§ 1. "That 102,675 officers, seamen, boys, and Royal Marines be employed for the sea service, together with 350 for the marine police, borne on the books of His Majesty's ships, at the Royal Marine Divisions, and at Royal Air Force establishments, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926."
§ 2. "That a sum, not exceeding £15,040,300, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of wages, etc., of officers and men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and civilians employed on fleet services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926."
§ 3. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,588,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of works, buildings, and repairs, at home and abroad, including the cost of superintendence, purchase of sites, grants-in-aid, and other charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926."
§ 4. "That a sum, not exceeding £4,509,900, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of victualling and clothing for the Navy, including the cost of victualling establishments at home and abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926."
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I beg to move to leave out "£2,588,000," and to insert instead thereof "£2,587,900."
On this point, I think it is convenient for the House to consider the declaration made by the Government that it proposes to go on with Singapore. I understand from a speech delivered by a right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway on this side of the House that there is a feeling in that quarter that the Labour Government was not quite so consistent in this matter as it ought to have been, and the claim was made by the right hon. Gentleman that he and his colleagues are the only consistent people in the House of Commons. Consistency, I suppose, is a virtue, but it 76 always reminds me of the fig leaf which had to be worn by humanity when humanity became conscious of a great cause and of excessive nakedness. The consistency of the right hon. Gentleman who made that observation against us the other day is certainly not one of the most conspicuous of what, I hope, are his many virtues. But, consistent or not, the position of the Labour Government, and now the Labour Opposition, is perfectly clear and straightforward.
We came into office at a time when, before making our position clear to the House, it was impossible for us to examine all the documents that were presented to us and take into account all the considerations laid before us. We never regarded Singapore as a small matter. We always regarded it as one of the most critical steps the Home Government could take in the interests of the Empire, and it was because we took that very serious view of the significance of the step that we decided, and quite honestly confessed to the House that we decided, to suspend work at Singapore pending a final decision which would not precede but would follow an examination of the case which could be put up in favour of Singapore. We went through that examination, and the result is, so far as I am concerned, the attitude that I am taking to-day. If that is considered to be inconsistent I do not care. It is the only way in which a Government that is sensible of its responsibilities can carry on the business of this country.
What is the argument that is put up from the point of view of Imperial safety and Imperial necessity? Perhaps I ought to explain why I interrupted the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day when he was using very freely the word "Imperial." The whole of my interruption was a question as to whether South Africa was regarded by him as being within the Empire. There was apparently some resentment shown at the form of the question, but as a matter of fact it was a very sound observation. Hon. Members must remember that the Empire is not Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps I should also add Newfoundland, because the Newfoundland Government at the time we took office associated itself with Singapore. The other parts of the Empire did not. So that when we talk about the Empire we must re- 77 member that our Empire does not consist solely of those two very important communities in the South Pacific. When we consider what is the effect of Singapore upon the Empire as a whole, I think the conclusion that we come to is that it is going to weaken the Empire because it will increase the war-making impulses in the world. It may be that it we take the argument which was put up in that very quiet but remarkably well-informed speech delivered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galloway (Sir A. Henniker-Hughan) in the last Debate, he not being under the restraint of ever having been on the Front Bench, or of being on the Front Bench, said quite bluntly that Singapore is necessary as a naval base in order to maintain a white Australian policy. What does that mean? It means that he anticipates that because Australia will undoubtedly persist in its opposition to receiving Japanese immigrants, that political and racial policy will inevitably result in a military conflict between Australia and Japan If that is not his argument the whole of his case falls to the ground.
If that be so, it is obvious that this cause of a quarrel between Australia and Japan, and the preparations made to carry it to a successful conclusion, so far from increasing the security of the Empire, as a matter of fact is a special and an extra reason why the whole Empire is sooner or later going to be involved in a war. That may be necessary. It may be inevitable. But a great many people defend the Singaport venture on the ground that it is part of the steps that we have to take for the general security of the Empire. From that point of view, from the point of view of the risk the Empire is running because Australia is pursuing a white Australia policy, what is the best counteroffensive? Is Singapore the only one? Is that the only class of counteroffensive that is possible? The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there are being built up in connection with the League of Nations a large group of activities meant to take the whole of this intricate question of the immigration of Asiatics from the sphere where it is to be met by military preparations and handed over to the sphere where it is to 78 be met by legal decision. It cannot be settled with security to the Empire in any other way than that. The problem of the immigration of Asiatics into territories governed by whites, if allowed to be met, and to be foreshadowed, by preparations such as are suggested at Singapore, is going to impose inevitably an all-round challenge by certain races against certain other races. It is one of those beginnings in racial psychology which cannot possibly be ended until there is an engagement all along the line—the white races and the yellow races—the coloured races, whatever the colour may be. Surely it behoves every one of us who has been in office, every one who is in office, and every one who aspires to be in office, to use our brains and all the expediencies that we can devise to shunt that problem—just to push it over the plane of a military solution and get it on to the plane of a judicial solution in some shape or form.
§ Major Sir B. FALLE
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the fact that the United States extended the prohibition of immigration not merely to coloured and balck labour, but to European labour, without fighting?
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The only explanation I think I need give to that question is this. Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman would never suggest the fortification of some island on the Atlantic, say, midway towards America, for the purpose of fighting a European country on account of its emigration policy. That is all the claim I want to make. We have got a grievance. We may have an accumulation of grievances. I think we shall. I think the War has revolutionised the world altogether to a far greater extent than perhaps the most imaginative of us has yet understood, and one of the great problems that later generations of this century will have to consider, and consider in a practical way, is the problem of emigration and immigration. But there are certain dangers in that problem, and certain degrees in its danger, and I think those who have studied it most and have seen the countries mostly affected by it on both sides, both Japan on the one hand and Australia on the other, will agree with me if I lay down this proposition, that the most dangerous 79 of all the aspects of that problem is the possibility of a conflict between the white and the yellow races on pure racial lines, backed to a certain extent by economic evolution, but mainly on racial lines, such as was forecast by the late Professor Pearson in a book which is now forgotten, but which a few years ago was one of the most widely read books of that time. Therefore from my point of view the policy expressed in the building of Singapore is a policy which strengthens the military solution of this problem and weakens the judicial solution, upon which I base nearly all my practical hope, the development of the work of the League of Nations and its various supplementaries, economic emigration and so on. Let me remind the House that those of us who take that view have already won the first round in the fight. We know now perfectly well that if the international court had to decide whether a conflict between Japan and Australia arising out of the question of emigration was an exterior matter, an international matter from the point of view of Australia, or a purely domestic matter from the point of view of Australia, international law says that emigration is purely a domestic affair for the country that is responsible. That is the first round of the fight to be settled, and it has been settled on our side.
From the point of view of the Dominions, I do not take party resolutions or things of that kind. I am taking the Dominions, as it were, as a great collection of political problems, which, sooner or later, those who sit on the Front Bench opposite, to whatever party they belong, or whether they belong to this generation or the next generation, will have to face, and I hope and pray that they will successfully solve them. From the point of view of the problems that our Dominion Governments will present to our home Government, Singapore, so far from being a strength to our home Government, will be a cause of weakness.
Take the other argument, which was produced the other day, the question of trade routes. When I went through some of these papers a few months ago there was one conclusion that one could not resist, and it was the conclusion that it was our responsibility and 80 our duty to provide proper police supervision for these trade routes. But Singapore is not a police station. We must be very careful about that. We must not allow any misconception in regard to the argument about the trade routes—those elongated and complicated trade routes going round and concentrating in the Malay Straits and the narrow waters which join the Pacific and the Indian Oceans; that neck and channel through which this enormous trade must go, cast and west, in order to keep up the connection between the two hemispheres. We must not allow ourselves, and we must not allow those who are in favour of the Singapore Base, to put upon that undoubted fact a conclusion which it does not bear. If it is a police question, if Singapore Dockyard is going to be a sort of police headquarters, that is a different story.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
It is like "animal" and "vegetable." It is very difficult to define the border line, but you can tell the extremes quite easily. There is no doubt that the hon. and gallant Member is very remote from a vegetable. I could dogmatise on that, but you cannot dogmatise on the border line. The proposal that is being put up for Singapore is for the capital ship, not the cruiser, not the police cruiser, but the capital ship—
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
You have now defined your "police" force as being a cruiser force and not a "battleship" force.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
My hon. and gallant Friend must excuse me, because I am not sure what the evolution of the cruiser is going to be as a cruiser. I am not at all sure whether the cruiser in its evolution is going to remain a policeman or is going to become something like the policeman in certain Continental States, who is called a policeman but, as a matter of fact, is a soldier.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I prefer to cast my eyes abroad. It is much safer in this matter than casting our eyes near home. Therefore, if the request for the Singapore base is for a police headquarters, 81 there can be a good deal said for it. Even then it would require to be very carefully examined and scrutinised, for reasons which I will give. In that event, the argument against Singapore would not be, as I think, so absolutely on one side as is the argument against the proposition of regarding Singapore as a true naval base. That is what it really comes to. That is a contemplation of war. It is a contemplation of offence, and there is no ground whatever for it. [Interruption.] I would prefer not to be misled into other channels. If there is an argument, and I know there is an argument, that you cannot have a naval police force without a fleet in the ordinary sense, without a line of battleships somewhere in the neighbourhood, then that weakens the case for the police force as a separate idea, and consequently it compels us to judge Singapore as an impossible place for a police force but as a possible place for a big naval base. That opens up the whole argument that I am addressing to the House.
What is the position at the present time? You have no naval preparation that can reasonably make you come to the conclusion, or that can reasonably compel you to the conclusion, that war there is a possibility. There must be wide political movements to precede it, and those political movements will take much time to develop—the political conditions cannot be accomplished in a year or two—and before a reasonable prospect of war comes there will be so much preparation and so much preliminary movement that, if the worst were to come to the worst, there would be plenty of time for taking a move; whereas, taking the move now you precipitate all these things. You short-circuit all the chances of a, peaceful solution of the problems to which I have been referring, and you weaken, if not defeat—I do not use the latter word because we shall do our best to prevent a defeat—you undoubtedly weaken those pacific and judicial forces that are moving for a solution of the problem that you are making preparations to meet by naval and military means.
There are no preparations that justify you in going on out there. There is no threat there to justify you. You may say, as was remarked the other day, that nobody can misjudge us, that we are 3,000 miles away from this and 2,000 miles 82 away from that. Very well. If that is their security against Singapore, it is your security against that bottleneck, against that narrow channel for your trade routes. You will not be threatened there, I repeat, until great political movements have been made, and the very beginning of those movements have not yet shown themselves. You are going beyond requirements for trade protection. You are asking for a striking naval base. You can say it is defensive as long as you like, but we must remember that there are other people who judge us not always in accordance with the way that we judge ourselves. From the point of view of the Dominions, from the point of view of the Empire, this Singapore policy is a weakness, and from the point of view of trade it is absolutely unnecessary and is a menace, because it upsets the pacific evolution of forces and interests that, if they are allowed to evolve, will make this preparation quite unnecessary.
Take it from the point of view of its place, I do not know anything of the situation myself. I have only listened to argument, with what success I do not know. I have heard the case graphically put by experts. The naval expert is in duty bound to point out every weakness not only in the Malay Straits, but everywhere else, from the North Pole to the South Pole and from the rising sun to the setting sun, but he has no business to give us our policy. One of the things that I most profoundly regret is the sort of lack of cordial co-operation between some of the Services and what I call the politician. Some of the experts, knowing that we cannot command ships at sea, and cannot fire guns, and knowing that we are subject to pressure which they regard as being rather of a poor character, namely, public opinion and public interest, and so on, put the politician down as something, I think, morally inferior, certainly inferior from the point of view of practitude of service to the public and in the public interest, compared with those who have been trained in all the intricate work that a Navy, Army and Air Force require. Until the politicians and the Services understand each other sympathetically, and understand the function that one has to the other and strive to co-ordinate those two functions, neither the Services 83 nor the politicians will give to the State the service that the State ought to receive from both of them.
On pure paper, as a thing that you can see, Singapore is the place where a naval station should be placed, if we want one. That is on paper, but when you come to study it in other ways I am not at all sure that it is the place. I do not know, I have never been there—
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I have not altered my views, except that my last year's views were these, that we were exploring the position, and we did explore it and have come to our conclusions. What is the situation? I understand that whilst the point is suitable—I suppose this is where the hon. and gallant Member suggests that I have altered my views—while the point on the map is suitable, while the geographical position is suitable, the physiographical position is of much greater doubt. What are the conditions of hygiene? Are they good?
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I am told that they are not. I have received assurances from gentlemen who have been out there, such as professional medical officers—
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Perhaps we can get the figures for comparison and the occupations of the men. I venture to say that the figures would not bear out that optimistic view. I am sure that the hon. Member lived with that puritanical rectitude which is a protection against all climates. I have no doubt that he reaped a wonderful harvest in robust health from his abstemiousness and other virtues. I saw the other day one of the most extraordinary spectacles that one can wish to see in the creation of a healthy area, out of practically swampy countries and disease-infested districts. I happened 84 the other day to be at Panama and at Colon, and there I saw the district between the sea and the upper edge of the Gatun Lake, which formerly was a miraculous mass of swamp and jungle, infested by yellow fever, malaria, and so on, and but where now you see villages and cantonments that remind you rather of the Golders Green model village more than anything else, only a little bit greener, and a little bit fresher. Yes, but look at the cost! The cost represents tens of millions, if not scores of millions of dollars. Has that been estimated? How far would the £10,000,000 or the £11,000,000, which the Government assure us is all that they will spend, go towards covering this expenditure? Of course, it could not cover it.
The position is not only very doubtful from the hygienic point of view, but from the military and strategic point of view, I am told that its value is of a most doubtful character. The Johore Peninsula bounds the Strait on the north. The island of Singapore hounds it on the south. I understand that the edge of Johore abounds in mangrove swamps and jungles that are practically in-penetrable, and that above these there are hills with bare tops which would be magnificent observation posts for an enemy unless they are occupied by us. As soon as we settle down on the shore of that narrow strait which divides Johore from Singapore, then we discover that, in order to make our defence of Singapore secure, we must get hold of a very large area on the mainland and fortify it, I dare say for the Air Force in particular and also for the military, and provide the necessary buildings, etc., because it was described to me by one who is intimately acquainted with both naval and military strategies as a perfect "sitter" for aeroplane attacks. I do not know quite what that expression means. I believe that it is a technical expression. Perhaps I could appeal to some of the Service Members to tell us what it is.
All this opens up a most extraordinary development of a military character quite apart from its effect as a naval base. You must have these defences on the mainland where they are better there than at Singapore Harbour, which is on the southern shore. You discover then that there are consequential defences to be 85 made. Most of that territory has to be acquired, as you cannot defend Singapore without it. And so on, year after year, until the 10 years are up and we have got our dock built and going we shall have Supplementary Estimates, not only for the naval base, but for increasing the area which is covered by the military defence scheme, and that £11,000,000 is going to be a mere flea-bite of the total cost. We are embarking upon an absolutely unknown account, and the account is to be of such a nature that when we have gone beyond a certain extent we are bound to go through with it whether we like it or not. It is not a businesslike proposition, and not a proposition to which this House, if it were free to express its views, would readily assent.
I alluded some minutes ago to the political effect. I return to that for a few moments. What is going to be the effect of this? It is here that my chief interest comes in. I am very much interested in the other sections of the matter with which I have been dealing, but I am much more interested in the development of the conflict, which I do not suppose I shall live to see, but which, unless the situation is very carefully handled, will certainly have to be fought out in the world. The position was very well expressed by my right hon. Friend the other day. We were honest, single-minded, and there is no thought of offence on our part. I accept that. Then I find him quoting the official statements of admirals, and I notice that Lord Balfour indulged in the same very mild recreation the other day. That is all nonsense. Everybody knows that that does not represent the ferment which is going on in the East. I have had sent to me, for instance, a resolution passed by the League of Nations Association of Japan, evidently not a militarist and not a nationalist body, but a body formed in Japan for the purpose of advancing the interest of the League of Nations, similar to our League of Nations Union, and similar to the very worthy body of Members of Parliament which meets once a fortnight upstairs to consider questions affecting the objects of the League. I will read the Resolution, though it is somewhat longer than the quotations which, as a rule, I care to make in my speeches. The Resolution says:It is the opinion of the League of Nations Association of Japan that the 86 execution of the naval base plan at Singapore:There is very much more significance in a Resolution like that than in thousands of speeches delivered by admirals and other officials. Hon. Members know the ceremonial politeness, which is not altogether absent from our statements, but which is never absent from the statements made by those in the East who have dignified positions in the Admiralty. A Japanese admiral knows perfectly well that if he told the world that Singapore was a menace to them he would be lowering the dignity of his own country and casting reflections upon the efficiency of her navy. Everybody knows that that is so. Consequently in the ferment that is going on in the East at the moment—and no one can take up a Japanese paper without seeing it—that is a subject that is much talked about, and I have been assured that it is a subject which has been very much used by certain communistic propaganda bodies both in Malay and in Java, where there seems to be a very active and mischievous propaganda of Communism going on for spreading its influence all round that part of the world. I have no doubt that the effect of the Singapore proposals is to turn the mind of the East towards the military position and to make the East assume that this conflict, to which I have referred repeatedly, is going to happen and that they must be prepared for it. In a word we gain nothing in the East by building this fort and we are provoking a new enemy.
- (1) May produce an unfavourable reaction on the traditional friendly relations between Japan and England
- (2) May afford to the militarists in power the pretext for competitive armaments and materials for their propaganda It Is further of opinion that this plan is out of harmony with the spirit of the League and nullifies the effect reached by the Washington Conference. For this reason the League of Nations Association of Japan invitee the careful consideration of the important effect of the proposed naval base plan at Singapore."
What is going to be Japan's reply? I do not care to go into these matters too much, but it is of tremendous interest and is exceedingly important. I gather more by the implications of the speech to which we listened last week, than by any definite statement which my right hon. 87 Friend made, that Japan's reply was to be looked for in naval activity. If hon. Members confine their attention, in trying to find out the state of mind of Japan as to what is required by this move on our part, to her naval programme I venture to suggest that they are on the wrong scent. The reply is the creation of a new political policy in the Far East of Asia. That is where the reply will come in. I do not like to say too much on that subject, but there is Russia engaged in certain action in Pekin. Russia is not waiting for anyone in China to consider the matter, or for the decisions of Ministers or anything like that. She is simply proceeding with her own policy. She has never consulted us; she has taken action absolutely on her own, the meaning of which I take it does not require anyone to look very deeply in order to find it.
