§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to authorize (a) the expenditure of a sum not exceeding £21,500,000, for the purpose of building, arming, equipping, and completing for sea vessels for Her Majesty's Navy; of this expenditure a sum not exceeding £10,000,000 to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund in the seven years ending on the 31st day of March 1896; and a sum not exceeding £11,500,000, to be issued out of moneys provided by Parliament for Naval Services during the five financial years ending on the 31st day of March 1894."—(Lord George Hamilton.)
§ *MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I rise for the purpose of moving the Amendment of which I have given notice, and I cannot help expressing my regret that this important duty should have been left to be discharged by such 774 a very humble Member of the House. Some of us had a right to expect that this very important proposal of Her Majesty's Government would have been met by sturdy opposition from above the Gangway on this side of the House. I cannot help expressing my deep regret that the Leaders of the Opposition have, as I conceive, neglected their duty towards the people of this country. On three grounds this proposal might very fairly be opposed—That no proof has been afforded to the country that any further expenditure is needed in this direction; that the country is afforded no guarantee that if this money is voted it will not be jobbed away and wasted as previous sums have been; and the third objection is the unconstitutional character of the proposal that has been submittted by Her Majesty's Government. On the last point, I do not presume to be capable of addressing the Committee. But that aspect of the subject will, I hope, be dealt with by some of our friends above the Gangway. Nor shall I ask the Committee to listen to any references from me to the second ground of opposition—namely, the waste and jobbery that takes place in Government Departments, and the manner in which large sums have been grossly misapplied, instead of being used as the House and the country intended they should be. I will confine myself to the absence of any necessity being shown for this expenditure. Let me briefly trace the growth of expenditure upon the Services for the last 30 or 40 years. Up to 1854, and for 40 years previous to that date, the expenditure upon the Army and Navy averaged something like £15,000,000 annually. Then we were, unfortunately, afflicted with the Crimean War, and I cannot help thinking that the statesmen who were responsible for having dragged this country into that terrible war incurred very heavy responsibility, not merely on account of the immediate cost, but for the terrible financial burdens which it has since entailed on this country. For 40 years previous to that war the expenditure on the Services was 15 millions annually, but in 1856 the expenditure went up from 15 millions to 52 millions, and, unfortunately, a great part of it remained. The expenditure never returned to what I would describe as its 775 normal condition. The result of that war was to make a permanent addition to the expenditure on the Services of 12 millions a-year, so that for 32 years, which is the period that has elapsed since the Crimean War, we have been paying 12 millions a-year more on the Army and Navy, and if we add those amounts together we have a round sum of 384 millions. But beside that, the war cost, I believe nearly 100 millions; consequently, the total expenditure incurred through that war amounts to 484 millions of money. And still the military and naval cormorants are not satisfied. Year by year they come down to the House, and I have heard the same words set to the same tune and from the same people three or four years in succession, with scarcely any variation in the remarks which they have addressed to the House whenever the Estimates have been under consideration. Last week the Government undertook to give another sop to Cerberus, and the House voted £600,000 as an addition to the expenditure on the Army, although the expenditure last year upon the two Services amounted to £30,492,533. Now we are asked to vote £21,000,000 more to be expended on the Navy. In 1874 the sum expended on the Navy was £10,063,351. In 1888 the sum expended was £12,325,357, or an increase during that interval of £2,262,006. The House has been profusely liberal in granting all the Supplies demanded by the Government for the fighting forces of the country. Last year, at the bidding of the Government, we voted £850,000 for fortifying our Australian Colonies, though nobody knew until Her Majesty's Government discovered it, that there was any danger to be apprehended in that quarter, but they told us there was a danger, and the faithful Commons voted the sum asked for. Then they came down a few weeks afterwards and asked for £2,600,000 more to fortify our coaling stations, and that sum also was granted. Then there was the £[...]00,000 to which I have referred voted last week, and now, in addition, we are asked to vote 21 millions more for the purpose of placing the country in a state of complete defence. If, therefore, the sum now asked is granted the Government will within one year have committed the 776 country to an increased expenditure upon the Army, the Navy, and Fortifications of £25,050,000. The Vote, I have little doubt, will be obtained; but if I felt absolutely certain of it I should still think it my duty to register a solemn protest against it. It matters to me very little whether the majority supporting Her Majesty's Government is 50 or 500, as I conceive it my duty, in the interest of the toiling millions of the country, to register my protest against this expenditure. If hon. Members opposite, and those who sit on this side and so readily acquiesce in the proposals of Her Majesty's Government to waste the resources of the country in this fashion, had to work for the money instead of spending it, I think they would approach the consideration of these demands in a very different spirit than they do now, and we should very likely find them with us in the Lobby protesting against this shameful waste of the nation's resources. No doubt the Government are hard up for a good cry. I do not say they have raised this scare to throw dust in the eyes of the people, as has been done in former times, so as to divert attention from domestic, social, and political reforms, although I notice that we have not had the cry of Imperial interests-being jeopardized and the country being in danger trotted out on this occasion, I presume that is because those who have raised this scare have come to the conclusion that the cry has lost its force, and that the people are beginning to see through the fallacy of being frightened and led away by it. But another cry has been invented—I suppose it is considered a better cry—the demand is made, they say, to prevent danger to the food supplies of this country. The other day, last year, and the year before, when similar questions were being considered, hon. Members opposite posed, as they are now posing, as the champions of the best interests of the people, as so very regardful of the material wants of the nation and so fearful that the food supplies will be interfered with, that they ask for 21 millions to prevent somebody from stealing the food of the people in its transit across the ocean. This new-born zeal has to me a very suspicious appearance, especially as the Party opposite in the past did their best not to let in, but to keep out the 777 food of the people and make it dear. That is so, if I have read the history of our country aright, and I know something from bitter personal experience in my young days how dear food was through the legislation of the Party opposite, and it is rather too late in the day for that Party, some of whom even now, if we may judge from speeches to their constituents, are hungering and thirsting for the opportunity of taxing the food of the people, to pose as their champions. They do not come forward boldly with their proposals, because they know the people would not stand them, and they are restrained by their wiser leaders. I attach little importance, then, to the statement that this money is to be expended to insure a proper and cheap supply of food for the people. I do not know that, when this subject has been debated, any representatives of large shipowning interests have regarded this proposal as absolutely necessary for the protection of our Commercial Marine; but I do recollect that two of the largest shipowners in the Kingdom—perhaps in the world—the hon. Members for Hull and Jarrow, rose in their places and ridiculed the proposals of the Government, although they own a large number of ships traversing the ocean in all parts of the world. If there are any two men qualified to express an opinion upon the danger to our Commercial Marine, they are these men who have millions of capital locked up in commercial ventures; but they cast ridicule and scorn on the proposal to expend this enormous sum on an increase of our Naval Force against imaginary dangers. Sir, I do not think anything more need be said to dispel the cry, or to prove how abortive is—this new born zeal of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I think that ghost was fully laid by the hon. Members for Hull and Jarrow. My Amendment has reference to statements made last year by the Secretary for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I will quote from their speeches to show what their views then were. But there is another Member of the Government whom I will call as a witness to prove my case. I presume the Secretary to the Admiralty does know something about his business and the condition of the British 778 Fleet; for he is paid a good round sum by the nation to look after it. The Secretary to the Admiralty, addressing his constituents in April, 1887, said—That a feeling of hopelessness, approaching sometimes to helplessness, came over him when he saw how matters were conducted at the Admiralty, and how money was expended, not to say wasted.The hon. Gentleman also said that—He took pride to himself and his colleagues that they had placed the Naval Estimates at the lowest figure compatible with safety; they showed a substantial reduction on the previous year's expenditure, and yet this reduced amount was sufficient to keep the Navy in an efficient state.The hon. Gentleman had well considered his words; for though he was criticized severely for his utterances, he did not "climb down" from his position; but some time afterwards, speaking again, he went a great deal further. Addressing the London Chamber of Commerce on March 22, 1888, the hon. Gentleman said—He feared that exaggerated statements had recently been made with regard to the Navy which might alarm the timid, but he believed that at no time was the Navy more ready or better organized for any work which it might be called upon to do than it was to-day.The hon. Gentleman went on to say—If it were asked whether the British Navy was able to cope with any reasonable combination of Foreign Powers, it could be answered that England was more than equal in strength to two of the greatest nations in Europe—namely, France and Russia;and this statement the hon. Gentleman backed up by figures.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD,) Lancashire, Ormskirk
Has the hon. Member any objection to give the figures?
