This is a report of a speech of the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for North Portsmouth male at Malta:
The British Navy maintained the freedom of the seas during the War and maintains it still' declared Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes speaking at a dinner here last night.
I hope it was a very good dinner.
Whatever the Italian command may think to the contrary, he added, our Navy is still invincible and ready and willing to tackle any force that dares to challenge it, whatever their armaments.
I am quoting that from the cabled report in the "Evening Standard."
Malta, he concluded, would certainly remain the British naval base in the Mediterranean in spite of any number of threats.
§ Sir R. KEYES
That certainly was a part of my speech, but it had reference to the Italian propaganda in Malta that the British Navy could be driven out of the Mediterranean whenever the Italians wished.
Now a different point arises—as to whether the gallant Admiral's speech was only bluff—
—or whether he really held the view that in regard to this Italian situation the British Fleet was invincible. I would like to ask the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) whether he agrees with his hon. and gallant Friend?
§ Mr. SANDYS
If the right hon. Member asks me, I must reply. My point is that for effective collective security you must have overwhelming force on the side of the League of Nations. All that the gallant Admiral said was that if we were attacked we would win; but we do not go in for collective security merely to win; we must have overwhelming force.
This becomes more and more interesting. The report of the gallant Admiral's speech which I have 2309 read speaks of the British Fleet being "invincible." If that is not sufficiently strong to satisfy the hon. Member, I do not understand what he wants. In any case, now that we have got to understand each other we know completely where we are. The party that I am speaking for to-night, whilst it believes that adherence to the doctrine of collective security will in the long run mean a reduction of and not an enlargement of the fighting forces, is prepared in dealing with an aggressor to adopt such a policy of armament as is shown to be justified if—and this is the if —the Government will come frankly to the House and say what are the collective contributions being made to collective security by other Powers, and what is the result of conferences with the other Powers as to what they expect us to put into the collective pool. We have asked that again and again in the general debate upon the White Paper, and in the debates on the Naval Estimates, the Air Force Estimates, and the Army Estimates, and we never get an answer. The present policy is just a panic policy of a large expenditure of money, but you cannot tell us exactly whom you are arming against, what is to be the effect of your armaments or whether they are the best armaments for the purpose.
I am not aware of the exact relevance of that interruption; but, certainly, if we come to an agreement as to exactly what are the forces required for collective security we should certainly not discourage the maintenance of the essential force in an efficient manner, and in all our experience as a Government I do not think we ever tried to do so. May I come to the next point in connection with the expenditure? The hon. and gallant Admiral to-night defended the laying down next year of the two new battleships. It may be argued in some instances that they are a replacement, but we know that, in effect, they will be an extension of the battleship units. The gallant Admiral shakes his head. Do not let us make any mistake. These large and expensive existing ships, several of which were described in the recent election campaign of the Prime Minister as obsolete, have had in the last year or two—or are having—spent on them sums of £1,500,000, £2,000,000, 2310 £2,500,000. Those ships are not going to be scrapped because we are laying down new ships next year. That is evident when we examine the work they have done, and when we can see that over a long period they have averaged 50 days under steam in every one of those years.
§ Sir R. KEYES
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that these renovated, 20-year-old battleships will be efficient against the modern battleships with modern armaments being built by France and Germany and Italy?
I am certain that what the gallant Admiral said at Malta about the British Fleet is true, and—
§ Sir R. KEYES
The two Italian battleships are not yet in commission. If those two modern Italian ships were in commission, they would be a formidable force and we should be obliged to have ships to answer them.
Is the hon. and gallant Admiral going to tell me that the Italian ships will be superior to the "Rodney" and the "Nelson"?