That is one thing. Then there is China. There is the future of China, the future relation of the three countries, Japan, Russia and China. I do not believe for a moment that the future need worry us. I believe that we can maintain the most cordial friendship with Japan. I believe that no move that must be made in the Far East need be inimical to us. But in the meantime we must keep our heads, we must try to keep a very careful rein and a very steady hand. I have come to the conclusion that from that point of view the creation of a naval base at Singapore will upset many of our chances of success in the direction which I have indicated. There is still one other aspect and it is the last with which I shall deal. Do not let us come to some sort of conception like this: We are building at Singapore a dockyard for emergencies. All that we have to do with it is to keep it clean. We shall have a nucleus staff there, and the British Fleet, as hitherto, will be concentrated somewhere near home waters. It may have its manœuvres in the Mediterranean in the spring on account of good weather, but it will still be a British Fleet, not merely politically so but geographically, concentrated somewhere in the waters surrounding Great Britain, or very near to those waters, and Singapore will be a place of reserve, a sort of hospital, a place prepared for emergencies.
88 If any hon. Member is indulging in that easy view he is going to be very much mistaken. The building of Singapore is a tremendous and critical event in the evolution of British naval strategy and in the distribution of the British Fleet. We are going to create, we must create, we cannot help creating, if you take the necessary steps and produce this scheme as a completed whole—we must go on and create a Pacific Fleet, or what may be the first stage of an alternative. It may be that the First Lords of the Admiralty may come down and say, "Oh, that prophesy has not been fulfilled." But I will tell you what will be fufilled, if not straight away. We may find that Australia and New Zealand, instead of contributing to an Imperially controlled fleet, will create a fleet, a system of naval defence, supported by capital ships, which will be concentrated in Singapore, and leave us the other parts of the Imperial defence. That will certainly not last. It is a state of things that is unthinkable as a solution of the problem of Imperial naval defence—absolutely unthinkable. But we know how the unthinkable becomes the thinkable, and how an impossible situation is created in order to meet temporary difficulties, and then, as soon as it is created, it evolves itself into something that everybody at the beginning said they would not have agreed to, but which they accept as a fait accompli.
That is what is going to happen. But the final step will be the creation of a Pacific Fleet with its base on Singapore, with all the paraphernalia and expense, both capital expense and the expense of creation, and the expense of keeping it up, which I have indicated. The House cannot contemplate such a development without due consideration. If hon. Members were free, if they were in a position to sit around a table to hear evidence, if they had the power to examine, the power to criticise, and then finally the power to give effect to the conclusion to which they came, I venture to say that they would never accept the proposal that is now being made to start the creation of such a dockyard as Singapore is bound to become.
I want to put one or two questions to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I would like to have his answers. How many ships does he propose should go to Singapore? He really must tell us these 89 things. That is part and parcel of the scheme. He tells us, for instance, that they have now found that they can build this base for less money than they anticipated. What do they propose to build with the reduced sum? Will he tell us exactly? What does he propose to do with the sum? What is the programme, the scheme? For instance, does it include barracks for troops? Does it include barracks for an air force? Does it include railways that must be built there in order to connect depots with the harbour and floating dock and so on? Does it include the whole scheme of necessary naval development, or is it merely the building of the naval equipment which in itself would involve this supplementary expenditure? He ought to tell us exactly what he has in mind when he says that Singapore can be finished for less than £11,000,000, or whatever was the sum that he mentioned.
I want to make another reflection, with which I think the whole House will agree. It is surely most unwise, immediately after a great war, which tested the relative importance of arms, the relative kinds of arms within the service, which tested the relative importance of the Air Service to the Navy, and also the relative importance of submarines and capital battleships, cruisers and destroyers, and so on. Does my right hon. Friend mean to tell me that they have now made up their minds at the Admiralty finally as to what is the lesson of the War, not only for fighting in home waters, but for fighting so far removed from the base—even taking Australia as the base—a thousand miles away from the base, from which the main, the larger operations, will be directed? Have they come to final conclusions about that? Are they quite sure that our present state of knowledge of naval strategy, of naval building, of naval arms, justifies the Government in assuming that a great step like this, the building of a base of such critical military, naval and political importance, has been preceded by an exploration of our knowledge, and that in these circumstances he can say that we are perfectly safe, that this can be done, and that we can guarantee that this will be effective for use under circumstances when they arise to call for it?
90 I am afraid that I have detained the House at some length, but I feel very strongly and keenly about this proposal. I believe that it is not in accordance with the policy that will continue, for some time at any rate, to be the policy of hope for the British Empire. I believe that if you build Singapore, you will have to scrap the Washington ratios. You cannot carry out the Washington ratio if the capital ship is to remain of major importance in the naval arm, because the Washington ratio depends upon concentration, and that cannot be carried out under conditions of dissipation. It cannot be carried out, because the Washington ratio would require to be a Pacific ratio, not a Pacific plus Mediterranean or plus Atlantic ratio. If your ratio is against A, a Pacific power, and you are not only a Pacific power, but an Atlantic power, a Mediterranean power, the ratio evidently is upset.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
It may be, but at present your Fleet is concentrated; the whole strategy is concentration. If you have, as it were, two fleets, at least two effective fleets, not merely a fleet based on Portsmouth, and a fleet based on Rosyth, or a fleet based on Scapa Flow, which really is one thing—a few miles between, quite insignificant—for all intents and purposes it is one base. If you are to have a fleet based on Portsmouth, Plymouth and Rosyth on the one hand, and another based on Singapore, then you have to keep two fleets independently equipped, fleets that are prepared to see service at two minutes' notice without having any communication from any other quarter. The more that is thought over, the sounder it will be seen to be. If we are to dissipate our fleet, if our fleet is to be based not only on the Atlantic, but on the Pacific, all ratios must go, ratios agreed to by rival or supposedly rival Powers. This means an ever-increasing naval armament, an ever-increasing expenditure of the British taxpayers' money, an ever-increasing burden upon us, when we expected that these burdens would be lightened. These things mean not peace, not security, but inevitable war.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
I confess that the speech to which we have just listened from 91 the right hon. Gentleman so tickles the imagination at certain points and so disappoints one at others that I should like to make a very short reply in regard to those matters which seem to me to be essential for the consideration of this problem. I was not surprised at an interjection which came from an hon. Friend of mine above the Gangway, in which some astonishment was expressed at the divergence between the view presented by the right hon. Gentleman on the present occasion and that which he stated to the House last year when this subject was previously discussed. At that time the right hon. Gentleman made it very plain that if we were to have any base in the East, Singapore was the place to have it, and we were not treated to any of these vaticinations of evil as to what would happen to troops and sailors if we were to take up a permanent place at Singapore. In fact, all the information which the Government authorities in the past have had with regard to this place is that it is not at all an unhealthy situation for troops, and I think the appearance of two hon. Members who have spent long periods of service in this region is sufficient to convince the House that no very serious malady arises from service in that quarter of the globe. That, after all, is a very small matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I do not myself think it is a small matter, but it was a small point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
There was another matter to which the right hon. Gentleman adverted. He quoted from a resolution passed by the League of Nations Union of Japan. I know nothing at all with regard to the size and importance of that body, nor what particular members were present when this resolution was passed, but even assuming that it was supported by a solid body of opinion I am not sure that we should pay very great attention to it. I think we should look at the circumstances. Japan, just now, is very busy protecting certain parts of her own coast at a far greater expense than that in which we are proposing to indulge at Signapore. What effect would it have on Japan if the League of Nations Union in this country were to pass a similar resolution to that which the right hon. Gentleman has read? 92 Going a little further I do not think, even if such a, resolution were passed, that it would embitter our relations with Japan if Japan did not immediately conform to what the resolution said. There was however one passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which must have created sympathy in the breasts of all of us. He adverted to a theme upon which he often dwells with great fervour, eloquence and conviction. He expressed his view that the best way to decide all quarrels was through some judicial method rather than through the employment of force. What he argued was that the building of this fortified base at Singapore would have some inimical effect upon the realisation of that ideal and the attainment of peaceful methods for the decision of the quarrels of the world. I am sure every Member of the House agrees with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be far better to have decisions by some judicial process rather than by force. That is an object at which we all aim, but it is perfectly obvious that we live in a world where that ideal is very difficult to attain.
§ Sir R. HORNE
My hon. Friend will realise in a moment how difficult this matter is, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman his Leader already does. How do you put judicial decisions into effect? You only do it by force, and if you have not the force to put them into effect, believe me a great many of them would have no result at all. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was the main instrument in passing Resolutions last year at Geneva, instituting a system for bringing about an avoidance of war through the activity of the League of Nations, and he is an ardent advocate, as no doubt we shall discover to-morrow, of the Protocol. The intention of that document was to compel peace, if it could be done. Could it be done by a Resolution of the League of Nations? It was perfectly obvious that that was a totally ineffective method, and what did the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues institute as a method of attaining peace? It was a method of force, and what was the instrument of force to be used? It was the British Navy? Yet his present attitude and that of his colleagues is to cripple the British Navy and make it absolutely immobile in one of the greatest oceans in the, world, 93 because, without Singapore, it is well known that the British Navy cannot operate in those far seas. It is in order that such power as we have may be effective in the Pacific, if it is necessary, that we desire the Singapore base, and for that reason alone.
Why should the fortification, or rather the refortifying of this base be regarded as provocative in any part of the world Let me remind the House of what its condition was. It has always been a base, so long as we have known it, for British forces. The only difficulty is that to-day it is no longer in an effective condition to take in ships of the class now being built. Is it going to be said that a foreign Power world take offence because we keep, in an up-to-date condition, a base which we have held for many generations? Al the Washington Conference when they were dealing with the delimitation of the zones to which certain Resolutions were to be applied, Singapore was deliberately excluded and it was made perfectly clear that the reason was because it was an old fortified base of the British Navy and we intended to go on and put it into a proper state of equipment. That has been made clear by Lord Balfour's revelations of what took place in Washington at that time. It is idle to say that the Japanese have any right to be provoked by our actions or that they did not anticipate that we shall finish this base in our own proper and good time. The right hon. Gentleman asks what is going to be the effect in Japan and in the Eastern and Southern seas. He anticipates a quarrel—to which I confess I am sorry he should give even the appearance of the likelihood of reality—taking place on certain lines between Australia and Japan.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
May I correct the right hon. Gentleman? I was pursuing an argument—and I hope I was quite clear—which was put up last week by an hon. and gallant Gentleman on the benches opposite, and it is mere mischief to suggest that I said that such a quarrel ought to develop, or is going to develop.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I gladly withdraw my statement of what I understood was in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, because I hope there are none of us in a state of mind in which we could even contemplate such an emergency. The right hon. 94 Gentleman based a somewhat elaborate argument upon this suggestion, but now that he says it was no part of what was in his mind, I need not go further into the matter. The point I was going to make can be equally well substantiated on another branch of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. "What is going to be the effect on Japan," he asks, "of the action which we are taking now?" He indicates a combination which would involve China and Russia and the possibility of Japan no longer wishing to remain in the state of alliance with us which she is in at the present time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] She is an ally at the present time, and I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite will question that statement. Let us think for a moment of what the ordinary action of human nature would be in such a condition of things as the right hon. Gentleman contemplates. Do people want your support and your alliance more when you are strong or when you are weak? I venture to say that, if it were possible that Japan were reconsidering her alliances—and I hope she is not doing so, and will not do so—but if she were, by any chance, reconsidering her alliances, I am perfectly certain she would be far more impressed by a proposal from us if we were strong and in a position to be effective in those seas than she would be if we were weak and could not carry out our promises.
After all, and behind this argument, what appears to me most strongly is that we are bound, if we value our Imperial communications and the ties which we have with Australia and New Zealand, to put ourselves in a position to render to them effective aid should they require it. I hope they may not require it, but we must at least feel that they can be defended if their moment of need should come. For my part, I would rather not follow the right hon. Gentleman into some of the considerations which he has raised. I would prefer to base myself on the considered opinion of the Committee of Imperial Defence and on the demand which Australia and New Zealand make upon us for the fortification of this base. I think we should be false to our trust in this House if we did not go on to complete the operations at Singapore which we have begun—we should be false to our trust by 95 rendering insecure our great Imperial communications and the trade routes upon which the welfare of this country depends.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said the attitude of those who opposed these proposals was to cripple the British Navy, and it is frequently the genial habit of hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite, when Navy Estimates are under discussion, to represent their opponents as being animated by some personal or intellectual bias against the Navy. It is true there is in this House a small band of professed and convinced pacifists led by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) who believe it is possible and desirable for us immediately and completely to disarm, but the true issue in these Debates is between those who take a wide view of the necessities of Imperial defence, embracing not only the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, but also other factors equally important from the standpoint of national defence, such, for instance, as our dire need of financial and economical recuperation, the necessity for the reduction of taxation if our exhausted economic and financial reserves are to be replenished and a margin for the expansion of our revenue in time of emergency is to be restored; who believe that the strength, vigour and vitality of a nation does not reside solely or mainly in its armed forces, but in the health, the education and the contentment of the people, and those, on the other hand, who believe that no money is wasted so long as it is spent in satisfying the demands of the Admiralty.
The First Lord presents Estimates to this House which provide for an increase in expenditure of nearly £5,000,000, and he proceeds to account for this increase. He says that £1,370,000 is accounted for by formal re-arrangements of the Estimates; that £1,500,000 more is due to uncontrollable causes, and under these two heads he accounts for more than half the increase, but I would say that the increase is £4,500,000 out of £60,500,000 of the whole Estimates. It is necessary for the First Lord not merely to explain these increases, but to explain why he has been unable to effect compensating economies in other directions. I will not refer on 96 the Vote under discussion to what those compensating economies might be—we shall have other opportunities of reverting to them—but the First Lord speaks of the "uncontrollable causes" of expenditure. What is the principal responsibility of First Lord to this House? Surely it is to control the expenditure of the money which we vote to His Majesty for the upkeep of his Navy, and a First Lord who comes down to this House and talks of uncontrollable expenditure stands before us self-condemned. There is this great expenditure on Singapore, and hon. Members say it is essential in order to maintain the strength of the Navy, but I would remind them that, just as they say, when social reform is under consideration, that there is no inexhaustible pool from which you can draw to finance your projects of social reform, so is that argument doubly true when you apply it to armaments, which, after all, give no return in national production or social contentment, and to the extent that uneconomical expenditure is permitted on armaments, a burden is placed on the taxpayer, a burden is placed on industry and a drain is created upon our financial and economic reserves, so that not only is our defensive strength not increased, but the defensive power of this country is actually weakened.
Efficiency can only be claimed if, for every pound of expenditure on armaments, we get 20s. worth of war power, and the First Lord of the Admiralty talks of having insisted upon economy so far as it is compatible with efficiency! I think that in using that phrase he reflected with alarming fidelity and clearness the mentality of the Admiralty. So far from efficiency and economy being incompatible and having to be balanced one against the other, the truth is, as Lord Fisher taught us 20 years ago, when he eradicated these ideas with his pitiless surgery from the Admiralty, that without economy, rigid economy, relentless economy, efficiency is inconceivable. No Vote is more in need of drastic pruning than the Vote now under discussion, and I think there is no direction in which the Lords of the Admiralty would have a better chance of emulating the achievements of Lord Fisher than in this particular Vote. Just as he greatly raised the ratio of war power to expenditure by scrapping obsolete vessels, small, feeble, inefficient, obsolete vessels, so 97 they, by scrapping these old, obsolete, unnecessary dockyards could effect huge economies in naval expenditure. I would call in support of my statement authorities which the House will recognise. There is, first of all, a book written by naval officers for naval opinion, to exalt naval needs and aspirations—"Brassey's Annual," which says:In this respect the march of events points to Chatham in particular, and, to a less extent, to Portsmouth as being geographically obsolete. Chatham is already moribund as a first-class naval repair base, because it cannot take modern capital ships.It refers to Chatham, Portsmouth, and Pembroke too. I will not quote the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Fareham (Sir J. Davidson), who touched on some of these points in a very able speech he made the other day with great authority, but I see the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney) in his place, and, therefore, I will quote from a speech which he made on the Air Estimates about a fortnight ago, in which he said:What possible use is there for the Admiralty keeping up out-of-date stations like Chatham and Sheerness? … What possible use is there in keeping up, at enormous expense to the taxpayer, these perfectly useless and out-of-date dockyards?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1925; Col. 1610, Vol. 181.]Fortified by these high authorities, I say that for the expenditure of £1 on these dockyards we are not getting 10s. worth of war power, and, therefore, hon. Members who are conscious of the right and duty of this House to insist upon economy, upon the scrapping of outworn, out-of-date, inefficient dockyards, must give us their support in the Division Lobby to night in the interest's of the taxpayers, in the interests of the efficiency of our national defence, in the interests of the Navy itself—because to stick to obsolete, out-of-date methods is a symptom of decay—and discharge by their votes those functions of scrutiny, criticism, and veto, which the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Cabinet have so lamentably failed to perform. If the tin-imaginative conservatism of the Admiralty is shown in their maintenance, in times of grave financial stringency, of these out-of-date and unnecessary dockyards, it is shown no less in their 98 attempting to put into operation these generation-old schemes for the fortification of Singapore, and to do so in a time of profound peace.
Let me say at once, in reply to what fell from the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), that it is no part of my argument that it is contrary to the provisions of the Washington Treaty that we should fortify Singapore. To say that the Japanese failed to realise that the provisions of that Agreement left us at perfect liberty to fortify Singapore and to enlarge the dockyard which we have long maintained there so as to enable it to keep pace with the growth of our largest warships, does little credit to the intelligence of the highly-skilled naval experts who accompanied the Japanese delegation to Washington. It is, therefore, not our right to construct this naval base, but its utility, its expediency, and its timeliness that I assail. The First Lord of the Admiralty last week fenced with his questioners when they asked him against whom this protection was needed, but obviously there is only one navy of any size and strength in those waters, and that is the navy of Japan, a country that has been united in alliance with us in war. It is not, with all due respect to the right hon. Member for Hillhead, united in alliance with us now, but it is united by close treaty relations and by the bonds of mutual interest, mutual friendship, and mutual respect, but separated from us, and from every great Dominion of the Crown, by thousands of miles of ocean.
