of guns, the way in which they are mounted, and the training of the crew, rather than to small variations of design. He will not pay too great subservience to invention and design. The only man who can bear the responsibility for design, apart from the Chief Constructor, is the man who is going to use the Fleet, because he must have a Fleet which he can use for the purposes of strategy and tactics which he has designed. To make the Third Sea Lord responsible for design is, in my opinion, a confusion of ideas, bringing into his charge matters which are the business of the First Sea Lord, excepting so far as he carries out the decision of the Board as a whole. I apologise for dealing with this largely technical subject, but it is a matter to which I have given some thought. It is a subject of vast importance, and I venture to say that, what I am now proposing, though it be a small alteration in detail, will effect an important purpose, and bring the organisation of the Admiralty into something like what the organisation of the War Office was brought by Lord Haldane. Anyone who knows the enormous change which has been brought about in the mind of the Army by the new organisation of the War Office, will see that the question of the organisation of the staff is not a matter which should be lightly passed over. After all, the decisions of the Admiralty are decisions which can only be arrived at on a logical basis, and upon those decisions the whole safety of the country will depend. If you have a good machine, you will find good men to work it. But, if your machine is illogical, incomplete, and confused, you will always have confusion in its working. You will often have wrong decisions, and compromising decisions, which are even worse than being wrong. I regret that I cannot express my satisfaction with what is being done in the provision of new ships. I agree that a great deal is being done; I agree that the First Lord is doing his best, but I am not sure whether his best is good enough. 2021 At any rate, he has done one good thing in deciding to arm a number of merchant ships, so as to leave a considerable number of ships free for patrolling in distant seas in case we should be in national danger. That is a step upon which I heartily congratulate him, and I hope his whole-hearted attention will be given to the criticisms and suggestions which have come from this side of the House, not in any party spirit, but in good faith. We do not want to damage our political opponents by criticism of the Navy; that is the last intention we have. We want to see the Navy elevated beyond any party in this country as a great national asset to which all parties can contribute their share
§ Mr. D. MASON
I beg to move a reduction of the Vote by 100 men.
I do so mainly for the reason that it is inflated and redundant. It is difficult to argue the case against the carrying out of his Estimates, but I will endeavour to give the reasons why I think these Estimates appear to be inflated beyond the necessities of the case. I think the House will agree that the criticisms that have been directed towards the First Lord's speech—everyone must pay a tribute to it as a masterly performance whether we agree with it or not—have not gone to show that the British Fleet, in any sense of the word, is not an efficient instrument for the purpose for which it is intended. There has been some criticism by the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) as to the insufficiency of the number of capital ships, and the Member for Kensington (Mr. Burgoyne) went into the technical side and showed his knowledge of the materiel part of the Navy. But I do not think that there was any real or effective criticism to show that we were seriously deficient in any particular aspect. He paid a high eulogy to the First Lord's speech, and, although he made those critcisms, he was fairly well satisfied with the Navy as it is to-day. There was a considerable amount of criticism by the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford), who would like to see more cruisers, and the hon. Member for Fareham, who wanted more airships; but, on the whole, the criticism was not very severe against the Navy as a fighting instrument. I think we are driven to the conclusion that we have in the Navy of the day a Navy fitted for the purpose for which it was intended. I propose to compare the amount we spend with the amounts spent by other nations, such as France and Germany, because it is 2022 only when we do that that we can really get at the facts of the case, and judge whether or not the Estimates are inflated or redundant. What do we find? In the official Return we see that this country is now spending something like £46,000,000 odd upon the Navy, showing an increase over last year of £1,233,900. France, according to the same Return, voted, in 1912, £18,000,000 odd; Germany, for 1912–13, spends £22,000,000; and the United States of America, in the same period, £26,000,000 odd.
§ Mr. D. MASON
In some instances it was a reduction. The United States shows a reduction, the figures being £26,000,000, against £28,000,000 in the previous year. Japan is spending £9,000,000 odd. These are the actual facts. It is easy for an expert to get up and argue that capital ships, cruisers, and aeroplanes are deficient. But, after all, I think we are agreed that the money is well spent, and when we know that we are spending £46,000,000 odd, as against, more particularly Germany, which is so often referred to, and which only spends £22,000,000, I think it is self-evident that the proportion of forty-six against twenty-two should bring confidence and assurance to any hon. Member that our Estimates are really inflated and redundant. It is better to take the general position than to be drawn into the by-path of a particular part of the Navy. I think I have demonstrated that the margin in favour of this country is colossal. I understand from the First Lord's speech that the standard he has laid down is exclusive of anything the Colonies may contribute, therefore we find that the margin is apart altogether from anything the Colonies may contribute. I rejoice in the spirit which is shown by the Colonies in coming forward. I agree with the expression of opinion of many Members from both sides that we all, to whichever party we belong, recognise the spirit which has animated and inspired the Colonies, who voluntarily, as they have done in many instances, and Australia more particularly, have come forward to offer their contribution towards the defence of their shores and to co-operate with the Mother-country in the general defence of the Empire. But I submit that it is not our business to excite and stimulate the Colonies to this end. I fully admit that it is their own business, and that they are the best judges of what is required for the defence of their shores.
2023 As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire (Mr. Molteno) the expense of maintaining the ships contributed to the British Navy will come under these Votes, and we shall have to supply the money. Therefore we ought to express our views as to whether we think these ships will be an additional strength to the British Empire. I believe, on the present showing, that they are redundant, and that we should express that view to the Colonies, if they wish for our view, and if they contemplate anything in the way of further additions. Take the argument of security and strength. It is supposed that the Colonies believe that they are contributing to our strength by making these contributions. Even the Noble Lord opposite (Lord C. Beresford), who is an expert in naval strategy, recognises that there are other things besides mere matériel, which were referred to by the First Lord himself, to be taken into consideration. There is the question of finance. You cannot get away from finance when discussing preparations for war or the strength of a country. I will endeavour to show how finance enters into the proposed contribution by Canada to the British Navy. It is suggested that an expense of £7,000,000 should be incurred for the purpose of adding to the British Navy. That £7,000,000 will have to be borrowed in London. Everyone with any acquaintance with the financial position to-day knows that we are experiencing a very tight Money Market. If you add to that stringency by suggesting to the Colonies that they are adding to our strength by coming forward at a time when our provision is sufficient, that is not a source of strength, but a source of weakness. Let me give an example. Austria, the other day, for the purposes of armaments, went to the Money Market for a temporary loan. Will it be believed that a first-class Power like Austria had to pay only the other day 6½ per cent. for temporary accommodation. That is a striking fact which hon. Members should consider. The Noble Lord knows that, if we were drawn into a European war to-morrow, we should have to borrow anything from £50,000,000 to £100,000,000 on Consols. When a Power like Austria, in a time of peace, not a time of war, has to pay 6½ per cent. for temporary accommodation, that should make us pause to consider whether we are wise in encouraging the 2024 Colonies to incur heavy expenditure for a contribution to the British Navy.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Finance never stopped a war. Turkey and Greece both fought when they were both bankrupt.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I quite agree that it never stopped war, but it is a very important factor in war. If you are engaged in war, you will probably go to the last farthing to defend your territory and honour.
§ Mr. D. MASON
Perhaps you will allow me to give one instance in reply to the interruption, and then I will pass from the subject. The Noble Lord is hardly correct, because it was the financial strain which compelled Japan to come to terms with Russia, and prevented her from getting an indemnity.
