Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for expenditure on Shipbuilding not provided for in the original Estimates for the year, after allowing for anticipated reductions in Expenditure and additional Appropriations-in-Aid on Navy Votes generally, namely:—
|Vote 8, Shipbuilding, &c.—||£||£|
|Section III.—Contract Work.||429,800||—|
|Vote9, Naval Armaments||10,000||—|
|Vote 1, Wages, &c, of Officers, Seamen, Boys, and Royal Marines, &c.||150,000|
|Vote 2, Victualling and Clothing for the Navy.||177,070|
|Vote 8. Section II, Matériel.||58,100||80,000|
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Mr. J. C. C. Davidson)
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee, before the main Debate starts, that I should give some detailed information with regard to the Supplementary Estimate which is now before the Committee. In the first place, the Committee will observe that it is a Token Vote, because of the fact that when the new construction programme was announced, an undertaking was given by the Admiralty, that insofar as it was possible, the expenditure which would fall within this current financial year should be met out of economies in the Navy Vote. The total sum which is to be 458 expended this year, as hon. Members will see, is £527,170, and savings amounting to that sum, less £100, are to be found under the various heads contained in the Supplementary Estimate. The first heading is Vote 1, where an estimated saving is suggested of £160,000. I want to make it quite clear that these savings cannot be found, and will not be found, because of loose estimating. They will have to be found because of drastic economies, which were not anticipated when the main Estimates were introduced. Now the £150,000 on Vote 1, it is hoped, will be found by a very drastic attempt to deal with the manning of the Fleet. The sum of £120,000 which hon. Members will see arising under Vote 2, sub-head 6 (Victualling and Clothing), and a further sum of £57,070, under subhead M, will be consequent on those reductions in the manning of the Fleet. I should also like to explain that a sum of £120,000, which will be seen against sub-head K 1, will be an anticipated saving in the price of oil, and by using a lower grade oil for certain purposes than hitherto has been the case. A further sum of £80,000 is expected by increased Appropriations-in-Aid which it is hoped will result partly from prices, but also because we hope to get a greater amount of repayment money by the hiring out of Admiralty tankers. Those are the main Votes of the Supplementary Estimate.
I want to make the Committee aware of the fact that, owing to the very limited time the Admiralty have had to prepare this Estimate, it is not possible to say at this moment that under these particular Votes these anticipations will be realised, and that the money may not be more usefully, much more economically saved by economies elsewhere. At the same time, I would qualify that by saying, wherever it is possible to get economies, even over and above these, the Admiralty will do their very utmost to obtain them, but I do want the Committee to believe that this is—in one sense, it is a sketch Estimate—the best Estimate the Admiralty can produce as to where we can try to get savings, and it may be these savings may be supplemented, or, alternatively, may have to be found under other heads, because, in the 48 hours at our disposal, it was impossible to review the whole field in detail. So much for that. So 459 far as the White Paper is concerned, perhaps there is a. little information the Committee would like to have. I think the Committee ought to have the information with regard to the time in which ships under the old programme will probably be completed. Of the two battleships, the "Nelson" is to be completed towards the end of next year, and the "Rodney" by April, 1927. Two of the five cruisers will be completed in May, 1927, and, as far as one can foresee, three probably in October, 1927. The minelayer and destroyers will be finished next year, 1926. Perhaps I might also refer to the sum of £939,000 to which reference is made in the paragraph immediately below the programme of construction. That is, in fact, the 12½ per cent. shadow cut which was made on Vote 8—the construction vote—and, if construction proceeds, as it says here, uninterruptedly, it is probable that the sum which was estimated for of £6,708,567 will be increased by the difference between that and the shadow cut to £7,647,000. So far as the sum at the bottom of the table of new proposals goes—I think the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) is interested in this—the sum of £58,000,000, which is the whole programme, does include everything, guns, torpedoes, boats, etc. It is the complete cost of the new ships.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Could the hon. Gentleman tell us something about the cost of the upkeep of these additional ships?
Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us how much it costs per year to keep one of these cruisers in commission?
I am sure that I shall be able to find that out later, but I have not got it here. On the last page of the White Paper hon. Members will see a statement to the effect thatIn the light of all past experience, however, it is reasonable to anticipate that 460 payments will not fall clue at the above rate and a deduction of 10 per cent. or more over part of the programme will almost certainly be made in order to arrive at the estimates laid before Parliament in any given year.I think that needs some explanation. Contract work is not really a matter over which the Admiralty has complete control. Materials do not come to hand, stoppages occur in private yards, and there are unforeseen circumstances. Judging by past experience, it was considered wise to state that possibly in any one year retardation of work would take place, and it was estimated that that retardation would amount approximately to about 10 per cent. That, of course, simply throws the expenditure over to the next year, and therefore, with that in mind, the Committee will be able to study these figures with greater accuracy. I think those are the main points of detail of the Estimate, and with these brief remarks perhaps the Debate might proceed.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £50.
I am sure that the whole Committee will be profoundly disappointed by the inadequacy of the statement to which we have just listened. I think the Admiralty ought to be reminded that this is not merely a question of spending a million or two of money; this is the whole question of naval policy, and we ought to receive much fuller information as to why the Admiralty have produced this programme and not another one. I will put these questions perhaps a little more specifically as I go on, but I think that preliminary reflection ought to be made, because, speaking for myself, I felt that my hon. Friend was only just getting his wind when he resumed his seat. The Committee and the country are facing what is not merely a continuation of policy but the beginning of a new policy, and we ought to know exactly, first of all, where we stand, and, secondly, where we are going and where we are going to find ourselves when we come to the end.
A great deal is said about economy, and I notice that some of the attacks and criticisms that are made upon the Admiralty are based solely on the question of economy. So far as I am concerned, and I think so far as my hon. Friends around me are concerned, we cannot test large public expenditure solely on the question of economy, because economy involves a 461 system of spending as well as a system of saving. But in view of the world situation, a Government that comes down and confesses, as the Government have just confessed through the mouth of their spokesman, that they have not adequately considered this matter, and then, without adequate consideration, tell us that they are going to spend £58,000,000 in the production of certain ships, when a few days ago they told us that they could not find one-quarter of that money to make a pensions scheme adequate, ought to be censured. If the Government would only spend £12,000,000 per annum during their term of office in developing the national resources of this country, they would do far more to promote national security and to prepare for any crisis through which the country may have to go than by spending that sum in five years upon this naval shipbuilding programme. It is not only £58,000,000. We are told that before the Debate ends we are going to have some estimate of the upkeep. Again, surely the Government are doing much less than their duty in coming here and merely telling us about the expenditure of £58,000,000 without telling us how much that is going to cost per annum to keep going. It is not a sum of £58,000,000 which we are voting to-day. I do not venture even to name it; I do not hazard any estimate, but it is a sum enormously greater than that, and if to-day we allow this token Vote to go through, we are placing burdens upon the backs of the taxpayers that the Government, when they were fighting the last election and giving professions of their faith, pledged themselves right up to the hilt to do everything which they could to avoid.
What is the problem that the Government have had to face? We do not build ships for the fun of building them. We do not even build ships for the purpose of providing work for the unemployed. It may be, and it ought to be, when a Minister sits down to consider the whole facts of the case, that, if in an economical way he can provide some work for the unemployed, he is perfectly justified in doing what he can to do that. But to make that the sole reason for providing this work is very bad policy, and I do not believe that any Government would pursue it. Therefore, there must be some reason for the building, and the first and appropriate 462 reason for an extension and an expansion of shipbuilding like this must be to provide against a national danger. Now where is it? Will any spokesman from the Government Front Bench, surveying the world, its problems, its difficulties, and its dangers, point to a danger of naval warfare that this country is going to run within the next 10 years? I limit it to that period, because it will all depend upon how foreign policy develops whether that danger is going to arise or not. But during the next 10 or 12 years there is no possibility of any development of a political situation which would make a war necessary or inevitable, and, should things get worse within that period than they are now, there is no possibility of any probable enemy being able to develop its shipbuilding resources and facilities to such an extent as they could catch us unawares if we held back just now and beat time rather than make the progress that this programme suggests we should.
Nobody will say that America is a possible enemy. No one will say that Japan is a possible enemy. If anybody imagines that France is a possible enemy, then the problem, in view of modern developments of arms, is not a naval problem at all; it is an air problem primarily, and in any event, to be a little more accurate, it is a problem of the co-ordination of the three forces. Again, what insane Minister, or what insane Department, is going to regard that as a possibility so near to a probability as to spend millions of the taxpayers' money upon making provisions such as are being made in this White Paper? Moreover, supposing there was a danger—I believe there is none—our equipment for the moment is more than sufficient to meet it. We have, for instance, two large modern battleships being built. We were told when they are going to be built. No other Power has ships of that type under construction. We have 49 modern cruisers. I am not counting in this programme. I emphasise the word "modern," because cruisers which are not modern might as well be regarded as nil. I believe that the Power next to us in the possession of such ships is Japan, and Japan has 18. We are building five; Japan is building six, or is supposed to be building six. France and Italy are 463 building two each. Where is the danger? Where is the hurry? Where is the demand for an increased equipment? It does not exist at all. There is no reason whatever, so far as we have had the facts disclosed to us, why one single keel should be laid down in addition to the five for which we were responsible last year.
I see—perhaps I might just as well refer to it at this point—that one newspaper, in particular, has been referring to a report of something that I said last March. I am reported to have stated that the Labour party's programme was five cruisers last year and five cruisers this year. I am certainly, at least I am going to be, the last man to shelter himself behind that poor scapegoat of politicians who have made mistakes in speaking—the reporter. If I am reported in more than one place as having said that, then I said it. If I did say it, it was a sheer slip of the tongue. If hon. Members are really interested, and will take the trouble to look up the speech, they will find that that is contradicted in the elaborate statement, in the more detailed, at any rate more extended statement that I made of the position of the Government. Exactly the opposite was stated. I know, because I have got so many belligerent economists like my right hon. Friend who is sitting by me (Mr. Snowden) and some of the others who are not only economists but much more, and if I made a statement like that, they would know that it was not in accordance with the facts.
I have stated over and over again in this House that we had never made up our minds as to what this year's programme was going to be. I am perfectly certain that, if I stated that here by mistake, it would be immediately challenged by my right hon. Friend and the facts would have been stated. So that if I did say it, very well, I am responsible; but it was a mistake, it was a slip. The facts are that we decided to build these five cruisers instead of the eight that were asked for. We stated at the time that that was not to be taken as anything more than a very hurried, a very provisional decision, on account of the pressure that was brought be bear upon us, that we had not time to consider what the programme ought to be, 464 but that we were not going to allow matters simply to drift, that we did not believe in a policy of disarmament by inaction and neglect, that meantime, holding that position, we would make our inquiries and that next year—that is this year—we would make ourselves responsible for a programme which, whatever it was, we should defend upon its merits. That is the position which the Government took up and that is the statement which I have made again and again and I repeat it now.
The pressure was brought from a legitimate quarter—the Admiralty. Certainly I am not objecting to that. It is the Admiralty's duty to advise His Majesty's Government, His Majesty's Ministers, and it is the duty of His Majesty's Ministers, so long as they hold office, to do what they consider to be the safe thing, and, in the circumstances in which we found ourselves last year, rightly or wrongly—I think rightly—we made up our minds that that was the safe thing to do, and it left us quite unfettered so far as further conclusions were concerned regarding our shipbuilding programme. If there is no danger—and I do not see it—and if there is adequate equipment to meet any danger which we may not see but which may arise, then I think that thee is no need for this programme. I do not know how far we are going to trust the delightful accounts that appear in the newspapers about the wild fights behind the scene between the spendthrift party on the one hand and a frugal Chancellor of the Exchequer on the other hand. I do not know whether this programme is the child of the Chancellor or the child of ultimata, delivered from one side or another, that if it wore not agreed to there would be resignations. I do not know about that. There is no doubt whatever but that the Admiralty had their way, and that the Chancellor has been beaten.
But what this Committee I hope will do with decisive emphasis now—because this is the time to do it—is to say quite clearly to all the spending Departments, whether services or not, that it is the civil authority that controls them and that the expert adviser, whether he is Chief of the General Staff or head of the Air Department or a First Sea Lord, is acting 465 illegitimately in using threats of resignation in order to bring pressure to bear on the civil authority. If there is one thing that characterises the Government of this country more than anything else, it is at any rate the theoretical fact that the civil authority, the political authority, controls the services and that the services, not even the most favoured of them, do not direct or control the political, the civil authority. It looks as though in this case the theory which I have enunciated has not been very well carried out.
Will the Government tell us when they develop their explanation whether, before producing this programme of cruisers of Class A and of Class B, with a certain number of destroyers and so forth, it is the result at least of a well-thought-out and a properly approved and complete scheme of national defence? Will they tell us that they have now made up their minds as to what is to be the relation of the Navy to the Air Force and the Army in an approved scheme of national defence say for the next 10 years? Is this a scheme of that character or is this a mere haphazard result of the Admiralty coming up with their original programme, the programme which they themselvs fathered when they were in office, or is this merely a compromise, a sort of market huxtering between two sides, one producing a big programme and the other saying, "We will not give you that," and then after a certain number of threats of resignation an agreement is come to for the sake of peace and a White Paper is issued as the Government policy? If that is the situation it is neglecting the interests of the nation, the interests of national defence and the interests of national economy and of the taxpayer.
I would suggest—and I am not speaking of this particular programme or that—that what is in their minds is this. The Admiralty says, "This is what we did before the War, and this is what we are doing now." There are no new ideas, no new conceptions of responsibility, no new conceptions of strategy, no new conceptions of national requirements, but just this, that though the. whole of the military and naval arms was tested during those terrible years between 1914 and 1918, we are going back again into the old ruts, building up against the one-Power standard or the two-Power standard or the three-Power standard, and putting 466 down a certain number of cruisers without any idea of their effectiveness. The truth is that it is simply the before the War, and, above all, the before the air habit of mind with which the Admiralty is possessed which has provided this scheme. It is not only that the Navy has been tested, and that the relative value of ships has been tested, but the appearance of the Air Arm has come in, and that has required such a modification that it ought to show itself in our ship building. It does not show itself in this programme. In finishing that particular Department, I venture to make this statement, that after we have spent the £58,000,000 which we are now being asked to spend—that is the suggestion—plus the annual cost of upkeep, when that is all done we shall not have added one shadow to the effectiveness of our national defence, and not one shadow to our real security as a nation in the event of another war breaking out.
I prefer not to be misled to-day. I want to deal with the fact, which everybody knows and everybody understands, that the mere building of ships without any relation to co-ordination is not adding to security, but that if it goes beyond a certain extent it is adding to our insecurity, because it starts once again the old idea of national defence depending solely upon our forces, and there is nothing that contributes to the insecurity of a State more than mere building, the mere adding to their physical power. I know that it creates for the time being what is a very valuable thing, the psychology of security, but it adds to the reality of insecurity. If this be studied very carefully and in a most detailed way, it will be found that the argument in favour of the proposition which I have made is very strong. I know that the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) has given to the Press an interesting statement in which he refers to the building of three cruisers as not being so economical, I believe he said from a financial, certainly he said from a defensive point of view, as the building of four, and all that; but at the same time this really is not a replacement proposal, but a war development proposal. So from that point of view it is not effective, but is quite altogether disturbing. When the Prime Minister made his statement here he seemed to take a great deal of pride because the Admiralty agreed to accept 467 a committee of inquiry into its extravagance or its expenditure. He advanced that as though it were part of a bargain. "We have given them this programme; they have given us an inquiry." That, certainly, is how it reads, and, what is more, I have seen that argument used in the Press that is supporting the programme. That is altogether wrong. The Government which accepts a bargain like that, confesses its weakness to the whole world.
"Economy in other directions"—there is no Department in the whole of the State that could be more profitably examined from that point of view than the Admiralty. Last year over-estimating, their Estimates exceeded expenditure by £4,000,000. And to-day, partly in a frame of mind of pride apparently, the spokesman of the Admiralty says, "We are not going to ask you to provide the money for this programme, because we have already discovered, although we have reached only the end of July, that we can economise more money in the Estimates which we told you a month or two ago were absolutely essential for the then needs of the Admiralty—we have already discovered from the over-estimates that we can provide for all the expenditure we require for this extravagance from time to time out of the money already voted." That is how the British taxpayer is used. Departments know perfectly well, when they put in their Estimates, that they are over-estimating, that there will be taken from the taxpayer's pockets millions of pounds that ought to remain there and fructify there; and then, when a great new expanding and expansive programme is produced, we are told, "Accept it. It will be easy, because this year we have over-estimated our needs, and from the over-estimates we will provide the money that is required." But if there is extravagance—there is extravagance in the Admiralty—it has nothing whatever to do with this programme, and ought to have nothing to do with it.
This Committee ought to be appointed on its own merits. So far as we are concerned, we will not consider and we do not consider this a bargain at all. We consider this as an overdue step, necessary to have been taken in the interests of the taxpayer and also in the interest of the Admiralty itself. Would the Government 468 tell us what standard they have placed before themselves in devising this programme? We heard about a one-Power standard in a previous Debate. Is this to bring us up to a one-Power standard? I have been searching for that Power, but I have not found it. As a matter of fact, if we lay down this programme and claim that we are building up to a one-Power standard, what is the meaning of it? It means that other nations will accept the same one-Power standard, take us as that one Power, and then begin building against us, building up to the standard that we have set for ourselves. That is the beginning of the end of the whole affair. Then we are in for competitive armaments, and competitive armaments finally overtopple themselves in disturbances and in disputes and in. war.
Then I would like to ask this: Where are these ships to be placed? To what use are they to be put? Are they to be placed in home waters, or are they to be placed in the Pacific? What is the grouping that is being worked out by the Admiralty? Because, quite obviously—I say so as a layman—these ships are not to be built specially as cruisers, and just thrown out on the high seas to roam about, except upon a plan of grouping, a plan of strategy and a plan of displacement and position of naval forces. Where are the ships to be placed? Suppose that they are placed in the best strategic place possible. Who is going to regard this programme, from the point of view of the heart of the Empire itself, as being of any value to us? I say from the point of view of the heart of the Empire. There is the great programme of home defence raised every day. As a matter of fact, we would talk a great deal more about it here if it were expedient to do so. Everyone knows that the development of these Estimates is becoming in itself a great danger to public security, and because nobody wants to make matters worse or to raise thorny problems, we sometimes hold our tongues about them here, when, as a matter of fact, we ought to speak. But everyone knows the problem that this country will face if it is going to be foolish enough to embark on programmes like this, when the real problem of defence that this country has is not touched at all by the building of these ships and by their equipment and by their service.
469 Is this a programme of replacement and replacement only? If so, what is to be replaced? What type of ship is to go gradually out of commission and to give place to this new type of ship? What type of ship going out justifies an addition of five 10,000-ton cruisers? It is quite true that the Admiralty now, changing its programme, changing its minimum demands, changing its pressure, which it said it never could, tells us that all this pressure, all this statement of case made again and again—tells us, not that it must have eight, as it persuaded the previous Government, not that it would accept five as an absolute minimum, but that it is accepting this much more limited programme. Then all the cruisers are not 10,000-ton cruisers. A new type of 8,000-ton cruiser is to be produced. The Government must be candid with us in this respect. Why this change of policy? Why has this change of programme been effected? What is it that is to be replaced by these new ships? What service are they to do? Is this, as a matter of fact, the beginning of the development of a new battle fleet, or are all these cruisers simply to be used, as we have been told again and again, as a police force for the high seas, just to parade our trade routes and prevent all sorts of delinquencies, and so on? My view is that the programme is the beginning of new war preparations, and is not merely a displacement programme at all.
We have to come back to diplomacy as our great safeguard and our great security. What is to be the influence of this programme upon a disarmament conference? There is not only no word about it; there is no preparation being made for it. All this is looking in a different direction altogether. I can quite understand the Government saying, "We want new ships; we want replacement; we are not going to allow our present standards to go down. But, knowing how dangerous that is as a possible beginning of a new competition in armaments, we are only asking for them at the same time as our diplomacy is active in promoting, and in getting other nations to promote, conferences for disarmament." There should be no new building, putting it at the very strongest there should not be a single ton of new building put down at the present time by any Government 470 that is not actively engaged in promoting disarmament conferences.
The building that took place last year was purely replacement building, and was never meant to be anything else, because the very people who were replacing last year were at the same time busy in promoting international disarmament conferences, and were actually fixing the dates, and the delegates to attend. There was in the French papers the other day a very interesting feeler put out. We know that the attitude which France adopted at Washington was most unfortunate, but I noticed that in one of the French newspapers which I read—in the "Temps" or the "Journal des Debats"—a feeler, a suggestion was put out. In view of what has passed since the autumn, has not the time come for new approaches to be made, because it is far more possible to come to an agreement with France now on naval building of all kinds, submarines as well as other kinds, than was possible at Washington? But there is no indication whatever that this Government can do anything with regard to disarmament conferences, except to scrap them. That is all that it has done up to now, so far as the public is permitted to know.
Therefore I move the reduction of the Vote. There is no known danger facing us that justifies this programme. There is no clear idea embodied in it as to a completely co-ordinated scheme of national defence or of Imperial defence. There is no idea of a co-ordination of the three arms of the service, from the purely technical and service point of view, so far as I know; certainly it is not disclosed in this programme. There is no scientific use of the resources of the nation in devising this programme. There is no study of naval problems, no study of the necessities—or of the disadvantage as I should put it—of building in bulk at the present moment when everything is so uncertain as to style, form and equipment. I doubt if there is more in this Vote than an indication that civil control is being abandoned once again for service control. I take it to mean, not only that we are losing opportunities of making peace and making the conditions of peace, but that this Government is actually destroying them by its own policy. No proposition ever put before this Com- 471 mittee, deserves more heartily than this to be referred back because it is bad, it it unjustifiable, it is unknown in its consequences, and it is inadequate for its declared object.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I agree with what was said by my right hon. Friend who has just sat down when he animadverted on the fact that there has been no explanation of this gigantic new Vote from the Treasury Bench. Here we are being invited to commit ourselves to a new programme of £58,000,000, and there has been no explanation of it at all from the Government. It is quite a notorious fact that it has been a subject of prolonged controversy inside the Cabinet—that is not unusual with Navy Estimates by any means—but, at any rate, there were considerable differences of opinion. We heard of Ministerial crises—probably true—but outside, the figure has been received with a considerable amount of alarm by public opinion as a whole, and yet there is no explanation from the Treasury Bench as to why this has been done. I agree with my right hon. Friend, after hearing the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, that never in my whole experience of the House of Commons have I heard so perfunctory and jejune an explanation of such great commitments as those to which the Committee is now invited to subscribe. Here you have the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty—the two heavy cruisers of the Admiralty—
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
On a point of Order. Is it in order for an hon. Member on the Government Front Bench to fall asleep during the Debate?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Neither of these heavy cruisers has been brought into action to defend their policy, and, as far as I can see, they are going to leave it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that fast cruiser which they have captured—and his guns are to be turned against the cause which he himself has defended so gallantly and so tenaciously. [AN HON. MUMBER: "He will manage it all right!"] I have no doubt. He has had a good deal of practice.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have no doubt that was a very useful experience. At all events, here is what undoubtedly alarms the public, namely, an £800,000,000 Budget, at a very bad time, when trade depression is more refractory and more hopeless than it has ever been. Nobody knows what is going to happen. The right hon. Gentleman himself does not know now. We are invited to subscribe to an addition of £58,000,000 to the national expenditure, and up to the present there has been no defence of the proposal of any sort or kind. I think it is an insult to the House of Commons that such a thing should occur. It would have been impossible under any other Administration. It is an assumption that, whatever the Government choose to put down, the thing is settled. But it is the House of Commons which is responsible for the Estimates and the expenditure of the nation, and it ought to have an explanation when a gigantic burden of this kind is to be added to the other burdens already upon the shoulders of the taxpayer. I ask again why is this proposal being made? My right hon. Friend who spoke last has already examined the proposal. Luckily, in spite of the experience already referred to, I am not as embarrassed as the right hon. Gentleman is in regard to this matter. When I come to examine this proposal, fortunately I am quite free.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Whether I am or not, I am going to examine this proposal on its merits, and unless every Member does so, then it is no use our representing our constituents. Let us ask what is the reason for this new expenditure. Although the right hon. Gentleman has already put this question, I am going to repeat it. What is the threat to our security? From where does it come? I think it will be admitted that there is no threat from Europe. There is no fleet in Europe that could menace our shores. As the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, there may be other menaces.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I hope my hon. Friend will allow me to develop an argument with which I am sure he agrees. There is another menace in Europe, but it 473 is not from the sea. It is conceivable that there is a menace from the air. When my right hon. Friend and I were in the same Government we examined this matter and we were undoubtedly alarmed. Nothing has happened since then to diminish the alarm. But that is not a naval menace. From Europe there is no naval menace at all. Before 1914, it was arguable that there was great peril to our shores, that the command of the seas had been lost, that there was an army of three million or four million, the. best the world had ever seen, which might come here and that we had only 200,000 or 300,000 to stand up against them. Now there is no menace of that kind. Is there any menace from any quarter of the globe to the security of our shores? That was the old naval proposition which, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I had to examine before the War. What then is it? I am told it is a menace to our trade routes. That is the only peril they can conjure up.