The First Lord himself the other day referred to the great distance which separates Plymouth from New York, and he said how absurd it would be to regard Plymouth as a menace to New York. Indeed, he referred to the Noble Lady who sits for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), and asked her whether she had ever heard that in New York Plymouth was regarded as a menace. It was rather curious to put the question that way. I should have thought he would have asked the Noble Lady what view was taken of New York in Plymouth, rather than what view was taken of Plymouth in New York. He rightly derided the idea, but by the same token and by the same geographical measurement, what base is there in Japan or belonging to any other naval Power 99 in the Pacific that could possibly be regarded as a menace to Australia or New Zealand? Singapore, after all, might be a convenience in peace time, but in war does the right hon. Gentleman seriously contemplate that the Admiralty would ever consent to the dispersion of our Fleet which would be involved by sending a Fleet to Singapore? I agree with General Smuts, who, in a telegram or memorandum which he addressed to His Majesty's Government last year, declared that conflagration in Europe would probably synchronise with contention in the Pacific, and that it was out of the question to suppose that the British Admiralty would be able to send the British Fleet, or a large part of it, to Singapore.
What will the cost be? The right hon. Gentleman has informed us that the cost will be £11,000,000, but that leaves out of account all the land defences and air defences that would be required, the protection of the lines of communication, the accommodation at Aden and Colombo, the additional stores that will have to be provided, the oil that must be provided, and the cruisers for protecting the lines of communication. As I shall submit to the House in a few moments, if it be desired to afford protection, at any rate in time of war, to Australia and to New Zealand, advanced bases in the East Indies will certainly be necessary—of course, they cannot be provided in the meantime, because it would be contrary to the provisions of the Washington Agreement—hut even then will the insatiable appetite of the Lords of the Admiralty be appeased? Here again I would call into evidence this hook, which, as I have said, reflects the highest and most expert naval opinion, and is written to voice the needs and aspirations of the Navy, and this is what is said on this question in "Brassey's Naval Annual":Bases, adequately equipped and defended, are needed East, West, and Centre. That 'Centre' is no longer in this country, but in the 'middle sea'—the Mediterranean. But the 'East' and 'West' are as important.It goes on to argue in favour of Singapore, and in the same paragraph says:Also for the same reason our main fleet is unable to be based on either side of Canada, the Bermudas, or West Indies. The British Empire and the Dominions must 100 remember that a naval base cannot be built in a day; and that in those areas of the British Empire and its Dominions where there is no base the main fleet of the British Navy will be quite inactive.He who sups with the Lords of the Admiralty requires a long purse! The First Lord of the Admiralty made a speech in the country last Saturday, and he said that those who are against Singapore are against the Navy and should show themselves in their true colours. The First Lord, I know, is accustomed to make use of this style of oratory. I think he said the policy of the Conservative party was defined as "Truth, the King, and the Ten Commandments," and no doubt lie would think we were not sailing under our true colours unless we properly denounced those ideals and institutions, but is he in favour of this base in the West, the base at Bermuda? After we have satisfied him at Singapore, are we to have a base there, too? If he answers "Yes," we shall know what to expect from his administration, but if the answer is "No," I would point out that he is himself in a glass house, and that he will have to be careful of the accuracy of the aim of his lethal oratory. This is what the full policy of the Government means, though since it was expounded with so much eloquence and experience by the present Colonial Secretary in the last two Parliaments, they have mixed a little water with their wine.
Caution seems to be their slogan now. It was not mentioned in the Conservative manifesto at the last Election. Now the First Lord of the Admiralty points out that this year no expenditure will be required there. But if you sanction it this year, you will set in motion a sequence of events, and you will be told next year, and the year after, that these expenses are uncontrollable expenses, and the cause will be the vote you give to-night. He says it will only he £750,000 for the next three years, and then the whole thing can be reconsidered, when we are getting nearer to the next General Election. But what different language is this from that which was used by the present Colonial Secretary when he was First Lord of the Admiralty! They have lost the courage of their convictions; indeed plainly they have lost any conviction that this base is 101 an immediate and inescapable necessity. If, therefore, you give way to these demands, you will be placing upon the back of the British taxpayers a burden the weight of which is incalculable, which will be felt not this year, but next year, and thereafter increasingly on account of a scheme which is obviously ill-digested, which is constantly subject to alteration and adjustment, and which is of extremely doubtful utility even in contingencies which are now happily remote, but which the mere launching of this scheme might go far to invest with reality.
But there is one aspect of this question which I regard as of supreme importance, and that is the safety of Australia and New Zealand. It would be disastrous if we in this country were to take a narrow view of the responsibilities of Imperial defence, and in this connection I regard the references of the First Lord of the Admiralty in the Debate last week as most unfortunate. Speaking of the tour of the Special Service Squadron round the Dominions, he said:Our Dominions realise what a heavy burden the Mother Country is bearing in this respect, and to show that as they grow and increase in prosperity, they are prepared, and will be prepared, to take upon themselves some share or larger share of the Force."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March; col. 2517, Vol. 181.]I think those words, and especially the use of the phrase "Our Dominions," which occurs more than once in the carefully prepared speech of the right hon. Gentleman, displays a lamentably antiquated conception of Imperial relations. Surely the true conception is that we all have an equal concern in a common duty, and the burden of Imperial defence, and that, just as Australia and New Zealand came and fought alongside us in the Great War, as equal partners in a common heritage, grudging neither blood nor treasure, so we can never be unmindful of the necessities of their existence. We all have friends and kinsmen there, and, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galloway (Sir A. Henniker-Hughan) pointed out in his speech last week, the greater part of the population in those countries comes from the towns and villages which we represent in this House, and if ever they were the victims of aggression, they would have a right to call upon us for the same whole- 102 hearted support as they gave us during the War.
But when we approach the subject from this standpoint, the first question which has to be answered is: Would a base at Singapore give those Dominions any protection at all? Opinion there is divided, as is opinion here. In the first place, it is, at least, doubtful whether we should ever be able to send a fleet there if, as General Smuts pointed out, "complications in Europe happen to synchronise with contention in the Pacific." We know how, in the last War, any leader of military forces insisted on the concentration of the maximum of his forces at one point. But if we did send a fleet there, that fleet would still be from Australia two-thirds of the distance that Plymouth is from New York. Indeed, the present Colonial Secretary, referring to the well-known strategical axiom that the effective range of a fleet from its base is 1,500 miles, said in this House, last July:To say Singapore dominates the Pacific is absurd.… 1,500 miles' radius into the Pacific from Singapore does not get within 1,500 miles of Japan."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1924; col. 2303, Vol. 176.]No, but you would still be short by hundreds of miles of Australia, and hundreds of miles short of the direct line between Australia and Japan! As the present Colonial Secretary and the First Lord of the Admiralty have reminded us, the fortification of Singapore has long been a dream of the Admiralty, and the defence of Australia and New Zealand to them have been only secondary considerations. To my mind, it is the most important object of our strategy in the Pacific. The only other defensive object is the defence of our trade routes, but the most efficient way of effecting that would be to divert the trade round the south of Australia. There are other methods besides; but the best protection of Australia is its great distance from any conceivable hostile base, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out. In any case, it is a fairly obvious truism, which is amply illustrated by the speech of the Colonial Secretary, that a distance of 2,000 miles from the base it is proposed to construct would place out of the question any effective protection of Australia. If Australia is threatened by an enemy, it will require a shield held over her heart, 103 and not one 2,000 miles away to a flank. The true protection, if it wants a great fortified naval base, should be in Sydney. It is all very well for the hon. and gallant Gentleman for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) to refer us to the doctrines of Mahon; but ill this respect there is growing up an important school of thought which believes that, for defensive purposes, adequate defence can be given by a proper system of observation and protection by aircraft and small surface craft. That is the doctrine on which the great Navy of France is proceeding at the present time, and Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, said last summer:Australia should, I think, concentrate on an efficient fleet of relatively small ships to repel invasion.The First Lord of the Admiralty said last week that the Australians were devoting money intended for Singapore to the building of cruisers, and an hon. Member interjected:They thought they were of much more use.The First Lord replied:Perhaps they are. Both are very useful.The taxpayers of this country will want the First Lord of the Admiralty to clear his mind of any doubt on that point, before he commits us to any great expenditure on Singapore. The greatest experts on either side of the House tell us that our defence is, to a large extent, costly and inefficient, because there is not adequate co-ordination of the fighting services and fuller co-operation between the fighting staffs. Yet, when questions are addressed to the First Lord—not vexatious, tricky questions, but plain, simple questions—inquiring into the relations between the Admiralty and the Air Force, he rounds upon his questioners, and accuses them of trying to goad him into saying something which might be offensive to another Department. Why he should feel any such temptation passes my comprehension, if, as he tells us, relations between these two Departments are perfectly friendly. But. surely, on this question of the strategical defence of Australia and New Zealand, there is ample scope for the free, unhampered co-operation of the two fighting services, the Navy and the Air Service. So far, however, we 104 have only had reports on this question from admirals and soldiers, who have visited these Dominions independently. On this problem of the defence of Australia and New Zealand I should like to see the report of an authoritative and combined Air Force and Naval Commission. In the meantime, having regard to the strategical axiom that the effective radius of a fleet is 1,500 miles from its base, I dispute the relevance of this scheme. The First Lord, speaking last week, said:One glance at the map shows Singapore is the very centre and pivot of our scattered units of Empire in the East—India, Australia, New Zealand, the Straits Settlements and Ceylon, all within a comparatively small ambit.No part of the coast of India is within 1,500 miles of Singapore. The nearest coast of Australia is 2,000 miles. No part of the direct line from Japan to Australia is within 1,500 miles, and New Zealand is 6,000 miles. Yet the right hon. Gentleman says they are all within a comparatively small ambit of Singapore.
I wish to say one word on the actual dangers which the scheme presents to the peace of this country and of the world. The First Lord assured us it is almost impossible for him to contemplate the danger of a rupture of relations between ourselves and Japan, while we all agree it is impossible, it is unthinkable, that there should be war between ourselves and our kinsmen of the United States of America, that great pacific, prosperous democracy. But there is another danger, the possibility of which cannot be ignored, that of a war between Japan and the United States of America. It is that very contingency in which the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) finds a strong argument in favour of the Singapore base. Speaking in the House of Commons, on 1st May, 1923, the hon. and gallant Member said:Singapore may be of very great assistance to the United States in defending the Philippines, as we are certain to be on the side of the United States.We on this side think it the greatest argument against Singapore, and I believe a great many Members on the other side would agree with us. I do not want to press the point, but when an hon. and gallant 105 Member, who speaks with such exceptional authority on this question, and is, besides, a publicist of international repute, puts forward in favour of Singapore an argument like that, it is impossible for the Japanese people to regard it as a domestic concern and purely defensive. I would, therefore, say I regard it as one of the strongest arguments against Singapore. I agree with his argument to this extent: that there would be a danger, if this base were constructed, that it might act as a magnet to draw us reluctantly into hostilities. Let me, in conclusion, refer to the important speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Aylesbury (Sir Allan Burgoyne), who said that it was high time that our armaments were devised according to our needs and not according to the susceptibilities of other nations. Ah, yes, there is the vicious circle! It is precisely the susceptibilities of other nations which condition their armaments, and it is, therefore, those susceptibilities that set the standard of our needs. Those susceptibilities of the nations are the culture in which are grown the poisonous germs of armaments and war. If there were no susceptibilities, or if those susceptibilities, by conference and by a steadfast pursuit of peaceful aims, could be allayed, there would be no armaments, and there would be no war. There would be instead security, such as the world has never known, and such as no armaments can confer.
§ Mr. PENNY
The speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) when boiled down appeared to me to amount to another "wait-and-see" policy. I think, however, the House is to be congratulated that the new Members, who have some knowledge of Singapore and that part of the East, have all spoken in favour of the Government going on with their policy. The right hen. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) made the unique and astounding claim on Thursday that his party was the only party who had been consistent in this matter. He stated that he was no believer in the necessity of Singapore or as to its efficiency, and he contended the base was quite unnecessary. I think if the right hon. Gentleman would recall June, 1921, he would be aware that the Cabinet of which he was a member then 106 gave its official sanction and approval to the Singapore base. The right hon. Gentleman also stated it would be a provocative factor. I would ask him whether we are going to spend £60,000,000 on the Navy, and then paralyse that arm, which is so necessary in those Eastern waters. One might just as well say that a police force for home is a provocative force, because it is out to prevent the activities of evil-doers. You might as well say to the members of your police force at home, "You are to stand in one place, and never cover your beat," as to restrict the mobility of the Navy in regard to Singapore.
I maintain that if we are to have a Navy, we must have an efficient and a mobile Navy, so that it could do everything required of it in these waters. As regards provocation to Japan, Baron Hayashi has definitely stated that Japan does not look upon Singapore as being anything in the nature of provocation, and also we have Earl Balfour telling us that Singapore was deliberately left out of the agreement at Washington, because it might be wanted as a base for Empire defence. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) is just as inconsistent as his colleagues. He warmly greeted this plan when it was first brought forward by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He acclaimed it as being the thing for which he had worked all along. Yet, since that time, he has practically boxed the compass, and now states that it is absolutely useless. He seems also not to be quite aware of what the position is out there. He said that the whole island suffers from overcrowding, and that housing conditions are appalling. Statements like that give a very false impression of the true position. You might make the same statement in respect to the Isle of Wight if you took the town of Ventnor, and drew the conclusion that the whole of the island was overcrowded. There is undoubtedly a certain amount of overcrowding in the city of Singapore, but on the site generously given by the Straits Settlement Government there is plenty of room for all the housing accommodation required. Another gentleman, who was once a Member of the party opposite, is also inconsistent. I refer to the ex-Member for Westbury (Mr. C. W. Darbi- 107 shire). He told us that the place was very enervating and demoralising, but when he was not re-elected to this House, he with his wife immediately went out to Singapore, and at the present time is residing there. The whole policy of the party opposite is not one of consistency, but of procrastination, and that is the reason why they are in the impotent position in which they find themselves to-day.
It is, I think, our bounden duty to maintain and to strengthen every link in the chain of Imperial defence. There is no Member on this side of the House who would spend one penny on any aggressive policy at the present time to add to the great burden of debt that is pressing on this country owing to the War. There is nobody who wants war. We see the maimed men who are walking the streets to-day as the result of the Great War. Everything we see to-day must make us avoid, so far as possible, war in the future. I say that, by having a strong, mobile fleet, and a base whereby that fleet can operate from Singapore, we are providing something which will be the greatest factor for peace in the future. Our Navy has always stood as an emblem of our policy of peace, and has always acted in that direction. We have also to remember that we are dependent absolutely for our food on outside sources. We must protect our great shipping and trade routes for our food supplies. Then, as regards the Dominions and the Dependencies, are we to take the opinion of men like Mr. Bruce, or are we to take the opinion of irresponsible men like the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull? Mr. Bruce knows what he is talking about, and he has great responsibility, but the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull has none. The Dominions look to us, and they are prepared to support the scheme financially. The time will come when we shall have to consider whether we, the mother country, are going to do our duty and defend them if we can. We know that they had a nasty slap in the face from the Socialist Government over Imperial Preference, when we had practically made them a promise in regard to that matter, but the Socialist Government came into power and turned it all down. While they were shutting the door in their face, 108 they were opening the door to Soviet Russia. Is that the way to establish friendship between the mother country and the Dominions? They, certainly, should be supported, for they are ready to give us financial aid towards the cost of the base. New Zealand has already voted £100,000, Australia is going to do more, and Hong Kong has, contributed £250,000, while, as I have stated, the Straits Settlement Government has given a site.
Therefore, I think it is up to us to show that we have really realised our great responsibility. I should like to see international disarmament brought about on the land, the sea and in the air. Everybody in this House would like to see it, but I should like to know why we are always waiting on America. Cannot we take a lead in this matter? We know very well that during the War America did not allow idealism to stand in the way of material progress. It is well known what reply was given to the question why the Americans were called "doughboys." The answer was, "Because they were (k)needed in 1914, and did not rise till 1917." Therefore, I say it is up to us to take the lead in the question of international disarmament.
The question of a garrison at Singapore was referred to by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Caithness. We want a certain number of men, and have always had a garrison at Singapore, for which the Colony makes a military contribution. But it would be interesting to know how many people in this House or outside know where Singapore is. It reminds me of something that happened when I was talking lately to a friend about Burmah. "Why," he asked, "do you call it Burmah: my brother always called it Bermuda?"
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am perfectly aware that there is a garrison there. The argument I was submitting to the House was that if this scheme goes on, we shall require a far bigger garrison than is there now and far more amply provided with artillery and modern weapons of war.
§ Mr. PENNY
I do not consider that a much larger garrison would be required at Singapore, because there is an excellent volunteer force there which was mobilised during the late War. There has not been, let me add, a great deal of 109 information given in this House, and in the country, regarding the rising in Kelantan and the mutiny in Singapore during the Great War. The volunteers then did splendid work. They quelled the mutiny which took place, and did garrison duties, in addition to their commercial vocation, thus allowing the regular troops to be removed. H.M.S. "Cadmus" had to be recalled by wireless to take part in the work. Although these men were not even allowed a medal for their services they are still ready to do their share in protecting our Empire if ever called upon. The General Officer Commanding told these men that they were doing their duty there just as much as the men in the front line trenches in France. The whole object of that rising was to release the Germans from the internment camp, and the young fellows who were guarding it were riddled with bullets. The same thing may happen again, for the same propaganda that brought about this incident would bring about another.
Employers in Singapore would, I am sure, if the Government approached them, be only too ready to assist in any universal system for training volunteers amongst their employés who could be usefully employed in the event of any internal rising fomented by extremists. It has also been said that Singapore was a very unhealthy place, but you do not go anywhere in the tropics really for the sake of your health, At the same time, Singapore, compared with other tropical places, is an extremely healthy place, for when the men went out to garrison Blaxam Mati, Fort Canning and Tanglin the women, the wives of the regulars, followed, and were quite agreeable to go to any of the places where the men went. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition suggested that there was no need of fear in view of the friendliness of our relations with Japan at the present time. But, there has always been an extremist element in every Government in every country. There is no doubt about it the extremist element often gains the upper hand. We cannot forget what happened in connection with the Socialist party, when we saw the Government absolutely overthrown by a few back benchers, and that not so very many months ago. The same may happen in the East. There are many there who are 110 anti-British. Some of the Japanese newspapers were suppressed during the War because of their scurrilous attacks upon Britain. We may say, and believe, that what we are doing is not against Japan, but it is no use shutting our eyes. We must face facts. There are many things which make it imperative upon us that we should be true to our principles as trustees of this great Empire and that we ought to be prepared for every contingency. We have heard also about the strategical positions surrounding Singapore. We know of these strategical positions and how they are held at the present time. Upon the big Dutch islands in the South, Bantang and Batam, there is a large number of Japanese, and Penggerang, the highest point to the East on the Johore mainland, was used by the Japanese during the late War as a signalling station. These were the strategic points, and I could give hon. Members other vital points right throughout the islands where you would find the Japanese.