§ Mr. LOUGH
On a point of Order. Mr. Maclean, I respectfully ask, is not the question of disaster or difficulty to the nation which may be incurred by finance, quite in order on this Debate? I always thought that every question connected with the Navy was in order, and, indeed, that this was our only opportunity of discussing the matter.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The reason I called the hon. Member to order was that he was going into the whole general question of finance in connection with war. It is perfectly in order, as he started out to say, to say that the number of men asked for is too large and that the number of ships is too large. But to launch out into a general discussion on finance in connection with war is not relevant to the Vote we are discussing.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I will endeavour to keep within your ruling. I respectfully submit that it is essential in regard to these Estimates to debate not only matériel but the other elements which go to make up the foundation on which we either vote or refuse to vote them. I hope I shall be able to show the foolishness of our proceeding with such inflated Estimates in view of the financial position we are in at the present time. Why is this detrimental to this element of strength? There are various reasons for that. We are now enjoying a period of abnormal prosperity of trade. That trade has to be carried on by financial resources 2025 and this extension of trade is taking place all over the world. We are all anxious that this prosperity should continue. We are anxious that when borrowers come to London to negotiate their loans they should be able to do so, and if, through inflated Estimates, we withdraw this capital which would be available for industry and for opening up new territories and adding to the supply of food of the world and thereby decreasing the cost of living we are really doing something to weaken Great Britain's power rather than strengthen it. It is necessary to go into these questions if you wish to arrive at a true opinion as to whether we should vote for increasing our expenditure on the Navy at present. It is in the interests of the labouring class and of the capitalist class, and of industry generally, that we should call a halt and not have regard only to the material aspect, which apparently is the only one that appeals to the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford). Naturally, he wishes to have the most powerful Fleet that it is possible to have.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I should like to point out that the increase in the Naval Estimates in the last four or five years is nothing whatever in proportion to the increase of our wealth.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I am afraid that argument will not hold water. Surely the ability to defend a position does not depend on the value of the position. The mere monetary value of the position has nothing to do with it, and therefore the amount of wealth which we have should not be the measure of our Navy in defending that wealth. The point surely is our material strength. I pass from that to the other suggestion made by the First Lord as to the remedy for this terrible burden which we all admit. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lee) recognises that it is a burden which both sides have to face, and he deplored this terrible burden which we in Europe have to face, and he expressed sympathy with th First Lord in his remarks as to this idea of taking a naval holiday. The right hon. Gentleman offered no practical suggestion further than a mere platonic sympathy with that statement. The Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) does not believe this is a practicable idea, and I must confess that I do not quite see what exactly the First Lord means by taking a naval holiday. I do not think any first-class European Power is going to 2026 say to him or to anyone what is to be its limit of expenditure on its Navy. It has its own ideas of policy, and while I welcome the sentiment expressed and wish that we should have a cessation of this terrible burden, I think if Germany, for example, is going to call a halt in her expenditure it will not be brought about by any expressions of views by the First Lord of the Admiralty, but it will be brought about by public opinion in Germany.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Would it not facilitate any such wish on the part of Germany if it were known that as the result of any such cessation, a similar cessation would take place here?
§ Mr. D. MASON
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. If he would practice what he preaches in his Estimates—
§ Mr. D. MASON
We will hold the right hon. Gentleman to that because we submit that he has an opportunity. The reduction which we hope for will come about in the main as the result of German opinion, and German opinion will be affected by the relations between the two countries. If we can cultivate a better understanding with Germany, and if we can show that we really mean to bring about this happy state of affairs by taking some practical step such, for example, as making some proposals of a Treaty of Arbitration between us and Germany and France and the United States, we should really be taking some step to bring about the ideal which the First Lord has foreshadowed, but to merely suggest to a Power that they should take a naval holiday, without suggesting some means of arriving at this cessation is rather to cast a certain amount of ridicule upon this proposition. You lay yourself open to the criticism which we have heard from the opposite side, that we all know that no Power is going to commit itself to what it is going to spend. It must reserve to itself freedom of action, and if you say you are going to take a naval holiday, reserving to yourself freedom of action, it does not really amount to very much in the way of progress towards this lightening of the burden which we are anxious to see. The First Lord says he will do this as soon as he gets an opportunity. I submit that there is an opportunity at present. I have endeavoured to show that now is the time to take the opportunity. We are in a position of 2027 immense preponderance so far as material strength is concerned, and it is unwise for various reasons, financial and otherwise, to strain the position by increasing the burden at the present time. If the First Lord and the Government are anxious to bring about some lightening of this burden, I submit that to the right hon. Gentleman himself, that he would show he really meant those grave words, to which we listened with immense appreciation and pleasure, by taking, on behalf of the Government, some practical step to show that they are sincere.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
I join in this discussion without any pretence to any special knowledge of the subject. I wish to refer to one or two points in the speech of the First Lord which struck me as requiring some explanation. I listened with considerable interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. D. Mason) on the financial aspects of the question. I would remind him that, whereas he seems to think that these Naval Estimates should be considered in relation to the requirements of financial circles in the City, and whereas he seems to consider that interest on money in this country has gone bounding up out of all proportion to the increase in other countries—[An HON. MEMBER: "No"]—these remarks would apply even better than they do to the Naval Estimates, when we enter upon the discussion of the Civil Service Estimates, where we have such an enormous increase in the past five years. I wish to draw attention specially to the congestion in the shipbuilding yards. The First Lord told us thatThe 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 skilled labour supply."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913, col. 1752.]It seems to me that fact is one which is really perhaps of greater importance than any other in this problem, because it means that the whole question of our naval policy at the present moment is being governed, not so much by financial considerations as by the capacity for output of our plant and men. The question of congestion is really the govening factor in the whole position, and it is admitted by the First Lord that, if it were not for that congestion, he would probably have asked for more money to press forward the building of three particular ships.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
What I actually said was that the contractors who are building ships begun in previous years will not have to be paid the instalments due on these ships at so early a period. The question of the new programme stands quite apart from the continuation programme. I am not using the congestion in the yards as any argument for fixing the date on which new ships will be laid down, but only as an argument for not taking more money for instalments on contracts for ships already begun.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
I am afraid that, so far, I have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, but the point of my argument remains unchanged. It is admitted that the contractors cannot go on faster, whether under the new programme or with ships now under construction. There is a limit to the amount of work which can be done in the shipbuilding yards, and the duration of the present congestion is a matter of conjecture. It was stated yesterday by some speakers that it might be over in a few months, but that is very much a matter of conjecture. I would ask whether the fact of that admitted congestion in our yards has not been taken in conjunction with the statement of the First Lord as to the question of a naval holiday for a year, and whether it has not been taken up by foreign Powers and read together with the other statement for the purpose of criticising his remarks? I say that the criticisms of foreign Powers, which are rather severe, may be connected with the fact that, owing to this congestion, we are in some difficulty as to going on as fast as we should like to do. What I wish to emphasise is this: It seems to me that in the discussion as to the number of ships we should build, whether five or six are desirable, and in considering also the question whether the standard of our sixteen to Germany's ten is or is not to be maintained, the whole subject is always subservient to the main point whether or not the capacity of the shipyards and the number of artisans available are sufficient to cope with the work we think necessary. Otherwise, our naval policy is being governed, not merely by the requirements we think necessary for our safety, but by the output possible within existing conditions. In fact, the capacity of our shipyards, and the number of skilled artisans we appear to be able to employ, seem to govern the whole of our naval policy. If this congestion is the governing factor in the whole of our calculations, I should like 2029 to ask whether the expected offer of Canada to build three ships in this country may not very gravely increase that congestion? That is to say, if the offer of Canada to build the three ships in British shipyards, as expected, is carried out, it seems to me that with that work, unless the congestion has passed, it will be almost impossible for us to commence these three Canadian ships and build them in addition to those in our own programme.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I presume he will correct me if I am wrong. If we have already as much as we can do, and if the contractors cannot do more work, it is difficult to understand how they could commence three additional ships for Canada without still further interfering with the programme of shipbuilding necessary for this country. If the three Canadian ships are being built in this country, will not that work continue during the next two or three years and interfere with the output of British ships, which the right hon. Gentleman considers necessary to keep up to the sixteen to ten standard? If the building of Canadian ships by continuing this state of congestion interferes with the ordinary output which he would consider necessary to keep up to his standard of sixteen to ten, it is quite obvious that we shall not be able to fulfil the obligations which we entered into of allowing these Dominion ships to be entirely outside our programme. That is to say, if the Canadian ships interfere in any way with the output of ships from this country, this country will be put into the position of being unable to carry out its full shipbuilding programme, and so accept the Canadian ships as outside the British programme; and therefore, unless the congestion can be got over in some way, the acceptance of these ships to be built in the shipyards of this country will be really serious as affecting the ordinary normal output which the right hon. Gentleman appears to contemplate. Of course, if there was any question of those ships being simply in place of other ships we should otherwise build in this country, then we should be breaking the understanding on which those ships were to be built. But a further reason strikes me. Of course, those Canadian ships being liable, as I understand, to recall—that is to say, to be removed from the British Fleet—it would not be so profitable for us 2030 to build those, if we could only build a certain number, as it would be to build ships over which there is no question of our full control.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be misled into exaggerating the congestion. It is very important as affecting finance, because a delay of six or seven weeks in the completion of the programme in the Estimate of the year means that nearly £2,000,000 are not spent. Consequently, from the point of view of finance, the congestion bulks very largely. But from the point of view of the margin of strength, or the capacity of each yard to turn out a volume of shipbuilding, the congestion is not so large when you come down to the Estimates of the year in affecting the general volume of capacity of English yards or the margin of strength.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his interruption. I have no desire to exaggerate the congestion. All I would add is that if this congestion were likely to last for a considerable period the mere question of shipyards could be overcome. One could establish other ones or put up fresh slips in the existing yards. The real difficulty is the number of artisans who could be employed. I understand that a very considerable number of men must be employed at this time in building ships for Foreign Powers or in building ordinary ships of commerce, and it seems to me that it will have to be considered seriously whether men engaged in those two occupations could not during a time of congestion, such as at present, either temporarily, or for a considerable time, be converted to the building of the necessary warships. Otherwise, unless something can be found by which the requirements of our naval programme depend not on the capacity of shipyards, but on Naval Estimates, the race between various nations of naval construction will not be a financial one, but will simply be a competition for elbow room and for elbows to move in it.
