§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS,
in rising to move—That, having regard to the recent statements of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, of the Adjutant General, and of high naval authorities, as to our defective armaments, and having also regard to the increased armaments of foreign nations on sea and land, this House welcomes the proposal of Her Majesty's Government for an increase of our defensive means, and confidently looks to their forthwith taking such further measures as will give ample security to our Empire and just confidence to the country,said, pace the Lord Mayor, and—since he made that remarkable speech last Wednesday on the Channel Tunnel—pace our late Protean Premier, he was not ashamed to proclaim himself an alarmist, and to frankly confess that he had been an alarmist for 40 years. For nearly 30 years he had been connected with the Volunteer Force, and what were the Volunteers if they were not alarmists? There were 200,000 of these serving at the present time, and over 1,000,000 who had passed through the ranks, and they had served because the state of the defences of this country was not such as it ought to be. This was because Government after Government had not the courage—and he did 1678 not believe would have the courage—to enforce the existing law of compulsory service for home defence, which was the existing law of England in the ballot for the Militia. The existence of the Volunteer Force, however, gave rise to a false sense of security, for the inefficient organization of the Volunteers rendered them a force which could not be trusted alone with the defence of this country. There had been alarmists before now. The first alarmist was the great captain of the age, the Duke of Wellington, and it was he who, in that celebrated letter to General Burgoyne, raised the first note of alarm. Lord Palmerston was the next, and he raised £10,000,000 to put our fortresses and Dockyards into a condition of safety. Who were the alarmists now? Among them there was the Commander-in-Chief and the Adjutant General. Recent speeches delivered by the Illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge) and the noble and gallant Viscount (Viscount Wolseley) must be in the recollection of their Lordships. Much was said in disparagement of alarmists and scares, but he was prepared to assert that it was only owing to the scares which periodically occurred that anything was really done in the way of improving our armaments and the defences of this country. The first scare was, no doubt, that caused by the Duke of Wellington's letter in 1847. There was then no Militia and no Volunteers, and only a very small Army. In 1852 the Militia Bill was introduced, which led to the re-establishment and revival of the Militia, and this was undoubtedly due to the letter of the Duke of Wellington a few years before. In 1859 there was the Franco-Italian War, which led to the establishment of the Volunteers. In 1862 there was the Trent affair, which led to the increase of the Army by 35,000 men. In 1870 occurred the Franco-German War, and as the possibility occurred that we might have to maintain the integrity of Belgium, the Government proposed to Parliament to increase the Army by 20,000 men, wherewith to drive out of Belgium whichever of the contending hosts ventured to cross its frontier, and of these 20,000 it took six months to raise 10,000. Following upon this scare, Mr. Cardwell, in 1871, introduced his Army Reform scheme, which was to have 1679 put an end for ever to the recurrence of panics. He would not enter into a discussion of that scheme, and would only say that it had certainly not had this effect. In 1878 there was the Russo-Turkish War, which led to an increase in our Army of 50,000 men. In 1882 the war in Egypt led to an increase of 6,700 men to the Army. In 1884–5 we had the question with regard to the Russian frontier of India, when the First Lord of the Admiralty, who brought forward the Estimates, came down to Parliament and asked for £5,000,000 as a supplemental grant for the Navy. In 1886, 9,300 men were added to the Army in India. He did not know whether it would be quite accurate to say that there was a scare just now. Before the speeches of the Illustrious Duke, of the noble Viscount the Adjutant General, and of other distinguished men, the Government, he knew, had been working to improve the military organization, and had done a great deal, but still he hoped that by the force of public opinion they might be induced to do a great deal more. Burke said—Early and provident fear is the mother of safety; for in that state of things the mind is firm and collected and the judgment unembarrassed; but when fear and the thing feared come on together and press upon us at once, even deliberation, which at other times saves, becomes our ruin, because it delays decision; and when the peril is instant the decision should be instant too.These words ought to be written up over the doors of the War Office and Admiralty. The state of the Navy was now the question of the hour. So many statements and counter-statements were made upon the subject that it was no easy matter for anyone who was not a naval man to arrive at any very definite conclusions. He had, therefore, taken the pains to obtain as good a naval opinion as could be got—the opinion of Sir Spencer Robinson, some time Comptroller of the Navy—and after submitting that opinion to other naval officers he had drawn up a summary of the views expressed by them and Sir Spencer Robinson, and that summary he would lay before their Lordships. First as to our naval administration. On several occasions our system of naval administration had been shown to be a failure. It was shown to be a failure when Lord Northbrook 1680 asked for £5,000,000 extra in 1884–5, and when recently £6,000,000 were asked for to provide guns and ammunition and £4,000,000 granted. It was shown to be a failure now when ships which were ready had to wait for their guns till the Spring of 1889, and when guns having come to grief afloat, others were taken from forts already insufficiently armed to supply their places. He sincerely hoped that the Committee of the Cabinet would mend our system of administration both in regard to the Army and Navy. Now he came to consider the Fleet. What was its duty? Not to defend arsenals, fortresses, and commercial ports, but to blockade an enemy's fleets, capture or sink them at sea, protect our commerce, and secure our food supply in war. What were our means of fulfilling this duty as compared with the means possessed by France? Sir Spencer Robinson said—No blockade will hermetically seal the ports of such a maritime power as France, but a blockade may be largely effective if carried out by a superior force. In addition to an unmistakable superiority outside there will be required a force in reserve somewhere in the Channel equal to the blockaded fleet should it or a sufficient part of it get to sea; while to maintain the coal and other supplies necessary to the blockaders, their numbers must exceed that of the blockaded fleet—say, by 33 per cent, so as to allow for a certain number of ships replenishing their stores in turn. To do this effectively we should require nearly the full number we possess available in 1890—of which four or five will be on foreign stations, leaving none to watch Russian ports or in reserve. To accompany the Fleets necessary for blockade 30 or 35 cruisers over 15 knots would be required (the eyes of the Fleet). We have only 42 or 43 in all, leaving seven to 12 cruisers to watch the 40 French cruisers of the same speed or the greater number of them not with their own iron-clads in port.Now, what was the comparative strength of the two Navies in iron battle ships? In 1890 England would have 42, France 38, not all of either Power being fit for all services, but all being fit for defence. It should be observed here that the French boilers were supposed always to be in a better state than ours. Of commerce protecting and destroying cruisers we possessed 121, while the French, including gunboats, had 126. In cruisers, speed was everything; therefore it was important to compare the relative speeds of the cruisers of the two countries. Of cruisers exceeding 1681 14 knots in speed England had 52, and, including 12 armoured cruisers, 64. But of these 12 seven had their armour below water. That was very much as if a man were to order a chest protector and wear it upon his stomach. In addition, six cruisers of the Barracouta class were being built of 16 knots, but these were practically obsolete ab ovo. France had 63 cruisers, including four armoured ones, and the speed of some of these was 20 knots and upwards. In England only two had this speed, but 21 more of 22 knots were being built. In France nine of 20 