§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. G. HALL
Before the interruption I was about to deal with certain paragraphs in the White Paper, and I referred to the fact that there was a special reference to the question of Germany rearming not only openly but on a large scale. I wonder whether that has any reference to naval re-armament for, as is generally known, in the Peace Treaty the naval craft of Germany is strictly limited. She is entitled to build only six armed ships of 10,000 tons, six light cruisers, 12 destroyers and 12 torpedo boats. I do not think that it can be said that she has built up to the full strength allowed under the Peace Treaty. Therefore, it is not 610 against Germany that we desire to have security, because the strength of her Navy is almost negligible. Whom do we fear? Do we fear America or Japan, and is it desirable, in the opinion of the Admiralty, that we should have a naval strength so much superior to either of those Powers? I can now refer to the statement which was made last year by the First Lord, for I have the OFFICIAL REPORT of his speech. The passage to which I referred in my remarks is as follows:In regard to submarines, we shall only be short of about 4,000 tons of the underage tonnage that we might have under the Treaty. There is no deficiency in the total permitted tonnage in either category. To sum up: By the end of 1936, in all categories we shall have the full tonnage that we are allowed by the Treaty."—["OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1934; col. 43, Vol. 287.]
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
The hon. Gentleman is mixing up total tonnage and replacement tonnage. We shall have our full tonnage of destroyers naturally, because we are coming down to it. We have had to scrap in order to come down to it and we shall have our full tonnage, but we shall not have our replacement tonnage; that is to say, a great proportion of our destroyers are over age. As a matter of fact, we could build, I think, very nearly 40,000 tons of destroyers tomorrow and be within the treaty. The hon. Gentleman is making a mistake—an easy mistake in this complicated question—of mixing up total tonnage and replacement tonnage. We have got the total tonnage, but have not taken advantage of the replacement tonnage, or anything like it, that we are allowed under the London Treaty.
§ Mr. HALL
I take it that what the right hon. Gentleman means is that there would be a certain amount of tonnage over-age at that time. He specially referred to destroyers. I did not in my remarks refer to destroyers. There is a good deal of misunderstanding with regard to destroyer tonnage owned by the naval Powers of the world. On paper it appears that the destroyer tonnage of America is very much greater than ours, but we find that America has considerably more over-age destroyers than we have. She has built only about four destroyers since 1922. All her other destroyers, and there are 220 of them, were built during 611 the war or in the immediate post-war years. I do not want to go into that matter again, but I thought I had better deal with the point. In this White Paper reference is made to the main Fleet. It states, in paragraph 16, Chapter IV.:The Main Fleet is the basis upon which our naval strategy rests, but the cover it can provide is rarely complete.It does appear, that the Board of Admiralty—and as a matter of fact that was confirmed by the First Lord himself—are still of the opinion that capital ships are considered necessary, but they feel that there could be a reduction from the 35,000-ton battleship to the 25,000-ton battleship. During the Debate on Naval Estimates last year, when the Prime Minister was present, I referred to the change of attitude of the Prime Minister in connection with this very important matter, because in 1930 the attitude of the then Government and of the Board of Admiralty is indicated in Command Paper 3485, which is a Memorandum on the position of the London Naval Conference. It is stated there:In the opinion of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom the battleship, in view of its tremendous size and cost, is of doubtful utility, and the Government would wish to see an agreement by which the battleship would in due time disappear altogether from the fleets of the world.That was the point of view of the Admiralty at that time, as expressed in this Memorandum, which was signed by the Prime Minister. There must be a change, because now the First Lord says that all the Government is prepared to consider is a reduction in size. Let us assume that there is no agreement, let us assume that the differences between this country and Japan cannot be settled during the conference, which must be held this year. What is going to be the position? At Washington all the principal maritime Powers agreed not to build warships of more than 35,000 tons. While it is true to say that was the policy advocated by the Admiralty, it has varied considerably from that time. I think that at one time the tonnage was as low as 22,000 tons. I cannot charge my memory on that point, but I think it has been below the 25,000 tons referred to by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Will the right hon. Gentleman remember, as the other Powers should remember, that battleships merely balance battleships. That 612 was the position before the Washington Agreement. Before that Agreement we were proposing to build eight enormous fighting ships, of which the cost would have been round about £72,000,000. This was a reply to building by America and Japan, who were thinking of building between them no fewer than 27 battleships, ranging from 32,000 tons to 45,000 tons. It was the appalling prospect of the heavy cost which frightened the Powers into the Washington Agreement. Without an agreement that is the prospect before the peoples of the world.
Are the peoples of the world now so rich that they can embark on a competition which may involve such a colossal sum of money? I read in one of the London papers the other day a statement by a naval authority who suggested that, should the conference fail and should it entail no new construction, the replacement only of the existing fleets of the Naval Powers would cost no less than £800,000,000. Without entering upon a race in naval construction, without adding a single ton to the ships which the Naval Powers have at the present time, the cost of only a replacement programme would amount to no less than that figure. I think it is well that the general public should be acquainted with this position. In war the real work of trade protection has always been primarily carried out by small cruising ships and flotillas. It has been said that the task of holding the line can be done just as effectively by smaller ships, which have fought more decisive actions than large ones. At Trafalgar the largest ship was 1,200 tons in weight. Compare that with the Hood, of 42,000 tons, and compare it with the battleships which will be constructed if there is a race in naval armaments between this country and other countries. I think the right hon. Member for Epping summed up the position when, speaking on the London Naval Treaty in 1930, he said:I think it would be very difficult for the United States to build a series of new and monster battleships if they were the only ones that were being constructed in the world. It would not be difficult through any lack of resources, but large masses of the people would object to such a policy.613 They are the pacifists who received the condemnation of the First Lord of the Admiralty this afternoon.This moral resistance would have been reinforced by practical arguments of the highest significance, namely, that Air power as it increases, would seal the doom of those £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 monsters.Whether that be right or not I am not saying, but at any rate it is an argument which is much supported in the United States, and it seems to me that we need have taken no steps to renew any battleships until other Powers embark upon building. In exactly the same way the May Committee Report suggested that before any new battleships were constructed very serious consideration should be given to the question. They were looking at it from the point of view only of cost. I listened with a good deal of interest to a speech on Monday by the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter). He expressed an opinion as one who had had considerable experience in Admiralty matters, and he said without any hesitation that as far as he could see the battleship served no useful purpose and that to replace the existing 15 capital ships in this country could only be done at a cost of nearly £120,000,000. I do hope the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Admiralty themselves, will modify their views about the utility of the battleship, and do all they can to prevail upon other Powers to enter into an agreement whereby this monstrosity, as it is in the opinion of a number of naval officers, should be abolished. I do not think the cost of naval construction is fully realised at the present time. This year six new cruisers will be put into commission. They will cost the taxpayers of this country £8,500,000. I saw a reference the other day by another naval expert—we are not short of naval experts in these days, though I am thankful I am not one—to the difference in the cost of construction to-day and in pre-war days. He compared the Dreadnought "Monarch" with the little cruiser "Arethusa." The cost of the "Monarch," a 22,500-ton vessel, mounting 10 13.5-inch guns and 16 4-inch guns, and with a belt and barbettes—with 12 inches of armour—was £1,877,000. Compare that with the smaller cruisers which are being constructed, and will cost some £1,280,000 each, or £600,000 less than the cost of a Dreadnought in 1913.
614 I wonder whether the First Lord can remember all the recommendations of the May Committee. They proposed that a committee should be appointed to inquire into the whole subject of naval design, and to consider whether any modification could be adopted either with or without international agreement. I should have thought that by now the Admiralty would have carried out this recommendation, with a view to ascertaining whether it was not possible to reduce the heavy cost of construction. We on this side of the House feel that the publication of this White Paper brings us back to 1914. Its issue is a blunder of the greatest magnitude. I think it can be rightly said that the Board of Admiralty and the First Lord have really torpedoed the Disarmament Conference. They have by the publication of this White Paper already shattered any consultations which might take place between this country and America and Japan, and they are going to make the work of the League of Nations much more difficult.
In our opinion, it is madness to assume that more and bigger armaments are required to preserve peace, to give security and to deter aggression. The tragedy of it all is that once that doctrine is accepted it applies all round. Arms have never yet saved a nation from war nor have they given security to either strong or weak nations against attack. History has placed that on the throne of unassailable truth. So said the Prime Minister. We on this side of the House have never suggested that in the event of the final break of the Disarmament Conference and the irrevocable failure of all attempts to reach agreement on the limitation of armaments this country should lay down unilaterally every means of self-protection. That position has not arisen. If the Government think they can satisfy the British public that they have done their best for peace and disarmament and have given up in despair, with the result that we must now fall back to the building of armaments which must inevitably lead to another war, we trust that the Government will soon be disillusioned. Let there be no misunderstanding; those of us sitting on these benches will vote against these Estimates at every stage.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I have never listened to a speech by the First Lord of the Admiralty without a feeling of exasperation, almost of resentment, against the conventions which deprive us of more of his contributions to our debates. For many years he wore the muzzle of a chief whip and now, as the head of the silent Service, he delights us, those who agree with him and those of us who disagree with him, all too rarely with speeches which show such mastery of his subject and such knowledge of and devotion to the great Service to which he once belonged and over which he now presides.
I am among those who will criticise him. In criticising his policy, let me make quite clear my point of departure. The supreme object of our policy—let me say at once that I gather from the speech of the First Lord that there is no difference here between us—should be the maintenance of peace, but unless we are prepared to play an effective part in resisting aggression, we cannot establish the rule of law in international affairs or secure peace. Therefore, to deter tyrants and dictators from using force we must have armaments and a sound policy of defence. In a recent debate the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes), whom I see in his place, was good enough to quote for my edification a speech which was delivered by my great great grandfather about 150 years ago. He quoted the following passage:Naval strength is not the growth of a day, nor is it possible to retain it, when once acquired, without the utmost difficulty and most unwearied attention.The hon. and gallant Member testified from the wealth of his experience to the truth of that maxim. I accept that truth. I served in the War and many of my constituents, the people to whom I belong and among whom I live, served during the War, and serve now, in the Forces of the Crown, and I feel to the full my share of responsibility for ensuring that, if trouble does arise, whether, as supporters of the Government suggest because we are the lonely victims of aggression or, whether, as we on this side of the House realise may happen, we have to take our part in repelling aggression against the collective system of peace, the equipment at the disposal 616 of our sailors shall be modern, efficient and as deadly as science can devise. In 1924 as a very junior Member of this House, I not only voted but also spoke against the majority of my party, in support of the Labour party when they laid down five cruisers which I was then convinced were necessary. I incurred a perfectly fair and courteous but severe and public rebuke for so doing from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
But truth, as the Lord President of the Council not infrequently reminds us, is many-sided, and the unhappy need for armaments and the necessity that they should be powerful, modern and deadly is only one aspect of the truth; for nothing is more certain than, as Lord Grey said, great armaments inevitably lead to war, and that the immoderate pursuit of an armaments policy would incur the very risk against which it would be intended to insure us. A vital aspect of the truth of this question is that armaments by themselves can never give us security and that security can only be obtained by a wise policy directed to the achievement of enduring peace, and based upon the collective system and general disarmament. It is because these Estimates seem to me to signalise a departure from that policy and the abandonment of what the First Lord called in his speech last June, the "international dream of disarmament," that I shall criticise them to-day.
Lurking in the speech of the First Lord to-day and in that of the Lord President of the Council on Monday, as well as in others by hon. Members who spoke from great experience in the Services, and in the Navy in particular, in the Debate which took place on Monday, are phrases which suggest that the Estimates with which we are faced to-day are only the thin end of the wedge, a very thin edge, suggested the First Lord of the Admiralty in his speech this afternoon. He said that the new construction in the Estimates is only £75,000, but we know that the new construction this year will become next year the automatic expansion of which the First Lord of the Admiralty spoke, and which the House of Commons, as he indicated, is unable to touch; also that that expansion in succeeding years becomes more rapid. The Lord President of the Council referred on Monday to the replacement of battleships. The hon. Member for Aberdare 617 (Mr. G. Hall) who speaks from experience of a responsible office in the Admiralty, and who has adopted an estimate which he has gleaned from the newspapers by naval experts, said that the replacement of fleets might 3000. £800,000,000.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I was going to challenge his figure but I see that he did not intend to imply what I had imagined. Nevertheless the figure would certainly be very substantial if we had to embark upon a policy of battleship replacement. The Lord President of the Council referred to the projected building of two great battleships by France. Does not that story show just the danger of which we on this side are most afraid? The Germans built two 10,000-ton battleships, well within their Treaty limits, but more powerful than any ships in the French Navy except ships that were too slow to catch them, and faster than any ships in the French Navy except ships they could sink. So the French built two 26,000-ton battleships to outmatch them. The Italians, not to be outdone, laid down two 35,000-ton battleships. To bring this madness to its climax the French are apparently to lay down two 35,000-ton battleships, in addition to their two 26,000-ton battleships.
Is that the climax? Or are we to provide the climax, as the speech of the Lord President of the Council on Monday suggested, by entering into a new race of battleship construction? Or is it, as I hope it is, one of the objectives of the conversations that are to take place in Berlin, to stop this madness? The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) told us that the number of our cruisers should be doubled. The hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth told us that our battleships should be replaced. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford also told us that if we embarked on that policy the cost would be £120,000,000 in the next 10 years. Such a policy could only be based upon a conception of maintaining a Navy which, by its own unaided strength, would suffice to safeguard our interests in every quarter of the globe against any conceivable combination of enemies. It was, indeed, a notable feature of the Debate on Monday that the most closely reasoned 618 passage in the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in which he argued for the collective system of peace as the true expression of the insurance system against war risks, was listened to in silence, and that the cheers of Government supporters were reserved for those speakers who spoke most loudly in favour of self-reliance in defence. It-seems to me that the mere effort to put such a policy into operation would precipitate the very risk against which our armaments are intended to insure us.
What is that risk? Before the War the risk which was in everybody's mind when armaments were discussed was the risk of defeat, and many pre-war politicians speak as though that were the risk against which we have to safeguard today. The risk to-day is the risk of war. The lesson of the last War is plain to read. The lesson clearly was that if the great Powers entered into war again the result would be irreparable disaster for all the participants, and that far from there being any victors in such a struggle, it seems impossible that civilisation itself should survive. "Victory," as the First Lord of the Admiralty in a fine passage of his speech this afternoon, said "would mean dust and ashes." It is therefore only in so far as our armaments and our policy together preserve the peace of the world from the threat of aggression, and in so far as they prevent that conflagration from breaking out, that they give our people security.
It is always suggested that nobody in the world suspects us of aggressive intentions, and the First Lord of the Admiralty said this afternoon that every other nation is delighted when we increase our Navy. I do not believe that we are suspected of aggression. If we were, the suspicion would quite certainly be unfounded; but let me express a conviction which, I believe, is generally held in all parts of the House. France and the United States of America are profoundly pacific nations. Yet the increases in their armaments are put forward by the Government as justifying increases in our armaments. Already the Paris correspondent of the "Times" is telling us that the increases in our armaments Estimates have strengthened the French Government in demanding from the French Chamber more armaments for France.
619 Let me say here to-day what I say whenever I speak on this subject on a public platform: I am certain that there is no party and no section of any party in this House, and that there is no man in the Cabinet of which I had the honour to be a Member who wants war. Unfortunately, there are differences between the parties and within the parties as to the best policy for securing peace. To suggest that we should go into the Naval Conference next year and demand sufficient cruisers to patrol the whole of our trade routes in every quarter of the globe is to talk dangerous nonsense. Our foreign policy must ensure that if aggression breaks out and if, in defiance of its solemn and written obligations, one Power resorts to war as an instrument of policy, we shall not be alone in our resistance. If the result of the Naval Conference next year were an agreement among the Powers in the Pacific which would give concrete shape to such a proposal, that would be worth far more to our people and to the peace of the world than hundreds of cruisers.
I am not sure that Members of the Government share—they certainly do not adequately express—the horror of the people of this country, not only at the danger of encouraging, by increased expenditure on armaments, an international race in armaments, but at the appalling wastefulness of armament expenditure. The language which Ministers use on this subject is not the same as that which is used by the ordinary man and woman in the street. If we scrap a battleship, Ministers call it a sacrifice. If we agree to limit our armaments, it is a concession. Yet the truth is that armaments are a crushing and an explosive burden upon the backs of our people and upon the backs of all the nations of the world, and that increased expenditure on armaments is hampering the economic recovery of the world and retarding the advance of social reform in this country. I am not addicted to the argument that you can attain this or that valuable object—it may be a road, or an improved harbour, or nursery schools—at the cost of a destroyer, or a cruiser, or a battleship, but a striking illustration of the contrast between our expenditure on armaments and our expenditure on subjects of real social and economic value was afforded by an answer to a 620 Parliamentary question in which it was stated that the total cost to the national funds of raising the school age to 16, with maintenance allowances, would be about £10,000,000—just the amount of the additional expenditure this year on armaments. On the one hand we are asked to agree to an expenditure of £10,000,000 which will achieve no definite objective, but is regarded as an instalment of what many of us believe to be a very dangerous policy; on the other hand we are denied expenditure on an object of immense social and economic importance, the return on which will not only be immediate, but will also be a steadily expanding and increasing return through future years and generations.
Again, our expenditure on housing since the War has amounted to £650,000,000. What have we got for it? Hundreds of thousands of people housed decently, who would otherwise be cooped up in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions or in festering slums. What have we spent on the Navy? I have not taken the figures for all the years since the War, because that would not be fair, though it would be better for my argument, because just after the War there was a very large expenditure on the Navy due to the War; but in the last 12 years we have spent £660,000,000 on the Navy—rather more than has been spent on housing since the War. What have we got for it? Security? Safety for our trade routes? At least it will be said: Have we not got the greatest Armada we have ever possessed? Not at all. We have got a Navy whose ships, according to the Lord President of the Council, are over-age, whose armaments, according to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, are in decay, and which, according to the White Paper issued by the Prime Minister, "could not defend our vital interests against an aggressor or co-operate in any system of pooled security." What, then, has happened to the £660,000,000 which has been spent on the Navy in 12 years I We can see the results of the £650,000,000 spent on housing since the War, and we can see that they are good; but down what sink has that £660,000,000 gone which has been spent in 12 years on the Navy—an amount equal to the whole amount of the National Debt before the War—and as a result of which, we are told, the Navy is not even fit to co-operate in any system of pooled security?
621 It is not true that the provision we have made for the Navy during the last 12 years has been on cheese-paring lines; it is not true that we have been unilaterally disarming. We have spent on the Navy during the last 12 years a greater sum of money than we have spent in any comparable period in peace-time during the whole of our history. In the 12 years before the War, in the face of the German naval menace, our expenditure was £440,000,000. Now it is greater by one-half than it was then, when the German Navy, just across the sea, within a few hundred miles of our shores, was challenging our maritime position. Of course, prices were lower then and wages were lower, but the difference in expenditure as between then and now is 50 per cent., and for that expenditure then we got the most powerful Navy in the world, which withstood the German menace. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his speech this afternoon, told us that we got, for our £440,000,000 before the War, 69 battleships, as against 15 now; 108 cruisers, as against 50 now; 322 destroyers, as against 118 now; 74 submarines, as against 48 now. Now, for an expenditure 50 per cent. higher, and with the German Navy at the bottom of the sea, our Navy, we are told, is in a state of steadily declining efficiency, and already unable even "to cooperate in any system of pooled security." No wonder the country is appalled at the wastefulness of armament expenditure.
Is the addition of £3,500,000 to these Estimates going to stop a rot so deep-seated as that? The thing has only to be stated for its absurdity to be evident. This, then, can only be the thin end of the wedge. The Lord President of the Council began his speech in this House on Monday by saying that be was telling the truth to democracy, but it looks as if he is only telling the truth by instalments. Either those descriptions of the present state of the Navy, which I have quoted from the speeches of Ministers and from their own White Paper, are exaggerated—in which case the argument for this increased expenditure is unsound—or they are accurate, in which case the present Government and its immediate predecessors for 12 years deserve our condemnation for the waste of £660,000,000 of the nation's money, and do not deserve our confidence in the matter of defence.
622 We on these benches, therefore, have no confidence in the Government to pursue an effective policy either of naval defence or of international disarmament. They have so far failed in both. In this, as in other great issues of policy, the Government have failed to create the impression, either at home or abroad, of their own resolution and consistency in support of their disarmament policy. Nobody knows whether the Government have yet made up their minds. I have already referred to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty last June, when he said that "it was about time we woke up in this country and looked to our national and Imperial defence, be cause we could not go on pursuing an international dream of disarmament all alone." Is the First Lord the only Minister—I do not think he is; indeed, I know he is not—who regards disarmament as an international dream? Is there no Minister—
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not to leave out the word "alone"; he has done so two or three times.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The First Lord referred to it as an international dream, and you cannot speak of pursuing an international dream all alone; that does not make sense; "all alone" contradicts "international"; but he obviously meant that disarmament was an international dream which we ought not to pursue all alone. Is he the only Minister who regards it as an international dream? Is there no Minister who will denounce the international nightmare of rearmament? The Lord President of the Council, in his speech on Monday reviewing naval and other armament developments in other countries, disclaimed the intention of awarding moral marks. That was indeed refreshing, because Ministers at Geneva and elsewhere have a most unfortunate tendency to award moral marks. In my belief these are justified when awarded to this country for its restraint in armaments in past years; but boasting of our own good moral principles and practice naturally has the effect, not of encouraging cooperation on the part of other nations, but of irritating them. Is there no Minister who, not riding any high moral horse, will consistently and persistently, in season and out of season, denounce the 623 folly, danger, and wastefulness of this steady accumulation of armaments, as the Lord President of the Council himself did in a memorable and outstanding speech in December, 1932? In the absence of such declarations, in the face of the Government's failure either to achieve disarmament, to check re-armament, or, in spite of an expenditure unparalleled in our history in peace-time, to maintain our naval efficiency, and in the absence of any clear relation between this country's armament policy and a policy for a collective system of peace, either in Europe or in the Far East, we on these benches will feel bound by speech and vote to do all in our power to deflect the Government's policy from its present dangerous and wasteful course.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
With the first portion of my right hon. Friend's speech I desire most cordially to associate myself—when he complimented the First Lord on his very clear and lucid exposition of the Navy Estimates this afternoon. There is another point on which I find myself in cordial agreement with my right hon. Friend. I hate the idea of increasing armaments; I loathe it as much as any man in this House. I have seen, in my experience here, a good many increases of armaments; but will anyone say that an increase in the Navy Vote of this country has at any time jeopardised peace? I went through at the Admiralty, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), many discussions, and, if any man says that at any time an increase in British naval armaments was the cause of apprehension in any other nation, I can only say, in the words of a Devonian, the late Lord Iddesleigh—then Sir Stafford Northcote—that it is a great, big, thumping lie.
