§ (In the Committee.)
That a sum not exceeding £1,612,000 be granted to Her Majesty to defray expenses of contract work, shipbuilding, etc.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
Before I submit to the House the supplemental programme which, I believe, is expected, I think honourable Members would wish me to say a word or two with reference to the original programme, and supply them with some in formation which I promised when the Navy Estimates were first introduced. We have been making good progress under the ordinary programme of the year, but I am bound to say that the effects of the labour difficulties still hamper to a certain extent the rapidity of progress which we should desire. All engineering works are now so glutted with orders that they are scarcely able to supply the material. In a certain direction it has been difficult to "fetch up" so much as we had hoped. Still, I may say good progress has been made. For instance, three of our cruisers have now been delivered. The Diadem was delivered on the 19th inst. The Europa and Niobe have been delivered later than was expected, but not in one case later than the contract date. In this case the ship was only six weeks behind the time expected. I recommend 855 that to honourable Members who have what I may call a passion for penalties. In these cases no penalties will be incurred. Then the Hannibal and the Illustrious, the two last ships of the Majestic class, have been completely finished. They have gone through all their trials, and are now in commission. This completes what I may call one important stage of construction. It completes a group of nine ships of the Majestic class, which, I think I may say, have commanded universal admiration among all classes of naval critics, and are considered to be almost unrivalled. This group of nine follows on another fine class of ships, the Royal Sovereign class, which is composed of eight ships, and I may add to these the Renown, which is of a slightly different character, but a new and fine ship. That is a total of 18 first class battleships of the most modern type. Besides this there are the Barfleur, the Centurion, the Nile, the Trafalgar, and the Sanspareil—five ships—and six ships of the Admiral class, giving a total of 29 ships of the first class. Then there are building six of the Canopus class, three of the Formidable class, which are improved Majestics, and in my original programme this year three more Formidables were to be laid down. That makes 12 first class ironclads building, which, added to the 29 completed, of which I have spoken, gives us a total of 41 first class battleships built and provided for. That is the position of the original programme, independently of the recent action which has been taken by a certain great Power. The Admiral class are not equal to the others, but, if we have in that list of 41 which I have mentioned six which are not equal to the others, there is a larger number of older ships and inferior ships in the lists of any other two Powers containing first class ironclads. Our numbers are equal to those of any two Powers in first class battleships, taking ships built and building; and I am prepared to maintain that the 41 ships which I have mentioned cannot be matched in power, speed, and efficiency generally by the corresponding fleets of any two Powers. That, I think, can be established, and will be generally admitted. Now, I have said there are three Formidables to be laid down this 856 year. Let me record to the Committee the original programme of this year. There were to be three battleships, four cruisers, four armoured cruisers, and four sloops. The three battleships are to be Formidables, and perhaps at this point I ought to say something with regard to the armour question. The Committee will remember certain controversies took place about the armour question. I do not think that it is possible that the armour manufacturing firms can deliver, in the course of the present financial year, more than we anticipated, and we shall be very glad indeed if they come up to the demands which we have made upon them. I myself have visited these firms. They are working day and night. There is not a single hour of the week when any rest takes place. They work in shifts, and what is very satisfactory is that all three of the great Sheffield firms are largely increasing their works, and hope, within a measurable time, to be able to increase their output. Also, there is a fourth firm which is now able to compete with them and bring in a certain amount of armour. I am informed that investigations were made to test the sincerity of my statements with regard to the difficulty of providing armour. Honourable Members and the public will remember that it is not only a question of supplying a certain number of plates of armour, but they must come up to a certain test. Until a firm has passed the test required there is no security as to when the number of plates required can be delivered. For instance, one firm is a year behind the other in being able to provide plates of a certain quality. They vie with each other, and I believe now that all have overcome the difficulties, and that they will be able to set to work continuously and energetically to supply all the armour we require. Of course, we are in a different position to some other Powers, but I trust we shall always be able to produce in this country all the armour we require, while other countries purchase their armour elsewhere. Well, now, it is also forgotten that the armoured cruisers require a considerable amount of armour. That is a new element that must be taken into consideration. However, I trust that the firms may be able to supply the necessary armour in good time for the pro- 857 gramme which I have the honour to submit to the Committee. There is one question in connection with battleships which I will touch upon very briefly at this moment—namely, the question of re-constructing and re-arming the older ships. There are two problems which have been put before us on this point—one by my noble Friend the honourable and gallant Member for York [Lord Charles Beresford], to reconstruct some of the older ships, and the other by Lord Hood, that we should bring the Admiral class up to a higher standard by re-armament. This question of re-armouring these old ships has been before successive Boards of Admiralty, before successive comptrollers and successive directors of naval ordnance, and none of them have seen their way to recommend the proposal—certainly not as regards the guns on the main deck. As regards the re-construction, if that is not too wide a word, of the Admiral class, it has been under our recent and most careful consideration, and plans are being worked out for a certain amount of re-construction; but what we have to consider is, with the dockyards fully engaged on new construction, how far it is desirable to interfere with the new construction, in order to take the work of re-construction in hand. There is another argument. If we dealt with these ships we should have to deal with them, at all events, one by one, and I think the reconstruction of each ship as contemplated would take about a year. We are not prepared on a large scale to put six good fighting ships hors de combât for a year, in order to have improved ships at the end of that year. It would be unwise, in the present situation, until the Canopus class, which are coming on, and of which there are six, are complete, to deal in that way with the Admiral class. These are the two problems connected with re-arming and re-construction. I come now to the question of cruisers. There are four sloops ordered. I have nothing to say about them, except that they will be of the Torch class, and will be found perfectly satisfactory for the purpose for which they are intended. The chief interest of the programme, apart from battleships, is centred upon the four armoured cruisers, the descrip- 858 tion of which the Committee allowed me to postpone when I first introduced the Estimates, as I was anxious to see the plans more fully worked out. I now proceed to give the Committee some information with regard to these four cruisers. Two of them are of the Cressy class. The other two will be of a different character, and I will give the House their chief dimensions. They will be superior in speed and armament to the Creasy class, and of larger dimensions. The length between perpendiculars will be 500 feet; breadth, extreme, 71 feet; mean draught, 26 feet; displacement, about 14,100 tons; speed, 23 knots; horse-power, 30,000; armament, two 9.2-inch guns with armoured shields, 16 6-inch quick-firing guns in casemates, 14 twelve-pounders, quick-firing, three three-pounders, and two submerged torpedo tubes. The protection to the 9.2-inch and 6-inch quick-firing guns will be equal to that of the Powerful class. The guns will be of the more modern type adopted for the Cressy class, and of considerably greater power than those of any other cruiser. There will be four more 6-inch guns than in the Cressy. Buoyancy and stability will be protected by vertical side armour about six inches thick, associated with strong steel decks. In these features the arrangements will be similar to those of the Cressy class and the Canopus class, but the bows will be more strongly defended. The steel hulls will be unsheathed. The measured-mile speed on an eight hours' trial, with natural draught, will be 23 knots. The continuous sea speed, with smooth water, will be 21 knots. Water-tube boilers will be adopted, and twin screws. The capacity of the coal-bunkers will be 2,500 tons, and 1,250 tons will be carried at the speed trials. I must say something about the motive which induced the Admiralty to produce these mighty cruisers. We have had to consider the cruisers which have been built—I am speaking now of the original programme—by other countries; for instance, one ship, the Jeanne d'Arc, an armoured cruiser of 23 knots. Besides that, there are building a number of armoured cruisers of 21 knots, and a certain number of protected cruisers of 23 knots. Now, our position in this country 859 is not precisely the same as that of other countries as regards cruisers. We have to protect our trade routes and food supply, and for this purpose we have to station a large number of cruisers, second and third class cruisers, at many points in the world, and it seems to me of supreme importance that these cruisers, which we have in considerable numbers, and which have to perform the work of protecting these lines, should not be exposed to attack in distant waters from some specially-constructed cruisers, more powerful, and from which they cannot escape. We consider that we must have a limited number of ships built to be able to match the armoured cruisers of 21 knots of other Powers, and which will be equal to a speed of 23 knots. The Cressy class is sufficiently powerful, both in armament and protection, to deal effectively with any foreign cruisers which they may succeed in bringing into action, but we have nothing capable of catching unarmoured vessels of 23 knots and upwards, of which several are built, or are building, by foreign nations. If we consider how large a share of the protection of our commerce would be carried out by second and third class cruisers working singly, as they must do to cover the necessary ground, the Committee will understand how important it is to make absolutely certain that the enemy's armoured vessels of extreme speed should not be allowed to remain at sea long without being brought into action. The essential thing is that we should be able to deal with these cruisers directly they come out, and for that purpose ships superior in armament and protection, and which have, at the same time, unmistakable advantage in speed, are absolutely necessary. If these are provided in sufficient number for this purpose, the unarmoured cruisers would scarcely dare to venture out. I can assure the Committee that this question of the cruisers has given to the Board of Admiralty the most intense anxiety, and that our conclusions have been arrived at with the greatest deliberation, and after considering, as far as we could, every essential fact of the case. Well, that was the original programme of this year. There is, however, one change which I must communi- 860 cate to the Committee, and which I think they will heartily approve. It is that one of the cruisers is to be built at Pembroke, instead of the whole four being built by contract, as originally intended. In future, Pembroke will be able to finish ships built at the yard up to a further point than they have hitherto been advanced, and they will also be built with greater rapidity. The ship will not cost more at Pembroke than it would cost if it were placed out to contract. This ship will be laid down in October. The slips have not been used hitherto for the building of a ship of the length of this class, but by piling the upper end of the slipway they can be made suitable without much difficulty or expense. We considered that this programme was sufficient, with the knowledge that we had at the time that the Estimates of the year were submitted. It was based on what I may call the two-Power policy—the principle that we must be superior in power and equal in numbers to the fleets of any other two countries. I will not pause to define the system at the present moment. It has been adopted by successive Governments. It has been attacked as being insufficient. I will only make this remark at the present time, that those who attack its insufficiency omit, in my judgment, the immense advantage possessed by a single Power wielding a single fleet with one system of organisation, with the same signals, and with the confidence inspired by constantly working together—in fact, altogether homogeneous. One Power having an equal number of ships as two allied Powers has got that margin of advantage to which I have alluded. I think that history has shown over and over again that the fleets of two allies have never been considered equal to the one homogeneous fleet of a single Power, provided the single fleet was relatively as large as the allied fleets. I stand by the principle—which we have followed and intend to follow—that we must be equal in number to the fleets of any two Powers. That is the principle, as I say, we have acted upon from the first, and now, in consequence of the action of another Power, the same principle compels us to take further action by a supplemental programme. The Board of Admiralty is acting on its own convictions. 861 I can honestly say that we have not added a single ship or a single man to the Navy in consequence of any outside pressure, from whatever quarter it has come. We have followed our own system from the first, and I strongly hope that that may continue to be the policy of successive Boards of Admiralty, and that they will be sustained by the authority of the House of Commons. I do not, however, wish to cast a single reproach on those earnest men who have been pressing the shipbuilding and the manning question upon us. They have been actuated by conscientious motives. All I say is—and I say it honestly and truthfully—that we have followed, and are following, what we believe to be the principles laid down from the first. In stating the supplemental Estimate, I regret that it should be my misfortune to have to introduce the name of any foreign Power, but it is impossible to conceal the fact that it is the action of Russia, and the programme on which she has entered, which is the reason for our strengthening our fleet, and taking parallel action with her. Let it be distinctly understood that what we propose is not aggressive in the slightest degree. Let Europe note that we intend to increase our naval power because we believe that it is absolutely essential to maintain the principle that we have laid down; and I will say more—I do not assume, I will not assume, and I am not entitled to assume, that the action of Russia is simply taken as a menace to this country, or is directed against us. Russia has possessions bordering on other Powers who are increasing their navies very rapidly, and Russia has a perfect right to look to her own interests, and to build such a fleet as she thinks that her position in the world requires. But, deeply as I regret that we should be forced into that position, we must take parallel action ourselves with what other Powers do—parallel action with the action taken by other Powers. The resources of this country, both in shipbuilding and engineering—with our power of manufacturing for ourselves what we require—the rapidity with which we can build ships if we lay them down, as others lay them down, will enable us to keep pace with, if not to outstrip, our neighbours. What, 862 then, is the position? We know of six Russian battleships to be laid down this year, including one already commenced. We have now verified where those six ships are being built. Of those, I took two into account in my original Estimate, so that the balance against us is four. Accordingly, I must ask the House to sanction four more battleships beyond my original Estimate From the latest information the new Russian programme provides for four cruisers to be commenced this year, and we propose to commence an equal number of cruisers: that is to say, four cruisers in addition to those provided for already.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
That has not yet been decided. My supplemental programme also includes 12 torpedo-boat destroyers. This, then, is the proposal which I have to make—four battleships, four cruisers, and 12 torpedo-boat destroyers. The torpedo-boat destroyers ordered by Russia, I believe, are intended to be sent to Eastern waters. I think I should do wrong if I gave to the Committee the expenditure which is involved. The type of cruisers is not yet settled, and that is my answer to my noble and gallant Friend the Member for York. The information which we have received is comparatively recent, and the question of cruisers is an extremely difficult one. I think most of the cruisers to be built under the new programme of Russia are protected and not armoured. But, at all events, I must appeal to the Committee—and I frankly admit it is a considerable appeal—to allow the Board of Admiralty a free hand as regards these four cruisers for the present. The House has shown me the greatest confidence in the past, and I would ask to be allowed to work out our programme for these four new cruisers and to submit the particulars next Session. I am sure that on successive occasions this latitude has been advantageous; and I would further point out that the later we divulge our plans the better we stand in our competition with other powers. If we were now to state our plans for the cruisers we are building, possibly, as we always 863 strive to outstrip our neighbours and provide something better, our neighbours might follow our lead, and we should regret afterwards that we had prematurely published our plans. Therefore I again ask the House to give us a free hand in this respect. Well, then, I said I cannot give the Committee any accurate idea of the expenditure, but I will give them a general idea of the liabilities which will be incurred on this supplemental programme. If I take the ships, the armaments, and the ammunition the total liability is about £8,000,000. But I must not minimise. I state it frankly to the House, the liabilities on the original programme—on ships, armaments, and ammunition—amount to £7,000,000. Therefore, taking the two programmes together, the amount of new shipbuilding, beyond the liabilities which were incurred on the 1st of April, and which, of course, it was proposed to spread over a certain number of years, amount to £15,000,000 in sterling. That is, of course, spread over a period of years.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
That will depend upon the terms we can make with the contractors. The whole of the ships will be commenced as early as possible.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Can the right honourable Gentleman give us a general idea? Will it be two, or three, or four years?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
Certainly not more than four. It will depend upon the contractors' terms as to the space of time within which they can build them. But I would prefer to say nothing more beyond what I have stated, not because I want to conceal anything, but because I might mislead the right honourable Gentleman. I should think none of these ships ought to take more than three and a half years to build, but it will, of course, be some months before they can be commenced.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, N.E., Clitheroe)
When the right 864 honourable Gentleman speaks of a liability of £7,000,000 on the original programme, I suppose he means £7,000,000 beyond the amount spent up to the 31st of March next?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
No. I mean £7,000,000 on the new ships proposed in the original programme of three battleships, four cruisers, and four sloops. We now propose to add four battleships, four cruisers, and 12 torpedo-boat destroyers. Taking the whole group together, they will cost, when they are finished and armed and have their ammunition on board, as they will stand, the sum of £15,000,000. Besides that, of course, we have to discharge the remainder of the instalments on the ships which were under construction on the 1st of April of this year.
*THE FIRST LORD OP THE ADMIRALTY
I am afraid I cannot say that, but it is a large amount. The liabilities, were something like £6,000,000, in fact, more than £6,000,000, for the year 1898–99. I have omitted to state that the four new battleships, will not be of the Formidable class, but will have rather more speed, rather less draught of water, will be more calculated to pass through the Suez Canal without lightening, and will have slightly less armour. They will be designed to meet those ships which they are likely to encounter in the waters to which they are sent.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I should have thought that the honourable Member would read between the lines. At all events, I do not think it necessary to emphasise the matter further. That is their design. It has still to be worked out in detail, and some months will pass before the designs for these battleships or the designs for these cruisers are completed, and consequently there is that delay. Then, tenders will have to be invited, and when 865 received will have to be examined and accepted. The contractors will have to perform a certain amount of work before they can earn any instalments, and, consequently, it is very unlikely that any large sum will fall upon the present financial year, except in the case of the torpedo-boat destroyers, where, knowing the type, a large amount will be expended. I have consulted the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he agrees with me that, looking to the uncertainty of the amount which may be earned, and also to the fact that in the large shipbuilding programme that we have in hand outside this new programme, there must always be an uncertainty whether the contractors, either for materials or for ships, will be able to earn the whole amount provided in the estimate, it will be best to introduce the necessary supplementary estimate early next Session rather than now, when it would be no guide to the House as to the amount which it will be actually necessary to spend. We consider that this is a business-like proceeding, and I hope the Committee will approve of it. Now I have completed my task. I do not conceal from the House the immense responsibility which I feel is imposed upon the Board of Admiralty by having to submit to the House a programme of this magnitude, involving such immense sums of money. I can assure the Committee that in proposing it we have done no more than, but we have done absolutely as much as we conceive to be our duty under the circumstances.
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD (York)
I must say that the new proposals of my right honourable Friend, to which we have just listened, to my mind sound most satisfactory. With the permission of the Committee I should just like to criticise some of the statements which my right honourable Friend has made. But, in regard to the first remarks which I venture to address to the Committee, I do think that the suggestion that has been made with regard to battleships and cruisers is most satisfactory. The programme just announced is to some extent larger than the programme published some time ago. That object may or may not have been a wise one or a good one, but my object 866 was to promote discussion, for if nobody says anything nobody does anything. Now, I am rather surprised to hear from the First Lord of the Treasury that public opinion has had no effect upon him. I suppose that he is about the only man in this House that public opinion does not affect. Now, what brought forward the last Naval Defence Act? Why, public opinion.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I beg the noble Lord's pardon, but that is not so. He has asserted that over and over again. He is always asserting that that is the origin of the Naval Defence Act, and we have smiled, because many other persons besides the noble Lord claim to be the authors of the Naval Defence Act. I assure the noble Lord that he has some competitors.
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD
I do not claim the authorship of that Act, and I do not ask for credit on that score. All that I ever asked, and was anxious for, was that somebody should do something. I wish to be more chivalrous and more generous than the right honourable Gentleman, and I say that the Government cannot go to the country and ask for large sums of money without public opinion is absolutely with them. Those of us who have taken up this question have done so from purely patriotic motives and with the idea of awakening our fellow-countrymen to the state of the navy. And I say that we have suffered very much for it. Personally, I have suffered very much, for I was treated with ignominy over my A.D.C.-ship to her Majesty, and I had my time stopped in the Soudan when no other officer had it stopped who was engaged in the campaign of war service. If the right honourable Gentleman chooses to bring these things up I can say quite as nasty things as my right honourable Friend. But it is not in my line; I prefer to be generous and chivalrous in the remarks which I make. Well, now, Mr. Lowther, there is one point upon which I wish to find fault with the action of the Leader of the House, who is not here, unfortunately. I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury why he has put this Vote down at this period 867 of the Session? I wish, also, to know why Ministers have gone about the country saying that we are going to get into a shocking mess in the near future in our foreign policy? Now, what does the British Empire depend on? Why, it depends upon the strength of our fleet, and even the honourable Member for Northampton will not deny that we keep our Empire by the strength of our fleet. Some 10 years ago I called attention to this fact. Here we have Vote 8 put with other very important Votes, with the Armaments Vote and the Ammunition Vote, all taken in one evening at the end of the Session, when the Governmnt can carry what they like, and when there is no time for the fair criticism that there should be on such an important question. Then, again, all the other Votes depend on Vote 8. The Wages Vote, the Medical Vote, and the Reserve Vote all depend on Vote 8, and here we are, at the end of the Session, asked to come and discuss this Vote, which is of so much importance to the British Empire. There is one more point. Some time ago I put a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty. A Minister has always the advantage in such a case, because he can snub the questioner, and the questioner has no right to reply. In this particular instance the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty—although I do not suppose he intended it—snubbed me most severely and viciously for the question I asked as to whether the Naval Lords were satisfied with the shipbuilding programme. I knew then—and the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty must have known then, as he knows now—what Russia was doing. The right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have known, as he knows now, what Russia was doing when he presented the country with £1,500,000 for squeezing water out of tobacco.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir M. HICKS BEACH,) Bristol W.
No; I did not.
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD
Well, I knew about it; and surely I ought not to know more than the Government. As far back as March I asked the question in 868 this House as to the Russian programme, and the First Lord of the Admiralty told me there were only two battleships building; then he said three; on the 12th he said there were four, and now he tells us there were six, which was my original contention.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I said at the time there might be more; but I added, that we were not going to act upon any general information until it was verified, and that we were not bound to take simply newspaper authority. From that time forth we have done all we could to verify the statement. I did not dispute the statement; I simply said that we could not act upon the information which had reached us.
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD
My right honourable Friend seems to think I get my information always out of the newspapers. I had actual information in this case, and my information has turned out right. That is all I want to argue. But I should like to ask why the right honourable Gentleman always refers to his naval advisers when I ask a question on naval matters?
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD
On two occasions. I asked about the leave for captains and commanders, and other matters. I could give a long list.
