§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY,
in rising to move for a Return respecting the ships built and building for Her Majesty's Navy during the last four years, said: Mr. Speaker, it now devolves upon me to make the promised Statement, on behalf of the Government, with respect to the Navy. In the present anxiety out-of-doors, it was the obvious duty of the Government to give to the House an opportunity of discussing the subject; and I can assure the House that the opportunity is not less welcome to the Admiralty than it is to the most impatient of their critics. We feel our great responsibility for the maintenance of the naval power of the country, and we know that much of the criticism to which we have been subjected is due to imperfect acquaintance on the part of the public both with what we have done and what we propose to do in the future. In view of the optimist estimates of Foreign Navies, and the pessimist estimates of our own Navy, which of late have been expressed in the newspapers, and have been so widely circulated, I might be strongly tempted to give in detail the results of an examination of the naval situation. But, Sir, it is impossible to present such a statement in detail in a form which would be suitable for Parliamentary discussion. If we compare ships with reference to thickness of armour, we must also take into consideration the area protected; if we compare them in reference to the calibre of the guns, we must also take account of the number of guns which they carry. If we compare them with reference to their speed, we must also take into consideration their coal endurance, which is one of the most essential qualities in determining the fighting qualities of a ship. On the whole, we may take displacement as, perhaps, the fairest test of the relative power. In the hands of a skilful architect, it means either more armament, speed, coal endurance, or seaworthiness. But even if we were to adopt displacement as the measure of power it would be an imperfect test, unless we take into consideration the date when the design was prepared. 449 Waiving, however, these objections to a comparison of ships, I will give some general statistics, which, I think, will be of interest to the House. Throwing aside all arbitrary divisions of ships into classes, the Board of Admiralty carefully went through the French and English completed ships, and extended their examination to those which will be completed next year. Taking the more modern ships, there are on the English list 30 ships, of 210,430 tons, and on the French list there are 19 ships, of 127,828 tons, showing a balance in our favour of 11 ships. Taking what I may call the quasi-obsolete ships, the English list shows a total of 16 ships, of 115,520 tons, and the French list 12, of 53,066 tons—a balance in our favour of four ships of that class. Thus the English list includes a total of 46 ships, of 326,000 tons, and the French list a total of 31 ships, of 181,000 tons. Now, Sir, I have given to the House the result of a comparison of ships taken under a very broad classification. But, perhaps, it will be more interesting if I carry this classification somewhat more into detail by giving the names of the most important ships. We have five large turret-ships on the English list—the Devastation, the Dreadnought, the Inflexible, the Thunderer, and the Neptune, with an aggregate of 50,670 tons. These are ships which, as my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) knows very well, are ships of great power. With these we may compare three French ships—the Amiral Duperré, Dávastation, and Redoubtable, with an aggregate of 28,990 tons. We then come to a long list of highly efficient ships, although, in view of the development of naval architecture, we may, perhaps, hardly call them ships of the first class, or of the newest type. That list includes the Alexandra, Témeraire, Superb, Monarch, Audacious, Invincible, Iron Duke, Nelson, Northampton, Swiftsure, Triumph, Shannon, Hotspur, Rupert, Hercules, Sultan, Ajax, and Agamemnon—in all, 18 ships, with an aggregate tonnage of 131,190 tons. I am sorry to trouble the House with these details; but I have thought it would be more satisfactory to have them. The total, as I have said, is 18 ships. Against these we may put nine French ships of a similar character with an aggregate of 68,170 tons, including the Colbert, Trident, Richelieu, 450 Friedland, Marengo, Suffren, Ocean, Bayard, and Turenne. All these French ships, except the Friedland, are wood built. Taking the older ships and lumping them together, for their names are very well known, we have 14 ships of 112,410 tons, against 12 French ships of 55,981 tons. All the latter, with one exception, are wood built. Our own ships are of iron, except the Lord Warden and the Repulse. In the coast defence we have, including the Orion and Belleisle, 16 ships of 51,270 tons, against 13 French ships of 40,634 tons. The French list includes the Fulminant and Tonnerre, very powerful ships for harbour defence, but not, perhaps, in the fullest sense, sea-going vessels. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to give, in the same detail, the strength of other Powers. It may, however, be stated that the only first-class iron-clads which are yet completed are the Duilio and Dandolo for Italy, the Peter the Great for Russia, and the König Wilhelm for Germany. It will be admitted that in completed iron-clads we stand well both in number and tonnage. And with regard to the types and designs of our ships, we do not shrink from any comparison with the ships of Foreign Powers. I may say, on this point, that the present Board have endeavoured to press forward the improvement of designs. All our more recent first-class ships have a designed speed of at least 16 knots, as compared with the 14 knots of the Inflexible; and the Conqueror, though not, perhaps, a first-class ship, has a speed only a fraction below 16 knots. The armaments have been advanced from the 3 8-ton guns of the Ajax to the 4 3-ton guns of the Collingwood, and to 63-ton guns in later ships of the Admiral class, and 110 tons in the Benbow. The power of the 63-ton gun is not exceeded by any guns in construction for the French or any other Foreign Navies. I now pass from the unarmoured vessels to those cruisers for the protection of commerce, which to a great commercial nation are scarcely second in importance to the iron-clads for the line of battle. Our present condition in regard to un-armoured vessels is as follows:—Taking vessels of over 13 knots, not being transports or mere despatch vessels, we have 33 ships built and completed with an aggregate of 89,650 tons. I give the tonnage as well as the number, be- 451 cause I wish to enable hon. Members to appreciate the general type and power of the vessels with which I am dealing. We have also 15 of this class of ships building with a total of 40,590 tons. It has been the special aim of the present Board to produce a fleet of cruisers of the most effective type. The speed has been increased in the larger types from 13 to 17 knots, in the corvettes and sloops from 10 to 13 knots, and in the two gunboats now building at Devon-port we have advanced from 10 knots to the unprecedented speed of 14 knots. Great pains have been taken, and a large additional expenditure has been incurred, in order to give to the cruiser class more complete protection and the most effective armaments. The inclined deck of the Mersey is considered equal in resisting power to a 6-inch vertical belt at the water line. This form of protection should, therefore, bring the ship up to a level with the Russian belted cruisers, which, though reckoned as iron-clads, are protected only with a 6-inch armoured belt. The nature of the protection in the Mersey class is identical with that of the largest Italian iron-clads. We do not put the Mersey class forward as ironclads; but in many circumstances, at Bea, their protection quite equals that afforded by thin armour. We have four Merseys now in construction. From the armoured and the armoured vessels I turn to the torpedo vessels and boats. In this class we admit that of late but little has been done in comparison with the efforts of some Foreign Powers. It is necessary, however, to point out that the torpedo boats, whether of the first or second class, which are found in such large numbers in Foreign Navies, are only available for coast defence, or for operations at sea within a limited area. They are not sea-keeping vessels, and could neither maintain a blockade, nor cruise on the routes of our ocean-borne trade. And now, Sir, I pass from these observations—necessarily of a general character—on the strength of the Navy, to review briefly the policy which has been pursued by the present Board. For the course pursued in the early years of our Administration I cannot give any information more authoritative or more lucid than that supplied by the following observations, taken from the speech delivered by the Chancellor of the Duchy 452 of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) in the debate raised by the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), in April, 1882. My right hon. Friend, on that occasion, spoke as follows:—When Lord Northbrook became First Lord of the Admiralty, it became their business to examine the state of their own and Foreign Navies, and the conclusion at which they arrived was, that the time had come when they ought to increase the rate of iron shipbuilding; and so, without making any noise about it, they began building the ships which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had commenced at a faster rate. In 1880–1, instead of 7,231 tons, Lord Northbrook actually built 9,235, and in 1881–2 10,816 tons; and this latter estimate was adhered to within 100, or, ho might say, 40 tons.… That was the quiet and unsensational, and not ineffectual way, in which they had dealt with the situation."—(3 Hansard,  1057.)Well, Sir, following up the policy in regard to shipbuilding, as described in its initial stages by my right hon. Friend, the present Board has further increased the construction of iron-clads to 12,548 tons for 1883–4. To provide for this steady increase of building, and for the addition of some 1,300 men to the number employed on repairs, the Shipbuilding Votes were increased from £3,147,000 in 1880–1 to £3,830,623 for 1883–4, with a slight increase for 1884–5. It has been the special policy of the present Board to maintain a high rate of construction, not only by laying down, as stated by my noble Friend in "another place," two ships for the British Navy for every ship laid down in France, but even more by accelerating the rate of construction; and we are glad to find that, in spite of the delays which are inevitable in a complete change of armament from the muzzle-loading to the breach-loading system, in this most important element of shipbuilding so persistently and wisely urged upon us by my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith), we have made good progress, speaking, of course, in comparative terms. As a proof of this I may quote these facts. The Impérieuse, Warspite, Howe, and Anson will be completed each in about four years; and the Hero, a ship of over 6,000 tons, laid down in 1884, will be completed in 1887. Now, Sir, I know the objections which apply to any unnecessary comparison of our proceedings with those of Foreign Administrations; but I feel sure that on 453 this occasion I ought to do my best to obtain for the practical men who are working for the Navy of England justice at the hands of their fellow-countrymen. With this object in view, a comparison of the rate of progress in construction may not be considered to be invidious. The dates of laying down, launching, and actually completing in readiness for sea, are the only certain marks of progress; and hitherto the interval which separates the laying down from the completion of a foreign iron-clad has, more especially in the case of the recent ships which I have named, been considerably longer in the foreign yards than in the English yards. If we take all the ships now included in the French shipbuilding programme, and compare the dates at which they were laid down with the earliest date at which it is believed they can be completed, we shall find that the number of years during which the ships will have been in construction ranges from ten to six, the average for 15 ships being seven-and-a-half years. I find that these figures are supported by M. Gougeard, a former Minister of Marine in France. M. Gougeard has recently published a pamphlet on the state of the French Navy, in which he draws the conclusion that French iron-clads take, on an average, about 10 years to complete. He instances the Tonnerre, which was laid down in. 1872, the Fulminant in 1874, and the Dévastation in 1875, and he tells us that all these ships were still under construction in 1883. The Foudroyant, another example, was laid down in 1875; she will not be completed, M. Gougeard tells us, until 1885, and he throws some doubt even upon that date. I will now ask the House to contrast these figures with those I am able to give for the English ships. In the ease of the English ships we find the number of years occupied between the laying down and completion ranges from six to three years, and the average time for 12 ships is four years and eight months. Sir, I have already referred to the large increase in the Shipbuilding Votes which was rendered necessary, as stated by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan), in view of the great development which had taken place in construction and the expenditure on construction in France. But 454 it is a necessity of the position in which we are placed that we are compelled to have regard to the course of policy, not of any single Administration, but of a combination of Powers; and while ironclad construction has been practically suspended in the United States, and reduced to very small proportions in Germany and Austria, it is still being carried forward in Italy with the sustained activity so steadily exhibited since 1871; and in regard to Russia we know that the Shipbuilding Votes have of late been greatly increased in order to push forward the construction of some new and powerful iron-clads which were laid down in the course of last year. Well, Sir, it is in these circumstances, much as we may regret the necessity, that we feel it our duty to propose to Parliament an increased expenditure on armoured building. But there are other classes of vessels in which it is even more desirable to add to the strength of the Navy at the present time. I have admitted our deficiency in a torpedo flotilla; and the great improvements which have taken place within a few months in the range and in the accuracy of aim with which the torpedo can be fired justify us in making proposals which we could not have been justified in making before for an increased expenditure on the construction of a flotilla of sea-going torpedo vessels. It is not easy to fix a standard of strength at which our battle-ships should be maintained; but when we come to deal with the question of what number of ships may be necessary for the protection of our commerce the difficulty is infinitely greater. A means of attack upon our commerce may be improvised to an extent which it is quite impracticable to measure, by the conversion of merchant steamers into cruisers, armed with a few light guns. On the other hand, we know that the risks which are exposed to an attack of that kind are of enormous magnitude, and, indeed, of vital importance to this country. It has been computed that the value of British shipping and merchandise yearly placed upon the ocean is not less than £900,000,000 sterling, and that we have at all times afloat on the seas property in ships and merchandise of the value of not less than £144,000,000, the greater part being engaged upon distant voyages. The present Board have been gradually developing, 455 and, as I would venture to say, in an effective manner, our resources for the protection of commerce. The late Board of Admiralty laid down an admirable type for the purpose in the Leander class. We have followed in their footsteps by producing the Mersey type, and we now propose to go a step further in the same direction, by laying down vessels of the Mersey class, but protected by a belt in lieu of an armoured deck. The belt will, I think, be approved by my hon. Friend who sits behind me (Sir Edward J. Reed). The creation of a torpedo flotilla having now become a necessity, and I may say a new necessity, for the Navy, and deeming it to be our duty to avail ourselves of an opportunity of an unusual character afforded by the condition of the shipbuilding trade to strengthen the fleet in ships for the protection of commerce, we now propose to put out to contract an immediate order. The total amount which we ask Parliament to grant for shipbuilding to be executed by contract is £3,085,000, and we ask it as an addition to the provision taken in the present Estimates. This addition to the Contract Vote will be sufficient to produce one iron-clad of the first class, five belted cruisers, two torpedo rams, 10 scouts, and 30 torpedo boats of the first class. We propose to order all these vessels as soon as the designs are prepared, with the exception of the torpedo boats. With regard to the torpedo boats, we propose to order 10 every year. We prefer to build this number every year, rather than order a larger number, and so deprive ourselves of the advantage of the improvements which are constantly being introduced. The additional sum to be spent next year upon these new ships will be over £800,000. And now, Sir, I will endeavour to give the House some details with regard to the types of the ships we propose to build. The statement I propose to make is one which is always interesting to the House, and which. I may say, is always criticized with great ability. Our proposal for increased construction embraces all the best types now represented in the Navy, and some new designs, which we trust will prove valuable additions to the Fleet. I will take first the battle ships. With regard to that class, we have always adhered to a policy of reasonable dimensions. Instead of ad- 456 vancing to the immense tonnage of the Italian ships, we have thus far adhered to the limit of 10,000 tons, with, I venture to say, highly advantageous results in rapidity of construction, and in the number of ships which can be built for a given sum of money. We hold that the value of large ships is inevitably diminished in proportion as the power of attack with the torpedo becomes more formidable. But, on the other hand, we recognize that the gun must still remain an essential arm of the Navy; and where heavy ordnance is carried hydraulic machinery and mountings are required, and for the protection of vulnerable mechanism armour is indispensable. On this ground, and also on more general grounds, large ships, capable of carrying numerous crews, with the seaworthy qualities and coal-endurance necessary in a sea-keeping ship, must always form part of the Fleet of a great Naval Power. As soon as the designs are completed we propose to lay down two first-class ships by contract, and two in the Dockyards. We shall thus have 15 ships in progress, 12 being of the first class. Of the 15, six are launched and in the completing stages. With regard to all of them, I desire to give an assurance to the House that they will be proceeded with as rapidly as possible. And now, Sir, I propose to give a more detailed description of the new armoured ships. The new armoured ship—the first of a series of four—which we propose to lay down early next year at Chatham has a displacement of just over 10,000 tons. On this tonnage it has been decided to combine guns of the greatest power yet manufactured—namely, guns of 110 tons—and armour as thick as can be properly made—that is to say, 18 inches. Our manufacturers are of opinion that with the existing skill and power of manufacture you will not get full value for your money if you increase the armour beyond the limit of 18 inches in thickness. With such framing behind the armour as it is hoped to give, it is not considered that the armour of the new ship will be inferior in resisting power to any armour in existence. Two 110-ton guns are to be placed in a turret, protected with the same armour as that on the belt; but there will be only one turret in the ship, as in the ease of the Conqueror. The other guns in the ship will be one of 18 tons right aft, and pro- 457 tected by armour, and 12 4-ton guns, six on each side. These 12 guns it has also been decided to protect with armour, proof not only to all machine guns, but also to the new 6-pounder shell guns. The estimated speed is 15½ knots. With regard to the other iron-clad ships which will be laid down when the slips are vacant at Portsmouth and Pembroke, and the other ship which will be put out to contract, the designs are not sufficiently matured to enable me to describe them to the House.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Will my hon. Friend forgive me if I interrupt him. I understand him to say that there are four first-class iron-clads in all to be laid down?
Did I understand the hon. Gentleman to mention Devonport and Chatham as the places where these iron-clads will be laid down?
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
The resources at Devonport are not adapted to first-class iron-clads. I now turn to the protection of commerce; and I wish to say to the House that we desire to present the protection of commerce as the main purpose of the large additional expenditure on building for which we are asking the sanction of the House. For this purpose we propose two types which have grown out of vessels already included in our programme. The most powerful which we wish to introduce may be described as the belted cruiser; the other type is a slightly improved scout. The belted cruiser is a ship of about 5,000 tons' displacement, and 3,000 tons' weight of hull, including armour. The total weight of armour is 1,000 tons. She is, therefore, in one sense, an iron-clad, her water-line being protected by side armour, or an armoured deck, from end to end. She is also an ironclad in the sense that her directing house—a new term for the conning-tower, containing the steering wheel and directing instruments—is strongly armoured. Prom this house the underwater broadside torpedoes and guns can be fired, and the ship can be steered when in action. In another sense the belted cruiser is not entitled to be called an 458 iron-clad, because her guns crews will have no armour protection. They will be protected only by shields against the fire of the lighter machine guns. The guns will be two of 18 tons and 12 of four tons, with numerous machine guns. The estimated speed, as I am sure hon. Members will be glad to hear, is 17 knots; the complement will be 350 men; the coal supply will be sufficient for 2,000 knots at full speed and 8,000 knots at the reduced cruising speed of 10 knots. We might have produced a ship with higher speed by sacrificing protection, or by accepting increased dimensions; but with a given expenditure an increase of dimensions is tantamount to a reduction of numbers, and we hold a very large number of ships to be essential for the protection of our worldwide commerce. The qualities which I have detailed to the House, and which we hope to realize in the belted cruiser, present a type, which, I venture to say, through all the changes which may take place in the future in naval warfare, will scarcely become obsolete. We propose to lay down three belted cruisers by contract, and two in the Dockyards. In addition to the belted cruisers, we propose to lay down 10 modified scouts—nine of which are to be put out to contract.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Will my hon. Friend allow me to ask what progress is proposed to be made with these ships in the course of next year?
