§ Resolution reported,
§ "That 146,000 officers, seamen, and boys be employed for the Sea and Coastguard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1914, including 18,350 Royal Marines."
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I believe it is the general desire of the House, and probably it will he for the convenience of the House that the discussion of to-day instead of being limited to the Vote referred to should go over the whole subject. I desire to know if that can be done with your permission?
On the question put by the right hon. Gentleman, I think I ought, in the first instance, to refer to the Rule of the House, which is this: that on the Report of a Vote the discussion is confined to the actual subject of each separate Vote. For instance, on Vote A, it would be confined to the number of men required, and on Vote 1 to the pay of these 59 officers and men. But in the circumstances of this year, and as it seems to be the desire of all parts of the House, I see no reason why the Chair should stand in the way of a wider discussion. In reply to the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. J. Ward), if the right of discussion is widened as proposed, it would include all matters pertinent to the Navy.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
Would that include power to discuss the possible manning of the ships provided by Canada?
It would include any matter under the control of His Majesty's Ministers, and for which they are responsible.
§ Mr. LOUGH
May I ask whether, in the case of Vote A, dealing with the number of men, it has not always been understood that almost any question connected with the Navy might be raised? If we admit that the discussion must be confined to the number of men, I wish to know whether there will not be a limitation of the rights we have hitherto enjoyed?
I think if the right hon. Gentleman will consult the records he will see that on the Report stage the House has always been limited to the subject-matter of the Vote, and it is only in the special circumstances of to-day that that Rule is being relaxed.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
I sometimes think that it would be a great advantage for the country generally if the Minister in charge of the Navy was not a Member of this House. Take the position when the Liberal party is in power. There is a tradition on this side of the House that we should never, unless we are driven to it, make the Navy a question of party politics, but is that done on the other side of the House? The very nature of things makes it almost impossible, because there are a great many hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House who, although they may themselves be in favour of a strong Navy, are elected by a great many electors in the country who do not care anything for the Navy and have a genuine desire to see a reduction. I do think that that is bound to result in a pressure, which we do not see, being brought to bear on the Cabinet, and I think the probable result 60 is this, that every Navy Estimate that is brought forward by the Liberal side of the House is the result of a compromise, and a compromise that must be to the detriment of the Navy. I see in these Navy Estimates that we are discussing to-day the result of a compromise, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, knowing, as I do, that he realises what the Navy means to the country, that he will always on this subject of the Navy be absolutely free and frank with the country on the subject of the Navy Estimates. I have some reason for saying that. My reason is found in surveying the policy of this Government with regard to the Navy for the last six or seven years. Sir, there has been no policy. Their schemes have been a succession of jumps and* spasms devised with a twofold object. First, to tide over an immediate difficulty, and, second, to placate the hon. Gentleman to whom I have already referred. I thought last year that the present First Lord of the Admiralty was going to do better than this, but when he made his statement the other day I felt all the time that while one eye was on the efficiency of the Fleet, the other eye—I believe they call it the directing eye—was on the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. I take the one example of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion of a naval holiday, and I should like to take this opportunity of asking the right hon. Gentleman if he will take the opportunity of putting right what I think is almost a misconception about the point of congestion. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman refers to the current programme and not to any future ships that might be required to be laid down. I ask him to put this right, because it has led to a charge of trickery by a small part of the German Press, who say that the right hon. Gentleman first said that our dockyards could not take on any more ships and then suggested the naval holiday. I think that is wrong. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has been misconceived. To the question of the naval holiday there are two sides, the physical side and the moral side. The physical side is this, the right hon. Gentleman says that he is building at the rate of sixteen to ten, which we say is inadequate.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
I shall argue that in a moment; but he is ready to 61 decelerate at the rate of two to one because next year, if we had a naval holiday, we should be laying down four ships to the German two, and if we carried that back to any length it must dissipate any margin we have. But the moral side of the naval holiday is, to my mind, the worst side. What is the effect on the world in general to be? What will the world say? It is that in any struggle he who first cries "Halt!" is first feeling the effect of that struggle. The result is bound to be the renewal of activity on the part of the antagonist. Surely we have had enough evidence on this behalf during the last six years. When the Government opposite first came into power they reduced the shipbuilding programme and we saw a great increase in another Power. In 1911 the present Home Secretary said that we had arrived at high-water mark of our naval expenditure, and we know that the amendment of the German Navy Law was foreshadowed last year. The present First Lord hinted about the naval holiday, and the third Navy Law was carried providing for reorganisation of the German High Sea Fleet, which the right hon. Gentleman knows is one of the most serious things that we have to meet. All these lessons have been absolutely unheeded. Last week the right hon. Gentleman again brings forward the question of a naval holiday, and if what we have read in this morning's paper about an extra £4,000,000 taken for a German Aero Fleet is an answer, it has come swiftly.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Does the hon. Gentleman really suppose that the plan which the German Government announce to Parliament to-day has been made since I addressed the House?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
Did the right hon. Gentleman know it before this morning? Because, if he did, then I say that the ridiculous amount which he had in his Navy Estimates is playing with the House of Commons. I think that the position which he has taken up is undignified, and that we ought to show the world by a loan, if necessary, that we are absolutely determined above everything else, to maintain an absolute superiority as regards the Navy. I was rather alarmed in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's statement the other day because he seemed to me to be rather coquetting with the alleged limitation of sixteen to ten. This was hailed with great joy, as usual, by the party in this country 62 who are always ready to dance to any tune piped by Admiral von Tirpitz, but I did think that the right hon. Gentleman was better, and I would like to offer these observations on the question of the sixteen to ten limitation. First, we do not know really what it represents; I do not think we have any means of knowing what is meant, but if Germany had said sixteen to ten we are satisfied that she can only mean one thing, and that is that she has obtained the aspirations which she clearly set out to get in the preamble of the German Navy Law. Is that a matter of congratulation to us? I think the position of sixteen to ten might be satisfactory if we could always bring our sixteen ships to fight ten of the enemy, but in 1920 I do not think many of the pre-"Dreadnoughts" will count, and I do not count the Dominion ships, because the right hon. Gentleman remarked that they might be in New Zealand at the time they were wanted. Further, in 1920, we know pretty well what we are going to have and what Germany will have. Germany will have thirty-five "Dreadnoughts," and Austria may have ten, though I admit it is problematic, but there is nothing to stop them. To have a 60 per cent. superiority we should have fifty-six big ships or "Dreadnoughts" to equally divide between the North Sea and the Mediterranean, and in that case does the right hon. Gentleman say we will have more than Germany? As the right hon. Gentleman has foreshadowed, he has settled the programme up to 1920, and by his programme he will not have more than fifty-six ships. If we divide those between the North Sea and the Mediterranean we cannot have as much as 25 per cent. superiority in both seas. The right hon. Gentleman himself contends that for our average moment against the selected moment of our enemy we must always deduct 25 per cent., and that leaves us with absolutely a bare equality both in the North Sea and the Mediterranean. That is what the right hon. Gentleman is asking for, only equality both in the North Sea and the Mediterranean, and yet he talks about sixteen to ten.
I think it is the duty of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House to try to prove to those who think we are doing too much or doing enough that we are doing too little. For my part, I find it very hard to understand the point of view of some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I can understand 63 the point of view of those who say, "Do not let us have any Navy; let us spend the money on social reform," but I cannot understand those who say, "We must have a strong Navy," and then do everything in their power to whittle that strength away. A large number of hon. Gentlemen opposite rely upon the power of diplomacy and they, apparently, invest diplomacy and diplomats with some super-human power, but I am afraid their touching faith is not shared by the diplomats themselves, except perhaps some of the younger. If hon. Members will come down to the bedrock facts, and will inquire of any Chancellery in Europe, they will find, and will be told, that the power of British diplomacy depends upon the power of the British Fleet, and in the end all that the best a diplomat can do is to politely state that fact. I would remind those who say that we are building too many ships, that they have always said the same thing. I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he suggests now that the party to which I have the honour to belong, when in power built too many ships? If the right hon. Gentleman replies "Yes, we did build too many ships when we were in power," I would ask him what right he has to depend on our great superiority in pre-"Dreadnoughts," which he is always talking about, and basing his programme on that fact? If he says, "No," how can he say that the margin is sufficient to-day—for the margin is infinitely less now than it was then—if he says that we did not build too many and built the correct number when we were in power? How can he justify the margin to-day, seeing that it is infinitely less than it was?
I have prepared two curves to illustrate this point. In the first one I have taken the battleships building in England and Germany from the year 1901 to the year 1911, which includes the last five years of our administration, and the first five years of the administration of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I have taken battleships less than twenty years old. From these curves, like all curves of the kind, much is to be learnt in regard to the last five years of the Unionist Administration, and the first five years of the present Administration. The most interesting is the curve of superiority of our fleet in battleships over the German ships during the period of the whole course of these ten years. The curve shows rather remarkable figures. I would remind the House that 1900 was 64 the commencement of the German Navy Law. In 1901 our superiority was 112 per cent.; next year it went up to 120 per cent. In 1903 it was 165 per cent.; and in 1904 it went up to 190 per cent. In 1905, when the right hon. Gentleman came into power, the curve goes right away down from 150 per cent. to 120 per cent., to 104 per cent., to 84 per cent., to 76 per cent., to 86 per cent., and leaves off, in 1911, at 80 per cent.—it goes down from 190 per cent. in 1904 to 80 per cent. in 1911.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
In the early stages the percentage was fixed in regard to the naval strength of France and Russia as well.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
It is only fair that we should take into account the meaning of the German Navy Law, and the percentages under the right hon. Gentleman have been brought down where we had brought them up.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
If the right hon. Gentleman likes to look at these curve lines which I have drawn he will see what the results are. The curve in regard to torpedo boat destroyers is even more extraordinary. I have taken destroyers of less than twelve years, and I have taken the curve for the same period, from 1901 to 1911. It is very surprising to compare these curves. The German curve is a steady accelerated upward sweep, while our curve is a series of ups and downs, showing the varying success of the Little Navy party in the Cabinet, while surely it denotes no policy whatsoever. The curve of superiority shows that in 1901 we had a superiority of 304 per cent., and it has been brought down by the right hon. Gentleman to 38 per cent. That does not show the actual position, because I have included a number of destroyers not really fit for duty in the North Sea. Torpedo destroyers may be the most serious menace to us in the next war in which we may be engaged. I do not think that many laymen realise what destroyers in charge of resolute men can perform. A flotilla of destroyers can locate the battle fleet at sea, making certain at sundown of its course and position, and attack it in the middle of the night. It is a very poor lookout indeed for a battle fleet. Up to the present it has been very difficult to locate battleships at night, but I believe the advent of the airship has made it 65 very much easier, for the airship at night can always see the flame of the funnel of the battleship, and can tell the destroyers, which can attack the fleet. To guard our battle fleet we must be able to seek out the enemy's destroyers and destroy them. That means that we must have superiority of power, and not merely a bare preponderance.
I think it is positive madness at this moment, when we have only a bare preponderance, to start reducing the already inadequate number from twenty-eight to sixteen destroyers this year. I want to return for a moment to the question of sixteen to ten. I have always endeavoured to prove that it is inadequate, but I am not at all sure, after listening to the speech of the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) that we are going to get that number at all. My hon. Friend gave figures showing that in 1916 we should only have a superiority of 46 per cent. I do not wish to labour that point, but I tope the First Lord will explain it, because it is a matter of most vital importance. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was very happy in his statement this year as to the question of percentages. Last year it was a most convenient method of reckoning our strength, but this year he has dropped it, and has adopted what I think a far more dangerous doctrine, a comparison of individual ships. That is a recrudescence of the old argument of tons, guns, and men, with which hon. Gentlemen opposite are very apt to soothe their conscience. The statement in general is that we have a far greater tonnage than any other country, that our guns are far superior, and our men more numerous and better. I will not say very much about the argument as to tonnage, for it is one which leaves me absolutely cold. You might as well judge the debating powers of a Cabinet Minister by the extent of his Department as a battleship by its weight. I think the right hon. Gentleman in regard to our guns would be perfectly wrong if he said that we have arrived at the maximum efficiency compared with the efficiency attained in other countries. We have seriously neglected our secondary, or torpedo, arm. Up to the year before last our secondary arm was bad, but, what was far worse, it was not armoured. I want to put this point to the right hon. Gentleman. Supposing we had a very bad fleet action. What is going to happen against a torpedo-boat attack? The ship is in almost a helpless position, because it is very difficult to fire 66 at a destroyer with a 13.5-in. gun. The House must note that the development in regard to this has been perfectly amazing in the last ten years, and the range of the torpedo is beginning to approximate to the range of the gun—that is, for any actual range at which an action might be likely to be fought. That is going to have a very far-reaching effect on Fleet action, and was not unexpected when I say we talked of it in the torpedo school ten years ago. Yet so little has the policy entered into the calculation of right hon. Gentlemen opposite that I think I am right in saying…
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
I was about to say we thought this was going to happen ten years ago. Nearly every ship they have built since they came into office has been very short of torpedo tubes, and I think I am right in saying that the German high sea fleet is capable of firing twice the number of torpedoes our Home Fleet is. We have then the argument as to men and as to them being citizens of an island and imbued with naval traditions, and that they are much better seamen than those of any other country in the world. I thoroughly agree with that; I think they are; but, unfortunately, seamen do not come in as they used in the old days. A hundred years ago Nelson's Fleet was manned by seamen, and their importance was seen in Toulon in 1803; but to-day the seamen are gradually passing away, and mechanics are taking their place; and, although they are much better than those of any other country, yet I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to take that too much into account. I should like to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the men. I am very much afraid that the great addition to home service may have an effect on recruiting. I do not think it has yet, but I am afraid it may in this way. In the old days, when we used to go away for three years, the men came back with a lot of money, which they spent, and with which they had a very good time, behaving as generations of seamen had taught they were expected to behave. Our people then said, "The Navy is a fine thing; let us go to it." I am afraid people now say rather the reverse. The men are now always at home at the week-ends, and most of their money is spent on the trains to bring them home, so that when they get there they have not much to spend. People therefore, I am 67 afraid, may come to say that the Navy is not as good a Service as it used to be, and that may have a serious effect on recruiting. I do hope, although in the extra pay the right hon. Gentleman went possibly as far as he could, that he will try to give them a little more, so that no serious effects can develop.
I desire to say a word about aviation. I shall confine myself absolutely to airships for the reason that airships are, I think, like submarines, and are, in fact, like ordinary ships. I think those two facts make them essentially a naval service, and that naval men ought to man them. We apparently cannot discuss airships or talk about them without being called scaremongers. I am a willing martyr, especially when I remember that in 1909 we were called scaremongers, although the result was the addition of eight ships, and where would we have been now without them? Two years ago again some of us were called scaremongers, myself included, when trying to point out what we thought to be the dangers to our merchant ships on the trade routes. Two years after that the right hon. Gentleman has done what we mentioned. I only hope when we talk about airships that they will not be too quick to call us scaremongers I do not want to talk about this subject in any panic whatever, but I think we must realise that our unique position as an island has, to some extent, been done away with because intangible and invisible bridges are capable at any moment of being thrown across to us from the mainland. My fear is chiefly with regard to the defences of our dockyards, arsenals, and magazines. I must say I think that all the Government told us in the various Departments has been most unsatisfactory. What have they done? The Government first of all brought in a Bill, the first Clause of which said that any wandering airship may be warned not to go any further. How that is to be done is not quite clear. The second Clause provides that if it disregards that warning you may shoot at it and bring it down, but again it is not very clear how that is to be done. In the third Clause I am glad to say more humane principles prevailed, and the gentleman in charge of the airship, when he has come down some 5,000 feet, is to be given an opportunity of proving that he was driven here by stress of weather. The Secretary of State for War adopted 68 the almost Machiavellian suggestion of not putting all our eggs into one basket.
The only crumb of comfort I have got out of any pronouncements of right hon. or hon. Gentlemen opposite is from the speech of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, who said he had this danger in his mind. There are two ways of fighting airships, and the first is by guns. I know we have a very good gun, but we have not got anything else. The next way is by counter aerial attack, and I believe the majority of experts on this subject will say that aeroplanes are not good enough to fight airships, but that airships must be fought with airships and rigids with rigids. I simply lay that down; I am not able to argue it, but that is what I am told by a good many experts on this question. Supposing that to be true, what is our position in airships to-day? In Germany they have seven Zeppelins and six building with high speed, large radius of action, and great carrying, power. Against those we have nothing at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "The May-fly."] "The May-fly" broke three years ago, and nothing further has been done. In non-rigid airships, Germany has seventeen, and against that we have two very inferior ones and two on order, but we are not doing anything in this respect. What sheds are we building? Are we building great big sheds for those ships, because the right hon. Gentleman says we want airships and we want rigids. As far as I can see, we could not have them if we wanted them for two years, because it takes one year to build a shed and one year to build the airship inside. I have tried to show that for the last seven years we have had no policy as regards our Navy and we have got no policy now with regard to airships, and I think the Government have grossly failed to adequately provide for the defences of this country.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The House will have been interested in the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Eyres-Monsell), who does not very often address us, but to whom we always listen with pleasure. He brings to the consideration of these naval questions the authoritative knowledge of a naval officer, and there are not a great number of naval officers, of those who have served in the Navy, in the House. But I was a little sorry that the hon. Gentleman should have intermingled with his very interesting remarks on tactical and technical subjects a good deal of the seasoning of party 69 controversies. He made a very solemn reproach to those who bring party politics into naval affairs, and then he went on to say that there were a large number of Members whose constituents cared nothing about the Navy, and that every Naval Estimate brought in by the Liberal party was the result of compromise, and that the Minister had one eye on the officials in the Fleet and the other on hon. Members below the Gangway who were opposed to any Navy, and that there were a large number of Members on this side of the House… [An HON. MEMBER made an observation which was inaudible.] I am not disputing any of those propositions, as I would not think it worth my while to take up the time of the House, but the hon. Member said that there are a large number of Members on this side of the House who are willing to dance to any tune played by Admiral Von Tirpitz. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are not in the least vexed by any remarks of that kind, but I must point out that they are not quite in keeping with very strong appeals to remove the Navy from the party arena. I gratefully acknowledge the support from all parties which during late years the Admiralty has enjoyed in this House, and I trust that that may be continued. But I trust also that every Opposition will always retain its right and liberty to criticise the failure of a Government if they think it errs either on the side of doing less than it ought or on the side of undue and reckless extravagance. Certainly, so far as we on this side are concerned, we have no intention of in any way debarring ourselves from bringing effective criticism to bear on any Government which might be called into being, and which would go beyond what is reasonable and necessary to maintain the full security of this country.
The hon. Gentleman touched in his closing words on the subject of aviation. I do not propose to add anything to what I said a few nights ago on that important topic, but there are two points, one of which he mentioned, connected with it, to which I did not refer the other night and which I will now mention. First of all, it appears to be very unreasonable and unfair to sneer at the Home Office Regulations. It was a very necessary thing that Regulations should be made, and no one can complain that these are not of a thoroughly comprehensive and sufficiently drastic character. The powers taken under them, which the Naval and Military Departments are now 70 free to use, are of a very formidable character, and introduce serious and far-reaching extensions into our laws as we have hitherto known them. The Admiralty—I am not entitled to speak for anybody else—are very glad of these Regulations. They have been made as the result of earnest pressure on our part, and they are undoubtedly an essential part of our policy in dealing with unjustifiable intrusions from foreign aircraft. I think that a little of the ingenuity which has been devoted to pouring ridicule upon them would have been more profitably employed in a scientific study of the very difficult problems connected with the air and the effect of aerial craft on the development of warfare generally. The suggestions which have appeared in the newspapers that an aerial service should be established apart from the Army and the Navy, find no support so far as the Admiralty are concerned. It is absolutely essential that the airships and aeroplanes which will have to work with the battle fleet should be absolutely under the control of the Admiralty and of the flag officers commanding the different squadrons. We could never allow a third party or separate department to come between us and what will undoubtedly be a permanent and continuing factor in our naval arrangements.
Nor could I at any length with profit follow the hon. Gentleman in the technical arguments which he advanced as to the secondary armament of battleships or the number of torpedo tubes they carry. All these matters lie in a province that can only be satisfactorily ruled by expert opinion. The orthodox view of the Admiralty, which they have now held for a very large number of years, is opposed to the principle of secondary armaments. I know that there is a very large minority school which holds a different view. For instance, my hon. Friend behind me holds strongly to what I may call the Custance theory, and a very valuable body of opinion is gathered round that view.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The orthodox view is that the correct description of the guns which the hon. Gentleman had in mind is that they are not a secondary armament, but an anti-torpedo armament. Everything that has taken place in the development of the torpedo goes far to justify and confirm the orthodox Admiralty view on 71 this highly controverted and technical question. The increase in the range of torpedoes, which is such a marked feature of recent years, must inevitably tend to keep battleships further and further apart, and to force battles to be fought at long range, where the big guns on which we have always relied, which we have developed to a greater extent than any other Power, and which, as the hon. Gentleman admitted, are certainly not inferior to the big guns manufactured in any other country, will be able to develop their fullest possible effect. No one can say that this new feature of the long range of torpedoes is in any way to the disadvantage of the British Navy, or in any way tends to upset the great body of conclusions on which the Admiralty have advanced during the last eight or nine years.
I have been asked by the hon. Member for the Chelmsford Division (Mr. Pretyman) to speak about the relative speed of British and German destroyers. It is difficult to deal adequately with a question of that character, just as it is to deal with the number of torpedo tubes, without entering much more fully into our conceptions of naval war than would perhaps be seemly. It is also difficult to attempt to make any detailed comparison between particular vessels in the British and other navies. I can only say that the reported speeds of foreign vessels may be very deceptive, unless all the circumstances of trials are known. Much depends upon the depth of load-line of the vessel at the time of trial. Generally speaking, British vessels at the time of trial displace a larger percentage of their full load displacement than is the case with foreign vessels; so that at full displacement the loss of speed is less in the case of our destroyers than in that of foreign navies. Also our full speed trials are run in deep water, whereas this is not the case as a rule with foreign torpedo-boat destroyers, and by suitably choosing a shallow measured mile a gain of from 2 to 3 knots can be obtained. Most of all, the speed of torpedo craft depends on the state of weather and sea. You can build torpedo-boat destroyers which will go 35 knots an hour in smooth water under favourable conditions, but which, in unfavourable conditions and in rough water will drop down to 22 knots or even less; whereas another destroyer, which perhaps cannot go more than 72 29 knots under the most favourable circumstances, will maintain 24 or 25 knots in the circumstances which reduced a faster rival to 22 knots. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is no doubt aware from his own experience of many instances in the history of the Fleet where, owing to the sea conditions, a faster vessel has been overtaken by a vessel several knots slower in speed. The results of trials are misleading unless all the circumstances are accurately known.
Even then the quality of destroyers cannot be judged apart from considerations affecting their tactical employment—whether, for instance, they have to keep to the sea constantly or can remain in port; whether in a Fleet action they will be likely to be acting on interior or exterior lines, and so on. I am not going into these details; I mention them only to show how very dangerous it is to take the figures given in printed Returns and to draw comparisons between two navies on mere paper statements on matters of the utmost complexity. When a ship undergoes a steam trial, most laymen inquire how fast she went. That is the question I have always put. But the answers returned by the engineers are given under several hundred heads. It is absolutely impossible to deal with these technical questions except en the advice of experts of the highest professional attainments and distinction. These are matters in which we must trust experts. We do not build worse ships in this country than are built anywhere else in the world, to say the least of it, and we build more cheaply than anywhere else. But our destroyers over the last five years have cost at least £10,000 more than contemporary vessels in Germany. It is therefore fair to assume that if advantages have been sacrificed in one direction, other advantages in other directions may have been obtained. For instance, a heavier armament and a little less smooth water speed may conceivably give a destroyer some advantage over a weaker but, on trial, slightly faster enemy. At any rate, we cannot very well carry the discussion any further here. It is fair to assume that, granted full liberty and larger sums of money, our experts will make the best possible use of the opportunities afforded them.