§ *MR. CREMER
I have not got them here; but if I am misquoting the hon. Gentleman he will presently have the opportunity to correct me. Perhaps he will also tell the Committee what has induced his present change of front—why, if our expenditure was sufficient at that time to provide the country with an efficient Fleet, it is not sufficient now; why, if our Fleet was equal to the naval strength of two of the greatest European Powers, it is insufficient now? It is amusing to notice the remarkable discrepancies in the statements of Ministers and experts as to the capabilities of the Army and Navy. It will be in the recollection of the Committee that last year we had 779 a somewhat singular spectacle presented to us. Some of us were exceedingly gratified to find that the First Lord of the Admiralty displayed such an amount of common sense as to rebuke the utterances of Lord Wolseley, who tried to create a scare in the minds of our countrymen. It will be remembered that Lord Wolseley stated that 100,000 men could be landed on our shores with vessels of 150,000 tonnage. The noble Lord (Lord G. Hamilton) challenged this statement; and, after taking counsel with experts experienced in the transportation of troops, declared that vessels of 480,000 tonnage would be required—just a trifling difference of 320,000 tons between these two authorities. They differed also as to the amount of space required for the transportation of horses. The noble Lord said 2½ tons, while Lord Wolseley said 4 tons would be necessary. Lord Wolseley said 100,000 men could be landed on our shores in a day; the noble Lord (Hamilton) said it would take at least a week. Well, I think we are entitled to some clear and definite explanation before we allow ourselves to be frightened by statements so contradictory on the face of them. Both the statements of the First Lord and of Lord Wolseley were based on the assumption that there would be no opposing force. Well, considering we have been expending enormous sums of money on the Navy, that we have the standing Army, a Volunteer Army, and the Militia, it is an envious assumption that we should offer no kind of opposition to an invading force. If the noble Lord is right, that it would take a week to land 100,000 men on our shores if we did not oppose them, it is reasonable to suppose that with opposition it would take them something like a month, even if they succeeded then. Then we have, besides, the assurance of the First Lord of the Admiralty, to which I have referred, another statement from him to which we listened with pleasure. Personally, I felt thankful to the noble Lord for the attitude he took up in rebuking those connected with the two Services for their continued clamour for more men and more money. The noble Lord, for some reason I hope he will explain, has however entirely changed his attitude on the matter, and I shall 780 await his explanation with some curiosity. I will refer briefly to the speech made by the noble Lord on July 5th, in which he expressed the opinion that Lord Wolseley's views were not to be sustained. The noble Lord, upholding his statement as to the landing of 100,000 men on our shores, said that, before expressing that view, he had consulted the experts at the Transport Department, so that the statement was based upon their authority as well as his own. Later on, in reply to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Leigh Division of Lancashire, the noble Lord declared that the policy of the Admiralty was not to indulge in spasmodic shipbuilding, but to pursue a steady and continuous course. I do not know what interpretation the noble Lord now puts upon those words. I only take of them a plain, common-sense view. The proposal now before the Committee seems to me to be an entire departure from the declaration made by the noble Lord on the occasion to which I have referred. If all these statements were reliable, and Foreign Governments read them—and it is only fair to assume that they have been read by Foreign Governments—what will they say concerning the proposals that are now before the House? They will naturally argue, "If the British nation was in a state of security six or eight months ago, and now this extraordinary proposal is made for an expenditure of £21,000,000 to increase the Naval Forces of the country, the British Government, having already a sufficient force for defence, must intend to be aggressive." The result of such reasoning will be, that the Governments of Europe will become alarmed at the proposal now made to the country, and the evil will not diminish, but will be continued and aggravated. It is sometimes amusing to read what foreigners and foreign journals think and say of us. I saw the other day in the Univers a somewhat amusing account of the noble Lord's Naval Scheme. It said—Every four or five years our excellent neighbours on the other side of the Channel are seized with a panic. They wake one day with a notion that their island is badly defended, and that a more thorough protection is needed. Meetings are organized "—almost exclusively attended by those belonging to the Services— 781at which generals and admirals make speeches, and the Government, he it Liberal or Conservative, readily yields to the pressure and brings out gigantic schemes that are never carried out in full. When a respectable number of millions have been spent, the English feel safe—that is, until another scare breaks out.Some hon. Members in this House know how these scares are manufactured. I will not say they are got up by "panic mongers" as that is an offensive term, but words of equal force may be applied to those who promote them. The journal from which I have quoted concluded the article to which I am drawing attention with these words—England is suffering from such a scare at this moment, and a grand scheme is before Parliament to increase the number of ironclads. Somebody is safe to make a profit out of it.The concluding sentence is one which I hope our countrymen will make a note of—that "somebody is sure to make a profit out of it." Of course they are. There are contractors always ready to clamour for an increase of the Army and Navy, and there is a host of officials who are always waiting for a crumb or two from the official table. No one but those in office can for a moment understand the pack of howling wolves behind the Government, hounding them on to spend money on the Army and Navy. The First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War have had to yield to the enormous pressure brought to bear behind and all round them. The Secretary for War, I remember, said, in a debate last year, he had listened to the speeches made by naval and military Members of the House, all advocating, from their different points of view, but