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD
I was very well snubbed then, and now it is my turn. I cannot snub Ministers when I ask a question, but I can do so now. I would remind the House that, when Admiral Sir Arthur Hood was asked before the House of Commons Committee as to the strength of the Fleet, he said that had nothing to do with the naval advisers; it was a political question. Admiral Sir Anthony Hoskins was also asked about the strength of the Fleet, and he said it was very far below what it ought to be. But if the Naval Lords called attention to that fact, it was from motives of patriotism and not of duty. These were the statements made by Admirals Hood and Hoskins, and it 869 was in the recollection of these words that I ventured to ask a question the other day. Whatever may have been the opinion of the naval advisers then, they have given very good advice now. But to come to the point of what my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty said on March 10th. The right honourable Gentleman said then that he wished to maintain the standard. As I understand it, the standard never was that we should have an equal number of ships to two Powers combined, but that we should have a standard of five to three of two Powers combined. There is another point I should like to bring forward. Those who ask questions of the Admiralty are always told that they (the questioners) manipulate the number of ships. My complaint is that the Admiralty officials manipulate the number of ships. Take the case of the return moved for by the right honourable Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean. I believe that return is useless without an analysis. Going as far back as 1888, we find this extraordinary thing—in the return of the effective fighting battleships there were two called the Lord Warden and the Repulse, and in the Navy List of that same month these two vessels were advertised as old iron—that is, they were absolutely useless, and were for sale to any blacksmith who cared to buy them. As far as manipulation goes, the credit belongs to the Front Bench. In the right honourable Baronet's return (1888) the Warrior is put down as a cruiser. But she has since been promoted, for in the Navy List of this month (1898) she is described as a first-class cruiser—that is, she is given rank with the Cressy, one of the best fighting ships in the Navy. How has she, in the years since 1889, developed from a third-class cruiser to a first-class cruiser? I confess I do not understand it. Returning now to the question of proportion, I have mentioned what I thought was necessary, and I adhere to that statement. We have to consider, not the number of ships, but what the Fleet has to do in these modern days of machinery. We ought, I maintain, to be in the position of five to three of two Powers combined. I remember the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition once making a great point of this. He said 870 the British men-of-war's men had deteriorated; that they used to fight in the proportion of five to three, but it was the other way about—they were three and the enemy five. No doubt; and they will very likely do the same again when they have a chance. But in these days of steam machinery we ought to be five to three, because the best captains, the best ships, the best machinery are as liable to accident as the worst. Have we got anywhere near the proportion we should have to fight our possible enemies? I do not believe we are in the position we ought to be in to be certain of success. Everything depends upon the success of the Fleet, and we ought to be in a position to be certain of success. We have to keep the sea, to go all over the world, to protect our trade and commerce. We may have to fight at sea for a long time with weary crews and officers, dark instead of bright fires; and we may be off our base when the enemy comes, with fresh crews and bright fires, which makes all the difference, and might result in something happening to the machinery, which would not put us in a position of advantage. My right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty says, "You can make most things out of numbers." Well, I have made out a list of what we shall use if, unfortunately, we should go to war with an enemy, or with two Powers, with modern-armoured ships with modern armament. It is nonsense for people to say that these vessels break down and that accidents happen—we shall win or lose with these modern ships and nothing else. I have included in my list modern ships with modern guns and armament, and have left out obsolete ships. Taking battleships first, Great Britain has 49, France and Russia 57; of armoured cruisers, Great Britain has 17, France and Russia 26—that is, building or projected—and not included in the new programme. I will read the names. The French are: 3 Jenas, 3 Charlemagnes, 1 Henri IV, 4 Carnots, 1 Jenoréguiberry, 1 Brennas, 4 Volmeys, 3 Magentas, 1 Hoche, 2 Formidables, 1 Duperré, 2 Devastations, 4 Caimans, 1 Redoubtable, 1 Furieux, total 32; the Russian list is: 7 Peresivets, 2 Tri Saints, 3 Poltavas, 2 Sissoi Velikis, 1 George Victorious, 1 Navarin, 1 Twelve Apostles, 3 Oushakous, 3 Linopes, 2 871 Alexander II.'s, total 25; giving a total for France and Russia of 57. Those are the ships either built or projected, and which are not included in the new programme. Now we come to the return of the right honourable Baronet. We find they have included all the obsolete armoured vessels; and even then the numbers are 105 British against 117 French and Russian. So that the real fact of the case is that in 1888 the return showed that Great Britain had 77 and France and Russia 75; and now, on their own return, we are shown to have really eight less than those two Powers. But still, after all, what I have given to the House is a definite idea; that is to say, I have taken modern ships. Now, there is the Russian programme, which my right honourable Friend has not alluded to. I hope he will give us some information about that; but, as I have it, and from a trustworthy source, the Russian programme appears to be this: it is to extend over seven years' commencing in 1898 and ending in 1904. It includes eight battleships of 12,400 tons, six armoured cruisers, 10 unarmoured cruisers, one torpedo transport, 20 torpedo destroyers, and 30 torpedo-boats. That was the programme I received from a reliable authority some time ago, and I call the attention of the Committee to the answer made when I drew attention to it some time ago. As to the French proposals for new construction, we do not know what they are; but we do know that M. Lockroy is a gentleman who has displayed considerable energy in naval defence all his life. With regard to Germany, there is a proposal for spending 20 millions in naval construction. There, again, the details are not yet out. I have brought out these points because the First Lord certainly told the Committee that we have built, are building, or have projected 41 modern ships as against France and Russia's 41. I am afraid that is hardly correct. The other day I asked that we might have a supplementary programme to begin with, followed by a business-like arrangement extending over five years, and involving an expenditure of 33 millions. The First Lord has done better than that. The only objection I have to my right honourable Friend's suggestion is that it is in 872 the nature of a one-year programme for new battleships and cruisers. What I should like to see is a proposal to build at least 12 10,000 ton battleships. We should put down 20 new battleships within the next five years; and I am sorry the First Lord cannot see his way to build those 12 10,000 ton ships. When we go to war the people of this country will want a large, fleet in the Channel. We shall always want the Fleet there, as there would be a panic about invasion which the soldiers would keep going. This fleet would not need to have a large coal capacity. The greater handiness and lighter draught of the smaller vessels will be an advantage, as you would not need to send them away. You do not want an enormous coal consumption, and these vessels would be able to get their coal in the Channel, and would have their base of supply in the forts. I think most men-of-warsmen will agree with me in this, that it is absolutely necessary that we should have a proper fleet of steam colliers laid down to be attached to the Fleet. The trouble with colliers in war time is enormous. On the coal supply solely depends the issue of the next fight. You cannot send fleets of colliers out to the base and back again in war time. Therefore you should have ready a fleet of steam colliers which will go 16 knots, with their derricks and other equipment, and you should make them a sort of workshop. When you have got to coal a ship you have to do it very smartly, and you must take care that these vessels are of the right measurement. Sometimes they are too long, sometimes too short, or their bulwarks are too high; and there you are, coaling for hours and hours, when you might be filling up valuable time in another way. I submit that this is a most important question. Unless you send out a fleet properly equipped you may as well send out an army without artillery and without infantry. There is no doubt that in a short time other nations will be making this provision. Well, now, as to the necessity of a five years' programme, I think it is much fairer to the armour-plate manufacturers, who will know then what their orders may be for a definite period. It will keep them employed and obviate delay, as 873 ever since we have had iron-armoured ships the ships have almost invariably been kept waiting for the armourer. It is also fairer to the engine and boiler-makers. The right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has, metaphorcially, jumped upon me before about this five years' programme; but I say that it is not only fairer to the manufacturers, but fairer to the taxpayer. Everybody knows, in regard to dockyard expenditure, that if there is any surplus there is a most eager desire to spend it. Therefore I say that a five years' programme is a more business-like proposal than the yearly programme. It would stop the repetition of such a disgraceful state of things as occurred in connection with the Majestic and the Magnificent. I have never entered into the consideration of this question as the member of a party. I have regarded it simply and solely as a national question. But I would point out that the Conservative Government went out of office leaving money enough for three ships—the Majestic, the Magnificent, and the Renown. Then the Party opposite came into power and actually put the money—my right honourable Friend will correct me if I am wrong—back into the Consolidated Fund; and the Majestic and Magnificent were not finished for two years after the stipulated time.
SIB U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
An explanation of the case was given to the House at the time. There were two ships for which a small sum was left by our predecessors. They were not begun within the financial year, as it was thought desirable, in the interests of the country, to hurry on the ships under the Naval Defence Act, and that was done.
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD
I know that there was a tremendous panic in the country, and the result was that the Board of which the right honourable Baronet was a member had to build seven extra Majestics in obedience to the pressure of public opinion.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I may say that the decision arrived at by the Board was not in consequence of any 874 panic. It was in consequence of our own convictions of what was necessary.
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD
I knew that the right honourable Baronet would say that, but I am sure he will allow me to keep my own opinion. Well, Sir, I go back to the point of the armour and the five years' programme; and I ask my right honourable Friend to answer me this by and by: is it not a fact that the Formidable was laid down in January and her armour was not ordered till the following May? I am strongly of opinion that the armour of all battleships should be ordered directly the design is finished, whereas ships are generally kept waiting for their armour. I hope the miserable business of keeping a ship waiting for six months for it will never be repeated, although I know that the armour intended for another ship has not been ordered yet. There is the Goliath, which has been launched, but her armour is not ordered. There has been considerable discussion going on in the Press relative to our armoured cruisers and about the great firm of Armstrong, to whom we owe so much. I confess, in regard to the O'Higgins, that she is infinitely superior to the Cressy. With regard to the discussion that has been going on with reference to our cruisers I would compare the Cressy and the O'Higgins. I say unhesitatingly—although I confess it is a change of opinion on my part—that the Cressy is infinitely superior to the O'Higgins in regard to fighting capability per ton of displacement. As to the argument about the 8 inch gun with which the O'Higgins is armed, as being a gum between the 6 inch and the 9.2 inch quick-firing guns, my view is that the Admiralty was right to stick to the 6 inch guns and not to the 8 inch guns at all. The 8 inch gun, fired one round for every four of the 6 inch gun. The 8 inch gun weighs 17 tons and throws a shot of 210 lb., whereas the 6 inch gun weighs 7 tons and throws a shot of 100lb., amid in action what we must do is to hit the enemy as often as we can, and four rounds of 100lb. is better than one of 210lb. I have altered my opinion, I admit, but I do say that I think the quick-firing gun is as good as we can have, and I think 875 the Admiralty have been most wise in sticking to it. Another point about the armour. There has been a great deal of discussion in the country as to whether our ships were properly armed. I do not think they are all properly armed, because we must remember it will be no use when an officer gets alongside an enemy to say, "I have got greater coaling power and an enormous reserve of ammunition, if the enemy have more gums," if the enemy can knock him into a cocked hat before he can use his ammunition. It is, I know, a very difficult point. The Admiralty have carried out the re-arming of the Nile and Trafalgar in a very clever manner, and I hope that the Admiralty will re-arm more of our ships. Nine years ago I brought forward a Motion to the effect that a certain number of old and obsolete ships should be burned, or sunk, or sold, or in some way got rid of, because they were absolutely useless, but this House kept on giving money to make them perform duty which they were not able to do. There are eight or nine sloops and small ships of this class lying at Chatham, and there are 30 more of the same class in the other dockyards. There is no use you thinking that these ships could be put to action; every one of them has got five men on board to take care of them, and this costs a certain amount of expense. No business firm would keep such ships. I submit to my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty that he should at the earliest possible moment got rid of these vessels that are of no use, and I have some hope that he will do so. There is another point which I can bring on—I should like to speak on this Vote for six hours—will the right honourable Gentleman take into consideration the necessity of abolishing water-tight doors in our battleships and cruisers? I feel very strongly about this. I have spoken to naval architects on the subject, and I want to point out what happened at sea at peace and in war, as unforeseen contingencies, and when the unforeseen happened the doors were generally open even with the most careful captain. Now, we have the case of the Bourgogne—and if that ship had not had water-tight doors she would not have gone down to the 876 bottom. You go to enormous expense, you add weight to the ship, and I hope my right honourable Friend will either close a great number of these doors or leave a small bulkhead so that when a ram or torpedo comes along the first rush of water will be stopped, and the ship will not sink at once. I say the safety of the ship is far more important than the convenience of one particular department. Then there is another point that I should like to have my right honourable Friend's opinion on, with reference to the question of the Dreadnought. The Admiralty proposes to spend £40,000 on her, one of the finest ships we have, and yet to leave her with her muzzle-loading guns. That is not business-like, but it is extravagant. As long as she has got those muzzle-loading guns the enemy can hit her, but she cannot hit the enemy, which is not an advantageous position. The question of the re-arming of ships will have to come on on Vote 9, so I would not be in order in discussing that now. I do not see the honourable Member for Northampton here, but I would like to ask him, does not the British Empire depend upon the British Fleet? If so you must have a British Fleet. It has often been brought forward that we spend such a lot of money on our Fleet; well, I have worked out a little calculation for the benefit of the honourable Member for Northampton, and those who are with him in being so severe upon myself who talk about national defence. After all, the Budget for national defence is simply an insurance for the mercantile marine, on which the food supply of the people depends more than that of any other country. I find that in the new Russian programme—it is not quite fair to put that in, but still I have done it—Russia paid £15 15s. per ton on her mercantile marine; France (without her new programme), £9 7s. 11d.; the United States, £5 2s.; Germany, £2 5s. 6d.; and Great Britain, which depends absolutely on her mercantile marine, pays £1 15s. 8d. I hope the honourable Member for Northampton will take that to his constituency. In the remarks I have made to the House I do not at all wish it to be inferred that I find fault with my right honourable Friend, but I do believe the Government will find it easier to let the country see 877 what we have to do with regard to keeping our Navy in position. We have to compare our estimate with what others are doing. I was delighted to hear my right honourable Friend's remarks about building four new battleships and four new cruisers. Therefore so far as I am concerned I give very hearty concurrence to the right honourable Gentleman with regard to his new programme. I hope he will take up the question of the water-tight doors of the steam colliers, and of re-arming; and I say that if we go to war at this moment I believe we can hold our own certainly against two, even against three, Powers. But it is the future I fear for. We must go on with organisation, with great additions to the Fleet, for as has been amply exemplified lately by the war between America and Spain you must have absolutely good, efficient, and thorough organisation before you go to war if you think you are going to have any success after you go to war.
§ SIR C. DILKE
There are only one or two points in the speech of my noble Friend which I would like to make allusion to before I turn to that of the First Lord of the Admiralty. One of them is almost the only point on which I differ from my noble Friend; and he will perhaps, excuse me for saying I intend to mention the only point in which I differ from him instead of the many points in which I agree with him, because it is a point, I think, which is worthy of the attention of the Committee and of the country generally. He concluded his speech by saying our Government had not put an undue burden upon the existence of the country, because the cost of the Navy bears a much smaller proportion to our mercantile marine than does the navy of other countries. I think the noble Lord rather plays into the hands of opponents of a strong Fleet by making use of that argument, because I confess I have always opposed that argument from whatever quarter it has come, under the belief that it is based upon a certain haziness of perception. Sir, the position of the British Empire is such that if by the maritime policy of other countries our mercantile marine were wholly to disappear, or if it were to disappear as the result of a war in which 878 our carrying trade passed, say, to the United States, it would be just as necessary as now for us to have a predominant Fleet. Therefore I am sorry the nobe Lord used that argument in a speech with almost every other portion of which I entirely agree. The only other remark I would make is on the subject which elicited a curious interruption from the gentleman who represents the Admiralty on our side of the House on the Front Bench, and that interruption led to a cheer. The First Lord of the Admiralty on this occasion, as on former occasions, maintained most strongly that he never acted under pressure, that he was outside pressure, and apparently also, for his language was wide enough, that pressure had no effect upon him in one sense or the other. Well, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman who represents the Admiralty on the Front Bench on this side of the House cheered that statement, and when the noble Lord questioned it in the course of his remarks the right honourable Gentleman rose on this side and made almost the same declaration as had been made on the other side by the First Lord of the Admiralty. What a comment it is on that that the First Lord of the Admiralty actually proposed a vote of censure on Lord Spencer's naval policy in this House with the view of exercising that very pressure which he says he never submits to—which the Front Bench on this side say they never submit to. It is something beyond all political conception that pressure should be brought to bear. But it is the old-fashioned view that this House represents the views of the constituencies, and that it exists very much for the purpose of bringing pressure to bear—of bringing what I may call the healthy lay criticism to bear—upon the Admiralty and the high professional advisers which the Admiralty has behind it. Now, Sir, I turn to the speech of the First Lord himself, and perhaps the Committee will forgive me for being a little disconnected in my observations, because I want to follow the points in his speech in the order in which he made them; and though when he stated the facts of his case they appeared to be thoroughly connected, yet when you come to criticise them head by head it becomes somewhat disjointed. The first 879 point upon which the First Lord dwelt was, of course, in connection with the last statement which he was emphasising, expanding, before he came to his new programme—the first point upon which he dealt with a certain pardonable pride was as to the delivery of cruisers in or about contract time. May I suggest that we have never had a sufficient explanation of why the contract, time in the case of our cruisers is so long as it is? They have been delivered, he is proud to say, within the contract time; but the contract time is very long. In the most recent contracts that are known to this House—the contracts for cruisers at the Clydebank and the Thames Iron Works—the time of two of the cruisers on the last programme was 33 months, and two of the other cruisers 30 months for delivery; but at the same tame both the Clydebank and Thames Iron Works were building for the Japanese Government larger vessels in contract time of 24 months. Why should we accept 33 and 30 months when 24 is insisted upon by foreign Governments for vessels building at the same yards? My point has nothing to do with strikes, because I am speaking of the last contract made—the time being unduly long. The time when we made contracts for the delivery of cruisers at the Clydebank and Thames Iron Works was for 33 and 30 months, whereas the Japanese Government made contracts with the very same firms for delivery of cruisers in 24 months. Then the First Lord spoke of the ironclads "which will be building." That phrase, I think he will admit, is a slightly loose phrase—"which will be building"—when it applies to ships which are altogether in embryo at the present time. They have laid down their ships in threes, and each three have been kept waiting till the previous three have been launched. At the present time amongst the twelve ironclads "which will be building" he counts the three ships in this year's programme not yet laid; but those ships cannot even be laid down until the three Formidables are launched, and the three Formidables have only just been laid down. I mention this because I wish once more to point out to the Committee that the Admiralty have got into the bad habit of counting the number of ships in their 880 programme about twelve months ahead. We count as this year's programme what is next year's, and when something like the recent strike happens practically the whole year's programme disappears. The noble Lord then stated that as regarded his previous programme, the number of first-class battleships, our strength of first-class battleships is equal to that of two Powers. He slipped in the phrase "first-class battleships." But, Sir, that, of course, excludes from comparison the armoured cruisers, which might in some cases be used as battleships, and also coast defending ships belonging to other Powers. Therefore the comparison is not one of much importance. He spoke also of the difficulties of laying down new ships caused by the armour companies in our case and in the case of other companies. I am glad to think, although no allusion was made to it in the First Lord's speech to-night, that steps have been taken, if we are to judge from the statements that have appeared in the public Press, by the Admiralty to secure a more continuous supply of armour. A great many members of the Committee have suggested from time to time that the Government should tell the armour plate manufacturers they will give them a certain amount of contract work if they will lay down sufficient plant to produce the new kinds of armour—sufficient work to justify them in laying down the plant, and I gather to-night that the newspaper statements on this subject have been true, and that the Admiralty have given those assurances to the contractors. In the course, however, of making that statement the First Lord said that we were still and always had been in a somewhat better position than other Powers in this respect, inasmuch as we had the whole of our armour manufactured in this country, and that other Powers were not in that happy position. Well, Sir, he was alluding to, he probably had in his mind, the case of Russia; but Russia is very rapidly gaining upon us in this respect, and I believe the statements in a book published this spring on the Russian Navy are accurate, namely, that Russia will soon be in a position to produce—it shows, of course, very extraordinary progress on her part—the whole of the armour she needs for this enormous 881 increase in her fleet. The First Lord also referred to the delivery of the four armoured cruisers, but he did not tell us what I rather hoped he would have been able to announce in his new programme to-night, that the four armoured cruisers would be hastened in construction, because under the former programme of February last those four armoured cruisers of this year's programme were not to be laid down till next year. I had hoped that we might have had, Sir, to-night some assurance of that kind, seeing what is being done abroad.
