§ Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD moved, "That this House views with alarm the enormous increase during recent years in the Expenditure on the Army and the Navy, and is of opinion that it ought to be diminished."1878
I desire at the outset to say there is one point in connection with this subject upon which we are all agreed, and that is that our expenditure on armaments ought to be on such a scale as will provide for the safety of the Empire both at home and abroad. On that point there is no difference of opinion amongst us. But the Government propose to ask the House to vote three and three-quarter millions sterling in excess of what was asked for last year, and that excess comes on the top of an increase of eight and a quarter millions between the years 1906–7 and last year. There has, therefore, been an increase during six years of thirteen mil lions of money. And that is not all, for these thirteen millions come on the top of an increase of nineteen millions made during the preceding ten years; that is to say, there has been, in the course of sixteen years, an added annual expenditure on our defensive forces of not less a sum than thirty-one millions—a sum very little short of the total expenditure on both branches of the service only twenty years ago. It is in connection with that increase that the difference of opinion between us arises. I ask what is the character of the foreign danger that has warranted such an increase, and that justifies its continuance. It is to this point that I shall mainly direct my remarks. The Liberal party, when it assumed power in 1906 was pledged to effect a reduction in the scale of the expenditure maintained by their predecessors in office. That is not denied. The Secretary of State for War, speaking in this House in March, 1906, said:—
If there was one thing that was made plain in the course of recent discussions throughout the country, it is the desire on the part of the public that they should be required to spend less on naval and military organisation.
Speaking two years later on a Motion similar to the Motion I am moving to-day, the Prime Minister, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:—
I quite agree that one of the heaviest counts in the indictment which many of us preferred against the later administration was this, that during their term of office the expenditure on the Army and Navy has enormously and unnecessarily increased.
§ It is not disputed that the Liberal party attacked the Unionist administration for maintaining an extravagant and unnecessary scale of expenditure, and that they pledged themselves to effect a reduction. That pledge has never been fulfilled, and I want to ask the Government to-day for an explanation of the breach of that pledge. What is the new danger which relieved 1879 the Government from the necessity of fulfilling their pledge, and which justifies them in maintaining a scale of exepnditure far beyond what was thought necessary by their predecessors in office? That is a question to which we have never had any reply, good, bad, or indifferent, from any Member of the Government since they came into office in 1906. I shall be told, no doubt, that a reduction has actually been made in the Army Estimates. It is true a reduction of 18,000 has been made in the number of men, and of something like three-quarters of a million in the expenditure; but that reduction is not a fulfilment of the pledge.
§ 4.0 P.M.
It is the boast of the Secretary for War—a boast which I believe he is entirely justified in making, for, if he will allow me to do so, I should like to join in the general expressions of admiration for the great energy and ability with which he has addressed himself to the task of re-organising our military forces—but it is the boast of the right hon. Gentleman that we have to-day a far more effective fighting instrument than we have ever had in time of peace. If that is true, as I believe it to be true, in spite of certain expressions of dissent from an hon. Member opposite—if that is true, what becomes of the statement that the Unionist Administration was maintaining an extravagant and unnecessary scale of expenditure. I ask again, what is the danger, the existence of which justifies the Government in maintaining so enormously strong a force as we actually have? The Secretary of State for War has oftener than once addressed himself to the question only to confess his inability to give any reply to it. In 1906 he said:—
He agreed as to the absolute necessity of studying the problem of reduction with reference to the needs of the Empire at home and abroad, and he asked for time to prosecute this study before consenting to any reduction.
That was on a Motion made by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies for the reduction of the number of men by 10,000. In 1907 the Secretary of State for War told the House that,
He had never been able to work out the requirements of the Empire.
and in 1908 he said:—
The question of the size of the Army and of its distribution, is at no time one which the War Minister can answer unaided.
The answer, he went on to say,
Must depend upon the view of foreign policy taken by the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary for India and the Colonial Secretary, and it is one that must be determined by the Government as a whole.
That statement no one will dispute, but we have never had the opinion of the Government upon it. Reference was once made, and, so far as I know, only once made to India in this connection. In 1907 the Secretary for War, in explaining why he settled upon six divisions and four cavalry brigades of 160,000 men and officers as the strength and size of the first line, said:—
I have all these men for another reason than that of putting them into these divisions. I have them here to supply drafts for the battalions in India and the Colonies. I have not learned that my right hon. Friend is prepared to ask me to withdraw any of those battalions which he has already from me for the purposes of India.
But there was not a word as to what these purposes are, or of any change of condition in India, or of the altered situation brought about by the agreement with Russia. This point of the requirements of India is all the more important in view of a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in 1906 as to the purposes for which we maintained an army at all. He then said:—
The real and great necessity for which we keep an Army is India, the dominant purpose of the British Army is not home defence but Indian defence.
If that is true, what is the danger in India which imposes upon us the necessity of maintaining a stronger Army at home than has ever before been maintained in time of peace. Has the danger of the invasion of India diminished since 1906? Has the agreement with Russia, as I rather hoped, diminished the risks of invasion of India, and if it has then I repeat why do we maintain so enormous a force solely for the purpose of defending India? Then there was the Secretary of State for War who referred also to the view of the Colonial Secretary as determining the strength of the Army. He appealed on one occasion to the authority of the Colonial Secretary in justification of his proposals to keep in South Africa a large body of troops. He said the wish of the Colonial Office was not to reduce the troops in South Africa for, at any rate some time, but no explanation was then given as to the reasons for that desire. But five days later the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, when challenged on the subject, explained:—
One reason is that they are so exceedingly popular there, and it is with the greatest difficulty my right hon. Friend can withdraw any troops owing to the protests of the leaders of South African opinion.
The House must judge whether that is a sufficient reason for maintaining 11,500 troops in that part of the Empire, and for burdening the taxpayer, not only with the cost of maintaining those troops,
but with the cost of maintaining a similar number here at home to provide relief drafts for them. That is my case so far as it relates to the Army. I sum it up by saying that there is no evidence that in determining the strength of the Army the Government has been guided by any standard of our requirements. Everything in this regard is left vague and indefinite, and the Secretary for War seems to have thought that his task was adequately discharged by putting the troops he finds to his hand in a more effective state of organisation than that which he inherited from his predecessors.
§ I pass now to the question of the Navy. Here, unlike the case of the Army, we have an accepted standard of our requirements, namely, the two-Power standard. I propose to assume for a moment that it is necessary to our safety to maintain that standard, and on that assumption I propose to compare our strength with Germany and the United States, the two next strongest naval Powers in the world. In making that comparison I take the three ordinary tests, and the first is the sum totals of effective fighting tonnage. According to the Dilke Return—a Return which, unfortunately, in future we shall have to quote under another name—according to that Return Great Britain has an effective total tonnage of 1,795,000, the United States of America 688,000, and Germany 564,000. We had, in other words, 542,000 tons in excess of the two other navies, an excess almost equal to the total German tonnage, and we had 100,000 tons in excess of three times the German tonnage. Why do we maintain a Fleet so enormously in excess of the officially accepted standard of our requirements? I know that I shall be told that the two-Power standard has never been taken as applying to our tonal age as a whole, but to a section only of it, namely, to our capital ships, and that in the smaller types we require more than the two-Power standard. I take these capital ships, including in that class armoured vessels of all types, and I find that, according to the last Dilke Return, we had a total tonnage of 1,335,000 tons, the United States 600,000 tons, and Germany 410,000 tons. That is to say, in capital ships we had 325,000 tons in excess of the two-Power standard and 105,000 m excess of three times the German tonnage. That was the position a year ago. Next year, in March, 1912, the position will be, leaving out all ships of the twenty-years age limit: 1882 Great Britain 1,446,000 tons, Germany 450,000 tons, and United States of America 357,000 tons. That is to say we shall have 539,000 tons in excess of the two together, an excess far greater than the strength of either separately. In 1913 our relative strength will be at least as proportionately great as it is now, or as it will be next year or this year. These figures are, I submit to the House, overwhelming in their character. But, again, I shall be told that to make a trustworthy comparison I should have made a further selection. I shall be told that I ought not to have included the older armoured cruisers or pre-"Dreadnought" battleships. Let me give the figures of "Dreadnoughts" in March, 1913. Great Britain, will then have 574,890 tons, including two Colonials; Germany, 351,000 tons; and the United States of America, 221,000 tons. We shall have almost precisely the two-Power standard, and 223,674 tons in excess of Germany alone.
§ I apologise to the House for having given them so many figures, but they were necessary for my purpose. I want now to say something further with regard to this process of eliminating types of vessels in order to arrive at a just estimate of our relative strength. Are we or are we not to count pre-"Dreadnoughts" as ships on which we can rely in the day of battle. The Leader of the Opposition, speaking in Glasgow in October last, I think it was, said that all these ships had become antiquated with the commissioning of the first "Dreadnought," and that they had become doubly antiquated when the more recent "Dreadnoughts," with their improvements had been added to the Fleet. Battles in the future, he said, will be determined by "Dreadnoughts." That is an opinion which is indisputably becoming every day more true. As we and the other Powers of the world add to the number of "Dreadnoughts" it is obvious that the battles of the future will be determined by "Dreadnoughts." Perhaps I might also say that I recognise that we ought, just because of that, to have an adequate superiority of "Dreadnoughts," and for that adequate superiority we are now making provision. That, in fact, is the Government case in support of the policy they are pursuing, and I have, so far as it goes, nothing to say against it.
§ What then, it will be asked, is my ground of attack against the Government for proposing unduly inflated Estimates? It is that, as they have added to 1883 our "Dreadnought" tonnage, they have failed to make a corresponding reduction in our pre-"Dreadnought" tonnage. It is admitted that in pre-"Dreadnought" tonnage we were overwhelmingly strong before the "Dreadnought" appeared, and all that would have been necessary to maintain our position would have been to make good each year the wastage, and a large diminution in Estimates would have followed consistently with the maintenance of the Two-Power standard. The invention of the "Dreadnought" changed all that, and in the process of providing for our superiority in that type of ship, we were forced to construct every year a far larger amount of battleship tonnage than would have been necessary to secure our safety if the "Dreadnought" had never been invented. That fact has frequently been admitted and as frequently deplored. What follows from the admission? Surely it is that, as we have added to our "Dreadnought" tonnage, we ought to have made at least a corresponding reduction in our pre-" Dreadnought" tonnage. But acting, no doubt, under the advice of the Admiralty, that is not the course the Government has pursued. In 1909 we had fifty-one of these pre-" Dreadnoughts "in commission; in 1910 we still had these fifty-one in commission, and I cannot tell how many may be in commission now, but I should be surprised to hear that any reduction had taken place, because last year we were asked for 3,000 men to man the new ships and this year we are asked again for 3,000 additional men to man new ships. I have already shown that our strength, including the pre-" Dreadnought "battleships, is enormously in excess of the officially accepted standard of our requirements, and I could further show that that excess will continue for the next ten or twelve years if we continue to keep these pre-" Dreadnoughts" in commission. On this point I charge the Government with neglecting to pursue a course which would have gone far to provide for the cost of the new "Dreadnoughts," and which would have completely provided for the cost of their manning, while at the same time our security would be amply safeguarded even according to their own conceptions of what this involves. So much for my first test of comparative strength.
§ My second test is the test of numbers of heavy guns—guns between 11 inches and 13½ inches. According to the last return, 1884 Great Britain had 274, the United States 142, and Germany 88. We had forty-four in excess of the two-Power standard, and three times the German number. I am told on high authority that in March, 1913, we shall be in an even better position in that respect than we are now. The third test is the test of manning. We have now 131,000 men, the United States has 61,890, and Germany 57,373. That is to say, we have all but 12,000 men in excess of the two-Power standard, and over 16,000 in excess of twice the number of the German fleet. I say nothing about the relative efficiency of the men. I content myself with a bare statement of the facts. These are my three tests and, judged by them, I contend that our strength is, in regard to every one of them, enormously in excess of the officially accepted standard of our requirements. I turn now to the consideration of the standard itself. Our acceptance of it, as things now are, means that we have to maintain a Navy equal to the combined navies of Germany and the United States. But the risk of such a combination are not serious. No one would admit them to be serious.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
If we are not to group together Germany and the United States we then have, to get our Two-Power standard, to group together Germany and France as the powers which are to fix the standard of our requirements. I maintain that to provide against the risks of attack upon us by these two Powers is not consistent with common sense. But if it is not against Germany and France that we have to safeguard our interests, I want to ask which are the two Powers whose likely combination imposes upon us the necessity of maintaining this standard? My chief objection to our adherence to the formula has always been that it imposes upon us the necessity of maintaining a standard of strength equal to the two next strongest Powers without any regard to the relations between them or to their relations with us. The two Powers may be preparing for war with each other, and they might be building against each other, and our adherence to this standard still forces upon us the necessity of building against both, although the relations between us and both may be of the most friendly kind. I have once before protested against our adherence to this formula and I renew my protest to-day. Nothing will convince me that I there is any sound principle of statesman- 1885 ship embodied in it. The formula was originally adopted because of the alliance between France and Russia. That alliance was held, and I think justly held, to be detrimental to our interests. With both of those countries we had outstanding differences which might, at any moment have led to war with one or other of them, and the alliance was of such a character that war with one would almost inevitably have meant war with both. In these circumstances we were amply justified in maintaining the two-Power standard. It was forced upon us by the existence of a real danger, but the danger disappeared in the face of a wise diplomacy. I submit it might naturally have been expected that with its disappearance we should have reverted to the old standard and the old scale of expenditure. It might have been expected that the domestic interests of the country would have been allowed to gain some advantage from the improvement in the character of our foreign relations. But this was not what happened. It was still held to be essential to maintain the standard, not now, however, against a real danger, but against a danger of an entirely imaginary kind.