I see that my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) is here. He and my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping were members of the Liberal Government. I was a junior member of that Government, and at the Admiralty the whole time. Our estimates increased from £30,000,000 to £50,000,000. Were those estimates any menace to peace? Does any one believe it? What brought about the great conflagration? It was not British naval policy; it was German 624 obstinacy, led by the egotistical ex-Kaiser. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill) over and over again offered to the Germans a naval holiday—I remember it so well; and I am perfectly certain that the present Government, if other Powers would stop building, would stop building, too. There is not the slightest doubt about it. What has been the response of other nations? The hon. Member who represents the Opposition in this matter asked the question of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The answer was in the Parliamentary papers this morning. What are the American estimates? They are not £60,000,000, but £120,000,000 for this year. What are the Japanese estimates? They are £30,000,000, and they have doubled in the last five years. I ask this House, remembering the dangers that we encountered less than 20 years ago, not to tamper with our naval defences. To remain defenceless in the naval sphere would be paltering with our own lives. There was one phrase which I admired greatly in the speech of the Lord President last Monday. He said that we must tell democracy the truth, and if democracy cannot stand the truth, then democracy will suffer. We must tell the country the truth in this matter. Can any hon. Member suggest that more could have been done to strengthen the League of Nations than has been done by the present Government?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
The hon. Member must allow me to disagree. The difficulties are there, and mainly attributable to the Treaty of Versailles. Let me ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, What are they going to do? It was only last Monday that we had the policy of the Labour party laid down by one of the keenest and most logical intellects on those benches. What did the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) say with regard to the dispute between Japan and China? It was very clear. He said:It was our duty, in co-operation with the other nations who were equally bound, 625 to do our utmost immediately that aggression became apparent to take every possible step to stop the aggression, in the first place, no doubt, by recalling the ambassador, and if that failed, by economic pressure. If that failed then, in co-operation with other nations equally bound to take action, by armaments if necessary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1935; col. 150, Vol. 299.]That is the policy promulgated by one of the keenest intellects from those benches. We withdraw the ambassador. That is not a friendly action. Economic warfare is verging near to real war. And then, if necessary, armaments. I am profoundly grateful to the Government for having kept us out of this Chinese dispute. What would have happened if the Government had interfered? We should have found ourselves in a state of war. No man's detestation of war can be stronger than mine. We had during four and a quarter years a great lesson, and I am sure every one of us owes the deepest gratitude to the Mercantile Marine and the Navy. They never flinched. If they had flinched, I do not know what would have happened. But do let us recollect that in April, 1917, we had only six weeks' supply of corn in the country. What would have happened if that supply had been cut off?
I say, therefore, that I will vote for any expenditure wisely used in order to ensure the food supply of our people. Nothing will induce me to tamper with that. I cannot help thinking that if hon. Gentlemen opposite really consider this matter, they will realise that it is the poorest of the population which would suffer were there any scarcity of foodstuffs. Having had that lesson 20 years ago, surely it is not wise to vote against Estimates which are required to protect the food supply of our population. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) said that there are other objects. I agree. I would infinitely prefer that all this armament money were devoted to more beneficent objects, but can there be a more important object to the people of this country than to protect their food supply? I honestly say that to increase the home food supply would be probably one of the greatest efforts of defence upon which any Government could embark. The people of this country are dependent 626 largely upon foreign foodstuffs. Is it wise for any Member of this House to endanger foreign foodstuffs from coming into the country?
I am going to ask some questions of the Admiralty, because I was formerly at the Admiralty. I belong to a class of people who have to see that they get value for their money. Do not let anybody forget that in agriculture, if you do not get value for your money, you will have a difficult time. Here I have the Navy League view which was expressed on 12th March, in the "Times" yesterday:It is necessary to remind the public of the lamentable state into which our naval defence forces have been allowed to fall.I do not understand why that should be the case, as we have spent very large sums on the Navy. In 10 years, from 1926 to 1935, that is, including this year's Estimates, something like £550,000,000 has been spent, and our Forces ought not to be in a lamentable state after the expenditure of that amount of money. I go back to the figures of this year's Estimates, £60,000,000, with personnel 94,500. When my right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill) presented his Estimates in 1914, the total estimate was £53,000,000 and there were 146,000 personnel. I do not understand this great expenditure.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I think, possibly, other things, too. I hope to have an explanation of it, but it is a very striking fact that in 1914 you had 50 per cent. more personnel, and now you have 10 per cent. greater expenditure. Are not the Admiralty—and I was brought up under the tuition of the late Lord Fisher—keeping a very large number of shore establishments? Is there not at the Admiralty 50 per cent. more officials than was the case in 1914? I want to ask questions also about the dockyards. Are we quite certain that many men are not kept on at the dockyards out of a feeling of benevolence, and that the dockyards and the Navy votes probably are being used to protect the Unemployment Insurance Fund? I hope that I shall receive answers to those questions. I will not go into the capital ship controversy—that is for the experts. But the capital ship 627 is a very expensive matter. It has risks from torpedoes, from the air and from under the water, and gun fire. The capital ship, however valuable it may be, and however consummate a war machine it may be, has to be docked. Our docks are on the south coast. They are in the most vulnerable part of the country from the point of view of air attack. Take Chatham. A considerable sum of money is to be spent on Chatham this year. Surely, there could not be a more unsuitable naval base than Chatham at the moment. It is absolutely within the zone of aircraft attack.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
All the sailors would like to go to Plymouth if the Noble Lady was there. Portsmouth is within a bombing area of the Continent. These very vital matters should be considered by the Admiralty and by the Committee of Imperial Defence. A more important matter could not be considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence. We were told by the Lord President of the Council that they had had 237 meetings, and that there were very large numbers in attendance, but I would quote the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that you cannot conduct a war with a sanhedrim. You cannot get real responsibility from this very large number of the Committee of Imperial Defence. In passing from the consideration of the suitability of our dockyards, I would say that I have really never been able to understand why the dockyard at Rosyth, far away from the danger zone, has not been much more fully used.
I wish to deal with the question of fuel oil. Our ships to-day are almost entirely using fuel oil. I remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for, Epping entered into an arrangement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to ensure a supply of oil. Had it not been that neutrals supplied us with oil during the last War, the British Navy would have been paralysed. We have been talking of an embargo on the export of arms. Would that embargo apply to oil? If so, it would be a very serious matter for the British Navy. The Air has brought in an entirely new hazard. I remember 628 in my days we were establishing very large oil-fuel stations. There were many of them along the south coast. Surely, those oil-fuel stations would be very vulnerable in time of war. It is hateful to talk of war, but if we are spending money we must spend it to the best advantage. Are we sure that the oil-fuel stations are invulnerable against air attack? If not, the whole Navy would be paralysed in the event of an attack. I remember discussing this matter with the late Sir Edward Moir. Is there any plan in the minds of the Admiralty about putting oil underground? Seeing that the whole Navy is dependent upon oil, and that that oil has to come from abroad and be stored in vulnerable tanks, it is not a pleasant prospect for the Navy in a time, which God forbid, of any emergency from the air. As Lord Jellicoe said, they had to be very careful of oil during the late War.
There is the question of the Singapore Base. That base, to me, has always been a strategic folly. I have never hesitated about saying that; but the base is there. It is 8,000 miles from Portsmouth. Large sums of money have been spent on it, and apparently very large sums are going to be spent. I cannot help thinking that it is asking too much from the British Navy that it should successfully defend the Singapore base 8,000 miles away. I presume that the Singapore base was built for protection against Japan. It could not be built on an idea in the air. Singapore is less than 3,000 miles from Japan. The Japanese Navy has 88,000 personnel and ours has 94,000. Is it possible that this outpost base could be successfully defended in time of emergency? If not—and we had a good deal of strategic dissipation during the late War—we are wasting money that could be better employed at home in securing our oil fuel depots. I know that it has been said that our trade in the East must be protected. Against the Japanese fleet no trade could pass. That is quite certain. One German commerce raider captured 42 ships. How should we be able to deal with the whole Japanese Fleet? I realise that it is no good asking for reconsideration now, but I would ask the Government to pause before they spend large sums on the fortification of Singapore. 629 These are some of the questions that I wished to ask. As far as I am concerned, I will support the Admiralty and do all in my power to protect the trade and food supplies of our country.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ ADMIRAL of the FLEET (Sir Roger Keyes)
In the debate on Monday relating to defence I believe it was originally intended that these Estimates should be discussed from the point of view of defence, but the Socialist Amendment carried the discussion into other channels. There were, however, one or two points mentioned with which I should like to deal to-day on which I was not able to touch during the short time that was allowed to me on Monday. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) does not like battleships. He is well qualified to talk about air matters, but I would remind him that it is 30 years since he was in a battleship, and that he has had no experience of the modern Navy. Since then there have been great developments in the modern Navy for dealing with aircraft and submarines. The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) on Monday talked about the air, and said that it was deplorable that the Navy was not more air-minded. I agree with him. I wish we were as air-minded as the American Navy. He said that he would like to see every naval officer go into the air. In the American Navy every naval officer does go into the air. The American Navy has been allowed to develop its air force unrestricted by dual control, and certainly the American Navy is ahead of us in regard to its air development.
Thanks to the energy and foresight of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) who initiated the Royal Naval Air Service and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford, who was its first chief, the Royal Naval Air Service was second to none. When the War ended there was no unit in the Air Service more efficient, better equipped, possessing better machines or better personnel than the Royal Naval Air Service. Unfortunately, my hon. and gallant Friend does not agree with me as to the Navy getting back the control of 630 its air service. Of course, he remembers the difficulties that he encountered from naval officers who were old-fashioned, but those days are past. Every naval officer to-day, whatever rank he holds, is fully alive to the great value and the vital importance of a well-equipped and efficient Naval Air Force.
There was a force of the Royal Naval Air Service stationed on the Belgian coast during the War for co-operation with the Navy. It possessed the very best fighting machines, bombing machines, and night bombers, which were undoubtedly more powerful and more formidable than any other aircraft in the world. That force, which came under my command on 1st January, 1918, simply dominated the air on the left flank of the Army and on the Belgian front. It was natural that the Royal Flying Corps, which had to extend far more rapidly than we did, should look towards that force with envious eyes. The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service competed for material, equipment and even personnel. That was very bad. It was wrong in time of war, and should have been adjusted. So far as material is concerned, some machinery might have been set up on the lines of that which regulated the supply of ordnance to the Army and Navy. But the Government of the day decided to amalgamate the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service into the Royal Air Force.
We who were fighting were far too busy to think what effect that arrangement was going to have on the future of the Naval Air arm. It never entered our thoughts for one moment that any other service would have control over the aircraft carried in ships. At that time it really made no difference, while the War lasted. That Force, or as much of it as I was able to keep, remained under my orders until the end of the War. When the great German offensive started in March, 1918, and the British Army stood with its back to the wall and we on the left flank could hear the guns thundering from the Belgian coast to the Swiss frontier, we were anxious to do anything to help the Army, and I sent the whole of my Air Force down into the battle to fight alongside the Royal Flying Corps, much to the annoyance of the Admiralty, and I was severely 631 criticised for it. I received the most wonderful accounts of the achievements of that splendid Force, and the warm thanks of the Commander-in-Chief. I think that I did the right thing, but I suffered severely for it afterwards, because when I wanted to get it back, the Army on the Western front was being severely pressed and they naturally wished to keep it. I wanted it for naval operations on the Belgian coast. Many of those great naval aeroplanes which ought to have been dropping bombs on submarines in the canals, where they were temporarily blocked, were being organised in France for long-distance air raids on German towns.
I mention these matters to show that really the Navy must be allowed to operate its own aircraft in time of war. It was not until after the War that our troubles really began. The Navy had a very uphill fight in its attempt to achieve efficiency in the Naval Air Arm. It was a long time before we were able to establish our right even to have our own observers in our own aircraft, and an Admiral was dependent on some young, inexperienced Air Force observer for information which might be vital to the whole conduct of the Fleet and the control of its gun power. We had to fight our way step by step to achieve efficiency in the Naval Air Arm. The time arrived when we were unable to stand the conditions any longer, and we asked for an impartial inquiry. At that time the Coalition Government was in office, and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was Prime Minister and fully alive to our requirements and our point of view, promised us a full inquiry. It was the end of a Session, and we were promised it for the next Session.
Unfortunately for the Navy, the Coalition Government broke up in the Recess, and it was a long time before we got the inquiry. When we eventually got it and the committee of three had reported, the Navy were given 70 per cent. of the pilots and all the observers in the Naval Air Service. The committee, in its anxiety to please both sides, pleased neither, and produced a system of dual control. Gilbert in his most extravagant moment could not have thought of anything more absurd for a 632 comic opera than the sort of dual control which was imposed on the Fleet Air Arm. After that there were ceaseless discussions as to how to implement the decision. It really was unworkable. When the first Socialist Government came into power, that wise old statesman, Lord Haldane, who was practically their Minister of Defence, insisted that we should come to a definite working agreement, and he himself presided over a small committee of three to settle 14 outstanding points. I represented the Admiralty, and the Chief of the Air Staff represented the Air Ministry.
After some weeks of negotiations and discussions we achieved an agreement. The fourteenth point, namely, the control of expenditure, was vital, and we had insisted upon it before these discussions took place. Its importance had been brought home to us before the Government decision was taken. When the Geddes axe was being sharpened we were told that the Air Ministry had recommended that the naval and military air squadrons should be cut down, whether we liked it or not. We felt that if we could get every penny spent on the Air Arm placed on our own Estimates it would be a great safeguard. For instance, we thought that if the Admiralty were prepared to give up a cruiser or destroyer flotilla for another aircraft carrier, or a squadron of aircraft, it would be a matter between us and the Treasury, and not a matter to be settled by the Air Ministry. Like a good many other safeguards, it was quite valueless. Over and over again, when we wanted to increase the Naval Air Force, we have had to be content with far less than we should like to have had.
When we evolved the antidote to aircraft in a wonderful anti-aircraft gun, it was the Air Ministry which stopped the supply for some time, because they declared that it would not be effective. There was only one way of trying it out, and that was to send an aeroplane through the screen of shell fire. That, of course, was impossible, but I persuaded the Prime Minister to send the late Lord Thomson to have a look at a demonstration which I arranged when I was Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth. I reminded Lord Thomson that he was a gunner, and told him to bring experienced Air officers with him. When 633 they saw a demonstration it left them pretty breathless. We had no more trouble; and a good deal of the expenditure the First Lord mentioned is going to provide these anti-aircraft guns which do safeguard a battleship or any craft which carries them against air attack. Indeed, a battleship is no more liable to destruction from aircraft than it is from any other means of attack.
I should like to endorse what the First Lord has said about the wonderful relations which exist in these aircraft carriers of sea-going Naval Air personnel. They all come out of the same cradle, and work together in the greatest amity, but this extraordinary system of dual control only works because of the good comradeship of the officers and men. Since the time when the agreement known as the Trenchard-Keyes agreement was reached, not one line or comma has been altered, and it is working, thanks to the good comradeship of the people who work it. But it has not made for efficiency. During the negotiations, the representatives of the Air Ministry suggested to me that we should include a certain number of petty officers among our pilots. The Royal Air Force have non-commissioned officers among their pilots, but at that time the Admiralty did not want to do this at once. They wanted to get all the best young Naval officers who were air-inclined to come in, and then, when they had secured a nucleus of officers, to throw it open to the lower deck. But when we wanted to introduce petty officers as pilots, the Air Ministry declined to accept them. It is almost incredible that one service should be able to interfere with another service in a domestic matter like that. I do not know how the matter stands to-day, but when I was more actively employed we were forbidden to employ our petty officers, who were fully qualified to be pilots, in some cases men whose own brothers were actually pilots in the Royal Air Force. These things must be stopped. The Naval Air Arm is the responsibility of the Admiralty, and ought not to be asked to share it with any other service.
§ Sir R. KEYES
No, certainly not. I think that the (Royal Air Force will have enough to do in India and in Palestine, 634 and in defending this country without wasting their time in interfering with small matters of naval administration. Recently I spent some weeks in America, and studied this question there. The American Navy is now 100 per cent. ahead of ours in air-mindedness and equipment, and generally from an air point of view. That is because they have been allowed to develop their own air service. The wings of our Navy have been pinioned by this dual control. So much for the Air Arm.
Before going further, I should like to put definitely on record the gratitude of the Navy to the Government and the three Chiefs of Staffs, who have jointly recommended the policy outlined in the White Paper, and for the timely reminder that this great Empire of ours would cease to exist if some nation which did not believe that navies were obsolete, redundant and unnecessary, decided to break up the sea communications, which we were not able to defend. The statement in paragraph (4) of the White Paper as to the value of the capital ship and the use of the main fleet is of vital importance. No one who has to pay for capital ships wants to build them. The First Lord has told us what he wants to do at the next Conference. We tried to do the same things at the Washington Conference. I was a member of the Board of Admiralty and sat almost daily under the Chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Epping in the Committee of Imperial Defence, while the First Lord of the Admiralty, the First Sea Lord and the present First Sea Lord were at Washington with Lord Balfour. We did stop competition in battleships for 16 years. That was brought about by naval officers working with statesmen.
We tried to reduce cruisers in size. Other nations had much bigger cruisers and declined. Really, we have been the only people who have been prepared to make, and, indeed have made, sacrifices in order to get agreement on naval armaments. We tried to do away with submarines. No one wanted to do away with submarines because they caused us great annoyance in the last War, and will do so in the next war, although not so much as people who have not the technical knowledge I have would suppose. [Interruption.] Well, I commanded the submarine service for four and a half years. A poacher makes a 635 good gamekeeper; and there are measures which can be taken now which will greatly limit the power of submarines. No one wants to build capital ships, but if other nations build more powerful ships you cannot stand by and build ships less powerful. That is a sheer waste of money; it is folly. Everyone knows the story of the Falklands and Coronel. There is another example of a brilliant old admiral who designed a type of battle cruiser which was to destroy the armoured cruisers of other nations. He had great success at the Falkland Islands, but in the meantime another old admiral, a German admiral, had built battle cruisers which were much better protected than our own, as an answer to our battle cruisers. At the Battle of Jutland our battle cruisers met the German battle cruisers, and 3,500 men lost their lives because our ships were not fit to meet the superior protected ships of the enemy. That is bound to happen if you build ships less powerful than those of a potential enemy and allow yourselves to get behindhand. That is what the great grandfather of the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) meant when he said that the question of naval defence meant the most careful, minute and ceaseless study. You cannot afford to take risks.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Surely we were paying for the ships, for almost everything which was required by the Admiralty. If a mistake was made in the design, it was not because money was withheld by Parliament.
§ Sir R. KEYES
That is perfectly true, but you cannot allow other nations to build ships overwhelmingly superior to your own. It is a sheer waste of money to do so. The Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council have stated that this country has made tremendous sacrifices in the interests of peace. We have, but the point is this: Who is going to pay the price if mistakes are made? It will be once again young men who will pay the price with their bodies. You cannot afford not to keep your Navy up to a proper standard. The Government have outlined a very wise and proper policy which I believe will have the support of every man and woman in the country who does not want this country and its defences to be internationalised, 636 as the Socialist Opposition do. Every man and woman in Great Britain and every friend of Great Britain will welcome that statement by the Government of what they intend to do.
I would ask the Government how they intend to implement this policy? The Estimates which have been presented to us are surely rather an anti-climax. It is true that the Admiralty have got an increase of £3,500,000 out of the Treasury, but this will make no appreciable difference as a contribution towards the replacement of obsolete cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines—even those we are allowed to build under the London Treaty. I know it is not the Admiralty's fault. I was at the Admiralty for 3½ years, and I know that when we used to walk across the Horse Guards Parade to attack the Downing Street front, the Treasury was on our port beam firing at us. The Government cannot do it out of revenue; of that I am absolutely certain. Practically all this increase, as the First Lord told us, goes to the making up of deficiencies and the modernising of old ships, and to the replacement of stores and equipment. Directly the Treaty of London and the Washington Treaty come to an end, as the Lord President of the Council reminded us, a great many of the ships will have to be replaced unless we come to some agreement with other nations.
How are we going to pay for it? I have always thought that there is only one way, and that is to raise a Defence Loan, as was done in 1889, for the replacement of obsolete ships and the augmentation of the Air Force, which everybody agrees is necessary. I am told that such a loan would be subscribed in a few hours. There are millions of patriotic people who would subscribe to a policy which would not only provide an insurance and a security for peace, but which would also employ a vast number of workmen. That is why Socialist Members ought to be supporting this. Employment would be found for an immense number of workmen for whom no other employment can possibly be found—people who have been idle while we have been making these peace gestures.
§ Sir R. KEYES
We do not want another war. It is because we want to maintain peace that we want to put our defences in order. No one wants another war less than I do. We want to ensure peace, and that is why we want to see our defences in better order. I think all parties ought to unite in a policy to provide security, ensure peace and give employment to thousands and thousands of workmen for whom no other employment can be found. It should be remembered that 85 per cent. of all the money spent on these ships goes in wages to the workmen employed.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. WILMOT
The House, I am sure, will have listened with very lively interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member. He evidently has in his possession and in his memory adequate material for another volume of war memoirs to add to the growing library of the recollections of men who won the War. It rather seemed to us unfortunate laymen as though no insignificant part of the enemy in the last War were housed in the Air Ministry and the Admiralty and other departments which the hon. and gallant Member chose to attack. Perhaps when compiling these memoirs for delivery in print he will try to work out what it cost in human life to repair those terrible errors, miscalculations, and frictions which took place among the Service Departments that were supposed to be conducting the War. With the greatest respect, I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member's contribution to the Debate has carried us very far—except to reveal what many of us for long believed, that long service in the fighting Services tends to induce a state of mind which substitutes the means for the end. The means are the highly complicated mechanism and the devoted and wonderful service which officers and men alike render to their service. The natural pride in achievement and efficiency which are engendered by service to the State in any department becomes perverted and men begin to feel that these warlike preparations and exercises are an end in themselves—instead of always remembering that all this human ingenuity and efficiency and invention is being turned to a dreadful anti-social purpose, that its sole purpose 638 is the slaughter of human beings. [Interruption.] The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) contradicts. For what other purpose are guns constructed? For what other purpose do any of the engines of death with which our Navy is equipped exist but for the slaughter of human beings?
I do not for one moment suggest that the hon. and gallant Member would enjoy that slaughter. Of course, like every other decent person, he desires more than anything else to avoid warfare. But it is a lamentable thing that that state of mind should be induced. I noticed it again in the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty to-day. It seems to me extraordinary that the hon. and gallant Member can really think it would be a good thing to spend our treasure and to deny ourselves necessary social services in order to build battleships because they would give employment. Have we not got other work we can find for people to do? Would it not be more to our advantage to pull down the slums and rehouse our people, to feed our unemployed and to do the thousand and one necessary works waiting to be done rather than to turn these people on to the building of engines of destruction? It is a most fallacious argument that we should waste our money on these engines of destruction because they do incidentally provide employment.
The First Lord's speech commended itself to every layman like myself by its clarity and its precision. We noticed the glow of pride which he has—and very properly has—in the magnificent Service of which he is the head. One felt as one listened to him and watched him that he really enjoyed this increase in the Navy, because he felt that the Navy was such a fine thing. He went on to explain to us how the whole world would be pleased to think that the British Navy was becoming stronger than ever; and how it would make for peace and security all over the world when the nations should know that the British Navy was growing larger and larger. Then he broke off from that theme and began to justify these increased expenditures on the ground that other Powers were arming, too. Are these other Powers arming as a method of expressing their appreciation of the growth of the British Navy? 639 We know very well that the other nations are increasing their armaments for precisely the same reasons that we are increasing ours. They are increasing their armaments because they feel insecure in an armed world. Part of their feeling of insecurity is the size of the forces we possess; and part of our feeling of insecurity is the size of the forces which they possess. But I would not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for what I can only describe as a vicious and unworthy attack made by the First Lord on persons whom he indicated as sitting on these benches—persons whom he described as pacifists. I do not quite know what is meant by a pacifist, but if it means a person who desires more than anything else to keep his countrymen from the horrors of war, then I plead guilty to being a pacifist.