Directly people are brought up against the facts they always want to switch off to another argument. If you take them up on one point they want to switch away. As compared with that of other battle fleets of the world, the British battleship category is superior—
I think the gallant Admiral is right. We have nothing to complain about. Now I come to the question of replacement. I say this is not replacement but expansion. We have a sub-committee sitting. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) that we were led to believe that that sub-committee, which was to report upon the battleship in relation to the development of the modern bomb, was to conduct an effective inquiry which might, to a very large extent, modify our programme in the capital ship class. We are now told that whatever may be the report of that committee, battleships will be built; that there may be a small 2311 and perhaps unimportant modification in their characteristics, but certainly nothing vitally affecting the future of the battleship class. I regard the House of Commons as having been very largely misled as to the intentions of the Government on this battleship problem. The hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth is very much more in touch with the views of, and the policy proposed by, the Admiralty than is the ordinary Member of the House. Evidently, in his constant touch with Sea Lords and officers, and after his recent trip to the Fleet and his cruise in the Mediterranean —
He knows much more what is going to be done, as well as what was done in his time, than the ordinary Member of the House. On the battleship question, the House has been badly misled, and what an hon. Member said in the Committee stage of the Estimates has come true—we have been asked to vote money this year amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds for ships to be laid down next year before we have had any information as to the characteristics of those ships. I object strongly to that, from the point of view of efficiency. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare was right in putting the point with regard to proper information being given to the House about what is being done in equipment. On the last stage of the Naval Estimates I asked how many of the cruisers, battleships and destroyers were being fitted with the new anti-aircraft gun. The Noble Lord the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty said it was not possible in the public interests that those—
Not advisable, then, in the public interest, that this information should be given. What nonsense that is. There is an annual publication of the British Admiralty called "Fleets" which gives the list of the fleets known to be built, in building and projected, in this country and every other country. Up to the present, and until you begin to talk about that sacrosanct anti-aircraft gun, there is not a single characteristic of the armament of those ships that it not given clearly—the 2312 number of guns, the calibre of the guns, whether they are ordinary guns or antiaircraft guns—all is set out year by year for the new and the projected ships.
Suddenly there is the panic at the General Election of 1935. The Prime Minister will speak on the wireless and put the wind up the electorate, if I may use the term, about the unpreparedness of the British Fleet against aircraft attacks. At the time I ventured to say a word or two about the fact that that was not true and ghat the British Fleet is very well prepared, although it may be still better prepared as you supply more guns. The hon. and gallant admiral said 14 months ago in this House—in March, 1935—during the Navy Estimates Debate, that we did adequately safeguard the naval ships against attack from the air. When we ask for some measure of confidence to be given to the civilian population of this country, instead of frightening them, as the Prime Minister tried to do, and that we should tell them that we have a firm defence in the naval sphere against aircraft, we are told that that is not in the public interest; but it is in the public interest to put fear into the hearts of the electorate on the eve of the Election. It is competent for the First Lord of the. Admiralty and for the Noble Lord to send advance information to foreign naval Powers as to the new features which we are going to give our Fleet, but it is quite wrong to tell the British House of Commons, which has to vote the money.
May I say again that this is not a -unilateral action, because we receive advance information from them in return?
If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty thinks that we shall get a great deal of advantage from learning the new legend of some foreign ship or some new type of gun or other which is in preparation, he is being very optimistic indeed. The First Lord of the Admiralty ought to take us into reasonable confidence. I have never yet discovered that information of that kind is so extraordinarily valuable. The Parliamentary Secretary is not the only one with experience of the Admiralty; I hope he will admit that. I am weighing the national importance and value to the public of the respective 2313 policies, and it does not help the Government even to get the taxpayers to pay cheerfully for armaments, to put fear into them rather than to tell them that you are technically prepared to meet any attack that might come upon them. I shall go on questioning, and I hope my hon. Friends will do so, too, for the information which the Government withheld from the electors and now seek to withhold from the House.