I do not want to enter too much into that question on the Floor of the House, but if hon. Gentlemen wish to know absolute details and facts as regards the position of the Japanese out there, I will be only too pleased to have a talk with them, and let them know the position. In regard to the construction of any new vessels that may be required for service out there, I hope the authorities will do all they can to see that the accommodation for the men is properly ventilated, because therein lies the danger of ill-health to our men in those parts. During the wet season, the weather there is very humid, and a kind of fungus comes out in two or three days and covers everything if the place is not properly ventilated; it is then that men get stricken down.
To conclude, I say with all conviction that we would be neglecting our duty if we did not tackle this question properly, if we did not provide a base so that our Fleet could be mobile in those waters, and I urge the Government to go on and realise the great obligation they have to the nation in this respect.
§ Colonel APPLIN
I crave the indulgence from this House to perform a duty which, I believe, I can perform only once in a lifetime, unless I have the misfortune to be superannuated to another 111 place. I wish to, speak on the question of the Singapore base, because I have noticed that so many hon. Members who have spoken on the subject are quite unacquainted with Singapore itself and the surrounding seas. I had the honour of serving my country out there for a great many years. I have sailed the seven seas. I have been through the Straits of Sunda, and I have been to Hong Kong, Borneo and Macassar, where the oil comes from. There is one small point I do not think the House is aware of, and that is that oil, which maketh the face of man to shine at Macassar, exists, in another form, only a short distance from Singapore, at Maura, in Borneo, where the finest oilfields in the world exist, absolutely on the spot, waiting for our base and our fleet at Singapore. I would like to remind the House that we owe Singapore to Sir Stamford Raffles, a man who, with great vision, saw the strategic possibility of Singapore. Gazing into the future, as some of our great men of the past have done, he saw what we might require to-day, and he sent home and asked that Singapore might be taken and annexed to Great Britain. Canning was then, I believe, President of the Board of Control, and it was sanctioned, but it was sanctioned in such a way that they would allow no garrison to go there, and the fag was hauled down, and it was abandoned again till, I believe, 1826. In 1826 Fort Canning, named after Canning, was built.
What I want hon. Members to understand is that we have always had a fort at Singapore; we have always had dockyards there. Thirty years ago, when I first sailed into Singapore, there were great docks there. British cruisers from the China Fleet have always gone there. Therefore, it will be seen that they are not creating a new base, but what we propose to do is to bring our base up to date. There is a Japanese proverb which says:A man may stand still in a flowing stream, but he cannot stand still in the world of men.We cannot stand still in the world of men; we must go ahead. In this case we are not advancing a base into the Pacific; we are doing precisely the reverse. Owing to Article 19 of the Washington Convention, we actually abandoned our base for the China Fleet, so far as modern 112 works are concerned, for we are abandoning Hong Kong as an up-to-date base, and are withdrawing our base to Singapore, which is beyond the 110 degree of longitude.
I wish to emphasise a point which the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) referred to when dealing with the strategic position at Singapore. He did not seem to realise, as perhaps it would be difficult to realise by just glancing at a map, that Singapore lies actually on the flank, on the strategic flank, of a line drawn between Japan and Australia. And it is for that reason that the Australians are very anxious we should have a base there, because a base on that strategic flank would be the most perfect way of preventing any attack from the North. We will not talk of Japan; there are other countries besides Japan. China, with its 400,000,000 people awaiting development, seems to have been entirely ignored—China, that great sleeping giant which, when it does awaken, will develop 400,000,000 of the finest workmen the world has ever seen. They will be workmen who have every material at command for making the goods of modern civilization, and they have a skill equal to that of any British workmen I have ever seen. There is no one more skilful than the Chinese worker, as hon. Members will see for themselves if they examine his products. They are also the finest fighters in the world. The Chinese make the finest soldiers, and there is no reason why they should not make the finest sailors. Singapore is on the strategic flank for the protection of Australia and New Zealand, and ought we not to listen to the voice of those who have served us so well in the Great War? What does our great poet, Shakespeare, say:The friends thou host, and their adoption tried,Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;But do not dull thy palm with entertainmentOf each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade.We are rather apt to look into the eagle's nest, and, seeing the beak of the new-hatched, unfledged bird, imagine that it is an eagle, whereas it is nothing more than a vulture, and wherever there is war and slaughter, wherever there are wounded and dying, there is the vulture, fattening on them for his life. That is what we want to avoid. Let us look to 113 our friends. They have asked us to make this base at Singapore, or, rather, to bring it up to date, for their protection.
Not only will it protect them, but it will do something more, for it will be one of the finest protections we could devise for India. At Singapore we only have to turn about, and we are facing India from the south, and we should be in a position to relieve India instantly in the event of any disturbance out there. Singapore is an island. In geography books an island is described as land surrounded by water. I am afraid there are some hon. Members of this House whose minds are rather of an insular type, that is to say, there is a fixed idea surrounded by a sea of prejudice. May I beg them to leave that island of a fixed idea and to sail across that sea of prejudice to the harbour of reason, even if they have to go into dock at Singapore for repair on the way.
I was surprised to hear the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald) state that he had been to Colon, but had not been to Singapore. It is a pity he did not see Singapore instead of Colon, and then perhaps he would have put a full stop before he made the statement he did. I think we ought to look at this question from the Imperial point of view and not from the political, and if we do we must see that bringing Singapore up-to-date would undoubtedly be one of the most friendly acts we could do for the United States of America. The United States are in grave danger in the Philippines, because they are such an immense distance from their base. Manila is in an impossible position for defence from the north. Their nearest base is Guam, which is not fortified, and their nearest big base of any kind is Hawaii, which is 4,000 or 5,000 miles away. It would be a friendly act to America to build our dockyard and bring it up to date, because it would ensure peace in that ocean whose name means peace—the Pacific Ocean.
I believe that if we had the base at Singapore we should ensure the peace of the world in that part of the world for another hundred years. I believe if the League of Nations were asked whether they would wish us to have the base or not, the answer would be in the affirmative, because that is the one place in the world where League of Nations ideals do not run. One is surrounded there by 114 Orientals, and the only idea of power the Oriental has is power that is visible. He has no idea or thought of power which is invisible. One may say that Great Britain is a great power, or that America is a great power, but if he does not see that power before his eyes he will not believe it.
Perhaps the most important thing in connection with this base is the fact that we have that vast population of 400,000,000 in China. Only the other day an hon. Member showed me a letter from a gentleman in Shanghai in which he said he had seen one of the Chinese armies enter Shanghai, and was surprised to see white units from Russia, and to find that many of the officers of the Chinese regiments were Russian, and had Russian non-commissioned officers. The discipline of that army, he said, was superb. Some looting occurred in Shanghai, and immediately the looters were shot and quartered, and their quarters carried through the streets of Shanghai as a warning to others. Those who run may read.
There is Singapore as a base in that wonderful strategic position, forming a flank, a fire station, surely, to contain our fire-engines to put out the conflagration should it occur. If anything can make for peace in the East, believe me it is a strong naval base at Singapore. My party has always stood for peace, and I do not think I can conclude a maiden speech better than by quoting the words of one of our great leaders in the past. I believe that Singapore will give us that great ideal of his, "Peace with honour."
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
I am quite sure the House will desire to congratulate the last speaker on the maiden speech he has host delivered with such great felicity, and I assure him that we wish that we may hear from him in the future. He has referred to the words of a great leader of the Conservative party, and I want to refer to the words of another leader, whose leadership was not perhaps so fully appreciated by the Conservative party as by some of the other parties. At a time when the Navy Estimates were little more than one-fifth what they are to-day, the father of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer used these words:Foreign policy and free expenditure upon armaments act and react upon one another. A wise foreign policy will extri- 115 cate England from continental struggles, and keep her outside, German, Russian, French, or Austrian disputes. I have for some time perceived a tendency in the Government attitude to pursue a different line of action, which I have not been able to modify or check. This tendency is certain to be accentuated if large Estimates are presented to and voted by Parliament. The possession of a very sharp sword offers a temptation, which becomes irresistible, to demonstrate the efficiency of the weapon in a practical manner. I remember the vulnerable and scattered character of the Empire, the universality of our commerce, the peaceful tendencies of out democratic electorate, hard times, the pressure of competition, and the high taxation now imposed, and with those factors vividly before me I decline to be a party to encouraging the military and militant mood of the War Office and the Admiralty to join in the high and desperate stakes which other nations seem forced to risk.The position is no less serious to-day than that to which the late Lord Randolph Churchill referred when he made that speech. The question of housing at Singapore has been referred to, and in this connection I should like to quote from the report issued in 1905 in regard to the death-rate in which it was pointed out that one-fifth of the population was permanently on the sick list, and that much of the death and sickness was preventable. When a question was put to the Colonial Secretary the other day as to what has been done to improve matters he declared that there was no information at the Colonial Office to say that anything had been done in this respect.
I would also like to refer to the question of the death-rate there. Hon. Members opposite have been speaking of Singapore as though it were something in the nature of a health resort. May I point out that according to the report of the Singapore municipal health officer, the infantile mortality at Singapore in 1922 showed that out of every 1,000 births, 200 died within the first year of life. In the year 1923 we find that whilst in this country the deaths under nine years of age were 19.2 per cent. of the total deaths, in Singapore the figures for those under 10 years of age were 33 per cent. of deaths, and whilst between the ages of 25 and 44 in this country the percentage was 11.5 per cent. of the total deaths, at Singapore between the ages of 25 and 45 the deaths amounted to 30 per cent. of the total deaths.
116 With regard to housing, in 1918 there was a housing Commission in Singapore, and in summarising their conclusions we find:Much of the present difficulty is due to the failure of the European firms to house their assistants … Practically nothing has been done by the Government, the Municipality or the Harbour Board to provide for their clerical staffs … The Government, the Municipality and the Harbour Board have between them an enormous number of labourers whom they do not attempt to house.Now we are going to employ labourers to carry out the proposed works at Singapore, and I think we ought to seriously consider the health of the native population, because it has been pointed out in the "Straits Times" thatIt must be realised that the future importance of the colony depends upon the manhood, and the effort that is made to raise the standard of health.It is quite true that the defence of Singapore is no new question, because we have been at it for 40 years, more or less. As far back as 1884, the "Times," "St. James Gazette" and "Nineteenth Century" were demanding efficient fortifications and later an adequate naval base at Singapore, but surely after we have had a war which was intended to end war, we ought to consider why there is this renewal of anxiety. I would like to ask how soon after we have dealt with Singapore the naval base there will be a demand for further fortifications. A book has been published entitled, "One hundred years of Singapore," and the editor of the "Straits Times," at the end of the book, answering a question about the future of the Singapore base and its possibility of becoming a great naval base, says:Tell me how the League of Nations will flourish; how China will break the fetters of Manchuism; how Japan will profit by great lessons from the West, and I will answer that question.The "Straits Times" has consistently advocated additional defences, but here it is clearly suggested that this is a question rather for the League of Nations than one to be dealt with in other ways. The "Straits Times" points out that even before the War was over a bevy of admirals from the China and Australia stations and elsewhere were visiting the district and considering the question of a naval base. So that, although the last great War was a war to 117 end war; and although we were looking forward to a peace treaty, it would appear that the British Empire was playing not quite a straight game so far as one of our Allies was concerned. It is perfectly clear from what Mr. Bruce and the present Colonial Secretary have said that they regard this as something very much more than merely a necessary repairing station. Let us look for the moment at the position of Japan. There we find a population of 80,000,000 with an average of 339 people to the square mile. She sees us with a population of 482 to the square mile; Italy with 319 and France with 187 to the square mile, and all these countries have their colonial possessions to provide for their surplus population. Japan says to herself "America is largely closed to us, Australia is closed to us. These nations with home populations only half of ours have abundant outlets. What are we going to do? How is our difficulty to be overcome?"
If we could put ourselves in the position of Japan we ought to recognise that some other solution ought to be found than something which may end in another disastrous and devastating war such as certain people seem to look forward to with an amount of camplacency which I cannot understand at all. Surely we have got to the point when the whole problem is not for one nation but rather for the League of Nations to deal with in order that we should not be leaving those who come after us this heritage of perpetual fear, and we should not suggest guarding against this by providing additional armaments, which can only lead to another war.
The Government position with regard to Singapore was announced on the 9th of December, and on the 18th December the Japanese Prime Minister made a speech which the "Times" correspondent wired to this country. He stated that several Japanese newspapers had published a statement by the Prime Minister on the question of Singapore, but that it had been contradicted, but after the contradiction the "Times" correspondent finished up his article in this way:The Japan official attitude towards Singapore is expressed in the Japanese word 'shikataganai,' meaning 'it cannot be helped.' The national attitude is distrustful and partly hostile in spite of the 118 official explanation that the Washington Agreement is not contravened.If we accept the contradiction of the speech of the Prime Minister we must accept the assurance that this is the attitude of Japan, and it is an attitude which none of us can look upon with any pleasure at all. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the resolution passed by the Japanese League of Nations Association, and there can be no question as to what the attitude of Japan is to the whole question. Surely we cannot afford to ignore it from any point of view. Two years ago the Colonial Secretary said that we were gradually building up a chain of oil reserves at various strategic points, and these cannot be protected without expenditure.
There are other dangers at Singapore which I think we ought to recognise. We have there a population of 450,000, of whom 75 per cent. are Chinese. I agree with the last speaker that the more friendly we can become with the Chinese the better but we have to consider that there may be very serious trouble with the yellow races. Not only is there this large preponderance of Chinese there, as compared with the white population of 7,000, but there is a yearly influx of 150,000 strangers, and the police report for 1923 says:The complete prevention of the illicit import of arms is a thing which it is almost impossible to prevent.Crime is on the increase, due to the activities of secret societies with a big record for murder, and battles with spears and knives in broad daylight. Therefore, with regard to the Singapore Base, we cannot look at it with any complacency, and we must recognise that there is very considerable danger in it from the nature of the population. On these benches we are sometimes charged with having no regard for the affairs of the Empire, but that is incorrect, because we have much regard for the whole conditions of the Empire and especially that portion of it at Singapore. We have also to consider whether there is not some other means of dealing with these great questions affecting Australia and New Zealand and other parts than simply resorting to the old methods.
Empire responsibility in the past has been regarded too much as a matter of trade and too little as a matter of human 119 life, and our strength will lie in the future rather in the endeavour to make life better for all, and introducing more of the human element rather than introducing any instruments which are going to result in possible disaster and another war. Let us not forget that in this huge population in Singapore that, so far as the revenue is concerned, 11 per cent. is coming from the sale of liquor and 48 per cent. from the sale of opium, which means that 59 per cent. of the revenue of Singapore is coming from the degradation of the Chinese population. No right thinking man or woman in any part of the British Empire will deny that some other method ought to be found, such as the League of Nations, for dealing with this tremendous problem by which we should win the affection of the world.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition to-day with somewhat mingled feelings. To the first part of his speech I listened with surprise; to the second part with sorrow. In the first part, he was indulging himself in a perfect orgy of false deduction, and I was wondering why. That is why I listened with surprise. In the second part of his speech it was with sorrow, because I thought of the speech which he made last year and the speech which he made this year, and I thought to myself how can a man allow his political prejudices to alter his point of view—I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will understand me—to the extent he did to-day. The real truth of the matter is this, that for the past three years the Socialist party have used Singapore as an election bogey. They have gone throughout the country saying, "Do not let us spend money on Singapore mud; let us spend it on the unemployed at home, and they created for themselves a political situation which, when they acquired the control of the Government, they had to honour.
Accordingly, when they did come into power what they did was this. They examined the position, as the right hon. Gentleman said, with care, but the course of action they adopted, as expounded in their speeches, was somewhat different from that which was suggested to-day. Last year in their speeches the Opposition 120 Cabinet Ministers took very good care to make the position secure for continuing at Singapore. They realised when they were in power that they would have to continue with this work, and, if one examines the speeches and statements made by hon. Members opposite, one finds that the whole of their policy was directed to fulfilling two points. First, to fulfilling their election pledges in stopping Singapore; and, second, to fulfilling the functions of a Government of this country to provide for its defence and provide means and arguments which could be used at a later date to allow them to go on with that project.
Now there has been another political upheaval. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. MacDonald) is in a position of more freedom and less responsibility, and the arguments he used to-day were ones which I think when he reads them in the morning he will somewhat regret. First of all, he said, "I do not mind a a police force at Singapore, if they are doing police duties," but he said, "If police duties mean that the cruisers used for police duties have to be backed up by a fleet, then I say we cannot use Singapore for police duties." Surely the right hon. Gentleman could not expect the House to swallow an argument of that sort.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
May I be allowed to make a correction, a clarification-What I said was, "Singapore could be used as a police base." The hon. and gallant Member interrupted me, saying it was necessary to back that up by first-class fighting ships. I said if that be so, it is a very strong argument against a police base, but I do not accept the hon. and gallant Gentleman's deduction at all. If I did not make that clear, it is my mistake. I do not accept the statement that in order to make Singapore effective as a police, base you therefore have to make it a base for first-class fighting ships.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I think we come to this point, that, if Singapore be required as a police base, then the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me, and, if it could be proved to him that a police base necessarily implies the ability to maintain the capital fighting ships, then his objection to Singapore would be waived for this reason. He 121 knows perfectly well that in any big action or any naval engagement first you begin with the destroyers and then with the cruisers and eventually you have to come back to your main prop, which is your battleship. Previously, Singapore was perfectly capable of fulfilling those purposes. The docks at Singapore were capable of taking the older type of battleship. Accordingly, Singapore could maintain police functions, but now all that has happened has been that there is a change in the type of vessel. Surely that is exactly the same as if a gentleman who used to keep horses and carriages gave them up when motor cars came in and wanted to put a motor car into his stables instead of the horses. Surely he would knock the stalls down and alter his stables into a garage. That is all that is going on to-day with regard to Singapore.
Another point which I think wants bringing out is the difference from the late Prime Minister's statement last year and what he said to-day. Last year he pointed out very clearly that we were not creating a new base at Singapore. He pointed out very clearly indeed that all we were doing was to bring it up to date, but to-day the whole of his speech was about the creation of a new base at Singapore. Therefore, if he accepts the whole of these premises, that if you maintain a police force you must back it up by battleships, all you are really doing is to bring an out-of-date place up to modern requirements. Then if that argument be accepted, the whole of his speech to-day was nothing more or less than camouflage. He was sheltering himself behind a barrage of high ideals, and all he was doing was endeavouring to justify the policy of his party through the last three General Elections. That is why I say that the latter part of his speech made me rather sorry that he should have done so.