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
We shall proceed at the utmost speed, consistent with due economy, in the Dockyards; and with regard to contractors, no obstruction will be imposed upon their exertions. I will now give to the House a brief description with which I have been furnished by the Chief Constructor, Mr. Barnaby, of the modified scout. The modified scouts are almost identical with the two now building; they will differ from them in having the gun armament more fully developed, and the torpedo armament somewhat reduced. They will be armed with six 4-ton guns, and as they will have good coal endurance they will, though only jury-rigged, be efficient for service as cruisers in time of peace, and as fast torpedo auxiliaries in time of war. The estimated speed for these vessels is 16 knots. The coal supply is equal to 1,650 knots at full speed, and 7,000 knots at 10 knots, which is, I ven- 459 ture to say, a very considerable performance. They are well sub-divided, and they give a combination of qualities which may be considered to be very economically obtained at a cost of a little over £60,000 for hull and engines. And now, Sir, having dealt with the battle-ships and the protection of commerce, we have to take in hand the construction of a torpedo flotilla. Torpedo vessels are scarcely inferior in importance to fast cruisers, and we hold that for the British Navy sea going vessels capable of cruising with our Squadrons are far more necessary than mere harbour defence boats. "We regard the scouts as a portion of our torpedo flotilla; and we also propose two special armoured torpedo rams. Our torpedo ram is a vessel of 3,000 tons' displacement, rather longer and wider than, but otherwise identical with, the Polyphemus. The under-water arrangements will be similar, except that there will be no torpedo discharge through the ram itself. The experiments with the Polyphemus have shown that the associated elements of speed with the ram and the broadside torpedo discharge under water make a most powerful combination. These it is designed to reproduce, but, in doing so, to give greater habitability by building an ordinary ship from above the turtle-back deck, which will be protected with 3-inch armour. This, with an addition to the supply of fuel, will give to the new type independent cruising power, which the Polyphemus was not designed to have. My right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) knows the intentions which were present in the minds of the designers better than I do; but I believe that the Polyphemus was designed as a tender to battle-ships. The experimental expenses connected with the Polyphemus will not re-appear in the new Estimates, as the torpedo discharge and the boiler questions have now been worked out. I have never been one of those who have criticized these expenses. Experiments must be expensive, and the Board of Admiralty should never be deterred from carrying forward experiments because they must necessarily be expensive. The armoured torpedo ram will have a small gun armament; the estimated speed is 17½ knots; the coal supply is equal to 1,600 knots at full speed, and 6,400 knots at 10 knots. These are the various types of 460 vessels which we submit to the approval of the House. I will now enumerate to the House the new vessels which we intend to lay down. The list includes four iron-clads of the first class, five belted cruisers, two armoured torpedo rams, 10 scouts, and 10 first-class torpedo boats. Of these we propose to put out to contract two iron-clads, three belted cruisers, nine scouts, and the torpedo rams and boats. The remaining vessels will be laid down in the Dockyards.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
Yes. The Dockyard programme has not been determined, except in so far as this—that we propose to lay down two first-class battle ships as soon as the designs are prepared. In addition to the new work I have detailed, we shall push forward the construction of all vessels now in hand at the highest economical speed. At this stage I think it may be convenient that I should give to the House the total tonnage which we propose to complete in the Dockyards and by contract in the course of the next financial year. We propose to raise the armoured construction in the Dockyards to 12,000 tons weight of hull. We propose to build, of unarmoured ships, in the Dockyards 5,500 tons, making a total of 17,500 tons to be built in the Dockyards. By contract we propose to build of armoured ships 3,050 tons, and of unarmoured ships 8,940 tons; and if we may speak of the tonnage of torpedo boats—and very expensive it certainly is, measured by the ton—of that class we propose to build 350 tons, making the total to be produced by contract 12,310 tons. The grand total of the construction proposed in Her Majesty's Dockyards and by contract for 1885–6 is 29,810 tons, as against 20,679 for the present financial year; and the result will be an increased construction of 9,131 tons.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
Yes; the increased construction over that provided for the financial year 1884–5 will be 9,131 tons. The orders for these ships will be given, as I have already stated, as soon as the designs are matured; and we anticipate that the battle ships may be completed for sea in four years at the latest, the belted cruisers in three years, 461 and the remaining vessels in less than two years. It is impossible for the Board of Admiralty to assume anything like finality in the amount of construction which is to he proposed for the Navy. The proposals which we now submit to the approval of the House provide, as we contend, a substantial addition to the power of the Navy; and at the time when we make it, and in the circumstances in which we make it, we claim that they are sufficient proposals. With regard to the future, it will be for the Board of Admiralty of the future to give orders for additions according to the view which they take of the exigencies of the time. The total cost of the new ships to be put out to contract will be £3,085,000, and the addition to the Contract Vote for next year will be £800,000. In making provision for requirements for which it is absolutely impossible to fix a common measure we cannot hope that our proposal will command universal acceptance. It will, at least, be admitted that the additions to the Estimates and construction have not been restricted by any narrow conception of the standard at which the British Navy ought to be maintained. In regard to the financial arrangements which may be necessary in order to carry out these proposals, I am not competent, nor is it necessary that I should enter upon them. They belong, I need not explain to the House, to the province of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. And now, Sir, having dealt with the increase of shipbuilding, I turn to the coaling stations.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
Yes; it will be let by tender. With regard to the coaling stations, it is obvious that the statement on this subject should more properly have come from my noble Friend, the Secretary of State for War, or some other Representative of the War Office; but it has been thought by the Government that it would be for the convenience of the House if a brief outline of our proposals were included in the general statement with reference to the Navy which it is my duty to make to the House. The defence of the coaling stations abroad and the mercantile harbours at home is, as we admit, one of the most urgent necessities of the moment, and a necessity intimately connected 462 with proposals for strengthening the Navy. The consideration of a general and comprehensive plan for the defence of the coaling stations has been delayed, because the subject has been referred to the Royal Commission on Colonial Defence. The case, as to the coaling stations, cannot be put more concisely than in the words used by my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty in "another place" in a recent discussion. He said—No one can fill the position of First Lord of the Admiralty without being aware that, of all the measures that could be taken by this country for its defence in time of war, none can be more urgent than the defence of our coaling stations. It is a measure which, of all others, would strengthen our naval force, for the obvious reason that, if the coaling stations are left unprotected, we should have to provide for their defence by ships of war which, if they were fortified, could be employed in offensive operations."—(3 Hansard,  1548.)Papers have already been presented to Parliament stating the measures to be taken for the defence of the coaling stations; but some further proposals for the defence of second-class stations, and for the provision of sub-marine defences, have since been adopted. The Revised Estimate stands as follows:—Coaling stations of the first class—Aden, Ceylon, including Trincomalee and Colombo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Cape of Good Hope, including Mauritius, Jamaica, and St. Lucia. The cost for the armament and works at these stations is estimated at £976,700, from which amount should be deducted the sum of £330,470, subscribed by India and the Colonies, leaving an Imperial charge for works and armament of a little over £646,000. A further charge of £178,500 for the defence of second-class stations and for sub-marine defence brings the total charge on the Imperial funds to the sum of £824,900. Should further questions arise in the course of this debate, it is obvious that the noble Marquess, or some Representative of the War Office, will be in a better position than I can be to give the details which may be demanded by the House. There are two other subjects of great importance of the same class as the defence of the coaling stations. The first is the protection of commercial harbours. The Committee presided over by the Earl of Morley has made certain recommendations for the defence of 463 commercial harbours; and proposals based upon them are under the consideration of the Department of the Government principally concerned. There is also another question of the same class—namely, the importance of the Bea defence of what are called our military ports, such as Portsmouth and Plymouth. This also is under consideration, and the Government will shortly be in a position to state what they propose to do. For the naval ordnance the Government ask Parliament to approve an increased expenditure of £1,600,000. Of this £400,000 will be required in 1885–6, and £300,000 in the four ensuing years. My hon. Friend the Surveyor General of the Ordnance (Mr. Brand) will be prepared to give further details as to this Estimate, should lie be called upon to do so, in the course of this debate. "With reference to the more strictly naval aspect of the question, I am informed by the Director General of the Naval Ordnance that he is confident the supply of guns will keep pace with the advancement in construction. The 100-ton guns for the Benbow are in course of construction at Elswick. The 63-ton guns for the Rodney, Howe, Camperdown, and Anson are in hand. Those for the Rodney should be complete in March of next year. The guns for all the remaining vessels are in hand, and will be completed in 1885–6, except those for the Anson, and the reserve guns, which will be ready in 1886–7
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
Yes; they will all be ready in 1885–6, except those for the Anson and the reserve guns. Forty-three-ton guns have been provided for the Conqueror, Colossus, Edinburgh, and Collingwood, leaving for 1885–6 the Hero's guns, and two 43-ton guns for the reserve.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
As to the 18-ton guns, I regret to say that the Memorandum I hold in my hand does not show the extent of progress in reference to guns of a lighter calibre. The total expenditure on the Navy under the several proposals which I have detailed will be—for shipbuilding, £3,100,000; naval ordnance, £1,600,000; and coaling stations, £825,000. It is 464 anticipated that the whole of this expenditure will be incurred in the next five years. I may explain that the increase for guns is in addition to the charge of £500,000 already included in the Army Estimates for naval ordnance for the present year. The expenditure upon naval ordnance arising from the change of system will certainly be enormous; but it is more than paralleled, I perceive, by the expenditure in other countries for a similar purpose.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
The additional expenditure on naval ordnance next year will, I understand, be £400,000.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
No. It is obvious that the amount of protection given affects the amount of naval force which it may be necessary to create and maintain. The proposals, therefore, which I have explained are subject to increase, if, upon full consideration of the proposals for the coast defences, such increase should be necessary. The House is, of course, aware that the Government are pledged to apply for the appointment next Session of a Committee to consider both the Naval and Marine Expenditure; and to that Committee, as a matter of course, the proposals I have detailed to the House must be submitted for consideration. It is proposed to make provision for all this expenditure under special arrangements, which will be explained at the proper opportunity by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In laying, I am afraid very imperfectly, and certainly under circumstances of great pressure, plans of such large and comprehensive character before Parliament, there are one or two general considerations which I desire to present to the House. And, first, I would remark that the expenditure, under the direction of the War Office, to meet the requirements of the Navy, is strictly and absolutely defensive. The expenditure under the War Office for the coaling stations abroad represents the arrears which we have to pay—gaps, as it were, in the walls which surround our great Empire, which have been left to us to fill up by former Governments. The ques- 465 tion of the defence of the coaling stations has, year after year, been brought before the Minister of War by the Inspector General of Fortifications; but the first direct action which was taken was the appointment by the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) of the Royal Commission on which for a time I had the honour to serve. It now devolves on us to carry out the recommendations of the Commission. To a large extent, the observations which I have made with reference to the expenditure under the War Office are true of that directly under the Admiralty. Even when increased in the proportions which we propose, our shipbuilding will be largely devoted to vessels specially designed for a defensive purpose—that is to say, for the protection of commerce. Construction of this character conveys no menace whatever to Foreign Powers. Construction of ships of this class has, indeed, always been a prominent feature in the building programme, and has always thrown a heavy burden upon the Admiralty of this country. It is for this reason, as I have already explained, that when we come to measure ourselves with other Powers in vessels specially designed for battle, the strength at our disposal seems inadequate to the greater expenditure which we have incurred. Our ships, as we are glad to know, have been largely employed, not in warlike operations, but in operations of a most beneficent character—in giving freedom to the slave, in giving protection to the solitary pioneers of commerce and civilization, and in the prosecution of scientific research. Viewed in another aspect, the Navy maybe regarded as a link which helps to bind together the Mother Country and her Colonies. In asking the consent of Parliament to the proposals we submit, I may repeat, in conclusion, that they are not a menace to Foreign Powers, with whom we desire to remain, as we now are, on terms of amity and peace; but they are to provide a defence for ourselves. If, indirectly, they tend to increase our influence, and the strength of the country as a Naval Power, it is, I know, the firm resolve of the country to use her power at all times to protect the feeble and the oppressed, in the cause of equity and justice, and to extend civilization.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That there be laid before this House, a Return respecting the Ships built and building for Her Majesty's Navy during the last four years."—(Sir Thomas Brassey.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The House will have listened with very great interest to the speech which has fallen from my hon. Friend. He dealt with a large number of subjects and figures; and, being a very intricate subject, he will pardon us if we have made some mistakes in following him. I hope, therefore, he will put me right if I labour under any misapprehensions.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
Perhaps I may just mention that I propose to give the necessary information in the form of a Return.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
That, no doubt, would be very satisfactory. My hon. Friend said that the proposals of the Government were defensive in character and not offensive, and he also enlarged on the duties of this country. There can be no doubt the object of the House of Commons would be to place any force at the disposal of the Government for defensive purposes, and for the discharge of duties connected with the oppressed in different parts of the world. But I want to make this remark. There is no provision whatever for accelerating shipbuilding now; everything is postponed until next year. I do not wish to be an alarmist in any shape or way; but it does seem to me that if the Government have realized that it is essential to take steps for the protection of the commerce of the country and for defensive purposes a delay of four months is a very serious matter indeed. I may refer to the occurrence of a sudden emergency, such as a declaration of war. We cannot help feeling that if war does fall upon us, most probably it would happen when we were not prepared. This delay, then, is a serious matter. The question is not one for Party. I am addressing Gentlemen opposite, who have as great an interest to protect, and as great a duty to discharge, as I have myself; perhaps even more so. I therefore ask why, if the deficiency is admitted, there is to be this delay, and why is the business to be spread over five years? My hon. Friend says the work in the Dockyards will be accelerated; but that will not result from anything which he provides for this year, or even next year. 467 He says that 12,000 tons of iron-clads will be provided for in the Estimates next year; but this involves only something like 1,500 tons more than was provided for this year. He calculated that an iron-clad would be completed every four years or four and a-half years; but the Returns before the House do not bear out that calculation. The Collingwood was commenced on July 12, 1880, and only 4,978 tons are completed out of 6,000. The Conqueror was commenced in April, 1879, and she is not completed; and the Edinburgh, which was laid down in 1879, is only three-quarters completed. These facts do not bear out the anticipations of my hon. Friend. I understand my hon. Friend to say that in the course of four years he hopes to complete four additional iron-clads, five cruisers, and two torpedo rams, 10 "scouts," and 30 torpedo boats; but he does not indicate why there is to be this delay with the torpedo vessels, which are so urgently required. If there is one offensive weapon of war more than another which we can use, sending it forth from our harbours and creeks, it is the torpedo vessel. I hope that it will not seem ungracious for me to say that this appears a most absurd proposal, considering the gravity of the circumstances in which we are placed. There are three or four places on our coasts—I do not think it advisable, for obvious reasons, to name them—where at least 12 or 14 torpedo vessels are immediately required. I have nothing whatever to say against the proposal to build "scouts" or torpedo rams, or belted cruisers—all of which I believe to be exceedingly valuable in their way; nor do I object to an increased expenditure on ironclads; but I certainly do regret that there is so little prospect of our getting soon what we desire to obtain. It appears to me that we should spend far less if the work upon the ships were taken in hand and pushed forward rapidly. If the Admiralty could only make up their minds as to the type of ship, and the type of gun to be put into it, the ship could be built rapidly, and would be cheaper and far more efficient, while the security of the country would be more rapidly and certainly provided for. With regard to the subject of ordnance, I may state that I, as far back as 1879, in conjunction with my right hon. and gallant Friend the then Secretary of State 468 for War (Colonel Stanley) signed the drawings for the 43-ton gun; but that gun is not yet complete, owing, as I understand, to experiments with the loading apparatus. The hon. Member opposite has told us that he expects that a certain number of new ships will be completed either next year or the year after; but has he taken into account how long it may be before the guns are ready to be placed in them? The noble Lord the Secretary of State for War has admitted that the guns of some of the ships which were to be completed last year are not even yet made, and that the machinery for making them does not exist at the present moment. I do not throw blame upon anyone for this; but the fact remains. But, even when the guns themselves are made, difficulties may arise with regard to their mounting and their loading apparatus. The difficulties that occurred with regard to the 43-ton gun may equally arise with regard to the 63-ton gun, which is not yet completed for trial. The steel for the latter gun is not yet in existence; and, furthermore, there is only one factory in England which can manufacture steel in ingots large enough for these guns. These are very serious matters, which affect the capability of the country to meet any sudden emergency. I have taken pains to ascertain what is the position of neighbouring countries in these respects. In mentioning the name of France I may be permitted to say that that is a country with whom we desire to preserve the most friendly relations; and I in no way complain of the course she has taken for the purpose of making herself strong for the protection of her own interests. But what is the condition of France with regard to her guns? It is very clearly shown in the very interesting Report which has been furnished to the United States Government by the Commission which they sent over to Europe to make inquiries with regard to the manufacture of large guns in England, France, Germany, Russia, and Italy. The Report, as far as it relates to France, is as follows:—Previous to the Franco-German War of 1870, it was the custom in Prance to confide all matters relating to cannon to the Artillery-Corps of the Army and Navy; aid from private sources was neither sought nor offered; much secrecy was observed in all things relating to the business of ordnance; admission to the Go- 469 vernment foundries was obtained with difficulty; and the experimental ground at Gâvre, with rare exceptions, was closed to all applicants. With the advent of war came the proof that a close corporation such as was constituted by the system heretofore adopted could not work to the best advantage of the country; and with the return of peace and the necessity of re-armament came a revolution of ideas which has led the Government to modify its practice. It was recognized that the Government must have under its control some establishments purely Governmental; but, in order to provide for all contingencies as well as to prevent official ideas from running too much in a groove, it was desirable to encourage private industries, so that a spirit of emulation might be excited by competition, and a channel afforded through which new ideas and inventions might reach the national works. The adoption of this course was made the more imperative in consequence of the new departure in gun metal, and this opened the way to the encouragement of the steel industries of the country. At the Fonderie à Ruelle, all the constructive force of the marine artillery has been concentrated, and here all the largest guns are made. It contains the most remarkable collection of tools of the age. They are designed for guns of 34 centimètres and upwards, and have a capacity for handling guns of 160 tons in weight and 60 feet in length. The plant has cost millions of francs, and five years elapsed from the giving of the order to the setting up of the tools. A large portion of the time charged to the manufacture must be credited to the preparation of designs, no tools of their size and great capacity having been before conceived. How entirely France has now altered her system is shown in a previous part of this Report; her present practice is theoretically perfect, and it has been proved to be practically efficient. Her Government establishments are still retained, but as gun factories simply, in which the parts are machined and assembled; but for foundry work she depends upon the private industries of the country, and many of these works have found it to their profit to establish gun factories, which supplement the Government factories to a great extent. The conclusions of the Board on this subject accord with the plain teaching of these historical instances. It accepts the system now pursued in France as the proper standard for imitation, and recommends that, in inaugurating the manufacture of war material in our own country, a conformity as close as circumstances will admit to the plans which have proved so successful in France should be observed.That is an extraordinary statement, and it bears testimony to the foresight which France has shown in the production of war material and steel guns. Ruelle exists for the manufacture of naval guns and of coast defence guns alone; and it is stated that its capacity for turning out weapons is equal to that of the Woolwich and of the Armstrong factories together. But, in addition to this establishment, the French Government have entered into extensive con- 470 tracts with a very large Company for the manufacture of guns. I will tell the House what France is doing with regard to steel guns. Ruelle has already turned out eight 75-ton guns, 42 centimètros 21 calibres in length; and six more are at present progressing of 37 centimètres 28½ calibres, and of 75 tons. Fifty guns of 34 centimètres 28½ calibres, of 50 tons, are afloat, finished, or in course of construction. The next size is 27 centimètres 28½ calibres, of 30 tons. Ruelle is capable of producing 30 heavy guns per annum, and orders for additional machinery have been given to increase their powers of production. The Société des Forges at chantiers have orders for 480 guns up to 32 centimètres; about half of that number of the smaller calibres are delivered, and 50 of 32 centimètres have yet to be made. The Company is increasing its plant for heavy gun manufacture. Now, what is England able to do in that way? The Secretary of State for War informed us that three guns of 110 tons, four guns of 63 tons, and three guns of 43 tons, besides a very large number of smaller guns, are in various stages of progress. That is all that can be said of work done against the story I have told you of the progress made in France. The fact is that France, owing to her prudence, foresight, and energy, is some years ahead of us in the construction and manufacture of guns. Perhaps my hon. Friend may dispute that, because he may say that there is some difficulty in mounting these guns. I can only repeat, however, what I believe to be true, from observations made on the spot, and from information derived from persons in whom I place implicit confidence. What I wish to ask is, whether the Government will take the steps which are necessary to secure, first of all, that there should be a supply of steel and material necessary for the production of steel guns? I am far from suggesting that the Government should take into its own hands the manufacture of steel. I believe that if the Government held out to the trade the prospect of a profitable business, they would certainly get the article they need. But up to the present time there has been no inducement to manufacturers to provide plant for the production of steel of the quality required. I am told that Messrs. Whit- 471 worth and also a Sheffield manufacturer are prepared to supply a large quantity of this steel; but hitherto the practice of the Government has boon to ask for tenders for a few tons at a time. Consequently, the country has been without that most valuable support on which to fall back in case of need—namely, a trade production which should be capable of furnishing anything that is considered necessary for the requirements of the Service. In the remarks I am making I wish it to be understood that I am not attacking the present Government, nor any men in the employ of the present Government. I consider it is the system which is at fault. It is a system under which the Admiralty may say—"Well, we are not responsible for the guns, as the War Department will furnish them." But the War Department is influenced, by financial considerations. The materials necessary to be provided are, perhaps, considered in December or January, and the item which is most easily reduced is cut down by the Estimates clerk, or with the sanction of a Departmental officer; and so the gun is postponed and work is not done, or, if it is taken in hand, it goes on slowly, and we obtain no satisfactory results. There is, at present, no personal responsibility for any delay. There is no opportunity of reaching any individual, and of giving him the blame or credit attaching to the proper execution of the work. We have now a list of the ships which Her Majesty's Government propose to build—large ships involving heavy guns; but experience up to this time does not give them the least hope that the guns will be ready for the ships. Considering the language of the Committee of which several hon. Gentlemen opposite were Members, there is not much hope that the building department will be up to their time, because they will say that the guns are not ready. Consequently, it is impossible, under the present system, to bring home the responsibility to anybody. Mr. Barnaby, the Chief Constructor of the Navy, was thus interrogated in the Committee—Do you in the Royal Navy make considerable alterations in the design and fittings during the construction of ships?'—' We constantly make alterations in the design and fittings of ships.' 'That is a very costly operation, is it not?'—'It is a very costly operation.' 'In a former answer, which you gave to the Committee upon the last occasion when you were 472 here (Q. 336), you used these words—'We constantly make changes during construction in the designs and fittings of ships.' Now, I will ask you, if you please, to enlarge a little upon that answer, and to correct me if I am wrong in supposing that those alterations are necessary in order to, if I may use the phrase, keep pace with the times; is that the motive which would induce you to make these alterations in the original design during construction? '—' Generally that would be the reason.' 'But do you think it is a practical way of dealing with the great issues that are put into your hands to start building a ship without having a certainty in your own mind as to what you are going to build that ship to carry?'—'With regard to the iron-clad ships, whether it is right or wrong that it should he so, it is the fact that we do not know, and we have to wait for years before we do; and that the War Office eventually tell us what the gun is.' 'Do not you think that if your view were adopted—that is to say, if the great change to which you have alluded were made, it would save a great deal of delay, and immensely facilitate the carrying on of the ship construction of this country, and consequently benefit the Public Service?'—' In my opinion, it would very largely conduce to building rapidly; and I may give as an illustration what happened the other day. There are certain ships of a class called the Admiral class, which were intended to have guns of about 60 tons, two in each barbetto. One of those ships, the Benbow, is building by contract; and one of the reasons for deciding (as was done) upon changing the armament and taking 100 or 110-ton guns, was that the 110-ton gun, or a gun of about that size, was a known gun, an Armstrong gun, whereas the 63-ton guns are in the air, and nobody knew when we should get the design settled. Therefore, as the ship was building by contract, and we should have to pay the contractor for any delay, the known gun was put into the Benbow in preference to the unknown gun.'I do not blame the present Government particularly because they have administered a system which has existed for ages. But here we are in the face of great dangers, as it seems to me; and some officer of the Government ought to be personally and solely responsible for the inception of a design and for the completion of that design. In a country like England it is monstrous that we should go on year after year permitting difficulties to exist and obstacles to present them selves which, in the conduct of commercial affairs, would not be allowed to continue for a single day. We are, it is said, to have the unknown 63-ton gun for four ships. The guns were not commenced a year ago; but we are told that we are to have them all within a certain period after the date on which the ship is laid down. That is contrary to all experience of past performances, and I am sceptical as to the power of the De- 473 partment to produce the result which is promised. I will refer again to the Committee, the evidence of which I have quoted. It reports—In connection with this point, the Committee, while fully acknowledging the necessity of keeping ships of war abreast of the most modern improvements, are of opinion that it is desirable to discontinue the system of endeavouring to adapt every ship to the latest improvements, whether in gunnery or mechanical appliances, that may arise during the period she is under construction. That vessels, when designed and laid down in the Dockyards or contracted for, should be completed to receive the best armaments and mechanical inventions known to exist, and thus great expense would be avoided and time saved. It appears in evidence that in the case of ships built in the Dockyards at least three years out of six might be saved by this course; and the Committee consider that the gain to the naval strength of the country by the more rapid completion of vessels possessing fittings of the most approved type at the time they were designed would more than counterbalance any advantage that might be gained by adopting the latest improvements at the cost of serious delay during the construction of the ship.That is the general opinion, with which I think every Member of the House will be disposed to agree. I would refer also to the capabilities of other persons in the construction of ships. When the question was raised with great ability in the Press I wrote to a large shipbuilder, one of the first in this country, and I asked him whether he would state within what time he would be prepared to deliver a cruiser after receiving the order. His answer was that two or three fast cruisers of the 18-knot type could be turned out in 18 months from the date of the order, complete, with everything on board, ready for sea. But he insisted, in order to achieve this result, that he should have the entire responsibility, and that there should be no reference of points for settlement to the Admiralty officials, which always brought delay. The armoured class, he said, would take a little longer, perhaps two years, or a little more. I am reading a letter from a gentleman who has done a great deal of admirable work for the Admiralty and the country, and whose engagement could be as completely relied upon as any engagement imaginable. I entirely believe that a contract given to this gentleman "would result in the supply of ships of the cruising class in 18 months, and of ships of the Admiral class in about two years 474 and three months, with guns, mountings, and everything complete for sea. I asked another gentleman, who has built armoured ships for the Queen's Service, and the answer he gave was that he would be quite prepared to build and deliver fast cruisers of 18-knot speed within 15 months of the signature of the contract, ships of the Conqueror class within 24 months, and ships of the Admiral class within 30 months. We have been two, three, and even four years in building those ships; and my hon. Friend proposes to build in four years the ships which he has indicated. If he would only give designs complete in every respect, with guns and every arrangement unalterable, we might get the ships complete in from two and a-quarter to two and a-half years, delivered by the most competent builders in the United Kingdom. Why do not the Government use the same speed and adopt the same principles? Why should it be necessary that four, live, or six years should be required for the production of ships, a great part of that time being taken up by alterations which seriously hamper, rather than add to, the efficiency of the ships? I will not follow my hon. Friend in the figures he gave as to the present condition of the Navy. I believe the House and the country realize this fact—that, whatever figures have been produced as to the comparative strength of the French and English Navies, an immediate increase is required in the English Navy. But there are some curious figures which I should like to quote to the House from The Sailor's Pocket Handbooke, by Captain Bedford, who is now in command of the Monarch. He shows that the total tonnage of armoured ships produced in England between 1869 and 1878 was 142,000 tons, and in France 95,000 tons; but that between 1878 and 1884 the proportions are reversed, and England produced only 129,000, and France 180,000. If these figures are accurate—and they are made from Captain Bedford's handbook, which gives a statement of the additions made to the Navies of the world during the last 20 years—they are of the utmost significance, and show that we have allowed the Navy of France to gain rapidly on that of England. Then there is the question of manning our ships. I heard that the Dreadnought was more than 14 days in 475 getting her crews. There was a difficulty in finding stokers. I have also heard that, owing to the increase in the period of education for sub-lieutenants and the torpedo course which they have to go through, there is a deficiency of sub-lieutenants. It is quite certain that two or three highly skilled lieutenants will be required for these torpedo vessels. No allusion has been made by the Government to any intention to add to the number of men or of officers. The total strength in 1880–81 was 58,800, and in 1884–85, notwithstanding the additional strain caused by Egyptian affairs, the number is reduced to 58,950. I dare say I shall be told that the Reserves are available. I place great reliance on the Reserves, which are a most valuable force. But in case of war we should certainly require a large number of trained men accustomed to torpedo practice and able to handle the weapons entrusted to them, which would otherwise be quite as dangerous to the men themselves as to the enemy. If ships take a long time to produce, it takes a longer time to produce good sailors, and a still longer time to produce the highly educated officers which are now required. I have spoken of the progress made in France, but I know that in Germany also rapid steps are being taken. Krupp is extending his works for the manufacture of heavy guns, and Austria, Russia, and Italy are also advancing; although Italy, I am glad to say, takes a large number of her guns from England and from Germany. This progress on the part of foreign countries demands the greatest possible vigilance on our part. We have £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 worth of ships in a more or less incomplete condition. We have very few ships which can go to sea at once. They are mostly waiting for guns or gun carriages, or it is not yet decided how they are to be equipped. Our cruisers at present are deficient in number and speed. Their boilers are not in a satisfactory condition. Our torpedo vessels are few in number, and they are only to be increased by 10 in the course of next year; but we are even worse off with regard to the manufacture of the Whitehead torpedo. Our resources are limited to the production of 50 annually; and a single week's actual warfare would use up a year's manufacture. It is true, we can buy our torpe- 476 does; but it should be remembered that they are contraband of war, and in case of hostilities could no longer be obtained. We are also told that the Government are now going to arm and protect our coaling stations. But what is our position? We have forts without guns, we have guns without carriages, and we have mines without men to lay them down and manage them. The condition of some of our harbours is causing enormous anxiety to those who are responsible for their safety. They remain unprotected, although arrangements have been made on paper. Plans have been laid down and agreed upon; but they have not been carried out, and stores and materials have, in many places, been exhausted. I could give information which I refrain from giving because it would create alarm. But the facts are known to every foreign officer who comes to this country to acquire information for the use of his own Government. Our inability to defend ourselves is known to them; but it is not known to the country. I protest against a policy of concealment, and I do not use the phrase offensively. But, as a matter of Departmental policy, it is held to be unwise to give the House and the country information which might be used to the disadvantage of the country. It is held to be unwise to give information to those who could use it offensively; but these facts are all known to the War Departments and the Marine Departments of Foreign Governments. They have skilful gentlemen in their employ whose duty it is to inform them. But the facts are not known to the House of Commons and to the people of this country; and I say the House of Commons and the people of this country ought to know accurately the condition in which they are placed. In a great undertaking requiring for its safety fire-engines, police, and locks and bars, those who wore interested in the undertaking would have the right to know whether the engines, locks and bars, and police were adequate to the security required; and it would be a mistake on the part of the Governing Body to refuse to give the proprietors and shareholders accurate information as to the condition of the plant and the materials, and of the staff necessary to bring the apparatus into effective operation. I believe myself in a policy of publicity, which is stronger, better, 477 and wiser for the Government, and which to some extent relieves them of a great responsibility. The Government is responsible if by chance—and it could hardly be called a chance—a sudden war should result in a calamity. Nothing is ready in the true sense of the term. We could not arm, half-a-dozen ships under a fortnight's notice. We have a large number of ships in a more or less incomplete condition. The Departmental difficulties which exist have been produced by the highest and the best motives, by the desire to prevent extravagance, and to provide that all shall be done regularly. But the result is that, if a calamity should occur, the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Surveyor General of Ordnance, and the head of the factory at Woolwich can all say—"I have done the best in my power with the means at my disposal." I believe a calamity may overtake the country. If I did not, I should not be justified in asking the House to support the proposal for increasing the defensive force of the country. Those who are convinced that a great war cannot come without ample notice may object to timely expenditure; but those who are convinced, as I am, that such a war may come without notice will incur a great responsibility if they leave the country unprepared. Loyalty to the country in such a case must outweigh loyalty to Departments and to the Government; and in loyalty to the country I appeal to the House of Commons to effect a change in a system which I believe to be dangerous, and to make adequate provision for the defence of the country.
