§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER in the Chair.]
Question again proposed,
That 93,750 men and boys be employed for the Sea and Coastguard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, including 16,005 Royal Marines."—(first Lord of the Admiralty.)
§ MR. REES DAVIES (Pembrokeshire)
desired to offer a few general observations as regards the treatment of Pembroke Dockyard. He referred in particular to the action of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, who was, during the last Parliament, as a former First Lord, the responsible spokesman of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The House would recollect that in the month of May last, during the latter days of the late Government, his Friend Mr. Egerton Allen, the former Member for the Pembroke Boroughs, moved an Amendment on the Naval Works Bill, claiming a share of the proposed expenditure for Pembroke, and the noble Lord strongly supported him, as the following remarks would show:—The Government had assented to the claims of Wales to be treated as a separate nation so far as religion was concerned. But the moment they came to deal with dockyards, Wales shrank into the small dimensions of a section or locality. This was a loan Bill, and the present generation benefited at the expense of posterity. Therefore, it behoved them to see that the proposals made would meet the wants of the future. Nobody could deny that Pembroke was in a very inferior position compared with other dockyards. By this Bill, Devonport, Portsmouth and Chatham would be in a better position than before, while Pembroke remained where it was, so that the difference would become greater than ever. That was a very important consideration. In recent years they had found that the more rapidly the ships were built, the cheaper was the cost of construction. If Pembroke was in such a position that every ship laid down took two years longer to build, it would be so handicapped that the Naval Lords would be forced to give less and less work to Pembroke, because the return was less than from the other yards. If Pembroke was to be excluded from the Bill, he 371 could not help thinking that, notwithstanding the promise which the Civil Lord had held out, the Admiralty would have to consider whether Pembroke was to be maintained as a dockyard at all"—("Parliamentary Debates," vol. xxxiv., p. 521, 28th May 1895.)In the same speech, the noble Lord further said:—He would put before the Committee from a Naval and national point of view why he thought these works at Pembroke should be included in the Bill. There were only four great naval dockyards in this country—Chatham, Portsmouth, Devonport, and Pembroke. Only three of these could build ships of the largest dimensions, and of them Pembroke was one. It was the most modern of the dockyards, and he thought the best laid out; and most of the work done there in recent years had been in connection with big ships, and therefore it was particularly fitted for building the class of ships which would be most required."—("Parliamentary Debates," vol. xxxiv., p. 521, 28th May 1895.)He observed on Vote X. in the Estimates a sum of £5,000, which was totally inadequate, and he wished to know what this was intended to be. It had been clearly demonstrated in the last and former Parliaments that Pembroke could not be a completing yard until it was possessed of a coaling jetty and sheer legs. At the present time Her Majesty's ships, after they were launched from the dockyard, had to be sent to a jetty three-quarters of a mile from the dockyard to have their boilers and machinery put into them and to be fitted. He asked, in common justice to Pembroke, that these necessary works should be undertaken, and he warned the First Lord, after the extravagant promises made by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, that unless their promises made before the General Election were in a substantial measure fulfilled, that the Welsh Members, as a whole, would adopt every legitimate means to secure for Pembroke Dockyard fair and equitable treatment in the disbursement of public money.
§ SIR EDWARD GOURLEY (Sunderland)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had commenced his very able and lucid statement regarding the Navy by dealing with its personnel. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to increase the number of men of all ranks from 88,500 to 93,700. The vital question which the country had to face was, whether the 372 number of men asked for was equal to the manning of the whole of the ships now ready, and which would be ready, for the pennant during the current financial year. He might say at the outset, that he was against this continual and costly increase in the Permanent Staff, and was in favour of an increase in and the reorganisation of the Naval Reserves. In order to ascertain whether the number of men asked for was sufficient or otherwise, it was necessary to deal with the ships under construction. There were now being built eight battleships, 21 cruisers, and 41 destroyers, besides torpedo-boats for harbour service. To meet the demand caused by these new vessels, the Government proposed to take 4,900 men for the 29 ships, exclusive of the torpedo destroyers. That only allowed 170 men for each ship, whereas the eight battleships alone would need 4,800 men. Therefore there would only remain 100 men to man the 21 cruisers and 41 destroyers. Then there were to be added to the ships coming forward five new battleships, four first-class, three second-class, and six third class cruisers, and 28 destroyers, which would require not fewer than 7,000 men. Where were these men to come from when these ships were ready? The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Admiralty could get plenty of men, but he had also admitted that, in these days of complex machinery and guns, the men must be trained. In these circumstances, he was justified in asking, how long did it take to train a man, whether sailor or marine, so that he might be up to date in all the duties that had to be discharged on board a man-of-war? He understood that, after passing through the education given on board a training-ship, it required 12 months to make a lad perfect in man-of war duties. Therefore it took three years to make a lad a sailor. He ventured to ask, first, what arrangements the Admiralty were going to make for manning the enormous fleet that was coming forward, either as regarded the Permanent Staff or the Reserves; and secondly, what provision had been made to make good waste in the event of war on an emergency? As far as he could make out, they had made no provision whatever to meet such demands. When the Admiralty sent out the Special Service Squadron the 373 other day, they had to impress every available man from the four quarters of the earth to man the ships, even men who had not completed their furlough after having returned from service of two or three years on foreign stations. But were there enough men at home to man the Reserves? It might be said that we had 4,000 in the Coastguard and 25,000 men in the Reserves. But could the Admiralty place their hands upon those men, and were they in every sense well-trained men, so as to be up to date in the knowledge of modern gunnery? A part of the Coastguard was already afloat with the Channel Squadron, whilst the Naval Reserves were scattered all over the globe. From the reports that had been received regarding those men who were on board the Channel Squadron, their shore training was a snare and a delusion, and they had to begin their training on board ship almost de novo. No doubt the men were the finest material in the world, but they were badly trained. The Naval Reserves, for instance, were trained in obsolete batteries, in obsolete ships, and with obsolete 18-pounder muzzle-loading guns. As far back as 21 years ago it was known at the Admiralty that the Naval Reserve was being drilled with obsolete guns; but that was only an illustration of the way in which things were managed at the Admiralty. All that was required was that the system should be reorganised on modern lines. The efficient manning of the Navy must be the very first and most important consideration of the Admiralty. It was just as important as the building of ships. To build ships and provide them with machinery and guns without having the men ready for them was, to his mind, to put the cart before the horse. But there was no reason why the Admiralty should not have a larger number of men in reserve. There were in connection with the Mercantile Marine something like 240,000 able seamen and firemen, besides about 110,000 to 120,000 men engaged in the fisheries, and 50,000 engaged in the inland navigation of the rivers in barges and such craft. All these men might be brought under the head of seafaring men, and there was no reason why the number of