Again, I have been told that we must do as others are doing. They are build and we must build. I admit fully that what other Powers do must have an influence on what we are to do; but is it certain that it is they who are setting the example which we are following, and not we who are giving the example which they are to follow? I confess I doubt it. I remember that in 1904, when the party opposite were justifying their Estimates, they made the same excuse in support of them. They said they must follow the example of other Powers, and that it was they who were setting the pace, while we were only doing what was necessary to maintain our Fleet on a level with theirs. I remember that in that Debate the right hon. Baronet (Sir Edward Grey) disputed the contention of the other side, and said that, on the contrary, there was much to justify the view that the initiative lay with us, and that it was our example which was setting the pace. I confess I have precisely the same doubt now as to whether it is true that it is foreign Powers who are giving the pace at the present moment and not we. What is certain is that in 1909 we did distinctly adopt a provocative attitude, and adopted it on a justification which very few Members of the Liberal party can recall with any sense of satisfaction. Is it not also 1886 remarkable that every Power in the world pleads not its own necessities, but the example of the other powers as its justification for piling up all these armaments? Sentiments of peace everywhere prevail, and the only disturbing factor, according to the confession of the great Powers of the world, is the factor of example. Example is the cause of that mad rivalry in armaments which by general consent is leading the great Powers of the world towards bankruptcy.
In these circumstances, I would suggest that it might be well for some one of the great Powers to set an example of another kind. I would further suggest that we could afford to do it more readily, and probably with a better chance of our example being followed, than any other Power in the world. I shall be told that we tried it, and that it failed. That has been frequently the version given of the cause of the reduction in our shipbuilding programmes for the years 1906, 1907, and 1908. The First Lord of the Admiralty has repeatedly used that as an argument in favour of the increase that has taken place in the programmes in 1909, 1910, and 1911. In my opinion he has forgotten the facts. The programme of 1906 was originally framed in view of the projected programmes of France, Germany, and the United States. That is the statement given in the Cawdor Memorandum. I am not quite certain whether it was in the Memorandum that actually accompanied the Estimates of 1906, which were framed by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. These three Powers proposed to lay down seven large battleships. There were three by France, two by Germany, and two by the United States. That was the condition of things when our programme of four ships was originally fixed. In July, when Vote 8 came on, the then Secretary to the Admiralty explained that not one of these great ships had been laid down by foreign Powers. There was a pause in foreign shipbuilding due to the invention of the "Dreadnought," and the Secretary to the Admiralty stated in this House that, in view of that, only three ships would be laid down for 1906–7 instead of four, but not one word in that Debate, or in any subsequent Debate, was said about the proposal to give an example to foreign Powers. It was the pause in foreign shipbuilding, and that only, which was the cause of the alteration in our programme. In 1907 our programme was for three battleships, and when that programme 1887 was brought forward in March the Secretary to the Admiralty explained that not one of the great ships projected in 1905 by foreign Powers had then been laid, and that in view of that pause in foreign shipbuilding it was proposed to ask the House to sanction three ships only. It is quite true that the intimation of. an offer was then made—an offer which was to be laid before the Hague Conference to the effect that if the Powers, which were parties to the Conference, would agree to make a proportionate reduction we would build only two ships, and that offer was refused. We reverted to the three ships which were asked, and which were held to be sufficient to meet our needs, but not one word, so far as these ships were concerned, was said of any proposal to give an example to other Powers. There had been a pause in foreign shipbuilding, and it was that also which lead to the reduction in the programme of 1908. There was not one word in that programme to justify the view that we reduced our programme in that year to give an example to foreign Powers. It was held, in view of the programmes of foreign Powers, that two ships would be sufficient to meet our requirements. So much for the view that we gave an example for reduction, and that it was not followed.
For my own part I believe that even if we were sure that foreign Powers would not follow our example, it would still be well for us to reduce. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] The hon. Member and I can never see eye to eye on this question, but I should like to put it to the House that it used to be the traditional policy on both sides to refuse to regard what was being done by foreign Powers as an example which we ought to follow. Peel constantly protested against our taking their example as one which we should follow. On the contrary, he always asserted that what they did ought to be a warning to us of what we should avoid doing. Have we not, as a matter of fact, often seen on the Continent of Europe that the burden imposed by armaments has produced far more serious internal danger than any external danger to which States were exposed? Have we not quite recently heard of men of great influence and position in their own country who proclaimed that they must maintain their armaments, not for the purpose of guarding themselves against an external foe, but for the purpose of crushing an internal foe—an internal foe reared and nourished 1888 on the very discontents that spring from the burden imposed by the maintenance of the armaments that are to be used for the purpose of crushing him? How often will history have to repeat itself before the lesson of experience is learned? The magnitude of armaments is never either a sign or a test of the true and permanent greatness of a nation. On the contrary, as they grow all the valuable and virile qualities of a people necessarily tend to dwindle and decline, and it is because I believe that, and because I believe we are in danger of forgetting it, that I move this Resolution.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I rise to second the Motion which has been proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for the Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Murray Macdonald) in a speech which I think must have struck the House as being moderate and at the same time deeply sincere. I will endeavour to be moderate if I can. I approach this question not as one who expects to see an era of universal peace, or a general disarmament, immediately take place, but as one who is persuaded that national defence is the great assurance for national security, and who is prepared to see an adequate sum of money devoted to making our Navy strong and efficient. But, at the same time, I believe that any reckless extravagance, any unjustifiable expenditure, is not only a loss of money and a burden to the taxpayers, but that it does constitute in itself a great national danger. It betrays carelessness and want of foresight and statesmanship in administration, and while it is a waste of the national resources, it is, worst of all, a serious provocation to foreign nations and a menace to the peace of the world. I think it is of the greatest importance just now that we should not be allowed to slip into the state of mind of believing that these swollen Estimates must of necessity be accepted as a matter of course. I think we should be making a great mistake if we silently assented and followed the Government meekly into the Lobby, and thereby renounce House of Commons control over the Estimates. Speaking of warlike preparations, Lord Morley, in his "Life of Gladstone," says:—They familiarise ideas which when familiar lose their horror, and they light an inward flame of excitement. of which, when it is habitually fed, we low the consciousness.That really conveys very much my point, if we always accept without protest Estimates such as these we have before us to-day. I regret that neither the Prime 1889 Minister nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer is able to be present to-day, and I deplore the reasons which keep them away. But I cannot help feeling that it is appropriate that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Sir Edward Grey) should be leading the House to-day because he is able to regard this question from a comprehensive point of view. We are apt very often in our Debates to plunge into the discussion of details and to lose sight of the rather larger issues. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is able to regard the question of the Army and the Navy as they are affected by our intertional relations. At the same time, I think it is with him that rests our greatest hope of some possible change—though there seems very little prospect of it now—in the future. Speaking in the Debate of 1909, on the occasion of a Vote of Censure, the right hon. Gentleman said:—I would ask hon. Members not to commit themselves in advance before they have knowledge of future facts before them as to what may or may not be necessary. Judge if you like when you have the full facts before yon, but do not pledge yourselves in advance in the period of uncertainty before us to condemn any possible proposals of the Government before they are actually made, and you have the full facts before you."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1901, col. 70.]I intend to take that advice, as we have got the full facts before us. We find ourselves in the years 1911–12 confronted with a total expenditure on the Navy and Army which has reached the stupendous figure of £72,000,000; £44,392,000 on the Navy and £27,690,000 on the Army. We also find that in the last five years expenditure on the Navy has increased by £13,000,000; and the next fact is that so far from any halt being called we are told that five large armoured ships, in addition to a number of others, are going to be laid down, so that we must look forward to a further large increase in years to come, bringing, no doubt, the Naval Estimates alone up to £50,000,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "More."] As "The Times" newspaper says, these Estimates are by far the largest that have been presented to Parliament in the present century, and therefore the largest Estimates that have ever been presented to Parliament in time of peace. The last fact I would call attention to in conjunction with those already enumerated is that a Liberal Government has been in power for five years. I wonder what great statesman who took a leading part in this House in past years would say to these Estimates, not only on the Liberal side, but on the Conservative side? Lord Beaconsfield's maxim, which I do think a very sound one, was "the more you 1890 reduced the burdens of people in times of peace the greater would be your strength when the hour of peril comes." What would any of our great statesmen think if they saw the figure that these Naval Estimates have reached? I think the first inference would be that we must have been going through some serious European crisis, and were threatened with some powerful combination of foreign nations. I hope to show later that exactly the opposite is the case. I think I can give the House one of the reasons which may not be heard from any hon. Member. It is this: The Admiralty—and when I speak of the Admiralty I am not speaking of the First Lord of the Admiralty: I mean the Sea Lords, the heads of Departments, and the experts—know that with a Liberal Government in power they can do what building and what additions to the Estimates they like, and that when it comes to a discussion in this House the greater the addition the greater will be the unanimity in this House, and that there will be only a few grumblers, whom I am now representing on this side of the House, and who are a negligible quantity. With a Conservative Administration in power they feel it more difficult, because if they suggest an addition to the Estimates they will have the full blast of an Opposition criticism against them, and there will probably be a division of the House on strictly party lines, and the Government of the day may find its very existence in danger. The officials and the heads of Departments and the Sea Lords know this as well as we, and when they have got a Liberal Government in power it is a unique opportunity for them to pile on the cost. Experts are necessary in all Government offices; but they should be the servants, and not the masters, of those who are responsible for the administration. By their calling, by their profession, they are obliged to exclude from their calculations anything which takes into consideration broad principle, and they are prohibited from exercising any imagination whatsoever. There is in an official atmosphere something which is antagonistic to Liberal principles. I know an official atmosphere; I have been born and bred in an official atmosphere. My earliest visions were despatch-boxes, and at the age of seven I was sorting confidential print. I know it has a deadening effect on anything that means progress and change, and very naturally; and I am not sure that, to a certain extent, it is not a good thing that it should be more or less 1891 Conservative in its character. But it should not affect those who are responsible for the administration. When we are discussing this question we cannot help being reminded of the Debates of 1909. I have been reading through several Debates, and it makes me feel rather ashamed. I remember I was not very long in the House at the time, and I listened with amazement to right hon. Gentlemen on both Front Benches exchanging continuous interruptions with regard to these mathematical calculations of dates and numbers, giving the country to believe that the security of this Empire depended on mathematics of that sort. Very little was said of any of the other sorts of ship. Very little was said of the personnel of the Navy, the seamanship, and the strategy. It was "Dreadnought," "Dreadnought," the whole way through. And what calculations they were! On 16th March, 1909—and I do not make any apology for going back to this Debate, and I only hope that hon. Friends of mine who speak to-day, or on Thursday or in subsequent Debates, will repeat this and go into further details on this point, and give every sentence, every question, and every answer, because every one of them is important—the First Lord of the Admiralty said:—We have to take stock of a new situation "—This was in relation to German "Dreadnoughts":—in which we reckon that not nine but thirteen ships may be completed in 1911."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1909, col. 934).That is this year. In March, 1909, he said that in the autumn of 1910 Germany would have nine "Dreadnoughts." That is last year. Yet on 14th March, 1910, he said:—As regards the statements which I made last year I have nothing to withdraw. And our programme this year is framed now upon our actual know-ledge of what is completed or in the course of being completed."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1910, col. 50).Now we know from various questions put to the right hon. Gentleman, especially by my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Robert Harcourt), that four German "Dreadnoughts" of the 1908–09 programme are not completed, that the four further ships of the 1909–10 programme will not be finished this year, and that the vessels of the 1910–11 programme will not even be delivered from the German yards before the spring of 1913, and finally that the last four German "Dreadnoughts" can only be delivered in 1914. The entire fabric of those calculations has crumbled to the ground, but the policy founded on that 1892 fabric remains. In the Debate on 16th March, 1910, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition added fuel to the fire, after a great deal of interruption, in giving this final solution to the Government:—Therefore I say I was right in my original estimate that we have to count on the possibility of their being seventeen 'Dreadnoughts' to our fourteen in July, 1911, and that even when the two ships laid down next November are built we shall then be only sixteen 'Dreadnoughts' to the Germans' seventeen. And then if the Germans go on at the old rate, which is more than possible, the probability is that they will have on 1st April, 1912, twenty-one 'Dreadnoughts' to our twenty."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1909. col. 952.)And the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) on the 29th March echoed these sentiments, and said these figures are beyond dispute.
The statement I made was that if the Germans built at as quick a rate as they were able to build; and if they carried on as they originally carried on that would have been the case. Is that disputed?
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
The right hon. Gentleman said "if," but his calculations, even on the ground that he had for them as given by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, were absolutely fantastic, according to the knowledge we have of events since then. If we look at it in the light of what we have heard and known and the German speeches that have been delivered since then, we see how absolutely unfounded and fantastic these figures were. What I object to is that the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches are reported verbatim and their words are circulated throughout the country, and very large bodies of supporters reading these words all over the country will believe them. It was really believed by an enormous number of the Conservative party that the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition were correct. Therefore, you established in the country a feeling of insecurity, panic, and scare. I acknowledge that I myself was frightened into the Lobby to vote for the Government. I do not know on what the figures were founded. If the Intelligence Department of the Admiralty furnished these calculations all I can say is the Intelligence 1893 Department of the Admiralty should be altered. The calculations were false; the arguments founded on those calculations were therefore false, and the scare that was produced was groundless and mischievous. The people were deceived at that time, but they will not be deceived again. The cry of "wolf" will fall on deaf years. I think that we have got the right to demand some explanation, some reparation, some change, if not of persons, anyhow the abandonment of a policy which was founded on fallacy.