Now I turn to the amiable and helpful suggestion made by the hon Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), that owing to the congestion in the shipyards, 73 it is impossible for the Admiralty to carry out their programmes, and that the proposal of a naval holiday which I have made in all good faith and sincerity, is simply a dodge to enable us to work off our arrears. An hon. Friend of mine on this side, asked the other day whether I had thought this proposal out from the German point of view. I can most truthfully say that I have, and it is because I have thought it out from the German point of view, that I have faith in its being a suggestion of substance and reality. The hon. Gentleman opposite in one of his remarks, has shown some of the reality which lies behind the suggestion; for, he says, supposing our offer is accepted, we shall be decelerating at the rate of two keels to one, where we are only building at the rate of sixteen to ten. He objected to the proposal on the ground that, if it is accepted, it will be to some etxent detrimental to the naval power of this country. I am not going to challenge that. I agree. I think that if no proposal is accepted at any time, if no sort of agreement is entered into, it will not be found that the resulting balance of strength will be detrimental to the naval development of this country. But let me now deal with the specific allegation of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. In 1911–12 labour troubles and other causes led to an underspending on the contract section of the shipbuilding programme of about £2,000,000. This liability, therefore was pushed forward to the years 1912–13 and 1913–14. Good trade and consequent buoyant condition of the labour market during 1912–13 prevented the short earnings from being overtaken, and although I had partially anticipated and allowed for this in presenting the Estimates of 1912–13, yet, from the before-mentioned causes, there was a balance of nearly £1,000,000 unspent on the contract section of Vote 8, thus again throwing a total underspending of nearly £2,000,000 on the 1913–14 liabilities for the continuation programmes. In consequence of the continued good trade, labour conditions, and our past experience, I estimate that the contractors will, roughly speaking, earn during 1913–14 £2,000,000 less than they might do, if all went forward without the slightest hitch or hindrance, if there was no congestion in the skilled labour market, the shipyards, or the steel and ironworks throughout the country, and if no labour disputes occurred. I estimate that, if none of these contingencies occurred, they might be able to earn about 74 £2,000,000 more in the currency of the present year. That means that, at the end of the year 1913–14, if my apprehensions are well founded, the British continuation programmes will be in arrear to the extent of £2,000,000. That is to say, unless better progress is made meanwhile, on the average, the British continuation programmes will be delayed from six to eight weeks in completion.
As I pointed out before, this delay makes a very small difference in the date at which vessels are completed, but it makes a very large difference of several millions in the Estimates which I have to present to Parliament. That is the total extent of the delay from congestion in the shipyards. It is, therefore, not a matter which should be exaggerated. This delay affects the Estimates of the year, and I am bound to state it to Parliament. It does not affect, in any appreciable degree, the margins of strength to which we are working nor the regular completion of our programme. If the resulting average delay of six to eight weeks in working off the continuation programmes were to involve military considerations, and appreciably affect our margins of strength, it would be possible to make special arrangements which would divert workmen from other work and concentrate them on Admiralty work. It would be very easy, in these circumstances, to reduce the delay, slight as it is. The expense, however, would not be justified in the circumstances which exist at present. The delay in executing the continuation programmes does not in any way affect the power of British shipyards, national and private, to commence and prosecute new construction. It would be possible, if it were necessary, to begin during the present year at least four, probably five, capital ships in addition to the annual programme of five, and the "Malaya," making ten, or at the outside eleven, in all, and to complete those in the British yards and His Majesty's dockyards in from twenty-four to thirty months. It would be possible to do this without arresting the progress of the five capital ships which are building for foreign Governments in this country. This programme of ten could be at once started, and could be repeated annually without much loss of effort. There would be no difficulty in manning these ships when they were completed. All that would be necessary would be to put the "King Edward VII." class, the Third Battle Squadron, into the 75 Second Fleet in place of the "Formidables," and to put the "Formidables" in the material Reserve…
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The balance of the crews would turn over to an incomparably stronger squadron. Instead of having eight "Formidables," you would have an extra number of these incomparably stronger ships. Neither would there be any difficulty about the money. It would not be necessary either to borrow or to impose further taxation. I am not recommending these measures. I am only dealing with the question that we are in a position of deadlock from which we cannot move, and I say it would not be necessary, even to make such a great extension of our programme, to raise either fresh taxation or to incur borrowing powers. The moneys devoted to the payment of the National Debt in the last three years would far exceed the sums of money involved in such a development, and if, as we may apprehend, a similar provision for reducing our liabilities be made in the next few years, it is clear that a mere interception of the Old and New Sinking Funds would enable us to make this very large extension of the Fleet without incurring fresh taxation or borrowing, which are such a feature of the finance of foreign countries. If, therefore, we do not take such steps, it is not because they are not possible, but because they are not necessary. The suggestion that we are in difficulties about executing the moderate Naval Programme that we have in view, and that the sincere and friendly proposal which I have made is only a dodge to conceal weakness, or to steal a march upon another country, is as unfounded as it is unworthy.
"Why then," it will be said by the hon. Member for Kensington, "do you not at least begin the three contract ships of this year at an earlier date?" The answer is simple and complete. They will be begun when it is necessary to begin them. That depends to some extent on the dates on which ships are begun elsewhere. It also depends, to some extent, on the best time to make contracts. In this connection, it may have occurred to the House that the present would be a very improvident moment for making any shipbuilding contracts which were not absolutely necessary. The figure taken in the Estimates, 76 £28,000 for each ship, should be regarded more in the nature of a token Vote than as an absolute limit. But in any case it would permit of about three months work being done on those ships in the currency of the present financial year. The first instalments on contract ships do not accrue for payment till about three months have passed. In that respect they differ from the dockyard ships, which begin to require payment from the Treasury from the very first day on which they are undertaken—and before. It would not be possible, as the hon. Member has suggested, to gain any advantage by beginning these ships much earlier on the thirty months basis. Though that suggestion may sound very calculating, when it is examined it will be found to offer no relief. The governing factor in the construction of a ship is not the hull or the laying down. It is the delivery of gun-mountings, of guns, and other matters connected with the armament. It would be no use beginning the ships until you could conveniently fit in your deliveries of armament and gun-mountings, so as to permit of the most convenient and expeditious construction of the vessels.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
When I suggested constructing on the thirty months basis, and commencing six months earlier, I naturally referred to the gun-mountings as well.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Quite! We are dealing, not with a matter of necessity, but of convenience, and in the matter of business convenience of this kind the Admiralty must be the judge of what is the best way to utilise the resources of the different gun-mountings establishments and armament-producing firms. These are matters on which the Admiralty must be allowed a degree of discretion by both sides of the House. We must have a certain amount of margin at our disposal as to the date and times at which we should put out contracts. This will enable us to do our best in the public interest, subject, of course, to Parliament being kept properly informed. I hope, therefore, it will be understood that there is no difficulty, either in accelerating our own ships, if necessary, or in placing contracts for the construction of the three Canadian ships, which are now under discussion in Canada. This can all be done without any interruption either of our existing building programme or of the construction of foreign vessels now constructing in our yards. There is 77 another way I may here mention, apart from new construction altogether, in which we have endeavoured to strengthen the squadrons of the First and Second Fleets. It was found that vessels were being continually withdrawn for an indefinite period from the squadrons to suit the convenience of the dockyards. I have the greatest admiration for our dockyard management. The precision and punctuality with which work is done, and with which new construction particularly is undertaken, are altogether admirable. But the principle must be established that the dockyards exist for the Fleet, and not the Fleet for the dockyards, even if that costs a certain amount of money and trouble. Our system, as it prevailed up to the middle of last year, was in great contrast to the precision of the German system, which secures the presence of practically the whole fleet with the flag during the six summer months.
A Committee was established early last year under the presidency of Sir John Jellicoe, now the present Second Sea Lord, and this Committee investigated with care the extraordinarily detailed administrative problems which beset the solution of the refit question. We hope, as the result of the recommendations of this Committee, to reorganise the system of refits in the dockyards, so as to ensure that our newest and most powerful units will refit exclusively in the winter months. That is to say, they will refit during the months when we know that their comparable vessels are elsewhere in a state of refitting and repair. We are also endeavouring to complete the refits of all vessels within a month. A year's trial will be necessary before deciding finally on the system. The result, if successful, will be to increase the average strength of the squadrons by nearly 20 per cent. during that period of the year when the next strongest naval Power will be at its maximum. To that extent the problem of the average moment, and the selected moment, must be understood to undergo a certain degree of modification from the sharp form in which I stated it last year. Various labour questions which arise in the dockyards in this connection are being most carefully watched, with a view to the prevention of undue overtime.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Yes, it is being done with very great regularity. Let me say that I quite realise that if this system works the period in which ships will be in dockyard hands will be substantially reduced. Instead of being out for seven or eight weeks, in four weeks they will be back with the Fleet. That means that the dockyard and harbour leave which the officers and men in the dockyard were accustomed to get when the ships were in the dockyard will be reduced. We propose to make that up to the officers and men at other times of the year. It is necessary that the ships should be ready for the flag, so that in the returns which are presented to the First Sea Lord and myself every week we may know exactly what numbers are available for war with the flag. But it is not necessary that the officers and men who can be recalled in a few hours from leave should not have the proper proportion of leave and leisure which is necessary for the efficient discharge of their duties. The strain upon the young officers, the specialist officers, the gunnery and torpedo lieutenants, is very serious at the present time. I am having the whole question of the leave regulations made the subject of an inquiry.
I leave the amiable suggestion of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, and I come to the other helpful suggestion which has been put forward by the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth. It is rather curious that the Noble Lord, somehow or other, always find himself, I will not say in the same boat, but rowing in the same direction as the extreme representatives of the Socialist party. A little while ago it was Mr. Blatchford who was his stable companion. Now it is the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil who has raised a very harmful and futile point. I turn to the scarcely less mischievous suggestion which the Noble Lord has put forward. He has repeated in these Debates the wholly untrue statement which he has been making about the country, that the British Navy is at this moment 20,000 men short of its proper complement. There is no belief more deeply rooted in Chauvinistic minds abroad than the belief that in these Islands, although we can build ships, we shall never be able to man them, or that the people of this country will never in their own persons undergo the hardships or make the sacrifices which are necessary to maintain our national safety. That is one of the most foolish and mischievous delusions which could ever be 79 fostered. There is no sacrifice, the necessity for which could be proved, that the people of these Islands, would not make to maintain the national existence or the national security. There is no measure that a British Government would not adopt for that supreme purpose if it could be shown to be necessary. But the necessity has to be proved. That is a formality which should not be overlooked. Now this statement that the British Navy is short by 20,000 men at the present is damaging to our interests, and it is wholly untrue. If, then, such a statement is made by a Member of Parliament of prominence both here and all over the country, and if it is found to be untrue, then I say, on account of the damage which such statements do abroad, the Member making the statements deserves the censure of all right-minded men of all parties in the House.
I am now going to examine the Noble Lord's statement that to-day there is a shortage of 20,000 active service men in the Navy. There are to-day actually 139,000 men—there are a few over—but there are 139,000 men of all ranks and ratings on the active service personnel of the Navy. Of these approximately 95,000 men are actually on board sea-going ships and 44,000 men are in harbour ships, barracks, training ships, and Coastguard stations. If a general mobilisation of the Fleet took place to-morrow 12,000 men out of the 44,000 men who are in harbour ships and on shore would suffice to complete the establishment of the Second Fleet to the full war strength and active service personnel, and these 12,000 would be immediately available for this purpose. Of the remainder, after providing the proper proportion for the ships of the Reserve Fleet—the Third Fleet—and after eliminating the non-effectives, we are left with a balance of some thousands of men for shore duties and for new vessels approaching completion.
I must remind the House that the First and Second Fleets to-day comprise 90 per cent. of our fighting strength, and that, in order to complete them with all their details, it would be only necessary to draw 12,000 men out of the 44,000 available. I will take another test. From the actual mobilisation Returns from the ports in January, 1913—these are the latest Returns which we have checked and sifted—and from these Returns the total active 80 service ratings required to complete the establishment of the Second Fleet would approximate to 11,100 men (this is looking at it from another point of view) while the numbers available were 26,700 men, leaving, after completing the Second Fleet, 15,600 men—that is to say, that after fully manning every ship in the First and Second Fleet, and eliminating the non-effective, we had on 1st January, 1913, 15,600 active service ratings available for the Third Fleet and for new ships approaching completion. To complete the Reserve Fleet about 18,000 Reserve men are necessary, and to meet this requirement we have a strength of Reserve of 60,000 men. Does the Noble Lord dispute any of these figures?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The right hon. Gentleman is putting words into my mouth which I never used. I said we are 20,000 men short for present and future requirements to meet the selected moment that the right hon. Gentleman pointed out was possible, and to meet our average moment. I still stick to that. There are 143 ships with nucleus crews and skeleton crews, and I think these ships are not fit to go out now and fight an action.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The Noble Lord distinctly said that the Fleet was short by 20,000 men for the manning and to make it ready for war at the present time. If he withdraws that statement, now is the time to do it.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I looked up the Debate very carefully, as the right hon. Gentleman may suppose, because it is very necessary indeed that those most mischievous and injurious rumours which the Noble Lord has scattered broadcast about, and which obtain wide currency in consequence, should be dissipated.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
If the Noble Lord says present and future requirements, of course, as we are largely increasing the Fleet, if we added no more men and allowed the regular annual wastage to continue and put more ships into the water month by month, naturally there would be a very large deficiency, but we are adding the necessary men 81 in time to man the new ships as they come into the water, and not only to do that, but to provide for the whole of the annual wastage. I have now got the quotation from the Noble's Lord's speech. It will be found, col. 1919, last Thursday's OFFICIAL REPORT:—I had the honour of presenting a scheme for £68,000,000. Yon could have paid it all off under my scheme and would have only had £32,000,000 to pay this year, but you would have had a Fleet in every single particular, instead of being 20,000 men short, as you are on 31st of this March, and there was not one of the people on the Front Bench who had the common sense to see it.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That is perfectly right. I said we should have these 20,000 men short on the 31st March this year. You are joining 15,000 men now, and that is my case that you are short.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I then interrupted the Noble Lord and said:—What date did the Noble Lord say that we were 20,000 men short?Lord C. Beresford: I said in 1909 that we should be 20,000 men short for future requirements.Mr. Churchill: On what date should we be 20,000 short?Lord C. Beresford: Now. You are 20,000 men short if you go to war now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1913, cols. 1910–20, Vol. L.]I am prepared to state there is no truth whatever in that, and that we can man fully according to the required scale of complements the active service ratings of these ships of the First and Second Fleets, and every ship in the Third Fleet can be manned according to the proper scale of complement to-morrow quite apart from the amount for future requirements in every way, and that there would be a substantial surplus in addition. And let me put this: I am quite willing—I have consulted with my naval advisers—to have these facts verified by any two Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench, that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition may nominate, because I will not have these untruthful—I will not use the word "untruthful," I withdraw that—but I will not have these untrue statements circulated all over the country to the detriment of our naval prestige and position. If the right hon. Gentleman likes, let him nominate two of his Friends who sit opposite, and who have had experience, and they can come to the Admiralty and see the officers responsible for mobilisation and ascertain what the complements of the ships will be and ask any questions they like, and they will find, not only are the men available, but that every 82 man, whether active service or reserve, except the Royal Naval Reserve, for they are cruising all over the world—every man whether active service, or reserve, is appropriated individually by name to the ship in which he is to serve in time of war; every man is appropriated to the actual vessel in which he is to serve in war, and the details are worked out to the utmost perfection. I make this offer because I am anxious that these mischievous statements should be put a stop to without delay.
The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) asked me a question upon a specific point, a very reasonable and relevant point. He made a very interesting speech, and he asked me about the increase in the proportion of boys serving in fully commissioned ships. There has been a small increase in the proportion of boys; it would not be possible to provide continuous sea training of the exceptional number we are recruiting at present after they had completed their shore training, unless we placed a number of boys in ships of the Fleet, and a small proportion of young seamen were in consequence displaced. There are more boys on board ships, and in consequence of that, a certain proportion of young seamen are displaced, and those are sent to the schools to undergo training for gunnery and torpedo ratings which are absolutely essential to be undergone by a sufficient number of men in order to make the improvements we are making in the Fleet. Not a single torpedo or gunnery rating is removed from the Fleet in consequence of the increase of boys accommodated in ships of the Fleet. I hope that these sort of assumptions will not be made unless they can be proved, because it is most injurious abroad where they may think that although we may be able to build ships, we may not have enough men to man our Navy. That is without any foundation at all. The very extensive scale upon which recruiting is now proceeding makes it impossible to accommodate the large number of boys now in the Navy in the armed ships of the training squadrons and we have transformed the existing training squadrons at present into armed squadrons, and we have transferred all the boys of the training squadrons to the eight ships of the "Edgar" class, which have been based upon Queenstown, and which afford an opportunity of continued shore and ship training for the larger number now required. I hope the important use we are 83 making of Queenstown in using it as a great training centre will entitle us to the active assistance of all parties in Ireland in regard to suitable boys coming forward and joining the Royal Navy.
Nothing that I have said in any way alters the fact that the manning stringency exists at the present time, and why? Because great numbers of new ships are going forward, and instead of placing the older ships at the other end of the line in reserve, every year we are expanding the Fleet as fast as we can. The moment new men come in they are immediately used on the new ships, and all, or nearly all, the old ships are maintained in commission. If we were to expand our organisation a little more slowly, and if we were to sit down and fold our hands for a few months, whatever signs of pressure may now be observed in the Mobilisation Department would absolutely pass away. If there is apparently a peace pressure it is because on mobilisation a large surplus of men would be available, but it is rather hard that the very rapidity and success with which we are developing and expanding the Fleet should be made the ground for sneering and injurious complaint
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Will the right hon. Gentleman reply to the questions which I put to him? You say in the Memorandum that the personnel is sufficient to meet the requirements of the new ships. I asked the right hon. Gentleman the other day whether any one of the 7,000 men he is joining will be sufficiently efficient to be of any service for the ships now under construction and those being laid down this year?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The seamen class who are being joined this year will begin to be available three years hence, and that is a very simple calculation. The stokers and many other ratings become available in the year in which they are entered. As the new ships which are now building are completed, the crews are all provided and in readiness to man them. It is impossible there should be miscalculation on this subject. The matter has been worked out in the greatest possible detail. The only thing that retards us is the stringency, and we are trying to push things on a little faster than the pace at which the arrangements were originally made. I now turn to the question raised by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee), and which was also referred to by the hon. Member who last 84 spoke—I mean the question of standard. Here I hope the House will allow me a few minutes while they give me their attention. I hope I shall not be involved in the tiresome dispute about the 60 per cent. standard. I have done better than that. I gave last year the actual series of programmes over a period of six years which, in the Admiralty view, would be sufficient. Programmes supersede standards. They are more definite than standards. If the Admiralty states that they consider the actual building programme is sufficient, it is difficult to see on what authority statements to the contrary can rest. These programmes, as I have pointed out, provide for new construction at the rate not of sixteen to ten, but of eighteen to ten, and that has been the rate observed in the first two years of the six years' series. It is a matter of mathematics that if we continue building at the rate of eighteen to ten we are bound not merely to maintain, but to surpass the 60 per cent. standard. We have, indeed, only to continue that rate of construction which has been observed in the two programmes for which I am responsible to arrive in process of time not at a 60 per cent. but an 80 per cent. superiority. The hon. Member for North Kensington (Mr. Burgoyne), who has studied this question with so much care and knowledge, said on Friday that he was perfectly satisfied with the relative position in 1913 and 1914, but he expressed anxiety about the position in 1915 and 1916. It is no use examining what the position will be in 1920 because it can then be anything you choose to make it.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Yes, I gave one subject to certain contingencies, and I also added certain other contingencies against which certain provision would require to be made. One I mentioned was that any unforeseen development in the Mediterranean might require a further provision, but the hon. Gentleman, in his non-party speech, assumes that Austria will have ten "Dreadnought" vessels, while we intend to have no alteration in our programmes. It is no use attempting to discuss the position in 1920 because we are perfectly free, and nobody can tell with absolute certainty what the position will be then. It will be possible to make it in 1920 whatever the House of Commons and the Government of 1916 and 1917 85 choose to make it. The hon. Gentleman asked about 1915 and 1916, and this was a point referred to by the hon. Member for Fareham. Let us examine the position in those years of ships built and building for the British Empire whose gun power is approximately equal or superior to the first four German "Dreadnoughts." That is the basis I adopt in these figures. I am counting the two "Lord Nelsons," the "New Zealand," the "Australia," and the "Malaya" when she comes in. I am not, of course, counting the three Canadian ships, because they are still under discussion, neither do I count the fractions of ships. You can juggle with fractions, such as the half of a ship and three-quarters, and make the percentage higher, but I do not count fractions. I am going to give the figures, and I hope that they will be followed attentively by those concerned. In the year 1915, in the first quarter of the year, the figures will be: Germany 21, Great Britain 38, surplus above 60 per cent. 5; second quarter, Germany 23, Great Britain 38, surplus 2; third quarter, Germany 23, Great Britain 39 (here the "Malaya" comes in), surplus 3; fourth quarter, Germany 23, Great Britain 41, surplus 5. In the year 1916 the figures will be in the first quarter, Germany 23, Great Britain 44, surplus above 60 per cent. 8; second quarter, Germany 26, Great Britain 44, surplus 3.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
No, it includes everything built and building. In the third quarter, Germany 26, Great Britain 44, surplus 3; fourth quarter, Germany 26, Great Britain 46, surplus 5. In 1917, the first quarter, Germany 26, Great Britain 48, surplus 7, and so on. It will be seen from these figures that there is a surplus throughout above the 60 per cent. standard, for those years which the hon. Member selected as critical, which never falls below 2 and which rises as high as 8, giving an average surplus of 4 or 5.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I hope the hon. Member will treat me with ordinary courtesy, and allow me to make a complicated statement without interrupting me in that way. I think the hon. Member had better hear what I have to say before he proceeds to criticise me.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I shall go on in my own way, and if I am interrupted I shall make any comment on the interruptions I think proper.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
With great submission I trust that in protesting against the tone of the hon. Member's interruption I have done so in perfectly Parliamentary language, and have not in any way offended.
I was not referring to anything the right hon. Gentleman said, but to the temper which has been observable for the last three-quarters of an hour, which he seemed rather to resent, shown towards his considered statement.
§ Sir J. FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I want to ask specifically whether the right hon. Gentleman in those figures is including the Canadian vessels in the future computation, because the figures he is now giving would indicate, in comparison with an answer he has given—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order."]
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
No, but they include everything that is built and building, but not what is under discussion.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to say what the position is, and then will be the time for the hon. Member to criticise me. It will be seen from the figures I have given that there is a surplus throughout above 60 per cent. for those years which the hon. Member selected as critical, namely, 1915 and 1916, which will never fall below two and may rise as high as eight, with an average surplus of four or five ships. If you exclude the "New Zealand" and the "Australia," and the "Malaya," if you wish to do so, we could do that without falling short of the 60 per cent. standard 87 as we interpret it. The matter is complicated, and therefore it must be stated in full detail. These figures are prepared on the assumption that the British ships take two years to build, after three months' preparation, and the Germans continue the practice of building in three years from the commencement of the financial year. This calculation assumes that the British ships are begun later than the German ships in each year and finished three months earlier. Thus, if the German period of construction were shortened, the British position could be speedily corrected by earlier laying down. We also assume that the German ships are all finished punctually and ready for battle on the day when they are first commissioned for trials, while the British ships, on the other hand, are not counted as effective until they have completed all their trials—that is, three months later. There is therefore a further margin of safety on the British side, because, if necessary, we can correct any incidental lateness of delivery by commissioning on the emergency date, which is several months before formal and final delivery. That is the position as regards 1915 and 1916, and in examining it I must ask the House to carefully study all the data which I have given and not to jump to a conclusion on any particular statement in sentence or comment apart from its context. All forecasts of construction of this character are necessarily made on a conventional basis. I have given the data on which our calculations are founded. Of course in practice unexpected minor variations may arise. Foreign ships are sometimes delayed and ours are often punctual, and it is absurd to suppose in any case that one ship more or less in one particular month makes any essential difference to the balance of naval strength. Therefore these conventional forecasts should always be interpreted and examined in a reasonable and not in a captious spirit.
