*THE EARL OF SELBORNE rose to draw attention to the shipbuilding policy of His Majesty's Government, and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, in speaking on the Navy Estimates in the House of Commons last year the First Lord of the Admiralty used these words—
We ought to learn from our German neighbours, whose policy marches unswervingly towards its goal across the lifetime of a whole generation. The two general principles that I would deduce from these observations, and which will guide my remarks this afternoon, are, first., that we must have an ample margin of strength instantly ready; and, secondly, that there must be a steady and systematic development of our naval forces untiringly pursued over a number of years.
The Prime Minister supported the First Lord in these words—
The House may feel assured that when we produce our Estimates next year, with the added knowledge and fresh light acquired in the interval, and with the prospective requirements of the situation, we shall not fall short of anything our advisers think necessary to fully and adequately safeguard British interests in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
Wise words, my Lords, and brave words. I would ask you to follow me and examine how far they have been fulfilled in actual fact. I cannot but fear that you will come to the conclusion that the "unswervingly" of His Majesty's Government bears much the same comparison to the "unswervingly" of the German Government as a roll of putty does to a bar of steel.
These words were a general expression of intention founded on a definitely pronounced policy. That policy was that the building standard of His Majesty's Government in respect of capital ships, commonly known as Dreadnoughts, was to be a margin of superiority of 60 per cent. over the next European naval Power. But that 60 per cent, was distributed—50 per cent. was to be devoted to securing the safety of the United Kingdom; it was to be stationed in home waters in order to provide absolute security, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, against the expansion of the German Fleet; and the other 10 per cent. was to be devoted specially to the Mediterranean, and, if necessary, to be used in other seas. This standard was justified by Mr. Churchill, very carefully justified, as sufficient at the present moment, and only as sufficient now because of our present superiority in what are called pre-Dreadnought battleships, and he admitted most fully that that proportion of superiority would have to be increased as the older battleships became obsolescent. And, more than that, he admitted—and when I say admitted I do not mean to say that it was an admission reluctantly drawn from him, but he carefully explained the fact to the House of Commons and to the country—that the coming great increase of Italian and Austrian naval strength in the Mediterranean would necessitate an increase of our strength there. I will give you his own words. They occur in the Memorandum, if I may venture to say so, the admirable Memorandum, on Naval Defence Requirements which the Admiralty prepared for
the Canadian Government. Mr. Churchill wrote in that Memorandum [Cd. 6513]—
Four battle cruisers and four armoured cruisers will be required to support British interests in the Mediterranean during the years 1913 and 1914. During those years the navies of Austria and Italy will gradually increase in strength, until in 1915 they will each possess a formidable fleet of four and six Dreadnought battleships respectively, together with strong battleships of the pre-Dreadnought types and other units, such as cruisers, torpedo-craft, &c. It is evident, therefore, that in the year 1915 our squadron of four battle cruisers and four armoured cruisers will not suffice to fulfil our requirements, and its whole composition must be reconsidered.
Mr. Balfour made a speech on that occasion, and at the end of his remarks he used these words—
Is not he [the First Lord of the Admiralty] running it rather fine?
Now, my Lords, you who know Mr. Balfour's profound knowledge of this question, his intense anxiety to raise it above the Party level, and the moderation of his language, must admit that there was a note of very deep anxiety running through those words.
I ventured about this time last year in a debate on this question to say that I thought His Majesty's Government were running it undoubtedly too fine. I said then that in my humble judgment we were short of a whole squadron of battleships in the Mediterranean. Last year that was an opinion and in some degree a prophecy. I think now I shall be able to put it to your Lordships and to the country as a matter of proof. And in order that I may do so let me say that I wish to confine my comments to-night exclusively to the policy of His Majesty's Government and to an examination of whether they have fulfilled the promises which they themselves made to the country, whether they are keeping our naval strength up to, not my standard, but the standard which they themselves have laid down; and I want further to make it plain that I am going to confine my remarks to what may be called capital ships—Dreadnought battle. ships or battle cruisers, or this new Queen Elizabeth type in which the battleship and the battle cruiser have merged. I do that, not because there is not a great deal to be said and thought about naval policy generally, or about cruisers, submarines, and destroyers, but because I want to focus the attention of the country on this one question of the building policy of His Majesty's Government in respect of capital ships.
1597 I wish your Lordships to remember that these announcements of policy on behalf of the Government were exclusively in respect of ships to be built by the Admiralty and paid for by British taxpayers. They were not in respect of ships, however or wherever built, that were paid for by taxpayers in the Dominions. I wish, therefore, to draw your attention to the Prime Minister's words, that he "looked to the prospective requirements of the situation and especially to the adequate safeguard of British interests in the Mediterranean." Those words of the Prime Minister and the words of the First Lord could not possibly refer to any ships except those paid for by the British taxpayer, because neither of those Statesmen nor the Government as a whole has any business whatever to speak in respect of ships to be paid for by Dominion taxpayers. Any Dominion ships built in augmentation of our Empire sea power have always been admitted to be as extra to the Admiralty programme, as they are, necessary for the protection of Empire interests. I will therefore say nothing to-night about the three ships which the present Canadian Government propose to build and the fate of which is in. some suspense. That matter is one for the people of Canada alone, and I am not going to say anything about it to-night except to ask your Lordships to note, as I proceed with what I hope you will admit to be my demonstration, how sorely that help from Canada is needed.
I quote once more from Mr. Churchill's Memorandum to the Canadian Government as bearing on the point I have recently been trying to make and as part of my case. He says in paragraph 9—
Whatever may be the decision of Canada at the present juncture, Great Britain will not in any circumstances fail in her duty to the Oversea Dominions of the Crown.
Now that, taken in conjunction with the Prime Minister's statement, proves what I never doubted myself, that His Majesty's Government consider themselves still responsible for the defence of the whole of the British Empire, and that in their announcement of policy they have always talked of and only meant to include ships for which they would ask the British taxpayer to pay. I am not going to talk at length about those Canadian ships. But naturally the suspense of the decision in that case made it necessary for the First Lord to reconsider the policy he had
announced earlier in the year, and the result of that reconsideration was that lie merely modified his building programme as announced earlier in the year by expediting the construction of three ships The building programme laid down at the beginning of the year was five capital ships, three of which were to be laid down at the end of this financial year, and as the result of what has passed in Canada His Majesty's Government have laid down these ships, or are about to lay them down, as soon as they can.