§ Mr. BARNES
My distinctive view in regard to the general question has been put so fully by my hon. Friend (Mr. D. Mason) sitting behind me that I do not propose to say much about it. The outstanding feature of the figures submitted to us is that we are faced with an Estimate of £46,000,000, which is an advance of £1,250,000 on the figures of last year, and having regard to the retardation which has been spoken of during the last hour or two 2031 the advance is really a great deal more than that. In other words, it means 50 per cent. of increase on the Naval Estimates since the present Government came into office, and that, taken with the great protests about peace, retrenchment and reform, and the abolition of indirect taxation, present to my mind, at all events, a very serious position. The speeches which we have heard from the First Lord himself, and from many others, are only a continuation of the speeches which I have heard during the last seven years. That is to say, we have heard a great deal about Germany; sometimes war with Germany, sometimes appeals to Germany. So far as that is concerned I think that the average man in the street is getting somewhat tired of these tirades about Germany. Nothing happens. Therefore, he comes to the conclusion that these tirades are very largely used merely to justify expenditure that cannot otherwise be justified. At all events, I am not going to vote for these Estimates for many reasons that have already been given. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite appreciate, as it ought to be appreciated, the immense expenditure involved in these Estimates. For instance, I heard an hon. Member about an hour ago regret that another "Dreadnought" was not on the programme for the year, and say that if it had not been for the congestion of the yard it would have been. He spoke of the additional £2,250,000 for an additional "Dreadnought" as if it were nothing, a mere flea-bite; whereas the cost of one "Dreadnought" is equal to the cost of the whole of these buildings in which I am now speaking. That is to say, one "Dreadnought," which would be scrapped in a few years so that nothing will be left of it behind, or would be sold at about 1 per cent. of what it cost, costs as much as these buildings which are a beauty and a joy for ever. [Laughter.] I think that it is a very serious matter and nothing to laugh at. I do not take the position of the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) very seriously. I know that he has made many speeches during the last seven years in favour of inflated armaments, and every time the speeches which he has made have been absolutely falsified by events afterwards. Therefore, when I find hon. Members coming forward here and simply continuing the same kind of speech and regarding it as a matter of hilarity that we should be spending these immense sums of money—
§ Mr. BARNES
I was speaking from the architectural point of view. Unlike the "Dreadnoughts," which are scrapped in the course of ten years, leaving nothing behind, these buildings will live for future generations.
§ Mr. BARNES
I do not think that it is a matter for laughing at. That is where I differ from the hon. Member. I will not again go over the arguments used by my hon. Friend behind me in regard to the financial question, but I am going to vote for the reduction, if it be pressed to a Division, for one additional distinctive reason, which, so far as I know, has not yet been given. It is that I am going to vote in harmony with the Labour party on the Continent. The German Labour party have always refused to support this policy, and as to the French Labour party, I am sorry to say that France seems to be going through a period of jingoism, which has been valiantly combatted by the Labour party in that country. For myself I am going to do my part here. We, as labour men and as the friends of progress, are sincerely desirous of applying this money in other ways. We are heartily sick of this expenditure. It is true that the First Lord of the Admiralty has gone a little way to diminish it by suggesting this international holiday for a year. Impracticable as the suggestion may be, still I admire the spirit that animates it, and I hope that if anything comes of it it will be something in the near future. I desire to speak on the question of wages, both ashore and afloat, and about the personnel. I heard with some satisfaction the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) last night. Although it was a very carefully phrased statement, still, I regard it as more or less a pledge that wages will be raised in the dockyards in the near future. At all events, if it is not translated into that, there will be trouble, so that I hope it will be translated into that. There were some qualifications in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. He said a great deal about privileges in the dockyards; he weighed them up and measured them and so on, until it almost appeared that the privileges ceased.
2033 And after all, they do not mean a great deal, not even when compared with outside conditions. He spoke a great deal about the eight hours day in the dockyards, and said that the hours of labour outside were longer. Let me remind him that when the eight hours day was conceded in the dockyards a great many small advantages which had hitherto existed, were taken away from the men. Further, the eight hours day is now worked by a great many firms whose names I need not mention, and in not a single one of the yards and works of those firms are the wages lower. Therefore I do not think you have any right to take as justification for lower wages being paid in the dockyard because of conditions which obtain elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman said that the wages in the dockyards, though lower than in the shipyards of the North, were not any lower than the wages paid in the dockyard towns themselves. If you take the wages in the shops of the contractors in the dockyard towns, they are 40s. a week, while you pay the same class of workman 36s. a week, and 34s. 6d. to the established class of workmen. Labourers' wages in the dockyard towns, taking, for example, the municipal employés, stand at 24s. a week, and at 26s. and 27s. for builders' labourers. You pay 22s. a week. There are concrete facts for you in making a comparison between what is paid in dockyard towns and what you pay; and I think that the 22s. is really a discreditable wage for any Government to pay. The cost of living has gone up very considerably during the last few years. There may have been some justification some years ago for the wage paid, but at all events there is none now. Everybody knows, from the figures that have been produced by Mr. Rowntree and others, that it is absolutely impossible to keep an average family in decency and comfort for that amount of wage.
I hope that now the right hon. Gentleman is dealing with the matter of wages he will be just and generous, and do the thing handsomely by abolishing this 22s. wage and substituting for it an amount on which a family can be maintained in decency and comfort. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will also raise mechanics' wages and make them correspond with the wages outside. As to the artificer class, I would point out that the artificer starts now at 5s. 6d. per day. That wage was fixed thirty-two years ago, and it is unnecessary to remind 2034 hon. Members that the cost of everything has gone up since that period. It seems to be putting the matter upon a low level to measure the amount of a man's wage by the amount of fodder which is necessary to keep him alive; still, the argument about the cost of living is used in relation to the question of wages, and it has always been a mystery to me, and remains a mystery, that, while you have been raising the remuneration of other branches of the Service, you have not improved also the position of this particular class of men. Their wages are the same as fixed in 1881. It has been said by both the First Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary that these men get promotion. As a matter of fact, they do not get promotion to any great extent. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that in the Naval Estimates this year there is an actual reduction in the list of lieutenants. You now carry nineteen lieutenants on your list, and the number provided for in this year's Estimates is only eighteen, which is, as a matter of fact, a reduction instead of an increase. Moreover, let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that before that precious scheme came into operation, by an Admiralty Order in 1902 or 1903, the number of lieutenants out of the artificer class was to be thirty; it has never reached thirty, and instead of getting towards that number it is getting away from it.