With regard to the other attack which has been made from the benches below the gangway, the hon. and gallant Member below the Gangway, the hon. and gallant Member Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) put up what was to my mind an extraordinary argument. I would suggest to him that he might study the principle of dichotomy by contradiction. I never heard anyone contradict himself. so many times in one speech. What he 122 said in effect was this: "We do not want the old dockyards; we do not want Chatham and Sheerness." There I agree. If you vote against this policy to-day, you will be voting against useless expenditure. What has the right hon. Gentleman below me (Mr. Bridgeman) tried to do? He has argued that there has been a great re-orientation of naval power, and says: "I want to carry out that re-orientation so far as the British Navy is concerned. Therefore, I am going to bring up-to-date that base upon which the strength of our fleets will rest." Accordingly, therefore, the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness was attacking his own policy. In order to illustrate this, he called to mind what Lord Fisher did in 1904. Because of the menace and the growth of the German fleet, Lord Fisher shut down Esquimault; he brought the China fleet home, but he developed Rosyth. That is all that the Government to-day are seeking to do. They are asking us to develop a base at Singapore for that reason. What did his party or the leaders of his party do when the suggestion for economy was made? I made the very same suggestion in the last two years. What did one of his own leaders—I think he is one of his leaders, though I am not quite certain—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon)—dol He said, speaking of doing away with Chatham:The truth is, of course, that whatever might be said for that argument, nothing is more certain than that it would be a work of the very greatest difficulty, much greater than driving piles into the Singapore mud, to attempt to disestablish one of the dockyards in this country.That is to say, although the right hon. Gentleman, one of the leaders of his party, realised that fact as soon as ho came up against the practical difficulty of having to carry it out, he ran away from it. I think it would be a very good thing if the hon. and gallant Member would try and get his leaders to endeavour to carry out the policy they care for instead of running away from it Then the hon. and gallant Member went on to another point. He quoted what General Smuts had said with regard to the difficulty of being able to send a fleet to Singapore, because, he said, there would inevitably be straining of our relations in Europe, and accordingly our Fleet could not be sent away. A week ago he was pointing out to this House that the 123 whole type of warfare had altered, that to-day this country was concerned with aerial matters only; that battleships were of very little value where you had contiguous countries to deal with, and that the aeroplane was able to blot out London. He gave arguments showing how London could be destroyed. How is it, if that be the case, that we want to chain our battleships to these shores? Surely, under those conditions, our battleships would be in much greater safety at Singapore. It may be that the hon. and gallant Member will agree with me that it is very necessary to enforce upon public opinion the idea that there is an entire re-orientation, not only of naval power, but of the defensive ability and capacity of this country. If we are really depending only on aerial power in this country, what is the use of those old dockyards at home? What becomes of the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition? Surely all that we would then be doing would be to carry out our re-orientation with due regard to economy and the taxpayers of this country. It could not in any way be contemplated that it was a menace to any Power in the world. If that be so, he has stated that the only danger to Australia and New Zealand in that regard is because of the great population of Japan wishing to emigrate to Australia and New Zealand and not being allowed to disembark in that country, but he has already told us that Japan, by its signatory to the League of Nations has agreed not to endeavour to send its emigrants to that country. Therefore, his argument that we are establishing a menace against the Japs falls to the ground on that basis also. For that reason I venture to suggest that the whole of this Debate has been nothing but imaginary in one sense. It is an endeavour on the part of the Socialist Government to justify an out-of-date election pledge. The Leader of the Opposition to-day stated that you could not have three fleets—you could not have a Pacific Fleet, a Mediterranean Fleet, and a Channel Fleet all at the same time. But, if we cannot do that, what becomes of the mobility of the Navy? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that we have always had these three fleets? Does he not realise that the amount of our naval power in the East before the growth 124 of the German fleet was very much greater than it is to-day, or than is contemplated? If we go back a little further, to the Debate last year, we find that, although the ex-Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Cabinet did not put up statements which were untrue, they had a kind of whipping boy in the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), who came down to this House and, in fact, did make statements which were untrue—I do not, of course, mean personally untrue, but untrue from the strategical point of view—in endeavouring to justify the point of view of the Socialist Government. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), he said:The right hon. Gentleman made reference to the fact that in certain seas in the neighbourhood of Singapore there are some million tons of cargo to be found every day, and he tried to point out that Singapore was vital for their protection. He knows as well as anyone in this House that that was the reason why the cruisers were replaced, and that those cargoes are protected by our cruisers without any regard to Singapore as a naval base. It has been done in the years gone by, and it can be done in the future without any regard to the docks out there.The hon. Member knows perfectly well that you must have a base for cruisers, and that it was not done without regard to the docks. All that happened was that those cruisers were able to get into the docks, and that is all that the Government are asking to-day. Then the hon. Gentleman went on to say, further:It is not a question of making larger docks for larger ships. The position is no different in that respect from what it was some years ago."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1924; cols. 1194–5, Vol. 171.]That, again, is a statement which is not true; the position is different from what it was a few years ago. When we last had a China Fleet, the battleships could dock at Singapore, but to-day our battleships cannot go into Singapore. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman, when he came down last year as Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, was actually throwing dust in the eyes, not only of this House, but of the country, by making statements which were really untrue. Therefore, I think that, in so far as the Labour party are concerned, it would be very much better if they were to admit that what they were really doing was justifying their election pledges, instead of trying to build up, in defence of what 125 they are doing, an argument which can be pulled to pieces in five minutes.
§ Mr. AMMON
I do not propose to keep the House for very long while I deal with some of the points which have been raised in the Debate, but I think I had better deal first with those that have been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney). The hon. and gallant Member raised a similar point to that which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), namely, that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition had altered his position from what it was when this Estimate was before the House 12 months since. The best way to clear that up will be to read what my right hon. Friend said on the 18th March last year. He then said:Should the practical necessity for putting such strategy into operation arise, by reason of the condition of world politics, and a return to attempts to provide Imperial security primarily by armaments, the whole question would have to be reconsidered. But, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, that has not now arisen, and it is the duty of His Majesty's Government to try to prevent it ever arising. We have every confidence in our policy. We feel that the decision not to proceed with the naval base at Singapore will give that policy the best possible chance of success, and is an earnest of our good faith."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1924; col. 321, Vol. 171.]The position taken up by my right hon. Friend is absolutely consistent with the statement I have just read to the House. What then was the position? The position was that, while we did recognise that in certain eventualities—military eventualities—the naval base might be necessary, we nevertheless considered that it would be better to proceed along the lines of making it unnecessary to develop it from that point of view. So far from its being said that my right hon. Friend's statement would secure a return to the Singapore position, surely it does exactly the reverse—it indicates that, if the necessary condition of affairs can be set up in Europe and in the world, then it will be unnecessary to waste this money or to go forward with what, after all, is a threat to the peace of the whole world. No one can deny that, immediately following the action taken by the last Government with regard to Singapore, we had the repercussion of it in Geneva and in 126 other parts of the world. Immediately my right hon. Friend received telegrams of congratulation from Australia, from New Zealand, and from General Smuts. Surely they count in the Empire, when we are talking in terms of Empire, and they one and all congratulated the Labour Government on the step they had taken. It is not right or fair for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to come down to this House and talk as if Australia were solid on this particular question. Mr. Charlton, the Leader of the Labour party who will probably be Prime Minister of that country before long, said very definitely thatThe Labour Party was entirely opposed to Bruce committing Australia to the Singapore base"—and the New Zealand Labour party cabled:Heartily congratulate Government on dropping the Singapore schemeTo-day we have had a cable from them, also supporting us and asking us to go forward along the same lines. Whatever might be said pro or con on the case, let us discuss it, but do not let us try to deceive people into thinking that there is an entirely solid point of view so far as Australia is concerned. If anything demonstrates that, surely it is that, up to the moment, neither Australia nor New Zealand has renewed its offer with regard to a money grant towards going on with these proposals. So far, they have shifted their point of view, and have said that, if it be true that it is to be a protection for those countries, they had better build fortifications at Sydney or Auckland, where they would probably be of more use. In that connection I may quote a speech delivered in the New Zealand Parliament on the 6th August last by Mr. J. McC. Dickson, who said:He had expected the Leader of the Opposition to deal with Singapore base, as he had been up in the East. They knew there was a considerable difference of opinion amongst experts as to whether that base should be established at Singapore, and on looking at the map one could only come to one conclusion—that it was directed against one nation. It was a long way from both Australia and New Zealand to Singapore, and if a base were needed for the protection of Australia and New Zealand, he should say that the base should be at Sydney or Auckland. Let them suppose that was correct; then Parliament should be prepared to make a very much more generous offer towards the establishment of that base than had been done.127 That is the changed position that has come about in our Dominions at the present time, and let it be marked that they are under no misapprehension as to against whom this base is being directed, and what it is going to cause in regard to Japan. Mr. McC. Dickson states very clearly that it is aimed in that direction. It is said that there are no new factors, but, surely, there are new factors in the case just now. Japan itself has given expression to what it feels. The Prime Minister of Japan, Viscount Kato, speaking at a banquet on the 18th December last, observed that as an individual Japanese he did not welcome the proposal. That is fairly strong for a man in his position, because, when a Prime Minister speaks like that as an individual, you may be sure that he is speaking for more than one person. The correspondent of the "Times" cabled home on the 22nd December:The Japanese official attitude towards Singapore is expressed in the Japanese word 'shikataganai,' meaning 'it cannot be helped.' The national attitude is distrustful and partly hostile, in spite of the official explanation that the Washington Agreement is not contravened.What does it boil down to? It simply comes down to this: We have already had a demonstration in this House with regard to the Air Vote which we have passed, that already suspicion, and all the attitude of mind that goes to breed war, is taking possession of other nations. With regard to the Air Force there was a suggestion that we had to build against an Air Force which was within near striking distance of our shores. Precisely the same argument is now being carried out in the Pacific Ocean with regard to Singapore, and it will set up the same mentality. It is precisely the same position that obtained in the North Sea and Atlantic prior to 1914. We followed exactly the same policy, and it is bound to result in like manner.
If it is said—and let us admit that it might be said with truth—that this is being set up because of its strategic value, then where are we going to stop when we pursue that argument? Under that argument we can rightly go all over the world and indicate different points where it would be to our advantage that we should have forts and fortifications and troops, and, in some cases, ships, 128 because possibly at some time or another we might come into conflict with another Power. If that is going to be pursued to its logical conclusion, it might also be pursued in regard to the thousands of miles of frontier that divide our Dominion of Canada from the United States. The very fact that we have not a single fort or a single sentry on either side of that boundary line is the greatest guarantee of peace that we can have between those nations. Put a single fort or a single sentry on one side, and at once you have the possibility of war in the future, as surely as night follows day. So it is with regard to this proposal. There can be no doubt that the Japanese nation is considerably disturbed.
My right hon. Friend has already pointed out that, if it is an answer to say that we are so many thousands of miles from the shores of Japan, it is equally an answer to say that we are safe from any attack from them. At a time like this we cannot afford the waste of money, and the bankruptcy of moral and idealist considerations involved, in setting ourselves to fight like this. I heard what the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge quoted from my speech, but, really, I do not see anything at all inconsistent in it. I pointed out, as I am still prepared to do, that we had sufficient protection to guard our line of trade routes, that the docks already at Singapore are capable of taking even our newest 10,000-ton cruisers—with the exception of two of our bulged aircraft carriers they can take them all, excepting, as the hon. and gallant Member rightly said, the newest types of capital ships. But what does that mean? It means that, if we are going to develop along these lines, we are going to be committed to a Western and an Eastern Navy, and that means that we must scrap the Washington Treaty. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It means, at any rate, that you will have to scrap the Washington Treaty, because, as was pointed out by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) the other day, the five to three standard is not sufficient for us in these matters, and therefore we shall need to go further, and immediately we begin to do that we set up again all the suspicions and everything that tends again to drag us into war and all its evil aftermath. It is true that this vote 129 may be carried by sheer weight of numbers but it involves serious considerations. I listened with some amusement to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead when he said the Japanese have no right to be concerned about this. I should think the Japanese would think that pretty cool, to tell them they have no right to have any concern about fortifications which are being placed there for no other reason than that we are suspicious, or because they are meant against Japan. There can be no other purpose. You have said so yourselves in speeches made by the hon. Member for Galloway (Sir A. Henniker-Hughan) and also by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Maidstone, and others have repeated it, that we have to have regard to Japan in this matter. There can be no other interpretation than that which one is putting on it. What is the good of trying to deceive the House and the country and ourselves in making out that it is something entirely different from what it is? Be plain and honest about the matter, that you are expecting another war—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—that you are taking a step to promote another war—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—that this is actuated as much as anything else by fear of the Asiatic menace and that the action we have taken in other directions, of driving Russia into the arms of these people, is going to open up trouble about which we are already considerably alarmed. These are the points of view which we have to consider and which really underlie this policy. We have sufficient at Singapore to protect our trading. We have enough to be able to fuel our cruisers and others that are there. Surely if it has been possible to go along so far without having any fortifications there, why can we not continue a little longer? The thing cannot be built for a number of years. At least do not let us damage and spoil the atmosphere we are trying to create, which was created by my right hon. Friend, but which has been largely dissipated since—and this will go a long way towards it—the atmosphere of peace. Do not let us proceed along that line if by delay we can find other ways and means whereby we can come together and find our way into a more amicable settlement of disputes. The Whips will be on and the Government will have a majority, but let the House be under no mis- 130 apprehension. This £11,000,000 that you are being asked for is but the beginning of demand after demand that is going to follow as sure as the night follows the day. It is not even so sure that the £11,000,000 will satisfy even the engineering demand. There are mud flats and an alluvial soil. True there has he-en some rock found, but it is not quite sure to what, extent and as has been admitted, it will be necessary to have a garrison. You will have to have capital ships there and an Air Force. All these things will be necessary, and twice 111,000,000 will not be enough even for the initial capital expenditure, to say nothing of the further expenditure which will follow in the years to come. That alone ought to give us some pause. At, a time like this, when we cannot afford to waste the money and when there is no menace and no threat to our supremacy in those seas, we want to do nothing which will waste money and deflect it from much needed expenditure at home, and, above all, we should not give our Ally and their people, who stood by us during the War, occasion to feel we now regard them as potential enemies, to stir op an opinion that is bound to result in a war more terrible and devastating in the days to come than that from which we have just emerged.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Bridgeman)
I am riot sere that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. MacDonald) who leads the Opposition will be very grateful to the hon. Member who has just sat down for his interpretation of the reasons which are going to persuade them to go into the Lobby against the Singapore base. He said the policy we are advocating is one actuated by fear of Japan and by a desire to defend ourselves against a danger which does not exist, and that such a policy is one which they cannot support. The Leader of the Opposition earlier in the day, when referring to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) on Thursday last, absolved himself from any inconsistency in his attitude. I ask, quite plainly, that, if our proposal of a base at Singapore is a sign of fear of Japan and of a menace to Japan endangering the peace of the world, what was their policy of building five cruisers last year but exactly the same thing?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Yes, and I am not going to complain. But may I remind the right hon. Gentleman, if this be such a menace, what he himself said about the cruisers—Are we going to be told—and I want a straight answer on this point—that the method of bringing about disarmament and of carrying out pledges is to allow the Navy to disappear by wasting from the bottom? What a magnificent conception of pacifist principles is held by hon. Members who think the best way to bring about disarmament is to allow your ships to fall to pieces. This is not my view, and it never will be.What is the difference between that and making your base at Singapore efficient? It is exactly the same point Another point that the hon. Gentleman, who spoke last, tried to make was, that Australia and New Zealand have changed their minds. I thought I had quoted enough, at any rate, from Mr. Bruce's speech last Thursday to show that Australia had certainly not changed her mind.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
This Government has to speak for this country for the time being, and the Prime Minister of Australia for Australia. The hon. Gentleman suggested that because Australia and New Zealand had already given the money to another purpose, which they had intended to give to Singapore, therefore, they were lukewarm about this. The reason they could not give to Singapore was because the late Government stopped the programme, and no one in his senses imagines that Australia and New Zealand were going to put down money for a thing with which the Government of the day said they were not going to proceed. Therefore, to say they have changed their minds is to say what is distinctly contrary to the facts.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me two or three minor questions, which he was quite entitled to ask, and I should like to answer them. He asked whether we had considered the difficulty of malaria in the situation selected for the dock we propose to set up. He also asked if the Army and the Air Force had been consulted as to the suitability of the place for defence. All these things, and the question of accommodation of the men 132 who will have to work there, have been very carefully gone into by all the arms of the Service. As a matter of fact, they were gone into long before hon. Gentlemen opposite came into office, and although, of course, he could not himself have had time to look carefully into it, I think he will take the assurance from me that they have all been carefully gone into, and they were before his advisers once and, I understand, they advised him to go on with the base at Singapore. He also asked me how many ships we proposed to send to Singapore. What we want is to have a base where capital ships can go if we want them to. The number that will go will depend upon circumstances. What we want—there is no reason to hesitate about it—is to be able, if necessary, to have a dock where battleships can go and to have a base where they can be safe and can be quickly repaired. He asked if we were going to provide now barracks for troops and for the Air Force and railways. I gave last Thursday the details of the expense of the present proposal, which is merely to establish a floating dock, which amounted to something like £1,100,000 in the course of three years, that is assuming the extension of the floating dock is put into the building programme. Of that, barracks for the troops and for the Air Force form no part. There is already a railway to within, I think, two or three miles of the spot. It will be necessary—and that is included in the cost—to make a branch of the railway from a place between Singapore and Woodlands—that is the name of a station on the northern shore—to the site of the floating dock. I think that answers the right hon. Gentleman's questions.