Let us be quite frank about it. You cannot argue on this matter unless you are frank. We are told it is a menace to our trade routes in the Pacific. That is all. It does not come from America. Nobody here would argue that proposition. Is there any menace even to our trade routes which is conceivable within the next 10 years—and that point is vital? I could understand it being said that when prosperity was restored you could then reconsider the whole position. But you are now in a bad way. Trade is bad, and I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I understand he is going to speak, can he say, on his honour and his conscience, that he thinks there is a menace to our trade routes in the Pacific within the next 10 years which would justify himself and his Government in putting a burden of £58,000,000 on people who do not know where to turn in order to live? I ask him solemnly whether he knows of such a menace. It is not a question of what may arise in 15 years or 20 years. I am not discussing the Yellow Peril which may develop in the future, for Heaven knows what perils there may be in the future! We have to examine what the perils are in the time during which we are being called upon to build these cruisers. Take 10 years. I ask the right hon. Gentleman a second question. Can he conceive of any peril in the Pacific 474 arising in the next 10 years where the United States of America would not be far more involved than we are, on the same side? Why put all this burden at this stage on the poor taxpayers of this country?
If it arose I agree with the—[A laugh.] I do not think this is a matter for laughing. It is quite serious and the House of Commons is not the place to treat it with laughter. I am now asking another question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I gather from the fact that he is taking notes that the right hon. Gentleman is going to answer. If it does arise, it looks to me, from the figures which I have examined, as if our power would be overwhelming. I know perfectly well that if you begin to argue figures with the Admiralty it is a hopeless task. My right hon. Friend and I have done it on the same side and on opposite sides in the same Government. You are entirely at their mercy. They handle ships well, but it is nothing to the way in which they handle figures. By every rational computation of strength it looks to me as if we were overwhelming, judging from the figures given here. Instead of quoting figures and counter-figures which would be endless, I take this fact. Here is a Government—surely not an unpatriotic Government, surely a Government which is fully alive to the perils to our trade and our shores. They have examined this proposition for months. I am not complaining that they have taken that time, because it is a very serious matter in which to commit the country, and if they found it necessary to take months it is not for us to complain if, meanwhile, no money is being spent. They have examined the position. They appointed a Committee. I am taking what has appeared in the Press on the subject, and I think it is very well known. That Committee, I understand, unanimously turned down the demand of the Admiralty, or certainly did not report in favour of this programme. What more appeared in the Press? That the majority of the Cabinet took the same view as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and among them the Prime Minister. There was a considerable majority of the Cabinet who turned down the demands of the Admiralty. What does that mean? It means that when the 475 figures were examined, even the present Government came to the conclusion that there was no case. Why have they changed their minds? They have not changed their minds; they have only changed their attitude. They have just reversed their engines. Their faces are still towards economy, but their movements are always towards extravagance.
I congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on his victory over so formidable an antagonist. That is a great achievement. He has committed the Government, against its will, to £58,000,000. That is a very high valuation to put upon him. He said he would go and the Government could not face the Death Duties that would have to be paid on his severance. The valuation was put, not so much upon his services as upon his intrinsic worth. The right hon. Gentleman is in a position of great triumph. He had better stick to that firm of valuers. He will not get another quite like them. But he has won. There has never been anything quite like it since the hare and the tortoise. The right hon. Gentleman's great position has not been due to quickness. He cannot cover the ground with the rapidity of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he certainly cannot double on his tracks with such celerity. His success as First Lord of the Admiralty depends not so much on quickness as upon impenetrability. He has won a very remarkable victory. He has promised us some crumb of comfort through his Under-Secretary in the way of economy. He has actually agreed to another Committee.
If I may venture to deal with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, his sole consolation appears to be another Geddes Committee. For him that is really rather sad. However, I think he will find it will work quite well. But these economies, if they were there, ought to have been there without reference to this question. You ought not to have large and assured expenditure as a condition of precarious economies. They say, "If you will give us £58,000,000, we will somehow or other save £500,000." What a bargain for the Chancellor of the Exchequer! It is like the inebriate who says that he will reduce the quantity of beer he drinks provided he can double the quantity in whisky. 476 That is the bargain they have got, and it is a very ridiculous one.
But I think, in spite of the gravity of the gigantic commitments, that the constitutional question—and here I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald)—is even more serious; the fact that you have a Department holding up the House of Commons and the Government upon every conceivable occasion. It is a regular threat; it is an annual naval manœuvre, and it is the only successful one. The Board of Admiralty arrogate to themselves the position of a sovereign independent State which can negotiate with the Government at the risk of war. There is no other Department that takes up that attitude.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will deal with my hon. Friend's argument. Is there any other Department that does that? Take the Army Council. The Army Council naturally press for more guns, for more battalions, for more divisions. They have the defence of the whole of the Empire in their charge. Repeatedly have I heard them say: "It is quite impossible for us to cover all this enormous ground with so small an Army." They tender their advice, but if that advice is rejected, they take the only constitutional line of saying: "Very well, the responsibility is that of the Government. The Government are responsible to the House of Commons. The House of Commons is responsible to the nation, and, therefore, when the Government speak to us the nation speaks for the time being to us, and all we can do is to accept the decision and do the best we can with the resources at our disposal."
That is what every Department of State does except the Admiralty. That is what every Department in the State ought to do. Why? Because no Department has the whole of the facts. It is only the Government that can review the whole of the situation. The Department knows its own need, its own case. It knows what it has to deal with, but it-does not know what other difficulties there are. The Government review the whole situation. They take the needs of the land defences into account. They 477 take into account the needs of defence from the air, they take into account the demands of health, the demands of agriculture, the education of the people, the housing of the people. They take into account the resources at their disposal. They take into account the trade position, the financial position. They do more than that. They have facts which the Admiralty have only at second and third hand. That is where the danger is likely to come from. That is a very important element when you come to decide whether you are going to build cruisers or to build something else—airships or aeroplanes—or whether you are going to dismiss your Army. You ought to know, first of all, where is your likely point of jeopardy. The Foreign Office knows it; the Government know it through the Foreign Office. It is a constant source of anxiety to them. They discuss it, but the Admiralty cannot tell, and, therefore, when you have one Department that arrogates to itself the right to pay: "We want so much money and if we do not get it we will resign, we will throw up our commissions," that is an impossible constitutional position, and it is an end to free government. It is a substitution of autocracy for Parliamentary Government. This was an admirable opportunity for putting an end to it.
It was very difficult in the old days when you had the menace across the sea. If the Admiralty said, "If you do not do this, the Germans will be here within 36 hours," naturally people got frightened, and them was an end to any attempt at argument. But that menace has gone, and there was here an admirable opportunity for putting an end to something which is quite a modern innovation. The old admirals never put forward this claim. The great sailors who defended our shores, who founded the Empire by superior seamanship and not by lavish margins, they never put forward this claim. Drake and Hawkins—[laughter]—they are not to be laughed at by the Admiralty of to-day. They—who were dealing with a Sovereign against whom the charge of parsimony was sometimes brought—never put forward claims of this kind. This is an absolutely modern practice. It has arisen within the last generation or two, and it ought to be put an end to in the interests of constitutional 478 government in this country. Whatever the merits, the moment the Board of Admiralty says, "Unless you concede this claim, we will resign," I would let them resign, and I would consider the claim on its merits afterwards. The first condition of security in this country is to teach discipline to admirals. That is a matter of first-rate importance, and it is a very grave misfortune that this opportunity was not taken to put an end to this dictatorship on the part of what, after all, is only one Department of the State dictating to the whole of the Government and to the House of Commons.
After all, the House of Commons is a. great spending Department itself, probably the greatest of all, but, at any rate, when we do it we have the responsibility that we have to go to our constituents and account for It every time. That is our responsibility. Finance is government. That is the whole power of the House of Commons. It is based upon that doctrine—the responsibility of this House, the right of this House, no dictation from anyone outside. We have the supreme responsibility. We have fought that battle and we have established the rights of the Commons of England on that basis. Are we going to hand it over to a Department in Whitehall every time they go and present a gun at the heads of weak Ministers? I know that it may be said, "But all the Admirals said it before." They did not. Even assuming that the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that day was wrong in 1914, there was no case like this. The majority of the Government of that day were in, favour of big expenditure. The Prime Minister of that day was, also. It was purely a protest from the minority. But what have they done now? The Prime Minister of the day was against it, the majority of Ministers were against it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, was bound to fight for cutting down expenditure. But the majority of his colleagues took that view, and so did the Prime Minister. This is the first time that the Board of Admiralty have intimidated the majority of the Cabinet with the Prime Minister at its head by a threat of resignation. When there was an opportunity to put an end to it, they made it worse than it ever was, and that is one of the most serious things that have happened.
479 I would like to say a word about pre-1914. There would have been more efficiency if there had been less lavish expenditure. The whole story has not yet been told about the mines and the torpedoes, and the kind of shells and the construction of ships that were so defective that a shell dropped in and blew up one or two of them. If admirals had had less money to spend they would have had more time to know how to spend it efficiently. Lavish expenditure does not conduce to efficiency in any Department of the State, and that is true, not merely of the Admiralty but of every other Department.
I would just like to say this word in conclusion. This is a Vote to spend £58,000,000 in protection of our trade routes. Our trade routes are in danger, but they are not in danger from navies. No one knows the kind of dangers better than the First Lord of the Admiralty. They are not naval, they are not military, they are not aerial; they are industrial, and the First Lord of the Admiralty has within the last few days been brought face to face with far and away the greatest danger to our trade routes. It is not in the Pacific; it is at home. It is no use sweeping the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean in order to see whether you can somehow or other find dangers to guard against. The danger is yawning in front of us, and the Government are marching into it, scanning the horizon with telescope glued to one eye, and the other closed. If the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty could settle the present industrial dispute—the Secretary to the Admiralty is very amused at all these dangers, but I can assure him that it is not the perfunctory business that he seemed to imagine when he delivered his speech—I say that if the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Prime Minister could settle this dispute, they would do more to protect our trade routes than by constructing 50 new cruisers. If the right hon. Gentleman could set aside the price of one cruiser even to solve the problem of carbonisation successfully, he would do more for our trade than by all this expenditure.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down talked about the effect upon the peace of the world. You can see it 480 already in the comments of the foreign Press. There have been sermons delivered on disarmament by Ministers. What is the answer of the Continent of Europe It is that this is the old British hypocrisy. That is the answer which is already made; £58,000,000 spent, after all these sermons. It is no use preaching disarmament to nations with the Sermon on the Mount in one hand and an order for £58,000,000 worth of battleships in the other. It is ruining the moral prestige of the country. It is putting upon our shoulders, at a time when we cannot bear it, a gigantic burden, and from every point of view it is one of the most deplorable commitments that any Government has invited the House of Commons to undertake.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Churchill)
I think, as my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty is proposing at a later stage in the Debate to make a general reply to the arguments which have been used, it would perhaps be convenient if I said a very few words, which I think it is my duty to say, at this stage in the discussion. I do not intend or desire to be drawn into the ordinary give-and-take of party rejoinders across the Floor of the House, but only to say, very shortly and very simply, how the matter we have now to decide presents itself to my mind. Personally, I do not believe that it is a rational division of human beings to classify them as advocates of the Navy or as advocates of economy. I believe that every rational British subject is in favour of the Navy and is in favour of economy. The only question which has to be decided, and which has to be decided every year, in every Parliament, in every Government, is a question of degree, how the balance should be struck between these contending and conflicting aspects, the truth and wisdom of the policy resulting from a harmonious striking of the balance between these opposite considerations.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I have heard the hon. Gentleman do much better than that. Of course, it is the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a task which my right hon. Friend has discharged in former years with great tenacity, to scrutinise, to canvass, to 481 criticise in every manner that is possible, and with the fullest knowledge available, proposals for expenditure which are made by the Admiralty, and it is the business of the Admiralty steadily and steadfastly to unfold and to deploy before the Cabinet which they serve the view which they hold as to what will enable them to discharge their task of naval defence. There is nothing new in this. It is no hideous secret of differences existing in the bosoms of a Government. This is what happens, and what ought to happen, and what has always happened, as far as I remember, year after year, any time in the last 20 years when I have followed these matters with close attention. It would be intolerable if the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord of the Admiralty should be in agreement at the beginning of such a discussion. Neither would be doing what he is expected to do; both would be lamentably failing in their duty to the public; but if they arrive at agreement in the end, then it is for the Government as a whole to point out to the House of Commons, and to prove to the House of Commons, that what they are asking is no more than what the defence of the country requires, and that it is being achieved at a minimum of expense to the taxpayer.
When, in the early days of December last, I first apprehended what was the general policy which the Admiralty were pursuing, in conjunction with the Estimates presented for that year, I became greatly disturbed, because the policy which the new Government found when they came into office was the policy which had been formulated more than two years ago, which had neither been accepted nor rejected by the Administration of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but which, as it were, lay on the table, on the secret tables of Whitehall, and that policy confronted me, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the certain prospect of expenditure on a scale which would unquestionably have compromised the entire finance of this Parliament and, I think, entirely have deflected the position of naval affairs in relation to general policy. I think that that expenditure, in that form and to that extent, arising as it did out of considerations and decisions taken two years ago, would have plunged us in very grave controversies in this country, and I am sure that it would utterly have 482 paralysed, stultified, and prevented any attempt at securing a diminution of the burden on the taxpayers during the lifetime of the present Parliament.
Therefore, having a very long experience of these matters, I immediately proceeded to ask from my right hon. Friend, not only the expenditure of the year in question, but the expenditure of the years which were to follow, and the consequences of the policy and programme which a previous Government, which you might say two previous Governments, had left lying on the Admiralty table. It was impossible to reach any conclusion, upon the extremely complicated issues involved in the time available before the Estimates were presented to the House, and the Cabinet, therefore, decided that the Estimates were to be presented without a new programme, and that the question of the new construction programme was to be held over until Vote 8 was taken, as it is now being taken, some time in July. In the meanwhile a Committee—it is easy to sneer at Committees, but how you are to get through modern business without continuous work by Committees, I do not know, and I should think my right hon. Friend opposite is the father of more Committees, and in some cases more fruitful Committees, than any other Member here present—was appointed to examine the whole question of naval expenditure, to examine into all the details of the programme year by year, and to examine into the possibilities of contingent economies on the general upkeep of the Fleet to balance any necessary augmentation of the programme.
This Committee sat. We sat—I have not the exact score in my mind, but I think certainly we held between five-and-twenty and thirty meetings, long meetings, with all the work that goes on in between, with all the printing of documents, and interchange of documents. The Admiralty were present: not only their political chief, but all the experts were there, and they gave us the fullest information. Nothing could exceed the frankness and fullness with which the whole position was deployed before us. It fell to me to state the obvious counter-case which can be deployed in these matters, and nothing could have exceeded the freedom with which that discussion was con- 483 ducted during all those long months. It was our duty to do so. Are you to throw public money away because you are afraid of putting your case forcibly, sharply, it may be? Certainly not: I started on the basis in my mind that it would be much easier and much better to settle the naval policy of this Parliament—because that is what we are settling—not of the year, but of this Parliament, by a series of programmes regulating the building, than by a series of wrangles and squabbles and struggles between the Admiralty and the Treasury, year after year, with no plan, no policy, no consistent or coherent scheme of naval construction or of naval policy. or of financial policy arising therefrom. Therefore, we immediately addressed ourselves, not to the programme of a single year, but to the programme which we imagined to be indispensable during the period for which we may reasonably. or hopefully, expect to be responsible. I think there is great advantage in having a programme for a period of years as compared with annual building.
I was responsible, before the War, for proposing that, with the full agreement of my right hon. Friend, and I am sure that it had an advantageous effect, both on the economy of the Navy and upon our relations with Germany at that time. In fact, when the Great War came, the naval question had almost ceased to be a violent controversial issue. The quotas which were to be built on either side were well-known and recognised, no increase had been made by Germany in consequence of our declarations, matters were proceeding entirely on an agreed plan, and at any moment we might, but for the catastrophe of the War, have advanced to the position of saying to the Germans: "Let us renew our proposals for a naval holiday. If you will omit the building of certain vessels, we, on our side, will equally take a blank year and not build our quota." From that point of view, all my experience has led me to believe that it is a far sounder naval policy to have a plan for two, three, or four years than to build hugger-mugger, according to the accidents of the fight between the economists and the navalists, or the chances of politics, and of newspaper discussion in the country.
There is another point. If you have a programme of ships that you know you are going to build, you can make contracts on 484 better terms, for the building firms know the limits within which they are likely to receive orders. They know that one ship may replace another in the same berth; consequently an enormous waste can be avoided. They know, too, the nucleus staff of skilled men they may be called upon to maintain. The matter is systematised naval defence as against chaotic, sporadic, and spasmodic naval defence. I started with a very strong prepossession in favour of that policy. Discussions, as I have said, went on for three or four months, without any headway being made, or any agreement between those whose duty it was to present the case for the taxpayer, and those whose duty it was to submit the case for the Admiralty. As I knew perfectly well, the Admiralty at the time were making the most extreme effort to find ways of reducing their charge upon the Exchequer. At length the programme which was proposed by the Admiralty, by the First Lord and the First Sea Lord together—with their full authority—that programme constituted an immense diminution upon what this Government had inherited from the Governments which preceded it—an immense diminution! I am not going into how great that diminution was, but it was a programme which, the moment I saw it presented, I felt was no more than any reasonable man would regard as necessary for a sober yet solid defence of our permanent naval position. That is the programme. That programme is the programme—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Is it likely that I should have led up the argument thus far to avoid answering that question? That programme is the programme which is printed in the White Paper in every unit and without one addition or one subtraction. But I am going to be candid and frank with the Committee. Looking at it from the point of view of the finance of the programme, I said, "I support this programme, but I ask that it should be begun next year instead of this year. If the first instalment begins next year instead of this year, it will be an easement to the finance of the country. Otherwise, 485 I am not only in agreement with the Admiralty but a strong supporter of the Admiralty upon this replacement programme."
That was the issue submitted to the Cabinet. That is the issue, and like every other issue it has been reduced to a very small point. I have seen three great naval fights on these matters and always the issues when they were finally presented to the Cabinet were issues which in no way affected decisively either the economy or the expenditure. There was the issue reduced to a very small limit. But the issue was still more refined than that, because on behalf of the Treasury I proposed that the programme should be delayed for one year, but that if the Admiralty could economise in other directions they should be free to accelerate in this direction. The ultimate decision of the Cabinet was that the programme ought not to be delayed, but begun at once, and the Admiralty should make economies to countervail the cost of the acceleration. There is the difference. I consider that the whole of that process has been thoroughly healthy, and that we have arrived at an absolutely sound conclusion so far as the programme is concerned.
After all, we have got to talk about the facts in this matter. What is the basis of this programme? It is no good our taking up an attitude without knowing exactly what is the position. Let us see what is the basis of this programme. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) asked: "What is the menace against which you are building?" Of course, the programme seems very large when you are looking at five years' building. You say it is £58,000,000. You are living in a fool's paradise if you go merely by the annual estimates of shipbuilding, and do not take the trouble to add up what they come to over a period. The right hon. Gentleman asks what is the menace against which you are building. The menace is a very simple one. It is not a very blood-curdling one. No foreign nation is menacing our safety. The German fleet is at the bottom of Scapa Flow. The outlook of the world amongst the great Powers is peaceful enough. The chances of quarrel are more remote than we have known them. It is almost inconceivable that any of the three great naval Powers should 486 be drawn into conflict with one another within a period that we can foresee. That is the view of the Government. What, then, is the menace which we are building against? The menace is that the Fleet is wearing out. That is the menace. That is the only menace! I stand here a strong supporter of the One-Power Standard. I have always adopted it and always accepted it since the War. That in itself implies an immense modification in the whole historical position of this island Empire, which depends not merely for its unity but for the life of its people on uninterrupted sea communication. We have adopted the one-power standard. We have to maintain a Navy which is not inferior to any other navy in the world. There are other qualifications as well; but this is essential to our position. We have, at this moment, a great number of ships, very good and powerful ships of all kinds, other than battleships which are regulated by the Washington Conference, and which were built during and before the War. There are a few cruisers which are being launched now, and which were planned during the War. They are being built by slow construction, which is a wasteful process; but the great bulk of these ships which are being built together will be launched together, and will also wear out together. They must be replaced. I heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) a little while ago say, "Oh, but you are replacing Ford cars with Rolls-Royce cars." Well, if the contemporary replacement vessels of other nations are of a wholly different pattern and of a superior strength, it is necessary that our contemporary replacements should be of a similar character. But no one has ever doubted that the British Navy will always have at every period in its existence, unless superseded by aerial or pacific arrangements—of which at present there is no sufficient guarantee—to include in its strength a certain number of vessels which in quality are equal to what are being produced in any part of the world. That is absolutely essential. It is essential to the idea that we are not inferior qualitatively or quantitatively to any other naval Power. I firmly believe that this programme which is put forward is, as I said, a solid but sober one, the main- 487 tenance and replacement of the British Navy, and not more than that. I recognise at once the manner in which the Admiralty, in view of the declaration which the Foreign Office and the Cabinet were able to make of the peaceful outlook of the world, have so shaped this programme of replacement as not to exceed the minimum requirements of the fleet.
In order to reach this point of view, which contrasts so greatly with what lay on the table of our predecessors, and was proposed two years ago, it was necessary to review, in the light of the outlook of the world, the test that should be applied to the longevity of cruisers and destroyers, and modify, in that relationship, all the standards of replacement. As a result, we have a programme the cost of which only is to be estimated by the broad forecast included in the White Paper, which has been circulated. It does not, however, follow at all that that extra charge will constitute a net addition to the Estimates of the Admiralty during the present Parliament. On the contrary, we have taken, the Government has taken, and the House of Commons will take, the view that it is our duty at this period in naval affairs to rebuild the Fleet with a minimum expense, which is not in any way excessive, but which is adequate for its purpose. In building the Fleet some expense is thrown upon the Exchequer, but there ought to be, and there will be—the Admiralty are determined that there shall be—a large and substantial contribution to that additional cost by the interior economy practised throughout the maintenance and upkeep of the services of the Navy.
It is for that purpose that this Committee of Inquiry has been called into being. The Committee of Inquiry has a perfectly specific role. It is to ascertain and propose to the Cabinet such reductions as, in their opinion, are possible, and will meet the cost of beginning the programme this year and of continuing it next year. Besides all that, the Committee has naturally and necessarily to examine into the whole field and problem of naval expenditure, and of the Army and Air Force expenditure—on the administrative side. That will in no way supersede the activities which it is the duty of the Treasury to bestow upon 488 expenditure, nor, of course, will it supersede the task of the Cabinet in dealing with matters of large policy. It has a perfectly definite role, and a role of great importance.