In the lower ranks, again, promotion is blocked. I see that the number of artificers this year is reduced from 523 to 510. These are all indications, it seems to me, that you are not trying to treat this body of men as they ought to be treated, and deserved to be treated, and, I hope, in considering the wages question, this will not escape the right hon. Gentleman's attention. I come to the scheme of training referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Admiralty last night in terms of great satisfaction. The Noble Lord opposite said the scheme has broken down. I believe it has broken down; at all events, it is bad from many points of view. As a matter of fact, if you are going to have ships of war, they ought to be under the control of the best brains the country can produce, and this scheme is not at all compatible with that object. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that to send boys to Osborne and Dartmouth parents have to pay £75 per year and £40 or £50 expenses, or a 2035 total of £125 to £130. I know the [...]ons of naval or military officers are on different terms, but I refer to the ordinary boys. It is thus quite evident that you are drawing those boys from a very small section of the community, and therefore the control of the Navy is confined to the rich people of the community. First Lords have time after time admitted that, and the Parliamentary Secretary did so last night.
§ Mr. BARNES
You admitted that the area for which you are drawing these officers for the Navy is too small, and you keep on promising year after year that something will be done to increase the area. The first year I was here I heard the then Parliamentary Secretary admit the force of this contention, and say that something was going to be done to rectify it. What they proposed to do was to send the hat round to collect money from somewhere or other to reduce the fee. That will not answer, and I am inclined to think that your scheme of bursaries will not either. There is now the scheme to draw pupils of seventeen or eighteen from the public schools. The effect of that will be that you will set up two classes of the public schools and those from Osborne and Dartmouth, and there may be feelings of friction and animosity. It seems to me that the only permanent way of getting over the difficulty is to reduce the fees to £30 or £40, so that the average person, the shopkeeper or the farmer or the parson, can get their sons into the Navy, not as mere fetchers and carriers, but with the prospect of having positions of control assigned to them. Up to now, not only have you drawn your officers from that small class, but you have lumped up the engineer with the other, and, while there is no increase in the area from which you draw, you are increasing the number you have got to draw, and there is also an increase probable by the addition to the total of the ships. I think that system means you are not having such a good engineer as you used to have, and the men passing through will be less skilled, with less practical knowledge. You are also setting up conditions which will not get you as good a practical artificer as you used to get, because he in turn is being discontented with his position. All that has resulted in the engineer giving the Navy a wide berth. Even in 2036 the Naval Reserve you have only got 187 engineer officers at present, and you could not absorb them, because they would not be taken under present conditions. You do not admit the engineer as an officer, he can only rank as an artificer, but the marine engineer does rank as an officer in the mercantile marine. He cannot join the Reserve under present conditions, and the consequence is that you have only got in your Reserve 161 men with Board of Trade Marine Engineers' Certificates whom you can draw upon in case of emergency.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give this whole matter his attention with a view to the lowering or modifying the scheme so that the engineer can gain a position. I also hope he will take the wages of the labourers into sympathetic consideration, and that he will also give the mechanics at least as much as other mechanics have in the dockyard towns. It is no good telling me that the wages in the dockyards are as good as outside, because it is a simple matter of fact. The contractors' men are working alongside the dockyard men and getting from 3s. to 4s. per week more in wages. You cannot expect those men to work pleasantly together. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will also give serious consideration not only to the question of paying the artificer a higher wage, but also of so improving the conditions that once more you will be able to attract as you used to do the best engineers of the country. So far as the scheme is concerned nothing to my mind will get over the inherent difficulties and anomalies connected with it except pulling down the fees, so that not only the sons of officers and Civil servants, but of other people, can go to Osborne and Dartmouth and go through their training on the same conditions. It is only by having the same conditions for all that you can maintain that fellow feeling which is necessary for efficiency. I hope the right hon Gentleman will consider these matters and give a generous interpretation to the rather vague statement which he made last night.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I am sure the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) will excuse me if I do not follow him in regard to the Amendment, not because I do not approve of it, but because I do not think it is practicable at present. We cannot ignore the fact that there is an immense increase in naval armaments throughout the world. For myself I wish we could treat human nature in that 2037 generous spirit which his speech breathed, but I fear in matters of war we must not trust too much to human nature. With regard to those Estimates, I, of course, entirely approve of them. I believe that they are necessary. I desire to put a few questions in regard to them. The thing that strikes me about the Naval Estimates is that we should rather judge the First Lord by his actions than by his speeches. It is a curious thing that in regard to the whole of the naval programme of last year for new construction of battleships and eight light cruisers, only three sovereigns has been spent in regard to it. It is a matter of ingenuity, but you will find that is so. With regard to the "Warspite," laid down at Devonport, some ingenious person in the yard has found out that three sovereigns have been spent, one on establishment charges and two for labour. We are always being told about the danger and so on, but what is being done to meet it? Not a single halfpenny has been expended on any other of the warships or light cruisers up to the 31st March. There has been no expenditure on the "Queen Elizabeth."
§ Mr. HOHLER
If the right hon. Gentleman turns to page 200D of the Estimates, he will see:—'Warspite': Actual expenditure to the 31st March, 1912.I beg pardon, I have made a mistake. It is 1912. But the "Warspite" was not laid down until the 31st October, 1912. You cannot have expenditure on a ship before the ship is laid down. The mistake is the Government's, not mine. It should clearly be 1913.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Member began by saying that in the year when this ship was part of the new programme no expenditure was made. He then finds he has made a mistake. He said that for the year 1912–13 we had spent only £3. That is probably for draughtsman's charges for some preliminary work. If he will carry his investigations further, he will find that the total probable expenditure on this particular ship in this year is £336,644.
§ Mr. HOHLER
That is all very well, but the £3 cannot be for draughtsmen, because the Estimates state that £2 is for hull, fittings, and equipment. How have you spent that money between 31st October, 1912, when you laid the ship down and the 2038 present time? It is obvious that you have not.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The item is a direct labour charge. There was probably some small piece of work before the 31st March, by some dockyard man or clerk, which was ultimately properly charged against these ships.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I certain cannot follow the Estimates in that respect. The "Valiant" was laid down in January, 1913, and the "Barham" in February, 1913. Those are two of the vessels of last year's programme. You have not spent a halfpenny on them. Not only that, but the details are not yet complete, and the Estimates show no expenditure.
§ Mr. HOHLER
But you cannot spend money until the ship is laid down. The "Valiant" was laid down in January, 1913, and there is no expenditure upon it.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
If the hon. Member will look at page 208E he will read:—'Barham': Total probable expenditure, £52,910.
§ Mr. HOHLER
That is only estimated. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how, having laid that ship down on 24th February, 1913, he can have expended £52,000 in a little over a month, as the calculation is taken up to 31st March?
§ Mr. HOHLER
How do you get over this point? The Estimates state that the details are not yet complete. What does that mean?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
In regard to these new ships, we never set out in a public document the whole of the particulars.
