§ Order for Committee read.
The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Sir Bolton Eyres Monsell)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
At first sight it might appear somewhat paradoxical for an English delegate to the World Disarmament Conference to return from Switzerland just in time to present the Navy Estimates, and some might seek to draw a parallel with Stevenson's well-known story and invest me with a dual personality, pointing out that the Dr. Jekyll of Geneva had turned into Mr. Hyde at the Admiralty. But no such distinction can, in fact, be made. However large a construction programme I might wish to place before the House to-day on behalf of the Admiralty, it would be impossible to do much more than we are doing in this year 1932 owing to the rigid limits set to us by the Treaty of Washington and the London Naval Treaty—treaties, of course, to which we have solemnly subscribed. I would like briefly to restate to the House of Commons how those treaties affect our building programme, or at all events to do so shortly in regard to the three principal categories of ships, namely, the capital ship, the cruiser and the destroyer.
With regard to capital ships, we are not allowed, under the London Naval Treaty, to construct any until after 1936. Therefore, no capital ship can come within the ambit of this programme. With regard to cruisers, we are tied down to a tonnage of 339,000, which we are allowed to have in cruisers by 31st December, 1936. But another article in the London Naval Treaty limits us to 91,000 cruiser tonnage to he laid down in the programmes of 1929 to 1933 inclusive, that is to say, to be completed before 31st December, 1936. Therefore, with regard to cruisers, I could not to-day propose more than the three cruisers which are in this new constuction programme of 1932 and which form the normal replacement programme of this country.
1494 With regard to the other category, the category of destroyers, the position is somewhat different. There we are not building up to what we are allowed to do by the Treaty. Under the strict limits of that Treaty, we could build two flotillas a year at present, instead of the one which we are asking the House to adopt, but the Admiralty prefer at this moment to fix on one flotilla a year in order to spread the construction of our destroyers evenly over the whole of our replacement period. A concentrated programme of destroyers would only reproduce in the future the difficulty under which we are now suffering, that is, of a great many destroyers coming in for replacement more rapidly than we are able to replace them by our normal annual programme. In addition, at the moment this policy of one flotilla a year is preferred by the Admiralty because we hope for a satisfactory settlement of some of these questions on which destroyers depend at Geneva, which we hope very much may bring all the principal Powers within the ambit of the London Naval Treaty.
With regard to the details of the 1932 construction programme, I have given the numbers of ships in my printed Paper, and do not wish to go over the same ground again, but it might interest the House, and certainly some individual Members of the House, if I tell them where these ships are going to be built. At Devonport there will be one "Leander" and two sloops, at Portsmouth one leader, and at Chatham, one submarine; and the rest will be built by contract. The size of the smaller 6-inch cruiser will be between 5,000 and 6,000 tons. The tonnage of the "Leanders" must be assumed provisionally to be the same as their predecessors, but here I want to utter a warning to the House. We want the Disarmament Conference which has now started at Geneva to limit the size of ships, and want to limit the size of these "Leander" 6-inch cruisers, but I must warn the House that if we do not succeed, and if we are driven to build bigger ships, because we cannot build smaller cruisers than other countries, of course, it is obvious that we are bound to ask for more cruiser tonnage than we should otherwise want. That is the 1932 programme.
It might interest the House if I tell them the names of the 1931 programme, 1495 which has been approved. The larger 6-inch cruisers will be called the "Amphion" and the "Ajax," the smaller the "Arethusa," and the House will see that we continue the policy of naming the larger 6-inch cruisers after the heroes of mythology, and we name their lighter sisters more appropriately by the ladies of mythology, who were so often pursued by the heroes.
I now come to the most dismal part of my speech, and that is the figures of the 1932 programme. It is the dismal part of the speech to me, because, although I have been in this House a good long time, my heart has been always rather more than half in the Navy, and my first thought has always been for the efficiency and the welfare of that great Service. Now that, by a piece of great good fortune and good luck, I temporarily find myself the civil head of the Navy, it is my misfortune to introduce the lowest Estimates that have been introduced since 1913, and which have obviously been framed, not on what we would like, but with a, view to contributing, and contributing very generously, towards the nation's common effort to meet the great financial crisis.
As I explained in my printed statement, which accompanies the Navy Estimates, the net amount allowed to us in 1932 is £50,476,300, a drop of £1,128,700 on 1931, but I want to make quite clear that this latter figure of nearly £1,250,000 by no means represents the economies that we have had to make in the present Estimates. The 1932 Estimates have had to include large automatic increases of expenditure which are made up as follows: The old programmes of new construction have involved an increase in these Estimates of the huge sum of £2,700,000, and that was due to the partial cancellation of the 1928 and 1929 programmes. The non-effective Votes have risen by £160,000; an extra payday comes into this year, which involves us in another £140,000; we also have a great drop in the appropriations-in-aid, due to the falling off in trade in general, and in particular to our trade in oil tankers, which adds another £697,500 on to these automatic increases; and, if we subtract the windfalls, which amounted to £320,0M, we arrive at a total automatic increase of £3,377,500; and by 1496 adding this to the reduction in the total Estimates of £1,128,700, we arrive at the very large sum of over £4,500,000 which we have had to save in these Estimates. I hope that a large part may only prove to be postponed.
The main heads under which these cuts have been made I will explain as briefly as I can to the House, and I will take the worst first. The 1931 programme, that is, the ships that were voted by this House of Commons last year and should normally be laid down about this time of the year, have bad to be postponed for six months, and by that we save £1,300,000.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Could my right hon. Friend make it perfectly clear and say in what month they will be laid down?
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
Of this year, yes. Instead of in March, they will be laid down in September or October—round about that time.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
Could the right hon. Gentleman inform us how much money has been set aside to be spent on new construction, or suggested in the 1931 Estimates?
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
We provided money for the next programme which I am introducing to-day, but I hope that it will be clear if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed, I think that far the worst feature of these Estimates is the postponement of last year's programme, not so much for the Navy because we must have the ships which we are allowed to have by 1936 by our treaties, and there is no doubt that we shall have them. The House will notice—and I think that this answers the question of the hon. Gentleman—that I have included a sum in this year's Estimates for starting the 1932 building programme 1497 at the normal time in March of next year. But, while it does not matter so much to the Navy, the shipyards have my very deepest sympathy. Building is almost at one of the lowest ebbs to which it has ever been in this country in the shipyards, and they are having great difficulties. I only hope that they will overcome them and do their best to keep those first-class highly technical men who are so important for the building of these ships.
I come to my next big cut—pay, wages and pensions. The cuts amount to £1,175,000. Then administrative economies for the whole of the naval service, that is, in the maintenance of the Fleet, account for a little over £2,000,000. These economies in the administration and the maintenance of the Fleet have been arrived at only by cutting everything absolutely to the bone. I will give one or two illustrations. No new flight is being added this year to the Fleet Air Arm. In fuel and ammunition we are generally curtailing cruises and exercises, and there will be no combined manoeuvres of the Atlantic and Mediterranean Fleets this spring. With regard to dockyard work, any proposed alterations or refits will be subjected to a special and rigid scrutiny. The utmost possible economy has been ordered with regard to stores. There is a reduction of training in the Naval reserves, and in Fleet numbers the reduction is 2,500. From this list, which is by no means exhaustive, the House will see what drastic economies it has been necessary to make in order to achieve the necessary reductions. They have been made this year to meet exceptional circumstances, but I must warn the House that they cannot be continued if this country is to have an efficient Navy.
Now I turn to some questions which affect more the domestic side of the Navy. In the last few months the Navy has been indulging in a good deal of stocktaking, and I want to tell the House of some of the more important conclusions at which we have already arrived. The first is the question of the promotion of officers. Ever since the War there has been an increasing block in the flow of promotions, with the natural consequence that officers of each rank are gradually becoming older. The block is due to two causes; first, the 1498 great difficulty of passing over officers who performed very valuable services during the War; second, the inflated list of officers, which is itself a legacy of the War, and a correspondingly decreasing number of posts or billets for them to fill owing to the diminution of the Navy. The situation with regard to promotion has now reached such an acute form that the average age of officers promoted from commander to captain is 42¼, and, of course, the ages in the senior ranks go up correspondingly. It might interest the House to know the age at which some distinguished officers of the Navy in the past have been promoted to the rank of captain. Lord Jellicoe was promoted to the rank of captain at 37, Lord Beatty at under 30, and Lord Nelson at under 21, as against 42¼ now.
I want to warn the House that if no steps were taken to put this matter right, the time would come when it would be necessary to stop all commander's promotion for a year. That must not happen, and I am not going to allow it to happen, because nobody realises outside the Service what a terrible blow this would mean to the legitimate hopes, ambitions and aspirations of the young officers of the Service; and what a reaction it would have for bad on the efficiency of the Fleet. It is imperative to assure young officers of reasonable prospects of promotion, and this can only be achieved by making the necessary clearances at the top of the list. With this object in view, a policy has been adopted which, unfortunately, results in a number of officers of high attainments and most distinguished record being passed over. Since I have been at the Admiralty I have been greatly struck with the way in which all officers in the Navy are ready to put the good of the Service before any personal consideration, and, although this will be the deepest disappointment to many of them, I am sure, seeing that there is no question whatever that it is for the good of the Service, that they will loyally accept this policy.
Last autumn the Admiralty set up a number of committees dealing with very wide aspects of naval policy, especially as regards the manning of the Fleet and the training of personnel. With regard to the latter, we have had the advantage of advice contributed from the whole of the Navy. We have already had reports 1499 from six commanders-in-chief on this subject. The most remarkable feature of these reports is their unanimity regarding the existence of certain main defects in the Naval Service. I can sum up these defects by saying that for years past so much attention has been given at sea to achieving the highest possible degree of weapon efficiency and maintaining the Fleet in a state of almost immediate readiness for battle, that the broader aspects of training the personnel have suffered in many directions. If I may put it as a layman to laymen, the balance between training men to work machinery and training men to become seamen and all that that implies has been upset. It is nobody's fault; it has grown up almost unconsciously and inevitably in these days of mechanisation, and I think it is primarily due to two things—too short commissions and too frequent changes of officers and men during those commissions. I do not want the House to think that I am in any way asking for a lower standard of efficiency in weapons or material. Quite the contrary, for I believe that the highest degree of efficiency is attained only when the balance of training in material and moral is properly adjusted. Two main results have been produced by this disequilibrium of training. The first is that discipline and moral have suffered, because intensified fleet training has left insufficient time to develop in officers and petty officers the arts of leadership and the power of command, and a too centralised system of fleet command, a too highly organised routine, tends to crush initiative, and fails to provide opportunities for the development of individuality.
If this diagnosis be correct—and it is a very important decision—the House and the Navy will see that the remedy has got to be widespread, and it must take time to evolve. But we are already in a position to lay down certain principles with a view to attaining these ends. The first is that we think it imperative that some sea-going training should be given cadets after leaving Dartmouth, and boys when they leave their educational establishments, and, next in order to enable officers to gain sea experience and keep in touch with their men, more general service experience should be given, and 1500 less changes during commissions, and this applies also to the ratings. With regard to petty officers, I have already alluded to the unsatisfactory side of the promotion of officers, and I am having careful inquiry made into the question of promotion of leading seamen and petty officers. I am not yet in a position to give any very definite decision, but I want to see the first consideration given to the promotion of these men according to their powers of leadership and command. Educational attainments, of course, are of vital necessity in the highly mechanised life of our modern Navy. But I think it is obvious that in the seamen and engine-room branches the capacity to command subordinates remains, and is the first essential in higher ratings. In order to ensure the success of this, it is necessary that commanding officers should co-operate and use due consideration in making their recommendations.
I have tried, as briefly as possible, to indicate certain ways in which we can supply some of the remedies to bring about a better balance of training, and I now want to explain, also briefly, certain reorganisations of our Fleet which will allow some of those remedies to be put into practice immediately. The problems with which we were faced were two. We had to determine the minimum Fleet necessary at the present time, and its most advantageous distribution to meet the following requirements: First, to maintain sufficient forces abroad in order to show our flag, to uphold our prestige in all parts of the world, and to be able to cope with any emergencies which might arise in any part of the world; and, secondly, to maintain in home waters and in the Mediterranean, forces sufficient for our strategical requirements, and forces sufficient to provide sea training for officers and men. It was decided—and I think the House will agree that, this was a wise decision—that no reduction in our Navy should be made in far foreign stations, and no large reduction of peace complements, so that our attention then had to be concentrated on our two main Fleets, the Atlantic Fleet and the Mediterranean Fleet, and the following decision has been reached.
The Mediterranean Fleet, which at the moment consists of six capital ships, and four flotillas among other craft, is going to be reduced by one battleship, 1501 one aircraft carrier and one flotilla, and if a battleship or an aircraft carrier is withdrawn from service for any length of time, for refit or otherwise, she will be replaced by a ship from home. The Atlantic Fleet is to be strengthened by the ships from the Mediterranean. There will now be 10 capital ships in the Atlantic Fleet, but three out of those 10 are to go into reserve, and the aircraft carrier from the Mediterranean is also to go into reserve. The other seven capital ships and the three flotillas will then carry somewhat smaller crews in peace than they have hitherto done. Any loss of strength in this reorganisation is more apparent than real, as these arrangements are well adapted to the normal peace routine of refits.
I want to tell the House the results of this reorganisation. Of course, first of all they make for economy, but they will have some very important results apart from that—first, the improvement in the ratio between home and foreign service, which was getting too much weighted on the side of foreign service; secondly, an increased ratio of shore to sea service. Not only will this make very much for the additional comfort of the men, but it will ease the manning difficulties under which we have been suffering so much of late, and by doing our best to provide a sufficient number of men always available at the home depots, we hope to be able to reduce the too frequent changes during commissions, and to this end it has been necessary slightly to increase our working margin. I make no apology for this whatsoever. It may prove to be insufficient, and, if so, I shall have to come to the House and ask for an increase in Vote A, because I attach the very greatest importance to stopping these frequent and continual changes in the personnel.
It has been decided to change the name of the Atlantic Fleet. I think the title of Atlantic Fleet is not an altogether appropriate one for a ship in home waters, and when the Atlantic Fleet returns in a few days and rounds Ushant, leaving the Atlantic behind it, and entering the English Channel, it will be called in the future the Home Fleet. I hope the House will wish all good luck when the time comes to that Home Fleet and all who sail in it.
Before I leave this question of training, I want to say something on my own, although I think that what I am going 1502 to say will find a great and ready response in the great majority of the senior officers of the Service, because one of my great hopes is that before long someone standing at this Box—and I should like it to be myself—will ask the House of Commons to make some provision for sailing ships for the training of our Fleet. In my opinion, there is no training in the world for a sailor like the training provided by masts and yards, making and shortening sail, reefing topsails in a strong wind and all sail drill, which necessitate the closest co-operation and trust between all hands, and nothing can surpass it for imparting smartness and discipline, and for developing character and self-reliance. The curious thing is that nearly all other countries in the world have this form of training in sailing ships, but we, who depend upon the sea more than any other country, have none at all, and I think it is the height of folly for us to ignore it any longer. I believe that an early training in sail is the only way to develop that spark of seamanship which is latent in every inhabitant of these islands. Seamanship in the past, in the face of tremendous odds so far as material is concerned, has always been the supreme factor in drawing round this country a ring of fire which nobody has got through for centuries.
I sometimes wonder if the people of this country realise how utterly dependent they are upon the British Navy. I sometimes wonder whether over-taxation, vague generalities about Disarmament, and a general weariness have not made them forget some very fine words with regard to the Navy uttered in one of the more virile times of this country's development. After talking about the ships of the Navy, the speaker said:By them in a manner we live; the Kingdom is, the King reigneth.I suppose that in the long history of Parliament there have been few Members who have sat so long on these two Front Benches as I have and spoken so seldom. My only contribution, a daily one, to this House for the last nine years has been a short and pithy speech, which runs, if I remember it, something like this:I beg to move that the House do now adjourn.And while I flattered myself always that this was generally the most popular speech of the day, and certainly the most 1503 effective, it does not leave on the records of the OFFICIAL REPORT many of my opinions. That is why I have to apologise for going back 21 years in order to be able to quote myself. In those days, 21 years ago, when I was sitting opposite, the menace of the Great War was clear to some of us, great Debates took place on Navy Estimates in those days and great discussions on super-Dreadnoughts, tons, guns, and invasion, and I put in a plea for an adequate cruiser force, basing my speech on this text;The really serious danger that this country has to guard against in war is not invasion, but interruption of our trade and destruction of our merchant shipping."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1911; col. 46, Vol. 23.]Many things have changed, and many opinions since 1911, but that statement which I have quoted to-day remains as true as it was then, and the War abundantly proved it to be true. There are those in the House who remember that, on the outbreak of War, there were very few enemy forces outside the North Sea, but before those enemy forces were brought to book, they had destroyed over 250,000 tons of shipping of this country and the Allies. Later in the War three raiders got out on to our trade routes—I am not talking of submarines and the havoc they created—and those three, not fast ships, nothing very wonderful about them, destroyed 290,000 tons of our shipping before we caught them. I ask the House to remember that to-day the value of our Empire-owned ships and their cargoes at any given moment is computed at something like £700,000,000 and they are stretched over 80,000 miles of sea routes. In wartime the maintenance of our sea communications, not only in one particular locality, but in all the seas of the world, is absolutely essential to the security of these islands and of the Empire.
