HL Deb 27 May 1889 vol 336 cc1059-89

I have now to move the Second Reading of the Naval Defence Bill. The Bill has been before the public for some time, and I imagine that its provisions and the purposes with which it has been brought forward are familiar to your Lordships. Still, I think it would not be respectful if I did not indicate what is the nature of the provisions, in some respects unusual, and, I think, important, which we have presented to Parliament, and what are the considerations which have induced us to submit them. It is proposed to apply the sum of 21½ millions to strengthening the Navy. Ten millions of it will be applied to ships to be built by contract by private builders; 11½ millions will be applied to ships to be built in Her Majesty's Dockyards; and they will be built within four and a half years. Of that sum we take it that three-quarters is for hulls and machinery and one quarter for armament. It has been said that it is a mistake to represent this sum of 21½ millions as being entirely an extraordinary effort to provide for the naval defence of our trade and of the kingdom, because, although the ten millions which are to be paid to contractors will be undoubtedly an extraordinary expense, the rest will be borne on the ordinary Estimates of the year, and may be spoken of as ordinary expenditure. That, however, my Lords, is a fallacy. The 11½ millions which will be expended in Her Majesty's Dockyards will be borne on the Naval Estimates of the year, but is very much in excess of that which can be called ordinary expenditure. Of course, the term ordinary expenditure is a very vague one, because the meaning entirely depends on the period of time that you select as your normal point—as the datum point from which the expenditure is to be measured. I do not wish to discuss what has been done by noble Lords opposite, but if I may take Lord Beaconsfield's Administration as a period of normal Naval Estimates the case would then stand thus:—In the four years ending in 1879 our expenditure on new naval construction was two millions a year. In the four years which ended with the present year a portion of which is no doubt due to the arrangements of my noble Friend above the Gangway—our naval expenditure on new construction has been £3,100,000. In the four years that will end in 1893 the naval expenditure on the Estimates for new construction will be £4,200,000. So that, taking Lord Beaconsfield's Administration as the normal expenditure by which to measure the Estimates, there is an excess for each year of the four or five years that are coming of £2,200,000, very nearly making up the 11½millions which, as I have said, we intend to spend in Her Majesty's Dockyards. Some noble Lords present will, of course, think that we ought not to have spent so much. I am not entering into the merits or demerits of the expenditure now, but merely putting the matter upon its proper footing—namely, that it is an extra expenditure of 11½millions upon the Navy. The present Board of Admiralty have made considerable changes in the traditional practice with respect to the allocation of expenditure. It was the old practice of all Boards of Admiralty to begin a great deal more work than they had any chance of finishing in a short time, and to go on with a great many jobs in hand and to take a considerable time in finishing each job. The policy of the present Board of Admiralty has been to finish every bit of work as fast as they could before beginning any new work. The importance of that arrangement is that they are able to foresee with more accuracy what their expenditure at all times will be and to keep up a regular rate of expenditure. That means a regular rate of labour and so to employ the same number of men without sudden changes in the way of reduction or increase of the establishment. But the habit of doing a good many things at one time and not finishing them has been largely produced by certain Treasury arrangements—arrangements which I have no doubt were originally very valuable to the finance of the country, but which have not had an advantageous effect upon the shipbuilding of the Navy. The Treasury arrangement is to estimate how much of a ship will be built in a particular year; and if a less sum was then spent on it, the money had to be returned to the Treasury; if more, a Supplementary Estimate had to be asked for. The result has been that there has been an artificial adaptation of the structure of the ship in order to suit the financial exigencies of the calculations that have been made; so that, if possible, there should be spent on the ships so much in the financial year as was intended, and no more. The necessary consequence has been that the arrangements have been artificial, and from time to time it has been necessary sometimes to discharge men because they had not enough money, and at other times to take on more men because they had more money than the existing establishment could get through in the financial year. In this matter we have most undoubtedly made a new departure. We have abandoned the practice of calculating the building of ships by bits. Besides the inconvenience it has caused, I think it has had a bad effect in relation to political influences. When the year comes round again the plans for building ships come under consideration, perhaps before a new First Lord of the Admiralty, perhaps before a new Chancellor of the Exchequer, and under changed conditions, under circumstances when there might be a desire to save money or possibly there might be a panic; and the result has been a stretching and a contracting, as it were, of the plan of a ship, with a perpetual liability to alteration, which has produced some of the strange anomalies that have been brought before our attention in recent discussions. We desire when a ship is once begun on a given plan that she shall be pushed through as fast as the establishment at our command will enable us, with regularity, without unnecessary intermission, and without any alterations, either financial or otherwise. Therefore the ships to be provided by the money that is now to be placed by Parliament at the disposal of the Government will be begun and carried through within a given time and without further reference to Parliament; and without an Act of Parliament it will not be in the power of a future First Lord or Chancellor of the Exchequer to alter the plan now adopted. The next point I have to show your Lordships is what addition to the Navy this expenditure will produce. It is on the whole 70 ships, 38 of which will be built in Her Majesty's Dockyards and 32 by contract. Those ships are thus distributed: Of the Dockyard ships 14 will be battle-ships, 20 will be protected cruisers, and four will be smaller ships; of the contract vessels four will be battle-ships, 22 protected cruisers, and six will be smaller ships. Taking into account the ships we build this year, we should be in 1894 stronger than we are now by 113 ships. That increase is specially directed towards the increase of our cruisers, in which we found there was a deficiency, for whereas we increase our battle-ships from 50 to 65, we increase our protected and armoured cruisers from 40 to 100. The most interesting point, however, is, What is the relation of the Fleet we hope to have in 1894 to the Fleets of other Powers? It has been laid down as a sort of general rule or maxim for the guidance of this country as a great maritime nation that we ought always to have at our command a Fleet which would be equal to a combination of any two great Powers which might be brought against us. I think, on the whole, this ideal state will have been reached in 1894. In that year the armoured battle-ships of England will be 77, those of France 48, of Germany 40, of Russia 27, and of Italy 19. If Germany and France were to unite against us—I do not think the combination is a probable one—they could bring only 88 armoured ships against our 77. If your Lordships examine the details of the ships you will find a considerable number both in Germany and France put down as armoured battle-ships which are really very small vessels only armed for coast defence. But in any other combination, such as that of France and Russia, France and Italy, Germany and Italy, or Russia and Italy—in all these cases our armoured battle-ships would be more numerous than the armoured battle-ships of any two Powers combined. In respect of protected cruisers we shall be still stronger. There is a technical distinction between protected and armoured ships—in the former the protection is applied only to the vital parts of a ship. The protected cruisers of England will in 1894 be 88, those of France 14, Germany 10, Italy 17, and Russia 3, making a total of 44. So England will have precisely twice as many as the other four Powers altogether. That, my Lords, so far as numbers go, appears to me, as far as we can make any calculation, to indicate a satisfactory state of things. I am aware that there are naval critics who will not be satisfied with this provision, and who think that we have fallen short in our efforts to provide for the defence of the country. I have seen such views maintained by distinguished men in published articles. Well, it is very difficult to bring these views to the test. I see that a very distinguished Admiral has maintained that we ought to have an addition of 240 cruisers to our existing numbers if we are to defend our trade in all parts of the world. It is quite impossible to bring such arguments to an actual test, but there is one consideration that critics of this kind entirely lose sight of. They forget the enormous change in this particular branch of naval warfare which has been introduced by the necessity which every cruiser is under of coming back for coal after being a certain number of days at sea. Fighting between fleets has not changed much, except in respect of their armament and armour, but the part of naval warfare that consists of preying upon trade has undergone an entire revolution, for whereas in former days the privateer or cruiser could remain at sea as long as she had got food, now she is entirely limited by her distance from her base of coal supply, and she must return to it under pain of being found helpless and therefore defenceless by the enemy. I believe the average coaling capacity of our ships, cruisers, and battle-ships averages a little under 18 days. I am told on good authority that foreign navies are still worse provided, and may be taken as having one-third less coal capacity than our ships have. That would make their limit 12 days. A day at ten knots an hour is four degrees; so, roughly, we may say that considerably less than 1,500 miles would be the limit of the striking distance of a cruiser from her base of supply, it being borne in mind that she has to go back again to renew her supply. The peculiar circumstance which we must steadily keep in view, and which must have great effect in any future war, is that our own war-vessels and most of the commerce of the world now depends upon British coaling stations. Of course there are others, but foreign stations are limited in number, and therefore could be watched