§ Mr. HOHLER
It is not only in regard to these vessels. Take cruisers under contract work. The "Aurora" and the "Arethusa" were not laid down till October, 1912. The "Undaunted" was not laid down until December, 1912. The "Galatea" was laid down in January, 1913. As to the "Inconstant" and the "Royalist," no date at all is given when any contract was entered into. I submit that you have not entered into the contracts for either of these vessels. You do 2039 not purport to have laid down the "Penelope" until February of this year. What is the result? You are really postponing your annual programme until the last possible moment for the purposes of these Estimates. I will give a concrete illustration. I have examined the matter to try and see why it is that this House is asked to grant money for the construction of new vessels, and yet that we do not seem to get the vessels. Take the programme of 1911–12. There were five men-o'-war—I am dealing with contract-built ships—and, of these, three were authorised for that year. In the Estimates for 1912–13 those vessels which appeared in the original constructive programme as unnamed, appear as the "Delhi," the "Benbow," and the "Tiger." You find that there is no date given, though the name of the builder is given. When you come to the Estimates for this year, 1913–14, you find, in fact, that the contracts for these vessels were really entered into on 31st May, 1912, 30th May, 1912, and 20th June, 1912, respectively. In other words, in the case of three men-o'-war, battleships, sanctioned in the programme of 1911–12, the contracts were only entered into as I have stated. That is why you get these arrears.
When we are told we are building ships, do not let anyone be deceived. We are not. We are told that they are old arrears. I quite understand the building of old arrears, but I say in regard to new construction, if the matter is properly looked at, as I have looked at it, in respect to the "Delhi," "Benbow," and "Tiger," sanctioned in the Estimates of 1911–12, the first, in fact, was not ordered until 30th May, 1912. They were not ordered, in fact, until the year 1912–13. So, although we get the programmes we do not get the ships. The money is voted. Then we are told by the First Lord of the Admiralty that there is a great block in business, or there is difficulty with the workmen, and that we cannot get these vessels. I submit that the whole thing in regard to what really happens is quite illusory, or we should not find that these ships are not laid down in the year they are authorised by this House. We ought also to know why opportunity always seems to be taken when the Estimates have gone by to put these vessels down as if they had been ordered for the period covered by the new Estimates, yet in the Estimates themselves we are told that the details 2040 are not complete. In regard to probable expenditure, and so on, I shall possibly be told that the material has to be prepared, and matters of the kind attended to. That is always said. But the truth, in my judgment, is, we are steadily one year behind, or substantially one year behind our programme as proposed annually to this House.
If that be so, what I want to ask is this question: What do you mean by a naval holiday? For myself, and with all respect to the First Lord of the Admiralty, I think the suggestion is nothing more than amusing. Where is your naval holiday to come in? What does it mean? Are we to suspend our actual programme for the year? May we go on building the arrears of past programmes? Who is to-say what we are to build? As it is it satisfies nobody and means nothing. You cannot examine it. Further, what a farce it really appears on further consideration. Supposing this country, which is often the case, wholly independently of His Majesty's Government—I am referring to private contractors—is building for some foreign country. We know quite well that in case of emergency you can take these ships for war purposes and nobody can say you nay! What security has any country got in regard to a position such as that? It is equally true of Germany. It may be true of France and Italy, or any other country which builds ships for foreign countries. Therefore when you offer the naval holiday to another country they say: "Your private shipbuilders are building for Chili or some other foreign State, and you can always seize these vessels, and you will be in as strong a position as ever." In my judgment the whole speech of the First Lord in regard to this question of a naval holiday is perfectly illusory and perfectly ridiculous. I myself, much as I would wish to save money, am quite satisfied that no suggestion of any value has been made. The Prime Minister tried it, he made offers and overtures to Germany in the matter, and nothing came of it at all. Equally so in this matter of a naval holiday. The real truth is that Germany goes steadily on wholly regardless of us, building her ships in accordance with her programme, which is settled by Act of Parliament. There is only one other matter which I shall refer to in regard to the subject, and that is the question of dirigible airships—a most important question. I do not pretend to have the 2041 requisite knowledge to deal with them fully, but I find that Germany has advanced immensely in this matter, and I gather that the First Lord was impressed by the needs of this country and desires to make up some of the leeway. What strikes me about the matter is that in the Estimates I find scattered about provision for sheds for aircraft, but I can find no collective item which deals with the actual sum to be appropriated for that important thing. I should like some explanation of it. I listened the other night to the War Minister, and he told us distinctly that, so far as the Army was concerned, they were, going to have nothing to do with the big dirigible balloons. As I understand it, the Navy and the Army are working to some extent in common in regard to the matter. They are helping one another, and I should like to have some definite statement as to what is proposed in regard to these great balloons, where you see such important progress.
I want to say a word or two in regard to the personnel of the Navy. The First Lord in his statement said that in the personnel of the Navy he was glad to say they never recognised trade unions or any combination of any sort or kind. I agree. Therefore I make no apology for referring to the question of the pay of certain of these ratings. I want to ask concerning the carpenters or naval shipwright. The First Lord said that there was a shortage of carpenters' ratings. That may or may not include the naval shipwright. I acknowledge the increase of pay that they have received under the new regulations issued, I think, in November last, but it is to be borne in mind that the whole method of the construction of these ships has entirely changed. The men on board His Majesty's ships are no longer ordinary carpenters. The bulk of these shipwrights are skilled men, and their complaint is and has been, in regard to their position, they do not receive anything like the sum they would receive as shipwrights outside in civil employment. The difficulty is, I think, pointed out very clearly in this respect. The shipwright could not be induced to join the Navy from outside. What have you had to do? You have trained shipwrights in your dockyards to enter the Navy, and now when you have opened up this avenue of inducement you send to them—I have it here in black and white—"After you have served your first period, namely, twelve years, if you desire to continue, we will take you into our dockyards and we will establish you 2042 and give you employment, presuming that you are qualified." That was the promise and the contract the Admiralty made with them. That is what the Admiralty have done, and, to my mind, it will bring home to this House how unfairly the shipwrights have been dealt with. They have attempted an answer, not only to the shipwrights entering from outside, but also to these naval shipwrights. They said to the naval shipwrights, "If you expect this increase of pay, you must abandon your right under your contract of entry." Could anything be more mean or ungenerous than that? The Admiralty admit that these men are entitled to increase of pay, yet they tell them, if they get it, that they are to give up the contract under which they entered the Navy. That is a very serious thing. Supposing a man is invalided. He gives up his contract, and the result is such a man, being invalided, will lose the right to enter the dockyard which he would otherwise have had. It does seem to me that on this question of the shipwrights the Admiralty have not had regard to what is fair towards these men. If the Admiralty thought the terms were so attractive that the men would accept them and would continue to serve in His Majesty's Navy, that would be a fair way of dealing with it. But these men realise that what they have got is not adequate, and it is my belief that a great number of these men will leave the Service and reject the terms the Admiralty has offered. I trust the Financial Secretary will see his way to meet the demands of these men and to do something for the chief carpenters, for whom nothing has been done, and to improve their pay.
The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow referred to the artificer engineers. I put their case on a different ground. I had the honour to forward to the Admiralty a scheme prepared after great consideration for the purpose of bettering the condition of these men, and I should be glad if we could have some indication as to what has been done in regard to that scheme and whether it is to receive favourable consideration or not. Nothing was more pleasing to the Committee I am sure than to hear that the chief petty officers and men in the Navy will have an opportunity of rising to the higher ranks in their class, but with regard to the engine room artificers, no such opportunity is offered and nobody can deny the responsibility cast upon them are as great as on any men in the ship. The Admiralty 2043 have tried the Keyham scheme, and that has been abandoned. You have abandoned it in favour of the new Osborne scheme. In the case of officers who go to Osborne to enter the Navy some of them have to take up engineering, and you are now training engineer-lieutenants who pass on to deck duty as they progress in the Service. The result is that the whole of the responsibility of running the engines rests with the artificer engineers. Here you have a body of 5,000 men, and the only avenue of promotion open to them is eighteen lieutenant-engineers, and this only comes to them very late in life. Apart from that, you have a certain number of chief artificers, varying from 109 to 150. With these 5,000 men, there is nothing to look forward to, except eighteen of them becoming lieutenants and 150 chief artificer engineers.