§ Mr. WILMOT
Then if we are all pacifists, there would seem to be little point in that gibe hurled across at these benches by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He accuses us, and I think it is time that this issue was faced. We have heard this over and over again in this House. The First Lord gave tongue to it in a very eloquent and somewhat vicious form. He said we were exhibiting and exploiting the horrors of war and the material and human wreckage of the last War in order to prove that the present Government were a Government of warmongers.
Is it not true? The hon. Member goes round saying that this Government is going against the League of Nations, and that if it goes on it will bring war? He has said it in my own constituency. That is what the First Lord was referring to.
§ Mr. WILMOT
If the Noble Lady would make an exception of this evening, and just control herself for a little while and give somebody else an opportunity of making a speech without continual interruptions—
I protest against that. I asked leave to put a question, and the hon. Gentleman gave way to me. I put the question, and I invite him now to answer it.
§ Mr. WILMOT
That is precisely what I was proposing to do. I can assure the 640 Noble Lady that no rudeness was intended. I shall always be pleased to give way to her if she wishes to make a proper interruption. It is not interruptions of that character but her continual running fire of comment which, I venture to say, irritates Members—and not only those on one side of this House. The First Lord accuses me because I confess to being one of those who, in my humble way, in the Noble Lady's constituency and elsewhere, do make speeches which the First Lord labels as pacifist speeches. He accuses us of exhibiting the horrors and wreckage of war for the purpose of proving that the Government is a Government of warmongers. I beg to submit to this House with the deepest respect that if I or any other Member of this House sincerely believes that the policy of the Government is wrong, it is his duty to say so. This House exists for no other purpose. Let us be clear as to what we do say and what we do not say. I certainly have never accused—and no Member on these benches has ever accused—the Government of wanting to drive this country into war. I do not believe it, and, not believing it, I would never think of saying anything so preposterous and absurd. It is obvious that no responsible person who still has memories of the last War would contemplate for a moment without horror and loathing the prospect of this country being involved in another war. So let us not hear any more of that. I am prepared to say in this House for all to hear me that I am convinced there is no Member of the Government who desires peace any less than I desire it.
We are also accused of being indifferent to the defences of our country and of being very ready to applaud the actions of foreigners, and of being only too loath to accord any credit to the nation to which we belong. Really it is time that this sort of stupid calumny ceased. I believe that it is necessary, and vitally necessary, that this nation should be defended against all risks of possible aggression, and that every step should be taken to prevent our people being plunged into the horrors of another war. We do not accuse the Government of wanting war. What we do say is that the policy which they are pursuing, believing it to be a policy of peace, will in fact turn out to be a policy which will inevitably land the country in war 641 against their better judgment and wishes. That is a very different thing. If we believe that to be true, and we do most sincerely believe it to be true, it is our business and no less our duty to try to persuade people that it is true. It is the most dreadful nonsense, and most regrettable, that a Minister of Cabinet rank, no less a personage than the First Lord, should lay down his speech in properly introducing his Estimates in order to engage in an unscrupulous and irresponsible attack on the Opposition in this matter.
I want to suggest that the Labour party are not alone in their opinion of the Government's policy. I do not suppose that the First Lord intended to present the Labour party with a compliment to the extent that it is we who have converted to our point of view one of the greatest of peace advocates and a man who has done more probably than any other living person for the cause of peace. I refer to Viscount Cecil. Viscount Cecil has condemned in good round terms the policy of the Government as expressed in this White Paper, and he has condemned it for precisely the same reasons as we condemn it, not because he believes that the Government want war any more than we believe that, but because with his unique knowledge of foreign affairs of to-day and his unique experience in trying to hammer out solutions of the war-and-peace problem, he in his mature judgment and ripe experience has come to the conclusion that the Government's policy is heading us for war. And not only Viscount Cecil. I expect that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) will find that in her constituency I was not the only person to voice these sentiments. Unless her constituency is vastly different from every other she will find that all the leaders of Christian opinion are voicing these sentiments, that almost unanimously leaders of Christian opinion of every denomination are condemning this policy because it is likely to land us in war.
These things are not just based upon sentiment. In this matter it is the Government and the Services behind the Government who are actuated by old-fashioned sentiment. They are living in a world which has gone, a world which used to know the frontiers of our island 642 as bounded by the sea, a world which used to think of war in terms of professional armaments, a world which used to think of the Navy as an absolute bulwark against invasion. That world has gone and a new world has taken its place, in which the whole method, weapons and objectives of war have changed. No longer are our frontiers the sea. No longer can the Navy defend us from invasion, because invasion comes from the air. No longer is it possible to think of war in terms of armies and navies and trained forces. The objective of any belligerent in a new war would he the civilian population. Every man and woman, every cat and dog, will be in the firing line from the very moment that the war begins. These changes in method and in objective, the changes in the type of weapon from explosive to fire and poison, have imported into all discussions of this matter a change of the most radical and far-reaching character.
We say that the policy of the Government is heading us towards war not because there are these increases in the Navy, Army or Air Force Estimates. That is only a symptom of something far more serious. We say that the Government are involving us in a policy which is leading us towards war, because it is a return to the belief that security is to be found in the possession of great armaments. The whole argument and the whole justification for these increased Estimates is the size of the fighting forces of our neighbours near and far. If we are to believe that our security is only to be found if we are more powerful than our neighbours, we are forcing our neighbours to accept an inferiority which we refuse to accept, and by that very argument and justification we are inevitably setting in train a race in armaments. If we see that our fighting forces are inferior, according to our standard, to our neighbours' or possible enemies', and for that reason we increase them, is it not plain common sense that those who are our neighbours or those whom we regard as possible enemies, whoever they may be, will take an exactly similar view of ourselves?
We may protest, and I believe we protest with perfect sincerity and truth, that our intentions are peaceful, that we are building up our defences for defensive purposes only, but we cannot expect 643 foreign nations to accept us at our own valuation. They will take a precisely similar view of their position. They will say, and they will believe with equal truth, that their intentions are pacific, that their forces are required solely for defensive purposes, and because of this increase in our armaments they will immediately demand and secure an increase in their own. It seems to me that there is no escape from the logic of that position—that this increase, which we are now asked to make, will be inevitably followed, as surely as night follows day, by increases in the armaments of that catalogue of countries whose present armaments are mentioned as the reason for the increase in ours.
It is for that reason that we believe that this is a suicidal policy. It is for that reason that we believe that the Government are heading us straight for war. And we believe it because every lesson of history proves that it is so. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members say no. I see the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in his place, and I hope he will take part in this Debate. I seem to remember that he was among those who realised the menace of the competition in armaments before the Great War. He was not slow to appreciate the meaning of it, and, looking back on those fateful years, he has realised probably more than most others, because of his unique knowledge of the circumstances, that it was the competition in armaments, the endeavour of two great Powers or groups of Powers each to be more powerful than the other, which created the circumstances in which an isolated and comparatively trivial event started the conflagration which involved a vast part of the civilised world. There can be no doubt that competition in armaments breeds fear and suspicion, involves an insuperable burden of expense, and cuts away all hope of social improvement and reform, and finally exasperates and produces feelings of suspicion and hatred which are the ready breeding ground for every rumour and suspicion, whether true or false, fostered by those who have some vested interests in the dreadful trade of war.
We know that these are the circumstances which surround us. It is not because the First Lord is asking for more money to maintain the equipment of his 644 Navy that we are so perturbed. It is because we are now standing at the crossroad in international policy. We are now beginning to embark upon the broad highway of armament competition, and this is the first mile-stone. It is because we believe it that we conceive it to be our duty to inform our fellow-countrymen of the peril in which they stand. If the Government have some other justification for this policy, if they can show that what I have said in a humble way is wrong, let us hear them. But for the First Lord to endeavour to confuse the position by making attacks on my friends and those who think with them, and to do so in the sort of language which he used to-day, is to my mind entirely unworthy of him. I see no reason why he should not be prepared to give to those who disagree with him credit for intentions and integrity as good as his own.
Those who think as we do and who have a vehement and determined belief in the views which we hold would be doing less than our duty if we did not strive in every way we know, first to alter the Government's policy and then if the Government is adamant, to bring it down and to put in its place some other Government which will pursue peace by the only means by which peace can be obtained. We ask the Government to cease these individual competitions in armaments and to help in banding together all civilised nations who realise that the safety of a nation can only be obtained by the same method as that by which the safety of the individual has been obtained under civilisation, the method by which the safety of towns, counties and provinces have been obtained, that is by pooling your means of security, and joining together in a common determination to uphold the law and resist the aggressor. If the First Lord had come to this House and laid before us the considered opinion of all those countries who are prepared to support a common system; if he had shown us that their joint defences should be of a certain size in order to maintain their common protection, that would be another thing. But he does not come here in that manner. He comes here determined to secure for our country overwhelming strength. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"]
§ Sir ADRIAN BAILLIE
"Overwhelming strength" is surely a gross exaggeration, 645 We are only trying to contribute to that common pool according to our obligations. I would ask the hon. Member what we would have to contribute to it, if we followed his policy?
§ Mr. WILMOT
I am glad that the hon. Member should have interjected that query. [Interruption.] Perhaps the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will at least allow me to answer a question which has been addressed to me. This goes to the very root of the matter. Is it not true that the British Navy today is the strongest navy in the world, and is it not true that we are spending on the British Navy more than we have ever spent before.
§ Mr. WILMOT
The money is coming from the starvation of our unemployed people, from the burdens laid on the shoulders of the taxpayers, out of the market baskets of the working people. In every manner that is possible we are collecting taxation in order to maintain a strong Navy and while the hon. Member suggests that this increase in the Navy is for the sole purpose of carrying out our obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations, he is unable to support that view with a shred of evidence. Not one word was said by the First Lord in justification of any such belief. Where is the evidence that there has been any conference or that any understanding has been reached between the members of the League that they would request the British nation to increase its Navy in order to contribute to the common protection. On the contrary the First Lord cited fellow-members of the League as nations whose armaments were the reason why our armaments should be increased. It is as though I were to insist on carrying a truncheon because the policeman at the corner has a truncheon.
I say, in conclusion, that we believe it to be our duty to place in power in this country a Government which will seek peace by the only means by which peace can be secured. If we cannot include in the League of Nations all the nations of the world we have at least within that circle a sufficiently numerous and powerful body of States to be supreme against 646 any bandit nations which would break the peace. If the First Lord had come here asking for a contribution to that collective defence we would have supported him. When he comes here asking us to begin the dance of death involved in a race of armaments we say that we shall do everything we can to oppose him.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
The hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) suggests that the First Lord should have come to us to-day and asked us to join that band of nations which is united to preserve the peace of the world. Where is it? Is there a single great nation in the world to-day which is prepared to surrender its sovereignty for such a scheme as he advocates? Until there is such a band of nations I think, at any rate in the interval, we would be wise to look after our own security.
§ Mr. WILMOT
As the right hon. Gentleman has asked me the question, I would say that the band of nations consists of the member States of the League of Nations, France, Italy, the United States—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The United States are prepared to co-operate in this business, and I suggest that the Government would be better employed in implementing such an agreement than taking the one step which will make it impossible.
§ Mr. AMERY
The United States have refused to be bound by any obligation of the League of Nations, and it is perfectly clear from the attitude of the other members of the League that, while they wish to support the League in general terms—as indeed we do—and in promoting its good work, they are not prepared to surrender their sovereignty or the protection of their own security. Their actions show it. I should like, however, to go back to a sentence used by the hon. Member earlier in his speech which is typical of his whole attitude towards this problem. He said that the sole purpose of the Navy was the slaughter of human beings.
§ Mr. AMERY
In so far as I am a director of a company that builds ships and is glad to build warships if it gets the opportunity, I will deal with that point, but let me begin with the Navy first, and let me remind the hon. Member opposite that for the last 80 years or more a by no means unimportant task of the Navy has been freeing the world from the horrors of the slave trade.
§ Mr. AMERY
You want armed ships and armaments, and those who built those ships and made those guns were contributing something to the cause of humanity whether they biult them in Government dockyards or private shipyards. I will go further and say, as the First Lord said in his admirable speech, that the British Navy did more than anything else to contribute to the peace of the world in the century before the Great War. A vast rearrangement of the world took place in the latter quarter of the century. It was a period of great expansion in Africa and the Far East raising great international issues, and it was the combination of British moderating, mediating statesmanship with the irresistible force of the British Navy which enabled that great process, which might easily have brought the nations to war, to take place peacefully. If the hon. Member thinks, as so many of his friends seem to think, that armaments are the cause of war, let me remind him that, while sometimes armaments competition may aggravate a situation, it is, in the main, differences in ideals and interests, having nothing to do with existing armaments, which create mutual fear and mutual need of armaments. So long as armaments are in the hands of those who wish to preserve things as they are, those who care for peace, those armaments are essential to the preservation of peace.
§ Mr. AMERY
Yes, but if we had not had a strong Navy in the latter quarter of the last century we should inevitably have been at war more than once, in particular with France and Russia who were carrying on a very intense colonial and far Eastern competition with us. But for the strength of our Navy that competition would certainly have degenerated into war. It is not true that a race in 648 armaments always ends in war. A race in armaments may very well end when one competitor realises that the other is prepared to make greater sacrifices in order to preserve those interests or that security which it regards as vital. The end of the Franco-Russian-British naval competition was that we became friends with France and Russia. That race at any rate did not end in war.
It is true that the subsequent competition with Germany did end in war. The chief causes were not directly connected with the naval competition at all, but at any rate, great as were the horrors of that war and terrible as were its results, they were nothing as compared with the horrors which this country would have had to face if we had not had an adequate Navy when the War broke out. I would add that we should have saved infinite blood and tears if we had not listened then to the kind of arguments which are being advanced from the other side now, and if, instead, we had followed the wise advice given to us by Lord Roberts before the War and had had a force adequate to support the gallant little band which went to the front in the first few weeks of the War. Let us make no mistake about that. Armaments in the hands of those who care for peace, who want to preserve peace, are, in the present state of the world, the only sure guarantee of peace. The dream of the hon. Member opposite and others may be realised some day when all the nations are prepared to sink their sovereignty and come under a single super-State. But those conditions do not exist to-day, and it is deluding the nation and endangering its very existence to pretend that such a state of affairs can or does exist at the present time.
I did not, however, rise to deal with the general issue which was adequately discussed last Monday, but in order to support my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) in pleading that nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of the fullest development of the Naval Air Arm and all the air aspect of our Navy's work. I believe, with the First Lord, that the functions of the Navy and the Air Force are essentially complementary—complementary between the two Services regarded as separate Services and also within the Navy itself. It has been my experience to have had to plead the 649 demand of the Navy for the control of its own Air Arm before a Cabinet Committee a good many years ago. All I would say is that to attempt to settle matters which affect the efficient working of great services by a so-called impartial committee of Cabinet Ministers, who come quite new to the question, consider it for a few weeks, and then leave it, cannot be satisfactory. The tendency is to settle on some compromise which is probably unsatisfactory. Even worse is the fact that the question is then left to be fought out again between the Services. The real remedy to my mind is that you should have a Minister of Defence Policy over the Fighting Services who could come to a definite decision on these matters one way or the other, and, if there is to be some such compromise arrangement as exists today, make sure that it works efficiently.
There are one or two things I would say about the importance of the fuller development of the Naval Air Service. It is undoubtedly true that the introduction of aviation has immensely modified our defence problem. It has introduced a new factor, a factor of tremendous speed and power, which has created an added problem of security and which has to a limited extent, and to a limited extent only, encroached upon the monopoly which the Navy has enjoyed in the past in the defence of this Empire by sea. The area in which an air force can operate away from its base is very limited, and for every mile of distance from its base the weight of projectiles it can carry is substantially reduced, and in the last resort in all fighting it is weight of projectiles that tells. The area over which the air can dispute with the Navy the control of the surface of the sea is an infinitesimal fraction of the total water surface of the globe and can only affect in a very small measure those great problems of inter-Imperial communications for trade and defence with which the White Paper dealt so excellently.
There is more than that, however, to envisage. If the Navy has lost a certain monopoly within a narrow field, it has gained immensely in a new field of action that is open to it to-day or that will be open to it in the future. In the past the action of the Navy was confined to the actual surface of the water, and at most the shelling of the land a mile or two 650 from the shore. In future the air arm of the Navy will be able to strike hundreds of miles inland. It has immense new areas of power open to it. I would ask hon. Members just to think how utterly different the whole campaign against Turkey, whether in Gallipoli, or Mesopotamia, or Palestine, would have been if we had had an effective number of aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean in a position, as they would have been, to dominate the whole system of Turkish communications. Even when we are dealing with the problem of the defence of this island, I can think of no more effective defence against an attack from Germany, at any rate, than a strong force of aircraft carriers under the protection of a dominating Navy in the Eastern part of the North Sea. It is an immense field that lies open to the Navy for the protection and security of our Empire and our trade, and I urge most earnestly that nothing should retard that development either from the point of view of interdepartmental restriction or from the point of view of international restriction.
Undoubtedly we should aim at trying to secure a reduction of naval armaments by agreement. It was achieved on the occasion of the Washington Treaty, but only because there was no underlying political cause for competition at that time, only because there was no difficulty in arriving at a political agreement between the three Powers which were more remote from each other than any other three in the world, to stand in a position of equilibrium of security, as the First Lord so well described it. There has been a change in the underlying conditions, however. The ambitions, legitimate or otherwise, of Japan—I am not entering into that question at all—make her feel that the Washington situation is no longer adequate for her needs or her interests, and that change in the political situation will make it infinitely more difficult, though I trust not hopeless, to arrive at an agreement. It will make it far more difficult to arrive at any quantitative agreement, but I hope will still make it possible to arrive at a qualitative agreement, which involves a great economy of money at any rate, and eliminates some of those features of continuous competition in changing types which may have a bearing 651 on the psychology of nations and may contribute, with other factors that are already tending towards the possibility of an outbreak of war.
By all means let us do what we can, through the negotiations that lie ahead of us, to secure such measure, if not of quantitative limitation, certainly of qualitative limitation, but in those negotiations we are also bound to keep in mind the nature of our own needs. The value of the Washington Treaty was that it did give equality of security. Equality of numbers in an Empire like ours is less important really than equality of security, and there are certain needs of ours which put us in a very different category from other nations. I was very glad to notice that the White Paper laid stress not only upon our cruiser requirements, but upon the necessity of maintaining a fleet at the strength necessary for our absolute requirements, and I understand that to mean that we are not to be governed in future in these matters by purely numerical considerations and that our needs rather than the convenience of other nations is to settle the question of how many cruisers we shall have. After the war that figure was laid down, after careful investigation, at 70. It was cut down in the London Treaty, I fear without the same regard to our actual needs, to 50. I am not going to say that under present-day conditions 70 is necessarily the right figure. It may well be that the development of the naval air arm and other circumstances of the kind may fix a lower or a different standard. All I do say is that in those negotiations it is the safety of our trade and our capacity to aid the rest of the Empire at the moment of danger and to receive assistance from them rather than any other consideration that should govern the question of our requirements.
There is one other thing that I should like to add, and here again I should like to endorse what my hon. and gallant Friend said. It is true that the addition to this year's Estimate is only £3,500,000. It is perfectly clear that the Estimates before us to-day are Estimates for just meeting the situation under the London Treaty. The London Treaty has gone, with the Washington Treaty, and there are Powers, like Japan, which are, 652 so far as we can judge to-day, determined to set a very different standard. However much we may wish to keep that standard down, however anxious we are, both by our diplomacy in general and by such arrangements as we can make, whether in the Pacific or in Europe, to keep down the danger of war, we shall, I fear, be confronted by a very wide reorganisation and rebuilding of our whole Navy that will involve expenditure which ought not now, any more than it did 40 years ago, to fall upon the revenue of a single year.
We shall have to meet that need for a comprehensive reconstruction out of a loan, and while it is true that the last thing that anyone would advocate would be the building of ships that were not needed in order to give employment, if there were other things, as there are, that are needed, yet at any rate it would be some compensation for that heavy volume of expenditure if, coming at a time when there are millions unemployed and when there is a great need to make industry move in this country—it would be some mitigation of the burden imposed on us to know that it did come at a time which interfered less with the general business and activity of the country than at any other time.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Commander MARSDEN
I should like to make my compliments to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty for his very clear speech, and I may say that the very sparse numbers now in the House need not be regarded otherwise than as a compliment to him and to the feeling that the Navy may be left very well in the hands of the First Lord and the rest of the Board. After his speech I had to listen to two speeches, first from the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) and then from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), which really rather astonished me—the latter a speech from the party which last brought this country into war, and the former a speech from the party which is next going to bring this country into war, because it-was definitely said by the hon. and learned Member who was officially speaking for that party on Monday night that we should have gone to war with Japan. Further we had the Labour pamphlet, the one headed "Hit Hitler," which was 653 calculated to provoke almost certain war with Germany. That is the party which will take us into war again. The Liberal party has brought us into war in the past, and let us remember that the Conservative party has never declared war yet—
§ Commander MARSDEN
—and that is the party which is supporting the Government's policy to-day. All these speeches would have been far more appropriate on Monday night, but I would like to come now to the Naval Estimates which we are now discussing. Much has been said about the treaties. I have studied them personally with some care, and I cannot think that the House could think otherwise than that they were justified. The Washington and London treaties—if we take the five principal Powers, plus the Soviet Union—have reduced the number of fighting ships in the seven years by well over 200. In fact, if we take the ships which have been paid off or scrapped as mortalities and new ships as births, there has been a general diminution of about 30 ships a year throughout all that period. Those who claim that we are increasing our armaments would see, if they studied the figures, that the figures are slowly and gradually decreasing the whole time. To take the position in another way, we have been decreasing and decreasing while other nations in these latter years have been going up and up. We have really supplied to a great extent the figures which have made this great decline in the actual numbers of ships afloat. The time has come when we can no longer do that. One thing certain about most of the speeches in opposition is that the Estimates themselves have not been studied with care, because there is not a penny of expenditure in them which will increase our Fleet in the slightest degree. We are merely going to make more efficient the very modest Navy which we now have.
I understand very well clear statements. The Leader of the Opposition does not want anything—no navy, no army, no air force, and then proposes to wait and see what happens. That is what he as an individual wants and I appreciate that. That is what he recommends for his party, though the 654 party's own official policy is far more bellicose, but what I can never understand is that those people who agree that we should have some form of defensive forces disagree that those forces should be as efficient and up-to-date as you can possibly make them.
§ Commander MARSDEN
Perhaps the hon. Member will tell us what he means, later on. If I might offer one or two criticisms of the Estimates, I would say that I am very much perturbed by the enormous sum which we are spending on reconditioning obsolete battleships. The hon. Member for Aberdare was uncertain whether there was going to be a conference this year or not. I think I may take it upon myself to say that it is perfectly certain there will be a conference and a conference, I hope, with beneficial results. I do not know what will happen to that conference, but it seems to me rather a lot of money to spend on ships which are to a certain extent old ships such as, if I may take the extreme example, the battle cruiser "Repulse." She was completed in 1916 and cost £2,800,000 to build. We are now spending on reconditioning her exactly half of the original cost. I feel that that is a lot of money to spend on an old ship. It is all very well saying they are made efficient and up-to-date, but no reconditioned ship is ever quite the same as a new ship. If in the new Washington Conference it was agreed that the battleships of the future should only be 25,000 tons, or let us hope that the First Lord will persuade them to go even lower and have 22,000-ton ships with 11-inch guns, I suggest that we save this money now spent in reconditioning these old ships in the optimistic hope that we can shortly start a programme of building up-to-date warships.