I want to say a word or two about the point on which I think the Admiralty have completely failed to meet us, which justifies more than ever the claim which we have made from this side of the House for a real inquiry and overhaul of Admiralty administration. We have been asking that each of the fighting Services should give a general undertaking to the Government that, in the enormous armament programme which is being undertaken, and which, in the three Services combined, will cost not much less than £400,000,000, they will honour their obligation not to have undue profits made out of the process. What is happening in regard to the Admiralty? On two or three occasions we have asked to be informed, and first of all the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Contract Department was very good and efficient and had certain methods of approach, and so on. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare I do not want to utter any criticisms of individuals in the Contract Department. I know that Department has very efficient and clever men, and I am not criticising them at all when I point out that in the next 12 months we are going to spend perhaps £100,000,000 in naval expenditure. Is it too much to ask that there should be an overhaul of the methods for preventing undue profit?
All that we have heard so far on this point would show only that the Contract Department were not being charged a higher rate of profit than is usual in that class of industry in the country for the time being, but that is not an effective safeguard for the taxpayer upon a rearmament expenditure of 2400,000,000. We ought to get a basis, and a check from costings, which are in relation to the needs of the nation and which would implement the words used the other day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, "Take the profit out of war". There would be a good deal less shouting for armaments in this House and in the 2314 country to-day, if we would take the profit out of war.
So far from our case not being justified, it is clear from the Financial Secretary's statement to-day that he recognises that something has got to be done, and so he announces that there is to be a Naval Contracts Advisory Committee. I do not make any complaint about the Government beginning to make some effort, but I must confess that I am not impressed by their methods. They appoint a committee of four gentlemen, every one of whom, no doubt, in his own particular sphere, is a most estimable person, and I have not a word to say against them in that connection. There is Sir Malcolm Robertson, an ex-ambassador to the Argentine Republic, and a man who in the past has been a very excellent public servant. He is now, I think, Chairman of the Spillers-Carr combine. Then there is Mr. W. Fraser, C.B.E., whom I find from my investigations to be a director of the Anglo-Egyptian Oil Co., the Anglo-Persian Oil Co., Shell-Mex, and numerous other oil companies, and I suppose, therefore, not entirely unconnected with pretty big suppliers of the Admiralty. The next name, if I have got the right one, I take to be that of Sir Norman Leslie, the shipbroker, who is engaged in the shipping business; and the one appointment out of the four that I would not criticise from the point of view of really checking profits in the Admiralty is that of Sir Nicholas Waterhouse, who is an accountant. That is the kind of guarantee that we are to be given in regard to effective checks on the profits to be made out of this new armaments programme.
But, while we use this case with regard to profits as a reason for an inquiry, it is not the only reason for an inquiry. I feel that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare, who himself had considerable experience, as Civil Lord, in dealing with all building purchases under Vote 10, was right when he said to-night that in his experience he found considerable overlapping, which, unless he was able to check it, resulted in unnecessary expenditure being incurred in that Department. I remember discussing on more than one occasion points of that kind with him, and supporting him in the action he took then. In the enormous development which is now taking place in works under Vote 10, we feel that 2315 something ought to be done by way of co-ordination and general overhaul. In fact, I think it is true to say that, in spite of the statement of the Financial Secretary that the Esher Committee, which inquired into the War Office, had terms of reference which referred to the structure of the Admiralty, to-day we find that the Admiralty, easily the largest spending Department, has not for decades had an effective overhaul, and we have had quoted to us to-night by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton whole chunks of the May Report of 1931 indicating the need for inquiry into the various activities of the Board of Admiralty. We are entirely dissatisfied with the replies that we have received from the Parliamentary Secretary and from the Prime Minister, as to the need for inquiry into these matters.
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) asked me to answer two specific questions. I think the principal one was whether we were in favour of war or no war with Japan where there was likely to be a breach of the Covenant. If the hon. Member had been here during the earlier part of my speech, he would have heard my general answer on the principle, but, with regard to the particular question which he asked me on the Manchukuo question, I would say that, if that question had been handled aright from the commencement in the diplomacy of this country—
Does the hon. Member want me to answer? I am quite willing not to answer if he does not want me to do so. I was saying that, if that matter had been properly handled from the beginning, and Japan had been told quite plainly at the commencement—as Mussolini ought to have been told at Stresa last April 12 months about Abyssinia—what the attitude of this country would be, there would never have been cause either for economic sanctions or perhaps stronger measures to implement economic sanctions. That is our case. It is the case on Japan and Manchukuo, and it is the case on Abyssinia and Italy.