I have dealt with the 60 per cent. standard. On the other hand, I shall be asked, What is the maximum provision available for the whole world service of the British Empire, and in particular in the Mediterranean in those years? It has always been understood, as I said last year and as the hon. Member for Kensington recognised last week, that the 60 per cent. building standard against the next strongest naval power was to provide a certain number of ships—the number has 88 never been publicly defined—for foreign service. We came to the conclusion some time ago that the minimum standard of "Dreadnoughts" which should be maintained in Home waters should be three to two as compared with Germany; that is to say, that one-sixth of the 60 per cent. superiority might be considered available for foreign service or for the general service of the Empire in addition to the surpluses to which I have referred. Again, I say that these standards are conventional standards, and they are not to be interpreted unreasonably, nor ought they to be interpreted in any way which fetters the freedom of the Admiralty in moving the ships as they may think necessary from time to time, it being ridiculous to tell us that one or two ships more or less make any essential difference, having regard to the rest of the Fleet. Applying this principle to the figures of 1915 and 1916, it will be found, after providing for the 50 per cent. superiority in Home waters, that there will be available for foreign service, for the whole-world service of the British Empire—that is the phrase which should be used—as follows: In the first quarter of 1915, seven; in the second quarter, four; in the third quarter, five; in the fourth quarter, seven; in the first quarter of 1916, ten; in the second quarter, five; in the third quarter, five; in the fourth quarter, seven; in the first quarter of 1917 nine, and so on, an average of between six and eight vessels.
That is quite sufficient for the year 1915, with which we are at present dealing, but, having regard to the responsibilities of the British Empire both in the Pacific and in the Mediterranean, and having regard in particular to the new development of forces in the Mediterranean, it is clear that the margin of strength available for the whole-world service of the British Empire will not be sufficient after the first quarter of 1916 unless further steps are taken either by the Dominions or by ourselves. From this point of view, the reality of the need of the three Canadian vessels can be well appreciated. They would raise the margin of the strength available for the general defence of the Empire, after the main need in Home waters has been met, as follows: 1915, in the fourth quarter, 10; 1916, in the first quarter, 13; in the second quarter, 8; in the third quarter, 8; in the fourth quarter, 10; 1917, in the first quarter, 12, and soon, an average of 9 or 10 vessels available for the whole world service of the British Empire. That, in the absence of further 89 developments in the Mediterranean or in the Pacific beyond what is now in prospect, would be sufficient. If, however, new developments took place of such a kind as to affect Admiralty problems, or if the Canadian ships were to miscarry for any reason, the situation would have to be reviewed. It is unnecessary at the present moment, and it would be premature for me to say any more on the subject. I have given the fullest information in my power to the House, and I hope I shall not be pressed to add to it. I could not accede to such a request. It is necessary, however, to make it clear that the three ships now under discussion in Canada are absolutely required from 1916 onwards for the whole-world defence of the British Empire, apart altogether from the needs of Great Britain in Home waters; that they will play a real part in the defence of the Empire; and that, if they fail, a gap will be opened to fill which further sacrifices will have to be made without undue delay by others.
With these facts in view, I ask the House seriously: Is it not unwise for some people on one side of the House to say that the Canadian ships are redundant, superfluous, and an unnecessary burden—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and is it not equally unwise for other people on the other side to say that they ought to be redundant, superfluous, and an unnecessary burden? Both these views seem to me to be equally wrong and equally harmful to our interests, and I must repeat that the Canadian ships are absolutely necessary for the whole-world defence of the British Empire from the end of 1915, or from the beginning of 1916 onwards. The fact that they are necessary is no measure of their value. Their value far exceeds the value of three ships. We can build three ships ourselves if necessary. Parliament has never refused to supply the money for that which responsible Ministers have considered necessary for the proper discharge of the responsibilities of the Crown. It is the fact of this great new nation coming forward, with all its measureless strength and possibilities, to testify to the enduring life of the British Empire, that has already produced an impression throughout the world of more value than many "Dreadnought" ships, an impression which throughout the world conduces both to the safety of this country and to the peace of nations. From this point of view the differences in method which separate the proposals of Mr. 90 Borden's Government from those of that far-seeing and Imperial statesman, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, are not of vital importance. The Admiralty has expressed their opinion, as it was their duty to do, as to which is the most convenient method and which method will be most swift and helpful and most effective for the common good of the British Empire; but, from a wider standpoint than any which the Admiralty can occupy, the principle of Canada coming forward for the world-wide naval defence of the British Empire, that principle is of inestimable value, and that is the principle on which, I understand, Liberals and Conservatives in Canada are at one. I have done. I regret to have had to inflict another long statement upon the House. I have endeavoured to deal with the serious and complicated points which were raised in the discussion to which I have listened since I made my statement, and I hope the House will believe that I have no other desire than to put before them the fullest and truest account of our naval position which the public interests and the duties of my office enable me to make.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The First Lord of the Admiralty has been good enough to tell me that I am a person who does not tell the truth. I do not wish to make a tu quoque and say his statement is contrary to fact, but I want to prove the statement I have made on several occasions as to our being 20,000 men short, and I believe the House will see that I was correct, and not the First Lord. Last year, in answer to a question, the right hon. Gentleman said we were 240 men short. That was in March, but afterwards his junior came down and said it was 2,000. That was a great discrepancy, and I pointed it out at the time. I pointed out that we were a great deal more than 240 men short. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me why he did not give me the first-term men who were leaving the Service last year and who had left during the last three years? He said that it was not in the public interest. I maintain that it is in the public interest. The public should know if we are short of men in the Fleet, and they should know why men who are worth their weight in gold are leaving the Service in great numbers. The First Lord by increasing the pay will retain some, but I do not think he will retain them all or nearly all. He knows perfectly well that the men were overworked and underpaid. He knows perfectly well that it was the 91 shortage of men in the Fleet which gave rise to the discontent; it was overwork in the Fleet, and not the question of pay which made them discontented. The First Lord is not going to tell this House—if he does it will not believe him—that it is a good thing to get in an enormous number of recruits, some 15,000, as we are going to do now. They are nearly all lads, except the Marines, and he must acknowledge that it will take five years to properly train them for fighting. He tells the House this large amount of recruiting is to fill up ships that are going to be commissioned. I deny that altogether. The Government reduced the complement of the Fleet for five years. They were warned over and over again by many of us that they would have to join an enormous number of men suddenly like this, and my statement that they are 20,000 men short is proved to have been correct by what he is now doing. He is joining the same number next year and the year after in order to fill up the 20,000 of which I say the Fleet is short. I do not want to have recriminations. I believe him to be as perfectly honest as I am in endeavouring to get the Navy correct, but he is absolutely wrong about the men. He invited two Members from this bench to go to the Admiralty. I hope they will go. It is a very fair offer, and the question is very important. I do not for one moment say the First Lord cannot man these 143 ships…
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
They are all in the Navy List—nucleus crews and skeleton crews; what you call "the Reserve."
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Does the Noble Lord include ships of the Second Fleet, or is he speaking of the ships in the Second and Third Fleets…
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
If the right hon. Gentleman will get the Navy List, and look up the ships that have got nucleus and skeleton crews, he will find there are 143. I do not say he cannot man them. He will man them with the Royal Naval Reserve and with boys. He has letters at this moment from captains and admirals to say there are a great many boys in the ships. There are a great many, too many, boys in the Fleet. There are a great many boys taking the place of able seamen. I was perfectly right when I told 92 my countrymen that we were 20,000 men short for the selected moment, and proof of it is to be found in that which the right hon. Gentleman is now doing. Just fancy having to join men at the rate you are now joining them, when you know they cannot be ready for five years! If you had joined them during the last three or four years you would not have been in your present position. The fact is our Fleet is not ready to go out to fight at the selected moment. You are short of men. You have too many boys and too many young stokers, and all because you have not looked ahead during the last five years. Instead of joining extra men, you reduced the number. I do not want to have a violent recrimination with the First Lord. When I made that statement I believed it. I believe it now. I believe that if any hon. Member went to the Fleet and asked any officers or men he would be told that they are shorthanded and overworked. If, by some wave of a fairy wand, the First Lord could have six "Dreadnoughts" to-morrow, he could not man them unless he paid off ships now in commission.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Naturally. How many "Dreadnoughts" more than the Admiralty now possess or have in prospect are they expected to provide crews for?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
You cannot provide crews for the selected moment, because you are short-handed, and you are going to call out your Reserve. Any captain will tell you that the reserve ships are not fit to fight an action. The right hon. Gentleman informed us that the Germans were going to have four-fifths of their fleet always ready. You are not prepared for that.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Ninety per cent. of the whole fighting strength of the Fleet is manned without the use of a single Reservist.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
There, again, is one of those charming sentences which take in the House. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in what he says, but what are these crews? The ships' companies consist largely of boys and young stokers. The First Lord knows it.
Interruptions such as these ought not to be made by an hon. Member unless they are of sufficient importance to lead the hon. Member to rise.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I still maintain what I have said, both in the House and in the country. I think I have proved my case. I take it all hon. Members have an interest in this question. They all have friends in the Fleet. I suggest they should go to any naval officer, or any man in the Fleet, or any man in the torpedo-boat destroyers, and make inquiries. I am sure the reply will be that they are shorthanded in the Fleet. To make up what the right hon. Gentleman calls the fighting Fleet, he will have to put in Reservists.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The First and Second Fleets have far too many boys and young stokers in them to make them efficient. I again maintain I was right. The right hon. Gentleman has simply made a statement to show that I was incorrect, whereas I have given proof of the accuracy of my statement.
§ Mr. MIDDLEMORE
I do not feel competent to follow the discussion in regard to manning, but I wish to make some observation as to the figures we have had from the right hon. Gentleman, and also as to some figures which he gave me in answer to questions a fortnight ago last Wednesday—questions replied to with some asperity, and, I might also say, with rudeness. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion refused to disclose the facts for which I was appealing. Those facts are vital, and in regard to them I propose to make a general statement. This Government has provided and completed, while it has been in office, seventeen armoured ships, against the German fourteen armoured ships. It has provided and completed seventeen small cruisers, against Germany's ten; that appears to be a good majority, but it is a very deceptive one, as I shall show presently. It has provided and completed seventy-five destroyers against the German seventy-three; that is a serious fact. In that case the 60 per cent. is only in imagination. I think, too, it is an unworthy record. It represents the compromise of the various wings of the party which go to make up the majority, while the German list represents an understanding between their Admiralty and their Foreign Office.
Take the case of the "Dreadnoughts." I asked the right hon. Gentleman a fortnight ago how we would stand, as compared with Germany, in regard to 94 "Dreadnoughts" in 1916. He replied that the Germans would have twenty-five plus one, which would be added by their special legislation. We require, in order to get our margin of 60 per cent., forty "Dreadnoughts" to their twenty-five, and we further require two ships against the German extra one, and to replace the pre-"Dreadnoughts," upon which the right hon. Gentleman laid so much stress in his statement last year, we require, I will suggest, eight, that is to say, we need forty-two plus eight. How does the right hon. Gentleman supply that need? He has told us we have thirty-four vessels, either arranged for or built. This year's programme provides five, and that gives us thirty-nine, against the requirement of forty-two. How are you going to make up the difference? By Colonial ships and two pre-"Dreadnoughts"—the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon." No arithmetic can alter the fact that we are three "Dreadnoughts" short. As a matter of fact, we ought to lay down eight "Dreadnoughts" this year instead of five. As to replacing pre-"Dreadnoughts," I think the statement of the right hon. Gentleman last Wednesday was a slippery one. What do we mean by replacing "Dreadnoughts? We mean that when one one ship is worn out, another shall be put in its place. That too is what the Germans mean. Last year the right hon. Gentleman announced the necessity of replacing pre-"Dreadnoughts," and this year he has told us the method in which it is to be done. He says that they are to be found in his general programme of armoured ships. The whole thing is in a haze. The replacement is not assigned to any separate ship, but the right hon. Gentleman told us we should find the pre-"Dreadnoughts" replaced by studying the general programme. I have studied it with much care, and I cannot find them. My contention is that as each pre-"Dreadnought" is withdrawn a new armoured ship should be put in its place. I cannot see how the right hon. Gentleman arranges that.
With regard to the delay, last year the right hon. Gentleman spoke of its being caused by labour troubles. This year he attributes it to congestion in the yards. Is not that a serious and unique statement? Does it not mean that, in the time of peril, when we are fighting at Germany's selected hour, we cannot fulfil our programme. Surely that must be so; otherwise the right hon. Gentleman would not 95 look forward with hope to some Supplementary Estimates. I cannot speak in regard to technicalities, but it does seem to me that if certain work is definitely undertaken it should be fulfilled, or else the money penalty should be exacted. Apparently, through the congestion in the yards, your programme cannot be fulfilled.
Next I come to the small cruisers. We are laying down eight this year, and although that seems to be a good number, in my opinion it is not sufficient. The Government have provided thirty-eight cruisers to Germany's sixteen. That may be a very handsome margin on the face of it, but it is well to remember that we have withdrawn thirty-three cruisers while this Government has been in office to the German twelve, so that our increased cruiser force is five as against the German increase of twelve. We still have a large superiority, but how many of the vessels that we have have been launched within ten years? We have launched twenty-one in that period, and the Germans have launched an equal number. As to the destroyers: we have completed ninety-three to the German eighty-three. I will not go into the matter of quality and speed, except to say that in average speed, taking all weathers, the Germans are considerably ahead of us. Our superiority in destroyers laid down is 12 per cent., and not 60 per cent. There is another extremely vital point I want to press home. Twenty per cent. of our destroyers have been launched more than fifteen years. Not one German destroyer has been launched fifteen years. Considering that the life of a destroyer is twelve years, I think that is an ominous and a discreditable state of affairs. We beat the Germans in useless ships, that is, both with regard to cruisers and especially with regard to destroyers. In regard to the arming of merchant vessels, I have nothing but congratulations to offer the First Lord. I remember that three years ago I offered to give the Admiralty the names of two or three foreign vessels which had guns on board, which were given to me privately, but the Government were not keen on receiving them. With regard to that one matter, which is most certainly vital, I warmly congratulate them.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Although I am not entitled to speak for anybody but myself, I think I can reassure the hon. Member who 96 has just sat down and the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Eyres-Monsell), who suggested that the small party with which I am generally associated in naval matters have had something to say in formulating the Government's programme, for their wishes have not been consulted in any way in regard to the programme presented to the House. Speaking for myself, I can recognise nothing in this extraordinary programme that is satisfactory to what I may call the party of economy in this House. We are almost entitled to complain of the few opportunities we get, in these early Debates on the Naval Estimates, for raising particular questions of policy, and especially the question of economy. Strictly it is the only opportunity we get, yet advantage is taken of the rule which enables any Member to rise to discuss questions regarding the number of men in particular grades, or wages, or other small questions which might very well arise afterwards on the Votes. Therefore we are restricted in our opportunities for raising the question of principle. I desire to raise that particular question. I regard these Estimates as opening up a most grave prospect to this House and to the country, perhaps the gravest prospect ever opened up in connection with Navy Estimates. In the first place, there is a considerable increase in expenditure. In the speech of the First Lord—I must congratulate him on the very clear and lucid way he explained the Estimates to the House, which enabled us to understand what he was driving at—he admitted that we had Estimates amounting to 46.3 million pounds presented to us this year. In that connection I cannot help referring to a remark of the Noble Lord when he said that the increased expenditure during the last few years was not nearly equal to the increase in wealth in this country. The increase in expenditure during the last four years has been 50 per cent., and the Noble Lord will not suggest that the rate of wealth has increased by 50 per cent. in that period.
The Estimates have bounded up out of all reason. The great expenditure is not the serious point of the present situation; the serious point is the explanation with which the First Lord accompanied it. He apologised for the smallness of the Estimates, and said that if he could only have got the work done, more money would have been spent last year. He almost promised Supplementary Estimates, and told us that the amount would be much larger 97 next year, and that in future years there would be a continual increase in this expenditure. That is a most ominous statement for this country. There is another feature about the expenditure which the House has not fully considered. For the first time our Naval Estimates do not represent the naval expenditure of the Empire, but only represent part of it. We have to look aside from the Estimates and the huge expenditure with which I have tried to deal, and to add to it the vast sums which are being expended in other places, if we are to get the total naval expenditure for the year. There is not only the expenditure in Canada, which is causing so much discussion there, which is not included, but there is the expenditure in Australia, in New Zealand, and even the expenditure in connection with the Malayan ship, which is not included in the Estimates. That is all cut out for the first time. The Admiralty has, by some cunning contrivance, alarmed the whole Empire and all these great Dependencies, which have hitherto been devoting their wealth to the development of their own country and to the cause of peace. We see a feeling of alarm spreading all over them and great Naval Budgets arising in them, all in addition to this vast Budget, which so far outsteps any expenditure this country has before incurred. When we put all these things together we see a vista of the utmost seriousness put before the country, which upon some other occasion will deserve much more prolonged attention than it has received up to the present. I desire to draw attention to one particular point of the new development which struck me with the greatest astonishment and the greatest alarm. I wish the First Lord had been here while I was referring to it, for I can hardly believe I understand the matter aright, because it presents itself to me in such a serious aspect. However, the Parliamentary Secretary will tell me if I have gone astray. I refer to the proposal for arming merchant ships, which has not been discussed up to the present time. It was a statement thrown out in a few sentences by the First Lord in his speech—I think a statement of the utmost magnitude, and one opening up possibilities before this country which this House is far from realising. We have had no explanation in regard to it, and I do not in the least understand what it means. These were his words:—It was made clear at the second Hague Conference and the London Conference, that certain of the Great Powers have reserved to themselves the right to convert merchant steamers into cruisers.98 I wish to emphasise the words "have reserved to themselves the right." He then went on to say:—There is now good reason to believe that a considerable number of foreign merchant steamers may be rapidly converted into armed ships."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913, col. 1776, Vol. L.]Apparently on that we were seized with a spirit of panic, that has led to the taking of steps of the gravest magnitude, which I respectfully say no Government should have taken without first coming to the House of Commons and getting its approval. Will the First Lord tell us what has been done? It appears that a communication has been made to some of our shipping firms. Will that communication be laid on the Table of the House? All Papers connected with this important matter should be laid, and as early as possible. What is the nature of that communication? It was that if they were willing to incur the expense of making certain changes in the structure of a ship, armaments would be supplied and their crews taught to use them, and they would in that way be fitted out to meet the unseen dangers of which the First Lord gave us no particulars. What is the meaning of all this? Are these vessels to get letters of marque? What is to become of the prizes they take? Will the ships of the Cunard Company be turned into small pirate vessels which are to be sent to sea to take any vessels belonging to Germany or any other country with which we might be at war and take them into port? In what circumstances and under what conditions are these armaments to be put on ships? What are the regulations? It is a most extraordinary thing that a step of this kind should be taken by the Admiralty without consulting this House. It was not the business of the Admiralty. The Admiralty's business is to deal with the dockyards and the building for the Navy.
We have the greatest mercantile navy in the world. For the Admiralty to have written to some shipowners offering to arm their vessels in order that they might act as war vessels, seems an astounding proposal, and to widen the scope of anything the House has yet considered in connection with these matters. I might fairly ask the right hon. Gentleman to promise us the Papers will be laid on this matter, and that the very grave questions which arise out of it shall be discussed at an early opportunity by this House. I want to turn briefly to the effect produced on the country by this vast expenditure. The First Lord dealt with this very shortly, and 99 was a little didactic with regard to it, and, indeed, all through his speech. He said that this country can bear the increased expenditure better than any other country, and that up to the present it has done nothing to increase the cost of living at all. I do not think I ever heard in this House a more astounding statement. This country cannot bear the increased expenditure so easily; this country is so much involved. It has a small population, and derives its wealth from business; all its investments are used in commerce. It is involved in commerce, and in developing not only this country but every part of the world. If there is any country which can be hard hit by a constant increase of expenditure which is taken from its commerce in the way this money is taken, it is the United Kingdom. If the First Lord had that familiarity with business which some of us have, if he knew what was going on in the City at the present moment in regard to the rise in the price of money and the decline in the credit of the country…[An HON. MEMBER: "Due to a weak Fleet"]…it is not due to that now…
§ Mr. LOUGH
The hon. Member will have an opportunity of stating that view presently. If a great and costly Fleet would make money easier then we should be the happiest nation in the world; money would be cheap and business would not be experiencing any difficulty. The difficulties caused at the present time by the scarcity of money to the commercial interests of this country have seriously raised the cost of living. Nothing could contribute more to the increase in the cost of living than that the money which is required for development is used for naval development. We had an example of that on the Consolidated Fund Bill, when an Irish Member complained that £750,000, for which forty-two local authorities in Ireland had applied in order to build houses, could not be furnished. The House might think that is not unreasonable. Money is scarce. Everything is bad now. It is not so unreasonable to say you cannot get these loans now, but the First Lord can get what he pleases. He takes £1,250,000 extra, and he will bring in his Supplementary Estimates. It is very greatly because so much is being spent in this unproductive way that the 100 country is brought into these sore straits. There is another way of looking at this matter. If there is one thing more than another that we might expect to get from this huge expenditure on our great Navy it would be a sense of security. Do any of the speeches which we hear from hon. Members opposite indicate the slightest sense of security? On the contrary, the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) threatened the First Lord the other night with his denunciations because the men were 20,000 short. He says now there are too many boys in the Navy. If you listen to him you can hardly sleep in your bed at night. Then the hon. Member who has just spoken says we have too few "Dreadnoughts," too few cruisers, too few little boats, and too few big boats. There is not an hon. Member opposite who is satisfied. They are all panic-mongers. They are doing all they can to disturb the peace of the country.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The Admiralty has promised a Supplementary Estimate and an enormous increase next year and the year after. Are the panic-mongers there as well? It bears out what we say.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I hope hon. Members opposite will excuse me not being too hard on my own Front Bench. We must be discreet in the House. I quite agree with the Noble Lord that our Front Bench has gone too far. The Secretary to the Admiralty has not got perfectly clean hands in this matter. I believe they have done something to further the panic, but do not let us make it a personal matter. I am dealing with a fact. Is there not a feeling of panic and unrest reflected in all the speeches? Go outside the House, if two simple citizens are enjoying a walk in the evening and they hear a motor bicycle they say, "Did not you hear it? Here is an airship," and they point up and see a star and say, "That is the light," and they telegraph to the Admiralty and the Home Secretary issues new orders about preventing airships coming over the country. We are in continual panics with regard to these invasions. Look at another feature of it. Here is our greatest general going about the country preaching a panic about the Army. He says the country is in serious danger. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite would grasp at anything. Panic has seized them so much that if you expended all the gold of Europe it would not satisfy them. The 101 reason is that panic grows with what it feeds on. So long as you go on doing more and more, instead of creating any satisfaction, you simply create a demand for still further expenditure. When we look outside the House we see a feeling not of security at all but of the greatest insecurity spreading throughout the public mind. There is another very sad result of this increased expenditure and of the doings of the Admiralty last year. I do not look with great satisfaction on the great debate which is taking place in the Canadian Parliament. Look at the dull Debate we are having here. We are so accustomed to wrong steps that we do it quietly. We go on anyhow, but in Canada the public mind is shocked by the magnitude of the step on which they are going to embark. That debate wants a great deal of consideration. The thing has not gone through easily as it would have gone through if they were matured in what I think is wrong-doing. In Canada it is making a great appeal to the public mind, and it is a great pity that in the relations between the Mother Country and the Dominions—because it affects the relation between the two—there should be such a long and bitter controversy.
