HL Deb 09 August 1904 vol 139 cc1521-38

rose to call attention to the programme of shipbuilding for the Navy. He said: My Lords, British naval administration has reached a high standard of efficiency, due to the efforts of a long succession of able Ministers—to my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Spencer, and to-day to the First Lord, aided as he has been by his naval colleagues, and especially by Lord Walter Kerr, now retiring full of honours from active service. The Navy must always call for the supervision of Parliament. The Estimates for 1904–5 have reached an amount unprecedented in time of peace—in round figures £4,37,000,000 under Estimates; £5,000,000 for naval works. Are reductions possible under any heads of charge? The Votes for manning have increased in ten years from £5,400,000 to £9,100,000. A voluntary service must be costly, and our numbers have been increased in ten years from 86,103 to 131,100 men.

Compare our permanent force with that of other naval Powers—France, 50,000; Germany, 34,000; United States, 45,000 men. Our permanent force is too large and our Reserves are too few. It is an agreeable duty to acknowledge the successful efforts of the Admiralty to strengthen the Reserves. With stronger Reserves we might have more power of expansion with less expenditure. Some economy is possible in our training service. We have too many boys in harbour ships. The Admiralty have wisely decided to reduce the number. Boys entered at an older age in seagoing training ships have done well. The aggregate Estimates for naval works, as proposed under the Bill of 1895, were under £9,000,000. The total has now advanced to £27,500,000. It can hardly be contended that all the new works are of urgent necessity. Take as an example the estimate of £3,500,000 for Simon's Bay. Here, certainly there was a case of over-lapping. Our commercial base at Cape Town, with all its resources in docks and skilled workmen, was close at hand, and must be strongly held. With a subsidy from the Admiralty the Cape Government would have provided new docks or enlarged existing docks, and at less cost. New docks for the Navy entail a permanent addition to expenditure. They are useless without workmen, who must be paid at the Cape at Colonial rates. Parliament should be more vigilant in examining all new proposals, more especially for works in distant parts of the world.

Turning to the Votes for shipbuilding, their amount has increased from under £9,000,000 in 1895 to £18,420,000 for 1904–5. The increase has been necessary to maintain the two-Power standard in shipbuilding. For the years 1895–1904 the aggregate outlay for construction was officially given by the Secretary to the Admiralty at £70,000,000 in round figures for Great Britain, as against £83,000,000 for France, Russia, and Germany. We must look for reductions in future years. The shipbuilding Votes for the present year have been abnormally increased by the purchase of the "Swiftsure" and "Triumph." We have now reached a total of no less than £12,000,000, or more than the shipbuilding Votes of France, Russia, and Germany. And we build at least 25 per cent.—in a case lately given in a French official report, 44 per cent.—more cheaply than is possible in Russia or in France. By the efforts of recent years our naval supremacy is, for the time at least, assured. We are the better able to follow other Powers in a policy of retrenchment. It is useless to spend large sums on shipbuilding unless we have some expectation that the costly ships we lay down will be retained for a reasonable time on the list of effectives.

As to types, our naval architects fully hold their own. Our first-class battleships, whether designed by Sir William White or Mr. Watts, are not surpassed in any foreign navy. The rivalry of constructors under peace conditions tends towards exaggeration of size. The cost has advanced for the eight ships of the "Edward VII." class—and doubtless for the "Nelson," our latest design—to no less than £1,500,000. As the cost increases the numbers which can be built for any given sum must be less, and superiority in numbers must tell. That was the lesson of the Great War. The fleets of Lord Nelson consisted chiefly of 74's. At Trafalgar there were no four-deckers in the British line of battle. Superiority in numbers is even more important in modern naval warfare. The largest ships are as vulnerable below the belt as those of less dimensions. Size gives no immunity from the risks of stranding, collision, and fog. We are bound to build ships equal to the most powerful in foreign navies, but we need a less costly type. The "Swiftsure" and "Triumph," designed by Sir Edward Reed, lately purchased into the Navy at a cost per ship of £950,000, combining as they do the fighting power of battleships and the speed and coal endurance of cruisers, should find a place in future programmes. They could be built in the proportion of three to two of our largest types.