§ SIR DONALD CURRIE
I am glad that the House has at length the opportunity of discussing the important subject of the condition of Her Majesty's Navy.
This is not a Party question. The consideration of this subject should neither call for factious observations from the Opposition, nor for silence on the part of the supporters of the Government. The impropriety of discussing the state of the Navy from a Party point of view is evident from the fact that the late Administration, with a full knowledge of the intentions of Foreign Powers to increase their Fleets, made no adequate corresponding preparations. As regards any disposition 478 to hinder the frank expression of opinion from this side of the House, I may remind hon. Members that we were warned in 1880 of the disadvantage to the country of being governed by a mechanical majority.
Why has the state of the Navy taken such a hold of the public mind at the present moment? It is said that we have been needlessly alarmed as to the condition of our naval defence. The question would not have attracted so much notice at the present time if there had not been brought within the last year or two, and with increasing force, to the public mind, the question of the new development of French Colonial interests, which involved a danger of possible rupture with this country. The policy of Germany in the direction of Colonial establishments has also stirred the public mind. Hitherto, it has been believed that, in the event of trouble with France, Germany would be found hostile to that country; and it has always been argued that there is no possible combination which could involve danger to Great Britain.
The public may well be alarmed, for the Navy of Great Britain has been allowed to dwindle into a serious position of comparative inferiority, unequal to the protection of our commerce and of our honour, and out of all proportion to the Fleets of Foreign Powers. The Prime Minister told us, with reference to the franchise, a short time ago, that he used the language of warning and not of menace; for that if one had a friend asleep in a house which was on fire, it would be his duty, at whatever inconvenience, to awaken the person in danger. In speaking upon this question I do not wish to be an alarmist; but the nation does not realize fully the dangerous position we are in with regard to the Navy, and I trust that the result of this debate will be to secure the re-establishment of our former naval supremacy, whatever the cost may be.
What are the interests which depend for their security and protection on the efficiency of our Navy?
In the first place, these Islands must be safe from invasion; for if a Foreign Power could either invade this country, or, for a short time, command the Channel, and dictate terms for an indemnity, the effect would be disastrous, both at home and in our Eastern and Colonial 479 Possessions. The enemy might make it a condition of peace that we should be limited in the number of ships of war to be built. When the First Napoleon defeated the Prussians, he stipulated for a limitation of their military strength; but that was evaded by a system of military conscription; whereas, in the case of a condition limiting naval construction, a superiority of naval power on the part of the enemy could prevent the laying down of more than the number of ironclads specified in a Treaty of Peace.
Germany has a coast line of about 700 miles to defend; Prance, of about 1,200; Italy, of about 1,500; while Great Britain has about 3,000—in other words, we have, in the British Isles, a coast line to protect nearly equal to the whole coast line of Italy, France, and Germany put together.
We have also to safeguard our food supply. During the last 15 years we have become increasingly dependent on sea transport for our food supply. Within that period our imports of wheat and of flour from the United States have increased from 15,000,000 to 40,000,000 cwts.; our wheat imports from India were only 2,000 cwts. 15 years ago, and are now 11,000,000 cwts; while from Australia they were then 500,000 cwts., and are now 2,750,000 cwts. The total increase of wheat importation in that period has been from 44,500,000 cwts. to 84,500,000 cwts. The imports of barley, oats, grain, and moat have increased in the same proportion. Altogether, it is estimated that the population of this country imports about one-half of the food which is consumed; and there are two conditions precedent to the possibility of obtaining this foreign supply—namely, the power to defend the Channel, and the power to guard strategical points upon the ocean where the large mass of the food-carrying ships cross on their way to Great Britain.
We have further to look to the protection of our Home and Colonial shipping and general trade. Our Home population 15 years ago was, in round numbers, 31,000,000, and it is now nearly 36,000,000. The property assessed for Income Tax was£430,000,000, and it is now over £600,000,000 sterling. The annual Public Revenue of our Colonies and Possessions, including India, was £68,000,000 sterling 15 years ago, 480 and it is now £89,500,000. British shipping was then 5,500,000 tons; it now reaches over 9,000,000 tons. Our imports and exports were under £600,000,000; they are now about £720,000,000.
Looking to this increase of our population and trade, and to the extent of the claims of our Eastern and Colonial Possessions, the question arises, has our naval expenditure increased in a corresponding degree, and is the condition of our Navy sufficient to give us perfect confidence in view of all eventualities? We are actually spending less upon our Navy this year than we spent 20 years ago, and less for effective service than we were spending 10 years ago. It should be borne in mind also that the iron-clad of to-day, on account of the additional necessary thickness of armour, steel-plating, increased size of guns and fittings, and otherwise, costs 40 per cent more money than 10 years ago.
Upon what principle, I ask, is the naval policy of this country based? Are we building our war ships to carry out in war a definite policy of attack and defence, or are we merely shaping our policy from an estimate of the vessels which we have in hand for employment? It is now proved beyond doubt that not only would we be unable to contend successfully against a combination of Foreign Powers, but that it would be next to impossible to mask the War Fleet of an enemy by shutting them up in their ports. We have not an adequate number of vessels. The popular error has been that we have a sufficient number of war ships armed and ready to be manned to compete with any probable combination of the Fleets of Foreign Powers.
In 1860, the late Mr. Cobden wrote to Lord John Russell as follows:—So far am I from wishing that 'we should he unarmed,' and so little am I disposed to place my country at the mercy of France' (to quote the language of your note), that 'I would, if necessary, spend £100,000,000 sterling to maintain an irresistible superiority over France at sea.'Just before the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 we had 100 vessels of war of the first class, and the French 53—that is to say, we had double the strength of France; 20 years later the proportion was 86 British to 45 French; and 20 years later still we had 94 British to 50 French. Well, to-day we have only 46 British to 44 French. Is 481 this a proportion sufficient to satisfy and to protect the interests of this country?
It is admitted that we are inferior to France alone in second and third class war vessels—that is to say, our Colonies and coaling stations may be at the mercy of an enemy sufficiently strong to detain our powerful iron-clads near home.
We are also short of cruisers, and largely inferior to France in the number, speed, and fighting power of such vessels. For a long time the Admiralty led the people of this country to believe that the Mercantile Marine could be relied upon to supply cruisers in case of war; but there are very few merchant screw steamers which can steam more than 12 or 13 knots per hour, or which have transverse bulkheads extended to the upper deck, and are fit to carry heavy guns.
With regard to Marine Artillery, we are far inferior to the French in the quality, power, and number of guns. The late Ministry left Office without a single breech-loader in the Navy. The present Government has added somewhat about 550 breech-loaders, while we require about 3,000; but, at the present time, almost the whole of the vessels of the French Navy are supplied with breech-loading guns. It is a fact of vital significance that it is actually impossible for the Government to have the necessary guns now manufactured in this country within any reasonable time; and here I would observe that it is deeply to be regretted that Parliament was not asked long ago to establish a second Woolwich in the interior of England, free from attack by sea, and where guns and munitions of war could be manufactured; and that, in addition, inducements were not held out to private firms to establish and maintain the necessary plant for heavy gun manufacture.
As regards torpedoes, we are very far inferior to other nations. Torpedo boats are absolutely necessary in the new condition of maritime warfare. France has four or five times as many boats and torpedo ships as we possess; Germany has in hand, at the present moment, more than 100 of the improved type of sea-going torpedo boats; while England has only about 20 in all. There is not one at Halifax, Bermuda, Port Royal, Aden, Bombay, Trincomalee, 482 Singapore, Sydney, or Vancouver Island, and there is not one at the Cape of Good Hope; but the Government has already ordered two to be sent to the Cape. It is not possible to provide torpedo boats in a hurry, and to arm them adequately, any more than it is to provide just when you want them first-class iron-clads. I understand that the German Navy will have attached to each iron-clad squadron torpedo boats as a floating auxiliary. The torpedo ram, the Austrian Minister of Marine has declared, is the battle-ship of the future. The Austrians have divided their coast into districts for torpedo flotilla defence. Have we any plan of defence at all?
Ships and guns require men, and I would earnestly call the attention of the House to the fact that the merchant ships of this country do not carry one-third of the apprentices which they carried formerly; and that, at least, 20 per cent of the seamen in our merchant ships are foreigners. Now, the Reserve of seamen for the Navy of France is five times as great as the Reserve for the Navy of England, and they are all trained men. The French Reserves of Marine Artillery and Marine Infantry are altogether numerically superior to what is possessed by this country. I have to point out another serious danger—namely, that our Navy is largely deficient in the supply of engineers.
Supposing, however, we had the ships, the cruisers, the torpedoes, the guns, and the men, the coaling stations abroad, which are to supply the necessary fuel for the vessels, are, to a great extent, undefended. So long ago as the year 1877 I read a paper at the Royal United Service Institution in favour of a complete telegraph system, the necessity for graving docks, and the absolute importance of the protection of our coaling stations. A Royal Commission to inquire into our Colonial defences was subsequently appointed; the Report of that Commission was completed two years ago; but nothing practically was done for the protection of our coaling stations and strategical positions of importance until the other day; indeed, I may state that Hong Kong was only ordered to be fortified in September last when The Pall Mall Gazette sounded the note of warning as to the state of the Navy. The instructions to fortify were then despatched by telegraph.
483 As regards graving docks, nothing really has been done, and at this moment we have no graving dock in India suitable for an iron-clad, or even for a large cruiser. We have no graving dock at any point between England and Australia on the Gape route suitable for the repair of a large iron-clad.
I would strongly urge the necessity for increased telegraphic facilities at strategic points, and upon the necessity of having an efficient Intelligence Department in the Navy, to procure and supply information to our naval commanders as to the armaments and movements of the forces of Foreign Powers.
But is it possible for this country to be suddenly engaged in war? Yes; it may happen through accidental circumstances. A short time ago there were difficulties between the French and the Chinese, at Hong Kong; British merchant ships were also being searched, and we were exposed to the chance of a rupture. The House will hardly believe me when I say that at that time we had not really any efficient modern iron-clad upon the East India and China Station; nor have we now; and that the force which we did possess there might easily have been overpowered by the powerful plated Fleet of the French Marine. We were also nearly involved in hostilities owing to the action of the French Admiral at Tamatave, not only with respect to Mr. Shaw, but in connection with the treatment of the British Consul and the Admiralty letters on board of a packet carrying the British Flag. I am bound to relate, as briefly as possible, the circumstances of the case. Captain Johnstone, of H.M.S. Dryad, was Acting Consul, owing to the death of Consul Packenham; Admiral Pierre took the British mails from the mail steamer Taymouth Castle when they arrived at Tamatave, instead of allowing them to be delivered on board the Dryad, and he placed armed sentries on the deck of the mail packet. He forbade the embarkation of mails from the shore except through the French flag-ship, and absolutely refused to allow the captain of the packet to receive Captain Johnstone's despatches for the Admiralty, unless they were first of all sent to the French flag-ship. The commander of the Dryad told the captain of the mail steamer to refuse; and having previously arranged a private signal of 484 readiness he assured her captain that he would transfer his despatches to him from alongside, and take the responsibility of seeing his vessel safe to sea. The captain of the British packet then steamed past the French Fleet, went alongside the Dryad, took the Admiralty despatches on board, and then, avoiding the French ships, steamed out to sea by the north passage. A conflict might at that moment have taken place, notwithstanding the fact the Dryad was only a sloop of war, face to face with four powerful French ships, and one of them an iron-clad. I will tell the House more—the Dryad had nine guns, but orders had been sent out to that vessel not to fire eight of them, as they might burst. We must bear in mind that, when least expected, there may be a provocation to war, arising out of some acts of foreign officers or our own Representatives.
The House will understand that, in view of the Tamatave affair, I could hardly do otherwise than call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the circumstances. This I did at the time, nearly a year and a-half ago, in letters to Earl Granville and the Earl of Northbrook. I warned the First Lord of the Admiralty of the absolute necessity of increasing our Navy, and that we were not sufficiently prepared for the sudden outbreak of war; and I pointed out that other nations were building several vessels with much heavier armour-plating and more powerful guns than we possess, and specially fitted for Channel work—in other words, to command the Channel. I reminded the Earl of North-brook that ships of war could not be built to compete with these vessels in less than three years; and I urged him to consider what would happen to our Colonies, and where would be the shipping interests and enterprize, the readiness to invest capital, the confidence of underwriters, the spirit of the seafaring population in this country, if, through being unprepared, we were taken at a disadvantage, and even for a short time lost our command of the sea.
I might ask, is there any programme prepared for issue to our Naval Commander-in-Chief in the event of a sudden outbreak of war, or would each Admiral dispose of his squadron as he might deem best? Are the instructions ready at Whitehall for issue at a moment's notice? I have heard it stated that 485 when our relations with Russia were strained some 13 years ago, the Russian Commander-in-Chief in China had sealed orders telling him what to do immediately on war being declared; but that the British Admiral was without instructions of any kind, and that his most anxious thought was how to protect our vast commercial interests and the coast at Hong Kong. I believe it to be true that a British Admiral on the Australian Coast was asked by merchant shipowners what he proposed to do for their defence in case of war with Russia? He replied—"He didn't know;" and to the question what the Admiralty would do, he said—" He hadn't the least idea!"
We are now spending millions in Egypt with a view to the control of the route to India; but what is the use of the route if we are not able to control it at sea? Is it not high time for us to consider another question—the question how to utilize and extend the Indian Naval Force maintained on the coast of India? For example, we have at Bombay two turret vessels 13 years old, which are useless for sea-going work, and in case of need there are no gunners to fight these. The batteries of Royal Artillery on shore would require to provide the crews in case of need—that is to say, we would have Royal Artillery serving afloat, while Royal Marines are riding on camels in Egypt!
This country requires absolutely and at once a largely increased expenditure on behalf of the Navy, in order to secure the protection of our coaling stations and the defence of our Colonies. The Democracy, it is thought, are indifferent to the value of our Colonies and impatient of taxation. I will read to the House a few words contained in a letter addressed to me from a working man since I spoke upon the Zululand Question. He says—It is to our eternal shame that the Navy has been allowed to run down, and, should any danger overtake us, those who are responsible will have to answer for it as never men answered before. The defective state of our naval stations requires immediate attention, and the Democracy is awakening to the glorious inheritance we have in our Colonies, and the statesman whose policy is not strong enough and firm enough in regard to them will reap curses on his memory, whether Liberal or Tory.Who is responsible for the present position of affairs? We must fix the 486 responsibility somewhere; and I ask, is it the First Lord of the Admiralty, or the Naval Lords, or the Colonial Office, or the War Office, or the Treasury, or are we to blame the Cabinet?