§ SIR C. DILKE
In the course of this financial year; I am glad to hear they will be begun in the autumn. Of course, Sir, the fact is that other Powers are making very great progress with their armoured cruisers, and some of these armoured cruisers of the French that we are building ships to meet will be ready before we are. The last point of detail in the First Lord's speech to which I should like to refer before I go to the general principles of his speech concerns the question of slips for building ships. He has announced to-night that the arguments which were brought to bear in this House have been so far successful that there is to be an addition to the shipbuilding power, the power of building battleships, by one large slip being lengthened in the Pembroke Dockyard. Sir, I am greatly disappointed that the First Lord was not able to make a similar announcement at least with regard to Devonport. There can be no doubt that the fact that we can rely on only three building slips in our yards has been a source of considerable weakness to us as compared with other Powers; and even now it is only four on which we shall have to rely—a number most insufficient in my opinion in this country as compared with foreign Powers. I had hoped that he would have told us to-night that as regards that dockyard, if not as regards Chatham, he would have considered the possibility of increasing the number of slips. Now, Sir, I desire to go from the details to the principle of the speech of the right honourable Gentleman. He told us he never was able to speak with more 882 knowledge of the programme of other Powers than he had possessed in the spring, and he laid down the principle upon which he said successive Governments have run in this matter—that we ought to be equal in number to two other Powers, and superior in power to those Powers. But he said we must remember that our operations will be the operations of a single fleet against an allied fleet in the case of the hypothesis of war. Of course, Sir, when he says we are not paying sufficient attention to the fact he knows very well that we have always admitted that fact, that we have always admitted the great advantage to this country of that position, whether we pay sufficient attention to it and whether he exaggerates the importance of it or not. I am not inclined to deny the enormous disadvantage of carrying on single operations. But when the right honourable Gentleman says that we are equal in numbers and superior in power to other Powers, how far does that superiority of power and equality of numbers merely mean what he put in another way, when he said that our ships must be bigger than the ships of other Powers? That superiority of power I think means superiority in tonnage and in the average resources of our ironclad battleships, and the superiority possessed by this country with regard to coal. Now, what is the principle on which we ought to go with reference to the strength of the ironclad fleet of this country? That is the matter which really lies at the bottom of these Debates, and both Front Benches take what may be called a middle position between what they no doubt consider the exaggerations of myself and the exaggerations in the other direction of my honourable Friend the Member for Northampton. The latest statement we have had of the opinion of the present Government in this matter was contained in the speech of the Secretary to the Colonies in summing up the Debate on the Foreign Office Vote. He alluded to the strength of the Fleet, and the policy of the Government in regard to it was laid down as follows—We ought to have power on the sea superior to any probable combination. So long as we are isolated can we say it is not probable that 883 we may have a combination of three Powers against us? Ought we not to have a preponderance, and so keep our Navy on a level with the two naval Powers next to ourselves?And then he asked us where was the object of an alliance with a military Power, and whether we should make ourselves safe against a probable combination of three Powers, which he said would add 50 per cent, to our Naval Estimates. I am prepared to deny altogether that we should add 50 per cent, or add anything to our Naval Estimates by thinking of the possibility of having three Powers against us when we are sufficiently strong, as against two. If we have a sufficient margin of strength of one kind or another, if we have a sufficient superiority of strength for real safety as against two Powers, we have, ipso facto, without any increase in our Estimates, a bare superiority as against three. That is the conclusion I wish to put before the Committee. In Europe at the present time, if we were to go to war with two Powers, we should consider the possibility of having a third Power, possibly neutral at first, also on our back. But if we provide ourselves with what ought to be a sufficient superiority as against two, we have by that very fact adequate power to meet three—that is to say, sufficient, power—not of safety, as against three, but sufficient to make three Powers pause before they combined against us. That is a matter worth taking into consideration. A sufficient margin of strength over two would make it unlikely that three Powers would combine to attack us. I am bound to say that if the policy which has been declared by successive Governments were thoroughly carried into effect, if we have sufficient strength against two to give us that real safety, which I think we do not yet possess, and which we shall not have next year, I believe we might sleep quietly at night in the belief that we had sufficient strength to make it unlikely that three Powers would attack us. The right honourable Gentleman told us to-night that he speaks now with knowledge which he did not possess in the spring. My noble Friend has referred to the curious want of knowledge which afflicted the Government at an earlier stage. On the last occasion on which the Budget was discussed in this House 884 the facts were exactly as they stand now, and when stated by the noble Lord in this House were not at first accepted by the First Lord of the Admiralty. The right honourable Gentleman then said that Russia was building one, or at most two, ships, according to the latest information received, but that there might be more. On the 4th May he made the following statement—On returning to the Admiralty I found that a dispatch had arrived which gives apparently authentic information.Then he went on to tell us about the Russian programme which we had read in the newspapers the previous night. I confess I had a most uneasy impression with regard to those circumstances. We have always been obliged to absolutely trust the Admiralty with regard to the position in Russia. Russia is a sealed country as regards information, and it is most difficult to get from correspondents what is passing in that country. As regards France, we know what she is doing as well as we know what we are doing ourselves, but as far as Russia is concerned, we must rely implicitly on the information communicated to us by the Admiralty, and I was a little shocked at that time that the information in the possession of the Admiralty was not in advance of that published by the newspapers. My honourable Friend the Member for Northampton has been very much attacked for what are considered his exaggerated views on one side, as I am supposed to take an exaggerated view on the other. I have stated my view quietly and calmly to the Committee. It is the view that even now we are not making, considering the nation's wealth, sufficient sacrifices for the Navy in order to have what the First Lord of the Admiralty calls a sufficient superiority. When the Leader of the Opposition was defending Lord Spencer's policy against a Vote of Censure, moved by the noble Lord, my right honourable Friend used the phrase, an "overwhelming fleet." He was speaking with regard to two Powers, because it was the policy of the Government then to build with regard to two Powers. My noble Friend referred to what he described as my return—the latest return issued by the Admiralty. At the time that Vote of Censure was 885 moved we had a return before the House issued on the same plan as the Return just presented. If we take the ships built, not considering hypothetical ships building, but taking only those ready for service, and compare the two Returns, we find there is a net gain over Russia of one ship. But that net gain will be lost to us within a month, and therefore, substantially, we are in exactly the same position now as regards numbers, as we were when that vote of censure was moved. Was not that pressure?
§ SIR C. DILKE
Yes, we thoroughly understand the official view on this question; in other words, if we are strong enough to exercise pressure we can do so, but if not we can only make our protest as independent Members. I will state my position to the honourable Member for Northampton, who has just come in in the nick of time, and between whom and myself there is only this one point of difference. The position he takes up seems to me to be a very sensible position if it were not a matter of life and death to us. His position is that we cannot afford to build up to two other Powers, as they are certain to catch up to us, and that therefore we ought not to continue spending these immense sums on our fleet. The answer to that is, that for us it is a matter of life and death, and not for them. They are Powers with enormous armies; the French army is a frightful drain on France, and the Russian army is larger than the entire armies of the Triple Alliance. Those Powers with these enormous military drains upon them have not the same wealth that we have. We can continue to build if we like, the only question being whether it is necessary. And now I will make a large admission to my honourable Friend. If the pressure of taxation on the poorer classes—if the unrest of the country on this subject were to be so great that it was not possible to make those sacrifices which I for one think it necessary to make, for our very existence—I would sooner give up the whole of the expenditure on the Army than give way upon this naval programme. I believe this country is rich 886 enough to make those sacrifices. It is true we might have a more powerful Army at more expense, or an equal Army on a cheaper system. But, however that may be, I think we can bear the two expenses; but if we have to choose between them do not let us pinch both, but let us boldly adopt the policy of the fleet only. This matter of the fleet is vital to our position in the world. The Army is an arguable question. It is being utilised in a scheme of Imperial defence to strengthen our position, but the other question of the fleet is one of life or death. I do not know what policy the honourable Member for Northampton would adopt if he were responsible for the government of the country, but I am certain he would tell the House that he, too, adopted the policy which successive Governments have adopted. Cobden declined to take office in the Government, but although he never had the responsibility of office, he made that declaration, and I believe my honourable Friend would make it too. I have nothing more to add except to make a reservation upon the question of the finance of the present proposals. I am not as well up on that subject as many other Members of the House, and no doubt we shall hear from the front Opposition Bench how far it is constitutionally defensible, how far it is wise to continue to throw programmes a year or a year and a half ahead without considering what can be met by the expenditure of the year. My own impression is somewhat hostile to the financial scheme proposed, and I should not be surprised to hear some criticisms directed to that point.
*ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
There seems to me to be a general consensus of approval on both sides of the House with the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and it will be equally well received in the country. I confess I am agreeably surprised at the extra proposals of the First Lord. I thank the right honourable Baronet for his speech. On these naval matters he always carries naval Members with him, and we look upon him as a valuable supporter in all naval programmes. The right honourable Gentleman the First Lord made an amusing observation about not assenting to pressure. I well believe it, because he is so strong a man, and 887 the Navy admires him, because he does not yield to popular clamour. But, unfortunately, he was not in office when, as I thoroughly agree with my noble and gallant Friend, it was most necessary to bring pressure to bear on the Government of that time. I allude to 1884 and 1885. I venture to say, without any fear of contradiction, that if it had not been for the outside pressure brought to bear by naval men and the friends of naval men to educate public opinion and the most valuable aid of the Press we would not have had the Naval Defence Act of 1888. It must be within the recollection of many honourable Members that the First Lord of that day actually moved the reduction of the Naval Estimates by £900,000. The noble and gallant Lord was a 'member of the Admiralty at that time. I pitied him. This was not a Party question then, and it is not now, but the country was asleep. The country was to blame, for Parliament reflects the opinion of the country, and when the country is1 asleep the Government is also asleep. Outside pressure was responsible for the Naval Defence Act. The Naval Lords thought it necessary, but they cannot have their way sometimes. They have no voice in this House. I am not always in agreement with my noble and gallant Friend on some points, but I thoroughly agree with him in this matter. I think it is only fair to say that we are indebted to the noble and gallant Lord for halving obtained information from some Russian source with which he seems to have been beforehand with the Admiralty, because he tells us he had information in the early part of May. At all events, he had the information apparently in advance of the Admiralty. If so, I venture to suggest to the noble and gallant Lord that he had better become the Parliamentary representative of the Naval Intelligence Department. He would certainly do a great deal of good, but whether he would be cordially received is another matter. The noble Lord takes exception to the Admiralty not proposing a five years' programme. Well, Sir, a five years' programme has its advantages and its disadvantages, and I presume that past experience has shown that, if we can avoid it, it is better to have free hands and to be free from year 888 to year to adopt new improvements and designs. Why was it introduced? Because at that time we felt that we could not be certain that the Radical Party, when it succeeded us, would carry out our programme in detail. But a great change has come over public opinion, and now both Parties are agreed. Surely, under such circumstances, it is better that the hands of the Admiralty should be free, and not tied by a five years' programme. The only thing in favour of it was that we could go on spending on a continuation of policy. I agree that a change is wanted in the financial arrangements, and I wish honourable Members opposite would touch on that point. I maintain that when money voted by Parliament is not expended it ought to be retained in the hands of the Admiralty, and not paid back to the Treasury. That is where reform is needed, and if that policy were carried out I am sure the noble and gallant Lord would not care-twopence about a five years' programme. Let us do our best to press that policy on the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must have felt, I think, that he was not justified in asking the House to approve of subsidising tobacco smokers to the extent of one and a quarter millions; if he still approves of that policy he is a sinner without repentance. I disapprove of it, and I ventured to utter my feeble protest against it. What is the result? The Government have now to ask for a large Supplementary Estimate, and all the time they had that one and a quarter millions. For my part, I would sooner see it paid into the Consolidated Fund, where it would have yielded us £25,000 a year. But if the policy which ought to prevail—namely, that money once voted should be retained by the Admiralty, which would be responsible for its proper expenditure, then there would be no necessity for paying the money back into the Consolidated Fund. Money voted for naval purposes should be retained until it is spent, and I hope the right honourable Gentleman opposite will press that point; it is most important. If that policy were adopted we should not want a five years' programme, but one from year to year. My noble and gallant Friend spoke a great deal about steam colliers. With great respect for his opinion I do not approve 889 of adding steam colliers to our fleet. We have a splendid mercantile marine, and we could have the pick of the steamers to be utilised as colliers. I think his point could be met by having one steam collier designed, if you like, by Sir William White. Others could then be built by private enterprise, and kept on hire. The Admiralty have not lost sight of this question, and it is very doubtful whether it would be wise to adopt the policy of building steam colliers in sufficient numbers to be of service in war time. Those colliers would be absolutely useless in time of peace, as we have coaling stations all over the world. In my opinion, it would be waste of funds now when money is wanted to bring the active fleet up to the point which naval officers think necessary for Imperial defence. I know it may be said that steam colliers are part of that defence, but I object to see vessels of that class built and then laid up, with their machinery disused and degenerating. I say we can get all the colliers we want from the mercantile marine. Then I must reply to my noble and gallant Friend on the question of guns, on which he will admit that even such a humble individual as myself has some knowledge. He brought forward the Dreadnought, and found fault with her 12½ inch muzzle-loading guns. I venture to tell my noble and gallant Friend that I think the Admiralty have acted wisely in not putting the country to the enormous expense of changing those armaments The 12½ inch muzzle-loading gun is 38 tons, and has a penetrating power of 14 inches in steel armour at 1,000 yards. Take the corresponding breech-loading gun. The nearest corresponding breech-loader is the 12 inch wire gun, or the gun no wired, and the one 45 tons, and the other 46 tons. Take the 46 ton gun. Its penetrating power at 1,000 yards with powder charge is 15.3 inch in steel, a difference of 1 inch, in that particular gun, and yet for tie sake of that 1 inch my honourable Friend will tell the House that these guns ought to be changed, and are useless, because they are muzzle-loaders Well, but the rapidity of fire is more or less identical. I endeavour to keep my self posted up in these matters, and I affirm that the guns the honourable and 890 noble Lord is raising a scare about, these heavy, muzzle-loading guns, are yet serviceable weapons, and I think the Admiralty are perfectly right in holding their hand in this matter. I was glad to hear what the First Lord told us about changing the armament of the Admiral class when they have time. To change the armaments of this class of vessel at the present time would make a very great demand on the dockyards, and would mean that our shipbuilding must be arrested. I venture to think that an 8 inch gun is very much needed. I know many clever gunnery men who earnestly desire an 8 inch gun. We always did have the 8 inch in the olden times, and did not jump from 6 inch to 10 inch.
Yes; there is an 8 inch quick-firer now. Armstrongs have supplied it to the Japanese and other warships, but I presume that the requirements of the Admiralty are such that possibly the present quick-firing 8 inch gun does not come up to the excellence that our Naval advisers require. Only take the question of weight. The modern 6 inch quick-firing gun weighs—
Order, order! I must remind the honourable and gallant Member that the question of guns must be raised on Vote 9. I have allowed him to make some observations in reply to what has been said, because I thought it right that reply should be permitted.
Sir, I will wait till the gun question comes on. I will only say I am thankful to see that these powerful cruisers are to have the 9.2 gun. I think it is a great advantage and a great gain. I presume the Lords of the Admiralty will take adequate steps to get the number of men equal to the demand that will be made by these new ships. Though it does not arise upon this Vote it is a point of great importance. Unless preparations are made in time for enrolling a certain number of men, and officers are to be brought forward, we shall find ourselves on the completion of the programme in the presence of an inadequate number of men and officers to man the ships. I 891 think the First Lord may himself be much gratified that his proposals have been so cordially received.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
I am rather afraid to-night to approach Naval matters in the guise of a critic, simply for the fact that one is apt to receive the condemnation of the Admiralty authorities for daring to criticise the Navy. Now I, for one, as a critic of the Navy, am not ashamed to sign my name to anything I write, or to give utterance to anything I think in this House or elsewhere. The Admiralty must not expect that the country is going to accept Admiralty dictum as to why a great number of ships are white elephants to us. I am going to express my opinion according to my experience, and, if possible, assist the Government in maintaining the supremacy of the Navy. Some years ago I ventured to assert in this House that the circumstances under which the Admiralty had placed these English so-called first-class cruisers would end in disaster. I am here to-night to say again the same thing, finding that I have been amply justified by the working of cruisers which have been alluded to as being the first cruisers in the world, but which have proved absolute failures. It is a well-known fact that the Powerful is a failure. The last letter I had from Chefoo gives the vessel steaming from eight to 10 knots; and whenever they attempt to go beyond that they cannot do it. Lately the First Lord of the Admiralty went to Gibraltar on the cruiser Terrible—the ship which was designed to go, and which was announced to go, 22 knots; the ship about whose great speed articles in the newspapers were written; she was the finest cruiser in, the world, and unlike anything that Russia or France could produce. The First Lord of the Admiralty went himself to Gibraltar on the Terrible, to test that ship. I am glad he did go. I am sorry he did not think at the time of giving me an invitation. I would have been only too glad to have been of a little assistance to him in determining the actual facts. There is a vessel costing £800,000, designed to go 22 knots, to indicate 25,000 horse-power. I know of no steamer ever built that has received encouragement to do her work like that ship. Yet she failed. Why?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
This trip was part of a series of trials which were to be made at 10,000 horse-power and 15,000 horse-power, but the honourable Gentleman must not assume that in going 17 knots as we did with a certain amount of horse-power she failed to give the speed for which she was designed. It did not enter into the trial at all.
§ MR. ALLAN
I am rather sorry for the right honourable Gentleman. In these matters, as I said in the last discussion we had in this House, the First Lord is not a practical man, and consequently is at a disadvantage as against me. I do not want to be too hard upon him, but I want to show the exact position respecting the Terrible, and to show why cruisers which are building will be likewise failures. The Terrible went out, to Gibraltar, going 15 knots at 10,000 horse-power, and was to indicate 15,000 horse-power coming home. She went out right enough, but the moment she attempted to come back her trial was a failure. What was the cause of the failure? I will take the right honourable Gentleman's own words; he said slight defects in the engines. If there were slight defects in the engines, what is she docked for? Why were the engines glowed down?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
She was docked in order to see what the bottom was like; whether during the voyage she had a clean bottom, which of course, affects the speed and would be an element in determining the speed. That is why she was docked; not on account of injury of any kind.
§ MR. ALLAN
Generally vessels are docked before they go for their runs, and not after them. But what is the cause? I want to show the Committee exactly how we stand as regards those ships that are built and others that are building. Ever since Belleville boilers were fitted it has been given out that the engines were at fault—they have never1 yet blamed the boilers. The Sharpshooter was never run at her full speed; they could not do it. The Powerful went out to China burning out her sides with coals. Take 893 the Terrible. What are the facts? She goes out to Gibraltar, having run at reduced power, and comes back a failure. Where is the fault? The engines again. Nothing about the boilers! Now I stand here as an engineer of far longer experience than any you have connected with the Admiralty, and I say that statement is not correct, and that it is a shame to take refuge behind two of the best engine builders in Great Britain, at Glasgow and Barrow, and say the engines were at fault. It was nothing of the kind. It was the priming of the boilers, and not the cylinders of the engines, that caused the trouble. I say we are concealing the thing. We are not facing the difficulty. That is the exact position you are in at this moment with these boilers, and you see the results in the Terrible. We had the First Lord, at the Mansion House the other day, saying in his speech—nor do I propose to discuss a subject of which my mind is very full, namely, boilers.What has filled the right honourable Gentleman's mind with boilers? Has he received evidence that the boilers in these splendid ships for which we are voting money are failures? Take the case of the Diadem. I saw her; she is a1 well-built, fine-looking vessel; but were I to tell the Committee of the condition of the men standing over the fires, where the heat renders the furnace doors red-hot, no one would deny that that is not a ship to fight in war time. You have picked coal, picked men. You cannot burn ordinary coal with these water-tube boilers; that is the reason why you burn Welsh coals, and no other reason. Why were ships designed in that way? Why are they made that way? Why are they not made so that they can burn any kind of coal? Look at what the Americans are doing. I have two nephews with them, and know the facts. They have steam up all day, and day after day, and the moment the enemy come out of port they knock them to bits. Can you do that with our cruisers? You cannot do it. I want really, in the most friendly manner possible, to show the position to the right honourable Gentleman. I am not differing with him about the quantity and number of ships. 894 The father of all our engineering, James Watts, had a maxim as follows:—In all things, and preferably in mechanism, the supreme excellency is simplicity.Now, I am going to ask the attention of the Committee to certain facts. If that maxim is sound, I ask the right honourable Gentleman why he allowed the officials at the Admiralty to pass away from it and make our fighting ships as complex as possible? I will take what I consider to be the best battleship in the British Navy, and will contrast her with the Terrible. I will take the Jupiter—one of the finest battleships in the world, no one will deny. The Jupiter has eight boilers which employ eight sets of boiler mountings. Now the Terrible has 48 boilers, which employ 48 sets of particular mountings for 25,000 horse-power. The Terrible has absolutely six times the number of boiler mountings for twice the power, and the automatic mountings of the Terrible are of such a delicate mature that the moment the automatic fixed spindle sticks your boiler is gone—the water is out of the boiler at once. This is not a jocular matter. I say that there you have the Jupiter, that magnificent ship, with only eight sets of mountings, and the Terrible with 48 sets of mountings; and besides that, these Belleville boilers you are fitting require special forms of machinery and delicate mechanism, the derangement of which would be disastrous to the vessel and to the whole fleet. What is the position today with our ships? It is this. In the Jupiter you have a vessel of 14,900 tons displacement against the Terrible's 14,200 tons. Now, with 12,500 horse power she goes 18.4 knots. What does that mean? Here is a huge vessel of rather larger displacement than the Terrible, which goes 18.4 knots; and with 10,000 horse-power goes 15.8 knots, and only burns 1½lb. of coal per indicated unit of horse-power per hour. What is the case with the Terrible? The Terrible has 48 boilers. She went out, I believe, with something like 10,000 horse-power, and she went about 16 knots. On the way home, when she attempted to go 19 knots, she failed miserably. Compare that with the Jupiter fitted with ordinary boilers. I confess on that I 895 would like to know why it is that our Admiralty officials are pursuing this policy, which is practically ruining our fleet? I do not hesitate about it. You have never yet proved your position before the country, before this House, or satisfied a single disinterested engineer that the Belleville boilers you are putting into these vessels will satisfactorly do their work. I say distinctly that they cannot. Why bind the country to this policy? It is practically that. There is not a single vessel you have sent to sea that has had a fair and honest trial like our merchant ships. What is the use of four hours' or eight hours' trials? You are still in the region of experiment with your great vessels; noble ships with fine guns and fine men, but when you go down to the stoke-hole you cannot satisfy engineers—a disinterested engineer would not be satisfied until he has proved a thing to be correct. We are not going to vote millions here for experiments. You have gone on experimenting with cruisers and battleships, and dare not take full speed out of them when yon want to. I defy all criticism on the ground that I take. I say distinctly, as I have said it for four years, that you have never proved your position, that these boilers are satisfactory. There is not a single disinterested engineer in the country who will say it has been done. Take the case of what the right honourable Gentleman said about the new cruisers to go 23 knots. We have heard of that before. They will never go 23 knots, nor will you ever get your 30,000 horse-power. I tell you you will not get a 40 hours' run. What is the use of coming to this House and saying you can build ships to do this and that, when it cannot be done? I have been told over and over again, "Oh, the French and Russians are doing this and that!" Is that a reason why we should make our ships useless? Well, let us see what the Russians are doing. I have some data which I think will interest the Committee. Take the case of the Brennos. I will just refer the right honourable Gentleman to the engineer's report on these boilers in the ss. Brennos, and if you do not get a thorough condemnation of the boilers there in that Report I am disappointed. This is a vessel with 32 Belleville boilers. Here is what is 896 wrong about her. One of the foremost engineering papers of the day in England says:—Lime was put in the boilers to prevent loosening of the tubes made in the Belleville boilers. This lime found its way to the pistons, so that the rings were entirely ruined.When there is trouble at the outset there will be trouble to the finish. I will come to the Hoche, a French ship. Here is the case of the Hoche: I quote from the Times—The recent accident to the battleship Hoche will, it has now been found, necessitate two months' repairs, and 200 men are at work on them. The Hoche will be reduced to the second class; her boilers will be taken out, and different boilers put in.