The scheme I have mentioned suggests that you should change the name, and very much enlarge the number of those who under a changed name, would be chief artificer engineers, and engineer-lieutenants. I think that is only their due, and I ask the Admiralty to deal with this question, and tell us what is proposed to be done in reference to these men. I do think that such highly responsible duty is very inadequately recognised. You may have engineer-lieutenants, but they cannot have the knowledge of these men, who have been trained from boyhood till they have obtained the position of chief artificer. The chief artificer is solely responsible for the safe and sound working of the engines, and I ask the Financial Secretary to deal with that question, which is a very important one, and one which greatly interests a loyal body of men. I only propose to say a word or two in regard to the dockyard. With regard to the answers to petitions, this question still remains unsatisfactory. The First Lord has admitted, in dealing with the pay of the Navy, that he would have liked to be more generous, but he was brought up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I know the Financial Secretary takes a great interest in this matter. He goes down to these men and hears their petitions sympathetically, and I know he would be very glad to grant all that they ask for.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I may be doing the right hon. Gentleman too much justice, but no 2044 doubt he would be willing to grant them more than they are getting, but he is brought face to face with the Treasury, who say, "You cannot have more money." The real position is that you cannot have an impartial judgment where you have a conflict of interest and duty. The only satisfactory method of dealing with the present unrest which exists in the dockyards—you cannot be blind to it, because it is increasing—is to let us have our petitions heard direct. Failing to get redress on the petition, the matter should be referred to an independent body to deal with. I have suggested your Advisory Committee, and why do you not do that? Why will you not let them deal with the question of wages? Why should these men in the dockyards not get the wages which are being paid outside? The Financial Secretary has told us that they have a lot of privileges. One has heard that so often that one really begins to think that the privileges are regarded as more valuable than the right to live. Then he says these things cannot be conceded because there are statutory difficulties in the way. There is no statutory difficulty in the way of giving a fairly decent wage. He says, "Oh look how liberal we have been! Last year we gave an increase of £50,000."
§ Mr. HOHLER
You give us the sum of £42,000, but you employ 50,000 or 60,000 men. It is nothing at all, and one is not a bit impressed. Another argument used is that the employment is continuous. That is not wholly accurate. It is true the Admiralty do not, as a rule, discharge men, but, like other employers, when they have not the work they do so. The right hon. Gentleman will remember a deputation of fitters, who had been apprentices, which I introduced to him some time ago. They were discharged in the spring of last year. Some of them have gone to Canada, and you have lost them. Now you would be glad to get them back. It is no use telling us you do not discharge them; you do. It is all a question of supply find demand. You say there is no comparison locally at Chatham. I answer that the fitters and the various mechanics in the skilled trades pass from Chatham to the North and from the North to Chatham, just as the demand for their labour exists, and the great injustice of it is that they have to bear the whole of the expense of removal, because their union, for 2045 the purposes of unemployed pay, insist, and rightly insist, that they shall travel to show they have bonâ fide endeavoured to get work. I know as a fact that, as regards wages, you are not doing justice to these men. A number of shipwrights have left your yard in order to go back North, where they can get better wages, despite the fact that in moving from one place to another there is a considerable loss involved. You are always professing to do what is fair, but I want to put it to you that you might improve on your professions and put them into action. These men are quite right to push their demands when trade is good, but if they have to wait twelve months before they receive any answer to their petitions, by that time trade may very likely have become slack, with the result that they never get anything.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he suggests that we are inspired by a desire to delay answering these petitions until trade declines?
§ Mr. HOHLER
The right hon. Gentleman ought to have known it was not, but if he continues his practice with the knowledge of the objections I have endeavoured to point out, I would venture to suggest that there might be some truth in the suggestion. But, apart from that, there is none. I do not for a moment suggest that the Financial Secretary is inspired by anything but a desire to do what is right by these men. I do ask him, however, to consider the case I have made, that there is a possible conflict of interest with duty in dealing with the men in the Government employment. They have to deal with these men both as a Government and as employers, and have to decide their own questions. The men want to have an independent tribunal, to whom they can go and ask for an increase of pay at a time when trade is good. When trade is bad they will be perfectly willing that wages should decline again. I have put forward these considerations because, in my judgment, the whole of these questions are intimately knit up together. We cannot get on with the Navy unless we have contentment in all the personnel, whether they are 2046 men employed in the yards or in the Navy itself. I do ask the consideration of the Admiralty to these points in dealing with the naval shipwrights. I ask them to deal fairly and fully with them, and also to consider the case of the artificer engineers. The information given to me is that they are 104 short, and that ought not to be neglected. They only get at entry 2s. 6d. per day, and the Admiralty cannot fill up these vacancies. That is mentioned in the Admiralty statement; all these things should be put on a fair basis, so that the whole of the men who are serving His Majesty will be satisfied with their conditions according to their calling in life. I hope the Government will take a step forward and show them that, they will be dealt with on fair and impartial lines.
§ The CIVIL LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. George Lambert)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has acquitted the Admiralty of any desire to deal in any way unfairly with these men. I am quite sure that from his own knowledge he must be aware of the immense amount of trouble which my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty gives to the consideration of the grievances which are brought before him.
§ Mr. HOHLER
No one in this House wishes to speak more highly of the Financial Secretary than I do. He is kindness itself.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am glad to have settled that point. So far as the condition of the House has been concerned during this Debate, for the last couple of days, I think it is a great tribute to the administration of the Board of Admiralty for the last seven years. I have rarely seen a debate so scantily attended as this has been for the last couple of days. [An HON. MEMBER: "Mr. Lloyd George."]
§ Mr. LAMBERT
On Wednesday, when my right hon. Friend the First Lord was making his statement there was some sign of interest in naval matters, but I found afterwards that the hon. Baronet, the Member for the Cty of London (Sir F. Banbury) did not want so much to get into grips with the Germans as with the Government. We have had since then a very slack attendance indeed.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
If there had been any real alarm about the naval position, I think we should have had a very much larger attendance in the House and much more evidence of that alarm expressed than there has been up to now. We have had a few of the old accustomed familiar terrors trotted out, but in reality I do not think they have frightened anyone at all. I do not propose to go into the large number of figures prophesied as to what will be the relative strength of the Fleets in the next few years. My experience of seven years at the Admiralty has been that there are no prophets so unreliable as naval prophets. 1912 was to be the danger period. I am glad to say that the year 1913 has come, and we are assured by the hon. Member for North Kensington (Mr. Burgoyne), who takes a very active and intelligent interest in these matters, that we are quite safe this year and next year. That, at any rate, is something to the good. We were told that in 1912 there would be a very large number of "Dreadnoughts" across the North Sea. As a matter of fact, there are at the present moment thirteen German "Dreadnoughts"; there soon will be seventeen. We have delays in our shipbuilding, but delays are not peculiar to Britain alone; other countries have delays as well. Our delays are due to the fact that British shipyards are very busy. If other countries were punctual, that would show that their shipyards are not busy. I always understood that our fiscal system was one under which prosperity would never come to the industries of the country, therefore I make anyone a present of the fact that there are delays in German shipbuilding as there are in ours, and ships which were to have been launched across the North Sea on 1st April will be delayed a few months. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) said yesterday that up to now the public had been fooled absolutely by the "Dreadnought" craze. Though I should not agree with him wholly, I think we must take into account, in estimating the fighting value of the Fleet, the whole of its component parts. We have to take into account not only "Dreadnoughts" but super-"Dreadnoughts," pre-"Dreadnoughts," cruisers, destroyers, and submarines. Reviewing the situation as a whole, I am quite convinced that the country need have no alarm as to our naval position.