Sir G. PARKER
Allow me to suggest that the debate which has been going on in the Dominion House of Commons has had nothing really whatever to do with the amount of money that is expended, but is purely a question of whether they shall have a local navy, according to the plan adumbrated by the Admiralty a few years ago, or a contribution direct to the British Navy.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Quite so. I am much obliged to the hon. Member. I know all that, but still there has been a serious controversy. They have sat up all night about it. They have gone on week after week. It is all very well for us to explain it and say they both mean the same thing and both love us equally. I believe that is quite so, and no one would be more sorry to do anything to menace the loyalty of Canada to this country than I should be, but it is a pity that there should be such an embittered debate on this question of the relation between the two countries. Debates of this kind are certain to spread throughout the Empire. These contributions will not be made even in the Crown Colonies in New Zealand or in Australia without great discussion, and from beginnings which do not threaten the relations at all a feeling may easily arise which 102 will not tend to develop friendliness between the Mother Country and the Colonies. I therefore look on that debate as a most ominous sign. I believe there is another development that is sure to arise. What has been the effect of our expenditure here on the Great Powers of Europe? It has been to make them spend more. Does anyone think the same thing will not take place in those distant parts of the world where the Colonies are? Of course it will. The Colonies' neighbours will be spurred into greater expenditure by their expenditure, and all over the world this spirit of unrest will be stirred up. It appears to me that all these results are very serious, and they ought to be taken into consideration by the House.
I now turn to the interesting feature of the Debate. That was the offer by the First Lord of what he called a naval holiday. I am sorry to say I agree, to a certain extent, with some of the criticism that has been urged from the opposite side about the naval holiday. I do not think it is a practical proposal at all. So far as I could understand it, it means that during a certain year no ships will be built. Supposing we agree to do that, and get Germany and some of the other Powers to agree. Would it mean that we should not go on with our work in the dockyards? Would it mean that the great army of men we employ there would be dismissed? If so, it would be a national calamity It would promote that indecision and unrest which it is the duty of the Government to avoid, and it would impose great hardships on a large section of our population. That is not meant at all, I presume. All that is meant is that new ships would not be put down, but then there would be more men to go on with the back programme. You could imagine no ships being built for a whole year, and you can imagine corresponding work done on the programme that is long behind, so that at the end of the year you would be stronger than if no holiday had taken place. I am sure the First Lord does not mean anything of that kind. He means generally that there should be a cessation of this race, and he has used words of the most remarkable character. The House may think I have been using strong language. Let me quote the First Lord's words on the same point. Alluding to the programme, he said the whole policy of naval expenditure was plainly shown to be a wasteful, purposeless, and futile folly—the whole of what he is carrying on himself and what he is doing. Why does he 103 go on with wasteful, purposeless, futile folly? He cannot help himself he says. Again, in the next sentence, he says that scores of millions were being absolutely squandered without any result, and the rate of expenditure was continually increasing without any real change in the relative position of any of the competing countries. That is what we have always said on this side of the House. Since you commenced this futile waste of millions you have not changed the relative power of nations at all, and now the First Lord comes forward and says the same thing. He speaks of all he is doing as fatal and senseless folly. I am entitled to ask, Why does he go on? There is no reply to be given except that of the Secretary to the Admiralty, who says he cannot help himself.
But he could help himself quite easily if he liked. There is another course open to him broad and clear, if he had only the courage to take it. It is the old traditional course of this nation through many years. The First Lord, in his most interesting speech, said that for 300 years this country had maintained its command of the sea. As a matter of fact historically I do not think that is perfectly true, but I will admit we have had a great deal of experience throughout the last 300 years with regard to naval affairs, and all our difficulties in the last quarter of a century have arisen because we have departed from the principle on which this nation always proceeded throughout those long centuries. We have substituted a new principle for the old one, and that is the cause of all our follies. The principle that this country always proceeded upon till this last quarter of a century was that in time of peace we reduced our expenditure by relieving the burdens of the people, and in that way prepared for the day when there might be a serious emergency. The day will come when this Debate and the discussion on this very point will be treated seriously both in this House and elsewhere. It is notorious that this Empire has been built up by proceeding on an entirely different policy from that which the Admiralty is now pursuing. They have turned the time of peace into a time of war, they have made the burdens of peace heavier and more intolerable than the burdens of war ever were, and it is impossible for any country to proceed along the path which the First Lord has sketched out.
104 I want to indicate one or two examples which I think the First Lord might follow. Hon. Members opposite talk as if their side had never reduced Naval Estimates. Before this quarter of a century of which I am speaking there were as many economies produced by the Conservative party as by the Liberal party. Disraeli would never have tolerated this reckless expenditure which we go into now without discussion, and we can hardly get an opportunity for saying anything about it. I ought not perhaps to complain, because I have got these few words now, but compared with the magnitude of the question and the change of policy which is wrapt up in these Navy Estimates, and compared with the effect it is producing out of doors and throughout the Empire, this aspect of the question is not receiving anything like the discussion which it should receive. I want to come to closer quarters. In the last year of the Conservative Government in 1905—this has often been mentioned yet it does not sink into the minds and hearts of hon. Members opposite; they are obdurate; I almost think there must be a want of intelligence—in the last of their ten years of power, with the experience of the war behind them, they knew that at last they would have to face the, electors. What did they do as a preparation for facing the electors? They reduced the Naval Estimates by £4,000,000. That is a bitter pill for the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beres-ford). I want to give another example which I think would appeal to the First Lord. In the first three years of the Liberal Government what does he do? When the present Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer he reduced the Naval Estimates by another £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. That was an example from hon. Members opposite and from Gentlemen on this bench showing their courage and their ability in those circumstances to follow what I said was the old proceeding of this country. I think I might appeal to the Government now to follow the excellent example set by the Prime Minister, and to consider whether it would not be possible to steadily reduce, instead of increase, in this way the Navy expenditure. The First Lord of the Admiralty appeared to think—and so far as I can understand my right hon. Friend (Dr. Macnamara) agrees with him—that the only way to get Germany to abate its expenditure is to threaten Germany. The First Lord's whole speech was full of 105 threats. [HON. MEMBERS; "No."] I will try to make it good. He dealt with the years following, and said that if our suggestions were not accepted, we would go on in our remorseless way, or some words like that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] His words were—Meanwhile let me make it clear that while such a suggestion does not bear fruit, events will continue to move forward along the path upon which they have now been set, with the result that at every stage the naval superiority of the British Empire will be found to be established upon a more unassailable foundation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913, col. 1764, Vol. L.]I think that is a threat. [HON. MEMBERS; "No."] In my opinion it is a threat. It is a hard saying. The First Lord said, "I think everybody will agree with me that no one Power can stand still." But every other Power does stand still. America has reduced its expenditure in the last few years, and France has reduced its expenditure. What I wish to submit is that, instead of speaking with what we call in the North of Ireland this hard mouth of Germany, we said less of Germany, and took some action to express our wishes in our own policy, not pressing matters unduly, but reducing where we could do so, it would provoke a better response than has been made up to the present. The First Lord has referred to the race in armaments. This race was started in a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour). He stated that in 1912 Germany would have twenty-one "Dreadnoughts," perhaps twenty-five. Did he not say that?
§ Mr. LOUGH
I have got a response in support of what I say from my right hon. Friend. We were to build against that. Germany was to have twenty-five, possibly in 1912, and certainly in 1913. We are now in 1913, and how many has Germany? Only thirteen, while we have got the full number planned out to meet the twenty-one or twenty-five. We exaggerated then what Germany could do, and we are exaggerating now what the position of Germany will be in 1916, 1918, or 1920. I do not like these programmes in advance. It is wrong to say that I would be willing to imperil the safety of the Empire. I do believe if we could embody in our policy a little moderation, especially as to financial difficulties, and developments which may be made in many directions, and if we were to leave out a ship or two for, say, 106 a year, and not talk about it, and not advertise our own development so much as we do, we could yet keep the country perfectly safe. It is not for me to say what should be done, but I do think the House will look with the greatest anxiety on the policy which is embodied in the Estimates which are before the House to-day. I view them with the greatest alarm, and believe that, so far from calming down panic, we are doing a great deal to inflame panic. I do hope that some of these days a definite step will be taken by the Government to put matters on a more reasonable basis.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken made a violent attack upon the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I think that the First Lord is fairly able to defend himself against that attack. He also reproved the Administration of which I was a Member, and alleged, without offering any evidence in support of the statement, that we reduced the Navy Estimates by £4,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman for the moment conveniently forgot that the charge which he and his Friends used to make against us at that time was a very different one. They did not charge us with any base motive in making the reduction. The charge made was that of issuing at an earlier period than usual the Cawdor Memorandum, outlining a programme for certain definite reductions which had been made known to the nation by the Government of the day. That programme proposed the adoption of a more effective naval policy in certain directions, but the changes were to be accompanied by a programme which hon. Members opposite denounced as being excessive. The right hon. Gentleman has made against us a charge for which there is not a shadow of foundation.
§ Mr. LONG
The right hon. Gentleman deals with one part of our programme while he leaves out the most definite and effective part. He fell foul of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austin Chamberlain), and accused him of endeavouring to make a party attack in connection with the Navy. What my right hon. Friend did was to state what was a mere truth, and not to make a party attack. He told the House that there are on the benches opposite a large number of Gentlemen, who have corresponding support in the country, whose invariable policy is to press upon the 107 Government of the day a reduction in their National Defence Estimates. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, knowing that themselves, would be the last to deny that there are to be found those who take that course. We have had in this Debate during the last few days abundant evidence of it, and we have had evidence of it to-day in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington. There is stronger evidence of the absolute and literal truth of my right hon. Friend's statement. In 1908 a Motion which was brought forward was debated and ultimately withdrawn. That Motion recommended a considerable reduction in our expenditure in connection with armaments. What was the consequence? There was a reduction in the Estimates brought forward, and my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) challenged the Government of the day as to whether the reduction in the Estimates had not been the direct consequence of that Motion. The Government was unable to deny the truth of the charge, and until this day it never has been contradicted. I say, therefore, that we are entitled to claim that we are at a disadvantage in that respect. When we were in office we had to bear the entire burden of presenting the Estimates, whatever the expenditure, whereas the present Government have the support of the party with which I work.
§ Mr. D. MASON
Not always. There was an occasion when hon. Members opposite really joined forces with us.
§ Mr. LONG
The hon. Gentleman's interruption was wholly unnecessary. I adhere to the statement I have made, notwithstanding the hon. Member's wholly irrelevant interruption. In ninety-nine eases out of a hundred, when the Government are doing what we think right in respect of the National Forces or Defences, or when we feel sure that they are doing what they think right, if we believe that they are doing their best, and the utmost that is possible, they have on this side of the House unqualified support, while, on their own side, there is always to be found, as we have seen to-day, that kind of cavilling and objection to which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire referred, and to charge him with bringing party politics into questions relating to the Navy is to make a charge which ought never to have been made, and for which there is not a shadow of foundation.
108 My hon. Friend, the Member for Fareham, in his speech the other day, covered the whole ground of our case with great fullness and power. He began by making a complaint which I believe will find an echo in all parts of the House. It was that on National Defences we take up the matter in a wholly unbusinesslike and impracticable way. We take two days at one time, and two days subsequently, and we jump about from one time to another in discussing the matter. I do not hesitate to say—and I believe all who hear me, whatever their views may be, will agree with me—that we ought to have a general discussion, not limited to the Navy alone, or to the Army alone, but applicable to the whole of our National Defences. The discussion should be taken on succeeding days, so that we may have—not more actual time perhaps given to the discussion than we have now—sufficient debate, with the Speaker in the Chair, on conseutive days. I venture to say that this Debate is one of the most important and interesting we have ever had at a critical moment in the national history. The Debate shows how impossible it is to discuss these matters adequately when you have to consider the Navy at one time, and the Army at another. If the Government of the day could see their way to put down the Estimates for our National Defences, and if an arrangement could be come to—what has happened to-day augurs well for such an arrangement—under which we could discuss the whole of these questions at the same time, bound up as they are together, it would be of great advantage. It is impossible to discuss one branch without discussing another. If we wished to defend more expenditure, or deprecate existing expenditure, we could do it with better effect if the discussion took the form which my right hon. Friend suggested. I would recommend the present Government, and those who should succeed them, to consider that suggestion.
In the interesting Debates we have had during the past two days there has of necessity been a reference to the Over-sea Dominions. In the earlier Debates I confess I heard with great regret the attack which was made on the Government for the course they have adopted. We heard hon. Gentlemen opposite state, with respect to the offers of Canada, New Zealand, and the Federated Malay States, that the Government ought to have come to the House and asked the permission of the 109 House before accepting these offers. I venture to say if the Government had done anything of the kind they would have fallen immeasurably short of their duty to the country. If they had hesitated to accept these offers, made in so generous and splendid a manner, they would have been unworthy of the places they hold as Ministers of the Crown. It is interesting to observe the concern and anxiety about constitutional methods and practice which is only to be found among those who hold these views when we are discussing a proposal which will have the effect of introducing strength to the union of the Empire and improvement in the power for self-defence. When we are discussing the breaking up of the United Kingdom or the deprivation of this House or of the other House of their powers, we hear nothing of this anxiety about constitutional practice. Hon. Gentlemen then had no hesitation in advocating what we held to be an unconstitutional method. Their fears and anxieties are only aroused when distant parts of the Empire come spontaneously to us and make offers which any Government worthy of the name and of the traditions of British Government would have accepted, as they have been offered spontaneously, immediately and with warm gratitude to those patriotic sons of the Empire who have made those offers. If the Government had taken action, whether in regard to the Navy or any other question, on the same lines which they have followed in this particular instance, I should have had no complaint to make of their action.
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord made a very violent attack upon my noble and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford). My noble and gallant Friend has shown already that he is quite able to defend himself, but the First Lord's attack was couched in language far graver than was justified by the circumstances, because even he, with his great ability, will admit that in the days when he was not First Lord and had not access to all the information which is at the disposal of the First Lord, he must have found it difficult to tell accurately what was the state of things either in regard to ships or men or many other details connected with our Navy. There is no subject, perhaps, which we have to discuss here, and in regard to which we have to consider the precise situation, in respect of which it is so difficult to arrive precisely at a decision as to how matters stand. 110 And this operation of ascertaining how we stand is not made easier by the policy adopted by the present First Lord. In the speeches he has made he has been lucid, interesting, and attractive. None the less, in reference to the charge made against my Noble Friend the Member for Portsmouth I can say, with my limited experience, that what my Noble Friend says is said by the great majority of the active service officers who know me, whether it be on ships or on shore. And when I listened to the answer of the First Lord of the Admiralty he did not seem to me to touch the case at all. I certainly maintain that my Noble Friend made good his statement within the limits within which he made it. The First Lord said he was anxious that there should be nothing of a party character in these Debates. He cannot be more anxious than I am on this point, but he might have remembered and been generous enough to admit that whatever view he might take of the action of my Noble Friend in this particular instance, my Noble Friend is entitled to congratulate himself above all other men upon the success which has attended his courageous and persistent labours during the last thirty years.
Thirty years ago he began his labours of advocating reform after reform in the Navy. Many of them, I am happy to say, to his everlasting credit and our general satisfaction, have since been adopted. He was the first to advocate the War Staff and the Intelligence Department, and also the policy which we find announced in the First Lord's statement, upon which all congratulate ourselves, in reference to the steps which he proposes to take in regard to the mercantile marine. All these are reforms which my Noble Friend advocated, and he is entitled to to-day to the congratulations of those who have watched his labours and have remembered that many men would have been discouraged by the abuse and ridicule that were too often thrown upon his efforts, efforts which must have been recognized as being solely inspired by the desire that the Navy of this country should be efficient and sufficient. It is a great relief that this step which the First Lord has announced is to be taken, because not only do I agree with my hon. Friends who have spoken, including my Noble Friend behind me, that this is one of the most important reforms that could be effected in the Navy in regard to our National Defence, but in addition it deals with what I believe to be the most critical 111 problem with which we are confronted and in regard to which we are dependent entirely upon the Navy. We stand in a different position from that occupied by any other country with which we may at some time or other unfortunately be in collision, because we are dependent for practically the whole of our food supplies upon other countries. Suppose that this country were threatened by invasion or that the Navy were occupied in protecting our shores, it would be absolutely impossible to protect the innumerable ships along the immense number of different routes bringing food supplies to this country, and without them what would be the good of all the money you are spending upon National Defence and social reform, if you make it possible for this country to be starved into submission in the course of a few weeks? Therefore, it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this particular reform upon which I desire to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and to thank him.
I come down now to the controversy as to standard which has come to what I suppose I may regard as its final form. My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham, in his speech, challenged the First Lord of the Admiralty on the ground of the standard, and to-day the First Lord of the Admiralty said very indignantly, that he had been unfairly attacked, and he hoped that he would hear no more about it. It is often very difficult on these occasions to arrive at precise and accurate information as to the position in which we stand. There is an admirable illustration of this, because those of us who have read the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty made last year, and those of us who have followed the various announcements which have been made by him and those who belong to his Government in regard to this question of naval supremacy, remember the importance attached to this standard of supremacy, and that it has always been a standard of 60 per cent. in "Dreadnoughts." The First Lord attacks us and interrupted my hon. Friend when he was speaking, making it very difficult for him to finish his speech, because we are not prepared to accept the statement that he makes now. I am not suggesting that my illustration is ad hoc, but it is good enough. The right hon. Gentleman might just as well come to this House and say, "we ought to have a standard of 60 per cent. in sovereigns," and then come back to this House next year and say, "we have got 112 the 60 per cent. standard, but it is not in sovereigns, but in half sovereigns." The right hon. Gentleman to-day asked us to follow, and I followed as closely as I could, the statement which he made for the years 1915–1916. But in the figures which he gives he includes two pre-"Dreadnoughts," and three of the Oversea Dominion ships, which he had expressly stated in his previous statement, were to be excepted from that standard.
Where are we? We were dealing with what we believe to be a particular statement and a particular definition. We then are challenged. We refuse to accept the First Lord's declaration, and when we press him, we find, when he gives us this full information, that he has followed a course exactly the opposite to that which was adopted last year. It is no good for him to charge us with not being able to maintain our case. It is no good for the First Lord to say that his figures hold good until somebody else disproves them. What we have said all through is that one of the weak points in regard to our naval arrangements is that from year to year there is absence of continuous or definite programme, and of definite work. We are working according to a programme of new suggestions made each year, whereas those of whom we have to keep abreast, not because we fear their hostility, or that they intend to attack us, but because the best way to be prepared for any possible eventuality, the best way to secure peace, is to prepare for war, and to pursue a different policy. It is our duty then to take care that in everything we do we are abreast of those who might be our enemies. Tins is a question which should not involve anything of a party political character, and I do not hesitate to say it is our duty to go further, and if we think that the Government to which we are opposed in everything else has done in great measure its best to meet a difficult situation, we should say so. I believe that the statement of the First Lord made to the House this year, and the measures which he has taken in regard to the Navy, mark a very great advance on the past, and does a very great deal to repair the mischief done by his predecessor, and by the Government which he has joined; but it is our duty here to see that we take every step practicable and possible to give us the necessary superiority, and when, in endeavouring to ascertain what the Government has done, we make statements based upon figures not of our own, but upon figures taken 113 from the First Lord's own previous statement, and when we make comparisons on these lines, then we are justified in maintaining that our case is one which has not been disposed of by the First Lord.
On the other hand, the First Lord is not only justified, but, as head of the Admiralty responsible for our Navy, he is bound to see that what he puts forward is what the Admiralty believe to be sufficient for our purposes to make us safe, and I was thankful to hear him repeat to-day the most interesting words which are found in the statement which he made the other day, namely, that while that is their deliberate opinion now, yet he claims, and in doing so he makes a claim which is justified, that the Admiralty, who are responsible, shall be trusted, that their word shall be taken, and that though they are satisfied now, yet if any possible eventuality arises which disturbs the position as we now know it, it will be the duty of this House to make still further provision in order that we may be absolutely secure. My hon. Friend is justified in what he said. He bases his statement upon those figures to which I have referred, and I cannot help believing that the First Lord will find it necessary—and I hope he will—to come to this House and ask it to make such additional provision as I believe, at all events from the information at my disposal, will be necessary if we are to be secure. The First Lord passed to-day rapidly over the question of aviation, but I wondered when I heard the criticisms and objections which hon. Gentlemen opposite made that they should have done so to-day of all days in our history, when all of us here, and I imagine the great mass of the public, learn for the first time of the immense efforts which Germany is prepared to make to add to her strength both on land and on sea. When we read, as we do, that she is devoting to this one purpose of attack and defence alone these immense sums of money, when she has got a large number of these terrible weapons of offence, and when we realise how immeasurably behind all other countries we are in this respect, I do regret that the First Lord of the Admiralty has not thought it necessary to take us into his confidence. But I hope that redoubled efforts will be made, not to overtake other countries, but, at all events, to see that we ourselves are put in a position of greater safety than we are at the present time. Let me make again 114 the frank admission that I know the First Lord has done and is doing a great deal in this respect. I know that he has done his best to make up for lost time, but I question whether he has done, or is doing, enough, and I pray him, in the interests of the country and the Empire, if he really feels that more ought to be done, not to hesitate to do it because he may at some moment have committed himself to a policy of greater economy.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Money is not the hindrance to the development of aviation. That is not the difficulty at all, nor will it be allowed to be.
§ Mr. LONG
I do not know to what difficulties the right hon. Gentleman referred in his speech. He made an appeal to us not to press him beyond a certain point, and he tells us it is not a question of money; so that at all events we are encouraged to believe that the right hon. Gentleman will not be actuated by motives of economy from doing what he thinks is necessary.
§ Mr. LONG
Therefore I have the further hope that these difficulties, whatever they are, may be overcome and that we shall be able to take all necessary steps. We read in our daily newspapers articles of all kinds, and it seems to me, though one has little or no expert knowledge whatever, that a change has come over the scene in consequence of these new methods of warfare, the greatest that has ever taken place in the history of war. If half is true that is said of these new weapons, it is an undoubted fact that the very existence of this country might be threatened at a moment's notice, if we long continue in that position of inferiority to other countries in which we are at the present time. The Civil Lord (Mr. Lambert), in the speech he made the other day, towards the close of it indulged in a melancholy reflection as to the condition of this country, but I am happy to think that there are a great many on both sides of the House who would repudiate the suggestion that we are approaching national bankruptcy.