The case for the Air Arm has been very clearly made out, and I cannot say much on that myself, because I have not had practical experience, but I am faced with some rather extraordinary figures. I think everyone will agree as to the efficiency of the United States Air Force. At the present time 71 of the chief ships of our Navy have 101 planes; 43 ships in the United States Navy have 355 planes. If we take the position as it would appear to be in two years' time, the British 655 Fleet will have 275 planes while the United States will have 600. When they talk about 100 per cent. efficiency over our fleet these figures must be approximately correct.
With regard to cruisers, figures, as the First Lord told us, are very difficult if not carefully studied. One is very apt to fall into errors unless one sits down and considers them with the greatest of care. The actual position is that with our programme of building and proposed building we shall have built up to the fullest numbers we are allowed by the end of 1936. As regards the other nations, if you take all the ships Japan has built, she has built to the last ton of everything she is allowed. We have not. We do not intend to do so. We are something quite short of it. How anybody in his senses can say that we are pressing for an increase of armaments when we are not building up to what we are allowed to build it is hard to understand.
The only criticism I would offer that is on the question of topedo-boat destroyers. In the last War they were the most useful boats we had. They had to do a variety of work. They were good for ocean work as well as for work in narrow waters. We shall be efficient in modern boats. The First Lord has made it clear that the total numbers will be there, but the fag-end of them will be obsolete ships which will have passed their prime. In that connection, I should like to ask the First Lord why it is that we have no smaller craft which can do in many instances the work of destroyers; that is to say, the coastal motor-boat type. At the end of the War we started a class of small fast boats known as coastal motor boats. They did very well indeed. They made some dashing attacks and justified being built. Then we stopped building them. If we look at this return of fleets, we find a large number of ships mentioned, all of which we have some built or completed, but no coastal motor boats. If you take the modern type of boat which the French have built and are building in some numbers, they will do about 50 knots, carrying two torpedoes and manned by a crew of four or five men. There is hardly an operation on the East Coast from Harwich to Dover which, during the War, could not have been carried out by this type of boat. 656 If it had been practicable to have hoisted them inboard and they had been present at the Battle of Jutland, I think the whole course of events might easily have been altered.
They can take to the sea in fairly rough weather. They are easy to handle, and, above all, they give officers and men great experience. I should like to know whether the Admiralty propose to lay down any such boats in the future. The First Lord of the Admiralty was very complimentary about the personnel of the Navy. I can only say for my part, and I think for my brother officers, that the Navy always was welcome around the coasts. The hospitality was lavish, and no doubt accounted for the large punishment list which the First Lord mentioned. We can always put our trust in our seamen if properly led, and those who have followed the Navy closely will realise the great change in outlook and discipline of the Fleet since the events of Invergordon.
There is one other point I would like to mention. Last year I suggested, and other Members supported me, that the time had come when the engineering branch should be represented in the Board of Admiralty and, further, given high commands in charge of dockyards. The old type was recruited direct and was confined entirely to engineering duties. These officers have nearly finished now. There are not very many filling senior positions and all will soon be retired or pensioned. There are others who are knocking at the door. They come in under a different set of circumstances and under a different system of entry, and I think the time is bound to come when these officers should receive adequate appointments. A memorandum on this, published in December, 1902, said:Every endeavour will be made to provide those who enter the engineer branch with opportunities equal to those of the executive branch including the same opportunities of rising to flag rank.Another paragraph says:The endeavour will also be made to find a suitable number of high appointments for the flag officers of the engineer branch.At the present moment, with one exception, there is no senior engineer in the Admiralty. There is rarely any such appointment available to these officers. That promise was not made to the existing 657 senior engineer officers, but to the others who now have risen to the top in commander's rank and will be coming on very shortly. A great opportunity may be missed by not making the most of these officers. At the present time they have arrived at a certain seniority and their hearts are not completely in the Navy, because they are looking to what job they are going to get outside the Service when they leave. Greater opportunities should be available to them not only from their point of view, but from the point of view of the Navy itself, for the Navy would have the benefit of these officers of skill and experience for a greater number of years.
I know the objections. I do not think there are any I have not heard, and I cannot say that I am impressed with them. The engineer officer is not called an executive officer, but he certainly is a combatant officer. You may land the chaplain, the paymaster and the doctor and the ship would go on just the same from the fighting point of view, but the engineer is essentially a combatant officer and has to play a most important part in running the ship in times of action. The other objections are entirely social in character. It is said that the engineer has no power to command, but any engineer who can take command of engineering ratings on a battleship and keep them in a state of contentment and discipline has a very great power of command. The other objections are that he is a technician, but, with all due respect to the members of the Board of Admiralty, I would remind the House that, although in the present circumstances the First Lord is himself a naval officer, generally speaking the three Lords of the Admiralty are not technicians and are certainly not qualified to give an opinion as to the disposition and handling of the Fleet and matters of that sort. The First Lord said last year that he would give the matter his sympathetic consideration, and I hope he will give us some indication when this can be brought about.
These Estimates are very satisfactory. I would only remark this about them. The Board of Admiralty has the fullest confidence of the Navy. They are men who have had more experience of war and are more brilliant than the board has had for years. They, however, have to 658 administer what they find. They have very little scope to expand, to discover new methods and experiment with new ideas. There is a little feeling that perhaps that the scientific side of the Navy has been too neglected. We have certainly not heard in any speeches so far, and I do not think it is in the Memoranda, anything that assures us that the fullest effort has been made to find out whether heavy oil engines can be utilised for naval purposes. When we look at this return of fleets we find that modern ships of other navies have this dual system of firing coal and oil. I am not suggesting that we have not the best method, but I think we might ask for some definite pronouncement on such a- matter. These are good Estimates. We have not had very much criticism of them, and I do not think there is much to criticise. I feel sure that, in spite of the attacks from various sides, the idea that this slight addition to the expenditure of the Navy this year is going to lead us to war or bring thoughts of war into men's minds is one that no one who has any knowledge of the British Empire will entertain. The ships of the Empire are included in this return, and the fact that we are going to stand by the Navy as our first line of defence and insist upon having a strong and efficient Navy will be welcome not only by the British Empire but by' every maritime nation throughout the world.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:for the protection of the British mercantile marine in the event of war, it is essential that there should be an adequate number of sloops for convoys.I am sorry that my hon. Friend should have spoken to such a restricted audience, because his contribution is one of very great value indeed. By chance, for the first time during the now considerable number of years I have been a Member of this House, I have been successful in one of these lotteries we conduct, and I have drawn a place in a ballot. It happened that the only Estimate that was vacant on the occasion when my name was called was the Navy Estimate, and, without hesitation, I gave notice that I would raise the question of sloops for 659 convoy in time of war. Like most other Members, I have still a very vivid recollection of the situation in which this country found itself during at least a material part of the Great War, when we had the weekly return of the sinking of British merchant shipping. The subject has always interested me, because, though I have never served in the Navy, I have been an officer in the British Mercantile Marine, and in July next it will be 30 years since I sailed out of the port of Liverpool as a marine engineer.
The problems of the mercantile marine have long interested me, and I never enjoyed anything during the 18 months that I was at the Board of Trade more than the duty, which I believe is the practice in that Department, which fell to me as Parliamentary Secretary of having the political responsibility for the British Mercantile Marine. Its problems have always fascinated me. The sea is a very big place which the ordinary man who is not interested in such problems does not appreciate. I sometimes hear men who have served in the Navy speak in the House of the necessity of having more cruisers to protect trade routes. That is unadulterated lunacy, for you cannot patrol the trade routes. Their length is estimated at anything from 70,000 to 100,000 miles, and a trade route is not something as wide as Whitehall. It is something a good deal wider. When you are at sea you think you can see everything because there are not any houses and trees. There is, however, that unfortunate thing the curvature of the earth, and the reason you cannot see things is that when you are a very short distance away the curvature of the earth obscures everything from you. Therefore, the patrolling of trade routes is impossible. That is the first thing we have to visualise when we are talking of protecting commerce in wartime.
We cannot protect commerce by patrolling, because we would want 10,000 cruisers with which to do it, and probably even then it would be done inefficiently. When we discuss the Navy Estimates or any of the Defence Estimates we say that the object of our forces is to keep the peace, if they can, always recognising that the Foreign Office is the first line of defence. If the Foreign Office fail, 660 and the armed forces have to come into play, our object, of course, is to win. In the case of a country which has no land frontier like ours the keeping open of our communications is one of the vital factors in winning. Unless we keep our communications open we are done for. The United Kingdom is in this position. We are peace-loving, not because we are pacifists in the least. We are not a militarist nation, but we are the most military nation in the world in that we have produced as good fighting forces as any nation, and we get them from all political parties when the time comes. Incidentally, I have never understood why the Socialist party professes to be the pacifist party, judging from what happens when they come to meetings which I address.
When we are discussing armed forces we hope that their existence will prevent war, but we also have to contemplate what will happen if there is war. This country is pacifist because we have great possessions. There is a certain measure of selfishness in the fact that we are pacifist. I make no bones about it. Our responsibilities for one-quarter of the population of the world are such that it is in our selfish interest that there should not be a war, and the fact that one-quarter of the population of the world comes under the Union Jack has meant peace for that quarter. The United Kingdom is pacifist for the same reason that every capitalist is a pacifist. No capitalist wants war, because it may disturb him in the possession of what he has got. Thus the proletarian is fundamentally in favour of war, because he thinks he may get something which the capitalist has got. This has a bearing on the case we are considering, which is the interests of trade. To suggest that the capitalist wants war is sheer lunacy. The first thing that happens when there-is a threat of war is a sudden depreciation of Stock Exchange securities. The capitalist is the most timorous creature in the world, and no war is ever a capitalist's enterprise. He has too much to lose if he went to war. In war one of the interests, not only of the capitalist, but of the proletarian, is that the necessary supplies of raw material are free to come in. Therefore, we have to do what we can to make sure that the ships that leave our ports will arrive safely at their destination, and, what is more important, 661 that the ships that come from oversea ports with the essential raw materials and foodstuffs that we need will reach our ports in safety.
We have to visualise two conditions. One is the condition which arose in the late War after the first nine months, when there were no enemy surface ships on the high seas. That was the condition that prevailed after the destruction of the "Emden" and one or two other boats, after the battle of Falkland Islands, when the South Seas were cleared of any enemy surface ships. The problem of convoy was a different one from that which would have prevailed had there been a large enemy force free to sail the high seas. If large enemy ships are afloat convoy cannot be conducted by small armed vessels. In these circumstances, large armed vessels, larger than any ships that the enemy may have about, will be requisite. That raises problems of some complexity, because the number of large ships of necessity must always be few but you have to have large ships for convoy because you do not know where any enemy large ships will be, and it has to be outnumbered very largely. Even in these circumstances, if the convoy is to be accompanied by large ships to deal with any enemy large ship which may come along, in these times when there are submarines, the large ship is not a very efficient instrument. Therefore, even if there are large enemy ships free, you will still want the smaller ship as part of the convoy force.
If, on the other hand, the large ships have the primary purpose of seeking out and destroying the enemy large ships, or, alternatively, of confining them in a restricted area so that there are on the high seas no surface enemy ships, but only submarines, then your problem becomes somewhat simpler. If you are to provide convoy for merchant shipping in order to avoid attack by submarines, it is not a very efficient thing to use for your convoy a ship that is either much too large for its purpose or much too speedy for its purpose. The battleship has a speed of from somewhere between 20 and 25 knots. For a short burst she may do more, but that is the range of speed, and the battleship is highly armoured, the assumption being that if it is hit by shells it will not be sunk. 662 Then there is the ship of high fighting capacity but not much defensive capacity, the battle cruiser, which has a speed of 30 knots. The ordinary cruiser, which is less defensively armoured, is not so large as the battle cruiser and is a ship of 30 knots or a little more. The general speed of the destroyer is about 36 knots. There are some foreign destroyers designed for higher speed, but there are certain risks in carrying destroyer speeds to high. Those who remember the experience of the earlier turbine destroyers, "Cobra" and "Viper," will recall that they broke their backs because the weight of the engine was far too great for the general structure.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That is right, one ran on the rocks, but it would have broken its back if it had been much longer at sea. When one looks at the Fleet Return and notes the almost colossal horse-power of some of these destroyers one realises that in some respects the detroyer tends, of necessity, to be rather a fragile vessel, and with the great mass of machinery which is concentrated in their hulls it is remarkable that they should be able to stand up to the seas they encounter. Then we come to the submarine. At best the submarine can do 20 knots on the surface and 10 underneath; and the number that can do 20 knots on the surface is very small. What is the speed of the vessels which are to be convoyed? It must be remembered that the speed of a convoy is the speed of the slowest ship in it. I imagine that the economic speed of the general range of cargo vessels is in the neighbourhood of 10 or 12 knots.
The hon. Member opposite who is going to second this Amendment and is more familiar with merchant shipping confirms me in that estimate. Their purpose is to carry cargo, and they do not fill themselves up with engines. To add 5 per cent. to the speed of a vessel it is necessary to add 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. to its engine power. Cargo vessels are, therefore, slow moving vessels, and it is obvious that with a convoy travelling at 10 or 12 knots we do not need destroyers capable of 36 knots, or cruisers capable of 30 knots, or battle cruisers capable of at least 663 double the speed of the convoy. The speed of the convoy protection ship does not need to be very much in excess of the maximum of the ships it is convoying. Further, one does not want a ship of very big hitting power if the enemy vessel is a submarine. We need a ship with guns of moderate capacity and of only small horse-power, because the speed is low. But we had to contemplate that at some stage of the voyage the vessel will be in the narrow waters, and there the troubles will begin to come into the picture. The effective range of an aeroplane for attacking ships, unless the aeroplane is taking off from a ship—and that condition I have already ruled out, because I am assuming a state of affairs in which the high seas are clear of large enemy ships—is obviously going to be limited. It is only when the convoy gets into the narrow seas that the problem arises, and there the defensive forces will obviously not be limited to the protecting ships allotted to the convoy. Nevertheless, it is obvious that one of the instruments of attach on merchant ships in convoy will be the aeroplane, and therefore the protecting vessel must have some defensive equipment against the aeroplane.
The ship I am contemplating—I have been trying to design it in my mind as I go along—need not be very large and need not be very speedy, but as it has to face all the seas that come it must be robustly built. Further it may at some part of its voyage have to deal with aeroplanes. We arrive for our purpose at the type of vessel which is called a sloop, a type which has been developed in more recent years. What is the modern sloop? There are about 34 sloops, according to the Fleet Return, in our Navy. They are vessels ranging from 850 to 1,350 tons, their speeds range from 15 to 17 knots, and their armament consists in most case of two or three 4-inch guns, as a rule an antiaircraft gun, and a certain number of smaller guns, including, I imagine, though I have not seen the full details, one or two machine-guns to deal with any attempt at boarding. There is the ship which circumstances have led the Admiralty to design in modern times. One of its functions is the defence of merchant shipping. It seems to me that it is a good ship for its job, assuming 664 either of the conditions I have mentioned. The main responsibility for the convoy must lie with the larger armoured ships if there are big enemy ships on the high seas; in the alternative case, with the submarine or the aeroplane as the only enemy, the ship I have described is the right ship.
It has this supreme merit that, relatively speaking, it is not expensive to build as compared with the great cruisers which we have been discussing to-day, and not expensive to maintain; and, if there are any pacifists interesting themselves in this Debate, it is essentially a ship which is not aggressive. Its whole function is a defensive one. I am not saying that such ships would not be quite useful where a vessel had to be sent up a river to deal with a spot of trouble—that is part of the day's work of the British Navy from time to time, always in support of the decencies of civilisation. But I am thinking of the utility of these vessels if that dreadful thing should once again happen—a great war in which we were involved with all our forces. In such an event the type of ship I have been describing would be admirable for its purpose. It is a purpose which must be fulfilled, because if we have neither raw materials nor essential foodstuffs then, whether our cause is right or wrong, we are bound to fail. Therefore, the convoy will be inevitable unless there is a profound change in all the circumstances, and as the convoy is inevitable we ought to have adequate forces to enable the convoy system to be carried out efficiently.
§ 8.30 p.m.
Sir JOHN SANDEMAN ALLEN
I beg to second the Amendment.
I have much pleasure in doing so. I think it is very fitting that a Member representing the largest seaport, at any rate the seaport that had most to do with the carrying of food and other supplies during the War, should be the one to speak in favour of this proposal. The special point in the Amendment which appeals to me, and I am sure will appeal to everybody whose attention is called to it, is the necessity for the protection of the British Mercantile Marine. We have had a lot of talk about pacifism and about the intentions of other nations, but this is a question of life and death for this country, and it is the bounden 665 duty of the Government to see that the nation is not allowed to starve. It is amazing what short memories people have. As a member of the War Committee of the Chamber of Shipping, I recall the dark days of the War when British shipping was being decimated by submarine warfare, and all were at a loss to know how to deal with it. On one of the worst days we decided as we came out of a meeting of the Committee—because the Press were there waiting for us—to tell a funny story and come out with a smile, so as to make the country feel that those concerned with this matter were not afraid. As a matter of fact, dark fear filled our hearts. The only confidence we had was in knowing that the British Navy was intact and determined to help. At that time, the question of convoys came up, and gradually the convoy system was developed which proved invaluable in a war of that kind.
I do not intend to lecture the House on the convoy system. We have had a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) who, in his admirable and versatile way, has given us a description of the system. No doubt when he was in the University of Liverpool he really learned something about the needs of merchant shipping. What is undoubtedly needed—I cannot help feeling when I say this that hon. Members feel this much better than I do—is that we must be prepared to protect our shipping in case of war. It is no use pretending that another war is not coming. It is a sheer piece of folly to sit down and say, "We must not arm because other nations are not going to fight." When we know that they are not going to fight and are disarmed, and when they do what we have asked them to do, abandon submarine warfare, the position may be different. We know that the nations whom we asked to do that have refused. The nations have refused to agree to our proposals to abandon submarine warfare, and that is a direct challenge to the Government that they should see to it that we are protected against the ruinous and damaging effects of submarine warfare.
We come to the question of how far it is in the interest of the country to have special protection in that direction. We all have the utmost confidence in the 666 management of the Admiralty. We know that the Departments are interested, because we have listened with the deepest interest to the admirable speech to-day of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. We know how well these things are organised in the Admiralty, but, though the Admiralty say they are watching this matter and will take it into consideration, I must put froward these suggestions which come from the heart of those who love the country and who have knowledge of the dangers to the merchant shipping service. We remember the wonderful service rendered to the country by those gallant people of the mercantile marine. Whatever else happens, I am certain that the Admiralty will take into consideration the wonderful personnel of the mercantile marine. It is true that there are such vessels as armed merchant service cruisers, but they are not qualified in the same way as ships which are specially built for the purpose, even though they are lighter ships. Ships which are designed and well-thought out to meet the emergency are better than ships which are provisionally adapted, as we had to adapt them in the last war.
It is essential that we should submit these points for consideration to our friends in the Admiralty, although I am sure that none of them can have failed to turn these matters over. As one who speaks for a great city, I repeat that the life of this country depends on the seaports of the country, and upon the goods that are brought into those ports by the mercantile marine. If there is any risk of the mercantile marine being subjected again to the terrible dangers of war, the responsibility of any Government who should neglect to protect them will be serious indeed. Whatever people may say at the present time with their beautiful theories, when the time comes the people as a whole will have something to say to those who may neglect to take care of the country's interest by neglecting to protect our food supplies, our raw materials and everything else that we need to keep life going in this country. This is a subject upon which one might speak for a considerable time, but I have only one or two more words to say.
I have referred to the armed merchant auxiliaries. There is an opportunity of 667 evolving a type of ship specially suitable for that purpose. We should study carefully what other nations have done. The French Navy have their colonial sloops, driven, I understand, by Diesel engines—I have to be very careful about these things, because other hon. Members know more about them than I do—and possessing a large radius of action. America have now adapted some of their ships for the same purpose. I feel sure that the First Lord of the Admiralty will consider these suggestions in the spirit in which they are put forward. They express the anxiety of those who are interested in the mercantile marine and their fear lest there might be danger. They express also the determination of the great city for which I speak and, I am convinced, the country at large, to support anything that is being done, any steps that are being taken and any expense that may be incurred for the safety of the mercantile marine and of the gallant men who did such wonderful service in the War.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I have very great pleasure indeed in supporting the Amendment. Anybody with knowledge of our great seaports, and who knows the trouble that we experienced during the War in regard to convoys, will thoroughly agree with much that was said by the Mover. I am convinced, in regard to the question of peace or war and also in regard to our isolation from the point of view of the transport of foodstuffs to this country, that it is absolutely essential that whoever has charge of the affairs of this land must give protection to the food supplies of our people. The life of the nation demands the protection of the men who go to sea, and who risk their lives to convey food to this country. They must not be placed at the mercy of any boat which may be on the sea with belligerent intentions. It is essential that our people be fed.
I am not going to express any opinion, because, if I were to speak too strongly, I am afraid that I should be expressing opinions that might not be altogether satisfactory from the pacific point of view. I am one of those unfortunate Irishmen; if there were any trouble coming my way, I am afraid that I should be inclined to retaliate. Therefore, I am not going to get into a warlike attitude 668 with regard to this proposition. It would be nothing but suicide on the part of any party which was in power, whether they were the Labour party or a National Government party, who did not give protection to the men who go down to the sea in ships, risk their lives upon the waters to bring food to sustain our nation, and who are brave enough to continue to do so in time of war. Theirs is a work of mercy. It cannot possibly be said that the mercantile marine are out with the intention of war. Their intention is to provide adequate sustenance to our people because we are not in a position to provide our own supplies of food. A nation which has to feed its people in that way must of necessity protect the men who bring in the supplies which are so essential.
We cannot repay these men—officers and seamen and men in the stokeholds—for their sacrifice and endurance, to which we owe so much, and for the magnificent manner in which during the last War they risked the dangers of the sea. I have never agreed before with the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), but I agree with him on this matter. It may be that the spirit of Liverpool, the University education that he received there, and the breezes of the Mersey, have done him some good. It is essential that this protection should be given, and, if there is to be any augmentation of expenditure, no money could be better spent than on the sloops which the hon. Member has just mentioned, so that the Navy may be able to give adequate assistance to the mercantile marine to which we owe so much.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
I would like to add my compliments to the many which have already been paid to the First Lord on his admirable speech in presenting the estimates to the House this afternoon. As regards the question of convoy by sloops, which has been raised by the three hon. Members who have spoken, I would say first of all how delighted I am to know that at any rate to-night on the Socialist benches the Government have at least one supporter of their policy. With regard to sloops, I would only say, with all due respect to the hon. Member who spoke about their being employed in convoy duties, that they are extremely small ships, with a very small armament, namely, only one four-inch 669 gun. There might be occasions on which they could be used, but it is rather ridiculous to think that the convoy of ships can be entrusted to sloops. That duty has to be performed, and always has been performed in the past, by cruisers.
I see that the hon. Member does not agree with me, but for nearly two years during the War I was constantly engaged in the convoy of ships, and I can only tell him that in the North Sea the convoy was continually being changed. Sometimes it was destroyers, sometimes light cruisers, sometimes the battle squadron and light cruisers, so that the enemy might never know what he might have to meet if he came out to attack the convoy. I have in mind the consideration that it is rather dangerous to talk about convoy work being carried out by sloops, because it might be that, not this Government, but some other, might think it a very good thing to build sloops at the expense of cruisers. It is cruisers that we want, and not sloops for the protection of our trade routes. So far as the Estimates are concerned—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
The hon. and gallant Member does not appear to realise that, an Amendment having been moved, we are now limited to the question of convoys.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Dr. ADDISON
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not seem to wish to continue his remarks on the subject of convoys, I would venture to interject some observations into the Debate. I cannot accept the attitude, almost amounting to an inferiority complex, which the Seconder of the Amendment seemed to adopt in his apologetic references to the Admiralty. The experience which I gained at first hand did not give me that august and awesome impression of their Lordships and those who advised them. Earlier in the Debate we had an intervention by the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes), which gave us an indication of the mind of the Admiralty, and which brought my mind back to those fateful days, to which the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) has referred, of the early months of 1917.