§ Sir R. ROSS
I loth to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he has given us the usual hypothesis that we expect 2316 from him. I suppose that what he means —and I would like his assent or dissent to this proposition—that, what he would have done would have been to threaten and say that this country would make war in certain events. hoping that that bluff would carry him through.
The hon. Member objects to my putting a hypothesis to him, but he wants me to give a very categorical answer to a hypothesis which he puts to me. He asks what we would have done in 1932 and 1933 about Japan and Manchukuo, but that would have depended entirely upon the action taken by the Government earlier. I am certain, however, that if the late Arthur Henderson had been Foreign Secretary we should never have had this situation. This Government, with its wibble-wobble in foreign policy, is shouting about support of the League, but gives no support to the League in the councils of the nations, and forces this country into the disgraceful position into which it has been forced, both with regard to Japan and Manchukuo and with regard to Italy and Abyssinia; and it will take a long time for this country to recover the prestige which it has lost through the mishandling of these situations.
The hon. Member also asked whether we on this side say that we should have 50 cruisers or 70 cruisers. We say exactly what we said in our appeal to the country at the election—that we will provide whatever necessary efficient forces are required for the maintenance of collective security. We had an agreement with the Board of Admiralty in 1929–30 that, in the circumstances of that time, 50 cruisers were sufficient. I might go back further, and say that, even at the time of the Washington Conference of 1921-22, a tentative agreement was arrived at that 50 cruisers were sufficient. But if the Government will demonstrate to us at what point they require expansion to meet present needs, we will consider it—I will not say more than that to-night in the light of our own pledge to the electorate. But we cannot get an answer from the Government at any time as to the basis upon which their actual programme is adumbrated. If the hon. Member can find the answer to that. I shall be very glad to go a little further into the matter.
2317 There is, I think, only one other point to which I need refer, and that is the question whether or not we should be entitled to scrap the five "C" class cruisers—the point whether Article 21 of the London Naval Treaty of 1930 should be implemented or not. I am amazed at the wooliness of the replies made from the Government bench on this question, both the impromptu reply by the Financial Secretary last time and the long and carefully prepared reply so carefully read by the Financial Secretary to-day. What is the common sense of the position? Let us look at it. We have the Naval Treaty of 1936, which limits this country to 50 cruisers and 339,000 tons in the cruiser category on 31st December, 1936. Also in that treaty we laid down that in 1935 we would have a further Naval Conference when we would decide what the further policy should be. We also said that if any other party than the high contracting parties of which there were only three —Japan, the United States and this country—did any building which would be likely to damage our national security beyond the position provided for in the London Treaty, we had the right to notify that Power and the other Powers to the Treaty that we should expand our naval equipment.
What is the position now? You have had your Naval Conference of 1935. You have, in fact, scrapped the whole of the limitation provisions of the 1930 treaty, because you are to be able to build what you like without giving notice. In the light of this the Government say first, "We find our national position in the world insecure in naval affairs so that we must ask the House to authorise a programme of 70 cruisers instead of 50, and we will agree that of the 70 cruisers 10 shall be over-age but we must, in order to keep faith under the general path of the London Naval Treaty, scrap five cruisers which are over-age." They ray it would cause grave misunderstanding with other Powers if we said it was because they were building more ships that we were going to keep these five old cruisers. But they are going to build 20. The real fact is that they are putting up all this woolly argument to try to hide from the country that they are going to build five unnecessary ships. They could keep five over and save a large part of the construction of five new ships and they are using, quite unwarrantably 2318 and unnecessarily, the cover of the London, Naval Treaty, which has not been a handicap but a great help to this country in maintaining its naval position. That policy is completely unjustified and we are entitled to ask that, instead of saying you require in the next three or four years 20 new cruisers, you can do with 15 and you can keep these five instead of scrapping them.
The Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence both laid extraordinary stress upon the impending danger and the element of time. Time, they said, was of the essence of the contract. Yet the Government, in spite of this proposed urgency of time, are going to leave us on 1st January, not with the 50 cruisers provided by the Labour Government but with 46, when they can have 51 if they like, and without the slightest difficulty in regard to giving notice under the treaty, and with the ultimate saving of a considerable sum of money in construction. I think I have said enough to show that the policy of the Government in this matter is as woolly now as it has been in other directions. If they really want to get the country united behind them let them show, first of all, that they are really out for peace. Let them show next that they are really out to support the system of collective security. Let them show next what are the minimum requirements agreed with other parties under a policy of collective security as being necessary for the maintenance of that policy. If they will come to the House on that basis they will get their Vote, but on this basis of panic, no plan, no efficiency, enormously raising expenditure at a time when nearly 2,000,000 of the population are living in poverty, it is a plan which we cannot and will not support.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ The CIVIL LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
I think everyone will agree that we have had a profitable Debate, and I hope some of the issues have been clarified. Before I come to the speech that the right hon. Gentleman has just made I should like to answer one or two specific points that the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Hall) put. The first question was on Singapore. Perhaps it would be well if I went over the main story of Singapore. The scheme for establishing this base 2319 first appeared in the Navy Estimates in 1923. It was stopped under the Government of the present Opposition in 1924. A revised plan was worked out in 1925 to enable the base to be used for docking and repair of ships in peace time. Then in 1929, again when the present Opposition were in power, they decided to slow down the work as far as possible. Again in 1933 the scheme was extended to include, among other items, provision for a boom defence depot and an increased amount for a naval armament depot. The present Supplementary Estimate is for about £1,500,000, with another £500,000 under Vote 8 for cranes and dockyard machinery, etc. It represents the difference between a dock in peace time and a full naval base in war time.
If the hon. Member would like to know one or two of the special points; provision is made for the construction of a torpedo depot, additional workshop and storage accommodation, the completion of a naval stores basin and the construction of a wharf and necessary dredging. It is hoped that the additional work will be provided by 1940. It has often been stated that the sole object of this base is to safeguard our Indian possessions to the West and the interests of the Empire in the East. It is no menace to any other Power and there is no reason why it should be, because it is as far away as we are from the United States.
The second point was the widening of No. 1 Dock at Gibraltar. I agree that these are large figures and it is absolutely right that a very complete and full explanation should be given to hon. Members before they vote. This dock, which is the largest at Gibraltar, will not take battleships or battle cruisers. That is a serious handicap to the efficiency of the Fleet, and recent events have confirmed the opinion which the Admiralty had already formed that such docking facilities were essential. There were two alternative schemes put up, one of which was a floating dock, which meant a great deal of dredging and was very much more expensive than the other. A great many of these items, as I intend to prove to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) are deficiency items, and I propose to define what we mean by "deficiency" before I sit down.
2320 The other point was the dock at Devon-port. The whole point about that is that the largest dock a Devonport is at present the floating dock, and while you can accommodate ships of the "Queen Elizabeth" class, the "Royal Sovereign" class, you cannot accommodate battleships of the "Nelsou" and "Rodney" type, and in case of emergency, at present there may be very considerable congestion at Portsmouth. It is essential to see that there are equal facilities at Plymouth and at Portsmouth.
I wish the hon. Gentleman would answer the point as to whether it is contemplated enlarging the beam of battleships.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
The answer is definitely "No." The third point which the hon. Member for Aberdare raised was the question of Rosyth and the new training school, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) also mentioned it. I genuinely hope that the school is going to mean a new outlet and a very fine outlet for a good many boys in Scotland and the North of England. Why this expenditure" I can assure the House that this job will be done in a most efficient manner, but the training of a boy for the Navy is a very different matter from what it was 30 or 40 years ago at Portsmouth and Shotley. It is not a question of turning out a boy ready for the Navy in a few months. There is a whole series of requirements, scientific knowledge, signalling and all the rest of it to be acquired in equipping him for the Navy, apart from his being medically fit, and there is a very much higher medical standard required. By the establishment of this school, which will possibly contain some thousand boys, taking the artificers as well who go straight into the Navy, we shall have in Scotland a completely modern establishment—almost the only one—as Shotley is congested, while other buildings now being used for schools are old adapted buildings.