We have in this year's Estimates a prospect of a still further increase, and no change at all is to be made. I should like to give, if I may do so, a warning to hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they are hounding on the Government to increase the Estimates. It requires no very great gift of political prophecy to see that a Liberal Government is likely to be in power for some years to come, and that we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer who realises that taxation must be placed on the backs of those who are best able to bear it. Therefore, while they are urging that there should be increased expenditure, they must not mind or protest if the propertied and moneyed classes whom they represent in this House, have to bear the increased burdens. I give the instance of Japan, where the Income Tax is 5s. in the £. In that case they are not socialistic taxes, not at all; they are merely imposed because Japan is following the example of wealthier nations by piling up her armaments. Next we have been told that we ought not to treat this as a party question. It can only cease to be a party question exactly in the degree that the Government adopt the views of the Opposition. If they adhere to Liberal principles, there is just as much difference between hon. Members on this side of the House and hon. Members on that side of the House, on this question as on any other. Another feature of the Debates which we have had so often before us is the way in which Germany has been always singled out as the country against whom we are to build. The very fact that, in spite of scare, in spite of the Press, in spite of articles in the newspapers, and in spite of inflammatory speeches, Germany remains on such friendly relations with us is the greatest proof that the foundation of the friendliness of Germany towards us was really deep-rooted and sound. I deplore that it is being made a party question to the extent that it has been. I think we have reason, all of us, to remember the 1894 speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition at Hanley in the election of January, 1910, when he took the opportunity at the moment when this country was really in a state of excitement, as it always must be at an election, to deliver a speech which could have no other reason than to inflame the feelings of animosity in this country against Germany. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] Hon. Members opposite seem to doubt what I say, but I can assure them that the comments in the foreign Press on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at Hanley were so severe, so strong, that really I could hardly venture to read them out in this House. No; I say that anyone, any Member or any individual, who at any moment, especially a moment of excitement, tries to fan the flames of jealousy and suspicion between two foreign nations, is doing the worst service he possibly can, not only to his fellow-countrymen but to civilisation and to humanity at large. I am very glad, in spite of these two years of contention, that there are prospects of our relations with Germany being put on a better footing. We have had two very notable speeches from Dr. Schrader and Admiral Von Tirpitz in the German Reichstag, from which I should like, if the House will allow me, to read two passages. Dr. Schrader said:—But one thing at least I believe I may declare to be a positive fact: We have no idea of exceeding the limit of our navy law, and the navy law—as the British people will have convinced themselves—is certainly not framed for the purpose of an attack on England.Therefore, gentlemen, we may hope that the ill feeling which has existed …between England and Germany, in consequence of our naval programme will come to an end.Admiral Von Tirpitz said:—The assumption in England that we wished to accelerate the building of our fleet beyond the provisions of the navy law, is really an astonishing mistake. That was publicly declared by Prince Bulow as well as myself at the time. How could such an acceleration be possible if the Reichstag did not give its consent. Without it we could not have got a penny. There is no need to point that out to Members of this House. But you will understand, gentlemen, that it seemed to us very strange that such assertions should be made in England. I should like to say that as far as we were concerned, from first to last, information was never withheld.We now have every hope of an improvement in the relations between the two countries. It rests with the Foreign Minister to take every opportunity to show our friendliness to Germany. We, in this House have not many opportunities of discussing foreign questions, and I do not believe that there is any assembly in the civilised world which is allowed less opportunity to consider foreign questions in the House. We have a Foreign Minister 1895 who commands the respect and admiration of the House to an extent which has not existed in regard to any other Member in either House; but at the same time, we should like an opportunity occasionally to express our views as regards foreign nations. It may be that one is ignorant of foreign affairs, but I believe that suspicion and feelings of uneasiness are got rid of if matters are discussed, so far as is compatible with the public good, on the floor of the House of Commons. I think that the Foreign Secretary could take the if the Foreign Secretary could take the initiative, as my hon. Friend, who moved this Motion suggested, in attempting to reduce armaments and to stop this mad race, to the end of which we look with the greatest possible anxiety. We should not say "We will if you will," but "we will; others may do whatever they like." I know that anything in the nature of restriction of armaments is regarded by Members opposite as being extremely comic. I believe that they put their whole trust, and their only trust, in iron and steel. I suppose hon. Members opposite would consider, if we had 100 "Dreadnoughts," that our national security would be assured. I am not at all sure that if we had a "Dreadnought" for every mile round these islands that it would mean our national security was assured. But it would mean, that with this outward show of strength, we should have a population in these islands that would be hardly worth defending. We should have decadence and weakness at home as the result. There are many other considerations besides that of iron and steel when you are dealing with this vast question of national defence and national security. I think we are all beginning to learn that under modern conditions the nations of the world are bound together very closely by economic, commercial, and, more especially, financial ties. The last 100 years show a most remarkable development in the means of transit and communication. The nations of the world are so closely linked and tied together that any rupture or breakage in the ties between any two nations must mean far-reaching disaster, which extends far beyond the frontiers of the nations concerned. The chief menace to the peace of the world, the chief cause of distrust and suspicion between nations, which leads to despair among an increasing number of people who appreciate the great value of 1896 peace, is this senseless, profitless, destructive, and provocative expenditure on armaments. It is deplorable that a party which is so devoted to the cause of Social Reform should have embarked on this pathway. It is want of money that has always kept us back. We want to clear away the tax on the breakfast table; we want to see slums that disgrace our great towns taken down and destroyed, we want to establish people on the land strengthening the life of the people and improve their conditions; but we are always held back by want of money, while all the time we are spending, and spending superfluously, vast sums on arms and engines of perfect finish and wonderful invention for what purpose? For the destruction of human life.
We have again an increase in the Estimates. We hoped for some change this year, but we have been disappointed, and no hope is held out. If it were not for the overshadowing importance of the constitutional question I believe that the Government to-night would only be saved from defeat by the votes of the Opposition. The constitutional question is of such gravity that it overshadows other matters. I know of a great many hon. Members on this side of the House who, though in complete sympathy with us in moving this Motion do not feel that under the circumstances they can vote against the Government. The numbers in the Division will in no degree represent the strength of feeling of the party. My hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) has put down an Amendment, and, although I agree with it, it is, to my mind, too vague. It is merely a pious opinion. Ours is more emphatic, and my hon. Friend and myself, in bringing this Motion, feel that we are not being false to any Liberal principle. We are trying to voice an opinion which, luckily, cannot be silenced, an opinion which is held by a large number of people throughout this country, an opinion which would be expressed with all the eloquence and power at the command of our present Ministry, and with the backing of the Liberal party, if they were sitting on the benches opposite, and if these very Estimates were before the House of Commons. I beg to Second the Motion.
I beg to move as an Amendment to leave out after "with" ["we view with"] the words, "alarm the enormous increase during recent years in the expenditure on the Army and the Navy, and is of opinion that it ought to be diminished" and to add instead thereof, "pro- 1897 found anxiety and regret the continued necessity for the maintenance by this country of large armaments, and would welcome the establishment of international arrangements under which the Great Powers would simultaneously restrict their warlike preparations."
I deem it my duty, before I say anything else on the subject, to explain to the House that this Amendment is in no way connected with any action on the part of the Government or their Whips. This Amendment has found expression because it appeared to certain friends of peace, retrenchment, and reform on this side of the House that it was really a more practical way of meeting this tremendous item of our excessive expenditure to suggest in an Amendment the way in which that evil can be redressed. Therefore this Amendment, though it has been spoken of as vague by my hon. Friend who has just spoken, is, I venture to think, in no sense really vague, because it does suggest a practical way, as I hope I shall show, of meeting an admitted evil. In my view it is rather significant that this Motion was moved by two hon. Members sitting behind the Government, whereas the Amendment is being moved by myself, who habitually sit below the Gangway. That fact contains an element of profound truth, if I may venture to say so. The real fact is that the Mover and Seconder of the Motion represent the old type of intellectual Radicals, and very able representatives they are of a school that has always been valued and, I hope, will long be represented in this House. We Radicals—or I speak only for myself—represent the more full-blooded democratic point of view, and we sympathise in some measure with the popular feelings of that person who is generally known as "the man in the street." I do not feel in any way ashamed to say that my point of view may be somewhat less intellectual—possibly some people might think it more vulgar than that of the proposer of the Motion. I venture to say that it is a point of view that is understood clearly, and that is felt, and felt intensely, by nine out of every ten men in our land. I would give an instance of what I mean. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs referred to our great ships of war as engines of death, and nothing more. To every citizen who views the great Naval Review to which we look forward as one of the incidents of the Coronation, there will come, I venture to say, not only the feeling that they are 1898 great instruments of death, but that they are great emblems of the defence and power of our country. The point of view of the average man, whether he be Conservative or Liberal, is this—that so long as other countries maintain emblems, such as armies and navies, to give expression to their power and force, so long must we also maintain armies and navies, in some way, at any rate, to a proportionate extent.
Moreover, let me next point out that in these days, more and more owing to the growing power of the Press and the growing power of the democracy in every land, the emotions of the people must very profoundly affect and mould the policy of Governments. That is a proposition which, I think, nobody will hesitate to accept. What does it mean? It means that scares and panics, fears and threats will always be, at any rate under present conditions, a powerful force in the development of policy. I suppose it must be admitted, and I am ready to admit, that two years ago the Government, whom I hope to support here for many years to come, used the power of fear which hon. Members on the opposite side will call the power of scare to get their supporters to accept the Naval Estimates. We know also that hon. Gentlemen opposite won seats in January last by the power to scare, and scare only. Each side can use—and I fear each side will use from time to time—the power that it gets through raising panics, scares, alarms, and threats, in some way or other, in order to increase its authority in the country, its voting power at elections, and its power in Parliament. If that be so, this is a fact which I conceive we have not sufficiently realised, namely, that scares and political prophecies of Armageddons, which never come, but are always being promised in a new form, must be a constant feature in our national existence, and must be a constant element in forming our naval and military Estimates. I would like to go back in order to prove my point, which really is the major premiss of the conclusion to which I have arrived in this matter. I would like to recall to the memory of the House the undoubted fact that twenty-five years ago it was the fear of Russia—and especially the fear and dread of a Russian attack upon India—which was the dominating fact of our policy. It was the dominating fact in our foreign policy, and it was certainly the dominating fact in our military policy. Who to-day has any fear or dread of that scare which was the constant question of alarm 1899 for our future as a nation? Whoever gives a moment's heed to that dread to-day? Similarly fifteen years ago it was the fear of France that was always being used to conjure up patriotic feeling or to raise naval or military Estimates. The fear of France was then the nightmare. We can all remember the incident of Fashoda, which was the culminating point of that period in 1898. I would also like to remind the House of the terms in which in the year 1899 London papers of authority and weight were speaking. In that year, on 9th November, the day when His late Majesty's Ministers always address important political announcements at the Guildhall banquet, one of the leading papers of London, and I would rather not name it because I do not want either to depreciate the political value of that paper or give it any sort of advertisement, made use of these words:—The French have succeeded in thoroughly convincing John Bull that they are his inveterate enemies. Nothing like an entente cordiale can subsist between England and her nearest neighbour, France. She has neither courage, foresight, nor sense of humour.It was a Conservative paper, a paper which professes to be non-party, and appeals to the man in the street, that used those words. And only a few days after that paper added in the course of an article:—If the French cannot cease their insults and mend their manners their colonies will be taken from them and given to Germany and Italy.It is rather ridiculous to realise that the paper which suggested that we should join in depriving France of her Colonies and hand them over to Germany is to-day one of the scaremongers that is painting the terrible machinations of Germany against this Power with regard to possible invasion. The fact is we have been, and we may expect to be, continually under the domination of fear, scare, and panic. I want to find some policy which will strike at the evil that that engenders. There is known in medicine a state of the human body called a vicious circle. Consumption of the lungs inevitably influences digestion, and the indigestion increases the consumptive disease. The vicious circle attacks the poor patient on both sides, and he has only death to face. That vicious circle must be broken by some drastic remedy, or some change of conditions; only so will the patient be restored to health. The body politic is to-day suffering from a similar vicious circle. Increased expenditure by one Power induces fear and scare 1900 in other countries. Fear and scare in other countries lead to greater naval and military expenditure; and so the disease goes on. I suggest that the policy embodied in my Amendment would strike at this vicious circle. It would on the one hand make scares and panics less possible and on the other it would lead directly to the reduction or the restriction of warlike expenditure. A host of facts and considerations might be cited which make me believe that the time is opportune for such a policy, and that the suggestion of an international arrangement is not visionary, but is really practical politics.