knots and upwards were being built, and one of them would have a speed of 25 knots. Of subsidized merchantmen, England had 20, of which two were of 19 knots, and all of considerable coal endurance. From France there were no statistics relating to this class of vessel. Estimating the comparative protection afforded by the two countries in proportion to the number of their merchant steamers, he found that whereas the relative protection afforded by Great Britain to her merchant steamers was as 1 to 90, in France the protection afforded was as 1 to 10. In the early part of the century the protection afforded by the navy to our mercantile marine was 6 per cent; it is now 1 per cent. Some people would say that our commerce would always be safe under the system of neutral flag protection. Not a very noble way for the Mistress of the Seas to protect our trade in war time. But the system must result in severe loss, as was proved by American statistics. In 1860, before the Civil War, the tonnage cleared in American ports was 12,087,000 in her own ships—nearly equal to our 13,914,000 cleared in British ports from our own ships. In 1870, the United States tonnage was under 7,000,000, while ours was over 25,000,000, and at present the United States tonnage was still lower, while ours stood at 47,000,000. Sir Spencer Robinson said that "if he had to fix our force in proportion to our wants he would say that six additional battleships were imperatively required, 60 first-class swift cruisers of 22 knots, a host of lighters, barges, and vessels to be used for rapid coaling, and an extension of electric cables to many important points now without them, or not in our hands." We further wanted a definite policy and programme; and as to this he had hope in the Committee of the 1682 Cabinet. A question had arisen as to the tonnage required for the invasion of this country. The First Lord of the Admiralty spoke of 480,000 tons, but there were experts who said that only 150,000 or 160,000 tons would be necessary; while at Havre alone there were 75,000 tons of shipping and five miles of quays. The Army was admitted to be low in numbers; the illustrious Duke wished to add 11,000 men, and others still more. Whenever we were called upon to send a portion of the Army into the field we had invariably to call for Reserves, for no regiment was kept up to the full strength with men of proper age. Our Army was still unarmed with repeaters, while other Armies had them; and there were many other things that were wanted. One great defect of the Militia was that it was generally somewhat under its nominal strength, and if troops were called out the Army "Militia Reserve" went back to the Army. The idea of General Peel in forming the Militia Reserve was that for every man enrolled in the Reserve another should be put on the strength of the regiment, and that the Militia Reserve should be supernumerary. As regarded the Yeomanry, the idea was that it should be converted into Rifle Cavalry, and made the Cavalry Force of the Reserve Forces, carrying a long rifle. The Volunteers had long been without the organization they ought to have, and there was no reason why they should not have had it any time during the last 25 years, or ever since they had a bonâfide existence. Nothing had been done; they had had no transport and no Artillery; but since the present Government had been in Office artillery was being supplied and arrangements were being made for the supply of transport. The Government, to their credit, had also brought in a Defence Bill. He would not say that the Volunteers were treated harshly in the Bill, but what they dreaded was being sent to serve a long way from their homes. Explanations had been given which would do away with alarm, but it would be well that words should be introduced into the Bill to provide that, except in great emergency, the service should be so arranged by a system of reliefs that it should not press unduly upon professional men and expose those in situations to the loss of their employ- 1683 ment, and further, that, as far as practicable, they should be called upon to serve in their own localities. He congratulated the Government upon their having done so much in the right direction. Still formulating what was said by the "man in the street," he should say that we wanted most a small permanent augmentation to the Army, say 20,000 men, so as to have ail our garrisons abroad kept always at an efficient strength, and that we should send no more boys to hot countries to die like flies. When the reservoir of men at home ran low we had to send boys abroad instead—an inhuman and very costly proceeding. Secondly, we wanted the stores and equipments for two Army Corps for foreign service and for one corps besides on a reduced scale for home defence. That was, we should have three Army Corps of regulars for home work, out of which two would always be available for foreign service when required. These seemed to be our imperative requirements in the opinion of those most competent to judge. Whatever was necessary to be done ought to be done quickly, with the decision manifested by Lord Palmerston when he asked for £10,000,000. His Motion was not brought forward in a hostile sense; indeed, it was almost a Vote of Confidence in the Government. It was certainly not brought forward in a Party sense, for this question was above all Party considerations. It was the most vital question that could be submitted to Parliament, involving the security of our Empire and the defence of our homes and the strength of England, which was in itself a security for the peace of the world. In reply to the suggestion that the defence of the country had been sacrificed to Party interests, the Prime Minister had earnestly protested against the idea that for the purpose of making a good Budget any Party would consciously risk the interests of the Empire. But the noble Lord whose speech was thus protested against only said what civilians and military experts were saying. Mr. E. Stanhope and Mr. W. H. Smith were examined before Sir James Fitzjames Stephen's Commission in 1887. Mr. E. Stanhope said—Within recent years Secretaries of State have allowed their stores to be reduced to the vanishing point, with the result of positive danger to the country.1684 Mr. W. H. Smith described the way in which his Estimates were dealt with by his Cabinet. He said—His Colleagues when he presented his Estimates said to him You must take off half a million' and this was effected by doing without guns, reducing the number of men, and diminishing stores, &c.Our ships were now waiting for these guns and our fortresses were unarmed. Lord Wolseley before the same Commission said—We are not in the position, military speaking, we ought to be in, nor do I believe we are in the position we should be in if the English people were told the whole truth.This scare or panic, call it what they pleased, and the speeches of the Illustrious Duke and his noble Friend behind him (Viscount Wolseley) and other experts in the Navy and Army, would open the eyes of the Nation to the true state of things. He might define panic as the temporary waking up of the nation from that deep, chronic sleep into which it was thrown and kept by the mesmeric passes of Ministerial manipulation. He ventured to think that upon such a question as this the opinion of experts and of men belonging to the professional classes should receive attention, and he was certain that his noble Friend at the head of the Cabinet trusted in the patriotism of the nation—of the nation as a whole composed of all classes—and not as narrowed by Mr. Gladstone, who excluded from the nation what he called society—professional men—literature and science; and so, trusting the nation, he hoped he would show that, whatever may have been previously the case, it should now be said that under his administration loyalty to Party Budgets was little short of treason to the State. He, therefore, trusted that the Government, backed by public opinion, which he believed was thoroughly with them, would take such steps as would once and for all give to the nation with regard to its armament ample security for the safety of the country. In conclusion, he moved the Resolution which stood in his name.
Moved to resolve,
That having regard to the recent statements of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, of the Adjutant General, and of high naval authorities, as to our defective armaments, and having also regard to the increased armaments of foreign nations on sea and land,
this house welcomes the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for an increase of our defensive means, and confidently looks to their forthwith taking such further measures as will give ample security to our Empire and just confidence to the country."—(The Earl of Wemyss.)