We were told yesterday that the large Estimates of £46,000,000 odd were due to 2048 the peace-at-any-price or economical party. The Government and the Admiralty have endeavoured to steer an even course between those who wish for greater expenditure on the one hand, and the economists on the other, and I think we have come out fairly accurate. The ships have been built when they were wanted. We were told last night that we had not followed the Cawdor programme—a very good thing too! If we had followed the Cawdor programme we should have had ships not so powerful as the ships we have to-day. I was very much interested yesterday in hearing the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) state that he had been told by someone at Portsmouth that the "Dreadnought" was an "old-timer," a sort of back number, I suppose, in shipbuilding. The Admiralty has been ready for any emergency. Probably the most potent force is finance. The Government have always laid down the ships when they were wanted, and, more than that, they have paid for them out of current revenue. Two or three years ago I said in this House that sufficient for the year was the shipbuilding thereof. If we had laid down ships before they were wanted, they would have been out of date almost before they were completed. Our successors, if they came into office now, would find a clean slate. There is no question of running up loans. When we came into office we found a loan expenditure of something like £27,000,000, which is costing the Naval Estimates to-day £1,311,000 a year to liquidate. We are absolutely paying our way out of the Budget which was passed by the financial genius of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Something has helped. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pretyman) last night spoke about our destroyers. I can assure him there is no desire, in laying down our destroyers, to pursue a cheeseparing policy. Destroyers are laid down according to the best advice the Admiralty can get. I have here the displacement and speed of the German and British destroyers. Of course, you can take a trial over a measured mile, but these trials may be conducted under entirely different circumstances. At any rate, all I say is that the Admiralty are perfectly satisfied with their destroyers, and we believe they will be well fitted for the functions they are 2049 intended to fulfil. We were again told last night that we had not men enough, and the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) said we were 20,000 men short. Of course, that is hardly an accurate argument. In fact, it is not an accurate statement. I have here a Report which was issued by the Admiralty. We were told last night it was due to the cheeseparing policy of the Government, that they had been reducing the men, that we had found ourselves in difficulties with regard to manning to-day. The only substantial reduction of men which has taken place in the last ten years, was in the last year in which hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for the affairs of the Admiralty. The number of men borne in 1904–5 was 130,490, and in 1906–7 127,667. They made a reduction in the Manning Vote of something like 3,000 men. In this same Return we have it that the Naval Estimates this year provide something like 146,000 men. In the German Navy, provision will be made for about 73,000 men, who are mostly conscript sailors, while ours volunteer freely. I cannot believe that our country will be in any way alarmed when they know that we have two free fighting Britons to one conscript German.
We were told we were in imminent danger of falling behind other Powers with regard to aeroplanes. The hon. I Member (Mr. Lee) said yesterday that as regards aeroplanes we were, at any rate, in a position of security and we were ahead of almost any other country. It falls to my lot to secure sites for these aeroplane establishments, and I can only say that when we may light upon some barren spot near the sea it is extraordinary how the value of the land goes up. It appears to have all sorts of prospective building advantages, it has values above and below, and I should like very much if the arbitrators, when they were taking into account the value that is to be paid by the Government, would deal with something like fairplay between the Admiralty and the seller, as they would between man and man, if they were purchaser and seller also. I do assure the Committee that the question of aeroplanes has engaged, and is engaging, the serious and earnest attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Admiralty itself. We have had in mind the protection of the magazines, the oil depots, and all the other depots which might be attacked by aeroplanes. My hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) asked what work the 2050 Admiralty proposed to undertake in the Cromarty Firth. I think he must allow me to pass over that topic rather lightly. As a matter of fact, the whole matter is being carefully gone into by the Admiralty. There is one difficulty which, I am sure, he will recognise, namely, that on the Cromarty Firth it is very difficult to get labour to do the work that might be necessary there.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
It is rather difficult to get labour for public works, especially in any large quantity. We are having dockyard Members springing up almost everywhere. One of the most interesting facts is that the burgh of Dunfermline, which is the birthplace of Mr. Andrew Carnegie, has taken the dockyard of Rosyth within its boundaries. Again, we have to consider the question of docks, and one consequence of the big-ship policy was that it rendered somewhat inadequate in size many of the docks we had before the "Dreadnought" was introduced. I am glad to say that two locks will be ready this year at Portsmouth which will be able to take in the biggest ships; another lock is being enlarged, and the floating dock there is acting very well indeed. A reduction in the number of men has been moved by my hon. Friend (Mr. D. Mason). I think it is not the first occasion on which he has moved a reduction. I cannot help thinking that he is always asking us "to do something." It is a very vague phrase.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Where? As a matter of fact, I do not think my hon. Friend and those who act with him give the Government sufficient credit for what they did in 1906. When the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman came into power he did offer, and went some length, to keep down the shipbuilding programme. That met with no response from foreign countries. [An HON. MEMBER: "And yet you blame the Opposition."] We do not blame the Opposition. The Opposition blamed us, and they do so now without reason. I have all the Naval Laws passed across the water between 1898–1903, when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in charge of the naval policy of the country. The big German Navy Law was passed in 1900, and there followed, almost immediately, the Cawdor Memorandum, which announced a reduction in our Navy 2051 Estimates of £3,500,000 in one year, and £1,500,000 in the year following. If the Cawdor Memorandum had been—
§ The CHAIRMAN
It would be well if hon. Members would not get into the habit of addressing one another, but would address the Chair.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am very sorry. If the Cawdor Memorandum had been carried into effect you would have had four ships which were designated by someone last night to the hon. Member for Fareham as "old-timers." Now we have four ships of the Orion type, which are certainly very much stronger than the ships that would have been built had the Cawdor Memorandum been carried into effect. There has been a great deal of comment upon my right hon. Friend's phrase "naval holiday." I am very glad that he has used that strikingly picturesque phrase. He has said that if we could have a naval holiday for one year we might cease, say, in this country, to build five capital ships. I am glad that he has thrown such a thought over the civilised world. Five capital ships cost something like £10,000,000. I am a rural Member. I know, as everyone knows who represents rural districts, what a dearth of cottages there is in rural districts. £10,000,000 would build 50,000 cottages at £200 apiece. And if you appeal to people of common sense, either in foreign countries or here, there is no doubt as to which would add more to the sum total of human happiness, 50,000 cottages or five "Dreadnoughts." Personally, I speak with all sincerity when I say that I view with the utmost repugnance this terrible and growing naval expenditure. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr did justice to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty in suggesting that we wanted a twelve months' holiday to overtake the arrears already existing. I do not think that that was a worthy suggestion. I feel perfectly certain that that is not the kind of way to get other countries to adopt the policy which has been foreshadowed by my right hon. Friend. I have watched these Naval Estimates growing for the last seven years, and whatever is said now I am perfectly certain that the time must come when the inexorable pressure of events will force Europe to a cessation of these armaments that threaten it at present with national bankruptcy. I think that 2052 we are fortunate in having a sea frontier and that we must maintain our naval forces, as we shall maintain them, at a standard of adequate strength and efficiency to secure the safety of our country.
§ Mr. WHELER
In the Memorandum of the First Lord the authorised establishment of the Coastguard officers and men is given as 3,130, and the numbers borne on 1st January were something about 100 less. I should like to know why this important body of men have been neglected in the general rearrangement in reference to increased pay in various branches of the Navy. Their duties have not grown less. They are called upon to man all our wireless telegraphy stations, and for that purpose you must have a very efficient staff of highly-trained men. They have also to man the visual signal stations, and I believe that, of those men who do that, the bulk have to be trained telegraphists. And while the numbers of these men have been reduced their work has increased, and I do not know why they have received no consideration as regards increase of pay when increases have been given to other branches of the Navy. Of course, if the cost of living is to be used as a reason for raising pay in other branches of the Service, it is a reason equally applicable to the class of men to whom I refer. They get free quarters, it is true, and, I believe, a money allowance in lieu of rations, but they have to find for themselves their own lighting and fuel, their mess, and their kitchen range. Very little furniture is provided for them at the stations, and I understand that they have very often to supplement the furniture provided by buying other furniture. In proportion to the work they are doing and the allowances they get compared with the man afloat, I think this branch of the Service has been very much neglected. I should like to know whether the Parliamentary Secretary has considered all those points, and whether he is prepared to do something for this very important branch of our armed forces, for they are part of them, and they have to carry out very many arduous duties at the present time. One other question I desire to address to the right hon. Gentleman has reference to experience of the working of floating docks during the last few months. There is a big floating dock in the Medway, stationed at a very considerable distance from the port from which it is worked. I should like to know whether this experiment of working the dock so far 2053 from its base, bringing the men a considerable distance to and fro, is one which the Admiralty regards as satisfactory.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It is not very satisfactory, and I am not certain that it will be a permanent arrangement.