This Committee is related to the Cabinet Committee on economy in that it serves under it and will report to it. It has been asked, What is to happen to Civil expenditure? I should not be in order in going into that, except in a sentence to say that the first task of this Committee will be to deal with Admiralty expenditure, and then with the Army and the Air Force, and that it does not follow at all that afterwards it may not be applied to certain administrative aspects of the Civil Departments; but there is no question of delaying the examination of the Civil Departments until this Committee has discharged its work on the three fighting Services. That work is to go forward continuously and at once, and it is in the light of the working of all this machinery that the Estimates for next year will be framed. I think I have explained to the House frankly and distinctly how the situation lies.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Invitations are still being extended, and all the replies are not yet to hand. I believe that in executing this programme we shall be doing no more than is necessary to maintain the British Fleet at the one-Power standard which it is the declared aim of all parties to pursue. I think, in the second place, that with the aid of the Admiralty, freely forthcoming, and with the processes of economical inquiry which I have described, we shall secure very considerable diminutions over the whole scope and area of Navy Votes, and that in the result no burden will be placed upon our finances which will complicate in any way the task which in the next few years will fall upon whoever is responsible for them. I cannot hold out the hope of large net savings on the amount of Naval Estimates. I hope that that may be possible, but I am not going to deceive the House. I hope, and I confidently expect, that the diminutions which will be effected by interior economies in the Navy may enable the Estimates to remain at the present actual 489 figures; but having regard to the fact that since the War we have had hardly any New Construction Vote at all, and that the rebuilding of the Fleet is a charge which would fall upon any Government, and any Board of Admiralty, in one form or another, I am satisfied that the present solution, though not perhaps the solution which, had the Chancellor of the Exchequer been invested with dictatorial powers, he would have adopted, is nevertheless one which can confidently be commended to the House and to the country as being a sincere and earnest discharge of the dual functions of national economy and naval defence.
§ Mr. AMMON
The House has always admired the versatility and genius of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I doubt whether he has ever displayed them better than in the speech which we have just heard. His apologia, with the reasons he has now given for coming to his point of view, is about one of the thinnest defences ever put up, even by the right hon. Gentleman himself. One can imagine the great trial he was put to when he had to confess that he was not prepared to go in for the usual give-and-take of Debate on this occasion. He proceeded to tell us what, he said, was in his mind. What has emerged from it is that the the Chancellor of the Exchequer has once more been forced to eat humble-pie in order to hold his office on the Treasury Bench. He told us, in the first place, there had been no time available to consider the programme which has been put before the House. If that be true, what was the position of the last Government who, within a week or two of taking office, had to consider the proposals left by their predecessors But I venture to say it is not the case. As the right hon. Gentleman has stated, this programme has been before them two years. This Government, when last in office, tabled this programme, and it was still there when they went back to take it up on this occasion. Therefore, they have had ample time to consider it, and there is no reason why it should not have been brought forward with the Estimates when they were first introduced into this House. One can imagine the freedom of discussion in the Cabinet. We have been intrigued by reports in the Press as to what was happening. We have seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer going about with his 490 beet Napoleonic air, and we have judged by it that, after all, he has suffered a defeat, that the swashbuckler turned peace advocate, the spendthrift turned economiser, has not been quite successful in this particular instance.
What is the programme and the plan to which he has continually referred? That is what the House and the country are repeatedly demanding. So far as we can gather from the only statements that have been put forward, it is a mere haphazard building, just a case of building against other Powers, without any intelligent plan behind it as to what the design and operation are to be. Are the Government building with a view to securing the minimum to protect the vital communications of the Empire? Are we not to be informed as to what impression the four-Power Pact is to have on the protection of Pacific interests and our Navy there? Can it be wholly divorced from Singapore? These things must be linked up. Looking at things in that way one sees that we are again entering into another naval race, with the Pacific as the base for future operations. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that they had had disputes in the Cabinet, but that they had decided to go on, having regard to economies in other directions. But he gave the whole case away in his very last sentence, when he said that this programme was not what would have gone forward had the Chancellor of the Exchequer had plenary powers in the matter. What does that indicate? It indicates that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had to give way because he was not in a position like the First Lord of the Admiralty to threaten to resign, for there was no one who would take him. The house from which he has just come has fallen down; therefore if he left that house he would be without shelter. [Interruption.] No, not the Labour party. He tells us that this is the price he has had to pay, that he has not been able to impress his will and his considered judgment as Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Cabinet, and so they go forward with this reduced programme. Does he mean the House to believe that the programme now brought before us, with the statement that economies are to be made in certain directions, are the things that drew forth threats of resignation from the admirals and others? The whole thing is utterly 491 preposterous. One can see right away that the threats of resignation have had their weight, and we are faced with this extraordinary position, that the numerically-strongest Government of modern times has abrogated its power of government, and has submitted to intimidation from the Board of Admiralty. That is the plain position, and, whatever party is concerned, it is a very serious proposition if they let that go unchallenged, particularly at a time when we have a margin of peace of quietude and could settle once and for all the relationship between Government Departments and the Government themselves.
It has been again and again repeated—it was said last Thursday, and repeated again to-day by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that we are going to maintain the one-Power standard. What is the one-Power standard? We are more than up to that at the present time—or any other two Powers. Is it to be that we are to set up a one-Power standard that is going to set the standard of armament races for all future generations, plunging us back into old difficulties, and with the certainty of war in the days to come? The foolishness of it all—asking the House to accept the position that they have urged the Navy Departments to save in one direction in order that we may spend it in a more wasteful and provocative direction, doing more harm, probably, than the original expenditure would have done. What does that confess? It simply indicates what I endeavoured to point out last time the Estimates were before this House, that the Admiralty have gone on as they have done ever since the War, continually overestimating, and placing an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers of this country, and out of that some credit, forsooth, is going to be taken by the Government for making savings.
We have a right to ask whether the standard which the Navy proposes to build up is going to be based on remote and preventible contingencies, or whether there is any intelligent conception at all behind it. The only possible countries we can be building against are, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has already pointed out, the United States of America and Japan. Surely in the one case that is unthinkable, even as 492 it is in the other case; but, from the strategic point of view the whole thing is utterly absurd, for any navy sailing from Yokohama, or wherever it is, against any of our positions, would not be in any fit condition to proceed to war after it had reached that distant base. We have an opportunity now to go slow, to consider calmly and quietly with other nations whether it is not possible to call a halt, at least to reconsider our position as to reducing expenditure. It is not the least bit of good for the Prime Minister to give us speeches about the will to peace if behind those flowery sentiments and ideals there is no mind and no purpose to pursue them to the end. This will only give other nations the opportunity to gibe again, as they have done in the past, about the hypocricies of England. While we are making professions on the one hand, we are creating suspicions in other directions which can only indicate that the same war mentality that was here before 1914 is still with us so far as the present Government are concerned. The proposals submitted to us are proposals to spend £58,000,000 on armaments. That is £58,000,000 at a time when we are being pressed and harried to find ways and means to pay our way and meet our national expenditure. We never had a greater opportunity when we could afford to economise and expend our money along lines which would have done more for national defence than any large army. If this £58,000,000 had been spent upon industrial development and scientific research in connection with our coalfields and elsewhere, it would have done more to secure our frontier and place us in a. better position to meet any possible attack that might come from outside. The Opposition will oppose these proposals to spend money at a time when it is absolutely unnecessary and when we are entirely in the dark, because no considered plan has been laid before the House as t why we should go on with this naval development.
We do not know whether it is intended that we are building for a Pacific Fleet, thus setting up another naval race. What is the meaning of all this expenditure at Singapore? What effect is the Pact with the Powers going to have? These proposals are being rushed through at the end of a Session, and there is not ample 493 time to give them full consideration. Almost as they are now they were prepared by the Government which preceded the last Government, and they were held over by the Labour Government in part because we desired to consider deliberately and calmly with the idea in mind of the Disarmament Conference that would have met this year, and would have had a great influence on their deliberations. The Government have now succumbed to the intimidation of the Admiralty, and this Government Department has once again arrogated to itself the power of government. You might as well expect to have a deputation of shoemakers protesting against the wearing of boots and shoes as to expect the Admiralty to protest against the building of ships. It is the duty of the Government to check this expenditure, and not allow themselves to be intimidated in this way. This is a confession of failure on the part of the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry out their own duties. It is also a failure of the Committee of Imperial Defence to discharge its duty. Having regard to the urgent need of the country to spend money along lines of true economy, and having regard to the fact that many hon. Members on both sides are against this expenditure, I hope they will take their courage into their hands and register their votes against these proposals.
§ Rear-Admiral SUETER
I regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has left the House because he has said a lot about Admirals, but evidently he does not care to listen to what an Admiral has to say about the problem before us. I want to approach this subject from a different angle from that adopted by most hon. Members, and I wish to approach it from the air and the submarine angle. There is an opinion getting about in the country that the Air Service can replace the Navy. I think all airmen ought to combat that opinion, because in its present state of development the Air Service cannot replace the Navy, but it can indicate in which way you can make great economies in naval administration. I was very much struck with the figures given by the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Galloway (Sir A 494 Henniker-Hughan) in the last Debate on the Navy. He told us that we only had 57 cruisers, 18 of which were over 10 years old and only two of which could steam 33 knots an hour. Those ships are for the protection of all our great trade routes. We have only 57 cruisers and only two modern ones against nine possessed by the United States and 16 by Japan.
I have looked up the figures of what the Admiralty have had in the Estimates since the Armistice, and I find they have had a tremendous amount of money. In 1919–20 they had £154,000,000: in 1920–21, £92,500,000; 1921–22, £76,000,000; 1922–23, £57,000,000; and in the next year they dropped £3,000,000: for in 1923–24 they had £54,000,000, and in 1924–25, £56,000,000. In 1925–26 the naval expenditure went up £4,500,000, and they had £60,500,000. In other words, since the Armistice the Admiralty have spent £550,000,000, and yet we have only got two cruisers that can steam 33 knots as against the figures I have given for the United States and Japan. Under these circumstances, I would like to ask hon. Members whether they think we have got good value for all that money when we have only two cruisers that can steam 33 knots and when we know that the Admiralty have expended £550,000,000 since the Armistice.
I think the whole administration of the Admiralty requires a thorough overhauling. We want more cruisers badly, and we want to replace a number of our cruisers. I would like to point out to the Leader of the Opposition that you cannot send our seamen to sea in old ships, and we must replace those cruisers exactly as was said during the Debate last year by the Leader of the Opposition in a speech which I admired more than I do the right hon. Gentleman's recent speech on India. I was unfortunate enough some time ago to go to sea in an old cruiser. I took a 16 year old cruiser from Chatham out to the Mediterranean, and, when we were getting into the Bay of Biscay, the old cruiser began to pant from the middle, and it had a most extraordinary oscillation. When we got to Malta I asked Admiral Beresford to have the ship overhauled, and they found, when the teak was stripped off the deck, the steel plates were so corroded that you could put your fist through them in many places, and the corrosion extended from the funnel casing 495 right out to the stringer plates. The cruiser was getting no longitudinal strength from the steel deck, and had we encountered a strong gale of wind in the Bay of Biscay we should have lost that ship. That is why we have to build more cruisers.
We want them to protect our great arteries of trade and to work with the battle Fleet. We have 18 battleships, and we require something like 27 cruisers to work with the battle Fleet, because we want on an average three cruisers to two battleships. That means we should have 27 battleships working with the Fleet, and that would mean that we should have 30 cruisers to protect our great trade routes. We are told that it took 32 of our ships to hunt down the "Emden." Now we have only 30 ships to protect our great arteries of trade. The programme we are considering only allows for a few extra cruisers, but that does not help us much. How are we to find cruisers to protect our trade without spending a lot more money? There is only one way, and that is to consider the whole of the naval problem at the present time. We have 18 battleships, and will any of my hon. Friends here who are Admirals tell me how we are going to use those battleships in the next war, which may necessitate them steaming 3,000 miles from their base?
At one time our battleships had the freedom of the seas, but now, if a battleship approaches an enemy's coast, she is at once attacked by submarines, destroyers, minelayers and torpedo-carrying craft and aircraft. We were told in the last Debate on the Navy that no battleship had been sunk in war time by a bomb from the air. That is quite true, but the United States Naval and Air Department carried out not long ago a. series of experiments. They first experimented with a submarine and sunk her. They also sank a destroyer. They then made a target of a battleship on the shore with all the turrets marked. They then sent up their aircraft and bombed it, and in eight minutes the whole of that target had disappeared, and you could not see a single bit of it. Then they started bombing a battleship, and they dropped a 2,000-lb. bomb on the old German battleship "Ostfriesland." The bomb fell just under the bow and she went down.
§ Rear-Admiral SUETER
The target was stationary, but I will deal with that later. This 2,000-lb. bomb was dropped near the bow, and a projectile like that explodes with so much force that it would loosen the rivets in any ship. They dropped this bomb on the "Ostfricsland," and they took portraits every minute. At 12.30 p.m. the bow was up with the stern under water. At 12.37 she was lying on her port side, ready for the final plunge; at 12.30 the bow was in the air at an angle of 35 degrees to the horizontal; at 12.39½ it was nearly vertical, and at 12.39f it had disappeared under the surface. It took only 3¾ minutes to sink that battleship. They then bombed the "Virginia." They dropped a 1,100-lb. bomb on the "Virginia," and in eight seconds she was practically a total wreck. I have been asked by the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Sir J. Nail) whether these targets were moving. They were stationary. My critics may ask, Where were the anti-aircraft guns, and were they firing? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members say "Hear, hear!" but I have in my hand a picture of a phosphorus bomb which was dropped on the "Alabama," and if any of those hon. Members who say "Hear, hear!" will look at the result of these phosphorus bombs and tell me that any anti-aircraft gun can function, I shall be very much surprised. Anti-aircraft guns are perfectly useless against aircraft if the aircraft are handled properly and drop the right sort of bombs.
Our critics may say that there is the counter-attack, that aircraft will go up from the Fleet and will knock out all these other aircraft. But if you are working on an enemy's coast, as you would be, they would put up 1,000 aircraft to your 10, because you can only carry a few in these aircraft carriers. The point I want to make is that battleships operating a long distance from their base are now perfectly out of date. I will not go so far as the late Admiral Sir Percy Scott did when he put up the midshipman to say, in answer to the question, "What is the use of a battleship?" "It is no damned use"; but these battleships only have a slight potential value, and I hope that any Admiral who speaks after me, or any student of naval matters, like my hon. 497 and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), will tell the Committee exactly how a battle fleet is going to be used 3,000 miles from its base.
We have been asked what is the menace. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) said that it was a menace from Mars. The menace, in my opinion, is this: We are very friendly with Japan, and we are very friendly with America, but those two nations do not see eye to eye over everything. Since the United States threw overboard the Gentlemen's Agreement, the Japanese are rather hurt, because they think their nationals ought to be treated in the same way as the nationals of European countries. They do not like, and they are saying so openly in their Press now, the voyage of the American armada from Pearl Harbour to Australia, where it is now. They do not like that, and at any time friction might occur between those two countries, and we might have to hold the balance. We should move our cruisers out to Singapore, and might get dragged into a war in exactly the same way as the Americans were dragged into the late War. That is the menace, as far as I can see it. We should move our cruisers to Singapore, and should have to have our large docks there to dock our aeroplane carriers. How we are going to use the Battle Fleet I cannot understand. I should like someone here to tell the Committee how we are going to use the Battle Fleet in the next war, where we may be 3,000 miles from our base. If we had to operate against Japan, the Japanese Battle Fleet would be safe in the inland seas. The Americans cannot use their Battle Fleet, we cannot use our Battle Fleet, and the Japanese cannot use their Battle Fleet.
I have said that the battleship has a slight potential value, but is it worth while going on, as is shown in this White Paper, pouring out money for the "Nelson" and "Rodney"—£6,000,000 of the taxpayer's money, and £100,000 or £150,000 a year for the upkeep of 18 battleships in this country, when they have only a slight potential value? There are wise men in the House of Commons, there are wise men in America, there are wise men in Japan. Cannot we get these men round a conference table and say to them, "What 498 is the good of spending £6,000,000 of the taxpayer's money and £100,000 or £150,000 a year on the upkeep of these battleships, when they have only a slight potential value?" Surely we can get a conference convened and wipe out the battleship altogether. Then we would say at the round table that we would take the 10,000-ton ship as our largest ship, and have a ratio, exactly in the same way as we had for the battleships—not the same ratio, perhaps, because we should have all our commerce to protect, but we could work out the ratio, and also tell the Powers interested that we would let them build any number they liked of small cruisers under 5,000 tons, simply as peace cruisers. I submit that suggestion, and would ask' the Financial Secretary of the Admiralty to press it upon the Government. The Foreign Secretary said he would be Quite agreeable to this course. I took down what he said the other day. He said:This country will join with any of the great Powers in a conference for the further limitation of naval armaments and for the reduction of land armaments"—I submit that we ought to get the Powers at Washington to convene a conference to reduce this great burden of battleship armaments that we have to face in this country.
I now want to say a word about submarines. The French forced the whole submarine construction on this country. They had such success in 1900 and 1901 with their submarines, the "Goubet," the "Gymnote" and others, that we were forced to build submarines in this country. Now they have a very large number of submarines—they have 105 against our 67. If we go into any Pact with France for the security of our frontier, we ought first to say to France, "Take away that pistol from our heads." A naval officer wrote in the French Press a short time ago that they only wanted 75 efficient submarines in France to bring the whole of this country to its knees. I submit that it is an intolerable position that an Ally, to help whom we have made such great sacrifices, should hold a pistol at our heads in that way, and we ought to get them to reduce their submarines. I am quite certain that it could be done if it were approached properly. That would be one of the matters for the new Washington Conference which I hope to see set up to go into the whole question of submarine tonnage.
499 With regard to dockyards, all our southern dockyards in this country were developed in the course of our wars with France. At the present time, any air unit can fly over those dockyards and knock the whole lot of them out. If hon. Members do not believe that, I would like to show them a picture of a very fine gas curtain over New York, chopped by American bomb-men. It shows what would happen to any of our southern ports in case of hostilities with a European Power. They would wipe out the whole of our southern dockyards, and it could not be prevented. If our Chief of the Air Staff were sent for to come here to-day, he would say that our dockyards could be wiped out in one attack. We could not hear the machines coming, because they would come over the sea, and it would be very difficult to prevent them. I think the Chief of the Air Staff would bear me out in that. He has studied the whole problem, and he would say how difficult it would be to prevent an enemy from wiping out our southern dockyards.
The hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Major Hore-Belisha) made a speech the other day upon which I very much congratulate him. He said quite boldly, Why not use the dockyards for building steel houses? I think that was a very plucky thing for a Member representing a dockyard town to say, but I quite agree with him. Chatham costs £2,000,000 a year, and there are 12,000 men employed there. I would ask the Financial Secretary why it should not be used for building the Lower Thames Tunnel—the road tunnel? There are the iron castings there that would be required, and a lot of electrical apparatus that would be required, together with ventilating apparatus and so on, and it could all be taken on by Chatham Dockyard. When they had built the road tunnel, they could go on and build the rail tunnel. It would keep them going for several years, and the prosperity of Kent would result in the absorption of a lot of these men—perhaps not quite all the skilled people, but a great number would be absorbed if this were worked properly, and it would provide work for many years. I submit that to the Government, and would ask the Financial Secretary to pass it on to his chiefs.
500 I now want to say a word about the Admiralty staff. The Admiralty staff has now grown to enormous figures. In 1914 they had 4,866, and now they have 7,971. The cost in 1914 was £483,000, and now it is £1,246,000. The personnel of the Fleet has been reduced from 151,000 in 1914 to 103,000, and the ships have been reduced from 566 in 1914 to 349 in 1925. The Admiralty staff is out of all proportion to the requirements of the Fleet. You cannot blame the Secretary to the Admiralty, who is one of the finest civil administrators in the Civil Service. He has to meet the requirements of the naval side. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone has always pressed, and pressed rightly, for a big naval staff, and he did great work in getting a- naval staff, but you can overdo it. You have in the Department of the Chief of the Staff the Operations Branch, the Plans Branch and the Naval Intelligence Branch. All of these could now be reduced and put under one heading. You have also the Torpedo Division, and the Gunnery Division. The Torpedo Division could be put under the Director of Mining and Torpedoes, and the Gunnery Division under the Director of Naval Ordnance.
It is possible to make great economies in the staff inside the Admiralty. All that these people do is to make more paper work at the home ports, where they have to have big staffs to deal with it, and more paper work out in foreign ports, where the fleets have to have more people to deal with paper work. The whole Fleet is snowed under with paper work. The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone, the hon. and gallant Member for Clackmannan (Commander Fan-shawe) and the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Lieut. - Commander Burney) will agree with me that we used to have to send out torpedo returns in triplicate, mis-fire returns in triplicate, and all sorts of other returns as to primers, gunnery repairs, torpedo repairs and so on. The naval officer to-day is so snowed under with paper work that he has scarcely any time for studying his proper professional work, and you will find him wirelessing home from Singapore to know whether he is to order fresh beef or cheese. That is the sort of thing that goes on.
With regard to Admiralty administration, during the War we had twice as 501 many ships as the Germans, we had 3,000 fleet auxiliaries, we had the Navies of America, France, Japan and Italy to help us, and yet we could not protect our commerce. At one time we only had 14 days' food in this country. Lord Jellicoe has said that it was the greatest menace that we have had in this country for 200 years. Why was that? It was because the Admiralty would not study the submarine boat. Admiral Bacon did all he could to press upon the Admiralty what the submarine boat could do. The hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury (Sir A. Burgoyne), who is not in the Committee at the moment, and another torpedo officer, wrote a book on submarines. Did the Admiralty study it? Not a bit of it. They never studied it. They were not prepared at the beginning of the War for the submarine menace. Then, again, with regard to the air they were perfectly impossible. The airmen tried everything they could to help the Admiralty, but the Admiralty turned down the Zeppelins we tried to give them. Jutland would have told another tale if they had only had Zeppelins or torpedo-dropping aircraft, such as we wanted to give them, and proper aircraft carriers, but it was all turned down. The Admiralty will not look at new weapons; they live in the past. The Financial Secretary can look at this wonderful return, where it says "two cruisers of 33 knots, against the United States nine at 35 knots, and Japan 16 at 08 knots." That is the greatest condemnation of Admiralty administration there has ever been. They have had £550,000,000 of the hard-earned taxpayers' money.
§ Rear-Admiral SUETER
The hon. and gallant Member for Galloway (Sir A. Henniker-Hughan). He used to be the officer of my watch when I was midshipman, and he sent me to the masthead twice before breakfast every morning to get an appetite for the seamanship lesson. I never knew him wrong in any statement, and I take his figures because I believe they are correct. The Admiralty are past masters of sniping at the Air Department. The airmen can now say to the 502 Admiralty, "Put your house in order before you start attacking us." Our airmen did wonderful work in the War, and they are now working up one of the finest departments and organisations in the State.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must not on this Vote go into the question of the Air Force.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
Surely it is in order to argue that it is better to construct aeroplanes to do certain work which the Admiralty propose should be carried out by cruisers.