I have no criticisms to offer as to cruisers. I congratulate the Admiralty on their policy of cutting out vessels of no value for naval purposes. We built too many in times past. For the protection of commerce in distant seas and along the ocean routes our largest cruisers are the most satisfactory. Scouts are necessary. They are the eyes of the fleet. In the olden days the scouts were the frigates, of which Lord Nelson never had enough. Last year four vessels of the new type, officially designated as "scouts," were laid down. In the programme of 1904–5 we have four more vessels of the same class. The scouts are to steam twenty-five knots on an eight hours trial. The speed is high, but the displacements are too small to carry the supply of coal required in vessels designed to sweep the ocean. The scouts can hardly be reckoned as fighting vessels. They cannot compare with cruisers in armament; they are without protection. They will break up in a few minutes under a heavy fire; and their complements number 268 officers and men. Vessels of the scout type could, of course, chase destroyers, but no vessels have as yet been designed as effective as destroyers for repelling torpedo attacks upon a fleet of battleships. The greater the superiority in numbers the more complete the defence. Destroyers cost £50,000; scouts little less than £300,000. I would urge that no more vessels of the scout class should be laid down until those in hand have been tried at sea.

The scout class is not an untried type. In the years 1896–1900 twelve third-class cruisers of the "Pelrous" class, similar in dimensions to the scouts, and designed for similar services, were laid down. They had a speed of twenty knots. Their coal endurance was insufficient for scouting. It was soon seen that the "Pelorus" class must be failures. Lord Goschen's criticisms, in introducing the Navy Estimates on the 26th February, 1900, apply with equal force to the scouts— Then there is another point," he said, "connected with the programme of last year, namely, that we have dropped our proposal to lay down three third-class cruisers of rather larger dimensions than the 'Pelorus' class, intended to be very fast, and designed for special purposes We were guided in the matter to a certain extent by the experience of other countries. France had also intended to lay down some very fast small cruisers, but the French naval architects like our own appear to have found the task impossible to perform, and the French Government have withdrawn the small third-class cruisers from their programme just as we have dropped them from ours. The attempt was to put an enormous amount of machinery within a vessel of very small dimensions. That has been accomplished in the torpedo destroyers. They are light and very delicate instruments; but when we came to try it on a larger scale it was thought that these third-class cruisers would only be torpedo destroyers on a larger scale, and that they would not have the necessary seagoing or fighting power, and, therefore, it was thought better not to embark on an ambitious attempt which, though it would result in the appearance of a great success, might turn out to be impracticable in war. It would seem scarcely necessary to build special vessels as scouts. In the third class we have many cruisers no longer effective for the protection of commerce which should be effective for scouting duties. They have a speed of twenty knots, and a coal capacity far superior to that of the scouts. Their speed might be considerably increased by reducing armaments. As the eves of the Fleet, no regularly built vessels of war can compare with the greyhounds of the mercantile marine. They were strongly recommended to the Committee on Subsidies by Lord Charles Beresford. In giving evidence before the Committee he said— In war the mercantile marine and the Royal Navy must be to a very great extent intermingled. In allowing your admirals a certain number of very fast merchant ships by way of auxiliaries to the Fleet you may save a campaign and you may win an initial advantage. These ships would form the line of communication. They would carry information to an admiral of the movements of an enemy's fleet. There is no ship that can do this service better than the ocean greyhounds that are built for speed in any weather. That is their utility. Lord Charles Beresford gave suggestions as to the means by which the construction of such vessels should be encouraged by the aid of the Government, and the ships retained under the British flag. There are strong political arguments in favour of a policy of subsidies to auxiliary vessels as the scouts of the Fleet. Swift communications are a bond of Empire. It is satisfactory to know that some definite conclusion has been reached on the subject of boilers. As to repairs, large sums have been wasted in the past in repairs to ships of no value for naval purposes. The remedy is to put such vessels out of commission. I congratulate the Admiralty on the strength of the Fleet in ships, and in officers and men inspired by their traditions and always eager to do their duty.


My Lords, I agree with the greater part of what has fallen from the noble Lord who has just spoken, especially with regard to what he has said about the construction of smaller battleships. Large battleships take so long to build that in all probability a modern war would be over before new ships could be built to replace the losses that we are certain to incur. In addition It our losses during fleet actions, balanced it is to be hoped by equal losses on the part of the enemy, we may fairly expect that those sub-aqueous explosions which are playing so large a part in the Russo Japanese war will from time to time still further reduce the numbers of our first-class ships. Under modern conditions of warfare, however successful we may be, we are unlikely to be able to replace these vessels by captures, and we shall, therefore, in all probability emerg from the war, or find ourselves in the middle of it, with fewer line-of-battle ships than we began with, a position that we have never yet been in, a position which will place us at a disadvantage, especially if we find ourselves face to face with unfriendly neutral Powers.