What do we require for this security? We want cruisers—not big cruisers, but light cruisers lightly armed, which are not a danger or a menace to anybody at all, but a, menace only to commerce destroyers. Although we want small cruisers we want plenty of them, and though we have plenty of them it is a very small insurance to pay for the security of our trade. And do not let the House forget what our Navy is called 1504 upon to do in peace time. One of the truest aphorisms is that trade follows the flag. We are called upon to protect the fishing industry, we are engaged always in putting down slave-trading, piracy and gun-running, and we are always expected to be ready at any moment to render aid in case of earthquake, hurricane, or flood in any part of the world. Not only would it be a disaster to this country, but I think it would be a disaster to the world, if we were not able properly to carry out this function.
May I say one last word to those who think we can continually indulge in unilateral Disarmament? I have noticed with sadness, but with some amusement, that the desire of some people for a small navy is only equalled by their extreme bellicosity. Last month Signor Grandi, at Geneva, gave us some very interesting figures. He told us that from 1925 to 1930 the world expenditure on armaments had increased by £126,000,000. During those years the decrease on our naval armaments was £8,000,000. Let me give those whom I am addressing some other hard, cold facts. No capital ships have been laid down for nearly 10 years. Since the War we have built only 17 cruisers—in the last four years only five—whereas it is absolutely essential that we have three a year to keep our Fleet on an even keel. We have laid down only four submarines in the eight years to 1926. No sloops, gunboats or minesweepers were laid down between 1917 and 1926; and in this year, 1931–32, we had to dispose of 74,000 tons of warships and completed barely 26,000 tons.
With these facts in mind, I think it must be apparent that there can be no further slowing down of our building programme, and that a steady replacement programme must be unflinchingly pursued. I read the Debates that took place in the House last week on the wheat quota, and the speeches, made with almost bated breath, about the price of the loaf. It was said that, if the Wheat Quota Bill became law, at a certain time of the year, and in certain circumstances, the price of the loaf might go up by a halfpenny. To what price would the loaf rise in this country if sea-borne wheat and flour failed to reach our shores? Whatever that rise in price might be, the fact remains that the great majority of our population would be unable to buy bread; and I do ask this country to 1505 remember that not only our great overseas trade, not only our sea communications with the Empire, but the daily bread of the British people depends on the British Navy.
§ Mr. G. HALL
No one, wherever he may sit in this House, can fail to acknowledge the lucid and interesting manner in which the First Lord of the Admiralty has laid his first Estimates before this House. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman occupies what may be regarded as a unique position. For some years he served in this, the senior Service, in addition to that he has occupied the positions of Civil Lord and of Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, and now he is the civil head of this Service of which he is so justly proud. I am sure the whole House would desire me to congratulate him upon the honour which has been conferred upon him. His statement is a very interesting one, but I fully expected that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, seeing that he has so recently returned from the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, would have given us some information regarding proposals which may have been submitted to that conference for further disarmament. Seeing that he has not announced any additional proposals, I take it that the statement made by the Foreign Secretary to that conference on 8th February represents substantially the proposals of the Government. This is the first of the Estimates for the Fighting Services which have been discussed. While it is true that these Estimates show a reduction as compared with last year's expenditure, the reduction falls very far short of what was expected as a result of the statements made in this House during September and October last year. I think it might be said that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has been very much more generous to my right hon. and gallant Friend than his predecessor was to the predecessor of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and in that we may say that the First Lord has been very fortunate.
In the Memorandum issued in September we were told that we could expect a reduction in capital expenditure during the course of 1932 of somewhere around £4,000,000. We were told that in addition to a reduction of £3,614,000 in pay and pensions among the three Services 1506 there was to be a reduction, spread over the three Services, of something like £5,000,000. Later, in a reply to a question in the House, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury announced that it was expected that the Admiralty would save £3,942,000, the Army £3,600,000, and the Air Force £954,000. The Army has reduced expenditure to almost within the figure contained in the Memorandum and the reply to the question. The Air Force has reduced its expenditure to within £250,000 of the figure given. But the Admiralty does not come within £2,800,000 of the figure given in the Memorandum or the reply to the question. I have taken some pains to discover where the £2,700,000 referred to in the statement of the First Lord when. dealing with new construction is shown in the Estimates. I take it that the amount of money spent upon new construction is contained in Vote 8, Sections 1, 2 and 3, together with a certain amount of expenditure in Vote 9. I find that in the expenditure under Vote 8 there is an estimated increase for 1932, as compared with 1931, of £425,000, and an increase of £54,000 in Vote 9, making a total increase in Vote 8 and Vote 9 of £480,000. On comparing the Estimates for 1932 with the expenditure of 1930 the increase in Vote 8 is £24,000, but taking Vote 8 and Vote 9 into consideration I find that the expenditure is down by more than £44,000. So I cannot see where the increase on new construction, referred to as £2,700,000, is shown in these Estimates.
The Memorandum of the estimated reduction in expenditure led one to believe that there would be a slowing down in the expenditure on new construction. In his statement the First Lord referred to the fact that there has been the post ponement for six months. I ask him whether he can give any indication of the amount of money which will be spent during the financial year 1932 upon the programme of 1931. It must be a very small amount. He did say it was intended that the 1931 and the 1932 programmes should be commenced during the course of the next financial year. That was the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made. The 1932 programme for which we are estimating will be commenced towards the end of the financial 1507 year at the normal time. The new construction programme, as the First Lord rightly said, is practically a repeat of the 1931 programme, and represents a normal replacement programme within the new limited tonnage set out in Part 111 of the London Naval Agreement. When the late First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Alexander, announced the new constructive programme for 1931, he expressed the hope that, while that was the normal instalment under the Naval Agreement, a further advance would be made in reductions after the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, and that the Government would be able to cancel, postpone or vary the different items in the programme then announced. I have no doubt that Mr. Alexander had in mind the postponement, variation, or even cancellation in the event of a financial emergency arising such as that which has unfortunately arisen.
In announcing and making provision for the new programme, the Government do not seem to be very optimistic regarding the success of the Disarmament Conference. On the Labour benches we regret that very much, and we ask the Government to do all in their power to bring about as large a reduction in the armed forces as possible, and not adhere too rigidly to the proposals submitted by the Foreign Secretary on the 8th February last. On this side of the House we will support the most generous gesture which the Government can make upon the question of Disarmament. While it is true to say that the Estimates show a reduction of some £5,000,000 in all the three Fighting Services, we must keep in mind the fact that the cost of armaments to the taxpayers of this country in these Estimates amounts to no less a sum than £104,000,000, as compared with £77,000,000 which was spent for the same purpose in the year 1913–14. These figures are a very serious matter for the British taxpayer. What is more important is that for 10 years the people of the world have been looking to this Conference for a large measure of disarmament. Their patience is almost exhausted, and anything in the nature of a failure, in view of the economic consequences that, failure would have, could not but have a disastrous effect on the whole world, and every country, great or small, would suffer from it.
1508 Vote I of the new construction programme on page 4 of the First Lord's Statement consists of two cruisers of the "Leander" class of 7,000 tons each, and costing £1,500,000 each; and one of the smaller class 5,000 to 6,000 tons and costing about £1,125,000. There were also two of the larger cruisers in the 1931 programme, and it was expected that in the event of three cruisers being laid down in 1932 there would be two of the smaller type and one of the larger type, and that would make a difference in the cost of the new construction programme of about £375,000. These figures are given in the May Report. I know the very strong views which the First Lord holds with regard to cruisers, but I would like to ask whether it is the intention of the Admiralty to carry out the recommendation of the May Report that before the next Naval Conference the Government should appoint a committee to inquire into the subject of naval design in order to see whether any modification can be adopted by international or other agreement to lessen the cost of naval defence without endangering naval security. I think the appointment of a committee of that kind is a matter of great importance.
We were interested in the statement made by the First Lord regarding the allocation of the new programme. The right hon. Gentleman said that one cruiser and two sloops were to be built at Edinburgh, one leader at Portsmouth, and one submarine at Chatham. In the 1931 programme Portsmouth had one cruiser, one leader, and one tender; Devonport two sloops; Chatham one cruiser and one submarine; and one cruiser, two destroyers and two sloops were let out to contract. I would like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has in mind the effect of this programme upon the employment position in the Royal Dockyards. I see, according to the Estimate, that the right hon. Gentleman is budgeting for almost the same number of employés in each of the dockyards. There is a reduction in the whole of the yards of something like 400 men, and they are established men, whereas the hired men are to be retained at somewhat the same figure.
Reference has been made to the personnel, and the First Lord referred to the falling off in the number. It is true 1509 to say that there is a reduction of something like 16,000 in 1932 as compared with 1922 and a reduction of some 10,500 during the course of the last five years. When one compares the personnel of the present modern Navy with the Navy of 1914 one must become somewhat alarmed at the reduced numbers. I do not know how far changes in the modern battleship, compared with pre-War battleships, is responsible for the reduced numbers. The First Lord himself referred to the difficulties regarding ratings which machinery had made, and the difficulties which follow a process of mechanisation. I would like to deal with one particular aspect of this matter. The change from the use of coal to the use of oil has had a considerable effect on the number of ratings. I inquired into this question last year and discovered that in 1914 there were nearly 40,000 stoker ratings in the Navy. As a result of the change from coal to oil burning, the number has been reduced from 40,000 to under 18,000, a reduction of over 20,000 in that class of rating alone, brought about as the result of the change over from coal to oil burning. I notice that the First Lord has provided for a total of 91,000. Mr. Alexander, when he introduced his Estimates last year, stated that by the 31st March, 1932, the ratings would number 91,840, which would mean a saving of £400,000 in the pay of the personnel alone. I take it that, as far as the First Lord himself is concerned, he is not providing for any further reduction in the number for 1932. On 1st April, 1932, the actual personnel of the Navy will be about 91,000.
Various questions have been raised with regard to the reduction in the numbers of officers in proportion to the reduction in the number of other ratings, but I do not want to follow that subject at any great length. I see with interest that the Estimates refer to a reduction in the number of cadets at Dartmouth, but I also notice that there is not a corresponding reduction in the amount of expenditure upon cadets. I would like to call attention to the fact that the cost of Dartmouth College to the taxpayers alone amounts to no less than £82,000 per annum. Taking that amount, and adding to it the fees paid by parents, amounting to £48,000, Dartmouth College is costing £130,000 a year for the 421 boys who are trained there every 1510 year. I would like to ask the First Lord—or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he replies to the Debate—whether it is the intention of the Board to implement the findings of the Bennett Committee which was set up by the predecessor of the First Lord, and gave much time and consideration to the question of the entry of boys into the Dartmouth College from the naval secondary and other suitable schools in the country. I hope it will be possible for that Report to be implemented in some way.
I am also interested in the suggested change with regard to the police engaged at Chatham Docks. Hitherto the Docks have been policed by the Metropolitan Police, but I think a change has now taken place, and the men from the Royal Marines are carrying out those duties as an experiment. The May Report referred to this experiment, and suggested that if it could be extended to the other dockyards it would mean a saving of £50,000 a year. I would like to have some statement as to whether the experiment has proved beneficial.
I will now refer to the question of Singapore about which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) has put several questions. I find that there is an actual reduction in the amount of money to be spent at Singapore during the next year. I am not complaining about the reduction in this expenditure. What concerns those sitting on these benches is whether the Government have at last made up their minds to slow down the work at Singapore. I know how difficult it is to do that owing to commitments in contracts, and I am also aware that the Dominions and the Colonies have made generous contributions towards the establishment of this naval base. The Malay States have completed their contribution towards the Singapore base, but I would like to ask, seeing that we are faced with financial stringency, whether it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the completion of this base at a total cost of £8,700,000, which was the original Estimate?
I come now to another question in which I am keenly interested, as must be everyone who comes from the coalfields of this country. That is that, while there is a reduction in the amount of expenditure for fuel of something like 1511 £323,000, due to smaller requirements of oil fuel owing to the fact that certain exercises have not been carried out, there is also a reduction of £20,000 in steam vessel coal. I much regret that the amount of coal that is being used for naval purposes is gradually growing less. This year, I take it, the Admiralty are providing for something like 150,000 tons for naval purposes. That is as against 1,800,000 tons during the year 1913–14. This is a very serious matter, as the Admiralty know how dependant we are upon imported fuel. It is also serious in its effect upon employment, particularly among the miners of South Wales, which supplies this coal for Admiralty purposes.
We have almost entirely lost the market for nearly 2,000,000 tons, and that does not only apply to the Admiralty, for we have lost a very large market in the Mercantile Marine, since something like 43 per cent. of the Mercantile Marine at the present time is using oil fuel. This has meant that some tens of thousands of miners in South Wales have been thrown out of employment. Hon. Members can understand why there is such a strong feeling that the Government should give anxious consideration to an extension of the use of coal for all purposes where fuel is required. A strong committee representative of all the interests is still very active in this matter in South Wales, and, when a deputation from this committee waited upon the Admiralty in July last, it was suggested that certain technical experts should meet the Admiralty experts with a view to ascertaining whether something could be done in the direction of endeavouring to prove that coal can produce almost the same results as oil. If that meeting has not yet taken place, I trust that my right hon. Friend will make it possible for it to do so.
The First Lord, in his excellent statement, made reference to the fact that the Admiralty is still making tests with regard to fuel oil produced by the low-temperature process. Are the tests referred to on a larger scale than those which took place in 1930; and is it intended that those tests shall be followed up by seagoing trials on a large scale? I should also like to ask whether provision is being made in the Estimates for this year for the purchase of as much of this home-produced fuel as is available and suitable 1512 for naval purposes. It is of the utmost importance that every process which will assist in making the Navy less dependent upon foreign fuel should be encouraged. If the Government would only do half as much to assist this new industry as is being done to assist sugar beet and wheat growing, I have no doubt that we should soon make this country almost self-supporting as regards the production of oil.
In conclusion, let me say that we on this side of the House are disappointed. We expected that in the presentation of these Estimates a larger reduction would have been shown, as was indicated in September of last year—a reduction which would have been consequent upon proposals submitted by the Government to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, and proposals which would be accepted. I have in mind a speech made by the Foreign Secretary in Birmingham in November last, when he said:Be assured that, unless civilisation finds some means to reduce the crushing burden of armaments, and to curb the suspicions and rivalries which sometimes poison international relationships, civilisation itself may be overwhelmed.Not only were those sentiments expressed by the Foreign Secretary, but the Lord President of the Council, at the Disarmament demonstration which was held on the 11th July last year, said:We are bound by treaty and by honour to international disarmament.Further, the Prime Minister at the same meeting, said:People seeking safety by arms are like people seeking shelter under trees during a thunderstorm. They are at the very point which is first struck when the thunderstorm breaks, instead of being secure during grievous danger.We would like the Government to put those words into deeds, and I can assure my right hon. Friend that we on this side of the House will support any proposal for a drastic and universal reduction of naval and all other armaments.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
As one who, a good many years ago now, began my own official career in the office which was the first one to be held by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and who closed my official career a little time ago holding the office which my right hon. Friend now holds, I would like to tender him, not merely 1513 my congratulations, but my thanks, for the very able and interesting statement which he made at the beginning of our discussion. I will frankly confess that I am a little disappointed, to use the hon. Gentleman's own words, that the first Opposition speaker should have used so much of the not very long time which his speech occupied in dealing with details which would be better discussed upon the individual Votes, and should have given so little consideration to the large issues of policy which are raised in the statement of the First Lord, and which are what should primarily occupy the House when we are discussing a Motion to go into Committee on the Navy Estimates. It is to those large issues that for a few moments I would ask leave to address myself.