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
My Lords, I do not intend to follow the noble Earl by discussing all the very interesting topics which he has raised, but I may be permitted to make a few observations upon one point to which reference has been made in the public Press of late, and which, in my opinion, is one of very great importance—namely, the liability of this country to invasion, and more especially the size of the fleet which would be necessary to bring across our short Channel a small army, which, it is believed, could be landed easily on our shores with the intention of a rapid march on London. This subject of invasion can be discussed with advantage and without giving offence to even the most tender susceptibility on the part of any nation. I should be sorry to discuss this subject if I thought it would give the least offence to Foreign Powers with whom we have been so long on the most amicable terms. The reason I bring this subject before your Lordships is that on a recent occasion when I spoke in this House, I quoted evidence which I gave a year before with regard to what I believe to be a well-known fact, and one which has been brought forward by men of the greatest eminence in this country—namely, that this country is at all times liable to invasion. The question of invasion has been studied most deeply by all the greatest soldiers and sailors of the century, and notably by the great Napoleon, by the Duke of Wellington, and by the distinguished Admirals and Generals who have succeeded since the Duke of Wellington's death. The question has been so frequently considered that it would require courage amounting almost to temerity on the part of anyone to stand up either in this House or in any other public assembly and express views contrary to those held by men of the eminence of those to whom I have referred. In the speech to which I referred, it may be remembered that I mentioned the possibility of 100,000 men being landed on our shores in a very short time from across the Channel for the purpose of 1686 capturing London. A short time after I made that statement, the First Lord of Admiralty, in "another place," on the 4th of June, made a statement, I suppose with the very best possible intentions, which elicited a good deal of criticism in the Press. The noble Lord wished to show the absurdity of the men who impressed on the nation the imminence and possibility of this invasion, and he stated, in the clearest terms possible, as Minister at the head of the Board of Admiralty, that it would be necessary, in order to transport this army, to have a navy of 480,000 tons gross burden. This is a point to which every General and Admiral has given a great deal of attention, and I am justified in saying that none have given it more attention than myself. I can most positively assert that when the noble Lord stated that a Fleet of 480,000 tons would be required, he exactly multiplied by three the amount which would be actually necessary for the purpose described, I was so astonished in reading that statement, that my first impression was that either he or the reporters had made a mistake. I thought he meant to say 180,000 tons. I waited for a couple of days to see whether a contradiction would be made, but none appeared. Meanwhile the newspapers very commonly—especially those that consider it very desirable and wise to always expect fair weather and to anticipate no danger—dilated very strongly on the absurdity of men like myself venturing to talk of invasion when no invading army could come unless provided with an enormous amount of tonnage. I then gave the most unqualified contradiction to what I thought to be the most erroneous and most misleading statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty. I stated that a fleet of from 150,000 to 170,000 tons would be able to bring over an army of 100,000 men intended for the capture of London. I thought that that statement would have been generally received, and that the noble Lord would have consulted his distinguished Colleagues and expert advisors upon the point. I knew that if he had done so he would have obtained front them a full statement that he was entirely wrong and that I was correct. Instead of doing so, within a very short time afterwards he seems, by means of a friendly question addressed 1687 to him in the House of Commons, to have availed himself of his position to reiterate the fallacious figures he had previously given. Nothing is further from my intention than to impute to the noble Lord the wish to mislead the English people by false calculations. I am quite certain that nothing is further from his mind. But I cannot help thinking that it was a very serious thing if, as I believed was the case, he made the statement without having duly consulted those provided for him by the nation to advise him on these important points. I wish now to repeat that an army of 100,000 men intended for the invasion of this country and the capture of London could be transported across the Channel with the greatest possible ease in a fleet the size of which was 150,000 or 170,000 gross tonnage. I wish to emphasize that statement by saying that there is now, at this moment and every day of the year, in the ports of France ample shipping and tonnage to bring that army across the Channel. What is more—and this bears very directly on the point of the possibility of invasion—remembering that the permanent peace establishment of the French Army is nearly 500,000 men. I contend that it would be the very easiest possible operation for the French Authorities, if they wished to do so, to collect 100,000 men, with an Artillery consisting of 300 guns, in the ports bordering on the Channel in one night, without even informing the men who were to be embarked as to their destination; and your Lordships are well aware how short a time it would take to cross the Channel. The noble Lord who represents the War Office, when he answers the remarks made by the noble Earl in front of me, will, I hope, afford us some information as to whether this serious question has been considered by Her Majesty's Government; whether it has been put to the experts of the Army and Navy to say whether they think those statements that I have given as to the tonnage required for such an army of invasion as I have referred to are correct; or whether the statement of the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty is correct. The question is too important not to receive an answer; and I think it is due to your Lordships' House that we should have a statement made here and that we should be told whether the noble Lord 1688 at the head of the Admiralty is correct in the statement which he made in "another place" or whether the statement I have ventured to make this evening is true or not. My Lords, I regret very much to have had to make these remarks at all, and I regret still more that an official of Her Majesty's Government, a Cabinet Minister holding the position which the First Lord of the Admiralty occupies, should on his own motion or initiative, without consulting the experts whose place it is to advise him in such matters, have made—although not willingly, I am sure, on his part—a wild and extravagant and a misleading statement on a subject of the most vital importance to the country.
THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Lord HARRIS)
said, that with regard to the point raised by the noble and gallant Viscount, it was one which had far better be dealt with by a Cabinet Minister; but as his Lordship had put a direct Question to them—namely, whether the question of the possibility of transporting or as to what was necessary for transporting an army of 100,000 men from the Continent to England had been referred to the Military Authorities for their opinion—he answered unhesitatingly that it had.
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
Perhaps the noble Lord will kindly state what was the result of that inquiry or reference to the Military Authorities.