I therefore suggest that the Naval Construction Department should now, in time of peace, design, but not build, a small type of heavily armed battleship, two of which should be superior to one first-class battleship. The ruling principle of their construction should be that it should be possible to build them quickly, so that several of the class could be put out to contract at the commencement of war with a reasonable prospect of their being finished in time to be of use. The expense of preparing such a design would amount to a few hundred pounds only, and if this were done, a small fleet of such vessels would be ready for sea some months sooner than would be the case if the drawings had to be thought out, and the ships designed, before the actual work of building could be commenced. The noble Earl has given us his peace programme of naval construction, but I hope that he either has, or soon will have, a war programme of ships, with designs completed and drawn to scale, ready to be put in hand the moment that such a misfortune occurs. I do not, however, wish to ask him for the details of that programme. I think that it is better that they should remain in the category of State secrets.


My Lords, I will take the opportunity afforded me by my noble friend of dealing with one or two of those points of naval administration which have formed the subject of debate elsewhere during the session. I admit that I am glad of the opportunity of speaking on them; for I have not the privilege of defending the Estimates for which I am responsible in another place, and it is only such opportunities as this occasion affords me which enable me to defend the policy of the Board for which I Jam responsible. In the first place, the great size of the Navy Estimates has attracted a great deal of attention and a good deal of adverse comment. I am responsible, of course, principally for the Navy, but I also, as a Cabinet Minister, share to the full the responsibility of my colleagues for the state of the finances, and I am glad of this opportunity of saying that in my opinion a sound condition of finance is as important to the strength and well-being of this country as the sound condition of the Navy.

I would say that the Navy and our national credit are the two pillars on which in every material sense the safety of this Empire depends. The fabric of the Empire is built up by the character of our people and our national industries; the maintenance of that fabric depends upon our finances and upon the Navy together. If the Navy is weak, our national credit never can be assured; if our national finance is not in a thoroughly sound condition; if we have not a margin on which to fall back in time of emergency, then proper provision cannot be made for the Navy. Therefore, I am the last person to complain of the criticism which is being levelled against the size of the Navy Estimates. The responsibility for the justification rests upon me and upon my Board. Now, an offer was made a year or two ago by Lord Goschen, and repeated by my right hon. friend Mr. Ritchie, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, that if other nations would agree to diminish the rate of shipbuilding we would not be slow in acknowledging their lead and joining them in that movement. That offer has never been withdrawn. But the conditions of the case are more complicated and difficult now than they were a few years ago.

A few years ago it would have been sufficient if France and the United Kingdom had agreed mutually to diminish expenditure on shipbuilding, for in those days there were only two really great Navies—the Navies of France and the United Kingdom; but now the case is entirely changed, and there are more than half-a-dozen great naval Powers, some of them pressing on shipbuilding from year to year; and neither France nor the United Kingdom, however anxious they might be to curtail the rate of naval expenditure, could do so without considering the expenditure of other countries as well as their own mutual expenditure. What is the standard at which successive Governments have endeavoured to maintain our naval strength It has always been called the two-Power standard. Now I have looked back through the records of discussions on the subject in both Houses for some years, and I find that the date at which this standard may be said to have met with general acceptance was when Lord George Hamilton was First Lord of the Admiralty; and it is to that standard successive Governments have since worked.

Now what Lord George Hamilton really meant, and what the House of Commons meant, was that we should be prepared to face any two naval Powers with a reasonable probability of success. That was what the standard meant; and in those days the two next naval Powers were France and Italy, and as Italy was very friendly disposed towards us no one was anxious about the naval programme of Italy. The standard was convenient so far as battleships went, and it was possible to work to it, always bearing in mind that the strength should offer reasonable probability of victory, and that it should not be a mere arithmetical comparison. It has been a convenient standard for battleships; but in respect to cruisers and torpedo craft the standard has never had a real application, because the strength there must be in proportion to the work the Navy has to perform; and it has never been possible to assess that in proportion to tile cruisers and torpedo craft of the next two naval Powers. Our Board of Admiralty has before it a totally different naval problem from any which any other naval authority has to consider. The Admiralty of another country can concentrate its efforts on producing a formidable fleet of battleships, or it may make a leading feature of its strength cruisers to prey on the commerce of this or any other country with which that country might be at war, or it might direct its attention in other directions, such as the creation of a formidable Defence Mobile.