I will take as my test almost the opening words of my right hon. Friend's statement accompanying the Estimates, that these Estimates have been fixed with strict reference to the needs of the financial situation, and must not be regarded as an adequate provision for the needs of the Navy. That statement is profoundly true. How true it is, only those, I suppose, who have been admitted to the secrets of government, who have been behind the scenes and know all the facts, can adequately appreciate. The Board over which my right hon. Friend presides was set an extraordinarily difficult task. For years past we have, in anticipation of a general Disarmament, cut to the hone year after year the Navy Estimates. For the first time, I suppose, in our history, we are this year going to begin the programme of last year only in the month of September next. No ship was laid down in the year that is now closing. The whole new construction programme of this year is postponed, not merely to the new financial year which opens in the month of April, but to some period in the year when it is already almost half spent. Never has that occurred, as far as I know, in our naval history before. It is a sacrifice made to the financial exigencies of the country at the moment.
The Board of Admiralty—I know something of it, and I have my own share of responsibility for accepting the conditions in the few weeks that I occupied the position of First Lord—the Board of Admiralty was required to make the May cuts, and when, on their application, we became convinced that we had inflicted a 1514 serious hardship which had not been in contemplation and which we could not justify, we were required, and we undertook, to make good in other ways the money which the modification in the May cuts prevented us from saving on pay and allowances. We were required, not only to make the May cuts, but to provide in addition a cut of £2,000,000 as a contribution to the £5,000,000 which the three Services were expected to provide; and it was my duty to warn the Government that, while it was for them to decide whether the financial emergency of the moment was such as to require this sacrifice, I was bound to tell them that, if that sacrifice was required—and I was not prepared to dispute it; I was prepared to accept the obligation of making it—if that sacrifice was required, the Navy for the time being would not be in that state of efficiency, or possess that adequacy to the demands which might be made upon it, that the country has been accustomed to expect from it during all our history.
It is to my right hon. Friend and the Board over which he presides that it has fallen to find this money. I do not dispute the wisdom of the Cabinet in requiring it, and I pay tribute to the broadmindedness of the Board of Admiralty in looking beyond the needs of the Navy to the needs of the nation and assenting to this sacrifice. Let it be clearly understood that the result of it is that our Navy is not only incomparably weaker than it has been in the past—incomparably weaker than it was, I will not say after the War, but before the War—but it is proportionately weaker as compared with the navies of other Powers. Year after year, we, in anticipation of a disarmament which in other lands was still to come, have made reduction after reduction. When other countries were building up, we, alone hitherto, have made reductions. That cannot go on indefinitely. I hope the House will not think that I make an undue claim if I say that I have done my utmost, in the times when I was responsible for the conduct of our foreign affairs, to remove suspicion, to create international confidence, and by every means within my power to promote the cause of peace; and there is no one in this House or out of it who more earnestly desires to serve that cause to-day. Let me say in passing that that cause needs 1515 new friends to take the place of those who have passed away. Even in the middle of this Debate I heard of the passing of M. Briand. No man was a better friend to peace; no man served that cause more loyally; and we who survive him may find encouragement and stimulus to continue his efforts by following his example. It is in no way because I underrate the importance of observing peace that I call attention to these matters. I beg the House to observe that, in all that concerns the physical force that it will exert in an emergency, this country is weaker in proportion to the rest of the world than at any time within my public life, and I ask them to consider whether our weakness really serves the cause of peace. I have some experience of foreign nations and some knowledge of foreign opinion. I have never met a foreigner who thought that the strength of the British Navy endangered peace. I have met a good many who have thought that a strong British Navy was one of the best guarantees that we could offer. We want our policy to be one of co-operation with the rest of the world, but we want to be independent, free to direct our policy as we will and as we think best, not in a selfish interest but in the common interest. There is no charge that could be made with more damaging effect against a Foreign Minister of this country than that he subordinates the policy and the interests of this country to some other nation. If you want your Foreign Secretary to speak with the authority that he ought to have, if you want yourselves to be masters in your own house and able to decide your own policy, you must be in a position to defend yourself, you must be in a position to fulfil your obligations and to secure the respect of others for the obligations that they owe to you
I would remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have been great critics in the past, they or their representatives, of those conversations which were authorised by Mr. Asquith arid Sir Edward Grey between French and British military and naval representatives and, in particular, of that arrangement by which at the outbreak of the War we found that we had practically assumed the duty of protecting the French Channel coast against attack whilst we ourselves 1516 were dependent in the Mediterranean on at least the co-operation of the French Fleet to protect our interests there. Look at Mr. Harold Nicolson's life of Lord Carnock, his father. He very justly observed that it was because the British Navy was not equal to that double task that it found it necessary to enter into these arrangements. I am not criticising them. I think they were right. But the moral that I draw is that, the weaker your Navy is, the more dependent you become upon other Powers, the less you can conduct an independent policy, the more you must be guided by their feelings and the more you must rely upon their support. That is all I wish to say. I think it is germane to the discussion we are entering upon. I accept these Estimates. I should have accepted them if I had been First Lord, but I should have said, as my right hon. Friend said in his statement, that these Estimates are not measured by what is required for the maintenance of our interests, the defence of ourselves, or even the fulfilment of our obligations, but are dictated to us solely by the extreme financial emergency in which we stand and they are defensible only on that ground.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I want, in the first place, to compliment the First Lord on the magnificent manner in which he opened his statement. To my mind, it is typical of the silent Navy that it has only broken silence to-day. I consider it providential, because the opportunity is offered to me to deal with a question which I have asked and which I consider it will not be out of order to deal with now. I am not going to enter into discussion whether it should be a large or a small Navy. I am only dealing with the Vote for noneffective services, which gives me an opportunity of dealing with a matter with which everyone will be sympathetic, and I hope that some tangible and constructive policy may result from the discussion. It was a pleasant duty, in regard to an unpleasant incident, to ask a question of the First Lord of the Admiralty in regard to Mrs. Alice Tracey, 41, Bromhill Street, Liverpool, whose husband lost his life in Submarine M2 and who was awarded a widow's pension of 19s. a week, plus 5s. each for twins 11 months old, total pension 29s. weekly. Her rental is 14s. a week, an obligation that was entered into when her husband was alive, and the feeding of the children costs 7s. 6d.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I was in the House at Question Time, and I understood that the hon. Member gave notice that he was going to raise this on the Adjournment. Having given that notice, he cannot raise the matter now.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I have got as far as I have and the House will understand what the position is. I shall now deal with the question of pensions. I understand that, as far as the regulations are concerned, widows' pensions and children's allowances are fixed. I also understand that, in the exercise of the office of the First Lord, he can make ex gratia payments or extra compensation allowances. Looking at these Estimates, it would appear to me, not being a naval man, that they are very subtly worded. Pension allowances for widows may mean fixed allowances, but I do not think allowances for children of necessity come into the same purview with the regulations dealing with widows' pensions. It appears to me to be possible that children's allowances can be augmented. Has the question of compassionate allowances, or ex gratia payments, been taken into consideration in regard to this sum of £32,500 for 1932–33? If the policy of the past is to be continued in these Estimates, I contend that it has not been taken into consideration. I know how sympathetically the First Lord has dealt with my question and I know that the Department would be most anxious that there should be greater elasticity. I feel that no such allowance has been made. I am not going to talk about lesser Estimates. I feel that, in view of an emergency of this description, we ought to have greater Estimates and, because I feel that the Department has not made full allowance in extraordinary cases such as the terrible fatality at Portland, I consider that some greater elasticity ought to be given to the Minister so that he can deal ex gratia with exceptional cases of this kind. I rise only to bring to the notice of the First Lord what I consider to be a most delicate position and to ask if it is not possible to make some provision for these unhappy families, some of whose members have given their lives in the service of the nation.
§ Mr. RALPH BEAUMONT
In rising to snake my maiden speech, I must ask the House for that measure of indulgence 1518 which it is always ready to grant to those who address it for the first time. More particularly would I ask indulgence from those hon. and gallant Members whose service in the Navy gives them a longer experience and a greater knowledge of these matters than I can claim to possess. I intervene in the Debate not in any way as an expert on naval affairs, but as representing part of a great naval port whose inhabitants are, naturally, vitally concerned in the matter that we are discusisng. I should like to offer my small tribute of congratulations to the First Lord of the Admiralty for the manner in which he has faced an extremely difficult problem with the very limited amount of money that has been allotted to his Department. Unsatisfactory as the position undoubtedly is in many respects, I think it must be agreed that, in the exceptional circumstances, it might very well have been a great deal worse. Meagre as is the allotment of money in these Estimates, no loyal supporter of the National Government, and no one who realises the fundamental need for the strictest economy, can criticise the firm line which the Treasury has been forced to take in its rationing of the Departments.
It would, however, be idle to deny that there are several directions in which very serious uneasiness is aroused, and I should like to deal with one or two of these points. No one can fail to be very apprehensive of the reduction in the personnel of the Navy by over 2,000 officers and men. It is not merely an isolated reduction. It is part of a procedure which has gone on for several years, and when this year's reduction is added to those of the previous four years, it will be found that this country has reduced the personnel of its Navy by over 10,000 officers and men, or 10 per cent., since 1928, and this at a time when other countries, so far from reducing their numbers, are actually increasing them. Moreover, the full significance of this reduction is only realised when one remembers the length of time that it takes to make a trained seaman. When we realise this, and also the impossibility of improvising a Navy in a time of emergency, we must realise the seriousness of this reduction, for even if the present policy were to be reversed, and the numbers were to be steadily increased, it would be several years before any beneficial effect could be felt.
1519 No less anxiety is caused at the position of our shipbuilding programmes, for although the amount of money earmarked for new construction has risen, it in no way represents a speeding up of building. On the contrary, there appears to be a definite slowing down of the 1931 programme, and, however one looks at the matter, it seems impossible to believe that we are even building up to our agreed limit under the London Naval Treaty. For, as regards cruisers, under the normal rate of building, the Estimates which we are discussing to-day, or, to put it in its most optimistic form, next year's Estimates, are the last that can have any effect upon our position in 1936. Unless, therefore, there is to be both a very great increase in the rate of building, and, at the same time, in the amount of money which is to be allocated for new construction next year, it is impossible to see how we are to have our 50 cruisers by 1936, unless we take the effective life of those ships to be considerably longer than that which is taken by foreign countries.
The outlook for the Royal dockyards is not very bright. Apart from the work in hand, which is not very great, and a large amount of which will be completed during the current year, very small amounts of money have been allocated to the ships of the 1931 programme. As regards the 1932 programme, it will be a source of disappointment to the dockyards that so few of the ships are to be built there. Portsmouth, for instance, has simply been allocated one leader, and I believe that I am right in saying that the present-day leader is practically the same size as an ordinary destroyer. While the ships which are to be put out to contract will undoubtedly bring a measure of relief to those areas in which unemployment is so heavy, full consideration should be given, in the first place, to the Royal dockyards, which naturally rely for their employment entirely upon the work which is allocated to them by the Admiralty.
Those of us who feel rather strongly about these matters of personnel and shipbuilding, do not put forward our criticisms in any spirit of what is generally known as jingoism. I know that I am not breaking any fresh ground when I say that the size of our Navy should be based upon our own specific require- 1520 ments, and not upon the needs of other countries. It should be based upon our own specific requirements and the unique position of our Empire, but this is a fact which is inclined to be forgotten amid the general enthusiasm for disarmament. We must not forget that we have moral obligations from which we could not escape even if we wanted to do so, and that there are tens of millions of people who are looking to us for defence and protection. Looked upon in this light, therefore, the Navy Estimates for 1932 are not very cheering, and while they are naturally dictated by financial stringency, I think that there must be among all hon. and right hon. Members a very great measure of agreement with the statement accompanying the Navy Estimates in which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty states emphatically that it would be impossible to frame future Navy Estimates on the same basis without making the most serious in-roads into the strength and efficiency of the Fleet.
§ Colonel GRETTON
During the many years I have been in this House I have never heard a more remarkable speech than that made to-day by the right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Navy Estimates. The First Lord in his statement, printed and laid before Parliament, says that the Navy Estimates are abnormal, that they do not provide adequately for naval efficiency or for the naval safety of this country, and that they cannot be continued. He has emphasised the statement in the speech which he has delivered to-day. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), with his vast experience, latterly for some years as Foreign Secretary and at the Admiralty, warns us that these Estimates are dangerous. He has pointed out that they are not only dangerous to the safety of the country but, in a most solemn manner, he has called the attention of Parliament to the position in which we stand. Nothing can be more disquieting. We hear a great deal about Geneva and disarmament, but there has been no real progress made in disarmament except in the Treaty of London. It is remarkable that the only disarmament effected is in the case of naval armaments. If nations arm—and they must for many 1521 years to come—the one vital armament to us is naval armament. And yet the only Power which has disarmed is ourselves.
The Treaty of London is a delusion, to a great extent. It is not universal naval disarmament. It is an agreement to limit naval shipbuilding by size and tonnage among three naval Powers, but it leaves the rest of the world out of account, except that there is a reserve Clause. If certain European Powers build in such a manner as to disturb the balance contemplated by the Treaty of London, the Option Clause may be put into effect by us and we may build more ships than the Treaty provides. This is a very remarkable state of things. Of the two other Powers which are a party to it, the United States has substantially increased its Navy as a result of that Treaty, in order to bring it into parity with the British Navy, and the Japanese Navy has slightly increased in certain particulars. Yet there has been a heavy cutting down. I will not speak about battle-fleets, because the battle-fleets of the United States and ourselves are not the main factors in naval strength at the present time. We have specified that the agreement shall stand until 1936.
When one deals with the question of cruisers, it has to be remembered that in the more recent history of naval warfare the British Navy has started war with too few cruisers. We had too few in the last war. We were short of cruisers and light vessels We have cut down, under the Treaty of London, the Estimates of the Admiralty. Originally 80 cruisers were regarded as the standard strength of the British Empire, and that strength was pared down to 70 as an absolute minimum, and it had now been agreed under the London Treaty to limit it to 50. Could anybody responsible for conducting the defence of the country be satisfied with 50 cruisers? Even that standard may not be agreed to. One need not be meticulous as to a year or two concerning the obsolescence of cruisers, but, at any rate, they should be somewhere within the range of the general standard of age and efficiency Of those in foreign navies.
What are we doing? We had at the commencement of this year 52 cruisers, that is, two in excess of the number to which we are to reduce in 1935–36, and of 1522 those a large proportion will become obsolete before 1935–36, which is the period laid down under the Treaty of London. Three became obsolete in 1931. Another 25 become obsolete before the end of the Treaty of London. We are limited to 91,000 tons of cruisers between 1930 and 1935–36, and 28,000 tons of those 91,000 tons are only building. Last year we were told by representatives of the Admiralty in this House that we were to have 19,000 tons, that is to say, three more cruisers laid down. In the Navy Estimates we see that they have not been ordered, and it is confirmed by the statement of the First Lord, who says that they are not to be ordered in this financial year. Therefore, to say that we are to have 19,000 tons is a misnomer and an untrue statement, and the promise which the Admiralty made last year that we should have three cruisers laid down within the financial year has not been carried out. They are to be put off until the late summer or autumn of the present year, and then there are to be three more.
Both the First Lord and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham seem to think that the end of the financial year has been the normal time for laying down naval tonnage. I seem to recollect that when Navy Votes were agreed to 25 and 30 years ago new tonnage was commenced in the autumn or early winter as long as plans and material could be collected for commencing building. Then it came about gradually that a new vessel, cruiser or battleship, was actually not commenced in that year but in the January following. Now we have had the statement that it has become the normal practice to spend a few pounds and make some little show of expenditure upon the new programme in March just before the end of the financial year, i.e., twelve months after the ship building programme has been agreed to, and no substantial progress is made with the ships until the following financial year. But even this procedure is not to be followed with the ships of the 1931–32 programme. They are not to be begun until the summer of the present year, i.e., eighteen months after Parliament has agreed to their construction. In regard to the three cruisers in this year's programme, a few pounds are to be spent in March of next year. That will bring the 1523 cruisers to be laid down up to 38,000 tons, and it will leave, of the 91,000 tons under the Treaty of London, 25,000 tons to be laid down in the following year, 1933–34. Look at the arrears we are accumulating! I Look at the expenditure and the increased rate at which we must proceed if we are to have 40 non-obsolete efficient cruisers out of the 50 that we shall be allowed under the Treaty of London in 1935–36! Ships, stores, ammunition, everything required for the Fleet to go to sea if an emergency should arise, are allowed to run down below the standard of efficiency. The hon. Member who spoke last referred to the personnel. He said that you cannot improvise a navy; you cannot improvise the seamen and the officers. The United States is increasing her personnel. In 1924, the number was 68,000, and it is now 109,000. The Japanese Navy is increasing. The French Navy shows no reduction, nor does the Italian Navy.