in the kindest manner to himself, an enormous increase in the public expenditure of the country, and he rebuked Members behind him for their continuous and enormous demands for an increase of expenditure on the Army and Navy. On March 8th, last year, the right hon. Gentleman made another speech, in the course of which he said that good, honest work was being done to increase the military strength of the country, and efficiency was being gradually secured, without undue extravagance. He said—The only danger we have to apprehend is the fluctuation of public opinion, and there is no more certain way of producing that fluctuation 782 than to give an exaggerated account of the money required, in order to put us in a satisfactory condition.The right hon. Gentleman has now changed his opinion, and now sanctions this enormous expenditure of money which, six months ago, he protested against. In addition to the testimony I have quoted of Members of the Government, we have that of the Commander-in-Chief, who is supposed to know something about the safety of the country. On May 11th, last year, he repudiated there being any danger of the kind to which reference has been so frequently made; and the Prime Minister, on the same date, rebuked Lord Wolseley for inflaming the public mind, and went on to say—But what I do earnestly protest against is that panic-producing speeches should be made at public dinners by public men.The noble Lord pointed out the large addition which had been made to the Army since June, 1881, and, with regard to the Navy, reminded the House of Lords that, whereas the amount expended on it in 1884 was £4,445,000, in 1888 it was £6,711,000. These figures he quoted to prove that there was no ground for alarm, and that, at any rate, nine months ago the country was perfectly safe. I think I am justified in saying that, if the Secretary to the Admiralty, the Secretary for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Commander in-Chief, and the Prime Minister were satisfied nine or ten months ago that the country was in a perfect state of defence, and that our forces were then sufficient to defend us from invasion, that we are justified in demanding from Her Majesty's Government that they shall give us solid reasons for changing their opinions, and for the extraordinary proposals they are now making to extract from the pockets of the British taxpayer £21,000,000 to increase the Naval Forces of the country. I am willing to give Her Majesty's Government every credit for being honest in their intentions in this matter. My own conviction is that the proposals they have made are against their better judgment; that they have been simply overborne by the Representatives of the Services; that what the Secretary for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty said in this House last year 783 they said believing their statements to be true, and being honestly desirous of continuing in the peaceful, economical path which they had marked out for themselves, but that since then the permanent officials and Representatives of the Services have been too strong for the Government. I do not wish to speak offensively; but I cannot help thinking that the Representatives of the Services have no business to be in this House at all. Perhaps the British public—the new electorate—may, at no distant day, have something to say with regard to the seemliness of men sitting in the House and practically voting their own salaries. It is clear to mo, from the few years' experience I have had here, that so long as we have so large a contingent of the two Services here hounding on the Government against their better judgment, and practically masters of the situation, we shall have to wait in vain for economies in either of the Services. And, with regard to the permanent officials, I should be prepared to apply a very drastic remedy. I cannot help thinking that the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War form two very good figure heads, but I very much doubt whether they are really much more than figure heads. It is the permanent officials who practically govern the country, and the only way to remedy this is to make a clean sweep of them, and to continue the sweeping process until the heads of the Departments are masters of the situation. I think I am warranted in repeating a statement made by a former Member of the House, who some years ago was connected with the Admiralty. The Government of that day made a serious effort in the direction of economy, and this Lord of the Admiralty earnestly joined the Government in the effort they were making to effect a retrenchment. Well, he declared on one occasion that he positively went into his office in bodily fear from the permanent officials because of the efforts he was making to effect a retrenchment. ["Name!"] There are Members in the House who know that statement is true. I do not know that the condition of things this gentleman found in the Department now obtains there, 784 but I know the permanent officials offer such a sturdy opposition to the attempts of the Heads of Departments to bring about a retrenchment that, however desirous a Member of the Government may be to effect economy, in the end he becomes worn out in his efforts, and, at last, sits down and enjoys himself, as his predecessors have done before him, and allows the permanent officials to have their own way. No doubt the votes of the gentlemen connected with the Services are very important to the Government, and the influence of these persons, together with that brought to bear by the permanent officials, have, no doubt, weighed with the Government in the course they have adopted. I think I am justified in repeating a question which I have asked before, and which, if I have the honour to continue a Member of this House, I shall probably ask again. Last year when a proposal was made to increase the expenditure—which I cannot help thinking increases the danger—I asked a common sense question, which millions of people outside ask themselves—namely, "Where is the danger?" I want to know where the foe is to be found who is desirous of invading our shores? The only Member of this House, so far as I know, who has made an effort to discover and unearth the bogey is the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford), and he says it is General Boulanger. Well, I believe the noble Lord to be one of the really honest men on the other side of the House. I believe him to be mistaken, but I accredit him with every sincerity, and I am told that he regards himself as the best friend of peace to be found in this distinguished Assembly, although I take, an opposite view of his policy. The noble Lord believes that General Boulanger will very likely undertake an invasion of this country.