§ Rear-Admiral SUETER
On the Second page of this White Paper it says, "Aircraft carriers, 1." If aircraft carriers are down there as one, and we have to make provision for them, I do not think I am very much out of order in asking the Admiralty not to snipe at the Air Service. They have to carry airmen on board those aircraft carriers, and they feel this very much indeed. The country is just as proud of its airmen as of its seamen, and it is high time the Admiralty recognised that. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to ask the First Lord to have a conference with the Secretary of State for Air and the Secretary of State for War, and get them together round a table and say you will not have the sniping of one Department by the other. It is bad for the public service. My party has a great majority. If hon. Members behind me come into office they are not likely to have such a big majority. If the Socialist-Labour party come into office they are not likely to have such a big majority. If you had a Coalition of hon. Members above the Gangway and hon. Members behind me, they are not likely to have such a large majority as we have. I submit that the First Lord and the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer should overhaul the whole of the Admiralty from top to bottom and try to make it an efficient service and an up-to-date service, and get them to think more of the future and not so much of the past. The taxpayers in my constituency urge me to press this on the Government, that they want as much economy as possible to justify the way they voted for the present Government at the last General Election.
§ Sir A. SHIRLEY BENN
I wish to say a few words as an ex-President of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, and as Vice-Chairman of the Imperial Council of Commerce to which Chambers of Commerce all over the Empire belong though I am not authorised to speak for either, and to put before the Committee the views that are held by a good many business men regarding the Navy and the necessity for its being kept strong. First of all, we know that four-fifths of our food has to be imported, and I believe there is no man in England to-day who would be satisfied to see the control of the seas pass into hostile hands. In the second place, we have more merchandise on the water than any other country. We have more ships than any other country. We have a greater coastline within the Empire to defend than any other country. In the third place, we all want to see the Commonwealth of British nations get closer together, rather than the reverse. I cannot see how it is possible for this to continue unless the lines of communication are kept open and safe The Navy is the only insurance we have, and I hope no question as to how the premium is to paid will prevent that insurance from covering our risks. I want to draw attention to the present state of our merchant ships. We have 8,559 ships with a tonnage of 19,500,000. Of these, 420 are laid up. Those ships traverse every ocean, and it is only fair that they should have the protection of our cruisers when they are far away. It is a sad thing to think that of the 2,774 merchant ships destroyed during the War 2,197 were British. We have 80,000 miles of coastline between the Colonies to defend. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) asked, "Whom have we got to fight? Who are the people we are afraid of?" We ought to recollect that any nation or combination of nations which could put afloat 50 ships like the "Emden" could work havoc on. our trade. I hope the day will come when the Imperial defence of our Empire will be- settled by the statesmen, not only of Great Britain, but of our self-governing Dominions, and that they will settle how it is to be done on the advice of our experts. The policies of politicians may produce war or may keep peace, but it is only by getting experts to say 504 how the Empire is to be defended that we can have confidence.
I am very glad indeed that a policy has been adopted and a programme laid down, for several reasons. The first is that when we have a programme, not only do we know what is going to be done, but the world knows, and it knows that no laying down of vessels arranged over a period of years can be intended for anything but purposes of defence. That is a very important thing. The second reason is that unless our dockyards are up to date and have skilled men they would be useless in time of war. I was told by some of the biggest shipbuilders in America that some of the best men they had were men who had been discharged from our dockyards and could not get work here and had gone out there. I think we are very apt to forget that 80 per cent. of the cost of these vessels goes in wages, which enable the men to get work and keep up their skill. If that work was not going on, the 80 per cent. that is given to-day in wages would go in doles, and the skill of these men, which is a great national asset, would be lost. Dockyards are needed in peace time for refitting the ships, but they are more needed in war time, and when the history is written of what our dockyards did in the last War it will bring no end of credit to this country and to our naval Service. Very few people know how the battle cruisers came into the dockyards and within a day or two had been through dry dock and been cleaned and sent out to sea again. I knew about it during the War and I could not help saying. "Thank God we have a Navy and a lot of naval officers who know how to do their duty!"
I want to urge the Committee to realise that, although we are passing through dangerous and distressful times, we have a great Empire which, if we will only hang together, will help us through, and in order to keep our Empire, the Empire as a whole must have a strong Navy, and I hope the Dominions will join with us in the near future.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am sure the whole Committee will share my regret that the hon. Member has brought his very interesting speech to a close so soon. I was hoping he would have gone on to explain, while speaking on behalf of the Associated Chambers of Commerce—
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
But he said he was speaking as an Ex-President, and I was hoping the hon. Gentleman would reconcile that with the resolution that was published on behalf of the Associated Chambers of Commerce some time ago calling for a large reduction of expenditure. Everyone admits the vital necessity of the British Fleet and the paying of the necessary insurance premiums for an adequate Navy to protect our trade routes in time of war, but we are now faced with the prospect of Estimates of £70,000,000 as against £50,000,000 before the War. That is to be the total of the Estimates when the proposed new construction is being carried on. Before the War we had times of prosperity, and taxation was relatively light. Competition was keen, and, of course, there was a demand for putting down expenditure even with such taxation as there was, and the German menace was growing. Within a couple of hundred miles of our shores the German fleet was piling up, and the mind of everyone who took part in the Naval Debates in those days was full of the menace that might come from that fleet. Hon. Members opposite used to speak of war with Germany being inevitable. [Interruption.] The party to which I belong spent more on the Navy than was ever spent on the Navy before, and we brought the Navy to the highest state of efficiency. But then expenditure was £50,000,000.
What is the situation to-day? Unemployment, industries staggering under a load of taxation, and demanding through all its authorised spokesmen a reduction of this taxation, scoffing at the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a reduction of £10,000,000, and demanding through its organisation and through the mouths of its spokesmen that there should be a reduction of 10 or 15 per cent. in national expenditure. The European menace from any maritime power no longer exists. Then there was what bon. Members called an inevitable war. Now there is not even a threat of war. Everywhere you look, whether at home, in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean or out in the Pacific, nowhere is there any great conflict of interest, nowhere can you say that there is 506 a menace of war in the next 10 years. Indeed, in the Pacific, we are united in close relations with the U.S.A., Japan and France under the Four-Power Treaty of Washington, and do not the Government see in that a real protection for British interests in that area? At this time, in these circumstances, with no war inevitable, with no threat to the safety of the Empire, the expenditure is to be £70,000,000. Therefore, I say that whereas Germany constituted, obviously, before the War a menace to the safety, honour and welfare of the King's Dominions, to-day the perils which we have to face are financial and economic, and to propose new construction aggregating £58,000,000 for five years is not merely to squander the taxpayers' money and pile up unnecessary burdens on industry—
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon—£58,000,000 for seven years. I do not think it really affects my argument, but I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to correct me.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The first five years the ships are being laid down. Those laid down in the last year and last year but one, of course, will not be finished till subsequent years. The new programme extends over seven years.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I understand. But even if it be £58,000,000 for seven years, it is not only squandering money and adding to the burdens upon industry, but it is calculated to induce misconceptions abroad as to the strictly pacific policy and intentions of this country, and thereby provoke a naval race in armaments, stimulate activity in naval armaments, until, in a few years, we shall be told the situation is altered, and, on account of increasing armaments in foreign countries, we ourselves must go in for a larger programme. What is the real argument for this programme? It is no good dealing with the arguments one reads in newspapers, or necessarily with those one hears in Debates. One wants to get at the real justification for this programme. Two are put forward Apparently, the one to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer attaches most im- 507 portance, as does, apparently, the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter), is the question of replacement—what I call the deficiency or replacement theory. It is quite true the Fleet is wearing out, and the Leader of the Opposition last year justified his policy, quite rightly—I voted and spoke in support of it—on the ground that you must not allow the Navy to wear out and to rust. But replacement, I submit, should not necessarily mean—and this is where I differ from the policy, as I conceive it—replacement unit for unit. It should be replacement having regard to the strategical circumstances, relative strength and the foreign policy of the country. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford, in a speech with 90 per cent. of which I warmly agree, defended the construction of these cruisers on the ground that they were needed for the protection of our trade routes, and he said, when you subtract the cruisers necessary for the work of the Fleet, you have only 30 left, and it required 32 to deal with the "Emden" during the War. I submit to the Committee that if that be so, then 30 ships seem to be rather an inadequate protection for the trade routes of this country in a war. If one ship required 32 cruisers to hunt it in the War, how can we suppose that even with 30 ships we shall be able to give adequate protection to our far-flung trade routes; The "Times" naval correspondent—and I think the Committee generally will agree-that very great authority attaches to the "Times" naval correspondent, whose articles appear in a most timely manner before a Debate, and instructed public opinion always attaches the greatest importance to them—also puts forward this deficiency theory. Ho says:This prospective deficiency is not so much in respect of relative strength to other nations, but is the natural and inevitable outcome of the stagnation in shipbuilding since the War on the one hand, and of the condition of existing ships on the other.It is manifest, he says, that with the gradual obsolescence of the older ships a deficiency must result. Therefore, I take it that the policy is replacement of these old cruisers unit by unit, and it is that to which I particularly take exception, and I hope whoever answers for the Admiralty will give the Committee some further in- 508 formation. My submission is, that in re-placement we should take into account the relative strengths and the relative risks we have to meet. What are the relative strengths? What are the risks we have to run? In the first place, the German fleet, of which we were afraid 11 years ago, is at the bottom of the sea. As regards European Powers, no conceivable menace exists. Not only that, but they are not building fast and are not in any way accelerating their building programmes. The "Times" correspondent who attended the French naval manœuvres said:Some misapprehension has been caused at times in England over French naval armaments, owing to the repeated discussion in Parliament of the naval programme It should be made clear that it is always the same programme which is discu66ed. This programme has remained unchanged ever since the Washington Conference, and with the exception of the submarines and the destroyers, none of it has yet been completed. Three light cruisers of about 8,000 tons were launched in 1923 and 1924, but none of them has yet been commissioned for sea.Therefore, there is no conceivable menace on the Continent. Take the Pacific. There, battleship strength is governed by the Washington Conference, and if you take other types of vessels, here, again, you find that none of the maritime Powers interested in the Pacific are increasing their armaments at a rapid pace at the present time. Take what the "Times" Tokio correspondent reports:Japan is not building any submarines exceeding 2,000 tons, or any destroyers approaching 3,000 tons. The submarines that she is building are much inferior to those of our own new XI type.Therefore, the ships Japan is building are unsuited to offensive operations, and can offer no threat to us in the Pacific.The first two ships of the new 10,000 class will be completed in 192S, but the other two ships of this class are not yet laid down, and it is not quite certain that they will not be a little delayed …. The report that the Japanese 10,000 tons ships would carry twelve 8-inch guns is, almost on the face of it, an exaggeration.7.0 P.M.
Yet that is the Report which the Admiralty put into the Fleet Return this year, in order, no doubt, to stimulate us to vote the necessary credits for the additional cruisers. Then the correspondent goes on to make some other remarks, which all tend to show that in the Japanese Navy the sea-sense, gunnery 509 control and various other factors are such that that Navy constitutes no threat whatever to our interests in the Pacific. Take the comparison of cruisers. We have 52 to 20 of the next strongest Power, and 52 to 47 of the four next strongest naval Powers. I know a great many of these 52 are obsolescent, but let us take the most modern type. Let us take the 10,000-ton cruisers with 8-inch guns. Including the two about to be built for the Australian Government, we shall have seven of these cruisers building to two building for Japan and two building for the United States. Therefore, while I think the right hon. Gentleman was right last year in the naval programme which he proposed, and for which I spoke and voted—and I thought it was a plucky thing for him to come down and incur the suspicion and dislike which he knew he must cause among his supporters in the country; I think that the action he took then had the effect of bringing us at least level, or rather more than level—it had the effect of bringing us to rather more than the combined strengths of the two next strongest Powers in the most modern cruisers, and that advantage has been still further increased by the two additional cruisers ordered by Australia. If this programme is approved we shall have 13 plus the five which the right hon. Gentleman's Government built, and the two Australian cruisers, bringing the number to 20, compared with eight building and authorised in the United States, four in Japan, two Italian, and two French. That is 16 for the four next strongest naval Powers. Further, I say that the effect of going forward with this programme will inevitably stimulate naval competition in the other countries, because it makes us so infinitely stronger in this particular class of the most powerful class of weapon which is not governed by the Washington Agreement, and this impression of our own forward move, of our determination to increase our naval armament irrespective of those of other countries, would be strengthened by looking at the expenditure, at the rate and the tendency of naval expenditure, in the three principal naval Powers—ourselves, Japan, and the United States of America. You find in the years 1923–24, 1924–25, and 1925–26 510 that the United States expenditure, starting at 330,000 dollars went down to 322,000 dollars, and then in 1925 still further down to 307,000. Japan's expenditure goes slightly up, from 238,000,000 yen to 240,000,000 yen, and down again in 1925–26 to 225,000,000 yen. British expenditure during that time is going steadily up, from £54,000,000 in 1923–24 to £60,500,000 this year, and, if this programme is carried out, it must inevitably come, approximately, to £70,000,000 in future years. Another point I want to make is this, that we can afford to be a little less than level in laying down ships, because we are able to construct quicker than any of these other foreign countries. We cannot afford to be behind in ships actually commissioned, I agree, but we are very far from that. But we can certainly afford to be behind in laying down these ships, and the effect of the mere announcement of this programme is already reported1 by an Exchange Telegraph message from Washington, which says:The British decision regarding cruisers again concentrates attention on the weakness of the Arms Conference, and it is predicted that it will stir up those in high naval circles who are constantly clamouring for a programme to match that of Great Britain. It is expected that a renewal of the cruiser-building race will be followed by an agitation at the next Session of Congress for an accelerated naval programme. It is pointed out that the United States is behind Britain and Japan in regard to cruisers.Therefore, I say that the effect of this programme will be to stimulate this naval race, to encourage navalists and imperialists in other countries to demand additional naval expenditure, and to rally public opinion against what they will regard as the aggressive designs of this country.
Then I come to what I think is the most important consideration from the point of view of the House of Commons, and that is the cost of this programme. The cost of the old programme was £16,000,000 for the next five years. The cost of the new programme is to be £58,000,000 for the next seven years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the course of his speech, said that £58,000,000 spread over seven years is not such a very large sum. It is more than £8,000,000 a year, and more than the yield expected from his boasted Silk Duties. In addition to that, you must add what the First Lord 511 described in his speech introducing the Navy Estimates this year, as the automatic and inevitable increase in expenditure which will follow upon the actual payment for the ships that are being constructed. The most obvious of these is the expenditure on upkeep and personnel. I understand, and I should like to be corrected if I am wrong, that the personnel of these new cruisers will amount to 800 officers and men; and, if you allow for the cruisers which are being scrapped, and deduct them, you will be left with an increase of about 6,000 to 8,000 men in personnel by the time these ships are constructed.
Think for a moment of the financial situation of the country. This is a lesson which I know comes better from the lips of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise), whom I see opposite. He is constantly drawing attention to this aspect of the argument—the expenditure of this country, national and local. Expenditure, through the national and local authorities, approximates to £1,000,000,000 a year. It is about one-fourth of the whole national income, against one-ninth, which was the expenditure before the War, and the expenditure has increased under this Government and is still being increased at the present time. The hon. Member for Ilford drew attention in a valuable speech on the Finance Bill to the important conversion which will have to take place within the next three years, £1,000,000,000: and he pointed out another £2,000,000,000, which we, ought to redeem of the War Loan. I admire the courage of the hon. Member in attending this Debate to-day. He is in an embarrassing position. He will either have to vote against his party, which, to anyone acquainted with his unsullied record of party submissiveness, would hardly be expected, or he will have to vote against the convictions which he so impressively expounded on the Third Reading of the Finance Bill.
This seems to me to be the situation with which we in the House of Commons are concerned, and we ought to see that this great expenditure, unnecessary expenditure, on armaments, is not put through at a time of such great financial stringency. Not only do they propose this new expenditure on construction, but the Admiralty would not even effect the 512 economies which are necessary and which everybody knows can be effected in their own Department, until it was forced to as part of the bargain over new construction. When the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord introduced the Estimates this year, he said:It may appear at first sight that an increase in the Vote of £4,700,000 is rather alarming, but I hope to be able to convince the House that in arriving at this figure we have had regard, and very careful regard, to economy, so far as it is compatible with efficiency."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 19th March, 1925; col. 2511, Vol. 181.]And yet we learn now with all this naval construction going through, that £500,000 can be taken off the Estimates within four months of their being introduced. The right hon. Gentleman complained, in the course of his speech on that occasion, that if he should economise other Departments should economise, too. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is quite right. I can imagine the right hon. Member sitting at the Cabinet table with the heads of other Departments and paraphrasing the words of the song "I want to save money, but I won't save money unless you save money too." He must come before the court of public opinion with clean hands, if he is demanding economy in other departments. I think he will agree that it is our duty in this Committee to remind him that it is the Admiralty for which he is responsible. And, having effected the economies which are necessary in the Admiralty, we would welcome the prospect of his authority being added to the demand of the public for economies in other departments. It is therefore the evidence of extravagance, inefficiency, and feeble civilian control in the Government which terrifies us, and I submit that the construction of these cruisers is not merely an extravagance, but a dangerous financial and political risk which we cannot afford. The hon. Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), when he last addressed the House on this question, twitted hon. Members on this side of the House with never offering any constructive suggestions for the reduction of expenditure. I do not think he was quite fair. I have made myself and I have heard my leader make several constructive suggestions on this point.
513 At the risk of repeating myself, I am going to make six suggestions, some of which I have mentioned before, and which I think are perfectly feasible constructive proposals for the reduction of expenditure. My first suggestion is the reduction of staff and minor administrative economies in the Admiralty itself. I welcome the appointment of the new Committee to go into this question. I have mentioned this before, but the only reason I mention it now is in reply to the hon. Member opposite. I agree with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford in regard to the economies which will now be effected under the instigation of the new Committee, economies which I think the First Lord of the Admiralty himself should have effected before he came and told us that he had worked out the Estimates with due regard, careful regard, to economy. The second point is in regard to the absolute necessity for the reduction of dockyards, which I certainly referred to in the speech which I made in the consideration of the Estimates. T am not going to repeat all the arguments which I used on that occasion. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] The hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Commander Burney) I see remembers the occasion. The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone twitted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) about his weak spot with regard to Pembroke. But, as a matter of fact, I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of the retention of Pembroke on the strictest naval grounds. It is Chatham. Sheerness, and Portsmouth which are the most exposed at the present time to air attack. It is Rosyth and Pémbroke which are now the safest dockyards that we possess. But still that is a matter entirely for the Admiralty to decide in consultation with the Air Ministry, and, if they decide in favour of the scrapping of Pembroke, I shall certainly support the decision.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
If we are always going to run away from the dangers of air attack we are going to increase the expenditure, for you will probably have to provide for a substitute dockyard at a safe distance, and then find air attacks reach even Pembroke. In other words, you will be increasing expenditure.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
There are dockyards on the Clyde, and on the Tyne also. At any rate, these dockyards to which I refer are recognised as being comparatively out of date, and quite unnecessary for the diminished fleet, very little of which is based on home ports at the present time. These dockyards were necessary when we had the whole fleet-concentrated in the North Sea, but now the principal station of the fleet is in the Mediterranean, and certainly a large amount of money could be saved by scrapping these. The next point is in regard to closer co-operation and consultation on level terms between the three fighting services, and particularly between the Admiralty and the Royal Air Force. Thus will come great adminstrative economies. I will not go into these, because they will no doubt be studied by the Committee which has been appointed. It will also give economies in wider fields. In that speech another suggestion I made was that there should be consultation with the Royal Air Force over Singapore. No report had been called for from the Air Force in regard to the strategic situation there. I should like to know if it has been consulted this year. The hon. Member for Hertford (Admiral Sueter) has touched upon some of the economies which I say could be effected by consultation between the Admiralty and the Air Force. But the hon. Member for Galloway (Sir A. Henniker-Hughan), in his speech to which we all listened, and I listened, with the greatest respect the other day, said that the Royal Air Force could never hope to protect commerce. That was one thing it could not do. As a matter of fact—
§ Vice - Admiral Sir A. HENNIKER-HUGHAN
I did not say "never"; I said "for many generations to come."
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am extremely obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for the correction, but war experience is against his view. I see that he is going to speak later on in the Debate, and he will have an opportunity of replying to these remarks. Aeroplanes, I suggest, do give most valuable protection to commerce. I would not put my view against that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman if I had not very high authority, the Chief of the Air Staff, 515 whose views are entitled to the fullest possible consideration, and as between him and the hon. and gallant Gentleman I would say that the Chief of the Air Staff at any rate has time on his side. Speaking at Cambridge University on 11th May he said:If there were aerodromes suitably arranged and built, even though, they cost a few millions, it would save in expenditure. You need not tie air squadrons in every Spot of the British Empire to defend it, and so long as you have these facilities and arrangements the actual port itself becomes very mobile and will be a thousand times still more mobile when the great aircraft carriers of the future—the airships—come into being.Therefore I say that it is plain that the Air Force, even now, is capable, as the war experience shows, of being a valuable supplement to the activities of the nation in protecting commerce, and I think that it should be encouraged to take ever-increasing responsibilities in that regard. This brings me to my fourth proposal, which is that we should go slow in construction while we are undertaking research. First, into ship construction. What sort of ships are these for which we are invited to vote £58,000,000? Here I would quote the authority of the very eminent naval architect whose authority will be recognised by every Member of this Committee, Sir George Thurston, the eminent designer. He says that the interior of such a cruiser is so fully occupied by boilers, machinery and magazines, that it is not humanly possible to provide immunity from torpedo or mine attack.
These are the ships on which we are asked to spend £2,000,000 each—more than the Dreadnought. The hon. and gallant Gentleman no doubt will reply that they have one great protection—their speed. There is one enemy against which even that will be no protection and that is the aeroplane. The faster the target moves, the more closely the speed of the target approximates to that of the aeroplane, the easier it will be for the aeroplane to destroy that target. Then again these ships like the "Effingham" and the "Hawkins" will be obsolete before they are put into commission. The next point into which there should be inquiry is the potentialities of the Air Force at sea. We reduced the expenditure of holding Iraq from 516 £20,000,000 to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, and are doing it now with greater efficiency and with great saving of life, through the use of the aeroplane. The Air Force can evolve into a mobile Empire Defence Force at present on sound economic lines, and you could substitute for your fixed defences a far more effective defence of aeroplanes.
The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) pointed out that aeroplanes can destroy ships at the present time The accuracy of then bombing is improving every day, and in Iraq I am told that last year, when they made some experiments in dropping bombs from a height of 8,000 feet they got 80 per cent. of hits in a 50-feet zone. No cruiser can attack a battleship—that is the one excuse which is now made for battleships—but an aeroplane can always attack it with bombs or torpedos and therefore, it is an infinitely valuable weapon at sea. A few cheap little aeroplanes can attack a ship and sink it or render it incapable of carrying out a bombardment of a city or a fortified place. The hon. and gallant Member pointed out that in the course of experiments on an American battleship in the United States one bomb sank a battleship. One hit from a bomb or even a bomb dropped in the vicinity of a cruiser would suffice to sink it.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Has the hon. and gallant Member read the report in which it is stated that it took eight hours to sink the battleship?
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The actual sinking of the ships took a mere matter of seconds. It is not necessary even to hit these vessels. From experiments which have been made we know that a 50-lb. amatol bomb dropped within 50 feet of a German submarine would have so damaged it that nothing would have saved it from sinking, and, as one hon. and gallant Member has pointed out, you may have 2,000-lb. bomb6 at the present time, and, dropped at the side of these 10,000-ton armoured cruisers, they would do far more damage than the 50-lb. bomb dropped at the side of the German submarine. Then what conceivable chance could our £2,000,000 cruisers have against a quarter of a million pounds worth of aeroplanes and bombs? What folly to 517 vote £58,000,000 on these cruisers, plus £12,000,000 on the others under construction, when experience proves that a small fraction of that sum spent on aeroplanes would give you so much more war power.