§ Mr. WHELER
That confirms a report which I have heard from the Constituency I have the honour to represent. There is one other point which is rather disturbing. There are two docks at the present time, one for submarines, and the big dock in the Medway. It is reported that the big dock is to be taken to Scotland or elsewhere. I do not know whether the First Lord of the Admiralty has been approached on the subject, but I understand that the urban council are going to ask him what will be the situation as regards the inhabitants of the town of Sheerness, who feel that they should have the trade which arises from the presence of a number of men who work these two docks. The dock for submarines I understand is to be taken round to Dover, and that the district is to be thus deprived of both docks. That is a point on which the locality is greatly interested, and the inhabitants have asked me to bring it to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. One other question has reference to the arming of merchantmen. The First Lord of the Admiralty said:—The Admiralty have felt that the greater part of the cost of the necessary equipment should not fall upon the owners, and we have decided, therefore, to lend the necessary guns, to supply ammunition, and to provide for the training of members of the ship's company to form the gun crews.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1918, col. 1777.]I wish to ask whether that means that the men on board these merchantmen are to immediately prepare to take up their duties, and are the guns to be permanently on board; or are we to understand that provision will be made in times of difficulty, and that guns will be placed on board with an additional complement of men trained to serve those guns when the nation requires? There is a good deal of difference between the two points. Everybody knows that war does not come by arrangement; it might come suddenly. It might be if those ships are not to have the complete equipment that at the outbreak of war they would not be in a position to take on guns and men, which I understand the First Lord proposes them to have. That is a point I would like to have cleared up, and to know whether those ships are to be permanently 2054 armed beginning from the very near future, or simply prepared with a view to what might happen in a few years or at a time when war breaks out. Finally let me say, on behalf of the dockyard I have the honour to represent that I do hope the Parliamentary Secretary who has charge of these matters will carefully consider the request that has been made by many Members of the Committee with reference to increased pay for various grades in the dockyards. We have heard a lot in this Debate about continuity of employment as being one of the great reasons why increases should not be given. At the present time it is perfectly clear that all the shipbuilding centres are employing, practically continuously, every man they can get, and want more men. It is also clear, therefore, that there is dissatisfaction in the dockyards, and that they are liable to lose what they want most especially to keep, namely, the services of their most efficient men. The inducements which we know are being held out to men to leave and go to the work in private yards are such that many of our men in the dockyards can hardly resist them. When those men also see that there is the prospect for a long time of perfectly continuous employment there, I venture to say that the plea which has been advanced so often of continuous employment as being a reason for reduced wages does not hold good in the same way as it might if trade was slack as regards building. I hope on the point of increased pay, realising the increased cost of living, which is especially high in the dockyard towns, that the Parliamentary Secretary will give that matter still further consideration to that which he has given it in the past.
§ Mr. KING
I cannot claim to speak in this House as a naval expert nor even as a dockyard Member. I am simply one of the average Members of Parliament, with average abilities, who tries seriously to understand the great questions of the day. To my mind, there is no question before us at the present time, or likely to come within our consideration during this Session, of greater importance than that raised on the night before last by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I thank him most sincerely, not only for a great speech, but for his masterly exposition, especially valuable to a layman, of our naval position and the work of the Navy, and I thank him for the great offer which he made in his suggestion of what is called a "naval holiday." I 2055 should desire to understand, and, I fancy, that foreign countries and foreign statesmen would like to understand, a little more clearly what he means by his suggestion that something might be done so that for at least one year we should have no new construction. Does he mean new construction in course of being carried out, or that no new ships should be laid down, or that next year their should be no Vote for new construction? The First Lord must realise that those who take him seriously and wish him well, as I do, want to know what he means. Has he considered this proposal from the German point of view?
§ Mr. KING
I am delighted to hear it. I hope that sooner or later we shall have a further explanation, and that it may lead to something definite and tangible. In view of the German Naval Law, it is difficult to see how, from their point of view, the Germans can either legally, financially, or constitutionally, adopt the proposal, and until that point is made clear the idea will not be taken up so enthusiastically as it would otherwise be. A point which has not been sufficiently brought forward in the Debate is the present general trend of foreign policy amongst the nations of Europe, especially in regard to military affairs. If the First Lord speaks on the Report stage, could he bring his statement into line with the general tendency of military expenditure on the Continent? At present the striking feature is the vast increases of expenditure on armies. I believe that it is becoming practically impossible for any of the great countries of Europe except ourselves to continue their expenditure on Navy expansion so long as they continue to in-
§ crease their expenditure on their armies. Germany, for instance, is voting at least £50,000,000 for increased army expenditure, and it is suggested that a levy should be imposed on estates of over £2,000, in addition to increased taxation, of ½ per cent. on capital. I believe that if that or any similar proposal is put into force, and any military expenditure commensurate with such onerous taxation is really carried out, it will be absolutely impossible for any European country except ourselves to continue naval expansion. I may be wrong, but I believe, after consultation with the best authorities I can reach, that I am right. The whole question of our naval expenditure in relation to the military movement on the Continent ought to be considered. It will be next year, if it is not already, of profound importance in the naval position. I trust that the First Lord's hope that we shall be able to build faster than he expects will not be realised. I believe that it will be better for us, for the peace of Europe, and for civilisation at large, if we build this year less even than the First Lord expects. By so doing we shall increase our margin of safety by still further reducing the National Debt, and we shall be in a position next year really to carry out his proposals in a way that we are not in a position to do at the present time.
§ It being after Five of the clock, the CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant, to the Order of the House of the 17th March, to put the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, "That 145,900 officers, seamen, and boys be maintained for the said service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 28; Noes, 197.2057
|Division No. 16.]||AYES.||[4.59 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Higham, John Sharp||Snowden, Philip|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Hudson, Walter||Thomas, James Henry|
|Brace, William||John, Edward Thomas||Wardle, George J.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Jowett, F. W.||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||O'Grady, James||Wing, Thomas|
|Clough, William||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Glanville, H. J.||Richards, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. David Mason and Mr. Barnes.|
|Goldstone, Frank||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Hardie, J. Keir|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Boland, John Pius|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Booth, Frederick Handel|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Bowerman, C. W.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Barrie, H. T.||Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Beale, Sir William Phipson||Brady, Patrick Joseph|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Hinds, John||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Shee, James John|
|Campion, W. R.||Horner, Andrew Long||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hughes, S. L.||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Keating, Matthew||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Kelly, Edward||Radford, G. H.|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Kilbride, Denis||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||King, J. (Somerset, North)||Reddy, M.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Leach, Charles||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Crooks, William||Lundon, Thomas||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lyell, Charles Henry||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Lynch, A. A.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Davies, Sir W Howell (Bristol, S.)||McGhee, Richard||Rowlands, James|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Maclean, Donald||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Dawes, J. A.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Delany, William||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Macpherson, James Ian||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Doris, William||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Duffy, William J.||M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.||Sheehy, David|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Falconer, James||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Taylor, Thomas Bolton|
|Fell, Arthur||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Tennant, Harold John|
|Ffrench, Peter||Meagher, Michael||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Field, William||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Molloy, Michael||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Molteno, Percy Alport||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Mooney, John J.||Waring, Walter|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Morgan, George Hay||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Morison, Hector||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Ginnell, Laurence||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Muldoon, John||Webb, H.|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Munro, R.||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Murphy, Martin J.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.||White, J. Dundas (Glas., Tradeston)|
|Hackett, John||Neilson, Francis||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Newman, John R. P.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Norman, Sir Henry||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Young, W. (Perthshire, E.)|
|Hayward, Evan||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Hazleton, Richard||O'Dowd, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||O'Malley, William|
|Hill, Sir Clement L.||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded, successively to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Business to be concluded at Five of the clock at this day's sitting.