The first point I want to make is this, that when His Majesty's Government proposed to build only five capital ships this year they were deliberately falling short of the 60 per cent. standard which they themselves had laid down. In 1915 the German Dreadnought battleships and battle cruisers will number twenty-six. A 60 per cent. margin over twenty-six means forty-two. All that His Majesty's Government have provided for is thirty-nine. Therefore they started this year three short of the "unswerving policy" they were going to carry out. And having had an opportunity later of reconsidering their position, they still remain three short of the standard they themselves have laid down. The critical years are going to be the years 1915 and 1916, and I ask your Lordships to examine with me exactly what will be our position in those years. The basis I take for my statement is the assumption that all the ships of this year's programme will have been completed and in commission by the end of 1915—that is quite as much as they possibly can be—and also that the corresponding German ships will have been completed and come into commission. I also take as my basis the correctness of Mr. Churchill's statement that in the year 1915 two members of the Triple Alliance, Austria and Italy, will possess a fleet of ten Dreadnought battleships in the Mediterranean. What will then be our position? Germany will have twenty-six ships of the Dreadnought type in the North Sea. In order to maintain our 50 per cent. margin over that fleet—on the necessity for which Mr. Churchill has insisted again and again, supported, so far as I know, by all the members of His Majesty's Government—we shall have to station in these home waters every single Dreadnought battleship or battle cruiser built by the Admiralty and paid for by the British taxpayer, and 1599 that will give us thirty-nine to Germany's twenty-six, and there will be no 10 per cent. margin, no margin whatever, for the Mediterranean or for any other part of the world of ships of that type built and paid for by the British taxpayer.
§ But at that moment the Austrian and Italian fleets will have reached that strength when Mr. Churchill says in his Memorandum that the British forces in the Mediterranean must be reconstructed. In 1913 and 1914 he remains content with four battle cruisers and four armoured cruisers as our squadron in the Mediterranean. I do not think, and never have thought, that force sufficient even in the years 1913 and 1914. But he himself lays it down in the most positive manner that in 1915 that force will have to be reconstructed in order to meet the ten Dreadnought battleships of the Triple Alliance in the Mediterranean, but he will not have one single British-built Dreadnought battleship or battle cruiser stationed there, not one, and he will have to fall back on two ships and two ships only—the "Malaya" and the "New Zealand," the one paid for by the Malay States and the other by the taxpayers of New Zealand. And mark you, my Lords, those Dominion ships have always been considered, as I have already reminded you, to be extra though necessary. Yet in this critical year 1915 the only ships of the Dreadnought type which the Board of Admiralty will have to put into the Mediterranean will be two of these Dominion ships. They will not have one to spare of the ships built by the British taxpayer. And in the whole of the rest of the Empire, which is not forgotten by the Prime Minister in his statement of last year and is not forgotten by the First Lord in his statement from which I have quoted—in the whole of the rest of the Empire there will be one solitary ship of the Dreadnought type, the "Australia," which in time of peace will be tied to Australian waters.
§ In this stage of the controversy the First Lord suddenly drags into his calculations the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon." I am the last person to say anything against the "Lord Nelson" or the "Agamemnon." They were built by the Board of Admiralty over which I had the honour to preside, and they are undoubtedly very valuable ships; but they are not Dreadnought ships, and if you 1600 drag them into the calculation you are merely confusing the issue, as I will show presently, without in the least improving the calculation. When we talk of Dreadnought ships we mean only one thing—a battleship or a battle cruiser whose main armament consists exclusively of one calibre of big gun, such as a 12-in. or over. The main armament of the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon" does not consist of 12-in. guns. They have only four 12-in. gulls, although they have a powerful armament of 9.2 guns. Therefore I say it is wilfully confusing the issue and misleading the public to reckon in the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon" with the Dreadnought type. But let us take the First Lord on his own ground. Let us add the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon" to the "Malaya" and the "New Zealand," and what is the result? At the very utmost you have four modern battleships in the Mediterranean to confront ten of Austria and Italy. But that is very far from being the end of the story, because if you include the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon" on our side you must certainly include three battleships of the "Radetzky" type which were built by Austria on purpose to match the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon." And if your Lordships will forgive me for wearying you with some detail I will show you how completely misleading it is to the public to include the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon" on our side and not to include the Radetzkvs.
§ All battleships are, of course, a compromise, and in one thing the "Lord Nelson" type differs from the "Radetzky" type. In the case of the "Lord Nelson" more of her strength was put into the armour, and in the case of the "Radetzky type more of the strength was put into the horse-power. Therefore in certain tactical situations the "Radetzky" would have the advantage owing to her speed, whereas in other tactical situations the "Lord Nelson" would have the advantage owing to her armour. But when you come to the question of armament you will see how very close the comparison is between the two types of ships. The "Lord Nelson" has four 12-in. guns; the "Radetzky" has four 12-in. guns. The "Lord Nelson" has ten 9.2 guns; the "Radetzky" has eight 9.4 guns. The "Lord Nelson" has twenty-four 3-in. guns; the "Radetzky" has twenty-six guns of 3-in. and over. 1601 Therefore the real comparison you have to make if you choose to put in the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon" is this, that at the very best we shall have four powerful modern battleships in the Mediterranean to confront thirteen of Austria and Italy. That is in the year 1915. Then there is, unfortunately, strong ground—I do not think I could put it lower than that—for believing that Austria and Italy are going to increase their naval programmes so that in the year 1916 their naval strength will be even more formidable than the figures I have given. The First Lord was closely questioned on this point in the House of Commons, and his attitude was that of mere evasion. He did not say that it was not true. He said that there was nothing at the present moment in the situation to make him change his policy. He neither admitted nor denied the fact. But if, my Lords, it should unfortunately be true that there is going to be this extension of the naval programme of Austria and Italy, powerless as our situation in the Mediterranean will be in 1915 it will be far more dangerous and critical in 1916.
I should like to compare with these facts—and I believe they are incontrovertible facts—a statement that the First Lord of the Admiralty made no later than July 18 this year. He then said—
Apart from the 50 per cent. preponderance in Dreadnought ships which must be maintained above the German fleet in home waters for the defence of the United Kingdom—
and I have shown that we shall require every single Dreadnought ship paid for by the British taxpayer for that special purpose—
we require a powerful fleet for foreign service in the Mediterranean, and, if necessary, for the defence of the Oversea Dominions of the Crown either in the Atlantic or in the Pacific.
And for those purposes we shall only have, at the very best calculation, four ships in 1915 to oppose thirteen in the Mediterranean; and for the whole of the rest of the Oversea Dominions of the Crown, in the Atlantic or in the Pacific, we shall have only one, and that tied to Australian waters.
§ Now what is it, my Lords, that we want, and by the admission of His Majesty's Government? We want an adequate Fleet in the North Sea; we want an adequate Fleet in the Mediterranean; we want something to spare till the Dominions 1602 can provide for that "outer guard" of which Mr. Churchill has previously spoken; and in addition there is, of course, the question of commerce protection, into which I am not entering to-day. With the single exception of a small section of the followers of His Majesty's Government in the House of Commons and a small section of the Labour Party, the whole nation is really unanimous in believing that a paramount Navy is the essential condition of our existence; and the more His Majesty's Government or any other Government in their place proceed in a programme of social reform, the greater is the necessity for a paramount Navy, because old-age pensions, education, national insurance, small holdings—none of these things are of any value to our poorer fellow-countrymen unless they can be assured in their permanent possession, and that assurance can only be given by the strength of the Fleet. Therefore to us who have endeavoured and will endeavour to keep this subject out of the ordinary channels of Party politics, I must say the tone of Mr. Churchill's speech the other day was deeply disappointing. He made no attempt to grapple with the situation as I have laid it down to-day, but instead he had resort to the very commonplace device of constructing for himself a policy which he attributed to the Opposition and of then proceeding to demolish it. That part of his speech was so unworthy of a Statesman of his ability, or of a First Sea Lord, that I do not propose to ask your Lordships to examine it for a moment.