One fact that I would like to point out has already been touched upon, namely, the difficulty in raising this increasing expenditure. This difficulty is felt by all Powers, and must be especially felt by the leaders of all Governments such as those of Germany and France, where there is a strong popular and democratic criticism direct against them. New taxes have to be found, new burdens have to be imposed. It is always very easy to say of a new tax, before it has been tried, that it will ruin everybody and not bring in the revenue. We say that, I believe with justice, about Tariff Reform. Hon. Members opposite said it, and said it pretty effectively, about the Budget. But whether that is so or not, it is perfectly clear that no popular Government can to-day face the addition of new taxes, or the increase of existing taxes, without very great concern and aversion. Further, the raising of money sets in a fashion of extravagance. The extravagant demands of naval and military experts cannot be gainsaid. Right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, at any rate, are bound to admit that the demands of expert advisers are particularly difficult to deny. If you grant extravagance in one direction, you are bound to open the door to appeals of all sorts of interests and callings. I think, therefore, that there must be in the minds of all leading politicians who are in office in any country in Europe at the present time a strong disposition, if they can do so honourably and safely, to restrict by international agreement or otherwise the vast military and naval expenditure now going on. I should like to call attention to one other aspect of the question which should not be ignored, namely, the fact that there is an increasing tendency amongst all the nations of the world to engage in arbitration, agreements, and treaties. Literally scores of treaties have been formed during the 1901 last twelve years between the various Powers of the world in anticipation of evils and difficulties which have not arisen. It is, indeed, one of the outstanding features of the diplomatic and political world of the last twelve years, that there has arisen amongst all civilised nations a disposition towards treaties, agreements and international arrangement such as never was the case before.
So much for the disposition which I think must exist on the part of statesmen to be ready to accept this policy. Let me next say a word on the undoubted fact, as I think, that the nations themselves—the people, the men who are not in office, but the men who place Parliaments and Governments in power—would be ready at this time to accept international arrangement with regard to the reduction of armaments. The Radical Leader in the Reichstag, who spoke on the naval estimates in Berlin a little while ago, has already been quoted. I would like to quote a sentence from that speech, which was not quoted by my hon. Friend. He said:—The time has come when we might enter into closer negotiations with England.There is an offer. How was it met by Admiral von Tirpitz in his reply? He took exceptional care to say nothing which would make that offer impossible of acceptance. He said, indeed, that it was a political question outside his special province, but he used certain expressions which, in my opinion, and I doubt not in the opinion of everyone who heard them, made it more easy, and not less easy, for the Government in Berlin to approach or agree with the Government in London on these lines. I wish to quote some words by one of the most distinguished men in Germany—the well-known historian and theologian, Dr. Harnack, who visited London on 6th February last, coming over in the midst of a very busy academic session in order to deliver an address to the Associated Councils in Britain of the Leagues for Fostering Friendly Relations Between Britain and Germany. Dr. Harnack was received by the most august personage in this land, and his meeting in Queen's Hall was presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In fact, it was of profound political and national significance that he came as he did, and spoke as he did. In the course of a very eloquent speech, which I should like every Member of this House to read, Dr. Harnack said:—We look upon the European nations as brothers. They are brothers even amidst the stress and com- 1902 petition of the world. Among these brothers none in Europe stand nearer to us than the English people. We Germans are bound to the English by blood relationship, by culture essentially the same amidst all its differences, and for centuries past we are bound together by a vast interchange of thought and resources. You sent to us the Irish-Scotch invasion of missionaries. You sent to its Boniface. Your Shakespeare has become our Shakespeare. Your political institutions have educated us politically; and last, but not least, your literature, flowing from a clear abundant spring, has been our intellectual nourishment for more than 200 years.That friendliness and offer of mutual cooperation on the part of so eminent a man as Dr. Harnack, who stands very close to the Throne in the German Empire, are endorsed by the solidarity of the labour movement in both these great lands. I am proud to think that the Labour party in every country is in the ascendant at the present time. I trust that it will continue as powerful and as sensible as it is in this House, and that I may even live to be a Member of this House when the only possible parties capable of forming a Government will be the Liberals on one side, and the Labour party on the other. That time may not come very soon, but there is no doubt whatever—I believe hon. Members opposite will admit it—that the Labour Party is a growing and harmonious party, and that the Labour party in one country supports and stands by the Labour party in other countries. The policy of the Labour party in every country is in favour of peace, the restriction of armaments, arbitration, and the amicable settlement of affairs, and against conscription.
These facts are, I think, enough to commend my Amendment to the House. I trust I shall not be considered to have brought forward an issue which has diverted the discussion from the important topics raised by my hon. Friends. I sympathise largely with their Motion, but I trust that my Amendment will be adopted. In any case I retain for myself complete liberty to vote either one way or the other when the Motion is put. A few nights ago the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Noel Buxton) suggested that possibly there might be an opportunity for the Foreign Secretary, whom all men in this House honour and respect, look up to and listen to, to go on a mission to Berlin. That may be a visionary suggestion, but it is a vision I like to dwell upon. I trust the opportunity may occur, and if the vision is ever to be realised I trust it may be soon. Why should he not return, bringing with him peace with honour in a new and noble sense? It would be peace achieved not by bloodshed and threats, by treaties for 1903 offence, or with further prospects of increased taxation; it would be peace from both war and rumours of war, and it would be the honour that crowns those men, who, like duellists, meet and desire satisfaction, but put up their swords into their sheaths, shake hands, and then part as friends. I beg to move the Amendment.
§ Mr. RYLAND ADKINS
I will not detain the House long from hearing, as I know the House is anxious to hear, a statement from my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who will, of course, deal with the many points of specific and high interest which were raised by the hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Resolution before the House. I desire to say, in my first sentence, that I share the position of my hon. Friend who seconded the Motion, that if by any bad fortune this Amendment were not adopted by the House, my freedom of action, like his, would be retained to the full. But I am anxious at this early stage, much as I would have liked to have heard my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty before this Amendment was put before the House, to second an Amendment which I think expresses a body of opinion and a width of feeling far greater than in any separate section of this House. It is an Amendment which, I think, if passed by the House, would be very much more than a mere opinion. It would be the weighty and important judgment of this House on a situation of no little gravity, and a situation which cannot be dealt with fully, or fairly, if we neglect either that aspect which has to do with home taxation, or that aspect which has to do with international relations. I second the Amendment in no spirit of hostility to the attitude taken up by my hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Motion. Their attitude of anxiety that public money should be spent on social reform rather than on engines of destruction is an attitude which I hope awakes sympathy in all parts of the House. Nor do I wish to dissociate myself from them in the claim that we are putting forward to the Government to give to this House the fullest possible explanation of their naval programme for this year, and of that foreign policy which is so closely blended with all problems of national defence and international politics. This Amendment, unlike some Amendments moved in this House which are conceived in a spirit most hostile to the Resolution they seek to 1904 amend, is intended to be an Amendment in the earlier and simpler sense of the word. It is intended, if I may say so without presumption, to be an improvement on the Resolution. If that Resolution were passed, what would it come to? It would no doubt call attention, not in this country only, to what I think to be a somewhat ill advised use of the word "alarm." Anxious we are, regretful we are, at this huge expenditure; but where any question of national security is involved in any degree it is not, in my judgment, quite befitting for Englishmen to use the word "alarm." In the next place the Motion, which is for the immediate reduction, is detached—as it was indeed in a very important passage in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Murray Macdonald)—from action in other countries, and in a certain sense from the international position. I believe that the great cause of international peace and the great cause of the reduction of armaments would be really more advanced if this House adopted the Amendment I am venturing to second than if the Motion of my hon. Friends, after a long discussion, were rejected by this House.
This is one of those cases in which, if you can get a larger number of persons to go one step with you, you are going further towards your object than by pressing, however legitimately, the attitude which is not the attitude of many sections of our fellow countrymen. Therefore, it seems to me that this position, which it would be difficult in its importance to exaggerate, with its international aspect, and most important bearings upon the resources of the country, is one in relation to which I hope Members of this House, wherever they sit, may be disposed to seek the greatest common measure of agreement in the Resolution which I ask the House to pass.
The Amendment, which I hope may commend itself to the House as perhaps embodying the greatest common measure of agreement, begins by regretting, by lamenting, by expressing anxiety as to the enormous sums now spent on armaments. Surely that anxiety is felt on the other side of the House and not only on this? Surely hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, though they may differ from the Government as to the precise money needed this year, and differ very acutely from the hon. Members who initiated this Debate, agree with us that this expenditure on armaments is not in itself wholesome, is not in itself good, is the 1905 most melancholy of necessities, when it is a necessity. Is it not, therefore, of importance if we can get the British House of Commons, largely independent of party in its decisions, to unite on such an expression of opinion in connection with a Debate like this? Some of us on this side of the House regret, more perhaps than anything we ever heard in this House, the apparent want of sympathy that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition once showed in a famous reference to The Hague Conference. I hope before this Debate ends we shall have expressed on the benches opposite, as on these, how anxious all are that the necessity for great expenditure on armaments should cease; how we realise, whatever our view as to the precise amount, the dangers which are inseparable from this expenditure. Therefore, in this Amendment we begin by laying the emphasis on that, and we hope we may get a majority of the House to take this opportunity of endorsing it. We go on in the other part of the Amendment to welcome the establishment of international arrangements under which the great Powers would simultaneously restrict their warlike preparations. This, no doubt, can be criticised in two quite different ways by hon. Members, with whose standpoint one has much sympathy. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Falkirk Burghs was most anxious that we should begin without waiting for any simultaneity in the matter. That is a wish that many would share. It is a position that few would take, unless they are satisfied, after hearing the Government, that the Government have exaggerated, are misinformed, and have misjudged the present position. That is an attitude which I will not take most certainly until I have heard what both the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Foreign Secretary say on this matter. But I think if our position—the position of all of us—be, as surely it is, that of seeking national security and international friendship at the same time, the House will surely feel inclined to adopt the second part of this Amendment. It is open, as I said a while ago, to another kind of construction.
It may be said that it is idle to ask other nations, proud of their independence and resources, conscious of the strength within them of national development, to stereotype their national defences at the exact point which they have now reached. Those who argue in that way, quite fairly, will be misinterpreting the terms of this Amendment. It does not suggest that the 1906 exact position of the fleets and armies of Europe as they are now, in 1911, shall be stereotyped by international agreement over any period, long or short. What it does suggest is that efforts should be made to have international agreements for the restriction of armaments. I am quite certain that we on this side of the House, who believe that we hold Liberal principles quite as strongly as my hon. and enthusiastic Friends who are responsible for the Motion, are carrying out those principles. And we think, too, that the application of those principles will not be without sympathy on the other side of the House when we are urging upon the Government, with all the earnestness in our power, to pursue constantly, unfalteringly, with every variety of expedient, this path of international persuasion. It must be trodden if this problem of the reduction of armaments is to be solved in a way which Members of this House would desire it to be solved. It is not evading the problem, it "is not substituting a weak and colourless statement for definite suggestions in our putting forward of this Amendment. It is because we are anxious at this juncture to get the largest amount and variety of support in this House for a solemn declaration of the mischief done by the present state of expenditure on armaments. We desire to combine with that the putting of every possible pressure upon His Majesty's Government, to use every method, every honourable method, at their disposal towards these international agreements which, however, they may be framed, or varied in detail, are yet an indispensable step towards the object which I hope all Members of this House will have equally at heart—that reduction of expenditure which will not only be of benefit to the Government of our country, but to other countries for whom we wish prosperity as for ourselves.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
The Mover of the Amendment and the Seconder of it both said they were satisfied that there was almost as much, anxiety on this side of the House as on the other. I can assure the hon. Members that that is true, but that the anxiety is not of the same character. On that side of the House, judging from the speeches to which we have listened, the anxiety is connected with expenditure. On this side of the House the anxiety is as to whether that expenditure is sufficient for the British Fleet to carry out those duties which might be thrown upon it in time of war. 1907 I think, personally, that hon. Members below the Gangway are quite right to have brought this point forward. They find fault with the expenditure, and they do not look into the cause of it. I think they will find that the real cause is the complete reversal of the policy, so far as the Navy goes, of the Government. We remember a short time ago that we were told to "sleep soundly." We are now told that an enormous lot of money is necessary to preserve the Empire from danger. Nothing has happened in the interim; the circumstances are exactly the same abroad as they were then. Then there must be some reason for this enormous amount of expenditure, and I shall endeavour to prove it is because the policy has been altered in very many particulars which causes this expenditure of which hon. Gentlemen opposite complain. I venture to submit to hon. Gentlemen that they are merely complaining of the increase of expenditure without having sought the cause.
Let us take the question of policy. The policy of the Government up to 1909 was unsound, and that is proved by the reversal of that policy now. A policy of economy must eventually, unless it is sound economy, increase expenditure enormously. For every £100 saved by false economy, whether in Estimates for the Navy or in industrial enterprise, or in private enterprise, you pay something like £1,000 or more as the result of your false economy. May I say to hon. Members opposite, and I am certain they will agree with me, you may spend millions, either for your Army or for your defences, but if that expenditure is inadequate, it would be better, or at any rate it would be as well, to have no Army at all. If it is inadequate it may be worse than useless; it may not only be waste but it may invite attack. The hon. Gentleman opposite was quite right when he said, we have tried the experiment of economising and of asking Germany to reduce her armaments; that is quite true, and what has been the result? The result has been shown in the very able letters written by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Chiozza Money). He proves quite truly that directly we reduce our expenditure with the idea of making a start in reduction of armaments the result is an immense acceleration or increase in the shipbuilding programme of Germany. That was the result when we tried it. Why try it again? We tried it, and we have absolutely failed in it. Let us 1908 remember that adequate naval defence is our absolute life. I feel sure there is not a single Member opposite, whether he be Socialist or Radical, or anything else, who does not honestly desire to see this country properly defended. What they complain of is, that we spend too much money. They are right to make their complaint, but have they examined into the question how this expenditure is brought about? It was brought about by the policy of His Majesty's Government up to 1909.