§ MR. ALLAN
Yes, they are water-tube boilers. The water-tube boiler is, after all, only an apparatus for heating conservatories. It is not a boiler at all, simply from the fact that it has no combustion chambers to consume the gas given off by the coals. It is merely a heating apparatus. I question if the Belleville boiler is a valid patent, for one or two arrangements of the kind have been in use before; but the patent has been good enough to draw money out of John Bull's pocket. I do not object to the right honourable Gentleman putting down these big and splendid ships. I give him every support. He knows my sentiments well enough upon the necessity of a strong Navy. What I say is this—I am sorry to have to say it again—I protest against these boilers, untried, experimental boilers, still being put into Her Majesty's ships. I protest against our passing money here to do such things; and I would suggest to the right honourable Gentleman that he should appoint a committee of disinterested engine builders, men who are not doing Government work, place a boat in their hands, and let them use that boat under the ordinary conditions of warfare; give it ordinary coals and ordinary 897 men, and then you can get data that will either justify the action of these officials or condemn them for all time as the greatest experimentalists and the greatest failures that ever disgraced the annals of our engineering. I believe in a strong Navy. I say again in this House, with all sincerity, that you are not building an effective Navy, but you are building a huge failure.
§ SIR A. FORWOOD
I desire to second the appeal of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Gateshead, that before we commit ourselves further in this matter, which appears to me to resolve itself into a mass of experiments, the nation should have one of these vessels fitted with these water-tube boilers properly tried; that she should be subjected to a proper sea-going trial under normal conditions. I know that it is not a pleasant thing to have, year after year, to raise a subject like this, but upon the condition of the machinery and of the boilers with which these ships are fitted depends, more than upon any other circumstance connected with them, the efficacy of these ships in time of war. Five years ago the Admiralty committed itself to a very great experiment, when the Powerful and the Terrible were fitted with no less than 48 elements for generating steam. A protest was lodged against this experiment being entered into without a trial being made, and it was pointed out then that several ships in the mercantile marine had used these boilers, and that was considered sufficient trial for their adoption in these two great vessels. Now, from that day to this the only sea-going trials that we have had are in the case of the Powerful and the Terrible, although since then we have had some 50 ships fitted with these boilers, and to-day we are promised some eight or 10 more vessels fitted with boilers of the same type. We have had now a sea-going trial with one of them. The Powerful proceeds to China—I may say that my information is wholly derived from the public Press, and from what has been stated in this House upon this subject—and upon the only day that she was pressed, upon the quarterly trial day, when she had to make a speed of 15 or 16 knots an hour, she broke down, and 898 had to jog along to Hong-kong as best she could. The next ship we hear of is the Terrible. She goes for a sea-going trial, and we have glowing accounts of 20 or 30 hours with picked coal, with picked men, and everything else. She is sent to Gibraltar, and precisely the same defects arise in her case as arose in the case of the Powerful—precisely the same so far as I have to deal with the matter; she broke down when pressed to make 17 knots, and she goes into the dockyard, and she is in the hands of the dockyard people at the present time. Now, one of the reasons why these boilers were recommended to us was that they would stow lower down in the ship, and thus would not be so exposed to the effect of shot or shell. So terrible was the heat in which the men who had to tend them had to live that some means had to be provided in order to minimise its effect, and the very fact of keeping the boilers below the water line was found impracticable by reason of the great heat which, was given off by them. It has been urged in this House over and over again that vessels fitted with these boilers should make a sea-going trial under normal conditions; let them make a voyage to Rio or to Halifax, or to wherever you like, but let it be a seagoing trial instead of the 30 hours' trial which is given, and let us have the right to that trial which we have been denied ever since this matter has been raised in this House. As one who has had to do with steamers for 30 years, I say that no trial of 20 or 30 hours or so can give one any satisfactory result, so far as regards the machinery or boilers with which the vessel is fitted; and when the life of the nation depends upon its fleet and upon the 50 or 60 vessels which we are now building, then surely the least thing we can ask from the Admiralty is that they should have a sea going trial, not with picked coal, picked men, picked officers, and picked everything else, but under normal conditions, and then, if she proves to be a vessel with machinery and boilers such as we desire, nobody would be better pleased than I should, because it could be no longer regarded then as doubtful or experimental. One more word upon this matter, and I have done. These boilers were put into the ship Diadem on the 899 ground that they were a quick raiser of steam, and were very economical. All the evidence of economy that we have had is the cost of the boilers in a vessel of 10,000 horse-power; the little saving of weight of these boilers would in the mercantile navy be eaten up in one day. The question of saving of weight is at once dispelled when you place it in contrast with the increased consumption of coal. There is another illustration which I should like to give to this House with regard to these boilers. The honourable Gentleman the Member for Hull I see is in his place. Now, I well remember when it was suggested in this House that there ought to be a proper sea-going trial when the Powerful and the Terrible were built and fitted with these boilers before we committed ourselves to this matter. The honourable Member for Hull said "You may be quite satisfied I have put into my ship, the Ohio, these boilers." I believe the experiment of putting these boilers into the Ohio has been a very costly one to the honourable Member, because I have heard that he has had to take out the Belleville boilers and to put in other cylindric engines. Now, I would like just to express my own satisfaction with the statement of the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty in connection with the new shipbuilding programme. The right honourable Gentleman has been criticised by the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean for not having brought this statement in at an earlier period of the Session, and deferring the consideration of this Vote until this time. For my part, I think the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty is perfectly justified in the course which he has pursued, and that it was far better for him to have an opportunity of seeing what is being done elsewhere before he brought before this House the programme he has laid down. I am glad to see the class of vessels which he proposes to build. I am one of those who have more confidence in the large type of vessels, whether they be battleships or cruisers, than in the small class. I think it is a mistake to reduce our battleships to below 15,000 tons; that having regard to the necessity of a coal supply, we should, as far as possible, 900 avoid the use of colliers by the ships carrying as much in their own bottoms as they possibly can. That leads me, Mr. Lowther, to make one observation upon the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for York in reference to colliers. As I understand the noble Lord, he suggested that the Admiralty should build so many colliers of a particular pattern, because of the inconvenience of coaling a war vessel under present conditions; but if they do the war vessels would get their cargo of coal under the same conditions as if they obtained it from a mercantile collier. They would still have to go inside the port alongside the war vessel, and there is such a variety of types of our war vessels that it is perfectly obvious that it would be almost impossible for the Admiralty to provide colliers to suit each of Her Majesty's ships. I quite agree with the honourable Member for Eastbourne that you will get all the coal that you require at the time the necessity arises, and that you had better spend your money in building war vessels than vessels of the collier class. May I say just one word as to water-tight doors? I do not know how the noble Lord proposes to get the coal to the fires if he had no water-tight doors, although I quite agree it would be better to do away with water-tight doors and to make transverse bulkheads between hold and hold; and I quite agree with all that he has said about watertight doors depending upon someone having the presence of mind being upon the spot ready to shut them in the time of emergency. I think they are a danger to the ship in the holds lower down. I rose mainly to emphasise the necessity of the Admiralty acceding to the proposal of the honourable Member for Gateshead for a proper sea-going trial of one of the large vessels fitted with Belleville boilers, which I hope will set at rest a controversy which has now lasted for five years, and which does disturb our minds.
§ MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
Mr. Lowther, as I have been referred to by the honourable Gentleman who has just resumed his seat, perhaps it is only right and proper that I should tell the House my own experiences with regard to matters of this kind. When I spoke 901 about boilers in this House, and the whole system of cylindrical boilers and water-tube boilers, I did not especially mention the Belleville boiler. It is only right that I should give my own experience. We were approached by Messrs. Maudsley, the eminent firm of engineers, to try one of the Belleville boilers, and we fitted one of them into one of our steamers, the Ohio, That steamer had made several voyages, and the result was not satisfactory, and we have taken those boilers out and put back the old circular boilers, and the result as compared with the Belleville boilers is very satisfactory. They go at a greater speed, with a less consumption of coal and with less difficulty in working the boiler. That is as far as it goes, and, as the honourable Baronet very truly remarked, it has been a very costly experiment. But the honourable Gentleman knows that, unless we make experiments in the mercantile marine, we are very likely to be left in the background, and being in charge of a large fleet, we must run some risk. Upon the other hand, we have adopted another water-tube boiler, not one with a French name or one which is a French patent, and one of the ships fitted with the boiler has been running for five years. She has been running just the same as the rest of the fleet, with neither hand-picked coal nor picked stokers, nor anything of that sort, and she has done her work as well as the others, and, upon the whole, the result has been very satisfactory. We have followed that up in the present year by fitting up three steamers with the same boilers, and as we go on we find, as the Admiralty must and will find, that there are difficulties in the way of working high pressure steam, to give economy. It is likely to affect the working of the engines and the pistons, but if the engineers cannot get over that difficulty I shall feel a very great disappointment. I have no doubt whatever but what my honourable Friend on my left will get over the difficulty. It is the chief difficulty that we find in the working of the water-tube boilers, and no doubt they have very great advantages over the other boilers. Steam can be got up in a comparatively short space of time. If in getting up steam in the ordinary circular boiler you do it too quickly you do it with great risk to the boiler; you 902 can do it in a greater time, but the great thing about these water-tube boilers is that if they break away they are easy to get repaired, so much so that if it were not for the trade union rules the engineers themselves would do every repair that is necessary. That is the experience of my firm with regard to water-tube boilers; the first one was the Belleville boiler, which was fitted by Messrs. Maudsley, but it is not fair to take that as an example; we are now using the other boilers with satisfactory results. Going a little further, I may say that I cannot agree with the noble Lord the Member for York that it is to the advantage of the Admiralty to go to the expense of building colliers. I think the mercantile marine is quite competent to stand any strain in that direction, and I think it would be a useless and unnecessary expense. I should like to go a little further, and say, after having been in this House 25 years, I have gone through a great many of these discussions, and through a great many scares with regard to our Navy, and I think perhaps the noble Lord will remember that in 1885 we had one of those scares—at that time he was in the House. I made it my business then to take a contrary view to the view taken by this side of the House, and I then expressed this as being my opinion, that the only result of scares in this country would be to cause a corresponding effect in other countries, and in the result, as we now see, whatever we do only increases the desire of our competitors to do also; and my own opinion of the whole matter is that there is a very great waste of money in labour and other expenses in this country, and also, as a result of our example, of course, in the two countries with whom we are supposed for some reason or other, at some time or other, to be going to war. I think that the Members on this side of the House are rather too reticent in speaking out as they ought to do. For my own part, I am not an admirer of the Jingo spirit, but what usually takes hold of the minds of honourable Members on both sides of the House is the fact that the more money that the Government wish to expend upon naval armaments the more money goes into the pockets of the working classes in the end, and that, 903 consequently, the reason that we had in former days for retrenchment in our financial matters has, to a great extent, disappeared, and for many reasons it is not altogether wise, considering the great responsibilities we have in many other ways.
§ *MR. FORTESCUE FLANNERY (Yorkshire, Shipley)
As regards all questions of practical engineering, perhaps none are more accurately informed than my honourable Friend the Member for Gateshead, but the illustration upon which my honourable Friend relied this afternoon was not quite accurate. The illustration which he relied on was that the Terrible, coming home from Gibraltar, broke down in her boilers. Now, in common with many honourable Members of this House, I enjoyed a visit, at the invitation of the noble Lord the Member for York, to Portsmouth. While there I took an opportunity of making an examination on board the Terrible while she was in dock for the purpose of ascertaining what had been the cause of her unfortunate and most regrettable breakdown, and I found that the cause was absolutely and entirely confined to the engine. What really did happen was this: a valve admitting steam to the engine from the boiler had become deranged by the fracture of one of its parts, a derangement which, in my experience, has happened in the mercantile marine on several occasions, the result being in every case the same as that of the Terrible, and what had to be done in those ships in the mercantile marine was that the engines had to be slowed down. I merely state that fact as a tribute of justice to the Admiralty. I, as a Member of this House, with some practical knowledge, bear testimony to the fact in order that it shall not be said that any attack upon the Admiralty was founded on such inaccurate statements as those put forward to the Committee this afternoon. I could not help regarding as a most important speech, full of example to the Admiralty, that which this discussion elicited from the honourable Gentleman the Member for Hull. The honourable Gentleman has been exceedingly candid; he has admitted that the water-tube boilers in one of his 904 own steamers have been such an utter failure that after practical experience of them and testing them he took them out of his vessel and replaced them by others of the old type. I would certainly suggest that the action of the honourable Member for Hull formed an example of the most emphatic kind for the right honourable Gentleman and the Department which he administers. What are the facts of the case? The facts are these: first of all you have the adoption of a new type of water-tube boiler, and the sending of the boiler to sea under complete sea-going conditions. Then you have the discovery of defects in the type of boiler, and, finally, its being removed from the ship, which in substitution received boilers of the old type. Now, that is practically what the right honourable Baronet has urged in his speech, and that is precisely the policy which has been urged over and over again ad nauseam against the Admiralty until I, for one, am almost ashamed to repeat the suggestion. The policy which they are pursuing is a policy of experiment and danger. It is absolutely necessary that ships should be built, and if they are fitted with boilers so experimental as they are, then it should be seen that they were sufficiently good for the purpose; yet, in spite of the facilities and the opportunities which lay at their hands, the Admiralty has accepted these boilers, and has not taken advantage of testing them under proper sea-going conditions.
§ *MR. FORTESCUE FLANNERY
Yes, but under what conditions? Was the captain of that ship told to go on at full speed, was he told to go under the same conditions as if there had been a declaration of war? If the vessel went out under the conditions of stress and emergency, it would have been representative of the conditions in time of war, and then I am completely answered. But, Sir, my position, and the position of other men having some knowledge of the subject, is this, that these boilers, new 905 in design, have never been fully tested by long voyages at sea under conditions of extreme development of power which would test them. I am not an advocate of any particular type of boiler. All I desire to see—as I am sure the right honourable Gentleman desires to see—is that the vessels for Her Majesty's Fleet, on which the life of this country must depend, shall be of the very best possible design, and the best capability of endurance. I do not desire in any sense to attack the Administration over which the right honourable Gentleman presides with such remarkable ability, and to the satisfaction of the whole House. It is the duty of the Admiralty to test fully and thoroughly, on the ground of endurance, this novel type of steam generator, before they admit the policy of fitting it on every new vessel.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty will perhaps be glad to hear that, unlike most of the speakers who have addressed the Committee, I am not going to lecture him, or to tender him advice about the boilers, or armaments, or guns, or anything else connected with this business, because I really know nothing about that. For my part, I believe that if we are to have a Navy, and to build a larger number of ships, the best thing we can do is to leave it to the Admiralty. Last February we were told that we were to spend in the next three years £7,000,000 sterling on the Navy. I shuddered then; but I thanked my God that it was not more. What do I find? Only a few months have passed and the right honourable Gentleman comes to the House and says that £7,000,000 is not enough, that he is going to add an additional £8,000,000, making in all £15,000,000 to be spent during the next three years. And what reason does the right honourable Gentleman give for this enormous extra expenditure? He tells us that Russia has built a certain number of ships. Now, Russia is a vast, wealthy country, and Russia may legitimately have a reasonable Navy. Russia has got at present, comparatively speaking, a very small Navy. But even when Russia does build these new ships Russia will not have a Navy to compare in any way with ours. Why are we to be frightened out of our wits because it is 906 the intention of Russia to build new ships, because Russia may be allied with some other Power against us? The right honourable Gentleman seems to think that the supposition that we should be equal to two Powers is a sort of divine ordinance come down from heaven. Why are we to do this? Will he tell me, why not three Powers? I have frequently asked this of the House before. I cannot see why it is necessary that our Navy should be on an equality with two Powers, and why, if we are to take that position, we should not assert that it should be on an equality with three Powers. It is practically to say that if any three Powers joined in a war against us we would be absolutely alone. Supposing we were at war with France, and say, Russia, our fate is absolutely in the hands of Germany. Why are we to build ships at the present moment? Has France increased her Navy? Why has Russia increased her Navy? It is because we ourselves commenced this game of bluff and beggar my neighbour. We have colonies, very extensive and wealthy colonies, no doubt, but they have few of our Imperial responsibilities, and do not take any share in the burden of defending them. The only thing we have had was when the Cape Government came forward and promised to build an ironclad. We have heard a great deal of that proposed ironclad, but I do not believe we shall get out of the Cape Government even a torpedo destroyer, or a torpedo boat. Other countries have colonies, and I can easily understand that they object to this dream of ours to have universal empire over the seas, because that puts their colonies and their commerce entirely at our mercy. Their colonies and their commerce may not be so important as ours; but still, whether it be as important, or whether it be less important, they are interested in their commerce, which has taken a great development of late years; they are interested in colonial expansion, and they do not like the idea of their being dependent upon our goodwill. In fact, they build ships because we have built ships; and so long as we build ships they will build ships against us. We know perfectly well what happened in the time of Napoleon. Napoleon wanted to have universal empire, and it produced a combination against him and his desire and intention to have 907 universal empire. It is just as injurious to the welfare of the world that there should be an absolute and supreme mastery over the sea by one Power, as it was to have absolute mastery over the land. Therefore the whole tendency of what we do is to unite these Powers against us. We are told that it is desirable to have an ally on whom you can depend. The First Lord of the Admiralty is a practical man, a business man, and I want him or somebody else on that bench—I see there is the Solicitor General, and he looks like a practical man—to tell me how all this is to end. For my own part I think that the two Powers will soon become three Powers. I believe that this programme we are entering into at present, will lead to either France or Germany or Russia building more ships, and that the final result will be that there will be greater navies, and that our comparative strength will remain much the same. Those experienced gentlemen know what they mean by being able to cope with three Powers. The First Lord of the Admiralty said we ought to be on an equality with two Powers. My honourable Friend here thought we ought to be able to cope with two or three, and the noble Lord opposite thought we ought to be equal to five; but if you are going to satisfy all these navy leagues, and all these Service Committees that are in this House, all you do is to encourage them to ask for more. They are never satisfied. They go about the country saying that the Ministry is not to be supported because they will not build more ironclads. They go about the country and simply judge the Government of the day according to the number of ironclads they build. What they say is this, "you ought to support us because we have built more ships than our predecessors." We used to look at foreign nations and compare them with ourselves, and say, "Thank God we are not like them. They spend vast sums of money, and they must be bankrupt if they continue to spend at this rate." Now, we ourselves spend vast sums of money. My right honourable Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean asked me what I should do if I were the Government. I do not think I am likely to be the Government; but if I were the Govern- 908 ment I will tell my right honourable Friend what I should do. I should bear in mind that in the year 1850 we spent £10,000,000 upon the Army and Navy. That was a peace expenditure. At present we spend £45,000,000 upon these two services. Now, what I should do would be this. I would send for my First Lord of the Admiralty and for my Secretary of State for War, and I would say, "We did the thing very well then; we spent £10,000,000 a year in 1850. I will admit that we have made a little progress since; I will admit that it is more difficult to defend the Empire now than it was then. Yet I will do the thing handsomely. You shall have £20,000,000 a year, and not a shilling more." And if the First Lord of the Admiralty asked for one shilling more he would not get it. We must look facts in the face; we must cut our coat according to our cloth. What has taken place during the last two or three years? My right honourable Friend the Member for Monmouthshire increased the revenue of the country enormously by the imposition of the Death Duties, and the present Ministry has inherited that. The revenue, luckily for them, has expanded since they were in office. What benefit have we got from it? Nothing. A few doles have been given. Practically the whole thing has been thrown into the vortex of naval and military expenditure. They have done more than that. They have arrested the Sinking Fund. Instead of paying off our debts, as we used to do, we are devoting the whole of the money for the purpose of these armaments. I am in hopes that they have got to the end of their tether. I do not believe that they can go on with this ridiculous expense very much longer without imposing new taxes; and I will tell you that if they impose new taxes for armaments, whether it be for the Army or for the Navy, the whole of the Jingoism of this country will vanish into thin air. When I think of the £20,000,000 which I should like to expend, if I were the First Lord of the Treasury, upon home matters, it really makes my mouth water. Just look at the old age pensions. It is pretty well admitted that one of the reasons why the Government is in power is because they ran about the country saying that poor people would get pen- 909 sions in their old age. The First Lord of the Treasury said that he would explain at some other time how they were going to do it. You cannot eat your cake and have it; you cannot spend your money and have enough for a system of old age pensions. The other day the Vice-President of the Council pointed out that we were positively starving education in this country. Why, Sir, we shall starve all domestic matters of this kind so long as we continue in this wild, profligate, and reckless expenditure on armaments. The peculiarity of this expenditure is this. Someone suggested that it was rather a good thing in the interests of poor men that we should spend money on naval armaments, because that would give extra wages. If you spend money in a remunerative manner, it should breed more wealth. Take your £15,000,000. How much do those ships cost? £1,500,000 per annum. Honourable Gentlemen forget that the expenditure does not begin and end with the ships of war which you build. A ship of war requires £100,000 per annum; and therefore the proposals of the right honourable Gentleman are not only expensive in themselves, but they mean a further expenditure of £1,500,000 per annum. There is another point to consider. Ships get out of date in about 10 years. The honourable Member for York proposes that the greater part of our ships should be burnt, and that we should build new ones. The noble Lord expresses a sensible view. It is true that there is no use in having a quantity of those rotten old ships, which required to be renewed every 10 years. Therefore this £15,000,000 will in 10 years disappear, and we shall be called upon to spend more to maintain our Navy. I am one of those who do not believe in a war expenditure in time of peace, and I have a high authority for that. Sir Robert Peel exposed this delusion, and Mr. Gladstone followed in the steps of Sir Robert Peel. Yet we are told that everybody is a traitor who will not accept this notion. You have the First Lord of the Admiralty abused if he does not build this number of new ships; he is abused by his own followers, and he is abused by the Liberals. I should like to stiffen up the First Lord of the Admiralty; I should like him to be able to resist. I think 910 on this side of the House we ought to declare that we are opposed to this enormous expenditure. I perfectly understand what all this vast expenditure on armament means. It means that you want to stem the advance of Liberalism in this country. [Laughter.] The right honourable Gentleman laughs. Surely he has to a certain extent read history. This game has been played again and again in the world; whenever there has been any attempt to advance, the ruling Powers have distracted the attention of the country by going into a foreign war. I regard these Jingoes as utter cowards. They go about the world swaggering and bragging, and then they get so afraid of what will be the consequence that they rush away and urge upon the country to spend its money in further defence. Now, the First Lord has said that they do not quite know whether the money will be spent before next year—at any rate, he is not absolutely certain how much will be spent. Well, under those circumstances, what do you do? Do you put down a Vote for £100, on which the principle is raised? It has been done in regard to Dover Harbour; it has been done in regard to a foreign embassy; and I cannot understand why the First Lord did not come down and propose an additional Estimate of £100, in order that the House might have an opportunity of expressing its views on this programme. But he has gone further. He has told us that it is very possible that he will spend some money on this programme before Parliament meets again. Now, I can understand a certain expenditure, if he considers it is absolutely necessary for the nation when Parliament is not sitting; but he deliberately, while Parliament is sitting, and the Navy Estimates are before the House, comes down here, and says, "I am not going to propose an Estimate for money that I very possibly shall spend." I presume he is going to ask us to vote it as a sort of indemnity to him in the next Session. This is the most deliberate and outrageous attack upon the control that Parliament exercises, or rather, ought to exercise, upon the Executive, that I have ever heard of. Sir, I should not have expressed my views on the subject, because I have expressed them so often before, if the First Lord had proposed a 911 Vote. I do not know what the views of other honourable Gentlemen may be, but I do not intend that it shall be stated that the programme of the First Lord was assented to without any dissent.