But I would ask you to contrast the tone of that speech with the tone of a speech made a few days later by another member of His Majesty's Government—Mr. Pease, the Minister for Education. Mr. Pease adumbrated a great scheme of national education, and ended by saying—
This will cost a great deal of money, but His Majesty's Government are prepared to foot the Bill.
I make no comment on that, except to ask your Lordships to note the contrast between Mr. Pease's attitude and Mr. Churchill's. I have noticed that when a Minister has got his way with his colleagues in the Cabinet he generally announces that fact by an attitude of benevolence to the Opposition, and when he has not succeeded in getting his way with his colleagues in the Cabinet he generally endeavours to cover his discomfort by an attitude of truculence
towards the Opposition. That was the attitude Mr. Churchill adopted. Surely to give the country great schemes of social reform and not to protect them by an adequate Navy is still less sensible than the attitude of the man who invests the whole of his fortune in a chaplet of pearls but will not buy a safe in which to keep them.
§ My indictment—because it does amount to an indictment—of His Majesty's Government in their shipbuilding policy may be summarised thus. They said they would give the country an unswerving policy, and they have swerved on the first occasion. They promised the country a 60 per cent. margin of British-paid Dreadnought ships, and they are not building up to that standard. They said that the Dominion ships were to be extra; they have substituted Dominion ships for United Kingdom ships. And they have failed in their duty to the Oversea Dominions of the Crown, failed in a pledge solemnly given by the Prime Minister and by Mr. Churchill. I said last year that in my humble judgment we were short of a whole squadron of modern battleships in the Mediterranean. I protest to-night that I have proved the fact that at the present moment we are in our preparations literally and absolutely short of a whole squadron of modern capital ships for service in the Mediterranean. That, my Lords, is what I have to say about the shipbuilding policy of His Majesty's Government.
§ Before I sit down I want to say a few words on the question of oil. The first part of Mr. Churchill's recent speech was devoted almost exclusively to the question of oil. He spoke about it at great length and in a manner which must have interested the House as much as it interested those who read the speech the next day. He showed that at the present moment the Admiralty are devoting all their powers to the study of this question. Nobody could accuse the Board of Admiralty of lethargy in this matter at the present moment. My Lords, it is a question which does require an immense amount of study. I know well the advantages of oil fuel in the Navy. It is an immense simplification; it is an economy of the complements; it gives opportunity of more space and weight being devoted to other purposes; it renders the problem of taking in fuel in time of war much easier. But against that are to be put other con- 1604 siderations—storage and the absolute security for a never-failing supply in time of war. It may be possible to make provision for that. I do not for a moment say it is not possible, because I have not the opportunity now of studying the question, and I do not know. But I do say that no country ought rashly to give up the certainty of a coal supply except for an equal certainty of an oil supply.
§ What makes me anxious is the rashness with which last year the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Government plunged into this question. We have had destroyers consuming oil only, but for ten years and up to last year no battleship or cruiser of importance was ever built wholly dependent on oil for its fuel. They were always built to burn coal, lkitla oil as an auxiliary source of fuel. Last year for the first time five magnificent ships were designed and laid clown with no power of burning coal and designed with the only possibility of propulsion through oil as fuel. That was obviously rash and premature, and the proof is that this year the Admiralty themselves have gone back to the older type of ship where oil is used only as an auxiliary fuel to coal. The seriousness of the matter is this, that you cannot alter the design of a ship when once she has been commenced so as to enable coal to be used instead of oil. The designs of the two ships must be totally different. Not only are the furnaces different, but you cannot utilise the oil tanks as coal bunkers for holding coal any more than you can use the coal bunkers as tanks for holding oil. I hope the Admiralty will always have the courage to go ahead and be in front of other nations in its adoption of new ideas, but I say that to lay down five great ships last year and design them so that they could only be propelled by oil was a rashness which I would characterise as almost unpardonable.
§ Why is it that the Admiralty are still in doubt. on this subject and feel this year that more caution is necessary? I am in a position to tell your Lordships, and it is rather a curious story. Ten years ago the Board of Admiralty over which I had the honour to preside foresaw that this was going to become a question of the first magnitude, and we appointed a Committee, over which Mr. Pretyman presided, to study this question in all its bearings. The Committee was a very strong one; it 1605 included the greatest civilian experts as well as naval experts, and the work it did during two years was of the utmost value to the Admiralty. I have no hesitation in saying that the Admiralty would be in a far worse position than they are in now in the study of this question had it not been for the work of that Committee appointed ten years ago. The extraordinary thing was that the very moment this Government came into office that Committee was wiped out of existence. There was no study of this question for the whole period of seven years during which Mr. McKenna and Lord Tweedmouth filled the office of First Lord of the Admiralty, and the study of it was only revived by Mr. Winston Churchill the other day. I think the country ought to be grateful to Mr. Winston Churchill for reviving the Committee and for appreciating the importance of this study. The whole of our difficulties at the present moment arise from the fact that for some reason absolutely inexplicable to my intelligence the Government have allowed this question to slumber for no less than seven years. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the shipbuilding policy of His Majesty's Government.—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down has delivered a vigorous criticism of the shipbuilding policy of the Government. Indeed he said it amounted to an indictment. I am not disposed to complain of the noble Earl's criticism. I am quite sure that he approaches this question in no Party spirit, and indeed it is a matter of satisfaction to us to have the opportunity of restating what the position of the Government is. That is all I shall attempt to do to-day, and I hope that I may be able, when I have stated the facts as they are known to us, to allay the anxiety which the noble Earl has displayed.
In the first place, I ask your Lordships' attention to a consideration of what the policy of the Government is. I cannot accept the noble Earl's version of it. I am sure he did not wish to misrepresent the First Lord of the Admiralty, but if he will allow me to state what the policy of the Admiralty is as expressed by the First 1606 Lord in another place and elsewhere we shall have a firmer basis upon which to proceed. The main and most important statement of policy is what is known as the 60 per cent. standard, and I think it is worth while examining a little more carefully what exactly the First Lord said in announcing that policy in the House of Commons on March 18, 1912. What he said was this—The actual standard in new construction which the Admiralty has in fact followed during recent years has been to develop a 60 per cent. superiority in vessel of the Dreadnought type over the German Navy on the basis of the existing Fleet Law.The First Lord has never claimed, so far as I know, that we possess now a 60 per cent. superiority. All he claimed was that as far as our shipbuilding programme of the future was concerned the object of the Admiralty would be to develop, not to create at once, a 60 per cent. superiority in vessels of the Dreadnought type over the existing German Fleet Law. This 60 per cent. superiority was considered by the Board of Admiralty to be sufficient in view of the immense pre-Dreadnought superiority which we possess.