But this country has to consider much more. No other Admiralty in the world has to consider its Navy as the one safeguard of the country from invasion, or the fact that on the Navy depends the supply of food to the people. No other nation has to accept the responsibility of safeguarding so far as it may a vast preponderating ocean commerce or the shores of an Empire spread over continents and islands in all parts of the world. Our Navy is responsible for the safety of the whole Empire, to ensure reasonable immunity from invasion or raid. When you consider that is not an exaggerated statement of the functions the Board of Admiralty has to consider, I think I shall carry your Lordships with me when I say you cannot compare with any reason or fairness the naval expenditure of this country with that of any two or more Powers, because what our Navy has to do is totally different from what the navies of any one, two, or three other Powers have to do. There is an essential difference in the problem. And, although I welcome financial criticism and fully feel the importance of financial considerations, and agree that naval expenditure ought to be carefully scrutinised from the financial point of view, vet I do altogether deprecate a comparison of our naval expenditure with the naval expenditure of any two or three other naval Powers as the standard or basis of criticism.

It seems to me that it is quite possible to say that this country shall maintain a certain naval standard whatever the expenditure may be; that is quite possible, it has been quite possible, but it may cease to be possible in times to come. Or it is possible to say that the country will spend so much money and the Navy shall be as strong as it is possible to produce for that money. The country can take either of these courses. But what the Admiralty should not agree to accept is the responsibility of keeping up to a standard for which the money provided would not suffice. It is for the nation to decide whether at a given moment finance or the Navy is the more important, but do not attempt to deceive the nation by stating you are maintaining a standard when you have not asked for the money to do it. Lord Brassey has admitted in criticising the details of our shipbuilding policy that we must build battleships the most powerful that are built, and there is no difference of opinion between us there. He also said we ought to build a less costly type of battleship, that we should have two standards of battleships, battleships that are the most powerful and others less powerful; and there I differ from him. I do not see why we should spend money on comparatively inferior battleships. Time is automatically supplying comparatively inferior battleships, and why the Admiralty should hasten that automatic process and build ships which a generation hence will be still more out of date than those we have now I fail to see.

Now there must not be exaggeration about the way battleships pass out of date. Some misconception has been caused in this matter owing to the fact that our muzzle-loading ships are now out of date; but the same thing will not apply to breech-loading battleships. I take the "Nile" and "Trafalgar" as dating from the time of which Lord Brassey spoke. They are still valuable battleships of the second line, valuable reserve battleships, and I believe the battleships we are building now will be valuable battleships for the reserve line twenty-five years hence. Lord Ellen-borough made a useful suggestion that we should have in reserve war designs upon which ships could be more quickly built than modern ships can be. I will give the suggestion careful consideration, but I may point out that the difficulty in building battleships is not with the hull or armour; it is with the machinery and more particularly with the gun-mountings. It is the gun-mounting that limits the speed of construction. If gun-mountings could be turned out with the same speed as the hull then I think, given certain circumstances and the crisis, the time occupied in producing a battleship could be materially shortened.


I know that was the case once, but I thought we had got over it.


No. The number of places where gun-mountings can be supplied are very limited. Armstrong and Vickers are the only firms in this country, I think, where the big gun-mountings are made, and, apart from the capacity of these two firths to turn out gun-mountings, the process itself is exceedingly slow and complicated. One word on the "Lord Nelson" type of battleship Intentioned in another place the alter day. We have endeavoured to avoid increasing the displacement. We have put on that displacement a very powerful armament—an armament of four 12-inch guns and ten 9.2 guns, and the speed will be the same as in all the later battleships, a little over eighteen knots. The cost is roughly a little more than that of the "King Edward" class. I regard that displacement and those proportions as about the limit which we are likely to reach, because if the displacement is largely increased you limit the number of ports and docks the vessel can use and the general utility of the ship is decreased.