What was it, then, that certain civilians who professed to have no special knowledge of Admiralty matters were contending 670 for? I was one of those who did some of the contending, for it was my business, as a member of a Cabinet Committee of three, to say what this country should go without for several months, because Von Tirpitz and his submarines were so busily engaged in sinking our ships that we continually had to revise the tonnage that could be carried in our ships, and we had to revise it downwards. Every week or so we got a revised tonnage programme from the Ministry of Shipping as to what our ships could carry, because Von Tirpitz was sinking our merchantmen at such an alarming rate. What was it at that time that the, shall I say, intelligent civilian element had to struggle for against the Admiralty? It was the memory of those days, with others, which prevented my coming to that modest frame of mind which the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment seems to possess. It was the civilians who fought for months for convoys, and it was only after the dreadful experience of the 17th April, 1917, that the Admiralty finally surrendered and agreed that a convoy system might at all events be tried, as being less likely to be disastrous than what had been done up to that time.
This question of convoys was then, and I have no doubt now is, tied up to the policy of the Admiralty. We were told that, as the hon. Member for South Croydon explained so clearly, the seas having been cleared of the major ships, light swift ships were required for the convoy service, and the question was, where were those light swift ships, some of which at all events could be spared, or might be spared, for the convoy system? These light ships were denied to this country in substantial numbers for months because they were wanted for safeguarding those timid creatures that cost £7,000,000 apiece. It was because the battle fleet up in the Northern waters had to be screened by a barrier of mine-sweepers, destroyers, light cruisers, and goodness knows what, that whole fleets of little ships had to look after the safety of these timid monsters. They had to go out a long time before them and clear the seas so that these warriors of the deep might venture forth into the highways of the ocean. There never was a greater imposture in naval policy, in my opinion, 671 than this, and I hope that what is fore shadowed in these Estimates, namely, that more of these monsters are going to be built, will really be given second thoughts by the Admiralty. They immobilised whole fleets of the smaller ships; they seemed to be extraordinarily useless creatures. I am well aware of the usual argument—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman now seems to be making a speech which would be more suitable to the main Question.
§ Dr. ADDISON
With great respect, it was a policy of this kind which inhibited the introduction of the convoy system, and that is the point that I am making. The convoy system was tied up to this worship of the Dreadnought, and we were worshipping a god that did not serve us. The experiences of the War proved that the concentration of the mind of the Admiralty on these larger ships which required such a fleet of little ones to look after them deflected from the possibility of the establishment of a successful convoy system. It was only when desperate extremities had been reached by this country that that attitude of using too many little ships to safeguard these big monsters was finally abandoned, or at all events sufficiently abandoned to allow a sufficient number of the light cruisers, or swifter ships of a less capacity which, I believe, were often used, to guard the convoys particularly on the trans-Atlantic routes.
Therefore, as soon as I saw the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Croydon on the Paper I made up my mind that I would venture to intervene in his support, because the Amendment really touches a very vital matter of Admiralty policy. If the last War taught us anything as to the safeguarding of our food supplies, it was to a development on these lines, intelligently directed and no doubt supported, that we should look rather than to the expenditure of huge masses of money upon ships which I know from my own experience—and it was a very intimate one—called upon fleets of little ships in order to make their harbours safe for them. Therefore, while I expect that the hon. Member will not press his Amendment 672 to a Division, I am sure that he has served a very useful purpose in calling attention to a vital matter of major policy which, as far as I read the Estimates, seems almost to have been forgotten.
We are getting back to the same old vicious frame of mind which some of us had to fight so long, namely, the reliance upon these great ships, the continued practice of which inhibited the introduction of a convoy system only by which this nation survived the War. It was not the big ships, but the convoy system that fed us during the first seven months of 1917. It was the institution of a convoy system and all that went with it that saved this country. Therefore, for that reason I am sure that the hon. Member for South Croydon will perhaps derive some unusual satisfaction in being supported from this side of the House.
§ 8.59 p.m.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Lord Stanley)
I am glad to think that an Amendment which is of such great interest both to the Royal Navy and to the mercantile marine should have been moved and supported by hon. Friends of mine who are so closely connected with my own city of Liverpool. I think that there is no passage in any speech which has been made in this Debate with which I can agree more thoroughly than the sentence of the speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan), when he said that it is the first duty of any Government whatever their colour may be, and most certainly the first responsibility of any Board of Admiralty, to ensure the safe arrival of foodstuffs and essentials to this country and to prevent both those members of the mercantile marine who are responsible for bringing them here and the country itself from running into the great dangers with which it was faced during the last War. It has also given us an extremely interesting intervention by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison). I regret that he should have joined the ranks of those who are prepared to sing their own praises, great though the work may be which they did as civilians, at the expense of the Service element.
I do not intend this evening to deal with the past. I would much rather deal 673 with the future policy which the Admiralty proposes to adopt with regard to this problem. I am sure that the House will forgive me if I do not keep too strictly to the very limited terms of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). If you discuss the question of convoys solely as relating to sloops, you will only touch the fringe of it. If you want to get the whole problem in the right perspective you must bear with me while I deal very briefly, first of all, with the general policy of the convoy system, secondly, with the particular function which is allotted in that system to sloops, and, thirdly, to the number of sloops that are likely to be required. In the first place, I want to impress something upon the House which I consider of first-class importance, and that is that, we should never assume or anticipate that the indiscriminate attacks on merchant ships from which we suffered during the last War are in the future either inevitable or indeed likely. After all, the very strongest rules and injunctions are laid down against them by all the canons of international law, regulations with regard to the methods in which a neutral or any other ship can be searched, the conditions under which it may be sunk, and, still more important, the necessity for the ship that does the sinking to have complete responsibility for the safety of the crew of the ship that is sunk.
§ Sir M. SUETER
Is the Parliamentary Secretary claiming that the submarine can act in all respects as a surface ship and come up and board merchant ships, and give away the whole of her position? She has to act in secrecy.
If my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me to go on, I was going to refer to the particular article dealing with the behaviour of submarines which was included in the London Naval Treaty. I was going to say that not only are all these rules laid down by international law, but they were reaffirmed in Part IV of the London Naval Treaty, with a new article dealing with the action of submarines. It is true that that Treaty has only been ratified by the United States of America, by Japan and by ourselves, but the reason that the other countries did not ratify was not because they disagreed with this 674 particular part of it, but because they disagreed with the general scheme as laid down by that Treaty. It must also be remembered that in the last War Germany waited two years before she adopted this policy, and then it was only a policy of despair because it seemed to her the only way by which she might be able to snatch a victory, or at any rate obtain better terms.
I understand that now we are promised the possibility of the added horrors of indiscriminate attacks upon merchant ships from the air. There are no agreed international laws or rules in this respect, but there can be no doubt that public opinion would insist on the same regulations with regard to attack from the air as for attack by a surface vessel or an under-sea vessel. Therefore, I would stress again how undesirable it is to assume that this form of warfare is inevitable on any future occasion. To put it on its very lowest grounds, I should think that any aggressor would hesitate to mobilize public opinion against itself and evoke the vengeance of neutrals by an act of this kind. But, without being cynical, we have to remember the lessons of the last War. "Once bitten, twice shy." We have to be ready for any eventuality in the future.
I can assure the House that the convoy system would not be introduced at once on the outbreak of war. Even the right hon. Member for Swindon would admit that the convoy system has very great disadvantages, and it certainly would not be welcomed by the trading community until conditions had become so intolerable that they were prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. In the first place, you would get delay at each end. You would get delay while the ships assembled at the starting point to be taken up by their convoy. You would get delay by the ships arriving at the same port at the same time. You would also have the difficulty of the faster ship having to go at the same pace as the slower one. Therefore, the convoy system will only be introduced when the balance of advantage is in its favour and when sinkings are so great that the country no longer feels justified in allowing ships to sail by themselves but feels that for the protection of their crews the convoy system is necessary.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Am I to understand the Noble Lord to suggest that the Admiralty would wait before instituting the convoy system until so many ships had been sunk that the country could not stand it any longer? Surely, they are not going to wait until such conditions arise as occurred on the 17th April, 1917, when 34 ships were sunk one night. Are they going to let us get to that pitch before they start the convoy system?
Certainly not, but it will not be introduced in the first place. You will not know in the first place whether the ships are going to be in any great danger. It may be that it will be safer for them to sail by themselves. They will be a smaller target. The enemy ships would not know where they were to be found. If raiders were about we should have to institute the convoy system at once. It is simply a matter of expediency. We should be ready to put the scheme into operation but we should wait until we thought that the proper moment had arrived. Having got to the point when it is considered that the ships ought not to sail by themselves but should be protected by an escort, we have to decide what is the best form of protection for the convoys, and I think it is agreed by everybody that what is known as the general convoy is the best system. That is the convoy which has an escort ready to protect its ships from surface attack, from submarines and possibly from the air.
To attack surface vessels you must still have the cruisers, because any other surface vessel that is likely to attack the convoy would certainly be bigger than the existing sloop, and you would lose the whole of the advantage of the sloop, both in its mobility for attacking submarines and in its comparative cheapness and the rapidity with which it can be built, if you were building them so large that they could compete with vessels launching a surface attack. For dealing with submarines the best form of offence is the destroyer, but destroyers will be needed for many other duties, with the main fleets and otherwise. Therefore, we propose that they should be supplemented by sloops, which are handy and which, as I said before, are easy and cheap to build and are fitted 676 with anti-aircraft armaments. But the real defence against possible attack from the air must come from the general convoy system, that is, having the concentrated fire of all the ships that constitute the escort. If the attack comes from seaborne aircraft, that will necessitate a naval engagement, either to drive away the parent ship, the carrier, or possibly to sink her. If you are being attacked by land aircraft, you have to remember that the nearer you get to your own shores the nearer you come to the protection of your own Air Force.
I do not believe, looking at the matter simply from the practical and not from the moral point of view, that you are going to get this unlimited attack by aircraft, because they will have so many other duties for their aeroplanes to perform. While it is perfectly true that aeroplanes can go a very long way in a very short time, yet when they have got there they are unable to cruise about and unless they know that they are likely to meet with a convoy at a certain given place they will be ineffective. They will have made their journey out, and if the convoy does not happen to be there they will have to drop their bombs in the sea and make their journey home again. Nor do I believe that you are going to run a danger from these air attacks over a very widespread area. You are likely to find certain definite danger points and at these points you will either have to go by night or you will have to strengthen your convoy while you are going through that particular stretch of sea, and thus to increase the volume of fire.
I come to the questions of numbers. What numbers of these sloops do we require at the present time? I know that it is an argument that is freely used that we ought to build a practically unlimited number of sloops, because they are exempted vessels and, according to the Treaties, we can build any number of them that we like. I am sure the House will realise that, although one might not think so by the criticisms of the Opposition this afternoon, we are limited by the question of finance. We are only given a limited amount of money and we have to use it in the most satisfactory way possible. Therefore, we must put the provision of sloops into its proper order of priority.
677 In doing that, I would ask the House to remember two things, first, that our anti-submarine defences and devices for finding out exactly where submarines are are so very much better than they were during the War that we should want fewer protective vessels in the convoy. Secondly, that as convoys will not be needed immediately on the outbreak of war it will give us time to improvise protection by destroyers and trawlers whilst orders are given to build the sloops which we shall eventually require. It is obviously uneconomical to build ships of any class merely to put them into reserve. If we were to build an unlimited number of sloops we have not unlimited crews with which to man them, and the result would be that when they were built they would have to go straight away into reserve, because we have neither work for them to do nor crews with which to man them. The Admiralty policy is to build a sufficient number of these sloops for the many duties which they have to perform in peace time and thereby make a nucleus for war time requirements, and to give very careful study to the right type of ship to be built, the most suitable for the work. This will ensure a type of sloop which can be turned out easily and quickly in time of emergency. In a debate of this kind it is not very easy to give the whole of the details or a true picture of what forms such an important part of naval policy, but I hope I have convinced the House, and particularly the hon. Member who has moved the Amendment, that the Admiralty fully recognises that its main responsibility is to protect the trade coming into this country in time of war. They also fully realise the lessons which they learned from the last War and are perfectly ready and able to undertake these responsibilities.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I thank the Noble Lord for his sympathetic reply and other hon. Members for the attitude they have taken. I am sorry that our procedure prevents us carrying the Amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Sir PARK GOFF
In the first place as representing the senior dockyard I should like to thank the First Lord for presenting the Estimates in the most 678 satisfactory form they have been presented for many years. I am glad to see that the shortage of personnel is being dealt with by an addition of 2,000 men, and glad, also, from another point of view, that we are pressing on with the Singapore base. We must not shrink from facing realities. We in this country are to-day faced with two possible danger points in the world, one in Europe and the other in the Far East. Of these the most probable as well as by far the most difficult from a naval point of view is the Far East. If we were forced to face the situation of having to send the fleet to the Far East, thousands of miles from its home base, we should have to secure its lines of communication to the Far East. Our naval position in my judgment in the Far East can never be secure until the Singapore base is completed. The complexion of the world today would be very different if the Anglo-Japanese Treaty had continued, not so much as a guarantee for any specific object but as a form of mutual benefit and better international understanding between nations.
I am glad to see that the value of the capital ship has been recognised. The battleship is the backbone of the Fleet. Our entire naval power depends ultimately and always upon the battle fleet. I do not wish to discuss technical and expert points, but I do wish to discuss how this question affects the man in the street and the householder to-day. The first essential is to abolish fear and establish a sense of security and confidence. Now, when we have increased our Estimates, some little Englander is sure to ask why? It is time to bring home to every citizen in this country the vital part which the Navy plays in their lives and homes and to point out that if it is not strong enough to preserve our lines of communication starvation stares the people in the face. Before the Navy can keep our supplies intact it must see to its own oil supplies. The British Empire, unfortunately, only owns about 2 per cent. of the world's oil fuel supply. I believe that Burma and Trinidad are the only British owned sources of oil. For 300 years we have been the controller of the seas in all parts of the world, and if our communications are cut at any time we should be starved out in three months. We have to import three-fifths of our food and a large 679 quantity of raw materials for the manufactures which pay for that food. It is therefore obvious to everyone, especially to those who have travelled in both hemispheres, that we are entirely dependent on our trade routes. For years our Navy has performed the policing of the seas, and as soon as we reduced our Navy piracy again came out in the Far East, and also after a long interval the slave trade as well.
Our present position in the world is an outstanding example of what can be created by the influence of sea power. In 1914 we possessed the most powerful fleet ever recorded in the history of the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that at that time British sea power saved the world from military aggression. History tells us that aggression is always founded on weakness, that if one nation knows that she cannot face the armaments of another nation she does not go to war. On the other hand, there are those who argue from a different angle, but if it is true that armaments are a cause of war then we ought to have been continually at war for the last 60 years when the British Navy was twice as strong as any other two navies. Since the War our naval supremacy has very sadly declined. Under the provisions of the London Naval Treaty we accepted 50 cruisers to do the work for which at least 70 were required. With 80,000 miles of trade routes to protect I trust Great Britain may never again agree to accept such a position of comparative naval inferiority. To us the command of the sea is vital and it is the duty of every citizen to see that no Government is ever allowed to forget that. The number of cruisers we have allotted to us is entirely inadequate, and when the present Treaty expires I sincerely hope that the people of this country will insist on adequate provision being made to remedy that deficiency.
There was a controversy some years ago when the "gunnery" school said that torpedoes were no use and the "torpedo" school said that the gun was obsolete. To-day there are some who say that the Navy is obsolete, and those who say that the air is a very exaggerated menace. The real truth, I think, is that the Navy and Air Force are complementary to each other. Obviously, battleships cannot prevent foreign bombers 680 from reaching London. Alternatively, the Air Force cannot prevent attacks by foreign cruiser raiders upon the vessels upon our trade routes. The Naval Air Arm is just as much a part of the Navy as a flotilla of destroyers. Personally, if I were faced with the choice of the two evils I would rather take the chance of being bombed than the certainty of being starved.
I think in this country we ought to recognise—as they certainly do in America—the great power which propaganda plays in stimulating public support for our Services. No business can be carried on successfully without propaganda. And what business in this respect can compare with our Navy? I should like to see an active and vigorous campaign of naval propaganda started in the schools and throughout the country with the help of the Press and the British Broadcasting Corporation; and by so doing make the country not only Navy-minded but, what is more, Navy-proud. Throughout the world the British Navy is emulated as much as it is envied. Trade follows the flag, and wherever the White Ensign flies it commands respect as the emblem and symbol of freedom and justice. We can well understand and appreciate the jealous eyes of the foreigner when he travels from Bremen or Hamburg to the Far East and sees the Union Jack flying at Dover Castle, at Gibraltar, at Malta, at Suez, at Aden, at Colombo, at Singapore, at Hong Kong and at Shanghai. Well can we say:We sailed wherever ship could sail,We founded many a mighty State;Pray God our greatness may not failThrough craven fears of being great.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
This is the day of the year to which many Members who take a great interest in the Navy look forward with a good deal of pleasure, because it is the day when over your Chair, Mr. Speaker, the White Ensign is invisibly unfurled and even into the superheated and foetid atmosphere of this Chamber there comes a tang of the salt sea. I want to make a few remarks on the Estimates and certain administrative matters. Before I do that there is something I want to say. This is really directed to the First Lord himself, who made what I thought was an unwarrantable attack, in moving his Estimates, upon the party to which I have the honour 681 to belong. I want to make that position clear. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman quite understands what it is. The Labour party has no intention of ever allowing the Navy to become inefficient. As long as we have to have a Navy a Labour Government would see that it was kept perfectly efficient, and that its fighting power was unimpaired. What we should do would be to take steps to try and avoid war through the League and the collective system. The First Lord said that no Government had done so much for the League and that no Government had worked so hard for disarmament as the present Government. That is where I disagree with him.
I make no criticism of the First Lord himself. My criticism is of the Foreign Secretary and the policy which has brought us into the state in which we are now. If the Government has been working for disarmament all these years they have worked with peculiar unsuccess, because as a result of several years of this Administration we have got arising now this great menace in the East, to which the hon. Member has just alluded, and a great menace in Europe. We have been rather jeered at to-night for saying that we should have checked Japan in the East. All I can say is this—and it bears on the subject of the Navy Estimates—that as a result of not checking Japan we now have to build against Japan in the future because Japan has denounced the London Conference and demands naval parity, which will mean a great increase in Navy Estimates in the future. As far as Germany is concerned my great criticism of the Government is that they have actually encouraged Germany to re-arm. The Prime Minister himself at Lausanne first suggested to Germany that she should demand equality. Not only is Germany rearming, but business men in this country are supplying her with munitions for re-arming, with aeroplane engines and so on, until she has become a menace. We were told on Monday by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) that our friends here would decorate lamp-posts in the future. I think the people who should decorate lamp-posts are those who have helped Germany to re-arm for the benefit of the armament firms in this country. One curious thing is that although the Foreign Secretary's record 682 has been failure after failure, he is not unpopular with his own party. His very failure has led to the prosperity of armament firms in this country.
Let me now turn to the Navy itself. In the first place I want to echo the appeal made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Battersea (Commander Marsden) on the subject of recognition of the services which have been rendered to the Navy in the past by the great engineering branch of the Navy. The record of the engineers has been one long struggle for recognition. They first entered the Navy at a time when the engine was an auxiliary engine and the ships also had sails. At that time the engineers were looked upon rather as auxiliary to the fleet than as proper Navy men. They had their own messes; they were not allowed to share the messes of the other officers. That system was broken down and they became members of the wardroom with other officers. Up to 1903 they were not allowed to wear the executive curl on their sleeves and were not allowed to discipline their own men, or to sit on courts-martial. That system was broken down by Lord Fisher. The old ranks of Chief Engineer, Staff Engineer, Fleet Engineer, and Inspector of Machinery were exchanged for the titles of Engineer Lieutenant, Engineer Commander, Engineer Captain and Engineer Rear Admiral. Then we had the common entry system. But still they have not got full recognition.
Look at the flag officers' list in the Navy List, for example. You will find it sprinkled with K.C.Bs. and it is rare for an Admiral not to have a title of that kind, but very few on the engineering side have a title. I feel that they should be given some recognition of their great services during the War and of their position in the Fleet to-day, by being appointed on the Board of Admiralty and, say, as Admiral Superintendents of Dockyards. It would be a graceful act if one was made Admiral Superintendent at Devonport, where they all have started their careers. That question was raised last year by my hon. Friend the Member for North Battersea, and the hon. Baronet who sits for Harwich (Sir J. Pybus), and the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty then said that the First Lord would give serious consideration to the proposal. I hope that that consideration has been given 683 and that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say something which will give the engineers their due. It has been said that the Paymasters would object. In the old days the Paymasters were rather a sniffy lot. They used to look down upon the engineers, with their pockets often full of oily cotton waste. That has, perhaps, been overcome now. Let the Paymasters object. They are not in the same position as the engineers, who are part and parcel of the fighting machine of the Navy.
The other point I wish to raise relates to promotion from the lower deck. I wish to raise it in two different ways. First there is promotion by warrant rank, and secondly there is direct promotion to sub-lieutenant. The First Lord said quite rightly that the Navy to-day is attracting a different type of man from the sailor of pre-War days. The post-War Navy is attracting a very high type of recruit. A man of that type needs some opportunity for rising to higher positions, but his way beyond a point is blocked by the profusion of officers from Dartmouth, many of whom never get further than lieut.-commander. The lower deck man rarely gets further than the rating of petty officer, or the rank of warrant officer. Many people think that the Navy could be partially officered up to lieut.-commander by people promoted from the lower deck, via the warrant rank. That would save cost and would not bring in so many people from Dartmouth, who have to be compensated for being "axed" at the rank of lieut.-commander. Not being content with the present position many men decline to re-engage after 12 years and more than half earning their pensions and as men are not coming forward in sufficient numbers for promotion it has been necessary, I am informed, to take back into the Service pensioned petty officers and to retain warrant officers after they have passed the retiring age of 50. In the statement on the Estimates it is said:It is a long time since the advance in prospects of the lower deck was so good.Yet I see in the figures that the number of warrant officers is reduced by 100, from 1,125 to 1,025, although flag-officers and commissioned officers are increased by 151.
I want to deal with the other class—direct promotion from the lower deck. 684 The First Lord knows that in 1931 the Larkin Committee recommended the abolition of the rank of mate and that suitable men from the lower deck should be promoted to sub-lieutenant and given similar courses and examinations to cadet officers. In 1933 the scheme was in full operation, and there were 17 candidates from the lower deck before the Fleet selection board in the Spring. Of these 12 were selected and six finally obtained commissions at the final selection board. Last year, although there were 19 candidates, only eight were selected and only five received commissions instead of six, whereas under the old Mate scheme 12 obtained commissions in 1931 and eight in 1932. What is the result of giving these lower deck officers the same facilities as cadet entries for the rank of lieutenant? I asked the First Lord a number of questions a week ago, and I am told they gave him a good deal of trouble. But the trouble was worth while because these were the results: The answers proved that, given equal opportunities with the cadets, the men of the lower deck could be equally successful.