May I say, ire passing, that it would be a great mistake to suppose that slaps of the pre-Dreadnought type are not in themselves very valuable. They only fall in utility when compared with the new Dreadnought class, but if as the result of a naval engagement the Dreadnoughts were to mutually destroy each other then, of course, the pre-Dreadnoughts would command the situation; and as a matter of fact our superiority in pre-Dreadnoughts is so great that were the Dreadnoughts all to go to the bottom of the sea our naval superiority would be very much greater than it is at the present time. The British superiority in battleships over the next strongest naval Power is as much as 38 to 23 in 1913, and never falls below 32 to 20 in the second quarter of 1916. We are aware that this pre-Dreadnought superiority will not continue for ever. These ships gradually become obsolescent, and in view of that the Admiralty will not be satisfied with a 60 per cent. superiority for all time. The First Lord laid it down in the speech to which I referred that should the existing Fleet Law not be adhered to by Germany, and should they build any additional ships over those contemplated by that Law, then our standard would not be a 60 per 1607 cent. superiority but a policy of two keels to one. The First Lord also announced that the Board of Admiralty considered that, in order to ensure our day-by-day equality, if not superiority, in home waters it was necessary to keep a 50 per cent. superiority over the German Navy in those waters. That statement was made, I think, for the first time definitely this year. The First Lord also stated that he relied upon the difference between 50 per cent. and 60 per cent. superiority—that is the 10 per cent. to which the noble Earl referred—and on those ships which have been so generously and patriotically supplied by the great Dominions for Imperial purposes, for the service of the whole Empire.
I have stated my reading of the Admiralty policy as expressed during the last eighteen months. Now may I draw your Lordships' attention to the way in which that policy has been applied. The 60 per cent. superiority over the existing Fleet Law would have meant a shipbuilding policy of three, four, three, four, three ships in the alternate years; but in view of the fact that Germany are now laying down two additional ships it behoves us, in pursuance of the two keels to one policy, to lay down four more, and therefore the figures become five, four, four, four, four. That is to say, our shipbuilding policy, as contrasted with that of Germany, is for the next five shipbuilding programmes a production of 25 ships to 14, which secures us a ratio not of 16, but of 18 to 10. During the next eighteen months there will be delivered from the shipbuilding yards of Great Britain twelve ships—I am only speaking of battleships—against Germany's six, Italy's three, Austria-Hungary's one, and France's two, which your Lordships will see make exactly twelve. So that our output of ships for the period named is equal to that of the four Powers I have named. I cannot quite accept the noble Earl's figures, and I think it would be convenient if I were to state the figures which I have. But before I do so I would like to state at once that I shall include in my list the two Lord Nelson ships. On that point I would like to say a word or two. I understood the noble Earl to take the view that the Lord Nelsons ought not to be included as Dreadnoughts.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
The noble Earl went at some length into their armaments and contrasted them with the armaments of other ships. The opinion of the Board of Admiralty is that the two Lord Nelsons—that is to say, the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon"—are as good as the early German Dreadnoughts. I refer to the Nassaus; and they certainly are as good as the Radetzkys. That is an opinion which is not confined to the Board of Admiralty or to the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I do not wish to bandy opinions across the Table, but if the noble Lord is going to count in the Lord Nelsons he ought, in my opinion, to count in the Radetzkys as well.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I will refer to that in a moment. As I say, this opinion is not confined to the Board of Admiralty. Mr. A. Burgoyne, the Member of Parliament for North Kensington, who is the editor of the useful "Annual" issued by the Navy League, which is usually very well informed and accurate, has not infrequently classified the Lord Nelsons as Dreadnoughts, and I think in the last edition to which I have had access it is stated that they are not to be unfavourably compared with the Nassaus and Radetzkys.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I am not competent to form an opinion as to the relative merits of these ships. I take it to be a highly technical subject, upon which it is rather injudicious for a layman to embark. If anybody considers himself competent to estimate the fighting value of these two ships and to do so to their detriment in any estimate of the quality of battleships, both ends of the lists must be considered. That is where our great superiority comes in. We have been overhauling the great accretion of strength which the German Navy acquired about the year 1907, and that overhauling of the German Navy has been in ships of far greater power than those to which we have been opposed. If your Lordships consider the very great difference there is between a Dreadnought and a super-Dreadnought 1609 and a super-Dreadnought and the still newer class—I do not know what to call it—the hyper-super-Dreadnought if you like, you will see that our superiority there is so enormous that it certainly makes up, if indeed it does not a great deal more than make up, for any inferiority, supposing there to be any inferiority, in the two ships the noble Earl alluded to. If you take the line of cleavage between the Dreadnought and the surer-Dreadnought to be the introduction of the 13.5 gun to replace the old 12-in. in the British Navy and the introduction of the 12.2 in place of the 11-in. in the German Navy, and even supposing there is any correspondence between our 12-in. and their 11-in. and our 13.5 and their 12.2, we find that in the Dreadnought class our superiority over Germany is as 20 to 17, but in our super-Dreadnought class our superiority now is as 7 to nothing, and in two years will be as 20 to 12, or to 8, as your Lordships may class the ships. Our superiority in super-Dreadnoughts is far greater than our superiority in Dreadnoughts, and if you take the newest and strongest ships of all you will find that our superiority is greater still. I am given to understand when the ships laid down now have been delivered in two years' time our superiority in the newest and most formidable ships on the sea will be as 10 to 2.
Before I give your Lordships the figures, I. would like to say a word of warning as to the methods by which these calculations are reached. The calculations are, and must be, somewhat conventional in character. We assume that the German ships take three years to build from the beginning of their financial year, and that our ships take two years to build after three months' preparation, which gives us, of course, an advantage of nine months. But we consider the German ships to be fit for commission directly they are delivered, while we allow ourselves three months for trials, which brings our figure up to two and a-half as against their three years. Let me say a word or two about the "New Zealand" and the "Malaya." I am going to include those two ships in my calculations, because, as the noble Earl knows, the "New Zealand" is an integral part of the British Navy—quite different from the "Australia," which belongs to the Australian Government—and the same thing applies to the 1610 "Malaya." Having cleared the ground to that extent, I would like to state what the position would be.
The noble Earl laid great stress on the two years 1915 and 1916. I find, taking the year 1915, that the estimate is that Germany will have 23 battleships. We shall have 37, rising in the fourth quarter to 41. That is where the policy of the acceleration comes in—the three ships which were accelerated in consequence of the condition of affairs with regard to the Canadian ships. After allowing 50 per cent. superiority in home waters, that gives us an average of four battleships over, rising in the fourth quarter to six battleships over. If you take the year 1916 you will see that the German Fleet increases from 23 ships in the first quarter to 26 in the other quarters. After allowing for a 50 per cent. superiority in home waters we get a margin of between four and eight ships. We shall have 43 ships, rising to 45 ships in the fourth quarter.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I do not quite understand how the number can possibly rise to 45. There are not 45 altogether, if you take in the "Lord Nelson," the "Agamemnon," the "New Zealand," the "Australia," and the "Malaya."