We are receiving no reciprocity for the great sacrifices we have made under the Treaty of London. Will hon. and right hon. Members above the Gangway on this side of the House be willing to face the heavily increased expenditure which must be incurred in years to come in order that the British Navy may be efficient? Will they have learned their lesson by then that the world is not disarming, and that in a world which is still armed we cannot afford to be below the point of safety and efficiency? May I suggest to them that they should be more interested to see what can be done in the way of disarmament by land, to see how the land forces of the world can be disarmed, as so much sacrifice has been made by this country Until they see progress made in the reduction of the land forces of the world, they may be sure that disarmament is not making any progress. I do not want to detain the House, but as an old Member of Parliament and as an old Englishman who has always taken some interest in and tried to do some little service for the efficiency of the British Navy I do once more repeat, with emphasis, that we stand in a most dangerous position if the present policy is continued. I warn the House that we cannot go on as we are, and that a great effort will have to be made—the more it is put off the 1524 greater the effort—to replace the lost ground and to bring back the British Navy to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham described, in his closing sentences, as the great instrument for the stability, safety and peace of the world.
§ Mr. CHORLTON
I. venture into the Debate with all the concern of one who addresses the House for the first time, but I am reassured by the indulgence that has been granted to others in making their maiden speech. I do not desire to take up more time than I cannot possibly help, and therefore I will concentrate my remarks on the subject of research. Research in the Navy has always been a most important item. Indeed, it is more than an item—it is one of the fundamental factors in keeping the Navy in the lead. I wonder whether in the Estimates proper provision has been made for research. Not only in the Navy, but in every industry in this country research is most important, and one would be alarmed to think that at a time like this, when economy is so vital, economy should be exercised at the expense of research. If so, we shall find later that such economy has been false economy. In the days to come, during which we hope for, shall I say, better times and improved conditions, we shall regret that research has been cut down.
I will not speak on the whole subject of research, because it is a very wide one, but I will deal with the question of the internal combustion engine. The oil engine is one of the most important factors that the Navy has to consider at the present time. My association with the oil engine and the Navy began under Lord Fisher and the Board of Invention. That wonderful man had a great belief in oil and the oil engine, and he gave the first design that I submitted to him the greatest encouragement. I am glad to say that that engine was built and, although one ought not to talk about one's own work, it was the forerunner of many others. I should hate to think that we were not taking advantage of the good work done by our wonderful staff of engineers in the British Navy to-day. With respect to this particular type of engine another Service which is well known to all of us, a Service which is interested in research, 1525 and has spent a great deal more than the Navy on it, made use of the results that had been attained, and developed some fine engines, particularly the oil engines which were installed in Airship R 101. At that time I believe those engines were the leading engines of their type. That has been done by the other Service taking advantage of the experience that had been gained in the Navy.
In his preliminary statement, the First Lord of the Admiralty was kind enough to say that engines of a certain particular type are being investigated, and examinations made into their possibilities, but I was terribly disappointed to find that no mention was made of propelling engines. It is in regard to propelling engines that we require to move, and to see that something is done. Reference has been made to the need for cruisers. The cruiser of the future, I think, is bound to be propelled by internal combustion engines using oil. Are we taking sufficient care by means of research to ensure that we shall be in a position to have oil engines better than any other nation when the time comes? I wonder if we are remembering what is taking place in Germany? We know the progress that has been made there. I have seen the equipment of the "Deutschland," a ship which is propelled by internal combustion engines. That ship was not a freak. Its equipment is not just a case of something happening. It has been the result of a long continued policy since the War. There has been a succession of engines and ships. There was the "Karlsruhe," the "Bremse," the "Leipzig" and the "Deutschland." The Germans have gradually built larger and larger propelling engines of the oil-engine type. By this class of engine a greater range is obtained than can be obtained by the steam turbine. The German Government have made progress in this direction. If we are going to equip with the cruiser class, it is important that we should have highly developed oil engines. Can it be said that we are today in a position to use such oil engines if it should be decided that we are to use them?
The objection made against these engines is that they are not so reliable. Nothing is reliable until it has been tried sufficiently. The internal combustion engine was unreliable until it was demon- 1526 strated as efficient in use. To-day the greatest motor road traffic in the world, the London omnibuses, are driven by oil engines. We have seen another new oil engine, the petrol engine, which is substantially the same engine except that petrol is used as fuel instead of oil, used as an essential factor in the Air Service. Another objection to the oil engine is that it is said to be heavier than other types. The Germans have shown by their developments in cutting down the weight of the engines of the "Deutschland" that this type of engine can be greatly reduced in weight. I would not say that the weight is yet as light as that of the steam turbine installation. I hope that I am not being too technical. The weight of the steam turbine is still somewhat lighter, but let us remember that the internal combustion engine is relatively a large family, and that members of it conform to the same general design are much lighter. I mention this to illustrate the possibilities of further reducing the weight.
The Air Service, by the intensive development of internal combustion engines and by spending a great deal of money, finally produced those magnificent engines which were used in the Schneider Trophy Race. Those engines developed over 2,000 horse-power and were less than one pound per horse-power. They suceeded in winning the race, and practically all, or at any rate a large percentage, of the reason was to be found in the engine itself. If we can build engines as light as that, it indicates that in the course of time the weight of engines—the "Deutschland" engines were nearly 50 pounds for the complete installation—can be brought down to a weight far below the weight of the steam-turbine installation. We have produced an engine by means of research which is more economical than any other kind, which burns the fuel in the cylinder instead of under the boiler, and by economy in fuel and in weight the range of the ship may be increased by 50 per cent. Therefore, we may envisage the possibility that by the saving of weight the design even of battleships may entirely change. If by research we can reduce the weight of every part of the equipment, and particularly the propelling machinery, we can imagine a warship built without funnels, because it has no boilers, more difficult as a target because much less in size and very much less in cost.
1527 All this brings me back to the question, are we really doing all we should to ensure that our Navy shall lead in propelling machinery? The Navy in the past has been the great research workshop for the mercantile marine of this country, it so to speak set the fashion to the rest of the world. It developed the steam turbine and gave our mercantile marine an advantage. In the change from steam to oil we are not in the same position. We must have paid many thousands of pounds in royalties to continental designers and patentees of oil engines. It is to be regretted that such a state of affairs should exist. It does not encourage our young engineers—and there are no better in the world. Our own trade is seriously affected, because we have not the acknowledged lead in technical science which our developments in steam turbines gave us. I hope the First Lord will reassure us that something definite is being done. If we can recapture the engineering lead on the sea, it will redound to our benefit through all our industries, and in the ships themselves.
§ Mr. RHYS
I am sure that the House will wish me to offer the heartiest congratulations to the hon. Member for the Platting Division (Mr. Chorlton) on his speech. There are few hon. Members who can display such a, technical knowledge on these matters, and we shall look forward to his intervention in our Debates. I do not speak as a sailor or as the representative of a dockyard constituency, but because I feel that we ought to express the very grave disquietude we feel at the present naval position. I propose to take as the text of my short address this afternoon the preliminary words which appear at the beginning of the "Articles of War" drawn up by Charles II:It is upon the Navy, under the good providence of God, that the safety, honour and welfare of this realm do chiefly depend.Those words are as true to-day as they were in the days in which they were written. Naval strategy and technicalities will always remain the special province of those who have been brought up in the Service, or who have been fortunate enough to find themselves at the Admiralty, but every individual in the country can and should understand the 1528 broad principles of naval policy. I have always had the greatest sympathy with Charles I when he levied ship money on the inland towns, and none at all with John Hampden when he refused to pay it. King Charles I recognised that the Navy affects the whole of the country, whether inland or seaboard. The broad aspects upon which, I think, we should concentrate our attention are these. In the first place, there is the vulnerability of the seaboard traffic of an oceanic empire. Let me point out that Great Britain, the mother country of the Empire, bears practically the whole cost of the Navy upon which the trade and commerce of the Empire depend. We have just passed through this House the Statute of Westminster, in which the doctrine of equality of status is laid down, and it is therefore not out of place to remind our overseas Dominions that when we pass such laws to meet their legitimate desires, they owe a great debt to the taxpayers of this country in the provision they make for the protection of their trade and interests.
Another broad principle must, obviously, be the dependence of ships upon an adequate naval base in any part of the world upon which the Navy may be called upon to perform its duties; and in this connection I shall have to refer to Singapore. We must have adequate stores and ammunition. These things are unchanging factors in what is often called a changing world. But people are beginning to ask themselves whether the world is changing as much as some people think it is. I will grant the argument that armaments are a crushing burden on all the nations of the world, and that their elimination, as far as it is practicable, must obviously be to the greatest advantage of civilisation. The First Lord has truly said that if any one country has given a lead in disarmament it is this country, and I beg him when he returns to Geneva, apart from such questions as submarines and matters of that kind, to stand firm now upon the cuts which have already been made by this country, and say that this factor must be taken into account before we are asked to disarm pro rata with anybody else. I think other countries must do their part before we are asked to sacrifice another single cruiser. That is a view which I urge upon the First Lord. It is essential that 1529 what we have done, and what other countries have not done, should be taken into account in this connection.
That leads me to a reflection which must be occupying the minds of many people. It is this: We have recently been urged by some reformers in the cause of peace to adopt a policy which must inevitably have led us to disaster; and, therefore, the paradoxical question as to whether a peace policy may not lead us into war is worth considering for a moment. Is it true that war, in spite of Peace Pacts, is a fundamental weapon between races? It would seem so, painful as it is. I see by a telegram which has arrived since I came into the House—I do not know whether it is true—that Japan is considering leaving the League of Nations when the Shanghai trouble has straightened out. I hope it is not true, but it shows very forcibly indeed that the world has not changed quite so much in the last 10 years as some people have thought. If that is the case, we shall find a great crisis arising in a few years' time. The Far East is stirring; there are far more fundamental causes at work in the Far East than the mere quarrel between China and Japan, and I should not be surprised if we found that there is, deep down in the Japanese nation, a resentment at the interference of the Western world. You have there an island race with an increasing population; they want trade; and the boycott is so strong in China that it is really the fundamental reason for the outbreak of hostilities.
We have great interests in the Far East, and it may be that we shall find it difficult to maintain our Treaty ports within the new-changing atmosphere in that country, but if we are to maintain our proper trading position in the times to come by treaties—whether we have to give up the Treaty ports or not—it is only by having a strong bargaining factor that we shall be able to make the best possible arrangements. That is why I hope that the naval base at Singapore will be proceeded with; otherwise any question of hostilities in the Far East in the present state of affairs can be nothing more or less than the murder of the British sailors concerned. Are we efficient? Everyone listened last September with grave misgivings to the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. 1530 Chamberlain), who was then the First Lord of the Admiralty. I will not go into the details; I will leave that to experts who are more familiar with these matters. What of the replacement of stores? They are running out and getting worthless as time goes on. I do not suppose that our stores are as bad as they were in the time of Nelson, when it was said that a midshipman's mess was given butter in which they found a number of hairs and a dead mouse. That is a, recorded instance of how bad stores may get, and I am not suggesting that the British Navy has sunk to that level; but it is essential that our equipment should be of the first rank.
The question of personnel has already been referred to, but there is one point which should be brought out in this connection in relation to the United States Navy. We are reducing by 2,240 men in the present Estimates. It would require 23,000 more officers and men, without this present reduction, to bring us up to parity with the United States in personnel. But it must be remembered that there are in the United States coastguard service 12,000 trained officers and men, who are rated as first-class seamen, but who are not counted among the numbers of the navy. That is the kind of lag into which we are getting. We cannot, of course, compete, generally speaking, financially with the United States, and while it must be to our advantage to have a naval agreement limiting naval expenditure, it cannot be to our advantage to have naval agreements up to which we do not build merely to make a gesture of which no notice is taken by other countries except to increase their own naval expenditure.
It only remains for me to assure the First Lord of the great support he will receive from the present House of Commons when he comes forward, as I hope he will, within a reasonable and proper time, and asks for a naval construction Vote in order to make our Navy efficient and bring it up to that strength to which we are entitled under various naval agreements. I speak only as an ordinary citizen of this land, but I believe that the sentiments I have voiced will find an echo in the hearts of millions of our countrymen, who are extremely disturbed and disquieted at the present defenceless state of Great Britain and the Empire.
§ 6.0 p.m.
I wish definitely to express my candid disappointment with these Estimates and with the speech of the First Lord. The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to the possibilities of further naval disarmament. I claim that it is still the deep feeling, widespread throughout the world among the working people generally, that there should be drastic disarmament. I am not certain that the feeling possessed by the mothers and fathers of Britain who lost sons in the Great War is being expressed as it should be in the discussions on Disarmament. Here we have Estimates calling for £50,000,000 sterling. I would be the last person in the world to decry this very worthy service and the splendid personnel of the Navy, but I am anxious that from this discussion to-day there should go out to the whole of the naval Powers of the world an expression of our opinion that we have reached a stage in civilisation when an expenditure of £50,000,000 sterling by a small country like ours for the maintenance of a Navy can no longer be justified. The First Lord has told us that in this Estimate £1,000,000 less is being called for than was required last year, but the fact remains that, after allowing for the economic condition of the general taxpayer and the working man to-day, there is a bigger call being made for the maintenance of the defence Services than at any time in British history, and that this follows the catastrophe of 1914 to 1918, which we should all bear in mind.
I am disappointed with the statement of the First Lord, and I think the House is disappointed that at this time of day we have to face such a colossal burden, and are setting about the building of new cruisers, new destroyers and new submarines. I am most surprised at the Estimate for the building of submarines. I should have thought that the lessons we have learned recently would at least have brought to the Armaments Conference at Geneva some definite policy to cease building these useless ships, which are a danger even in times of peace. I want to speak on behalf of the general populace of this country, leaving out the feelings of Imperialists and diplomatists. The men and women of this country are ready for a drastic reduction in our armaments expenditure. We ought to give 1532 some kind of lead to all the countries of the world. We ought to make it known that we are ready, instead of gunning our ships, to use them for passenger transport, for the conveyance of the necessaries of life and the building up of prosperity and peace.
§ Mr. J. WALLACE
The hon. Member who has just spoken thought that the House was disappointed with the First Lord's speech. I hold that that is not the general feeling of the House. Personally, I have not for many a long day listened to a better informed or a more eloquent speech on these Estimates than that of the First Lord. I want to make a few observations regarding Rosyth Naval Base, which is in my own constituency. For some reason best known to the Admiralty and the Government, Rosyth some years ago was placed upon what is called a "care and maintenance" basis, in spite of the fact that from the point of view of modern equipment and efficiency Rosyth is far ahead of any dockyard in the South of England. I suppose it is now too late to raise any question of policy, but there are one or two matters to which I wish to refer briefly. It is common knowledge that Dunfermline City, of which Rosyth is a part, did not receive anything like adequate or generous recognition from the Admiralty, having regard to the great sacrifices and the commitments into which the municipality there entered in order to provide all up-to-date essentials for building up Rosyth into a first-class naval base. That is an old story, and serves only to illustrate the fact that Scotland frequently finds it very difficult to get anything like even-handed justice from its powerful Southern neighbour.
I will give an example in the case of Dunfermline. Take the question of the valuation of Rosyth Naval Base. It is a very important and vital matter. It is usual in Scotland to have all municipal undertakings valued by an independent valuer, but at Rosyth the valuation was conducted by Treasury officials, and there is no appeal from the decision. We contend that if a proper valuation were taken at Rosyth we should get a very much larger amount in rates than we are getting at the present time. I do not know whether any change can be made now, but it certainly is a matter which might be inquired into further. If 1533 Rosyth is virtually to be thrown upon the scrap-heap, it is the strong desire of the citizens of Dunfermline Burghs that so far as possible Rosyth should be developed as a centre of commercial activity. As Member of Parliament for the Division, I want to see the closest possible co-operation for this purpose between the Admiralty and the Dunfermline Industrial Committee. My hon. Friend the Civil Lord, whose help and courtesy I wish to acknowledge, is as anxious for this co-operation as I am, but there is a certain official reserve and reluctance which it is very difficult to overcome.