In my judgment, we require extension and reorganization of our naval system; more iron-clads, more cruisers; more guns and more torpedoes; more men; fortified coaling stations and graving docks abroad, and a complete system of Home defence. I am satisfied that Great Britain should have a Naval Force sufficient to contend against any three Powers combined together, and double the Navy of France. Let us remember our history. Macaulay has told us of a time when—None were for a Party,All were for the State;and he says this was "in the brave days of old." We have, as a nation, our world-wide interests to guard and our honour to maintain; and the country will expect that the Government and the House of Commons will take prompt and effective measures to preserve unimpaired our noble heritage of Empire and renown.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he agreed with every word that had fallen from the hon. Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie). His (Sir John Hay's) complaint of the proposal of the Government was that it did not go nearly far enough. He would be able to show that the number of iron-clads proposed to be constructed was by no means sufficient for the purpose for which they were required. The new cruisers were a most valuable addition, and they took a shorter time to build, so that it was the armour-clads he was most desirous to see completed. In regard to other matters, the immediate attention of the Department ought to be given to the construction of torpedoes to be employed by torpedo ships and at our outports. Instead of 50 torpedoes in the year, 50 in the day would not be anything like the number used in the case of war. He hoped that the Return now moved for would not be as inaccurate as that laid upon the Table by the Predecessor of the Secretary to the Admiralty. That Return was excessively misleading. It stated that there were 62 armour-clads, fighting and sea-going ships; but on analyzing the Return it appeared that of the 28 ships in com- 487 mission only 15 were fighting and sea-going vessels. In the Return which had been presented, out of 62 armour-clad sea-going ships ready for action only 39 were not obsolete, and of these 12 were building. If they looked at the First and Second Class Reserve, they had 38 ships against 32 French. In the case of the First Reserve completed ships, out of 14 given in the Return only eight were prepared for the First Reserve. France had been doing what she ought to do in respect of her naval defence—making an exertion to keep ahead of other Powers. Germany and Italy, who had been allied against Austria, had 37 iron-clads between them. To have a Navy sufficient for our wants 26 additional iron-clads ought to be ordered, so that we might be able to defend our commerce, our Colonies, and India, and our own shores. These, in his opinion, could be built in five or six years; but instead of commencing the building of four or five iron-clads we ought to commence building 13. Instead of the £5,500,000 asked by the Admiralty, we required £14,000,000 for the Navy, spreading it over four or five years. The Navy Estimates in 1860–1–2–3 were £12,500,000. Of this £11,500,000 were spent on the Effective Service. It might be said he was asking for a large sum; but he could not think the country would hesitate to raise the Naval Estimates to the figure at which they stood from 1860 to 1863; for it must be remembered that £2,000,000 of the present £10,000,000 was a dead-weight. We were at the mercy of France at this moment. In China there were four French—Bayard, Atalante, Triomphante, and La Galissoniere—and only one British iron-clad, the Audacious. In the Mediterranean there were eight British iron-clads, and very good ones, and seven French. In this country we had a Channel Fleet, of which only two were ships that could fight. If France wanted to regain her naval superiority, she could telegraph to Admiral Courbet to stop fighting in China, then proceed to ram the Audacious, burn Hong Kong, Singapore, Colombo, Bombay, and Aden. At the same time, orders could be sent to the French Mediterranean Admiral to rendezvous with seven ships at Algiers, and to send one into the Suez Canal to block it. The Algiers Squadron could reach Liverpool three days before the British Squadron could 488 arrive from Malta, and, sinking the defence at Holyhead, could summon Liverpool to pay £100,000,000 ransom, or burn it and Birkenhead; while the three coast-defence ships, sallying out, could bombard Brighton and destroy the shipping in the Tyne. That could be done before our eight ships in the Mediterranean could pursue and follow the French Squadron. There would be no difficulty in doing that, if the French Government pleased; but he did not suppose they were likely to do anything of the kind. But the burning of Liverpool, without the declaration of war, would be no worse than the bombardment of Alexandria and the burning of Foo-choo-foo. We ought not to be liable to such a danger. We ought to have such a Navy as would make it impossible, under any circumstances, that such a thing could be done. It must be remembered that within the last 50 years most wars had broken out without any declaration, and a country like this ought not to be left at the mercy of any other country. We ought to have a sufficient force in India, in China, and in the Eastern Seas generally, to protect our commerce; but would anyone pretend to say that we had such a force there now? It might be said that even if a few Indian cities were burnt, and if our commerce in those seas was destroyed, we should easily recover from the blow. But was that fair to India, who had been deprived by us of her Navy on the understanding that we undertook her protection? It was said with truth that the defence of this country and of her Colonies was a great undertaking; and he was glad to hear from the hon. Member for Perthshire that the Colonies would be willing to join the Mother Country in forming an Imperial Navy. He trusted, therefore, an appeal would be made by the Government to our greater Colonies, such as New South Wales, Queensland, New Zealand, and perhaps Canada, and that they would join in the construction of a great armour-clad Navy, which would assist to protect the whole of our Empire and our commerce at sea. What had been said about new guns was even more important than the ships. It was a startling fact that, of the 3,605 guns which it was said were necessary to arm our Navy efficiently, only 387 were actually in existence. No doubt we pos- 489 sessed a certain number of old-fashioned guns and old-fashioned ammunition; but if war were to break out our ships would have to fight the enemy, who would have the new guns under great disadvantage. He was glad that the country had at last awakened to the real state of its defences; and he trusted that, whatever Government was in power in the future, they would be kept up to the collar in this matter, and that the Navy would be made thoroughly efficient. A great deal of the fault lay in the alteration of the system under which the Navy was managed. During the last century the practice was to place the best Admiral at the head of the Admiralty, and to give him the command of the Fleet in the event of war breaking out. For 59 years of the 100, between 1705 and 1806, Lord Orford, Lord Torrington, Sir John Leake, Lord Dursley, Sir Charles Wager, Lord Anson, Sir Charles Saunders, Hawke, Keppel, Howe, St. Vincent, and Lord Barham were First Lords. He it was who informed the Treasury what sums were necessary to keep the Navy in a state of efficiency; and if he went to sea and was defeated we shot him, as occurred to Admiral Byng. That, however, was a system that was not acceptable to Prime Ministers; and after the battle of Trafalgar, and when the Navies of other countries had been destroyed, we gave up the practice, which had made our own Navy so efficient, of having a naval officer at the head of the Admiralty. When we gave it up the French adopted it, and the rapid increase of the French was due to that arrangement. Besides having a naval officer at the head of that Department, we ought to restore the Office of Master General of the Ordnance, who should be made responsible for the expenditure of the enormous sums obliged to be laid out upon patents. Under the old system the civilian First Lord was supposed to be advised by a professional First Sea Lord, who came into and went out of Office with his Party. Now, however, the First Sea Lord remained in Office when his Party went out; so that there was no skilled professional adviser to advise an ex-civilian First Lord in criticizing the shortcomings of the Party in power with reference to the Navy. It had also been the practice for the Sea Lord to resign Office in the event of the Government refusing to take the necessary steps for maintaining the effi- 490 ciency of the Navy; and that was the course that Captain Berkeley had taken, and that he and Admiral Seymour had followed, when Lord Derby's Government refused to take their advice. The result was that they had been requested to resume Office, and that eight ironclads were left on the stocks when that Ministry resigned in 1869.
§ MR. BRAND
said, that it was not his intention to reply to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down, because he had no information with regard to many of the subjects on which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had dilated. All he could say was that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had as enormously exaggerated the power of the French Fleet in the Chinese Seas as he had underrated the strength of the defences of Hong Kong. His principal object in rising had been to reply to some statements which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), who complained that there had been some delay in the manufacture of guns for the Royal Navy. The right hon. Gentleman said that the design for the 43-ton gun which he signed in 1879 was not completed at the present time. The truth was, however, that the gun had been completed, and that other guns after the same design had been completed and tested. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman meant to say that although the 43-ton guns were on board some of Her Majesty's ships, yet, owing to difficulties connected with their loading gear, they had not been used. As far, however, as the manufacturing departments of the War Office were concerned the gun was finished. It was true that not one of the 63-ton guns was ready for trial; but the delay was owing to the decision arrived at in 1882 that those guns should be constructed entirely of steel. He believed, however, the gun would be finished by the end of the year. It had been said that the French were far beyond us in breech-loading guns for the Navy, and no doubt that was true; but the right hon. Gentleman must be perfectly aware that this country did not take up the construction of breech-loading guns until after France had begun to do so. There had been great difficulties to contend against in regard to them, for which the Admiralty was not to blame. The right hon. Gentleman 491 had under-rated the capacity of the War Office to manufacture torpedoes, inasmuch as the manufacturing department had been able to turn out 200 Whitehead torpedoes per annum. There had been a great development in submarine mining, which might almost be said to be a new system of defence for our ports. It was hoped that arrangements might be made for the organization of a portion of the Volunteers and Militia for this service. He contended that the delay in the manufacture of ordnance for the Navy had not been of an avoidable character. The difficulties in the way of manufacturing the new ordnance had been almost overcome when the Ordnance Committee, in the Spring of 1883, decided that all guns for the Royal Navy should be made entirely of steel. A new test steel was established, and a great many rejections were the result. The "trade" in Sheffield could not supply the Department with steel ingots of the size and quality required. In November, 1883, Sir Frederick Campbell was commissioned to visit the principal steel factories in the United Kingdom, and subsequently those in France, with a view to its being ascertained what reasonable modification in the test would admit of the English trade producing steel that would be passed by the War Office Inspectors. Sir Frederick Campbell reported that if certain modifications were made in the specification there would be no difficulty on the part of the trade in producing the steel required. The Ordnance Committee accordingly recommended a revised specification, and some further modifications were subsequently suggested by the manufacturers, which had within the last few days been adopted by the Committee. The position now was that the steel trade was both willing and able to meet the requirements of the War Office with regard to steel forgings. A proposal had in the meantime been pressed by the Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory to put up steel plant for forging heavy steel ingots at Woolwich Arsenal, but this had not been approved. The Secretary of State was of opinion that such a policy would be mischievous, and ought not to be adopted except under the stress of the most imperative necessity. They did not want to kill the trade, and if they set up the manufacture of these large ingots of steel at Woolwich Arsenal what would happen 492 would be this—In years of great activity, when they had plenty of guns to make, they might be able to give orders to the trade; but when they came to lean years they would be obliged to keep the manufacture to themselves, and the trade would be strangled, so that there would be no trade upon which they could depend in times of great pressure. It was his hope and belief that what the French private trade could do the English private trade could do, if properly encouraged; and he declined to believe that where the French trade had succeeded the English trade would fail. There were 10 43-ton wrought iron guns to be completed next year. Of 9-inch guns four were actually completed, and 16 were in progress, making 20 in all. There were 172 6-inch guns practically complete so far as the War Office was concerned. The mounting, as the House was aware, was under the exclusive control of the Admiralty, as advocated by the right hon. Gentleman himself. Three 110-ton guns had been ordered from Elswick. There were also five 63-ton guns ordered, of which three would be ready by October 31, 1885. There were 15 12-inch guns ordered, of which one was ready now; two would be ready in March, 1885, and two more in the following October. The hon. Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie) stated that the Royal Commission had made its Report in 1882, and that nothing had since been done to give effect to its recommendations in regard to the protection of our coaling stations; the hon. Gentleman also said that the Government never sent to Hong Kong until after the appearance of an article in The Pall Mall Gazette. But they had sent these guns long before—namely, last June, in consequence of the recommendation of the General Officer at Hong Kong. In fact, there had been no delay on the part of the Government which ought to have been avoided. The Report of the Royal Commission was presented in July, 1882, and immediate steps were taken to consider that Report. In January, 1883, he obtained the authority of the Secretary of State to send an Engineer officer to Aden to revise the defences, the revision having become necessary owing to the progress of the science of artillery. He was disinclined to press forward the adoption of the measures proposed for the defences of these stations, for two reasons. First, 493 because we were in a transition state as regards armaments. We were, in fact, re-arming the Navy. It was better to wait a few months rather than send out guns which would be obsolete almost as soon as they were mounted. They acted on the advice of the Inspector General of Fortifications. Then it was clearly inadvisable to defend these coaling stations as we defended Bermuda, Malta, and Gibraltar. To do so would involve a large expenditure, and the purpose rather was to defend the coaling stations against the attacks of single cruisers, and they had taken steps which would be quite adequate for that purpose. The advance of the science of artillery was to the advantage of forts rather than of ships. But there was no desire on the part of the Government to sacrifice efficiency, and there was nothing in these proposals which would prevent the extension of the works if found necessary in the future. Those proposals did not form a complete system of defences. Torpedoes would have to be provided. He was quite convinced that, when the scheme of the Government was fully considered by the Members of the Commission, they would agree that it was fully adequate for the purpose for which it had been framed.
§ VISCOUNT LEWISHAM
said, he had had an opportunity of visiting many of the British ports and coaling stations abroad, and thought it was evident that unless those places were sufficiently garrisoned they would, in the case of a war, be a source of great danger to the Empire. Whatever the outcome of the debate might be, they had ample evidence that the Government were thoroughly awake to the danger that was threatening the Empire. Whether the Government increased the number of ships so as to provide for the safety of the Empire or not, they had distinctly acknowledged the necessity of providing for the defence of the coaling stations and naval bases abroad; and they could not deny that both at home and abroad means must be provided for the local defence of the great British ports. A sea-going Fleet could not be relied on to defend its own coaling stations, or any fixed points. The essence of naval strength lies in the absolute freedom of the Fleet. Now, the defence of a port must ultimately rest on skilled and trained men. It was worse than useless to pro- 494 vide works, torpedo boats, and armaments for the defence of ports, unless, concurrently with the provision of those appliances, they also provided an efficient force and organization, suited to the works or armaments. A strong place with an insufficient and inefficient garrison invited attack, and insured the success of an attack, the result being that the works and armaments were turned against those who had defended them. Speaking of the works and armaments now about to be provided for a selected few of the coal depots and strategic ports abroad, the Duke of Cambridge had said—There is no use in the works and armaments if there are no men to put behind them."—(3 Hansard,  1555.)Field Marshal Sir John Burgoyne, in his evidence before the Royal Commission of 1860 on Defences of United Kingdom, in answer to Question No. 607, had also said—My fear would he of establishing works at very considerable cost, and afterwards being forced to abandon them for want of troops.Some time ago a mobilization scheme was published, and had since been carried out by the War Office. That scheme defined the place and post of every military organization on the outbreak of war. The posts of the Artillery, Cavalry, and Infantry, whether Regular, Militia, or Volunteer, were all laid down in this scheme; but there was no mention of such places as Malta, Gibraltar, Bermuda, Halifax, Aden, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Simon's Bay, Sierra Leone, Vancouver, Jamaica, St. Lucia, &c., all of which were now provided with, or were to be provided with, works, armaments, or torpedo arrangements. At not one of those places did we maintain anything but skeleton garrisons. In some we had none. On the outbreak of war all would require war garrisons adequate for their armament and defence; but no provision had been made in the mobilization scheme. One of two things must happen when we had to defend ourselves. Either we must hold fast to the scheme and let go those keys of the ocean, or we must break up the scheme and chance a descent on our shores, rather than risk our command of the seas by placing in danger the bases of our Naval Forces and the centres of our Mercantile Marine. The country, there- 495 fore, ought to know what was the scheme of the Government as to this question of garrisons for the defence of Imperial strategic points abroad, and of skilled, trained, and disciplined men to work appliances for the defence of mercantile ports at home. The Duke of Cambridge in "another place," on November 13, 1884, the speech already referred to, speaking of the works and armaments of such places, said—I am sure.… it will be found that more men are required to defend these works than we have now available. But sailors cannot be spared for this duty, and therefore soldiers are required to defend the works.—(3 Hansard,  1555.)Now, the size of the question was at once realized, when you considered that, roughly speaking, the Navy mustered some 58,000 men. You could not send Militia and Volunteers abroad; and if 58,000 be about the number required for the garrisons of these naval bases, it followed, when you put your mobilization scheme into force, you must destroy the efficiency of it by sending out of the country, and away from the posts assigned to them, about one-half of the Regular troops. Supposing you were attacked or forced into war before the cream of your Army could struggle down the Nile, where would you be? The mobilization scheme was based on the idea that we were a country, and not an Empire; and his opinion was that it would break down, and would not work in time of war. They might be told that forces raised locally at the places to be defended could form the garrisons, and thus avoid the necessity for using Regular troops. That was true with regard to our mercantile ports at home and our coaling stations and mercantile ports in our great Colonies; but, at the same time, local forces, to be efficient, required a due admixture of Regular Forces. But it so happened that the larger proportion of the coal depots we were at last arranging to defend by works, armaments, and torpedoes were not situated in our great Colonies—such, for example, as those mentioned in the Parliamentary Papers recently laid before the House—Aden, Trincomalee, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sierra Leone, St. Helena, Mauritius, Jamaica, and St. Lucia. You could not rely to any appreciable extent on local forces, though you might supplement Regular 496 troops by Native levies for manual and rough work. It would be sheer madness to spend money on works, armaments, and torpedo defences at any one of these places, with a vague idea that men raised in the places could provide the garrisons. Besides which, experience proved the necessity for abolishing local forces, such as the Gold Coast Artillery, and such-like local organizations. Fancy trusting heavy modern-rifled artillery to Malays or Kroomen, or putting a Whitehead torpedo into the hands of a West Indian nigger. It followed, then, that we required a certain trained, skilled, and disciplined Regular Force to provide a nucleus for local forces at the great mercantile ports at home and in the great Colonies, and a force for the defence of Imperial and strategic ports, to perform all the higher and important duties of defence where English local forces could not be raised of sufficient numerical strength. The nature of the work to be done in defending a port did not vary with geographical situation; the same sort of duty would have to be done by the forces provided, wherever the port might be. The work would consist of the management of artillery and of torpedoes secured by Infantry to resist land assault and capture. It would be of obvious advantage if the nucleus for local forces were drawn from the force supplying the garrisons, at positions where no local forces could be raised. Such a system would provide, amongst other things, for that varied experience, so essential to efficiency. It would be advantageous to the health of the force that periodic and frequent changes should be made to home and temperate climates of our great Colonies from tropical stations. The organization of the force required should admit of despatching small or large bodies to different places without destroying its efficiency. There was no such organization in the Army. The only organization that admitted of such dispersion without destroying itself was that of the Marine Forces. Why, look what our Marines were doing at the present time. They were scattered about the Fleet all over the world, and never lost touch. At this moment we had one battalion at Suakin, another at Suez, and a detachment working in the Dockyards at Bermuda. Some 6,000 in various-sized detachments cruising over the waters of the world, while 80 to 90 are bounding 497 about on the humps of camels, on the road to Khartoum, and another 200 or so are marching after the crofters in the Isle of Skye. Here there is practical proof that we had one and only one organization adapted to the fulfilment of the varying requirements of the force which we must have, if our mercantile and coaling ports all over the world are to be secured. The following is the opinion of General Andrew Clark, R.E.:—With reference to the future and extended employment of Marines—I am perfectly indifferent whether they are called Light Infantry Marines or Artillery Marines—hut any body having the admirable organization, the admirable interior economy, of the whole Marine Force—for Colonial occupation and defence. This is not a new idea with myself, but I believe I can trace it back somewhere nearly 25 years ago, when the question of bringing away the regiments of the Line from the various Colonies of the Empire was first started; and I think before a Committee of the House of Commons in 1858 or 1859, after I came back from Australia, I advocated the extension of the organization of the Marines on some similar system to our Colonies as being the most efficient, as it is the most economical, system that the Empire could have adopted. The necessity for this has still more arisen in consequence of the new organization of our Army. In former years it was not unusual for a regiment of the Line to go to a Colony and remain there 10, 15, or 20 years. Now, of the territorial system, of the short service system, I recognize the full advantages. Of course I know to a certain extent their weakness, but still to both systems I am myself an adherent; therefore I speak as an advocate of those systems when I say the introduction of the territorial system and short service into the Regular Army in England, even had we no such organization as the Marines—would necessitate our sooner or later creating that very organization; and I believe that instead of having a dark future for the Marines, as General Sohomberg would lead us to believe, circumstances are now rapidly making it much more likely that there is a very good future for them on the extension of the same principles on which his grand old Corps is formed. In our smaller Colonies, especially taking those Colonies most valuable to us, and at the same time most difficult for us to control and defend—the whole of our Colonies to the Far East, reaching up to China—I have always advocated, and would advocate still, that the garrisons should be entirely Marines. Regiments of the Line, constituted as they are, are not the most effective agents now for Colonial defence, and they are most expensive in those positions, requiring as they do large civil departmental corps to he attached to them to make them at all efficient. On the other hand, as Major Moody has just said, you can move the Marines at twelve hours' notice, or less than that; without all the necessary departmental arrangements which are involved in moving a regiment of the Line, you can remove them 10 or 20, or 500 or 1,000 miles, knowing that their organization is of such a character that 498 wherever they may go they can take care of themselves. That in the defence of the Colonies is a point of great economic value. Their organization offers another very great justification for their being employed in such a way. An Admiral, knowing every place where they are, on difficulties arising, whether amongst a civil population or by the approach of an enemy's fleet, could at any moment reduce his ether garrisons and increase his forces at the menaced point. In our separate commands correspondence must take place, the case must he proved, and valuable time is lost before you can move any portion of the regiments, especially in parts of the world I have just spoken of. If there was one homogeneous command over the Marines stretching round the China Seas under one General or one Admiral, you would secure for the Empire a very efficient service, far more economical than the present one, and one which would especially moot the requirements of our Colonial Service.The House and the country felt that though the Marines did all the hard work they got very little reward. He had pointed out in the House how the scientific training obtained at the cost of the taxpayer was not, as regarded the Marine Artillery, made a proper use of, and that both Marine Artillery and Marine Infantry officers possessing professional knowledge second to none were excluded from all responsible or high commands. Here, then, as regarded defence of mercantile ports and naval bases, was an opportunity of putting the right men in the right places with advantage to the Empire and to the force itself. It might be argued that if you so employed the Marines, they ceased to be Marines, and became simply Colonial troops, not available for sea service. This need not be the case at all, because the Marines, being at the headquarters of the naval stations, could be exercised on board men-of-war. The passages out and home of the frequent reliefs by small detachments on board men-of-war would afford ample opportunities of keeping the force efficient as Marines, and at the same time save the country vast sums for transport, which expense was, and must be, incurred if a military force were applied to garrison the naval bases abroad. The Army moved by batteries and regiments, and could not be accommodated on board war ships; the Marines move by detachments, and could be so accommodated. The Secretary to the Admiralty had himself proposed, in a pamphlet on Naval Reserves, published in 1871, to habituate the men to service afloat by giving them frequent 499 exercise in launch and gun-boats; so he (Viscount Sidmouth) thought it was clear, if this contention held good, that the Marines ceased to be Marines, it would be the fault of the Admiralty, and of the Admiralty alone. There was enough, and more than enough, evidence to show that the question of garrisons for mercantile and coaling ports at home and abroad was a most serious and pressing question; and, further, that the Marine Force, if increased to the number required, afforded the only economical and effective solution of the problem. Without any increase of cost they could give Marine Generals commands. For example, under the system, their garrison at Halifax and Hong Kong would be Marine Artillery and Infantry under a Marine General, instead of a Line General. They would have one uniform and economical system at the naval bases throughout the whole Empire, with local forces affiliated to that force represented by the nucleus furnished by it to the mercantile ports at home and in the great Colonies. The House and the country had a right to know where the garrisons for the places it was about to secure and arm at great cost were to come from. It took time to train men for artillery duty and torpedo work; and unless the matter of garrisons was settled now, when the works were beginning and the armaments were being prepared they would not have the garrisons to defend the works, and their last state would be worse than their first.