For example, at the examination at Greenwich College, in competition with officers from Dartmouth and special entries, one lower deck man was second out of 62 and got a first-class certificate, and the other five got second-class certificates, and none of them was among the 23 cadets, who got only third-class certificates. In gunnery one out of six got the highest marks of all the sublieutenants trained during the year and was awarded the Goodenough Memorial Prize. Here is rather an important point. Others got first-class certificates but not five firsts. So they are unable to get the maximum acceleration. It would be worth while for the Admiralty to investigate this matter. There must be some defect when an officer who gets four first-class certificates is only able to get a third-class in the fifth subject. For example, there was only one first-class certificate gained in navigation and one in torpedo work. It is because, so I am told, the ratings receive little training prior to their commission in these particular subjects, especially navigation, whereas the cadets get a good deal of training especially in navigation. My suggestion is that the preliminary tuition in navigation and torpedo work should 685 be given during the petty officer course at Portsmouth barracks so that the men from the lower deck should at least be allowed to start from scratch with the cadet officers. There is also the question of age. The average age of a sub lieutenant in the case of the lower deck promotions is two years higher than the average age in the case of cadets from Dartmouth, and that affects both the date of the commission and also of promotion to lieutenant. The curious thing is that the lower deck promotions have also lost four months as the result of an Admiralty fleet order issued in 1933. Originally in 1931 an order was issued which said that the date of commissions would be 1st September, and in 1933 six who were promoted to sub-lieutenant had their commissions dated 1st September, 1933, but as the result of the further order the date was altered to 1st January, 1934, with the result that they have lost four months in seniority and four months in age which is an important matter.
On the whole the scheme seems to be working well, but I would put before the First Lord the need to increase the number of promotions from the lower deck. In 1931 the number was 12; in 1932 it was eight; in 1933 it was six, and last year it was only five, while on the engineering side we have the miserable total of four for each year. At the same time the number of entries from Dartmouth and of special entries has increased during that time. I submit that the lower deck men are not getting the chance which they ought to have. Personally I feel, though probably the First Lord will disagree with me in this, that the main way of entry into the Navy should be by special entry from the public schools and secondary schools, supplemented by promotions from the lower deck, and that the entries from Dartmouth should be abolished altogether. That is the view of a good many naval men. It is no new suggestion I know. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in 1912 when First Lord of the Admiralty said:These are the days when the Navy which is the great national service should be opened more broadly to the people as a whole. … We have thought them well over and we are agreed in believing that there are no difficulties which in the public interest cannot and ought not to be overcome." 686 —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1912; col. 1570, Vol. 35.]I would like to see the Navy a fully democratic service. I want to see the men on the lower deck having a fair chance to rise to the highest positions in the Navy. Why should they stop at the rank of Lieutenant-Commander? Why not let them go on to attain flag rank? In the olden days we had Admirals like Sir Christopher Mings, Sir Cloudsley Shovel and Admiral Benbow who came from humble ranks in society. We feel that if the Navy is to be great in the future, every boy in an elementary school should have the opportunity of becoming the Nelson or the Sir Roger Keyes of the future.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN PYBUS
I make no apology for adding a few words to what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Battersea (Commander Marsden) and the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) regarding the status of engineer officers in the Royal Navy. We raised this question last year, and the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty then gave us the following answer:My right hon. Friend the First Lord wishes me to say what I am sure everyone connected with the Navy knows already, namely, that he fully recognises the fine qualities and invaluable services of the engineering branch of the Navy and will certainly give the most serious consideration to the points that have been raised by my two hon. Friends."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1934; cols. 157–8, Vol. 287.]A year has now passed and we are anxious to know the result of that year's serious consideration. The issue is well known to the Admiralty and to serving officers in the Navy and to all engineers, who like myself, are proud of their profession and who wish to see it properly recognised in whatever service it may be engaged. It may not be known to hon. Members that there is at present a definite limit of promotion above which the engineer officer cannot rise. However distinguished he may be in his profession, however valiant he may have proved himself in the last War, he is debarred from ever attaining the highest positions in the service. Under the present regulations he cannot occupy a seat on the Board of Admiralty. He cannot even command a naval dockyard 687 which, as we all know, is to-day in the main one vast engineering workshop, in which the engineering craftsman and the engineer officers are the vitally important units of the personnel.
I cannot understand the discrepancy between the Army and the Navy in this respect. In the Army, for instance, there was a private soldier named Robertson who enlisted long before the Great War and he became Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson, who took a great and glorious part in defending this country during the War. Then we know that an engineer subaltern became Field-Marshal Lord Nicholson and Chief of the Staff of the British Army. It is difficult to understand why there is this distinction between the two Services. I sometimes think it is a relic of the old days of the sailing ship, when a glorified donkey engine, attended by a grubby man, whose uniform was a suit of dungarees with a few brass buttons, spat out smoke and smuts, and besmirched the spotless decks, and in consequence the engineer was regarded as a very inferior being indeed.
Engineers are very grateful to Admiral Lord Fisher, who was big enough to break down that tradition. It is said that when the discussions on the question were going on a certain admiral said: "Keep them down in the pit." But Lord Fisher had far too much knowledge of the splendid personnel down in the pit to neglect them. I remember when as an engineer I had the honour of working on the first Dreadnought that was built, Lord Fisher came to the works to encourage us to complete it in the shortest possible time and he said that in his opinion the future of the Navy would depend on the craftsmanship and engineering skill which could be secured for its service. As a result of his inspiration, miracles were performed and that great ship was launched in a record time which has never yet been equalled in peace or war. We should like to hear the result of the year's cogitation on this question. I know very well that the hon. Gentleman who is, I hope, about to reply, and the First Lord himself would be only too glad to be able to announce to-night that the engineer officer is to have this obstacle removed from his power to rise to the top of his profession, but if it is impossible for the First 688 Lord to reply favourably, then I think the House is entitled to have good and solid reasons why it cannot be done. We do not want to hear any more—we have heard it so often—that if you gave this right to rise to the engineer officer, you would have to give it to the paymaster, the doctor, and all the rest of them. If that is standing in the way, by all means let us give it to the paymaster, the doctor, and the others, and let the best man win.
There is one other point which I wish to raise, and that is the position of the Port of Harwich. Before the War it was a great naval station for destroyers and other craft. That port played a very great and honourable part in the War. As I look from my windows on to the River Thames, I see what are known as C.M.Bs. manufactured for foreign Powers, some of whom we consider not in any way to reach the intelligence of our own country. I see the C.M.Bs. incredibly fast and capable of carrying torpedo tubes, depth charges, and light guns, and in every way cheap and efficient fighting machines, and I would suggest that if and when it becomes necessary to come back to Harwich, nothing could be better than a number of these C.M.Bs. safely housed in bombproof shelters and ready for art emergency should it again arise. Harwich stands proudly in history—it will do so again.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander TUFNELL
It is with some diffidence that I enter upon this discussion in the presence of so many experts, but I do so because I had the good fortune to draw a place in the ballot to draw attention to the question of aircraft. I wish to draw attention to the vital necessity of the fleet air arm to the Navy, because I believe that with the advantages of modern science it is essential from every point of view, and I would like to add my congratulations to the First Lord of the Admiralty on the way in which he has advanced the place of aircraft in the Navy. After all, the small increase of £530,000 is a very small increase that cannot in any way be called excessive or aggressive, especially in view of the fact that Japan has 200 and the United States of America 500, while we have a bare 150. But it is a good thing that recognition is being given to this service 689 and that we are to have improvements in the aircraft with the Fleet, efficient flying boats for patrol work, old planes renewed, and an increase of pilots.
I hope that in the pilots which will be added to the Fleet the naval personnel will be greatly encouraged, especially in view of the fact that we hope the recommendations of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir E. Keyes) will be followed up, that is to say, that the Navy will have full control of the aircraft under its command. If we have members of the Navy added to the flying force I hope we shall have a flying force that understands the personality of the naval men who are commanding it. It is essential that control of the aircraft should be kept by the Navy, so that they can go on with confidence, co-operating and controlling the aircraft under its command. There is no doubt about the added efficiency which this very important weapon gives to the battle fleet, as was shown during and since the War. The aircraft are the eyes of the Fleet and add greatly to the efficiency of long-range gun firing, which is what you want. The hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) asked what was the use of these big guns. The answer is obvious; it is that these guns are required for the defence of the country.
Again, if I may add another point which occurs to me, I am very glad to see that so many capital ships are being fitted with catapult machines, so that they can transport the aircraft to the locality where it is required and so that some of these ships will have a chance of being independent of the vulnerability of aircraft carriers. There is no doubt that not only is an efficient air arm of great use to the battle fleet, but it is invaluable for scouting and patrol work and for locating submarines. We must remember, as has been pointed out during the Debate to-night, that we have a great responsibility in defending and maintaining all the avenues and sources of supplies for this country against the dangers which the merchant ships have to run in bringing food supplies to us and the oil supplies which are necessary for the mobility of our ships and aeroplanes, and also the transport of the raw material which is so necessary for the very life-blood of our nation and for keeping the wheels of industry going. 690 In all these matters of maintaining and keeping the sources for the supplies coming to this country, there is no better auxiliary way of helping to make more efficient the certainty of these ways than by means of aircraft. It may be remembered that that famous admiral Lord Jellicoe said that during the War the removal of aircraft from a certain patrol owing to it being wanted elsewhere caused a very great increase in the sinking in that particular area. If that was true then, when aeroplanes were in their infancy, how much more true would it be to-day?
Before the War I believe that we had subsidies given to merchant ships which were capable of carrying light guns for defence in time of emergency. Why cannot a similar idea we adopted to-day and subsidies given to those merchant ships which are prepared to fit themselves with catapult machines for carrying one or two aeroplanes in case of emergency? should ever such a horrible emergency arise, those merchant ships would be of the greatest service for convoy and patrol work. I would again remind the House of the vessels which were required at the end of the War in order to keep the convoy system an efficient service. At that time we required 2,698 vessels of different types, 50 airships, and 194 aircraft; and if we were suddenly called on to inaugurate a convoy system similar to that, I doubt whether we should be able to get even 50 per cent. of those vessels to carry out this job efficiently. When we think of our present defences, of battleships which are out of date, of insufficient destroyers and cruisers, how are we to make our contribution to the peace of the world? Our opinions can carry no weight, and we are unable to remove that insecure feeling which is existing among the nations of the world. For that reason I welcome this opportunity of being able to draw attention to this important weapon as being one of the most economic methods of bringing our Fleet up to adequate defensive strength.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. CLEARY
It is evident from the First Lord's speech to-night, and from the general attacks made on the policy represented on these benches, that the Government has been shocked into the recognition that recent declarations of its policy on arms are contrary to the 691 feeling of public opinion. Public indignation and mass resentment have expressed themselves, and we have been accused of using and abusing the great policy of peace. The reply, I think, is that it is merely a fact that Labour policy coincides with public opinion and feeling at the moment upon the great issues of peace and war and international relationships. On the question of the Estimates before the House I want to suggest that, in spite of the fact that the Government must be aware of the way in which its policy is contrary to public opinion, no arguments have been advanced to-night which would give us any hope that the Government had realised the shock which had been inflicted on us in the White Paper and further expressed in these Estimates.
Is not the Navy still absolutely supreme? Can it be stated that there is any other country possessing naval power which is a serious rival or which is a comparable power to that possessed by this country? It is, I think, an incontrovertible fact that the British Navy is still the strongest, greatest and most powerful Navy in the world. That being a fact, we can surely afford to look at the position from that point of view. The arguments of the First Lord and of other hon. Members would lead us to believe that we have over a period of recent years been pursuing a policy of impoverishing the naval strength of this country in particular and of our armed strength generally. The Estimates show an increase of £3,500,000 this year, which means over the last three years that the increase is something like £10,000,000. In the last 12 years we have spent over £660,000,000 on naval purposes. Since the War the cost of armaments has been £2,000,000,000, and half of that has been spent on the Navy Estimates. That scarcely bears out the argument that we have been leaving ourselves defenceless from a naval point of view and are justified in reversing our policy.
This is the culmination of a whole policy on the platform and in the Press which shows this evening that a sheer, stark reaction represented by Conservative policy has at last pierced the national camouflage, and led to a dominance of a pure party policy in the National Government which is expressed in the White Paper.
692 This increased expenditure on arms is in striking contrast to the Government's policy on the question of the social services and particularly the unemployed. We are prepared, apparently, to spend some millions of pounds on increased Estimates for the Fighting Services, and at the same time we are pursuing an opposite policy with regard to the building up of the manhood of the country. A constructive policy is being dismissed while we are prepared to throw up the sponge, give up the ghost and reverse our own arms policy. We point to the actions of other countries and declare that we must build up our armed forces merely because other countries are building up their arms, and we particularly make a scapegoat of Germany. The argument, therefore, is that this country, which has led the world in times past, must now merely fall into the ordinary pool. We must throw away our own prestige and the moral example we have set for we have become a party to a policy, the logical conclusion of which is the inevitable race in armaments leading to war.
It is fortunate that we have these treaties and agreements which have restricted the spending on Navy Estimates and other armed forces, for, having regard to the large expenditure reflected in these Estimates, one shudders to think what the expenditure would have been over a number of years if we had not been restricted in this way. Yet, in the very year in which we are witnessing such a reversal of policy, we are to have some kind of naval conference or conversations, and this country, in this year of all years, is to go to that conference having reversed its policy. While it may have added armed strength to itself, it will have lost that moral advantage and leadership which would have enabled us to ask the countries of the world to act upon the basis of disarmament rather than of rearmament. We are merely following their example and thus losing our leadership.
It has been stated that we must have the power to fulfil the obligations that we have undertaken under treaties and agreements, and must therefore rearm in order to have a certain strength. Surely we can start on the basis of disarmament and think in terms of that moral confidence, courage and assurance which can only come from giving a lead to the countries 693 of the world. It may be stated that we have done it. Are we to give it up? Are we merely to become one with other countries? We are going to rearm because they have been rearming. If we rearm we must arrive at a point when their comparative advantage will be cancelled out. Then they must begin to rearm further, and we must follow suit, so that we shall then have the logical and inevitable race in armaments, the unescapable consequence of which is war.
It has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) that armaments are not a cause of war, but that envy and rivalry are the cause of war. The suggestion is that those countries that are experiencing differences and are envious of one another should be given added armaments and that in face of differences, friction, rivalry and enmity, they should be given the added spark to the magazine in the form of armaments. In such conditions the only security we can have is that coming from the pooled forces of the nations of the world giving us full security. In other words, if we must have force, why should it not implement justice? Why should it not become a partner of a new international understanding and elementary right?
Lord Fisher's name has been mentioned in this Debate. He did, I believe, make the statement that the only ships which would be of any value in a future war would be those operating below the water. I think there is some truth in that, and having regard to the fact that we now have to take into consideration these two comparatively new forces beneath the water and above the water, the submarine and the aeroplane, may I humbly suggest that some real economy might be effected by a greater co-ordination between the Defence Services, such a co-ordination as would give us a comprehensive defence force and lead to real economy.
In conclusion, I would say that the Labour party, as represented on this side of the House, are not endeavouring to oppose the Government or declaring a policy of peace merely in order to capture electoral advantages. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If we are to talk about propaganda, if we are to talk about the using of certain policies, hon. and right hon. Members on the other 694 side of the House have used to the maximum advantage their Press and their platform to bring about the policy which is expressed in the White Paper and in these Estimates. An hon. Member asks "Where does the Press come in? It certainly is not with this side of the House. We do not have advantages in that respect which are possessed by the other side of the House. On the question of peace, the policy of our party, as I have already suggested, coincides with public opinion as we see it at the moment, and we are hoping that it will be expressed in a more concrete form in the space of the next hour or so. But at least it can be stated that it is perfectly obvious, from the public indignation and resentment aroused against the Government, that the expression of policy from this side of the House is likely to be accepted by the public in general at the present time. We are asking now for a strengthening of the arm of this country. It has been truly said that the trouble is that as each nation's arm becomes stronger fists become clenched, and when fists are clenched it is difficult to shake hands.
§ 10.23 p.m.
It is hard to know which side of this Debate to answer, but I wish the whole country could have heard the First Lord's speech and the answer from the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), because anything more misleading than the Opposition's reading of the First Lord's speech I have seldom heard. The First Lord showed that it was not a question of adding to the Navy but that the expenditure was simply for the purpose of keeping it fit, and I cannot imagine any Government, a Socialist or any other Government, not keeping the Navy fit and in order as long as we have a Navy. I feel that hon. Members, even the one sitting below me here, who tried to make out that this was the beginning of naval rearmament are almost wickedly misleading the country. We who represent the Navy—and though I sit for a naval constituency I have, I suppose, as strong feelings about peace as any Member in this House—know that although the Navy wants to keep fit it is the last Service in the world that wants war. The First Lord has shown how, in the past, we have worked for peace and are going to work 695 for peace in the future, but in the meantime we cannot allow the Navy to decline any further than it has done. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) said the advisers of the Navy were living in a world that was gone. He himself is living in a world that has not come. It has not arrived yet. When I heard him say that if the First Lord of the Admiralty were asking us for money for the collective peace of the world the whole of the Labour party would join in—well, of course, everybody would join in; but until we have a world with a desire for collective peace it is madness to try to make out that in keeping our Navy fit we are going against our peace programme, which has been carried on not only by this Government but by every Government since the War.
It is right that the First Lord of the Admiralty should point out the mischievous political propaganda of the Opposition about peace. It was only yesterday that I read that a responsible Labour politician, more responsible perhaps than anybody in this House, said that the Government were going back to the Tory jingoism of 1914. He must have forgotten that it was not the Tory party who were in power in 1914, but the Liberal party, who had worked hard for peace. In spite of their work for peace they got us into the worst war that the world has ever seen. They were perfectly right to work for peace. We know how Lord Haldane, after his last efforts in Germany, came back and realised that there had to be war. He could not come out and tell the country that then, because, if he had, Germany would have struck at once. He got our Fighting Services fit in as short a time as he possibly could.
Some hon. Members have said that we are taking this action alone, but the First Lord of the Admiralty has shown them what the rest of the countries are doing. One hon. Member said that if our policy were different, America would come into the League of Nations. I ask you: America has more peace societies than any country in the world. In every village and town there is a peace society. The President tried to bring America into the world court; he is the most powerful President that America has had, but he could not do it. If he could not 696 get America into the world court—we all know that she is not ready to come into the League of Nations—how can hon. Members take the view that England is leading the world back to re-armament and to a menace to civilisation by her attitude?
I agree with some of the things which hon. Members have said about the failure of the Government at Geneva. I feel that perhaps we ought to have taken a stronger line over Japan, but we must remember that Russia was not in the League of Nations at that time and America had not bound herself to come in. Suppose that we had started a war with Japan over Manchuquo through the League of Nations without knowing that America was coming in. We did not know what she would have done. She had not pledged herself, and she could not give pledges on account of her constitution. Russia was ready to do something; she had not spent all that money for nothing. When the Labour party talk about our failure to the League of Nations let us remember that their policy might have brought us also into the greatest war—another great war just like the Liberals, although not meaning it. I do not say the Liberals were wrong in what they wanted to do, but we know what happened in spite of their efforts.
When hon. Members talk about the League of Nations do they realise how many signatories are not keeping their pledge in regard to the embargo on arms? I can understand people who take no interest in world affairs and world peace making flapdoodle speeches, but I cannot conceive how any man or woman who takes an interest in world affairs and world peace can make speeches such as we have heard from the Opposition benches to-night and, what is more, we hear all over the country. I must say that if I were a Socialist I would jump at anything to get into power again. They are jumping at anything; they would jump into this peace controversy with both feet, thinking that they are going to sweep the country on our failures and their virtues. They have a good start, but we have not begun yet. Wait until we go to the country and tell them the facts. We can hardly wait to do it. I am starting to-night; I have never stopped starting. I have never stopped because I feel that peace, like every great 697 question, is far too big for any party to make party capital out of. I do not deny that at Geneva they have made many mistakes, but all Governments have made mistakes. The Labour Government which came before them made mistakes. Did not they make a mistake in telling people that they had work for all and full maintenance; that, if they got in, every man would either have a job or something better than a job—£3 a week for doing nothing? They made mistakes. I do not say that they did it intentionally, and I do not think that, when this Government have made mistakes, they have done it intentionally. If I thought that this Government or any other Government were working towards a world war, that they were not trying to give a moral lead to the rest of the world, I would rather lose my seat than support them.
We all know what efforts the Government have made, and none of us thinks that our Navy is really intended for war. I wonder how many hon. Members have been round the world and seen what the Navy is doing? I wonder how many have been abroad beyond going to a Socialist international, where they all talk to a few people who, as I say, are living in another world. I myself have heard people from all countries, and from the East in particular, saying what a feeling of security it gives to find, when they get out there, that England has her Fleet keeping the seas safe, not only from war, but from pirates and every kind of thing. Hon. Members ask what we have got for our expenditure on the Navy during the last six years. I do not believe you can tell what the very fact that we have a Navy has meant in the way of peace, and I hope very much that hon. Members, no matter how much they may fight in the country for peace, will not try to represent the Navy as a threat to any man's or woman's peace.
I am not going into the details of the Estimates. We have had questions about the engineers and certain other matters. I was glad to be able to agree with something that came from the Labour benches; I agree with the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) about the desirability of lower-deck promotions being a little quicker. I feel that the work done by a great many of those young men who come from Dartmouth could be done Very well by some of the lower 698 ranks, so that they might be more quickly promoted. I do not want to bore the House with details, but we who represent naval constituencies feel very keenly about these matters, and would like to say a good deal about them. I am very disappointed that the First Lord has not mentioned the question of marriage allowances; we have been talking about that for years. One bright thing in his statement was that he is going to give the chaplains more pay. I am sure that everyone who is interested in the Navy will think that that is a good thing. Some mention has been made of the American Navy, and I myself think that it would be a great thing for peace if we had the navies of the British Empire and the United States of America policing the world. I hope that some day it may come; it would be the greatest effort for civilisation that has ever been made. But it is a bad thing to try to compare navies; their needs may be quite different from ours.
Of course, there are certain jingoes in all countries. I do not know which is the greater danger, the jingo or the pacifist. A jingo is a man who sees everything wrong in every country but his own a pacifist is a man who sees everything right in every country but his own. There are jingoes in all countries, and when it is said that England has made the greatest sacrifices for peace, we ought to realise that, whereas the United States of America, which was very rich after the War, had a great navy, she was perfectly willing to come in with England and have a one-Power standard for each country. I have heard naval men from America talk about the great sacrifices they have made, but all naval people who have cut down their navies feel that they have made sacrifices. Nobody can deny that Great Britain and the United States of America by their Washington Convention and Treaties have done more towards peace than the whole of Europe put together. But at this time, with Japan going out of the League and out of the Washington Conference, with Germany out of the League, and with general unrest throughout the world, just because England wants to keep her Navy fit, there is this great yell about our Government going in for rearmament. I am sure that hon. Members do not really mean what they say. Hon. Members above the Gangway say 699 such different things in the country from what they say in the House of Commons. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh."] I know it. The hon. Member for East Fulham is one of the worst offenders.