What I desire to see is that, so far as the disposal of land and buildings in and around Rosyth is concerned, there should be created the atmosphere of the willing seller and the willing buyer. I am very anxious that the Admiralty should make up its mind definitely what it wants to sell or lease, and go out into the open and push its sales. As one who has some little knowledge of business I respectfully suggest to the First Lord that, so far as the buildings and land are concerned, it is not a particularly up-to-date method to have an innocuous advertisement in some obscure magazine indicating that there are certain appointments for sale at Rosyth. If it is generally desired to help industrialists, to attract business to that area, why not adopt methods of a more modern character?
My second point is that I should like to see Rosyth get more Admiralty work, work such as that dockyard is equipped to carry out efficiently. It must not be forgotten that unemployment on a large scale prevails in that district, and that many of the men who are idle are highly equipped in all departments of shipbuilding and ship repairing. It is of the utmost importance that everything should be done to provide employment, but my information is that work which could be done at Rosyth is being sent to private dockyards. I would like the First Lord to correct me if I am wrong, but I am told that there are many oil ships which call at Rosyth and require refitting and reconditioning, and they are not dealt with there, but are sent to Leith, to Grangemouth and Newcastle-on-Tyne. I had a talk on this subject with that very distinguished naval officer, Rear-Admiral 1534 Leveson Gower, the Admiral-Superintendent at Rosyth, and he informed me that it was impossible to carry out the work with the skeleton staff that he has with him at Rosyth. Bearing in mind the unemployment in the district and the enormous expenditure which has been incurred in equipping Rosyth, it is my view, very respectfully given, that a fresh inquiry should be held into the whole position. Such an inquiry is all the more essential in view of the large amount of overtime that is being worked in Southern dockyards at the present time.
A third point I wish to mention. At certain dockyards there are engaged what are called trained lads. I wish to know whether it is possible at Rosyth to employ boys who will answer this description. There was a recent order made at Plymouth in connection with the Royal Naval Torpedo Factory there. Is it possible to introduce the same system at Rosyth? I have received the strongest possible representation on the subject, and I hope that the matter may receive the attention of my right hon. Friend the First Lord. I do not wish to labour these matters any longer. I believe that in this matter I am stating a perfectly sound case from a Scottish municipality to one of the most powerful Government Departments, and one which, from many points of view, I very sincerely admire. A dispute between a municipality and a great Government Department is a very unequal struggle, and, considering the history of Rosyth and the manner in which it has been treated, I do not wonder if the relegation of this Scottish dockyard to the background has been one of the influences to cause those aspirations, now springing to life, regarding Scottish Home Rule. One can easily imagine that if the case which I have so inadequately stated to-day had been stated with all the authority of a Scottish Parliament, sitting either in Edinburgh or in the historic city of Dunfermline, which is the ancient capital of Scotland, it would have had a much more powerful effect on my right hon. Friend the First Lord and his advisers. However, I hope that he will go into these matters and that in dealing with them, he will show the same tact and ability as he showed in his opening speech to-day.
§ Commander MARSDEN
The question of construction has been so well dealt with, that I do not think I need trouble 1535 the House further about it. I am reassured by the First Lord's definite statement that although our output or our construction now is very small indeed, yet by 1936 we shall have the full amount allowed us by the London Conference. I would only point out that these Estimates provide for one cruiser to be completed in 1931 and one cruiser to be completed in 1932, and I trust that the First Lord really believes that the full programme allowed to us will be completed by 1936. As one closely associated with the Navy, I shall confine myself to a few general observations on the First Lord's statement. I commence with the subject of battleships. The battleships of the present day of course are out-of-date and I hope that the same type will never be built again. When the time comes for reviewing the Washington agreement, there is no doubt that enormous ships like His Majesty's Ship "Nelson" and His Majesty's Ship "Rodney" will not even be considered. It is to be expected that the size of the battleship will come down by at least 10,000 tons, if not more.
I should like to point out, however, that there comes a time when it is not economical to keep on reducing the size, either of battleships or cruisers. With lowered tonnage, everybody tries to produce a more expensive and lighter type of engine to drive the ship at the same speed as the heavier type. They all try to produce more expensive and lighter material for the hull, and a gun which, with no greater weight, has a much higher velocity. All these things, if you have the money, can be put into the smaller battleships but a battleship or cruiser of slightly greater size would get the same results with less expenditure, and would have the advantage which the larger ship, generally speaking, possesses of better seagoing qualities. What can be done in the smaller ships is exemplified in the German battleship now under construction—a battleship which, from every point of view, is built to beat the regulations. That is the competition which we shall always have to face.
I am glad that we are still to stick to the battle fleet. For years doubts have been expressed as to whether battleships are not obsolete and whether they are necessary at all, or not. No close student of naval history either of recent years or 1536 of the past, can come to any conclusion other than that the whole of our seaborne activities, whether commercial or naval, rest upon the fact of our battle fleet being in the right position, and that right position is the position which enables it to contain the enemy's battle fleet. The question has often been asked: What is the use of the battleship? I hope I may be permitted to give a reply to that question which, I think, answers it once and for all. The use of the battleship is to checkmate the activities of the enemy's battleship. In the last War our battle fleet held in check the German battle fleet and the mere existence of that fleet permitted smaller craft all over the globe to go easily and safely upon their various duties. The gunboat on the Tigris, the trawler in the Adriatic, all owed the fact that they could get there to the fact that our battle fleet was containing the German battle fleet.
At present our Government are taking a chance. Every year's Estimates contain some surprises, and this is not the first time that a Government has gambled with the safety of the country. It is the first time, however, that a First Lord of the Admiralty has admitted that he is taking a chance and that there is such a gamble. But, remote as war may be, and it is even more remote, I hope, than the Board of Admiralty in their calculations consider, I submit that a battle fleet action is still more remote because there are only two fleets which could possibly attack us on equal terms in a battle fleet action, namely, those of the United States and of Japan. As far as my personal opinion is concerned, I can say that, if that day ever comes, the millennium must be near at hand. I can only suggest to the First Lord that he should put into reserve one or two more battleships, by that method releasing another 1,000 or 2,000 men who might go into commission in the smaller ships and thereby get that experience on which the First Lord has laid so much stress.
I pass to the question of cruisers. The need for cruisers is one which every Admiral has stressed for a hundred years. The cry is ever for cruisers, because they are a great force for the protection of our commerce. The First Lord mentioned the enormous destruction caused by German raiders during the War. Let me also point out the enormous forces that 1537 were necessary to destroy those raiders. At the outbreak of war, there were eight German cruisers on the high seas and we needed over 100 men-of-war and armed merchant cruisers, before those eight cruisers were satisfactorily accounted for. Under the present arrangements we have about 50 cruisers, half of which would be required for other duties and the remainder would be available to protect our trade. I am glad that nobody so far has mentioned the term "protection of trade routes" because trade routes can no longer be protected. The day when we could protect trade routes passed in the War. I am not referring to short passages across to the Continent, but to the great ocean highways. We can make no pretence of protecting these. All we can do is to protect as far as possible isolated ships or groups of ships going from one part of the world to another. I hope I make the distinction clear if I ask hon. Members to suppose that between here and Trafalgar Square there were highwaymen. There would be two methods of making the journey safely. One would be to have the route lined with police. That is what we used to do in years gone by in regard to the ocean trade routes. The other method would be to go accompanied by a policeman on ether side. That is the only method under present conditions by which our commerce can be safeguarded.
I hope I am not saying anything which I ought not to say if I remark, in regard to all these various treaties, that practically every country is out to cheat the rules. Under present conditions there are three Powers concerned in the London Agreement, namely, ourselves, Japan and the United States. France is not a signatory to that Treaty. If she had been, she would not be able to build destroyer leaders, as she is doing now, and call them by that name. Under Article 15 of the London Treaty any ship above 1,850 tons is termed a cruiser. Every ship which France is building as a destroyer leader would be termed a cruiser, in our classification and in the classifications of the United States and Japan. Consequently, the comparative figures are most misleading. France already is very comfortably off as regards cruisers and following our classification, one would have to add to those cruisers all the ships which she now terms destroyer leaders. All these countries 1538 persist in turning out submarines, and of course the antidote to the submarine is the destroyer. In the War we had the submarines beaten, chiefly by the activities of destroyers. If we achieve what we are continually pressing for, namely, the abolition of the submarine, we might then agree rather more sensibly to a diminution in the number of destroyers which we require.
I now come to the subject of personnel. I was rather disappointed in what the First Lord had to say on this subject, not as regards his sentiments, but as regards the action, or rather lack of action, which his remarks indicated. Take the case of the officers. As he pointed out, there are too many on both the flag list and the captains' list. After the War, these lists were largely cut down, and, I think, on the whole, the officers who were then "axed" were very handsomely treated. But a large number remain, and year by year the number of commands diminishes, and consequently the amount of available employment diminishes. On the captains' list there are about 240, and there are very few commands. The consequence is that an officers gets about three or four years of sea time and all the rest of his time is spent ashore. I submit that to obtain the most efficient type of officer it is necessary to have eight years of sea time and not more than four years ashore. The same remark applies to the flag list. I regret to say it, but it is common property, that, unfortunately, for the first time in the history of the Navy, there has begun to be a certain amount of manoeuvring or "wangling"—whatever the term may be to describe it—to obtain jobs. That method, I am aware, is not unknown in various circles. I believe it is not unknown in this House, but previously it had been unknown in the Navy.
The naval officer is the most kindhearted fellow in the world. When he has to select a man for a job he says, "There is poor old So-and-So, an old shipmate of mine, with a wife and six children. Let us give him the job." I assure the House that these things do influence appointments. It is all very nice from a sentimental point of view, but it does not make for the higher efficiency of the Service. I think I know the reason why these lists are not revised, and it is a very 1539 simple reason. While these officers are on half-pay they get a certain amount, but, directly they are pensioned, they get more, and, consequently, in the matter of economy it is considered that we cannot afford to pension them. Accordingly, we keep up this long list of officers who have no hope or prospect of promotion. We do so because the country cannot, or will not, afford to pension them off in accordance with their proper deserts and their service to the country. The sooner that matter is put right, the better for everybody concerned.
I wish now to say a few words about the warrant officers. They remain the backbone of the fleet as they always have been. Although the First Lord said something about petty officers yet he indicated no action in regard to them. In connection with a recent incident, to which we do not want to refer too much, the one question asked by everybody connected with the Navy, not only officers but lower deck as well and pensioned men was, "What were the petty officers doing?" I have been told that in one ship the petty officers were asked what they intended to do and they said that they would like to remain neutral. That answer was enough to make a predecessor of the First Lord, the great Lord St. Vincent, turn in his grave. I believe, however, that that actually happened.
How different the rating of the petty officer is now, compared to what it used to be. Nowadays the petty officer attains his rank by going through certain processes, and he has to fulfil four qualifications. I start at the bottom with education, which matters least of all. The second is the professional qualification, which is important. The third qualification is conduct. It used to be said that a man got a good conduct medal as the reward for so many years of "undetected villany." Although that is the Naval way of putting it, it is an automatic good conduct award which is given to a man. If he goes through so many years, and has not been convicted of any Naval crime, he automatically, every year, has the right to get "Very good" for conduct, and if he goes on long enough, he has the right to get "Very good" and a good conduct medal, but it does not necessarily mean that his charac- 1540 ter is such that the captain of his ship would pick him out to be a petty officer, and the reason I was so disappointed that the First Lord could not give us anything more definite was that he only said that from the ship the captain's recommendations would be given more attention. Taking the precedent of the Navy in the matter, all that will happen is that the man goes through these processes in the ship, he is recommended by his captain, and in the barracks his name will be put higher up on the roster for petty officers. I submit that the sooner the old routine comes about again, that when a man is qualified the best man to promote him is the captain of his own ship, the better it will be.
With regard to the men, I do not think they have any cause of complaint of any description. They are extraordinarily well looked after, and anyone reading these Estimates very carefully will be astonished at the care, the foresight, and the looking after of naval needs the whole world over that both the ships and the men get. They have all the friendly and hospitable ports of our Dominions and Colonies, and then there are the dockyard ports and others, and I see that there are various small salaries even at St. Helena. Take this long range of places, and wherever the sailor goes he is well looked after. I had a talk with quite a distinguished naval officer a day or two ago, and he did not even know that among all the other things, such as pay and emoluments, the Government pay in full the sailor's unemployment insurance premium, so that the day he finishes his service with the Crown, if he does not get a pension or a job, he can draw his full benefit at once.
From the point of view of getting closer co-operation between officers and men, I hope and believe that the policy of longer commissions and keeping the officers and men together will be carried out. I am rather astonished that it is the policy to increase the Fleet at home and to reduce the Fleet in the Mediterranean, because the whole of our knowledge in the Service goes to show that the foreign ship is the happiest and the most efficient, so that I cannot understand why these ships are being brought home. I would suggest that in the Mediterranean they might follow the example of some other stations. I am thinking of that summer camp at Trincomali, where the officers 1541 and men fraternise so sociably for a few weeks each summer. We might start the same sort of thing in the Mediterranean. Why not have a summer camp at Cyprus, with battleships, destroyers and other ships there succeeding one another? I am sure it would be of benefit to Cyprus and of great benefit to the Fleet.
As to the general prestige of the Fleet, possibly some dockyard Member will enlarge more on the subject. The Navy has been so cut down at home lately that after a man has done his commission on foreign service, he comes back and does not have a very pleasant time. The only time he really gets at all at home is the most undesirable sort of occupation for a skilled man, and that is looking after ships in reserve. It is not naval work, but means putting on a boiler suit first thing every morning, spending the whole day in the bilges, and coming out at night. That goes on day after day, and the only recompense to the man is that throughout that period he is able to be with his wife and family.
In the meantime, the barracks, as compared with previous times, are practically denuded of men. Quite the finest body of men in a port used to be the barrack guard of 200 able seamen with petty officers, the best the country could produce. That does not exist any more. They are so down that last year I asked at one of the barracks what they were going to do in the tug of war at Olympia, and I was told, "We can send up a team provided they are beaten the first day. We cannot afford to keep them up any longer." When we think of these conditions, with such depleted barracks and so few men, I submit that it is all very much against the prestige of the Navy, which means so much to the naval forces.
These are only a few of the numerous points which will occur to anyone connected with the Service, and I will conclude by saying that I sincerely trust it will be within the First Lord's own period of office that we shall be meeting together, not for a reduction in the Navy, but for a greater Vote, not necessarily for a greater number of ships, but for a better type, better prestige, and greater efficiency throughout the Service, which will be for the benefit of everybody connected with this country and everyone else in the world.
§ Mr. R. T. EVANS
In the presence of so many authorities with first-hand knowledge of the Service, I feel extraordinarily diffident, but there is one point on which I would like to make some comments, and that is with regard to fuel reserves. I find that in the preliminary statement of the First Lord there is a reference to the testing of certain low temperature carbonisation oils and certain fuels produced by hydrogenation. I find also from the Estimates that we spent last year between £2,500,000 and £3,000,000 in the purchase and storage of foreign oils. I will not enter into a discussion as to whether it would be advantageous to return to coal or to utilise pulverised fuel. I am completely incompetent to deal with a technological matter of this kind, but I want to make one representation.
It seems to me that, inasmuch as the Navy has decided to use foreign oil rather than British coal, we can correlate this obvious national need with certain of our economic problems. Obviously, the Navy must have large reserves of oil, but it seems to me that the most satisfactory reserve of oil that we can have is a high home production, and I am wondering whether something cannot be done in the way of giving an impetus to the home production of oil. It is fairly common knowledge in certain circles that certain of our home-produced oils have proved completely satisfactory. As a matter of fact, I submit that some of these oils have proved rather superior to foreign oils, and I feel that something might be done, either by way of a guaranteed price or by way of a quota. I wonder whether this very considerable expenditure merely on the storage of oil could not be used in order to provide the necessary impetus to home production. I feel that home produced oil, and particularly that produced by hydrogenation, has a great future, and I wonder whether the Admiralty, and indeed the executives of all the Services, cannot do something to satisfy what is obviously a national need and at the same time help the sadly harassed coal industry.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
The First Lord's statement that on the basis of considering actual requirements not even the most rigid scrutiny could have justified the restriction of the Navy Estimates to such a figure as is presented to the House to-day, is one which I most heartily 1543 endorse. I am quite sure that the First Lord has done his very utmost for the Service to which he had the honour to belong, and I am also certain that it is no fault of his that the Navy Estimates presented to-day are not more in accordance with the requirements of this country and the Empire in the matter of security. The financial stringency and the necessity for economy are admitted by us all, but at the same time it is questionable whether it is real economy for this country to continue the policy of drastic, reductions and the cutting down of our main line of defence. Other nations also have financial stringency, but we find that, notwithstanding that stringency, they have increased their expenditure on armaments, they have increased their personnel, and they have a larger building programme than we have; and therefore in their mind there must be some fundamental reason for continuing this large expenditure upon their defensive forces.