The Debate has produced some very interesting speeches. We have had excellent maiden speeches, on Thursday from the hon. Member for Camberwell (Mr. Campbell) and to-day from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin), both of whom spoke with great experience of the local conditions at Singapore. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston (Mr. Penny) has also spoken with local knowledge and experience. Those speeches have left me very little to answer, because they have answered nearly all the points raised by hon. Members opposite. The strategic importance of this position has been fully 133 admitted, certainly Last year, by hon. Members opposite. Again and again the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman beside him (Mr. Ammon) have said that so far as the strategic value of the position goes they had no fault to find with it, but believed it was the best strategic position, and not only the best, but I think they actually used the expression, the best position for defence, and after all it is about defence that we are speaking. He said:For the purpose of immediate defence it is the best position.There is no difference among us as to this being the best position we can have. There is no doubt that it is not a breach of the Washington Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman last year said, quite plainly, that it was no breach of the Washington Treaty, but his hon. Friend the Member for Camberwell North (Mr. Ammon) got up to-night and said that the moment we do this We shall scrap the Washington Treaty.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member did not say how it could do so, and I see no reason why it should. His right hon. Friend never thought that, when he said last year that it was no breach of the Washington Treaty. When we have admitted that this proposal is no breach of the Washington Treaty, and that it is the best strategical base, what are the arguments which we have to answer? One argument which was used last Thursday was that it will take 10 or 11 years to complete, and the right hon. Gentleman asked, why hurry? I should have thought that the very fact that it will take a long time to complete would be the very argument for beginning as soon as we can. What about the housing question? We know that the housing problem cannot be solved satisfactorily for years. Would the right hon. Gentleman say for that reason we ought not to begin at once? That illustrates the value of his argument about not beginning at Singapore, because it will take years to complete.
The right hon. Gentleman also said—I am trying not to misquote him—that we shall see when a war is coming, and we shall be able to prepare for it. If in 134 this country we are going to adopt the foolish policy that the Government of the country is able to foresee exactly when the next war is coming, we shall be doing what, to my mind, is the most dangerous thing that we could possibly embark upon. You may think that you know when the war is coming, and if you think you can see it so far off that you can prepare for it, surely the other country or countries with whom you may think that you are going to be at war may increase and expedite their preparations, or seize the opportunity of attacking you before you are ready, or even before you begin. Of all the dangerous policies that this country could adopt, the most dangerous is to imagine that this Government or any other Government, can foresee exactly when the next war is coming. That policy has never been very successful in the past and I do not think that any Government that tries it is likely to be successful in the future.
Another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman was that the cruisers were quite enough, without anything else. If by any unfortunate accident we should be at war with any country in the future the position would be very different from that which obtained when we were at war with Germany. In the war with Germany a certain number of German raiders got on to the high seas and raided our commerce and did an immense amount of damage to our supplies and our trade. In that war, however, we were able to encompass almost the whole of the German ships that might have got out. But if we were at war with any other country, we should not be in such a favourable position, and if the country with which we were at war chose to take the line of attacking our commerce there would be not simply a few "Emdens" and "Gneisenaus," but there would be an immense number of raiders out all over the seas. If it took 70 cruisers, as it did, to round up those few German raiders, what would be the prospect before us if our trade routes were attacked again by another Power which had a better opportunity of sending out cruisers to attack us? Our cruisers at Singapore without the support of battleships will not be a sufficient defence.
I do not want to do the right hon. Gentleman an injustice. He was very fair in saying that he did not look upon 135 the position as very satisfactory. He thought there was a possibility of danger. He used one or two expressions in his speech on Thursday to which I would allude. He spoke of a pan-oriental conference, and asked what the fact of our going on with the Singapore base would have upon such a conference? Does he really mean that if a pan-oriental conference saw that we were either too weak or too stingy or too incapable of preparing for the future, and for that reason neglected to make our Fleet in those waters efficient, that that would make them any less hostile, if they are to be hostile to this country? On the other hand, I think that any sign of weakness or wavering of that kind would just be the thing that would tend to make people show their feeling against us, rather than for us.
The right hon. Gentleman said that Japan or ourselves might make a false move. That means that nobody can foresee for a considerable time ahead what the danger may be. The sky looks perfectly clear and unclouded now, but there may be a change of Government here or there or in America or in any ether country, and somebody may make a false move, and then trouble may begin. Therefore, the only proper course is to be prepared for that eventuality as far as we can be prepared. The right hon. Gentleman said on Thursday, and again to-day, that Russia was going to be a far greater danger to us in the East than anywhere else, and he held that out as another risk. If that be so, and if, as is apparent to everybody, our policy is merely a policy of defence, it would be a very dangerous thing to make no sort of preparation of this kind against the risk which even the right hon. Gentleman foresees.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The whole of my argument is this. Given these conditions, and given these possibilities, the move that the Government is now making is of the nature of that false move which is going to result in all the damage.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I thought perhaps that that might be the meaning of my right hon. Friend. That was why I could not understand him when he immediately proceeded to talk about the danger from Russia.
§ Mr. MacDONALD indicated dissent.136
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Perhaps I had better not try to interpret my right hon. Friend's words any further. At any rate, that is the impression which his words made upon me, and I think it was the impression which they made on my hon. Friends on this side. The assumption was that this action of ours might be an offence to Japan or to somebody else, and that being so, we ought not to proceed with it; that a gesture had been made by the abandonment for the time being of the Singapore Base scheme, and that the gesture seemed likely to be fruitful. The right hon. Gentleman said that it had been fruitful, because it had produced the Protocol. Had the Protocol been carried into effect, it would grave required a very mach larger Navy to carry on the work that we should have had to do than any Navy we have now. The obligations which would have been put upon our Navy under the Protocol would have been far in excess of anything that now applies. Therefore, the base at Singapore would have been far more necessary.
This Singapore scheme is not an offence to Japan, or to anybody else. Hon. Members opposite think that the opinion of Japanese officials is worth nothing. They say, in effect, "you quote Admiral this or Admiral that; that is nothing to us." Then they quote what some tourist tells them of the gossip of the bazaars, as if that was the thing we must accept. You are not right, I say to hon. Members opposite, in ignoring the official attitude of Japan. That attitude is perfectly correct. We have never complained of them or they of us. They have never gone outside the Washington Treaty, and we have not gone outside the Treaty. We are not going to quarrel with them in what we do now, or for what they have done on their part.
If the right hon. Gentleman persists in saying that we must still continue this gesture, whether there be any response to it or not, I reply that he must remember what it means to Australia, New Zealand and India. It means giving up the possibility of defending the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It means that, in order that we may avoid what some people choose to think is an offence, we may have to risk the whole of our trade position in both those seas. If you are unable to bring battleships to a base there, how can 137 you possibly defend those seas if we happen to be at war If you do not want to defend them, well and good; but there are people who do want to defend them, and who think that it is our duty to our Empire to do so. Mr. Bruce, in the statement from which I quoted the other day, said that if we discontinued this proposal Australia would regard themselves as deserted by the Empire. Who can contemplate that position with equanimity? We have heard a great deal about gestures—gestures to people we do not know, who are supposed to be going to take offence. Why cannot we, instead of making grimaces at our Dominions—I suppose I must not call them our Dominions, because the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) objects to that term. I do not know whose Dominions I should call them.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I feel that if we abandon this proposal, the position of the Dominions, as Mr. Bruce described it, will be one of great difficulty. I prefer, and I think the House would prefer, that we should honour our proposal, in order that the gesture we may make may be a gesture of goodwill to our Dominions. I have cut my observations as short as I could, because I understand there is an agreement that the Vote should be taken by 8.15. Therefore, if I have missed some points, I hope right hon. and hon. Members will understand that it was because I was anxious not to prevent the agreement being realised.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
I would not have intervened again in this Debate if it had not been for the concluding remark of the First Lord of the Admiralty last week, when he very aptly introduced the Ciceronian quotation in order to convict me of advocating parsimony on the ground that parsimony is the greatest tax. I quite agree. I do not think that anyone can accuse me of having ever advocated parsimony, but extravagance is even worse. What I accuse his Department of is extravagance. We have heard about gestures from both sides of the House. In fact, Singapore does not seem to be any use. It does not seem to be required. It seems to be a waste of public money either as a gesture for the peace with Japan or 138 a gesture to the Dominions. That may be very satisfactory to the right hon. Gentlemen on the Government and on the Front Opposition Benches, but it is very cold comfort to the British taxpayer who is going to pay for these things, and who would like to be a little snore convinced by argument as to why this base should be proceeded with at all.
I assert, without fear of contradiction, that if the War of 1914 had never taken place and if the German Fleet were not at the bottom of Scapa Flow we should never have been discussing this Singapore Base. The British Empire would have gone on without this expenditure, as it had been going on for a very long time, and we should have been told, what was perfectly true, that our concentration should be in the North Sea. Our horizon would not have developed in this way, and we should never have had these discussions about the strength of the Japanese Fleet or the necessity for a base at Singapore. It is a melancholy reflection, that the only result of the destruction of the fleet of our late opponents seems to be to create new opponents and to involve us in these further commitments.
It is useless for the First Lord of the Admiralty to keep on endeavouring to misrepresent the point which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald) has been trying to put before this House. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman neither requires nor wishes me to say a good word for him, but, at any rate, it is no harm to point out that the right hon. Member for Aberavon puts the position fairly when he said that you cannot measure public opinion by official utterances. Officials cannot say what is in the public mind, and Japanese admirals cannot say that. They cannot say officially or even publicly what the people may feel privately. You cannot ignore the feelings of a country which may he—I am not speaking with authority—driven in a wrong direction by what is represented to them as a menace to themselves. The First Lord of the Admiralty went on to explain at great length that the Singapore base was not a menace to Japan, nor, on the other hand, did he say that it was any protection to Australia. Therefore, we on these benches wish to know what is the object of it. What is the strategic importance of it?
139 If you were proposing to spend money on Hong-Kong which you are debarred from doing under the Washington Treaty you, at any rate, would have a strategic position of importance—this I understand is the view held by a certain school on the Admiralty staff—which would be useful for the defence of Australia, but what we are talking about at Singapore would not seem to fulfil these requirements. I would like to refer again to the statement made by the present Colonial Secretary in this House on the 31st July, 1924. He ridiculed the idea that Singapore would have any effect on the Pacific. To say that Singapore dominates it would be absurd. The importance of the Singapore base, he said, lies not upon the Pacific Ocean, of which it covers only an infinitesimal section, but it lies upon the Indian Ocean. Then the Colonial Secretary was put up to say, "Oh, we require protection for the Indian Ocean, and we are protecting Australia and New Zealand from hypothetical attack by Japan."
I cannot understand the references in the whole of these discussions to the trade [...]outer. The late War taught us, first, chat you have to alter the whole of your pre-conceived ideas on the subject of trade routes. We had always dwelt on the great importance of Suez and the Mediterranean as a trade route, but, in the last War, we had to change the trade route and go back to the route by the Cape of Good Hope. Therefore, in the conditions which we are now conceiving, it will be much more likely that Australia would alter her trade route to the Panama Canal rather than go on past Singapore and through the Indian Ocean. Therefore the idea of these trade routes which look very nice on maps, but which war experience compels us to modify, leaves me very cold. The whole theory of a base on Singapore is that you must have your battleships, cruisers, submarines and all the rest of it. Suppose that you cannot get your battleships out when they are wanted, then you must go on the basis of having a permanent battleship fleet there. If you do that, you have already accepted by the Washington Conference such a limitation of your battleship fleet, that when you send the necessary battleships to Singapore, then what is left in your home stations and in the Mediterranean in the shape of battle- 140 ships would be hardly worth speaking of, and I cannot imagine any Government which would in this manner neglect vital defences for what are, after all, secondary trade routes in time of war.
Surely, when you look at the matter from a larger point of view, the last war showed us one thing which we cannot forget. That is that as long as you can keep your home country free from invasion, you can carry on a war almost indefinitely. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] We carried on for nearly five years without inconvenience to ourselves, and, although the submarine operations were a new development, without any serious reduction of our imports and that was only possible because the country was secure from invasion. That was the experience of the Napoleonic wars which went on for nearly 20 years. Do not let us get away again into the old discussion as to what might be called the strategic importance of the protection of commerce, or the chasing of commerce in war time. I see in the whole movement a very dangerous strategic policy creeping in. You will merely sub-divide your fleet to such an extent as to make it weak in all waters and thus lose the enormously powerful position in which you are to-day. The Board of Admiralty must realise that we have not got an infinite amount of money to spend. If the base were to cost no money either to establish or to maintain, obviously we might look at it from a different angle, but that is not the way in which the House of Commons or the Government or the nation can afford to look at it at the present time.
The hon. and gallant Member opposite referred to the remarks of my hon. Friend beside me and the proposal to do away with a dockyard like Chatham, which I believe is a relic of the Dutch ware, just as Portsmouth is a relic of the wars against France, and Rosyth is a relic of the War against Germany, while I suppose Singapore may be a relic of a war against Japan. He entirely misunderstood the point which my right hon. Friend made. His point was that the Admiralty never give up that which has been established. They merely add the expense of new schemes to the old standing expenditure. If Chatham is no longer wanted, then abolish Chatham and reduce your Estimates, and 141 then you can come with more force to ask for greater expenditure in the East. But you are merely adding to the burden of the already overburdened taxpayer. Though our trade is disappearing, our factories are being closed, and our population is not increasing as would be expected, that is nothing. You want to impose more burdens to protect the routes of trade when, if things go on as they are doing now, there will be no trade to protect in 10 years' time. That is a matter in which I cannot understand the logic of the minds of people who want to protect something which is disappearing, when what they really need is to remove the cause of its disappearance.
You may say that you are not going to spend much money, but those expenses always increase. Neither you nor I have the slightest idea of what the expenditure is going to be. If your desire is to have a dock for the repair of larger ships why not have a dock which would do for commercial ships of large size, not a dock of enormous size with all the paraphernalia of admiralty equipment, but a dock which would do for commerce as well as for warships. You could probably save a very large amount of money in expenditure which would be incurred by the project which is now brought forward. I doubt if dock accommodation of that kind would be utilised to any very considerable extent by commercial ships, but by this joint arrangement of that kind, it seems to me that you could have something that would satisfy economy, and satisfy the requirements of large ships. I throw out that suggestion because I think it is worth a considerable amount of investigation. I dare say that it will not be popular in official circles.
§ Sir A. MOND
I am afraid that there have been no new ideas since the time of the Second Dynasty in Egypt 3,000 years B.C., but the fact that it is an old idea is no reason why it should not be considered.
§ Sir A. MOND
Then apparently it has been rejected. I am not surprised. It is exactly what I should have expected. Being a practical businesslike idea it was most likely to be rejected. If you had an 142 Admiralty which considered the matter from the business and practical point of view, I dare say that it would be found that they could manage one with the other. I have heard too many of these arguments as to the impossibility of working different things together to be impressed by them. I have heard that you cannot combine naval and military hospitals, but I believe that during the stress of war these things happened, and people went into them and everything went on all right. The fact that this proposal has been rejected only impresses me with the fact that Members of the House of Commons should have put before them the reasons why it has been rejected so that they might make up their minds on the subject. I do not imagine that there are such marvellous people in the world as those experts who are more than human, and I cannot understand the arguments of people who say that we must not use our judgment in technical matters of that kind. I would be very interested to have all these arguments presented to us in a White Paper. We would then be able more easily to come to a conclusion on a scientific question of this sort. Instead of that, we are obliged to spend too much time in what I might call exterior political considerations, the sand which is thrown into the eyes on all discussions on Estimates, though those Estimates are really a question of money and not merely a question of policy. I understand that this Debate is to continue for a considerable time.
It is a pity that the First Lord cut short an interesting speech because he thought there was to be a Division at 8.15. We would have liked him to have dealt, not merely with this problem, but with some other problems which were raised in the former day's Debate. I hope we shall get down to the question how far these Estimates are to stand, because if this is the minimum it is obvious that the maximum will be a great deal higher. There is not one penny piece for Singapore in the Navy Estimates for this year, and therefore, in reality, the whole discussion is scarcely relevant to the money Chat we are now voting. We have no idea of what money will be required in the future. I believe the right hon. Gentleman said that we would go slowly, spending £750,000 a year or something like that. Is it really economical, if you are going to build, to dole out money like 143 that? It ought to be cheaper in the long run to build at a quicker rate. Are the Government or are they not going at the same time seriously to take in hand what is a very difficult, problem, namely, the discontinuance of some of our dockyards, which are no longer up to date or situated where they ought to be? Are the Admiralty endeavouring to concentrate on fewer dockyards and thus effecting economies? It is a difficult and an unpopular thing to do, and calls for a great deal of courage.
After all, the Government is in a position which very few Governments have been in for a long time—the position of having a very large majority and having the confidence of its followers, and if such steps are ever to be taken, surely this is the time to take them. I hope that the First Lord and his friends fully believe that we on these benches are in no way hostile to that great service, the Navy. In no way have we a desire to diminish its efficiency or its importance, but we do feel, and feel strongly, that, in these days of strain and of a difficult financial and industrial position, it is absolutely necessary for us to look closely at all public expenditure and to insist that it be reduced to the narrowest possible limits.
§ Rear-Admiral BEAMISH
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken asked us to remember that in the last War we were taught something which we should never forget. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember one thing that he seems to have forgotten, and that is that the Navy cannot and never will be able to get on without fortified and properly equipped bases. No one wishes to controvert the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that we here are the custodians of the, national interest. But he went on to say what I thought was very unreasonable, when he stated that, the naval experts have such an effect on the politicians at, the head of the Department that they carried those politicians away, so to speak. My experience has certainly never been of that kind. It is clear to me that the politicians are not converted even by the arguments of their political opponents, and they certainly are not likely to be carried away unduly by the remarks of experts. After all, we pay these experts. We give them high 144 pay and good prospects, and they would be failing absolutely in their duty if they omitted, not only to point out the problems of the present and the future, but to pick up all the wisdom they could from history.