Finally, what is the policy of the Government with regard to the Washington Conference? We are entitled to demand that the Washington Conference shall be reconvened, to try to obtain limitations in the lighter types of naval armaments, particularly of cruisers and submarines. One of the. things which we have to criticise most severely is that the Government bring this costly programme before us in the existing state of trade and finance, and make no simultaneous proposal for a reduction of armaments. My final suggestion is that the Departments should be rationed, and a Committee representing the three fighting services should be told that they have so much money at their disposal and that they will have to spend it in the most efficient way. Therefore I say in conclusion that I voted last year for the policy of the Government presided over by the present Leader of the Opposition. I spoke and voted for the construction of those cruisers. I would willingly do it to-night if I thought that these new proposals were essential to the maintenance of the British Empire, and to the safety of the trade routes. Still more, if by this means we could reach the absolute standard of naval security which is always held out by all the Members opposite as being the effect of meeting the demands of the Admiralty. But I believe that armaments, however strong, can never give absolute security, and I believe that the lessons of history in every country in the world would prove that. The proposals made to-night will not even enable hon. and gallant Members opposite to sleep quietly in their beds. We shall not even have met the demands of the Admiralty, but we shall have added greatly to the anxiety of all thoughtful and patriotic men, who are appalled at this addition to the already heavy burden under which industry is staggering at the present time, by which our finances are embarrassed and on account of which our people are suffering and because I share to the full this disquiet and perplexity, and because we believe that the 518 interests of national defence no less than of national economy would be better served by the policy which I have indicated that I shall vote against these Estimates..
§ Sir HARRY FOSTER
I suppose, after the remarks of the hon. and gallant baronet about Portsmouth, that I must apologise for speaking in the name of that great port, but of all the strange things which I remember having heard in this House, the strangest is the remark of the hon. and gallant baronet that Portsmouth has survived its purpose and is now out of date. I venture to think that when the memory of himself and myself has long since passed away from this House and this land, Portsmouth will still continue to be recognised as a great essential naval centre of this country.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I would not venture to take that view on my own responsibility. The authority which I have is a recognised work of reference on naval questions, "Brassey's Annual," in which it is said that the march of events points to Chatham in particular, and to a less extent to Portsmouth, as being geographically obsolete.
§ Sir H. FOSTER
I am obliged for the quotation, but I do not think it need modify what I have previously said. My own conviction, for what it is worth, is that long after the memory of the hon. Baronet and myself has passed away Portsmouth will continue to be recognised as a great naval centre and dockyard. I am speaking, not only the opinion of the overwhelming majority of those whom I have the honour to represent in this House, but I believe also of the vast majority of fair-minded and moderate people when I say that the programme which has been announced, and which by this Token Vote we are asked to sanction, is modest and unprovocative in a high degree. In the face of what other nations have done since 1919 and are still doing, this programme can be described truly as defence and not defiance. It recognises to the full the need for economy in every spending Department of the Government, but it also recognises plainly the duty of this Government, and indeed of any Government—a duty which was recognised very fully by the late Socialist Government 519 with regard to the sanctioning of the five cruisers—namely, the duty of maintaining at least the narrow margin of safety with regard to the maintenance of our Fleet. It is, in the words of the Prime Minister on last Thursday, entirely a replacement programme, and I think that that statement was thoroughly justified by the remarkably moderate and able speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
You have only to compare the proposals of to-day with the proposals of January of last year, when my right hon. Friend, the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, was the First Lord of the Admiralty, to see how even to-day—to pursue the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Baronet—that policy of adaptation, of modifying and remodifying in accordance with the changing needs of the time has been carried out in the present programme. Only as recently as January of last year the then First Lord of the Admiralty said that the programme urgently needed, merely for replacement, was to lay down immediately eight light cruisers of 10,000 tons, together with destroyers, a destroyer depot ship, gunboats, a special ship for the Persian Gulf, and an aircraft carrier. The difference between that programme and the programme of to-day is great. We have abandoned the time-honoured two-Power standard, and to-day we are recognising the one-Power standard. I was glad to hear the very emphatic statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that at least the Government are determined to maintain that standard.
The needs of our wide-flung Empire, notably the guarding of the highway of the seas for the ships which bring to our people necessary foodstuffs and raw material for industry, put us in a totally different position from that of any of the other great Powers. Our needs are far above those of any other great Power in that respect. Our expenditure is a low insurance premium to cover the huge risk which we have to take. No need of economy, however urgent, would justify the neglect of proper provision for the defence of our people. What is necessary, as was said by the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral 520 Sueter) is that we shall be satisfied that we get full value for our expenditure. Indeed, just as in the cause of education any extravagant and needless expenditure has the effect of endangering the cause of education and antagonising the taxpayer and making him feel that his money is being wasted, so, with regard to our defences, our greatest foes are those who associate needless expenditure and extravagant administration with the cause of the defence of the Empire. That the views of those who urge the paramount needs of replacement, and of those who, on the other hand, equally urge the paramount need of economy, have found accommodation, and that an agreement has been reached, should satisfy every reasonable person and is a matter for congratulation. There is one matter which still causes grave dissatisfaction and which is at present a grave injustice, and that is the continued silence regarding that which Parliament has already sanctioned. I refer to the marriage allowance for officers. I hope that before the Debate closes the First Lord will give us some satisfactory assurances on that point.
§ Sir H. FOSTER
With great respect I would remind you that as recently as last Thursday my Noble Friend the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) and the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Major Hore-Belisha) both addressed the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister's reply was that, while that had nothing to do with this question, it could be answered in this Debate. That was something in the nature of a pledge. I hope that, in view of that very clear statement, it may be possible within the Rules of Order to give us some kind of assurance. I appreciate that the particular subject to-day is the cruiser programme. I was cruising about on another subject. In spending this money for a necessary purpose it is some satisfaction to feel that the money of the taxpayer is very much better expended in this way than if expended on the demoralising dole. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, I am quoting an hon. Member of the Labour party when I say that. I agree with him that the dole is very demoralising
§ Sir H. FOSTER
In that connection, I agree with the sympathetic words of the Leader of the Opposition to-day, that while it should not be the governing factor in connection with naval expenditure, the amount of labour that was being employed was not an immaterial consideration. Everybody will agree that, so long as we get anything like a return for expenditure such as this, it is not the time to dislocate labour and to add to the number of unemployed. Nor do I believe that our people will ever grudge what is needful for the maintenance of an adequate Navy. The question has been asked, where is the menace? I think the answer is, "The strong man armed keepeth his house." I know of no surer means of inviting encroachment and attack than for other people in the world to see that we are weakening in the maintenance of our defences. There is no truer means of bringing on the danger of war than to conduct yourself in such a way that you are unprepared for it. That we should not waste money, of course we all agree, but to maintain our fighting forces in full efficiency is one of the first duties of any Government. For these reasons, speaking with confidence as to the full approval of my constituents, I heartily support the Government, and I thank the Committee for having listened so patiently to me.
§ Mr. J. HUDSON
The last speaker evidently visualises this country going on into an infinite future, constantly shackled with the impedimenta of war, Portsmouth to be there as a naval station, and the memory of himself and the rest of us quite forgotten. The hon. Gentleman concluded his speech with what I regard as the reason why that must be so. "The strong man armed keepeth his house," the hon. Member reminded us. It did not work in the case of Germany, and it has not worked many times in the past, when empires have strongly armed themselves, and, indeed, by strongly arming themselves have made themselves at the same time a cause of suspicion in the world, and have created for themselves enemies who finally destroyed them. The hon. Gentleman reminded us of that well-worn doctrine that we heard frequently before the War, of being prepared for war as the real safeguard for peace. Again, I 522 submit to him that it has not worked. The last War proved that to mankind in general.
§ Mr. HUDSON
But you did not win the peace. You had war, and as a result of war you have poverty and degradation and misery scattered throughout the world. It is that of which I am reminding the hon. Gentleman when I draw attention to the failure of this theory, at any rate with the higher purposes that I hope all of us have in view. I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Drake Division of Plymouth (Sir A. Shirley Benn). He took a very different attitude as a business man, as one who is very closely connected with the business circles of the country, when he said that the only insurance we have is the Navy. I do not know how you can look on the Navy as an effective insurance for the next war, when your great urban centres are likely to be assailed from the air by the most terrible agents of destruction that the world has ever seen.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
Against what country is the hon. Gentleman visualising this war? There are many countries which could not send aircraft here at all except by sea.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman should not ask me that question. It should be addressed to the Government. What is the enemy that the Government is aiming at in putting forward this programme? I shall deal with the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question before I finish, I hope, and I will suggest what ultimately will be the enemy and the source from which ultimately will come the destruction that at present we fear. The Navy cannot be regarded, in the face of modern warfare, as any longer the absolute insurance that the hon. Member for the Drake Division asserted. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answering the question of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) as to what was the menace, said that the present strengthening of the Navy is proposed in order to keep the Navy at what he called the one-Power standard. That is not a stable standard. The more we arm, the more the strongest nation against whom we are arming is likely to respond in the 523 building of further armaments. A one-Power standard will, in the long run, take you to exactly the same position as that to which the two-Power standard took you before 1914. Surely the position to-day is, as Louis XIV said, that the nation which has the last round is the nation that, is going to win in this race of armaments.
At the present moment we are heavily burdened and our exports are falling, while the exports of America are increasing, and the exports of France, in spite of all its difficulties, are increasing. In the years to come the capacity to provide armaments on the one-Power standard basis is going to be greater—at any rate, judging from present trade conditions—in many foreign countries than it is here at home. If this policy is pursued, of placing on the shoulders of the people an extra burden of £58,000,000 which shackles the trade of the country—and remember it was presupposed that 6d. on the Income Tax would shackle the trade of the country—it is quite likely that there will be a great difference between the capacity of foreign nations to finance their navies, and our capacity to finance our Navy, and that difference will become still greater. Therefore, what we seem to be embarking upon is a hopeless race in armaments which must lead ultimately either to our being beaten in the race or, as proved to be the case in 1914, to another great war in which no one in the long run will prove to be the victors.
I notice that the First Lord of the Admiralty has tried to make this expenditure look as small as possible by suggesting that it should be spread over a period of seven years. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman does not know whether in 1929 he will not be confronted with new proposals for the further strengthening of the Navy, particularly if the present proposals lead to other countries strengthening their navies. I suggest that the First Lord should stick to his own White Paper which visualises five years as the period with regard to which this total expenditure is being considered. It may be it will take seven years before the final cruiser of this programme is completed. I prefer to consider the position from this point of view, that whether it be five or seven years during which this expenditure is to be carried out, what 524 we are confronted with is a proposal from the Treasury Bench that we should spend out of the public funds a sum equivalent to more than is in the £ Income Tax. Let us remember all the talk there has been about the serious burden involved in 6d. in the £ on the Income Tax, and all the praise given to the Chancellor's reduction of 6d. That seems unimportant beside a proposal like that which we are discussing. What we are doing now is making it more difficult for trade to revive. Even from the point of view of armaments, we are making it more difficult to catch up with those competitors who will be inspired to greater efforts as a result of our efforts and in the long run disaster awaits us.
I desire to examine the question, not merely as regards the effectiveness of the Navy or the effectiveness of these particular proposals for the purpose which is suggested, but I ask the First Lord whether his Department has fully worked out the relationship which in future the Admiralty must bear to the other fighting Services if defence, which is supposed to be the final justification of these proposals, is to be the test. The question was asked just now: Who is the enemy? Against whom are we preparing? I frankly reply that on the information given from the Treasury Bench I do not know. I am left to guess or to judge from the general situation in the same way as the hon. and gallant Member opposite who interrupted is left to judge. The conclusions to which I come are these. At the present moment we seem, through our foreign policy, to be trying to cement an agreement with France, so that at least France is not regarded as likely to be the enemy in the next war. If the Pact means anything we seem to be trying to remove Germany from that possibility also.
Who is left? An hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal benches referred to the possibility of America, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, by a gesture, indicated that he, at any rate, had no idea that America was to be considered as the enemy. The name of Japan falls loosely from the lips of hon. Members in discussions on naval matters, but is that the final word? I suggest the Government are making it perfectly plain by the policy which they are pursuing to-day that whatever group of enemies we may have in the next war, in that 525 group they intend to place Russia, and we are preparing to meet a group of enemies in which Russia is included. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said that?"] Nobody says anything. That is the trouble. One cannot get to know what we are dealing with. I am only taking the facts as other hon. Members can take them, and trying to arrive at a judgment on the basis of those facts. I suggest that, taking the declared policy of the Government, taking the answers to questions which fall from the Foreign Secretary in this House, Russia is the suspect nation, and it is more likely than not that Russia in the future is to be regarded as one of the group of enemy nations.
§ Mr. HUDSON
If all the other fellows would behave themselves we would keep out of war, but, unfortunately, the other fellows have judgments of their own as to our behaviour, and there are disagreements and you have war. That interruption carries us nowhere. I am trying to face the actual conditions, and I suggest that in the next war we are going to be involved in a struggle in which, apparently, at least one European nation will be involved against us—probably more if the diplomacy of that foreign nation is successful, and I do not expect they will sit down and do nothing while we are carrying out our policy of alliances in other directions. It is quite likely in the next war that the air arm of the enemy can be used effectively against these shores, and that it will be possible to destroy centres of population in this country by means of aerial attack. Everybody would admit that this would be so if France were going to be the enemy. Therefore, I say in this matter you are not visualising a situation in which your enemy is to be far removed in the Pacific. You are likely to be confronted with the possibility of great aerial attacks on centres of population very soon after war is declared.
Why then speak of the insurance afforded by the Navy? Why build new cruisers? When your centres of population have been destroyed, what satisfaction will you get by being able to patrol the Pacific with half a dozen cruisers, whether they are 10,000 tons or 8,000 tons? 526 It may seem that I am arguing in favour of an aerial policy. For the present I am only submitting this, that if you are considering defence you would be better engaged in spending money upon aeroplanes or aerial defence than upon the Navy. Of course I have my own point of view on the matter. I had an opportunity of discussing that issue when the Air Estimates were before us. I do not believe, having regard to the development of modern methods of warfare, that you will ever again secure the defence of these shores and of the people who live within them by lethal weapons of any kind, whether naval, aerial or military. We had better frankly face the issue. If the world is to be saved from the catastrophe which threatens we should bend all our resources—as hon. Members on the Conservative side have pointed out—to carrying out plans for the limitation, the reduction and ultimately the abolition of armaments. If I thought the Government were working for that end I should not feel so alarmed about the proposal now before us, but the Government, if they are working for that end, are not succeeding in securing any sort of effective disarmament conference. When this question was discussed a little time ago President Coolidge in a message to Congress said:I have expressed my desire to see the work of the Washington Conference on the limitation of armaments properly supplemented by further agreements for further reductions. It has been, and is, my expectation that we might hopefully approach other great Powers for a further conference on this subject as soon as the established and settled policy of Europe has created a favourable opportunity.There is in other lands a clear willingness to come to conference with us upon this important matter, but how can we expect to win or retain the confidence of other lands in our bona fides regarding disarmament if we put forward proposals of this kind? Our own Prime Minister recently sent a message to the League of Nations Union, in which he said:We may gradually succeed in creating conditions in which disarmament may become a practical proposal, but such an achievement will lose value if the nations of Europe have not meanwhile acquired the will to disarm.8.0 P.M
The nations of Europe to-day do not believe that we are acquiring the will to disarm. They see in these proposals 527 a reason why they should follow in our tracks and build cruisers and other weapons, and the more the Government persist in this wasteful type of expenditure—which, as I have tried to prove cannot secure us defence in the long run—the more are they holding us off from likely success in the disarmament conference on behalf of which I am pleading. The other difficulty we are confronted with is that not only do we need disarmament if we are to obtain. security, we need to see the development of a process of arbitration. That theory we stand by, but where do we stand in practice? Our Government have refused to accept even such a super-proposal as the Optional Clause. They are prepared to go into a pact with Germany and France in which they would guarantee arbitration in so far as it operates between other countries, but they have entirely failed to indicate the practical policy by which we can avoid this great expenditure. I object to the proposal in toto. I object to it because I feel that as long as it persists, as long as the increase of armaments takes place in this country, so long will other countries be stirred against us, and we shall come to the catastrophe of a new war, one which will make the last war pale into insignificance. Hon. Members know all that science has accomplished since the last war. You can call your weapons, weapons of attack or of defence, aeroplanes or what you like, but it is poison and putrefaction that humanity has been able to visualise that waits for us when the next war comes, and it is because I believe that the Government's propoal will help to bring that war that I oppoe them.
§ Major Sir BERTRAM FALLE
I have listened with great care to all the speeches to-day, to the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. Hudson) and to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he told us what he considered was the only menace. It was a very reasonable speech, a statesmanlike speech, and he said that the only menace is the fact that the Fleet is wearing out. That fact the hon. Member for Huddersfield does not seem to realise, for our safety is based upon the Fleet. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was clarity itself. He explained where we 528 stand. The ex-Prime Minister made a contribution to the Debate, but he places his faith in the air. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) also places his faith in the air. He mentioned a case in America, where a ship was anchored, or was run ashore, and the aeroplanes were able to sink her in a very few minutes, or seconds. Now the "Goeben" was run ashore in the Dardanelles. We tried to bomb her three times. We failed in bombing her. They got her off after the third attack on the third night and she is still in being. Some people are frightened of the idea of France, but of all the nations of the world I think we have less to fear from France than from any other. She could not beat us when she had double our population, and, even if she were our enemy—but she is now our friend—it would be lunacy on her part to be unfriendly with us. But take it that she were hostile and that her Air Fleet was finer and better and stronger than ours. What was she able to do in Morocco, within a few miles of her frontier, with her Air Fleet? You do not hear that she is bombing the Riffis. On the contrary, you hear that the Riffis are turning France out of their towns. If the aeroplanes are as strong as we are given to believe, would they submit to be thrown out of what they regard as their own territory? France would bomb the Riffis.
The right hon. Gentleman the ex-Prime Minister pins some of his faith to disarmament. Personally, I do not believe in disarmament. I believe that disarmament has never prevented war in the history of the world, while armament has prevented it. It has kept us a sea peace since 1812—a hundred years. [An HON. MEMBER: "What of 1914?"] For 100 years we have had no enemy attempting to land on these shores. I do not believe that disarmament has ever prevented war, but I think it has made bloodshed certain. It has been the nurse of misery and slavery to the nations who practised it. Look at China, where it is derogatory for any man to practise arms. Arms and armies are looked down upon. You know how the nations of Europe and how Japan is treating China. If China were only armed—and she has some of the finest fighters in the world—if she had a population of 400,000,000 529 saturated with the idea of defending their own country, do you think anybody would touch China? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) mentioned the other day:—The fast spender, the fast cruiser, and the slow spender.I have done it myself. I know that any fool can spend money, but a wise and intelligent spending for our own safety, for our own needs, for our own progress, for our own prestige by which we rule, and for our own credit by which we live, that is most valuable. We have heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair). I think he stumbled rather in his figures. Figures are curious things. You can make figures, perhaps, prove anything, but I will say this of figures, it is more difficult to make them appear to prove the fact than it is to make them prove an assumption. If you doubt that, try to prove to your neighbour accurately that two and two make four, and you will find yourself, however clever you may be, that it is not at all an easy matter. Let me take an instance of fast and intelligent spending. That was the first "Dreadnought," and it was built in one year. That made a record for any dockyard. She was full of new ideas—revolutionary ideas—and in one year she was built at Portsmouth Dockyard. I think that was a record for any dockyard or any private firm. That was money well spent, intelligently spent and wisely spent, and it was far-seeing expenditure. Now let us take slow spending. I will take the case of the "Effingham." The "Effingham" took eight years to build, from 1917 on. She is now going to be commissioned in the middle of next month. Eight long years, and she cost half a million of money more than she need have done in consequence. The plans were changed, the ideas were changed, she was not built under one man but under several. I do not know if any hon. Member has over tried to build a house. If he is not an expert, he will find the whole plans changed long before the house is built—and the outside of the house will be exceedingly ugly. It was the opposite with the "Effingham." The outside is beautiful, but the inside is absolutely putrid.
§ Sir B. FALLE
It is not a matter to joke about, for this reason. She was undoubtedly built for the North Sea. In 1917 there was no other thought but the North Sea. She was built for the North Sea. She is a hot ship, an uncomfortable ship, her torpedo tubes do not work, her messes are small and very hot, and her sleeping accommodation is the same. She has confined spaces. There are, I believe, on the ship, 750 men, and 400 men have 15 basins and two tin baths to wash in. [Interruption.]
§ Sir B. FALLE
This may seem a laughing matter, Sir, but it is not. You will recognise my point in a moment. This ship was built for the North Sea, and next month she is going to be sent to the hottest station the Navy goes to, and if she is hot in this climate you can imagine what she is going to be when she goes down the Red Sea in August, and when she takes up her station on the East Indies Station in the temperature of the East Indies. Her galley has to be reconstituted, and her fans do not work. She is not a comfortable ship. She cannot be a happy ship and she cannot be a healthy ship, as anyone who knows anything about those ships knows, and the "Effingham" is going to be the counterpart of the "Vindictive," her sister ship. I ask the Admiralty to see to it that at any rate the fans of this ship shall be in working order, and that for the future the men shall be relatively as comfortable as the officers themselves. The officers themselves in the "Effingham" are in no very comfortable quarters, and when they get to a temperature such as you get in the Red Sea and on the East Indies station, it will be a hell upon earth.
§ Sir B. FALLE
When you speak of replacing, I trust that before very long the Admiralty will be able to find some ship to replace the "Effingham." To send a ship like that to the East Indies is a waste of money, a waste of good material, and a waste of men, who cannot be replaced, and it sends a very unpleasant and unhappy feeling right through the service. Instead of building as fast as we built the "Dreadnought" 531 or as slowly as we built the "Effingham," I would very much rather accelerate the building of those ships that are now laid down, and I will tell the Committee the reason why. I would do it to try out their speed, their worth, and their style. I was reading a book in the Library yesterday by a very well-known admiral, and he tells us how he went to sea with a fleet of eight battleships, all of one particular class, and that when they got in a sea-way and in rough water the report to the Admiralty was that they were absolutely unfit to fight except the water was as smooth as a mill pond. Those eight ships were absolutely wasted. Fortunately for us, the War did not come while we were relying on them, and therefore, I say: Let us take those ships that are now building, and let us send them to sea to find out what work they can do, and how they do it, before we build more to take their place, because if they are failures, those we build afterwards like them will also be failures.
That applies also, and very much so, to the "B" cruisers, the 8,000-ton cruisers, instead of the 10,000-ton cruisers. If you build an 8,000-tonner, you may be sure you have to sacrifice something. You must sacrifice speed, or guns, or armour, and probably all three. In 1812, since which, happily, we have not had any trouble with the United States of America, we sent frigates to sea, and so did the United States, but what they called frigates were entirely different from what we called frigates. They were the 10,000-ton frigates against our 8,000-ton frigates, and it astonished the people of this country very much to find that our smaller frigates were being sunk by the American larger frigates, which happened whenever their big frigates attacked our email frigates. When we met on even terms, like the "Shannon" and the "Chesapeake," we kept the balance even. The same thing happened at Zanzibar during the last War, where we had an old ship called the "Pegasus." There she was; she could not run away, and she could not fight, and a German cruiser came, and at long distance killed 25 of her men, and holed her, and she had to be run ashore to prevent herself sinking. It was our own fault, first, because we left an old ship where she ought never to have 532 been left, and, secondly, because we did not try out our ships sufficiently before we built them in numbers. Again, there was a scandal during the late War, when the "Goeben" escaped from Admiral Troubridge. Admiral Troubridge had three cruisers with him. We know now that if he had attacked the "Goeben," he would very likely have had his three cruisers sunk, because the "Goeben" was faster, and she carried 11-inch guns, while he carried nothing but the old 9.2-inch guns.