It is necessary, I think, that we should face this fact, that there is not really to-day a great change in the minds of the nations of the world towards a peace mentality. There are still fear and mistrust and apprehension in the nations of the world that there is still a great possibility that at any time a war may break out. These are the things, in my opinion, which cause these nations to keep up the expenditure on their defensive forces. The conditions in Europe cannot be considered as anything but unsettled, and affairs in the Far East have filled us all with apprehension, but at the same time they should serve as a great object lesson to this country as to the action which a great Power will take when it considers that its national interests are sufficiently at stake. What has happened in the Far East might at any time happen in any other part of the world, if the interests of a particular nation are in jeopardy.
In our endeavour to bring about a reduction in our armaments, we have admittedly reduced our naval forces below the minimum which is required for our defence. Other nations have not followed our example. In addition to our great commitments so far as the defence of this country and of the Empire is concerned, we have undertaken very heavy responsibilities in order to ensure the peace of European nations. There is the 1544 Locarno Pact, and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has very ably put that position before the House, and has pointed out that if we reduce our forces, upon which these nations rely for our weight being thrown into the balance when we come to their assistance, and if we are not able to fulfil our obligations under those pacts and treaties, we are not furthering the cause of peace, but making the outbreak of war more possible than it was before.
In addition to that, we have reduced the number of cruisers from 70, which the greatest naval authorities in this country have assured us over and over again was the number which we required for our defence, to 50. We have agreed to and signed the London Naval Treaty, agreed to by only two other nations, which places us, not on a basis for our cruising strength in accordance with our defence needs at all, but is an arbitrary measure, merely a question of quota or ratio, limiting us to tonnage in our cruiser strength and limiting us also to the amount of cruiser replacement which we may build by 1936. That has nothing whatever to do with our actual needs. No other country in the world is in our position; nobody has the commitments which we have. But, in our endeavour to bring about a reduction in armaments, we have agreed to this London Treaty. So long as we maintain the conditions of the London Treaty, we cannot possibly have security for the country and the Empire, nor can we fulfil our obligations to foreign nations which we have undertaken under the Locarno Pact and other treaties.
I would like to go into the question of our cruiser and destroyer flotilla forces, because it is very necessary that the country should know exactly where we stand. We have to rely for the security of the Dominions and Colonies and of the trade routes upon the cruising strength which we utilise away from the battle fleet on foreign stations. We have 52 cruisers built, four building, and three on the 1931 programme, which are projected but not yet ordered or laid down. This gives us a total of 59. Of that number, two have to be scrapped under the London Treaty. Twenty-eight become over age by 1936, leaving us, including the 1931 programme when completed, 29 under-age and effective cruisers. Our trouble is that construc- 1545 tional programmes are continually being presented to the House in the Naval Estimates, but, owing to the delay in proceeding with the construction, we do not obtain the ships. There is an immense lag between the programme which is put before the House in the Estimates and the actual construction of the ships. It is a fact that to-day we are lagging far behind even the programme which we can carry out under the conditions of the London Treaty. Not a single ship in the 1931 programme has been laid down or ordered, and they are not to be laid down until September—a tremendous lag of over 18 months after the Estimates have been presented to the House. In the 1932 programme, as I understand it, the only vessels for which any provision is made at all in this year's Estimates are the three submarines. No provision is made for cruisers or destroyers or flotilla leaders. Am I wrong?
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
The money is provided in these Estimates for starting the 1932 construction programme in the last month of the financial year in accordance with the normal procedure of many years past.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
It really means that before the Estimates next year, practically nothing will be done in the 1932 programme at all. It is to all intents and purposes a paper programme; it is pure camouflage, and for all practical purposes might be left out. It takes three years to build a cruiser. Therefore, if we are to build up to the 91,000 tons allowed us under the London Treaty, every cruiser required to occupy that tonnage must be laid down and built or its building commenced fairly soon after the Estimates next year. There are three cruisers in this year's programme. There will thus be 44,000 tons left. That will mean altogether seven cruisers to be laid down in 1933. Will the First Lord give an assurance that after the Estimates of next year we are actually going to lay down and start building seven new cruisers? If not, by the end of 1936 we shall not have in new construction even the 91,000 tons allowed us under the London Treaty. I shall be glad to 1546 have an assurance from the First Lord on that point, because it is very important.
Even if we get these seven new cruisers, which I very much doubt, we shall then have only 36 under-age really efficient cruisers by the end of 1936. We have cut the numbers down from 70 to 60, and of these 25 have to work with the battle fleet. The cruisers which are working with the battle fleet must be those on which the Commander-in-Chief must rely not to break down. We can take it, therefore, that these 25 will be under-age cruisers. That will leave us with 11 under-age cruisers and 14 overage cruisers for the remainder of the world, for the most important work which they have to carry out in defence, convoy and escort work for the whole of the stations of the world. I ask the House if it considers that that is by any means a satisfactory position. The ships which are working on foreign stations would in war time, owing to the paucity of numbers, have to be at sea far more constantly and for far longer periods than would be the case if we had more cruisers. They are, therefore, on that account more likely to break down. They are working a long way from naval bases to which they can go for repairs. They are thus in a different category from ships which are working at home, and which are thus near a naval base. It is, therefore, a serious thing to have to put on the foreign stations ships which are over-age, which are doing most important work, and which are more liable to breakdowns.
I have another point which I wish to make in connection with the 91,000 tons. No other nation is so restricted in her constructional tonnage as we are, or has to maintain for their defence the same number of cruisers that we have. It is not necessary that they should do so. They are, therefore, able to build a heavier type of cruiser carrying a heavier armament than the "Leander" class of 7,000 tons carrying eight 6-inch guns. As a matter of fact, Japan last year laid down two 8,500-ton cruisers carrying 15 5-inch guns—a very serious proposition, for the "Leander" to come up against on a foreign station. This places the Admiralty in a rather difficult position. Japan laid down two last year, and two more are being laid down this year. 1547 France is laying down ships of 7,600 tons carrying nine 6-inch guns. I point that out merely as the trend of these nations to build heavier ships than we are building and with a greater armament. What are we going to do? How are we going to meet this menace? We are restricted to 91,000 tons. We are to have only 50 ships. Shall we continue to build the "Leander" class, the smaller and inferior type of cruiser to stand the risk of having to meet these more heavily armed ships abroad, or shall we construct the heavier type of ship carrying a greater number of guns in order to meet this menace and thereby sacrifice our numbers. That is a serious proposition for the Admiralty, and one which they have to face. It shows the immense disadvantage under which we are labouring owing to the London Treaty.
In view of that position, I think that it would be right for this nation at the Disarmament Conference to raise this point, so that we shall be able to have not only our number 50, which is 20 below what we have always been informed is the number which we require, but ships of a sufficiently powerful armament to meet the ships which they are likely to meet on foreign stations. I know that the 10,000-ton 8-inch gun cruiser is more than a match for these ships, but we have a paucity of numbers, and it is by no means a probability that they will be available to meet this menace. We require numbers, and we also require strength. Under the London Treaty we are getting neither the requisite numbers nor the strength. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Battersea (Commander Marsden) drew attention to the question of the French constructional programme of eighteen 2,400–2,600 ton Flotilla Leaders carrying five 5 inch guns, much more than a match for our Flotilla Leaders, and under the London Treaty classified as cruisers. But France has not signed that Treaty. That is another serious question, and again emphasises the extraordinary disability under which this country is labouring in her naval defence by signing the London Treaty.
I wish to deal with the question of destroyers and flotilla leaders. It is, again, of the utmost importance that the country should realise the position of the Navy in this respect. We have built 152 destroyers, we are building 14, and there 1548 are nine under the 1931 programme, none of which are ordered or laid down. Of the total of 175, no fewer than 128 will become obsolete by December, 1936—an appalling condition of affairs. A very small sum is provided in the 1931 Estimates, and there will be less still in the 1932 programme. Here we have this inevitable lag between the programmes presented to the House and the actual building of the ships. With these numbers we shall have only 47 effective vessels. In order to have our total of 110 destroyers and leaders by 1936, 63 destroyers and leaders must be laid down and built in 1933, 1934 and 1935. By the end of 1936 we shall then have the complete total of up-to-date destroyers which we are allowed under the London Treaty. I ask the First Lord if he can give any assurance that, in addition to the seven cruisers which will have to be laid down and started building next year, we are going to lay down such a building programme of destroyers that will bring us up to the strength which we are allowed under the London Treaty? I do not think that that is in the least likely. It shows the very serious position in which this country has been placed by not having a continuous building programme, which the First Lord himself has pointed out is so absolutely necessary.
Now we are up against it, and we have an immense lag. Financial stringency is given as a reason for not completing the building and bringing of the Navy up-to-date. It is a most serious position, especially in regard to destroyers and when we consider that in war time at least four flotillas are required to work with the Battle Fleet. That would give 36 out of our total. Out of our present construction programme it would mean that the vast majority of destroyers carrying out the most important anti-submarine and patrol work would be over age. Again, owing to their paucity of numbers, they will have to do more sea time. They have to stand tremendous stress and strain and are more liable to break down, and, if they break down, it will be a very serious thing for the protection of the trade of this country.
The serious thing about the paucity of our destroyers is not necessarily in connection with the destroyers possessed 1549 by other countries but rather in connection with the submarine forces which those countries possess, especially European nations. I will take France, not because I consider that we are going to war with France but I must take a country as an example and France is the best. France has built 65 submarines, and she is building 45, 24 of which are ocean-going submarines with very large ranges of action, and 21 of which are smaller submarines. She has always held out for an excessive submarine tonnage. I am entirely in favour of total abolition of submarines, as is everybody in this country. There is no doubt it would be more advantage to this country than to any other country in the world, but it is not a practical proposition, and other nations would not consider it for one moment. So far as attack by submarines on purely naval vessels is concerned I consider that they do not justify their existence or the expenditure. They must be looked upon in the main as commerce destroyers which will be used for an attack on trade. That is the rôle which France particularly intends them to play.
I want to go a little further into the question of these French submarines and the immense menace which they are to our trade. France has the ports of Brest and Cherbourg, and from those ports in a few hours her submarines can come right out into the approaches to the Channel and the Bay of Biscay. She has Bizerte and Toulon in the Mediterranean as a menace to our trade there. She has Dakar, a most important base on the west coast of Africa, from which her submarines can operate on the whole of trade coming up from the Cape and from the west coast of Africa and also on that most important trade from South America. She has Madagascar from which her submarines can operate in the Indian ocean and on the east coast of Africa. She also has Saigon in Cochin-China from which they can operate against our trade in the Far East. One must consider not only the enormous submarine tonnage that France has but the bases that France has all over the world, and the menace, quite apart from the home menace, which the possession of those submarines is to this 1550 country. If France insists on having this immense submarine tonnage, I hope that there will be no hesitation on the part of this country in insisting on a greatly increased destroyer force to meet this menace.
There is one other point with regard to the attack on our trade, which arises out of the vast importance of the dependence of this country upon the ebb and flow of trade to our shores and the importance of the security of that trade. I allude, as I did last year, to the attack of aircraft on merchant shipping. There are no rules at present governing the attack of aircraft upon merchant shipping. It would be a very good thing if that point were brought up at the Conference, and settled. It is better to have some rules than no rules at all. If there are some rules, and they are broken, it will be a little more serious for the nation that breaks them. I do not think it would deter a nation from using them any more than it deterred the use of submarines in the last War, but it would be a good thing nevertheless. Aircraft are increasing their range of action and their offensive power. They are a very serious menace to trade, and no doubt they will be used in that connection as well as submarines. Instead of decreasing our air force as we are, we should have sufficient air forces to deal with this particular menace. Not only is it of great importance to us at home, but in the Mediterranean and on the African littoral France and Italy can operate from their bases and do the greatest destruction to our trade coming through the Mediterranean.
I shall not deal with the questions referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for North Battersea, but I do hope that, so far as the training of the boys and cadets when they go to sea is concerned, not only will they be sent to ships which are not in the Fleet but that they will have a special training squadron to which they will be sent which will give them the real opportunity, so far as the young officers are concerned, not of looking on while other people do the work, but of getting practical training by themselves doing the actual work. In that way they will acquire the foundations of what is necessary in seamanship to become handy men themselves. As far as the boys are concerned, it will be of the greatest benefit to the Service to have 1551 special ships for these boys. Many of the petty officer boys in the training establishments on shore show the utmost ability. They stand out from the other boys, take great responsibility, and show ability to command. There they are proud of themselves, and they are rated as petty officer boys because of their ability. When they go to sea they are one of a number; they lose all their chances and lose their enthusiasm. I hope every opportunity will be taken, if we have this training squadron, to look after these petty officer boys and give them the opportunity of increasing their ability and power, and that they may have it marked in their favour when they go into ships in the Fleet so that it may be a step which will help them to get earlier promotion. A tremendous advance will be made if we go back to this training squadron.
I was delighted to hear the First Lord say he was in favour of sailing ships. I am thankful to say that I served in two sailing ships in my career in the Service. There is not the slightest doubt that, to make a man have initiative and the power to command, to make him have the power of quick thought and quick action 'working together there is nothing like a sailing ship. If you consider the various nations of the world, especially the small nations, you find that they either have already built or are building sailing ships for the training of their young seamen. Even the Navy League—or that which corresponds to the Navy League—in Yugoslavia are building in Germany to-day a sailing ship, which, when completed, they are going to hand over to the Government for the training of their young officers and seamen. I should like to see us go back to the old sailing ship for training in seamanlike qualities, which are so essential to-day when we are mechanising men and trying to make the officer and man more like a machine instead of making them seamen, which is what we require them to be.
In conclusion, I view with the gravest concern our continued policy, the policy of this London Treaty, which has no relation whatever to the actual cruising forces which this country must have if we are to have security. It would be much better in my opinion if we definitely and boldly stated to the nations of the world 1552 that we intend, for the peace and the good of the world, to have such cruising forces as are necessary for our defence. We want neither more nor less than that, but we will not be content with less. It is an actual figure which can be worked out and stated. We can give our reasons for it. It would be a basis on which to work and other nations would not immediately start competing with us in building programmes. We should be advancing the peace of the world much more in that way than by our reliance on the League of Nations, the London Treaty, or any other pact or treaty whatever. If we would only state definitely our policy to the world, we would undoubtedly do much more by doing so for the real cause of peace and disarmament.
§ Mr. COCKS
The First Lord of the Admiralty, whom I wish to congratulate on being the first naval officer in a very long period to introduce the Naval Estimates, has stated that the sum of £50,500,000, which he is asking us to vote, is not sufficient to maintain the needs of the Navy and that the sum will have to be increased in future years. That is a very sad and very tragic commentary on the statesmanship of the world. It is a very tragic commentary that, 14 years after the sacrifices made in the War to end war, it is still found necessary to spend £50,500,000 on the maritime defences of this country. The peoples of the world are far in advance of their Governments on this matter and, if they were allowed to express their opinion by some vast vote on this one single issue, they would without very much discussion consign the whole of the navies of the world to the bottom of the sea and use the enormous sums, which have to be spent on keeping up the fleets of the world, for more social and more constructive purposes.
This problem, which the peoples would settle within a month, has been discussed and played with by statesmen and Governments for 14 years, and, as a result, at the present time we still have to spend £50,500,000 upon our Navy with no prospect, as far as I can see, of its being diminished. We have seen the bankruptcy of statesmanship and, as a result of the bankruptcy of statesmen, civilisation itself is becoming rapidly bankrupt. It is because of the bankruptcy of statesmanship in this matter that it is necessary to spend these large sums of money. 1553 I have a high regard and admiration for those who take the Tolstoian view and favour non-resistance, but it is an attitude of the soul and the spirit which I myself have not yet reached. Personally, I have not ever been able to approve of the policy of unilateral disarmament, and that is why I hope so strongly that the Disarmament Conference will be a success. If that conference is not a success, and the Governments of the world do not succeed in establishing some plan for world security based upon the reign of law instead of force, so that a decrease in armaments can be brought about all round, then there is nothing before the world but a continuation of the present expenditure—perhaps increased expenditure—leading to a more disastrous war than the world ever seen, a war which, as the Lord President said, would mean the fall of our present civilisation with a greater crash than the fall of Rome.