men attached to the Naval Reserve of the first and second class should not be raised from 25,000 374 to 50,000. Again, he thought that at least a portion of the Naval Reserve men ought to be sent to sea every year on board a modern ship to be properly trained for at least a month. No doubt the men might object to this, but their objections might be overcome by more liberal treatment. Men in the Mercantile Marine received good wages, and if the Admiralty wished to induce these men to join the Reserve, they should be prepared to give them the same wages, and pensions, on all fours with the pensions accorded to men in the Navy. He was totally opposed to an increase of the permanent staff, seeing that no effort had been made to utilise and reorganise the Naval Reserve. Every 15,000 men of the permanent staff cost about £100 a head, while on the other hand, the country might and could have an efficient reserve of 50,000 trained men for not more than £10 or £15 a head. But there was another point to which he would like to call attention, and it was this. The late Admiral Hornby, than whom there were few higher authorities, advocated the creation of a Naval Reserve proper out of the men who did not re-enter the service after their first term of 12 years. The services of these men ought to be retained to the country in the same way as the services of the men leaving the Army were retained. As to the number of men who rejoined for a second term, according to the last Parliamentary Return, when we had between 50,000 and 60,000, only about 10,000, or about 20 per cent. of the whole rejoined. The country annually lost all their fine fighting material, which might be retained; and to his mind it was suicidal on the part of the Admiralty not to devise some sort of scheme by which the services of these men might be retained. Why did the men refuse to rejoin? It was owing to a variety of causes. First, the arbitrary treatment on board ship; secondly, the quarter-deck and court-martial system; thirdly, there was no chance of retiring when once a man re-entered; fourthly, the method of giving leave; fifthly, the compulsory wearing of uniform when on leave; sixthly, the long Commissions abroad, frequently in unhealthy climates; seventhly, insufficient pay to maintain a wife and family; and eighthly, the keeping of conduct sheets, as though in 375 prison, throughout a man's entire service. These were complaints which the men had always placed before the Admiralty, and he thought the time had arrived when the Admiralty ought to consider them in order that the great bulk of the men might be induced to re-enter. Going back to the Naval Reserve, he urged, that not only ought it to be reorganised, but the number should be increased from 25,000 to 50,000. It was of the highest importance that the country should know and understand that in the event of emergency there were men on whom it could rely for the purpose of sending to sea sufficiently manned, not only the ships in reserve, but the ships coming forward.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
thought that the House and the country did not realise the value to be placed on the engineer staff on board our warships. Who were the men upon whom the value of our valuable ships depended? They were the engineers and artificers, and it was a source of great grievance with the engineer officers that they were marked by a great and gross caste distinction which ought to be removed from their Commissions. Take, for example, an engineer in charge of a torpedo-boat destroyer. He had served five years, say, at Keyham College, then he passed on to sea as a junior, and in course of time he rose to be first-class assistant. By this time he had served 15 years, while the commander put in charge of the vessel might be only 22 years of age. Why should a man going through such a training, who was charged with the care of valuable machinery, who was engineer, boatswain, and practically carpenter—why should such a man only rank after the executive officer. It was high time the present derogatory crest-mark should be taken away from such men. Even the paymasters and the surgeons got more pay than the engineers, on whose shoulders rested the responsibility of great and valuable ships. Let the First Lord take away that which rankled in the breast of every engineer in the Navy, and he would remove a great source of discontent. Coming to the artificers, he had just received a letter from a gentleman respected by the Admiralty who 376 held a great position in the engineering staff, and here was what he said:—I do bitterly complain that, strive as we may, the Admiralty consistently ignore us.And, alluding to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty at Lewes, added:—''They regard us as of less importance to the British Navy than seamen and marines. I hope you will remember the position of our artificers, who enter the Navy from outside, and who are the backbone of our staff.What was an artificer? There was a notion abroad that he was a man employed in the engine-room to put oil into a series of small holes. An artificer was a man who had served five years of apprenticeship in an engine factory. Throughout those five years the lad had to go through his training of fitting and turning, and night attendance at practical schools of drawing and other instruction. In due time he passed an examination at Chatham, and was entered in one of Her Majesty's ships as an artificer. When he went on board he was sent down below to work upon the engines, to overhaul the pumps, and generally to take the working of the engines under his charge. Thenceforth there was no hope for him. The moment he entered as an artificer all hope was banished from his breast. He saw no higher position in the Navy before him. He toiled night and day, stood his watches, in cold and wet, calm and storm, but there was no prospect of rising for him at all. In every other branch of the service there was always some chance of advancement. Why not in the case of the artificer? ["Hear, hear!"] Did a gunner serve five years' apprenticeship? Or a boatswain? Had he a scientific training? No. And yet here was the grandest body of men in the service, and the Admiralty would not even give them warrant rank. Why didn't they open the door to them, and enable them to be engineer officers? That would stimulate them with ambition. A man who had no ambition was no man at all. He could relate a telling and pathetic incident in connection with the engineers. The Committee would remember Her Majesty's ship Resolution, and how she nearly foundered in the Bay of Biscay. 377 Who saved that ship? When the ventilator covers were washed away and the sea came pouring down into the stokehole, and the fires were being drenched out, who stood by the engines up to their waists in water, not for an hour, but for 48 hours? It was the engine room artificers. Their one supreme thought was to save the ship. They were within an ace of going down, and the ship would have foundered as surely as the Victoria did when she collided with the Camperdown, but for the gallant pluck and sustained determination of the engine-room artificers. If promotion were given to the artificers, the Admiralty need no longer be anxious for the engineering staff, because they would be making engineers. At present artificers were in charge of the machinery of some torpedo boats and gun boats; but these men had the responsibility without the rank. The engineering branch of the service, officers and artificers, would never have justice until the old system at the Admiralty was altered. The Board of Admiralty was composed of gallant admirals and captains for whom he had the highest respect, but they all belonged to the executive branch of the service. They knew nothing about engineering. In these days of science, the old system must be broken up; and a couple of engineer officers should be placed on the Board of Admiralty, to represent that great engineering staff on whom so much responsibility rested. He appealed with no personal or selfish motive to the First Lord of the Admiralty to break down the hopeless system under which the artificers were now employed. Let him delete from his engineer's commissions the words ''to rank with but after.'' They bore the stigma of degradation. Let the engineer-officers' rank be in keeping with their responsibilities, and let the artificers have some hope, when only a stroke of the pen was required to give it. If this reform were effected, he would guarantee to give the Admiralty within 12 months at least 20 engine-room artificers from his own place. But he feared that he was speaking to deaf ears; to ears barbetted with steel plates. He had often been told that the Admiralty was a close corporation, and that nothing could be done. 378 But this proposal of his was to make the Navy more efficient, without spending a penny.
CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devon, Torquay)
wished to assure the hon. Member that there was no such democratic institution in the world as a Naval Mess. Every officer who joined had to make his own position, no matter what his rank. If he were a good comrade, who knew his work and did it, his position would be assured; and if he were a disagreeable person, no matter what rank the Admiralty might give him, his position would not be satisfactory. As to the engine-room artificers, he echoed what had been said as to the value of that class of men, and he should be glad to see the door opened to them to rise to a higher position. But it was impracticable that every engine-room artificer should be a warrant officer; because, according to the customs of the service, the officer must ''stand off,'' and promotion would prevent the artificer from using the file and hammer in the practical work of his position. [''Nonsense!'' from Mr. W. ALLAN.] As to the term ''petty,'' it was of very long standing in the Navy; and for centuries had been borne by men who had done honourable service in all parts of the world. There was nothing in the title of a petty officer that a man need be anything but proud of. The statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, made on Monday last, would give great satisfaction to the Navy and to the country. Some had said that it was not complete enough. Its strong point, in his opinion, was its completeness, inasmuch as it provided for every branch of the service equally. It provided for a steady increase in the number of men by 2,000 a year; and as to the contention that there were not enough men to man all the ships that would shortly be built, no Government would think of keeping every ship which was ready for sea in commission. It would be quite unnecessary, and the cost would be greater than the country would stand. Besides, it would be a bad thing for the men and for the service, if there were a larger number of men enlisted and trained than could be sent to sea. A few years ago he had seen a number of boys who had 379 passed through the training-ship, detained at the depôt at Devonport for nearly a year, and occupied with the work of ''dockyard horses,'' in moving things about. To train a larger number of boys and seamen than could be employed was a great mistake. With regard to the Marines, he regretted that a larger provision had not been made for an increase in that force. He was aware that the barrack accommodation at Walmer was not large enough to accommodate a very great increase in the number of men, but, as he noticed that new barracks were about to be completed, he sincerely hoped a arger number of he Marines would be enrolled. An increase in the force was especially necessary in view of the large number of ships in commission, and of the fact that our ''fleet reserve'' had skeleton crews. He awaited with interest the publication of the scheme in regard to officers, in the hope that he would find some steps were to be taken to accelerate the flow of promotion amongst the Lieutenants. He, in common with all officers in the service, welcomed the improvement in the position of the warrant officers, and agreed with the suggestion made the other night that chief gunners, boatswains and carpenters should be called fleet gunners, boatswains and carpenters. He was exceedinly glad the Admiralty had at length adopted the plan so long talked of—viz., the replacement of the Britannia and the second ship, which had been made as much unlike ships as possible, by a College ashore. The general conditions of life in the College would be better, and an important point was that instead of having a tender attached to the College like the present one, which was practically useless, there was, he understood, to be a sloop, on board which the cadets could drill to some purpose. The First Lord had also told them the age of entry was to be advanced by a year. That was a step in the right direction. It might be said a year would not make a great deal of difference, but it would make some. In many things it would make a considerable difference, because during that year school candidates for naval cadet-ships would be better grounded in algebra and trigonometry which, after all, were the basis of all naval officers' work, scientific education. In 380 connection with the training of the officers, and also of the men, of the fleet, he desired to say a word or two on the subject of a training squadron. The First Lord expressed himself in favour of a training squadron. The large majority of naval officers capable of forming an opinion were in favour of maintaining a training squadron. There had been and there was now a certain amount of opposition. It was held that, inasmuch as all our warships are propelled by steam, it was a waste of time to take men on board a ship that was nearly always under sail. That opposition was dying away, because the more officers served in a training squadron, the more they found the advantage of the drill. Any officer who could handle a ship under sail could do so under steam. He hoped that before long they would find the training squadron so increased that a very much larger proportion of the commissioned executive officers, and a larger proportion of the seamen and all the cadets, would pass a period of service on board of it. He also hoped at the same time that the commanding officers might be allowed to see a little more of the cadets and midshipmen, because after all they were to be officers first. It had been urged that no real training for war purposes was got on a squadron under sail. He disputed that contention, and remarked that two of the greatest authorities we ever had on steam tactics, the late Admirals of the Fleet, Sir Thomas Symons and Sir Geoffrey Hornby, were well known for their skill in handling ships under sail. In mentioning Sir Thomas Symonds he wished to say it was in a great measure due to the untiring exertions of that gallant officer that the Navy was in its present satisfactory condition. Turning to the question of the Naval Reserves, he could fully hope that ere long a large increase would be made in that force, because we must rely upon it. We could not keep enough men permanently engaged to man all our ships, and therefore we must depend upon reserve stokers and seamen. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Havelock Wilson) referred very eloquently to the fact that there was a decrease in the number of British seamen in the Mercantile Marine. That circumstance was to be 381 regretted, and he would cordially welcome any step Parliament might take to remedy the evil. But there were other resources. There was the fishing population, and he was quite sure that if the distinction between first and second class reserve men were removed, that was, if the fishermen were allowed to qualify for the post of first-class reserve men, we should get a very much larger supply if we did not get all the men we required. He had had the honour of being in charge of a battery where a large number of fishermen drilled, and he found them a hardy, temperate, and a thoroughly reliable body of men. In time of war they would be found just as efficient as the merchant seamen who went on foreign service, and he strongly advised that the disability of fishermen should be removed. There was the question of mobilisation. He knew quite well that the commissioning of the Flying Squadron was performed without any strain upon our resources, but that was not entirely due to the Admiralty. It was in great measure due to the establishment of the Naval Intelligence Department. Without that Department the Admiralty could not do their work as efficiently as they did. He hoped the Intelligence Department would be much further developed, for the more ample and complete the information officers received in times of emergency the more effectively they could apply the resources under their command. Proof of this might be gathered from the experience of the recent war between China and Japan, in which the necessity of a full and efficient Intelligence Department was keenly felt. In speaking on the point of new construction, the Leader of the Opposition was understood to say that he thought we might have some battle ships of comparatively small coal-carrying capacity in the Channel, because the fleet would not be allowed to leave the Channel in time of danger. All authorities on naval tactics would dispute that statement. He should be sorry for the admiral who was debarred from seeking or pursuing an enemy because some of his ships were of small coal-carrying capacity. ["Hear, hear!"] Coast defence ships were now practically obsolete. Such a ship was useful for one purpose only, namely, as a sort of floating fort. He hoped no more of them would be 382 built. He was glad to see that so many cruisers were to be built, but he would press on the attention of the Admiralty the importance of having among the large cruisers, or what would be better still, of having, in addition, vessels of 18 knots speed, capable of carrying 800 or 1,000 men beyond their crews. In time of peace such vessels could be economically utilised as troop ships, and in case of emergency could be readily armed and equipped. There was another point of importance touching the constructive programme, and in regard to which we were behind some foreign nations. He referred to the want of armoured water line belts on our ships. A vessel of the proposed build and the proposed high rate of speed would incur serious risks at sea unless strengthened by a water line armour belt. Contact with floating wreckage might knock a hole in her, and thus render her ineffective. He thought the absence of such armour belts was a weak point in our vessels, excellent as they were, and he hoped the Admiralty would give their attention to it. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