said, that that was a point which had better be dealt with by a Cabinet Minister; it was not one with which he was acquainted. The noble Earl who had moved that Resolution was always prepared cap-à-pie on those occasions and came down with Horse, Foot, and Artillery, but he never remembered his having previously added Marines to his force. He thought, however, that the Government had no reason to be dissatisfied with either the form of the Resolution, the quarter from which it came, or the time at which it was made. He construed that Resolution as one of rational criticism, combined at the same time with confidence in Her Majesty's present Government as regarded what they had done and also a belief that they would do their best in future to make the Army efficient. Now he thought they might hope that the first spasm and premonitory symptoms of panic had passed away, and that they 1689 now were all, whether they were pressing for expenditure or were on the side of the economists, ready to look at questions affecting the protection of the country in the future in a calmer frame of mind. The noble and gallant Viscount had already in that House expressed very much the same sentiment of confidence in the present Government as the noble Earl now did, and considering the tone that had been assumed in the public Press in respect to the military administration of the country, he thought he was justified in quoting the expressions used some weeks ago by the noble and gallant Viscount in that House. The noble and gallant Viscount then said—But even if I were (i.e., a politician), I could not with any honesty attack Her Majesty's Government for neglecting to attend to the interests of the Army and Navy. From the position which I occupy in the administration of the Army, no man is more thoroughly aware than I am of all that the present Secretary of State for War has done and is doing in order to render the navel and military forces of the Crown efficient in every way and worthy of the nation."—(3 Hansard,  94.)And again—I know how sincerely and deeply the Secretary of State for War desires to make the Army efficient. I have already alluded to what he has done in the short time he has been in office to improve not only the efficiency and organization, but also the discipline of the Military Forces."—(Ibid. 97.)And again—Since Lord Cardwell introduced the great reform of the Army, and changed the basis of our military organization, no Administration has done so much as the present Administration for the Army, or has introduced so many beneficial changes in the short time they have been in power."—(Ibid. 96.)The noble Earl had opened his speech by confessing that he had been an alarmist. Now, he trusted that he should not be accused of official optimism. He thought there was a happy mean between the two, and that the Government were justified in resisting unreasoning pressure for extravagant and ill-considered expenditure, with the right object of taking care that what money was voted should be properly spent. Money voted in a hurry was usually spent in a hurry, and in all probability those who so spent it would have to repent at considerable leisure. The noble Earl had acknowledged that one step taken by the Government was 1690 not the result of what he had called the panic of the other day. The Secretary of State for War had laid before Parliament at the commencement of the year a Memorandum in which he clearly pointed out that during last year a Committee had been sitting which took into careful consideration what was necessary to complete at once the armament and the works of our coaling stations, also what was necessary for the works and armaments of our Imperial ports, and what the Committee thought it was advisable should be spent on our commercial harbours. That Memorandum went into detailed statement, and said clearly that it was the intention of the Government to ask for a considerable sum outside the Estimates and for a loan in order that those works should be proceeded with as soon as possible. That document was laid before their Lordships and the other House certainly two months ago or more, and many of the articles recently published in the Press read as if no idea of that Memorandum had been before the writers at the time they wrote. The sum for which the Government had asked under the Imperial Defence Bill was no small one—it was £2,600,000. The Secretary of State in his Memorandum did not pretend that that was all that was necessary. He acknowledged that it was not, but said distinctly that he asked for that sum because from the opinions of his expert advisers and of those who appeared before the Committee last year, he believed that was as much as could be spent within the time. That, he hoped, was a well-considered scheme of expenditure, not a hasty and extravagant one. And, if he might say so with deference to the noble and gallant Viscount, he would observe that when he made his speech in the House, in which he did ample justice to the Government, he thought that justice was done somewhat tardily, and the noble and gallant Viscount had until then omitted in his speeches in different parts of the country to notice that the Government were asking from the nation very large sums to complete its defences. The noble Earl had alluded to the question of guns having been removed from men-of-war owing to the necessity of relining or owing to some failure of the lining and to their having been replaced through the land service. That had been done to his 1691 knowledge in two recent cases. He did not attempt to defend it, but he had only to say that in both of those cases the guns were taken from the second land line of defence, and that it had been the invariable policy of the War Office to give way in everything to the Navy, recognizing to the full that it was the first line. Then the question arose, what was the condition of this country at present with respect to the provision of armament? That undoubtedly was a most important question, touching, as it did, both Services. Undoubtedly there had been recent failures in guns, which had been brought before Sir James Fitzjames Stephen's Commission and had been reported in the newspapers, and that might lead those who studied the question to have very grave fear whether this country would be able to keep up its title to be a great manufacturing country. Many of the statements on the subject, however, had been greatly exaggerated. If a crack was reported in the lining of a gun, it did not necessarily follow that if the ship were on service the particular gun would become inefficient. It was a fact that many rounds had been fired from guns after the lining had been cracked, and that the shooting of the guns had not been spoilt. But it was absolutely necessary that the manufacturers of this country should, by study and experiment, produce guns as little liable to those accidents as possible. He doubted, however, if they could evolve, without experience, any better system than at present existed in this country for studying the science of gun-making. They had on the Ordnance Committee now sitting not only two officers of the Navy and a distinguished engineer, but within the last five years what were called specially associated members had been added—a member from the Armstrong firm, a member from the Whitworth firm, General Maitland, the head of the Ordnance Factory, and Lord Armstrong himself. They sat first of all on the question of ordnance construction in 1883; they were called together after the failure of the Collingwood guns in 1885; and they were now sitting on two important questions connected with the rifling and lining of guns. The Government were occasionally pressed from outside that if they could not get good enough guns in this country they should 1692 go abroad. But what security was there that the Krupp guns would be better than our own, or would be supplied more quickly? That was a question which had been looked into at the War Office, and it was his decided opinion that if you went abroad you would not get guns any quicker or any better. From the evidence taken by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen's Commission there was no doubt that there had been failures in Krupp guns as well as in ours; but in the case of foreign nations there was not the same publicity given to such matters as in this country. He wished their Lordships distinctly to understand that the Military Authorities—those in a political position—had recognized as clearly as possible the absolute necessity of advancing as rapidly as possible in the manufacture of perfect guns, and they believed they were doing what was best for the country and for the efficiency of the two Services at this moment. The noble Earl alluded to the fact that in every regiment of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps there was a certain number of young recruits, and if the regiments were sent on foreign service those young recruits would have to go out or to be replaced by older men from other regiments. As long as we kept up our present system of recruiting, we must have a number of men under age whom we should not wish to send to India. But if you wished to send on foreign service only those who were not above 20 years you would have to increase your Army. That was a question which it was not possible for him to discuss. It was only those in the position of Cabinet Ministers who could consider the whole matter from the financial and other points of view. You could not separate responsibility for the size of the Army and the efficiency of your military arrangements from financial responsibility. The Cabinet had most distinct responsibility to the nation, and it would be impossible to withdraw that responsibility or any other responsibility which rested on it. The noble Earl referred to the fact that we had not a magazine rifle at present in the British Army. Now he was under the impression that there was no Army on the Continent completely armed with the magazine rifle.