From what one hears on the platform one would think that the sole object of the Government was war, and yet here hon. Members say that they know that none of us wants war. I believe in talking in the same strain in the House as out of the House. The right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley. (Mr. Lansbury) talks exactly the same in the House as he does out of the House, and a good many hon. Members do, but some of them do not. This is distressing to many of us who have seen the sufferings caused by war. [Interruption.] Some of you have made capital out of it ever since the War. We who have seen the sufferings of war know that the great need of the world is peace, that all sane people want peace, and that our very future depends upon peace, and to have to fight an Opposition who say that we are the people who want war is very distressing. I hope very much that tomorrow the headlines of the papers will give the true gist of the speech of the Frst Lord, and the reply. I know that we have jingoes in our own party, just as there are extremists in the party above the Gangway. Some of the speeches to-night make one believe that you ought to go on arming, but that is not the policy of the Government. Do not judge the Government by some of their back benchers. I have often heard people say that they do not want to join our party because of what so-and-so says. I have said that they speak from the back benches and not from the Front Bench, whereas in other parties they say the terrible things from the Front Bench.
The speech of the First Lord was masterly in every detail, and clear to all who cared to listen to it. We are deeply grateful to him for his conduct at the Admiralty, and, above all, for making such a splendid speech in favour of peace. We are also grateful to him for paying such a tribute to the personnel of the Navy, and saying how splendid are the men of all ranks. I wish sometimes that some Members of the House of Commons could get into touch with the 700 Navy, and that the country could realise its importance. If they did so, I believe that, instead of having empty benches to-night, we should have had Members all bearing testimony to the peaceful character of our Navy and to the splendid work it does for peace throughout the world.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
The Noble Lady always tries to make out that her political motives are beyond reproach and that the political motives of other people are highly questionable. She ought to give other people credit for sincerely holding opinions with which she profoundly disagrees. I am certain that the Members of the Government present will assure their Cabinet colleagues now that they have heard the Noble Lady announce that she is about to embark on a great crusade throughout the country in favour of a big Navy.
I never said that. I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the hon. Member has said that I am about to embark on a crusade for a big Navy. That is no more true than when the Labour party said that I called the unemployed a ragged army. I was referring to the orators of the Labour party and not to the unemployed. Nor have I said that I am going to embark on a crusade for a big Navy.
§ Mr. BROWN
I am glad to have that admission from the Noble Lady, because these Estimates are the prelude to a big Navy policy. Therefore, I feel entirely justified in saying that the Noble Lady intends to embark on a crusade in favour of a big Navy. I do not pretend to be an expert on the Navy or on naval matters, but I am encouraged to make a few observations, having sat here all through this Debate and listened to the experts. I find that the experts cannot agree on any single thing concerning the Navy. They speak with different voices. It may not be out of place if for a few minutes I make some general observations 701 on the Debate. I listened, as I always do, to the First Lord with a great deal of interest. I recognise quite frankly that he has a great pride in the Navy, that he is always happy when he can come along advocating policies which he regards as likely to make improvements in the Navy, and even an expansion of the Navy. I have not the slightest doubt, and I think everyone will agree with me, that he performs his task with ability and sincerity, and I confess that ho always disarms criticism by the way in which he puts forward his proposals. He brings both knowledge and imagination to the discharge of his duty. He sees the matter with which he has to deal very realistically.
I have heard him make speeches on this subject before. He sees this country as an island in the northern seas from whose ports there radiates to every part of the world trade routes along which ships laden with food are coming to these shores, while ships carrying manufactured goods are going out to other countries. He is always telling us that it is essential for us to have, I will not say a big Navy but an efficient and adequate Navy to guard those trade routes. I do not think that he was present when the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) made the statement—I am sorry that he is not in his place, because I do not want to misrepresent him—that it is not possible by anything you may do in the shape of building fresh cruisers to protect the trade routes. He said that that was an impossible task. He was of course advocating something else.
I was surprised at some of the things which the First Lord had to say to-day. He has every right to protest against being regarded as a warmonger. That is a legitimate protest for him to make. Everyone is entitled to defend himself against what he regards as misrepresentation, and I do not object to the First Lord defending himself against what he regards as misrepresentation. But he cannot prevent other people, quite sincerely, viewing his policy in rather a different way from that in which he regards it. I was astonished at what I thought was an attempt to castigate those whom he called pacifists. He told us that the pacifists in this country, among whom he included many on these benches, were 702 carrying on an unfair and unjust propaganda. He is entitled to hold whatever views he may as to what he regards as a peace policy, but he must understand that there are other people who do not take the same view as he does as to what constitutes a peace policy, and who proclaim their views with just as much sincerity as he does his. They quite honestly believe that this is a war-mongering government. The First Lord is under an entirely wrong impression if he thinks that this attitude of mind is confined to Socialists or to people who belong to the Labour movement. Most of the communications I get are from individuals who certainly are not Socialists and from organisations which have no sort of affiliation to the Labour movement. If he thinks that Socialists and those in the Labour movement alone constitute the opinion in the country which regards the Government as a war-mongering government he is hopelessly wrong.
I was also astonished when he turned his attention to a form of peace propaganda which he denounced vehemently, that is the form of propaganda concerned with pictures. He made a special reference to pictures which depict all the horrors of war. Is that all the First Lord knows about the cinemas in this country? For every picture they exhibit showing the horrors of war they exhibit a dozen glorifying militarism in its various forms. The First Lord is hopelessly wrong on that point. Again take the news reels, which are exhibited in cinemas. They contain over and over again glorification of war in the marching of troops, aeroplanes, and bombers, and yet the First Lord comes to the House this afternoon and tries to make out that all the forces in the country in the form of newspapers and propaganda are arrayed against the Government. Why does he do that? It is because he is conscious of the fact that in the country there is a large volume of opinion which completely distrusts the Government and its handling of this question, and nothing he has said to-day will remove that impression from the minds of the people. He may ridicule pacifist philosophy; he may be angry because of pacifist propaganda; he may continue to believe that if war comes again we shall emerge all right, and that after it is over things will go on again much as they have done 703 after every war which has been waged in the history of the world. You may call us fools, if you like, because of the pacifist propaganda we carry on, but we are convinced that if the nations cannot co-operate instead of indulging in periodic warfare then the outlook for humanity is indeed black and disastrous. I may say to the Noble Lady who challenges our honesty and integrity in this matter that we believe as sincerely in these pacifist principles we are promulgating as she believes in any of the forms of political propaganda that she carries on.
What was the main argument of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon in justification of the increased Estimates? He defended the increase solely by saying that it was due to what he called the state of the world to-day. Is the state of the world to-day something that has come about accidentally? Is not the state of the world to-day due to the activities of men? Is not the state of the world to-day due to the activities of statesmen and diplomatists? Is it not the men who are leading the nations of the world who, by failing to do their job properly, are responsible for the general state of insecurity which exists? WE cannot exonerate the right hon. gentlemen who occupy that bench from part of the responsibility for the general insecurity which exists throughout the world. The state of the world to which the right hon. Gentleman called attention is partly due to the activities of the Government of which he is a member. They are to a very large degree responsible for the growing insecurity. I entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that the ordinary people of every country want to pursue their work and live their lives in peace. It is the supreme business of statesmen to pursue policies which will allow the ordinary people of every country to pursue their work and live their lives in peace. That is their job, and, if they fail to carry out their job, then they should relinquish it and put it in the hands of somebody who would do it differently.
I want to make reference to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in presenting his first Navy Estimates in this House in 1932. He expressed on that occasion very great disappointment 704 that it was his misfortune to present the lowest Estimates that had been introduced since 1913. It was obvious then that the right hon. Gentleman had made up his mind to retrieve the position at the earliest possible moment. From what we know of him we are safe in assuming that he will not have been slow in the Cabinet in urging a policy of expansion and development in connection with the Navy. That he has met with no small measure of success is now quite obvious. For instance, these Estimates provide for an increased personnel in the Navy, amongst other things. I was very astonished this afternoon to find the right hon. Gentleman doing the same sort of thing as the Foreign Secretary tried to do the other night in connection with the Army Estimates. In trying to justify the Army Estimates the Foreign Secretary talked about the increase being due to the provision of better accommodation for soldiers. He sought to lead us aside by red herrings of that sort. I was surprised to find the First Lord doing the same thing.
Obviously these Estimates mark another stage in the policy which the First Lord has consistently pursued during his regime at the Admiralty. When he assumed office the personnel of the Navy was being steadily reduced. He promptly reversed the process. In the first year, it is true, he added only 146 to the personnel. In the second year he added 2,500. He now seeks to add another 2,144. Naturally his wages bill has increased, all his other expenses have increased, and he has added over £9,000,000 to the annual cost of the Navy. He has already done that during his term of office and he does not regard it as in any way out of the ordinary. That is the point I want to stress. Indeed, if the exigencies of the situation had not prevented him he would have done much more than that. He regards what he has done as a normal and necessary expansion. Assuming that he holds office for another five years and merely makes the same steady progress as he has made in the last five years, at the end of that period he will have added £20,000,000 to the annual cost of the Navy. He does not think that that is doing anything wrong. He does not think that it means a big Navy or that it is a process of expansion.
705 I remember, in the last Parliament, when he was a silent member, how very frequently there were attacks levelled against the Labour Government and their supporters because of high taxation. The right hon. Gentleman has already added 2d. to the income tax by his expansion and development of the Navy. Yet he belongs to a party which regularly tells us that high taxation is detrimental to industrial development and that it causes unemployment. I hear hon. Members behind me saying "Hear, hear." They are very familiar with that argument. The right hon. Gentleman is pursuing policies which inevitably mean that more and more taxation will be piled on the people because of the expansionist policy he favours.
I want to make a few general references. There was one thing that the First Lord said in regard to further development which struck me very forcibly. He said he did not want merely quantitative development of the Navy, but qualitative development. Then he talked about a process which he called achieving a sort of equilibrium in regard to naval construction. I confess that I found it very difficult to follow what he meant. Is it not inevitable that there will be constant improvements in technique and that this qualitative development is bound to go on? It is true that the right hon. Gentleman does not care if ships are smaller as long as their killing and destructive power is greater. It does not matter much about the size, if the destructive power is great.
When we are talking about this subject, I always think of the wonderful achievements of man in conquering the adverse forces of nature, in some respects and co-operating with them in other respects. I never listen to debates on the armed forces without recalling a passage—I am not sure whether from Sir Thomas More's "Utopia" or Bacon's "New Atlantis"—in which the author, writing 300 or 400 years ago, referred to a time when men would swim beneath the sea like fishes and fly through the air like birds. I have no doubt that when that passage was written the author was laughed at for his fancy but we have seen the genius of man, in his struggle with the adverse forces of nature, accomplish those two things. We have heard to-day in connection with the Navy of ships which sail beneath the sea, and about the 706 Air Arm of the Fleet. We have been told about aeroplanes in conjunction with war. We have been reminded of how man has conquered the air. I ask hon. Members, thinking of those two triumphs of the human brain, whether they do not think that up to now those two wonderful achievements have been prostituted to the basest and most ignoble of uses, the destruction of human life?
Am I not entitled to appeal to hon. Members, vividly aware as most of them no doubt are, of the terribly destructive power of the forces now under the control of man? Am I not entitled to ask them before we take this Vote, whether we are acting in the real interest of the people in asking the House of Commons to-night to vote additional money for His Majesty's Navy? It may be said that our propaganda for peace is not sincere. I entirely disagree with that statement. We stand for peace because we believe that if we go on liberating these devastating forces which man now controls, in the sphere of war, then the future of humanity is dark indeed. For my own part and I am sure I can speak for my colleagues I shall have no hesitation whatever in voting against these Estimates.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Sir EDWARD GRIGG
I do not propose to detain the House long but there are two or three points which I would like to put to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. I desire to put them more particularly because of the speeches which we have heard to-day from the benches above the Gangway—the last speech for instance and the speech of the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Cleary). The hon. Member for Wavertree made very free with public opinion and I think it is legitimate to remind him, when he speaks so confidently of representing public opinion, that he is very fortunate to be in this House, and that he does not in fact represent the majority of his own constituents. I at least represent a majority of my own constituents. There is a body of opinion strongly represented in this House and quite as strongly represented in the country which is not in the least anxious about these Estimates being too great, which is afraid, on the contrary, that they may be too small, and which is very anxious about the security of the country.
707 I am sure my right hon. Friend will not misunderstand me when I say that from that point of view this Debate has been very unsatisfactory. That is no reflection on the speech with which he introduced the Estimates. It was lucid, it was concise, it was admirably cogent in dealing with the point to which the more general part of it was directed, and it is natural that from that bench great attention should be paid to Opposition opinion, both above and below the Gangway. One cannot complain of that, but there is a danger that the Government, in striving to satisfy its enemies, may forget how strong is the opinion of its friends, and that in this matter there is in this country a very great anxiety on the part of those who support the majority in this House as to the present security of the country. This Debate is particularly unsatisfactory because in endeavouring to satisfy ourselves as to whether or not the increases in these Estimates are adequate, we have no broad plan into which to fit them. I can remember—I was not a Member of the House, but I listened to many speeches as a stranger in the gallery—that before the War there was a much greater simplicity about the introduction of the Estimates, because there was a broad pattern into which the two Service Estimates quite clearly fitted. The relations of the two Services were clear, and one knew exactly what the function of the Navy was and what the function of the Army was, and it was much easier for the House and the country to determine whether the provision was adequate.
Now that problem is immensely complicated. The right hon. Gentleman, when he introduces the Navy Estimates, is dealing with a subject which is overlapped by the duties and responsibilities of another new great Service, the Air Force, and because now we have three Services instead of two, and because the new Service overlaps the duties and responsibilities of the two old Services, we have not got what we used to have, a broad pattern of the defence of the Empire by which we can judge whether they are overlapping, and whether the responsibilities of the different Services are clearly defined and understood by each. Therefore, I very much regret that we have not had the general debate on defence which was 708 promised to the House, but which unfortunately became a debate mainly on foreign affairs. We are voting for instance in these Estimates, and I shall vote gladly, for an increase in the fleet air arm, but is it an adequate increase? It is difficult for us to say that when we do not know what the distribution of responsibility is between the two Services concerned and what is the plan of co-operation; and it is on that aspect of the duties of the Navy that we would particularly like to have some light.
One of the greatest functions of the Navy is to safeguard the trade of the Empire, and in particular the trade, the raw materials, and the food supplies of this country. That responsibility is now enormously complicated by the new force which has come into the world, the air force. It affects the problem of defending trade and of defending our ports here in the narrow seas and home waters, and obviously it greatly affects the problem in the Mediterranean and in the Far East. Yet I do not think that there is anybody in this House who has any idea of the broad pattern of our defence at the present time. I do not think that there would be so much talk—talk which the First Lord of the Admiralty quite properly castigated in his speech—about scrapping the Navy in favour of the Air arm if people had a clear idea of what the respective responsibilities and duties of the two are at the present moment. We are entitled to have some clearer picture put before us of the way in which the responsibility of providing for the security and the food supplies and the security of the trade of the Empire is being organised at the present time.
There is another point about the Air Arm which is, I think, causing some anxiety in the country. It has been dealt with to-night by the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) and other hon. Gentlemen who are much better fitted to deal with it than I am; but I am bound to say that I share with them a feeling of great anxiety as to whether the system under which the Fleet Air Arm to some extent comes under the control of another Service is a satisfactory system. I was glad to hear the First Lord of the Admiralty pay a tribute to the cooperation 709 between the officers of the two Services. I am sure that the good will is there, and that all that can be done by co-operation is being done; but what we would like to be satisfied about is the method, and I am very doubtful whether we have been wise in adopting the method we have adopted, and whether the United States has not in fact been wise in keeping the Fleet Air Arm completely separate from the rest of the Air Force, and under the control of the Navy.
There are two questions which I would like to put to my right hon. Friend. In addition to an increase in the Air Arm, we are to vote an increase in personnel. I am very glad that we are doing that, because personnel takes longer to train and have ready than any other element in a great Service; and, like everybody who has been interested for years in the Navy, I have felt for a long time that the personnel was falling much too low. Can the right hon. Gentleman satisfy us that, with the personnel which is now being provided, the mobility of the main Fleet is really satisfactory? If it were thought wise, for instance, to station part of the main Fleet, say, the battle cruisers, further East, would our present resources in personnel make it possible? That is a point on which, I think, there is anxiety. It is known that the concentration of the Fleet, partly in home waters and partly in the Mediterranean, is due to some extent to the reduction in personnel, and I think that many people would be reassured if we could be told that sufficient increases of personnel are to be made to restore complete mobility to the main Fleet at any moment.
The other question is this. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about replacement tonnage, and he had a controversy across the Table with the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) on the subject. Could he tell us exactly how much we would be entitled to build at the present moment if we built up to our full rights under the treaties in regard to replacement tonnage? That is a point which is not clear to me, and which many of us would like to know at the present moment.
I would end where I began by begging the Government to realise that there is a very strong body of opinion in the 710 country—I should say the majority of opinion—which is concerned about its security. We are just as anxious for the future of the League of Nations as hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway; we believe that this country and Empire are the mainstay of the League, but we do not believe that we can carry out that responsibility if we are known by other nations, and particularly by those which have repudiated the League, to be vulnerable, to be unable to secure the trade and the food supplies of this country, to guarantee the livelihood of our own people, and be in such a position that if we were called upon to take action in support of the principles of the League, we might find ourselves in deadly jeopardy. There is a very large body of opinion which requires to be satisfied on this subject, and I would beg the Government in this matter not to over-rate the agitation of its opponents. No doubt that agitation will be carried on strongly, because I am sure that hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, like other human beings, can resist everything except temptation. But this country has never failed to respond to an appeal to provide adequately for its defence when the facts were laid before it.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN WALLACE
I am entirely in agreement with my hon. Friend who has just spoken. The Debate to-day reminds me of an observation made by a distinguished Scotsman who was a Member of this House. After his first month in the House he returned to Edinburgh and met a friend, who asked what struck him about the House of Commons specially. He replied: "Well, the speeches there showed not only the variety of testimony, but the many-sidedness of truth." When I have listened to-day to hon. Gentlemen opposite who oppose these Estimates, I am more than ever impressed with the many-sidedness of the truth and the variety of testimony. I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), who assured the House that he and his party were in favour of keeping the Navy up-to-date. He must have forgotten his Leader, the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) would disband the Navy and leave the world to treat us as it desired. The hon. 711 and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), had he been in power, either with or without the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley two years ago, with an up-to-date Navy or otherwise, would have been at war with Japan over Manchukuo. I therefore find myself in a difficulty to find out where the Labour party stand in regard to Naval matters. I shall be glad if anybody would explain the situation for me. It has been claimed that the Labour party is the party of peace, but I resent the innuendo contained in that claim. If ever we had in this House a peace speech, it was that of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty to-day. We ought to make it clear across the Floor of the House that peace is no party issue, and that those who take advantage of the peace issue to claim for one party a particular interest, exclusive of others in that regard, it ought to be brought home to the country in a proper way.
I was amazed to read the other day headlines in a certain London newspaper referring to my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council as having made a warmongering speech in the House. It was one of the most unworthy imputations ever thrown at a highly reputable Leader of this House. It is not only from the Labour party that these innuendoes come. I suggest that the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) also contained an innuendo of the same character. He knows possibly better than I do that nothing is more fatal than to reason from a false analogy. What was his analogy? He said that in the past 12 years we had spent some £500,000,000 or £600,000,000 on the Navy, and asked what we had got for it.
§ Sir J. WALLACE
He also said that we had spent so much on housing, and, for that had got comfortable houses for the people, with all the amenities and charming surroundings which help towards a fuller life. We all agree about the value of the expenditure on housing, and he is labouring the obvious, but does he for a moment suggest, if he is going to carry out his analogy, that we should stop the whole of our expenditure 712 on the Army, Navy and Air Force? If so, he entirely forgets what was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), that we may have the most beautiful houses in the world, but that unless we can ensure the food supply of the country the houses are of little use to the people.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am glad the hon. Member raised this question with me, because he obviously did not follow my argument. My argument was that for an expenditure of £650,000,000 we had got certain houses, whereas for an expenditure of £660,000,000, far from getting safety for our trade routes or safety for our food supplies, we had a Navy which was incapable of defending our vital interests against an aggressor, nor of cooperating in any system of collective security—this according to the Government's own White Paper.
§ Sir J. WALLACE
I accept the statement of my right hon. Friend that that is what he said and what he meant, but he knows as well as any hon. Member, especially as he has been a Cabinet Minister, how very soon up-to-date ships become obsolescent. He stated this evening that in 1924 he himself voted for the construction of five cruisers—and was rebuked by one of the leaders of his own party—and he must deduct that expenditure from his £660,000,000.
§ Sir J. WALLACE
Because it was part of the £660,000,000 that was spent and he was responsible for that part of it. He is complaining that the £660,000,000 was wasted and the particular part of it for which he voted must be included. Surely that is obvious. We who to-day are supporting this Vote are taking exactly the same point of view about the country's defences that the right hon. Gentleman took in 1924. I fail to see how he can criticise the attitude which we are taking up at present.
I have only one further observation to make about the speech of the hon. Member from the Labour benches who spoke about personnel. He does not seem to realise—I am amazed at the point of view of some hon. Members regarding the Navy and about personnel—that the personnel of our own Navy is 37 per cent. less than it was in 1914; that France's 713 is only 16 per cent. less, that Italy's is 23 per cent. greater, that America's is 26 per cent. greater and that Japan's is 43 per cent. greater, apart altogether from tonnage? In my judgment we have gone under the safety line. I was very glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton made some reference to Rosyth and pointed out the geographical advantage of having it as a great naval base. He referred to Chatham; I am not in a position to condemn Chatham, but I suggest that a naval base on the East Coast of Scotland would be much safer and a much more advantageous strategic position—I speak now with great reserve as a layman—than a dockyard and naval base at Chatham. I am very glad the Civil Lord, who not only represents the Admiralty, but also represents me in this House, is about to pay a visit to Rosyth. Although his visit has no official significance, I am glad he is going there to see the position for himself. It is unfortunate that a dockyard on which so many millions were spent, situated as it is in a unique position, has to be maintained only on a care and maintenance basis. Even though it is not to be reopened now as a great dockyard, I press on the Civil Lord one point this evening.
I was in Rosyth last week and I found a ship there called the "Argus" undergoing under water repairs and repairs to the hull, and being painted. There has been a great deal of unemployment in Rosyth. My plea to the Civil Lord is that, after he has been to Rosyth and found out the position for himself, he should use his influence to send, if possible, more repair work to Rosyth in order to relieve the very serious unemployment situation.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
At this late hour, after a Debate which has been going on now for nearly nine hours, I am sorry to take up the time of the House, but as a naval officer I like to speak, if I can, on the Naval Estimates, because I have decided views on naval questions. As we are still tied down and restricted by the Washington and London treaties, the new construction programme in these Estimates leaves very little opportunity for criticism, but at the same time I shall have a few remarks to make upon them. We have not yet, owing to these treaties, 714 a free hand; we are not able to construct either the type of vessel which we really desire, or the numbers which are considered necessary. Under the Washington Treaty we have been precluded, like other nations, from any new heavy ship construction, but I am glad to see that the White Paper issued by the Government calls attention to the fact that the battle fleet is the main element on which the whole structure of our naval strategy depends.
There has been a great deal of discussion, during the Debate this afternon, with regard to whether a battle fleet is necessary or not. During the years since the War we have patched up to a certain extent our old battleships; there was no other course open to us. That course is never satisfactory, and it is always costly; and, the older the ships are, the more unsatisfactory and the more costly that course becomes. By the end of 1936 we shall have only three heavy ships under age. The United States will have eight; Japan will have five. France has laid down two battleships; Italy has laid down two; and they have shown, by laying down these battleships, that they realise the importance of the battle fleet. We, therefore, shall be placed in a very serious position in 1936, and it is inconceivable to me that, whatever the results of the forthcoming conference may be, we shall not at once proceed with building a new battle fleet to replace our old and obsolete fleet, as it is to-day. If we are to pursue a policy of renewing our cruiser fleet, renewing our destroyers, renewing our submarines, it is a very unsound policy that the main battle fleet, upon which their security ultimately depends, should remain obsolete and obsolescent.