Up to then we had three Fleets and three Commanders-in-Chief. Now we have one Fleet and one Commander-in-Chief. We reduce the personnel, now we have an immense increase, and in the meantime we shall reduce the efficiency of the Fleet, because for a time there is a shortage of properly trained men. We refused to build docks, and that refusal has been followed by a great expenditure. We said beyond a certain percentage of small cruisers were unnecessary, and none were built; now we are laying them down again. We reduced the building of destroyers; now we are laying down a very large number. We said nucleus crews were ready for instant action, they are now put into the reserve. We reduced the coastguard and marines, now we shall have to rejoin them. We reduced the increased capacity in the gun mountings until we discovered Germany had a greater capacity. Why did we not know that before? What is the Intelligence Department of the Admiralty for? The Government come down to the House with a scare, responsibility for which I am glad is now being put upon the right shoulders, and they ask for this expenditure of money without explanation. In 1908, in circumstances which the Admiralty knew perfectly well, they economised down to two heavy ships. What was the result? In 1909 quadruple that number had to be built—eight heavy ships. Is not that a thoroughly business-like way of working? Does not everybody see that expenditure goes up by leaps and bounds under such administration? Why do not hon. Gentlemen opposite ask on what principle this policy is founded, of building two ships in one year and eight ships in another year in circumstances which we are told are the same?
Then there is the education scheme. That will have to be altered. There are only three ranks, the Marines will have to come out, and join as Marines again, and the Engineers will have to make their career as Engineers. The whole Service 1909 was upset owing to the education scheme, and here again hon. Members will find fault with the enormous increase in expenditure.
Then there was the naval reorganisation, which was sounded with trumpets and shaums; what was the result? It lowered the morale of the Service, reduced the fighting efficiency, and destroyed war organisations. That is perfectly apparent. If it did not do this why has it all been altered now? It is only common sense to say it did destroy these things. Everyone of the things I now bring forward are considered essentially binding by the Government in their programme. If they were sound then why alter them now? Not only was the policy of the Government wrong, but the Government misled the public in many particulars. The Government declared that their policy of construction—and they said this over and over again—was based upon what Germany did. They knew the Government programme in 1900, and then we had the programmes for 1906 and 1908. If they knew these things why did they build two ships in one year and eight ships in another? Hon. Gentlemen opposite think there will be a decrease in the German-building programme next year; I venture to tell them there will be nothing of the sort, I do not believe the Germans will exceed the Navy law, they have said they will not, but they will take all their old ships of 4,000 and 7,000 tons and they will build big "Dreadnoughts." An hon. Member said perfectly rightly, you will have to increase your Estimates next year, and to look forward to a time when the Naval Estimates of this country will be £50,000,000, which will be a permanent charge, and it is the policy of this Government that would have brought that about. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton made a speech in which he said, this was all our own fault; he is perfectly right. It is all our own fault, it is all due to the bombastic audacious insolence in regard to the first "Dreadnought," which has resulted in the whole of this expenditure. I make that statement, Admiral Tirpitz has said, it was what we did with the "Dreadnought" and through the "Dreadnought," that caused Germany to follow suit.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I beg the hon. Member's pardon—I mean the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. William Thorne), and that hon. Member was absolutely correct in what he said in a speech 1910 in the country that all this extra expenditure was our own fault. Let me give another further reason, as to why I believe Germany will not decrease, but I see that there has been an increase in Krupps of 5,000 men. In Germany the power of acceleration is clearly on the increase, to build future ships if necessary, and to make further guns if necessary. I think Germany could now turn out guns for seven or seven and half ships; we could do better than that, but if Germany was to put forward her full power of acceleration and use it, she could get up to, if she could not actually beat us. Hon. Gentlemen opposite want to reduce the Estimates for no other reason, except that they are too much. If such a course was taken, it would be certain to bring about the state of affairs that has occurred before, and I do not suppose anyone wants to do anything of that sort.
I now turn for a moment to the Admiralty memorandum which appeared "for private circulation" in a book at a bookstall; that memorandum supplies one of the reasons of this continued scare and panic. It has economy on the one side and panic on the other. The simple reason is that, so far as the Admiralty goes, it never has a War Staff, and we have not got a War Staff now. When I read that memorandum I did not know whether to laugh or cry. I never read such a thing in all my life, and we must not blame the Officer who wrote it or the experts. I think. hon. Members opposite are inclined to blame experts. Experts have nothing whatever to do with policy. The policy for defence and other policies are entirely with the Cabinet, and all the experts do is this: When the policy is made out by the Cabinet and given to the First Lord of the Admiralty he comes to his experts and says, "What are we to do with regard to ships and men to carry out this policy?" Many hon. Members of this House seem to think the experts are to blame, and that they are responsible for the policy, whereas they have nothing whatever to do with it. I never heard an expression of opinion so criticised by my brother officers as that memorandum. Although I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman in this case, may I ask him who was responsible for that memorandum being written? I do not think it could be the right hon. Gentleman himself, because I think at the time he was seriously ill. I want to know who was responsible for it at the Admiralty? Will 1911 the right hon. Gentleman please put that down and answer it. It is most invidious and most unfair to publish the opinions of an advisor for the simple reason that he cannot reply. Look at this ease. I do not suppose any man has been more unfairly criticised than the First Sea Lord, and yet he has no right of reply. All sorts of things have been said about him, but he was merely doing his duty, and he put forward his views according to his lights to carry out the policy of the Government presented to him. This is a very curious Government, for it is continually taking refuge, creeping behind the expert. The Government have put in this book the expert's name, and that was most improper. If it had been an Admiralty memorandum it would have been proper. It was "A. K. W." at the bookstalls, and why should it not be "A. K. W." on the floor of this House?
But I want to know something further. What were the questions put to the First Sea Lord. I think this House ought to know that. The First Lord of the Admiralty has a very curious way of answering questions. I asked him a question the other day, and he gave one of those answers for which he is so celebrated. He said:—It is not desirable to communicate information as to the formal communications which often pass between departments as to the action to he taken in discussions in Parliament.Why? I think this House will be of opinion that it is most desirable that we should know what the questions were which were put to the First Sea Lord when he gave that most extraordinary answer for which he has been so much criticised. I think we can surmise the reason. He was probably told that the Government first wanted to kill compulsory service, because they knew perfectly well they had not enough men to stop this country being invaded. He said, practically, "If we put the whole British Fleet round these islands and leave the rest of the Empire undefended, then we shall be able to stop invasion." A most extraordinary thing is the wording of this memorandum. It says:—If the Fleet was put round these islands in order to prevent invasion it would be almost necessary and sufficient, or to a great extent it would protect the trade routes.I never before heard such an extraordinary theory as that. That is what is in the memorandum. In other words, if you put the Fleet round this island, and take all your cruisers off the trade routes that is said to be sufficient to protect the trade 1912 routes liable to attack 3,000 or 4,000 miles away. This only shows what happens when the Government put forward a new policy or alter the old policy that we have had for so many years. The policy the Government have started now is entirely different to what we have had in the past, and it is contrary to common sense and to our traditional policy. The old policy is, if we have an enemy seek him out in the blue water and destroy him. The policy now seems to be rub along the shore, and have submarines. You have now told other nations that you are surrounded by torpedo-boats and submarines, and they had better look out if they come near us. In other words, you are now on a defensive policy and you have not adopted an attacking policy at all. If hon. Members will read the memorandum which I have referred to they will see that what I am saying is correct, because the trade routes are now absolutely undefended as compared with what used to be the case. In 1903 we had sixty vessels defending the trade routes. They do not want to be very rapid, but they should be as fast as armed tramps. They were there like policemen on their beat to prevent an enemy's merchant ships being men-of-war one moment and merchant ships another. That is what we have to fear. In the old wars we had 244 of these vessels, but now we have only twenty-three on our trade routes because of your policy of defence. That is what we have to fear now in this country.
May I say another word about this extraordinary memorandum. The Government have a lot of curious methods, but they have one which is very similar to the Chinese. When they have got into a difficulty they generally put up an expert to save their face. The military expert in this book is very valuable to the Secretary of State for War, who always saves his face on all sorts of occasions. He did it in regard to the Malta command, and now he has done it upon the question of invasion. The opinion of this gallant gentleman is entirely dependent upon the latitude or the longitude he is in. When in Japan he was for compulsory service, and he wrote volumes, chapters and appendices about it. This book should have come out just before the election but something happened to prevent it. The two experts who are quoted in this work give exactly contradictory opinions. The military expert says we must have this territorial army to stop invasion, but the naval expert says that it is absolutely impossible 1913 to have an invasion at all. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway ought to ask why it is necessary to have a territorial army at all. If it is there to prevent something that cannot possibly happen, what is the use of it? That is what it says in this book. May I say a word or two about the margin. On this side of the House we say, and I say it most determinedly, that the margin with regard to our Fleet is far too low now. I have worked it out that in 1913 Great Britain will only have twenty-five "Dreadnoughts" so-called and the Triple Alliance will have twenty-five. That is not much of a margin. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is a three-Power standard."] Surely we must take into account the Triple Alliance. There is an idea, I know, that Austria is building against Italy. There may be some difference of opinion about that, but they are still in the Triple Alliance, and circumstances may occur in the political world in which Germany could compel, certainly Italy, and I should think Austria, to stick by their bargain. Hon. Gentlemen often say that the strength of the Fleet depends upon the policy, but I respectfully differ from that contention. How could Germany have done all she has if she had not been thoroughly armed and ready. Your policy depends upon the strength of your Fleet. I am as earnest about peace as hon. gentlemen opposite. I have always spoken for peace, and I want peace. War is horrible, shocking and wicked, but you cannot expect to have peace unless you have a force adequate to prevent war.
I look forward very gloomily to the future. I do not want to be egotistical, but I wish to remind hon. Members that on this point I have always been right. I told you on the last occasion that you would have to increase your Navy Estimates and I was laughted at, but subsequent events have shown that I was right. Last year I told the House that you would have to increase your Navy Estimates this year, and I tell you that you will have to increase them again next year, because you have not even yet covered up your own commitments. I agree with hon. Members opposite that this expenditure is shocking, but it is going on, and it is going on through the policy or want of policy you have carried out on the Front Bench opposite and through nothing else. I do not say that right hon. Gentlemen opposite used strong language about the "Dreadnoughts," but some of your supporters did, and that is the basis of the 1914 whole of this expenditure. This is the result of your false economies informing the country by misstatements and putting forward ideas not in accordance with the facts. I quite agree that we should try to get the great English-speaking nations of the world together and unite for peace. In that I am with you. We ought to do that, and then we should be powerful enough to reduce our armaments: but as long as we go on as we are doing, with no more organisation at the Admiralty, no War Staff, and nothing but a party whim to dictate our policy, with our Estimates for the Navy not on any commonsense or businesslike lines, so long will this enormous expenditure be incurred one year and attempts at economy the next year. Hon. Members opposite often talk about tons and guns and men. I respectfully say that this has nothing whatever to do with it. We have to think of what we have got to defend in comparison with other nations, and you must take your Naval Estimate in proportion to what we, Germany, and others nations have to defend. Our mercantile shipping alone is half that of the world. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) said very truly only the other day, Do not let us. have a "Dreadnought" too short. A "Dreadnought" will cost you £2,000,000, but if you have a "Dreadnought "or two short it may cost you £1,200,000,000. You-are trying to find fault with the First Lord of the Admiralty. I am no supporter of his, as he knows, but I like to give the devil his due. I apologise—I like to give the right hon. Gentleman his due. The argument between you is as to whether it is two or three ships, and as to whether it is two or three months. This is the only point between you. You talk about margin. Three battleships touched the ground at Ferrol a few days ago. That was not expected. I told the House last year, and it was very much impressed, that when I was Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean, six of the eight battleships I commanded were laid up for six weeks. There were two under repair, two had the pivots of their cylinders cracked, one had a boiler burst, and one had some other defect in the machinery. These accidents are inseparable from machinery. What becomes of your margin? You are fighting for two or three "Dreadnoughts," but if you went to war you might suddenly lose a squadron of six or eight passing over a minefield one night.
1915 We ought to be unassailable at sea. The Prime Minister said last year, about election time—I think even Prime Ministers exaggerate about election time—that the fleet was unassailable now and for the future. Then what do you want all this money for now? The fleet was not unassailable now and for the future, and the Estimates now are barely able, in fact they are not able, to put us in that powerful position we ought to occupy. I do not think the position of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. McKenna) is very enviable, but it is all his own fault. He has lost the confidence of a great many of his own supporters, and I do not think he gets much sympathy on this side of the House. I would recommend him to adopt the line his own Press advises. Why not be frank and tell the House exactly how matters are? Why conceal them? I think we have some right to complain of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman answers our questions. He is very evasive, and, if I may say it with respect, he often makes mis-statements, statements that are not according to fact; and we do not like to see the right hon. Gentleman apologising in the most humble way to his own supporters for doing his duty and having the Navy put right. He does not always treat us as we would like. I should like to see him come out like a man without looking to the right and left to see on which side he is going to be attacked. I once more want to impress upon the House that the future is not so bright as they think. The future is black, and to keep the peace, which is our greatest interest, we should see first of all that we get a proper war staff at the Admiralty, and then, when they have made out what we want why we want it, and the cost, let the matter be presented to the House in a frank, manly manner, and I believe hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will vote just as much as we on this side of the House to keep this country and our Empire absolutely secure.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna)
It would be very tempting to follow the Noble Lord into the various interesting topics which he has raised, but I think it would be more in harmony with the convenience of the House if I were to postpone my reply to what I may call his technical questions until we have the general debate upon the Navy Estimates. It would be inconvenient to interrupt the discussion now with that sort of answer. I propose only 1916 to deal, and to deal very briefly, with two or three matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (Mr. Murray Macdonald) and Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby). My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk Burghs began his Motion by reminding the House that the Government were pledged to a reduction in expenditure on armaments when they came into office at the close of 1905. He then went on to say that no answer, good, bad or indifferent, had ever been given to the question why the Government have failed to reduce expenditure on armaments. I am afraid I cannot answer the question now without trespassing on ground which my hon. Friend the Seconder of the Motion, forbade me. He deprecated reference to the German and foreign navies in this discussion, but I can assure him it is absolutely impossible to reply to the questions put to me or to explain the policy of the Admiralty unless reference is made to foreign navies.