with comparative ease by a Power having command of the sea. Therefore the danger for our distant trade—for our trade in the Pacific, north and south—is much less, comparatively, under the new system of warfare than it was under the old. Of course, if we are the Power which has command of the sea, I think the idea that we should expend such vast sums as those indicated in the Estimates I have referred to in the defence of our distant trade has been adopted without sufficiently weighing the revolution that has taken place in the conditions of warfare. Before you decide that any particular part of the world can be exposed to the depredations of a hostile cruiser, you must ask what base belonging to her own nation that hostile cruiser can go to for coal, and whether that base is within striking distance. That is my reply to those who, on the ground of the enormously extended trade of Great Britain in every part of the world, claim from us such extravagant efforts as those to which I have referred. I freely admit, however, in respect of all other matters, that while there is much that is obscurer doubtful, and uncertain, the progress of science has greatly increased the necessity for effort and caution on the part of this country. It may be asked—and probably will be asked by noble Lords opposite—why have you not taken these steps before? My first reply is that the arrears in the supply of our ordnance has made it absolutely impossible. We have—I will not say an unlimited power of building ships—but we have a power of building ships of which we have not reached the limit; but we have long ago reached the limit of our power of constructing ordnance. It is a matter of notoriety that we have for years been in arrear and unable to furnish ships with the large ordnance necessary for their efficiency. Until we could make up those arrears and were able to furnish ordnance to all our ships, it was idle to think of making any large increase in our Navy. The establishments that can furnish large guns are very limited in number; you cannot go beyond their resources; there are no other resources on which you can fall back; and it was an absolute impossibility, once ships had been allowed to get ahead of ordnance, to increase the Navy until you restored the equilibrium between the new ships to be built and the ordnance they required. I do not care to examine what politicians or which Party may have been to blame for this disproportion; probably the blame, if blame there was, must be spread over a great number of people. But when people are severe upon us politicians, I wish to point out that a special responsibility rests upon one class of persons, and these are our friends the experts. If there is any cause that has delayed the supply of ordnance and has produced this arrear, it is the length of time we adhered to the muzzle-loading gun after every other nation had abandoned it. The persistence in that prejudice has thrown us seriously into arrear and has lost us several precious years; and it was to the experts, and to the experts alone, that that persistence was due. I do not say all experts were to blame; but in this matter the delay is due to experts and not to politicians. My Lords, that is one reason why we have not made these propositions earlier. Another reason—and I hope I shall not be blamed for it—is our utter dislike and reluctance to incur the expenditure involved. We have put it off as long as we thought it safe, until we were convinced by the accumulation of proofs that we should no longer be doing our duty if we did not make these propositions, onerous as they may be. It must be remembered that we have had some light thrown upon our capacity for defence by the Naval Manœuvres which have been established in recent times. I am not competent to discuss their lessons in detail, but I think one fact that came out plainly was that a system of blockade is not a system upon which we can rely. When, instead of blockading ships in places where they are assembled, you have to pursue them across the ocean, it requires no technical knowledge to see that a great many more ships are required; and the fact that our ports would be exposed to insult, our trade routes would be imperilled, and our commerce exposed to depredation by cruisers whose action we could not check unless we had an adequate number of cruisers to send after them, proves the necessity of immediately providing ourselves with the requisite protection. Then there is the question of invasion. That is a question which it is difficult to deal with fully in this House, but it has already been discussed by some distinguished men, and Lord Wolseley has expressed his opinion that under present circumstances 100,000 men might be landed on our coasts in a single night. Upon this point some difference of military opinion does, however, exist, and in this conflict of expert opinion, civilians must form opinions of their own. My opinion, I may say, remains unchanged, that this is not a danger which we need consider. But I have found that great authorities do entertain the idea that a small invasion is not beyond the limits of probability, but this would be an invasion by a much smaller force and which would be in the nature of a forlorn hope with which our military resources, if properly ordered, could well deal. But the subject of sudden invasion is not what I am thinking of. I find that many of the highest authorities consider that if our possession of the Channel was destroyed by a naval disaster or defeat even for a short time, then the possibility of invasion would become a real danger. It is impossible to say what the issue of the first naval collision might be, for it necessarily is a matter of speculation. These vast machines which we have constructed at such immense expense have practically never been tried. There are people who think they are too delicate for the rough requirements of war. We cannot form any certain forecast from experience of what their behaviour or fate will be when the contest occurs. It is, of course, only with extreme reluctance that we contemplate the possibility that we shall come off worst in the first naval encounter, but we ought to be prepared for such a possibility, and the only provision against the danger that would ensue in such an eventuality is to have a large reserve. Without it we should have nothing to defend ourselves. If we have a large reserve at our command we can then look without dismay to the chances of war, because we know that we can supply the place of any vessels we may lose. If you stake your command of the Channel on the result of one engagement or a succession of operations you will be placing in danger interests so vast that it is terrible to think of them, and you may encounter calamities which generations might not undo. My Lords, it may be said that such speculations as these are made only by alarmists, and that they ought not to be made. This is a kind of criticism which is very safe, because, as your Lordships know very well, it would be impossible for me or for you to discuss in detail the elements of safety or of danger, which in the present state of the political world may exist or present themselves. All that we can safely say is that questions which may bring nations at issue still exist, that there are territories coveted and not possessed, that there are past wounds not yet healed, and above all that, however earnest may be the resolution of the existing rulers of Europe to avoid war, and I believe it is universal and genuine, there never was a time when one could assume with less certainty that the rulers of five years hence will be the same as the rulers of to day. And another matter that must be borne in mind is the extreme facility of concentration, which forms one great element of danger. Science has done much for the massing of armed men; and all the refined and subtle machinery of war which a nation may possess may now be concentrated and directed at the bidding of a single will upon a single point in an incredibly short space of time. This is a vital distinction between war at the present time and in the past. When the danger comes it will come upon us as a thief in the night, and give us little time to prepare to ward off that danger. But perhaps the best answer to be made to those who say this is an alarmist view is not to point to proofs but to call witnesses. What are the other nations of Europe doing? Is there one of them that is not accumulating means of offence and defence beyond all former practice and experience? Every one of them is doing this at the greatest possible sacrifice, and there is not one of them where the financial effort is not felt with bitter inten sity by large masses of their populations. The fiscal burden upon the masses of the population in some of them is indeed becoming so severe that there are some persons who think that the severity of this burden is one of the causes of danger, and that men may be tempted to court a crisis which will in one way or the other deliver them. from it. Everywhere armies are being increased, more ships are being built, larger sums are being lavished, new harbours are being constructed, and new armaments are being called into existence with feverish haste. Do not tell me that the experienced men under whose direction these things are being done, who have lived far more in the face of danger than ever we have done, and who have before them all the sources of information that we have, are making these gigantic efforts without being convinced that there is a real possibility of the dangers that they are struggling to avert. My Lords, I know it is said that by our action we are actually causing these great armaments and nourishing this insecure feeling. If ever there was an argument which realized the fable of the wolf and the lamb it is this one. We have drunk of the stream at a point far below that at which they have touched it. We have waited until the last hour—it may be beyond the last hour—rather than join in the general race of expenditure and preparation for the sake of avoiding to the utmost of our power any encouragement of others in a course the effect of which is so terribly injurious to mankind. But we dare not delay any longer. Do not say that I am preaching the immediate or probable existence of danger. I am not pointing out that there is any probability of the evils against which I ask you to guard. When a man insures his life or his house it is not because he expects that he will die immediately, or that his house will assuredly catch fire, but that there is a chance that these things may happen, and against that chance he accordingly provides. Do not interpret my words to bear a more extended meaning. I say there is a real and genuine risk. I hope earnestly and believe this risk never may develop into a reality, but there is a risk against which you are bound to guard, and we are confident that we have not appealed and shall not now appeal in vain to the patriotism of Parliament, in urging them to take care by such precautions as they can make that that risk shall not be turned into a reality for us. My Lords, I move the Second Reading of the Bill.