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I desire to say a word or two with reference to the extraordinary financial course which the right honourable Gentleman has pursued in this matter. He has had the ambition in former years to reverse the whole of the financial policy of the country with reference to the Navy. He invented that extraordinary system called the Imperial and Naval Defence Plan, which brought the Admiralty into a state of confusion. Since that time, we have been succeeded by another Administration, and they have pursued the ancient, well established, finance system of this country, and have not gone back to those extraordinary and embarrassing finesses in which the right honourable Gentleman was in the habit of indulging. But a system has been introduced to the House of Commons to-night which, in my experience, I never heard of before, except in time of actual war. The Government come forward in the early part of the year, and tell the country that what is wanted for its defence is a sum of £7,000,000; but, in addition to that, on what information we have not been told, upon a mere surmise that some country or other is going to build some vessels, the right honourable Gentleman comes forward with a demand towards the end of the Session, and, as if we were actually at war, for £8,000,000 more. Such a thing has never been heard of before in the financial administration of this country. What is the defence? The noble Lord opposite [Lord Charles Beresford] tells us that Russia is advancing, but the First Lord says, "Oh, no, not at all; we do not think that your information is true." But the Committee are not informed whether the Government know about this advance in shipbuilding or not. The regular financial system would be, if the Government are going to make an Estimate for a large increase in the Navy, to tell the House of Commons what is the ground of their belief, and on what they act, what are the ships 912 they are going to build, and what is the defence to this extraordinary proceeding? It is said that they do not know what ships they are going to build. Why? Because they do not know exactly what sort of ships Russia is going to build, and, therefore, in this hurry and haste at the end of the Session, without any information as to what they are going to build against, the Government come forward with this flaming programme, and have no Estimate to submit on the subject because they have not made up their minds what they are going to build. That is the method of administering the finances of the Navy of which there is no example. We ought to be in a position to deal with the £8,000,000, but we are not in a position to decide with reference to this matter until the Government have made up their minds, in the course of six or eight months, whether they will bring forward their Supplementary Estimate at the beginning of next year. That will be the time when we shall have to judge of this programme, or of its justification in the character of the ships, and in the character of the Russian ships, of which it is perfectly obvious that they know nothing at all. It is a sort of hasty, inconsiderate rush for which they denied, until the last few weeks, the necessity altogether. Something has been said about pressure. I remember perfectly well, after the Administration came in, that for two successive years the noble Lord, now Secretary of State for India, declared that the British Navy was absolutely adequate for all that was wanted, but on account of the activity of the noble Lord opposite [Lord C. Beresford], the whole of that attitude was changed, and then was produced the wonderful scheme of the Naval Defence Fund.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, the noble Lord need not shake his head. It is within my recollection, and, I believe, within the recollection of the majority of the Committee. Well, what is the meaning of this stupendous haste in introducing this programme? Will the right honourable Gentleman deny that in this country we can build ships at least 12 months quicker than the Russians can, or that any country can? Will anyone 913 deny that proposition? Why, in accepting the rumour or suggestion that the Russians are going to build some more ships, do you not wait until the Russians build?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The information has not come in suddenly in one dispatch. It had to be collected with great care and after considerable trouble; but it is obvious that I cannot state all the sources of my information. It has come by degrees, but I know the class of ship, and the general dimensions, which is going to be built. With reference to the time, I will deal with that in my general reply.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
You cannot wait until you know. I understand now from the right honourable Gentleman that he knows the class of ship.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
Naturally, the Russian Government does not communicate its plans to us.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
If you know, what is the reason that you have not made up your mind to build the ships you think desirable to meet the Russian programme? Well, Sir, I must say that a proceeding more extraordinary than that of these progressive dispatches, to induce the Government to double its expenditure on the Navy, and bring forward, at the end of the Session, not an Estimate, but what I may call a flaming programme, which no one understands, I have not heard; it is the most irregular financial operation of which I have had any knowledge. The present Government are apparently in the enjoyment of such a number of millions that it seems to be a matter of little moment what they do with them. That is not a safe policy. You have had an immense revenue for three years. Do not be certain that you will have it for ever, and do not play ducks and drakes with £8,000,000, without some more solid 914 foundation to go upon. There has been nothing so irregular, nothing so insufficient, so baseless, as the grounds put forward by the right honourable Gentleman for this demand for £8,000,000, which he does not even ask for.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
If you know what Russia is going to do, why not make up your mind what you should do, and spend in time? The Government ought to have some respect for the fundamental principles on which the finances of this country have been dealt with for generations. To invent these new methods of dealing with the taxation of the people is, in my opinion, utterly unsafe. I have been present in the House for the last few weeks, and I anticipated that the right honourable Gentleman was going to produce a Supplementary Estimate. I have been asking day after day whether that Supplementary Estimate would be laid before us before we came to discuss the regular Estimates; but I did not expect this hugger-mugger, haphazard method of dealing with this extra £8,000,000, apart from the ordinary forms which attend the finances of this country. I think that is an extremely unfortunate, and likely to be a very dangerous, proceeding. It is quite plain that we cannot deal with this question until that Supplementary Estimate is produced before us. The proper time to consider the question is when the Government have made up their minds what they are going to do. I do not observe the Chancellor of the Exchequer here, but I did observe, when somebody said, "when you gave this remission of taxation in your Budget you must have known of this extra expenditure," the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with a very indignant air, replied, "I did not know anything about it." What a condition your finance is in! You are giving away taxation to a very large amount when you are on the brink of bringing forward a Supplemental Estimate to the amount of £8,000,000. What is going to be the financial condition of this country next Spring, when this Supplemental Estimate is going to be brought 915 forward, and you have parted with your surplus, and with your taxation? I do not pretend to prophesy what will happen; all I can say is that if I were in the situation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer I should be extremely uncomfortable. All I can say with reference to this proceeding is that it is a proceeding absolutely inconsistent with all principles of English finance to which I have always been accustomed, and which I shall always endeavour to maintain.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN after the usual interval,
*CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devon, Torquay)
I have listened, as I always do, with a great deal of attention to the speech which we have just heard from the Leader of the Opposition, and I have heard the indignation expressed against the First Lord of the Admiralty upon the question which we are now discussing. When I heard that indignation, and listened to that speech, I was forcibly reminded of an incident which occurred when the right honourable Gentleman was the Leader of the House. It will be within the recollection of the House that the right honourable Gentleman made a statement upon one occasion in which he stated that the Navy was ample for the needs of this country. Well, we all know what happened. We know that he very soon after had to withdraw that statement, and he had to climb down from the untenable position which he took up, and he displayed remarkable agility in so doing. Now, I am not one of those who share the alarmist views which have been expressed both inside and outside of this House with regard to the Navy. I quite admit, and everyone who studies the question must admit, that this is a matter for urgent watchfulness on the part of the Admiralty to keep up the present state of efficiency to enable our Navy to cope with any possible combination against us, and I am quite certain that the assistants which the Admiralty Board have under them have most ably devoted their whole attention to the needs of the Navy. The honourable Member for Hull spoke about bringing forward this programme in a panic. I, Sir, quite share his disapproval of any panic programme. The honourable Member for Hull went on to 916 say that the effect of increasing our Navy only produces a corresponding activity in other countries to increase their navies. Well, Sir, that remark reminded me of a story that was told of Dean Swift. On one occasion he was travelling in Ireland, and after he had started on his journey he found his servant, who rode behind him, had not cleaned his boots. The Dean inquired the reason of this neglect. The servant replied, "It is no use cleaning your boots here; they will only get dirty again." The Dean accepted this excuse, and they arrived at an hotel for dinner. The Dean had his dinner, and took good care that the servant had none. The servant reminded him of this omission, when the Dean replied, "What is the use of giving you any dinner? You will only get hungry again." Now that is precisely the argument of the honourable Member for Hull, who would not bring the Navy up to the needs of the present day because it would entail further expenditure in other countries. What we have to consider is, what we have to do in view of the vast interests which we have at stake, and we have always to keep up our Navy to the requirements of the nation. As regards the figures which he brought forward respecting the number of our ships, I may point out that figures can be made to prove anything. I have gone carefully into the Reports and Returns moved for by the honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, and I am bound to say that I believe our Fleet is up to the requirements, and fully able to cope with any probable combination of ships that are likely to be brought against us; and as regards the future programme, which has just been propounded by the First Lord of the Admiralty, that will keep the Navy in a very high state of efficiency, which I consider is our only safeguard. Several honourable Members have spoken about our Fleet generally, and a certain number of critics have urged that in respect of battleships we are deficient, and they assert that a combination of the French and Russian navies would be too powerful for us. Well, they can only arrive at that conclusion by crediting our foreign rivals with all the ships on their list, whether obsolete 917 or not; and, moreover, there is this very important point also, that they have to credit them with their coast defence ships as sea-going battleships, and it is only by that means that even in figures they can be put on anything approaching the level or the strength of our Navy. Those defence ships are useful enough from the point of view of the country which possesses them, but they would be very little use to us, because they could not keep the sea, and therefore they could not be used as a means of attack. But there is another point which I think has not been touched upon by any honourable Member who has yet spoken. In fast cruisers, the "eyes of a fleet," we have a strength of 95 cruisers as against 33 possessed by the two nations which I have just mentioned. When you have a sufficient number of fast cruisers attached to a fleet you enormously increase the power of that fleet to strike a blow where it is most needed, and I think that that face ought not to be lost sight of in any calculations or comparisons as to our relative strength. Our building programme, I believe, will put us upon a very satisfactory footing in the future. Undoubtedly activity was necessary in this department. We know that the Admiralty and the advisers of the Admiralty are carefully watching what takes place abroad, so as to adapt our future programme to the needs of the country. A great deal has been said about the advantages of the Naval Defence Act, but I think the plan of building ships from year to year is much better, and for this reason. I think it is absolutely necessary to lay down and complete ships as fast as they can be completed, and to endeavour to improve on each succeeding ship as far as you can. The right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition wanted to know why the country was not informed, and why the House was not told exactly what ships were to be built under this new programme. Well, Sir, I am not in the secrets of the Admiralty, but I can well understand the reasons. It takes time to design a ship, for every single detail has to be worked out, and the weights and proportions have to be calculated most accurately, for if there is one thing more certain than another in naval architecture it is this: that if you try to make any 918 alterations in a ship after it has been once commenced building, you will inevitably make her a failure; and for that reason I can well understand that the First Lord of the Admiralty is not in a position to state exactly the details of the ships which he proposes to lay down. Now, as regards our war strength, compared with other nations, I will take our fleets in commission in various parts of the nation. Take, firstly, the Channel Squadron: it comprises eight battleships, which are far superior to the ships of any other fleet in the world. You have this enormous advantage: that they are of the same speed, turn in the same circle, and are exactly alike, and can manœuvre to a very much greater nicety than the ships composing any other fleet in the world. That, I contend, is an enormous advantage. Now, I do not desire to take up the time of the Committee unduly, but I wish to make a few remarks with regard to the interest taken by the outside public generally in the state of our naval defences. I think, Sir, that it is a very healthy sign that the naval defences should be carefully watched by the public, and that the public should be educated to see and know the needs of a strong Navy for a country like Great Britain. We know that it has been repeated over and over again that our food supplies upon which our very existence depends, are dependent upon our command of the sea; and that fact cannot be too often brought home to the British public. But sometimes we are apt to go a little too far. Some of the critics argue as if the Admiralty and their naval advisers were ignorant of this fact, or had their eyes shut to it. But what is the state of the case? Why, at the present time, the officers of the Admiralty who are performing the duties of professional advisers to the Admiralty are second to none in our service as regards the reputation which they bear. They are well known, both from the position they occupy in naval circles and the high reputation which they possess, and they are well qualified and capable of expressing a perfectly independent opinion in naval matters, and I am sure that none of them would modify their views with the idea of pleasing the powers that be. I believe they are absolutely independent, and I know they would not modify a 919 single opinion, in order to curry favour with their superiors. During the last few years a great change has taken place in the relationship between the Admiralty and the officers under their command. I can remember a time when the Admiralty was looked upon with disfavour; but that is far from being the case now. I can speak with certainty on this matter, because I know for a fact that the officers throughout the Service look upon the Admiralty as their friends. That is important, because, in time of war these are the men who have to command the ships; and they have every confidence that if more ships are required and applied for this House would provide readily whatever may be necessary, if we should happen to be engaged in hostilities. Before I sit down I should like to call attention to what appears to me to be the only lesson that can be learned from the disastrous war that is now going on between Spain and America, and that is the absolute necessity of having the internal fittings of our ships made with non-inflammable material. We know that Admiral Cervera's fleet was destroyed by the explosion of shells between decks, and I do trust that the Admiralty will take this matter into consideration, and see if there is any means to be found of preventing what would cause such a frightful disaster in the event of our being engaged in war, as that which has befallen the Spanish fleet. There is another point: that of the torpedo tubes, which are in some ships above the water line. I hope steps will be taken to guard against what might prove most disastrous, especially in our cruisers, if the torpedo room were struck by a shell. With these few remarks I will conclude; and I desire to congratulate the Admiralty on the programme they have laid down, which I trust will be soon carried to a completion.
§ SIR E. GOURLEY (Sunderland)
I think that the question which the country has a right to ask the Government is this: what is the cause of this sudden demand for this increase in our Navy? My answer to that is this: in my opinion it is the outcome of the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to China. The Members of Her Majesty's Government invited the Russian Government to take an ice-free port in a corner 920 of China, and Russia took advantage of that invitation. There was an outcry in this country, on the part of the Jingoes in the House, and the Jingoes outside of the House, and unfortunately the Government yielded to the pressure brought to bear upon them, with regard to this country. And what was the consequence? Why, we were conceded Wei-hai-Wei. But, whilst the Jingoes raised an outcry against Russia, we did nothing whatever with regard to the policy pursued by Germany. Germany, in my opinion, caused Russia to take possession of Port Arthur and Talienwan earlier than she would have done, and we, above all others, disclaimed any intention of seizing Chinese territory as a menace against Russia. Now, we have the answer on the part of Russia, for she proposes—in consequence I hold, of our policy—to build six large ironclads, as well as a large number of cruisers. The Government, scared by this action on the part of Russia, now come down to the House of Commons and ask us to agree to an additional programme to that which we sanctioned in the early part of the Session. I am bound to say that if it be the intention of Russia to increase her Navy in consequence of our policy and our menace, we are bound, also, unfortunately to follow suit; but I object to the programme with regard to these huge ironclads, and I always have objected to them. These huge vessels have been condemned by experience. It is perfectly true that you can get them much steadier in the case of the larger vessels, but that is quite possible with smaller ironclads. Now, our most recent experience with regard to the utility of these large vessels is that of the Victoria. We all know what happened to the Victoria when she was rammed by the Camperdown. We all know that if the weather had been unfavourable, and the sea, instead of being calm, had been rough, not only should we have lost the Victoria, but in all probability we should have lost the Camperdown also, because the ram of the Camperdown was totally incapable of bearing the weight of the Victoria on the ram. The right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty stated this evening that the object which he had in view—at least I understood him to say so—was that in building these vessels his object was to 921 protect our trade routes. Now, it is all very well to talk about protecting our trade routes; but if you are to build a navy merely for the purpose of scattering your ships here and there all over the world, you are not protecting your trade routes at all by building these large ironclads; and I agree with what was advanced by the noble Lord to-night when he stated that he would have liked to have seen a programme comprising something like 10 or 12 smaller ironclads, so that we should have been better able to concentrate our strength in protecting our trade routes. In the event of war, say with France, the main object of the Admiralty must inevitably be—and I say this in accordance with the common-sense view—to protect the ports of the United Kingdom, for, once we lose command of our ports, then, I say, our case is hopeless. I hold that the best thing you can do will be to have swift cruisers to send out along some of our trade routes to meet other cruisers. The main object in all constructions for the Navy ought to be that of concentration. Now, I would like to say one word with regard to the torpedoes. I think some of our torpedoes are extremely unsafe, in fact, they are nothing more nor less than cockle-shells. What happened the other day? Why, an ordinary yacht, manned by volunteers, beat in these torpedo-catchers so much that they were obliged to run ashore in order to avoid it. I look upon these vessels as utterly useless. This much, Sir, with regard to the policy of the Government. Now, I would like to call the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to a matter to which I have called attention before, and that is the subsidising of our merchant cruisers. I have a notice on the Paper to move the reduction of the Vote by the whole amount of the sum voted for Hong Kong in connection with our cruisers. What I want to ascertain as regards the policy of the Government is this—whether the fittings of these vessels are periodically examined? In the first instance only eight of these vessels were subsidised, but now we have considerably more in addition. Now, may I ask, are these vessels properly fitted with supports on the poop forecastle and are the deck arrangements suitable for the purpose of receiving guns?
§ *THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. W. E. MACARTNEY,) Antrim, S.
Yes; that is so.