We have been asked over and over again who is the enemy. I should say this: Do not build against anyone, but build for our security and for our freedom, but if you want enemies, you can have France if you like, you can have China if you like, you can have Japan if you like, and you can have the United States. I said just now we were not likely to quarrel with France, but at present we are the third only in strength in the Pacific, and I see that Hong Kong is asking for another regiment to assist them there. Is it realised that we could not land a single soldier in Hong Kong if Japan said "No"? That is a fact. Japan is our political friend, at the moment at any rate, and the United States is also our political friend, but that is only so long as our interests do not clash. When those clash, political friends very quickly become political enemies. There are many Members in this House who will remember that from 1910 to 1914 we were told that Germany wa6 not possibly visualising England, that she could not bring herself to fight England, and that she was building her fleets, it was said by some, to amuse the Kaiser. We know better know. We know the luck we had in not being caught entirely unprepared. We know now that we were inferior, as has been said again and again in this House, in every single department except that of officers and of men. In these, fortunately for us, we were supreme, or, as I have said, and as my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs did me the honour of saying what I said some time back, that we were supreme, but he thought that if we could have put the English sailors into the German Fleet and the German sailors into the English Fleet, the result might have been very different.
Against whom are we building? Let us take the words of the right hon. Member the ex-Secretary of State for the Colonies. 533 What did he say the other day? He said "I use my common sense when I am talking of building against another country." Let us use our common sense. Have we a single friend in the world? If we have, I say frankly that I do not know him. Have we any land, have we any island, have we any coaling station, that other nations do not covet? Are we sure of the United States friendship? We know that during 1915 Admiral Benson, writing to Admiral Sims of us, said: "Do not let them pull the wool over your eyes," and "I would as lief fight the one as the other." That was the American Admiral Benson's view of the difference between England and Germany. Are we even first in the Atlantic? I doubt it. Have we nothing the great nation on the other side might covet—may covet—from Jamaica to Bermuda, to the Bahamas, to Newfoundland, to Canada herself? Is there nobody coveting even the little Falkland Islands? You know they do. Do you think nobody covets Australia, that great land with less people than there are in this city of ours? Would no nation like to annex New Zealand? Of course they would. What prevents them? What prevents them from sending their overflow population to these countries? The British Fleet, and the British Fleet only!
The time is short, and this is but a breathing space; therefore, let us put our house in order. Let us put our dockyards in order. They need it. Portsmouth is the headquarters of the Fleet. The premier dockyard requires a good deal of money spending upon it. Portsmouth needs making what it ought to be. We ought to provide a slip there oft which we can build a big ship if we want to do so. We have at present only one slip, and it will only take a small ship. There is no dock on the south coast which can take one of our big battleships—not one! Let us make the senior service the great service, the one in which I believe the whole future of this country depends. Let us make it a happy and a contented service. Let us have no more "Effinghams." Let the men be at home in their ships, contented and comfortable—the man as well as the officer. Let us get a return for the money that the nation spends on the Navy. Let us not forget even now—and this is the opinion of almost every man who takes the trouble to visualise the Navy—that the 534 Royal Navy is not merely our sure shield—it is the bed-rock—for the safety, security, and freedom of this country.
Mr. W. M. WATSON
Possibly I shall be the only representative of a dockyard constituency who will go into the Division Lobby against the programme which has been put forward to-day. I want to say quite frankly, so far as I am concerned, that I shall go into the Division Lobby without the slightest hesitation. I know there is always a difficulty before the representative of a dockyard to oppose proposals put forward by the Admiralty; but I feel compelled to take a different line from that which has been advocated by those who represent the Royal Dockyards, and again to register my dissent from the policy advocated here this afternoon.
§ Sir B. FALLE
Will my hon. Friend allow me to say that his dockyard is different from all the other dockyards, inasmuch as it is a new one.
It may be differentiated from the other dockyards, but its experiences are similar. As a matter of fact, it has had a worse experience than have other dockyards during its short history. It has suffered more than other dockyards; despite that, I am prepared to go into the Division Lobby and vote against the present proposals.
Both during this Debate, and the Debate that took place a fortnight ago, I must confess that I have not been impressed by the case put up for the dockyards. I never heard a weaker case for a new programme than that which has been put forward on this occasion. I thought the policy put forward by the Labour Government last year would have been a policy which would have carried the Admiralty over for at least a number of years. Here, however, we find the Board of Admiralty back again demanding a greatly increased programme and one which is going to entail a very considerable amount of expenditure for many years. We have heard about the policy which can carry us up to the year 1930. Then we commence again under the terms of the Washington Conference in 1931 to build battleships up to 35,000 tons. We are entitled to build a couple of battleships in 1931, and in 1932 another two battleships of exactly the same 535 proportions. We have to remember that, when we come to 1930, the policy up till then does not end there, or stop for a number of years. We are going to build bigger battleships than we can do under the Washington Agreement at present, battleships of 35,000 tons as against present-day cruisers of 10,000 or thereabouts. What we require to do is to make up our minds that we have, not reached the end in 1930. We simply start over again. I do not think that the case which has been put up here to-night by the Government spokesmen, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is one which, has convinced those who can take an impartial view of this particular question.
I am not going to traverse the ground which has been already traversed—or much of it. Many speakers have dealt with the many aspects of the question. As a matter of fact, we have reached a point when it is pretty largely a repetition of what has already been said. So far as I am concerned, I want to make it perfectly clear that, although now the representative of a royal dockyard, that my first concern is for a peace policy. I have made it clear during the whole of the time I have represented Rosyth in this House that I stand for peace; first at home, and for everything that can possibly achieve peace, or by which it can be advanced. I must confess that I view with a very great concern the development that has taken place since the present Conservative Government came into power.
During the existence of the Labour Government, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out this afternoon, we saw developed a spirit of harmony and good feeling between the nations, with possibly in the not far distant future a further Washington Conference, and a further elimination of armaments. I support that in every possible way. I must confess that I am disappointed since the Conservative Government came into office, for that good feeling which was engendered by the Labour Government seems to have receded, and the prospects of any further Washington Conference has also receded. We seem, once again, to be entering upon a race in armaments, which will undoubtedly, as did the pre- 536 War armaments, lead to war. After all, our foreign policy ought to dominate our naval policy. Our naval policy ought to rest upon our foreign policy. It ought to be the object of the Government, and the policy of the Foreign Minister to try to get understandings between the nations so that we can do away, to a, very considerable extent, with those armaments, which were piled up in bygone years. I believe that even the dockyard workers were prepared for a big step forward in the direction of peace and disarmament. The first Washington Conference, after which the Admiralty put over 10,000 men out of the dockyards of this country, undoubtedly gave the dockyard workers such a shock as they had never had before, but the trend of feeling amongst the nations since that time, and during the existence of the Labour Government, prepared those who were engaged in naval service, both those engaged in active service on the ships and those in the dockyards, for a further step forward in the direction of peace, and I believe it would have been possible to keep up a progressive policy of disarmament, not only reducing the number of warships but, perhaps, reducing the number of dockyards, and, certainly, the personnel inside the dockyards.
During this Debate and from the newspapers outside we have heard of great things that are going to happen under this policy of economy. There are to be great savings during this year, amounting to something like £500,000. We have had only the vaguest information from the Parliamentary Secretary as to how those savings will be effected, but the newspapers have been telling us that huge reductions are to take place in connection with the dockyards. We have been told that Pembroke Dockyard is to be closed, and Chatham and Sheerness dispensed with, and that there is to be a big reduction at Rosyth. I do not need to say a great deal about Rosyth. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) put the matter very clearly when he showed, what I have also claimed, that Rosyth is not only the newest but the safest dockyard in Great Britain, and, in addition, is the only dockyard in the country that can take the biggest ships we have in the Navy. So I hope we can have an assurance from 537 the Parliamentary Secretary that there are to be no economies so far as Rosyth is concerned, and that Rosyth is going to be kept—[Laughter.] Yes, I think I am justified in putting forward the plea that Rosyth should be kept up to the highest pitch of efficiency. It is the only dockyard we have in Scotland, it is the newest dockyard, it is the most efficient dockyard, and I hope that when this economic axe is being used by this Committee—
I hope they will deal very gently with Rosyth. I hope that at any rate they will bear in mind that when the big reduction of 10,000 men took place in 1922 proportionately the largest number of men were taken out of Rosyth; and I hope the same is not going to be repeated in any economies that may be advocated by this Committee.
Quite a number are still unemployed and are on the registers of the Employment Exchanges. A number were transferred, I know, to the southern dockyards. They came from the southern dockyards to Rosyth and were re-transferred. They were the established men, the men for whom the Admiralty had either to find work or to pension off, but the hired men were thrown on the scrap heap, and I daresay many of them are still on the books of the Employment Exchanges. I express a real hope that so far as Rosyth is concerned the "economy axe" will not fall on that dockyard as it did on the last occasion, and that the Committee will look to other methods of securing economies than the method adopted in 1922. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he might take into consideration the suggestion made to him on his recent visit to Rosyth. He saw things there with his own eyes. He interviewed a number of deputations, one of which made suggestions as to economies. There is one economy in particular that concerns the reconstruction of "Glorious" in that dockyard. I hope that instead of wasting money in doing temporary work in order 538 to make that vessel seaworthy and able to go to a southern dockyard, the work of completing the ship will be undertaken in Rosyth, and that money will not be wasted on "Glorious' as it was wasted in the case of "Furious," which was transferred to a southern dockyard. I have no desire to take up time, but I do not wish to give a silent vote on this matter. I say quite frankly that I am not convinced that it is necessary to go in for a programme of this kind. So far as I can see, we are to be launched into an enormous expenditure in naval armaments for many years to come, at a time when we ought to conserve our resources as much as possible.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I am sure the hon. Member who has just spoken can rely upon all parties in this House being cordially in agreement with him when he states that everything that this country should do should be in the direction of peace and simultaneous disarmament—not disarmament, but simultaneous disarmament. I would like to refer to some of the preceding speeches. First of all, there was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I suggest to him that he might read a book that I was reading a month ago, written by a friend of his, Mr. H. G. Wells. It was a reproduction of various articles in the newspapers. It was entitled, "The Folly of the Five Cruisers." It was made up of articles written by Mr. Wells on the Leader of the Opposition's policy last year. It might have been, word for word, the speech of the Leader of the Opposition to-day, and that, I think, shows the difference between a gentleman in power with responsibility and when he is out of office. The Leader of the Liberal party, when he breathes economy, might recollect that he took such political action as he knew to prevent Pembroke Dockyard being closed, although he knew full well that the Admiralty wished it to be closed. I think the most remarkable speech of this Debate has been delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He also reminded me of a book that he has written dealing with Antwerp, and how we came into Antwerp, and in it he says, "I did this and I did that," In the discussion as to how we manage our affairs to-day it is "I did this" and "I did that," and as soon as I saw the paper 539 giving me the requirements of the Admiralty, I knew at once that that was what was required. That seems to show that the whole management of our affairs is conducted in an extraordinarily slipshod manner, and there is no co-ordinated arrangement as to what are the requirements of one service or what are the requirements of the others, and that our foreign policy is not co-ordinated with our military and naval policy.
I think the speeches of hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate may roughly be divided into three kinds. In the first place, those that deal with the technical position; secondly, the economic position; and, thirdly, the Imperial or foreign position. Dealing with the technical position, I do not think there is any person or any party who does not agree that purely from a technical position the programme put forward by the Admiralty is justified. That is to say, we are only maintaining what is undoubtedly the policy of the country, and that is the one-Power standard. Whether it is right that that policy should be carried out to-day or not, I do not say, but purely from the technical point of view I am sure even the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) would agree that the technical position does exist for the programme which the Government have put forward. Therefore I do not think it would be any use to spend any more time trying to prove the technical position.
I now turn to the economic position, and that is one which should be emphasised even more than it has been. During the short time I have been a Member of this House, which extends over a period of two and a-half years, I have witnessed different parties competing with each other in putting forward schemes to bribe the electors. One party votes 1,000 millions for houses; another party votes nearly 800 millions for pensions; but do we realise, and are we satisfied, that we have the economic resources to shoulder these responsibilities? This year there has been another burden placed upon us, and which so far has not been mentioned in this Debate, although from the economic point of view I think it is more important than any other, and it is the fact that during the last six months the deadweight burden of the National Debt has been increased by £1,000,000,000.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We cannot have a discussion upon the economic position of this country on this Vote. That would be more appropriate to the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, and the hon. and gallant Member must keep more closely to what is contained in this Vote.
§ Captain BENN
As this Debate has wholly taken the form as to whether the financial resources of the country are sufficient to stand this expenditure, I think the economic position of the country is an important consideration which should not be ruled out.
§ The CHAIRMAN
In that case hon. Members would be able to discuss any single item, and if you are at once going to begin to discuss the merits of one item of this kind I do not know where it is going to end. In that case we might discuss the amount of the Education Estimates or any other charge on public funds.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Would it be in order for us to discuss the question whether, instead of spending this money on these foolhardy ships, we ought to be spending it on education?
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I will not spend any more time upon that point. What I wish to observe is that I believe, owing to the changes which have occurred since the introduction of the gold standard, we shall get a large deficit in the Budget this year, and it is because of this extra burden of £1,000,000,000 in connection with the National Debt that I venture to think those questions should be taken into serious consideration, in view of the state of industry, when we are considering devoting a good deal more money for what are, after all, non-productive works. I do not want to go outside your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I think the country should realise that owing to the introduction of the gold standard we are face to face with a temporary burden which may amount this year to £30,000,000 or £40,000,000, because the dead-weight value of the National Debt has increased by £1,000,000,000.
It was suggested that our building programme should be put off for one year because the variation of the price level means a temporary burden, and it 541 may mean that these invisible charges during the alteration of the price level will not be in existence when we obtain stability. I think that rather puts us on the horns of a dilemma, because no economy is so expensive as that which endangers our national safety. The problem is whether it is better to resist expenditure upon armaments for next year or whether it is better to incur that expenditure at the present time. I believe that if the whole of the money required for this new building programme could be obtained by economies in the various Government Departments, the building programme is absolutely justified. Personally, I am not satisfied, from anything I have heard to-day, that the question of economy is being treated upon a proper scale or under a sufficiently comprehensive scheme. We are still dominated by pre-War considerations, whether it is from admirals, generals or politicians. We should consider whether the whole organisation of our fighting forces ought not to be overhauled.
There are two things to which I wish to draw attention. For the first time in our history we have separated the defence of these islands from the defence of the Empire as a whole. I think there is a general measure of agreement that the defence of this country, which is the heart of the Empire, is now entirely aerial, and the defence of the outer Empire is almost entirely naval. Therefore there must be a vast redistribution of the whole of our expenditure. Hon. Members representing dockyard constituencies have been supporting their own dockyards, but in my opinion not more than one dockyard is needed in this country. Of course, we want dockyards more at Singapore and places of that kind. I believe that in a few years time it will be more dangerous to have ships in England than to keep them outside this country. We want a very considerable reorganisation in regard to our whole outlook upon these matters.
I would go a step further. Have we really applied the lessons that we learnt during the War, when not 5 per cent. of the forces actually fighting were professional forces—when, in other words, there was an influx of civilians to fight the War? The War was really fought by civilians. Ninety-five per cent. of the 542 persons fighting were civilians who were trained rapidly, and only 5 per cent. belonged to the professional fighting forces. I do not think those figures are far out. Where does that lead us? It leads us to this conception that, although our professional fighting forces may be of value for police work or for frontier wars, when you come to war upon a grand scale they are practically useless unless they are augmented with 95 per cent. of civilians. If that be so, our professional fighting forces should be police and training forces. That makes it necessary for us to consider what policy we should adopt in regard to the manufacture of armaments and the development of our dockyards.
If we are going to increase our forces by 18 or 19 to one with hastily-trained civilians to augment our professional fighting forces, they will all have to be provided with arms and munitions and all the paraphernalia of war upon a large scale and rapidly. Therefore, it seems to me that what we want to do is to make arrangements with commercial firms so that they will have such plant as may be necessary for the production of these various weapons, ships, aircraft and the like, and that during peace time those plants may be supported and kept in order by a small subsidy for overhead charges. The upkeep and organisation of the plant and so on would be supported by the profit-earning capacity of these private firms. Then, if war broke out, or if there were a question of having to obtain munitions, we should only have to pay for the actual munitions, and not for the overhead charges which would amount to some millions a year. If that be a correct conception of what war in the future is going to be, it seems to me that the whole of our dockyard policy is absolutely wrong, that we do not want these white elephants which have great political power in the House of Commons. It is not the fault of the Admiralty that they have not got them down; it is because the Government are impressed by the persons who represent the dockyards in the House, who say, "If you do that we shall lose the seat." I would ask each political party in turn whether any dockyard Member is worth a quarter of a million a year, because it means paying a quarter of a million of public money a year in order that we may have within our midst dockyard Members.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I always believe in saying quite bluntly what I mean, so that I shall not be misunderstood. That is the actual fact of the position, and I challenge anyone in this Committee to say that it is not correct. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. W. M. Watson), in whose constituency Rosyth is, has just spoken, and has said that it could not possibly be done away with. I hope Rosyth will be put into cold storage. Two hon. Members for Portsmouth have also spoken, and so it goes on. [Interruption.] I agree that those in the North can keep going under normal conditions, but you will never get commercial work in shipbuilding in the southern yards, because they are too far away from the coal, the ironworks, and everything of that kind. They are economic white elephants, and the sooner the Admiralty realises that the better for the country.
I quite admit that it wants courage, but do they realise what this expenditure on armaments is going to mean? We are going to have the Secretary of State for Air coming down here year after year and demanding at least £5,000,000 each year. Can the country support the overhead burden of three great fighting forces? The overhead burden of two great fighting forces, the German Army and the German Navy, almost broke Germany's back before the War. Now we are going to try to keep up three great fighting forces. I believe to-day—I have said so before in the House—that the first move ought to be a complete combination of the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, in order to save £10,000,000 a year in overhead charges. I think every hon. Member will agree that to-day there is an enormous waste of money due to overlapping and lack of co-ordination between the various supply Departments, the various staffs, training colleges, medical establishments, and the like. Each Government in turn, since I have had the honour of being a Member of the House, has treated the House with contempt in every Debate that has taken place, whether on the Air or on the Navy. Member after Member has got up and impressed upon the Government the necessity for co-ordination and the necessity for economy by coordination, but no action has been taken. It has only just been forced upon this 544 Government by recent episodes. They have nothing to be proud of, nor had the Government of hon. Members opposite. We pressed upon the late Government the necessity for an inquiry into the fighting forces when they were in office, and they promised it, but they never held the inquiry.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
They had plenty of time. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Air Force!"] I am very glad that they were engaged in the Air Force. It shows that they were getting up to date. Taking all these considerations into account—the economic position, the great trading difficulties, and the absolute lack of effort on the part of the Government up to the present day to try to economise by co-ordination—I do not believe that the Government have made out any case, so far, for the building of these cruisers this year, or for the voting of any further money by the House, purely from the economic point of view. As I said before, from the technical point of view I think there is a case, but it is a case which is overruled, necessarily, by other conditions. From the economic point of view and from the point of view of departmental administration, I do not think the Government have made out a case of any kind for the building of these cruisers.
There is, however, one other factor, namely, the Imperial factor, and in regard to that there is a point of view which I have not heard mentioned so far in this Debate, but which is of such great importance that I believe it overrules both the other cases. I believe that not only does it justify the Government in the action they have taken, but that any other Government in the same position would have taken the same action. The reason for the condition to which I refer is that recently Australia has voted money for two cruisers to be built in this country, on the Clyde. If the Government had not gone through with their cruiser policy, they would necessarily have created a political crisis in Australia. It would have probably led to the resignation of Mr. Bruce. I ask the Committee very seriously to consider this point of view, because it is sufficient in my opinion to overrule the whole of the economic case that has been put forward both by 545 myself and other speakers. This country is in an extremely artificial condition. The Empire to-day is of more value to us that we are to the Empire. We are not self-contained. They are for many purposes We are sinking slowly under the great burden of taxation and the burden of our responsibilities. We cannot much longer continue to support by our own unaided efforts the whole of our Empire. It is essential, as their populations grow—there are 16,000,000 white people in the Empire, and in another generation the white population may be greater—that they should assume their responsibilities for defence. I quite agree that, until we get much better communications within our Empire, we shall not get that political and economic entity which we all desire. Those communications, I hope, are coming, but pending that, and pending a closer co-ordination between all parts of the Empire, it is vital to us that we do not stifle in any way the efforts made by the Prime Ministers of any of our Dominions to assist us in shouldering the great burdens that we have to carry.
If the Government had not taken the action they have taken to-day, I believe it would have made it extraordinarily difficult, perhaps for New Zealand, perhaps for Canada or the other great Dominions, to come to our assistance and we might have destroyed Mr. Bruce's political career, because he was the Prime Minister of Australia who took that responsibility and made that contribution to our great responsibilities. After all, we all really want the same thing. We want economy and we want safety. But we must look far ahead. We must see how our great race movements throughout the Empire are developing, and therefore we must shoulder those burdens and make those sacrifices for the purpose, not only of cementing the bonds of Empire but of fortifying those statesmen who live out in the Empire in helping us to carry our burdens. It is for that reason that I appeal to hon. Members opposite to withdraw their Amendment to reduce the Vote so that those in this country, speaking through their representatives in this House, may send a united message to the Empire upon these lines: "We have great burdens to carry. You are slowly growing to manhood. We shall want your 546 assistance in time. We have realised what you are doing now. We appeal to you as soon as you obtain manhood to shoulder your burden like men and to come on an equality with us and, either per head of population or on the basis of trade carried, to tax your people for the upkeep of your defence force."
§ Captain BENN
We have listened, as we always do, with the greatest interest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I cannot follow every proposal he has put forward, but a great many of them seem to me to overlook entirely the true post-War spirit and the mood of the people as it is after the War has been fought and won. In the first place, he advocated, as I understood it, a sort of private enterprise in war, the overhead charges being best met by subsidised private firms who would be ready at the word "go" to supply a full equipment.
§ Lieut. - Commander BURNEY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has rather mistaken me. The War Office already subsidises farmers for horses. The Admiralty subsidise liners, and the Air Force subsidises civil aviation to get a reserve of pilots. I only want to extend that.
§ Captain BENN
It depends whether you extend it to things that are munitions of war or to things like horses, which can pursue a more useful avocation. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman overlooks is that we have entered into a covenant to abolish the private manufacture of munitions of war, and indeed that covenant has been continually overlooked in this Debate. Many people have tried to define what our standard of strength should be. The definition I should select and accept, and vehemently support, is that to which we gave our assent in the Covenant of the League of Nations. We said we would undertake to reduce our armaments to the minimum consistent with national safety. Of course, that is a matter of opinion we are not going to discuss, but that is indeed the standard to which we, in common with all the great nations of the world, unfortunately with three exceptions, have set our hands, and it seems to me quite clear that it is from that standard that we must work.
We are not discussing to-night an ordinary Vote 8 at all. We are really discussing what is a Naval Defence Bill. 547 It is nominally £100, but it is in reality £58,000,000. It is not a Vote for this year, it is a Vote for five years, and we certainly intend to oppose these Estimates this year and every year when the necessary charges are proposed. Whatever we may do, it is the intention of the Government, by this token Vote, to which the totally inadequate time of one day has been allotted, to commit this Parliament for five years to this huge naval programme. As far as the Cabinet is concerned, the fight is over. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us a very interesting and authentic account of the negotiations which have gone on between his Department and the Admiralty. He has been beaten in the Cabinet and his last fight is fought, because if he had been beaten this year he would have lived, at any rate, to fight another year, but this White Paper shows that he has been beaten for the whole of this Parliament, and if we pass this Vote to-night the Government will hold that we are committed certainly those who support the, Vote will be committed, to a naval programme of five years' duration. The amazing thing about the Debate has been that up to this moment we have not had any official defence of the programme. I have been present at many discussions on construction, but I do not remember one in which the First Lord of the Admiralty has not risen to explain the technical reasons of national safety which justified him in putting forward his proposal. To-day we have had nothing of the kind. The Secretary to the Admiralty, whose contributions are always welcomed, will not himself pretend that what he said was an attempted defence. It was a short reply such as might have been given to a deputation from the dockyard workers whom he sometimes meets, although it was the House of Commons sitting round him and asking for some justification from him of this enormous Vote. The First Lord has had his victory. Many First Lords of the Admiralty have had their victory. I remember Mr. McKenna's victory over the now Chancellor in 1909. But I do not remember that any First Lord has attained to that pinnacle of success when he could lead the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a chain and compel him to defend his policy.