said, the manner in which the proposed enormous increase in the Navy Estimates had been received in the House and the country was a striking testimony to the clearness and ability of the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and also showed how deeply the country had been moved by recent events. He had, however, listened with some surprise and regret to the proposals of the Government. There was a large surplus this year, and they were all hoping for some reduction of taxation which might have improved trade and benefited agriculture in its present state of depression. Moreover, the speech from the Throne gave grounds for hoping that the anxieties of the first weeks of the year had passed away. But whatever might be their regret in regard to the proposals of the Government, it must be remembered that the Government made them with a deep sense of responsibility, and as even the Leaders of the Opposition felt that the increase ought not to be opposed, he could not undertake the responsibility of voting against it. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested that the increase was necessitated by the foreign policy of the Government; but, on the 383 contrary, it was forced on the Government by the policy of other countries. He did not share the gloomy views expressed by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean on the previous night, for he could not bring himself to believe that any number of foreign countries were likely at the present time to combine against England in case of war. It might be that England was not so popular abroad as they could wish, because our feelings and sentiments were not understood, but he was confident if foreign nations realised the unanimous desire of the English people for peace and friendship, that that unpopularity would pass away. At the same it was well that it should be known that any foreign country which attacked us would soon find that it had other enemies than Great Britain to meet. [Cheers.] Turning to the financial part of the Government proposals, he might say that he was by no means clear as to the mode in which it was proposed to deal with the surplus of the present year. Any tampering with the Sinking Fund would be very unfortunate. It was important not only that we should be financially strong, but that other countries should be made to understand how strong we were, and if the necessary expenditure could have been met by a moderate increase of taxation, without interfering with the Sinking Fund, such a course would have given foreign countries the greatest idea of our financial strength. The reduction of debt had greatly increased the financial strength of the country. In 25 years £150,000,000 of debt had been paid off, which was practically a reserve of £150,000,000, and which we could spend and yet be no worse off than before the reduction began. This fact was of great importance; £150,000,000 of money was the potentiality of our ships, or men, or arms, or all three. Moreover, the very credit of the position was a great element of strength. ["Hear, hear!"] If it could be said that at the first threat of war we were at once compelled to reconsider our arrangements, and suspend part of our Sinking Fund, we should greatly weaken our financial position. At the close of the last year our unfunded debt amounted to over £17,000,000. Why should not some of this be paid off? He understood that his right hon. Friend denied that the course proposed could be 384 considered a suspension of the Sinking Fund, and before going into the question further, he would, no doubt, give them his views somewhat more in detail. The two complications in which we had recently been involved had been directly on account of our Colonies—one, that of Guiana, and the other of South Africa. In neither case were they affairs primarily or directly affecting the mother country. This raised the question whether there should not be some Imperial fund for the defence of the Empire as a whole. The subject seemed to be one which, in their own interest, the Colonies should consider, for, of course, as long as we bore the whole expense of such demands, we must in the main consider our own requirements. ["Hear, hear!"] If, however, it was necessary to face this immense increase, could not some steps be taken, if possible, to enable future reductions to be made. The whole condition of Europe was most alarming. Not only was the weight of taxation almost unbearable, but debt was rapidly increasing. France had increased hers no less than £600,000,000 in 25 years. There could be but one end to this. Before many years are over we shall have another outburst of revolution unless some steps were taken to reduce this enormous expenditure on warlike preparations. As time went on it would be absolutely impossible for Great Britain, however much they might desire it, to bear the whole burden of providing for the security of the Empire, and he thought that, if the Colonies considered how the matter stood, they would find it was to their interest to bear their share of the Imperial burdens. It must necessarily follow that, so long as the whole expense of maintaining the Navy fell upon the people of this country, the Navy must primarily be used for the security of Great Britain. While they would wish to help the Colonies as far as they could, they must take care of themselves and protect their own shores and interests in the first instance. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer said they could not expect friendly relations with foreign Powers so long as they insisted on shaking their fists in their faces. He did not think it could fairly be said that they had been shaking their fists in the face of any foreign Power. ["Hear, hear!"] Other 385 Powers had threatened them very unnecessarily, and he thought the people of this country had shown great self-command and great dignity under very great provocation. [Cheers.] He was sure that in this increase of their Navy nothing was further from the thoughts of the Government, nothing was further from the the intentions of the House or from the wishes of the people than that it should be supposed to be in any way a threat directed against foreign Powers. [Cheers.] There was one way in which they might make it perfectly clear that they were not thrusting their fists in their face, but were really stretching out to them the hand of friendship. It was understood, when the Declaration of Paris was arrived at, that most of the countries concerned were willing, and indeed, anxious, to make commercial ships free of capture and seizure. The question was left at present in a very unsatisfactory position, and he could not but believe that most of the States would gladly fall into an arrangement whereby private property in ships should be rendered free from capture and seizure if the proposal were made. If that proposal were made by this country, he thought it would show clearly that this increase of the Navy was not intended in an unfriendly spirit to other countries. If the Government would make such a suggestion to other countries he believed they would have shown that they were anxious for peace and good will amongst the nations, and that they would have taken a great step forward in diminishing some of the horrors of war and in doing something to promote the civilisation of the world.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said, that, as one who, until July last, had some responsibility for Admiralty administration, the House would perhaps expect him to offer a few observations upon the proposals now before the House. At the outset he should like heartily to acknowledge that both the First Lord of the Admiralty and the First Lord of the Treasury had treated with fairness and with a total absence of Party recrimination the work which they found in hand when they succeeded to Office. He hoped the same spirit would characterise platform utterances, and that both those right hon. Gentlemen would use their 386 influence to prevent this subject, which they were all anxious to keep clear of mere Party recriminations, becoming a topic of that kind on the platform. Unprecedented in amount as were these Estimates, and regrettable as it undoubtedly was that such a large burden should have to be thrown upon the British taxpayer, he was personally quite unable to criticise in any hostile spirit the demands put before the House, and this for more than one reason. First and foremost was the reason that when any Government came down to the House, and on its responsibility made a demand on the House for military or naval expenditure and said that expenditure was necessary for the safety of the country, no Opposition, whatever its views, and no House of Commons, ever refused, or even reduced, the demand. He might add to this that he recognised in the scheme a large number of the proposals which would certainly have been made by Lord Spencer's Board had they remained in Office,—shipbuilding proposals, for example, which formed part of Lord Spencer's programme. The House would therefore see that, personally, he felt it impossible to speak in opposition to the proposals as a whole and was indisposed to criticise unduly minor details. He recognised that nothing tended so much to check open warfare between the "outs" and the "ins," at least of the Admiralty, as continuity of administration. He could not refuse to recognise that there was much continuity in the proposals which were now before the House, and he ventured to express his pleasure at the acceleration which the present Government had been able to introduce with respect to some part of the work of their predecessors. When the late Government came into office they found a large number of ships which were being built under the Naval Defence Act in hand, and they resisted the temptation—to which he thought they were not personally much disposed, but to which other Governments in the past, perhaps, had been—of embarking with undue haste upon some new policy of building a totally new type of ships and leaving on the stocks ships in process of construction designed in the time of their predecessors, instead of completing them with as much rapidity as possible. What they did was to accelerate the 387 completion of the Naval Defence Act ships, and it was satisfactory to hear how useful they had been at the present juncture. ["Hear, hear!"] There were one or two remarks he should like to make in connection with that acceleration. It was extremely satisfactory, considering how very limited their source of supply for armour for battleships was, to find that the Sheffield firms had been able to turn out armour more rapidly than they anticipated, and had greatly increased their output. With respect to what the First Lord said as to armaments he had really nothing to complain of. The late Government took enough money in the Estimates for the rate of progress they anticipated, as the right hon. Gentleman had very fairly admitted. Whilst there was always difficulty in framing Estimates which provided for works, contract work, and stores, there was a special difficulty about the Armament Vote, and until there was more certainty as to what contractors could do, and, in particular, what Woolwich Arsenal could do, there would always be difficulty in estimating accurately. Coming to the shipbuilding proposals of the Government, he rejoiced to see that the scheme of the First Lord of the Admiralty under whom he served—Lord Spencer—was being carried out, with certain important additions and certain minor changes. These minor changes were doubtless considered necessary by the Government and the Naval Lords in view of recent experience. As to the types of cruisers, all these were the same as were settled in the time of the late Government, and he had nothing to say in the way of criticism. With regard to the designs for battleships it would be satisfactory to the House to know that they were prepared by Sir William White, and had the sanction of his authority. ["Hear, hear!"] He could not pass from the name of Sir William White without saying that it would be difficult to exaggerate the value of his work, and he was sure the House would rejoice to learn that there was a prospect of his early recovery of health. [Cheers.] He understood the new battleships were to have the same armaments as the Majestic and the Magnificent—that was to say, they were to have 12-in. wire guns and the same secondary armament. They were also to have the same power of coal endurance. 