It is obvious that it is absolutely necessary for us, whatever the results of the conference may be, to begin laying down the units of a new battle fleet at the earliest possible moment. The main point to be borne in mind in regard to these battleships of France and Italy is that they are our near neighbours. They are not separated from us by large expanses of water, as is the case with Japan and America; they are cheek by jowl with our battle fleets, and it is impossible for us to ignore the fact that they have started to bring into being a new and up-to-date battle fleet. Nothing that we possess can compete with the new ships that are being laid down in 715 Italy. We have only one ship, the "Hood," which can compete with the two battleships that are being laid down by France.
Our cruiser position under the Treaties is very unsatisfactory; there can be no question about that. We have been forced, due to the Treaty, to build 10,000-ton cruisers. We would never have built them had it not been for those treaties. They are too large for work with our Fleet, much too large for work with a convoy, weak in the hull and very ill-defended, and they are not ships which we require. In addition to having to build these ships, which we do not want, we have been restricted by the Treaties in the number of cruisers that we have been allowed to build. In addition, to make our position worse, we voluntarily reduced our cruiser force from 70 to 50. There has never been any justification for that reduction. It may be excused on the plea of economy, but from the point of view of security, there has never been any justification for this number 50 and there is no justification for it to-day. It is quite impossible for any Board of Admiralty to be satisfied that reasonable security can be given to our trade routes with 50 cruisers. It is not really 50 cruisers that they will have; 25 are permanently attached to the Battle Fleet, which leaves only 25 for the whole of the remainder of cruiser work, and it is with this number quite impossible for the reasonable security which we ought to give to our trade routes to be carried out.
I trust that the Government, when they go into the Conference which is to take place this year, will not go into it on the basis of our having only 50 cruisers, but on the basis of having that number of cruisers which is considered to be necessary for our security. Circumstances have not changed since the Board of Admiralty laid down a minimum of 70 cruisers, except for the worse. As the First Lord himself pointed out, in the last five years world conditions have become very much worse, and therefore if it was necessary for us to have at least 70 cruisers then, we certainly could not do with fewer now. I hope that the Government will go forward in building the cruisers which we really require, but not cruisers built up to the maximum 716 laid down in the Washington Conference of 10,000 tons because we do not want them; they are far too big for us. I realize that this depends to some extent on what these nations do and therefore I hope that the Government will be able to induce the other nations to reduce the size of future cruisers.
The deplorable state of our destroyer forces has often been stressed in Debates in this House. At the end of 1936, out of our 158 destroyers, there will be 102 over age, and of 21 flotilla leaders 12 over age. These numbers are small. In time of war their duties are very arduous and exacting, not only from the point of view of material, but from the point of view of the personnel, and the smaller the number of destroyers we have, the greater the strain which is placed upon them, and it is therefore absolutely necessary, if we are to have such a small number of destroyers, that they shall be as efficient and up-to-date as possible. For these reasons, I regret that the First Lord has not allowed in the Estimates for two new flotillas instead of one. In connection with the number of destroyers, I would draw attention to the number and strength of flotilla leaders possessed by France, and also the very large number of submarines. Those 32 flotilla leaders of over 2,000 tons, heavily armed with 5.5 inch guns, and of great speed, are a very serious menace in time of war. We must consider what other nations have got. There is nothing which we possess which can compete with those flotilla leaders, which under the London Treaty would be classed as cruisers. In general, with regard to the forces which we should maintain, the nations of the world realise perfectly well that with our world-wide Empire and our entire dependence on the security of our trade routes for an existence we are placed in a category quite apart from that of any other nation. They all recognise that fact. In 1929 the Naval Committee of the French Senate estimated the relative naval requirements of the five great Powers and took into consideration the following five factors: the area of territory, the length of coast, the length of communications, external trade and seaborne traffic. In considering those five factors, they came to the conclusion that if the unit of Italy was taken as one, the 717 units of Japan would be 1.6, France 3, the United States of America 4.2 and the British Empire 10. Taking seaborne traffic alone, the figures were: Italy 1, Japan 2.3, France 3.6, the United States of America 7.6 and the British Empire 17.8. There is a very clear instance of the enormously greater responsibility which we have in this country for the security of our trade routes and a justification for the greater strength of our naval forces compared with any other country. The United States of America, notwithstanding the fact that she claims parity with us, has always agreed that with our world-wide Empire responsibilities and trade routes we are entitled to have a greater number of cruisers than any other country. It has been suggested in the House to-day that if we are to maintain the forces which are necessary for our security it will be a menace to world peace. That is quite untrue and beside the point. There is not the slightest doubt that the nations of the world look to us as being the great factor for the maintenance of the peace of the world. There would be no alarm in the world if we were to lay down those naval forces which we considered necessary for our security and were to build them. I believe there would be a great feeling of satisfaction in the nations of the world if we were to do that.
I should like to ask one or two questions. One is in regard to the fuel allowances to the Fleet. That allowance has been cut down so much that the units of our Fleet are not able to carry out sufficient exercises at Sea. It is of the utmost importance that all the units of the Fleet should be able to proceed to sea and to gain that experience which is necessary and only capable of being obtained by sea exercises, for the efficiency of the officers and men. In the Italian Navy they have a flotilla of destroyers specially detailed for training purposes and every lieutenant of 3 to 4 years' seniority in that service does some months in command of a destroyer. They do the same thing with the submarine flotilla. I would suggest to the First Lord that it is a matter well worthy of consideration as to whether we should not follow the excellent example of Italy in this respect. It gives these young officers an opportunity of training in command, of exercising their initiative, of standing on their 718 own feet and taking upon themselves the responsibility for the safety of their ship. In no other way can officers and men of the Fleet be kept efficient except by going to sea and exercising at sea.
I am entirely of the opinion that it would be in the best interests of the Navy air service if it was completely under the control of the Admiralty. So far as the naval air service is concerned it is an auxiliary just the same as destroyers and submarines. It is a sea service and it would give an impetus to the navy air service if it was controlled entirely by the Admiralty. I hope that the First Lord will consider this matter and that as a result the Navy will have the control of its own air service. I am sorry to have kept the House at this time of the evening so long, but I feel keenly on the question of the Navy. I may have expressed myself very inadequately and poorly, but I feel that it is essential for the security of this country that the naval forces should be made efficient and up to date, and that the Admiralty should pursue a policy of securing and maintaining a fleet which is adequate for the security of this country and the Empire and the protection of its trade routes. If they do that I have not the slightest doubt that the great mass of the people will give full support to the Government in their policy.
§ 11.48 p.m.
§ The CIVIL LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Captain Euan Wallace)
My right hon. and gallant Friend the First Lord is sincerely gratified by the interest which the House has taken in the Navy. We have had a prolonged Debate, and no one will deny that it has been full of variety and interest. I am in an extremely difficult position in being obliged to rise at ten minutes to twelve to reply to the Debate in a speech which should at least occupy an hour to do justice to the many questions which have been raised, and I feel this difficulty particularly in the case of ex-Naval officers who have made a large number of valuable suggestions, based upon their own experience. If I am obliged to trespass on the time of the House at an hour when most of us would rather be in bed, I shall also impose upon myself a self-denying ordinance. There are a number of speeches which have 719 been made to-day which may not unfairly be described as "hangovers" from Monday, and, although it would give me great pleasure to take up some of the points in these speeches, I do not think that I need chase these rather wild hares, except to make one remark about the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair)—which I considered lamentable. I was particularly sorry that an old brother officer of mine should, with such tremendous unction, deprecate the use of comparisons as to what else we could have done with the money if it was not spent on the Navy, and then proceed to give two particularly specious and misleading illustrations himself.
These Estimates have been criticised upon two completely opposite grounds. There are those who say they are so large as to involve an expenditure which is both profligate and bellicose. There is, on the other hand, the school of thought voiced a few minutes ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) which thinks that the provision made to-day represents something inadequate for the discharge of our essential responsibilities. The fact that these criticisms are mutually destructive, while it gives considerable moral satisfaction to the Board of Admiralty, does not really absolve me from endeavouring to reply to both of them. Those who believe that the Estimates are extravagant not unnaturally fasten their criticism on the £3,500,000 extra that we are asking for this year.
It may therefore be as well that I should reiterate the principal reasons for this change. Broadly speaking, the programme of large repairs and modernisation and the start in making good the deficiencies in defensive material to which reference has been made account for £2,500,000; the Fleet Air Arm for £500,000; and the partial restoration of the cuts in pay for a similar amount. No one can maintain that a single one of these items represents any change in general policy. They are the inevitable consequences of the London Naval Treaty; the risks we have accepted with our eyes open for peace; the development of aerial warfare; and the improvement in the economic situation of the country. 720 The remainder of the gross increase in the Estimates, which as the House will observe is about £4,225,000—accounted for by the increase in personnel, non-effective charges and the progress of new construction—is offset by increases in Appropriations-in-Aid which, as the First Lord has already said, are very largely due to the contribution made by Australia.
Perhaps I might remind those Members who rest their criticism of the Estimates, not on the increase this year, but on the broader ground of the total amount, that the sum they are asked for this evening, if reduced to prewar values and prices and compared with the Navy Estimates of 1914, would represent a reduction of 25 per cent. in the cost of all services, or a reduction of 32 per cent. in the cost of effective services only.
There is, on the other hand, the suggestion that the Navy Estimates for this year are inadequate and this has been particularly brought out in view of the White Paper recently issued, to which a good deal of reference has been made. I do not think that it is at all an unreasonable argument for hon. Members to suggest that, having admitted these deficiencies, an increased provision for Navy Estimates this year would enable them to be remedied more quickly. But it must be remembered in the first place that we are still subject to Treaty limitations, and that no capital ship can be laid down until 1937. There are, moreover, very strict limits to the rate at which we can spend money in making good deficiencies with a proper regard to getting the best value for it. I do not think it is unfair to say that there are certain directions in which the provision of additional finance would not render possible any further progress at the moment. For instance, the modernisation of capital ships involves withdrawing them from service with the Fleet; they cannot, therefore, all be done at once. Again, any increased provision of personnel is limited by the capacity of our training establishments.
I should like to add, for the benefit of those hon. Members who think that we have not spent enough, that the Board of Admiralty are unanimous in the view that the extra provision which we are asking for this year provides a satisfactory start in meeting our 721 deficiencies. A steady programme such as we now envisage is the soundest and most practical way of meeting the situation. We are, moreover, on the threshold of a naval conference, to which the First Lord has referred. It is quite clear that the future expenditure on the Navy must have some considerable relation to what may be decided at that conference.
I wish now to deal with some of the specific points raised in the Debate and I hope that those whose points are not referred to will realise that it is through no discourtesy on my part but solely due to the exigencies of the clock. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham asked me how much tonnage we should have which we could use next year if we built up to the full amount allowed by the Treaties. We shall have 27,000 tons cruiser tonnage available for the 1936 programme which we shall probably use. We have shall 4,500 tons of submarine tonnage which we shall also use. We shall have 38,000 tons of destroyer tonnage, which we shall not completely use for the reasons which have been stated on more than one occasion by the First Lord in this House. We believe it is very much sounder to have a steady building programme.
The same hon. Member referred to the increase in personnel. This increase will make the mobility of the Fleet perfectly satisfactory. Further, what he described as the present concentration in Home waters is in no way due to the fact that we cannot man the ships anywhere else. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) referred to the cost of the Navy to-day compared with 1914. I have already given the comparable figures in total cost. I would supplement them by saying that one of the principal reasons why the Navy is more expensive to-day is that the pay of officers has been increased by 63 per cent., that of warrant officers by 68 per cent., and that of petty officers, seamen and marines by 136 per cent.—figures which, I am sure, everyone will welcome.
More than one hon. Member has produced the hardy annual of the swollen staff at the Admiralty. In July, 1914, it was 2,072; the latest figure is 2,892; and it is true that during the interval naval personnel has decreased by 33 per cent. and tonnage by 722 50 per cent. We do not want to conceal or to minimise these facts. But the reasons why the Admiralty staff has not decreased pari passu with the decrease in men and tonnage was explained to the Estimates Committee of this House in 1927 by Sir Oswyn Murray with such excellent effect that the Committee was satisfied that a mere comparison of numbers was irrelevant. We have many more grades, we have hundreds more technical problems, and I am glad to say that we take better care of our personnel.
The next question upon which I propose to say a word is the necessity for the capital ship. The Board of Admiralty still holds the view that the capital ship is an essential part of our naval defensive forces, and for this reason: We have immense trade routes to defend, and our forces must inevitably be dispersed, whereas other naval Powers do not have to separate their forces all over the world. There are innumerable points at which a convoy can be attacked, and the numbers of defenders cannot be related to the number of potential attackers, but to the length of the route and the number of ships that have to be protected. We do not in a city relate the number of policemen to the number of burglars but to the number of shops and other valuable properties which it is necessary to protect. The Board of Admiralty hold the view—and I do not think any serving naval officer will contradict it—that if you have to have some background for your dispersed cruisers against a hostile concentration, the cheapest and most efficient way of achieving it is by a balanced fleet of battleships, cruisers, destroyers, aircraft carriers, submarines and everything else. While we recognise the necessity for the capital ship, we believe very strongly, as my right hon. and gallant Friend told the House, in the possibility of qualitative limitation. We are definitely in the lead in the advocacy of this policy, and I would go so far as to say that there is no serving officer, or indeed anyone in a responsible position, who would seriously advocate anything else.
The late Civil Lord asked me several questions about the Naval conference. He has been in the business himself, and I am sure he will take it from me if I tell him that to attempt to answer categorically the questions which he quite legitimately put, might easily impair our 723 prospects of a successful issue. I will only say that there certainly will be a naval conference if we can possibly manage it and that our general aim will he to achieve what the First Lord so very aptly described as equilibrium of defence. I see my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) in his place, and I may therefore touch upon the question of Singapore.
§ Captain WALLACE
I will touch upon everything I can but I do not wish to exhaust the patience of the House. We regard Singapore, not as a strategic liability, but as a strategic insurance and what is more, our Dominions, or some of them, take the same view very strongly. The Federated Malay States, New Zealand and Hong Kong, will, at the end of this financial year, have contributed £3,250,000 in cash towards the scheme apart from the very generous provision by the Straits Settlements of the site of the base. I leave my right hon. Friend to imagine the repercussions in the Dominions if we decided to do, I will not say what he suggested, but what he regarded as possible, namely, to treat the whole business as a bad job and abandon the base entirely. If we did that, I do not believe it is any overstatement to say that we could not move our main Fleet east of Suez. For that reason we regard the base, the local defence of which will be largely undertaken by the Army and the Air Force, as an essential element in the security of our Empire in the Indian Ocean and the Southern Pacific.
Let me pursue a little further the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton—although I am endeavouring to group the subjects mentioned in the debate rather than the questions of individual members and I hope hon. Members will forgive me if I omit to mention their names. As to keeping on dockyards as a matter of benevolence, if my right hon. Friend will inquire from any Members representing dockyard constituencies and if he will recall his own experience as Civil Lord, I think he must agree that we get a certain number of complaints that the dockyards do not provide enough work in the constituencies in which they are situated. 724 We pass easily from that subject to the question of the vulnerability of the dockyards. The whole question of the vulnerability of Naval establishments is under the most close and constant consideration by the Board of Admiralty. No one I imagine would like to see the dockyard taken away from Chatham except for the most urgent and compelling reasons, because unless it were possible to dispose of the place commercially you would in fact create another depressed area by doing so. I do not want to say more than that. As, I think, is known to everyone in the House, the whole question of air raids is engaging the serious attention of the Government. I am afraid I cannot give my hon. Friend and namesake the Member for Dunfermline (Sir J. Wallace) a great deal of comfort about Rosyth. It may be that it is not as vulnerable as Chatham but it can-not be said to be immune. I can only repeat that Rosyth has not been abandoned or put on the scrap heap. It is on a care and maintenance basis and if and when in the opinion of the Board it is advisable or economic to do more work at Rosyth, I can assure him it will get a fair show.
I now turn to the question of oil fuel. It was suggested that our dependence on oil fuel placed us in a strategically disadvantageous position and that the day might come when we might be unable to supplement such supplies of oil as we have in this country by means of the import of oil from overseas. I think that the simplest way to answer that is that if we can import food—and it is the function of the Navy to see that we can—we can import oil also. Our fuel depots are scattered; this refers to the right hon. Member for South Molton again; we do not advertise where they are. We should like to put our oil fuel underground, but the expense would be out of all proportion, and it would mean that we should have very much less fuel. Perhaps the House may be a little comforted to know that naval fuel oil in bulk is not a very inflammable substance, and, if one of the tanks were hit instead of having a gigantic explosion, all that would happen would be that the oil would run into the saucer which we provide round every tank, and nothing would be lost. Let me hurry on to the heavy oil engine, and say that we do 725 recognise its potentialities. We are using these engines for the electric generating gear in surface ships, and in small boats with an increase of reliability and some decrease of fire risks.
I must for one moment deal with the subject of dual firing. This has been mentioned by more than one hon. Member, and it has lately been the subject of considerable advocacy in the Press. It seems to me that dual firing cannot be a sound thing upon the very simplest ground. If you take x cubic feet of space in a vessel which you propose to reserve for putting in coal as an alternative fuel, surely it is better to use those x cubic feet of space for storing oil, which is ton for ton a more efficient fuel and will consequently give greater endurance. What is more, one has to remember that the coal-fired vessel has only four-fifths of her power available for what you may call sea-keeping qualities—that is, going on for hour after hour from day to day owing to the necessity for cleaning fires. On the other hand, if you use oil you can go on with a very small loss of efficiency until you have used up the very last drop. There is also the demerit of dual firing that it involves the use of a coal bunker, and the provision of a bunker has a deleterious effect on the watertightness of a water-tight bulkhead.
Now I come to the question of engineer officers which has been raised by various hon. Members. The First Lord did not forget the promise which he made last year through the mouth of the Parliamentary Secretary and it would be very pleasant for me to be able to say that in consequence it had been decided to place a representative of the engineering branch on the Board of Admiralty. Unfortunately, however, the First Lord and the Board see no reason to go back upon a decision which was taken after very careful thought and in view of the definite separation between the executive and the engineering branches. I hope not to repeat any of the arguments which would infuriate my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich but I would say that the Board of Admiralty is not constituted on the basis of representation of officers of particular categories and, if we had an engineer on the Board, although the positions might not be entirely comparable, it would be extremely difficult to resist hon. Members who claimed 726 that we should have officers of other departments on the Board. It has consistently been held by the Board in the past that its administrative functions of attending to the needs of the Fleet can best be discharged by executive officers of high rank who may in due course have the responsibility of commanding fleets and squadrons. The First Lord regrets that he cannot see any reason to change that decision. As regards the eligibility of these officers for certain higher posts such as that of Admiral Superintendent of Dockyards, they are, in fact eligible, but the rule for the moment is inoperative because no officer who is eligible has yet attained the requisite rank. I hope that those hon. Members who have advocated the cause of a branch, to which tributes have rightly been paid from all sides, will realise that there is no bar to the appointment of engineer officers to the post of Admiral Superintendent.
A word as to the lower deck. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) referred to the reduction in the number of warrant officers. The explanation is simple. It is because a warrant officer after 10 years in that rank automatically gets a commission. We have had a tremendous lot, who, having been warrant officers for 10 years, have got commissions and therefore have disappeared from the number of warrant officers. On the general question of promotion from the lower deck, I do not want to say more than this. The hon. Member for Broxtowe himself said that the system was working well. If I assure him that the Board of Admiralty (from the most selfish motives if you like, that is, in order to get the best people) are only too anxious to make the system of lower deck promotions a real success and to improve the facilities as far as possible, I think that on reflection he will agree that it would be as well to proceed fairly slowly.
A number of questions have been asked relating to the Fleet Air Arm. I feel it is a little too late now to embark on a discussion of that large subject, especially from the angle indicated in some of the speeches, which might very properly and even more usefully have been made on Monday in the Debate which was to have been a defence Debate, but unfortunately turned out not to be a defence Debate 727 at all. I will say no more than that the whole position vis-à-vis the Fleet and vis-à-vis the Air Ministry is continually under most careful consideration.
Finally, let me ask the House to consider one or two sentences in the famous White Paper, which I have tried to avoid for the last half-hour, but to which I feel I must now refer. It was described last week by the Lord President of the Council as a historic document. As a believer in the doctrine that it is usually better to tell the people the whole of the truth, I am very glad that the Lord President did not apologise for its production or for its contents. In paragraph 13 of this historic document it is stated—and I am sure that this may be taken as a considered opinion of the views of His Majesty's Government:If peace should he broken, the Navy is, as always, the first line of defence for the maintenance of our essential sea communications.The same paragraph goes on to point outthat security by sea passage to this country, as well as to and from all parts of the Empire, forms the basis and foundation
§ of our system of Imperial defence, without which all other measures can be of but little"
And I think I might add for myself of no,
§ It would be absurd to claim that the Navy Estimates can be prepared in isolation or without due regard not only to the needs of the other two defence Services but to the financial situation of the country. But our consideration of the immediate aspirations of the taxpayer must be tempered by the knowledge, again stressed in this White Paper, that ineffective defence means not only waste but defeat. My right hon. Friend is, as the House knows, a practical sailor. I submit that in presenting these Estimates he has steered a very successful course between the Scylla of extravagance and the Charybdis of parsimony, and in this belief, and with apologies for the time I have taken, I invite the House to give the 1935 Estimates a fair wind.
§ Question put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair".
§ The House divided, Ayes, 158; Noes, 48.729
|Division No. 104.]||AYES.||[12.25 a.m.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Alnsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Albery, Irving James||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Alexander, Sir William||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nhd.)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Mabane, William|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Apsley, Lord||Duggan, Hubert John||McConnell, Sir Joseph|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Eastwood, John Francis||Macdonald, Capt. p. D. (I. of W.)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Fraser, Captain Sir Ian||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Bateman, A. L.||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Bernays, Robert||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Blindell, James||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Goff, Sir Park||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vanslttart||Gower, Sir Robert||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Greene, William P. C.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)|
|Braes, Captain Sir William||Grimston, R. V.||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Buchan, John||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Orr Ewing, I. L.|
|Burghley, Lord||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Pearson, William G.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Penny, Sir George|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Castlereagh, viscount||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Pybus, Sir John|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Ramsbotham, Horwald|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Knox, Sir Alfred||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Rankin, Robert|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Critchley, Brig.-General A. C.||Llewellin, Major John J.||Remer, John R.|
|Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Spens, William Patrick||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Rickards, George William||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)||Wells, Sidney Richard|
|Ross, Ronald D.||Stevenson, James||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Stourton, Hon. John J.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Strauss, Edward A.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Salmon, Sir Isldore||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Selley, Harry R.||Tavlor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Fortar)||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||Sir Frederick Thomson and|
|Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)||Captain Sir George Bowyer.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Milner, Major James|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Banfield, John William||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Batey, Joseph||Grundy, Thomas W.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cape, Thomas||Harris, Sir Percy||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Cleary, J. J.||Janner, Barnett||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Wilmot, John|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||McEntee, Valentins L.|
|Foot Dingle (Dundee)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Mr. Groves and Mr. Paling.|
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]