I take this opportunity of deprecating the kinds of methods that are used in comparing our battleships or cruisers with the battleships and cruisers of other nations. It often appears that writers in newspapers and magazines forget that every warship is a compromise. It is an essential element that it should be a compromise; one feature is predominant in one ship, another feature will be found in another. No ship combines every feature in its highest degree. I saw the other day an instance of what I mean. When the German squadron was at Devonport I saw in one paper a review of their characteristics, and the conclusion of the writer was that this fleet of eight battleships was more powerful than either the Channel Fleet or the Home Fleet. I am not going to discuss here the comparative merits of our own individual fleets and the corresponding foreign fleets, but what I want to draw attention to is the process by which this conclusion was arrived at. There was a very inadequate examination of any of the qualities of the ships possessed by either the Germans or the British except the number of guns; and the whole of the argument was really based on the fact that, speaking broadly, each of these German ships carried eighteen 6-inch guns, whereas twelve was the number carried in the British ships.

Anybody who did not know the subject might have read that article from end to end and never would have guessed this somewhat important fact—that, whereas every ship of the Channel Fleet had four 12-inch guns—that is, thirty-two 12-inch guns in the Fleet—and four ships of the Home Fleet had four 13½-inch guns each, two others four 12-inch guns each, and two others four 10-inch guns, each, there was not a single gun in the-whole of the German Fleet above 9.4-inch in calibre. That was to say, the Channel Fleet had thirty-two 12-inch guns against thirty-two 9.4-inch guns of the German Fleet, and our Home Fleet had sixteen 13½-inch guns, eight 12-inch guns, and eight 10-inch guns against the thirty-two 9.4-inch guns of the German fleet. It is therefore of no assistance to the corn-parison of naval architecture to approach the subject in that kind of exceedingly-unscientific spirit. Lord Brassey has so kindly expressed his concurrence. with the policy of the armoured cruisers that I will only repeat the information given in another place, that the new class of armoured cruisers—the "Minotaur" class—will carry an armament of 9.2 guns and 7½-inch guns and steam at twenty-three knots.

I now come to a class which has been. a great deal criticised by Lord Brassey and in the Press—what is known as the "Scout" class. It has been said that they are wanting in coal endurance and that as destroyers they are too large. Now, is their coal endurance inadequate for the duties which they have been created to perform? Remember the Admiralty in one sense made an experiment. We desired to give the great firms in this country an opportunity of showing what they could produce, given certain conditions, without the initiative of the Director of Naval Construction, and we went to four of the leading firms and said, "This is the kind of ship we want; make your own design." Each of the, four firms supplied two of the scouts. They differ somewhat in characteristics but, roughly, this is their average coal endurance: At 12 knots, 2,500 nautical miles; at 20 knots, 1,000 nautical miles; and at 25 knots,600 nautical miles. I must not be understood to say that that is a test, because they are only tried for eight hours at 25 knots, and it would not be fair to say that they were always able to do continuous sea steaming at 25 knots for 600 miles, but the coal they carry would suffice for that distance at that speed.

There never was any idea of creating the scout class as destroyers of destroyers. They have been given armament to enable them to tight the only vessels fast enough to catch them, which are the destroyers; but the genesis of this class was the desire to meet the demands of the admirals commanding the manœuvring fleets. None of the old unarmoured cruisers or mercantile auxiliaries could come up to the speed of 25 knots on emergencies like the scouts, and cruisers are more expensive ships. We have to hand a case where the scouts would in my estimation be of great value. Admiral Togo would indeed be gratified if he had some of these vessels at his disposal. It would be improper for me to discuss a war between two friendly Powers, but the general situation to which I may refer is known to the whole world. There is a port in which there is a powerful fleet, and another powerful fleet lies at a considerable distance from that port ready to move at a moment's notice, and it relies for its information on scouts lying off the blockaded port. The whole issue of a war might depend on any admiral in a similar position getting information early enough of any movement of the fleet in the blockaded port. For such a purpose I can imagine nothing better adapted than the scout class.