388 Something was said upon this subject by the Leader of the Opposition the previous night, and it would be gratifying to the House to learn that the point the right hon. Gentleman emphasised was really met by ships already in existence. There were very powerful ships which in times past were first-class battleships, but which had not got the coal endurance now considered necessary for ships that had to do service in distant waters. These ships would always be valuable for the purpose to which his right hon. Friend had referred, but personally he confessed he was glad to learn that the new ships were constructed with such an amount of coal endurance as would enable them to fulfil the conditions so admirably sketched by the hon. and gallant Member for Torquay—namely, that they should not only be capable of seeking out the enemy, but also of pursuing him in any waters into which he might go. ["Hear, hear!"] He, for one, rejoiced that the coal capacity of the ships had not been in any way diminished. The ships would have the same coal protection and the same arrangement of armour that existed in the Majestic and the Magnificent. Though they would have thinner side armour, they would have the advantages of greater speed with less draught and less cost, and an important point was they would be able to pass through the Suez Canal. He should not be satisfied with these ships unless he felt sure, from what had been stated by the responsible Minister, that they were, for offensive or defensive purposes, equal to the ships they might have to meet in war. There had been no yielding to the small party who advocated little ships against big ships, who argued that three or four little ships were better than one big one. The highest authorities were almost unanimous that our safety really lies in superiority, ship for ship. For himself, he did not speak as a naval expert, but simply as one who had studied these subjects for the last few years, sitting at the feet of great authorities. It was said that three or four ships could beat one. He would state two objections to that theory. The first was that we should be landed in far greater expense if we built our ships on that principle, and the second objection 389 was that experience was against the theory of three or four ships against one. Take the result of the experience of the old wars. Captain Mahan, one of the greatest naval experts, in his book on "The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire," where he described Lord Howe's engagement, on 28th May 1794, said:—''The Revolutionnaire was nobly fought, and the concentration upon her, while eminently judicious, served to bring out vividly the advantage, which should never be forgotten, of one heavy ship over several smaller, even though the force of the latter may, in the aggregate, be much superior.The same lesson was taught us during the recent war between China and Japan. Captain Mahan, in his article in the Century for May last, on "Lessons from the Yalu Fight,'' said:—As regards systems, the result of this episode is a drawn battle, which may be summed up broadly as the successful resistance of two ships, armoured, with a joint displacement of 15,000 tons, to five ships, partly protected, of 19,000 tons. This, as far as it goes, favours the view that a given amount of tonnage in one, or a few big ships, possesses a decided advantage over the same, or even a greater amount, divided among several. This view is also in strict accord with the general teachings of warfare, that force concentrated under one command is more efficient than that disseminated among several. This conclusion must not, of course, be pressed to absurdity, but tempered, as all practical conclusions are, by moderation and discretion. A man may consider one 10,000-ton ship better than two of 6,000, without wanting one of 20,000 tons at all, for sufficient reasons. Our fore-runners found a 74-gun ship absolutely superior to two frigates—for the latter to attack was considered folly—yet the 74 was their norm for the battleship, and only exceptionally was exceeded in size.He could quote other high authorities in the same direction. He rejoiced that the principle that our ships ought to be superior to the ships of the enemy was recognised by the present, as it was by the late First Lord of the Admiralty. As to the number of battleships, five additional ships, or thirteen in all under construction, he would say nothing. The Government were responsible for the proposal. But certainly the First Lord of the Admiralty advanced an extremely forcible argument when he referred to certain first-class battleships, now 10 or 12 years old, which must ere long be relegated to the second line. 390 The late Naval Administration were much attacked on two points. He admitted that they took two bold steps, first with respect to the large number of torpedo-destroyers they ordered—and he noted with satisfaction that the quality of them had been praised by the present First Lord, as well as that he was continuing the policy of building torpedo boat destroyers in large numbers. On the other point on which the present, like the late Board of Admiralty were attacked, from the internal knowledge he had gained, he thought the Admiralty were on firm ground. Although it had been at the outset a bold departure to adopt water-tube boilers, the pains taken beforehand to ascertain the experience, especially of the French, in water-tube boilers, were immense. An engineer officer of the Admiralty was sent on a long ocean voyage in two of the largest merchant steamers fitted with water-tube boilers, trading to Australia, and another able Admiralty official spent some time in France informing himself thoroughly on the subject. The result was to convert some of those who had been most opposed to the change to the opinion that the Admiralty would be right in introducing tubulous boilers into most of the torpedo boat destroyers and into the new cruisers. The evidence already before the Admiralty on the subject, and received long before he left, and that which had been presented to Parliament, as well as the evidence received from French sources, all pointed in the same direction, and he was satisfied, and he was sure the House would be in time, that the Admiralty had not only acted wisely, but with great promptitude and foresight in taking the steps they did to introduce water-tube boilers. He would defer his remarks on the works proposals in the Bill, only observing that the case for a third dock at Gibraltar had not been stated, and needed to be stated to the House. He would also say nothing on manning until they had heard the promised statement of the First Lord on that extremely important subject. For some time there had been great anxiety at the Admiralty with regard to certain difficulties in the education of naval cadets. These difficulties of discipline were due partly to the crowded state of the ship, and perhaps partly to 391 the fact that the masters could not live on board, and be brought into personal contact with the daily life of the boys to the same extent as in public schools. He was not at all surprised that the Government had come to the conclusion that a college on shore would afford a better training than was now given. He was prepared to admit, with the gallant Admiral the Member for Eastbourne, that there might be some loss, but not so much as he suggested, for after all, the Britannia was only an overcrowded old hulk, quite inadequate in many respects. But it would be necessary to make life on the water and practice in boating and sailing marked features of the future system. He cordially wished success to the experiment about to be made to defeat the crammers. One of the greatest drawbacks to the present system was the opening afforded to cramming by the examination, and he hoped that in future it might be possible for boys of ordinary ability to go from school direct to the training college without the intervention of the crammer. At present, exceptional boys could do this. But parents did not find that other boys could pass without special cramming. It was of real importance that the quality of the officers of the Navy should be maintained, and that we should secure the best available material for the Service, direct from public schools. In conclusion, he hoped that his remarks had been free from Party spirit, and that Party recrimination with respect to the Navy would be a thing of the past both in that House and on outside platforms. Let them all co-operate in promoting the efficiency and strength of our national defences. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