I, too, like the hon. Member for Aberdare, have been round the dockyards. I do not say that I have as wide a knowledge as that which he gained when he was in my office, hut I have been round to all the dockyards within reasonable reach. My experience is not his experience. If he can give me an example of extravagance or waste or of buildings lying empty, at Gibraltar, Portsmouth or 2321 Devonport, I shall be very glad to have it. It is very easy to make a general attack, but it is much easier for me to answer a specific attack, and if he has any specific example I shall be very glad to discuss it with him.
§ Mr. G. HALL
If the hon. Gentleman will look up certain Minutes of the Admiralty while we were there he will get specific instances of points with which I have dealt, and I shall be very happy to discuss them with the Civil Lord.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
I have not seen them —and I hope that some of them will have been remedied since—but I shall be very glad, to look at these various points. I have been struck, as I have gone round, by the way these old yards, built 100 years ago, have been adapted for modern uses. I could quote, as I did on the last occasion when I addressed the House, three specific examples, but I will not weary the House again. On Vote 10 the total vote is something like £350,000. Everything can be clearly stated. There is no mystery about the figures. Something like £150,000 is for various kinds of storage. It is no use building ships unless you have docks large enough and in the right place for repairs. Hence the widening of these docks.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
I am referring to the Supplementary Estimate we are discussing to-day. You must protect your ships against air and submarine attack. There is a very large expenditure for gunnery, signalling, wireless and a whole host of things, many of which barely existed in 1914. It is no use having a Fleet—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough has been very eloquent on this point to-night—unless it is efficient. It is not efficient if you have not adequate reserves of armaments, torpedoes and oil, and these things in a modern world have to be stored, and therefore a great many items are put down for storage, and they run into a very large sum of money. It is no use having an Empire if you are to expose it to obvious dangers. You cannot have a modern Fleet without a highly trained personnel, particularly to-day, and that 2322 means Rosyth or something like it. Every item here has been carefully scrutinised. Hon. Members now realise in plain terms what we mean by making up deficiencies. The policy of the board, as far as this is concerned, must be 100 per cent. efficiency and adequate reserves.
I now come to one or two other speeches. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) raised the question of the Fleet Air Arm. I have my own personal views on this question, but I am going to read to the House what the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has said:The subjects which are being considered are those concerning the provision of personnel, periods of service and reserves. …I am not covering the large field which he traversed"—referring to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—but I am undertaking the inquiry in the form in which I propose" —I would ask the House to note this—with the complete concurrence of both the Services concerned. I think I am not overstating when I say that they have welcimed the method which I propose to pursue"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1936; col. 1395, Vol. 312.]If there is a clear case for the existence of a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence it is this very thorny problem of the Fleet Air Arm.