I should like to refer to the submarine class, although it was not mentioned by Lord Brassey. Public attention was lately riveted on the submarine by the deplorable accident which happened off Portsmouth to Submarine A 1. In the opinion of the Admiralty, the value of submarines for defensive purposes is abundantly proved, and for offensive defence—the defence, for example, of our shores in the case of attempted invasion—they are a great addition to our national security. What further development may be in store for this class of ship I am not prepared to say. I am certainly not prepared to say we have reached the limit of the uses to which experience may show they can be put. I hope the public will not think they are dangerous to officers and men. I do not believe that the risks of navigating this class are in any kind different from those involved in the navigation of torpedo boats or destroyers, which at night or in crowded waters must always run a certain amount of risk, and I think the increase in degree practically nil. The safety of the submarine, as of the torpedo boat, depends on the nerve and skill of the officers. That is the opinion of the Board of Admiralty, and I am allowed by the parent of an officer now serving in a submarine, who is himself in a position to speak authoritatively on all naval questions, which he follows with keen interest, to say that this accurately describes the state of the case. All proper precautions should always be used. Manœuvres must continue; but every opportunity should be taken to warn the mercantile marine where these submarines are at work.

One word on the question of boilers. Two years ago, referring to Belleville boilers, I said that if properly manufactured and if properly managed they were able to fulfil the requirements of the Navy, and would not fail in time of war on those conditions. All that has happened since has confirmed me in that opinion, but it has also confirmed me in the opinion which I then added, that this boiler is too delicate an instrument for the rough-and tumble work of the Navy. That is my firm conviction now. But although the ships which have Belleville boilers have not failed their admirals, I regret to say that the cost of the repairs of these boilers has been very serious indeed, and I should never myself be responsible for putting in any more of these boilers, not because I think they would fail in a time of emergency, but because I think they are too expensive to the taxpayers of the country. The boilers which the Committee finally recommended, and which the Admiralty have adopted, are much simpler in construction and much easier to examine and keep in order; and the Admiralty have good reason to believe that they will cost far less in repairs than the Belleville boilers. But I must protest against a phrase which was used in another place, that the Admiralty have recklessly turned the Navy into a gigantic experiment in the matter of boilers. We had, of course, experiments on a large scale, because in no other way could we find out what was the best boiler for the Navy. But we have not put into one single ship of the Navy any boiler which we did not believe would serve that ship faithfully in time of war.

As to the cost of naval works. I am well aware how serious is the sum which Parliament has authorised to be expended on these works. But the reason of this great expenditure is that these naval works have been neglected for nearly two generations. If Parliament had, from year to year during the last half century, done what was necessary, this great expenditure in the last ten years to overtake arrears would not have been necessary. I submit that all that has transpired in the present war shows how essential it is that the Navy should be equipped with these works. In a naval war a country may have the ships and the men, but if she has no place where the ships can be repaired, renovated, and sent to sea again, she may well be defeated by an enemy with an inferior force but provident enough to have provided her navy with all those works so essentially necessary to keep a fleet in being in modern naval warfare. The whole of the expenditure on naval works has been of two classes—in providing proper accommodation for the men of the Fleet either in barracks or hospitals, and for the ships of the Fleet in docks, with the workshops by which they can be repaired, and in providing harbours where they can repair, refit, revictual, or recoal without molestation; and I do not believe that any one of these provisions has been ill-advised. I cannot admit what Lord Brassey said about Simon's Bay. Simon's Bay is a very important spot in the Empire, from the point of view of naval strategy. If the Suez Canal were closed, it would be difficult to exaggerate its importance, and when Lord Goschen's Board agreed to the spending of this large sum of money on works in Simon's Bay, I have no doubt but that they adopted the plan which would give the Navy what was required in the most efficient way, and with the least expense.