The Leader of the Opposition made one particular suggestion whereby he thought the Singapore base could be done away with, namely, that an increased measure of efficiency in the Navy would provide what we require. I say quite clearly, and with complete conviction that efficiency solely and wholly would not do for us what the Singapore base would achieve. We could not by sheer efficiency, with the Fleet as at present constituted, protect our trade routes or cur possessions in the Pacific, no matter how well and how splendidly the Navy might work. Another point made by the right hon. Gentleman was that there is in prospect a pan-Oriental combination. I can conceive nothing that should give us cause to think more than that. There could be no better reason for caution and precaution and foresight on our part in regard to the creation of a base. The right hon. Gentleman, who has just spoken, and who spoke for the slender and dissipated remnants of the Liberal party on Thursday last, said that his party had been consistent in opposing Singapore. That is perfectly true. It is also very discreditable. It is just as discreditable as the policy that they pursued right up to August, 1914, a policy which left the British Fleet without a base of any kind in the North Sea. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Liberal party had won the War. All I can reply is, that that is a contemptible thing to say. No party won the War. Existing critics would deny instantly that the Liberal party had anything to do with winning the War, and historians most certainly will fail to record it. I would like to quote from a book which has been recently published. This is what it says about the failure to provide a base before the War:It was the oft-repeated omission that the new oceanic crisis found the British Fleet in the main threatre of War without any adequate docks, without ship repair establishments without a properly protected home for rest, refreshment and refits; but the British Navy had to console itself with the reflection that this lack of a base in the North Sea proved it innocent of the aggressive aims which produced the War.145 The book from which I am quoting is entitled, "The Naval Side of British History," and is one which I may respectfully commend to the attention of those who have not yet read it. So far as I understand this problem—and I think in what I say I am speaking for the Members on this side of the House—the Singapore Base proposal originated solely in a desire for the security of our possessions and our trade. We still have the prospect of running great risks, and we have had to run gigantic risks in the past. Twice in little over 100 years the British Fleet has been responsible for the overthrow of a despot. There is no other way of putting it and no milder way of describing it. The great Napoleon, though he was very very great, was compelled, finally, to say after his downfall when he went on board the "Bellerephon" to go to St. Helena,In all my plans I have always been thwarted by the British Fleet.Who can say that at this time there is no boy or no man alive who will not in our lifetime rise to power and try to hold the world in thrall? I make bold to say there is such an individual alive at the present time, and that it will be the duty of the British fleet to thwart him. The recent postponement of the Singapore project was unquestionably a perfectly genuine attestation of our peaceful intention, but what has that attestation produced? Absolutely nothing, unless it may be that the reverberation from it is the laying dawn and construction of a large number of extra warships in different parts of the world. As I have said, the sole object of the Singapore base is to provide that for which every nation in the world is looking, namely, security for possessions. The actual foundation of Singapore has been discussed in a very interesting manner in a maiden speech this afternoon, but looking at the map one will realise that if it had not been taken, as it was, it would have become the property of the powerful and great Dutch nation, and I have no hesitation in saying it would have caused the Eastern gate of the world—at any rate in 1819—to be closed to the British and all other fleets, whether war fleets or merchant fleets. The fact that through the foresight of a great man Singapore was taken and became British property undoubtedly conduced very much to what is called the Pax Britannica, and certainly 146 to that freedom of the seas which every nation of the world enjoyed for nearly 100 years. If we do not protect our interest and our property some greater and more virile nation will contemptuously brush us aside and take these possessions.
May I repeat in a few sentences something which I remarked in a speech on this subject last year? In the year 1905 I was at Singapore, and one early morning I was called to the deck of the ship on which I was serving. There unexpectedly hove in sight a very large and straggling fleet. The fleet in question consisted of battleships, cruisers and smaller craft, and they had come the whole way from the Baltic, riot through the Suez Canal, but around the Cape of Good Hope. They passed in sight of Singapore as they had to do in order to get through the Straits and they appeared to be extremely inefficient and utterly weary, both as regards machinery and personnel. They were not allowed to stop at Singapore it being a neutral port, and so they staggered on to Tsu Shima where they were annihilated by the Japanese fleet. There is no question that their annihilation was very largely conduced to by their inability to find any port for rest and refreshment. Hon. Members will agree with me that there is a great risk that the world is not sufficiently peaceful to assure us that such things can never happen again, and, if we do not possess an adequate base at Singapore, the same thing might happen to our own ships. Speaking from the historical point of view, I think at no time in our naval history have we ever been able to get along unless our fleet had somewhere in which it could rest and be safe, and in which the personnel could be allowed to rest in quiet with the certainty that they were not going to be attacked. As fleets become more complicated the necessity for bases of that kind increases. I saw a few days ago an announcement of a subject for an essay. It was "Communications across the oceans of the world being essential to the Empire, how best can they be safeguarded?" The answer in a few words is: By the creation of adequate and efficient bases at proper strategic points.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
In rising to support the Amendment which has been moved from the Front Opposition Bench, I intend 147 to approach this subject from two standpoints, first that of security, and secondly that of British industry. When large sums of money, whether national money or our own money, are to be expended, we first ask the question: Is the object of the expenditure necessary or not? In this case we must ask ourselves: Is the proposed base at Singapore necessary for national security? Against whom are the operations for which it is intended to be directed? Are they to be directed against Japan who has been a faithful Ally as history will prove? Are they to be directed against Germany, whose fleet lies at the bottom of Scapa Flow? Are they to be directed against France, our Ally and friend, or against our cousins in America? I put this question to all Members of the House. If we were looking for a safe place to live in within the confines of our Empire, a place where we would be immune from the dangers and horrors, where would we go? Would we remain here at home, in our seagirt island, protected by our own Fleet, protected again by the great Air Arm? Would we be safe here? No, we would not. Would we be Cafe on the highly fortified rock of Gibraltar? No. Is safety behind the armed frontiers of India, or in Africa, or in Australia, under the protection of our Navy? No. We know that there is no such thing as immunity from danger in these places, and where are we to go? [An HON. MEMBER: "Try Russia!"] Not to Russia, but we have to turn our faces west, to our own Dominion of Canada, and what do we see there?
We see 3,000 miles of frontier, stretching from St. John's to Vancouver, and not a fortification, not a sentinel, not a gun, and 125 years of peace. That is the history of our own Dominion of Canada in her relationship with the United States of America. But if, 125 years ago, there had not been men on the North American Continent with the will for peace, a different page of history might have been written. If one gun had been erected on the northern frontier, two guns would have gone up on the south, if three on the north, four on the south, until the whole 3,000 miles of frontier line would have been bristling with armaments. Then somebody would have said something and somebody would have done 148 something, an overt act would have been committed, guns would have gone off, and war would have been commenced, and would have gone on for two or three years. Then peace would have come, an armed peace, worse than the war itself, with its crushing burden of armaments upon both peoples. That might have been the history of our North American Dominion of Canada if it had not been for the will for peace.
With regard to the Singapore base, those who sit opposite and say that it is a necessary thing will be able, in the years to come, to look back and say they were right, if this is established. They will be able to say: "Did we not tell you that a naval base in the China Sea was necessary?" because, if it is placed there, it will become necessary because it is placed there. Protection begets protection, menace begets menace, and, as sure as we are here to-night, if the Singapore base is established, war will break out in the China Sea and the Indian Ocean. The hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) said that this question of security was much wider than navies or armies, and that the question of accompanying taxation was involved, and I want to point out a greater menace than exists in the China Sea or the Indian Ocean. I have here two sets of simple figures relating to costs in industry. We all know that the reduction of taxation is necessary. These figures are taken from the accounts of a large shipyard in the district that I represent here, and they show that the rates, local and national, together with insurance, in the financial year 1914–15 were £2 16s. per year per man employed and in the financial year 1924–25 the figure was £13 6s. 8d., or approximately five times the amount.
What are we going to do with industry? If we have this £11,000,000, which many experts think will eventually be £30,000,000, to found a naval base at Singapore, can we not expend it upon something that will revive industry instead of pouring the gold into the waters of the China Sea? We have facing us this immense incubus of taxation and this proposal of the Government, which, in the first instance, according to the Naval Estimates, is slightly under £10,000,000, but which will probably go up to £30,000,000, means the 149 charges hanging another little millstone of about £2,000,000 a year round the neck of British industry. I suggest that, as far as we as a nation are concerned, if we have this money to spare, we might do something with it similar to what our late enemy, Germany, is doing to revive her industries. Germany, despite all her militarism, in pre-War days could afford her millions for industrial research. She took all our aniline dyes from us, and she spent £1,250,000 that she might have spent upon a naval base.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
This is a Vote for naval works. It would not be in order to suggest alternative methods of spending the money. It would be perfectly in order to say that the money is improperly expended, or that an excessive amount is proposed, but it would not be in order to suggest alternative objects on which it might be expended.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
We are spending this money presumably to give us security, and there is a military axiom which says that in the last resort and in the last analysis we depend upon manpower. I want to point out that the absolute source of security is in Britain's man-power, and not in naval bases. We got 5,000,000 men to go to the Continent of Europe because they were in a certain frame of mind, not because we had conscription. No force would have sent our 5,000,000 men on to the Continent of Europe had they not believed they had country that was worth fighting for. That is why they went, and no other force would have got them there. Now we have 1,250,000 of these men who are walking the streets and beginning to doubt whether the country was worth fighting for, and that, to my mind, constitutes a greater menace. The state of mind of these men constitutes a greater menace—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
There are several opportunities on which that might be argued, but here the discussion is limited. It is proposed to spend some £2,500,000 on naval works, including works at Singapore, and the only subject of discussion is whether or not that proposal ought to be voted. It is not in order to suggest alternative subjects on which money might be spent. The discussion must be confined to naval works.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
I have spoken about the menace against which I consider we ought to protect ourselves. I will conclude my remarks by addressing the Front Bench in this sense, that, as far as this setting up of a naval base at Singapore is concerned, it is a mistake, it is a world mistake. The world wants peace, not naval bases. It wants reduction of taxation, and what great nation is going to lead the world back to peace? What nation is better fitted than our own great nation, and what better place is there than this, the heart of the Empire, the Floor of the British House of Commons, to make, to use a hackneyed phrase, a great gesture of peace to the world? We are a great nation, a great commonwealth of nations, and a great responsibility rests upon us. We have taught the world how to fight. We have fought 43 wars in 50 years. We are the greatest fighting nation the world has ever seen, and it is our clear duty to lead the nations back to the path of peace and prosperity, and there is no better place to do that than here Every afternoon we gather here and say our prayers, and we say them privately, praying for peace among the nations. I say the Government Bench has the opportunity to give a great gesture to the world that we desire peace, not naval base peace, not armed peace, but a real peace, and peace worthy of men who call themselves followers of the Prince of Peace.
§ Captain W. HALL
On rising to address the House for the first time I feel a certain amount of trepidation. I have listened to very much the same arguments on one side of the House and on the other, and it is very difficult, speaking so late in the Debate, to get any fresh points on which to touch. But I rise for the reason that I was born in Australia, and have lived most of my life in this country, Therefore, I feel some obligation to my friends and relations in Australia to state my views, and also a great obligation to this country, in which I have lived so many years of my life. I should like to put the point of view of the Australians to hon. Members opposite. Perhaps they have not read in the last day or two the extracts from the speech of Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, on this question of Singapore, at the close of a Cabinet meeting in Melbourne about a 151 month ago. It was reported very fully in the Press of this country, but what have not been reported very fully in the Press of this country are the newspaper comments on that speech. To-day I have had the opportunity of looking at some of the comments that have been cabled, and, in all eases, the Press opinion in Australia is very much in favour of the Singapore scheme as outlined by Mr. Bruce, and is not confined to journals of the same political colour as Mr. Bruce, but represent all shades of opinion in Australia. I do not want to tire the House by reading extracts from journals, but I would like to read one from the "Sydney Daily Telegraph," which is very widely read there, possesses no great political bias one way or the other, and, if I may say so, is rather equivalent to the "Times" of this country. It says:Whatever views might be held on the subject in Great Britain and the other parts of the world, there is no question of the Australian view. Bruce has made that plain enough, not once but many times.I think that puts the case very well so far as Australia is concerned. The hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), in the course of his very fluent speech, said "Why go to Singapore? Why not go to Sydney?" That question has been thrashed out in Australia pretty thoroughly. At one time there was a fairly strong opinion in Australia in favour of having the base at Sydney, but that has now been practically dropped so far as any strategical opinion is concerned. They are inclined to go to Singapore. The reason they wanted Sydney, to my mind, was that they liked to think of a big base in Australia; but they have seen beyond these parochial points now, and are quite ready to go to Singapore. The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) quoted a speech of Mr. Charlton, the leader of the Labour party in Australia, and he mentioned—I Vas very much surprised to hear him say so—that he was in favour of Sydney or Auckland. But the point I want to make is this. It is obvious to the meanest intelligence or the most amateur strategist that it is no good having your strategical base where the attack is going to be delivered. It is much better to have it on the flank of any attack. Otherwise, we should have had our base 152 at Chatham or at the mouth of the Thames rather than at Scapa Flow.
I do not stand solely on Australian opinion to-night, but I think Australian opinion ought to be expressed in this matter. I am quite ready to allow there are several points of view from other Colonies. We have heard that South African opinion is not very much in favour of the Singapore base, but the point is that South Africa absolutely belongs to the Atlantic, and the Pacific is not of much importance to her one way or the other. So I think we can rule her out. The late Government flew in the teeth of Australian opinion when they put back the Singapore scheme. That was done at a time when Imperial matters with Australia were very touchy, and I think it was very ill-advised that the Singapore clock was put back by the late Government last year.
I have heard several Members to-night intimating that England is a warlike country. I do not think that is correct. We are not a warlike people. We have finished conquering the world for the good of the world, and, probably, hon. Members on both sides think we have sufficient of the earth's surface; we do not want quite so much, perhaps, as we have already got, and could do, perhaps, with a little less. Our plain, obvious duty, as I see it, to the men and women of the British Empire, is this: Keep what we have got, and keep those men and women out of the trouble of another war. No one yet in the history of the world has been any the worse for preparing for war when there is no sign of war on the horizon. We have heard from the First Lord of the Admiralty to-night that responsible Japanese opinion is not troubled at all about Singapore, but a point that has not been made in the House is that there are two other large Powers who have interests very much nearer Singapore than has Japan. France, on one side, has her possessions in Cochin China, and there are the Dutch possessions of Java on the other side. I have not noticed any unfavourable comments about Singapore in the French or in the Dutch papers. If Singapore were a menace, as some hon. Members ask us to believe, I am convinced we should have a good deal of trouble with both France and Holland on this question. On the other hand, our Navy is 153 undoubtedly our mast potent, almost—as some people would say—our only link with the Dominions. It is absolutely necessary for us to have somewhere to put that Navy in Australian waters. Hon. Members who happen to possess a Rolls-Royce do not let it stand out in the rain. They build a garage to put it in. We are building a garage at Singapore, in fact we want to improve the one there, so that we can keep our capital ships in it.
My last point is this: We all know that Australia is absolutely committed to a White Australian Policy. If Mr. Charlton got in to-morrow he would not be able, by any stretch of the imagination, to go back on that policy. The whole basis of that policy is to keep the North of Australia free- from coloured immigrants. There is no talk at present of Japan sending by force, or by any other means, people into those Northern territories, but what may happen in 10 or 15 years' time? Japan at the present moment is increasing her population at the rate of 400,000 per annum and these must go somewhere. I honestly hope, and believe, that they will go towards China, Korea and that way, but by force of circumstances they may be pushed down South. Then we shall see the value, of the defensive measures we may have adopted. I would appeal in conclusion to hon. Gentlemen opposite to go into this question, not from the Party point of view, but from the Imperial point of view, and then I imagine, or at least I hope, that they will come to the same conclusion that I have: that it is far better to give a gesture to our kith and kin than to give a gesture to some other nations who are problematical and not likely to be so friendly in the future.
§ 9.0 P.M.
Mr. W. M. WATSON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has intervened in a Debate which must have a particular interest for him. I dare say that he has expressed the view that is taken by a very large proportion of the residents in Australia. I intervene because I have no desire to give a silent vote on this question. I perhaps occupy a position that is somewhat unique, being in this part of the House the Labour representative of a dockyard. I have followed the discussions on Thursday last, and that part which I have heard to-day, with the very keenest interest. With the 154 best will in the world I cannot support the Government. I think the Labour Government last year was justified in the action they took in regard to Singapore. I have heard no arguments advanced which would justify me in going into the Lobby against the Amendment which has been proposed from this side of the House. I want to assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down that his kith and kin, and our kith and kin in Australia are in no more danger to-day, nor will they be in any more danger 10 years hence, I believe, than they have been in bygone days. We have been assured that by hon. Gentlemen on the, opposite side that there is a menace; but as things are at the moment. I do not think that we are justified in entering upon a scheme such as we are asked to sanction here to-night. We have been assured by some that there is no danger in that part of the world; and there is likely to be no more danger in the future than in the past. We have got on well enough in the past without a very large naval base at Singapore, and if the assurances that we have been given from the Government side, and from the spokesmen of the Government, are to be relied upon—if there is no menace, if there is no enemy there against whom we need to prepare, then I consider that to undertake such an obligation in that part of the world would be a waste of money which cannot be afforded at the moment by the country.
We have been told that we are not committed to any expenditure this year, and do not require expending anything this year, that what will be expended this year has be-en given by the Colonies. What, however, we are determining here to-night is the sanctioning of a policy which is going to land us in very heavy expenditure for many years to come. That is what I am objecting to in this Debate. We will be committed to an expenditure of a very considerable number of millions of pounds. We know how this kind of expenditure tends to increase as the scheme develops. I represent the newest dockyard in this country—Rosyth. If hon. Members cast their minds back to the beginning of Rosyth, they will remember how the expenditure crept up, year after year, until we had there a very extensive dockyard. It is a very good dockyard. It is a model 155 dockyard. It is the safest dockyard in the United Kingdom. We saw, however, how the expenditure increased until what Rosyth Dockyard ultimately cost was out of all comparison to the original estimate. If we are going to have the same experience at Singapore, then we are committing this country to a very heavy expenditure indeed. We are told that battleships of 10,000 tons can be docked at Singapore at present. By the Washington Agreement we are committed to the construction of battleships of no greater dimensions than 10,000 tons.
Cruisers of 10,000 tons, and capital ships of 35,000 tons. In the past we have got on very well with Singapore as a clock capable of taking a ship of 10,000 tons, and I think we can go on in the future as we have gone on in the past, especially as we are not only hard up, so far as money is concerned, but have seen so many gestures in the direction of peace. I cannot understand the attitude taken up by some representatives of the dockyards on the other side. I wonder what the Government intend to do with the dockyards at home. The dockyard problem has been a serious one ever since the Washington Convention, which meant a very considerable reduction in the number of men employed in the Royal dockyards. I wonder whether it is the intention of the Admiralty to transfer a large number of men from the home dockyards to Singapore. I do not believe very many men will be transferred from the home dockyards to the dockyard at Singapore, so there is not much prospect of relief in that direction.
Then, we have had a movement in the past few years in the direction of peace. We have been asking for another Washington Conference, for a further limitation of armaments, and if we are to have that limitation, with another 10,000 men taken out of the dockyards of this country, as were taken out a year or two ago, we are creating a very serious problem indeed for the Admiralty. By and by it will come to this, that there will be nobody employed in the dockyards except the established men. That may be all right, but it means we shall have many fewer men in the dockyards at home than has been the case up to now. We have 156 heard from the other side of the House, both on Thursday and to-night, a demand for more battleships, and now they want another dockyard. In a week or two we shall have a demand for something off the Income Tax, or a reduction of other taxation. These things are very desirable—when we can get them all. It may be all right, when we have money to waste, to go on with the extension of the dock at Singapore, but at the moment we have not money to waste. We are in a most precarious condition, so far as our trade and commerce are concerned, and in some industries, at any rate, there is no prospect for the future.