The First Lord mentioned the Washington and the London Treaties. The Government of the United States of America have stated that as a result of present events in the Far East it may be necessary for them to denounce those treaties. If they denounce the Washington Three-Power Treaty regarding the Pacific, it means that we must look forward to the terrible prospect of a naval race in the Pacific between the United States of America and Japan, and if that takes place we ourselves cannot be entirely unaffected. If formidable armadas are to manoeuvre upon the Pacific it will be impossible for us to allow our Australian Dominion, our interests in the Far East and our international obligations to remain entirely unprotected. If the Disarmament Conference fails, if the Washington Treaty is denounced and naval competition starts, it may be necessary—I will not say more than that—for our battle fleet to familiarise itself with Eastern waters. Those who are responsible for the present outbreak of lawlessness in the East might well ponder that possibility.
As I have said, I am not advocating anything which will reduce the efficiency of the Fleet. It seems to me that certain economies might be made which would not reduce its efficiency. Most of the economies in these Estimates have not reduced the efficiency of the Fleet, 1554 because they are due to decreased pay and a certain saving on stores. Here is a point which I have brought before the House previously by way of questions, and that is the number of flag officers now on the active list. With a smaller Navy than we had before the War, and a Navy concentrated into fewer and larger units, it seems unnecessary to have 41 rear-admirals on the active list, 20 of whom are unemployed. Let us take the figures of rear-admirals over the last 10 years. We find that at any one moment during the last 10 years nearly half the rear-admirals on the active list have been unemployed. In one year there were 27 rear-admirals employed and 22 unemployed, at another time there were 28 employed and 21 unemployed. On 1st January this year there were 21 employed and 20 unemployed. At the present time there seem to be more admirals on the active list than there are quarter decks for them to walk on, and we know perfectly well that they are tumbling over themselves for shore billets. A certain amount of saving could be effected if the First Lord would consider reducing the establishment of rear-admirals by five a year for the next two years, 10 in all. We should still have 31 rear-admirals on the active list, and I think that is sufficient for the British Navy at any one time.
A third point I wish to mention is promotion from the lower deck. It seemed to me, and I was very glad to hear it, that the First Lord was personally in favour of accelerating such promotion, and I hope there will be more opportunities for men of the lower deck to rise to the quarter deck and even to attain flag rank. In the case of the Army such promotion has not been so difficult. We have had very distinguished field marshals who entered the Army as privates, but it has been a long time—one has to go right back to the days of William and Mary or Queen Anne—since it was quite usual to have admirals who had risen from the lower deck. There have been distinguished admirals who started their career in the Navy in that way, including Sir Christopher Mynns, and Sir Cloudesley Shovel, and, I believe, the gallant old Admiral Benbow, whose leg was shattered by a chain shot on the quarter deck and who went on fighting on his 1555 stumps—at least that is what the poet says, though I believe he fought from an armchair—entered the Service either as a cabin boy or from the lower deck. Therefore, I hope that such promotions will be accelerated. I was very pleased to hear what the First Lord said about the qualifications necessary for promotion. He said that, although in these days of so much technical knowledge education was necessary, yet the great faculty was the quality of leadership. I have been looking up what Admiral Sir John Fisher said on that subject. As we know, he rather despised the ordinary academic education. He said the qualifications should be self-reliance, fearlessness of responsibility, fertility of resource and power of initiative. If a man has those qualifications, every effort should be made to enable him to get promotion and a commission.
One thing which has not been mentioned is the whole question of the general system of entering into the Navy. Some time ago a committee was appointed to consider that matter, and I think an hon. Member for one of the Cardiff Divisions was chairman of it. That committee has reported, but we have not yet heard the effect of its report, and I would like, whoever replies for the Admiralty to-night, to say something upon that point. We are living in a democratic age. We find people who were educated in the elementary and secondary schools rising to the highest posts in the State, in industry and in the professions, and in the same way I hope it will be possible for boys from those schools to enter the Navy free from any handicap because they are not able to go from the public schools to Dartmouth. I hope it will be possible to democratise the entry into the Navy, so that a boy, whether he be the son of an admiral or the son of a boatswain, will have every opportunity of rising even to flag rank, and, by means of his ability, serving the interests of the Senior Service.
§ Sir BERTRAM FALLE
We are all glad to see facilities offered for men of the lower deck to rise to the quarter deck, but the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) was quite wrong when he said that there are very few men now on the quarter deck who have risen from the lower deck.
§ Sir B. FALLE
There are quite a number of them. An hon. Member who has now left the House was very keen about the calibre of guns. I venture to cross swords with him on that point, and that point only, because he has much greater knowledge, probably, than I have. I do not think it is the calibre of the gun that matters so much. What matters is, first of all, its accuracy, secondly, its range—that is the important point—and, thirdly, its hitting power. The hon. and gallant Member for North Battersea (Commander Marsden) told us, among other things, that the Fleet used to rest at Trincomalee. Trincomalee is one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world, and, therefore, it was very easy for the Fleet to rest there, and I do not know that in Cyprus there is any harbour that would hold practically any of the Fleet. When he suggests that Cyprus should take the place of Trincomalee I feel that his knowledge of Cyprus is less than the knowledge he displayed of other matters. Apparently, he did not believe that we would be able to keep the trade routes open. If we cannot do so it means that this country will starve. She need not be beaten in any battle; it will not be necessary for troops to be landed on these shores; she can be starved to accept any terms the starver chooses to impose upon her. It is to guard against that risk that we must have the Navy which we hope we soon shall have. The hon. and gallant Member for North Battersea was much concerned also about the French submarines at Saigon, Dakar and in the Mediterranean. The French are building submarines not for those distant parts, but so that they can convoy their troops from Africa across the Mediterranean to France to assist them, if necessary, against their Continental enemies.
I hope that my hon. Friends who have spoken will not feel slighted if I tell them that there have been two speeches made to-day which transcend all the others. One is the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). I thought it was an exceptionally able speech, and I trust it may not sound conceited if I say that I had written out a speech for myself on very much the same lines. Of course, 1557 I have not the same gift of expressing myself as he has, but the facts were very much as he stated them. The other speech was that made by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I have known the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for 22 years, and because I have known him so long I trust him. In some cases the longer one knows a man the more one is confirmed in one's inability to trust him. He has been successful in everything he has undertaken, and he was very successful to-day in presenting his Estimates, and I feel sure, with the confidence I have in him, that he would not have put his name to them unless he were certain, so far as human prescience can go, that he was doing the very best thing he could not only for the Navy but for the country. That reassures me at a time when a man requires a very great deal of reassurance, because we live in troublous times. We see around us great nations arming and arming, and we know that the security, nay the very existence of this country, is utterly dependent, as the First Lord has said, on the Royal Navy. I thank the First Lord for the admirable statement which he has made, and I would remind the House that we do absolutely depend upon the Navy as the First Lord has declared. There can be no mistake upon that point. The right hon. Gentleman said it was essential that the Navy should be strong and efficient, but the Navy cannot be efficient unless it is contented, and it is far from being contented at the present moment. I have had many opportunities of gauging content and discontent in the Navy, and until the cuts are restored the Navy will not be contented. It has been said that in the past Kings made wars, but democracy has been even more ready to make wars than the Kings. If there is one thing, however, which I have learned during a long life it is, not that Kings or democracies who make wars, but that they are started and caused by women. I know that to-day the women are discontented in regard to the cuts which have taken place in the Navy, and the men resent those cuts. It was the women who caused the recent trouble in the Fleet, and they will cause it again unless the cause for discontent is not removed. The letter signed by the Socialist ex-First Lord of the Admiralty stating that the pay of some ratings receiving 3s. 6d. per 1558 day would be cut by 1s. was something which the women would not tolerate and the men would not allow. As long as that state of things exists the Navy will not be efficient for it will not be content. An hon. Member opposite drew attention to the question of widows' pensions and mentioned the case of a widow of an M2 rating with three children receiving a Naval Pension of only 29s. a week. That is another great grievance which the women have. The men contribute to the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Fund, and when a rating is killed the' widow does not receive the pension. They declare that they do not see why the men should subscribe to the funds during their lives and when they are killed their widows do not receive any money benefit. If in such a case the widow was paid the pension of 10s. a week for which the rating had subscribed, she would receive not 29s. but 39s. and be able to live comparatively confortably.
An hon. Gentleman opposite said that gambling with the Navy had only just begun, but that is not ray view. It began many years ago. We may not gamble in Dublin sweeps, but we may on the Navy. Right back to Lord Tweedmouth these various statements have been made as to the personnel of the Navy, which has been given as 91,000. I make it out as being 77,000. I know there are nearly 10,000 marines and a fair number of boys, but the sailor class numbers only about 77,000. The United States Navy has a personnel of 140,000 and 11,000 coastguards, and I believe Japan has a number very close on ours. The trouble which has occurred in China and Japan ought to open the eyes of those Members of this House who are opposed to the construction of a dockyard at Singapore. It is a fact that there are two nations in the East with navies now in the Pacific which are able to blow all our ships out of the water. Those two nations know this, and the men on their ships know it. Some years ago a very interesting book was written by Colonel House, and he wrote to the President of the United States:If we are drawn into this war it will be because Germany believes we are impotent to injure her.That is the line which I take so far its armies, navies and air forces are concerned. If you are strong enough you 1559 will not be attacked; it is your weakness that urges your enemies to try to take from you what you have. We have a great Empire, and the nations of the world are covetous of what we have got. The Party on the benches opposite understand for they want what we who sit on these have got or are supposed to have and to divide it up. In these things, it is always the unexpected and improbable that happens. I was in this House when Mr. Asquith made his final speech on the eve of the declaration of War. His last sentence is not reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but he came to the point and said:We have the money, and there we shall not fail.It is always the enemy that you do not expect that injures you the most. What I dread is that when the moment comes, in 1936, for then, either with or without agreement, we must build, and when, if we build, we shall have, in the first place, very great opposition from our own people and, in the second place, every foreign country beginning to ask, "What are you doing?" Hon. Members know the story of Cherbourg. When the French fortified it, the English burned it. It was before the Union. During the reign of the late Queen Victoria there was an entente cordiale, and we allowed Louis Napoleon to fortify Cherbourg, but at the same time a great man, Lord Palmerston, started to fortify Alderney and the French came along and said, "Whatever are you doing at Alderney?" and Lord Palmerston replied, "I am building a little watch tower." It was a little tower from which one could see every ship that came in and out of Cherbourg. We are running the danger of having that sort of thing and enquiry from almost every nation on the earth. There will be a race of armaments and polite requests from Foreign Powers. We shall have scaremongers of our own and all our enemies, political enemies and our politicians, and we will have not only 48,000,000 of people to protect and feed, but an Empire to lose.
§ Sir PARK GOFF
For 11 years in this House I have maintained silence on this question, but I venture to make a few observations now because I have the honour of representing one of our three great naval bases. Apart from that fact, 1560 I have been associated with the Navy all my life, and during my membership of the Inter-Parliamentary Committee of this House we have held Inter-Parliamentary Conferences annually in various capitals in Europe and America, and at those conferences I have been allotted to speak on the subject of naval armaments. We have discussed this question in Paris, Geneva, Berlin, Copenhagen, Washington and Ottawa. I know there are Members of this House who are considered experts on this subject, but I have never professed to be an expert. I have heard people after listening to a speech in this House say, "He knows what he is talking about." I do not even profess that soft impeachment, but I merely rise humbly to submit a few observations entirely from the point of view of the man-in-the-street to-day.
What the man in the street wants is security and the abolition of fear and for that he looks to the British Navy. There can be no limitations without security and no security without limitations. The British Navy is not only our first line of defence, but it is the greatest life insurance we possess, because we are entirely dependent upon our overseas communications. We came by the sea; we live by the sea and our whole future is on the sea. We are to-day trying to devise some other means of settling international differences without resorting to the arbitrament of arms and the destructive process of war. The organisation of peace is much more complicated than the organisation of war, and we as a nation cannot afford to indulge in doctrinaire theories. The habits and customs of centuries cannot be wiped out by a stroke of the pen.
International agreements for the humanisation of naval warfare are all very well, but the question is, will those agreements be observed by any country which is fighting for its very existence? I have my doubts. In 1907, the Powers met at the Peace Conference at The Hague, when, among other Conventions, the laying of mines and the bombardment of undefended areas were forbidden. In 1909 there was the Naval Conference and the Declaration of London to ratify those Hague Conventions and to embody new ones relating to such matters as contraband, the search of neutral ships, the 1561 capture of ships at sea, and international prize courts. The result of these two Conferences was the Naval Prize Bill of 1910. That Measure was passed by this House, but was rejected in another place, and that fact has this most important bearing, that, if the House of Lords had not rejected the Naval Prize Bill in 1910, they would have been prevented from doing so by the Parliament Act of 1911. If that Bill had become an Act, we should have lost the War, because the conventions regarding contraband and the search of neutrals would have made the blockade impossible. Four years afterwards, the great War broke out, and every one of these conventions was immediately violated.
Before the War our Navy was equal to any two navies of the world. Now it is less than America's. Following upon a visit to Europe by an American General, who "put it across our bows," the expenditure on the British Navy has been reduced by £23,000,000, while the expenditure on the American Navy has been increased by £36,000,000, the expenditure on the Japanese Navy has been increased by £11,000,000, and their personnel has increased in the same proportion as ours has decreased. Great Britain is the only nation which has disarmed. We have reduced our naval defence to the danger zone; in fact, we have cut the Navy so often that it has been pared to the bone, and the man who would protect our trade routes to-day will have to be a genius. Internationally, in my humble judgment, this has seriously affected our prestige and influence abroad. The British Navy, and the strength of the British Navy, ought to be as powerful a weapon with which to bargain with the foreigner or with the enemy as our tariff weapon is commercially.
Great Britain has urged other nations to reduce their naval armaments, and has done so by the most effective means of all—by her own example. We have taken serious and grave risks in order that our contribution to the world's peace may be the proof of our own sincerity. We are told sometimes that Britain rules the waves. I hope it is not going to be the case that Britannia waives the rules. We, as a nation, do not want to take part in any competition or rivalry, but only want Imperial and national safety and self-preservation. In my humble judgment, one of the most serious consequences to 1562 our Navy to-day is that the personnel has been so heavily and repeatedly reduced, and the personnel in the ships and in the dockyards want to know to-day exactly where they stand with regard to their employment and with regard to their pensions. I hope that my right hon. Friend, in his reply, may be able to give some assurance on this point, to allay this prevailing uncertainty. We want more work in our Dockyards and a much larger proportion of ship-building. Our Navy is the only bulwark between Great Britain and disaster, and for securing to us our daily bread. That bulwark, therefore, ought to be kept in the most perfect condition and up to the full standard of our requirements in ships, equipment and personnel. The British Empire is the British Fleet. If we are to preserve the one, we must maintain the other.
§ Sir J. WALKER SMITH
It was with some trepidation yesterday that I opened this somewhat formidable volume of 500 pages containing the details of the Navy Estimates. I found, however, after a short perusal of it, that my fears were largely, if not entirely, unfounded. I soon found that the manner in which these Estimates are presented is so clear and lucid that even I, with no particular love of figures and no particular understanding of complicated accounts, could find my way about the document not too badly. I am very greatly assisted in this by the interleaved buff sheets containing explanatory notes. I have also looked at some of the previous Estimates, in order to compare the conditions and proposals of to-day with those that obtained under reasonably known and static conditions. I was prompted to do that by the summarised statement on pages 8 and 9 of the present Estimates, where I found comparisons for each year from 1923 to the present date, divided into about 20 categories, the results of the eomparison being particularly uniform, and indicating during the whole period a settled policy and settled principles. For instance, Vote A shows that, between 1923 and the present time, there has been a reduction of about 8 per cent. in personnel, while Vote I shows that the wages referable to the personnel included in Vote A have been reduced by about 11 per cent. Vote 12, which includes what one might term the oncosts of naval and Admiralty administration, also shows a 1563 similar and uniform reduction, over the same period, of about 10 per cent.
In my experience, however, I have found that one is likely to be led a little astray if one compares present-day conditions with those which obtained during the War or in the early stages of the War, and it is very much better, if one wishes for a correct picture, and particularly a correct comparative picture, to go some little distance beyond the commencement of the War, for the purpose of getting static conditions. I found, on referring to the older Estimates, that there were static conditions between the years 1905 and 1910. From 1910 to about 1914 there was, apparently, a general increase in personnel and in costs, for reasons which are generally fairly well understood, and to which no further reference need be made. I propose to make a few comparisons between the conditions existing to-day, as shown by the present Estimates, and those obtaining during the period from 1905 to 1910, when, as I have said, the conditions were static.