548 Some say that a Debate of this kind is a technical matter in which laymen should not interfere. It is certainly a proper occasion for the many qualified technical experts to express their views, but I deny altogether that a naval programme is a matter to be decided by the Admiralty on technical grounds. There are many considerations which come into the fixing of this programme, and have nothing whatever to do with the Admiralty, and of which the Admiralty has no direct cognisance. There is the question, referred to by the last speaker, of the distribution of our money between the three Services, and especially the growing power of the Air Service. There is the financial question, and there is the question of employment, with neither of which the Admiralty has any direct concern. There is the question of foreign policy, with which the Admiralty has no direct concern, and there is another question, which has not been referred to particularly in this Debate, and that is the feeling of the common people on these matters.
The Admiralty come forward with their programme, and we are entitled to ask what sort of reckoning the Admiralty has vis-a-vis this House in reference to their programme, and the demands they put forth. I will not take the years immediately after the War, but I will take the three years preceding this one, namely, 1921–22, 1922–23, and 1923–24. In the first year the Admiralty extracted from this House £83,000,000, and even the Admiralty could only spend £75,000,000. In the second year they asked for £64,000,000, and could only spend £57,000,000, although I have no doubt they did their best. In the third year, they asked for £58,000,000 and could only spend £54,000,000, and this year, as has been repeatedly pointed out, they come forward with Estimates cut to the bone, as we are constantly told, and yet within three months they are able to discover an economy of £500,000 in the said Estimates. I think it requires a few more of the obiter dicta of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to explain Estimates of that character.
We are told that there is going to be a committee to inquire into this and the other fighting Services. I do not know who the chairman is to be. There was one eminently qualified civil servant 549 suggested. The Prime Minister told us that the burden can actually be reduced. That is to say, it is going to find in economy in the Admiralty Estimates something from £7,000,000 to £8,000,000 or £10,000,000. What sort of Department is it that is so financed that the hope can be held out of an economy of that kind by means of a committee of civilians who are to inquire into its business? The Parliamentary Secretary may shake his head, but that is what the Prime Minister told us. He said that the result of the inquiry would be that the burden could actually be reduced. Where is the reduction to take place? We have had appeals by Members representing dockyards. I sympathise very cordially with dockyard Members. It is their duty to stand up for their constituents, so far as it is consistent with the national interest. But if it be possible to abolish the dockyards, because they are not wanted, why was it not done last year or on some previous occasion? Does not the Admiralty see that it is a grave reflection upon their own administration that these expenses are going on, and have been going on, and they are willing now to reduce them under pressure, when, in point of fact, they might have been reduced years ago, and money saved?
With regard to this new committee, I wonder what sort of fate it will have. The Geddes Committee was presented by the Admiralty with provisional Estimates—again cut to the bone—of £84,000,000, and the Geddes Committee found that they should be reduced to £60,000,000. Before the Geddes Report was off the press, the Admiralty issued, in the most surprising manner, a rejoinder to a Government Committee. That was the fate of the Geddes Committee, and, so far from obeying the dictates of the Geddes Committee to reduce their Estimates from £84,000,000 to £60,000,000, they only reduced them to £64,000,000, and that only after £11,000,000 was taken off as a result of the Washington Conference. If Sir Eric Geddes, an ex-First Lord of the Admiralty, backed by enormous public opinion at that time, suffered such a fate at the hands of the Admiralty, what is going to happen to this unfortunate civilian who, with his two adjutants, is going to perform this task?
550 The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us about the programme, and I should like to ask the First Lord this question. It is known that the first programme put forward was greater than the programme agreed upon. That put forward by the present Colonial Secretary in the last Parliament, at the beginning of January, was also considerably in excess of the programme agreed upon. The present programme is also considerably less than that put forward. When the first programme was presented, it was described as "an irreducible minimum." Last year the present Colonial Secretary, when he spoke shortly after the right hon. Member for Aberavon had taken office, said in 10 years we must have 52 cruisers, and that we must get them laid down at once, because from 1927 to 1928 we should be very busy on destroyers, and in 1931 we should be able to start on battleships under the terms of the Washington Treaty, and he said we could get better prices if we built at once. He said there was a standard type of 10,000 tons, and the First Lord of the Labour Government went on to say, referring to the standard type of 10,000 tons, that if we pitted inferior cruisers against enemy vessels of superior type, we were simply sending our men to certain death. What has become of all this? There was another minimum programme, and yet the Admiralty reduced it. They say there is a standard type, and, if you do not adopt it, it is certain death to our men, and yet they cut off 2,000 tons, and reduce the strength of the ship. In the case of this sort of Estimate, this sort of chattering and bargaining, what possible weight can we attach, from the point of view of this House, to the Navy Estimates?
I come to the second point, and that is about the distribution of the money between the three services. I am not qualified to speak in any way as an expert, but I think laymen are beginning to ask what arrangement the Government has for seeing that the total amount voted year by year for the defence of this country is fairly distributed—I do not mean in any sense in equity, but from the point of view of defence—between the three services. I do not think we have any guarantee at all. I think there is an inclination to play the Board of Admiralty against the Air Ministry, for 551 lobbying and Cabinet fighting, and which Minister has most prestige, or which threatens most often to resign. That is not a satisfactory way of settling the defence of this country, and I am certain among laymen there is a growing feeling that some power is required which is able to envisage technically the needs of the three services, and divide the money fairly between the three.
I do not know whether I might put one technical point. I would not venture to do so, except with the co-operation of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter), under whom I served for a time. What about the defence of these cruisers from aeroplane attack? As everyone knows, even at 2,000 feet in the air you can see over an enormous field. A fast ship going along leaves an enormous wake, a great white streak. I have seen it. An airman can see it, and it is a thing which can be seen by an airman ever so much farther away than it can ever be seen by a man on a deck of a ship. An airman can adjust the drift of his machine by it, and approaching at the rate of three miles a minute he is out of sight and within the minute he is over the cruiser. He need not hit the cruiser, he can go anywhere near the cruiser with two or three small bombs. What I ask the Admiralty is, what would be the effect of such an attack by bombs upon the structure of the ships for which we are voting £58,000,000 tonight? It is quite clear if they are going to defend the trade routes they will come very often within the range of land air stations both in the Mediterranean and other places, and I will be very glad if the First Lord in the course of his reply can say whether, and if so, what defence they will have against this perfectly simple attack by aeroplanes with bombs.
I come to the third point, the second matter that is outside the category, namely, the financial aspect of the subject. We have a programme of £59,000,000 and we have to add to it the additional cost of maintaining the ships. I think I am right in saying that the cost of maintaining a ship in commission is about a quarter of a million pounds, and from that we must deduct the cost of any ship for which it is alleged to be a replacement. It is perfectly clear it is often overlooked that the capital cost of a ship is not the end of the expenditure. We are merely 552 spending money in order to open another outlet for the expenditure of money. In passing I should like to take up what the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney) has said about the distribution of the service of defence between the different members of the Empire. It is perfectly obvious to anybody who follows the news that the problem is becoming more complex, more difficult and more delicate, in regard to the co-ordination of view, of imperial view, as between the different parts of the Empire and the burden of defence as between different parts of the Empire. There were some figures given by Sir Percy Scott in a letter—I have no doubt they are quite accurate—in which he said that the cost of naval defence—I leave out land forces for obvious reasons—was something as follows: Australia, 9s. per head; New Zealand, 4s. 6d. per head; South Africa, 11d. per head; Canada. 1s. 2d. per head, and Great Britain, 27s. 5d. per head. If these figures were right, I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge can say that we are not in these islands bearing, and gladly bearing, our fair share of the burdens of defence for the whole of the Empire.
Sir C. KINLOOCH-COOKE
He said exactly the opposite. What he said was an appeal to the Overseas to bear their share.
§ Captain BENN
I was trying to put as delicately as I could that we were in fact bearing a considerable share, and I wish to put it in such a way that could not possibly give offence. What is sometimes overlooked is that money is essentially a fighting commodity. It also is a munition of war. People think ships and armies the only things, but money is as much a means of defence as ships and guns. The Admiralty cannot be expected to know this. It is not within their ambit. If, during the War. we had not been able to lend money to Russia; if at another time our money had not been good enough to support the Italians, and at another time we had not been able to back the bills for the French, the War might have come to an end in a different way. These countries. when they wanted this essential help in the War, did not go to the Admiralty or the War Office. They went to the Treasury. Therefore I say that it is important to remember that the credit of the country 553 is as much a military defence of the country as anything that floats on the water. Nobody could say, seeing that the National Debt was £20 a head before the War and is now £200 a head, that our credit has not by these debts been very severely impaired. We have only to remember that it is only a few days since that a Dominion wished to borrow in this market, and was headed off to borrow elsewhere.
There is another matter which the Admiralty knows nothing of and which we must take into account in deciding the reasonableness of its demands. It is sometimes said that these cruisers mean employment. I do not know whether the Admiralty has any Press Department, but the statement has appeared on high authority in many newspapers that each of these ships will employ 3,500 men in three years.
§ Captain BENN
It was exactly what I thought, an unofficial friend of the Admiralty made the statement. If you are going to consider the question of employment, there are a great many other things to think of besides the 3,500 men, much as I would wish to see them put to work on these ships. If you are going to use employment as an argument to build warships or any ships of war, then it is good-bye to disarmament, because other countries will use the same argument. Already the argument has been used in reference to the five cruisers that were laid clown by the late Government, and in fact the Italian paper from which I quote, the "Corriere d' Italia" said they would follow the example set by Mr. MacDonald because they wished to employ their unemployed. The second point in reference to employment is that over-taxation, which is rendered necessary by these vast programmes, creates unemployment. It is at least reasonable to say that many men's jobs will be affected by the over-taxation required by this programme.
There is a further and very simple and conclusive answer. The Admiralty have undertaken to find the money by economies in other Departments. In this White Paper that we had there is a reduction of £150,000 in wages. I think that the Financial Secretary or the First Lord, when he replies, might tell us perfectly definitely what is meant by the 554 reduction of £150,000 in wages. It is no good saying: "We are laying down these cruisers and in three years we shall be employing 3,500 men"; and then saying: "I am finding the money by discharging men from other jobs that they now hold." However ardently any Member, who represents the workers, might desire to have employment, I am perfectly certain that there is not an engineer in the country who would desire to have a job created for him if he thought it meant the discharge of another man from a job. On the financial side one thing is perfectly clear. If we go on with this programme and if we permit this Government to develop their armament policy in the way we are doing, we must say goodbye to the hope of the social services, to which we attach so very much importance. The fighting Services before the War cost about 35s. per head. Now they cost £2 12s. a head. The Civil Services, which cost about £l 1s. per head before the War, cost about £5 7s. per head now. So, to put it in another way, taking the non-fighting services, pensions, education, insurance and so forth, whereas 30 years ago we were spending £20,000,000 on Civil Services, we are now spending about £300,000,000 a year. We applaud that expenditure. We believe it is necessary, and we are going to support it. So far as I am concerned I desire to see it extended. One of the main reasons that I oppose on financial grounds these large expenditures is because if they are granted then there will not be the money for rendering life, I will not say more intolerable to the people in the industrial conditions in which they find themselves to-day.
I will say one word in conclusion. There is already ample evidence to show that the decision to embark upon this great naval programme is exciting similar decisions abroad. Quotations have been given from the American Press. Even the result of last year's programme was described by the "Times" correspondent at Washington, I think, in this way:More will be undoubtedly heard of the British desire to steal a march.Mr. Wilbur, the Secretary for the United States Navy, said:The only present method of keeping up the ratio is by competitive building along such lines," 555 that is to say, outside the limit set down by the Washington Conference; and the other day the correpondent of the"Times" said:The appropriation for the cruiser programme cannot be deferred much longer.We know that the eight ships which appear in the Fleet Estimate are not appropriated at all. The money has not been voted. The Americans have been holding their hands. I have little doubt that the result of our decision to-night will be to cause Congress to vote the money for these eight ships, and when that money is voted, and the ships are laid down, they will be quoted in argument by speakers in this House as a reason for entering into a larger programme of construction. We stand tonight at the parting of the ways. The Government have to decide whether they are going to secure the safety of our country by competitive naval building or by disarmament by agreement. Almost every effort to secure disarmament has failed. The first effort was the proposal by the Armaments Commission of the League that Governments should bind themselves by a money limit, by saying ' we take as our datum line our expenditure on aramaments last year, and we bind ourselves for so many years not to exceed it." To-night we are destroying any safeguard of that kind.
Then the Washington Agreement, so far as it went, was the one brilliant achievement in the way of disarmament, but already the Government are telling us that at the expiration of that Agreement they must have their slips clear to start the building of ships again. Then their was the Treaty of Mutual Assistance, which was abandoned. It was disapproved of by the Labour Government, no doubt for excellent reasons, but with it went the chance of international mutual disarmament which it contained. Then there was the Protocol. It did include arrangements for conferences on disarmament, and there was every hope of disarmament from that, and that was destroyed by the present Government. Every effort of the League of Nations to settle this difficult problem by mutual agreement so far has been destroyed, and Government speakers have made the suggestion, outside, that they have abandoned the pledge that we gave to the 556 League in the Covenant for maintaining the minimum of armaments consistent with national safety. The Home Secretary said the other day:I do not want the Navy merely for safety. I want it for Empire building.That is what we do not want. Our certain hope of peace lies in some international agreement for peace, and if we had never gone in for this programme of naval expenditure we should be nearer to realising the hope that was born after the conclusion of the War. Then we have a fanciful phrase from the First Lord himself. Somebody said, "Why do you not co-operate?" and his little joke was: "We do co-operate. We do the cooing and they do the operating." With that little joke he turned down proposals on which alone any hope of civilisation rests. We have had from none of the Government spokesmen to-day any reply as to what the Government are doing for international disarmament. I have cited four cases in which proposals have been abandoned. Last year President Coolidge was putting out feelers in this connection. He said, "We must wait until the schedule is settled." Then there was the London Conference, and the Dawes Report, and that was a satisfactory settlement of that question. The Dawes annuities are now forthcoming, and it appears, therefore, that the way is clear for President Coolidge's conference to take place. What are the Government doing about it? When we ask the Foreign Secretary we get the usual resentful, evasive wooden inanities in reply. The First Lord must understand that we are thoroughly in earnest about this. We are as proud of the part which the Navy played in our Commonwealth as anybody could be, but we are determined to put into the cause of peace something of the energy which the nation put into the cause of war. I ask the First Lord what is he doing about the American Note?
§ Captain BENN
That is the sort of spirit which animates hon. Members opposite. I feel very much—I believe that many people, the men and particularly the women, in this country feel it also—that we in our generation have got a special trust. We were taught in school, and children are taught in school to-day, 557 that war is valour, brilliant victories, new markets and so on. We know that all that is a lie. We know that war means maimings, mutilations, widowhood, starvation.
§ Captain BENN
The world knows this, and in the world to-day there is a hunger for peace, a universal hunger for peace, and the Government blunder or crime is that they are not responding to that spirit. Seven million people died in the War. Some were called Germans, and others Bulgarians or Britons or Frenchmen or Americans. They all had homes and firesides and vast numbers of them had children. I could not dogmatise and say why they went to war. They went to war for various reasons. Some did not know what the War was about, but others, the best of them, went because they believed that by his sacrifice they would put a better order in the world. That is their testament. We are the executors of that testament. It is a very difficult job indeed, none the less it is a sacred duty, to try to carry out the testament of those brave men and women who made that sacrifice.
You have to-day to go to those widows, or mothers without children, or children without father, and to say, "It has been a failure. The sacrifice was made in vain. We are back again in 1909." I remember very well the Debates on competitive building, and the question, "What are the Germane doing and what are we doing?" and we are faced to-day with the same inevitable end. When these programmes are produced the people are bewildered and heartsore, but that is not the end. They are also resentful and determined. The Government can put their programme through, and wring the taxation from the industries of this country. They have an enormous majority. They can invent, and manufacture the engines of war, but they may, when the time comes, find that there is no cannon-fodder. They may find that, for all their programmes and all their powers, their policy will be defeated by the common people who will say "No."
§ Commander FANSHAWE
I believe that on both sides of the House there is a very large measure of agreement on this subject. We all want a great measure of national economy, and I know that on 558 no side of the House is there any wish to embark on another war. Those statements sound like platitudes, in spite of the emphasis that has been laid on them by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn). Most hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who have spoken have entirely omitted the fact that all the ships proposed to be built under this programme are for replacement. They are designed to replace ships which cur experts at the Admiralty have said are no longer fit to fight or to steam or to house their crews or to function in any way. That fact has been lost sight of entirely in what is, perhaps, the slight heat of blaming the Admiralty—blaming the Admiralty for functioning in the only way in which it is their duty to function. I bitterly resent the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party, and the attack which he saw fit to level at our Admirals, who have rendered great service to the country, probably the greatest service. For the right hon. Gentleman to abuse men of that standing is a shame. Such a task should never have been undertaken by any Member of this House, at any rate not by one who has held the highest position under the King in this country.
Let me turn to the question which we are debating, the replacement of our old ships. The old cruisers were built during the War and were built hurriedly. They are small ships, of about 3,000 tons, lightly armed. When we went into the Washington Conference we struggled hard to prevent the raising of the size of cruisers, but we failed to do so. The conference decided that the cruisers could be up to 10,000 tons, mounting 8-inch guns. In spite of the British effort to reduce the size, that proposal was passed in the first Disarmament Conference that has ever really succeeded—the first, though we hope it may lead to others. Battleships were limited as to numbers, tonnage and guns, and there has been very little discussion about them. It may be that at a future conference battleships can be abolished. Who knows? That is mere prophecy. We must here deal with the question of cruisers. We who have been to sea know that if you have ships anywhere struggling to get into action with an enemy, you cannot send small ships of 3,000 tons in any weather to engage the ship of 10,000 tons with a superior armament.
559 Many hon. Members will remember a name which is very much honoured in the Navy, that of Admiral Cradock. He lost his life in engaging cruisers of the German Navy, even ships with smaller guns, but with more efficient armament and able to fire at longer ranges. The German ships had greater speed, and more efficient weapons. The English admiral lost his life by engaging those ships with inadequate British ships. He would have fought the enemy in an open boat if he could have got at them in no other way. Are hon. Members opposite, contrary to the advice of experts of the Admiralty, going into the Lobby to vote against this programme? [HON. MEMBERS: "We are!"] I am sorry to hear hon. Members say that. The Admiralty say, perfectly rightly—they are the only judges in this technical matter—that these small cruisers are not fit to meet foreign ships, and must be replaced. Surely that advice of the experts must be taken by us? Hon. Members opposite have said that it is the function of Parliament to pass Navy Estimates and to discuss them fully. Of course it is. We are the people to decide that in this House. But do not let us go too far and neglect the whole of our expert advice. Whatever we do, do not let us sneer at our experts.
I believe that the danger point of the world, as far as we are concerned—by the danger point I mean the danger point to our trade--is probably the Indian Ocean. It is a fine weather ocean, except for about four months of the year, when the south-west monsoon is blowing, and then there is a very heavy sea. These small cruisers of ours cannot steam their full speed and cannot fight in that ocean at such a time. The right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition asked, how is the distribution of these ships to be carried out? Why should not these new ships be distributed in the same way as our present cruiser squadrons are distributed? Where is the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty? He will find that the naval staff at the Admiralty will be far better judges than any of us here as to the distribution of those shins for the guarding of our trade. In regard to numbers, I think that the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) was misinformed. 560 I understand that in 1929 we shall, with this new programme, possess 16 post-War cruisers of 10,000 or 8,000 tons. I presume they will be armed with 8-inch guns. Those are the only ships that we can consider at that time, for the others will be entirely obsolete. The United States will then possess 18 cruisers, the Japanese 21, France 9, and Italy 4.
Visualise our great Empire, our trade routes, our great coast line, and can you possibly say that we ought to be inferior? Hon. Members opposite always say, rightly, I have no doubt, that they are very much concerned with unemployment, with cheap living, and with all our social problems. How are they going to justify all that talk if they go into the Lobby and deliberately vote against a Measure which will make secure the supplies coming to this country? If they vote against this proposal the whole of their talk is a sham. I plead only, in my turn, for great economy, for the greatest possibly efficiency, and for such sufficiency as will make a proper insurance premium for the prosperity of the Empire, and for the prosperity of this country at the heart of the Empire.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
A number of able and interesting speeches have been delivered in the course of this Debate, but Members on this side of the Committee, at least, will agree with me that no speech got so near to the heart of the problem which we are discussing as the grave utterance of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn). The hon. and gallant Member said, much more ably than I could have done, what I had in my mind, and what I might have attempted to say had I spoken before he rose. The First Lord of the Admiralty is, I understand, to follow me in the Debate, and I think it is much more important for the Committee to hear what he has to say in defence of this programme than to listen to any lengthy observations of mine. Apart from the opening speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, which was distinguished by other characteristics, the most extraordinary speech delivered in this Debate was that made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a rather unusual thing for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to intervene in a Navy Debate, but the right hon. Gen- 561 tleman came here this afternoon, as the hon. and gallant Member for Leith so very truthfully said, led in a halter by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I have no doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer, like all his predecessors in office, has put up a persistent fight against the demands of the Admiralty. He has been defeated. There have been precedents where a Chancellor of the Exchequer who declined to meet the demands of the Admiralty, has resigned his position, but the present Chancellor of the Exchequer is not likely to do so. He is not of the resigning sort, and if he ever contemplated such a proceeding in order to embarrass the Government, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer probably remembered Goschen.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer comes here this afternoon, after his complete defeat by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and he makes a speech in defence of these proposals which, had we not known otherwise, we might have imagined was being delivered by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Indeed, it reminded me of the speeches which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered a dozen years ago when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. He tells us now, after his defeat, that he thinks this is a reasonable programme. Indeed the Chancellor of the Exchequer went so far as to congratulate the Admiralty upon their moderation, and he gave a high testimonial to their desire to promote economy. I wonder if all this is magnanimity on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer is more capable of other things than of magnanimity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer can accommodate himself to circumstances. "If he does gulp down his professions, he is always ready next morning to turn up with fresh ones," and is always quite willing to give reasons for his latest professions. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith quoted a statement made by the Prime Minister that this new naval programme would not involve an increase of Navy expenditure, but would be followed by an actual reduction. That is not the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon. He told us we must not look forward to any reduction in the total of Navy ex- 562 penditure. A statement like that was hardly necessary. Within the next few years, a sum of nearly £60,000,000, according to this Estimate, is to be expended upon naval construction.
I would like to point out—and I do not think this point has been made in the course of the Debate—that this five years' programme is only part of a programme. We shall not have reached the end of the era of new construction when this programme has been completed, because the whole justification put forward for this building programme is that it is to replace worn-out cruisers, and the life of a cruiser, we are told, is only 15 years. Therefore, at the end of this programme, merely for the purpose of replacement, it will be necessary to continue to build three cruisers, at least, every year. The certain prospect to which we can look forward is not that the Navy Vote will remain at the huge figure at which it stands to-day, or the huge figure at which it will stand five years hence, but we may look forward with certainty to the fact, if this policy be continued, that in six, seven, eight, nine or ten years' time not £10,000,000 but £20,000,000 will be added to the Navy expenditure. The reply of the First Lord probably will be that the Admiralty have given a pledge to carry out certain economies, and that a considerable part, if not the whole of the cost of this building programme, is to be met by economies and reductions in other directions.