§ *MR. CREMER
I am glad to hear the noble Lord is not frightened by General Boulanger; but if he fears no danger in that direction, perhaps he will be good enough to tell us where the danger really is? I thought the noble Lord was under the impression that there was some danger of General Boulanger organizing an expedition against us in consequence of our continued 785 occupation of Egypt. Well, Sir, in regard to this continued occupation, I pointed out nearly three years ago that it was a source of danger to us, that it was a sore point, if not among the French people, at any rate amongst the governing classes of France, and I am glad to see that other people in England are coming round to the same common-sense view. If this feeling of soreness does exist, the best thing we can do to cure it, is to clear out of Egypt, not because we are threatened by General Boulanger, but because we have no business there. The sooner, therefore, we clear out of it the sooner shall we deprive General Boulanger of any plea for invading England—if he has any idea of invading us. In the autumn the General Election will take place in France, and we shall then know whether General Boulanger is to be in power or not. You cannot build new ships before next autumn, nor in less than three years, and if the danger be imminent we ought to have all the force you say is needed at our disposal immediately, while if the danger be remote I do not see the use of the present proposal. The French Marine Department are already proposing to increase the French Navy, on the ground that at present it is inferior to the English Navy; and a few weeks ago a Special Commission reported to the French Chamber of Deputies, recommending the building of more ironclads, the reason assigned being that we have done the same. They also recommended that a number of cruisers should be built, and that 20 more torpedo boats should be constructed, on the ground that we are also building cruisers and multiplying our torpedo boats. It is quite clear that every increase of our Naval Force leads to an increase of the Naval Forces on the other side of the Channel; it does not put an end to, but continues and magnifies, the evil. And in Germany the same state of things is going on. Only a fortnight ago it was said that 16 ocean-going torpedo boats were being built for the German Navy, to be armed with all the modern appliances, and to have a speed of 23 knots. If the proposals of the Government are agreed to, and this enormous sum of money is placed at their disposal, a large proportion of it—allowing 786 for waste and extravagance such as we know of in the past—will be expended in the increase of our Fleet, and then we shall find that further proposals will will be made by France and Germany and Russia in the same direction, and when they have increased their forces because we have increased ours, another demand will in a few years be made upon us for further additions to our Navy. Lord Salisbury, speaking at the Lord Mayor's Dinner last November in regard to the armed condition of Europe, asked a very pertinent question, which I venture to repeat—namely, "When is this rivalry to end?" We are continually talking about being compelled to imitate the example of other nations, and I have no hesitation in doing so when the example is worth imitating; but I would ask why we do not set a good example ourselves? Why we do not make an effort to induce the nations abroad not to increase, but to reduce their armaments, and so diminish the danger? You may tell me they would not acquiesce in such a proposal. How do you know? You have never invited them. It is not worth an effort to see whether the time has not come when the public opinion of the world is not sufficiently strong to induce the Governments of Europe to join in a movement in this direction. I believe that if Her Majesty's Government were seriously to propose a Conference of the nations of the world, with the view of bringing about a mutual and simultaneous reduction of armaments, a shout of triumph would go up on the part of the people throughout the whole civilized world, and the Government who would undertake a task of that kind would cover themselves with everlasting glory. I hope Her Majesty's Government may see their way to take such a step. I am afraid that few Members of this House, particularly on the other side, have yet learned to understand that the old order of things has greatly changed, and that the democracy, not merely here, but throughout the world, or nearly so, has now entered into the possession of political power, and that that democracy is peaceful. The one man on the other side of the House who seems to me to understand the changed order of things, and the aspirations of 787 the democracy, is the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington; and, if he continues in the spirit that has characterized his doings in regard to retrenchment and reform, I venture to say he will be assuring for himself the gratitude of the people and imperishable renown. I hope the Government will remember that monarchs and statesmen, still powerful—too powerful for mischief—have already had their power seriously diminished; that the power they wielded in the past has been and still is being more and more transferred to the people; and that the people are everywhere desirious of living in peace. I hope the Government will take in a kindly spirit the observations I have addressed to them; and will consider whether it is not worth while, instead of imitating a bad example, to set a good one, by asking the nations of the world, through their respective Governments, to join in a serious effort to reduce rather than to increase their armaments. Sir, I beg to move my Amendment.
To leave out all the words after the first word "That," in order to add the words "having regard to the statements made during the last Session of Parliament by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, as to the efficiency of the armaments of the Country for the purpose of Defence, and seeing that the Nation was assured, in the recent Speech from the Throne, that Her Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers, which were of the most peaceful character last year, remain in the same satisfactory condition, this Committee deems it expedient to authorise the expenditure asked for by the Government,"—(Mr. Cremer,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I fully acknowledge that the observations of the hon. Member who has just sat down were made in a kindly spirit. No Member of the House can complain of the manner in which the hon. Member has brought this great and important question before the Committee, and I feel perfectly confident that the hon. Member has felt impelled to the course he has taken by an imperative sense of 788 duty, and that he is impressed with the extreme importance of asking from the Government explanations to which he and the rest of the Committee are most fully entitled. I shall leave to my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of the Admiralty the task of replying to the personal allusions which have been made to them, and to the more technical part of the question which refers to the Administration of the Admiralty and to the comparative force of the British Navy. But the hon. Member has alluded to some general considerations, with regard to which I think it right to offer a few words in reply, because, although he has not referred to me, he would be fully entitled to ask how, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I could consent to the great burden which is placed upon the people by these proposals of the Government unless I was absolutely convinced of the extreme necessity of voting these sums. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has a heavy responsibility in this matter, which I do not wish for one moment to disclaim. The hon. Member, in his concluding observations, spoke of the change of attitude in Europe generally, since the accession of democracy to power. I wish to agree with the hon. Gentleman as far as I can and I will admit that the desire of most democracies, not of all, but certainly of the British democracy, is peace. But there is one other demand which the British democracy will make, and it is that besides peace there shall be absolute security. The hon. Member spoke of the toiling millions and of their interest in this question. But I speak with as sincere a conviction as that which animated him when I say that the toiling millions have as deep, if not a deeper, interest in the security of these islands and in the security of our commerce and of our Colonial Possessions as any other portion of Her Majesty's subjects. I would undertake to argue this question before any meeting of trade unionists, or before audiences composed exclusively of toiling artizans. I would put it to them what their fate would be if for three or four months only, or even for a shorter period, the importations and exportation of this country were seriously imperilled? We all remember the fate of Lancashire during the cotton famine. 