said, he believed there was one Army with a good number of those rifles; but he had it on the authority of a gentleman recently on the East Coast of Africa that he had an opportunity of trying the Martini-Henry carbine against the repeating carbine, and the Martini-Henry beat it in every respect. In the matter of rifles, he trusted the country would not press the Government. It was said, no doubt, that they had been studying this matter a great number of years, but that was not actually the case. It was only in the summer of last year that the calibre of the rifle was adopted. That was an important change, and it resulted that they had not been able to perfect the magazine rifle, which was now about to be tried, in all respects, as quickly as they originally supposed. He did not believe we had lost anything by that. They had gained, as other nations had bought a dear experience owing to being in a hurry. He was happy to be able to say that rifles for trial had now been issued to troops in England; some were being sent to Egypt this week, and he hoped a further assignment would be sent to India and to Halifax next week. Their Lordships must remember that the British Army had to fight in every climate in the world, and that every arm and every kind of ammunition must be tried in every climate, and that it required time for proof. The noble Earl referred to the Militia Reserve. At the time when the Militia Reserve was started, it appeared, from the noble Lord's own speech, that the country had not that magnificent force of Volunteers which it had now. That must distinctly affect the question of our Home Army; and in the presence of the Military Authorities he challenged the assertion that the Militia Reserve would be withdrawn from the Militia if an attempt at invasion was made. Under those circumstances he believed the Militia Reserve would stay with their Battalions. At this moment we were not able to recruit the Militia up to its full strength, and, therefore, the idea that for every Militiaman who joined the Reserve an additional man should be added to the Militia would be difficult to carry out. Owing to the greater demand in the labour market or to the greater attraction of the Volunteers, they had not been so successful in 1694 getting men for the Militia last year as in the two or three preceding years. Personally, he was entirely with the noble Earl in his view that the Yeomanry should become mounted rifles, but that was a change which required trial. If the regiments expressed a desire to try a long rifle, no objections would be taken to such a course at headquarters. The noble Earl said that the Volunteers had no organization and no artillery. In the last two years, however, the Government had done everything in their power to improve the organization of the Volunteers and to supply them with artillery. The whole of the 84 guns promised to the Volunteer Corps had been issued and were now in their possession; and with regard to 16 and 20-pounders the Department was now in communication with officers of the artillery Corps as to their willingness to accept them, but those officers had to look for a place to store them in. The noble Earl referred at some length to the Defence Bill. About that he would say nothing, as it was now before the other House, and when it came up to their Lordships' House the noble Earl would have an opportunity of moving any Amendment he thought proper. The noble Earl also brought forward his old friend, "the man in the street." He did not know whether the noble Earl expected the Government to accept the figures as really reliable. The Government would not be satisfied with the expression of opinion of "the man in the street; "but, as they had done in the case of the armaments and the works for our coaling stations and for the Imperial ports and commercial harbours, they would insist upon a careful examination of the figures, so that when they put their figures before the House of Commons and the country they could say that they had carefully looked into them and could guarantee their accuracy. The present Government had done their best to make some changes which would benefit the Army, and he had brought forward the hon. and gallant Viscount's evidence of that fact. They had been working under an abnormal pressure. There had been sitting Sir James Fitzjames Stephen's Commission, the Estimates Committee of the House of Commons, Sir Matthew White Ridley's Commission on the Civil Services, and the Committee on the ques- 1695 tion of the Defence of Imperial Ports and Coaling Stations. There had also been tremendous pressure put on the War Office in elaborating the mobilization scheme. In all these circumstances, he thought it would have been excusable if the Government had been unable to take up any great changes as regarded the Army. As regarded the Volunteers and Auxiliary forces, they had been enabled to introduce beneficial changes, and as regarded the organization of the Services, although it could not be laid down as a matter of fact that the changes they had introduced were beneficial, at least they could say that they believed them to be so. It was impossible to say in the moment whether a change in organization would in the course of six or seven years prove to be beneficial. It must, however, be acknowledged that the principle the present Government had introduced, that weapons, stores, and equipments for the Army should be examined, proved, and tested in a department different from that which purchased or supplied them, was a right principle. As regarded the changes at the War Office and in the Army, the Government were entirely responsible, and they were responsible for the changes introduced in consequence of the inquiry into the system in vogue at the War Office, and he believed they had no reason to fear what the finding would be whenever a verdict was passed upon them.
§ THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE
My Lords, although I am in no way personally responsible in the matter now before your Lordships, yet as I gave evidence before a Committee, and as I feel that a certain amount of responsibility rests upon my shoulders, I hope in these circumstances your Lordships will allow me to offer a few words on the question before the House. My noble Friend who brought forward the Motion has named me in that Motion, and rather implied that a scare was produced by what I said and by what the noble and gallant Viscount behind me has said. I can assure your Lordships that I had not the slightest intention in anything I have said of producing a scare, because I consider scares to be the most dangerous and objectionable things that can possibly be imagined. The whole subject arose in this way. I was called before a Committee of the other House 1696 to answer certain questions referring to the Army, and, of course, I answered those questions to the best of my ability and conscience. I did not frame those questions; they were framed by the Members who sat around. My business was to answer them. Among other questions I was asked whether I considered that at the present moment the Army was in such a condition that a certain proportion of one Army Corps could be immediately withdrawn from Aldershot or elsewhere and embarked for foreign service? My answer was, "No." "What do you want?" was one of the questions. I said that I believed that about 11,000 additional men would, upon our present system, carry out the object the question implied. I was asked what I meant. My meaning was exactly what has been stated in this debate—that under the present condition of enlistment and service, you are obliged to engage a very large proportion of very young men; and that, as there had been laid down a rule as regards hard foreign service in the field, that a man under 20 years of age ought not to be employed, if you have a large body of recruits in every regiment, unless you have some means of leaving a portion of them behind, you cannot embark the number of men you want. The 11, 000 men to which I alluded was simply to give a margin, so as to leave behind, not useless men, but men who for the moment cannot be made available, and by that means to fill up what I consider the vacancies created by the system. That is the meaning of what I said about the 11,000 men. I hope, however, it will not be understood that those are my views as to all that is wanted. I believe that more is wanted; but that was the ground on which these remarks have been made. No doubt, the subject has been very largely ventilated; and I then ventured to think, and I think so still, that it is very desirable that the country should understand exactly the position in which it is placed with regard to these questions. Hitherto the country has been asleep. I do not think the subject has hitherto attracted the attention of the people, and I believe that the cause of that has been that there has always been a great difficulty connected with it—namely, the financial difficulty. But now it has been brought prominently before the country, 1697 and, that being so, I consider, without reference to any attack upon the present or any other Government, that it is the duty of any man who is in a position to know how the matter stands and what ought to be done to state frankly what he thinks; and if he does not do so, I do not think he is doing his duty to himself, and much less so to his country or his Sovereign. There has, my Lords, been some talk about danger, and it is said that I used that word. I did use the word "danger," I believe; but I did not use it in the way which has been implied. The word "danger" can be taken in two senses. There is, first, imminent danger. There is, I believe, no imminent danger, and I do not consider there is any danger in that sense. But there is danger in this sense—that the country ought to be efficiently protected, and in a condition to hold its own with reference to other nations. In that respect, in my humble opinion, there is decidedly danger unless you have your Services in a condition