We have never disguised our policy. We do not build ships or advise the building of ships for the sake of contractors, or for the sake of giving employment, or for the sake of spending the ratepayers' money, or in the interests of this district or that district of the country. We advise the building of ships, in numbers, to a strength and to a cost, in order to enable the British Navy to secure in all contingencies that we shall have freedom on the highways of the ocean. We cannot secure that freedom unless our Navy is supreme as against any foreign navy, and as against any reasonable probable combination which we might have to meet single-handed. If that be our policy, avowed without hostility to any nation—and the whole history of the Navy shows that it has been an instrument of peace, and not of war, and as in the past our Navy has not been created for warlike purposes, so now it is not being maintained and increased with any future intention of hostility to any power—how can I explain the increases we have made unless I refer definitely to the preparations which are made by other Powers, and naturally the Power that I select is the Power which has got the second strongest navy in the world. Therefore, I have to compare our strength and our growth with the strength and growth of the German Navy.
I turn to my answer to my hon. Friend's question—an answer which he says has never been given, good, bad, or indifferent—why we have increased expenditure on armaments. When we came into office at the end of 1905 there was the German Fleet 1917 Law in existence, and accompanying that Fleet Law there was an estimate given of the annual expenditure for every year down to the year 1917. In June, 1906, and in April, 1908, two amendments were made to that Fleet Law, not slight amendments as the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) observed, but amendments so drastic in character that, whereas under the original law the Germans published Estimates for 1911–12 would have stood at £11,000,000, they actually stand at £22,000,000. The amendments of 1906 and 1908 doubled the provision for the German Navy in the ensuing few years. That is the answer—a good answer I think—I give to my hon. Friend's question why we were unable to continue in reducing expenditure on armaments.
I now turn to my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs. He went back to the Debate of March, 1909, and he put me on my defence to explain the language which I used in introducing the Estimates in that year. He quoted me to prove that, whereas I said my anticipation was that there would be nine German ships of the "Dreadnought" type, battleships, and cruisers, completed by the end of 1910, there were, in fact, only five, and that whereas I anticipated there would be seventeen such ships in the autumn of 1912, I now admit, according to the official statements made to me, which I accept as absolutely correct, that the seventeen ships will not be delivered from the German shipyard until the spring of 1913. The charge made against me is that in the anticipation which I put before the House on 16th March, 1909, I misled the House. No charge is made against me that any allegation of fact which I made as to what had occurred at the moment when I was speaking was untrue. It is admitted on all hands that what I then stated as having occurred is true. It is alleged that the inference I drew was erroneous, and I am put on my defence to explain how I fell into the error, and further to explain how, having done so, I can still justify myself for having asked this House to build four contingent ships in July, 1909. I think I can give a complete explanation on both heads. I must ask the House to remember that German capital ships are paid for by four annual instalments. In the winter of 1908–9 I had before me the German Estimates for the year 1909–10. I saw in those Estimates that the first two instalments for the four ships which were laid down in 1908–9, and belonging to the programme of 1908–9, amounted to close on 1918 £1,300,000—that is to say, that the two instalments were within £90,000 of the amount of the first three instalments for the ships belonging to the 1906–7 programme. The fact of this great increase in the amount of money which has been devoted to the building of the ships might mean either of two things, or it might mean both of them. It might mean that the ships were going to be built earlier and quicker, and in consequence larger instalments would be necessary in the first three years, or it might mean that the ships were going to be of a much greater size and cost. I had to consider—and, after all, I hope that the House, which is always generous, will not forget this fact, that somebody has to be responsible for forming a judgment, and with the facts before you you have to form a judgment—the best judgment you can—what was the meaning of those facts. With these two alternatives before me, either that the ships laid down in 1908, and which were to be laid down in 1909 were vastly bigger, I use the word advisedly, than any existing "Dreadnoughts" laid down at that time, or else that the ships were going to be built quicker, what did I know? At that time I knew, as is admitted to be the fact, that two of the contracts for the year 1909–10 programme had already been promised in the year 1908, and I knew as well that one of the ships was laid down and a considerable amount of work done upon it. and on the other of the two ships for which the contract was promised, although it was not actually laid down the material was gathered and all was ready to be laid down. I described the condition of affairs at that time as being this, that one ship was laid down and two ships were not laid down, and as to the fourth I could not say whether it was or was not. I knew these facts. Was I justified in venturing to think that perhaps this larger amount of money voted in the first two years was intended to pay for these ships for which contracts had been promised in anticipation of 1st April, 1909? That was the inference I drew. I believed that one contract was promised in advance of the date of the work being begun by the contractor for the ship. I believed it was the intention to finish the ships earlier. I had no information to the contrary. The representative of the Admiralty in Germany had no means of getting information to the contrary, and I could only draw such conclusions as the facts permitted me to do. Thirteen days after I made my statement to the House as to my belief as to the time when the 1919 German ships would be delivered I corrected it, and I gave the House the official German figures as to the date when the German ships would be delivered, and in no speech I have since made, or in any interruption or in anything I have ever said since have I withdrawn from the acceptances I then made, in good faith, of the assurance given on behalf of the German Government as to the date when the ships will be delivered. My hon. Friend quoted me as saying, in 1910, 'I have nothing to withdraw," but if he had read on to what I was referring to he would have seen that it was a statement as to contracts which had been promised in advance. I was referring to the statement of facts and not to the inferences.
I now turn to the next point. Why did I not withdraw my request for the four contingent ships when I knew that these other ships were not going to be built? The House will remember that if the larger amount of the first instalment did not mean quicker building it meant much larger ships. What are the facts about the ships? We know now that the whole amount is in the Estimates. I will deal with the battleships alone as distinct from the cruisers. The first four German battleships of the "Nassau" class cost £1,800,000 each; the three battleships laid down in 1908—and these were the ships I had in view—cost £2,300,000 each, so that the increase in size, and presumably in strength, between the first ships which were in answer to our "Dreadnoughts" and these new super "Dreadnoughts" laid down in 1908 was £500,000 each. The difference in cost is ten times the difference in cost between the "Dreadnoughts" and the "Lord Nelson." It is a jump which has created much surprise and astonishment, seeing that the additional charge of £50,000 per ship has been multiplied ten times in that jump.
What could I do? I should have come down to the House in the month of July, 1909, and stated this fact. I should have told the House that I had accepted the statement made on behalf of the German Government, but that my inference was wrong as to dates, and my inference as to size and cost must be right. Would that have been useful at that time? I hope my hon. Friend will not forget after all that I stand between two fires. I have not only to defend myself from criticism—I will not say attacks, because my hon. Friends have always been very fair to me—I have not 1920 only to defend myself from criticisms from them, but to defend myself also from the criticisms of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I mean no offence to hon. Gentlemen opposite when I say that every statement of mine which could be characterised as being in the smallest degree alarming is seized upon by them and made the foundation for much more alarming, exaggerated statements outside the House. I was really unwilling to say anything at the time which could be calculated to cause a scare. Those ships were there, much larger ships are built, but we have given our answer to them, and consequently the time for the scare is gone. What was our answer? The House will observe that three battleships and one cruiser were laid down in the year 1908, when we had a programme of only two ships. The three battleships of 1908 were supplemented by one ship, of which the contract was promised in advance, making four ships, a squadron of four battleships of this particular type—costing £2,300,000 each, and the cruiser was also duplicated. I had, therefore, to contemplate that there would be these ships of a much larger size and power than anything in existence actually laid down as to five of them, and the materials prepared and collected as to the sixth. In the month of November, which was the earliest time at which we could get our plans completed for laying down ships which would be the answer to the ships that had been laid down, in 1908 we laid down the "Lion" and the "Orion" battleships, costing £1,900,000, as against the German £2,300,000, but still sufficient in size and power to afford, as we think, a complete answer.
Our cruiser is practically of the same type as the German cruiser; but I had got now to consider that Germany would have six of these ships probably completed in April, 1912, and that we should have two of these larger types. I availed myself of the power to build four more, and I laid down four more large ships, which would give this country six, as against the German six in the spring of 1912. That is the explanation of the erroneous inference and the explanation of the reason why I asked the House to give me the power to build the four, and why I exercised the power.
Let me turn now to my hon. Friends and ask them to consider what they have lost? They have got to make up their minds as to what they believe to be a reasonable margin of security. We have taken as a reasonable margin of security 1921 thirty of these ships as against twenty-one. The twenty-one German ships will be delivered by the shipyards in the spring of 1914. Our thirty will be completed by the same date. If they consider that not to be an unreasonable margin, does it matter whether that was reached by stages of eight, five and five, or by stages of six, six and six? Availing myself of the power to build four contingent ships, we have merely accelerated the date of completion by a couple of years of two of the ships, and this will have, incidentally, the effect of relieving the Estimates in the year afterwards. Let me, in conclusion, as I do not desire to traverse the ground which we hope to traverse in discussing the Navy Estimates at large—let me tell my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs, that, in my judgment, his anticipation of a continued increase in the Navy Estimates, running up, I suppose, to fifty or more millions—that, in my judgment, his anticipation is a mistaken one. We have reached high tide; if there is no further amendment of the German Fleet Law, and we have every reason to hope and believe that there will not be—if there is no further amendment of the German Fleet Law, the Estimates of 1912–13 will show a reduction on the Estimates of 1911–12. There will not be that increase which my hon. Friend fears. But we can give no pledge of any reduction whatever until we know—until we are assured of what the development of foreign navies may be. As I have never in the three years that I have been responsible for the Estimates before held out the smallest hope that the coming year would bring a reduction in expenditure, because I could not foresee such a reduction, so now I hope it will not be taken as a mere idle expression when I say, for the first time I do anticipate a reduction of expenditure will take place in the ensuing year.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The House will have an opportunity on Thursday of discussing in detail the statement to which we have just listened, and so it is not my intention to enter into it at any length, but there is one point upon which I think we are entitled to further information, and if the First Lord of the Admiralty will give me his attention for a moment, I would like to put a question to him. He has referred to the difficulty he has had in making up his mind as between two possibilities deduced from the fact known concerning the German Naval Law. Of 1922 course, he is aware that the change of the law was partly due to the German Naval Board agreeing to put down "Dreadnoughts" in response to our challenge here, and that a further part of the change was due to the fact that the average age of life of a ship was reduced by some five years. These two facts account entirely for the changes in the German Naval Law, and the question I want to ask is this, whether he had not an official assurance from the German Government before he made his speech in March, 1909, that there was no intention on the part of Germany of accelerating its building programme? I hold in my hand a summarised report of a speech made in the German Reichstag by Admiral Von Tirpitz, in February of this year, in which he states in the most emphatic way that the acceleration of the programme was impossible, because not a penny had been voted for that purpose by the German Reichstag, and he goes on to say this:—It should not pass without mention that they (the Gorman naval officials) had not failed to give an official explanation of this action both before tin; appearance of the Acceleration Report and afterwards.I would therefore ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, before speaking here on the 16th March, 1909, he was not aware that the German naval authorities had distinctly declared that there was to be no acceleration in their building programme, and whether the acceleration that took place was not officially stated to be due to a desire to help tide the nation over a period of unemployment. If he had these facts before him, surely that ought to have relieved him of one dilemma in which he tells us he found himself. I will not purport, however, to criticise further the speech of the right hon. Gentleman for the reason that I have given, that it can be better done and be more in order when the Estimates are being discussed as they will be on Thursday. But I should like just for a moment to refer to the speech of the Noble Lord opposite; it was breezy as usual, but the thought that occurred to me, as it must have occurred to many others, was that if the state of muddle is as great in the Admiralty Department as he made it out to be, the sooner a big broom is used there vigorously the better for the safety of the nation. He deplored the great increase in the Estimates, and he tried to make it clear that the increase arose from the false economy practised by the present Government when they came into office. I want to ask the Noble Lord, however, whether if his friends had been in office still would the Estimates have 1923 been one penny less than they are to-day, and, if not, how can the increase arise from a desire for economy on the part of the Government when they first got into power. Our complaint is that the desire for economy was not pursued, and we hold that there is no justification, and nothing has been said from the Front Benches this afternoon to show that there is any justification whatever for the present swollen and exaggerated Naval Estimates.