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
Yes; this is based upon the ratio of ships to be built, which I gave the noble Earl before, the five, four, four, four, four. If that policy is continued, and I have no reason to think it will not be, then we shall have 45 ships in the fourth quarter of 1916.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I am now basing myself on the statement to which I have referred, that our shipbuilding policy will be five, four, four, four, four. Based on that shipbuilding policy we should have 45 ships by the end 1611 of 1916. That gives us, as I say, a margin of something between four and eight ships. In 1917 our average goes up still more; we shall have an average margin of six ships. And in 1918 the margin will rise to eight ships. I claim that the policy laid down by the First Lord, that the Admiralty will develop a 60 per cent. superiority, is borne out by the figures I have given your Lordships, and those figures do not include either the "Australia" or the three Canadian ships. If they are built in 1916 our margin will be increased from six ships to nine ships, or, with the "Australia," to ten ships. I think the noble Earl appreciates that the present difficulty has been met by the acceleration of our existing programme. That enables us to postpone any decision as to what may be necessary for seven months—that is to say, until the next Estimates come to be framed. But the First Lord of the Admiralty stated distinctly that should, for one reason or another, the Canadian ships not be forthcoming, it would be necessary for him to reconsider the whole shipbuilding programme. We claim that not only have we maintained the standard which was laid down, that of 60 per cent. superiority, but that we have actually improved upon it, and that the balance available for Imperial work, having regard to all the circumstances of the case and to every likely or conceivable concatenation of circumstances, is sufficient for Imperial purposes.
I notice a disposition in some quarters—I do not know whether the noble Earl was guilty of it—to what I call "pile on the agony." Critics are found to say, "What are you going to do about protecting trade?" and "What about the Atlantic and the Pacific?" But you cannot count an enemy's ships for the purposes of calculation in home waters or in the Mediterranean and count them again as preying upon our trade in the Pacific or in other seas. If any subtraction is to be made from the enemy's fleet, at least equal subtraction can be made from ours. I think it is quite unfair and very misleading to put it as if, over and above the duties which have been enumerated, there was this extra and additional peril for which no provision has been made.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
Then a word about oil. The noble Earl seemed to think that my right hon. friend had been very rash in going in for oil. But I believe I am right in stating that it was the noble Earl himself who was responsible for the inauguration of the oil policy in 1905.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
The difference is between using oil only and using oil as an auxiliary source of fuel.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I am aware that the noble Earl was responsible for the use of oil as an auxiliary, and that it has been of very great advantage in increasing the speed of battleships. But in 1905 he was responsible for the policy of equipping destroyers with oil burners only.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
That is possible; and a very good thing, too. But that is a very different thing from five battleships.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I think it was in 1904 that the noble Earl first decided to go in for the consumption of oil alone, and we know the subsequent developments which have attended that policy. There would be no difficulty in getting oil. It is a mistake to suppose that there is any shortage of oil, or that the consumption of oil, present or prospective, by the British Navy would make even the least impression upon the total oil production of the world. The total oil production of the world is estimated at 50,000,000 tons a year, and the consumption of the British Navy is not estimated to exceed 200,000 tons. It is therefore quite clear that the amount of oil required in relation to the amount produced is inconsiderable.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
That is the peace consumption. The noble Earl knows very well what provision is being made with regard to the storage of oil, and any of your Lordships who have followed the debates will know that also. The question we have to consider, and which has confronted the Admiralty, is the question of the expense of oil, and not as to the supply. The noble Earl was rather unfair in criticising previous First Lords of the Admiralty, because it was only in 1911 or 1912 that the price of oil rose. 1613 Previous to that it was possible to buy oil at about 22s. a ton, whereas the price has recently risen to 39s., and it is feared that it may even go a great deal higher. The problem, therefore, did not become acute and demand vigorous; handling until quite recently, and I think that in itself accounts for the fact that the Committee which the noble Earl appointed and which did excellent work—and subsequent administrators of the Admiralty have acknowledged the great advantage they derived from it—was allowed to fall into abeyance.
The noble Earl says, "It is true I equipped destroyers with oil burners; but von have equipped battleships; and clearly you feel uncertain of your ground because von are going to return to coal burners again." That is putting a wrong construction upon the policy of the Admiralty. It overlooks and ignores the whole policy of the squadron of oil burners. The idea was to create a fast squadron, and, as pace is relative, it is quite clear that if you increase the whole pace of your battleships you have not achieved the task of creating a fast squadron. The Admiralty have retained the present standard of speed of about 20 to 21 knots for the main line of battleships, but they have provided this fast squadron equipped with oil burners. That is the explanation of their return from oil last year to the coal burners of the present programme. I hope I have been able to answer some of the noble Earl's questions, and to set his mind at rest upon those points with regard to which he felt some misgivings. In any case I hope I have not been unsympathetic to his speech, which contained, as one would expect, much valuable information and criticism.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I always take part with reluctance in these discussions, because I realise that these problems of naval defence are very technical, and that those who have not made a. special study of them and are not able to speak with the authority of experts are at a considerable disadvantage. We had an example of that a moment ago, when the noble Lord who speaks for the Admiralty disagreed with my noble friend as to what types of ship can or cannot be legitimately counted as Dreadnoughts. We are faced, therefore, with this difficulty, that the very terminology of the subject is one on which we are not wholly agreed. The difficulty of the 1614 case is increased by the fact that the naval and political conditions of these problems are continually altering. We have seen radical changes in the policy of the Admiralty. We have seen the abandonment of the two-Power standard, and we may see other changes of the same kind. But I do not desire for a moment to base myself upon technical arguments. I desire to take for my point of departure the latest naval policy as explained in a way which we thought was perfectly unambiguous by the First Lord of the Admiralty and accepted by those who listened to him.