789 The hon. Member and his friends will agree with me in this—that we are practically unanimous as to the necessity of being secure, and that, therefore, the only point on which this discussion can fairly turn is whether or not we are secure. We may be sure that any Parliament which, foreseeing the possibility of such a combination of circumstances as might place this country in peril, did not take measures adequate to provide against such a contingency would be justly held up to odium, obloquy, and the reproach of the nation. I admit that the democracy is for peace. What I say here is known to every statesman in Europe, and I affirm that no Government in this country—Conservative, Liberal, or Radical—would venture on a policy of aggression. There is no corner of the earth we covet or wish to take from any other Power. We have no aggressive object of any kind in view. Nothing could be more remote from the wish of every Member of the Administration than that by our proposals we should indicate to Europe that we have any different policy from that which has been pursued continuously by several successive Governments—namely, a policy of continued peace. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington said the other day that if it were flashed through Europe that we had embarked on an expenditure of £20,000,000 there would be an alarm throughout the Continent; but I am confident of the opposite, and that nothing can produce a more powerful influence in favour of peace than the knowledge that Great Britain is strong. No doubt the nations of the Continent are suffering under a terrible burden of armaments which the hon. Member properly denounced; but if there is one thing they look to as likely to exercise an influence for peace, it is a strong England. I say here with absolute conviction that no statesman in Europe holds the opposite view. They all hold that a strong England is an element of peace. I agree that if it could be done it would be a work worthy of any Government to bring nations into conference and induce them to disarm; but I am afraid that in these days it would be a Utopian attempt. But the moment when we should be most able to influence Europe in this direction would be the moment when it was universally 790 acknowledged that by our strength we could exercise a very considerable influence upon Powers that might desire to go to war. No doubt in this country the democracy largely influences the policy of the Government, but I doubt whether in some of the most powerful States of Europe the masses have influence enough to affect the decisions of statesmen and Emperors. We have to look to circumstances with regard to which we are obliged to be extremely reticent, but which we cannot ignore. The hon. Member quoted the Marquess of Salisbury as asking—How long is this to last? We may well ask ourselves how long is Europe to bear this strain?It is in this feeling that danger lies The hon. Member may think that if the cloud which has so long hung over Europe were to burst, the interests of this country might be unaffected, and we might look on with unconcern; but a nation cannot always look on when it wishes, though it may do so if it has fleets and armies to prevent its hand being forced by others. If we survey the whole situation; if we look at the changes that have taken place; at the combinations of the forces of Europe that are possible; at the currents that are still running, I confess we do not see any such change as should make for peace, for permanent peace. There is no immediate anxiety; we are on the best of terms with other countries; but at the same time we have no right to depend upon the continuance of these cordial relations. We shall all agree that we must run no risks. It is true that for a long time we have been undisturbed, and, when it is asked where is attack to come from, it cannot be expected that a responsible Minister should in a time of peace point to any particular nation; but still a desperate nation might gain some considerable advantage for itself if it could attack, not necessarily these islands, but at all events the interests of Great Britain. We have no business to build upon any immunity we have enjoyed in the past, for changing circumstances may deprive us of that immunity. And when it is said that we have wasted money in the past, are we quite sure that we have not had an equivalent for our expenditure in the security we have enjoyed? Have we 791 not escaped wars such as other countries lave been engaged in, and has not our powerful Fleet been one cause of our immunity? In spite of the complaints of sailors, who are historically and habitually professional grumblers, has it not been due to our Fleet that security has been enjoyed by our coasts, our commerce, and our Colonies? But for our Fleet we might have offered temptations to adventurers and invited other nations to embark upon dangerous enterprizes. I hope the hon. Member will accept my assurance that our scheme it in no way due to the pressure of permanent officials at the Admiralty. The Government were themselves invited to look into the matter, to review all the circumstances of the case, to marshal our own forces, and to calculate the forces that might be brought against us. We were asked, as a Cabinet, to consider the matter, and the result is the proposal we submit. I admit that many of us, myself included, have been mainly influenced in the view that this expenditure ought to be undertaken by our opinions upon the position of foreign affairs. Hon. Members ask what changes there have taken place, but I trust hon. Members will not press us too much on the diplomatic side of the question. We do say that the general foreign situation, without being acute, is such that we should be blind to our duties if we did not take immediate measures to put ourselves in a proper state of defence. I hope hon. Members will agree with me when I say that we should run no risks, and that we ought not to rely upon the friendly disposition of other countries. If we study history, not only the history of the past, but contemporary history, I am sure we shall find the folly of building too much on any such amiable hope. Under the circumstances, the Government feel that it is their bounden duty to see that there is no possibility not only of successful invasion of our shores but of serious interruption to our commerce. If it is felt that the proposed addition to the Navy is not required, and that the forces of the country are already sufficient to effect these objects under all circumstances, then let the House reject our proposals, but do not reject them on Utopian considerations, or because you believe that this country has been so long unattacked that she will never be 792 attacked again. Turning to the next point, I wish to remind the House of the fact that hon. Members on both sides are continually urging the Government to send out forces to all parts of the globe for the purpose of maintaining British interests. It is not on the Conservative side alone that these demands are made, for I remember in the debate on Samoa a very stout Radical, the hon. Member for St. Austell (Mr. W. M'Arthur), urged that the Government ought to have taken action which might have involved us in war with Germany. It has been said that there is no danger of invasion, but a course of action has repeatedly been urged upon the Government which might have led to war, and which would only have been likely not to lead to war on account of the knowledge that this country was sufficiently powerful to make war with her a dangerous game. It is not, however, in Samoa only, but elsewhere, that we come into contact with other European Powers. In our Colonies, for instance, we now come much more freely into contact with our Continental neighbours than used to be the case. That is so in Africa, in Asia, in India, and in Polynesia, in all of which collisions might occur which might very easily give rise to European conflicts. Fortunately, these things are managed with temper, and there is a disposition on the part of all European Powers to act with prudence and with friendliness. It is, however, found that the Powers whom we now meet in all parts of the globe are increasing their armaments, and that some countries have fleets which never had them before. It is, therefore, not only invasion that we have to consider, because there is an increase, I will not say of danger or risk, but at any rate of contact with our European neighbours in distant parts of the world which has made it necessary to augment our forces so as to uphold our interests in those distant regions. I think that it will be recognized that I have not argued this question in any narrow or aggressive spirit, or with any undue desire for the augmentation of the fighting forces of the country. We may be wrong in the view we take. [Cheers and counter-cheers.] Yes; and you may be wrong too. If we are wrong we may have deeply to regret that we 793 have unnecessarily placed an extra burden of taxation upon the country; but if you are wrong you may be the means of imperilling interests compared with which all we now ask will be absolutely as nothing. In conclusion, I ask you to look at our proposals in a candid spirit, because, in our judgment, taking into consideration the position of Europe and of the world, if we wish for peace and the maintenance of British interests, it will be found indispensable to augment the forces of the Empire.