If the mind of the country could be ascertained on this particular question, nothing is more sure than that an adverse decision would be given by the people. We have talked a great deal both to-night and on Thursday about the necessity for protecting our trade routes. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) said a few minutes ago, we will soon have no trade routes to protect. We used to have a considerable amount of trade between the North-East Coast of England and the East Coast of Scotland and Russia. A very considerable volume of trade went through the Baltic, and it was very necessary to protect that trade route a few years ago, but in a very short time we will have no trade there, and no need for battleships to protect that particular trade route. If our other trade routes are going to be affected in the same way, then we shall have less need for dockyards and for battleships than in the days gone by. So far as I am concerned, I have not heard a single argument which would justify me in supporting the Government in this proposal. I do not believe an extension of the docks at Singapore is necessary. We require to devote any money we can spend to improving things at home, in trying to get our trade re-established on a better foundation. There are many directions in which the money could be much more advantageously spent than in wasting it, as undoubtedly it will be wasted, on the creation of this base at Singapore.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
I should like to make a few remarks about the proposed base at Singapore. Members in all parts of the House will agree, I think, that it is necessary to give a reasonable 157 sense of security to our merchant ships bringing supplies to this country. In other words, I think all hon. Members will agree that we must protect our trade, and, as a large portion of our trade comes from the East, we must be quite sure that that is adequately protected. In days gone by when battleships were very much smaller than they are now, the docks at Singapore and Hong Kong were quite capable of looking after those ships. Since the War, however, the battleship has become five or six times as big, and therefore if it is necessary for battleships to look after that Eastern trade we must have adequate docking arrangements for them somewhere in the East.
At Washington we entered into a free discussion with all the nations of the world, except our old enemies, with a desire to limit naval armaments, and we came to an agreement. One part of that agreement stated that we were not to make any addition to our fortifications or naval bases east of longitude 110. Therefore, we cannot enlarge Hong Kong, and we must cast our eyes about to find somewhere in the East another base—if it is necessary to have battleships in the East—and the obvious place is Singapore, already a naval base and already capable of docking our cruisers, but not at present cauable of docking these large battleships. The question then arises, Is it necessary for us to have battleships in the East at all? We roust keep pace with foreign naval armaments. There is in the Pacific a strong Power with large battleships, and if it came to war, which everybody hopes it will not, we could not protect our trade in the East without employing our battleships. Therefore, we must have adequate docking arrangements at Singapore.
All the Government propose to do is to enlarge the naval base at Singapore by adding a floating dock, to take borings in case they want to go on with a graving dock, and to take anti-malarial precautions. It has been decided to spend a certain sum of money at Singapore. Hon. Members opposite have said that we are going to spend millions on this project, but I would like to ask where do they get their information? The sum that is going to be spent is £750,000, and £250,000 has been supplied by Hong Kong, and the latter sum is all the money which will be spent at Singapore this year. May I 158 point out that, quite apart from our trade routes, we have great Dominions such as Australia and New Zealand and Singapore to defend. These countries are exposed to a menace from the Pacific by any Power that has a battle fleet in those waters, and those countries are in favour of the establishment of a base at Singapore.
If we drew a line 1,400 miles around Singapore we should find that the circumference of that circle did not include Japan, but only two small Japanese possessions, although it would cover millions of square miles of British territory containing millions of British subjects. We cannot neglect the wishes of those millions of people with regard to their own protection. Hon. Members opposite are aware that the Australians will not allow yellow people to come into their country, and they are for an all white Australia. Of course, that is their affair, and one which we cannot interfere with. We have been told by my hon. Friend, himself an Australian, that if the Australian Labour leader came into power he would not be able to alter the policy of a white Australia. Supposing we were at war with a Power possessing a battle fleet in the Pacific, our cruisers could not stand the onslaught of those battleships. It is impossible for cruisers to fight battleships. You can only fight capital ships with other capital shins, and if our battle ships are not there, the enemy cruisers could come into the Indian Ocean followed by the enemy battleships.
Hon. Members will no doubt recollect the time when the "Emden" came into the Indian Ocean, and she was hunted down by 35 British and Allied cruisers, and eight light cruisers were told off as a hunting force for the "Emden," when she was destroyed by the "Sydney." Without the protection we are asking our commerce would be absolutely paralysed, and we should not be able to carry on in this country. Hon. Members opposite express a great regard for the British working men in this country, and they seemed to claim the working men as a monopoly for themselves; but they ought to remember that our raw material comes from countries over the seas, and we must be prepared to send our battleships to protect the ships carrying that raw material. Probably hon. Members opposite have overlooked one point. I ask 159 them to consider the whole matter again from the point of view of insurance. I think that is a very good point on which to test this matter. If any of us desire protection against fire or damage to a motor-car we insure our property, and if we did not insure and happened to lose it by fire or other causes what would our friends say to us? They would say, "Serve you right!" and I think it would serve us right in this country if we neglected an act of insurance like the establishment of this base at Singapore.
Take the figure which has been mentioned of £11,000,000 as the estimate of this expenditure and compare it with the trade coming from Eastern seas. That trade is worth one thousand million sterling per annum, so that, taking the cost of this insurance at £10,000,000 or £11,000,000, that is only one-tenth per cent., and in later years the cost of the upkeep of the Singapore base will be the premium paid, far less than that one-tenth per cent. of the trade. Therefore, I appeal to hon. Members opposite on the insurance basis only to alter their minds before it is too late, more especially when they consider that if we do not pay this paltry insurance of one-tenth per cent. the livelihood of the people of this country will be in danger.
Also I appeal to hon. Members from an Imperial point of view. Our people came overseas from Australia and New Zealand in thousands during the War and they are asking for the establishment of this base at Singapore. I have been over there myself, and I understand their point of view, and many hon. Members who have taken part in this discussion have not been there at all and consequently they do not view this question in the same light. I ask them to take a wider view of the needs of the Empire. I have asked them to look at it from the point of view of insurance, which, after all, is only a business point of view. I also ask them to listen to the voice of their fellow Britishers calling to them from across the ocean from Australia, and New Zealand.
§ Major PRICE
Rising to address the House for the first time I feel exceedingly diffident and nervous, but I am emboldened to get up by the well-known generosity of the House to those who speak for the first time. There was a 160 remark made by the last speaker from the Labour Benches with regard to the expense which we are going to be put to in connection with this naval base, and the hon. Member who made that remark likened it to the expense which grew and grew with regard to Rosyth. I would like to ask that when it came to the dreadful arbitrament of war was Rosyth worth it I think the hon. Member will agree that the answer must be in the affirmative because Rosyth was a tower of strength to us during the War and was one of the factors that enabled us to gain a victory upon the seas.
Another remark made in the course of this Debate, and one to which I take great exception was that hon. Members sitting on these benches look forward to war with complacency. That remark was also made by the late Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, and it was one which was not worthy of him. Some of us know what war means. I know what war was, not only from personal effort but from the far greater effort and the mental tragedy when one has ones own children in the fighting line. On that point we do not yield to a single hon. Member on the benches opposite, and I only wish to point out that war has never been won by weakness or vaccilation. I do not say that it has always been prevented by strength, but to suggest that the main objection is that we should be preventing a gesture for peace by enlarging a dockyard and bringing it up to modern requirements is a perfect fallacy. The proposal of this Government is that we should do that which is obvious, namely, bring the naval port of Singapore up to date. That is surely a common-sense measure and one that makes for efficiency, which is the cry of all parties with regard to the Navy.
I would ask hon. Gentlemen to look ahead a little bit. We know that in the future the aeroplane and air fighting is going to be developed, but we also know that it is in the narrow seas, in the channels around our coasts, in perhaps even the Mediterranean, that the future of the aeroplane is first of all to be developed. The orientation of our naval policy is bound to go into the wider seas. The question of naval strategy is bound to be in the Pacific in the future, because no aeroplane development can take place, so far as we can see, that will enable the aeroplane to operate over those wide 161 places in the Pacific Ocean. The defence of the country in that direction will depend on our naval forces and our naval forces cannot act without a base. The base is Singapore. Why should that be taken as something which is an unpacific attitude towards the countries in the East? We do not consider the increase of the forces of America or the increase of the naval strength of Japan as action hostile to ourselves. We recognise that these countries look to their own needs and requirements in order to formulate their naval policy. We look to our own needs and requirements to formulate our policy. We recognise that so far as this world is concerned we are dependent upon our Navy more than any other great nation. We realise that without the efficiency and the strength of our Navy our highways of Empire and our trade routes would be imperilled. It surely behoves us to consider whether we shall do what all democratic nations have to do, that is, rely upon their own strength even in preference to the good will of other nations. Hon. Members may say that you cannot rely upon your own strength. I say unless we do in the first instance rely on our own strength we are bound to go down in the long run.
It is obvious to anybody who considers the question for a few moments in a dispassionate attitude that to put upon the League of Nations a burden that it has not yet the strength to carry is the very first factor in the destruction of the usefulness of the League. The time has not yet come. You do not teach an infant to run before it can walk and you do not put on its shoulders a heavier burden than it can carry. The future of ourselves and our country depends upon whether we are prepared to shoulder the burden of Empire or whether we are not. The only two arguments which have been used to-day: the first from the Liberal Benches that we cannot afford it, and the other from the Labour Benches that it is not the right sort of gesture to make. As long as the world knows what our policy is—that it is a policy of peace and a policy which is determined to put first the guardianship of our own people and Empire—that is the greatest factor for peace that we can have. The speeches which we have heard, which have magnified out of all proportion this very simple naval act of bringing our 162 dockyard up to date, are the very worst speeches to put the nations upon the path of peace. If only right hon. Gentlemen opposite had treated this matter in the proportion in which they treated it last year it would have been very much better for the cause of peace. The late Prime Minister tried to deny to-day that the strategic position of Singapore was one which he favoured. If he will only look at his speech of last year, he will realise that he stated on that occasion that in all the wide spaces of the Pacific, Singapore was the most suitable strategic position for a naval base. I am certain that we shall never suffer from making clear what our naval policy in the Pacific is, but if we attempt to vacillate and twist and turn and have one policy to-day and another policy to morrow it will be taken as a sign of weakness, and instead of being a way of peace it will lead to war.
§ Sir B. FALLE
I have sat here since half-past three, and I propose, with the permission of the House, to say a few words on this matter. I listened to the hon. Gentlemen the Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr W. M. Watson), who is a very great friend of mine on the Dockyard Committee, and he will not mind if I tell him the existing state of affairs at Singapore is still sufficiently good. Then I say he should be a Tory instead of a Labour man, and should come and sit on this side of the House. The right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) gave us a more interesting speech than previously. The present Colonial Secretary had said that Singapore protects the Indian Ocean and not the Pacific. If the right hon. Gentleman would only take a big map, as the late Lord Salisbury said, he would see that Singapore does protect the Indian Ocean and not the Pacific in the same way. Should we have won the War, and should we have been able to feed our people, if we had not been able to 'keep the trade routes open; if we had not been able to bring the thousands and thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who volunteered to come and help the old country, not to speak of Canadians and Indians? They were some of the finest fighters we had in France and elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman was also rather proud of starting a new hare in that the dockyard of Singapore should, at a 163 pinch, be allowed to take the Mercantile Marine. He seemed to think that was an entirely new idea. In Portsmouth, which is rather an important dockyard, the Admiralty have always been willing to allow mercantile ships to use the floating dock. Several Canadian Pacific vessels have only recently been docked in the Admiralty floating dock. The only stipulation the Admiralty make, and it is a fair one, is that in 25 hours' notice the mercantile ship must move out of the floating dock if that floating dock is required by the naval authorities.
I listened to-day and on Thursday to every word the Leader of the Opposition said, and he said two things with which I thoroughly agreed. He said that he wished this matter could be left to a free vote of the House. Personally, I should be perfectly prepared to see it left to a free vote of the House, and I have not the faintest doubt as to which way the vote would go. The right hon. Gentleman also said that, if you are going to make these changes at Singapore, you are going to make a Portsmouth of Singapore, and if you do that it will be of little use. The strange thing is that I agree with him, because one very important thing, of which I think only a comparatively few Members of this House are aware, is that there is not a single dock at Portsmouth or Devonport that will take a capital ship. It would, therefore, be no use building docks at Singapore to rival the clocks at Portsmouth. Short of Rosyth, there is not a single Government dock that will take a capital ship at the present moment. Charity begins at home, and I believe that, if we are going to spend this money in making docks at Singapore which will take a battleship, we ought first to make in dock, say, at Devonport, and one at Portsmouth, which will take capital ships.
§ Sir B. FALLE
It is no use having the finest harbour in the world if there is not room for a capital ship. The right hon. Gentleman said that he thought the 164 cruisers would be of greater value than the dock, but a cruiser without a dockyard is of very little use indeed. To build big ships which cannot be docked is not efficiency, and it is not economy. It is like an army which, as is the case with ours at the present moment, has no striking force whatever for weeks. We must not forget that, unless we can improve the docks at Singapore, we cannot send a capital ship into the Indian Ocean, and if our capital ships cannot go into the Indian Ocean we are making no proper use of our Navy. The Leader of the Opposition said that all he wanted was to hold what we have got. We all agree with that, but the great trouble is that it is no use waiting until we see the cloud on the horizon. That, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said, is not the moment to insure. In a memorable speech he said that, when you hear the rafters cracking and see the fire leaping through the roof, that is not the moment to insure. There is no question that he was perfectly right. You want to insure before the fire, and not afterwards.
The Leader of the Opposition also said that the Government should have a watchful and vigilant eye on all foreign developments, and then no real troubles could come forward without our seeing them. I should like to remind the House that in 1870, a fortnight before the Franco-German War broke out, our then Foreign Secretary, a man of very great ability, told us that there was not a cloud on the horizon. We can hardly hope to form a dock at Singapore inside a fortnight. When the right hon. Gentleman says that we want to hold what we have got, is not that a little bit of conscious rectitude, considering that we and the other English-speaking nations practically hold the world in fee? Because we hold everything we want, and everything we think is necessary for us, we want other nations to keep quiet and not take it from us. There are Gentlemen on the other side of the House who say that there are so many rich people in this England of ours that we want to take from them some of what they have got.
§ Sir B. FALLE
It has been asked repeatedly, who is the enemy? I deprecate, as strongly as anyone can, the idea that we should mention any nation or nations as our possible or probable enemies, but if we look at the map from the common-sense, human point of view, we see the Dutch East Indies unprotected; we see the great island of New Guinea, one of the largest in the world, unprotected; we see the islands of New Zealand unprotected; we see that great island continent of Australia unprotected, and with a very small population indeed. We see to the northward of it a nation of 70 millions, with a large overspill, and we—the nations of Europe and the United States—are preventing that nation from colonising in Manchuria. We only want to look at things of this kind to see what must happen. On the other hand, if we cross the Pacific
§ Ocean and come to our own blood in the United States, we see to the north of them one of the greatest countries in the world, with only one-twelfth of their population, and we see Mexico to the south of them. We remember that the United States are peopled very largely with people of our own blood, and they are the hungriest earth-seekers in the world. We only want to use common sense and a little human judgment to see what must happen—[An HON. MEMBER: "Will happen!"]—or will happen, if nothing is done. If we cannot protect our own people, if we cannot protect our own possessions, the end is certain. We shall see them taken from us, and we shall deserve that they should be taken from us.
§ Question put, "That '£2,588,000' stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 280; Noes, 129.169
|Division No. 56.]||AYES.||[9.45 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Foster, Sir Harry S.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Frece, Sir Walter de|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer-||Gee, Captain R.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Goff, Sir Park|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Clayton, G. C.||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Astor, Viscountess||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Grace, John|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Grant, J. A.|
|Atkinson, C.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Cooper, A. Duff||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cope, Major William||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Couper, J. B.||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Balniel, Lord||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter F|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Bennett A. J.||Crook, C. W.||Hanbury, C.|
|Berry, Sir George||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Dalziel, Sir Davison||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Davidson, J.(Hertf'd,Hemel Hempst'd)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Dawson, Sir Philip||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Drewe, C.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Elveden, Viscount||Holt, Capt. H. P.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Homan, C. W. J.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Burman, J. B.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Fermoy, Lord||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Fielden, E. B.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Fleming, D. P.||Hurst, Gerald B|
|Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Murchison, C. K.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Stanley, Col.Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Neville, R. J.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Jacob, A. E.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|James Lieut.-Colonel Hon Cuthbert||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Storry Deans, R.|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Nuttall, Ellis||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Oakley, T.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Kindersley, Major Guy M.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Pennefather, Sir John||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Penny, Frederick George||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Croydon, S.)|
|Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Loder, J. de V.||Perring, William George||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Looker, Herbert William||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Lord, Walter Greaves-||Philipson, Mabel||Waddington, R.|
|Lougher, L.||Pielou, D. P.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Pilcher, G.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Lumley, L. R.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Ramsden, E.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|MacDonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Remer, J. R.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|MacIntyre, Ian||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wells, S. R.|
|McLean, Major A.||Rice, Sir Frederick||White Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Ropner, Major L.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Rye, F. G.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Meller, R. J.||Salmon, Major I.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Merriman, F. B.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W.R. Ripon)|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wood, E.(Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Savery, S. S.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Shepperson, E. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst.)||Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Harry Barnston.|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Smithers, Waldron|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Grundy, T. W.||Murnin, H.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Harris, Percy A.||Palin, John Henry|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Paling, W.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayes, John Henry||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Potts, John S.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, G. H.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Bromley, J.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Scurr, John|
|Clowes, S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sexton, James|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Shaw, Rt. Hon, Thomas (Preston)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Kelly, W. T.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Connolly, M.||Kenyon, Barnet||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kirkwood, D.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lansbury, George||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lawson, John James||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Smillie, Robert|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lindley, F. W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Duncan, C.||Lowth, T.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Dunnico, H.||Lunn, William||Snell, Harry|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Mackinder, W.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Gillett, George M.||MacLaren, Andrew||Stamford, T. W.|
|Gosling, Harry||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||March, S.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Greenall, T.||Maxton, James||Sutton, J. E.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Montague, Frederick||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Morris, R. H.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Groves, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Thurtle, E.|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Welsh, J. C.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Varley, Frank B.||Westwood, J.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Viant, S. P.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Wallhead, Richard C.||Whiteley, W.||Wright, W.|
|Warne, G. H.||Wignall, James||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Mr. Frederick Hall and Mr. T. Kennedy.|
Second Resolution read a Second time.
§ REPORT [16th March.]
§ Resolutions reported,