§ Mr. LONG
I think it was unfortunate that one of the Ministers charged with the provision of our Navy and the protection of our country should make a comparison between building five "Dreadnoughts" and 50,000 rural cottages, and I think his doing so, in connection with a great question of this kind, was wholly unworthy of him. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty expressed the hope or desire that there might be a holiday period in regard to this naval expenditure. Everybody would be glad if it were possible to avoid this expenditure on armaments. Of that there can be no doubt, but hon. Gentlemen opposite talk very often as if we on this side of the House liked slaughter, bloodshed, and war. Every man, no matter whether he belongs to this or to any other country, hates the very idea of war, and would gladly make great sacrifices to avoid it if possible; but we cannot have things as we would like them to be, and we must face things as they are; and I maintain that it was an unfortunate suggestion to come from the First Lord of the Admiralty. In many cases it has been already misunderstood and misinterpreted, and it is likely to give rise to the impression that in some quarters in this country we are tired of this expenditure and are not willing any longer to bear it. I believe the First Lord spoke what is literally true to-day in language much more forcible when he said that we are capable of doing what is necessary whatever the burden is, that we have the power, and, if it is necessary, we will do it. That is the spirit in which I prefer to hear speak a Minister who is responsible for one of the great Departments of our national services. What is the object of making a suggestion about a holiday in these armaments? If it had been the result of a discussion between our country and other countries, if other countries had told us their wish, and if they had made a suggestion which our Government took up, then there might be some advantage in making the proposal, but to make such a suggestion when nothing of the kind has been done, and which we know, on our part, would not be followed by the cessation of armaments by other countries, but would in the future, as has been invariably the case in the past, be followed by in- 116 creased activity, then I say it is a suggestion which is not practicable, which is not workable, and, therefore, had better not have been made.
I, for one, hate war as much as any man in this House. I profoundly regret this immense growth of armaments which is going on. So long as it continues, however, there is only one thing for this country to do. On previous occasions when we have lessened our expenditure we have learned that other countries did not follow our example; they did not see in our action something so commendable that they desired to compete with us in cutting down expenditure. On the contrary, when we were reducing expenditure they were steadily going ahead, adding to their expenditure and strengthening their whole position. That is what followed our action. As a result of temporary abatements of expenditure we have suffered in the years which followed. We have been compelled to add enormously to our expenditure in those subsequent years and to place continual burdens on the people in order that we might protect our interests. I do not believe that the cause of universal peace is going to be served by any action of the kind suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. I believe it is much more likely to be served by the language which the First Lord of the Admiralty used to-day. I think our only policy is one of constant vigilance and watchfulness on the part of those responsible for our national affairs. It is only a spirit of this kind, one which will follow everything that is going on, and which will enable us to determine that we will do our best and do it in time, which can secure that peace which we all so greatly desire. I believe the peace of the world depends on the activity and vigilance of our Navy, and the readiness of our people to bear their burdens, as they have always borne them. I believe that to-day, when they are told the truth of the case, when the whole state of affairs is presented to them, our people will bear as cheerfully as they have borne in the past those heavy burdens, glad to think they will be of use; and I am confident it is the duty of this House, the duty of the Government, and the duty of the Opposition to do their utmost to see that everything is done that is necessary and right. This, I believe, will clear us of responsibility, and the people will readily bear the burden thrown upon them, of all this heavy but none the less absolutely essential expenditure.
§ Mr. MULDOON
I do not rise for the purpose of continuing further discussion upon the subject which has been debated, but to make reference to a topic of great interest to my Constituents—I refer to the proposal with reference to Haulbowline. I desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he proposes should be carried out there, and to express the hope that he is only at the beginning of a forward policy in that part of His Majesty's Kingdom. I confess I thought the right hon. Gentleman would have made a statement to-day upon the general Admiralty policy in reference to Haulbowline. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in the month of July last, paid a visit to Cork and Queenstown, and he made a very remarkable speech, and met with a very remarkable reception. In one part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said:—One of the reasons led us to make an inspection of Haulbowline at this time has been the need of ascertaining by personal inquiry on the spot, what were the actual facilities which would enable Haulbowline to relieve the strain and congestion which was now put upon the berthing accommodation of the great English harbours.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that naval experts agreed with him in thinking that everything at Queenstown was perfectly satisfactory, and that in the course of a short time a cruiser squadron would be sent there. The right hon. Gentleman subsequently expressed the hope that before Christmas of last year a cruiser squadron would appear in Queenstown waters, and I must confess I expected to-day that the First Lord would have made a statement on the subject. There has been great delay, but I have no doubt that the delay can be satisfactorily explained. I assure him that his visit to Queenstown and Cork in July of last year was a very memorable one, and will have an enduring effect on public feeling and sentiment in Ireland for very many years to come. It is not for me to make response to the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman made to-day as to the recruiting upon the new training ship which is going there. I can only express to the right hon. Gentleman the view which I profoundly hold that the present Irish policy of the Government is the best calculated to bring about the result that is desired. There is only one further matter in reference to Haulbowline to which I wish to refer. I have frequently called the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to the case of the ordinary and skilled labourer in the dockyards of Queenstown, who are paid 118 1s. a week less than men similarly employed in the Government dockyards in the South of England. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that as long as that condition of affairs continues there will be no peace for him and no peace for me. I mind the latter a good deal more than I do the former. I would ask him to take this matter into his earnest consideration, and whatever figures he arrives at to see that no disparity takes place and that no inequality is allowed to exist between the labourers in Queenstown and the labourers in any other Government dockyard. I again thank the First Lord for what he has promised to do for Queenstown, and to assure him that it is highly appreciated by all the Irish Members and by the South of Ireland generally.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
I am sure the House has listened with great respect and sympathy to what the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Muldoon) has just said with regard to the dockyard at Haulbowline, and if the policy of the Admiralty be, as I hope it is, and as I think every Member desires it to be, to cultivate and improve the condition of that dockyard, I hope that in return hon. Members who represent that district and who represent other districts in Ireland will do their best to encourage and not to repress recruiting both for the British Army and the British Navy. That is the best inducement which the hon. Member and his Friends can give, and let me assure him that it will be received with the utmost feeling of reciprocity on this side. I listened with the very greatest attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough), who made the speech which the House expected him to make. It was a speech of great eloquence and of much fervour, and it was a speech representing the point of view which he has always taken upon these naval affairs, a speech of the "Little Englander" as I regard it. His suggestion was that if this country were to pause in its shipbuilding programme the result would be that foreign countries would believe in our sincerity and would themselves pause.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
The right hon. Gentleman cheers that statement. Let me remind him of very recent history. When the present Government came into office they did carry out, as the right hon. Gentleman himself reminded the House, that policy to a very large extent. I think 119 I am right in saying that they put down two "Dreadnoughts" or vessels of that character the first year of their office, and what was the result? A former First Lord of the Admiralty, who is now Home Secretary, disclosed it in a remarkable speech, I think about three years ago. This was the result. Germany adopted an entirely different Parliamentary and naval policy from that which is pursued in this country. Germany started to build several vessels of the first class and gave orders, or gave unofficial orders, to various German shipbuilders before any public knowledge was promulgated either in Germany or anywhere else, and when those vessels had been considerably advanced both in the hulls and machinery and guns, then, and then only, the German Naval Minister came to the Reichstag and asked for Votes. That was the kind of response which one foreign country at all events gave to the first effort which was made in England to carry out the kind of policy which the right hon. Gentleman had to face.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
It may have been denied by the right hon. Gentleman or his Friends, but it was stated by the then First Lord of the Admiralty of the present Government, who is now Home Secretary, and stated distinctly by him. I have nothing to do with the domestic quarrels between the Front Bench and the right hon. Gentleman. We on this side can only accept what is stated upon official authority, and that was the statement and it is recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The right hon. Gentleman spoke with his accustomed clearness as to merchant cruisers. He previously complained that there was a custom in this House of using these general debates, which ought to deal with large, broad matters of naval policy, for referring to small points of detail which might afterwards be dealt with in succeeding debates on the Estimates. He then proceeded himself to refer in some considerable detail to merchant cruisers. Let me relate to the right hon. Gentleman some of my experiences on that question of merchant steamers, and in this I speak with actual knowledge. Many years ago I had in the course of my business occupation to attend in the German dockyard at Kiel. I there saw what astonished me, and what I believe was well understood in 120 German naval circles at that time and has been practised since. I saw in that dockyard, houses, some of them of large size and some of them comparatively small like huts, with the names of German merchant ships painted over the doors. My business did not lead me into those houses and I speak from what I was told, and officials there told me that within those houses were stored munitions of war intended for German merchant ships whose names were painted over the doors of the houses. That was the German mercantile marine preparation as regards their merchant ships in those past years and that is the scheme of Germany up to to-day. My Noble Friend (Lord C. Beresford), who is not present at the moment, and many others including myself, urged upon the Admiralty three or four years ago the formation of a similar scheme.
I thank the present First Lord of the Admiralty with all the ardour that I can bring into what I have to say for having even now, at long and at last, adopted this policy of utilising the magnificent merchant vessels which Great Britain possesses, superior in speed and in size in most instances to those of any foreign nation, so that they may be of assistance in protecting our trade routes and our food supply. I am ignorant of the steps which the right hon. Gentleman and the Admiralty have taken, but I do hope that those steps will be energetic and immediate, and that there will be no parsimony in dealing with this great question, but that to any reasonable moderate extent this preparation shall be made so that all the first-class vessels of size, power, and speed of our mercantile marine may be capable at least of putting themselvs on terms of equality in sea water against the vessels of foreign Powers which are already similarly provided. I turn to the speech to-day of the First Lord of the Admiralty. It was an interesting, eloquent and very remarkable speech modifying, and in some degree contradicting in several instances, the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made in introducing the Naval Estimates. The words to which I refer in the earlier speech were those in which the right hon. Gentleman described the progress in the shipbuilding yards. I can give the exact words if necessary, but the meaning of them was that but for the congestion in the shipbuilding yards the Estimates would have been substantially higher.
To-day the right hon. Gentleman has stated, and correctly stated, that by a 121 very simple process of transfer the congestion in the shipbuilding yards, so far as regards the Navy, could be met and could be dealt with, and practically could be removed. That is the fact. It is also the fact that several of the great mercantile shipping firms have recently given orders for the construction of vessels to be delivered in the comparatively near future within eighteen months or two years, thus showing that there is not that congestion which would prevent the Admiralty, with all its immense resources, from making progress which would justify the Estimates being substantially higher. Therefore, by the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, the excuse which was put forward as in some degree an excuse in the first instance for not having greater new construction because of the congestion in the shipbuilding yards has passed away.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I never said greater new construction. I said there would be delay in executing the continuation programme.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
Here are the words of the right hon. Gentleman:—The Estimates of this year would indeed have been substantially higher but for the extreme congestion in the dockyards.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Quite, because the continuation programme—that is to say, of ships that are already being built—would have been built slightly more rapidly, and the contractor would have earned more instalments on those ships than I estimate they are able to do.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
That is what is technically known as new construction in the Admiralty. New construction is new vessels under progress.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
There are two perfectly separate sections. There is the continuation programme of our ships that have been settled in previous years by Parliament, and all of which have not been completed, and then there is that other section, the new programme of the year. That is the distinction, and I am greatly astonished the House has not looked at it a little more carefully.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
I do not want to chop details with the right hon. Gentleman, but I think the distinction is rather one of special pleading than a real distinction.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
The point I put is that the right hon. Gentleman stated that but for the congestion the Estimates would have been higher and more money would have been spent in shipbuilding—that is, on new construction. I say that what the right hon. Gentleman stated to-day is in direct contradiction to the statement which he made in the first instance, and justifies those of us who believe that such an excuse was not one on which the Admiralty ought to rely, because it might easily be removed, as the right hon. Gentleman has shown to-day. But whether it could have been removed easily, or whether the interpretation which the right hon. Gentleman has given now is true, there is nothing, either in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in the first instance or in his speech to-day, which will explain the action and statements of the Premier of Canada in dealing with this great naval emergency. I do not want to quote at any great length the speech made when the Canadian Parliament were asked to sanction the very large expenditure which is now under consideration. I will, however, quote a few words from what Mr. Borden said. Before doing so, let me remind the House of the preliminaries to that speech. The Premier of Canada came over here for the purpose of discussing questions of Naval Defence. He had many interviews with the Government. I believe he had the privilege of attending the Committee of Defence. He went back to Canada with very complete information of a confidential kind. I do not wish to ask for information which the Admiralty would regard as not being in the public interest to give, but I am entitled to contrast the tone of both speeches of the First Lord, and the policy which those speeches indicate, with the statements which it is obvious he made to Mr. Borden. This is the description which Mr. Borden gave of the information which the Government had put before him:—The information which has been placed before us by His Majesty's Government discloses so grave a situation that in my judgment the granting of immediate and effective aid is necessary in the interests of the Dominions as part of the Empire.What was the information placed before Mr. Borden, which made him, on his responsibility as Prime Minister of Canada, make such a statement to the Canadian Parliament? We are told to day by the right hon. Gentleman that the acceleration of naval construction is not a matter of necessity, but a matter of convenience. He said that we could accelerate 123 the construction if we chose, but it is not necessary; it is merely a question of convenience. My hon. Friend brought forward figures showing clearly that we are behind in the number of ships that we ought to have under construction. The right hon. Gentleman in the closing part of his speech prophesised the relative conditions of naval strength in this and other countries in 1916 and 1920. He brought in the ships that would be in existence at that time, not including those of Canada. But the statement made by the Government to the Prime Minister of Canada, was such as to make him inform his Parliament that immediate aid was necessary, because a grave situation had been disclosed. Although the Admiralty may hold that it would not be in the public interest that they should give full details, I think that the Minister who closes the Debate on their behalf should at least show why there is this contradiction between the statement made in this Hause and the statement made to the Empire through the Canadian Prime Minister. Both statements cannot be true. I hope that in the Supplementary Estimates which are foreshadowed, and, I may take it, promised, there will be such an addition to the new construction as will allay the fears of those of us who note the progress, not only of Germany, but also of Austria—who never had "Dreadnoughts" before, but now has four—and of Italy, and who believe that we are again falling behind a reasonable margin of safety in our new construction. That view is held, not alone by hon. Gentlemen on this side, but by some Members on the other side, who, for various reasons, are not willing to speak at the present time. The people of this country desire to have no party in regard to the naval preparations for the safety of the Empire. They, without any distinction, would gladly deprive themselves, if that were necessary, but it is not, in order to make sure that our naval preparations, both in ships and in men, were such as to guarantee not only our safety, but that which a statesman formerly described as the greatest of British interests, namely, the peace of the world.
Mr. J. ALLEN BAKER
I wish to associate myself with some of the praise given to the First Lord for his notable speech of Wednesday last, but I regret that I am unable to echo all the praise which has come from the other side of the House. I am in full and hearty accord with the 124 action of the right hon. Gentleman in improving the conditions of the men and of the service in the Navy. I am also in hearty accord with the spirit and tone of his references to Germany, and the proposal, seriously made, I believe, that there should be, by agreement between the various countries, a naval holiday. I hope that that proposal will be received in the spirit in which it is intended. I should have been glad if the First Lord had referred to the right of the capture of private property at sea in time of war. That question was referred to a year or two ago, and I believe that a great change of opinion has taken place in regard to it. At the last Hague Conference we were opposed to the abolition of this ancient, and, as I think, unjust right, while most of the great countries of the world were against us. I hope that when the question is again considered, as I hope it may be at The Hague, we shall come into line with the United States, Germany, and other great countries of the Continent. The abolition of that right would render unnecessary proposals for the arming of merchantmen in time of war. The idea that in addition to the great battle fleets every merchantman carrying the peaceful commerce of the world should be armed is one that ought to be received with great disfavour. I will not enter further into that subject, beyond calling the attention of hon. Members to two very notable articles published by Lord Loreburn in the "Manchester Guardian" of the 25th and the 28th inst. With regard to the position of affairs in Canada, the hon. Member opposite (Sir J. F. Flannery) referred to very recent history, namely, the visit of Mr. Borden to this country last year, and his going home to reverse the policy of which he was the strongest advocate and practically the proposer in Canada years before. The traditional policy of the Tory party in Canada has been entirely against contributions and the proposal now made by Mr. Borden. The Prime Minister, Sir Charles Tupper, who preceded Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Administration, writing to Mr. Borden on the 20th November, 1909, used these words:—A few years ago, when Canada was struggling to open up for British settlement the great granary of the world, a few gentleman here raised the question of a Canadian contribution to the Imperial Navy. I joined issue with them and was sustained by the Press and public opinion. It was admitted that Canada was not only no burden to the Mother Country, but, without her harbours and cool-mines on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, Britain would require a larger Navy.125 He went on to say:—Regarding as I do British institutions as giving greater security to life, property, and liberty than any other form of government, I have devoted more than half a century to increasing efforts to preserve the connection of Canada and the Crown. When Great Britain was involved in the struggle in the Transvaal, I led the van in forcing the Canadian Government to send her aid. But I did not believe then, and I do not believe now, in taxation without representation. The demand which will soon be made by some, that Canada should contribute to the Imperial Navy in proportion to population, I regard as preposterous and dangerous. I read with pleasure the Resolution passed unanimously by the House of Commons which pledged Parliament to proceed vigorously with the construction of the Canadian Navy and to support Great Britain in every emergency, and all that in my opinion is required is to hold the Government of the day bound to carry that out honestly. Navies are maintained largely to promote the security of the mercantile shipping of the country to which they belong.That has been the traditional policy of the Conservative party in Canada. That was the policy of Mr. Borden when the first proposal was made in 1907, and it was confirmed in 1909–10 in regard to the proposed Canadian Navy. Sir Wilfrid Laurier and his colleagues had various conferences with the Admiralty and the authorities on this side from 1902 to 1909…
The hon. Member seems to me to be dealing with matters of controversy in the Dominion Parliament. We must deal here only with matters for which our own Ministers are responsible.
Mr. J. A. BAKER
Our Ministers were responsible inasmuch as they gave not only encouragement, but entire approval, to the schemes that were proposed and discussed at the various conferences in London. It was upon their advice and with their concurrence the Canadian Navy was established. Two boats were purchased, one for Halifax and one for the Pacific side, and schemes were proposed that were being carried into effect. I think that this has a very material bearing upon the subject with which we are now confronted. We have at the present moment a condition of affairs in Canada that is entirely regrettable and deplorable. We previously had both parties united in Canada on the proposals of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Now, without consultation with the other party, a new policy has been proposed and has brought about this deadlock in the Canadian Parliament. If this continues I venture to suggest that a condition of affairs will develop that will not only mean a divided Canada, but will mean the first step in a divided Empire, and this by the action that has been taken 126 and the encouragement of the proposals in connection with this new proposal. The Canadians are resenting very strongly what they believe to be an interference with their rights in regard to self-government, and the control of their own affairs. I myself am convinced that any policy of gifts, whether of money or ships, is repugnant to the great majority of Canadians, where they would be prepared to spend even…
I think the hon. Member will see that it would not be right to have a statement made here, or arguments presented, which could not possibly be replied to from the other point of view. The hon. Member is entitled, of course, to criticise the dispatch or the letter which the First Lord of the Admiralty sent, but he must confine his remarks to the acts of the responsible British Minister.
Mr. J. A. BAKER
Well, take the point referred to by the British Minister. When he was asked for certain information by Mr. Borden, he not only gave that information, but he volunteered other information of a character that has been very much resented by the Liberal party and many leading Conservatives in the Dominion of Canada. In his Memorandum he says:—Taking the above points into consideration, it is clear that it would be wholly unwise for Canada to attempt to undertake the building of battleships at the present moment. The cost of laying down the plant would, at a rough estimate, be approximately £15,000,000. It could not be ready for four years. Such an outlay could only be justified on the assumption that Canada is to keep up a continuous naval building programme to turn out a succession of ships after the fashion of the largest shipyards of Great Britain and Europe.If I may be permitted to refer to a statement made in the Canadian House on that point—and I think it is entirely pertinent to the question—this is what Mr. Turriff, one of the well-known Members of the Dominion House, said:—If we adopt the principle of giving a contribution of 35,000,000 dollars, it is practically going back seventy years in our history, going back to the days of the family compact—that is, of paying tribute. You may disguise it with fine phrases as much as you like, but it is paying tribute just the same. My hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that this is an emergency contribution…That is an assertion made by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. The emergency part of that contribution is now, I think, entirely exploded. Mr. Turriff further stated:—You will remember that, he further stated, we could not, in the next twenty-five or thirty years, hope 127 to build ships in Canada, or hope to build a Navy in Canada, and that even then it would be considered such a poor miserable affair that it would be hardly worth the attempt. Hon. Members will remember what was stated …. by the hon. Member (Mr. Pugsley) on this subject.Here is the answer, I think, to the statement made in the Memorandum:—That at Fall River, Massachusetts, some ten or twelve years before, a shipyard was established on a vacant field. Between that time and this, 114 vessels, six of them 'Dreadnoughts,' have been built there, and that concern now has contracts for two foreign warships. The Prime Minister talks about what an enormous amount of money it would take to equip a Navy yard in Canada. Why more in Canada than in the United States? The conditions are the same practically, prices are much about the same in that respect, and for this Navy yard that in the ten years has built 114 ships, six of them 'Dreadnoughts,' the whole cost of the land, buildings, machinery, equipment of every mortal description, was less than 4,000,000 dollars.That is the impression that is made on the minds of the Members of the Canadian House of Commons, who know the facts and conditions just across the border, and believe that they are as able to carry out great engineering work as are their neighbours. They strongly resent and have resented what they consider is telling them what are their capabilities and what are their duties in regard to this matter. I maintain, if we want a loyal Canada we will have to propose something that will meet with the united opinion of both the great parties in the Dominion. Mr. Borden particularly gives the facts, and in two special ways shows how the ordinary gift would, in the conditions attaching to it, or its recommendations, bear on the general naval policy of this country. It is quite different to the contributions which we got from Australia and from New Zealand. Mr. Borden made the condition practically—I think we may infer it was a condition—that this gift would amount to representation in matters of our foreign policy. Of course, it was afterwards explained that this only meant a seat on the Committee of Defence, but it is perfectly clear from what Mr. Borden said that he understood from both the great political parties here that what the gift of these "Dreadnoughts" ought to lead to, or have to lead to, was a seat or a place in the Council of the Empire in regard to foreign policy. These are the words that Mr. Borden used:—When Great Britain no longer assumes sole responsibility for defence upon the high seas, she can no longer undertake to assume sole responsibility for and sole control of foreign policy which is so closely, vitally, and constantly associated with that defence in which the Dominion participates.128 Then he went on to make this remarkable assertion:—It is satisfactory to know that to-day, not only His Majesty's Ministers, but also the leaders of the opposite political party in Great Britain, have explicitly accepted this principle … and have affirmed their conviction that the means by which it can be constitutionally accomplished must be sought, discovered and utilised without delay.It has been explained in a Memorandum, I think, by the Colonial Secretary, that this was not meant or was not intended, but it was upon this basis that Mr. Borden made his proposals; and it is because that is so, and because it is meaning, and has meant, disunity in Canada and therefore disunity in the Empire, that we must oppose it in every possible way. Mr. Borden regarded it as a condition of his policy that there should be federation. That justifies it in his eyes, and in Canadian eyes. It is therefore important, and I think we have a right to ask the Government, if they allowed him to think he would get this, and whether or not they really approved of it. I think we want a very specific reply in regard to that matter. The Government did not say they were in favour of federation. If they did not, then they must not allow the Canadian people to adopt, or to be forced into a policy by Mr. Borden's party majority in the belief that this is a step in that direction. This gift and this proposal will, I believe, be as detrimental or more detrimental to us than it will be even to Canada. There has been much said in regard to the question of men. Sir Wilfrid Laurier's policy was that of supplying men as well as ships. If his policy is carried out, if there can be agreement in regard to that matter—and even now I should urge that something might be done to get agreement between the parties in Canada—then we would save all this strife and conflict that is going on over there. This is all the more important when we remember the great difference of peoples in Canada. You have there a third of the people who are of French origin. A very large number come from foreign countries, and probably half of the inhabitants of the Dominion to-day are foreign born. As the hon. Member for Sunderland said: "They are Canadians first, and last, and all the time."