I do not consider it necessary for me to follow the noble Marquess into the details which I am bound to say he has very clearly explained to the House. But I should be unwilling to allow this Bill to pass without saying a few words. I do not oppose it, but I do not think it is a Bill which should pass this House in silence. The Bill comes to this House backed with the approval of a large majority of the House of Commons, which is the special guardian of the public purse. And more than that, although there may be a difference in the application of the principle, both parties are agreed in wishing to see our Navy adequate for national defence. The noble Marquess mentioned as a recommendation of the present scheme that it proposes to spend double the amount spent in the time of Lord Beaconsfield. I quite admit that is so, but I cannot say that is any very great recommendation. On the question of expenditure, if not for the best of all possible objects, I think it desirable not entirely to discard the opinions which have been laid down, not only by Liberal Leaders, but also by such statesmen as Sir Robert Peel and Lord Beaconsfield. Sir Robert Peel particularly repudiated the advantage to the country of greatly increasing its naval and military operations in order that it might reign supreme, because, he said, the result of that would be that other countries would follow that example, and the result would be that each country would spend enormous resources merely in the fear of military operations. Lord Beaconsfield on one occasion almost prayed the House of Commons in the interests of peace to diminish rather than to increase expenditure of this kind. Now, the noble Marquess has stated what will be the result of this scheme. He says that in 1894 the Navy will be equal to the navies of any two combined countries. This statement would have been more reassuring if a similar statement had not been made some time before. The Government, when they came into office, I think for two years in succession made a reduction in the expenditure on the Navy. The noble Marquess shakes his head.


Not a reduction in naval construction.


The reduction was in the Navy Estimates.


Yes, but not in the Naval Construction Department.


I hardly see how a reduction in the Estimates can be inconsistent with a reduction in construction. The Government stated at that time that our Navy was equal to the navies of any other two countries in the world. The noble Marquess now prophesies exactly the same thing for 1894. But the fact of that statement having been made at that time diminishes the confidence to be placed in assurances of this character. The Government also stated at that time, in the most positive way, that it was very unwise to lay down many ships at once, for the somewhat obvious reason that in 10 or 15 years they would become obsolete. I am not very much reassured on this point by the declarations of the noble Marquess, because one of the reasons which he gave for the great constitutional innovation, without precedent, as to the mode of paying this expenditure, was that the Admiralty were apt to change the design of their ships and to admit what they thought were improvements. It appears to me that there is no such great danger as that which has been stated. My Lords, the noble Marquess has thought it right at this stage of the Bill—a Bill which is certain to pass—to raise an alarm. He made certain statements which I defy anyone to say were not of a most alarming character It is quite true that in the last sentence or two of his speech the noble Marquess rather answered himself; but it is impossible to place faith in the picture of the danger which, he says, in a very short time we may be liable to. I am not over-sanguine when I say that this picture is overdrawn. I am quite sure that we ought to do all that is necessary to make the Navy adequate; but to base it upon fears which, I believe, are very largely exaggerated, if not chimerical, is not wise nor prudent. The noble Marquess has made very little defence for the perfectly new and unprecedented course of meeting the naval expenditure adopted by the Government, and of taking it away from the control of Parliament. It does not, however, really take the matter away from the control of Parliament, because there is the possibility of another Government coming into power, and if they were to have a large majority at their back the House of Commons might of course repeal and alter the Bill now before us. In that case it is worth while your Lordships' considering whether this House would not be placed in a false position. I do not wish to go into details, and I have no intention to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.