There is one question of fact I wish to ask the Noble Lord about, arising out of his speech. He told us some information with regard to Messrs. Krupp and that Messrs. Krupp had increased their staff by 5,000 men. Two years ago the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham (Mr. Arthur Lee) made a similar statement, only on more exaggerated lines. My hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) took the trouble to investigate the truth of that statement, and what were the facts? That in 1908 Krupps' firm were employing altogether 63,590 hands, whereas in 1909, the year in which we were assured by the hon. Members opposite, the Member for Fareham, that there had been a great increase in that number, the workmen employed by Messrs. Krupp had gone down to 63,191. I want to ask the Noble Lord now whether he has any more foundation for his statement to-day than the hon. Member for Fareham had two years ago for what be said. I am quite sure that the Noble Lord does not want to indulge in any scare statement, and therefore I ask him to verify his statement and then at the first opportunity let us know what foundation there is for it, because it is upon these scare statements that all this great and growing expenditure is being built. I do not know whether it would be in order for me to appeal to the Government to leave this question to-night to the judgment of the House. There is no censure implied in the Motion we are discussing. It is an expression of opinion that the expenditure is too great; there is not a Member of the House who does not believe that. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] I say there is not a Member on either side who does not believe it. You may think the high expenditure is justified, but there is not a Member of this House who does not agree that in proportion to our taxable capacity we are spending more upon the Army and Navy than we are warranted in doing. The second part of the Motion expresses the opinion that something should be done, 1924 if possible, to mitigate that expenditure. Surely that is a matter on which the House ought to be left to express a free and unfettered opinion. The Secretary for War was saying at Haddington on Saturday, during a very interesting ceremony, that the House of Commons was the best jury in the world. If that be so, why not leave this question to the free and unfettered decision of the House without any pressure being applied by the Government? If the Motion be carried, as I believe it would be, it would strengthen the hands of those who are trying to curtail this expenditure. If the Motion were defeated, under these circumstances it would give the Government some confidence in pursuing the policy they are now engaged in, because it cannot be unknown to the Members of the Government that nothing has so shaken the faith of the outside Radical in Liberalism and in the present Government as have the Estimates of this year. The Liberal Federation meeting at Wakefield the other day passed a strong resolution, and the Liberal papers in Yorkshire this morning are full of expressions of opinion from leading Radicals expressing the utmost concern. Naturally, we would expect to find the same thing in Wales. No matter where you go you find that the feeling of uneasiness is becoming one of alarm, and Liberals are saying if this happens under a Liberal Government it could not be any worse under a Tory Government. The rank and file Liberal expects the foreign policy of the Liberal Government to be as distinct from the policy of a Tory Government as its home and domestic policy, and in this respect they are being disappointed.
Most of the speeches this afternoon have referred to the Navy, and very naturally so, but it must not be forgotten that during the last twenty or twenty-five years the expenditure upon the Army has also been very considerably increased. It has gone up from £14,000,000 in the middle of last century until it now stands at £27,000,000. I am old enough to remember the time when the working theory was that we required a big Navy to protect our shores, but only a very small Army. Now we are asked to have not only a large Navy, but also a large Army. We have the Territorials for Home defence in the event of the Navy being overcome. What is the large Army for? Is it to enable this country to depart from its island security and to become embroiled in Continental affairs? Is it meant to have a large Army to enable us to take part in 1925 Continental wars, interfering in affairs with which we have no concern? If that be so it marks a very complete change of departure from the ancient and well-established policy of this country, and we are entitled to ask how it comes to be that this tremendous increase in the cost of the Army has been going on pari passu with the increase in the cost of the Navy. The Noble Lord has made some fun of the Memorandum prepared by the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty for a Debate which was to have taken place last December, but which did not come off. The outstanding feature of that Memorandum is its closing paragraphs, in which the now First Sea Lord tells us that if one half of our Navy happens to be deceived away from our shores, even then it would be impossible for an army to land an effective invading force. If that be so, if we are double the strength required to defend our shores, what justification is there for this large Army to defend us against a phantom foe?
There is one more point which is entitled to serious consideration. The Government is still pursuing the policy which assumed that mere bulk meant strength and efficiency. There is a new idea planted in the international field of politics. A man who is able to see clearly, a man who is able to think clearly, has arisen in our midst, and is now telling us, in a manner which cannot be disputed, that your big armies and your big navies bring you neither security nor defence. The talk is against Germany and German invasion. As Mr. Norman Angel has shown in his book you might sink the German fleet, you might even by a miracle destroy the German Army, but the invasion of the German trader would still continue, and it is the German trader who is being resented. All this preparation to beat Germany is intended to cripple the German trader, and prevent him encroaching in our market. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Then why the antagonism of Germany? Why is Germany building its Navy? Not to invade England, but to protect its mercantile fleet, and all this outcry against Germany is based solely and exclusively upon the fact, let the reason be what it may, that the German trader is encroaching more and more upon the markets of the world which has hitherto been believed to be the monopoly of the British trader. The reply to that, as is pointed out by Mr. Norman Angel, is not to go on building great navies and piling up extra expenditure. That is only playing into 1926 the hands of the enemy. It is only burdening your trader with fresh taxes and making it more difficult for him to hold his own in the markets of the world. The successful trading nation is the nation without either Army, Navy, or Empire, which is not burdened by taxes, and which has not its thoughts directed towards the ends of the earth. The old time theory that trade follows the flag has gone past for ever. The facts were all against it. The trade of the small nations, which have neither Army, nor Navy, is greater per capita than is the trade of Great Britain, despite its great Empire and the security of the small nations, as judged by the best judges in the world, the bankers, who have money to invest, is better than the security of this great British Empire of ours, the German empire or the Russian empire. Their Consols stand higher than do those of any of the large nations. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not so."] The Norwegian Three per Cents. stand better than the Russian Three per Cents., and the Belgian Three-and-a-Half per Cents. stand better than do the Russian Three-and-a-Half per Cents. Those who doubt the facts, it is quite evident, have not yet read the volume I have been referring to.
There is this other point to be borne in mind. The size of the Army and Navy is determined in the final result by the foreign policy which is pursued by the Foreign Secretary. The irritation in Germany is chiefly commercial, but I would not have it forgotten that of late Germany, especially in the case of Persia and the building of the Baghdad Railway, has had a good deal to cause irritation, because of the policy pursued by our Foreign Office. If that policy has now been changed. and it obviously has been, and I rejoice at it, it is due to the fact that a change has become inevitable owing to the agreement come to at Potsdam between the German Emperor and the Czar of Russia. And the one thing I regret about the matter is that now our Foreign Secretary, speaking for this country, should come in at the tail end of a matter of this kind, whereas, had he placed himself in the forefront of the arrangement and openly and frankly come to a friendly understanding with Germany two years ago, all the irritation might have been avoided, and the friendship of Germany been permanently assured.
I come now to one or two practical proposals for curtailing expenditure, and in the very forefront of these I put the establishment of an Estimates Committee com- 1927 posed of Members drawn from all parts of the House of Commons. We have seen in one Government Department the good results which have come from the working of such a Committee. If there had been such an Estimates Committee in 1909 the nation might have saved from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000, due to the scare Estimates which were carried by the House of Commons after the speeches made from the Government Bench. It is possible to impose upon an individual, but it would not have been possible to impose upon a composite committee sitting down in no party spirit, but in cold blood examining and investigating the Estimates and requiring justification for every penny proposed to be spent. That would have been a fairly effective means of giving the House of Commons control over the Estimates, and the more control the House has over the framing of the Estimates the more economical they are likely to be. But there is a second point, that all treaties entered into between this country and foreign countries should be subject to the approval of Parliament before being ratified. May I call the attention of the House to a Resolution which was discussed by the House of Commons on the 19th March, 1886. The Motion was in these terms:—That in the opinion of this House it is not just or expedient to embark in war, contract engagements entailing grave responsibilities upon the nation, and add territories to the Empire without the knowledge and consent of Parliament.That Motion was moved by the then Member for the Merthyr boroughs, the late Henry Richards. But the important point upon it was that after discussion 108 Members voted for the Motion, and only 112 against. And even so far back as 1886 a proposal of this kind was only defeated by four votes. Surely the policy of some such motion might be brought within the sphere of practical politics. Theoretically, the King makes war and peace. As a matter of fact, the Cabinet makes war and peace. If the King has not the power without the Cabinet the Cabinet should not have the power without the House of Commons. It is a reasonable deduction from the facts, because as they stand, as a matter of fact, the recent practice has been to take these treaties out of the purview of the House of Commons altogether. In 1905, as I gather from an article written by the hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. Swift Mac-Neill), the House of Commons was prorogued on 12th August, and the treaty with Japan, marking a new departure in the 1928 policy of this country, and involving tremendous and unknown responsibilities was signed eight days later. A General Election intervened, and when the new Government came into power they found themselves bound and fettered by a Treaty of which the House of Commons had never heard until it appeared in "The Times" newspaper. That was what happened under the Conservative Government. Under a Liberal Government a Treaty between our own Foreign Office and Russia in regard to Persia was not disclosed until three days after Parliament had separated. This might be an accident, but it looks very much like design. Surely the Treaty might have been completed in time for the House, of Commons to consider it in all its bearings. We ask both in regard to war and to the making and altering of treaties that the House of Commons, the Parliament of the country, shall have full opportunity of discussing these things before they are finally ratified. In doing that we are only following the precedent of the Great Republic of America. Every Treaty with America requires to be ratified by the Senate before it can be signed by the President.
My last point is that the Government has taken no account whatever in its Estimates, Naval and Military, of the great and growing forces in the world that are making for peace. We hear of the German war policy, but we hear very little indeed of the other side of the German nation, of the power which is rapidly growing, and which is not only desirous of friendship, but is anti-military in the whole of its tendency — the great Socialist party. May I remind the House that in framing the Estimates and calculating the chances of war with foreign countries there are certain factors which should not be overlooked, and the Socialist and Labour movement is one of these. At the Socialist and Labour Congress held at Copenhagen in the closing months of last year there were Members of Parliament from different countries. There are now 600 Socialist and Labour Members in the different countries of Europe representing a voting strength of 9,051,000 voters. In Germany the Socialist party have 53 Members, for whom 3,250,000 electors voted. In Austria there are 88 members, representing over 1,000,000. In France there are 76 Members, representing over a million voters, and so on. My point is that we are bleeding the nation unnecessarily, that we frame our Estimates on the assumption that Germany and Austria are 1929 military, and that they have no qualifying force within their ranks which is making for peace, friendship, and good fellowship. The programme of the International Socialist Congress dealt with this very question of the prevention and curtailment of expenditure upon militarism. We desire the Governments of Europe to get together and find ways and means of reducing this altogether useless and burdensome impost upon the different nations. We desire more than that.
We know perfectly well the amount of ignorance that prevails in regard to war, how easy it is to inflame human passions in the direction of war, and so the Congress proposes for all the European countries that the principles of peace and international fraternity should be taught in the public schools; that working class organisations should engage in an active peace propaganda; that all treaties should be subject to Parliamentary ratification before being signed; and that the Labour and Socialists' Parliamentary parties in every country should exert all their influence with their respective Governments in favour of the holding of an International Convention to consider proposals for a mutual gradual reduction of armaments, with a view to the ultimate disbandment of all armies and navies. Behind all that, a proposal has been referred to the International Bureau of the Congress to take the opinion of European countries upon the question whether, in the event of the scaremongers and warmongers embroiling any two nations, the working classes of these nations should not make war impossible by declaring a strike the day war is declared. If this growing burden of armaments is to be lessened, we shall require more courage, especially among the Radical Members of Parliament. I think the Radical Members might fairly be assumed to be very much alarmed at what is going on. They see that their schemes of social reform are being starved, and that the money which is wanted for social reform purposes, whether it is the feeding of children, the making of provision for employment, or the looking after the health of the people, is doled out with the niggardliness of a chemist dispensing poison, while if the money is wanted for the Army and Navy it is shovelled out. Therefore, the Radicals in the House of Commons, who are genuinely and sincerely anxious to see reforms, will require to make a much firmer stand on this question than they have hitherto done.
1930 It is all nonsense to say that these things cannot be avoided. They have been avoided before. The Admiralty Board comes down with Estimates, but if the Cabinet says "We cannot allow this sum to go through," then the Admiralty Board will shape their policy accordingly. It is not their business to say what is required in the way of expenditure; it is for the Cabinet to say what it will give, and for the Board to wrangle how it is to be spent. I hope the Members of the Cabinet who feel on this question will follow, as far as possible, the illustrious example of a Member of the Conservative party who, in 1886, rather than be a party to spending £31,000,000 on the Army and Navy, threw up his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope it will not be out of place if I read the reasons which Lord Randolph Churchill gave, because they have a direct bearing on the present situation. In his letter to the late Lord Salisbury he said:—The great question of public expenditure is not so technical or departmental as might be supposed by a superficial critic. Foreign policy and free expenditure upon armaments act and react one upon another … A wise foreign policy will extricate England from Continental struggles and keep her outside of German. Russian, French, or Austrian disputes. I have for some time observed a tendency in the Government's attitude to pursue a different line of action which I have not been able to modify or check. This tendency is certain to be accentuated if large Estimates are presented to and voted by Parliament. The possession of a sharp sword offers a temptation which becomes irresistible to demonstrate the efficiency of the weapon in a practical manner.Therefore he declinedto be a party to encouraging the military and militant circle of the War Office and Admiralty to join in the high and desperate stakes which other nations seemed to be forced to risk.The position, then, of all parties was that this being an island we should not embroil ourselves in the affairs of our Continental neighbours, and that they are necessarily exposed to risks from which we are exempt. Lord Randolph Churchill saw that by providing big Navies and big Armies we were tempting our Foreign Office to interfere in European affairs with which we had no concern, and which it would be better if we did not interfere at all. We shall vote against the Amendment. We regard the Motion as mild enough. There is no censure upon the Government in it. We look upon the Amendment as a back-door of escape to prevent a frank expression of opinion by the House of Commons upon this all-important issue. If the Amendment be defeated, we shall vote for the Motion. We would fain see the Motion stronger, but 1931 still it is a step in the right direction, and in view of all that is involved in this continuous and growing piling up of expenditure, of what that leads to in the way of suspicion and distrust on every hand, and especially of what, as Lord Randolph Churchill put it, the possession of a sharp sword may tempt one to do, I hope the House of Commons, irrespective of any pressure brought to bear by the Government, will vote as its conscience dictates in regard to this very important question.