Surely this is a matter for the Canadian Parliament to settle. We are only dealing with the effect so far as the First Lord of the Admiralty is concerned. We must be careful not to review here things the right to deal 129 with which we have freely given over to the Dominion Parliament.
Mr. J. A. BAKER
I fully recognise that point, and I bow to your ruling, but I was about to point out that if you are to have as a result of what is desired from Canada, that is naval aid, in time of need for the Empire, you will have to consult Canadian sentiment and will have to have a policy that will appeal to Canadians as Canadians. I believe that the policy of Sir Wilfrid Laurier of supplying men, that the First Lord says are not required, will be the one policy that will unite the parties there and will unite the Empire.
Mr. J. A. BAKER
I believe Mr. Borden was very greatly influenced and made to believe that there was an emergency when he was over on this side, and Mr. Borden entirely changed his policy on that account. I would like to say that I believe there is a large number of people in Canada who are entirely averse to any naval contribution whatever. They believe that the money could be better spent…
Perhaps I can put it to the hon. Member in this way: Supposing an hon. Member should rise in another part of the House and put before this House the other side of this controversy, I think he will see then that it would be my duty not to permit on the floor of this House the discussion to and fro of a matter which we have given power to another Parliament to decide.
Mr. J. A. BAKER
I would not refer further to this point except that I believe it is well known what condition of things does exist at the present time in Canada, and I would make my final appeal to the Prime Minister to take any possible step to avoid or to avert that which I believe would be a disaster to the Empire, unless this struggle in Canada is brought to a speedy close.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WILKIE
As the years roll on the introduction of the Navy Votes becomes a question of more and more interest to the people of these Islands. Year by year we see far more interest taken in them than in almost any other Votes that come before this House. Some speakers this afternoon have referred to the necessity, with which I agree, of more time being 130 taken by this House on Votes for the Navy, the War Office, and the Civil Service, and with all due deference and respect I say we should follow more on the lines of town councils, and that this House should be divided up into four or five large Committees to deal with the spending Department of the country. Were such an alteration made it would be a far more business-like proceeding than exists at present, and instead of having to deal with the Minister, like the First Lord and with the Financial Secretary and the Civil Lord, we would have sub-Committees going into these questions of expenditure in the Departments. I am bound to say, from my experience of municipal work, that that would conduce to greater economy and greater efficiency for the nation.
It is always said that the Navy is a non-party question. I have heard that for years, but my experience in this House has not proved it to be so. What are the facts? Only a year or two ago the then First Lord and the Prime Minister had to come down to this House with an alarming statement in order to get their supporters behind them to vote the Naval Budget. The question is the same to-day. We have had previous discussions of designs of war upon our country by other countries of the world. When we look back there has always been a bugbear. Now we are told it is the bugbear across the North Sea; another time it was the Far East; another time it was our friends across the Channel; but up to now not one of these assertions has ever come to pass. Nothing has come of the statements made in this House of all those threatened catastrophes to our country. In this year's Estimates we have one or two new suggestions, such as the year's holiday for naval construction and the armouring of merchantmen. So far as the year's holiday is concerned, I turn to the statement of the First Lord that there will be more work done were it not for the congestion in the shipyards. That appears to be contested. I know a little about that and I know that there is congestion, and that there will be far more overtime required by firms. So far as our craft is concerned, we are either starved to death or else we are worked to death. That is the position at this moment. As I understand, the suggestion of the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission was that it is the duty of the Government so to arrange its work so that in times when work would be slack more national work should be done, and 131 that when there was a flush of work, national work ought to be cut down so as to provide for the slack time. I say that could be done now.
Let me ask the House, Who started the "Dreadnought" building and the "Dreadnought" scare? It was started by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in power in 1904 and 1905, and they built the first "Dreadnought" in twelve months, and they went swaggering all over the world declaring we could build ships quicker than others, and that we had the ships and the men and the money too. That is one of the causes of the naval laws in other countries, and it is more or less the cause of the naval unrest right throughout the world. That is the cause of all the smaller nations in the Western hemisphere building "Dreadnoughts." That is the cause of most of the present difficulties, and if we do not mind, I, as a practical shipbuilder, say that the "Dreadnoughts" may not carry us through. I was very pleased to hear the First Lord's statement that we are about to return to more sanity in shipbuilding, and that we are about to have other ships of greater speed equally well armoured and armed, and these will be the ships of the future if difficulties occur.
We are now told that we are to have a new system of arming our merchantmen. I view that with great alarm. We own half the merchantmen of the world. What do we do if we commence to arm our merchantmen? Everybody else would do the same, and then you may get a captain away in a far-off sea, perhaps a little elated on occasions, swaggering with his armed merchantman. I say it will be a great disaster to this Empire if we are not more careful. I think this House ought to have been consulted before the Admiralty made such a suggestion. It might have been able to do better if its views had been considered. We are told that other peoples reserve to themselves certain powers. Why? Because we reserve to ourselves certain powers, others do the same. We own more than 50 per cent. of the merchantmen of the world. We build more than 50 per cent. of all the shipbuilding of the world. How can we blame others for looking to their interests? So far as the suggestion of what is called an Empire Fleet I am not going to enter into the question of what has been done in Canada, but I want to say this. I am one of those who long believed that our people 132 in Canada and elsewhere all along ought to have been paying their share of the defences of their own land. I object to the suggestion that we want naval aid. Little as we are we require no naval aid, but we say to the people of our own kith and kin let them provide for their own defences—and their millionaires are able to do it—after we have borne the brunt of the battle so long. I have not seen one real, solid objection to the so-called holiday in shipbuilding. It was said to be fantastic and ridiculous, and all kinds of extravagant adjectives were applied to it. I say to those who are opposed to it let them offer some better suggestion to stop this nightmare of useless expenditure in our country. Let them come forward not merely with a negative policy. I say it is a suggestion which will wrong no man and no country. If we all were merely to keep up to present level, where, then, is the harm in a cessation of new building for twelve months? No one would be the loser.
I do not say a word of disparagement against Germany, because the workers of the world have no quarrels one with another. Quarrels are made by the rulers, and as soon as we make this House thoroughly democratic, and it is becoming more democratic year by year, and as soon as we can get the views of the people properly and clearly expressed, we will be able to get nearer and nearer to the real democratic sentiment of the world. Why should we not agree to a twelve months' cessation? It might be objected to me as a representative of thousands of workers that such a cessation would militate against them. I contend it would not affect them at all. It would merely mean a cessation of new naval building, but there is any amount of work in repairs to be done, and there is any amount of merchantman work to be done, and I hope it will long continue. Therefore I hope if this proposal of the First Lord is not realisable that something else would be put forward. Let us not appear to take up the position of being anxious for war; let us practice what we preach. The Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission suggested this very course, and I do not sec why it should not be tried. Of course, everyone on all sides of the House is in favour of an efficient Navy. I may be sometimes up against my own party, but these are my views; but my views of what is an efficient Navy are very different from those of some people. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth and the hon. Member for Chatham are always denouncing the Admiralty for being 133 short-handed and undermanned, but they never suggest a remedy. I want to suggest a remedy to the Admiralty, and it is this: I say the men are underpaid, and that if you give adequate pay you will get men both well qualified and efficient. We have seen naval battles take place by other nations in ships built by our own people. All these ships had the latest mechanism and the latest guns, but without the right men behind the guns it is no use. Some Hon. Members say, "Where are you going to get the men and where are you going to get the money from?" There was no less than nearly £2,000,000 paid back to the Treasury from the Navy this year. Why not use that money to pay the lower-deck men and the warrant officers right up to the commissioned officers for the long years of service they have given in our Navy and for the skill which they have displayed in the service of their country? Why should they not have used that surplus for paying a fair rate of remuneration? During the discussions this year a far wider range has been allowed than I was allowed last year by the Chair. This year, however, we have been allowed to go on. I do not trouble the House very often, and I know there are many hon. Members who have already spoken several times on Navy matters, although there are many of those who have not spoken who know as much or more than those who have. The question of the dockyards has been mentioned, and probably it will be July before the Vote 8 comes up for discussion. The Admiralty now know that there is very great discontent amongst the men employed in the dockyards. We have raised these matters with every courtesy, and we are prepared to prove our contentions before any impartial judge, and I hope before July the Government will respond to this fair and respectful request. If they do not, I am afraid something will happen which will not he beneficial either to the workers or to the Admiralty. If the Admiralty will appoint an impartial and neutral Committee before which we can put our case, I am satisfied a decision will be arrived at which will satisfy the trained and the skilled men employed in the Royal dockyards.
With regard to Vote A and Vote 1, I have had a considerable amount of correspondence on behalf of carpenter-lieutenants and chief carpenters and the shipwright ratings. They admit that last year a certain small concession was made to them, but it was only granted to some of 134 the warrant officers and some of the shipwright ratings, and many of them still deplore a great injustice that exists in regard to other officers and men. For nearly thirty-five years, up till last year, not one of their grievances was considered of complied with, and last year was the first time anything was done. The duties of these men are very important and onerous, and very difficult. They are highly skilled, and if you want a certificate in their favour, I have here the whole of the speech of the present First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Batten-berg, who speaks highly of their ability, and who declares that when any difficulty occurs, any catastrophe, any collision, any damage to the floating structure the carpenter and his crew are called upon to redress and rectify the damage in all those cases. You have started the electricians' ratings and you have actually put them all before the highly-skilled men who have been trained on the ship. You are spending hundreds and thousands of pounds training other men in the engineering department and elsewhere, while the ship constructors' part is costing the nation nothing, and they are paid 1s. 6d. a day less than other ratings. Under these circumstances is there any wonder that there is discontent? On the contrary, the wonder is that the men remain about the ships at all when so much better terms can be obtained by them outside. I urge the Civil Lord to fairly consider this question, because you cannot replace these men in five minutes. They have to know their ship from stem to stern, and anyone who knows anything about a ship or a "Dreadnought" knows that she is simply a box of machines, and a wrong turn of a screw or the opening of a wrong cock might sink her.
I think it would be well for the Admiralty, if they cannot see their way to redress these grievances, to follow the precedent set by the Board of Trade in regard to industrial disputes. They might put that example into practice in their own dockyard and give us an opportunity of having our case properly considered before an impartial Committee. The Admiralty admit it is true that a rise of pay has been granted to some, and they admit that the chief carpenters and carpenter-lieutenants, who constitute about one-third of the class, have been ignored. Why should the Admiralty, to men with equal responsibility and of equal rank, mete out so much difference in the pay and also in position? I 135 think this sort of thing should stop and, whatever is done, they should all have fair play from the hands of the Admiralty. The men who are able to get up to warrant officers rank are very few. With regard to the rank and file there is a stiff examination in regard to their efficiency, and at every stage of their promotion they have to get a certificate, while the other class to which I have referred do not have to do that. It has always been a mystery to me why the Admiralty cannot meet the fair demands of these men. To give an illustration of what I mean I will take the case of two lads. One goes to serve his time in the dockyard and the other enters the engineering department. When their time is finished they go on board one of His Majesty's ships. The one goes to the shipwright rating and the other to the engineering branch. The shipwright, a skilled workman, only gets 4s. a day as an ordinary leading seaman, and the other goes as a chief petty officer and gets 5s. 6d. a day. You can see why there is unrest and discontent when these inequalities exist. Then the lads who could not pass the examination go on board ship in some other rating, and they actually get more than the boys who passed the severe examination. If that is not absurd and ridiculous, I leave it to the House to say what it is. In 1909 the suggestion was made that these men on the lower deck ought to have some opportunity of placing their case before the authorities. It was favourably received, and it was understood it would be done, but from that day to this nothing has been done. This discontent goes on, and some day it will break out in a way which will not be an advantage either to the Service or the country. I hope the Admiralty will stop it and see that the men's grievances are remedied.
I now come to the question whether you can afford to pay them better wages. The rates paid by contractors outside shipbuilders are 40s. 6d. and 43s. 6d., whereas the Admiralty only pay 36s. We shall be told they have privileges, but the Insurance Act is going to wipe out a lot of the privileges. Why should the Admiralty, because the Government's dockyard is used for repairs, get the work done for 7s. 6d. per week less than they would have to pay to a contractor? They are paying higher wages on the Clyde and on the Tyne where the vessels are built, and why, in the name of common sense, cannot they do it them- 136 selves? I hope it will be clearly understood (that while I am stating facts of my own craft which I know to be true), I am speaking as well on behalf of all the workmen, more especially the lower paid workmen, who are doing skilled work. I say the Admiralty are doing the work with cheap labour, and the sooner it is ended the better. The Leader of the Opposition has told us that the cost of living has increased far more than the rise in wages. Since 1896, we have only got an increase of 1s. 6d. He also told us that in Germany and France wages have more than kept pace with the increased cost of living. That is an argument we must press upon all the employing departments of our Government. The First Lord himself has admitted that the British pay is much less than it is in Canada. Why should not the same wages be paid here? I call upon the Admiralty to stop this sweating of men on His Majesty's ships, and to banish the present discontent in the Navy. At present there is a bitter sense of injustice felt by the men, and with these facts before them the Admiralty must admit there is some cause for it. The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty in this House and in all the conferences has shown us every sympathy. He has given us fine words and beautiful phrases, and the men, through me to-night, ask him to put his preaching into practice. His sympathy without relief is like mustard without beef. We have got the mustard; we now want some beef. We must have this discontent removed. What is the good of your big guns, your aeroplanes, and your submarines, without the skilled men to man them: without the strong nerve and the strong arm and the keen eye which they possess, I admit we want to give our men who are defending our country the best machines, and the best of everything that money can buy, and when we do that we want to adequately remunerate them for their extra labour and for the very terrible dangers which they undergo in defence if their country. What is the good of your big guns on board your ship if you fail to have the vessels properly manned? When the emergency occurs, when shots pierce the vessel's armour, you want your carpenters prepared for action with their collision mats ready, and with all the material for keeping her afloat. We want something more than the high-flown statements we hear from time to time. My last word so far as this Vote is concerned is this: I hope some steps will 137 be taken to banish the present discontent and to relieve and remove the bitter sense of injustice felt by a great many of our workmen on board His Majesty's ships.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I am sure, although few Members are present, that those who heard it listened to the latter part of the last speech with very great sympathy for the appeal which the hon. Member made. I should apologise almost for speaking when I remember the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Islington, and the passage in his speech I thought fit to interrupt because I believed it to be inaccurate, and when I remember too his reply, not on the line of his usual attitude towards Members of this House, but a remark which was offensive. The right hon. Gentleman with great civility, and in the spirit of this House which I am sure all appreciate when we see it exhibited, came to me afterwards and apologised for that remark.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Perhaps you will allow me, as the hon. Member has called attention to this, to say I was very sorry that at the moment an offensive word slipped from me. There is no Member of the House I should be more sorry to say anything offensive to than the hon. Member for Gravesend. I am extremely sorry that this word, which did not express any meaning to my mind, was used by me inadvertently.
Sir G. PARKER
I accept publicly that full and ample apology. I hope that nothing I shall say will have anything of a personal nature in it. I had intended to deal with some matters which were very efficiently dealt with by the hon. Member below me this afternoon (Mr. Eyres-Monsell), who, with his knowledge of the technical side of the Navy, delivered from our standpoint, a moderate, careful, and responsible criticism. We have always tried to put naval questions outside party politics, but it invariably follows, if the policy put forward by a Government is one which is susceptible to criticism from both sides of the House, we should not, if we were patriotic, and believe what we do believe, we should not desist from making firm criticisms of that policy. With regard to the controversy going on in Canada at the present time, the House need have no fear that I shall go one step further than I ought to in speaking at this moment. I regret that the conditions in 138 Canada are such as to prevent us from speaking fully at this time upon the very important aspect of the policy of the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. J. A. Baker) made a curious statement to which I am bound to call the attention of the House. He said that the question of Canada contributing direct to the Navy, was a question of emergency, and that the emergency had disappeared or, to use his own words, "it was exploded." If I heard the First Lord correctly to-day, he made a statement which I will commend to every Member of the House, whether he criticises or supports the Government. The right hon. Gentleman said that in the latter part of 1915 and the beginning of 1916, our position would not be safe except for the contribution which has been suggested by the Prime Minister of Canada. It was a very grave statement gravely made. It was that these ships which had been suggested by the Dominion of Canada to be built at a cost of £35,000,000, were necessary. If these ships are necessary at the end of 1915 or the beginning of 1916, then the emergency has not passed.
I understood the First Lord to say that during 1915–16 we should have our 60 per cent. excess over the German Navy plus from three to five vessels without the Canadian contribution.
Sir G. PARKER
I did not understand that. It only shows how difficult it is to follow an elaborate statement of that kind and to get at the exact figures. If I am incorrect I shall be happy to be put right by the Secretary to the Admiralty. If, as the First Lord said this afternoon, these ships are necessary, then the emergency has not passed. All I will say about the position in Canada and the Canadian Parliament is this, and it is what has been said in every speech which has been made. The right hon. Member for Islington thought it was a question whether this country needed a contribution immediately from the Dominion, because, as the hon. Member for Finsbury said, there was a time when the general policy to have a Navy for the Dominion of Canada was accepted by both parties. That is true. I think the hon. Member for Finsbury is correct in saying that the information received here changed the mind of the Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada. When I look back upon the history of naval policy in this House and remember how the First Lord of the Admiralty made his 139 first speech on economy on the very question of the Army and the Navy, and raised what he called the "tattered flag"; when I remember the attitude taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on every expenditure on the Army and Navy, and realise that now those right hon. Gentlemen, who do not love expenditure upon the Army or Navy from a sense, as I believe, of their national duty, recommend to this House what I believe to be the minimum programme and not a maximum programme, I, for one, cannot understand the position of hon. Members opposite who are criticising the Government on this aspect of the question to-day or any day. In my early years in this House I constantly listened to appeals made from the Liberals then on this side of the House—appeals made to the Government to press the Oversea Dominions to contribute, and sometimes some very harsh things were said because the Oversea Dominions did not contribute. I have seen changes in policy, and have myself gone through many changes of mind with regard to this very matter.
I saw the beginning of the contribution of Australia. It was temporary; it was to meet a need which existed there, because they had clearly in their minds the dangers that came—now, I think, past—from certain Powers in the North. That has gone. They have adopted another policy in Australia, and they are prepared to adopt another policy in the Dominion of Canada. Because this Government accepted the policy of the Dominion Government or of the Australian Government is not to say that they were not justified, when asked by the Prime Minister of the Dominion what they would advise, in advising that which they believed, and have always believed, was, on the whole, the best for the naval defence of the Empire. That is why I cannot bring myself to-night to criticise the Government with regard to the Memorandum submitted by the First Lord to the Prime Minister of the Dominion, because I believe he did his duty without fear, for, after all, he had something to fear, as the criticism from below the Gangway opposite has shown. I believe he did his duty, and only his duty. I cannot think, and do not believe, that the First Lord of the Admiralty used his high position and his responsibility at that moment to further simply the naval strength of this country at the expense of truth in statement and a real vision and understanding, as far as he went, of the 140 needs of the Empire. One thing was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington which struck me as important. He said the First Lord does not come down here and make us clearly understand what are the needs of the Empire. That, I think, we all feel. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand Division said it was an unfortunate thing that we had our Debates on defence split up into different days. No one in this House except he, sitting on that bench, and one or two on this Bench—and they cannot know in full—has an absolutely clear idea of what the naval and military defence of this Empire means. I believe the First Lord ought to come down here and say exactly what the whole requirements of the Empire are, and, as the right hon. Gentleman for West Islington said, at the same time say what was being done by each Dominion and each portion of the Empire in its contribution to defence and in fulfilment of their responsibility. I think we are moving in that direction.
If I rightly interpret the right hon. Gentleman as saying this afternoon that these Dominion ships were necessary, I should like to ask hon. Members who have been criticising that speech and the Memorandum of the First Lord to be very careful what they say, because in the Dominion Parliament the only difference is a question of method, and there is not a word concerning the large expenditure. If the First Lord is correct and these ships are needed, and if it is accepted in the Dominion of Canada as a temporary expedient and not as a permanent policy, the best thing we in this House can do is to allow them to settle that question without any intervention here which may produce bitter feelings oversea. If it is the fact these ships of the Dominion are needed in 1915–16, is it not apparent to every Member of this House how close we are sailing to the wind with the proportion that is being maintained when it comes to the point that you argue and quarrel over one or two ships as representing the margin of safety? It is enough to make one lie awake at night, because any accident may occur to one or two ships, as they have occurred in the past, and then you are not in a position of equality, but of inequality. In the Memorandum to the Prime Minister of Canada the First Lord makes a very powerful statement when he shows what the German Navy will be in 1920, and compares it with 141 what the German Navy was in 1900. The hon. Member who preceded me said that all this frantic shipbuilding is due to Members who sit on this side of the House, that they went swaggering through Europe with their Cawdor programme and excited all the nations to build. We know that is not so. The German Navy had its Fleet Bill in 1898; it increased it in 1900; it further developed it in 1906, and hon. Members must not say that the increase in the German programme was due to the Cawdor programme, because their increase came in the very year that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite took office, in the year when hon. Members opposite and the Government itself were saying we must decrease expenditure upon the Navy, and in the year when the so-called peace Government came into power, which would have behind it a party bound to economy. In that very year the Germans increased their naval programme. How can it be said that it was due to the Cawdor programme, which has been reversed by the Government now in power? I think hon. Members ought to be more careful in their statements regarding naval policy, as upon foreign policy, because they are great and grave matters, and one speech made by my hon. Friend opposite or some hon. Member on this side of the House is quoted abroad when a speech, perhaps made by an official or by one who is an expert in naval matters is not reported at all. I have kept to one point because I believe it to be very grave, and that is the statement of the First Lord. I could not follow his figures very closely this afternoon, and I do not think any of us could, but there was one moment and one place where he exposed a situation which I believe is only the natural sequel to the statement which he and his Government made to the Prime Minister of Canada when he was here.
I want to ask this question. If Canada does not build those three "Dreadnoughts" that we need, and evidently need, down the Mediterranean instead of over in the Pacific, I take it the position of the Government is this: They say about £32,000,000 of foodstuffs come through the Suez Canal from India and Australia, and only about £35,000,000 of foodstuffs come from all the rest of the world, and it is necessary not to depend wholly upon our friends to the south of us and its Navy there to protect the Suez Canal, but that the Navy of another ally would protect supplies from Australia 142 through the Suez Canal. I understand from speeches made in the Dominion House that that is the attitude that is taken by the Government there, and that they assent to these "Dreadnoughts," if they are built, being stationed at Gibraltar to add to the strength which has been taken away from the Mediterranean. I could not make out this afternoon from the speech of the First Lord what was to be our naval strength in the Mediterranean. I did understand what our naval strength was to be here, and I think we all understood there were to be nine or ten ships doing Empire work, but there was no direct or clear statement as to what we were going to do in the Mediterranean and what our position was there. Do I understand that these three ships are to be stationed at Gibraltar to make up for the loss in naval strength in the Mediterranean which many of us believe ought never to have been subtracted from those waters, and that we have left the defence of those trade routes to friends, no matter how great and good those friends may be? Many of us on this side, and, I think, on the other side, too, have always felt that we ought ourselves to be able to command the position, whether it is in the Pacific or in the Mediterranean or Home waters. But that is not the case. We cannot do it in present circumstances, and if Canada has been led to believe that these three ships would be stationed in the Mediterranean for the protection of the North Atlantic and her foodstuffs and the foodstuffs that come from the Mediterranean, then I say, as a temporary policy, the policy of the Government is one which I can support. It is my misfortune occasionally to have to support a Government with whose general policy I am not in accord, and I support the Government in this. If we have accepted the withdrawal of strength from the Mediterranean, and on second thoughts the Government consider it wise to have the trade routes from Quebec to Perth or Sydney protected by our own contributions and by the contributions of our allies and friends, I am prepared to support the Government in the policy of the moment which, if it is to prevail, ought to have the support not only of ourselves, who believe the whole policy to be inadequate, but the support of every Member of the House.