to be able to perform the duties which may be required of them. I believe Her Majesty's present Government have done everything they could to accomplish that object. It cannot be done in so many days, or perhaps in so many years; but the object to be attained is to ascertain what is really wanted. We have never fully ascertained that. We have lived from hand to mouth, and if danger arises everybody immediately cries out for the Services to be prepared for anything that can be required. Sometimes it is a small scare, sometimes a very considerable one; and the result is that we are never really prepared either for a small or a considerable one. Now, I think Her Majesty's Government ought to lay down absolutely what they consider to be the object and duty both of the Navy and the Army—and not only that, but also the relative duty of each; because there is a great deal in the connection between the Army and the Navy. The Navy is, of course, the first line of defence; but the Navy requires the assistance of the Army, and unless the Army is in a position to assist the Navy, we cannot expect to hold our own with other countries. I am told that this country is not a military one, and that it does not want to vie with other nations in that respect. I entirely agree; but what is the real 1698 condition of things? Every other European country at this present time has been arming to the teeth; and what have we done? Comparatively nothing. [The Marquess of SALISBURY dissented.] I see my noble Friend the Prime Minister shakes his head; but for the last few years we have certainly not done what we ought to have done relatively to what other countries have done. If we are not in as good a position, relatively, to what they are, we must be in a disadvantageous position; and all that we have asked for, and all that we have put forward, all that I personally have put forward, whether in public or private, has always been this—that we should relatively hold the same position to other countries now as was the case before these vast armaments were introduced. I, for one, deplore these armaments. I think it is a most unhappy thing for the world, and I wish it did not take place. But it is not for me to say whether these armaments are necessary or not, however much I regret to see them. Every country judges for itself, and we must judge for ourselves relatively to what other countries do. I believe that Her Majesty's present Government have done an immense deal to meet the requirements of the country; but I do not think the subject has over been treated in former years in that spirit, and the result is that we have had this scare. I believe that if we have our Services in such a condition—not extravagant, by any means—that they can really carry out whatever is really laid down as the principle on which every Government should act, we should be in a much better position than we are now. When he dissented from what I said, the noble Marquess seemed to overlook the fact that in many respects changes have taken place. Take, for instance, the arming of the coaling stations. That is a question which was never thought of until within the last year or two. If you have coaling stations, which are necessary, they must entail an additional number of men, because the Fleet could not take charge of them alone. There must be troops to defend them, and without troops they would be worse than useless. At the same time, what I would like to see, and what every soldier would like to see, is that some fixed principle should be laid down which would define better 1699 than has hitherto been the case the relative duty of the Army and the Navy, and also the relative requirements as to the strength of the two Services. That would be an immense point, and I am rejoiced that we have a Cabinet Committee sitting on the matter; for I cannot but think that that Committee will produce some good result in that direction. If something sudden comes upon us, you may depend upon it you have not got the Services in that position that you would wish and that the country requires. I am most anxious to assure your Lordships that I have no desire to see any extravagance in the Army. My object has been to let the Government feel I am supporting them to the best of my ability; and in making these observations I have endeavoured to support what I believe to be the right thing in the interests of the State. I hope that this explanation will be satisfactory to your Lordships, and will show that what I have said on the subject has certainly not been with the object of producing a scare, but merely to make the country feel what was required to be done.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
said, he agreed with the illustrious Duke as to the inadvisability of sending young soldiers under 20 years of age out to India to reinforce regiments. It might have been better, in the interest of the Army in India and also at home, if the increase in the number of the British troops in India which was made a few years ago had not been made, for it would be preferable to have the Reserve at home rather than in India, where it was exposed to a worse climate, and where its maintenance was also more costly. He had, however, risen to make a few observations on account of the references that had been made to the strength of the Navy. He could not accept some of the figures that had been used by the noble Earl who introduced this Motion; and as the present strength of the Navy was due, not to the action of the present Board of Admiralty, but rather to the action of previous Boards, he felt bound to point out the inaccuracy into which the noble Earl had been led. The figures quoted by the noble Earl had been supplied to him by Sir Spencer Robinson and others; but he (the Earl of Northbrook) ventured to think that the state- 1700 ments of responsible experts on the question of the relative condition of the British and other Navies were of more value than those of experts who had no responsibility, such as Sir Spencer Robinson. The noble Earl had stated that from the figures submitted to him he was in a position to state that in 1890 the number of battle ships would be English 42, French 39, giving us a preponderance of only three. These figures gave a very erroneous impression. In 1884, when at the Admiralty, he had a careful examination made as to the respective strength of the English and French Navies. The Naval Members of the Board went carefully into the matter, and upon their authority he in that year was able to inform the House that the number of armour-plated ships was English 46, French 31. From that time to the present we had been building armour-plated ships at twice the rate of the French. Upon the authority of the present Senior Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Arthur Hood, who was an expert with responsibility, he was able to state that the number of such ships added to the two Navies by 1890 would be, since 1884, English 22, French 10. The figures, therefore, stood as follows with regard to armour-plated ships of all classes. In 1884, English 46, French 31; in June, 1888, English 54, French 35; in 1890, English 68, French 41. His noble Friend would see that these figures, given by a responsible expert, Sir Arthur Hood, entirely differed from the figures given to him by Sir Spencer Robinson. He was corroborated in these figures by the authority of a noble and gallant Friend, Lord Charles Beresford, who, he regretted, had left the Admiralty, and who could not be regarded as a particularly favourable critic of the present Board of Admiralty. Speaking to his constituents in November last, Lord Charles Beresford said that in 1890 we should have 38 ships of the first-class against 31 of two combined Powers, of which France was one. In 1879 the present First Lord of the Treasury, who was then at the Board of Admiralty, added to the number of ships laid down, but fortunately did nothing of the kind recommended now by Sir Spencer Robinson. If the right hon. Gentleman had decided to build 60 ships all at once they would have been obsolete by this time. But the right hon. Gentleman 1701 began to make good the want that existed, and the Board of Admiralty over which he himself presided followed in the same direction, with the result that in the years beginning with 1880 twice as many ships of the first-class were being built in England as in France. The public failing to understand what was going on, there was a scare in the Autumn of 1884, and Mr. Gladstone's Government, thinking it right to take advantage of the opportunity thus afforded, proposed an addition of £3,000,000 to the Shipbuilding Estimates of the Navy. The result had been most satisfactory, and at no time since the introduction of the screw in ships of war and of armoured plate had the Navy of this country been in a superior position than it was in now as compared with foreign nations. In fact, it had never been in so good a state. The noble Earl on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss) had especially referred to fast cruisers, and stated that the French possessed 63 vessels of this class, many of them over 20-knot speed.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