I take it that the hon. Gentleman agrees that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has not tackled the main problem as to whether the Fleet Air Arm should be handed over to the Admiralty or not.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
I do not think that I can improve upon the very careful wording of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) made a general attack upon admirals and everything else. It is very hard to answer a speech like that. He made a demand for a roving commission. We think that it is very much better to have a specific commission on specific points. So far as other speeches were 2323 concerned, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), because it seemed to me that he presented the only alternative policy to the policy of the Government. Apart from a number of speeches defending the view of the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross), the only other points which I have to answer are —the matter was clearly stated by my Noble Friend—the question of the scrapping of the five cruisers and the demand for an inquiry. We must get this thing into proportion. I have a few relative figures of the cost of practically equal ships in 1913 and to-day. A ship which in 1913 cost £320,000 costs to-day something like £1,209,000. That increase is due partly to labour charges, the price of materials and the greater elaboration of equipment.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The hon. Member ought to bring out the point that although a ship to-day is costing more, it is by far a better fighting machine than a similar ship in 1914.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
I am glad to have some support from my hon. Friend. A ship may have the same name, the same displacement, the same function and the same external shape as a ship in the pre-War Fleet, but it is an almost entirely different article and the cost is very widely separated. Therefore, when hon. Members say that these Estimates are running up to £80,000,000, they must bear these things in mind. They have also to bear in mind various things which did not exist in 1914. The Fleet Air Arm and the emergency in the Mediterranean did not exist in 1914. Various other things did not exist in 1914, for which considerable sums are provided in these Estimates.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
The League of Nations did not exist in 1914. I shall come to the League of Nations before I finish. What is the position in regard to the Admiralty? Since 1918 we have had the Geddes Committee, the Weir Committee, the Hilton Committee and the May Committee, apart from the Select Committee on Estimates. The Admiralty have been living in an atmosphere of committees. The Esher Committee is no analogy, because that is for the whole organisation of Departments. What are the precise reforms that are desired? If it is a question of contracts, I do not think that, with the very careful costing system, with the criterion of the dockyards against private contracts, there is any enormous scope there. My Noble Friend announced to day the names of the committee that has been appointed. The right hon. Gentleman opposite fell foul of the names. They are well known and able business men, who are prepared to give their time. If lion. Members are asking for a committee on a different type of work, of course there would be a. different type of people appointed. These are men who have proved themselves to be able, if you like, to make profits. Therefore, they are suitable for inquiring into the question of profits. There is nothing to conceal.
Let me say a few words on the question which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, and that is, the "C" class cruisers. My Noble Friend explained as fully and accurately as possible what is the position. The right hon. Member for Epping and the right hon. Member opposite challenged the interpretation which has been put on the treaty. They are entitled to do that, but they must admit that there is an enormous amount to be said on our side. The right hon. Member for Epping asked what the manager of a great private business would feel if he came down to his business and found that an important part of his stock had to be scrapped. That was a poor analogy. There is no comparison between a private business and the complication of Government business, with the effect of public opinion and the concern of other countries. In answer to his specific question, I may say that there is no reason to suppose that Japan will break treaties. Moreover, we shall 2325 be in touch with her regarding her intentions as to the exact manner in which she will fulfill her obligations.
Why are you so tender about 31st December and not about 1st January? On 31st December you say "We must have this tonnage scrapped, because we must do it under the treaty," but on the 1st January you propose to build 24 more of these ships.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
Simply and solely because of the fact that a treaty, for which I have no responsibility, was made, and we are a very old-fashioned country and like to keep our treaties. I could quote a speech of the right hon. Member for Epping, which he made six years ago, in which he used precisely the same words in reply to the right hon. Member opposite about the scrapping of the five "Iron Dukes," as were used to-day about the scrapping of the cruisers. He said "Why scrap them when you are going to build some more. Is this economy?" You cannot manipulate treaties in that way. Treaties may be good or bad, but that is another question. I have gone into this matter as carefully as I could, and I would emphasise the very strict wording of the 1930 Treaty, which says: "National security as affected by new construction." The right hon. Member for Epping cannot have it both ways. There is a special Clause dealing with destroyers, but there is no special Clause dealing with cruisers. The whole point is new construction. The Government have taken the only line they could take. It may be that cruisers will not be scrapped on either side, but that is not our responsibility.
I have tried to answer as faithfully as I can a large number of questions. Let me say, in conclusion, that the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East (Mr. Mander) will go on talking in general terms about collective security. I am asked by the right hon. Gentleman opposite why we need 70 cruisers. In answer I would quote the words of the right hon. Member for Epping: "The
§ purpose of the Navy is to assure the arrival of our daily bread." It is the opinion of the Government and of the Board of Admiralty that a very large proportion of these Estimates is for making up deficiencies while another portion is for expansion. They are part of the defence programme, which has been based on months of careful study.