§ SIR E. GOURLEY
Well, I think they are very small guns. I also wish to know if these vessels have ever been examined is to their fitness since they were first subsidised, and are they in a position to be placed in action at a moment's notice? Under the present arrangement it comes to this, that the owners were to have these vessels manned by Reserve men; and I will ask a question with regard to these Naval Reserve men. Are these vessels now carrying, in accordance with he original arrangement, the number of Reserve men specified in the contract? But, Sir, I hold that the money spent in subsidising these vessels is wasted. What night to be done is this—if these vessels are to be of any use, then the Naval Reserve ought to be employed on them. But in all probability they will be manned carelessly and indifferently, and men will be put on them who have never been educated either with regard to the ship or the guns. Well, Sir, I hope that, with regard to subsidising these vessels, either the subsidy will cease or else the system should be made a reality instead of being, as it is at present, a mere sham.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York. E.R., Holderness)
My right honourable Friend has touched upon a rather large question, and I shall not follow him on that subject, nor shall I follow him on the question of subsidising. Sir, my noble and gallant Friend the Member for York agreeably surprised me and much astonished me when at the end of his speech he told the Committee that he was satisfied with the present condition of the Navy, and that he considered that it was quite equal to undertaking all he duties which it might be called upon to perform. I was agreeably surprised at this announcement, because I thought hat my noble and gallant Friend had rather taken the view for some time that the Navy was considerably below the standard at which it ought to be in order o carry out its duties. Insomuch as my noble and gallant Friend is one of the leading critics of the Admiralty, and my right honourable Friend the member for he Forest of Dean is another leading critic, and that even the right honourable 923 Baronet in the course of his speech did not deny that the Navy as at present constituted and the ships built and now ready for sea and afloat were equal to the task they might be called upon to perform, I think we may consider the question is simplified very much by the statements of these two gentlemen, and we may now confine ourselves to the future construction and to what the Navy will be in future years. To my mind this is a marvellous change of opinion from what we have been told for some little time, when my noble Friend and others have seemed to me to tell the country that the Navy was not up to the standard.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
No doubt that is what he conveyed to my mind. Now, the question is very much simplified, and we have only got to consider what the Navy is to be. That is, of course, a much more different and simpler problem than that of considering all the parts of the Navy of the present day. One criticism I have to make on the subject of my noble and gallant Friend's remarks. I do not think that it is quite fair, in the comparison that he makes of our ships with the ships of other countries, to eliminate from consideration altogether those older ships which are only carrying muzzle-loading guns. I want to put it in this way: when he considers these ships with muzzle-loading guns he contrasts them with the ships of that date. I do not think, Mr. Lowther, that you will rule me out of order, although I admit that the Debate has been allowed to stray a little wide. I think, perhaps, you will allow me to criticise my noble and gallant Friend's comparison. If you contrast these muzzle-loading guns, which the First Lord of the Admiralty does not wish to alter, and remember their velocity, you will find that they are about the same. and as to accuracy of aim, they are able to hit the object, and in this respect they are almost equal to breech-loading guns; and I think my noble and gallant Friend, when he considers this more fully, will not ask the Admiralty to cast aside all those ships, because that is a demand 924 which, if satisfied, would be somewhat unfair to our existing Fleet, and would be getting rid of ships which would do, I suspect, very valuable service if they were called upon at the present time to fight. Now, Sir, there are other questions. There is the state of our shipbuilding at present, and there are a good many other interesting problems. I rather think that my right honourable Friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty pointed out that we were more or less in a state of 'transformation in the Navy. That is quite true, and I think it is probably more true now than it has ever been at any time during the last few years. It is especially true now on account of the enormous improvements that have been made in our armour. I do not think I am going outside the mark when I say that within the last five years the resistance of armour to penetration has been increased by something like, at least 30 per cent. The Committee will see at once the extraordinary effect which that has had upon shipbuilding at present. What it means is that it is possible now to place armour over the sides of our cruisers, because the armour is sufficiently light for that purpose, being so much thinner and lighter than it was six or seven years ago. This, of course, is an extremely important question which has been under discussion in this House over and over again, years and years ago, and it is whether we are right in being satisfied with merely having our cruisers protected below deck, or whether we should apply armour to them in order to shield them from the extraordinary danger of explosive shells. I do not think that we can over-estimate the danger and the possibility of danger to the crews of our ships from the bursting of shells amongst them on board. I do not mean only in the loss of life and the number that may be killed or maimed, but also in the danger that is possible of the panic that may be caused by seeing an enormous number of men swept away by one shell. The explosives which are now used are, of course, much more powerful, so that the question whether or not we ought to be satisfied with the cruisers being protected first below water, or whether they ought to have armour, if it is possible to protect them, is one of the highest and utmost importance. Now, the Admiralty have 925 recognised this in the large cruisers which they have recently built. My right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty stated earlier in the Session that he proposed to use a new armour to cover the cruisers with, and I think he said it would be about five inches thick. It is an extremely interesting question whether this very important protection can be given to the smaller cruisers. It is a matter which I should think that no man would be ready to express an opinion very hostile to, especially anybody who is not an expert in these matters. Now, to what extent this protection can be given I am not able to say. My right honourable Friend when he speaks later on may be able to tell us whether it is possible, while preserving the other good qualities and powers, to give them the protection of this new armour to protect them against the possibility of shells bursting amongst them, Where that is possible in smaller ships. Perhaps my right honourable Friend will be able to tell us. One other opinion I have formed on good authority is this, that the new armour now being used cannot be made in thicknesses of less than about five inches. I understand that that is the case.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
Then my right honourable Friend confirms what I say. Of course that fact is not only an interesting problem in itself, but it leads one to this question: if the armour at present used can be made with an enormous resisting power in thicknesses of five or six inches, in all human probability the progress of science in the course of a comparatively short time may make it quite possible that that same armour may be made in thicknesses of two, three, or four inches. Supposing it be true that you can get this armour with its great resisting power in much thinner layers than it has hitherto been made, it is quite possible you may be able to cover the second-class cruisers with this new armour, and if that is so there will be another great change in our naval construction which will entail considerable expenditure upon this country. That is to say that persons engaged in the naval service, like my noble Friend, will 926 probably, if they find that this change can be carried out, come here and say that we have arrived at a time when the second-class cruisers, which hitherto you have been unable to protect against these shells, which may not only maim and kill, but also produce panics, which are almost as destructive to victory as anything that could happen. If it is possible that these cruisers may now be covered with this new armour, for goodness sake set to work to see if you cannot give us some vessels which will save us from the possibility of this great danger. It is this—ought we not to be careful not to build too largely; not to build more than our strict requirements demand; ought we not to rely upon the fact, which I believe to be true, that we have an enormous capacity for building vessels with great rapidity. May it not be that we are wise after all only to bring the Fleet up to that point of absolute necessity, till we see what the future developments may be? The question of whether cruisers should be armoured, or whether we shall be satisfied with the protection they have now, is one of extraordinary importance. It is one upon which I am unable to form an opinion, but I presume it occupies the attention of the Admiralty and their able architects, but do not let us rush too hastily or too madly into a great programme, which, however desirable in itself, may, perhaps, prove in certain respects a mistake. With regard to the programme disclosed to the House this evening by my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, I have not, and I do not think any one in the House has, sufficient knowledge to examine point by point the relative strength of those vessels which are projected by Her Majesty's Government, and by foreign countries. There are too many circumstances likely to intervene between the projection of these vessels and their completion to give an opinion of any value; but, at least, we may say that, so far as we do know, the ships ordered earlier in the Session will have the enormous advantage of being armed with guns of much higher muzzle velocity than any other guns in the service, they will be protected by armour of a resisting capacity 30 or 40 per cent, greater than that of any other ships building, they 927 will have very great coaling capacity, and are likely to have very great speed. There is a point in the speech of my noble and gallant Friend the honourable Member for York with which I am in hearty agreement. It is a question I have brought before the Admiralty for many years and to which my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty told me last year the Admiralty had given great consideration and had finally decided that it would not be a benefit to the service. My noble Friend the Member for York suggested what, I think, is required in our service, a larger number of small vessels. That is a change, or rather reaction, to an older description of vessel, which would be very desirable. I have usually given, for this change, very much the same reason as my noble Friend the honourable Member for York gave to-day. Seven or eight years ago the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, when we were talking about naval Strategy, said—You may talk about naval strategy as much as you like, and you may take the Fleet from the Channel and put it in some port of observation where the ships of the enemy are, but you will not convince the people of this country that the Channel should be left bare of ships.I have always thought that was a sound argument, and, in order that the Channel should not be left clear of ships, it seems to me that we might construct a smaller size of vessel, fulfilling all the purposes of battleships, except that they would not have the same radius of action or the same speed. The right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty told me last year that this question had been discussed over and over again at the Admiralty, and that he and the naval advisers had come to the conclusion that that policy was a bad policy, and one which the Admiralty of the day declined to institute. But I cannot say that my opinion on the subject has very much changed. It seems to me that the advantages to be derived are considerable, although, of course, I recognise fully the disadvantages, and that in smaller armoured vessels you cannot have all the qualities you want in a first-class battleship. The question is whether you cannot get sufficient for the purpose. I 928 indicated when I ventured to quote what the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said some years ago. There is another observation of a general character which I desire to make. In this discussion to-night comparisons have been made between the Fleets of various countries. Formerly the differences were great, but now they have largely disappeared, and for this reason: that within the last seven or eight years discussions between naval architects of different countries, and the exchange of thoughts and ideas, has had the effect of approximating the description of vessels that are being built by different countries. Some years ago a ship built by France would be different in all sorts of ways from a ship built in this country; now they may be constructed practically on an equality; there is no substantial difference. That is a not unimportant point for consideration. The honourable and gallant Member for York remarked to-night that it was all very well to say that our cruisers are better, can go farther, and carry more coal and amunition, but he asked what is the good of that if foreign cruisers have more gun power? Of course, if you take a statement like that and detach it from everything else, it carries weight. But you must not detach it from everything else. A hostile ship is subject to the same conditions, and, allowing for the doctrine of chances, it would be folly to adopt the plan of sacrificing so much to armament that we should not have sufficient coal and ammunition to carry out our duties. Upon this Vote I should like to end my speech as I began it. In my judgment we may be satisfied that our Fleet at present is equal to all that is demanded of it. Twelve years ago it was no doubt necessary to rouse the country to the necessity of strengthening the Navy. Where I differ from my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for York is that it has always seemed to me that the Admiralty of the day, whatever Government was in power, have loyally pursued the policy then laid down, and that no outside pressure has been necessary to induce them to continue that policy, and keep the Fleets up to the standard. I think it may fairly be said that in the 12 years that have elapsed since then every Admiralty, without pressure 929 from outside, has loyally considered what was essential for our safety, and, I think, has amply taken steps to satisfy the reasonable requirements of the country. It is ray firm belief that any Admiralty that comes into power, any Government that comes into power for years to come will feel the influence of that time, and will not hesitate to continue and keep up the standard of the Fleet, which is considered to be at least equal to those of the two Powers we have so constantly heard of.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
We have learned something from the statement of the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the expenditure of money upon the Fleet, but we are altogether in the dark with regard to the details. We have not been given the slightest idea what these ships are to be like or where they are to be built.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I have said that the vessels of the Formidable class were to be built at Chatham, and the cruisers at Portsmouth.
§ MR. KEARLEY
I wish to point out that during the past year the facilities for shipbuilding have been greatly increased at Devonport by extending the slip. I may also point out the equal advantages which would come to other Government yards at very small outlay if the existing slips were made available for larger vessels. It was only last year that Devonport was able to build a first-class battleship—the one that was recently launched—and at the present time the slips can be converted and enlarged so that Devonport, which a few years ago had not facilities for building one battleship can be improved at a small expense so as to build three. If we are going to expand the Navy largely, the Government, in view of the difficulties in private yards, owing to the strike or lockout, should rather strive to make their own yards as independent as it is possible to make them. There are certain things that cannot be made in Government yards, such as armour plates, but there is other work What justly belongs to the Government, and if some consideration 930 is given to it, nothing but good will result. I should like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether any inquiries have been carried on lately in Government yards with regard to increased facilities. I have heard that inquiries have been made, not only at Devonport, but at Portsmouth, and I shall be glad if the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will give us a little information on that point. There is only one other question I wish to raise, and that is in relation to a matter discussed by the honourable Member for York as to the necessity of building steam colliers for the Fleet. There is, however, a question more important than that, and that is as to whether the home ports are able to cope with the requirements of the Fleet in the matter of coaling. Last year a competition in coaling took place at Portsmouth, and it was demonstrated that if four more ships had come in next day it would have been impossible to coal them without serious delay. I maintain that there should be at places like Portsmouth an equipment of barges, so that as they come in the ships of the Fleet can be coaled straight away. I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman the first Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been directed to the inadequate provision of coaling boats and barges at Portsmouth. I am told that the number will be largely increased and that instead of 10 barges there will be 40. It appears to me to be rattier important that the coaling facilities should be adequate and the suggestion of the honourable Member for York that steam colliers should accompany the Fleet is also important.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
The question raised by the honourable Member for Devonport as to the coaling facilities at Portsmouth and other ports is now being considered by the Admiralty. The attention of the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty has been called to the facilities that now exist and to the arrangements that may be made in the future for improving them. The honourable Member is probably aware that there will be a coaling depôt at Devonport in 931 connection with the extension there. The question of increased building facilities at Devonport was also raised by the honourable Member for the Forest of Dean, and so was the question of enlarging the slips, so as to permit of a battleship being put on it. These questions are now under the consideration of the Admiralty, and the general question as to enlarging the building facilities at the various dockyards is also being considered with a view to extension. My honourable Friend the Member for Ormskirk was hardly accurate in stating that economisers on the Diadem were above the water line; they are under the protective deck. The honourable Member also said that in his view the saving which was gained by the use of water - tube boilers was balanced by increased consumption. That is a view which the Admiralty cannot accept. The recent trials of the Diadem have shown that these boilers are as economical, more economical in fact, than the old type of boilers under similar conditions. The Diadem is to make a series of trials of 60 hours at various powers, and the honourable Member for Ormskirk and the honourable Member for Devonport, and other honourable Members who take an interest in this question, will have an opportunity of forming a more mature judgment than is now possible upon the qualities of the ships that are supplied with this particular type of boiler. Every endeavour will be made to make these trials as effective as possible for testing the capacities of these boilers and the merits of the ships so boilered. Sixty hours is a considerable extension of trials on Her Majesty's ships, and we believe that the ships of war of no other nation Slave been subjected to such a test. I think those Members of the Committee who are familiar with the subject will admit the value of the test. The honourable Member for York asked why the Return of the Fleets laid before the House was not accompanied by an analysis. I am bound to say that I think the Admiralty would have been peculiarly indiscreet if they had presented an analysis of that return. I myself have seen no less than three analyses of the return published in various newspapers, and each taking 932 different views of the comparative merits of the Fleets of this country and of other nations. I think the honourable Member for York will agree with me that it is quite possible to prepare an analysis upon different premises which would secure different conclusions, and it would be equally possible for himself or any other expert in the House to say that such analysis was misleading and inaccurate. On the whole the course taken by the Admiralty in presenting the Return without any observations was the wisest and fairest to the House and to the nation. The honourable Member for York has asked a question as to the establishment of a collier fleet. That is a question to be considered by the Admiralty. On the first blush it is a question that presents many advantages, but on the whole, when it is examined closely, there tare so many disadvantages connected with it that I think the view which now obtains at the Admiralty is a sound one. At all events until the idea is supported by much stronger evidence in favour of it than any yet presented to us, it is impossible for the Admiralty to take any active steps in regard to it. The honourable Member for York also asked as to the abolition of the water-tight doors. I believe that on the occasion when the question was brought before the naval architects the honourable Member found it hard to get anyone to agree with him.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
I carried away the impression that my noble Friend was alone in his views. However, we invited the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Squadron, and the commanders on other stations, and only one naval officer suggested any alteration in the present system.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
There are two or three points, which have not been alluded to by previous speakers, and which I should like to bring before the observation of the House. First of all, I do not think the Committee should pass from the Contract Vote without something more being said about the remarkable deficiency which has been revealed by the statement of 933 the First Lord of the Admiralty in the results of last year. I do not wish to renew old controversies, but I say that this deficiency of £2,250,000 is directly attributable—to use a neutral term—to what I shall call the dispute in the engineering trade. I have pressed, from time to time, for a declaration from the Admiralty as to how they have dealt with that dispute in the light of the strike clause in the Admiralty contract, and the answer I had from the Secretary to the Admiralty leaves no doubt in my mind that on the facts submitted to them the Admiralty held that the dispute was a strike within the meaning of the strike clause, entitling the contractors to a remission of the strike penalty. That I understand to be the position of the Admiralty. I am not going to refer to the interests of the strike—the interests of the masters or the interests of the men—I propose merely to call the attention of the Committee to the duty of the Admiralty, as the guardian of the Navy, in such cases. With the utmost respect for the opinions of the officials of the Admiralty, and those who advise them, I cannot come to the conclusion that they have acted rightly in this matter. What was the dispute—which is sometimes called a strike, and sometimes a lockout? It was the dismissal, the wholesale dismissal, of men by contractors to the Admiralty, upon no question connected with wages, but solely on the ground that certain things had taken place in other contractors' yards, and, in consequence of those things happening, those contractors to the Admiralty declared that 25 per cent, of their men should go at the end of the week. I shall not trouble the House again with the history of this strike. I am convinced that this successive dismissal of men, without reference to wages, or anything else, was not a strike within the meaning of the strike clause. My view is that what happened here was entirely different, and that this wholesale, unconditional dismissal of men by instalments does not come within the four quarters of the strike clause. That, however, is not so much what I wish to enlarge upon as the duty of the Admiralty in matters of this kind. What is the duty of the Admiralty? I say their first duty was to the Navy, and, that being ad- 934 mitted, it Was not right for them to postpone a decision until the other day, when the completion of the contracts took place. If I were dealing with a matter of this kind, holding the views I do, as to the rights and wrongs of the controversy, I should be inclined to say that the proper course was for the Admiralty to tell the contractors, from the beginning of the dispute, that they intended to insist upon their rights, and that, without interfering either on the side of the masters or on the side of the men, they would see that their contracts were completed, and should use all their rights to enforce the terms of the contract. But another answer has been given on this point before the Committee on Public Accounts to the effect that the penalty clauses in the Admiralty contracts are never enforced. I have not got the exact words of the communication to the Public Accounts Committee, but it so minimised the penalty clause that I understand the Privy Council declared it left the clause almost worthless, and might as well be struck out of the Admiralty contracts altogether. That is not a satisfactory position in which to find ourselves placed, and I cannot part with the subject without saying that I have not been satisfied with the answers I have received from the Admiralty; nor am I satisfied that they have duly considered the question from the point of view of the interests committed to their charge. Well, Sir, I should not be in order in alluding to the great deficiency in reference to naval works; but I think that I might be pardoned if I renewed the complaint which I made at an earlier period of the Session, that the right honourable Gentleman, in insisting upon taking the Vote upon his own salary, has deprived us of making criticisms which we otherwise should have made. That is all I have to say about contract work. Well, now, Sir, the next point which I wish to allude to for a few minutes is one which has been discussed at considerable length, but I am sure the right honourable Gentleman will not say at too great a length, in this House; and it is the new programme which he has to-night submitted to the House. On the merits of that programme I am disposed to agree with the views of the right honourable 935 Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I am certainly not going to say on the merits of the proposal, or the necessity of it, that I am prepared to vote against it, or in any way oppose the proposal of Her Majesty's Government. That is far from being my view of the matter in anything I have done in opposition, and I have always given my fullest and warmest support to the proposals of the right honourable Gentleman and the Admiralty, which he represents; but while reserving all our rights on this question, one cannot help seeing that the position is becoming more and more formidable, and the prospect more serious for the nation. Now, what have we had to-night? Why, practically a new Vote 8, a new proposal, a new programme, which has been made necessary, we are told, by a development which is about to take place, or which has begun, in a foreign country, and he named Russia. The right honourable Gentleman may be right in the frankness with which he has named that country, but I think it is about the first time that such frankness has been manifested. In former days we concealed the name in reference to the actual country whose action made it necessary to increase our naval programme. I am not finding fault with the right honourable Gentleman, and I am only calling attention to this fact. Now that we all know whose action it is that has made this increase of expenditure necessary on our part, the question becomes more formidable still. Russia is not the only country we have got whose actions we have to take into account; in fact, I do not know that France and Russia are the only two countries which we have to take into account. This new programme, it is said, has been rendered necessary by the action of Russia, and it leaves out of the question altogether the possibility of similar proceedings on the part of France. In the fascinating speech with which the noble and gallant Member for York delighted the House at an earlier period of the evening he gave utterance to one remark, in which he spoke of the ephemeral character of the French Government. Well, I am not inclined to lay much stress upon that argument. I think, however, he will agree with me in this: that the large addition to our Navy, which the action of 936 Russia has necessitated, may be followed by another large addition necessitated by an increase of the Navy in France.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