said, he thought there must be some error on the part of the noble Earl; he knew of no such fast-going cruisers in the French or any other Navy, and when he was at the Board of Admiralty the French had none, and had none building. The present condition of the two Navies, as far as these cruisers were concerned, was this on the authority of Sir Arthur Hood—we had 21 unarmoured cruisers of 16 knots and upwards, while the French only possessed six cruisers of that great speed. Our superiority, therefore, over the French in unarmoured cruisers of high speed was very considerable indeed. It was true that in the last year or two the French had begun to build a substantial number of fast cruisers; but he believed the present Board of Admiralty were taking the wise and proper steps to meet that increase by a relative increase on our side. The Admiralty had begun to build a large number of these vessels, of which no less than five would, he understood, have a speed of 20 knots. Eighteen or 20 were being built which would have a speed of more than 16 knots. He dissented altogether from the view of the irresponsible expert quoted by the noble Earl that we 1702 ought to build 60 fast cruisers and four more line of-battle ships. Our number of battle ships, as compared with the French, was sufficient for the present; and it would, in his opinion, be an unwise and extravagant policy to build at once an enormous number of ships of any class. The cost of Sir Spencer Robinson's scheme would be no less than £12,000,000. Those who wished to precipitate the country into such expenditure would do well to recollect what occurred in 1859. The question was then raised whether we had as many screw line-of-battle ships as the French, and many old sailing ships were at once converted into screw line-of-battle ships. But a very short time afterwards the era of iron-clads began, and these vessels were either converted into indifferent iron-plated ships or were now rotting in the harbours of the country. That showed the danger of any large, sudden, simultaneous operation in shipbuilding. The speed of our ships launched and completed during the last four or five years he considered very satisfactory, notwithstanding the adverse criticisms of a portion of the Press. Most of our recent iron-clad vessels had a speed of 16 knots, and some of our armoured cruisers had considerably surpassed the speed contemplated by their designers. He believed that the Orlando, in her trial trip to Gibraltar, had made a faster passage than had ever been achieved by any commercial steamer. He was prepared to rest his defence of our naval administration on the present position of the Fleet. He believed the Board of Admiralty was now engaged in making fit for sea a very considerable squadron in order to show what the position and organization of the Navy were. There never was a greater mistake than to suppose that the Board of Admiralty was not prepared to meet any difficulty, or to do any work which it had to do in respect of sending ships to any part of the world, manning them quickly, and fitting them out properly. On these points evidence was furnished by the two Expeditions to Egypt, and he was not aware that they were attended by any failure as to transport, organization, or equipment. And their Lordships could appeal for testimony to the noble and gallant Lord who commanded the Naval Forces (Lord Alcester), and who 1703 afterwards joined the Admiralty, and presided over a Committee which had worked out the whole organization for manning our ships. He believed it would now be found that 22 armoured battle ships, 18 cruisers, besides torpedo boats and gunboats, could be in a short time manned, equipped, and made quite ready for service without taking a man from the Reserves. It was impossible to over-estimate the importance of protecting our commercial marine in time of war; but to discuss the best mode of effecting this would be to take up more time than he would venture to occupy on the present occasion. He would, therefore, only observe that he was aware that the Board of Admiralty were paying particular attention to the subject. As to invasion, he was not going to discuss how many men per ton could be put on board ship and brought across the Channel, because that did not go to the root of the matter, which was that the command of the Channel should remain with our Fleet, so that there should be no possibility of sending a hostile expedition across it. The idea of invasion was preposterous so long as we had command of the Channel, and of this we had absolute certainty in the present condition of the Navy, and should continue to have it whatever Government had the responsibility of its administration.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that during that debate they had heard some very important, very interesting, and very startling statements, and it must be generally satisfactory to their Lordships to have heard a speech of a reassuring character. He would not prolong the conversation; he desired to obtain some information on a matter of detail, but an important detail; he wished to know what was the policy of the Government with regard to Dover Harbour? [A laugh.] The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) laughed; but the unanimous result of past discussions and inquiries was that the enlargement of Dover Harbour was an essential element in the defence of this country, and expenditure had been incurred with the object of carrying out the work by means of convict labour. It now appeared as if the project that had been formerly approved by the highest authorities had been abandoned; 1704 and it certainly did seem to be inconsistent to display so much concern about the defence of the Empire while neglecting an essential part of our home defences.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I have to apologize to the noble Earl if I seem to think too lightly of the grave subject which he has brought forward. But I have heard him bring it forward so frequently in this House, and at such long distances of time, that it impresses me very much as a favourite Motion of Mr. Smith in the House of Commons on the question of foreshores. There is something in the frequent repetition of an argument which comes to no practical effect which, I am afraid, diminishes the solemnity of the occasion. But I still think that the noble Earl's speech must be looked upon rather in the light of a confession than a complaint, because the story, as I understand it, is this—that about the year 1873 Mr. Gladstone's then Government, with the assistance of Mr. Cardwell and the noble Lord, had come to the absolute conclusion that Dover Harbour must be enlarged. A change of Government took place in 1874, and no doubt that very grave feeling of the Government was not continued. In June 1880, the noble Earl came into Office again and remained for five years, and yet, though staggering under the conviction that this was an absolute necessity, not a single stone towards the improvement of the harbour was laid. It evidently was necessary that the Government of which the noble Earl was a Member should consider the question for five years. We have only considered it for two years. With that answer to the noble Earl, I confess that I am not competent to deal with the matter from a strategic point of view; but if he will give me Notice I will tell him what our experts think of its relative importance to the numerous claims on the Exchequer for the purposes of defence. There is so much to do, that the postponement of works does not mean that you disregard or disbelieve in the value of the work, but simply that you think there are other works which are of more importance. I was anxious to say a few words with reference to the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount (Vis- 1705 count Wolseley) who spoke early this evening, and of the charges he made against my noble Friend Lord George Hamilton. I must say I regret that he should, in his position, have made charges of that kind without having taken some trouble to ascertain that they were correct. He charged my noble Friend, if I did not mistake his words, with having given an opinion on a very important matter of naval and military strategy simply from his own lights and without instructing himself by the advice and knowledge of his proper Departmental officers. The statement is entirely without foundation. My noble Friend, before he made the statement that he did, consulted the proper authority in his Department—namely, the Transport Department—and it was on their authority that the statement he made was put before the world. Whether it is right or wrong I will not undertake to say; but there is absolutely no ground whatever for the blame which the noble and gallant Viscount has thrown upon my noble Friend.
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
I did not refer to Departmental officers, but I said I was under the impression, so utterly erroneous was the statement made by the First Lord, that it was not possible he could have consulted the able Admirals who were his Colleagues on the Board of Admiralty.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I confess I do not see what more he could have done. He consulted the able Admiral or Captain whose duty it is to consider the question of transport, because that was the question which was under discussion. There was one other remark made by the noble and gallant Viscount of which I also desire to take notice. He intimated, in the form of a question, his belief that we had not consulted the authorities of the War Office, or of the Navy, with respect to the danger of an invasion on which he had insisted so strongly. That danger the noble and gallant Viscount has re-stated in fuller terms to-night. If I understood him rightly, he stated the danger to be that 100,000 men might be collected in a single night at the French ports of the Channel, placed on board the shipping that would be found there, and transported that night to the shores of England as a surprise. I can say that the matter has been under the anxious 1706 consideration of the Government in communication with the authorities of the War Office and the Admiralty. Stating the problem as the noble and gallant Viscount has stated it, I can safely say that we have received from no authority any indication that a danger such as he states it exists. I have heard of authorities, not of the War Office or the Admiralty, who have thought that a small force could be carried across in the way the noble and gallant Viscount suggests, as a matter of surprise. I have also heard—and I think it is the belief of the authorities of the War Office—that if we lost the command of the Channel by a great naval disaster, then such an invasion as the noble and gallant Viscount suggests might be possible.