I do not think the hon. Gentleman dealt quite fairly with my hon. Friend (Mr. Wilkie). My hon. Friend 143 accused hon. Members opposite of starting the craze for the great shipbuilding programme which has developed throughout Europe during the last few years. He referred, however, not to the Cawdor programme, but to the "Dreadnoughts," which were advertised throughout Europe as being capable of blowing out of the sea practically every other type of ship up to that time produced. In his statement of the case, he agreed entirely with the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford), who, again and again, in debates in this House, has declared that the wide advertisement of the first "Dreadnought" was largely the cause of the development of these large and expensive ships which are now being put on the sea by the different nations of the world. But I wish to speak of one or two other matters. I entered this House in January, 1910, pledged to my Constituents to a policy of peace and economy in naval and military matters. One of my first duties was to vote against an increase of £5,000,000 on the previous year's programme, and in that year the total of our expenditure on the Navy was £41,500,000. Year by year the expenditure has grown and grown until now the estimated expenditure is £47,500,000. In so far as that increase is due to improvements in the pay of the lower branches of the Service, I entirely approve of it. But the main increase is due to the constant demand for building more and larger ships. The justification for that demand is the supposed existence of a peril which never has existed, which does not now exist, and which is never likely to exist.
Our superiority on the sea is and always has been unchallenged and unchallengeable. The scares that succeed one another with such regularity are based, not on any real danger nor upon real patriotism. The Dickenson Return year by year shows that our superiority is overwhelming in all particulars except one, and that is the question of torpedo boats, in which the one nation ahead of us is the friendly nation, the French, who are never likely to attack us, at any rate for many years to come, and that statement is confirmed by the declaration of the Prime Minister, and the First Lord and other Ministers. The navies that approach ours most nearly are three. The first is the German Navy—Germany, with whom we have co-operated cordially in the recent past, with whom we have never in the whole course of our history been at war, 144 and with whom racially, industrially, and in nearly every other respect we have more in common than with any other great nation, except the United States of America. The interests that bind Germany to us, and us to Germany, are infinitely greater than those which divide us. The German people themselves, as those who have mixed with them know, are most friendly to us, and their working classes are almost to a man against the feud that is so sedulously fostered by their Yellow Press and a small section of wealthy and interested persons. The two Navies next in strength are those of France and the United States of America. With France we have an entente that should mean lasting friendship. With the United States war is still more inconceivable in any circumstances likely to arise in our lifetime. Those two powerful friends are far more likely to fight by our side than against us. Besides this, in case of need we can build more rapidly than any other nation, and our shipyards have nearly always on their stocks ships in course of construction for other nations, which, in case of emergency, we could purchase and equip, or, if they were for enemy nations, we could confiscate and use against them. The First Lord said that we have five such ships building for other nations in our shipyards to-day.
In this unassailable position there is no ground for alarm. The man who, knowing the facts, is afraid, is a coward. The man who, not being afraid himself, preaches alarm, is doing his best to make cowards of other people, and in so doing is acting as a traitor to his country. Our building programme, outlined last year, gave us a 60 per cent. margin of superiority over Germany, which was declared by the First Lord to be ample for all probable and almost all possible, contingencies. In July last year he declared that "the arrangements proposed will, in the opinion of the Admiralty, be adequate for the needs of 1914 and 1915," which years we have not yet reached. In July last year the Prime Minister said "there never has been a moment, and there is not now, when we have not had an overwhelming superiority in Naval Force against any combination which can reasonably be anticipated." Yet, this year, if the offer of Canada is made and accepted, four super-"Dreadnoughts" are to be added to that programme which was declared last year, and repeated this afternoon, to be sufficient for our safety. If we are safe, added 145 building means added burden which is unnecessary, and, therefore, wasteful. The contributions of our Overseas Dominions are, of course, evidence of their loyalty and affection to the Mother Country. If they are voluntary and unanimous, their moral and diplomatic effect will be out of all proportion greater than their financial amount. But are they voluntary and unanimous? What is the secret of the offer of the Chiefs of the Malay States, and how far does it express the sentiment of their people? Will the Colonial Secretary tell us that? In the absence of representative Government, how do we know that this heavy burden imposed by the chiefs upon the poor population, who in the long run will have to provide the money—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Maclean)
This topic has already been ruled as out of order in this discussion.
I am sorry if I am out of order. I certainly thought it would be in order to ask how far this offer to us by one of our Oversea Colonies has received the assent of the people of that Colony. The position in Canada, which has been admitted to be in order, is far more serious than that of the Malay States. Under the present Naval Law their rights as a self-governing nation are preserved. They are not compelled to take part in our quarrels, but if they choose they may do so. The help will be voluntary, and it is certain that it will be hearty and unanimous, as was shown in the South African war. Under that law a local navy was to be created, manned by Canadians, for the defence of Canada, which in time of peril could, and certainly would be—
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
On a point of Order. Can the hon. Gentleman discuss that question while it is still under discussion in the Canadian Parliament? It appears to me to be contrary to the ruling which has already been given.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That is scarcely what the hon. Gentleman was saying, but he appeared to be going outside the limits of order.
I will try to keep it within the bounds of order. I am trying to put the position as I understand it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Perhaps I may assist the hon. Member by pointing out that it is not in order to recur to 146 suggestions given to the Dominion Oversea which relate to their internal affairs. As my predecessor clearly laid down at the commencement of the proceedings to-day, the hon. Member must confine himself to matters which are within this particular Vote.
I will try to keep within your ruling. Under the existing Canadian law any help offered to us at any time of emergency would be voluntary on their part. Such a Navy, controlled entirely by the Canadian people, could not be interpreted as a menace to Germany. I support the demand made by my hon. Friend the other day that the House of Commons should pass judgment upon it before the offer was accepted. The present is a proposal to substitute compulsion for voluntary help. That is clear from Mr. Borden's declaration in February, 1910. When the law was under discussion in the Canadian House of Parliament he used words to the effect that the power to withhold from the Mother Country the use of their Navy was ill-advised and dangerous. Whatever the merits of any dispute of ours, therefore, whether our action commended itself to Canada or not, under the new proposals she must allow the ships which she has paid for, and which are primarily for the defence of her own shores, to be used by us. Canada would, therefore, be dragged into the vortex of European politics. She would have to advance £7,000,000.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member cannot comment favourably or unfavourably on questions relating to the internal affairs of Canada. That cannot be referred to or commented upon by the Minister in charge of this particular Vote.
I understand that Canada has to find £7,000,000 to be spent on the purchase of three super-"Dreadnoughts," which will form part of our fleet, and not of a separate Canadian local fleet. I understand that these ships must be in addition to our own building programme, already declared to be ample to secure our safety. Now that is an infringement of the self-government of Canada and the United Kingdom, for it compels 147 us to add to our admittedly sufficient expenditure half a million of money a year to maintain these ships. Again, instead of coming to us as a unanimous contribution it comes as a party gift which is bitterly resented by nearly one-half of the people of Canada.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I regret very much to have to call the attention of the hon. Member to the operation of Standing Order 19, which refers to the continued irrelevance of an hon. Member after a direction of the Chair. I think if the hon. Member will take my advice he will pass from that topic.
I will pass from that, but if it came unanimously from Canada not only would it be more graceful but it would have greater moral force in the eyes of the world. It would strengthen the Empire through the moral force behind it in a way in which it cannot possibly do while it is the subject of divided opinion. I pass, however, from that, but I would point out that the addition of these four ships over and above our own building programme enormously increases the 60 per cent. margin which was accepted with so much good feeling by the German Chancellor and Admiral von Tirpitz, and I see no reason why we should refuse to them the sincerity which we claim for ourselves. We are giving their armament firms and their allies, the yellow journals, the very opportunity they seek to demand further expenditure to build up to the 60 per cent. including these ships. That will be answered by another call for extra ships on the other side, and so the game of beggar my neighbour will go on while the reluctant people of Britain and Germany will have to shoulder all the burden. The First Lord's desire for a naval building holiday, which is one which I share fully, would be possible by substitution of these ships, but it will be, I believe, frustrated by their addition. There is another danger also. I heard Mr. Borden speak in the National Liberal Club. He said that if Canada contributed to Imperial Defence she must share in Imperial policy. The proposal has since developed into a claim for a seat for a Canadian Minister on the Defence Committee. The Committee does not now trench on Cabinet responsibility. It is a creature of the Prime Minister. He is responsible to the House of Commons and to the country for its decisions. But if the 148 Dominion of Canada, or Australia, or anywhere else, is to have a seat of right on that Committee, how long will any of these respective Dominions be content to have mere advisory cyphers without any Executive power? And if decisions are taken which in their opinion are contrary to the interests which they represent, how long will their representatives on that Committee be content to be out-voted and overborne by the Mother-country? The precedent is full of danger, and threatens, on the one hand, the supreme control by us of our own policy, and, on the other, the relations of trust and affection which now bind the peoples together in bonds which are the stronger because they are loose and informal. Substitute for those bonds fiscal or other bonds that give the right by anyone to interfere—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is again going quite wide of the Question before the House. I hope that I shall not have to call him to order again, because I may have to request him to resume his seat.
It is very seldom that I address the House at all. I am extremely sorry if I have gone beyond the bounds of order, but I thought that this was an occasion for discussing naval policy, and I was pointing out the effect of these proposals on our own country and on Canada, and I quite thought that that was in order. I am extremely sorry to trespass beyond that point, but there is one other point which I hope I shall be allowed to discuss before I sit down. The professed object of Germany in building a great navy is two-fold. It is for the protection of her coasts and her great and growing commerce. That, too, is our professed policy. We speak of our Navy as an insurance of our commerce. Depending as we do on sea-borne food and raw material, owning more than half the commercial shipping of the world, and trading in all waters, we present a target for attack as great as that of all the other countries combined. On no other country would the destruction of shipping produce such calamities as upon us. Therefore we are spending £47,000,000 of money this year to prevent this destruction. But the insurance could be effected at almost no cost if we adopted in naval warfare the rule which is recognised and which obtains in military warfare and treated private property at sea as it is treated on land. 149 Foreign nations who now dread our sea power and build against us would be less apprehensive, and would feel less compelled to share in this ruinous competition. I believe that our refusal at the last Hague Conference to give up the right to the capture of private property at sea has had a profound effect upon subsequent naval building. If, as I hope, our Government will reconsider the matter and give up this right of preying on private citizens of foreign nations, which is really a form of legalised piracy, we could have an agreement by which nations would become peacable, which would realise the First Lord's hope of a naval holiday, not for one year, but for many, would free this futile expenditure on purposes of destruction for purposes that would build up the welfare of their people, instead of being needed to destroy the welfare of other people, would give our diplomacy a character of disinterestedness, allay jealousy and suspicion, attract to us the confidence and friendship of the world, and enable us to fulfil the noble ambition of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman by putting ourselves at the head of a League of Peace that would begin to deliver the world from the age-long horror of war.
Mr. FREDERICK HALL (Dulwich)
I cannot help thinking that the greatest possible privilege has been given to Members of this House by yourself and by others who occupy your position in allowing us so fully to go into the various questions which have been referred to, although we are supposed to be limited to Votes A and Vote 1, but I trust that I am right in supposing that hon. Members shall not take this opportunity to go into matters which concern other countries, and I hope that it will be readily recognised that speeches such as those of the hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor) are, at all events, not those that will commend themselves to the great majority of the Members of this House. If I may be permitted to do so, I would like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to what I think is one of the important facts in regard to the manner in which the Estimates are placed before this House. It would be well if hon. Members had an opportunity of going into and carefully discussing the Estimates when they are being being brought before this House. I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that some other mode of presenting these Estimates might 150 be adopted, that they might be submitted in a more concise manner than that in which they are presented at present, and that we might have a sort of handbook circulated giving the particulars and the reference, not particularly to one year itself but with reference to the present and the programme so far as is possible in future years. If something of that kind was done it would give hon. Members a more reasonable chance of digesting the important points that there are. The right hon. Gentleman, with all his knowledge and his attention particularly given to one special portion of the government of this country, perhaps is able to pick up and judge of the different points in a manner that we, as laymen, are not capable of. I make that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, and I cannot help thinking that it is one which, if adopted, will be received with general satisfaction in this House. With regard to the figures for the ensuing year, I take it that the chief concern of this House is to determine whether the provision that has been arranged is sufficient or not. It seems to me that there are two points of view on which this discussion can generally proceed. We have to consider, first of all, whether the margin of 60 per cent. over any other country is sufficient to enable us to maintain the position which we have always recognised among ourselves as more or less invincible in regard to our Navy. I think the general consensus of opinion is that the position we have maintained heretofore should, in any circumstances, be most carefully considered in order to see whether the application of sixteen to ten is strong enough as a basis. The right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara), if I may judge from speeches of his which I have read, will agree that it is not a question as to whether we have one "Dreadnought" extra; it is a question of whether the kind of protection which we have got is sufficient or not. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of a speech made by him not very long ago, and which I particularly well remember, where he stated that the cost of a "Dreadnought" was a question of £2,000,000, but the question of the want of a "Dreadnought" might represent £200,000,000.
It is of the utmost importance, in going into the question, that we should not pursue a cheeseparing policy, but remember that we have to maintain a standard which will be adequate to our needs. In 151 regard to the standard laid down by the First Lord of the Admiralty last year I say at once that I do not accept it, because in all these matters our object should be to take the greatest possible precautions against any danger threatening us or against any loss that might occur. I say it would be very much wiser for this House, instead of going into this policy in a niggardly sort of way, to follow out the suggestion which emanated from the right hon. Gentleman, namely, rather to overbuild than underbuild the Navy. As regards the 60 per cent. superiority over Germany, the figures, I must say, do not carry conviction to my mind, and the ideal set up by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty has not, I submit, been attained. I think he intimated to the House that if Germany during the next six years provided an additional fleet of ships he would consider it necessary that we should during that same period construct an additional six ships, or, in other words, two additional ships to each one built by Germany. In July he came down and announced that it was necessary to carry out that obligation, and I think I am quite right in saying that the House met him in the most generous manner; there was no general discussion, as unfortunately arises on many occasions, with regard to a niggardly programme to be carried forward. I think the consensus of opinion in the House was in favour of granting in a large-hearted manner what the right hon. Gentleman required. Has that been carried out? Have these six ships been laid down? I believe I am right in saying that the money that was voted in July last was for one additional ship upon last year's Estimates, and in these Estimates there has been another ship provided, making the number of ships this year five, instead of four, as was originally intimated. It seems to me that only two of these additional shins have been provided for; but, whether they have been provided for or not, has either of them been actually laid down?
I have gone carefully through these Estimates, and I cannot understand from the figures that either of these ships has actually been started at the present time. Perhaps I may be told that these are ships which are to be built in the future. If that be so, why should these two be specifically ear-marked for a particular year? The First Lord of the Admiralty 152 told us some time ago that the time to build a first-class battleship was a question of two years, three years, or even four years. If that be so, and if twenty-four "Dreadnoughts" have to be constructed, I cannot see how we possibly can get these vessels in the time contemplated. It seems to me on the basis of six years it would be much nearer to reckon on eighteen or twenty vessels. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty will be able to enlighten us on that point. I was rather surprised when the First Lord of the Admiralty said that it might take as long as four years to construct a first-class battleship; and, with a programme of twenty-four ships, I want to know when are the additional ships to be constructed which will put us on the basis of two to one with regard to Germany? Where do those additional ships come in? On the figures, we should have in 1915 thirty-one altogether, but I cannot see how that is possible. I have analysed the figures as far as I possibly can, and it seems to me impossible that the ships can possibly be constructed, or that the suggestions of the First Lord of the Admiralty can be carried out. I have been rather surprised at many laymen in this House venturing to make statements as to what our actual requirements are or should be in order that this country might be protected against any combination that might be placed before them. I think I am right in saying that very soon Italy will have five or six battleships, and Austria four. It is only recently Austria has gone in for constructing a fleet. I am one who believes in looking at this matter not only from the two-standard point of view, but from any possible combination of people against us. I cannot help thinking if any trouble came to us in this country, that we should have in all probability against us the whole strength of the Triple Alliance.
In those circumstances I think if the First Lord will go carefully into the matter, he will find that we have not sufficient margin against any forces that might be brought against us that way. We may be told that we have pre-"Dreadnoughts," but from what I gather there is no possible question as to saying what would be the fighting value of those against modern up to date battleships. I prefer, instead of the views of many hon. Members in this House as to our requirements such eminent authorities as Sir Arthur Wilson. In a speech he made, he enumerated the conditions for the 153 Admiralty against invasion as great superiority in torpedo craft and a superiority of at least two to one in all armoured ships. Taking into consideration the enormous value of our mercantile marine and our isolated position, and the fact that our food stuffs have to be brought to this country, I say the best insurance policy you can take out is to follow the instructions and advice tendered by people who are in a position from their own personal knowledge to maintain and to prove to this country the great value in the strength of the Navy required by us. When I look into the figures for new consruction I am rather struck by finding as against £12,000,000 last year that the amount to be expended this year is £11,244,000. We have been told by the First Lord that in consequence of the congestion in the shipbuilding yards it was not possible for him to construct the quantity of ships he was desirous to construct. Surely that point brings us a little nearer home. There is the shipyard of the Thames ironworks in which a good many London men were employed, and which, owing to unfortunate circumstances, has been closed. There is a dock there and a slipway on which "Dreadnoughts" could be constructed and there is a harbour of safety in which damaged ships might be repaired. I would suggest to the Admiralty to take into consideration the advisability of setting up the Thames ironworks, like Devonport and other places, as a ship-repairing and shipbuilding centre, in order that they might be able to cope, at all events, after a certain manner, with that congestion from which they are suffering at the present time. I am sure I will have the sympathy of hon. Members opposite below the Gangway when I say that it seems a great pity that the thousands of men who were employed in that yard should be forced to migrate and give up their homes, especially when it is admitted that more means of constructing ships are required. I think it would be a very important matter for the Admiralty to consider the advisability of having another haven of refuge where they would have the power and be in the position to repair disabled battleships.
There is also the question of ships being constructed for other countries. One hon. Member said that he did not think foreign ships should be built in our country. The fact that they come to us is an additional proof, if such were necessary, that we 154 stand in the forefront with regard to the construction of ships throughout the world. Our country is the home of shipbuilding, and I hope that very few Members will agree with the statement of that hon. Member. I hail with pleasure the fact that they bring the contracts to us and utilise the services of our men and the labour which we are able to find and the brains that have been centred upon this class of business for many many years. I do, however, say this, if there are ships which have been constructed and which the Admiralty think would be advisable and acceptable to our Navy, and after we have been told by Germany that as far as she is concerned she is not prepared to grant the year's leave that has been asked for by the First Lord of the Admiralty, then I would suggest to the Financial Secretary that perhaps it would not be a bad answer to give to say, "All right, we are going to increase our Navy, and we will take advantage of and purchase one or two of the ships that are here ready and practically complete." We talk a great deal about bringing our food supplies from every part of the world. It is generally recognised, however, that we can only find sufficient storage for something like seven weeks' consumption. If that be true, surely we ought to go into the question of constructing elevators or granaries in which a large amount of grain might be stored, so that if at any time we were unfortunately in the throes of war we should at all events have sufficient grain stored to do away with the risk of panic! It is the risk of panic that increases the price of the article affected. That is another point to which the Admiralty should give careful attention. I feel strongly that in regard to all matters connected with the Navy we ought to do everything possible, so that if we should be drawn, as we all hope we shall not be, into war, we should be able to utilise the whole of our resources to minimise the evils that would arise. It would not be inadvisable in this connection for the First Lord to consider the additional information which has been received in regard to the aerial fleet in Germany. The British proposals in reference to aerial navigation must be considered inadequate, especially when we remember how other countries are going ahead in connection with what has been termed more or less a fifth power. I can see from the Estimates that the question has received a certain amount of consideration, but the general consensus of opinion 155 is that the amount estimated to be expended is much less than it ought to be, bearing in mind the enormous sums that are being expended by other countries, and the large amount of leeway that we have to make up. That is another point to which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give his attention.
§ Captain DONELAN
As I am to be to some extent associated with the development of Haulbowline Dockyard and with the position of Queenstown as a naval station, I should like to join my hon. Friend in expressing acknowledgments to the First Lord of the Admiralty for his very satisfactory statement in connection with Queenstown. When the right hon. Gentleman decided last year to pay the visit to which my hon. Friend referred, both the Irish party and the Irish people recognised that he came to that decision with friendly intentions, and we naturally looked forward with considerable hope to the result of that visit. The right hon. Gentleman has given very practical proof of his friendly intentions. He has also shown that he has a very keen eye to the interests of the Navy, because the course which is now being adopted will inevitably result in far more advantage to the Navy than even to Queenstown or to Cork. I feel confident that the more experience the Admiralty possess of the capabilities of Queenstown Harbour, the more will those capabilities be availed of. I should like also to join my hon. Friend in his claim on behalf of the labourers at Haulbowline to be placed on the same standard as regards wages as labourers in English dockyards. The difference is very small from a monetary point of view, but naturally the distinction is very irritating. I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty will be able to give my hon. friend a satisfactory answer.
§ Mr. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I desire to refer to three points in connection with the Debate to which we have listened. The first has reference to the important speech deliverd by the First Lord of the Admiralty in regard to an Imperial flying Squadron. That appeared to me to be one of the most critical and important announcements in the whole of the proceedings. I have from time to time urged that if we wished to get the wholehearted support of the Dominions, it must be by some Imperial co-operation such as the right hon. Gentleman indicated might 156 be secured by the creation of an Imperial Flying Squadron. In regard to the Dominions and the part which they should play at this juncture, I fully realise the great importance for the observance of caution in the references that are made. I, therefore, listened attentively when two hon. Members opposite made brief references to Canada and its suggested policy. Speaking as one who for many years resided outside these shores, I know full well that sometimes offence is given by remarks when the speakers had not the slightest intention of offending. In the few remarks, however, that I desire to make in reference to the suggestion of the First Lord, I shall not tread upon any ground which would be likely to give offence. I desire whole heartedly to give support to the suggestion of the First Lord of the Admiralty. In May of last year I put a question to the First Lord to the effect as to whether the right hon. Gentleman would communicate with the different Dominions on the advisability of creating a Special Board of Admiralty, consisting of representatives of the Dominions and of the British Admiralty, to control the Dominion ships with a view to encouraging the creation of an Imperial Flying Squadron composed of Home and Dominion ships. To this question the right hon. Gentleman gave a very encouraging reply. Before, and certainly since then, a series of questions have been put bearing on that very point. I remember reading in one of the first papers that I purchased on a visit last year to Canada—and I have not the slightest idea of what the politics of the paper are—very deep headlines to this effect: "Imperial Co-operation; Probable Decision of the Canadian Government." Without going into what the paper outlined, I may say that it impressed upon me that if the policy which that paper suggested was the policy of the Government for the time being, were carried out, it would meet with and embody the view of all parties. It mentioned not only Mr. Borden and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, but the Leader of the Nationalists as agreeing with the suggestion, the substance of which was the creation of an Imperial Flying Squadron.