My Lords, in saying a few words upon this subject I think that, in the first place, I may congratulate your Lordships that a legitimate opportunity has been afforded to this House for discussing the naval programme for the next five years. Such opportunities have rarely on former occasions been given to the House of Lords. And I think I may say, without any risk of stating what is not the truth, that it is an advantage to the country that your Lordships' House should have the opportunity of discussing the programme of naval defence. At the present time there are two Members of this House who have held the position of First Lord of the Admiralty. My noble Friend, Lord Brassey, has been Secretary to the Admiralty, and we have two professional officers of Her Majesty's Navy who have had greater experience than any Member of the other House—Lord Clanwilliam and Lord Alcester. We have also Lord Ravensworth, who is Chairman of the Society of Naval Architects. Therefore it does seem to me that it is to the advantage of the country that the strength of the Navy should be discussed in the House of Lords. It is, I think, very essential that your Lordships should understand that this sum of £21,500,000 which is comprised in the Bill is not in addition to shipbuilding votes, but is the whole shipbuilding expenditure for five years, so that it cannot be set down as being a very enormous increase of expenditure. At the beginning of next year almost every one of the ships now on the stocks will be completed; and in the spring of next year the whole of the former programme will be finished. A new programme must therefore necessarily be prepared and carried out. I confess it appears to me that the amount asked for by the Admiralty is not an unreasonable amount in itself and is not more than adequate for the demands of the service. I wish to call your Lordships' attention to the report of three officers of the Navy upon the general results of the Naval Manœuvres of last year. The officers, than whom I am convinced no men could be found in the service more qualified, are Sir William Dowell, Sir R. V. Hamilton, and Sir F. Richards. This was their opinion given after careful consideration of the results of the Naval Manœuvres. They say:— The main lesson that these manœuvres emphasize is that Great Britain, whose maritime supremacy is her life, is very far from being as strong as she should be on the seas. And they observed, and this point I wish to draw to your Lordships' particular attention, No fresh ironclads appear to have been laid down since 1886. I do not think any had been laid down since 1885, but we will say 1886, and as there is nothing, in our opinion, to justify the belief that the days of ironclad battle-ships are over, we recommend a resumption of, and a steady continuance of, ironclad building. My Lords, I can well understand the reason which induced the First Lord of the Admiralty not to lay down any of these ships between 1885 and the present time. It has been a matter of considerable doubt whether, in consequence of the use of the torpedo, the large battle-ship would not become a weapon of the past, and for a time some nations did not continue to build ships of that class; but the general opinion of experts at the present time is that the days of battle-ships are not past, and therefore it is necessary for us to progress with the times in order to maintain our naval supremacy. I do not think the number of battle-ships proposed to be built is excessive. The ships to be laid down between the years 1885 and 1890, is 10, which is the same as the number laid down between the years 1881 and 1885. No one can dispute the necessity for increasing the number of cruisers required for the protection of our trade, and, while I do not think the Government have made an unreasonable demand in this respect, I consider that they have asked for an addition to the Navy which is fully adequate to the requirements of the case. With respect to the quality of the ships proposed to be added to the Navy, I should not for a moment venture to put forward my own opinion; but on reading the Papers presented to Parliament I find that the officers whom the First Lord of the Admiralty has consulted on the designs of the vessels are men who may fully receive your Lordships' confidence. I believe there is no more practical man in the service than Admiral Hopkins, the present Controller of the Navy, nor any man in whom the naval profession have greater confidence. My noble Friend the First Lord has also consulted other naval officers of the highest reputation; and the principal design of the new battleships was recently most exhaustively discussed at a meeting of the Society of Naval Architects. The objections raised to the design were, I believe, answered conclusively in the opinion of those present, and on that occasion the design received the approval of several very distinguished naval officers. Admiral Sir Houston Stewart, who was at one time for five or six years Controller of the Navy, thought it his duty to express an opinion publicly in respect to the designs of these ships, and said they were the best ideals of powerful battle-ships ever yet produced. I state this because it will give your Lordships some confidence in the programme of the Admiralty. Admiral Sir Houston Stewart added:— Being now a retired old Admiral I can only judge by what I hear around me, and certainly it appears to me that there never was a time, certainly never while I was on active service, in which the Admiralty, as now represented at Whitehall, possessed in so large a measure the general confidence of the Navy, both in the performance of its administrative and its constructive functions. My Lords, I think such a testimony coming from a naval officer of Sir Houston Stewart's reputation must be very gratifying to my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and must give your Lordships confidence with respect to the quality of the ships to be produced. Now, my Lords, I should like to say a few words in regard to procedure. No doubt the form of procedure laid down in this Bill is novel, but it has been accepted by the other House of Parliament, and I do not see what control of finance is taken from the other House. The whole of the Dockyard expenditure must be paid out of the moneys voted by the House of Commons. All that is done is to authorize £10,000,000 to be spent in building ships by contract, and for all practical purposes there is no difference between putting that into an Act of Parliament and making the contracts in one year, because, when contracts have once been made, it is impossible to repudiate them. Thus, in the winter 1884–5, it was my duty to make contracts for something like £3,000,000 for shipbuilding, and my successor was obliged to complete those contracts; so that, during the years that those contracts were going on, they had to make that expenditure. Apart from the question of contracts, I hold that this Bill contains a change of great importance, both in regard to efficiency and economy. I am the last man to say anything against full control being exercised over expenditure by the Treasury or the Audit Office, but the practice pursued in the matter of naval construction has occasioned difficulties and caused an unnecessary expenditure of money. Sir James Graham, when First Lord of the Admiralty, made certain alterations with regard to the Estimates which provided that all balances at the end of the year were to be handed back to the Exchequer. It was found that certain things were being done with the balances from year to year without the cognizance of Parliament, and at that time a change was necessary. But in respect to ship-building, when we had to deal with great firms for the manufacture of our engines, for the manufacture of iron plates, and all the material required for a ship, and where the supplies are of a nature that they cannot—however they may desire to do so—help being delayed, it becomes a serious matter if balances have to be handed back in that way. Again, where we had to deal with firms of shipbuilders whose work may be delayed by a variety of causes, which may interfere with the carrying out of contracts, it became to those administering the Admiralty a matter of great inconvenience if they found themselves bound, on the 31st of March in each financial year, to hand back to the Exchequer sums of money voted by Parliament for the Services of the year, and which the Admiralty had every reason to suppose would be spent in the course of that year, but which, owing to some accident, could not be paid until a few months after the close of the year. To insist upon carrying out the principle of the surrender of balances to the Exchequer might be called the pedantry of finance rather than an adherence to the real principles of financial control and financial examination. The present measure contains in its clauses a complete remedy against that evil. As to whether this is or is not a bad precedent, all I can say is that, as far as I can understand, those changes could not be made without the sanction of Parliament, and I think it is an excellent precedent that this reform should be made in the administration of naval expenditure. Now I hardly like to allude to it, but still I think I must allude to one observation which was made by the Prime Minister, who I do not think quite appreciates the precise difficulty which has occurred with regard to the completion of ships. The Prime Minister, in referring to the question of the completion of ships, said it should be the object of the Admiralty to get the ships completed as fast as they could. The reason why the ships of late years have not been completed so quickly as they should be was not on account of a deficiency of funds, but on account of the difficulty of completing the armament. I remember that in 1884 I made use of the following observation when proposing an increase of the Navy:— Another of the principles which we have adopted in our policy of construction has been that we should take money enough to press forward as quickly as possible the ships which we have begun to construct. I have seen adverse criticisms in respect to this, but I am prepared to maintain that, during the last four years, the construction of armour-plated ships has progressed at a rate as rapid as possible. consistent with the economical construction of such ships. We may have been detained in completing ships from circumstances connected with their armament. My Lords, I mention this in order that the noble Lord who will speak on behalf of the Admiralty may give to your Lordships something more than has been said by the Prime Minister upon this subject. I should like to know from the noble Lord who represents the Admiralty how we stand at the present time with respect to guns. Some of our ships remain finished except for lack of guns, and I hope the difficulties which for many years have surrounded us with respect to the provision of big guns for our ships have been surmounted, and that we may now be sure that the provision of ordnance shall go on pari passu with the completion of the ships, so that we may find that some of the ships have not to wait, after completion, to be provided with their guns.