Vote A, which shows the number of naval and marine officers and men in the Navy, is one of the principal reasons for this Department of State. It is for the effective use of these fighting men that the whole Department exists, and its other expenses and activities are all subordinate to the proper utilisation of the fighting men shown in Vote A. In comparison with the period from 1905 to 1910, one finds a diminution of 30 per cent., which is not too bad, and quite intelligible. When one turns to the remuneration of these officers and men, which is shown in Vote 1, one finds that 80 per cent. is for naval ranks and ratings, 8 per cent. for Royal Marines, and 8 per cent. for marriage allowances, or 96 per cent. of the total in all. One would expect that this Vote, in comparison with the relative numbers of men during the static period from 1905 to 1910 and at the present time falling on Vote A, would show something like a similar ratio, but I find very considerable divergencies, which I cannot understand.
One would not expect to see a reduction of 30 per cent. in the total emoluments as between the two periods, but one might very reasonably expect that, making that reduction of 30 per cent., and 1564 adding, say, 50 per cent. as being the general increase in wages and salaries since that period, one would arrive at a comparable figure; but one gets an astonishing result. One finds that, after making all calculations of that kind, the amount of money that is being paid at the present time is actually twice what one would reasonably expect. I do not know what the explanation is. One would never begrudge for a single moment good pay to fighting officers and men in the Navy and Royal Marines, but one rather fears that there must be something in the observations which were made from the Opposition benches a little earlier, to the effect that there is a considerable amount of dead wood in the tree, that the whole organisation has become a little top-heavy, and that a certain amount of pruning is necessary.
Turning to Vote 12, which gives what in an ordinary business would be termed the general administration costs, or oncosts, of the Navy, one finds extraordinary results. If one were to expect that there will be the same ratio in administrative costs of Admiralty expenses as there is in the number of fighting men included in Vote A, of course, one would be deceiving oneself. One would never quite expect that. But a very startling revelation is made. There might well be some considerable increase over the general increase in wages, but the figures obtained are so extraordinary that I would wish to call attention to them. The total for Vote 12 is £1,104,000. In 1905–1906, when there were about 30 per cent. more fighting men, the total was about £342,000. If one brings that on to the same ratio as one gets in Vote A, that figure would be reduced to about £240,000. If one increased that for the general increase in the cost of living by about 50 per cent., one would get a figure of £360,000. One is horrified to find that the total administrative costs of the Admiralty are three times that figure. I am sure that requires some explanation. That there is something topheavy about the general administrative cost of the Navy, too, is revealed if one refers to Vote 8. It is divided into three categories. Section I is personnel, Section II materiel, and Section III contract work. In the early days, from 1905 to 1910, the ratio of personnel to materiel is some- 1565 thing like as three is to four. That is what one would naturally expect in any organisation. But when one gets to the present day Estimates one finds a total inversion of that, which indicates that there again, the administration of the dockyards and the construction work of the Admiralty are very topheavy and apparently are extravagantly run.
If one turns to sub-section (3) of the Vote, one finds with a certain amount of regret that there is a considerable diminution in the amount of contract work compared with that which is constructed at the Admiralty yards. There is a reduction since the period 1905 to 1910 from £8,000,000 to £5,000,000. That is a tendency which runs, as far as I can see, all through the Admiralty administration, a tendency to starve the industrial yards for the benefit of the Government yards. For instance, having indicated the general diminution from that period to the present day, one finds that even at present the ratio of new construction dockyard-built ships to contract-built ships is as four is to three. If one goes back only nine years, one finds, instead of it being four to three in favour of the dockyard-built ships, it was one to four. If one goes back further, to 1913–14, it was one to two. There appears to have been an entire inversion in the general policy of the Admiralty with regard to the manner in which they get their ships and equipment provided.
In short, from an examination of the Estimates and other statistics two points seem clearly to emerge. One is that there is an apparent—I use the word advisedly—excessive cost of administrative charges throughout the whole of the Admiralty administration. The second is that there is a tendency—I dare say having regard to what the First Lord said, a regrettable tendency—to starve the industrial yards. Although it may well be that there appears to be extravagance in the general costs of Admiralty administration, it need not necessarily be so. The Admiralty will probably have a very good reason to give for what appear to be extremely excessive costs. It may be found lying behind these words of the First Lord in the statement that accompanies the Naval Estimates. 1566I am satisfied that on the basis of considering actual requirements, not even the most rigid scrutiny could have justified the restriction of Navy Estimates to such a figure.Later he says,It would be impossible to frame future Navy Estimates on the same basis as has been adopted this year without making the most serious inroads into the strength and efficiency of the Fleet.Those views he emphasised firmly in his speech. Even so, it seems clear that those words, both written and verbally expressed, reveal the very grave anxiety that is in the mind of the Admiralty with regard to the conditions of the Navy. We are gambling with national safety. It may be that that is a choice of evils or that that is no choice and we are compelled to do it, but financial conditions at present are paramount, and we must take any risk in order to get stabilisation of our financial position, and we are running grave risks, not only with our defences but with our industries, risks with regard to the continuation of unemployment and risks with regard to denuding industries of capital that is very badly needed. I think it is the general expectation that the measure of fiscal reform which recently passed the House will have the effect of restoring confidence and, with the restoration of confidence, resuscitating industry generally. If so, this very grim race that we are running will be won. But those beneficial effects will have to come very quickly or they will be too late for many industries. They will have collapsed.
As it is with industry, so it is with the Navy. It may be that, unless within a reasonable time we are able to set the Navy again on a proper and permanent footing, it may be too late to restore it to the condition in which it should be. I take it that the Admiralty have at the back of their minds the desirability of maintaining the best possible nucleus of organisation in order in due course to be able the better to build up a sufficient and efficient Navy. If it is that they desire to maintain some skeleton structure upon which they can build a considerable edifice in due course, everyone will have the greatest sympathy, but there are more efficient and more economical ways of achieving that end. I think the right hon. Gentleman could 1567 make better and fuller use of the industrial shipbuilding yards, which are at present being rather badly treated and are in a state of semi-starvation. I am not going to trouble about the ownership of these industries or about questions of profit and loss of capital, but people who have invested in shipyards supplying naval requirements have recently lost their all and others have suffered from very considerable reductions in the share capital of their companies. But I am not concerned with industrial yards from that point of view. I sympathise with them, but it is their misfortune. I am not going to approach it from the point of view of unemployment, because that is a matter of grave concern not to me alone but to every Member of the House. Everyone will bitterly regret that there is an enormous amount of unemployment in these large shipbuilding centres.
I am approaching the question purely from the point of view of national safety, and I would ask the First Lord not to put any bias in favour of the Government Dockyard nor of the industrial yard but he is entitled to regard the whole of them as a unit, and as a huge national asset, to which he can apply himself if and when he has certain requirements. He can use the whole of those resources indiscriminately just as he finds them best fitted economically and efficiently to meet his needs. There is much to be gained and nothing to be lost by so doing. If he permits these large industrial yards to sink into atrophy, there will be certain prejudicial results, of which I will mention two or three. First it will result in losing that energy and initiative which flourish best under conditions of private enterprise. He will also lose those nuclei which are capable of vast and prompt expansion and, further, we are in danger of allowing men of great skill gradually to lose that skill on account of continued unemployment. At the other end we are preventing young men becoming apprentices, to gain that skill and technical dexterity which are required in the highly technical and skilled operations of providing for Admiralty requirements. I should like to explain the great advantages there are in amt starving the Government yards in favour of industrial yards and in saving them from atrophy.
1568 If the industrial yards receive a fair amount of work from the Admiralty, there is a, nucleus for them to proceed with, and they can compete for similar work required for foreign Powers. They will also put their knowledge into the construction of high class passenger ships, and some of them are doing that with very great success. You have complete organisations doing in part Government work, in part foreign work and in part alternative work. You have every Department of these organisations keyed up to concert pitch and very actively engaged in financial and commercial considerations, the draughtsmen and designers exercising their utmost ingenuity and the managers exercising their personal care and combining with their highly efficient workmen for securing that the work shall continue and that their living shall be maintained. You have the whole of those industries in a very highly efficient state ready for unlimited expansion at any time it may be needed. If, on the other hand, they are very much overdone with regard to administration, costs and expenses, which, I think, I have shown to be the case, there is a dreadful fear that they may have no encouragement and inducement to get new plant. The spirit of enterprise will be lacking. They will not be spurred on, as are the industrial yards, by the necessity of competition. In one ease you have a very highly efficient set of yards, and in the other you have somewhat apathetic and lethargic yards. I ask hon. Members to consider which are likely to respond the better, to the touch of the whip of the Admiralty at a time when they may rapidly need expansion. I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, both from the point of view of economy and of efficiency, to consider the question of the industrial yards. I think that if he cared to look at the matter retrospectively and would remember what those industrial yards have done for him in the past, he would wish to consider the very serious and grave conditions under which they are operating at the present time, and I think that he would also, in intelligent anticipation of the future, wish to see that they were ready to serve him if he should need them in the future, and I am sure that they would do just what the necessities of the case demanded.
§ Major Sir HERBERT CAYZER
I listened to the brief and lucid speech of the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker Smith), but I am afraid that I did not quite catch what he said about dockyards. I understood him to say that the Government dockyards were getting too much work and the private shipbuilding yards too little. That is quite wrong. As a matter of fact, I think that he must have looked at the Estimates upside down, because Government dockyards are getting far too little and private yards far too much. I am sure that most hon. Members in the House and the country generally must have read with deep satisfaction the statement of the First Lord which accompanies the Estimates, where he says that he regards the provisions made in the Estimates for the needs of the Navy as quite inadequate. His excellent speech this afternoon confirms the belief that he will endeavour to see that the Navy carries out the highest traditions and efficiency of the Service. Recently, owing to various circumstances, the Navy has been going backwards.
It is very difficult at this hour to say anything or to touch upon any point which has not already been touched upon. Practically everything that can be said has been said already. I intended to speak about cruisers and destroyers, because we are very short in both these classes. Cruisers are specially important for this country, and for myself as a shipowner, because they are the means of protecting, not only the Empire, but the very important trade routes by means of which the people of this country are fed. If you lose command of the seas, you jeopardise not only the food of the people of this country, but the raw material which you turn into manufactured articles here. The numbers laid down in the Treaty of London really do not come into the question, because when you consider that a ship is out of date, in say, 16 years, it is impossible for us to get the 50 cruisers allowed under the Treaty. We come up against the 91,000 tonnage snag. The figures which I have drawn up do not quite tally with the figures given by the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor). I take it that of this present programme we have used up 66,000 tons of the 91,000, so that we can only replace by about four more smaller cruisers. I may be wrong, but I 1570 can make it only 24,000 or 25,000 tons. In that case, we are going to be very short of our numbers of up-to-date ships. We shall, of course, have our leader cruisers, but it will mean that we shall have 12 at least out-of-date cruisers in our total, which will not be as efficient as the more modern ships, but, all the same, will have to be manned by British seamen, and have to fight against more efficient and up-to-date ships of other nations if it should come to a question of war.
There is no doubt that the London Treaty has placed Great Britain in a hopeless position as regards cruisers. We have a cruiser inferiority now. The only possible way to catch up with our requirements under the Treaty of London is, as far as I can see, by means of an emergency programme. Whether we build seven cruisers to make up the total or four, it seems to me that the present Estimates are the last available, going on the same procedure as former years, in order to complete our Treaty allowance. For some time now programmes have been delayed usually for one year. The First Lord told us to-day that last year's programme was going to be delayed until September. That will mean that that programme is to be delayed for a year and a half. As it takes three years to build a cruiser, and if we continue to delay programmes by a year and a half, these Estimates will be the last to which we can build up to the allowance required.
I hope that when the First Lord brings in his programme next year he will see that it is not delayed, but will go back to the old custom of ships being laid down in the autumn of the year. Delayed programmes are surely bad practice. I believe the idea was started by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) when Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is extraordinary how a needy Chancellor of the Exchequer will always try to adopt some expedient in order to gull the public. He, no doubt, thought that by delaying the expenditure for a year the public would think that they had had the full programme laid down, whereas all the time nothing was being done. It gives the country a false impression of the naval position. If we do not build up to the Treaty of London allowances, we may be told when we are found to be behind with our programme, that our programme can be reduced, and 1571 I do not think that we wish to be in that position.
Very much the same thing has taken place as regards the destroyers. We are at present short of what we can build under the Treaty. If we go on building as we are at present, one flotilla and eight destroyers each year, we shall still be short during the next two or three Estimates. I believe that if the First Lord would double this and build two flotillas and 16 destroyers, and not delay the programmes, we could yet come up to our requirements under the London Treaty. Another class of ship which I should like to mention is sloops. It is essential that we should lay down more of this class of vessel. I notice that four are provided for in the Estimates. I should have preferred the number to have been increased to six. I recognise, however, that it is impossible to do all that we would like, and that the First Lord of the Admiralty is doubly tied. On the one hand he is tied by the London Treaty and on the other hand by the financial stringency. Sloops perform cruiser duty in peace time and are very economical to work. In view of the enormous extent of the Empire and the vast extent of our trade routes we could certainly do with more vessels of this class. The sloops which we have at present were built hurriedly during the War, and I am told on the highest authority that they are falling to pieces.
With regard to personnel, while this country has been decreasing every year, America has been increasing. In 1914, this country had a personnel of 146,000, but in the present Estimate the figure stands at 91,000. America's personnel in 1914 was only 67,000 but in 1931 it was 114,500. They have, therefore, more than doubled their personnel, while we have more than halved ours. The American personnel is now much bigger than ours. In addition, America has 12,000 highly skilled professional men-of-War's men who are not included in the figure which I have given. Personnel is even more important than the shortage of cruisers, because in a year or two we could build cruisers by accelerated and emergency programme, but it takes years to train men to the state of efficiency required for modern warfare. I do deprecate America always preaching to European countries 1572 that they should cut down their armaments, while all the time they are the biggest offenders themselves. The Secretary of State of the United States Navy, in the annual report for December, 1930, said that it would be necessary to build up the force. Therefore, we have not got to the end of America's increased building up of personnel.
We hear much about parity in materiel. If we had to obtain parity in personnel we should have to add 23,000 to our numbers. We seem to be going back to the state of affairs which existed in the time of Charles II. That King took a great interest in the Navy, but on account of Parliament refusing to vote him money—he was always hard up—he could not pay the wages of the Navy out of his own pocket, with the result that our ships were laid up and the crews disbanded. Although we had only a short time before beaten the Dutch, the Dutchmen realised that our personnel was no more and our ships were laid up, and they sailed up the Thames and burnt our ships. Let us not risk that sort of thing again. If we continue on the downward grade and other nations continue on the up-grade we shall be running risks which we are not justified in running.
There is a reduction of 2,000 in personnel in the Estimates. I should like to know whether that is due to the scrapping of the "Tiger" and the Iron Duke." I should also like to know whether any further reductions of men are contemplated. We want an assurance that the scale of the manning of the Fleet has not been reduced. It is necessary that full active service crews are provided for ships ready for service, and that reduced active service crews and reserves should be provided for ships laid up. With our small Fleet it is essential that ships ready for service should have full active service crews. I notice that, although the personnel of the Navy has been reduced by 2,000 in the present Estimates, the cost of the Admiralty Office is reduced by only £37,000. In recent years the Admiralty Office has tended to keep its numbers and costs up. If any pruning and reduction is to take place, I suggest that it should be done there and not in the personnel of our ships.
1573 8.30 p.m.
With regard to Disarmament, this country is disarmed already. Great Britain has been decreasing year after year since 1922. We stand to-day in naval expenditure less than we stood pre-War. On the other hand, America, France, Italy and Japan have 8.30 p.m. increased their expenditure gradually year by year, especially during the last five years. In the matter of personnel, Great Britain's numbers have been decreasing year by year while powers such as America and Japan have been largely increasing their personnel. No further disarmament is possible for this country, and I am sure the First Lord agrees with me in that respect. If the Disarmament Conference does not induce the Naval Powers to follow our lead in the reduction of armaments it will be necessary that we should have an accelerated programme put in hand at once, so that by the autumn of 1936 our cruisers, destroyers and submarines will be up to the strength of our needs. The programme which has been put before us by the First Lord is a good one, considering the financial strain from which the country is suffering, but we have to remember that our Navy is the insurance upon which the whole fabric of the Empire rests. Once that goes, not only this country but the Empire will come to an end.