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
I never suggested that 100,000 men could be embarked on board any fleet in one night. I certainly had no intention of suggesting that.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That sets the matter right at once. It certainly startled me very much. But the difference, I believe, between the Admiralty and the War Office is really a question of definition. What is a surprise? Such a surprise as that we were talking of just now, a surprise in a single night, is a thing against which no naval pre-eminence could contest if such a surprise were possible. A surprise of that kind I believe to be simply impossible; and I venture to form the opinion, even against any indication of military opinion—because it is not a military matter—that it would be perfectly impossible that any such movement could be organized in France and that we should not know of it. After all, there is the telegraph. If the wires are cut we know there is something wrong; if they are not touched the news must come over them. Such a force could only be concentrated at the ports of the Channel by means of the railways. In order to concentrate forces of that kind by railway you must seize and use a vast quantity of rolling stock. The companies do net keep that rolling stock idle; it must be withdrawn from the ordinary commercial traffic of the country. Do you suppose you can withdraw rolling stock to carry 100,000 men without calling attention to the fact that you are doing it? You would paralyze 1707 all the lines in the neighbourhood of Paris. There is another point on which the authorities of the two Offices differ, and again it is a difference of definition as to the nature of the equipment which these forces, suddenly thrown from France to England, are to carry. When my noble Friend Lord George Hamilton spoke of 480,000 tons as being necessary to carry 100,000 men he was thinking, as the transport officers advised him in thinking, of a thoroughly equipped force for the purpose of landing in the face of a hostile army, equipped with boats, horses, guns, and everything which such an army would require. Of course, if you do not add all these equipments, and pack them like herrings, I think it very possible that 180,000 tons would carry 100,000 men. But the making of such a rush pre-supposes the possibility of such a surprise as is involved in its being done in a single night. If you had not that surprise, if there was any notice or any possibility of bringing up any naval force to meet any expedition of that kind, the expedition must necessarily be destroyed The truth is that there has been a good deal of misconception caused by that phrase—losing the command of the Channel. What is meant by losing the command of the Channel? It is that our Fleet should be defeated, a contingency which we hope is impossible, but which it is yet right that we should take into consideration. But that we should so lose command of the Channel that every port should be sealed up, and no ship of any kind should be able to creep out to interfere with such an invading force as the noble and gallant Viscount portrays—I do not believe that it is within the compass of possibility or the gloomiest fears that England would ever be reduced so low as that. I think it is taking into consideration contingencies which cannot possibly occur. May I hope that, now we have threshed out what the meaning of the two Departments is, this duel will end? I do not think it is desirable that We should discuss in all its details for the benefit of our neighbours the precise mode in which we expect them to attack us, and in which we intend to defend ourselves; and I should be very grateful if the noble and gallant Viscount would use his official knowledge rather to guide us than to correct us. I am 1708 afraid that if chastisement is the proof of love, the love of the noble and gallant Viscount overflows all bounds. I will only say one word with respect to the speech of the noble Earl (the Earl of Wemyss). That speech follows the regular type of such speeches, and consisted of an unlimited laudation of experts, and of a contemptuous estimate of the two Front Benches. The popular view of persons of the mind of the noble Lord with respect to experts seems to be this—that they are a college of exalted persons who always have the same opinions, who always express them in perfect agreement, and who never have any doubt as to the accuracy of what they say. But the expert of actual life is very different. The experts, I regret to say, of the War Office and the Admiralty, as we have seen often on this vital question of invasion, are not actually at one. I believe I am violating no official discretion when I say that the great experts of the Admiralty whom the noble and gallant Viscount has so justly lauded look upon his apprehensions as little short of ridiculous. But, no doubt, they may be wrong, and the noble and gallant Viscount may be right. Experts do differ much more than people who are not experts differ, and you have only to go into a Committee of this House to hear experts on opposite sides swear with a hardihood of opinion which laymen can never rival. I object to having the experts thrown at my head in this way. If they were agreed upon matters which they know—I do not say upon all matters they are all agreed about spending more money—but if they were all agreed upon what they know the case would be different. But their differences on every point are enormous; and, however carefully we must weigh their opinions and them as against each other, I think the day has not yet arrived when the Parliament of England will surrender itself on this vital matter to the absolute guidance of experts. I would remind my noble Friend of a story of our distinguished neighbours, the French, with respect to the hunting field. A Frenchman was riding so fast that he got among the hounds, and on being asked whether he was going to catch the fox he answered, "My friend, I will try; I will try." Now, that is precisely the position of the despised persons 1709 whom the noble Lord speaks of as the two Front Benches. He will only ride down the hounds if he tries to do the hunting in our stead. We may be corrupt—we may be animated by every motive that is unlike those by which Englishmen are usually guided; we may be the very type of Party corruption; we may be paragons of incompetence; but still it is only we, the Front Benches, to whatever Party we may belong, we, the Ministers of the Crown, who can do the thing which you want done, and it is of no use for you to try to take it out of our hands. It must be done by the political and civil officers of the Crown, taking the advice of experts; and any attempt to force them or to push them, or to taunt them into abandoning their own opinions, yielding them entirely to what are called the opinions of experts, will only have the effect of paralyzing those who may do something without giving the power to any others to do it in their place. I earnestly hope that the noble Earl will revise the opinion that he has as to the two Front Benches. After all, does it not occur to him as rather odd that the people who are likely to know most of the inside of the Offices, to whatever Party they belong, or whatever prepossessions they begin with, always come to similar conclusions? Does it not occur to him that there may possibly be some facts and some sound reasons which lead to a result that à priori you could not expect? The noble Earl, I think, in his speech, which contained many good things, injured his case by adding to it these suspicions and these reproaches in regard to those who hold political Office. This perpetual repetition of the formula that they are neglecting the highest interests of their country in order to make successful Budgets against Ministry after Ministry, no matter what may be their political opinions, or their moral character, or their intellectual capacity, does seem to condemn itself, and it shows that there must be something weak in the cause which is constantly appealing to prejudices of such a description. I would ask the noble Earl to believe that we, and noble Lords opposite, are animated by as pure a desire to serve the public in the recommendations that we give as he is—that we are as sensible as he is of the stupendous magnitude of the interests 1710 committed to our care; that we feel as deeply as he can do the enormous responsibility which the protection of this vast Empire carries with it; and that we are devoting all that we have of knowledge, of industry, or of capacity to carry that task successfully into effect.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
briefly replied, thanking his noble Friend for what he had done, and only expressing the hope that the view which his noble Friend took of all those questions would lead to the Government arriving at some wise decision which would result in giving greater confidence and security to the country.
§ LORD ELPHINSTONE
said, that after the speech of the noble Earl the late First Lord of the Admiralty (the Earl of Northbrook) it was unnecessary for him to detain their Lordships with any remarks. His only object in rising was to say that the figures which that noble Earl had quoted were substantially correct. The following (omitting coast defence) was a statement of the relative strength of the Navies of Great Britain, France, and Russia:—In 1888 Great Britain had 34 armoured battle ships, France had 23, and Russia 2. In 1890 the numbers would be respectively 40, 24, and 7. In 1888 Great Britain had 6 armoured cruisers, France 4, and Russia 6. In 1890 England would have 14 armoured cruisers, France 4, and Russia 3. In 1888 we had 1 torpedo ram, while France and Russia had none. In 1888 England had 73 unarmoured ships, with a speed of 11 to 16 knots, while France had 51, and Russia 26. In 1890 we should have 78, France would have 37, and Russia 26. In 1888 England had 21 unarmaoured ships of 16 knots and over (exclusive of gunboats), France had 6, and Russia none. In 1890 England would have 39 ships of that class, France 21, and Russia 4. In 1888 England had 4 torpedo gun vessels, with a speed of 19 to 21 knots, France had 8, and Russia 1. In 1890 England would have 13, France 8, and Russia 2 of that class of vessels. That list did not include the two protected cruisers, the Blake and Blenheim, of 9,000 tons and 22 knots, and capable of steaming 15,000 knots at 10-knot speed. Nor did it include the Vulcan, protected cruiser, of 6,600 tons and 20 knots, and capable of steaming 12,000 knots at 10-knot speed. The battle ships Mino- 1711 taur, Achilles, Hector, Valiant, and Defence were not included in the list, because it had not yet been decided to repair them. It should be noted that three iron-clads were on foreign stations. Therefore, as he had stated, the figures given by the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) were substantially correct; and, that being the case, he would not detain their Lordships with any further remarks.
§ Motion agreed to.