My Lords, representing as I do the Admiralty, I must refer to one or two of the matters which have been touched upon, and I shall endeavour as far as possible not to overlap what has been said by the Prime Minister, to avoid all reference to money matters, and as far as I can to deal with the professional details of the Bill alone. Since the present Government has been in office the present Board of Admiralty has been steadily completing what is known as the Northbrook programme. In addition to this, we have,. within the last three years, laid down no fewer than 62 vessels. Seven are-ships of the first class; the remainder are smaller vessels—cruisers and gunboats. On the 1st of April last there were 30 vessels in course of construction and in an advanced stage. On the 1st of April next the whole of these ships, with the exception of four—the Nile, Blake, Blenheim, and the Vulcan—will be completed. The Northbrook programme being complete, it became necessary for the Board of Admiralty to consider what the future programme should be, and last year a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to consider the subject. They were instructed to consider what principles future building programmes should be founded on, and the Committee reported they should be based on a complete survey and knowledge of the requirements of the naval services of the country; in other words, that future naval programmes should be based upon a recognition of the work which the Navy would be called upon to perform in the event of war. After a full survey of the work the Navy would be called upon to perform, the First Lord of the Admiralty, in the House of Commons on the 1st of March, brought forward a Resolution asking that the sum of £21,000,000 should be granted for the purpose of building, arming, equipping, and preparing for sea vessels for the Navy. That Resolution was debated at considerable length and carried by a majority of 176, and followed by the Bill now under consideration. In the Queen's Speech, reference was made to the increasing expenditure on naval armament by foreign Powers. A few years ago, with the exception of Britain, there was but one great European naval Power; now there are several. If we look further abroad we find that China has armoured ships, the Brazils has armoured ships, Turkey has several ironclads—in what state of repair or efficiency I do not know. Indeed, it may be said that every foreign Power is striving to be a naval Power. It has been thought by many that the days of these large and expensive armour-clad ships were numbered. It was thought that by the introduction of torpedoes, smaller vessels would be preferable to these large ships, and that we should have a greater number of them. Well, I do not know whether the days of armour-clads are numbered or not. I do not think it is necessary to consider that now. We must take things as they are, and we must go on building according to our present lights. It is said these ships will become obsolete. That is very true, my Lords; we shall become obsolete ourselves. If we are to accept that argument, we should never do anything at all. At the period of the Crimean War who would have contemplated the design of the battleship of the present day, and who will venture to prophesy what it will be 25 years' hence? Foreign Powers are building such vessels and we must do the same. France is building nine battle-ships, and five projected; Russia is building five battleships, and seven projected; Germany has 13 projected. Italy, Spain, and the United States are also building. Altogether, there are 20 ironclads in construction, and no less than 39 projected. What are the duties which the Navy would be called upon to perform in the event of war? In the first place, to reinforce our foreign squadrons, and especially the squadron in the Mediterranean. France alone has nine armour-clad ships in commission there and eight in reserve in Toulon, while we have six armour-dads in commission and no reserve. As the noble Marquess pointed out, a strong and powerful reserve must be kept in hand ready to be sent to sea. The responsibility of protecting the population and commerce of the country is continually increasing. The population of these Islands has increased during the last 20 years by 7,000,000. It is by means of the country's commerce alone that the population can find employment, and so long as the command of the sea is retained to protect the imports and exports, the nation's factories will find a sufficient supply of raw material; but if the command of the sea were once lost, vast numbers of people would be thrown out of employment, and widespread misery and starvation would ensue. Our factories are dependant on outside supply, in point of fact. Raw material afloat is part and parcel of our industrial system on shore. The value of our imports and. exports is no less than £640,000,000, an increase of £120,000,000 during the last 20 years. If we lose command of the sea, what will become of that? Then those persons who now insist that there is no necessity for increasing the Navy would be the first to reproach the Government for not, in time of peace, preparing for the eventualities of war. This increase, and rapidly increasing increase of population, means 7,000,000. more mouths to be fed. I am told that the amount of food in this country is sufficient only to keep our population going for three months. If we lose command of the sea how are we to feed the people? As to the question of invasion, no foreign Power could invade this country without first obtaining the command of the sea, and then there would be no need to invade, because the country's food supply would be cut off, and it would be speedily starved into submission. We have nearly £200,000,000 of British shipping afloat, and that independent of the Colonial shipping. This is as well known to Foreign Powers as it is to ourselves, and it is, perhaps, better appreciated by them than by ourselves. The Secretary of the Navy in the United States, in advocating an increase in the American Fleet quite lately, called attention to the vastness of British shipping. What is the name by which the new fast cruisers lately built in France are known as? "Commerce destroyers." Whose commerce? In Russia, a volunteer fleet of armed merchantmen was formed with the avowed purpose of cutting up British commerce, and that fleet is at the present moment in existence. My Lords, we cannot shut our eyes to these facts. These facts cannot be ignored, but by means of the cruisers to be built under the Bill, together with those in existence, the Navy will be able to afford all reasonable protection to British shipping. I say all reasonable protection, for it cannot be expected for a moment that every one of our merchant ships in every part of the world is to receive the protection of a man-of-war. So far, my Lords, for the protection of commerce. Then there are the coaling stations and the Colonies to be protected. Australia is setting a bright example in the direction of self-protection, for she is building—or we are building—seven war-ships for her, the germ of what, I am perfectly convinced, will be ere long a powerful Navy. But there are other Colonies which are not able to protect themselves, and which look to us, the mother country, for protection. The recent Naval Manœuvres have demonstrated the impossibility of effectively blockading an enemy's fleet, and the necessity of building more battleships and cruisers. In those Manœuvres we had a supposed enemy's squadron at anchor inside Beerhaven, blockaded by a squadron at the entrance of Bantry Bay. If ever vessels were disposed so that, to all appearance it was impossible to effect an escape, it was then. Across the entrance of the bay were seven ironclads, inside that were seven cruisers, and inside that again, eight torpedo-boats, a triple line of blockade, and yet