said, that a most important result of our naval policy had been not only the building of ships, but the getting rid for ever of some fatal errors which undoubtedly did much damage to our Navy in the past. We had got rid of the box citadel, of low seaboard, and the consequent necessity of carrying guns very low, and of muzzle-loading guns; and we had arrived at well-defined types of vessels which, unless some new discovery were made, were likely to be reasonably permanent. He did not think it wise to rely upon very large ironclads 392 which could not go into shoal water, where operations had very often to be undertaken in war. In times past such operations had been left to cruisers of great capacity, but the new cruisers would not be able to undertake this work. They had no armour, they had no light armour to perform those duties which used to be performed. His right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, in his excellent speech made yesterday, criticised with some severity the number of ships which his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty proposed to build in the next few years. The First Lord of the Treasury answered. Those two speeches—that of the Leader of the House and that of the First Lord of the Admiralty were not at variance in the least. A great coalition would not necessarily have cohesion, but, at all events, they must be prepared for something enormously large; but he thought it was just for the Government to rely on that want of cohesion which had ever been shown. But if he followed his right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, when he urged his criticism against the number of ships, he rather failed to establish his case; at least he did not fortify his case with a very close argument. He rather evaded numerical calculations, showing what he thought they ought to be prepared to do; and he thought that on the whole his right hon. Friend was right. He thought he did not take sufficiently into consideration certain facts, one of which was that this country could build a great deal quicker than any other country. As to the alleged differences in the speeches of the Leader of the House and the First Lord of the Admiralty, he failed to see it. It had been said that the First Lord of the Admiralty declared in his opening speech that the Admiralty, without reference to other Powers, had considered what were the requirements of this country, and had made their proposals accordingly. On the other hand, it was said the First Lord of the Treasury took two of the strongest Powers and made the calculations on that basis. The fact of the matter was the two statements were in perfect agreement. The First Lord of the Admiralty said their calculations were founded upon general views; they took into consideration the vessels that 393 other Powers had without forming too close a numerical calculation, and they were formed on foundations of that sort, and from all that he understood, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) to say, he did not take a different view. If the First Lord of the Treasury had told them that their ships were to be equal to the ships of two of the strongest Powers, he would have adopted undoubtedly a theory which naval writers for the last ten years had specifically declined to accept. ["Hear, hear!"] They had declined to accept the theory as to the Navy being equal to two of the strongest Powers, and for very obvious reasons. The problem which this country had to face had been the same for the last two centuries. What the country would look for was a Navy, a sufficient number of vessels to watch, block, and fight the ships of the countries with which they might be at war. He should not pursue the matter, because a good many Gentlemen wished to take part in the Debate, but he should like to mention other subjects to which his right hon. Friend opposite had referred in his speech last night. One of these questions was the manning of the Navy. Of that his right hon. Friend took a very pessimist view. He (Sir Charles Dilke) was of opinion that at the end of three years, at the present rate, there could not possibly be enough men to man all their ships. [Sir C. DILKE: "Or even now."] He said now, and he said it last year, that if all their men were called out, they should just have had enough; but this fact had been brought into play during the past year initiated by the present Government, and it was a most important factor in the question of the manning of the Navy—namely, the Admiralty were trying to get a sufficient number of boys at a greater age, so that the period of training was much reduced. Now, on this question of manning, he would presume to offer a suggestion to his right hon. Friend. He should allow for the fact that they were getting a larger number of boys at an older age. Personally, he was never a believer in catching boys very young. Why should they not graft on the present system a system of getting boys or young men to go into the Service for three or four years until they were effectively drilled, and then adding them to the Reserve? They must not 394 shut their eyes to the fact that good as the material of the Reserve was, it was only a partially drilled Reserve. Still, he agreed with the First Lord of the Admiralty that they must not expect to have a full crew for all ships—for it would be unreasonable to keep such a large number of men idle. He thought that, instead of such a system, there should be a real Reserve in the sense of being a Reserve composed of thoroughly trained men.
§ MR. G. W. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)
thought he might venture to say that the House generally was pleased with the Estimates submitted, and if there was any fault at all to be found with those Estimates, it was that they did not go far enough in the direction of strengthening the Navy. He was pleased to see that the Government were going not only to build ships, but to give their attention to such matters as the future extension of the dock accommodation, hospitals, training ships, and the manning of the ships, for without these accessories, the ships would be of comparatively little use. Above all things, he was glad there were to be three docks at Gibraltar, and while on that subject he should thank the First Lord of the Admiralty for his kind allusions to his late colleague and partner for so many years, Sir Edward Harland, who had taken the greatest interest in urging the construction of those docks for the use of the Service. [''Hear, hear!"] He intended to confine his observations to two matters of detail of which possibly he had some knowledge. The first was the manning of the Navy, and the other the plan on which he thought the proposed new ships ought to be built. The remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Allan) in reference to the engineers and artificers had his fullest sympathy. He could not see why artificers should be debarred from ever rising to the position of engineer officers. He would not say a word against the present system if it were an unalterable law in the Service that a man should begin at the bottom and go up by a system of training to the position of engineer or any other position of importance. But recently the Admiralty had taken 100 officers from the Marine Service. These men had not been specially trained on board a man-of-war; 395 but nevertheless they were deemed fit for this work, and were very properly appointed. In like manner he thought that if an artificer by study, qualified himself for the position of engineer, and showed his qualification by examination, he ought to be appointed an engineer. He did not think it would do any harm to the Navy. On the contrary, he thought that by offering chances of promotion in this way more recruits would be got for every branch of the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had given some alarming figures showing the great want of sailors; and the hon. Member for Middlesbrough had painted that dark picture darker still. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had quoted certain figures relating to the number of foreign sailors in our Mercantile Marine. He did not know where the right hon. Gentleman had obtained those figures, but before he accepted them he should like to know more about the matter.
§ SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, that the figures to which the hon. Member had referred were to be found in the Report of the Registrar General of Merchant Seamen, which was an annual return laid before Parliament, and which went into the subject in some detail.
§ MR. WOLFF
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had deducted from the total number of seamen in the Mercantile Marine 7,000 Lascars and 9,000 yachtsmen. He could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman had deducted the yachtsmen, who were in all probability very good sailors. Then the right hon. Gentleman deducted 30,000 foreign sailors, and thus reduced the number of the sailors of our Mercantile Marine by a large number. Of course, it might be a very good thing if British ships were always manned by British sailors, but shipowners did not carry on their business from patriotic or philanthropic motives. It was simply a question of cheapness whether shipowners employed foreign or British seamen on board their vessels. There were, however, other reasons that led to the employment of foreign seamen in our Mercantile Marine. For instance, it was an undisputed fact that the bulk of foreign seamen were more amenable to 396 discipline than British sailors were and were infinitely more sober. He did not know where the Admiralty proposed to get their men from to man the new vessels in case of war or of emergency, but he himself should look forward to the result with some anxiety. Owing to the different type of ship now forming the bulk of our Mercantile Marine we had far fewer sailors per thousand tons than we had in former days. For instance, a steam vessel of 4,000 tons required far fewer sailors than a sailing ship of 2,000 did. He was glad to see that it was proposed to engage older boys for the Navy. This question of the manning of the British Navy was a matter of great national importance and was well worthy of the attention of that House. There were one or two more points to which he should like to refer. As to the class of ships which the Government were going to build, the right hon. Baronet was in favour of building large ships. With regard to coast defence ships, he had had something to do with repairing and altering that class of vessel, and, in his opinion, they might do some service if they could lie at the mouth of harbours, but he was afraid that they would be useless at sea if any wind was blowing. He had always been in favour of building a number of third-class cruisers. It might be a luxury to other nations to have such vessels, but they were an absolute necessity for us. Unless some smaller unarmoured ships were provided, in the event of war breaking out we should suffer very severely. Then there was the question of the length of those ships. When he had spoken to Naval men on the necessity of increasing their length, they had always said, "Oh, you do not know how to fight a ship;" but, in the case of these third class cruisers, what was wanted was not so much fighting quality as the ability to go everywhere they were wanted, and that meant a far greater coal endurance. The only way that was obtainable was by greater length in proportion to tonnage. In conclusion, he wished to congratulate the Admiralty on the new system they had adopted of building ships as fast as they could. As a practical man, he congratulated the Admiralty on the speed with which they had turned out some of their ships. He thought it was creditable 397 to the Board; and if they continued to do the work in that way, this country would be able to place a fleet on the water quite equal to those Navies with which it was likely to come into contact.