§ SIR EDWAED J. REED
said, he hoped the noble Lord who had spoken last, delivering, as he did, a very interesting speech on an important point, would not think it a slight upon him if he failed to pursue the subject which he had brought before the House. He was disposed to treat of a subject which was more familiar to him. In the first place, he should like to say that he, for one, was quite aware now, as he was quite aware at all times, that there was in the House and in the country a considerable and most estimable section of persons who were accustomed to regard all this extraordinary expenditure as extravagance. He did not wish to put himself in rivalry with any economists whatever; but he did wish to say this—that if he believed there was any element whatever of anything analogous 500 to a foolish and senseless panic in the agitation which had led to the proposals made by Her Majesty's Government that evening he would separate himself wholly from it. He would even go further, and say that he sometimes took part with reluctance in movements in favour of additional expenditure, when he looked with so much dissatisfaction on the expenditure which at present went on. He had tried over and over again to call the attention of the House to the whole system of naval defence which was set up, a system which tended continually to have inefficiency devouring efficiency, ineffectiveness devouring effectiveness; and his belief was that, although he cordially assented to the broad and able statement which his hon. Friend the Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie) made concerning the responsibilities and the enlargement of those responsibilities which rested on the country, yet, at the same time, he believed that they wanted a great deal of reformatory action as well as expenditure. His predominant feeling that evening was this—that after that evening a heavier responsibility than ever would rest on those who were anxious to see the Public Service efficiently and economically conducted. He would even go further, and say that if the proposals of the Government had been so unsatisfactory as many persons feared they would be, and as he believed they were likely to have been up to a few days ago, he should have been prepared to follow up any Motion which might have emanated from either side of the House on behalf of the increase of naval expenditure by a further Motion requiring of the Government an improvement in its administration. He felt that evening many grounds of satisfaction. In the first place, having made a good many statements about the Navy lately, he was pleased to find that evening that the Representative of the Admiralty did not think it right or proper to call any of those statements in question. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty did that evening what had been done before, and what had been so thoroughly discounted as not likely to have much weight, even if he had insisted upon it, which he did not—he called attention to the number of ships this country possessed, and compared our number with France; but he did not, in his judgment, direct the at- 501 tention of the House to those considerations which had especially led to this proposal for increased expenditure. He (Sir Edward Reed) felt considerable responsibility as well as interest in this matter. When, many years ago, he had the privilege of entering upon duties at the Admiralty the House had voted the money for the construction of five ironclad ships with wooden hulls. He used all the efforts he could make—and they were successful—to get the Admiralty to forego their intention of building five wooden ships. They never built but two of the five, but substituted instead iron ships for them; and the consequence was that to-day his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty was able to count among the ships which he placed before the country as vessels of the British Navy a number of vessels which were of early date, but which would have been so completely decayed as to have passed away had they not changed from wood to iron. At the same time, he (Sir Edward Reed) thought it would be wrong for him in any degree to be a participator in the country being led to understand that those early ships, which were very valuable still for many purposes, were suitable vessels to compete with the modern vessels which had been built. He would now endeavour to tell the House why he agreed in asking an increase in the naval power of the country. The French were not as thoughtful as this country was in the early days of iron-clad ships, nor had they the convenience to build iron and steel ships which we had. Therefore, they went on for many years building largely of wood. A few years ago, however, they found the larger part of their iron-clad Navy decaying and passing away, and they applied themselves to the construction of vessels to take the place of those decaying ships. What was the state of the facts with regard to the French and ourselves at this moment? The French had been building, or were building at this moment, modern ships—and by that phrase he implied armour of more than 12 inches in thickness—they had built 146,000 tons of armour-plated ships, in every one of which the armour was more than 12 inches thick, and in nearly all of which it was more than 17 inches thick. He found great difficulty in comparing to the satisfaction of non-technical persons 502 our position with the French in regard to those very powerful ships, for the reason that for many years past the Admiralty of this country had given up the system of armour-plating the whole displacement of their ships. He did not believe that any Member of that House would have the slightest difficulty in seeing that if a policy of that kind were pursued we must at some time find ourselves in a disastrous position. He had undertaken the unpleasant and painful task of holding up these facts to the public view; and he stated that approximately—for they could only give such figures approximately—against 146,000 tons of thickly-armoured French ships we had now only 61,000 tons. Were those who knew these facts to be reproached with creating a panic if they stated them openly? He hoped that no one would ever reproach him, or anyone else, for doing what they considered their duty. He was not one of those persons who believed that it would be wise in times of peace to bring up our defences to the highest point on the presumption that war might occur. The country, with its enormous productive powers, ought to be satisfied if it was defended against any probable disaster, and it might very well rely on its inherent power of construction to meet any contingency that might arise. He felt a reluctance to see public money expended on anything that could be quickly produced, and which could be dispensed with for the short time during which it could be produced. He should be wanting in what was right if he did not express his strong congratulations to the House on the proposals of the Government so far as they went. It certainly had been apprehended by many of those who took an interest in this question that the Government proposals would fall far short of those which they had explained to-night. He would like to compare them with the proposals which he himself, at the invitation of a number of gentlemen, had recently made. He proposed an expenditure of £6,300,000. The Government proposed an expenditure of £5,300,000, which carried with it £1,400,000 for guns. Four first-class armoured iron-clads were to cost £3,000,000; five belted cruisers, £1,250,000; 10 torpedo craft, £650,000; two vessels of the Polyphemus type, £300,000; and 10 first-class torpedo boats, £120,000. The proposals of the 503 Government differed only from his proposals in the following particulars:—He proposed five first-class armoured ironclads; the Government proposed four. He proposed that one should be built by contract, and he was glad to find that they proposed to build two by contract. He proposed five belted cruisers, and the Admiralty proposed the same. He found also, to his great satisfaction, that the Government had abandoned the idea of relying on unarmoured ships. He had often pointed out the danger of sending unarmoured cruisers into action in these days of tremendous shells; and he believed that the man who deliberately sent to sea to enter into naval engagements worthy of the name the sailors of this country mounted on steam boilers that any shell would blow to pieces should be strongly condemned, especially as the arming of these cruisers was only a question of money. A few weeks ago it was feared that the Government would propose a great addition to the unarmoured cruisers; and he was very pleased to find that nearly their total additional expenditure was to be in respect of vessels more or loss protected by armour. The Government would themselves feel that whatever expenditure they went to upon these armoured vessels would be to them a source of satisfaction, and would operate to protect them against any unreasonable claims in the future. He was also glad to find that the Government proposed to build two new vessels of the Polyphemus class. The Polyphemus had to some extent been under a cloud; but he agreed with the Secretary to the Admiralty that the Polyphemus was a very useful ship. He had taken a trip in her before her boilers were altered, and even then she was a very fast ship that would have done very good service. Still, he was glad to know that the number of vessels to be built of this class was not large. Although the torpedo and the ram were very useful as auxiliaries here and there, he would not like to see a great multiplication of them, since the gun was, after all, that upon which they must mainly rely. Without guns they could never attack the shore, or reach, even at sea, any other vessels than those to which they were very near. The 10 first-class torpedo boats which the Government proposed to build were certainly not adequate. He should have thought that 50 504 torpedo boats might have been applied for. There was another part of the programme with which he was much disappointed. He regretted that the five belted cruisers were only to be of 17 knots, and he thought that the extra money would have boon profitably expended in making these five vessels of 19 knots, and thus securing for their commanders the superior mastery which that speed would have given them. His hon. Friend (Sir Donald Currie) had referred to the use to which the Mercantile Navy might be put for war purposes. That had been a much debated question, and he could not agree with those who pronounced the Mercantile Navy entirely useless for war purposes. He believed they might, judging from the ships belonging to the hon. Member which he (Sir Edward Reed) had examined, be made very useful indeed for certain purposes in times of war. As regarde water-d tight bulkheads, they were exceedingly well provided. He was sorry to hear the Surveyor General of Ordnance say that certain guns had not been produced, because matters were in a transition state at the time, and that we were in a better position now than if the guns had been produced, because improvements had been made which could now be utilized; but if the argument was good for anything, it would hold good as an argument in not providing any guns at all; for improvements were always being made, and consequently we should always, to a certain extent, be in a transition state. Many of those who had been anxious to get the Government to increase the number of the vessels in the Navy had been anxious, at the same time, not to raise any question on the point of the system of construction. But he must revert to one question, because it had been made a matter of public consideration in a letter in The Times of that day. It was the question of the extremely limited amount of armour-plating of certain of the first-class ships. It seemed to him a parody upon ironclad shipbuilding to so much limit the armour-plating that an enemy going along, by simply injuring the unarmoured end, should be able to render a vessel completely useless and turn her topsy-turvy. He was at a loss to find any ground whatever for the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in treating the first-class ships of 505 Her Majesty's Navy in such a manner. He could be silent upon the subject no longer when naval officers, speaking with a sense of responsibility, spoke in the gravest manner of the danger of that type of vessel. He himself did not raise the question last week at the United Service Institution; but, the question being raised and open to discussion, it was taken up by the Navy; and he stood at that moment paralyzed at the thought of the general opinion that was expressed of those vessels. He mentioned the subject then for the reason that he wished to ask the Government to impose such an injury upon the Naval Service of the country no longer—and he thought he should not ask in vain. They had no right to play tricks with Her Majesty's ships; and if the Government did not abandon this system—that was, so far abandon it as to make every future ship safe—he should feel it his duty to ask the House to interpose between Her Majesty's Government and the Navy, which they undertook to protect, and to stop the building of such ships. He was at a loss to understand how even the proposals of Her Majesty's Government could satisfy the exigencies of the present position; but still he thought they had great cause to congratulate themselves upon the fact of the Government having come down with the programme as large and as wise as it was. He hoped the causes and the considerations which had led the Government to make their present extraordinary proposal in this extraordinary Session would also induce them to consider seriously, and with a view to a permanent enlargement, the Naval Expenditure of the country.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said, he did not presume, as a layman, to be able to decide the many technical points which had arisen between the advisers of the Government on the one hand, and the large body of opinion which, on the other hand, said the country required something much more comprehensive than the scheme which the Government had unfolded. He would say, however, that he looked upon it as absolutely imperative upon the Government to place the Navy in such a state that there should not be even the whisper of a suspicion that they were not masters of the sea. It was idle to inquire whether they were equal to France in 506 their naval power. They wanted much more than that, although he was not quite so sure that if the affair at Tamatave, in Madagascar, had led to a rupture with France they would have been able then to have given a good account of the Naval Forces of the country. And if they had been able to do so, would it not have been due to the personnel of their Navy, which they might always count upon being superior to any other country, rather than to the superiority of their ships or material? The Government stood self-condemned to the extent of some £6,000,000 or £7,000,000, and some of their own supporters even said that was not enough. He would, therefore, leave them to reckon with their critics themselves. He only rose to express his satisfaction that the Government had not allowed themselves to be led away by what he believed to be the interested cry which had arisen in some quarters on behalf of an increased expenditure upon plant at Woolwich for the purpose of manufacturing heavy steel ingots for great guns. He was very glad that that was not in the contemplation of the Government; and he could assure the Surveyor General that if only that security was provided which was to be found in a consistent and settled policy on the part of the Department, there would be no difficulty in obtaining a good supply of heavy steel ingots of any size for the Naval Service much cheaper than they could be produced at Woolwich. He had been informed of a private firm which had recently laid down hydraulic machinery capable of forging ingots of greater weight than any machinery in existence. It stood to reason that a firm of that sort, devoting its energies and resources to a greater variety of objects, should be able to produce objects to which it devoted itself cheaper and better than a Government Department. He was glad to be able to express, upon this point, his satisfaction with the programme of the Government, for it appeared to be based upon reasonable lines; and he hoped that this new Ministerial departure would not be departed from with the same haste which had characterized its acceptance. He also trusted that in future the Government would not listen to those who, when the question of naval supremacy arose, urged them to rely solely upon 507 the cultivation of friendly relations with Powers who could be increasing their Navies only for purposes of offence rather than defence.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he should not have risen but for the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley), who was almost the first Member who had that evening made an attack upon the Government as a Government; and he (Mr. Trevelyan) could not but spend a few minutes in deprecating, and, as he thought, in disproving, that attack. The hon. Member said that the Government were self-condemned by the additions to the Navy which they proposed. He could not agree with the hon. Member. The condemnation of a Government consisted in altering its policy. It was a bold Government that did so; but in doing so it condemned its previous policy. It was not condemnation when a Government enlarged its policy. Her Majesty's Government had announced that night an enlargement of a policy which it had not only been steadily pursuing, but steadily enlarging and extending, ever since it came to Office. If the Government were self-condemned by their proposals to add 2,000 or 3,000 tons to the iron-clad tonnage for which they were responsible, how deserving of condemnation must the late Government appear when it was borne in mind that the present Government had extended the shipbuilding of this country from 7,000 to 8,000 tons, from 8,000 to 10,000, from 10,000 to 12,000, and now from 12,000 to 14,000 tons. [Mr. STUART-WORTLEY asked for an explanation as to repairs?] The question of repairs was an old one. He did not want to turn this into a Party debate. But did the hon. Member for Sheffield mean by his interpellation that there had been any backwardness in repairing our iron-clad Fleet? He could assure him, if he had been informed to that effect, he had been wrongly informed. Lord Northbrook's Government had been quite as careful to keep the fighting iron-clads in a state of proper repair, and fit for sea, as they had been careful to increase the iron-clad shipbuilding, which he thought, though not sensational, had been exceedingly solid and satisfactory. It would be presumptuous to take the words out of the mouths of the Members of the Government who represented the Department specially 508 concerned with guns and powder; but he wished to emphasize and to supplement the interesting statement made by the Secretary to the Admiralty. The debate about the state of the Navy had been conducted for a long time with great energy and vehemence outside the walls of that House; and he wished to state one or two facts in the hope of inducing those who had read alarmist prognostications of our maritime future, and exaggerated accounts of our maritime present, to believe that the case against the naval policy of the Government had been overstated. There had, he admitted, been a time when France laid down ships very much faster than England; but it was before the present Government came into Office. In consequence, when, four years ago, the present Government came into Office, anyone who looked forward to 1890 or 1892 to the time when all these French ships should be completed, and should have against them only the iron-clad ships which we had at that moment laid down, might, indeed, have been in a state of very considerable patriotic uneasiness. But since then the situation had greatly changed, and it had changed so fast in the right direction that oven those comparisons with France need not fill them with any very great apprehensions. Was the House aware that since the year 1881, while the French had laid down four iron-clads, we had laid down eight? And on the top of these eight iron-clads Lord Northbrook now had announced that we were going to lay down four more. Therefore, if they looked to the fleet which had been laid down since Her Majesty's Government came into Office, when the ships were completed, if there were no others, the English would have 12 iron-clad ships and the French only four. That represented what the present Government had been doing to correct any deficiency which might have existed in the iron-clad Fleet when they entered Office. It ought to be a satisfaction to the House and the country not only that at this moment they had a much better anticipation of the relative state of the French and English Navies, but that that anticipation was increasing very rapidly in the right direction. The hon. Member behind him (Sir Edward Reed), who spoke with a great knowledge of the subject and with great common sense, 509 had congratulated the Government on their proposals being good, so far as they went. The hon. Member compared them with his own proposals, which were those of an enthusiastic gentleman who was under no Ministerial responsibility, and who was not trammelled by the necessity of asking for increased taxation, and he admitted that they went nearly as far as his own proposals did. Such approval of what the Government had done and were doing carried infinitely more weight than any number of declamatory sentences about the state of our Navy as compared with that of France. They had been told that with their immense commerce, extending all over the world, they would be at the mercy of any hostile privateer; and that, especially in swift ships, they were very much behindhand. They were told, with very great truth, that the old-fashioned ships were now archaic and out of date, and that nothing which did not exceed a certain rapidity of movement would be a valuable fighting and cruising ship in the future. Well, what was really the case? The French had five ships whose speed was over 16 knots an hour; but we had no less than 12. Four of these 12 were of an extremely powerful type—namely, the Mersey, the Severn, the Thames, and the Forth. Four were of the Leander type, and four of the type of the Inconstant. They had heard a great deal of the Esmeralda; they were told that Chili had a ship which would blow our own ships out of the water, and they were asked—"Why not get a ship like the Esmeralda? Now, he confidently asserted that the Mersey, the Severn, the Thames, and the Forth were more formidable vessels, and that with those four cruisers, which we were going to build, the original ship would bear no comparison whatever. There was no use in saying—"You cannot count those ships that are unfinished." But it was by counting the unfinished French ships that Gentlemen tried to make out their case. When we had those four powerful fighting vessels we should have 17 ships, of which five would be equal to third-class iron-clads, and nine would be formidable fighting vessels; and not only that, but we should have 19 ships of over 16 knots. His hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) was not in the House when he began his speech; but 510 he was glad to see his hon. Friend now in his place, and to offer him his heartfelt thanks for having described in terms that never would be forgotten the criminality of sending men to battle in ships which could not be trusted. Reference had been made to the torpedo boats. His hon. Friend had mentioned 10 torpedo boats as the number to be laid down in the first year; but in the special Vote of £3,100,000 it was proposed to build 30 torpedo boats, and that in addition to what was done in the Navy Estimates; so that he presumed that the first-class torpedo boats would be among the ordinary services estimated for, as they had been in the past, and he hoped and trusted more liberally. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) alluded to the diminution in the number of our bluejackets. That was rather a large question; but he must remind the House that it was by no means certain that a diminution in the number of the men we called bluejackets meant a very serious diminution of our fighting strength. He saw it stated that 15 years ago we had 60,000 of these men, and that now in this great crisis we had only 56,000. But the crews that were wanted to man the ships were incomparably less now than they were in past times. Fifteen years ago there were in commission fighting ships cruising in the Channel Squadron which carried 1,100 men, of which 600 were bluejackets. That was the ship of the past, the typical ship 15 years ago. The Thunderer, which answered to a 90-gun ship in the old days, carried, he believed, not more than 110 bluejackets, and, perhaps, not 200 men altogether. We had always a large number of men kicking their heels in our guard-ships and depôt ships; and behind that Reserve there were other large Reserves of a more irregular description, not counting the Coastguard, which was a very important one. But when we came to spend £700,000 on a ship like the Inflexible, which carried only 370 men, against a ship like the Duke of Wellington 15 years ago, which carried 1,100, of which 600 were bluejackets, it was ridiculous to contend that a slight reduction in the number of men was not compensated by an enormous increase in the strength of our vessels. As to the Marines, he would be very 511 sorry to give up the special qualities of those men, who, in many respects, were sailors as much as the bluejackets. That admirable quality which made them so different from the Marines of other countries could only be gauged by sending them to sea, and if they were sent to sea it could only be done in limited numbers. It was proposed to devote £800,000 to the fortification of Colonial harbours. That sum of £800,000 was the price of an iron-clad, and every one of those Colonial harbours would require an iron-clad to defend it if it had not adequate works to secure it against the attack of two or three cruisers. The upshot of the whole was that the Government had determined in the course of the next five years to devote a little over £5,500,000 to strengthening the Navy, to naval gems, to naval building, and to making certain cheap and useful works, which would have the advantage of setting free a more than proportionate amount of our naval strength. That would form a very considerable addition to the defences of this country; it would follow on the old lines; and he was proud to have the acknowledgment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and of his hon. Friend that the money would be spent in the right direction.
said, that the House was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman again; but he thought he had brought into the debate to-night a little of that warmth which was required in another and more belligerent Office. The right hon. Gentleman was severe on the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) for having condemned the Admiralty. But the chief gain of the debate to-night was that the Admiralty had condemned themselves, because they had admitted that the Navy was not in an efficient condition, and that a large extra expenditure was necessary in order to put it in that condition. He appealed to hon. Members who had been present at former naval debates whether his noble Friend the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), and Members on both sides, had not repeatedly urged on the Government the inefficient condition of the Navy; and whether they had not been always assured by the Admiralty that there was no ground whatever for alarm, and that everything was managed in the best possible way by the best pos- 512 sible Department? It was a great change to have the Secretary to the Admiralty to-night addressing the House in such a very different tone. He did not believe that the Admiralty had found out anything which they had not known for a long time past. In a former discussion on naval affairs it was an open secret that the Admiralty had made application to the Treasury for a sum variously estimated at £500,000 and upwards, and that it was refused. He referred to the matter himself, and he challenged the Secretary to the Admiralty to contradict him if it was not true; but when the hon. Gentleman spoke later on in the debate he carefully avoided doing so. Whether it was that the Admiralty was growing stronger, or that the Treasury had more leisure to look into the requirements of the country, or whether the action of the newspapers and speeches out-of-doors had opened the eyes of the Treasury to the feeling in the country, it now appeared that the Admiralty had leave to tell the country that a great deal more expenditure was necessary. Having admitted that so far they had something to be grateful for, he must say that he had listened to the declarations of the Government with very little satisfaction. He had asked himself the question—What practical result was the country going to gain that evening? The practical result was absolutely nil. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) had come back, a kind of Rip Van Winkle, to these naval debates. He evidently thought that the House was engaged in discussing a Vote; but the fact was that it was engaged in nothing of the sort. The House was not asked to vote a single sixpence for the Navy. He thought the Government should offer some explanation why, if they held the same opinion that they now did as to the state of the Navy, they allowed five months to elapse before doing anything to bring the Navy into an efficient state. The conduct of the Government was inexplicable and self-condemned. They now admitted the great necessity for expenditure upon our naval defences, yet they did not propose a single Vote for the purpose. All that they had done was to come down to the House and throw dust in the eyes of the public by telling them what they were going to do in their Naval Estimates for 1885. The Secre- 513 tary to the Admiralty had sailed out a number of iron-clads and cruisers and torpedo boats; he had given a very pleasant vision of the Navy of the future; and he (Mr. Gorst) had been particularly entertained by the iron-clads, which in the course of the hon. Gentleman's speech multiplied like Falstaff's "men in buckram." At first there was one iron-clad, then there were four, and then there were five.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
explained that there were to be two iron-clads laid down in the Dockyard under the ordinary Estimate, and there would be two iron-clads built by contract.