three of the enemy's ships escaped unseen. The following night the Rear Admiral with three of his ships escaped from Loch Swilley where they had been blockaded by another squadron. The blockade was raised, the English Admiral having lost touch of the enemy, fell back on the Downs for the protection of London, and the enemy were free to ravage our coast, and capture our merchant ships. What was done in mimic warfare, might, and probably would be done in real warfare. The fact was, the blockading squadrons were not sufficiently strong, although they had everything in their favour. The coast was lighted, they had facilities for coaling, and the torpedo boats were able to carry on their work night after night, having a safe bay at hand to water and rest in, none of such facilities could be obtained in actual warfare. The increase proposed is to raise the Navy to a standard of superiority over the navies of any two foreign Powers, and it is further intended that the new vessels shall be superior to any vessels of similar type yet built. Seventy new vessels are to be built. Vessels with high freeboard, greater length, greater speed, and better accommodation. This addition will consist of 8 first-class battleships of 14,500 tons each; 2 second-class battle-ships of 9,000 tons; 9 first-class protected cruisers of 7,300 tons; 29 second-class protected cruisers of 3,400 tons; 4 smaller cruisers of 2,600 tons; 18 torpedo gun-boats of 735 tons. Twenty of them are to be laid down in the Dockyards this year, and 32 are to be put out to contract this year; the remaining second-class battle-ship will be laid down in 1891, and the other 17 vessels will be laid down as the building slips become vacant. One or two remarks have been made about rapidity of construction. That point was criticized by Lord Granville, and it is a much more important matter than many are probably aware of. The Admiralty hope to complete the first-class battle-ships in four years, the second-class battle-ships in three years, the first-class cruisers in two and a-half years, the second-classes cruisers in two years, and the gunboats in a year and a-half. This greatly increased rapidity of construction must tend considerably in favour of economy. The Trafalgar, a vessel of 12,000 tons, was built in three years and three months, and a saving was effected on her estimated cost of no less than £100,000, £85,000 being saved in the cost of labour. The Anson, a vessel of 10,600 tons, was built in six years, and the cost of labour alone was £30,000 more than in the case of the Trafalgar. We propose, in addition to furnishing new boilers, new engines, and in some cases new armaments, for six ironclads this year; next year 33 ironclads will be taken in hand, and those vessels, when completed, will be more efficient and more powerful than when first constructed. The Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Naval Estimate last year suggested that outside opinion should be called in as to the distribution of the armour on battle-ships. Outside opinion was called in, not the outside opinion of naval constructors, but of naval officers, the men who had experience in the handling of ships and who would have to fight in those ships. The distribution of armour is not a question for naval constructors alone. The amount of armour which should be carried by a ship depends on the speed of the ship, the amount of coal to be carried, the armament, the number of the crew, stores, and many other considerations. In this case several alternative designs were prepared and considered by the Admiralty. They were then sent to the three Admirals, who reported on the Naval Manœuvres, and also to the Admirals who commanded at the Manœuvres. The whole of these officers then met at the Admiralty; they considered every detail, point by point, and the opinion arrived at was a unanimous opinion. Never before have designs been more thoroughly and carefully considered than those designs have been, and that by the most competent men who could be found. The distribution and thickness of armour is one of give and take. If you increase the weight of armour, you much decrease the weight elsewhere; if you increase the defensive power of the ship, you must decrease the offensive power. But, while giving every consideration to the protection of the ship, of her guns, and of her men, we must maintain her power of hitting, and hitting hard, because on that the result of the fight depends. It is by hard hiting alone that battles are won. I have no hesitation in saying that all the good results that science, skill, and forethought can produce will be found in these vessels when built. It has been asked what has guided the Admiralty in the numbers of the different classes of vessels. and why we are going to build one turret-ship and seven barbette-ships? The reason is, that we have already 13 first-class turret-ships, and the addition of another will bring the number up to 14. We have seven first-class barbette ships, and the seven more to be built will make the number equal to the 14 turret-ships. There are advantages and disadvantages in both systems. The advantage of the turret-ship is that she is most serviceable in smooth water, and her guns are better protected than the guns of the barbette ship; while in the barbette ship the guns are higher out of the water; she is a better sea-boat in a head sea, but she has the disadvantage that her guns are very much more exposed than those of the turret-ship. The designs are already described in a Parliamentary Paper, but briefly they are as follows:—The eight first class battle-ships will be armed with four 67- ton guns, with a training arc of 260, and all four capable of being used on either broadside; 10 5-ton 6-inch 100-pounder guns; 24 6 and 3-pounder quick-firing guns, and 7 torpedo tubes. The armour belt will be 8½ feet deep, with a maximum thickness of 18 inches, extending two-thirds of the length of the vessel, while above the belt, the broadside will be protected by 5 inches of armour to a hight of 9½ feet above the water, backed by 10½ feet of coal. The heavy guns will be placed in separate armoured enclosures, protected by 18 inches of armour, situated about 250 feet apart. The advantage of placing the guns so far apart is that separately they present but comparatively small target, and there is less chance of both enclosures being simultaneously disabled. In the barbette ships, with a high freeboard, the guns will be 23 feet above the water, as against 15 feet in the old turret-ships, and 17 feet in the new one. The speed will be 17½ knots with forced draught, 16 knots with natural draught, and a coal endurance at 10 knots, equal to 5,000 knots. The second-class battleships will be reproductions of the larger class, but smaller, with the same speed and same coal endurance. The first-class protected cruisers will be armed with two 22-ton guns, 10 5-ton guns, 12 6-pounder quick-firing guns, and 4 torpedo tubes. The speed will be 20 knots with forced draught and 18 knots continuous steaming, with a coal endurance at 10 knots equal to 10,000 knots. The second class cruisers are improved Medea's of 3,400 tons, as against 2,800 tons in the old Medea's, and 35 feet longer. They will be armed with two 5-ton guns, six 4.7-inch quick-firing guns, nine 6 and 3-pounders, and 4 torpedo tubes, with a speed of 20 knots in the measured mile and 18 knots continuous steaming, with a coal endurance at 10 knots equal to 8,000 knots. The torpedo gun-boats will be improved "sharpshooters," with a raised deck forward, and with a speed of 21 knots, as against 18 knots in the present sharpshooters. We propose to increase the number of men by the addition of 1,100 to the Royal Marine force, 1,000 stokers, and 900 blue jackets—3,000 in all. I think, my Lords, those are all the points that I need touch upon, and I have endeavoured to do so as shortly as I can.