§ *MR CALEB WRIGHT (Lancashire, S.W., Leigh)
I must protest against this proposal of the Government for a large increase in the Naval Estimates. In my opinion it is a great mistake. I fear that the Government have been influenced—like other Governments—by panic, and I believe this panic will end, like others, in extravagance and waste of public money. Had the Government directed their attention to the abuses, the in competency and extravagance in the Army, the Navy, and in the Civil Service, and had rooted out those abuses, they would have rendered greater service to the State than by increasing the Estimates for war purposes. Panic and preparations for war tend to bring on war, which checks social progress, interferes disastrously with trade and commerce, piles up enormous debts, increases taxation, causes jealousy and ill-feeling between nations, and violates one of the fundamental principles of Christianity. No class is so interested in this question as the working class. About three-quarters of the Army and Navy are drawn from that class, and in time of war they suffer from depression in trade, from want of employment, from reduced wages, and increased taxation. Since I became a Member of this House, I have noticed that when any attempt has been made to reduce the expenditure of the Army, it has always been opposed by the Army officials, who proclaim that we 794 have the worst armed and the worst equipped force in Europe, and the Admirals and Naval Officers tell us that the country is not sufficiently defended, and urge the Government to provide more forts, more warships, and more men. Although there has been a large increase in the naval expenditure during the last few years, still our shores are in danger, and the cry is for more war ships. Is the House on this subject to be guided in legislation by the conflicting statements of the Government and naval officials? Well, the hon. Member who introduced the Amendment gave some quotations from Members of the Government. Here is another. On July 10th, 1888 the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Secretary to the Admiralty), addressing a large meeting of the commercial community of Liverpool on the subject of the naval defences of the country, said that—All were agreed that we required as a minimum a Navy sufficient in extent and power to overmatch the Naval Forces of any combination of hostile Foreign Powers that could he reasonably anticipated. Admiral Hornby, our foremost naval commander, had given details of the cruisers which, in his opinion we required, having regard to our Mercantile Navy. He suggesied 486 cruisers of 16 knots and over, and said that as we had only 42 of this class we were 144 short. Now to build 144 new cruisers would cost £33,500,000, and adding to this £4,000,000, the cost of five new ironclads, which another distinguished naval officer said were required, our building programme beyond that which was now before the country would involve an expenditure of £37,500,000. No one now would advocate laying down vessels, except with a view to speedy completion, and as cruisers could be built in about two years, we should have to provide from £12,000,000 to £15,000.000 per annum to meet these demands, in addition to our present Naval Budget, in each of the next two or three years.Well, the First Lord of the Admiralty proposes an increase of 70 war ships at the cost of £21,500,000, which he says is necessary for the protection of our shores and our commerce. Here are the views of the Secretary for War and some of our naval commanders as to the increase required in our Naval Forces; 795 on March 22nd, 1888, the Secretary to the Admiralty assured the country, in a speech addressed to the London Chamber of Commerce, that at no time was the Navy more ready or better organized for any work which it might be called upon to do than it was to-day. England was more than equal in strength to two of the greatest nations in Europe—France and Russia. Again, the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, speaking of our naval defences at a public meeting held in London on the 23rd of last month is reported to have said—"Admiral Symonds estimates an expenditure of £40,000,000, Admiral Hornby of £80,000,000, and Lord Alcester of £30,000,000, to put the country in a state of proper defence." Another military commander, speaking upon our naval defences, said—"What we seem to require for the Navy is an organized reserve both of ships and of men, corresponding to the system of military reserves adopted on the Continent." That would seem to be the object of the Government in proposing an addition of 70 warships. We are at peace with Europe, and we are told that the best way to secure and protect our commerce is to be prepared for war. Well, I think we cannot too often expose that unsound and fallacious argument. What are the facts? Have not the nations of Europe been prepared for war for more than 50 years? And at the present time the Armies and Reserves—excluding the Navies—amount to over 20,000,000 men. And what has been the result? Has there been peace in Europe? During the 20 years ending 1873 there have been 5 or 6 of the most destructive wars on record. That has been the result of the nations of Europe being prepared for war to secure peace by increasing year by year their Armies and Navies. Well, Sir, we have no means of ascertaining the losses of trade and commerce sustained by the nations of 796 Europe by those wars, but they must have been enormous. But the number of lives sacrificed in those wars was 1,140,000, and the cost £1,013,000,000. Are there no better means for the safety of our commerce than providing more warships? With the vast amount of commerce between this country and America, does anybody believe that the two countries could be involved in war? Let me give the opinion of an eminent American statesman on this point. The Hon. William Elliott, speaking of the cotton trade some time ago, concluded with these words—Few more acceptable contributions, it seems to me, can be made from one country to another, few stronger ties of interest can be interposed, few better securities for continued good-will can be devised, than those which America offers to Europe, in the mutual benefits of the cotton trade. It must be ever influential in preserving that state which, while it can be preserved with honour, is the true glory and interest of every nation to maintain. For it is just to believe that God has made the earth ample enough for the support of all His intelligent creatures; that we are under no obligation to destroy each other for self preservation; and that is the true mission of man—irrespective of the narrow and often arbitrary divisions of States and Nations—to contribute to the happiness of his fellow-being by throwing in his way all the inestimable blessings of civilization.I hope this House will not allow the Government to embark in this reckless and unnecessary expenditure to which they intend to bind future Governments. Well, I will just allude before I sit down to the Treaty of Paris. At the close of the Crimean War the Congress of Paris assembled—in 1856—and the Plenipotentiaries recognized the expediency of submitting international differences to arbitration, and of making changes in the public law of Europe as to the right of maritime capture, and to make trade as free in time of war as it is in time of peace; and I understand the Treaty of Paris is still binding. Are we bound by that Treaty? If not, why not?
§ *SIR E. J. REED (Cardiff)
With regard to the remark of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Democracy desires 797 peace and also desires security, I would point out the Democracy desires peace by means of the efficient expenditure of public money. I would not discourage the creation of a strong Navy, but I certainly would not encourage the waste of public money under the pretext of making our Navy strong. Both the Resolution and the Amendment, standing as they do at opposite extremes before the Committee, show the necessity of a closer examination into the nature of the proposals of the Government. The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes this even more requisite, as the whole of his observations appeared to me to be directed by the idea that we are called upon to enter upon an enormous expenditure of public money. On the other hand, the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch would have the effect, if carried, of practically closing the dockyards, and putting an end to shipbuilding after another million has been expended. I think the fact of the existence of these extreme views indicates the necessity of some one taking a little trouble to make the actual situation a little clearer. I can understand why the Government should propose a scheme of shipbuilding and of finance which would have the effect of enabling them to draw on the Consolidated Fund for the cost of ships to be built by contract. I know from my own experience that great difficulty arises towards the end of the financial year in connection with the contracts for shipbuilding, because the Government know that if the contractors are behind with their work, the money not earned will have to be re-voted. I can, therefore, understand that the Government should desire to relieve themselves of this difficulty. Nevertheless, taking all the circumstances into account, I cannot support the proposition they make on the subject. The effect of that proposition, if agreed to, 798 will be to throw great impediments in the way of getting ships built. Under the present system, every one concerned uses his best endeavours to get the money earned, and if the existing incentives to action are withdrawn, I am afraid that ships would not be built so readily by contract in the future. But I have a far greater objection to the proposal. I am at a loss to understand on what grounds the Admiralty, in a particular and limited case, is to be exempted from conditions which, if generally set aside, would produce the greatest financial disorder throughout the public service. I cannot think that this scheme has been well considered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I go so far as to say that the principle involved in the Resolution unsettles one of the most important conditions of our national finance. Hitherto we have been able to have a strict debtor and creditor account kept by the State; but if we are to say to a Department, "Here is money for you to spend as you please for five years; the House of Commons will not inquire whether you have spent it or not, whether the contractors have kept time or not; all that we shall ask at the end of five years is—Have you done what we proposed?"