Then there were to be two extra ships, and not four, as the Secretary to the Admiralty had led them to believe. The House and the country ought to be made to see that the whole of this debate had been, on the part of the Government, mere moonshine. Having admitted the urgent necessity for increasing the naval defences of the country, they had given no effect to the views entertained by the country on the subject; but only held out vague promises of some additions to the Estimate of next year.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
observed, that the Naval Department had been engaged as actively as possible in preparing plans; and as soon as they were completed the vessels would be ordered.
said, it was to be regretted that the Admiralty did not show its earnestness in the matter by proposing a Vote. He was quite certain that the Admiralty might rely on the cordial support of both sides of the House in any efforts it might think proper to make suitable provision for the naval defences of the country; and he was equally certain that if the Admiralty neglected its duty it would incur the serious condemnation of the people of this country.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
remarked that the discussion that evening had been of a humiliating character for both sides of the House. It was extraordinary that, after spending about £11,000,000 a-year, they should be told that the Navy was utterly useless, helpless, hopeless, and in a miserable condition, and that their only salvation was to vote £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 more. If all this money was really wanted there must have been some neglect previously. 514 It was a confession that there had been some failure in what had been done before in the Admiralty. It was clear that both Parties in the House were to blame in the matter. In 1871 the Prime Minister said—Indeed, there never had been a time when our country had been so secure in her naval superiority.And in the same year Earl Granville quoted Commodore Roberts's statement of—Our Navy's immense superiority to all the other Navies with which he was acquainted.The present Secretary to the Admiralty had also said—Our Navy is superior to the united Navies of the world.It was extraordinary that 13 years after they should be told that it was necessary to spend this large sum of money, and that at a period of such depression. They had been told over and over again that France was making such tremendous preparations that we must make preparations to meet her. He, however, had seen a statement, which he had every reason to rely upon, showing that the assertion that France was largely increasing her Naval Force was not well founded. The truth was that, on an average of the last 20 years, France had been spending one-third less on her Navy than we had done. It was said that people were waiting to suddenly rush upon us and invade us; but, in his opinion, the existence of that danger had not been satisfactorily proved. He looked upon the preparations we were about to make, not as defensive, but as offensive. When the Volunteer movement was first started the Volunteers took for their motto—"Defence, not defiance," which was a satisfactory proof to his mind that both the standing Army and the Navy were to be used for defiance, and not defence. He had no sympathy with those who said that they did not care about the Army, but that we ought to have a strong Navy. If our Navy were strong it would let loose the Army, which would be used to slaughter the Chinese, the Zulus, the Afghans, the Egyptians, and the Arabs. He should like to know what this strong Navy was for? What were we afraid of? Perhaps the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine) would inform the House. It was clear 515 that we did not fight strong people now; we only fought the weak ones. It had been said that expenditure depended upon policy, and he should always protest against a policy which involved an increased expenditure upon armaments. He objected altogether to a policy of keeping up an Army for the sake of attacking people with whom we had no quarrel. He knew very well that there were many Members of the Government who took the same view of this question that he did besides the hon. Member for Scarborough. He knew, however, the unfortunate position in which Her Majesty's Government were placed, and that it was no use asking them to stand up against this crazy panic which had been got up by the Press and the platform. It was a misfortune to the country that the Government should be so strongly influenced as it was by the Press and the platform. The fact was that no Government was able to stand against the public opinion of the country. He regretted that they were not able to stand against the force of public opinion when public opinion was false, and he only regretted that that false public opinion did exist. What interest had the people in keeping up these enormous armaments? Their interest was all the other way, and the whole of this panic had been got up by the writers in the Press, anonymous people whom nobody knew. What had the Press done for this Government? In the early spring it had compelled them to send out Gordon on his absurd mission, and now it had compelled them to send out this equally absurd expedition to Egypt, where our soldiers were engaged in slaughtering people who the Prime Minister had said were fighting for their freedom. It was a pity that the Government could not withstand the hysterical shrieks of a certain portion of the Press. This increase in our armaments meant no good to the people of this or of any other country; it meant outdoor relief to the aristocracy, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham had said. [Cries of "Oh!"] Who denied that? He had thought that that expression embodied a political canon which was generally accepted. This increase of our armaments meant higher wages to the men in the Dockyards; it meant contracts to manufacturers and large profits to great 516 shipowners. But it also meant having a weapon ready with which to go into evil enterprizes, because "having the power to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done." Thus, when he was lamenting the bombardment of Alexandria, a friend of his had said—"Why, having our iron-clads there, you would not prevent their doing something." The result of this increase in our armaments would be increased taxation and increased suffering to the people. Speaking at Warrington in 1868, the Prime Minister had warned the people against being misled by the cry of "efficiency." The right hon. Gentleman said—If you intend to have any limit at all put upon the expenditure of the country, it is high time that you should stand upon your guard against 'efficiency.' Efficiency in itself is a very good thing, but efficiency in the mouth of a Minister who wants to find an excuse for a great increase in the public charge is a plea which ought not to be admitted without a great deal of careful scrutiny. The result of my experience is that, when there is a disposition to spend money, it is invariably discovered that the Services are inefficient. The next thing is that money is spent. Then the next thing to that is, that those who have spent the money declare the Services to be now efficient. That would he all very well if that were the end, but that is not the end; the next thing to that is that somebody else comes in and says the Services are not efficient—and then they spend more money to make them efficient. And then, again, they say that they are efficient; and in this bewildering circle you are led round and round, while no fact is brought to a state of certainty except one, that is the augmentation of the public charge.….For the last 15 years we have been doing nothing but arming and re-arming, building and re-building, thinking we had found a better method of building ships, thinking we had found a better method of constructing guns or small arms, rushing with precipitate haste at the idea of the moment, and before the idea of the moment had been fully embodied, in a vast public expenditure, and in the now form of armament, finding that some other fashion or pattern was superior, and that the whole thing has to be done over again. What is the lesson of common sense under those circumstances? It is this: to proceed with moderation. Of course, when you know something of better arms or better ships, you must endeavour to set about getting them; but do not throw yourself into a fever for the purpose.He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) protested against our going on in this mad rivalry with the other countries of Europe, who, declaring that they were Christian peoples, maintained 3,500,000 men in arms on a peace footing, as it was called, and spent £166,000,000 a-year upon armaments. The Government might, 517 before making this statement, have proposed to Prance some scheme of mutual disarmament. Such a policy had been advocated by Bentham, who said—Whatsoever nation shall get the start of the other in making the proposal to reduce and fix the amount of its armed force will crown itself with everlasting honour.Sir Robert Peel, in 1841, also said—The true interest of Europe is to come to some one common accord, so as to enable every country to reduce those military armaments, which belong to a state of war, rather than of peace. I do wish that the councils of every country—or that the public mind and voice, if the public did not—would willingly propagate such a doctrine.But such a policy would, of course, be scouted by all the fighting men of this country, who believed in brute force, and not in argument and reason. It would also be condemned by the Jingoes, and by all those politicians who liked nothing new. Having regard to the general lines of the foreign policy of this country, he was driven to the conclusion that there was a great deal of truth in the words of a German writer, who said that after 19 centuries of Christianity the religion of Christ had yet to be tried. At one period the doctrine of peace and conciliation was adopted by many Members of the present Government when they proposed to refer the Alabama Claims to arbitration; and that noble policy was approved by all who believed that Christianity was not a sham. In his judgment, the policy of diminishing our armaments and trusting to reason instead of brute force would be acceptable to those persons whom we were about to enfranchise. Hodge was coming; hon. Members had heard his step yesterday and again that day. He did not know whether Hodge would be a Christian; but if Hodge was getting only 15s. a-week he would grudge any portion of that sum being taken from him by increased taxation for the purpose of slaughtering his fellow workmen in other parts of the world. In conclusion, he expressed a hope that this step on the part of the Government would mark the high tide of our reckless and foolish naval and military expenditure, and that the new-born freemen would exercise their influence in order to put a stop to a policy so senseless and so injurious to the highest and best interests of the country.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
I do not think there is any subject which could engage the attention of Parliament on which I might with more certainty be expected to address the House of Commons than that which is engaging our attention to-night; because it is perfectly true that for many years past, and long before the question engaged the attention of hon. Members in this House generally, or of the public out-of-doors, I have tried, as far as I could, with my single voice, to show the Government that they must inevitably come to the point at which they have arrived to-day. I confess that I am unable to give a cordial approval to the proposals which have been made by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty. I look upon it that the position of the Government in reference to this question is altogether inexplicable, for I find from the remarks of the Secretary to the Admiralty, and I took down his words, that they are going at once to make plans and enter into contracts in order to build new ships, and that they are to be met by liabilities incurred by Parliament next spring. To my mind that course simply means the incurring of liabilities in the name of Parliament which Parliament has not yet sanctioned. I do not know whether the immediate exigencies of the case justify it; but, at all events, that is the condition of things. Her Majesty's Ministers are going to engage in liabilities which Parliament has not yet sanctioned. I join with the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) on having emerged from the privacy of the Duchy back again to his old element in connection with the Navy Estimates. I could wish that the right hon. Gentleman had been present at this moment, because I have many quarrels to pick with him, and quarrels which I would rather pick with him face to face than after he has retired from the Bench opposite. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, I must say, has gone nearer in the direction of bringing Party into this debate than any other hon. Member on either side of the House who has spoken to-night. The right hon. Gentleman said, among other things, that French ships were being laid down very fast at a certain period when he was in Office. Now, that was 519 the very period when, whenever the right hon. Gentleman addressed a popular assembly in this country, he denounced me as the author of the fabulous stories and ideas which have prevailed in regard to Foreign Navies. At Bury, in Lancashire, and when addressing the jovial brewers of Burton-upon-Trent, the right hon. Gentleman held me up to supreme ridicule as an alarmist and a panic-monger. At that time he told those credulous beings—I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman is now back again in his place—at that time he told them that our Navy was armed with the best guns possessed by any Power in the world; and on another occasion he stated that the ships which I ventured to put forward as being advanced by the French Government were nothing more nor less than paper ships. We have to-night, however, seen the Government come down to this House to propose, without any sort of pressure except the pressure of public opinion, not a Vote, I am sorry to say, for there is no Vote of money proposed at all, but to give a quasi-promise on the part of the Board of Admiralty that next spring they will spend certain millions of money in adding to the strength of that Navy which I have so long endeavoured to strengthen. I must say, also, that although at that time the right hon. Gentleman was very hard of belief, what is more, he has never had the goodness to correct the unfounded assertions he made with regard to my mis-statements—that is to say, he has never yet said that at that very moment when he was announcing that the English Navy was being armed with the best guns in the world—that at that very moment there was not a single breech-loading gun in the Naval Service at all. The right hon. Gentleman has never done me the honour to correct the mis-statements he made as to the course I took, or to admit that what he then said was not really borne out by the facts of the case. I do not wish to quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman for what occurred years ago. Since then he has been reposing on a bed of roses in Phœnix Park, from which he has gone into the otium cum dignitate of the Duchy of Lancaster. But the right hon. Gentleman said to-night, when one of my hon. Friends behind me spoke of the late Government and their repairs, that the Conservatives had really done no- 520 thing in the way of repairs. Now, Sir, I have got the figures here before me, and I should like to show the House what they are.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
I beg the noble Lord's pardon; and I am sure, when the noble Lord hears the correction I desire to make, he will be glad that I propose to make it. I did not say that the Conservatives had done nothing in repairs. On the contrary, I admit that the repairs carried out by the Conservative Government formed an extremely valuable contribution to the efficiency of the Navy; but I stated that the repairs at that time were not excessive.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation; and if the country knew that that was what the right hon. Gentleman meant it would save me the trouble of reading the statement which I have here as to the repairs effected from 1874 down to 1880 and up to 1884. In point of fact, the repairs of the late Government amounted to £4,640,503, or a yearly average of £928,101; whereas the present Government spent in the repair of iron-clads and other vessels, from 1880–1 down to 1883–4, the sum of £3,288,357, or a yearly average of £822,000, against £928,000 spent by their Predecessors. Therefore, I was naturally surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that repairs did not enter into the question at all. I admit that I am one of those who think ill of the proposals of the Government. I confess that I do not believe in the proposals of Her Majesty's Government. I believe that this is a sort of attempt to meet public opinion—a sort of attempt to show, in deference to public opinion, that there is such a thing as requiring them to devote themselves to the condition of public affairs. Why are we here to discuss the condition of the Navy at this abnormal time of the year? I certainly do not consider that the Government have consulted anything like the actual necessity of the Navy, and I want to know this—If our Navy is, as it has been represented to be, consistently and persistently, by every Member of the Government Official Bench in this House and in the other House for the last two years—if it is everything that can be required for the safety of the Empire—if the First Lord of the Admiralty is so situated that he would not 521 spend £5,000,000 even if he got it—I want to know why we are assembled here to-night to discuss this question? I will not go into the question of a comparison between French and English ships, for this reason. I think the careful and statesmanlike speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) must, once for all, put an end to any doubt or hesitation as to how we stand with regard to the Navies of the world. If my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty had been present, and could have heard that most interesting statement recently made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, I believe he would have been convinced, once and for all, that unless an immediate addition is made to our Navy the French Navy will be, to use an official expression, "in dangerous proximity to our own." I doubt not only the inadequacy of the proposals of the Government, but I also entertain grave doubts as to the fitness of those by whom the proposals would have to be carried out. We always judge of trees by their fruit, and I judge the Admiralty by the way in which they have carried out their policy in the past. Since I had the honour of taking an active part in naval affairs I have had to deal with four or five Secretaries to the Admiralty. My impression is that we have never had one for more than a year. They have always drifted to the Phœnix Park, or some other place; and the result has been that we have had in recent years, to a certain extent, a limited acquaintance with at least four or five Secretaries to the Admiralty. Now, I should like very much to give the House some idea of the sort of promises by which the House of Commons—and not so much the House of Commons as the people of this country—have been deluded by the various Representatives of the Admiralty in this House. In 1882 the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) promised that the Agamemnon and the Ajax should be ready for sea in that year. The Ajax is still incomplete, and the Agamemnon, although she has been commissioned, and is on her way to China, I do not believe that she is really fit for sea. I would ask the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to this matter, because it is a serious question. I can prove that 522 this House voted money in 1882, as it has voted money over and over again within the last four or five years, for certain purposes, to which purposes it has not been applied. Where the money has gone I know not; but the result of its employment has certainly not been visible so far as the service of the country is concerned. In 1881 the Secretary to the Admiralty told us that the Shah and the Raleigh, two of our best frigates, would be refitted with breech-loading guns; but neither the Shah nor the Raleigh has yet been completed. In 1882 we were told that the Bellerophon would be ready for use and fit for service. She was not finished in that year, and she is not yet fit for service. In the same year we were told that the Hercules, which I think my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff knows somethingabout—and she is certainly one of the most valuable and useful ships ever sent to sea—was to be refitted, and instead of carrying her old armament she was to be supplied with a broadside of 18-ton breech-loading guns. That was in 1882. Two years have since passed away, and although the money was voted for refitting the Hercules, she still remains as she was, with muzzle-loading guns instead of breech-loaders, no more ready for sea than she was in 1882. I mention these facts in order to show the gullibility of the House of Commons. In 1882 the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) was Secretary to the Admiralty, and he was quite eloquent on the requirements of the Navy; He told us we wanted a great ship—a new ship altogether—a new Polyphemus. This new Polyphemus has been specially designed by Mr. Barnaby, the Chief of the Naval Construction Department at Whitehall, under the immediate direction of the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Cooper Key. She is to be plated with 10-inch armour, and the Secretary to the Admiralty told us in proposing her—If all goes well she will prove to be both a cheap and an apparently serviceable vessel.All I can imagine is that all did not go well, because we have never heard more of that ship for which the money was voted by this House. From that day to this we have never heard more of her than if this panegyric had never been passed upon her. I may go further, and 523 tell the House that next year another Secretary to the Admiralty—number three in the present Government—promised that 241 breech-loading guns would be completed. In 1884—in March last—my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) went further, and stated that he had supplied, or would supply, 400 breech-loading guns to the Navy, and that in addition there were under construction for the Navy three 110-ton guns, four 63-ton guns, and three 43-ton guns, besides a large number of smaller guns in various stages of progress for land and sea service. What was the complement of men assigned by the Secretary to the Admiralty—Number 3? The hon. Gentleman came down, in this very year, 1884, and stated, with reference to this promise of 241 guns made by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War—The progress made during the past year is not to be measured by the number of guns actually manufactured.…The advance made towards settlement of patterns and types is the most important matter, and in this I am glad to say an immense stride has been made during this year."—(3 Hansard,  379.)The next point I have to bring before the House is one which my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty has touched upon to-night. I really was quite surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman talk of torpedoes as a new necessity, because I remember that a few years ago the hon. Gentleman expressed the most reasonable, the most sensible, and, if I may be allowed to say so, the most statesmanlike views as to the future of the torpedo. In 1883 the Secretary to the Admiralty said—Torpedo vessels are scarcely inferior in importance to fast cruisers. A combined attack of numerous torpedo vessels would be formidable, and perhaps fatal to the largest iron-clads. They are being largely built for all the principal nations of Europe."—(3 Hansard,  104.)That was what was stated by the hon. Gentleman two years ago, and speaking recently at Portsmouth the hon. Gentleman alluded to these torpedo boats as being destined to play a very important part in the warfare of the future. He said that, while Germany had only one large iron-clad building, she had recently expended a sum of £850,000 for the purchase of 70 torpedo boats. "The French," said the hon. Gentleman— 524Are also expending large sums annually on torpedo boats.It would, indeed, have been interesting and highly satisfactory if the hon. Gentleman had given us a numerical comparison as between ourselves and other nations in the matter of torpedo boats. "If," as the hon. Gentleman says—Our great industrial capacity would give us a great advantage for rapid construction,why, I ask, have not the Board of Admiralty before now availed themselves of that great industrial capacity? The unfortunate part of the matter is that while we allow France, Russia, Germany, Italy, and all the other Powers of the world to go on building these torpedo boats, we allow our own industry to remain idle, and take no similar steps towards strengthening our Fleet. To show the House how we have been governed by the various Secretaries to the Admiralty who have come down to move the Navy Estimates, I may say that two years before the hon. Gentleman the present Secretary entered upon the Office—namely, in 1881, the right hon. Gentleman the then Secretary to the Admiralty came down to the House and stated that measures had been taken for carrying on the task of providing our Navy with a full equipment of torpedoes and torpedo boats. The right hon. Gentleman added, now nearly four years ago—It will interest the Committee to know that we have already 19 first-class torpedo boats, each armed with three Whitehead torpedoes.…The second-class torpedo boats, 60 feet long, might be carried on board our battle-ships and principal cruisers. They are armed with two torpedoes, and there is talk of altering them to carry machine guns likewise. Their speed is marvellous.…Of these boats we have IS actually built, and we are building 30 more."—(3 Hansard,  1395.)Where are they now? I learn that the Secretary to the Admiralty promises to give us this year something like 29,000 tons extra of armour-clad ships.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
Now, Sir, I want to show, when the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty tells us he is going to give the 525 country 9,000 tons more of armour-clad ships, what it is that he means by 9,000 tons of armour-clad ships. What is it that he means? Because the right hon. Gentleman who was the most recent Predecessor of my hon. Friend in the Office of Secretary to the Admiralty spoke as follows in this House last year:—There could be no doubt that tonnage was a wholly artificial unit, and it might perhaps be thought desirable to get rid of this system of calculation altogether.He confessed "that the statement was one which it was very difficult to understand." The right hon. Gentleman went on further to elaborate that statement, and he said in March, 1884—The effect of this mode of computing is, that if, as a ship advances towards completion, it becomes apparent, as, unfortunately, it frequently does, that her cost will exceed the Estimate originally formed, it follows that what has been called a ton was not really a ton, and that when the ship is completed we shall have built a greater number of so-called tons than are comprised in the total weight of the vessel."—(3 Hansard,  372.)Exactly what I have said. The House is led to believe in the Estimates that so many tons are to be built in a year, and that so many have previously been completed. But the result is that nothing like the tonnage the House is asked to pay for has been built. If a ton weight of hull is not a ton, it is the duty of the Admiralty to devise some means of measuring the progress which shall be intelligible to the House. The House has been lulled by statements as to the amount of tonnage to be added to the Navy year by year, and hence the natural surprise at now finding that there are such deficiencies in ships. If the ship cost more than was originally estimated, and approved by Parliament, the House should be taken into the confidence of the Government and informed of the cause of the increase, or otherwise there can be no financial control. I have a Return here which shows the actual production of the Dockyards in 10 years; but I know the House does not much like Returns, and I do not, therefore, often trespass upon its patience with them. It is not often that we can get a good audience for a naval debate; but, at any rate, I have a Return here which goes to show what a ton really is. I am sorry that I do not see my hon. Friend the Member for 526 Burnley (Mr. Rylands) in his place to-night to take part in the debate, because this is a matter in which he has taken special interest. The Table I have here has not been prepared with any Party view. It extends over 10 years, and it, therefore, includes the Administration of my lamented Friend the Earl of Beaconsfield as well as that of the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister. Now, the amount of tonnage as estimated and ordered by Parliament in those 10 years was 88,471 tons, and the Admiralty actually built 73,311 tons, showing a deficiency of 15,160 tons. But, unfortunately, according to this document, which tells how much tonnage was built in each ship, I find that in these 10 years, instead of 88,471 tons, the number of tons really built was only 66,806. Therefore there was, including the deficiency admitted by the Admiralty, a real and gross deficiency of 21,665 tons at least of armour-clad ships, or equivalent to some four or five ships of the latest or Conqueror type. Then I say that if the Admiralty cannot manage to arrange about the tonnage, so as to show what they are going to order, there ought to be a different system introduced altogether; and I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, after hearing all that his Predecessor stated upon the matter, has not provided some new arrangement by which he is able to tell the country how many tons of hull the Admiralty have been able to build in the iron-clad ships for which the sanction of Parliament has been obtained. I have another grievance, and a very serious grievance it is. I will not go into the waste of money by the present Board of Admiralty. I have here the orders given at Whitehall in regard to construction. Probably there are very few Members in the House who are old enough to remember a pamphlet which I wrote in my youth in regard to an irresponsible Board of Control. That pamphlet was directed against the organization of the British Museum; but I was swallowed into the British Museum and made a Trustee. I only mention the circumstance to tell you that the views I now hold in regard to irresponsible Boards are not views of yesterday or the day before, but views which I formed long ago in reference to the British Museum, and afterwards as Secretary to the Ad- 527 miralty. The objection I have to the Board of Construction at Whitehall is to its want of system. I have often expressed that view, and the more I express it the more I think the view is right. I say that the Board of Admiralty, in their designs for the ships of the future Navy, did not consult public opinion, nor did they realize the requirements which rested upon them. I say that every ship they bring out—every line-of-battle ship—is with them an experiment, and to the country a very costly experiment. Many of the designs which emanate from the Board of Construction at Whitehall are condemned by naval officers, who have had the opportunity of seeing them, even before the ships were in existence. I say more than that—namely, that in the Board of Construction at the Admiralty, at the present time, in the ships they have designed, the speed put down is seldom realized, the water-line is repainted over and over again, and although the money is voted for ships by the country, the designs of the Construction Department are rarely, if ever, carried out. I can assure the Government that I am not speaking in any Party sense. The Return I have just given to the House extends over 10 years, and it includes the late Government as well as the Government of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Look at the work of the Construction Department. Some of the ships will not steer, or, at all events, are so extraordinarily erratic in their movements as to give very little satisfaction. Another class—the Tourmaline class—have had to be re-rigged from one end to the other. Another class—the Comus class—had such very small speed, and such a small armament, that we cannot really count ships of that class among the strength of the Navy at all. I have for years past objected to the organization of the Constructive Department of the Admiralty. It is an irresponsible Board, in which surprising appointments are often made—men efficient as designers, business men not being so important as other considerations. I object to entrust such a Board with the expenditure of the vast sums of money which the Government are proposing to-night, although they are to be spread over a period of five years. What does the name of the Board of Construction at Whitehall 528 sound like? Constructors know what their business is and what they are about. Now, I fancy that there is only one man on the Board of Construction who has ever been a constructor at all, or who has designed or superintended the construction of a ship. This question of construction takes me to another point. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister must take great interest in anything which involves the expenditure of so large a sum of money as our Dockyards. I do not hesitate to say that at present the Dockyards turn out better work than any firm in the world. Of that there can be no doubt; but, managed as they are now—extravagantly managed as I think they are—these Dockyards cost the country more money than they ought to cost. There is an officer, or I should rather say there was an officer—because I believe, as far as his duties go, he is non-existent—there was an officer called the Surveyor of Dockyards, a most imposing title, and if that officer did his duty in that state of life he was fitted for, he would be one of the most important persons in England for economizing the public money and securing a proper and sufficient control over the Dockyards of the country. But I believe—and, in fact, I have been told for a certainty—that, as at present arranged, and as at present filled, the Survey or ship of the Dockyards is a mere sinecure, having no influence whatever on the proceedings of the Dockyards. Last year the then Secretary to the Admiralty quoted the Report of the Committee presided over by Sir Robert Hamilton, on Dockyard Incidental Charges. I am one of those who regret extremely that Sir Robert Hamilton has followed the example of two Secretaries to the Admiralty and gone over to Dublin, for he was one of those straightforward, upright, honourable, clever men, from whom, whenever they give attention to any subject, we are quite sure to have valuable service. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has always been a good friend to the Naval Service; and, notwithstanding all the financial exigencies of the country, he must know that England must have a Navy. Therefore I would appeal to my right hon. Friend to see what he can do to remedy these anomalies in the organization of the Board at Whitehall, which controls, or 529 rather miscontrols, the management of the Dockyards. Again, belonging to the Admiralty there is what they call an "Intelligence Department." One would probably suppose that the members of the Intelligence Department are employed in obtaining information which is unknown to the world generally. It is, therefore, absurd to announce the names of the members of the Department who should be all over the Continent inspecting Foreign Navies and obtaining information instead of walking the London Clubs. The Navies of the world have been increasing year after year, and yet no notice has been taken of the fact; on the contrary, both in Parliament and out of Parliament Her Majesty's Government have scouted everyone who told them that the French Navy was creeping up to our own. There can be no doubt that the Navies of the world have been rapidly increasing, and the Government have no one to blame but those who have misled them, and who have cried out that there was no danger when the Navy of Russia could really block us out from the Black Sea. If another Eastern difficulty should arise, what would be our position? I repeat that the Government have no one living to blame but those who have so misled them, and who have cried out to them that there was no danger when they knew themselves that their house was all but on fire. We know that the Chief Constructor of this irresponsible Board went over to France, and came back again. He went over there only last year, and I presume that he went with his ears closed and his eyes shut, since I understand that he has returned and reported that there is not the slightest danger. Within a year of that announcement we have this abnormal Sitting of the House of Commons—an abnormal Session at an abnormal season of the year—to sanction the expenditure of millions of money in order to put us on a footing of equality with that very French Navy which the Chief Constructor came back and said did not exist. In the face of all these facts I should be very sorry to entrust the expenditure of the money for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible to hands so incompetent as the present Constructive Board of Admiralty. I maintain that there ought to be some independent inquiry in order 530 to look into the matter, and to satisfy the country what should be the normal Condition of the British Navy, so that the Navy should not be subjected to these panics and to these sudden changes, but that we should know what is the proper condition of the Navy from the present time forward. I must say that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer tried to do that some years ago with much effect. He laid down what was to be the least amount of tonnage added to our Navy with safety to our Colonies and our commerce every year. I want to know what has been done since? Twelve years have passed, and I want the Prime Minister, or whoever may think it worth while to take the matter into consideration, to institute some independent inquiry, in order to look into the classes of ships, the number of our men compared with those of the French Navy, the question of the guns which are promised, and provided for the Service, and to decide once and for all what is the minimum amount of money that ought to be voted annually in order to keep the British Navy in the position which it ought to occupy among the Navies of the world. I hope I have not trespassed too long upon the time of the House. I have now been for something like 10 years constantly engaged in bringing this question before Parliament. I have discussed it both in Parliament and out of Parliament almost alone. I have brought it forward on these Benches when there have been probably not more than four Members in the House. Notwithstanding, I have boldly asserted my view that when we see Foreign Navies coming close to ours it is necessary that there should be some exertion on our part to put an end to so dangerous a state of things. I have taken that course for many years, and I have undergone some indignity in consequence. I was first of all told by a right hon. Gentleman, when he was Secretary to the Admiralty, that we had the best guns in the world. I was told that the French ships were paper ships, and yet those ships have brought us here to-night to sanction a further expenditure of millions of money. Finally I was told, and among others by my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, that no Administration could possibly enter into a comparison between the English and French Navies, because 531 such a course would wound the susceptibilities of other countries. I have never, in all my life, entered into such minute comparisons between the Fleets of England and France as those which have been entered into this evening by the noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty (the Earl of Northbrook) in "another place," and by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty, who sits opposite to me. I do not care for all the slurs which have been cast upon mo for doing my duty. I will only say that to-night is to me a very satisfactory night in my Parliamentary career; and I only wish that instead of hearing the announcement which has been made on the part of the Government this evening that they will sanction a certain amount of expenditure in the course of next year, that the House, instead of having you, Sir, in the Chair, had been in Committee, with the Chairman of Committees in the Chair and the Mace under the Table, so that we might be asked to vote the sum of money which I honestly and conscientiously believe to be necessary for the protection of the interests and the honour of the Empire.