I have heard this matter mentioned, not only in Canada, but in course of conversation with many representatives of the Overseas Government, as an idea likely to meet the general view of all parties, and as one that would mean increased superiority to the British Empire as a 157 whole. The naval vista that appeals to me is the creation of a squadron of the latest battleships, say fast cruisers, each flying the flag of its own country, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and meeting in the Mediterranean or Gibraltar or another agreed upon point most advantageous to all, the ships of the Mother Country, and the whole paying a courtesy visit to South America or the Far East, or, say, periodically assembling in Australian waters, or in New Zealand, or Canadian waters, and, after training together, disbanding and going to their respective shores. That to my mind would be a real, good, lasting cement for Imperial co-operation by the Dominions Overseas. But it would have to be controlled by a representative body representing those that contributed towards the maintenance of such a squadron. Ultimately, though many hon. Members will think I am stretching the point, it would be the stepping-stone to absorbing the whole of what we call the British Fleet. The Imperial Board of Admiralty, if created, would lead to the whole-hearted co-operation of the people of this country and of the Dominions; it would control the destinies of the British Fleet, so that its supremacy would be undoubted. If we could find a basis for this whole-hearted co-operation—such as the right hon. Gentleman has himself suggested—I feel sure that any uneasiness which unquestionably does exist, not only in this country, but in many parts of the British Empire, would cease. It would thus help to re-establish security, and would certainly have a great moral effect on the whole world, as suggesting the determination, as well as the undoubted ability, of the Empire to maintain that supremacy upon which we depend so much. A New Zealand paper—in a cabled version—says that such a place as the Mediterranean would be too far away for this meeting. May I suggest that a little further information bearing on this criticism might, with advantage, be given to us? For my part, I would suggest that this suggested Imperial Flying Squadron should be a special squadron, should be the eyes of the Empire, the eyes of the Imperial Fleet. The idea is a great and a grand one. The idea of each Dominion should be to send one or two ships to make a unit of a powerful and imposing Navy to protect the trade and commerce of the whole of the British Empire. I have had this idea for many years, and the ex- 158 perience I have had of Overseas life makes me believe that it would be taken up with whole-hearted support and sympathy throughout the British Empire.
One other point I wish to lay particular stress upon is the question of the relationship of the trade of this country to the Navy. I have heard hon. Members below the Gangway opposite get up and talk about economy and retrenchment in naval matters. May I point out that, to my mind, 25 per cent. of the trade of this country has come to it by virtue of its great supremacy and its safety in days gone by. The trade of this country and the industries of this country have been built upon the security which little nations felt. They have become greater since, because they felt that they have been closely associated in friendly ties with a great and powerful nation always determined to see fair play for the weaker nations of the world. I have heard that opinion expressed in many parts of the three different republics in South America which have since taken a great part in industrial life. One thing that causes me considerable anxiety is the necessity for concentrating our best ships in Home waters, and that is one reason also why I welcome the suggestion of an Imperial Flying Squadron.
I have seen in the Press recently—I do not know how true it is; perhaps the First Lord knows whether there is anything in it—that the Germans were building two modern cruisers for the sole purpose of paying visits of courtesy to foreign countries, which would very much further their trade interest. I remember the suggestion of many British traders in South America, and I put more than one question in this House in reference to it, that a modern ship or cruiser thoroughly representative of the ability of the shipbuilding world in this country should visit the Argentine Republic, and that we should do what the Germans have done and what the Americans have done. The Germans sent one of their latest productions to visit South America. It was the finest ship that visited their shores, and I do not think since that there was a more representative ship of the foreign school sent to visit any part of South America. America sent her mobilised fleet right round South America. I happened to be there at the time, and I know the impression which the visit of that ship from Germany and the spectacle of the mobilised American squadron had upon the people there, and I think that the trade of this country and of the commercial 159 world of England deserved some recognition and consideration in that direction, even if it is necessary to build one special modern cruiser which would be equal to anything ever built, solely for the purpose of paying visits of courtesy to other countries. I venture to direct the First Lord's attention to that point, which has been suggested more than once in those countries.
Travelling a good deal upon the high seas, I have had frequent conversations with commanders of ships on the voyages, and I have had one impression left upon my mind from many such interviews, and that is that there is not that feeling of security in the mercantile marine to-day which formerly existed, but that, on the contrary, there is a feeling of insecurity, and that on the whole, as far as I could judge, the mercantile marine feel that they have not got a Navy behind them anything equal to what they had in years gone by. I heard the view expressed on more than one occasion that if hostilities were to break out the mercantile marine would make a bee-line for neutral ports, where they would drop in until they knew what was going to happen. Ten years ago these ships would go on their voyages, carrying their trade to foreign countries, feeling quite secure and confident that the British Navy would be able to deal with any emergency. I only mention that because it is a genuine feeling, and I am sure that if the First Lord would only give it consideration he could soon restore, or help to restore, that confidence which seems to be falling off. I beg the First Lord to persevere and, if necessary, to submit his suggestion for an Imperial Flying Squadron to the whole of our Dominions for their consideration and answer, and I am sure, if he does so, he will lay the foundation on a lasting basis for that Imperial co-operation, which will astonish, not only the people of this country, but the people of the world, of the determination of the Briton, wherever he resides, to maintain the supremacy of the Navy, which to us and to the whole British Empire is a matter of life and death.
§ Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN
I want to deal with three points upon this occasion. The first is with regard to labourers' wages in the dockyards. I know, of course, there is a good deal of uneasiness existing in the minds of labourers in the dockyards, and I think it is generally admitted by all who are acquainted with the wages paid to those people that the wages of labour 160 up and down the country have recently risen considerably above the rates paid in dockyard towns. I know that many firms in Birmingham have quite recently raised their labourers' wages to no less than 23s. a week, and it does seem strange that the Government should insist, through the Board of Trade, that employers should pay a fair rate of wages, while they themselves pay an amount below what those employers pay. In my own Constituency of Barrow-in-Furness, where there is one of the largest contractors in the country building warships, by June this year labourers' wages will amount to 23s. a week. The next point I wish to make is with regard to the position of engineers in the dockyard. There is a very keen controversy at present on that point in the different towns, and probably the First Lord is just as well aware as I am that a very large proportion of the skilled mechanics have refused to work any more overtime. I happen to know a little about the organisation of workmen, and it is obvious to me that if this business is not tackled in a businesslike way there is going to be some trouble in the dockyard towns. We have seen a good deal of industrial trouble up and down the country, and it is obvious to anybody who thinks that while other employers are raising wages as they are doing—and it is only fair to assume that other private firms contracting to build warships know their business—if they can afford to advance the rates of wages of their workpeople, it is only fair to expect the Admiralty to do the same.
With regard to the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, I admit that he does his best and brings a fair and reasonable judgment to bear in the matter. I will go even further and say that prior to the advent of the present Government the men had no right to state their case at all. I want to recognise that that step forward has been taken by the present Government in meeting, negotiating, and discussing grievances with the men and thus giving them a chance of presenting their case. So far, so good, but for all that, there is no getting away from the fact that the present methods in operation are at least twenty-five years behind the times. Deputations of these men have been to see the Financial Secretary, and some of them put their case before the Admiralty last December, and the probability is that if exceptional speed and pressure is put on, a decision may be promulgated about 161 June or July. I would not mind so much if the advance of wages, which may then be granted, was ante-dated to December. That practice is put into operation by many employers in the country, but it seems scarcely fair to keep these men's claims dangling into suspense for six or seven months, and in that sense keeping their advance of wages months behind the advances granted to those workmen in private employ. The other point I wish to deal with is in regard to the artificers in the Navy. My hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) dealt with this point on Friday rather roughly—I mean that he had not much time to debate the question. What I want to put is that for the past six years, we have endeavoured to draw the attention of this House, and those who have been in charge of the Admiralty, to the position of these men. Here again the grievance we have is not so much with this Government, as with the Government which preceded it, and which brought this scheme into existence.
Our grievance, as far as the present Government is concerned, is that this is a continuation of the policy of a previous Government. What has happened is that these artificers in the Navy, numbering about 5,000, are men who have been trained in the engineering workshops of this country. They have served their time to a trade, and have become skilled mechanics. They have been induced to enter the Navy under certain conditions and promises with certain chances of promotion. We find when the Cawdor Report comes into effect a scheme for the special training of stokers. The stokers are taken away from their business for two years and are trained specially by men of artificer rank. Then they are put back into the ship, and it is only a question of time and promotion before they are put in a position of superiority over the men who have taught them what little they know, and have to supervise work they could not do themselves. It seems to me one of the biggest farces that exists either in the Navy or elsewhere. It does not need very much of a contrast to show the position and its futility and silliness. The mercantile marine has exactly the same type of man, the man who has served his time in the engineering shops to become a mechanic. He goes to sea for a time in the mercantile marine, and, if he passes his examination, he is given a Board of Trade certificate as a 162 third engineer. Then he may go to sea for a further period and become a second engineer with a Board of Trade certificate, certifying that he is able and capable of taking charge of the vessel; and so on, till he becomes chief engineer. There is no doubt that the system now in operation in the Navy was tried in the mercantile marine and given up roughly about thirty years ago; there was a period when there existed what was called the "shovel engineer." The Navy has discovered this thing through the Cawdor Report. It is one of the greatest novelties they have run against, and it is obvious there must have been several geniuses sitting on that Committee! The position as it exists to-day is one of gross unfairness to the artificer in the Navy. I have endeavoured for six years together with my colleague to draw attention to this matter, but we have never yet been able to get any answer to our complaint. The idea, we are told, is to give some promotion to the stoker. The First Lord in the Estimates this year refers to the advent of the use of oil in the Navy. Possibly, some day we may have oil engines, and no stoking to do. It is obvious to anybody who keeps pace with engineering matters that the use of oil is going to increase at a rapidly increasing ratio in years to come, and that the working of the Navy will be done more and more by the artificer and men of that class. It seems to me that instead of discouraging these men and wiping out the number that do exist in the Navy some little encouragement should be shown them and some advance in wages given them even if they cannot repair the engine under the Cawdor Report. Their present rate of pay has been in existence for no less than thirty-two years, though the increased cost of living, of course, has affected them as much as anyone else. I ask that some little consideration be given to these cases in the future.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
With regard to the question mentioned by the hon. Members for East Cork (Mr. Muldoon) and for East Wicklow (Captain Donelan), that of wages at Haulbowline, I may say that they are 1s. less than those paid in English yards, and they have been fixed with due regard to the rates paid outside at private establishments. As far as I can ascertain, they compare very favourably, but I am going over there the week after next to hear the petitions and to see how the arrangements are proceeding for the 163 establishment of the cruiser squadron, and I give an undertaking to go into this question of labourers' wages personally. I did not hear the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Wilkie), but I can well imagine the eloquent appeal he made once again for the shipwrights and mechanics generally. I would remind him that the shipwrights got 1s. a week added to their wages in 1906, at a cost of £19,160, and another 6d. last year, which increased the wages sheet by a further £9,580. The fact is forcibly impressed upon us that, owing to the prosperity in this particular industry, our men can show that their weekly wages, leaving out all other considerations, are not at this moment as high as in outside yards where similar work is done particularly in the great private yards of the North.
§ Mr. BARNES
In dockyard towns they are 4s. less. The contractors there have to pay 40s. a week, and the right hon. Gentleman is only paying 36s. to hired men and 34s. 6d. to established men.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Then there is the question of deputations and petitions and the long time that elapses before a reply is received. But hon. Members know what the machinery is. There is an annual review of the conditions of labour, and we undertake to give an annual decision to the men. All the petitions have been heard this year except Pembroke, Haulbowline, and Portland, and when that has been done the matters will be considered in light of evidence and our decision will be announced. I do not think my hon. Friend need fear he will have to wait until July for it to be promulgated; there is no reason why it should not be given earlier.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I have every hope the decision will be published before Vote 8 is taken. Let me make one or two general comments. In regard to these four days' discussions I think I may, on behalf of the Board of Admiralty, thank Members in all parts of the House for the spirit which they have brought to the survey of the work we have to perform.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No doubt the hon. Member's spirit would have been quite admirable if he had had the chance. We have, as usual, found ourselves between 164 two fires. There are those in the House who say we are doing too little, and there are those who say we are doing too much. The fact is that the truth lies between the two—we are doing enough.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Member is evidently one of those who think we are doing too little. I pair him off with one of those who think we are doing too much. We are doing enough. These Estimates are framed to make due and ample provision for safety; no more and no less. They are Estimates of protection, and not of provocation. I will say this for these Estimates, whatever the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt) says: Their perfectly pacific intent is evidenced by the state of the House during the time they have been under discussion. These are the fifth Estimates with which I have been associated as Parliamentary Secretary, and I think they have had the most peaceful passage of all five. We have mainly experienced what sailors call a "flat calm."
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I do not know what has moved the Noble Lord to be so quiet. The best testimony to these Estimates is this, which comes from the lips of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler):—With regard to those Estimates I, of course entirely approve of them.When we get that from a dockyard Member, I think we are entitled to congratulate ourselves that we have really struck the happy medium. I trust I do not unduly tear those words from their context.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I thank hon. Members in all parts of the House for the war in which they have approached the discussion of the Estimates. The speech to which I wish particularly to draw attention is that made this evening by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough). In his most cheery manner he gave us a most doleful jeremiad. As he put it:—These Estimates have bounded up out of all reason.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Apparently there are other hon. Friends of mine who agree with him. Let us see whether that is so. They have increased, it is quite true, but the increase is none of 165 our seeking. It sounds a paradox, but it is nut really we who framed these Estimates at all. These Estimates have been framed for us as a result of the growth of the sea-power of other people. We desired to see this mad rivalry abated—all of us. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) himself gave voice to that sentiment earlier in the day. We all deplore it. Seven years ago, as my right hon. Friend knows, we took a great and courageous step for an island people. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker), who discussed the matter earlier in the day, would I hope agree that a great and courageous step was taken. We gave the world a most unmistakable and tremendous witness of our sincerity of aim and purpose. If our hopes were not realised, no one can doubt their sincerity, and they are as sincere to-day as they were then. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Islington exaggerates when he talks about our Estimates bounding up out of all reason. When he talked of our Estimates bounding up I think he must imagine that those associated with the Admiralty simply desire to build "Dreadnoughts" for the morbid joy of building them. But we ought to look into the matter a little more closely than that. In the first place, he knows that the great bulk of these Estimates are the result of commitments by Parliament in the past. Suppose you lay down no new programme in these Estimates, you have only reduced the Estimates by about £2,000,000. The next thing is this, and this ought to fascinate him as a great student of finance. Down to 1908–9 assistance for loans to some extent masked the true figure of naval expenditure, but since that date repayments of loan annuities have made the Estimates larger than the money required for the current purposes of the year would really justify. During the eight years prior to 1905–6 the Navy Votes were assisted by expenditure from loans amounting to £20,762,127. As against that in the last eight Estimates of hon. Gentlemen opposite they merely had to nay £2,572,210 to meet annuities. That represents a net relief on those eight Estimates of £18,189,917. Now take the eight Estimates for which we have been responsible since that date. Our eight Estimates have been assisted by contributions for loans not to the extent of £20,760,000 but £4,463,126, and during that time we have had to pay to meet loan charges £10,178,368. That masks the real effect of those Estimates, and what the right hon. 166 Gentleman calls their going forward by leaps and bounds. Let me put another point which will also be interesting to him. Immediately before we took power, in this matter, the late Government considerably lightened the ship—and I think they did quite rightly—by what was called the famous scrapping policy to which the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) has more than once taken exception, though I sometimes think he forgets—
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The Noble Lord has always said it was the party opposite that has scrapped these cruisers that he wants to see on the high seas to-day. Is that it?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
In pursuance of that scrapping policy of 1904–5 about 100 ships were taken off the active list. It is quite true that twenty-one were put back later for various special services. Four stations abroad were closed, Jamaica, Halifax, Esquimalt, and Trincomali, and three were reduced, Ascension, the Cape, and Bermuda. The scrapping of these ships, the closing of four stations, and the reduction of three other stations, set free stores which we could use without replacement in the particular Estimates for the year in which they were utilised. That policy set free men which enabled us to man ships coming upon the active list. My right hon. Friend will see that the effect of this windfall has disappeared. Then again in the last four Estimates we have been compelled to make provision for new construction on a very large scale.
Apart from other charges in connection with the 1909–10, 1910–11, 1911–12, and the 1912–13 programmes, we have added twenty-two "Dreadnoughts" and "Dreadnought" cruisers. That leads to all sorts of consequential and continuous liabilities for these capital ships. 167 More new ships mean more men, more men mean more money for pay, for naval stores, and establishment charges generally. New ships soon mean more charges for refits and repairs. New ships ultimately mean new charges of a non-effective character. Not only have we been compelled to make larger new construction provision, but everything is bigger and costlier. Everything grows earlier obsolescent. Ships develop more speed, and more speed means greatly increased cost of machinery. They cost more as regards their sea service for fuel. Their guns cost more, and the guns cost more to fire. Longer, broader, and bigger ships mean larger provision than we had hitherto to face for dock accommodation. Then comes oil fuel, tankers to carry it, land and tanks in which to store it. Then comes the air-ship land for sheds, sheds, machines, trained men. The point I wish to make is that we have come into a new and very expensive era. That is the position with which we have been confronted in the last few years. Looking to all that, anybody who sits down and examines the Estimates, and says that they have bounded up out of all reason should also remember one or two other small matters. This Fleet is a very old-established force, and it has many non-effective charges. If my right hon. Friend will examine the Estimates, he will find that for pensions, annuities, allowances, and retired pay, which are non-effective charges, there is an expenditure approaching £3,000,000. He should remember also that ours is a voluntary Fleet, and that it is more costly because of that. The personnel is not too costly—certainly not—but our Fleet is more costly than European navies, which are organised on a different basis. All these facts should be taken into consideration before my right hon. Friend gets up and says that the Estimates have bounded up out of all reason.
We are a peaceful people. We want to be let alone to go our way quietly and circumspectly, developing our industries, curing our social shortcomings, and deepening and strengthening the foundations of liberty and good government. We have no ill-feeling against any of the peoples of the world anywhere. We rejoice in their prosperity. We have no sinister designs on any territory. We desire our relationships with the foreign Powers to become more friendly. We desire to see international differences settled by peaceful 168 arbitrament, and anything which we can do to facilitate that it is our bounden duty to set about. We view with dismay, as everybody must do, the crushing burdens which the present rivalry in armaments is thrusting upon civilised people. If a conference of Powers, or a naval holiday, or any other expedient could secure that the different Governments would cry a halt, then of course we would gladly pile our arms, and my right hon. Friend the Civil Lord might be able to build some labourers' cottages in the meantime. But though we may and do cherish these ideals, all of us—for they are not peculiar to any party—we must face the facts, and this conspicuous fact stares us in the face all the time: If we want security, if we want peace, if we want a quiet time in which so to labour that the sum total of human happiness and comfort and well-being may be increased in our midst, we must be immune from the possibility of successful attack from without. There it is. It is no good halting between two opinions. Either scrap the whole of the British Navy to-morrow or secure, as far as it can be humanly determined, that your Navy is invulnerable against attack. Any other course is ridiculous, is wasteful, is dangerous, and may very well be disastrous. There is the problem, futile if you like. Through long generations, by many struggles and much sacrifice, British peoples here and overseas have built up systems of government which are free, tolerant, just and humane, and which confer the widest measure of liberty and security upon the individual subject. These we mean to maintain, to develop, and to strengthen. That is why we want this money.
Sir G. PARKER
The First Lord of the Admiralty having given the impression to the Dominion of Canada and the Empire generally that this was a time of emergency in the Navy, and that the three ships presented by the Dominion of Canada would be stationed at Gibraltar for the purpose of defence of the trade routes in which the Dominion of Canada has an express, natural and patriotic interest, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, if those ships are not built by the Dominion of Canada, they will be built by the Admiralty itself in this country?
§ Mr. HUNT
We have been told that the sailors are very badly paid, and I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman who made that observation. It is one of the results of what is called the Free Trade system. The First Lord of the Admiralty on Wednesday last spoke of the necessity of keeping up the 60 per cent. superiority. I submit he has not done that—at all events for next year. He told us that we must have from 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. more ships for our average moment than the attacking enemy at their selected moment. In answer to the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford), the right hon. Gentleman said that we should have on 1st April next year twenty-nine ships of the "Dreadnought" type, while Germany would have twenty-one. He also told us that four ships would go to Malta and one to Gibraltar. That leaves twenty-four for Home waters, and when the 25 per cent. is taken off, it leaves us only eighteen ships of the "Dreadnought" type for immediate war in Home waters to Germany's twenty-one at her selected moment. That is according to the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, and that is how we shall stand on 1st April next year. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he used these words in telling us of the danger of running things too fine at sea. He said:—We must never conduct our affairs so that the Navy of any single Power would be able to engage us at any single moment, even our least favourable moment, with any reasonable prospect of success.He said this was "the first condition of our existence." I submit that he has distinctly allowed us to run very great risk next year on the seas, according to his own account. It is not only in Home waters, but it is in the Mediterranean, too. According to the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave the Noble Lord, Austria and Italy will have seven ships of the "Dreadnought" type, and we shall only have four at Malta and one at Gilbraltar, so that we are not safe either in Home waters or in the Mediterranean. In the Home waters, especially, it is the case of a single Power; and the right hon. Gentleman told us on the 22nd July that the German battleships would be concentrated within a few hours' steaming of our shores. He also said that another reason why it was necessary for us to have a sufficient margin was because the consequences of defeat were so much greater to us than they would be to France and Germany; that 170 our risks were far greater, that our position was artificial, our food coming from overseas, and that we were a comparatively unarmed people, having a very small army, while the other nations of Europe had very large armies. And, much more serious still, he said, when we consider our naval strength we must not think of our commerce, but of our freedom; not of our trade but of our lives. I say that the right hon. Gentleman from his own account has left us in a very very dangerous position in this very next year, and if the people only understood it there would be a pretty row all over the country. The right hon. Gentleman laughs now, but they used to laugh in France in 1870. France neglected her defence, and she was caught unprepared by Germany, and bloodshed, misery, and starvation were the result. Written large in the page of history that is a warning to us, and history from its very beginning is full of warnings to people too indolent to defend themselves. So much for the sea. The right hon. Gentleman told us that as to sea matters we could never stand still as long as other nations were improving. That, I think, applies to the air as well as to the sea. The Government have neglected the air and the consequence is that other countries have got a very great start of us, and we are now seriously threatened by the great dirigibles that are owned by Germany. The Secretary of State for War admitted that the German dirigible could come over here and discharge quantities of high explosives on to our docks and shores and magazines, and, for the matter of that, could discharge them on to London and on to our dockyards. There is nothing to prevent that. The right hon. Gentleman told us he had got a wonderful gun. We do not know how many there are. The First Lord of the Admiralty also spoke about guns, but you cannot hit a dirigible at night that you cannot see. You cannot see it because it is night. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the searchlight?"] You cannot have your searchlight on all the time, and besides, you do not know when those things are coming. At all events, consider the fact that in a battle at sea you will have, or may have, a dozen big German dirigibles hanging over your Fleet dropping explosives on to it, and you have to remember that because of the neglect of the Government you have got nothing. No dirigible to oppose them, and so much have you neglected the matter that you cannot even 171 build them, and do not know how to build them. I say that it is, not only that the Government have criminally neglected the Navy next year, but they have still more criminally neglected this new power in the air, and for that neglect there is no excuse. For a very much less thing—for not having quite enough powder—the last Government were turned out. This Government have been twenty times worse, and they ought, not only to be turned out, but they ought to be impeached for treason.
It being Eleven of the clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 17th March, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
Question, "That 146,000 officers, seamen, and boys be employed for the Sea and Coastguard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1914, including 18,350 Royal Marines," put, and agreed to.
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Question necessary dispose of the Business to be concluded at Eleven of the clock at this day's sitting.
Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £8,399,200, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of Wages, etc., to officers, seamen, and boys, Coastguard, and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1914," put, and agreed to.
Ordered, That the Resolution which upon the 24th day of this instant March was reported from the Committee of Supply, and which was then agreed to by the House, be now read:—
"That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 185,600, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1914."