Well, I say that the prospect is becoming more and more formidable, and it is opening up before us a prospect which will lead me into regions which are not relevant to the technique of the present moment. They depend upon matters different to ships, for they depend upon high matters of foreign policy, which it is not permissible for me further to allude to here; but within a year—within two years—bearing in mind that the cost of this little fleet, and the little fleet that preceded it, and the little fleet that will follow it, it will by no means represent the whole cost. Bearing in mind that all the other ships imply a permanent expenditure in men and victualling, and everything else, I look forward, within a year or two years, to Naval Estimates amounting to £25,000,000 per annum, not including the naval works and other national charges; and I think we are face to face with a naval Vote of something like £30,000,000. Now, that is a sum which I never anticipated would be reached, although I am not going to say that I should oppose it, but that is a prospect which is well worthy of consideration, and it is a prospect which ought to have some weight in influencing and shaping the foreign policy of whatever Government is in charge of the destinies of this country. That is the second observation I desired to make. The third point upon which I wish to touch is the financial procedure which the right honourable Gentleman has thought fit to adopt on this occasion. Now, Sir, he is a great financial authority, and I should be disposed to listen with a great deal of respect to anything he said as a financial critic; but as a financial administrator I cannot help remembering that the ingenuity of the right honourable Gentleman in another office has not tended to the clearness of our financial position. When the right honourable Gentleman was the Chancellor of the Exchequer he introduced novelties which have been an embarrassment to us from that day to this, and it has led to great consequences 937 which I should be out of order in referring to now, the last of which was the Local Taxation Vote, which is, I may say, an indirect result of the right honourable Gentleman's financial devices in another office. Therefore the right honourable Gentleman's financial history makes me disposed to distrust any new departure which he may introduce in the office which he now holds, and with the best information at my command I can only say that he is introducing upon this occasion a new departure. Last year I think he went further. He introduced last year a Supplementary Estimate, just about this time—I think on the 27th of July—after his original Vote 8 had been proposed, and I think carried, but I am not quite sure about that; at all events, many months after the deliberate statement to the House that Vote 8, which was submitted, would be sufficient for the necessities of the case. He came down in the month of July with a Supplementary Estimate, based, as now, upon allegations as to what was being done in other parts of the world. Sir, I do not like, and I have never reconciled myself to, this procedure which was adopted last year. I share the distrust of Supplementary Estimates in general, which a, greater financial authority than either of us expressed on more than one occasion. Perhaps the House will permit me to read the evidence given by Mr. Gladstone before the Public Accounts Committee; he said—Though plausible in theory, in practice nothing tended so much to defeat the efficiency of Parliamentary" control, as the easy resort to Supplementary Estimates.Now, Sir, if ever there was a case of easy resort to Supplementary Estimates it has been the case of the right honourable Gentleman. Last year he took the precaution to tell us that we might have a Supplementary Estimate. In 1897 he submitted his Vote 8 with a distinct intimation that the Vote originally submitted might be followed before very long in certain eventualities by a Supplementary Estimate. That I call another easy resort to Supplementary Estimates. Then that great financier, Mr. Gladstone, goes on to say—To render Parliamentary control effectual it was necessary that the House of Commons should have the money transactions of the 938 year presented to it in one mass and in one account. If Supplementary Estimates were easily resorted to, the House would be obliged in self-defence to appoint a permanent Finance Committee.Now, that is a criticism which I venture to apply to the proceedings of last year, and with still greater force apply to the proceedings of the present year. Now, what are the proceedings which we are now engaged in? The right honourable Gentleman has improved upon his precedent which he set us last year. Last year, with due warning, he added to his original Estimate in the month of July. This year he adds to his original Vote brought in at the beginning of the Session, not a Supplementary Estimate, but what is much worse, a supplementary programme. That is what appears to me to be an entirely new departure which the right honourable Gentleman has made, and the rights and wrongs of it I do not even now understand. Perhaps the right honourable Gentleman, when he comes to reply, will do me the honour of answering the question I am going to put to him now. I ask him, what does he suppose he is going to carry away from this Committee if this Vote is passed, so far as his new programme is concerned? Is he going to take Parliamentary sanction for the execution of his new programme, which is not expressed in the Estimate, and which is far less expressed in the details of the programme which he has placed before us? We have neither a programme of the usual sort nor an Estimate of the usual sort, but we have only a statement from the right honourable Gentleman that some time or other, before the end of the financial year, he is going to bring this new fleet into existence, or going to begin to bring it into existence. He tells us there will not be much of this money spent during the present financial year, but I understand that the circumstances are such that a very small expenditure will be necessary on this new programme during the present financial year. It seems to me that if the expenditure is so small as all that—if there is no need for this financial Estimate—I think the curiosity of the House would have been kept under such restraint that the right honourable Gentleman need not have made the disclosure which he has made at the present 939 time. My question is, does he suppose that he is going to get Parliamentary authority to act in the execution of this new programme? For instance, will he hold himself at liberty—I understand what can be done is purely academical, so far as cruisers and possibly battleships are concerned—when he has got this authority to decide and to give orders for these torpedo boat destroyers, or to put down, if he likes, battleships or cruisers? Or does he, in other words, expect to get Parliamentary sanction for this great new programme which he has laid before us to-night? If he means that I hope he will give us some precedent for what he is proposing. My experience has not been so great as his, nor has my responsibility been so great, but I have been trying to recollect, and I cannot recollect any case in which indirect sanction of this kind has been settled in this way, and I am unable to find any precedent for such a proceeding as this. It appears to me that we are going far beyond the doctrine which Mr. Gladstone pointed out in the sentences I have quoted, with regard to the Supplementary Estimates, if the House adopts anything of the kind. Supposing, for instance, I disagreed with the right honourable Gentleman's new programme; I do not, but supposing I did, and I wanted to give effect to my opinion. There is the honourable Member for Northampton, who does not agree. My honourable Friend is a man who does not hesitate at the expression of his opinion, and I will not say whether wisely or not. He takes Parliamentary opportunities of recording his judgment, and I want to know what Parliamentary opportunities he will have of expressing that opinion upon this question. We may assume, but the right honourable Gentleman has no business to assume, that he has Parliamentary authority. The majority of the House may be with him, but that majority can never be known, according to our Parliamentary constitution, until a Division has been taken. Now, I cannot see how a Division can be taken, because the Estimates of this programme will be submitted on another occasion, when Parliamentary sanction will be asked for I would ask the right honourable Gentleman whether he supposes he is going to-night to get authority to proceed with 940 the execution of this new programme. If he is going to act on the new programme, then I hold he is making a breach in our usual Parliamentary procedure, a breach which is open to the greatest and most serious national objection. If, on the other hand, he is taking nothing by his Motion, then I do not see why the subject has been interpolated into the Debate to-night at all. The real discussion must arise on the Supplementary Estimates, which we know will be one of the first-fruits of the next Session of Parliament. Mr. Lowther, I hope the right honourable Gentleman will give some answer to these questions.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I think the honourable and learned Gentleman is entitled to an answer, and so is the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. They have attacked the finance of these proposals and the general mode of procedure. The Leader of the Opposition utilises the occasion, to his own great enjoyment, to make another of those attacks upon my general system of finance to which I am quite accustomed. He has never missed an opportunity of inveighing against me for my action, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, though I thought it was rather out of place to allude to it in the present connection. But the right honourable Gentleman alluded to the Naval Defence Act, and said the Admiralty were glad to get rid of it. I have a great share of responsibility for the Naval Defence Act, and no Act of Parliament has ever been passed which, in my judgment, was more useful for strengthening the defences of the country and keeping the country generally up to doing what was necessary in behalf of its defences. A whole fleet of ships were put on the sea through the operation of that Act, and I greatly doubt whether any other measures taken on the Estimates would have been so efficacious for that purpose. Does the right honourable Gentleman sympathise with that purpose?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The right honourable Gentleman said that the Admiralty were glad to 941 get rid of it, the complications were so great. I know that there was some opposition on the part of some of the Admiralty, but the Act itself was a success, and the country, I believe, is convinced of its success, and believes that, notwithstanding some confusion of some accounts which it was the right honourable Gentleman's delightful duty to unravel and put right, the result of the Act was wise and good. The honourable and learned Gentleman asks me what impression I shall carry away from the Debate on the supplemental programme to-night. Well, it is this: that there is no Member of the House except the honourable Member for Northampton who has got up and denounced the increase of the Navy. I shall carry away the impression that the House wishes us to take parallel action to that of other Powers, and to maintain our Fleet at a point at which it will be equal in numbers to those of any two other Powers. The honourable and learned Gentleman was extremely careful not to say a word against the programme itself. His leader, if I may say so, shows a little more animus against it. I am perfectly aware, of course, that the right honourable Gentleman, if he were to speak with perfect frankness, would say that he believes the whole action of the Government in this matter is a gigantic mistake, and honourable Members opposite who did not state that view clearly possibly may share it, but I believe the immense majority of the House, and the immense majority in the country, are against the view, which may be held by the Leader of the Oppositon, that it is a mistake to act, and to act promptly, on the present occasion when we see other Powers are developing their naval power. The right honourable Gentleman spoke of shadowy information. What he would wish would be that we should have waited six months, and that six or nine months hence probably we should ask for the sanction of this House. Well, I honestly say the Government were not prepared to wait for nine months; they did not. think it would be their duty in that way to suspend action. We thought and we think that we have ample information now which not only justifies us, but requires us to take action 942 Invaluable time would be lost in the construction of ships if we were not to act at the present moment.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Would the right, honourable Gentleman excuse me? That is not the question. Do you consider the proceedings to-night give you Parliamentary authority to spend the public money at the present moment, and six months before you get the Supplemental Estimate? That is the test of your finance.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The right honourable Gentleman is versed enough in Parliamentary matters to be able to devise a method of convincing me that we ought not to proceed as I propose. I have explained that it is uncertain at this moment how-much money we shall be able to spend, and, under those circumstances, to propose a Supplemental Vote would seem, to me to be not the best or most business-like method of procedure. That is our simple answer. We do not know when we shall be able to spend the whole money which has been already voted; it depends, on whether the contractors will be able to earn the amounts for which we have made provision. If they are able to earn them, then it will be necessary to have a Supplemental Estimate, but if they do not earn those amounts, there may be a margin which may go to meet the expenditure which would be required for the new ships which we propose to undertake. I hope I have made that clear. The only, mode that I see that might possibly have been preferable would be that suggested by the honourable Member for Northampton, to have put down some nominal sum in order to get the authority of the House. The right honourable Gentleman himself has repudiated that method; he wants a Supplemental Estimate to be put upon the Table with regard to which we should not have the slightest idea whether it would be too much or too little, because we do not know what the contractors will spend.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
If the right honourable Gentleman sees anything to cheer in that statement, I think he must be somewhat without knowledge as to the way in which contractors earn their instalments. It is impossible for the Admiralty to say how 943 much, will be earned in a given period. Now the right honourable Gentleman says—and this is a matter of considerable importance—that this is a shadowy programme, as if we were acting in the dark, and as if we were acting prematurely. We have sufficient information, and I think if it were in the hands of some right honourable and honourable Members opposite, it would induce them to take, the same course as we are taking. If the right honourable Gentleman were in power himself, and he had got the same Board of Admiralty serving under him, they would tell him that it was absolutely indispensable to take these measures. Does the right honourable Gentleman mean to say that we ought not to act at all, or does he really mean to say that he doubts whether we have really sufficient ground far acting? I should like the right honourable Gentleman to come out into the open. Is he against the increase of the Navy? Does he agree with those who think this is simply a competition with other nations, and on that ground is against our following suit? If the right honourable Gentleman held the same view, as I believe is held by a large number of persons, he might have said, "Well, I disapprove of your methods, you ought to have come forward with an estimate, but I agree with the object you have in view, that the Navy of this country ought to be kept up fully to the numbers of any two other foreign Powers. If you have any reliable information that this is necessary, you ought to have adopted other constitutional and financial arrangements, but, on the whole, your policy is right." That would, I think, have been a patriotic course, and one which would have been approved by a, large number of his supporters, I believe, in this House, and certainly by a large number of supporters out of the House. I should like to know where we are on this subject. I think, however, that I do know. I know that the great majority of the House is in favour of our proceeding with our additional shipbuilding programme, and are prepared to face the risk. My noble Friend the Member for York and the right honourable Baronet thought that I had expressed myself too strongly, and that I was not absolutely accurate in what I said with regard to resisting pres- 944 sure. The noble Lord spoke of public opinion. Public opinion is not always identical with agitation. You may have deputations—and I have received deputations on the subject—but when a deputation is cross-examined they frequently know absolutely nothing of the subject about which they come. A factitious public opinion may be frequently created by a very small and very energetic number of men; but I am bound to say that I should be thoroughly misunderstood if I said that I am not amenable to outside advice. I should wish to take carefully considered outside advice whenever it is offered to me, and I am glad to consider it; but I said that I have never yielded since I had been at the Admiralty to outside agitation on the great question of the number of ships to be provided, or in the number of men; and to that I adhere. The right honourable Baronet asked, "Why not take the opinion of the House on the matter?" I wish I could. The opinion of the House of Commons would not always be the same as that of the agitators out of doors, and I frankly say that if the opinion of the House of Commons was strongly adverse to the views which we hold at the Admiralty as regards the number of ships and men, on a vital question such as that, I should not be disposed to yield even to public opinion, but I should be content to resign my position into the hands of others who took that view. The matter is too important; and, strong as are the convictions we hold at the Admiralty on these matters, we cannot simply follow the lead. We must, to the best of our judgment, take the responsibility ourselves, but as soon as we feel that we have not the countenance of the House of Commons and the country we ought to resign the position into other hands. The only possible way to conduct a great service such as we have to conduct, and to manage a policy such as is forced upon us, is steadily to adhere to the opinions we have formed as long as we have the confidence of the country behind us. The noble Lord and the right honourable Baronet spoke of the lists of our ships. My honourable Friend and the Secretary to the Admiralty pointed out that analyses are constantly fallacious, and if we have not given analyses it is not because we wish to hide anything; but 945 because we believe that if we gave analyses they would not be accepted generally as giving an authoritative decision as to how we classify foreign ships. The noble Lord and the right honourable Baronet said that the French and the Russians have a larger number of excellent, ironclads than we have—a fact which I dispute. I can only say that a speech was made early in the year by M. Lockroy, the French Minister of Marine, in which he reviewed the position of the French Navy. M. Lockroy spoke for two whole days, and he united in that speech what I may call the efforts of the noble Lord, the right honourable Baronet, and the honourable Member for Belfast. He reviewed every subject in the French Navy, and his criticism upon that reminded me, almost, at every turn, of the criticisms which I hear on British ships in this House. The noble Lord gave a list of the French ships, and he mentioned among others two Devastations. Now, M. Lockroy went though the whole of the French ships and criticised them, and what did he say of the Devastations? He said they were obsolete.
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD
The same was said of the Warrior 20 years ago; now she is a first-class cruiser.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The noble Lord wishes to exclude the Warrior and to include two Devastations, but I want both to be treated on the same footing. He wishes to exclude our indifferent ships, but to include the French and Russian ships, which is not fair. Here are four ships which were put in the first class of the French Navy. M. Lockroy, speaking of these four ships, said—All our armoured coast defenders are so overweighted that the upper edge of the armour is almost on the water line; in some it is actually below it. They must be lightened by placing lighter and, therefore, less powerful guns on board, by reducing their stores, etc., and reducing their radius of action to that of a simple coastguard ship.The noble Lord includes these in the list against our Majesties and first-class ironclads. M. Lockroy continues—They all roll fearfully if there is any swell. The guns cannot be used if there is any sea on, and the hydraulic apparatus for moving the guns did not work if the ships are inclined at an angle of more than five to seven degrees.946 I quote these two passages in order to show the misleading nature of rival lists of ships where the knowledge of our own weaknesses exclude a large number of our own ships, whereas the want of knowledge, or the want of appreciation of the weaknesses of foreign ships, leaves them in the list to compete with the best of our ships. I have always been averse to these comparative statements, but I am driven to them. The Press in many parts are constantly praising the foreign ships, constantly saying that foreign Powers have so many more ironclads of more efficiency than we have. I confess that I have never, in speech on the Navy, or in letter, made the defence of individual ships serve as an attack upon the ships of other countries. It is not the duty of the First Lord of the Admiralty to do so. It is our duty to defend our ships, but if the process is continually to be repeated till it has eaten into the heart of the country, and the people continually say, "Is it true, as is said by"—well, I will not mention names, but by—"So-and-so, who is a great authority, that our ships are unfit to be sent to sea, that they are obsolete, while the French and Russians have got a larger number?" it becomes almost necessary for once to depart from the wholesome rule I have laid down for myself, and to say there are many obsolete ships and many indifferent ships in other navies besides our own. Let me quote one other instance of this degree of depreciation of our own ships. It was reported in a number of the papers that an American officer spoke of an American strip which he said had 17 inches of armour, which had cost £550,000, and which would be more than a match for any of our first-class ironclads. What was the fact? There was a certain strip of armour of that thickness, but only a strip, and the total amount of armour was not greater than in most of our ships. This ship, without her gun-mountings and armour, and without other expenses which are incurred in our ships, and which ought to be put down to the outlay on the ship, had cost £550,000. But when the armoured gun-mountings and other accessories were added she cost as much as our first-class ironclads, while she was inferior to them in many respects. I only wish by 947 these remarks to warn the House against the sensational paragraphs that appear about our ships, and which I am sorry for—not as the First Lord of the Admiralty, because I am not responsible for more than the ships which have been built during my term of office—but because they do cause, in the opinion of the British public, a doubt as to the efficiency of our ships, and lead to a cry sometimes for reform and sometimes for a greater number of ships, which is not justified by the facts of the case, but is produced by the exaggerations of which I speak. There is one fallacy which I Wish to note—viz., that of putting the number of armoured cruisers of other countries against the number of our armoured cruisers. We only began to armour our cruisers when we had got a kind of armour that was efficient for the protection, in our judgment, of these cruisers—namely, the new improved armour which could be put tin to a thickness of six inches. Formerly other Powers had thin armour on their ships, which we did not consider so good as our strong protected decks, with the coal protection which was carefully arranged upon the cruisers; and, in a comparison of ships, you ought not simply to take in any foreign armoured cruisers, however thin their armour, and then exclude all our protected ships, however thick their armour and good their protection. Therefore, it is an entire fallacy to put forward such a classification as the number of armoured ships of foreign Powers against the armoured ships of our own. Now, I have dealt with the more important points which have been raised except that which has regard to water-tube boilers. I have been pressed again to have a committee to whom one of our ships could be handed over for experiments—a committee composed avowedly of men unconnected with the naval service, and with those shipbuilders who provide us with our boilers; in other words, excluding, or including in it only to a very small extent, those people who have most experience of that type of boiler. Among naval officers the water tube boilers have been accepted by our engineers; civil engineers may not have accepted them, but those who are going 948 to use them and who have experience of them have confidence in them. Notwithstanding the remarks of the honourable Member for Gateshead, I say that it is an absolute fact that there has bean no trouble with the boilers whatever. Where there has been difficulty it has been due to high-pressure steam acting upon the machinery, and it is held at the Admiralty that it cannot be beyond the power of engineering science and ingenuity to correct those comparatively slight defects, which are at present still affecting the efficiency, not of the boilers, but of the machinery which is driven by them. I am asked to send a ship for a long sea voyage in order to test these boilers. As a matter of fact, the Powerful is at this moment in the China seas, and I am happy to be able to tell the House that the latest information I have respecting her is that she had steamed successfully with 12,000 horsepower, and that she had been directed to proceed progressively with other steam trials, the result of which will in due time be communicated to the House. We will not rest content with the trials that have taken place, but will continue them up to the highest possible point. Another vessel is to go through a trial of 60 hours. It may be asked—"Why 60 hours?" The answer is that if you have one trial of 60 hours, and then another for the same number of hours, you arrive very nearly at the time required for a passage across the Atlantic, which is the test desired by some honourable Members. The Committee will understand that we must be as anxious as anybody can be to sift to the vary bottom all the difficulties that still exist. Now I think I have dealt with all the matters that have been brought before the Committee except that which was raised by the honourable and learned Member for Dundee on the subject of contracts. The honourable and learned Gentleman says that it was our duty to announce to the contractors that all the penalties would be rigidly enforced. But unfortunately we were advised that these penalties could not be enforced. How, then, could it be our duty to make an announcement? It would have been just the reverse of useful, because it would have shown, the contractors that the strike clause could not be enforced. The 949 honourable and learned Gentleman has said a great deal about the non-enforcement of penalties. When he was in office penal ties were incurred to the amount of £122,000, and how much did this rigorous exactor of penalties impose? £975. There were 17 cases, and in one only did he enforce the penalty. I think that shows that his rigour is posterior to his tenure of office at the Admiralty He acted precisely as the present Financial Secretary has acted, and if the honourable and learned Gentleman holds that our present system is not entirely satisfactory I would ask him to explain why, out of 17 penalties incurred, he only exacted the amount due in one miserable case? I think the explanation would be instructive, and that the result would be to show that successive Admiralties act very much on the same principles. With reference to the orders for armour, the noble Lord the Member for York is very peremptory, maintaining that as soon as a Ship is laid down the order for the armour ought to be given.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
As soon as a ship is designed! Surely my noble Friend must see that nothing could be worse, when firms are already fully occupied with orders, than to give them fresh orders before there is a probability of their being executed We think it beet to wait and see what firm executes orders best, which is the most rapid, and who is the best contractor, and then to place the order in that particular quarter. I do not think it wise to distribute orders among contractors before you know there is some probability of their being carried out. Now, Sir, I know that I have detained the House at some length, and perhaps on some matters rather unnecessarily; but I felt that I had better take this opportunity of saying some things about our ships which I seldom have the opportunity of saying. At the same time I am perfectly aware of the imperfections that exist in our Navy in many respects; I do not wish to underrate them in the least. I have often said that when you are moving forward at a great rate, and when science is moving forward, there must be a number of imperfections and 950 a number of standards which you cannot reach. If I have said something in defence of our ships I do not wish it to be inferred at all that I and my colleagues are not fully alive to the criticisms which may fairly be passed upon us, and sensible that it is our duty to consider those criticisms very carefully. I trust that we may now be allowed to dispose of this Vote.
§ MR. LOUGH
I venture to say, Sir, that this Government will be remembered as the Government that has set more bad precedents than any other Government of modern times. This is the most important Estimate of the year, and what is the course taken by the First Lord of the Admiralty? I really think it is our duty to make some protest against it. It is only a few months since we had the Navy Estimates. If anyone wants to realise the importance of the subject, I will ask him to remember what was embodied in the Estimates presented some months ago. The proposals then were for 96 ships at a cost of something like seven millions. Yet the First Lord stands up to-night and proposes a new and additional programme. Now I say there is no speed, no progress, in the Government taking such a course as this, and I think we should make some protest against it, and that we should return to the better methods that used to be followed. I do not think that the right honourable Gentleman himself expects that anything will be done, or can be done, by this supplementary programme except at the expense of the March programme; and, in addition to the fact that it makes no progress, I would point out that it has a very disturbing effect in foreign countries, and all these gigantic efforts have not increased the strength of this country compared with other countries. If we are not improving our relative position, what is the use of our going on with these gigantic efforts? I think we have had a much better discussion in Committee to-night than we have had in recent naval discussions. I was greatly pleased with the speech of the honourable and gallant Gentleman opposite, the Member for Torquay. He contended that the Navy as a whole was in a very satisfactory position, and he said he distrusted these hurried panic progirammes.
§ MR. LOUGH
I think the Committee will be disposed to agree with the honourable and gallant Gentleman. I cannot sit down without saying that I have regretted to notice in the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty a great lack of what I may call moral fibre. We have never had a speech from him before in which he did not say something about economy. I do not know whether it was out of courtesy to some of us on this side, but to-night he has said nothing about economy; he has said nothing "discreet" at all; he has not expressed any "reluctance to offend Foreign Powers." I will not further detain the Committee, but I regret very much that an Estimate has not been brought in in the usual way, so that we might have had an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I rise rather in reply to the challenge which was made by the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House with regard to the precedent set by the new financial policy he has initiated. In this matter I speak as a supporter of the right honourable Gentleman. My honourable Friend who has just sat down pointed out that, although the right honourable Gentleman has hitherto been regarded as the champion of economy, we have to-night had no mention of economy from him. Well, I am as staunch an advocate of economy as any Member of this House, but I say that if the right honourable Gentleman, in his official position, comes down to this House and, speaking from his knowledge and experience, with a sense of his responsibility, tells us that a certain policy is necessary in the interests of the naval position of this country, no private Member should hesitate to support that policy. The Government have the responsibility, and if they, who are responsible for maintaining our naval supremacy, say that a certain policy is necessary, it only remains for us to support them. All I ask is that we should know something of how the expenditure is going to be raised. I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his opinion upon that subject, and how we are to be certain that the expenditure 952 is to be placed on the shoulders of those who are best able to bear it. I object altogether to the precedent set by the First Lord of the Admiralty. The House ought not to be satisfied with a vague, general, desultory discussion such as we of necessity have in the absence of a proper Estimate. I think the precedent is a most dangerous one, because it may be followed by the Colonial Office, and by other Departments, and in that way the grip on expenditure will be taken out of the control of this House. Now, before I sit down there is one small, though not unimportant point I desire to raise which affects my constituency, and that is in reference to contracts for the supply of linoleum to the Navy. During the last six years I have more than once raised this question. The right honourable Gentleman may remember that last year on the Report stage of this Vote he undertook to look into the matter, and upon that assurance the Vote was allowed to go without a Division. Now, a great deal of dissatisfaction is felt on this subject, not only in my constituency, but on the part of linoleum manufacturers in other parts of the country, and I wish to ask the right honourable Gentleman to make a small concession. The feeling in the linoleum industry is that this contract goes to one particular firm without fair competition. The Schedule is made out in such a manner as to make it impossible for other firms to accept the contract. I want to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether he will receive a small deputation—of not more than two, if he desires it—to state the views of the linoleum industry upon this question.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
In reply to the last point raised by the honourable Member, I may say at once that it is not the fact that the linoleum contracts have gone only to one firm. They have gone to different films during the last three years at least. But, if there is any dissatisfaction on the part of any firm in the tirade, I shall have no objection to meeting a representative of that firm, and hearing what he has to say. I have heard of no dissatisfaction except on the part of one firm, and their objection came to this—they considered that the tenders should be framed in the interests, or according to the wishes of 953 that particular firm, and not to suit the requirements of Her Majesty's Fleet. Naturally those are not objections which have very great weight with those who advise me in these matters.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I may inform the honourable Gentleman that although for several years seven firms have been in the habit of tendering for these contracts, with one single exception the contracts have always gone to one particular firm.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I can assure the honourable Gentleman that what I have stated is correct. However, I am obliged to him for stating that he will receive a representative of those who feel that they have some grievance.