My Lords, before this discussion closes, having always taken great interest in questions connected with the Navy, I am anxious to make a few remarks. I think the First Lord of the Admiralty deserves great praise for the manner in which he has grappled with a very difficult subject and got over so many obstacles which have on formers occasions been found insuperable. I apprehend that there is no real objection to the Bill, as, although some complaints have been raised that it binds down future Governments too much, still I think we all must concur that it is of vital importance that a definite programme should be laid down. Ships and guns cannot be built in a day, and unless the authorities make up their minds to definite ships and the experts are agreed, we shall go on drifting year after year, and making change after change until there is enormous delay. Fortunately, since the present Naval Constructor has been at the Admiralty, I think there is no doubt there has been a great change as regards that, and the building of ships now goes forward at a far more rapid rate and with far greater economy. It is well known that in the Dockyards ships have taken four or five years in building when they ought not to have taken more than three years. The noble Earl, Lord Northcote has referred to the question of armament. He said that was very often the great reason why ships were delayed. I think, if any noble Lord will look into this point, he will find that where the guns have been ordered at the right time, when the ships were commenced to be built, there has been no delay whatever in having the guns ready. I think there is no instance of delay in getting guns except where they have not been ordered in due time. As regards the programme, the only discussion so far as battle-ships are concerned is whether they ought to be of defensive or of offensive construction. Those who take the defensive line wish to make battle-ships far more heavily armour-plated, with greater means of being able to withstand the fire from heavy guns; whereas those who take the view that ships ought to be built with the object of being offensive as far as possible, consider that the first main object is to seek out and destroy their enemy. On the one side they ask for more armour and a less number of guns, while on the other they want more guns and less armour. My Lords, I think that the programme is right, and that the Admiralty have come to a very fair compromise between the different systems. Certainly, as far as naval officers are concerned, I have always found one opinion among them, and that is to attack your enemy as soon as you can, and not to act merely on the defensive. It has always seemed to me that that is the real position which we ought to take. It has hitherto been the pride of the Navy that they are ever ready to attack, and I sincerely trust that those who take the opposite view of defensive construction will never gain the day. The meeting which took place at the Society of Naval Architects, where the Admiralty adopted the plan of allowing their own experts to explain the programme, ended in the defensive decision. I consider that a fair compromise has been made in the programme. My Lords, there is one little criticism I should like to make, and that is simply with regard to the Report alluded to by the noble Earl, which was made at the close of the Naval Manœuvres. In that Report the statement was made very clear that we must have very large reserves. I noticed that the noble Marquess, when he introduced this Bill, laid very much stress upon that point, and he showed that if we have large reserves ready to take the place of vessels lost we should be in a very much better position to meet an enemy and to protect our commerce. We must also have a supply of cruisers. While the present programme is a thoroughly good one, and the First Lord of the Admiralty is to be congratulated on having boldly grappled with the matter, it must not be lost sight of that the supply of swift cruisers is, even now, far from being sufficient. The Report on the recent Naval Manœuvres by three of our best Admirals makes that clear. It is perfectly clear that if that Committee are right in their Report, the present programme, large as it may be, is not nearly sufficient in cruisers to form detached squadrons and to form convoys. The nine first-class cruisers and 33 second-class cruisers are surely not enough. In the present day speed in cruisers is absolutely necessary, and that fleet will be successful which has the largest number of swift cruisers. There is no doubt that in future wars we shall have a return to the old system of smoke-ships, which is practically the same plan as Chinese stink-pots, very largely brought into use. One of the most important things in time of war will be to prevent the attempt being made by a hostile fleet to place smoke-ships to windward, so as to blind the gunners and prevent the guns being used, and then, in the confusion, starting rams and torpedoes among your fleet. It is clear that those who have the swiftest cruisers to prevent this must be victorious. So great is the necessity for this that if it were possible to make any alteration in the programme I should very much like to see one of the battleships given up and five cruisers substituted in its place. The speed of many of our cruisers is far less than 15 knots; and cruisers are being built which have the enormous speed of 22½ knots, armed with guns which enable them to fire at such a rapid rate as to send out a hail of shot that few ships, however armed, could stand. In our calculations, speed and armament have not sufficiently entered into comparison. The cruiser that is able to go 22 knots and is armed with 6in. guns and 4.7 40-pounders, and can fire ten rounds a minute, is a match for three or four cruisers which only go at 15 knots, and are armed with old weapons. The enormous difference between guns of the old type and guns of the new is illustrated by experiments lately carried out by the Admiralty. The new guns actually fire 10 rounds in 47 seconds, whereas the ordinary breech-loading gun of the same calibre with which our ships are armed take five minutes to fire the same number of rounds. There are few naval officers in the service who would not infinitely prefer having a fleet of vessels such as this rather than the heavy battle-ships. While great praise is due to the Admiralty for renewing the Fleet, it really only helps to bring the Fleet up to recent date, and to make up for depreciation and wear. The programme now put forward, instead of being criticized in any way as being too large, should be looked upon in its true aspect, as merely an increase of two millions on the ordinary shipbuilding Vote, which of itself would never really keep the Navy up to our necessities and responsibilities. My Lords, the noble Lord who represents the Admiralty has alluded to the great increase of our commerce. I do not intend to go into that again, but I do think it is not only necessary to have sufficient ships ready to protect our commerce, but that we should keep up our Fleet to a high state of efficiency. My Lords, I think it would be fatal to allow our cruisers and smaller craft to dwindle down again into an inefficient state.