What are the great lessons which are taught by the present war? The first is the importance of the personnel. The officers and the men are of more importance than the ships, and that is the greatest justification of the policy of the Admiralty in years past in asking Parliament to provide us with so large a number of active service ratings. There must, of course, be a limit to the expansion of the active service ratings. Further expansion must be in the Reserve; and the Admiralty have done their best to increase the Reserves not merely at home but in the Colonies. Lord Goschen's Board started the way in Newfoundland; we have followed in the Commonwealth of Australia. New Zealand, and Malta. In addition to that, we have started the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. It is too soon to speak of how it has turned out, but I can say that it promises well. The second lesson which I deduce from the war is that we must have a margin of strength. It is plain, I think, to those who have followed the war how much turns on the existence or non-existence of a margin of strength; and I am quite sure that those who realise what a naval war must mean to this country know that the two-Power standard, properly interpreted, means a reasonable assurance of victory, and that reasonable assurance of victory predicates a margin over strict numerical equality. The question is sometimes asked, have the experiences of this war shown that battleships are out of date? Have the mine and the torpedo relegated the battleship from the leading place it has occupied ever since modern naval war began? I believe that nothing could be further from the truth. No lesson is more surely written across the pages of the history of the present war, so far as it has progressed, than that without the battleship no Power can hold or win the command of the sea. I do not ask you to take this opinion from me. I will conclude by reading an extract from an article by Captain Mahan in the New York Sun of 11th May this year, on the question of the survival of the battleship, viz.— Power so concentrated, if equally well handled, will always prevail—not only against an equal amount, but even against a decidedly superior amount dispersed among several. This is elementary military experience; appearing in another form in the commonly understood virtues of central position, interior lines, massed forces, and single command. This is, in brief, the argument for the battleship; single and concentrated force. There is further the utterly unappreciated, in fact wholly ignored, factor of economy. It is much more expensive to put the same aggregate tonnage into two ships than into one. Speaking within limits, you get less military efficiency at higher cost. You need two captains for one; nearly twice as many officers; and crews which, while they may not be the double of the one ship, will exceed it by a very large percentage. And the more you divide your tonnage—say ten or twenty torpedo vessels for one battleship—the greater the economical loss. This was the fatal economical error of Jefferson's seductive cheap gunboat policy, a measure which insured a minimum of military usefulness at a maximum of pecuniary outlay. In my opinion nothing has occurred so far in this present war to confirm the opinion that torpedo attacks by small vessels against battleships will be frequently succcessful. However, even as a matter of mere good luck, success at times must be expected; hence it is desirable so to regulate the size of the battleship that the loss of one may not be excessively felt. It will be impossible to contest control of the sea with vessels exempt by their draught from torpedo injury; and control of the sea is the one thing needful. For the most part, attack by torpedo vessels will be confined to coasts and the neighbourhood of ports, where they will generally be encountered, and in measure checked, by vessels of their own class.


My Lords, I think the House ought to be very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brassey, not only for his own interesting speech, but for the very instructive and important statement which he has elicited from the First Lord of the Admiralty. I feel that we have been a little remiss in not having given the noble Earl an opportunity of making a statement such as he has made to-night at an earlier period of the session. I am not prepared to deal with the noble Earl's statement beyond referring to a few points. I am aware how important it is that the Fleet should have ships to scout for it, but I think that torpedo-boat destroyers, while admirably suited for work in narrow channels, were not intended to accompany a great fleet to sea. With regard to the question of boilers, when I was at the head of the Admiralty my Board were responsible for introducing the water-tube boilers. They introduced the Belleville boilers; and, although that particular class of boiler may be too delicate and expensive, yet I am glad to see that the recent Report shows that the principle of water-tube boilers is a right one, and of great advantage to the Navy. Turn- ing to the question of the two-Power standard, I entirely agree that we are not in the same position as other countries, but the noble Lord seems to consider that the enormous extent of our trade and the number of our colonies are the main factors which should regulate the standard.


I said I believed these to be most important duties that the Admiralty had to consider which foreign countries had not to consider.


I agree, but I thought the noble Lord had dwelt too much on that aspect of the matter. What we have principally to consider is where our enemies' ships will be, and what ships they will have. I am not quite certain whether the two-Power standard is a good one to go by. No doubt circumstances have changed in the last twenty years, but I think such tremendous strides have been taken that we have almost exceeded what was right and necessary. It behoves the Government, and every Government, to be very careful not to exceed what is actually necessary. I should be very much against trying to build two kinds of battleships, and I think that what the First Lord has said on this subject is eminently right. Besides the size, speed, and armament of battleships, a point of great importance for our consideration in the construction of battleships is coal endurance. In regard to naval works I feel some responsibility, inasmuch as when I presided over the Board of Admiralty naval works were commenced which since, I am afraid, have grown to a very great degree. But we found that the old-fashioned roads where ships of war used to assemble were absolutely dangerous in view of the possibility of modern torpedo attacks. I am unable to say whether the extension of naval works since that date has gone too far, but I do think that the time has come when some halt should be called in the enormous expenditure that is now taking place.