The question is whether the policy outlined by the First Lord has or has not been made good, or is or is not in process of being made good by the Admiralty. My noble friend gave us, I think, excellent reasons for holding that it is not. On the contrary, the noble Lord opposite endeavoured to convince us that we were wrong. My noble friend pointed out that the Admiralty were committed to a policy of providing a superiority in ships of the Dreadnought type of 60 per cent. over the next strongest naval foreign Power. The noble Lord opposite said that the policy of the Admiralty was to develop that superiority gradually. The question arises, Are we likely to get that superiority? The 60 per cent. was to be distributed, 50 per cent. in the borne waters to provide for the safety of this country, and 10 per cent. for what was described as a powerful Fleet in the Mediterranean to be available for overseas defence and action in any part of the world. But this 10 per cent. Provided in the Mediterranean was provided on three express conditions. In the first place, it was explained that the 10 per cent. was a figure that was subject to review, and that the adequacy of that percentage depended on the activity of foreign Powers, particularly the Mediterranean Powers, in naval construction. Of that there is no doubt. The second condition was that the 60 per cent. was only regarded as sufficient on account of our great superiority in pre-Dreadnoughts. I think the noble Lord was quite justified in insisting upon the value of pre-Dreadnoughts, and I am sure my noble friend does not ignore their value. The third condition was that for the purposes of this calculation the ships provided by the great Dominions were to be regarded as extra to those required. It is on these bases that we endeavour to take stock, and to see how we shall stand in the future. The first fact 1615 we come to is that, owing to circumstances which I need not epitomise, delay has arisen with regard to the three Canadian Dreadnoughts, and at the moment we are not justified in treating them as an asset which is or will be available. It is not our business to discuss that matter. It remains entirely for the decision of the people of Canada whether they desire that those ships should or should not be forthcoming. In order to make good that deficiency the noble Lord tells us that the Admiralty are accelerating the construction of three capital ships which will no doubt add to our strength at the end of the year 1915 or the beginning of 1916.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
How shall we stand when that time comes? By that time Germany will have 26 Dreadnoughts and we shall have only 39, according to our information. I understood the noble Lord just now to tell us that the building programme has now been altered to an extent which will increase by three or four capital ships the grand total which will be reached in the year 1915. That is to say, the noble Lord in his calculation counts ships which we are going to commence to construct next year. I do not know what information he has as to what ships are going to be constructed by foreign Powers next year, because any acceleration on our part will surely be followed by acceleration on theirs. If I am right, in 1915 we shall have only 39 Dreadnoughts—that is to say, just enough to give us the 50 per cent. superiority in the North Sea. But even if we are wrong on that point and the total number of Dreadnoughts is to be taken to be larger by three or four—if the higher figure is taken, I fail to gather from the noble Lord that we shall have that powerful Fleet in the Mediterranean available for service in any part of the world which was promised by the First Lord. I do not gather that we should have a 10 per cent. superiority, or that we should have sufficient Dreadnoughts in the Mediterranean to oppose to the ten which Austria and Italy will be able to dispose of, or to the 15 Dreadnoughts which they will be able to dispose of in 1916. The only Dreadnoughts which I understand the noble Lord at present to say are available in the Mediterranean are the "Australia," the 1616 "New Zealand" and the "Malaya"—the three Dominion ships. But those, remember, were to be outside the calculation altogether, and one of them is only-available for service in Australian waters.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I do not quarrel with the noble Marquess's deduction, but that is not what I intended to convey, and I do not think I said it. I said that in 1916 we should have available as a margin over the 50 per cent. superiority in home waters four, in 1917 six, and in 1918 eight ships.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I do not think I misrepresent the noble Lord when I say that for the purpose of this calculation he has counted in the Lord Nelsons and the Agamemnons which my noble friend says, and I think rightly, ought to be excluded unless you are prepared to include also the foreign ships which were built for the express purpose of matching those classes. If you alter the account on one side by the inclusion of those ships, you ought to alter it on the other side by the inclusion of corresponding ships belonging to another Power. At the close of his speech the noble Lord laid great stress on the fact that these Dreadnoughts differed very greatly ship from ship, and he argued that even if in the case of mere numbers we were not sufficiently strong, his argument was reinforced by the fact that in the higher type of Dreadnought ship we possessed a pre-eminence which justified us in attaching less importance to the mere question of numbers. That is a very dangerous argument to use, and I admit it is a very difficult argument for us to meet, because it is impossible for laymen to say that four Dreadnoughts of one type are better than five of another, and that is what the noble Lord says, if his argument comes to anything at all.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I say that as the science of shipbuilding progresses so does our superiority increase. It is in the highest type of ship that we are most superior.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Yes; but when the Admiralty go to the public, as they do, and say, "We mean to have a superiority of 60 per cent. in Dreadnoughts," the man in the street does not distinguish between one Dreadnought and another, and I do not think that he will be consoled if you go to him afterwards and say that you have not got your 60 per cent. margin, but that your Dreadnoughts are so good that he will have to be content with a smaller percentage.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I thought the whole point of the noble Lord's argument was that at a particular stage the new standard of two keels to one came in and gave a different result.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I do not wish the noble Marquess to misinterpret what I said. I said that we had laid down a 60 per cent. building programme in regard to the old existing German Fleet Law, and that we had laid down four additional ships in consequence of the two ships which Germany has added to her Fleet Law, which gives us a proportion of 18 to 10 and not 16 to 10. We have more than maintained our superiority. I hope I have made that quite clear, as I do not want to be misunderstood on that point.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble friend Lord Selborne tells me that, even counting the "Malaya" and the "New Zealand," unless you include ships which are not yet begun you will not have the 60 per cent. margin which we were so distinctly led to expect. But I assure the noble Lord I would much sooner that he should prove me to be wrong than that I should prove myself to be right. We none of us wish to make Party capital out of these naval questions, and if we have raised them it is because it seems to us, from a careful study of what has been said by the officials responsible for the policy of the Admiralty, that we are for various reasons not likely to have that preponderance which was distinctly laid down as essential, on the one hand, to the safety of this country, and, on the other, in order to make it possible for us to meet our responsibilities and obligations over-seas.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I had no intention of saying anything, but the interesting and forcible speech of the noble Earl raised several questions which I have been studying for a good many years, and I should therefore like to add a few words. In the first place, I entirely agree with Lord Selborne that we must not neglect the Mediterranean. Some years ago a suggestion was put forward for the total abandonment of our position there. It was argued that there would be strategical advantages gained by so doing and a saving of money. It seemed to me so retrograde a suggestion that I did my best to combat it at the time. The proposition was subsequently dropped, and I hope it will never be raised again. We first went to the Mediterranean 700 years ago; we have been there for 200 years almost continuously, and for 100 years practically unchallenged. I therefore feel that we must never neglect the Mediterranean. There is one historical fact that I should like to bring to your Lordships' notice. In 1798 the French controlled the Mediterranean from end to end. In May of that year, Lord Nelson entered it, and by the end of the year there were only two French battleships afloat and these were afterwards sunk. Whether one takes the calculations of the noble Earl who initiated this discussion, or the not very different calculations of the noble Lord who replied for the Admiralty, one seems to reach the inevitable conclusion that the time cannot be very far distant when the finances of this country will not be able to afford the maintenance of a Fleet in the North Sea 50 per cent. superior to that of Germany, and in the Mediterranean of a Fleet superior to those of Italy and Austria. But if that time comes and we were to be forced into a conflict with three allies, we, on our side, should not be wholly without allies. That seems to me a not unreasonable assumption on our part. The noble Earl threw some doubts on the relative powers of the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon." I have taken a great deal of pains to compare the relative fighting capacities of ships, and I came to the conclusion—and a good many naval officers are of the same opinion—that on the whole the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon" were both decidedly more formidable ships than the early Dreadnoughts. I should be glad to send those papers to the noble Earl—