—we shall thereby give our assent to a system which, if it be repeated and become general, will unhinge some of the most important elements of our control over finance. I know it is the fashion in official quarters to sneer and laugh at the control of the House of Commons; but the influence of the House, however it may fail on certain occasions, does assert itself in a general manner, and exercise a wholesome restraint upon the action of Government Departments. And now we are told that we are this Session to vote £10,000,000 sterling for the construction of ships by contract, and we shall find them finished at the end of five years; but in 799 the interval the House is to have nothing to do with them, and is not even to have a knowledge of the manner in which that large sum of public money is being expended. That appears to be a most extraordinary proposal. I am not now offering any opposition to the scheme of shipbuilding, but merely referring to the financial method of dealing with the subject. As to the ships to be built in Her Majesty's dockyards we are to be called upon to vote the money annually. If we pass this Resolution and a Bill founded upon it becomes an Act, the House will be binding itself, and calling in the assistance of the House of Lords to bind us, to lay down two or three years hence ships and to vote money for them, whatever we may think of the ships, of the necessity for them, or of the wisdom of building them. And we shall be asked to go through the farce of voting the sums necessary to carry out the obligation we have so indiscreetly and blindly undertaken. He could hardly imagine that so absurd a state of things could be seriously contemplated by the Admiralty; but if they could explain the matter to the satisfaction of the House it would be an immense relief to my mind. I hope these various points will receive the consideration of the Government. I come now to the question of the programme and the figures it involves. As far as I can see the figures are in accordance with the Parliamentary Paper sent round by the Parliamentary Secretary, and with the answers given by the First Lord to the questions addressed to him in this House. What the Government have done in this matter is to pose before the country as the originators of a great scheme for adding largely to the numbers of Her Majesty's ships. Now the total, the startling total named by the First Lord of the Admiralty, as about to be expended in the construction 800 of 70 additional ships was £21,500,000, including the cost of armaments. All the figures I am going to give are taken from the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord G. Hamilton). The aggregate expenditure was divided by the noble Lord into two parts—first, an expenditure of £16,150,000 upon new ships and engines; and, secondly, an expenditure of £5,350,000 upon armaments. The latter figure I will leave on one side for the present. The amount of £16,150,000 for new ships and engines was divided into two portions—namely, £8,650,000 to be expended in the dockyards, and £7,500,000 to be expended by contract. In response to the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, the First Lord of the Admiralty pointed out that in addition to this expenditure, which is purely expenditure under the programme, there are to be found other sums. In the first place there is a sum of money requisite for the completion of the ships already in progress; and I find that the amount required for this purpose was, for 1889–90, £1,285,000, and for 1890–91, £250,000, making a total of £1,535,000 required for the completion of ships in progress, in addition to the amount spoken of as the new programme. Taking the amount of £16,150,000 allotted to new ships under the programme, and the £1,535,000 for the completion of ships, the aggregate amounts to £17,685,000. Then arises the question as to the period over which this expenditure is to be extended. In his speech the noble Lord repeatedly observed that four years and a-half was to be the period for carrying out the programme. But I noticed that the noble Lord spoke of that four and a-half years as being a period to be estimated from the laying down of the first ship. He also said:—We propose to put them (the whole of the ships) in an Act of Parliament, in two Schedules, enacting that they shall be completed within the period I have mentioned—namely by April 1894.801 I think therefore I shall be justified in taking the period contemplated for the full completion of the new programme as five years. The average expenditure in the five years would be £3,537,000 per annum for the construction of new ships without armaments, including those now upon the stocks. In order to show the magnitude of the proposed programme I will take the expenditure of the Government during the last five years and compare it with the proposed expenditure of the ensuing five years. The annual expenditure during the last five years upon ships built in the dockyards and by contract, I believe I am right in saying, excluding armaments, instead of £3,537,000 as it is to be, has been £3,303,000, or a difference of only £234,000. At the end of the ensuing five years the state of the Navy, as compared with what it would have been if the ordinary expenditure of the last five years had been continued through the next five, will be this:—We shall have added about £1,250,000 in value to the Navy, or, in other words, the price of about one ironclad and one cruiser. I commend this fact to the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford), who at some recent election meetings has spoken about the magnitude of the programme.
§ *SIR E. J. REED
Well, at all events, in five years, if we live as long, there will have been added to the Navy one line-of-battle-ship and one cruiser over and above what would have been added if we had had no new programme and no great display on the part of the Government. It is fair that I should say I have not taken into account the amount that will be required to fill the Dockyards up to the average level when the new programme is working itself out. I was rather reluctant to accept the £3,000,000, which the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) mentioned the other night as the sum that would be required for the purpose, because I fancied that the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord G. Hamilton) had, in his speech on March 7th, given us some encouragement to hope that there would be a reduction of expenditure in consequence of the production of this 802 great programme. This passage occurred in the noble Lord's speech—There will be, as the Committee will recollect, a decrease in the Shipbuilding Vote four or five years hence, if the House were satisfied with the strength at which the Navy was maintained.I do not think it would serve any useful purpose to deny to the Admiralty the right to retreat from their position to the small extent it has been necessary for them to do in asking us to accept this £3,000,000. I have tested the matter by taking the period as four and a-half years, and I have obtained certain figures, but they differ so little from those obtained by taking the Admiralty's own modus operandi that I need not trouble the Committee with them. Using as a basis the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I find that in 1892–93, if we keep the expenditure up to the full amount given in the text of the programme, an outlay of £910,000 will be required on new ships, whilst in the following year the amount will be £1,820,000, making a total of £2,730,000. Taking the most favourable view that any fair-minded person can possibly take, we find ourselves in this position. Adding together the £17,685,000 to this £2,730,000, we get a total of £20,415,000, and dividing this by five we find that the annual expenditure for the next five years will be £4,083,000. This is as I have said upon ships with their expenses, exclusive of armament charges. If I am wrong, there are competent Gentlemen opposite to correct me; but the best result I can draw from the figures