If those reductions can be made, without impairing the efficiency of the Navy, why, then, have they not been made before? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not last year?"] I suppose that is intended as a sneer at the supposed inaction of the Government of which I was a member. If that be so, I will reply. When we came into office, within three weeks of the time when it was necessary to present the Navy Estimates to the House of Commons, I found that the Estimates had been completed and sanctioned by the previous Government. But in that three weeks I managed-to effect a reduction of £6,500,000 in the amount of the Vote which had been sanctioned by the Government which we have just succeeded. This Government, instead of effecting a reduction, of £6,500,000, submitted Navy Estimates which, as they were originally presented to the House at the beginning of this Session, and not including a single penny for new construc- 563 tion, showed an increase of £4,500,000. If these economies can be carried out in order to provide something for new construction, they can be carried out without the money being devoted to the purposes of construction.
Nobody who has had any experience at all at the Admiralty will place the slightest reliance on the pledges they are giving to effect economy. They are the most arrogant of all the public Departments. The Navy is the only one of our great public Services which arrogates to itself such rights. There is no other Department which has so little regard to the ordinary conventions and amenities of the public Service as the Admiralty. Reference has been made in the course of this Debate to some fresh demands which the Admiralty have made. We all know that the Admiralty are in the closest touch with some of the newspapers. When I was at the Treasury I never had a consultation with the heads of the Admiralty without the fullest report of the private negotiations carried through, however trivial, appearing in some newspaper next morning. The Cabinet knows about this leakage of news from the Admiralty. This question was before the Cabinet in recent years on more than one occasion.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I am making statements which are known to be true, within the knowledge of every man who has held responsible Government office in recent years. Therefore, little or no importance can be attached to any declaration, pledge or promise which the Admoralty may give to effect a considerable reduction of expenses. I want to say a few words about the proposal from the point of view of national economy. Nearly every speech delivered from the opposite side has defended these proposals. During months of the present Session, especially when the Finance Bill was under discussion, we had innumerable speeches from that side of the House demanding a reduction in 564 the national expenditure. This new building programme, when it fully matures, is going to cost something like £12,000,000 a year. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) is not here. He made a speech a few days ago, and he has made similar speeches on the same subject before, and in that speech, about a week ago, he said the expenditure of £12,000,000 a year, which was going to be imposed under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, was an intolerable burden upon industry. The burden will be the same on industry, whether the money is devoted to one purpose or the other. We have not had the right hon. Member, and hardly any other hon. Member on that side of the House to-day, who has risen to protest against this expenditure as being an intolerable burden on industry, but there was one very significant incident which happened during the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When he was speaking about the Economy Committee which is to be appointed, he said its investigations would not be confined to the Admiralty and the other fighting Services, but that it would inquire into the expenditure of the Civil Departments. That statement-received the loudest cheers of any statement made in the Chancellor's speech. I see that the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs)—one of the armchair naval exports of this House. Interrupting the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), he said that the restriction and redaction of expenditure on the social Services would have to come before the reduction for national defence. That is the desire and the intention of hon. Members opposite. They will not vote against—
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I have not in the least misrepresented the hon. and gallant Member. There is to be considerable expenditure of money for the fighting Services, but I can tell the hon. Members opposite that we are not going to have cruisers as a substitute for social reform. We were promised that there was to be a progressive reduction of £10,000,000 a year in national expenditure. Where is the prospect of that reduction? Instead of the likelihood of a reduction of £10,000,000, we shall almost certainly 565 have an increase in national expenditure of at least that amount.
It is not merely the certain increase in the expenditure on the Navy, but we are committed to an annual increase in the expenditure upon the Air Service, and it is not sufficiently noted, when we are comparing the expenditure on the Navy to-day with the expenditure of 10 or 12 years ago, that then we had no expenditure upon an Air Service. The expenditure upon the Navy is £60,000,000 this year, or more than the expenditure in the year before the War, and the expenditure on the Navy in the year before the War had been swollen by £20,000,000 in the previous six years by the naval policy of the Liberal party. It is not fair to compare the naval expenditure of to-day with the naval expenditure of the year before the War. A much more correct comparison would be to compare the naval expenditure to-day with that of 1906, but what were the conditions in 1913 compared with the conditions of to-day? Then you had a European menace. Then you had within striking distance of these shores a great naval Power. Then you had no League of Nations. [Laughter.] Yes, it is no unusual thing for hon. Members opposite to sneer at a reference to the League of Nations, or, indeed, to any peace sentiment. The noble utterance of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith when he pleaded that we should act as trustees of the dead, was received with jeers.
Hon. Members opposite have learned nothing by the War. Nearly every speech which has been delivered from that side this afternoon has been a re-echo of the speeches that were made before the outbreak of War. We are back in 1913. Hon. Members opposite, I repeat, have learned nothing by the War, and in that respect they have proved themselves to be true to the historic traditions of the party to which they belong, which never learns anything. There is no European menace to-day, there is no hostile naval Power in Europe, there is no hostile naval Power anywhere in the world. All the great naval Powers, with the exception of America, are members of the League of Nations. It is no use hiding what is the real cause of the Admiralty's demand for an increase in the strength of the Navy—all this talk about replacement does not disguise the 566 fact that this is an increase in the strength of the Navy—and it is no use disguising that this is justified on the ground of the possibility of war in the Far East. But Japan is a member of the League of Nations.
One of the wisest things that has been said in the course of the Debate this evening was uttered by a supporter of the Government, an hon. and gallant Gentleman below the Gangway on this side. He said: "There are men of common sense in this country; there are men of common sense in America; there are men of common sense in Japan." Why, then, do not these men of common sense get together and try to devise some plan for putting an end to this wasteful and ruinous expenditure on armaments? Hon. Gentlemen opposite ask what the Labour Government did? We did what has been stated by the Leader of the Opposition and on the grounds put forward. We had only come into office and had not had time fully to discuss the matter. There was three crowded weeks, innumerable questions to consider, decisions to be taken! Do hon. Members think that three weeks was sufficient for a new Government to give adequate consideration to this question? We spent months after that on this question. I think I may say this: I certainly say this for myself—and I think I may venture to say it for my late colleagues in the Government—that if we had had the information when we assented to the building of five new cruisers that we subsequently acquired we should never have taken that step. I am quite sure of this, that had we remained in office there would have been no new building programme this year. Our alternative was the alternative of a disarmament conference, which, on the initiative of my right hon. Friend, had been arranged by the Assembly of the League of Nations to take place during the present year. Even that conference has been abandoned by the present Government. On the ground of economy? On the ground that this country cannot afford this expenditure? We held—
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
What about France? My reply to that question is that it would beseem her better if she would pay her debts. On these grounds then we oppose 567 this: Because we do not believe it is necessary. We oppose it because we believe it is provocative. We oppose it because we believe there is a better policy. That policy, as my hon. and gallant Friend says, is for men of good will and common sense to get together, and see if they cannot devise some plan by which the nations of the world can be saved from this ruinous expenditure and from this provocative policy, which, if continued, is certain sooner or later to culminate in a still more disastrous war.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The two right hon. Gentleman who began this Debate made what I thought was a rather unfair assault upon my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary because he did not follow the practice of some Front Bench speakers and speak for an hour or so. Because his speech was very short and very lucid, they did not like it. He explained everything that was necessary in about 10 minutes, and I am only sorry the example has not been followed. I will try to do my best to follow it. [Laughter.] I think hon. Members, seeing that I have only 35 minutes, might-give me the benefit of that limit of time. There are several questions which I should like to get out of the way before going any further. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) referred in very careful and guarded terms to some action taken with regard to the Press by the Admiralty. I asked him to say whether he could name a single instance where anything has been divulged By the Admiralty to the Press during my term of office, and he did not condescend to give any reply to that question.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
How can I know? I see information which purports to be a revelation of what has taken place between the Treasury and the Admiralty. How can I know? But I know from my own experience, and I am speaking from my own experience.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
It is very different from mine. This has appeared in every kind of newspaper, and it has been mainly conjecture or largely discussion 568 on matters which everybody knew were in dispute at the moment. If it is to be contended that nobody who agrees with the view of the Admiralty is to defend them in the Press, then I think you are putting a handicap on the Admiralty which you would not attempt to put upon any other Department of the State. I repudiate any suggestion that the Admiralty have made any unfair use of the Press, and unless the right hon. Gentleman can prove it, I shall stick to what I have said.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leith (Captain Benn) asked what was the cost of the upkeep of one of the new cruisers. The upkeep of the new "Kent" class is £259,000 a year, but that will replace an old County class cruiser, the upkeep of which was £215,000, so the net increase will be £44,000, unless we can effect any other economies. A great deal has been said about economy. When the Admiralty effects some economy, then they are derided by hon. Members opposite because they have done so. The economies which are suggested in the Supplementary Estimate before the Committee to-day are economies which we have been studying for some considerable time, and I can assure my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I think he knows it—that the Admiralty have been trying their very best to meet him in the way of providing economies out of various services which they have to maintain. I sympathise very much with his desire to effect economies, and I will do all I can to promote them. I do wish the Committee to understand that I am not prepared to admit that the Admiralty is the most extravagant Department in the State, because when you compare its present expenditure at the value of pre-War money you will find that the Admiralty are spending less now than they were before the War. All I want to point out is that possibly some of the other Departments are not. Therefore while I say I am strongly in favour of economy I am not prepared to admit that ours is the only Department that requires it. I am quite sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not hold that view. [Laughter.] I do not know what there is amusing about that or why hon. Members opposite should treat economy as a joke.
569 There is a subject I want to refer to upon which I feel rather strongly. Attacks have been made upon the Board of Admiralty by several speakers in the course of this Debate including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), whose lectures on economy have not been very convincing, because I have always been taught that example is better than precept. It is suggested that the Board of Admiralty have taken up some attitude which is exceptional and offensive to the civil authority, but I deny that. The. Admiralty is charged with a certain duty, and the responsibility placed upon it is to protect British Possessions abroad against organised invasion from the sea. It is the business of the Admiralty to say what is necessary to carry out that duty.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Do not let the hon. and gallant Member talk about resigning without knowing what he is talking about. I take any responsibility upon myself with regard to the policy of the Board of Admiralty. Their duty is to carry out the Government policy, and they have always been willing- to do so, subject to this proviso, that if they are asked to carry out some duties with a less strength than they consider themselves able to do it they have a right to make that statement to the Government of the day, and if the Government says, "We do not require you to carry out that policy," then it is the duty of the Admiralty do carry out whatever policy the Government decide upon. This was very clearly expressed by Sir Geoffrey Hornby some years ago, who said:It is for the politicians to tell me whether they want the Channel defended or not. That is their business. If they tell me I have to defend the Channel, I say. 'In order to do that I shall require so many ships, so many guns, and so many men.' Then they have a right to say, ' That is too much, we cannot afford it, and we will give up the idea of defending the Channel.' That again is their business But they have no right whatever to say, 'You do not require that number of guns or ships or men.' That is not their business and they know nothing about it.That is the position which the Board of Admiralty has taken up, and if anybody is to be blamed it must be myself and not the Board, who cannot defend themselves here. The right hon. Gentle- 570 man the Leader of the Opposition asked me at the outset, "What are your reasons for the policy you are now asking the House to adopt?" My answer to him is that my reasons are exactly the same reasons that actuated him and his Government in laying down five cruisers last year. I will quote from their own spokesman on the subject. He said:I wont to emphasise that these cruisers are part replacement of the County class cruisers, which have already been scrapped but were not replaced owing to the urgent need for economy. The consequence is that for the last two or three years the number of cruisers available for the protection at our world-wide trade has been below requirements, which depend primarily on the length of our trade routes and the volume of our sea-borne trade, and only to a limited extent on the numbers possessed by other countries. The time, however, has now arrived when this replacement construction can no longer be delayed, in view of the large number of light cruisers which will, during the next few years, reach an age at which they can no longer be relied upon as efficient units."—[OFFICIAL BEPORT, 18th March, 1924; col. 284, Vol. 171.]Those were his reasons, and the reasons of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, for laying down the cruisers last year, and those are our reasons to-day. The Leader of the Opposition referred to a speech of his which has been quoted in the Press, in which he is said to have remarked that their programme was five last year and five this. He has explained that, if he ever said it, that was a slip. I am quite prepared, of course, to admit, if he says so, that that must be the case. That does not in any way vitiate the argument which he used on this subject, or which his supporters used, and, therefore, I am perfectly entitled to say that my reasons are the same as theirs—purely reasons of replacement. I should like the Committee to remember that our need, as a country, for cruisers is far greater than that of any other country, because of our widely spread Empire. We have 80,000 miles of trade routes, and between the West Coast of America and the East Coast of Africa it is computed that £890,000,000 worth of merchandise passes every year. It is in order to afford the protection which it is the responsibility of the Admiralty to give to that trade that we ask for this programme of replacement. Our present strength in cruisers is 48—the lowest number since 1889—and three more will 571 be completed this year. None of these is of post-War design, all having been begun before or during the War. Five 10,000-ton cruisers were laid down by the late Government, and two are being laid down this year by the Australian Government, who have come forward most generously to assist in this work of replacement. As everyone knows—Ȕ
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The Australian two are to help the strength of the Empire, and it is to replace obsolete ships that the British Fleet is now making this effort. Everyone knows that the speed and strength of armament of cruisers are the main factors of success, and we cannot forget the lessons of Coronel and the Falkland Islands. On those occasions the "Scharnhorst" and the "Gneisenau" beat the "Good Hope" and the "Monmouth" owing to more powerful armaments, and in their turn were beaten by the more powerful armaments of the "Invincible" and "Inflexible" at the Falkland Islands. Therefore we have to take into consideration, not only numbers, but strength of armaments and speed. Without contending that we are in danger of any kind of conflict with any particular country I must give the House a few figures of what other countries have got in the way of cruisers of this kind. If we lay down nothing this year in the way of cruisers the British Empire will have seven of post-War design, the United States will have 18, Japan will have 21, and France, 9.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I am not talking of whether people are allied. All of them are friends fortunately, but after all they keep up their Navy for some reason or other, I presume for the same reason as ourselves—insurance against any risk. Take cruisers armed with 8-inch guns, which is the highest armament allowed for cruisers under the Washington Agreement. The position will be at that date—Ȕ
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
April, 1929. British Empire 7, United States 8. Japan 572 8, and France 6. With regard to speed there will be at the same date, if we build nothing this year, with a speed of 30 knots or over, British Empire, 13; United States, 18; Japan, 25; and France, 9. Those figures make a very unfavourable contrast for this country, especially if we consider our necessity in the matter of cruisers as compared with that of any other country. It has been argued in the Debate that there is no risk of war. It is quite true that the horizon at present appears to be perfectly calm, and no one is more thankful for that than I am, but I absolutely deny the capacity of anyone to prophesy, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite did, that the situation is going to be calm for the next 10 or 12 years, and as I have always said ever since I entered the arena of politics, the proper naval policy is one of insurance and not one that regards the risk of war at this moment or that. I still adhere to the policy I have advocated for the last 30 years, and for that reason I am making the proposals I am making to the House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said we are strong enough with our own Fleet, but we must remember that our Fleet was built mostly for the North Sea and not for oceangoing work. I myself cannot understand anyone using an argument of that kind. I can quite understand a man saying he will not have any Navy at all. That is perfectly intelligible. If you think there is always going to be peace it is a very good reason for doing away with the Navy altogether. I do not think you would carry the country with you.
What I cannot understand is, people who are prepared to spend a considerable amount of money on the Navy, and yet say you must not have the most up-to-date ships; you must send our men to sea with the almost certainty of destruction in old-fashioned ships. [Interruption.] That is what you are asking us to do by voting against this Estimate to-night. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and other speakers said we were starting a new competition in building. That is really putting the cart before the horse. He himself had said, in last year's Debate, that it was foolish to stop building while discussing disarmament. He made a great point of that, and jeered at a Liberal Member—I believe it was Mr. Pringle. He said, how on earth do you 573 suppose we are going to be in a sound position to discuss disarmament if we leave off building? Why did he not say that to-night?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I have always said, and the Admiralty have always said, we are perfectly prepared to discuss with the other great maritime nations, disarmament, and would do it to-morrow, provided that the safety of our Empire be not impaired in the process. Hut, really, to say that this programme we are putting up to-day is challenging competition in shipbuilding is to exhibit the most lamentable ignorance of what has been happening in the last few years. Look at what the other countries are doing. I am not complaining; they have a perfect right to do it. They probably do it as we do it, as an insurance policy, which, I think, is the right policy. Let us see what has happened since the War. The British Empire, since the Armistice, has laid down, including the two Australian ships which are to be laid down this year, 7 cruisers, 2 destroyers, and 2 submarines; the United States, 8 cruisers, 76 destroyers, and 30 submarines; Japan, 18 cruisers, 50 destroyers, and 45 submarines; Prance, 5 cruisers, 24 destroyers, and 25 submarines; Italy, 2 cruisers, 22 destroyers, and 13 submarines.
To sum it all up, out of 329 warships—cruisers, destroyers and submarines—built by the five great maritime nations since the War, our share, instead of being 65, has been 11. What man in his senses is going to get up and say to me, in face of those figures, that we are challenging competition? What I think the figures prove is that each country must be its own judge of what its own insurance policy should be, and we should be the judges of our own.
There is the question that has been touched upon by one or two speakers, and that is the question of employment in shipbuilding. The right hon. Gentleman said, quite properly, that that certainly should not be the first consideration in deciding whether you build ships or whether you do not. I quite agree with him. But at the moment, when unemployment is very rife and when the Government are looking about for the 574 best way of relieving the situation, even if it is only a temporary relief, the question of building ships cannot be left out of account.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will kindly tell as how he proposes to save the £130,000 in wages mentioned in the White Paper? We have to consider that.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I should like to be allowed to proceed with my point. I want to deal with the question of employment. Every ship that is built gives employment to trades which at the moment are suffering most from unemployment. Shipbuilding, coalmining, iron and steel mining and smelting, and marine engineering are the four industries which stand almost at the very top of the list in unemployment at the present moment. Shipbuilding expenses go, to the extent of 80 to 85 per cent., in wages direct, and so this £58,000,000 in seven years which has been so much derided is, at any rate, £45,000,000 to £50,000,000, going direct in wages to the industries of this country which are suffering most from unemployment. I do not think any Government could have left that matter out of consideration. There is another thing which differentiates it from other forms of unemployment. In these industries skilled men are leaving the country at the present moment, and therefore I say that if we can find employment for skilled men that will keep them in this country we should do so. From one other aspect I would like to look at it, and that is from the point of view of the unemployment benefit which would be saved. It has been calculated that each cruiser would employ from 3,000 to 3,500 men in its construction for three years. If those men were receiving unemployment benefit during that time they would be drawing something like £500,000 during the course of that period. It is therefore well worth consideration whether we should not make an effort to promote shipbuilding when you can do it by saving something like 25 per cent. of the cost of the shipbuilding bill in that way.
The only wise course for this country, so long as other countries are arming, is to pursue a steady policy of replacement as ships become obsolete, and to be always ready to consider any general 575 proposition for disarmament that is consistent with the security of this country and of the Empire. That is the policy that we are advocating to-night. Hysterical alternations of rapid building and no building are very unsatisfactory, not only to trade but also to the general feeling with regard to peace in the whole world. The hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) boasted that the Liberal party just before the War spent more money on the Navy than anybody else. Why had they to do that? It was because they had neglected it in the preceding years. If the policy which we advocated for years before the War had been pursued they would not have had to spend that money, and possibly the War might have Been avoided.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman on that point. Perhaps he will settle it with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
One matter which has been referred to in very eloquent terms by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith is the question of peace. My friends and I do not yield for one moment to anyone in the keenness of our desire for peace. We desire it as much as he desires it, and it is because we desire peace that we are asking for this programme. I may enlist the sympathy of hon. Gentlemen opposite if I quote the words of the hon. Member for Bermondsey:It has been repeatedly proved that the British Navy has always been one of the greatest factors for pence and stability that have ever existed in all the world.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I did the hon. Gentleman an injustice. It is the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon). I hope it was read all over the world. I agree with him that this policy is the best policy for the protection of our trade and the prestige of our country, and is the best guarantee for the peace of the world.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES rose!—
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN rose in his place, and claimed to more, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee proceeded to a Division.
§ Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir Harry Barnston were named as Tellers for the Ayes, hut there being no Members willing to act as Tellers for the Noes, the DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN declared that the Ayes had it.
§ Question put accordingly, "That a supplementary sum, not exceeding £50, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 140; Noes, 267.579
|Division No. 325.]||AYES.||[11.3 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Connolly, M.||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Crawfurd, H. E.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Dalton, Hugh||Hammersley, S. S|
|Ammon, Charles George||Davies Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hardie, George D.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Day, Colonel Harry||Harris, Percy A.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Dennison, R.||Hayday, Arthur|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Duncan, C.||Hayes, John Henry|
|Barnes, A.||Dunnico, H.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Barr, J.||Fenby, T. D.||Henderson, T. (Grasgow)|
|Batey, Joseph||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hirst, G. H.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Forrest, W.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Garro-Jones, Captain G M.||Hudson, J. H. (Huudersfield)|
|Broad, F. A.||Gibbins, Joseph||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Bromley, J.||Gillett, George M.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Gosling, Harry||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)|
|Cape, Thomas||Graham, D. M. (Lanark. Hamilton)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Clowes, S.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Groves, T.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Kennedy, T.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Kirkwood, D.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Lansbury, George||Rose, Frank H.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Lawson, John James||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Viant, S. P.|
|Lindley, F. W.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Livingstone, A. M.||Scrymgeour, E.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Lowth, T.||Scurr, John||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Lunn, William||Sexton, James||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Mackinder, W.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Welsh, J. C.|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Westwood, J.|
|March, S.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Maxton, James||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Whiteley, W.|
|Montague, Frederick||Sitch, Charles H.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Morris, R. H.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smillie, Robert||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Oliver, George Harold||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Owen, Major G.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Paling, W.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Snell, Harry||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Windsor, Walter|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Wright, W.|
|Potts, John S.||Stamford, T. W.||Young, E. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Purcell, A. A.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Sutton, J. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Riley, Ben||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Darby)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Warne.|
|Ritson, J.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro- W.)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Harland, A.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Cope, Major William||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Couper, J. B.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M.S.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Headlam, Lieut. Colonel C. M.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)|
|Atkinson, C.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Henn, sir Sydney H.|
|Balniel, Lord||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hannessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)||Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hilton, Cecil|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon w.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Drewe, C.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Holt, Capt. H. P.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Homan, C. W. J.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Elvedon, Viscount||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Climb., N.)|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Fermoy, Lord||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Fielden, E. B.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Finburgh S.||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fleming, D. P.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Ford, P. J.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Kennedy, A. R.(Preston)|
|Burman, J. B.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Kindersley, Major Buy M.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Gates, Percy||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Goff, Sir Park||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Campbell, E. T.||Gower, Sir Robert||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Cassels, J. D.||Grant, J. A.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)||Loder, J. de V.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N (Ladywood)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Looker, Herbert William|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Gretton, Colonel John||Lord, Walter Greaves|
|Christie, J. A.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Lougher, L.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Gunston, Captain D. W.||MacAndrew, Charles Glen|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hanbury, C.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|McLean, Major A.||Raine, W.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Ramsden, E.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Sugden, Sir Wilfred|
|MacRobert, Alexander M.||Remer, J. R.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Rentoul, G. S.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Merriman, F. B.||Rice, Sir Frederick||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts"y)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Mitchell, S (Lanark, Lanark)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Ropner, Major L.||Vaughan-Morgan Col. K. P.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Waddington, R.|
|Monsell, Eyres, Con Rt Hon. B. M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Rye, F. G.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Morden, Col. W. Grant||Sandon, Lord||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Morrison H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Murchison, C. K.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Shepperson, E. W.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Neville, R. J.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Smithers, Waldron||Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W.R., Ripon)|
|Pennefather, Sir John||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Perring, William George||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Storry Deans, R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Preston, William||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Strickland, Sir Gerald||Harry Barnston.|
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Several hon. Members rose—
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.