§ MR. PULESTON
said, he did not propose to occupy the time of the House at any length at that late hour of the night; but he wished to echo the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) who had just spoken, and to whom the country was so much indebted for the manner in which the question had been pressed forward. Whatever dissatisfaction the House might feel at finding the question deferred until the tail end of this extraordinary Session, and whatever exception the Government might take to some parts of the speech of the noble Lord, it must be admitted that the noble Lord had done good service in constantly pressing the question upon the attention of the House and upon the country. He (Mr. Puleston) had listened with deep attention to the interesting statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty, and to his enumeration of all the ships which were to be built and the money which was to be expended in order to strengthen the Navy. It would go forth to-morrow morning to the country through the newspapers that some £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 was to be appropriated right off for the Navy; but that would by no means be a correct 532 reading, because, as he understood the matter, out of that sum only a small portion was to be expended next year. Indeed, he was not at all clear that that portion would not be part of the ordinary Navy Estimates of the year. He, therefore, hoped that before the House adjourned that night that point would be made perfectly clear. It seemed to him quite possible that when they come together next spring and listened to the Navy Estimates, they would find that the ordinary Estimates for the Navy included all this newly considered extraordinary expenditure, and that out of a total sum of something like £ 10,500,000 or £10,750,000 only some £200,000 or £300,000 could be really regarded as an additional expenditure upon the Navy. As a matter of fact, the Government, in the meantime, would have an opportunity of reducing here and increasing there, so that, in point of fact, the actual additional expenditure would be scarcely intelligible. He wished to have a distinct explanation upon that point, because, as the matter now stood, the House was given to understand that above and beyond the ordinary Navy Expenditure for the next financial year there was to be an addition of £1,250,000 on account of special expenditure, including what the War Office had to provide. Perhaps the Government would tell him whether he was correct in that assumption? It was also desirable to know what amount of money they were going to spend between the present day and the 31st of March; because, as it had already been put by the noble Lord, if they expended anything at all, it would be absolutely without the authority of Parliament. He confessed that he did not understand the position of the matter, and he did not think the country would understand it. It must not be supposed that he mentioned this point in any captious spirit; but it was a point which ought to be made a little more clear than it was at present. Although he desired that the Lords of the Admiralty should have full credit for everything they had done, and he would be one of the first to give them that credit, he did not want the House to separate until there was a distinct understanding as to what the Department was to get credit for. He would also like to ask whether in giving so small a proportion of the work to the Royal Dockyards—so 533 small a proportion of the new work, and so large a proportion to private shipbuilding yards, the Government were acting upon the recommendations of the Departmental Committee? This Report was issued some time ago; but although he had had an opportunity of reading it, he was ashamed to say he had not yet done so. He understood, however, that its main conclusion was that the Royal Dockyards should practically be disestablished for all purposes connected with shipbuilding, and that they should be continued merely for the purpose of repairs. He looked forward to an opportunity for discussing that Report when the House came together in the ordinary way; but it would have been very desirable if they could have had that opportunity in advance of the discussion they had had that night. As they had not had it, it was necessary that he should call attention to a very important fact—namely, how far they were inaugurating a new policy of throwing on private shipbuilding yards a large amount of work which ought, at all events, to be done more cheaply and with more efficiency in Her Majesty's Dockyards. That was a very important consideration, and he hoped hon. Members would not think that his remarks were dictated by the fact that he happened to represent a Dockyard constituency. The House would know that, like his noble Friend the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), he had endeavoured for some years to advocate what his noble Friend had been advocating that night, and what Her Majesty's Government themselves had now come forward to recommend. He recollected that, in the last discussion upon the Naval Estimates in that House, his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) and his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) charged him and other Members, both personally and collectively, with having almost with indecent pressure, year after year, called for the expenditure of more money for the Royal Dockyards and the Navy. He was glad that these efforts had so far resulted in bringing the Government to the same point; and he hoped that, having now begun the work, the Government would continue it, and would also improve upon it. A great deal had been said that night, in the course of 534 the debate, which should lead the House to fall back upon the old question of the organization of the Admiralty. A great deal turned upon the present effective organization of the Admiralty. Nobody was responsible, and because the First Lord was not a Secretary of State with a seat in the House of Commons a great deal of misunderstanding was continually arising. His own opinion was that there would be a great deal more efficiency in the Department, a great deal better work done, and more systematic organization in connection with the First Lord and the other officials of the Board of Admiralty, if the Board were placed under the direct control of the House of Commons. Of course, he was not going to import any Party tinge into the debate; but he would ask what would be thought, in view of the tone previously assumed by Her Majesty's Government in connection with naval topics, if he were to read now extracts from the speeches of the First Lord of the Admiralty, delivered no later than last Session, and compare them with the statements which had been made that night by the Secretary to the Admiralty? If those who condemned the policy of the Admiralty were wrong last Session, the proposals now made to the House by the Admiralty itself must be very wild indeed. His own opinion was that the Admiralty were very wrong last year and in previous years, and that they were much more nearly right now. He congratulated them most heartily on the view they were now taking on the question; and he congratulated his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) on the fact that almost the whole of his excellent programme was now being carried out so far as it had been foreshadowed by him. He was glad to find that that programme was to be so closely followed. The speech of the Secretary to the Admiralty showed that the Government were spending less on the Navy now than they were spending on it 10 or 20 years ago, when they had nothing like a tenth part of the same coast line to defend, and when they were able to do with a much less powerful Navy than they required now. The commerce of the country was infinitely smaller than it was now, and fewer territories had been annexed. A great deal had been said about annexation, but he 535 noticed that even now, as in the case of New Guinea, the process of annexation was going on, notwithstanding the fact that the Government wore constantly denouncing the system. Although they denounced it one day they adopted it the next; and with every new annexation, whether it was New Guinea or any other territory, there was necessitated an increase of the means of defence. What he called upon them to do was to spend the money of the country now, in order to avoid the necessity of spending much larger sums hereafter. He thought there could be no greater fallacy than giving to private Dockyards a large amount of the work which the Royal Dockyards were able to do, and for this reason—that the more efficient they kept the Dockyards the more able they would be to rely on their own work, their own plant and plans, and their own people in a time of emergency. In the words of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) last Session, they ought to rely very strongly on the efficiency of the work done in the Dockyards, and he did not concur with the hon. Member in attributing inefficiency to the Dockyards. All he would say was that if the cost was greater in the Dockyards the fault must rest with the manner in which the Admiralty managed the Dockyards; and if the work was not done as efficiently in the Dockyards as could be done elsewhere, the fault must entirely lie at the door of the Board of Admiralty. He did not believe that the work would be done more efficiently or more cheaply in private yards than in the Royal Dockyards. There were many other points he should like to touch upon; but he would not occupy the time of the House at that hour of the night. He would, however, remark that when they were discussing a question of expense and urging economy, they could still afford to spend at the present moment £1,500,000 upon new Admiralty buildings. Surely that expenditure might be spared, and there were many savings of that kind which might be effected rather than curtail the expenditure which was absolutely necessary to obtain the efficiency of the Navy. In previous discussions a comparison between the English Fleet and the French Fleet had strongly been deprecated by the Government; but, on the present occasion, the Secretary to the 536 Admiralty had taken the opportunity of speaking his mind very freely upon that subject. Indeed, every Member who had spoken upon the Treasury Bench had entered into a similar comparison, and it was the text of every speech delivered by every hon. Member who had taken part in the debate. No doubt when they came to consider the actual figures they were startling. He trusted that the discussion which had taken place that night would not be lost upon the House, or upon the country, or upon Her Majesty's Government; and he would only express a hope that the Secretary to the Admiralty or the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give them the A B C of what the Government proposed to do—in the first place, whether they proposed to spend money without the authority of Parliament; whether they proposed not to spend any at all until the 31st of March next; how much of the expenditure which had been foreshadowed was to be considered part of the ordinary Naval Estimates of the year; how much was to be considered an addition of the ordinary Navy Estimates of the year; and whether the ordinary Navy Estimates were to be kept entirely independent of the statement which had been made that night?
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he understood that it was proposed to spend a sum of £3,085,000 upon the Navy, in addition to the ordinary expenditure estimated in the Estimates for the coming year; that this expenditure was to be spread over a series of years; that it was to he used for the purpose of building some 30 vessels of different classes; that 24 of these vessels were to be built in private Dockyards by tender; and that the remaining six were to be built in the Naval Yards belonging to the State. He wished to ask, in regard to the distribution of the tenders amongst the private Dockyards, whether care would be taken to insure that the Dockyards in Ireland would get a fair proportion of this expenditure? He understood that, with the exception of one eminent firm, that of Messrs. Harland and Wolff, of Belfast, there was no other Irish firm of shipbuilders on the Admiralty list for tenders, and that, consequently, the other firms of shipbuilders in Ireland, some of whom were capable of tendering for the smaller class of vessels, such as the torpedo boats mentioned in the State- 537 ment of the Secretary to the Admiralty, were, practically speaking, shut out from competition. So far as Messrs. Harland and Wolff were concerned, they had not, though on the Admiralty list for tenders, been fairly treated, or received their share of the Admiralty work in the past. Now, he knew very well that this was not especially the fault of the Admiralty or of the Government. One never got anything in this world without asking for it; and it so happened that the English shipbuilders were nearer the centre of power, and had been able, thus, to represent their claims more actively and effectively than the Irish, and hence it had happened that the Admiralty had not distributed their work in a fair proportion in Ireland. He wished to say that Messrs. Harland and Wolff, the Belfast firm to which he had alluded, were perfectly capable of contracting for the class of vessels called "modified scouts," and also for torpedoes. There were, he understood, to be nine of the former and 10 of the latter built by tender in private docks, and the firm of Harland and Wolff were perfectly capable of executing orders for these two classes of vessels, although, perhaps, they might not be able to contract for the heavier class of vessels. He would also remind the House of the fact that there was a firm at Cork known as the Passage Docks Company. He did not suppose that it had ever attracted the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty; but it was capable of doing good work. No doubt the work of the Company had hitherto been upon a comparatively small scale; but they had employed until recently, when the Admiralty work was taken from them, 400 men. Of course, as compared with some of the establishments in England, this was only on a very small scale; but he was told that the firm managed by Messrs. Brown and Craig was capable of tendering for the smaller class of Admiralty work, and there ought to be no difficulty in their being able to lay down the lines of a torpedo boat. The question of the engines and machinery for the torpedo boats did not enter into the calculation, that being, he presumed, a speciality. This firm had been specially badly treated. As he had said, the Admiralty work had recently been taken away from them, when they were perfectly capable of executing a vast deal 538 of the work which was taken elsewhere by the Government. Repairs of vessels damaged on the Irish coast, for instance, had recently been effected in England, instead of being done at Cork. Work for the Haulbowline Docks had recently been constructed in England, instead of being given to the Passage Docks Company. There was, he understood, altogether, just £4,000,000 to be spent on the contemplated work of the Admiralty; and he put it to the Government whether it was not fair and reasonable that the firm of Harland and Wolff, and the Cork firm he had alluded to, should, with any others that were equally capable, be afforded the opportunity of doing some of it? He thought they were entitled to a fair share of the expenditure in Ireland, and that some pains should be taken by the Admiralty to seek out a class of work which a modest engineering and shipbuilding company, such as the Passage Docks Company, would be capable of executing. Care should be also taken to extend, fair play in this matter to the very able and energetic firm of shipbuilders known as Harland and Wolff, who were the builders of the White Star Line of packet ships, and were able to build clippers and first-class steamers with any firm in the world. A fair proportion was all he asked for. If he were to argue on the basis of the contribution which Ireland made to the Imperial Exchequer—a contribution of £12,000,000, or one-tenth of the total Imperial Revenue, Ireland would claim that of the £4,000,000 about to be expended £400,000 ought to be spent in that country. No doubt the Admiralty would say that large shipbuilding establishments were not numerous in Ireland, and that the Irish yards were not able to deal with the larger class of work; but that was no reason why they should not have their fair share of the rest of the work. He trusted that the Board of Admiralty would take a little pains, and evince some desire to encourage and promote the manufacturing industry of Ireland, by giving them such work as their establishments were capable of executing.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, that up to that point the discussion had been carried on by official and professional Members, with the exception of his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir 539 Wilfrid Lawson), and his hon. Friend the Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie). He (Mr. Illingworth) was not for one moment going to deny that the Government had been scared, and that it was almost impossible for any Administration to withstand the pressure which periodically came upon it. It was tainly to the credit of this Administration that on several occasions they had heroically contended against a spirit which was now prevalent in the country. Instead of extending war and complicating matters further they got them out of a great difficulty in Afghanistan, and they also endeavoured to do so in the Transvaal. But he began to despair that any Administration would be the means of elevating the public sentiment in this country, or in Europe at large. All Administrations seemed, sooner or later, to become the mere instruments and victims of the war spirit, and of the madness which periodically came over their own and other nations. The noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox), who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench a short time ago, begged that they might be told seriously and in a business-like way what annual expenditure ought to be incurred by the Admiralty in order to keep them in their proper position in Europe, and at the head of other nations in their fighting naval strength. He (Mr. Illingworth) never heard before such a suggestion come from the mouth of a rational being. They set out with the very modest assumption that their Navy was to be double, at any rate, to the strength of the Navy of France; and most Members did not hesitate to say it should be equal to the united Navies of the world. That might be necessary; but if it was necessary he confessed that the people of this country had before them a most miserable prospect. They said they would be content, and they wished Europe to be content, that their Navy should be equal to the united Navies of Europe. France had declined to regulate her own position by the standard set up for ourselves; and we were given to understand that while we had imagined our Navy was at full fighting strength France had gone on extending and increasing, until now we found ourselves scarcely stronger than a single Navy. He asked himself the question, and he thought the taxpayers of England might fairly ask themselves 540 the question—and they must not leave the answer to any Administration, however good their intentions might be, or however loud their professions of economy might be—was there no hope for them than continuing this mad rivalry as between their armaments and those of other countries? If there was no hope for them other than that, he saw no limit to the demands which the Chancellor of the Exchequer might make upon them. The noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) had said this was an abnormal Session, and this was an abnormal time of the year, to consider such a question as that which was engaging the attention of the House. At the close of the last Session of Parliament they were assured by the Prime Minister that, so far as the Government was concerned, they would seek to limit themselves, during the Autumn Sitting which they then contemplated, to the great work of extending the political rights of the people of this country. But already the House had been called upon to incur large expenditure in connection with the Expeditions to Egypt and South Africa; and, for his part, he thought it would have been better and more in harmony with the professions of the present Government if, in this instance, they had gone manfully into the question of Ways and Means. It would have been much better if, instead of indulging them to an increase of 1d. on the Income Tax, with the certainty of another increase, they had made a proposal to put 3d. or 4d. on the Income Tax, and really secured the Ways and Means for meeting the extraordinary expenditure they intended to incur. But he was in hope that in that House and in this country—placed as they were in an infinitely better position for an effort of the kind than any other nation of Europe—a cry would soon be raised to the people of Europe to see if they could not get their Rulers to control and check in some degree this Expenditure, which was ever on the increase, and which was bearing down the masses of the people. He confessed he was often depressed at the hot and cold moods in which he found the House. At times there was a begging and praying for a trifling relief on the part of the most important interest of the country—he referred to the agricultural interest. He remembered that at a time when agricultural 541 depression had by no means reached its present condition, an influential Member sitting on the Opposition side of the House pleaded for a grant from the Imperial Exchequer, a temporary and immediate grant of £100,000, asserting that that would be a real and substantial relief to the agricultural interest. If such be the case, if the distress was so deep and so general, if it was not confined to the agricultural, but affected, more or less, all the interests of the country, he (Mr. Illingworth) confessed his regret that the Government had found themselves obliged to bow to the warlike spirit, and to come to Parliament at that moment for such an enormous expenditure as was now projected. Besides, no Member of the Administration could rise in the House and honestly say that when they had incurred that expenditure the country would be in any stronger position than it was in at that moment. Did anyone believe that 'when it was known in Europe that they had undertaken this expenditure there would be no stimulus given to the spending capacities of France, and of Germany, and of Russia, and of Italy, and of the other Powers? Why, this rivalry had no limits and no ending; it had no termination except in the impoverishment of all the toiling taxpayers of the civilized world. Apparently their own country was to be no exception to the general misfortune and misery. He knew that that was an inopportune moment for detaining the House, and he apologized for having said so much; but he confessed that he earnestly hoped that when next year they were called upon to find the Ways and Means to meet this increased expenditure, there would be other and more powerful voices than his own holding out to the overburdened taxpayers of this country some hope that something would be done to reach the people of Europe; because of one thing he was convinced, and that was, that not only in this country, but in France and Germany, and other countries, nine out of every ten people were seriously concerned at the direction in which things were going as indicated by this proposed outlay. He admitted he was almost like one crying in the wilderness, for there seemed to have been nothing but glorification all round. It had given him, a Member of the Liberal Party—loyal to every principle it held, and loyal to the 542 Administration in every good work it engaged in—anything but satisfaction to bear the present proposals of the Government. Not only on that occasion, but on many occasions connected with their military policy and expenditure, he had received a shock which he could scarcely describe to the House.