My Lords, in a Return made in April, 1889, the number was given of breech-loading guns required for the naval service, and giving in detail the different classes of guns. As regards the new naval programme the whole of the guns have been ordered. But there is something else to be attended to besides ordering the guns, and that is to keep contractors up to their time. There have been instances of ships being delayed because contracts for guns have not been completed within the specified time, and also from guns failing at proof.


My Lords, after the very lucid explanation we have had from the noble Lords who have spoken, I only desire as a naval officer to give my cordial approval to all that the Government are doing; and I indorse all that has been said in commendation of the First Lord. I sincerely trust that the programme will be strictly adhered to, and that if contractors fail to keep time, penalties will be enforced—for the first time in living memory.


My Lords, I beg also as a naval officer to indorse all that has fallen from the noble Lord who has just sat down. I must express my approval of the programme, both as to quantity and quality: quantity because it was as much as the Government could put in hand, and quality because the officers who sat on the Board of Construction had the entire confidence of the officers of the Navy. But I would remind your Lordships that in four years ships and guns will be falling out, engines and boilers will require renewing, and an ironclad cannot be repaired and refitted now certainly under 18 months. So that you must take that into consideration in totalling up your Navy at the end of four years. It is my belief that the programme will do little more than make up for waste.


My Lords, I am unwilling to allow this debate to close without expressing my great satisfaction that the proposals for which the Bill makes provision have been brought forward by the Government. Viewed in the light of the experience gained in the interesting Naval Manœuvres of last year, it is certain that our naval position is not sufficiently assured. It is difficult to fix the standard of strength for the British Navy upon a satisfactory basis. The First Lord of the Admiralty has laid it down that we ought to be equal or superior to any two Powers. Looking to the amount of our mercantile tonnage, looking to the interests we have at stake as a Colonial Power, we should scarcely be aiming too high if we resolved to maintain our strength and our rate of progress and construction at double those of the next strongest Navy to our own. If this were our settled policy it would tend to discourage, rather than to stimulate, a rivalry in expenditure. There are indications that such a result might be anticipated in the Estimates recently brought forward for the year 1890 by a neighbouring Power. Passing from the amount of construction proposed in the new programme to the designs, I think that the Government have pursued a course which must command general approval. They have consulted not only the able Naval officers now serving at Whitehall, but the officers outside the Department who have had the most recent experience in the command of fleets. As their chief professional adviser they have in Mr. White a naval architect of the highest ability. I will not trouble the House with criticisms of designs which have been matured by able experts. As the compiler of a naval annual, I have had frequent occasion to study and compare the designs of ships, British and foreign. I have seen no design in any class which could be accepted as perfect. Every ship of war is a compromise. Again, in offensive or defensive power is inevitably balanced by a loss in manœuvring qualities. In a large Navy you must have all types represented. If you build big ships, you must group nimble auxiliaries around them. The first-class battleships you are about to lay down will cost £1,000,000 sterling. They represent the most effective combination of power which the ingenuity and skill of the present day can contrive; but they are not invulnerable. A squadron of such ships blockading an enemy's ports full of torpedo boats would be in a position of great peril in darkness and in fog. For the protection of those great floating fortresses we must build sea-keeping torpedo vessels in numbers largely in excess of the present proposals. In a naval action armoured rams would give invaluable support to large ships. In the smoke and confusion the guns of the heavy ships would tend to become less reliable weapons, and the chances of dealing a fatal blow with the ram and torpedo would be greater. These considerations will, I think, impress every thoughtful naval administrator with the conviction that the programme of construction now proposed, necessary as it is and bearing every mark of ingenious and able design, will by no means supply all that is needed to complete the Navy. A large flotilla of sea-keeping torpedo vessels and numerous armoured rams are indispensable auxiliaries, and it should be the duty of those who take an interest in the Navy to press for the construction of those auxiliaries in future years. Cruisers are absolutely necessary, and the new programme, I am glad to see, will give us a strong reinforcement of fast and efficient vessels.


My Lords, I desire to say a few words with regard to the construction of vessels intended for mounting big guns. My point comes in upon what was said by Lord Harris with regard to the carrying of guns. In my opinion, sufficient guns have not been ordered, and I think sufficient provision has scarcely been made in the scheme of the Government for the supply of ordnance. With regard to the want of fast cruisers, I would point out that, in case of necessity, we have already vessels available in the ocean-going passenger liners, and I believe the Board of Admiralty are not going far enough in the direction in which foreign Powers are going—that is to say, providing armaments for those ocean liners. I have been informed that such great foreign companies as the "Messageries Maritimes," and other large companies sailing under foreign flags, actually carry in their holds large guns, ready to be mounted at a moment's notice. I think that guns should be carried on board our large ships and ocean-liners, and also that encouragement should be given for their carrying men who have gone through a course of training, and who would therefore be qualified to fight those guns in an emergency. I believe, my Lords, that is a direction in which the Admiralty might add strength to the naval defences of this country.


My Lords, I only desire to say, in answer to the noble Lord who has just sat down, that the point he has mentioned has not been lost sight of, and that arrangements have been made which would in the event of war place at our disposal a large number of vessels of the class he mentions.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House to-morrow.