§ LIEUT.-GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
wished to say a few words in regard to one matter of general policy which had not been touched on to any extent. With the increase of the Navy, there was to be an increase in the Naval bases and docks abroad, and he would like to call attention to one point, and that was the expense which must necessarily be involved in the production of these bases. This did not appear as an expense to be borne by the Navy; and yet it was involved in the maintenance of the Navy, and therefore came under Naval Expenditure. It had been mentioned that Mauritius would be selected as one place where a dock and Naval base was to be established. That meant that a garrison must be maintained there far in excess of what there was at present. 5,000 men would hardly be a sufficient garrison. A local supply of troops could not be relied on to any large extent there, as the population was not of British origin. It seemed to him that it would be much more desirable to establish these bases in places that were largely peopled by our own race. Australia had done wonderfully well at Sydney, and had undertaken the whole of the protection of the Naval bases in those parts. Simon's Bay had been spoken of; and if a base were established there, it would be protected by the troops in South Africa, and an increased garrison there would not be required. Again, if much was spent on Bermuda, it meant the supply of a large garrison from home; while if, on the other hand, the accommodation at Halifax were increased, the same precautions would not be necessary. Allusions had been made by the right hon. Member for the University of London and the hon. Member for Yarmouth to the exiguity of the contributions from the Colonies towards the expenses of the Navy. If they were speaking merely of money for the payment of sailors and the provision of ships there was no doubt some truth in what they said. But the Colonies contributed more largely than some people supposed, for they maintained the bases from which the Navy drew its supplies, and from which 398 it would conduct operations. He would give a practical instance of what was done in Canada when he commanded in Nova Scotia. When the garrison of Halifax was withdrawn for service in other parts of the North American station the whole defence of Halifax was entrusted to the Nova Scotia Militia. 15,000 men were placed under arms at the expense of the colonists and protected our naval base until the regular troops were able to return. What was done then would be done again on a larger scale if it should be necessary. That was a case where there were a distinct contribution from local funds to defensive purposes. There was no necessity for keeping our garrisons at war strength at these naval depôts, but it was desirable that we should know where to look for support, and how to bring our garrisons up to full strength when war should occur. Therefore, these depôts should be established where there was a population of our own blood, ready to strengthen the hands of the administration and to protect the base. There was another point to which he desired to call attention. In the days of our wars with Continental Powers our dockyards faced the Continent of Europe. In the future it would not be so much in the direction of France, or Holland, or Spain, that we might expect to meet the enemy as in the Atlantic, over which our food supplies and raw materials were mostly borne. He believed that it would be in the Western Atlantic that our great battles would be fought, and north of the Land's End we had no refitting yard worthy of name. But, both Pembroke Dockyard and Haulbowline Dockyard could be of great service if they were properly equipped and fitted up. He had been sorry to hear the hon. and learned Member for Waterford say that he intended to oppose every Vote on which there was an increase. He hoped that the hon. Member would reconsider the case of Haulbowline at any rate. Aspirations as they knew had been expressed that Ireland might become an independent nation. That was not likely to happen in our time, and he was most desirous that as long as Ireland remained part of our nation, she should have the same opportunities as England, of being useful in connection with the Fleet. He hoped, therefore, that Haulbowline would receive the grant which it 399 was proposed to allocate to it, and that it would be made an effective yard. He also hoped that Pembroke Dockyard, which he represented, would be made efficient. He urged that this should be done not only on local but also on Imperial grounds. As he had said, the Western Atlantic would be the scene of the great fights of the future, and as near as possible to that scene, they ought to have a dockyard where our fleet could refit and get ready to take the sea again. He was aware that intentions had been expressed both by the late and the present Board of Admiralty to make improvements at Pembroke Dockyard, but he regretted to say, that up to the present time no action had been taken to carry those intentions out. Practically nothing was proposed in these Estimates for the improvement of the dockyard. He hoped that proposals for the purpose were only deferred in order that a complete scheme might be elaborated and that before long, there would be a thoroughly satisfactory dockyard on our western seaboard for the use of the fleet that protected the enormous commerce that come into the Bristol Channel and the ports of Liverpool, Glasgow, &c. Up to the present Pembroke had had no chance of showing what it could do. In the days of wooden ships the dockyard completed them, but at present the vessels were launched at Pembroke. When the vessels were built the engines were put in and the vessel was sent round to Plymouth to be fitted out. The result was that neither dockyard could claim to have completed a vessel, and each fault was charged on one dockyard or the other. This should not be the case in respect of a dockyard where 13 vessels of war could be built at one time.
The hon. Member is now dealing with a very particular question—namely, the construction of works at Pembroke Dock. He cannot deal with this in the general conversation on the first Vote; his remarks would be more applicable when Vote 10 is reached.
§ LIEUT.-GENERAL LAURIE
said, in that case he pressed for reconsideration of the general organisation of the several yards, to enable each to fit out vessels and place them complete in the hands of those who had to command and fight 400 with them. In connection with the question of Reserves he said, that we had lately seen the very last trooper manned by officers and sailors of the Royal Navy sailing for its last trip from Portsmouth. We were told we could not maintain a large body of surplus of sailors, because we had nothing for them to do. Those troopers were originally built, and manned, and fitted out, in order to employ our Reserve sailors in time of peace, and it seemed a pity to give them up. The question had been raised as to the possibility of obtaining a supply of additional seamen to man our vessels in the emergency of war. He suggested to the First Lord of the Admiralty that it might be desirable to extend the Naval Reserve Act to the Colonies. In North America alone we had 70,000 men accustomed to the sea, a large proportion of whom would be willing to join the Naval Reserve, and place their services at the disposal of this country in time of war. It might be desirable to endeavour to utilise the services of a certain number of these men so as to get in the thin end of the wedge, and in time of war to be able to employ those thorough sailors in manning our Navy.
SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth) moved the reduction of the Vote by 1,000 men, in order to condemn the immense Estimates and the stupendous expenditure laid before Parliament. It was time that some one should take this action, because he understood from the speeches of the Opposition Leaders that they were not going to take any particular part in opposing these large Estimates. They appeared to think that as the Estimates were brought forward on the responsibility of the Government, the Government must remain responsible for them. But he did not think that hon. Members in other parts of the House were bound by that doctrine, because he did not see what use the House of Commons was if it abandoned its right of discussion on the most important Question brought before it. He did not think, however, that he would get much support, for he read in The Times the other day that—
The opposition to the Naval expenditure would probably be confined to Mr. O'Kelly. … and his associates, with a handful of unconsidered Radicals.