MR. A. F. EGERTON
said, he did not wish to detain the House at any length at that hour (12.30) of the night. With regard to the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), he would only point out that, compared with the resources of the country and with the vastly increased quantity of their trade all over the world, he did not think any patriotic Englishman would consider that the sums that were required by the Admiralty were excessive. With a trade all over the world amounting to an annual turnover of £900,000,000 sterling, what could they do, in the face of the enormous armaments of other nations—what could they do, except endeavour to protect themselves in the best way they could? He would not attempt to answer the observations of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Illingworth) any further; but there were a few remarks he desired to make upon the course of the debate. In the first place, he ought to say that he did not wish to start in the debate any controversial topic. He was rather struck with the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan), who said there was no change in the policy of the Government—that the policy of expansion had not changed its programme. He (Mr. Egerton) did not cavil at that expression, although one might argue that a policy which came down with a demand for £5,000,000 spread over a considerable number of years was rather a startling expansion of the original programme. But whether it be an expansion of the original programme or not, the fault he found with the whole scheme of the Government was that they had no security at that moment that any part of the suggested programme would be carried out. At that moment they were asked for nothing. No hint had been given to them that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would shortly ask for any Ways and Means to carry out any part of this pro- 543 gramme. They were entirely dependent upon what might take place next year, and what might take place in an entirely new Parliament which, would meet in 1886. So far as the Admiralty could be bound, there was no doubt they were bound, as he took it, to the demand for £800,000 for shipbuilding in 1885–6, and also to a demanding of £800,000 for the defences of their coaling stations, or £1,600,000 in all. £825,000 was the total for the defence of their coaling stations, of which they would ask for £400,000 next year. £400,000, he believed, would also be asked for next year for naval ordnance. £1,600,000, therefore, was the total amount to which the Admiralty could be bound until the Dissolution came. It was quite impossible to say what view the next Parliament would take of the responsibilities which the Admiralty said they were about to incur. That was not a very satisfactory state of things. He should have preferred that the Admiralty should have come down and honestly stated that they required, within the next four or five months, a certain sum, and a certain further sum in 1885–6. But they had chosen to take another course, and the House must, of course, bow to their decision. The programme which they had set forth was, in his humble opinion, on the whole, a very satisfactory one. It concurred very much in its details with the views which were entertained by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed); and, on the whole, he (Mr. Egerton) thought the House would agree that it was a very satisfactory programme. He should like to say one word as to the observations which fell from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff upon the question of armoured ships. Now, that had always been a very moot point between the Director of Naval Construction and the hon. Gentleman (Sir Edward J. Reed). He (Mr. Egerton) did not wish to enter at length into that controversy; it was too heavy a subject to start upon at half-past 12 o'clock at night; but he should like to point out to the House that, in spite of the observations of the hon. Gentleman (Sir Edward J. Reed), there was a good deal to be said in favour of the unarmoured ends of ships. That type of ship was decided upon, if he was rightly informed, before he (Mr. Egerton) or his right hon. 544 Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) had anything to do with the Admiralty. It was decided on upon the recommendation of a Commission or Committee, he was not sure which it was. He believed that type of ship was not entirely an emanation from the brain of the Director of Naval Construction; but it was approved at the time it was decided on not only by the Director of Naval Construction, but by a considerable number of naval officers. It was perfectly true that naval officers had recently condemned that type of ship. There was no doubt about it, because they uttered their opinion very freely at a meeting which had been referred to by the hon. Member; but, quot homines, tot sententiœ. He was not afraid to say that if naval officers were canvassed, a considerable number of them would be found of opinion that the type of the Inflexible was not a bad type of a fighting ship. Whether that was so or not, he thought—though he did not wish to quote himself as an authority—that it was very desirable that the ships which were now to be built should be armoured all through. If it was a mistake at all, it certainly was a mistake in the right direction. He was perfectly satisfied with the programme of the Admiralty in that respect. Now, there was another point on which he should like to say a word or two, and that was the vexed question of guns provided by the War Office for the Admiralty. That had always been a point of the very greatest difficulty. He confessed that his own opinion had always been that if it was practicable, which was rather doubtful, the Admiralty should be empowered to get their own guns. He was not sure whether that would turn out to be practicable; but, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, he thought there would be very considerable advantages in it, because it would get rid of all the existing friction between the Navy and the Army. As an instance of that friction, he might quote what occurred during the Conservatives' tenure of Office. What was the case when the Nordenfelt gun was invented and brought before the notice of the English public? The Admiralty were very anxious to obtain that gun, and at length, after experiencing the greatest difficulty, they did obtain it. He was bound to confess that the Ordnance Office of that date threw very consider- 545 able obstacles in the way of the Admiralty obtaining guns of that pattern, the fact being that the Ordnance Department of the War Office had in stock a very considerable number of Gatlings, and they did not like them superseded by an entirely new type of gun. No one in the Ordnance Department denied that the Nordenfelt was superior to the Gatling; but as there were so many Gatlings in stock, he supposed the Ordnance Office thought the Admiralty ought to take them. He only quoted that as an instance of the friction which went on occasionally between the two Departments. He passed from that point to that of the strength of the Navy. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) had said it was an almost endless expenditure—that if they were going to make their Navy double that of France, and equal to the combined Navies of the world, other Powers would, of course, embark upon an unknown and a limitless expenditure. He (Mr. Egerton) did not think there was any chance of any such thing. He believed that if they made their Navy practically equal to any combination of two great Naval Powers they would have done quite enough, and that was, in his opinion, broadly what any Board of Admiralty should aim at. When he was oat of Office he took some pains to ascertain what kind of force would be necessary on a sudden outbreak of war with any great Naval Power. He would not go at any length into the figures he drew up; but, briefly, it appeared to him that at a sudden outbreak of war they ought to have the power of immediately placing in commission, fit for sea and ready to go anywhere, 37 iron-clads, of which 30, at least, should be of the first class, and, besides that number, they ought to have 12 or 14 in reserve, in order to replace ships that might be injured. That was a much larger number than they could by any means provide at that moment. He hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty (the Earl of Northbrook) and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey) would work up to that point. He had no doubt the Admiralty had, in its own mind, an idea of what force would be necessary in case of an outbreak of war; but he feared that they trusted too much to the superiority of English iron-clads, and to the superiority of English work- 546 men to enable them to repair damages at a much greater rate than any Foreign Power could repair damages. Besides those iron-clads, he made out that they should have at least 66 patrol vessels of various kinds for the protection of their trade. He believed that if a war were to break out they would find that convoys were quite impossible, and that the only mode of protecting their trade would be by establishing, as far as they could, a system of patrolling their great ocean routes. In their last naval war of any importance their frigates were scarcely ever out of sight of one another, and he believed they would have to adopt some plan of the same kind in the case of any future war. With a foreign trade of £900,000,000 sterling, he need not say that the burden thrown on the Navy in case of war would be very excessive.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), to which he had listened with some surprise, was remarkably characteristic of the hon. Gentleman, for it showed that natural hostility to the strength and influence of his country which they always perceived and expected to find in the hon. Gentleman's speeches. The hon. Gentleman spoke of a cry which he hoped would soon go up from the people against the expenditure, which he termed extravagant, on the Naval and Military Services of the country. Another cry of a different kind might go up if the naval strength of England were neglected. Was the hon. Member for Bradford not aware that the 35,000,000 of people who inhabited this country were dependent on foreign countries for half their supplies? If they were to lose for good the command of the sea the Powers which dominated over it would, in the event of a struggle with them, simply have to blockade the coast, cut off their merchantmen, and need then only await the inevitable result. They would be able to obtain from England any terms they chose to demand. In three or four months an iron girdle of starvation would environ the land, and a cry of despair would go up from millions for their daily bread. France, 14 years ago, paid £200,000,000 and two Provinces to Germany as the price of defeat; but did anyone think that if some Foreign Power wrested the command over the sea from us, they would be content with demand- 547 ing £200,000,000 or even £500,000,000? They might demand half our Empire; they might impose a fine which would, practically, reduce the nation to beggary. Then, doubtless, a cry very different to that the hon. Member had referred to would go up from the people of England against the hon. Member and his class, and against the Ministers who had so culpably neglected the most vital interests of the country. The Statement the House had heard that night was, to a certain extent, satisfactory. It showed that the Government were waking up to at least some realization of the deficiency of the British Navy. As the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) had told them a short time ago, it was practically a condemnation of the Government by themselves for their neglect of the Navy during the past four or five years. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan) had endeavoured to make some reply to that Statement. He had set his argument in a cloud of language, and accompanied it with very misleading facts. But the facts the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) had put before the House were irrefutable, and the conclusions he had arrived at were irresistible. France had of late been making great exertions to increase her naval strength, and had been building at a rate which rendered it absolutely incumbent on England to increase her naval expenditure likewise. England depended for her very existence as a nation upon her commerce and the greatness of her Empire. So insufficient was our naval strength for its protection that, although France could with ease concentrate her naval strength at Cherbourg or Toulon without risking any great national interests, England could not concentrate her naval power at an English port, with her present naval resources, without leaving her great commerce and Colonies undefended. He was very glad to hear that the Government had determined upon the building of a number of fast cruisers. He took it that upon the question of these slightly armed cruisers of great speed, and the fortification of their coaling stations, depended the safety of their commerce—that those were the keys of the position. He regretted that the new cruisers were only to roach a speed of 17 knots. No doubt, that was great speed, but, compared 548 with several existing war ships—the Esmeralda, for instance—it was far from sufficient. The Esmeralda had a speed of 18 knots, and would, therefore, be able to run away from the proposed new cruisers in any part of the world. It was satisfactory to find that there was now some prospect of a little money being spent upon their coaling stations, which had been so long neglected. The Government must remember that, although the subject had been considered by a very able Commission, and that that Commission had reported two years ago, nothing had been done by the Ministry to carry out that Report, beyond the sending of a gun or two to Hong Kong. The Government had not hesitated to spend £10,000,000 in Egypt, and it was spending a large sum in Bechuanaland. It had succeeded in spending, on an average, £6,000,000 more per annum than its Predecessor. He did not think the hon. Members who called themselves supporters of that Government should grudge this small amount of £5,500,000 which was to be spent on the Navy. He had to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for giving him the opportunity of saying these few words. In conclusion, he would express a hope that no Members of the House would ever fail to remember that the Navy was the main bulwark of their Imperial strength and security, the source of their national prosperity, and the palladium of their liberties.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
At this late hour of the night (1 A.M.), I should, perhaps, be justified in only addressing the House for a very few minutes; but I feel that it is my duty to answer the questions which have been put to me, and also that I am bound to address a few remarks to the House on this subject, as I have had the honour to hold both the Offices which will be responsible for the expenditure we are now discussing—namely, the Office of First Lord of the Admiralty and that of Secretary of State for War. I have a special claim to address the House, because, when First Lord of the Admiralty, I laid down, with the concurrence of my Colleagues in the Cabinet and at the Board of Admiralty, what appeared to me to be a sound rule as to the future annual amount of building of armoured and un- 549 armoured ships. My noble Friend the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) has been good enough to allude to the concurrence of sentiment between him and me on this particular matter. I do agree with him in many of the points he has brought before the House to-night, and on previous occasions; and it is satisfactory to me to find that the sympathy and agreement which sprang up between us in 1869 have endured up to the present time. But, before I speak on certain points connected with the main question upon which I have been interrogated, I would say a word about two incidental matters which were alluded to a few minutes ago by two hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) has asked me whether the Board of Admiralty, in accepting this large sum of money for building contract ships, would have regard to the possibility and reasonableness of expending part of the money in the shape of contracts with shipbuilders in Ireland. On that point I cannot speak with personal knowledge; but the rule which existed in my time—and which, I believe, still exists—was that shipbuilders, in whatever part of the United Kingdom they carried on their business, applied to the Board of Admiralty to be placed on the Admiralty lists of contractors to whom forms of tender might be sent according to certain categories. When such an application was made, an Inspector was sent down to examine their works and see for what class of business they were fitted. According to the Reports of the Inspectors, the builders were put upon the Admiralty lists, and then, according to the category in which the proposed work was, they were invited to tender. I am told by the Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey) that the old rule still exists. Irish builders, therefore, who are not on the lists, ought to apply at once for an Inspector to go down to examine their premises, and get them put on the Admiralty list for the class of work for which they are suitable; they will then be invited to tender. The particular firm to which the hon. Member referred the Passage Shipbuilding Company used to do a certain amount of repairs to ships requiring it on the Irish Coast. I am told they have not been removed from the Admiralty list, and that quite lately they have been asked to send in a 550 tender. It only depends upon themselves, therefore, whether or not they obtain Admiralty work for which their works are suited. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) asked me whether what he described as "an open secret" was a fact—namely, that at the beginning of the present year the Board of Admiralty applied to the Treasury for permission to spend £500,000 upon the Navy, and that that permission had been refused. I heard some months ago that the statement had been made, and tried to ascertain from whence it had sprung, but I could not connect it with any particular person. I certainly had no idea that it had been made in Parliament. I then made most careful inquiries at the Board of Admiralty and the Treasury Board, and I was told that the story was a myth from beginning to end. No such application was ever made, and, therefore, no such application could have been refused. The whole thing, as I say, is a myth. But, as the hon. and learned Member must know, that is not the way in which the expenditure of large sums is settled by any Government. No doubt, small charges are settled by correspondence between the two Departments; but all questions affecting large sums are settled by the Cabinet, of which the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War are Members, and, when approved, are afterwards discussed in detail, where details are involved, between the Board of Admiralty and the Treasury Board. I am glad to have this opportunity of telling the House that there is no foundation of any kind for the rumour or "open secret" to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred. And now to revert to the general question. I have been asked more than once to explain again the financial effect of the present proposal. Clearly, as my hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Brassey) stated it, I think it has not been understood in every quarter of the House. It is this. It is proposed to add to the regular expenditure what may be called the normal expenditure on shipbuilding £3,100,000 in the next five years. Of this, £800,000 will come in course of payment and must be provided for in the Estimates of the year 1885–6 in addition to the normal Estimate. The Estimate for shipbuilding of the following financial year will also show an increase of £800,000. 551 During the remaining three of the five years an addition will be made of £500,000 a-year. That is the first proposal. The second proposal is, that there should be added to the expenditure on guns for the Navy—the charge for which appears in the Estimates of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War—the sum of £1,600,000 spread over five years; and out of that £1,600,000, in the first year, 1885–6, provision will be made for £400,000 in excess of the expenditure of the present year, 1884–5, for the same purpose. It is also proposed that a sum of £825,000 should be expended out of the Imperial Treasury during those five years on the defence and armament of our coaling stations beyond what is contributed by India and the Colonies. My hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty went on to say that, in addition to that expenditure, Her Majesty's Government would consider before the commencement of next Session, and communicate to Parliament, what ought to be done with reference to the defence of our commercial harbours and the completion of the armament of our military ports, and that on the decision of what was to be done in these respects would depend the further increase which it may be necessary to make in the Naval and Military Estimates of next year and the following years. On this question we have nothing more to say at the present time. Besides these arrangements for 1885–6 and subsequent years, the Admiralty will expedite armoured shipbuilding in the Dockyards, postponing to it other and less urgent work; and this would commence without a day's delay. I hope I have now made it clear what the proposal is that we have made to-night. I should like, with the permission of the House, to reply also to the suggestions which have been made that in this matter we have been actuated by some sudden panic, and that the Admiralty and the War Office, which are concerned in this expenditure, have not brought it before Her Majesty's Government as a matter deserving consideration on its own merits. Let me remind the House how we stand with respect to the expenditure of this country and foreign countries on shipbuilding in years past and now. I hope I shall not be thought egotistical if I go back to the year 1869–70, when I was myself First Lord of the Admiralty, and 552 when we determined what, in our opinion, ought to be the rule as to the tonnage of ships built from year to year. We laid down the rule that the number of tons of shipbuilding in each year ought to be about 12,000 armoured and 7,500 unarmoured, or, in all, from 19,000 to 20,000; and I find now, from the accurate accounts we have got of the actual tonnage built by this country and by Foreign Governments, that in that year—1869–70—the expenditure of this country on shipbuilding was £1,330,000, whereas in France it was £412,000. In the following year the proportion was about the same. Our knowledge of this was one of the reasons which weighed with us in fixing the amount of tonnage to be built in each year. Again, in 1874, it fell to my lot—after we had ceased to hold Office, but when a very important naval debate, in which the sufficiency of the English Navy was strongly contested, was taking place—to again make very careful inquiries as to the relative amounts of shipbuilding going on in this country and abroad, and I found that at that time the amount being spent on shipbuilding by the Government of this country was more than double that which was being similarly spent by France for the French Navy. At that time the expenditure on the Italian Navy and the Russian Navy was small, and the increase of the German Navy was not of much importance. I spoke to this effect, giving full detail, in April, 1874, and the figures of my speech were accepted both hero and abroad. Now what followed? On the part of the French Admiralty there was a considerable advance in shipbuilding, and from 1875 to 1880 no corresponding advance on our part; and I find that in 1879 the English expenditure on shipbuilding was £1,350,000, whilst the French expenditure was £1,585,000. When we came into Office in 1880 we at once began to increase very largely the amount of armoured shipbuilding, and our expenditure on additions to the Fleet rose to £1,900,000 a-year, at which it stands now, while the French expenditure has remained almost constant, having been £1,505,000 in that year and in the present year £1,511,000. If hon. Members have carefully followed these figures, they will see that what we now propose is carrying to a certain degree further the policy we always felt 553 ourselves bound to adopt—namely, to increase our expenditure on shipbuilding to the point at which we decided that it should be brought in 1879. When we take guns also into consideration, the figures are still stronger. In 1879–80 and 1880–1 we were spending on ships and guns about £100,000 a-year less than the French, whereas at the present time we are spending £2,690,000, as against £2,160,000 spent by the French. Therefore, if the House has followed my figures, it will be evident how constant our efforts have been, since we took Office, to make up lee way in shipbuilding and gunmaking; and our proposals now are strictly in harmony with that policy—namely, to increase the expenditure in building ships by contract, so as to place our Navy in the relative position with regard to those of other Powers in which it stood 10 years ago. That is the whole case; and much as I regret, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, to have to ask Parliament to find the money next year which we propose to expend in excess of the normal Estimates, I believe we are doing right, and that even my Friends below the Gangway will, I hope, on carefully thinking over the figures I have explained, be less disposed to attach blame to us than they seemed tonight. I have only one or two words more to add upon points in reference to which I have been asked questions. My noble Friend opposite (Lord Henry Lennox) asked me whether I could undertake to do anything to improve the administration of the Dockyards. I cannot concur with him that the gentlemen at the head of the Construction and Dockyard Departments of the Admiralty are at all deficient in ability or in the success of the work they have taken in hand. The administration of the Dockyards has been a very sore subject to many who have had to deal with it. I am not the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I have no wish to burn my fingers with what does not directly concern me; but I believe great reforms have been made in the last few years, both by the late and present Boards of Admiralty, in improving the administration of the Dockyards. I have been asked by a noble Lord who is not now in his place—the Member for West Kent (Viscount Lewisham)—whether the Government have suffi- 554 ciently considered the force which will be necessary to man our coaling stations under the now plan of defence. No subject, I believe, has received more attention. It has been most fully considered by the Secretary of State for War, and the exact number of men required when each station is properly armed has been settled. I can assure the noble Viscount that he need be under no anxiety upon this point. I have also been asked a question by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) as to the diminution in the number of our seamen. I have looked at the Returns, and I find that, after no change for a long series of years, the first reduction was made in the year 1868–9, at a time when the right hon. Gentleman was himself in Office. Therefore, I think the question the right hon. Gentleman has put to me is one which he ought to have asked of himself.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I referred to the reduction of 2,000 which has been made within the last two years.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
I thought the right hon. Gentleman referred to the reduction generally.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
At any rate, the first blow was struck by the right hon. Gentleman himself. I am afraid to trouble the House at this late hour with further remarks upon points of detail; but perhaps the House will allow me to conclude by laying down what, in my judgment, ought to be the outcome of this debate in regard to the principles which ought to guide the Government in regard to shipbuilding. I repeat what I more than once said in 1869, when I was responsible for the administration of the Board of Admiralty. The first principle or canon would be to build a steady amount of tonnage of each class, varying as little as you can from year to year, and so avoiding those disastrous fluctuations which destroy both economy and efficiency in administration. The second is, when there is a doubt about patching up or selling a vessel, give the turn to selling her, and, instead of patching her up, build a new ship. The third is, when you have settled the plans of a ship, whether she is to be built in a Dockyard 555 or in a private yard, build her straight off and leave improvements for the next ship. It requires, I admit, a little nerve to resist the pressure of scientific improvers, but I am convinced that this course is the best. The fourth principle is one which, I think, will not be quite approved by the Members for Dockyard towns—namely, while building ships of new and experimental types at the Government Yards, to go as far as possible in putting into the hands of private builders contracts for ships of old and well-recognized types. By going in that way to private builders, you will encourage them to keep up their establishments, which will always be capable of expansion on an emergency, while the Dockyards should be kept at as even a strength as possible from year to year. I am much obliged to hon. Members for the patience with which they have listened to my remarks at so late an hour.
§ Question put, and agreed to.