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I gather that the noble Lord would attribute a great value to the Radetzkys also.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
I have no details about them. I agree with the noble Earl that the policy of applying oil to destroyers or of using oil spray and then suddenly applying it to battleships is a distinctly different proposition. The smaller ships are easily supplied and provided with oil, but, without waiting for the Report of the Commission, to lay down that five of our battleships are to he wholly supplied with oil seems to be a rash proceeding, and exactly the kind of proceeding which must lead to very great expenditure for storage and also to a great inflation of the value of oil.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, we have listened to an interesting speech from the noble Lord who has just sat down, which makes me hope that we may hear him again in the course of these debates and gain further benefit from the experience with which he is able to speak upon this subject. The whole discussion has been a very satisfactory one in this respect, that it has been approached with a desire to get at the truth and not to make Party points. The discussion also shows another thing, that in however good a spirit you may conduct a debate of this kind you are obsessed—for it is nothing less than an obsession—by one great difficulty of terminology. The conceptions so shift from period to period that the speakers are not agreed upon the standards which they use. This difficulty was illustrated at the outset by the use of the term "Dreadnought." The noble Earl who initiated the debate, and who has great experience of these matters, gave us a definition of the word "Dreadnought" as including only a ship which carried guns of at least 12-in. diameter.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I said whose main armament consisted of 12-in. guns, or nuns of bigger diameter.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will take that stringent definition of "Dreadnoughts." But towards the end of his speech the noble Earl seemed to go back on his own definition, because he suggested that the Nassau class should be included in the term "Dreadnought." The Nassau 1620 class, according to my recollection, has no more than 11-in. guns—eight 11-in. and six 6-in. Therefore if the noble Earl's definition of a Dreadnought is to be taken, it certainly cannot include the Nassaus.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I admit that the noble and learned Viscount has caught me there. That is a perfectly fair point to make, but I should include the Nassaus. I think they really belong to the same class.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Anyhow the other armament is 6-in., which is much smaller than that of the "Lord Nelson." I think the lowest calibre in the "Lord Nelson" is 9.2.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Yes; but to a very small degree. I was pointing out how difficult it is to keep up a discussion on these things because we all have different standards in our minds, and we have reason to have those different standards. I agree with the noble Earl in one sense, that you might call the "Nassau" a Dreadnought, and also the "Lord Nelson." Considering the power of the rest of its armament, the "Lord Nelson" might very fairly come within that category. That is only one illustration. A much more serious difficulty is when we get to standards. The noble Marquess alluded to the difficulty of standards and of making calculations. We have now passed from what used to be the good old two-Power standard to what looks like a 60 per cent. standard. That is Dreadnought power. It is not the substitution of 60 per cent. for the old 100 per cent.; it is the substitution of something quite different. We are now measuring in Dreadnoughts. Speaking for myself I have great doubt whether five or ten years hence Dreadnoughts will be the best standard by which to measure the strength of fleets. That is a serious consideration, because we are looking a good many years ahead. In all these calculations it is not easy to get a definite standard. If you take into account pre-Dreadnought construction, no doubt we are far ahead of the two-Power standard still; we still maintain a very considerable preponderance. But, after all, the 1621 Admiralty must be judged by the standards which they lay down, and it is by those standards that the problem of getting at the truth must be solved.
My noble friend who spoke on behalf of the Admiralty made it quite plain what the situation is. As regards our position relatively to Germany, it is not until the second quarter of 1916 that Germany will have 26 Dreadnoughts, and in that year, according to our information, we shall have 43. I have been at some pains to satisfy myself that we are keeping the 60 per cent. preponderance, and through these years we are keeping a 60 per cent. Preponderance—50 per cent. in home waters, with a margin over. The real difficulty is when you get to the Mediterranean, because there you have to deal with two other Fleets, those of Austria and Italy. There again we have set ourselves a standard—to keep up a substantial Fleet. I do not think it would be reasonable or wise for any Government to keep a Fleet in the Mediterranean equal to the Fleets of Austria and Italy combined, because the burden would be simply enormous, and there is no justification for it. The Fleets of the world are distributed. We have no alliances; but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, that you cannot leave out of account the groupings which take place, especially in forecasts as to the future. Our relations with those countries which belong to the other group are of the most friendly kind. I hope that will continue. I believe that the tendency is for the groups to draw together. Still, if you are going to make calculations on possibilities that have not occurred, you cannot leave out of account that France has in the Mediterranean a Fleet almost as great as the Fleets of Austria and Italy combined, and if you take into account that we are on the most friendly relations with France, and that our Fleet in the Mediterranean is a substantial one, then, looking at the balance you have a situation which cannot be described as unsatisfactory. In dealing with the Mediterranean situation no doubt we have calculated in the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon," but there are Radetzkys also which belong to the Fleets of the opposing group, and in that group the Itadetzkys count for something which certainly is not a marked superiority if they are at all superior to what we have in the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamem- 1622 non." If you take Dreadnoughts only it is impossible to foresee the situation which may occur. It is always possible that you might have a combination of Italy, Austria, and Germany against this country single-handed. When these things are put to me I feel inclined to repeat the remark of Moltke, who when it was said to him, "You have reorganised the German Army and have produced an army which can defend Germany against two Powers; but what if a third were to join them?" replied, "Then I should leave it to Providence."
You cannot provide for every possible emergency; no wise man does, for the reason that if you do the only thing you make sure of is the financial embarrassment of your country. In order to keep up navies and armies your financial position should be a good one. I say that with great deference to those who think otherwise. The greatest source of our strength is our financial position. The noble Earl who initiated this debate shook his head over the announcement that the Government are going to undertake an educational system which will involve the expenditure of very large sums of money. I am profoundly convinced that unless we take serious action in the matter of education, and particularly in the matter of training those who will be our workmen in the future, in the course of 15 years this country will have dropped behind other countries which have already taken such action. It is not that we are doing nothing, but that other countries are proceeding more rapidly. I feel that danger is just as perilous as any connected with the Fleet, because our industrial supremacy rests on revenue, and unless that revenue is secure our Fleet supremacy is imperilled. It is quite true that up to now Canada has not been in a position to give us those assurances on which we hoped we might reckon. Canada will take her own course. It is not for us to speculate upon what course the Canadian people will adopt, and, in the meantime. the Government have taken the only wise course open to them in the circumstances and have accelerated certain ships which were in the programme, to such an extent that they will be there whether the Canadian ships are or are not. Indeed, they will be there before the Canadian ships, for the Canadian ships could not he started and finished so quickly. Therefore there will be four 1623 ships ready for the Mediterranean—the "Malaya" and these three ships which have taken the place of the Canadian ships—and these, together with the other resources, will make the Mediterranean Fleet.