is that, taking the most enlarged and liberal view of their programme, the Admiralty propose to spend three quarters of a million a year extra on shipbuilding, or, in the aggregate, about £3,900,000, which would give the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone an addition of four line-of-battle ships, and if he got these he would get no extra cruisers over and above what would have been built under the normal shipbuilding programme. I ask whether it is wise, whether it is judicious, of the House to sanction this Resolution and the Bill founded upon it—to go through these elaborate and, probably, unconstitutional operations, for the simple purpose of adding £3,900,000 to the Navy in five years? The simple addition, so 803 far as ships and engines are concerned, of three-quarters of a million to the annual Estimates would accomplish all the objects which the Government have in view, with one single exception—namely, that under their scheme they might possibly quicken the getting of them; they might order all the ships to be built by contract at once. But there is this set-off, that they may also retard the building of the vessel; so, on the whole, we gain nothing whatever from all this elaborate and questionable machinery. Now, if I may not be suspected of harping too much on a favourite string of mine, I would say a few words on the ships proposed to be built. I see abroad some kind of a desire on the part of certain persons to take their revenge upon me for my persistent and systematic attempts to see that safe ships are built for the Navy, by trying to find out mistakes committed during the time I was at the Admiralty. It is not a subject to dwell upon, but I may say with confidence this—that no attempt of that kind will succeed in the slightest degree with me. You will prove nothing if you prove that I have made mistakes; and I am not so certain but that, if I lad made grave mistakes, that would the more justify me in endeavouring to prevent a repetition of those mistakes. I can understand perfectly well that a man should be annoyed with anybody who severely criticizes his proposals; but let me put this to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen—my complaints and my criticisms of Her Majesty's ships and the building of them have been never of a narrow, small, and carping character. I have never criticized as to details; I have never complained of a ship being a little too big, or a little too costly, or a little too lofty, or anything of that kind. My complaint, and my only complaint, and which will continue to be my complaint as long as I am alive and have the means of influencing the matter, is that the British sailor should not be sent into action in a vessel which, under cover of being an armoured ship, will founder beneath him when attacked by the light guns of the enemy. The British sailor is entitled, when we send him into battle, to have beneath him a platform as secure as modern knowledge and skill can make it. Is it not an anomalous thing—is it not a very strange 804 thing in the history of this naval country that Admiralty officers should have been for 10 years past, without a single exception—I am sorry to see the noble Lord now repudiates the Nile and Trafalgar—that Admiralty officers should have been contending for what I call danger, and I, for what I, on the other hand, consider safety? I think anyone interested in construction ought to ask himself why it is that we are to be driven to the construction of vessels, the safety of which, for battle purposes, is called into question by competent persons. I have sat in this House for 15 years, and said, I dare say, many unpleasant things; but, at least, I think I may lay claim to impartiality, and I have had to make great personal sacrifices to call in question the construction of vessels. Now the First Lord does not propose to construct one single ship of the cruiser class, of all he proposes to build, with an armour belt to protect her. Now this means that for the sake of a small percentage in the cost, and that but a very small percentage, while you are going to enlarge the size of your battle ships without rhyme or reason—while you are lavish there with no good cause—for the sake of a trifling gain you deny to all the cruisers of the British Navy a belt of armour. You put all the armour in a deck, and you turn it down, leaving her side exposed to the enemy. Without engaging in a technical discussion, I may point out this—that if you injure a ship above the waterline, you may repair her while at sea with the resources you have on board, and keep her at service; but if you make her so weak and tender that she is liable to injury between wind and water, you cannot repair her at sea. You must take her away from her station, and send her, perhaps, thousands of miles before she can be repaired. Yet for some reason, inscrutable to me, this wretched system of denying to the cruisers the protecting belt is pursued, simply for the sake of a small percentage of economy in the cost. I do not know what explanation may be forthcoming from the First Lord, but I shall be interested to see if he can suggest any other reason. Observe, these ships are all called protected; but, in fact, they are not protected at all. They have no more armour protection 805 upon them than this book. But my principal object to-night was to make clear what careful reading brings to my knowledge of the programme of the Government. I have said and written, perhaps, some strong words, perhaps too strong sometimes; but I hope the noble Lord will rise above all personal feelings, and look only to the welfare of the Naval Service of the nation. I cannot understand—I cannot believe—that there is any good reason why we should have departed, in the proposed battle ships, from the type last laid down. I believe the First Lord of the Admiralty, and it is quite likely that other Members of the Board too, do not know what these ships are, or how they differ from the Nile and the Trafalgar. The noble Lord said, on March 7th, that the disposition of armour in the new Admiral class resembled that of the Nile and Trafalgar, but really there is no resemblance at all between the Nile and the Trafalgar and these new ships. The Nile and the Trafalgar are of the Dreadnought type, and their characteristic feature is that they are armoured throughout, all the central parts rising from the water to the upper deck. In the Admiral class this armour is taken away, and all that is left is a narrow ship of armour, hardly to be seen when the vessel is half-a mile off—just enough to swear by, if I may use that expression. In the new battle ships, that great wall of armour that fixes the type of the Nile and Trafalgar, is absolutely gone, and we have gone back to the narrow strip. As long as this is continued, I must maintain my criticism and my strenuous opposition to such construction; but go back to the Trafalgar type and all my criticisms will cease. If, in the exigencies of battle one of these proposed vessels is inclined four degrees the whole value of the armour is gone, and she becomes practically an unarmoured vessel. The Nile and Trafalgar could be inclined 17 degrees before this would occur. To show the perversity with which the Government proceed in this matter, I may refer to the terrible feeling that exists throughout the Navy about this Admiral class, and if the First Lord ventures to contradict that statement, I could undertake to put into affidavits and to produce 806 writings from many of the Lords who have been connected with the Admiralty, condemning these ships in most unqualified terms. When the First Lord and his colleagues went to the Admiralty, and when they produced the Nile and the Trafalgar, there was great satisfaction throughout all the Naval Service, and we thought there was no fear that we should revert to the doubtful type again. I approved the type, in so far as their defensive armour is concerned, and repeatedly defended these two ships in this House. It appears to me that to change from them is pure, unmitigated, injudicious, obstinate perversity, and I hope the House will agree to submit the proposal to a tribunal where the subject can be threshed out thoroughly, before we are held to the expenditure of eight millions upon ships with which certainly I can feel no satisfaction. In the Times to-day there is a letter from a gallant admiral, and he says many things of which I do not in the least know the meaning—they are quite beyond my knowledge; but after criticizing me somewhat, he declares that if he had the power, he would build ships of a totally different character, and he says that a great many officers in the Service agree with him. Will that letter have any effect on the noble Lord? Hitherto, I have evinced no disposition to attack the policy of the Government; I did not make a single complaint against the Nile and the Trafalgar. My only desire is to see the money expended in the preservation of our naval strength wisely and properly expended, to the satisfaction of those best able to form a judgment upon our requirements.
§ *LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The noble Lord is aware we are rather pressed for time. Better go on until 12 o'clock.
§ [Several hon. MEMBERS: No, no!]
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Lord Charles Beresford,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.