§ Vote agreed to.
"£2,971,000, shipbuilding, repairs, maintenance, etc.—Material."
§ Agreed to.
Motion made and Question proposed—
That a sum not exceeding £2,218,000 be granted to Her Majesty to defray the Expense of the Personnel for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc., including the cost of Establishments of Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899.
That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £500."—(Mr. Woods.)
§ MR. WOODS (Essex, Walthamstow)
I beg to move the reduction of this Vote by £500. The question which I wish to raise is one which has been pointed out on a previous occasion. On. the 11th March last it was my painful duty to raise a very serious complaint against the Admiralty, and I then said that unless the First Lord could give me a satisfactory answer the matter would be raised on the Estimates. The subject I wish to bring before the Committee is the discharge of four workmen from the Portsmouth Dockyard in January last. My reason for moving this reduction is, first of all, because every attempt to 954 effect a settlement of this grievance has completely failed. After the discharge of these four men in January last a number of questions were put to the right honourable Gentleman, and the answers by him were entirely unsatisfactory. My second reason is that I am changed by the workmen of Portsmouth with the duty of raising this question formally in this House. I need not go into the details at any very great length, because I think the matter was very fully gone into on the farmer occasion. The first allegation is that these men were discharged because they were what are called unionists. The right honourable Gentleman the First Lord denies that, but he is about the only man in the country Who has doubt upon the point. In the second place, the right honourable Gentleman said that these men could not be allowed to do by combination what they could not do individually. That, Sir, cuts at the fundamental principle of trades unionism. It means that two or more men cannot act together to obtain redress of a legitimate grievance. The right honourable Gentleman declared that these men were taking part in a demoralising agitation." This has always been the cry against any movement of reform, and I venture to think it will not, at this time of day, have any weight with this House. On the last occasion I read to the House resolutions passed at the meeting for attending which these men were discharged. The resolutions had no reference to politics; they simply urged on the Government to remove or mitigate a grievance in the matter of piece-work. Surely the right honourable Gentleman is in error in talking of that as a "demoralising agitation." Is it "demoralising" to ask for an inquiry into the system of payment of wages, when these men had been subjected, as they contend, to deductions equal to 35 per cent, of their wages, and also to other grievances? I hold that, if there is any demoralising influence at work, it is in the Department over which the right honourable Gentleman presides. How do the wages paid in this dockyard compare with the wages of similar work in private yards? At Portsmouth the wages are 3s. 4d., 3s. 6d., or 3s. 8d. per day; in the Yarrow yards the wages are 6s. 6d.; in Cleveland, 4s. 10d.; in the 955 London district, 5s. and 6s.; in Southampton, 4s. 6d.; in Birkenhead, 5s. and 6s. I contend that these men in our Government dockyards are underpaid to the extent of 35 per cent, as compared with the payment for the same work by private firms. Now, Sir, I do not want to weary the House by going further into details at this late hour, because I think on the previous occasion I laid the facts fully before the House. I think the House must be convinced that these men had been treated most harshly and unfairly, and unless I get a promise that their grievance will be remedied I shall press the Motion for a reduction to a Division.
A LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
I do not think the honourable Gentleman has added anything material to the case he advanced on behalf of these four men when first the Vote was before the House this Session, and under those circumstances I have not very much to add to the answer Which my right honourable Friend the First Lord then gave. The honourable Member has re-asserted today, without one shadow of proof, or the least attempt at proof, the allegation which he made before, and which was then denied by my right honourable Friend, that these four men had been dismissed because they were trades unionists. My right honouraible Friend stated that it was hardly present to his mind when the men were discharged Whether they had been members of a trades union or not, and that, whether they had been or not, the conduct of which they had been guilty would have resulted in exactly the same punishment. The honourable Member objected very strongly to the phrase used by my right honourable Friend when he said that these men were engaging in a "demoralising agitation." Let me remind the House of exactly what occurred. Certain workmen were discontented with the piece work prices for certain classes of work, and contended that at those prices they could not earn a fair week's wage. The honourable Gentleman stated that they could only earn 8s. or 10s. a week. It is perfectly true that a certain number of workmen employed on the Bellona did 956 for a certain time only earn 8s. or 10s. a week—but why? It was necessary to prove that these rates did not permit a man to earn a fair week's wages, and to prove this the men determined that they would not earn it. A man who was brought from another ship and put to precisely similar work on the Bellona at precisely the same prices earned 15s. in three days. Influence was actually brought to bear on that man to make him work more slowly. It was found that some of the men gave in work which they had not done at all. One man charged for 16 rivets when he had driven only a single rivet. For this the man was, of course, suspended. He is one of those who spoke at this meetings. The whole tone of this meeting was in justification of such conduct as thus, it being stated that similar frauds were common, in other Government yards, and were winked at by the authorities. I do not think the Admiralty could be expected to pass over such allegations as that, and we had no alternative but to punish those who took part in what my right honourable Friend properly called a demoralising agitation. And I say that our action, necessary as it was in the interests of the public service, met with the approval of the great mass of the workmen themselves, who resented the allegations of fraud that had been made. As regards the piecework rates, I think the Committee will see from the figures I have given that it is untrue to say that they were such as would not permit the men to earn a fair week's wage. It is true that the scale of rates had been more limited than the scale adopted in some private yards, but a considerable change has now been made. There were only 21 different items under the old scheme, but under the new scheme, which will shortly be in force, between 400 and 500 rates for various of work are given. Sir, as I said when I rose, I can really add nothing to what my right honourable Friend said on the last occasion. I can hold out no hope on the part of the Admiralty that the dismissal of these men will be reconsidered. The action we have taken is, we are confident, in the interests of honest work in our dockyards and in the real interests of the workmen themselves.
§ MR. MADDISON
I think the honourable Gentleman has added nothing in justification of the action of the Admiralty to what was stated by the First Lord on the last occasion. It is difficult to properly appreciate the position of men who happen to be working under a system which in itself is faulty, and which I am free to admit has been taken advantage of by some of the men. I have no sort of sympathy with any dishonest dealing on the part of workmen; neither will I defend men who merely loaf about and charge for more work than they have done. It is immoral and against the interests of the public service, and of the men themselves. But I would like to say one word about these false accounts for rivets. When a man has to drive a rivet in a very awkward and difficult spot, and has to spend a long time over it, it is not an uncommon practice to charge for 10 or 12 rivets instead of one. It is the only way in which the man could be properly paid for exceptionally difficult work.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
It is not the custom that a man should charge for more work than he has done. If he has particularly hard work to do and it takes him more than the expected time, he represents this to the proper authorities, who investigate the facts, and allow an extra percentage, or allow day rates for the work.
§ MR. MADDISON
The honourable Gentleman does not know everything that goes on in a dockyard. I can guarantee to prove that what I have said is correct. Of course, no public official could sanction even the appearance of evil, but in this particular trade I know that a man who drives one rivet when it takes him as long as it should do to drive 16 is entitled to receive pay for 16 rivets. The only difference is that instead of making representations, as the honourable Gentleman says he ought to have done, to the proper quarter, the man in this instance followed the clumsy system. It may have been irregular, but there was no dishonesty in it at all. As to the case of the man Gould, he was not a riveter at all; he was a shipwright working for daily wages. He had taken no part in the riveters' agitation at all, and it is not alleged that he had any 958 part in any irregularities. It happened that he was asked to preside at this public meeting, and he did so. That is his sole offence.
§ MR. MADDISON
It was held outside the dockyard gates. [A laugh.] It is apparently a sin, in the opinion of some honourable Member opposite, that trade unionists should meet at all. Now, Sir, I take exception altogether to the arbitrary punishment of these men, and I think it is wholly unjustifiable. The Admiralty have acted throughout this matter in the most high-handed manner; they have refused these workmen an inquiry which was clearly necessary owing to the revision of the scale, and because these men ventured to take a thoroughly constitutional course in trying to get some remedy for their grievances they are summarily dismissed. I think our protest is quite justified, and I trust my honourable Friend will go to a Division.
§ SIR J. BAKER (Portsmouth)
I think the honourable Gentleman the Civil Lord has not strengthened the case sought to be made out on the former occasion by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and that that case in no way justifies the action taken by the officials. In the case of this man Gould the only offence alleged against him is that he had presided over the meeting. He happened to be chairman of the local trades council and a member of other local organisations, and he was asked to take the chair at this meeting—a meeting of free citizens—held outside the boundary of the dockyard. For this he is dismissed. He had done and said nothing to merit this harsh punishment; he is a man of unblemished character and high reputation, and held in great respect by the workpeople of the town. As a matter of fact the board of guardians have since appointed him relieving officer, giving him an increased salary and lighter employment than he had before. Then, with regard to the other men, if it be true that they acted in the manner the honourable Gentleman says, they ought to have been discharged at once, and not allowed to continue in the service. Either the Admiralty have acted with harshness and severity in dismissing 959 these four men, or they have acted with ill-advised leniency in retaining the other men who deserved to be dismissed. I cannot help thinking that the Admiralty come very badly out of this unfortunate business.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
Surely these recriminations can serve no good purpose. They lead the public out-side to believe that the Government have some feeling against trades unionists. The case is, after all, a very sample one. It seems that the men, discontented with the system of piece-work, indulged in
§ Original Question put and negatived.960
§ practices which were unjustifiable; but consideiring the time that had elapsed and the fact that these men have expiated their offence, surely the Government might show them that generosity which nine out of 10 private employers of labour would show them in similar circumstances.
That Item A (Salaries), be reduced by £500.
|Baker, Sir John||Macaleese, Daniel||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Brigg, John||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Caldwell, James||Morton, E. J. C (Devonport)||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbro')|
|Clough, Walter Owen||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Doogan, P. C.||Philipps John Wynford||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||Samuel J (Stockton-on-Tees)||Mr. Woods and Mr.|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||Steadman, William Charles||Maddison.|
|Arnold, Alfred||Finlay, Sir R. Bannatyne||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Fisher, William Hayes||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy||FitzWygram, Gen. Sir F.||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.|
|Balfour, Rt.Hon.A.J. (Manc'r)||Gibbs, Hon.A.G.H. (C. ofLond.)||Penn, John|
|Balfour, Rt.Hon.G.W. (Leeds)||Godson, Sir A. F.||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Gorst, Rt. Hon Sir J. E.||Pollock, Harry Frederick|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Goschen,Rt.Hn.G.J.(St.G'rg's)||Purvis, Robert|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. Benjamin||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Pym, C. Guy|
|Beach,Rt.Hn.Sir M.H.(Brist'l)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Gretton, John||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. T.|
|Bethell, Commander||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Robinson, Brooke|
|Bill, Charles||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.||Round, James|
|Blundell, Col. Henry||Henderson, Alexander||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Bond, Edward||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||KayShuttleworth, RtHonSirU.||Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. M.|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs)||Kemp, George||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbysh.)||Kenyon, James||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.)||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Cecil, Lord H. (Greenwich)||LawrenceSirEDurning-(Corn.)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs)|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.)||Lea, Sir T. (Londonderry)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Legh, Hon. T. W. (Lancs)||Talbot,RtHn. J.G. (Oxf'd Uny.)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverp'l)||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Colomb, Sir J. C. Ready||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Warkworth, Lord|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Webster, Sir R. E. (I of W.)|
|Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford)||Maclure, Sir John William||Wodehouse,Rt.Hn.E.R. (Bath)|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks)||Milton, Viscount||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. S.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Monckton, Edward Philip||Wylie, Alexander|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monm'thsh.)|
|Douglas-Pennant, Hon. E. S.||Morrell, George Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Sir William Walrond and|
|Fellowes, Hon. A. Edward||Murray, C. J. (Coventry)||Mr. Anstruther.|
§ *LORD C. BERESFORD
I must protest against an important Vote like this being brought on at this hour of the morning. On many occasions I have suggested that the Government should arm all our ships with quick-firing guns. I know there is a great difference of opinion on this subject, but I think most of my brother naval officers admit that either those ships which are now armed with muzzle loaders should be re-armed, or that they should be struck off the list of effective ships. At the present moment there are 45 ships in the Navy armed with muzzle loading guns, and out of those 12 are on the list of the A Reserve. Those ships will be useless if they meet modern vessels or even ships of an obsolete type armed with quick-firers. In the French Navy they have for years had breech-loading guns, and at this moment there is not a ship in the French Navy that is without them. Besides these 45 ships whose main armament is muzzle-loading guns, there are 65 ships that have no quick-firers at all. I hope the Civil Lords of the Admiralty will tell us exactly what are the intentions of the Admiralty with regard to this important matter of re-armament. Then there is another matter. I want to ask him whether there is any naval officer who is going to succeed Captain Inglis at the gun factory. There are a lot of depôts and ordnance stores to be started at Malta, Gibraltar, Hong-kong, and other places, and I hope naval officers are to be appointed to take charge of those stores. I trust the Admiralty will recognise that the persons to undertake such duties are naval officers, who understand them better than civilians or soldiers can do.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
This question of re-armament has been considered by the Board of Admiralty ever since the muzzle-loading gun was succeeded by the breech-loading gun. It is a question which the present Administration regard as eminently one for the decision of their naval colleagues, and in the position they have taken up they have been influenced by the views of those distinguished officers I imagine that that was also the view 962 taken by the Board which preceded the present.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
The policy adopted by the present Administration is one which was handed down to them by their predecessors. The question of the reconstruction and re-armament of the older ships was exhaustively considered in 1892. At that time the programme initiated under the Naval Defence Act was approaching completion, and the whole of this matter was exhaustively gone into. First of all, with regard to turret ships there is no question of substituting quick-firing guns; it is merely a question of substituting for the 12.5 muzzle-loader the 10 inch breech-loader. The question of arming the Dreadnought on these lines has been fully considered by the present Board in the light of the experience gained in recent years. The re-armament of the Thunderer cost £69,459, and the re-armament which has been proposed for the Dreadnought will cost £7,000. Of course it is admitted that the breech-loader has probably greater accuracy, and probably there is also with that a saving of weight; but the results of the prize-firing both in the Mediterranean Fleet and the coastguard ships prove that so far as the rate of firing goes the two guns are almost equal. As a matter of fact it has been ascertained that it would be impossible to substitute upon broadside ships the 6 inch quick-fining guns without an enormous amount of reconstruction, and even if that were undertaken it is very doubtful whether the ships could be efficiently fought. That is the position which we have taken up, and it is the position that was taken up by our predecessors; so that I think the noble Lord must admit that naval opinion upon this question is against him. Then, again, in this question we have to consider also the age of the ship and the state of the propelling machinery. The 13 battleships to which my noble Friend referred were all old ships, and their propelling machinery was of an old type. Even if we did re-arm them with 6 inch quick-firing guns, they would not be efficient to act with a modern squadron. Then they have a 963 small coal endurance, which, again would make them very poor elements in a modern squadron, however armed. Now, what is the principle that is laid down by the present Board of Admiralty for dealing with these ships? It is this. We accept, as we conceive we are bound, to accept, the original qualities of offence and defence in these ships. We propose to change the upper-deck battery to quick-firing guns, and to restore to complete efficiency the propelling apparatus of ships whose qualities are considered adequate. We shall take in hand a certain number of these ships and deal with each of them on these principles as time and opportunity will allow. Each, vessel is considered separately, as the Dreadnought has been, and I believe in this way the Admiralty has arrived at the best compromise under the circumstances. Then the noble Lord asked me a question as to naval officers being appointed for depôts and ordnance stores. There are some stations where in future naval officers will be placed in command. There are others where, for various reasons, it will probably be best in the interests of economy and efficiency to allow the establishments to remain under the War Office. I believe the War Office are about to apply to the Admiralty to nominate a naval officer as successor to Captain Inglis.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I think I ought to say a word in support of what has fallen from the Civil Lord. This question of re-arming certain vessels which carried old muzzle-loading guns has been exceedingly carefully considered by two previous Boards of Admiralty, as well as by the present Board, and all three, differently constituted, and containing different naval members, arrived at the same conclusion—a conclusion adverse to the view of my noble Friend opposite. I do not intend to go into any argument of the question now, but before sitting down I want to enter my protest against the idea which the noble Lord has done so much to circulate, that ships are obsolete because they carry muzzle-loading guns. The evidence collected by Lord Northbrook's Committee showed that they are quite effective for the purposes for which they are intended— 964 namely, to meet ships of the same type and of the same date.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £1,491,700, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899.
For the last three years I have pressed upon the Admiralty that, the Marines ought to have, and ought to have had 20 years ago, the same privileges which soldiers in the Army receive—namely, the full benefit of what is called the free rations grant. I will not repeat the arguments I have urged before in this matter, but I would ask the First Lord whether he cannot now make a concession which has been too long denied.
That Item B (Wages of Artificers), be reduced by £100."—(Captain Norton.)
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
rose to call attention to the wages of labourers in the Deptford Victualling Yard. There were at that yard 395 men receiving a wage of 22s. a week, or less than 6d. an hour, and some received only 19s. per week. It was a scandal that the Government should pay its employees wages which a private employer would be ashamed to give. He moved to reduce the Vote by £100.
§ *MR. A. MORTON (Deptford)
I regret very much that on the first occasion of my addressing this House I should find myself unable to support the First Lord of the Admiralty, whose administration of naval affairs has been of great service to the nation. But in a very few words I hope to show that there is a real case for the Motion proposed by the honourable and gallant Gentleman. There are in London three great industrial establishments of the Government—the Pimlico clothing factory, the ar- 965 senal at Woolwich, and the Royal Victoria victualling yard at Deptford. At each and all of these establishments hired labourers are employed who all do practically the same work, and as all are living in the metropolitan district, are all equally entitled to be paid the same rate of wage. The hired labourers at Woolwich and Pimlico had a rise of one shilling a week conceded to them by the War Office in July, 1897, but a similar rise to the Admiralty labourers at Woolwich and Deptford was then refused. As these men were living under the same conditions, and doing the same work, as the War Office labourers, there was naturally very great discontent, the effect of which was that the First Lord in March of this year raised the wages of the Woolwich labourers to the same level as that paid by the War Office. But he refused, and, I am sorry to say, still refuses, to raise the wages of the Deptford men. This is comparatively, perhaps, a small matter, but it is one on which I feel that the Deptford men have a legitimate grievance, and I earnestly hope that the right honourable Gentleman will be able to promise some redress.
§ MR. STEADMAN
observed that a great deal had been said about the Government being a model employer of labour, but the fact was that the wages paid to the labourers in the Deptford establishment were lower than the minimum rate of riverside labour which, was secured by the great dock strike. Such was the feeling existing about Government labour that no man would go into a Government establishment if he could get work in private employment on the river.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
When I hear speeches like the one we have last listened to I cannot help wondering how it is that our dockyards are full of contented workmen.
§ MR. STEADMAN
The right, honourable Gentleman has had plenty of evidence of discontent. The honourable Member for Deptford who sits on that side of the House said he would support the reduction.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
All I can say is that we are able 966 to get all the workmen we require. Notwithstanding the figures that the honourable Members have quoted, it is impossible for me to promise to raise the rate of wages of labour in the Deptford establishment. The comparison is not necessarily or solely with the rates paid by private employers. We must remember that the various Government Departments have establishments all over the country, and we cannot discriminate more than we have done already in favour of the workmen in London against the workmen in Plymouth, or Portsmouth, or Chatham. The labourers in London establishments get a shilling a week more than the labourers in other Government estabments in the provinces, and I think that shilling adequately represents the difference between London and provincial conditions of labour. Further than that it would not be desirable for us to go in increasing the wages of the London men, in justice to the provincial men. As a matter of fact Government employment, so far as regards the London establishments, is 20 per cent. better than employment in private firms, owing to its continuity.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I have the authority of one of the Labour Members for my statement.
§ SIR C. DILKE
said that three years ago, before the rise in wages in the War Office establishments, he came to the conclusion that the men engaged in this particular trade were the worst-paid men in the employment of the Government, except the auxiliary letter carriers. Since that time the position of the latter class had been improved, and the Thames-side labourers now remained the worst paid of any employees of the Government.
§ MR. MADDISON
It is not my intention to delay the House, but I would like to add a word on this very important matter. I speak on this matter without any immediate political interest, for it does not affect my own constituency. The First Lord of the Admiralty appears to recognise that the rate paid to these men is a low one, but he justifies it on the ground that if he granted the 967 advance asked far he would be overwhelmed with similar demands from the provinces. He says that labourers in the London establishments get a shilling a week more than those employed in the provinces. If he inquires into the matter I am sure he will find that one shilling a week does not at all represent the difference of living between London and the country. The right honourable Gentleman has, at any rate,
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again.