§ The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton seemed to think that these things were thrown together for the House this year. They have been prepared very carefully. They aim to make the British Navy 100 per cent. efficient equipped with men, material and reserves. No Liberal and no Labour Member can logically vote against them. The only people who could logically vote against them would be those who support the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Max-ton). I do not believe that in naval affairs we have ever come near to collective security. It is no good confusing treaties for the limitation of armaments with collective security. That is a misuse of language—that is why I rejoiced in the cut-and-thrust of Debate. We must clothe collective security with reality. Hon. Member must have the courage of their convictions to-night and put party prejudice behind them. If they do that they will vote for these Estimates, which I commend to the House.
Is it true that the Fleet has only half an hour's reserve of ammunition in the Mediterranean?
§ Mr. LINDSAY
I did not specifically refer to the vague rumours mentioned by the right hon. Member and others. It is wrong for hon. Members to take vague rumours from the newspapers and repeat them in this House.
§ Question put, "That £10,300,000 stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 182; Noes, 85.2327
|Division No. 212.]||AYES.||[9.27p.m.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brown, Brig. -Gen. H. C. (Newbury)|
|Anderson Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Bull, B. B.|
|Assheton, R.||Bernays, R. H.||Bullock, Capt. M.|
|Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Campbell, Sir E. T.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Blindell, Sir J.||Cartland, J. R. H.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bossom, A. C.||Cary, R. A.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Boyce, H. Leslie||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)|
|Balniel, Lord||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)|
|Channon, H.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Reed, A. C (Exeter)|
|Cobb, Sir C. S.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reid, W Allen (Derby)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Rickards. G. W. (Skipton)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hulbert, N. J.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hunter, T.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||James, Wing-commander A. W.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Rowlands, G.|
|Groom-Johnson, R. P.||Joel, D. J. B.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Salmon, sir I.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Keeling, E. H.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Latham. Sir p.||Savery, Servington|
|Drewe. C.||Leckie, J. A.||Scott, Lord William|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Selley, H. R.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Lennox. Boyd, A. T. L.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Levy, T.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Lewis, O.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Liddall, W. S.||Sinclair. Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st),|
|Emery, J. F.||Lindsay, K. M.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Locker- Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Smithers. Sir W.|
|Entwistle, C. F.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lyons, A. M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Mabane, W. (Hudderafleld)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Furness, S. N.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Stourton Major Hon. J. J.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Goodman, Col. A. W.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Magnay, T.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Makins, Brig. -Gen. E.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mander, G. le M.||Taylor, Vice-Adm, E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Manningham-Buller. Sir M||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Grimston, R. V.||Markham, S. F.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||Mayhaw, Lt.-Col. J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Ward, Lieut.-col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Moore, Lleut.-Col. T. C. R.||Waterhduse, Captain C.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Munro, P.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Nail, Sir J.||Wells, S. R.|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Harvey, G,||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Palmer, G. E. H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut, -Colonel G.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Penny, Sir G.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Heneage, Lieut. -Colonel A. P||Perkins, W. R. D.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Petherick, M.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Radford, E. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Holdsworth, H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Commander Southby and|
|Holmes, J. S.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Dr. Morris Jones.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Grenfell, D. R.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Pethick Lawrence, F. W.|
|Adamson. W. M.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Potts J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Price, M. P.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pritt. D. N.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hardle, G. D.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Batey, J.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Ritson. J.|
|Bellenger, F.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Rowson, G,|
|Benson, G.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bevan, A.||Hopkin, D.||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jagger, J.||Silkin. L.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Buchanan, G.||John. W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cassells, T.||Kelly, W. T.||Sorensen, R. w.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Stephen, C.|
|Chater. D.||Kirkwood, D.||Stewart. W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Strauss G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Daggar, G.||Lawson, J. J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Lee, F.||Thurtle E.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Leonard, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Leslie, J. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Maclean, N.||Watson. W. McL.|
|Ede, J. C.||Messer, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Garro-Jones, G. M.||Parker, H. J. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
Question put, and agreed to.