There was some discussion about oil, and the noble Earl said very truly that it was a new departure in this country, which has the finest coal supply in the world. Things have changed enormously since the noble Earl had to consider this question. It has become more and more obvious that the type of battleship which will be projected in the future will have to depend upon speed and armament. There are enormous technical advantages which depend upon the use of oil fuel. Instead of the clumsy process of recoaling, taking in oil at sea is comparatively simple. We have come to the conclusion, reluctantly, that we should be wanting in enterprise, courage, and sanity if we declined to face the new facts that are coming to us progressively, that for naval purposes oil will be more and more substituted for other kinds of fuel. It is quite true that you have to look ahead in these matters. We have looked ahead to the best of our ability. We have estimated in the closest way the world's production of oil and the amount which is available at present. There are some 50,000,000 tons of oil available, upon which in sonic shape or form we can draw. The striking feature is the amount which would be available in this country, if we had only chosen to make it available, out of shale alone. There are upwards of 500,000 tons of Scottish shale which would yield, according to our estimate, 400,000 to 500,000 tons for 150 years. I do not think it is a good thing to try to forecast what the Navy would require in time of war, but there in itself we have no inconsiderable quantity. Then there is shale in this country which is capable of producing oil and has already been used for that purpose. There are oil supplies all over the world which have not been tapped, and there is the progress of science, which to my mind makes it certain that within a very short time sources of obtaining crude oil will be turned to account which up to now have not been dreamt of by the general public.
There is no doubt that there is a more than sufficient amount of oil fuel available 1624 and within our reach for all our purposes. The only question is whether we are to set to work with sufficient energy and foresight to make use of it in time. I have alluded to this for the purpose of meeting the reproach that we have done something rash in turning to oil. I do not think it was possible for an Admiralty which wished to live up to the standard of the times to take any other course. I admit it is a serious one. No doubt it is unfortunate that a country which has such a splendid supply of coal as we have should not be able to rely on that fuel alone, but we have to take things as we find them. So long as our revenues keep up, and so long as we take steps through education and other ways to keep our revenues up, I do not feel any misgiving that the energies and resources of the people of this country as regards the Navy will enable us to keep abreast in the future as in the past. I do not think that discussions of this kind are undesirable if only for the reason that they afford opportunities to make our minds clearer as to the reasons for the changes which are taking place and to force upon us the consciousness of the new problems with which we are confronted.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I am permitted by the rules of the House to reply briefly to what has been said. I know that Lord Ashby St. Ledgers was confronted with the difficulty that he has not the privilege of being at the Board of Admiralty, and he was naturally supplied with arguments based on what Mr. Winston Churchill perhaps thought I might say, and therefore he introduced into his remarks a lot of arguments which, though interesting, in no way met my main contention; and the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, although he has great knowledge of these matters to which he has devoted many years of attention, led us off into the consideration of a number of interesting questions not very intimately concerned with the exact points that I endeavoured to make. For instance, he chided me over my shake of the head about the prospective expenditure of His Majesty's Government on education. I did not mean to shake my head in disapproval of that prospective expenditure. What I said was that I thought it an inadvisable policy to be prepared to spend these large sums of money upon social reform and not to spend the necessary sums on the Navy in order to protect 1625 those reforms, which is a very different proposition from disapproving of spending money on national education.
Then, again, I did not say that the Admiralty were wrong in adopting oil as the motive power for battleships. I said they were wrong in adopting it prematurely, until they were perfectly certain as to the conditions under which they would have to act in time of war; and I adduced as proof of their rashness the policy of laying down this year battleships which are not propelled by oil but by coal. I cannot accept for a moment as valid the excuse put forward. It is really playing with your Lordships to ask you to believe that if the Admiralty thought there was no difficulty in the question of the supply of oil, and if there were all the advantages on which the Lord Chancellor so eloquently dilated, they would not have laid down the battleships of this year as well as of last year on an oil basis instead of a coal basis. The question is not as to the advantages of oil or as to the amount of oil in the world, but as to the supply of oil in time of war. There is, I agree, an enormous amount of shale in Scotland and also in Dorsetshire which might produce oil for His Majesty's Navy; but the Lord Chancellor forgot to tell your Lordships that that shale has never hitherto been workable at a cost which would pay for the working of it commercially, and I would ask him whether at this moment there is any large amount of shale oil being produced in Scotland?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
There is a good deal of shale oil being produced in Scotland, and as regards England I have reason to think that a great commercial company are considering the matter and are prepared to take up the working of it for the purpose of producing oil. The noble Earl will remember that oil is a very different commodity to-day from what it was a few years ago, both as to price and demand.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
The Lord Chancellor tells us that the oil supply from the shale of Scotland and England may become available for the Navy because the price of oil is now so high; but I would point out that if the price drops—an event to be much desired on other grounds—then that shale will cease to be available and will remain unavailable as in the past. My two main contentions were these. That the 1626 Government were not acting up to their promise and their announced policy of a GO per cent. margin building programme, and that when that announcement was made nothing was said about the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon" and the Dominion ships. The answer of the noble Lord was that we are maintaining the 60 per cent. margin by including in our calculation, not only the Dominion-built Dreadnoughts, but, the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon." I never denied that if you included those ships you would be able to make out a case for the 60 per cent. margin. The noble Lord denies my contention that in 1915, even including the Dominion-built ships and the "Lord Nelson" and the "Agamemnon," we should only have four ships to put into the Mediterranean of modern battleship type. He says that calculation is wrong because we build six months quicker than the Germans, and, I presume, other foreign shipbuilding yards. I do not admit that that is an accurate statement of our building capacity. There was a time when we could reckon on building in a considerably less period than the Germans and the others, but that time has passed away; and any policy based henceforth on the idea that we. can build in 30 months what the Germans can only build in 36 months is not a policy that will bear examination, and any standard based upon it is a false one. I maintain that the facts I have stated remain uncontroverted and that in 1915 we shall only be able to put four incident battleships into the Mediterranean, including the "New Zealand," the "Malaya," the "Lord Nelson," and the "Agamemnon," and that those would be confronted with 13 ships of the same quality belonging to Italy and Austria..
I quite agree with the noble and learned Viscount and with Lord Sydenham that in our Mediterranean calculations we cannot as reasonable men reckon, on the one hand, that the whole of the Triple Alliance would be against us, and, on the other hand, refuse to hope and believe, if such an unfortunate struggle took place, that we should be able to count on the support of the French Fleet. At the same time I do say that I will never consent to our being dependent in the Mediterranean either in peace or in war only on the French Navy. We must have, for the honour of our Empire and the support of our interests, a formidable force of our own in the Mediterranean. 1627 to act, if necessary, in conjunction with the naval forces of France. My main indictment remains what it was before your Lordships had heard the answer—that is, that we shall not have in the Mediterranean in 1915 and 1916 that very force which the First Lord of the Admiralty promised us in his Memorandum to the Canadian Government, and that we are a whole battle squadron short in our preparations. I withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.