He believed that the House would give a fair consideration even to the arguments of a minority. It was an inconsistent and grotesque policy we were pursuing in this matter in view of the declaration in the gracious Speech from the Throne that Her Majesty "continued to receive from foreign Powers the assurance of their friendly sentiments." He had not heard any argument which warranted the enormous expenditure of 58 millions entirely for defence. Here was a Christian nation, which could not settle matters with other Christian nations except by these tremendous preparations for mutual slaughter and destruction. He knew the admirals, generals and colonels rejoiced in the whole thing. They were never so happy as on this night when the Army and Navy Estimates were brought forward. He knew they regarded those who thought there was a better way of defending the country and settling disputes than by "ornamental murder" as a contemptible lot of people. Their motto was: "Cursed, not blessed, are the peace-makers." Still we hoped two or three voices would be raised to-night in support of the good old cause of peace, retrenchment and reform. [Laughter.] Yes; the whole thing had become a joke now. And, what was worse, he believed hon. Members represented their constituents in so regarding it. He believed the working men were as keen on spending this money as the House of Commons was. That was all the more reason why those who thought differently should not be silent. He disputed the soundness of the doctrine that for all time and in all circumstances this country was to be made impregnable from attack. In the first place, it was impossible. ["No, no!"] In the second place, life was not worth living if we were to go on in this way. What was the good of a man if he had to walk about in heavy armour all his life? [Laughter] They talked about this being an insurance of the national property, but the time comes when the insurance eats up the income, and we were rapidly approaching that time. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had referred to Sir Robert Peel's maxim, that "in time of peace we must, by retrenchment, consent to incur some risk." The right hon. Gentleman called that a prehistoric doctrine. Well,
he would far rather have the doctrine of a prehistoric statesman than the ravings of an up-to-date jingo. It was said that without a supreme Navy, our food supplies could not be brought into the country. But Lord Wolseley had declared his belief that nothing could prevent ships from landing cargoes on our shores. And why did the right hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet vote for this Navy which was to protect our food supplies, when his great object was to keep them out? The right hon. Member believed that too much corn would ruin his fellow-countrymen just as he (Sir W. Lawson) believed that too much drink would ruin them. There was no man in the House whom he honoured more than the right hon. Gentleman, because he was staunch and true. Pope said that an honest man was the noblest work of God; an honest politician was certainly the rarest work of God. The next argument was that the British Navy must be supreme. But why? It was not laid down in the Bible. When Russia tried to obtain fresh territory anywhere, how we denounced her! And why was it better to be supreme on sea than on land? If we talked so much about our supremacy, other nations would not stand it, and we should provoke that very combination against us to which the First Lord of the Treasury had referred. It was not for defence that these great armaments were got ready. It was an uneasy feeling as to our doings in the world. It was the conscience what "makes cowards of us all." It was because we wanted to cut a figure in the world along with the other nations, and to use these great armaments for another purpose than defence. Whenever England saw a country with any gold or valuable property in it, she went for it—if it were not very strongly defended. That was our national weakness. The right hon. Member for the University of London used to tell a story, illustrating the British character, about a farmer who always used to bother his landlord with absurd questions when they met out hunting. One day he said, "My lord, what's the news?" The answer was, "Oh, the Dutch have taken Holland." "By Jove," said the farmer, "We'll have them out of that pretty quick," That was the Englishman all
over; it was our glorious foreign policy. The Secretary for the Colonies called it "developing the estate." Lord Rosebery called it "pegging out claims." The able editors of our newspapers called it "opening up the furthest parts of the world to Christianity and civilisation," or, in other words, to the importation of gin and gunpowder. He called it robbery, because he was a "little Englander," and was proud of the name. He called it robbery because he was a Little Englander and proud of the name. That name meant an honest, humane, and a just England. He was unwilling to trust any Government—Liberal or Conservative—with these enormous means of carrying on evil practices, the machinery for mischief. He did not blame the First Lord of the Admiralty for introducing these Estimates and he did not blame the Party opposite for supporting them. They did not ask for half enough if they were going to rule the whole world and be supreme. [An HON. GENTLEMAN: "Hear, hear!"] If they wanted to go on that lay in accordance with the wishes of the Gentleman who cried "hear, hear!" they must have more ships, more men. They must have conscription and prepare for national bankruptcy very shortly. He hoped the people of the country and their representatives would be wise in time. Surely there were warnings enough of what this military spirit led to Look at Germany, the discontent there was a cause of great danger and difficulty. Look at Italy, she was in absolute peril of her very existence. Spain did not seem to be in a much better position. Would it not be a noble and godlike thing for this nation—this great, free nation of England—to take a course which would check all this military spirit, instead of stimulating it, because it is quite certain that this militarism is hurrying Europe to some great catastrophe? Could we not try a better spirit? Could we not try to make ourselves loved instead of feared throughout the world? In his humble opinion, the policy embodied in these Estimates was a policy of defiance, not defence; and he felt bound to oppose it, because he thought it was disparaging to our national character and injurious to the best interests of the people. He begged to
move a reduction of the Vote by 1,000 men and boys.
§ Question proposed, "That 92,750 men and boys be employed for the said Services."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.) moved, "That progress be reported."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's,) Hanover Square
said, there was still a quarter of an hour left for discussion—[cries of "Ten minutes"]—which he hoped the Committee would occupy.
§ MR. DILLON
trusted the First Lord of the Admiralty would not oppose the Adjournment. In the general Debate he wished to speak, but was closured.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said, that, in consenting to report progress, might he ask a favour in return—and that was, that the Naval Works Bill, which had been blocked for several nights by hon. Members from Ireland, might be allowed to proceed? ["No, no!"] The stage was formal, and he thought it would be to the convenience of the House that it should now be taken. ["No!"]
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid.)
said, he was responsible for the blocking of the Bill, and he would be most willing to humiliate himself by withdrawing the block if it was the wish of his Leader that it should be withdrawn
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
thought the request of the right hon. Gentleman was most unreasonable, seeing the rapid progress which had been made with the Bill. He should certainly feel it his duty to object to the Bill being taken.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
did not think hon. Gentlemen would believe the First Lord of the Admiralty was unreasonable when they recollected that the real stage for the discussion of the Bill was the Second Reading. In consequence of the Naval Works Bill being a money Bill, there were two or three stages of a purely formal character. The Bill could not be printed until these formal stages had been passed, and until it was printed they could not properly discuss it. He hoped hon. Gentlemen would consent to 405 the formal stage being taken. It was in their own interest that the Bill should be printed and circulated. ["Hear, hear!" and Nationalist cries of "No!"]
§ Mr. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)
said, the Government proposed to take only a formal stage of the Bill, and as they had promised that opportunity should be given for full discussion on the merits of the Bill on a subsequent stage, he thought their proposal was a reasonable one, and advised hon. Members to agree to it. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DILLON
said, that all sections of the Irish Party had abstained from taking any part in the general discussion of the Estimates, notwithstanding the strong views they entertained about them, as long as they saw that experts desired to speak; and yet, when an Irishman rose for the first time at the end of the Debate the other night, the Leader of the House at once moved the closure. [Nationalist cheer.] In those circumstances it was rather cool of the First Lord of the Treasury to expect that Irish Members were going out of their way to give the Government special facilities to get through their business, especially in relation to the Naval Works Bill and the Estimates. The Government had had full warning that the Irish Members objected to the proposed increase of expenditure under both the Naval Works Bill and the Estimates, and that they desired to explain the grounds of their objection. Moreover, he apprehended that according to the ruling of the Speaker, this would be the last occasion on which hon. Members would have the opportunity of discussing the general policy of the Government in relation to this great expenditure on the Navy. They might be able to discuss special matters on particular Votes, but not again matters of general naval policy as on this Vote. Therefore, he thought the request of the Government was unreasonable. The Irish people and the Irish Party were entirely opposed to this policy, and the Irish Members intended that the opinions of the people of Ireland should be fully and clearly stated on the matter. The Irish Members opposed the proposed increase of expenditure root and branch, and he claimed the adjournment of the Debate 406 in order that they might have the opportunity of giving their reasons for doing so.
And, it being midnight, the Motion to report Progress lapsed without Question put.
And the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.