§ Colonel YATE
The hon. Member who has just spoken has told us that we are spending more money than we ought on the defence of this country. There is one point, among others, on which I think we, at any rate, are spending much too little. I had expected that the hon. Member, when dealing with this subject of the defence of the country, would have said something from the point of view of the working man. On the contrary, he has not said one word about the working man of the country. He has referred to many things, such as the Baghdad railway, which are not relevant, and he has given us a list of Socialists on the Continent of Europe, but the only thing I gathered from him was that if any enemy attacked us the Socialists were to rise up and stab their own Government in the back. Now let me from this side of the House speak for the working man. I am not going to speak of "Dreadnoughts" or of any of those things. Those I leave to naval experts. They are things which some of us do not thoroughly understand; but one thing we can all understand, and which the British working man can well understand, is that it is vital to him to have at all times and under all circumstances a certainty of a full, free, and unrestricted supply of food for himself, his wife and his family. The second thing that the working man of this country requires is to know that, under all circumstances and at all times, the mill or factory in which he works will have a full and unrestricted supply of the raw material for him to work upon. The workman of this country does not read the Report of the Royal Commission on Food Supplies in Time of War, but he can readily understand that if at any time war should be declared against us by any foreign Power, and that the ships bringing supplies of food to the country were to be captured or sunk then there would be such a panic in this country that prices might go up to double or quad- 1932 ruple what they now are. The British working man can also understand that if the ships bringing the raw material of his industry to this country were captured or sunk in war the mill or factory on which he depends for a livelihood might have to be closed down and he would lose his employment at the very time when wages were most necessary owing to the high prices of food. It is against the risk of any such thing as that that the British workman wants to be secured. In order to be secured we have to depend on ourselves. No Declaration of London, no Hague Convention, and nothing of that sort can help us unless we are strong enough to help ourselves. The one thing that we require is a sufficient number of what we may call commerce protectors. I do not want to go into figures and say whether these are second-class cruisers or third-class cruisers, but everyone will acknowledge that we do require a number of ships of sufficient speed and sufficient strength to tackle the armoured merchantmen of our enemy, which we are told will be let loose on our commerce on the high seas, and on behalf of the British working man I therefore protest against the increasing inefficiency of the defences of our country.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I agree with what has been said by previous speakers about the great evils of the military expenditure which weighs not only on this country, but on many other countries of Europe. I think no one has expressed those evils in stronger terms than the Foreign Secretary who in a speech a little while ago referred to those evils as likely to submerge civilisation. I am sure that my hon. Friends on this side of the House, regarding those evils feel that this year's Estimates are the final straw in the accumulation of expenditure which has been going on for many years, but when hon. Members, speaking from the other side of the House, attack the Government and throw the whole responsibility upon them, then I think in justice to them we must at least realise that the root of this expenditure is not so much anything which they have done; it really ought to be traced back, I believe, to a legacy of the South African War which has permanently raised the level of our naval and military expenditure. If you take the expenditure of the last twenty years it is true there has been an increase, I think, of £38,500,000, but £.32,000,000 of that had been incurred by the year 1905–6, and as 1933 far as I can see only £6,500,000 is really due to any increase while this Government has been in power. We have had some figures this afternoon given in answer to a question which show that this expenditure, heavy as it is this year, is really not the high water mark of military and naval expenditure; that I believe was reached in the year 1904–5. Our present expenditure, heavy as it is this year, is not so high as the expenditure which was reached that year, if you take into account not merely the Naval Votes and Votes for the Army, but the expenditure on loans at one and the same time. There was last year a Return which had been moved for by Mr. Gibson Bowles, which gave the gross departmental expenditure of the Army and Navy inclusive of capital expenditure, and making allowance for the sums spent on the Army and Navy by other Departments, with corrections of that kind. But comparing like with like in the year 1904–5, that Return gave a gross departmental expenditure of £78,900,000, and in the year 1909–10 of only £74,500,000. Therefore I think it only fair to the Government that we should not exaggerate their responsibility for this expenditure which has been thrust upon them during recent years.
I quite realise and sympathise most deeply with all that has been said about the burden of this expenditure upon our country, and yet if one is asked to vote for this Motion I have to ask myself what really is the appeal that is made to us by the peace societies and the peace advocates in this House. So far as I understand it, they put aside the question of whether this expenditure is really required by the facts of the international situation. They brush all that range of considerations on one side, and they ask us to make a protest, a somewhat impatient and ineffectual protest, against the entanglement into which the international situation has brought us. They either ask us to do that or they ask us to form a sort of counterpoise against the rampant naval experts and fire-breathing admirals, who sometimes have a gift and a turn for electioneering, so that, in Mr. Gladstone's words, "the Services should not drive us to destruction if we throw the reins on their backs." Those considerations may be well taken into account, but it certainly seems to me, so far as I can form a judgment on this matter, that the dominant factor which we have to consider is whether this increase in the naval expenditure is really rendered necessary by the facts 1934 of the international situation. The expenditure is one which we should all wish to avoid. It is one which curtails our plans for social reform, and forces us to abandon our hopes of diminishing taxation. All that I under stand. But in my view the fault does not lie with the Government. The Government is not infected by a microbe of financial extravagance or recklessness. If it had been so we should have seen it plunge into borrowing, whereas we see at the present time that one of the satisfactory features of the situation is that the Government has wound up the bad practice of borrowing for miltary and naval works, and has during all its years succeeded, in spite of all competition that has been forced upon it, in reducing the gross aggregate liabilities of the nation by at least £34,000,000. I do not think it is possible to ascribe this increase, as some critics of the Government do, both inside and outside the House, to some strange frenzy of profligate extravagance which they think has affected it. The more you look at the question, the more you see that the real cause of the extra expenditure, which everyone deplores, is the international competition in armaments, which forces the hands of the Government of this country and of that country, and drives them along, unable, as it would seem, to extricate themselves from the entanglement into which things have got. With reference to that, there are two attacks which are made upon the Government. There is, first, the attack which we have heard to-night from the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford). He has often repeated that attack in this House. His complaint is that the reason for all this expenditure is due to the vacillation of the Government. First they laid down two ships in 1908, and then eight in 1909. Even taking his standpoint and going back to the Cawdor programme, I have never been able to understand the force of that argument. Under the Cawdor programme it was proposed to lay down four ships in five years—that is to say, to produce twenty battleships. We have not laid them down, as a matter of fact, in regular and uniform numbers each year. Admitting that it was three one year, two the next, and eight the next, and now five, it really comes out just the same—namely, that we have got twenty-one ships, which is one more than was recommended by the Cawdor programme. That being the case, I have never yet been 1935 able to see that the senior Member for Portsmouth has been able to bring out any proof whatever that the action on the part of the Government really induced our naval competitors to increase their shipbuilding as against us. For my part, I do not understand what the hon. Member for Falkirk means by saying that the Government have never made any offer of a reduction of armaments. That offer was surely made by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman —it was deliberately made, in fact. But if there are. some of us who think that the case for these Estimates, heavy as they are, deplorable as the expenditure may be, has been made out, there is at least some consolation in knowing that before we began to build at our maximum level we bad made an offer of reduction which was not reciprocated, the Germans saying that their Fleet did not depend upon our Fleet, and that whether we built 100 ships, or twenty, or none, their numbers would remain exactly the same.
We have heard the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty to-night in reference to a question which, I think, has assumed far too great proportions in the country—namely, the miscalculation of the Admiralty in the year 1909. Outside this House it is assumed that the Admiralty led the House and country to believe that the Germans were going to build four more ships than they actually did build. It has been inferred over and over again that because of that alleged miscalculation the Government ought, as they say, to make restitution and reduce the number. So far as I have read the Debates in 1909, I think the First Lord of the Admiralty was perfectly right to-night when he said that the facts which he stated in 1909 were right, but that the inference drawn, for which there was some justification, may have been wrong. If it was wrong, it was corrected a fortnight afterwards. It was not a question as to whether four German ships were in existence or not, but whether they were going to be completed by August, 1911, or April, 1912. That was merely a matter of six months. That being the case, I think it was unfortunate that a suspicion of German acceleration was entertained, because it poisoned the relations of the two countries, the suspicion being unfounded, as it turned out, that the Germans were trying to steal a march upon us, as it were. But, if it was merely a question of postponement for six months, we have got to have the equivalent of those four ships at some 1936 time or another. According to the statement which has been made to-night, it seems to me difficult for anyone to hold that the margin of safety is exceeded, or that it is too much to ask this country to retain the command of the seas by having thirty ships as against the Germans twenty-one. I can understand those who say that it is unnecessary that we should retain command of the seas; but if you do maintain, as we do, that it is vital for us to retain that command, then it does not seem to me, however much one may deplore that necessity, that the amount required is excessive.
I can only console myself further with the statement that has been made that this is now the high-water mark of expenditure, and that in future there will be a reduction in these armaments. There are two practical proposals which may be made. The first is, that we must all hope that when in 1912. under the Navy Law, German building drops to one battleship and to one armour cruiser, there will be no increase of that programme. I cannot see anything provocative in our present shipbuilding to lead any foreign competitors to increase their programme against us. But no doubt there will be a popular agitation—and there is already a popular agitation in Germany going on—to increase their Navy Law, and in that case it merely throws back upon us the regrettable and deplorable necessity of meeting any increase which they may make by a further increase here. There is one other point on which, I think, some practical proposal could be made. It is far too wide a question to argue now, the question of the immunity of private property at sea from capture. But if any one will look at the Admiralty Memorandum which was issued at the end of 1910, the statement will be there seen that the strength of our Fleet is determined by what is necessary to protect our commerce. Similarly, in the case of the German Naval Law, the whole pretence on which the increase of German building is based is the supposed necessity of protecting German commerce and ensuring the immunity of private property from capture at sea. I myself believe that we should gain far more than we should lose if we entered into an international agreement that would do more to restrict this deplorable growth of rival armaments than anything else we could do.
Beween the Motion and the Amendment there is, I think, a real difference of principle. It has been said that the Amendment is merely a way out for escaping from 1937 the Motion. It is surely something more than that. I do not myself believe that the peace societies can really advance their cause by asking for the isolated action of any one nation or another in cutting down armaments irrespective of the action of other Powers. In spite of what has been said to-night, I myself hold firmly to peace principles. I wish to see the growth of the practice of arbitration. I look forward to many international agreements for the development of international law by such instruments as the Declaration of London, and the immunity of private property from capture at sea. I realise fully what was said by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) as to the growing labour movement throughout Europe as a new force tending towards international unity. I do not abandon any of the hopes I entertain that war and the evils of militarism will be increasingly discountenanced and minimised; but I believe that the problem is essentially international in character, and can only be solved by international concert and agreement. I do not think it possible for action to be taken by one individual nation in isolation. I believe that the real hope of making progress rests on the clear distinction between what is open to a nation in its individual action, and what is open to the nations acting in concert one with another. I agree with the criticism of the peace societies on the maxim that if you wish for peace you must prepare for war. There is truth in that, but I think what they say is equally true that if you wish for peace you must organise peace. In my opinion you must do both, because where yon cannot get concert and agreement—and hitherto we have not been able to get them, through no fault of our own—then in my view it becomes the imperative duty of statesmen to safeguard the position of the country for which they stand. In my view there is practically no escape from international competition, in which the necessity lies first upon one nation and then upon another, of piling up these accumulated armaments. The only possible road to escape is by international concert and agreement. I do not think we need despair of that, and I believe it is alone on those lines that we have to move. The Government have already taken some steps along that path. I trust they will go further. I believe that it is only by a policy of concert and agreement among the nations, by realising how many ties there are, historical, social, eco- 1938 nomic, and commercial, which are bringing the peoples of Europe into closer and closer union, that any real progress can be made.
§ Mr. JOHN
Although I represent a constituency in Wales I have been all my life in close association with the Radicalism of Yorkshire, and I am not in the least surprised at the very emphatic expression of opinion from Yorkshire as to the Estimates now before the House. I am sure that spirit of protest, emphatic protest, will be shared equally by my countrymen in Wales. I hasten to state here how emphatically I endorse the tenor of the remarks made by the Junior Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), and as to how admirably he expressed the sentiment of my countrymen at this particular juncture. I desire to urge first the reflex action of these swollen Estimates on the prospects and interests of the nation. I am compelled to confess that our equipment on Tees side in the matter of technical education is insignificant, and practically negligible. If one asks for more expenditure one is instantly referred to the enormous education rate. The remedy for that state of things is the readjustment between local and Imperial taxation. Some few weeks ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out how utterly impossible it was for him to deal with this very urgent question from the point of view of Parliamentary time. With these Estimates confronting him, I think he has neither time nor money for dealing with this crying and growing evil. Thus the first result of the enormous expenditure on armaments is that education is neglected and that we are thus prevented achieving industrial efficiency. These Estimates were also referred to as an obstacle to social reform. This Empire has only been able to expend on its veterans of industry a paltry five shillings per week, when they reach the age of seventy, and there is no material expansion of that possible while these Estimates are of such a huge character. If the Opposition were present I would be able to appeal to them for sympathy with regard to the third question. I have by means of questions endeavoured to impress on the Government the entirely inadequate sum of money which is devoted to the purpose of agriculture in this country. In that respect we are not emulating a two-Power standard or a single-Power standard. The enormous sum spent by America on agriculture totals £3,500,000, by Germany 1939 £2,710,000, by Denmark £283,000, and by Great Britain only a paltry £183,000. Thus Germany spends fifteen times as much as Great Britain does on agriculture. There again by reason of these swollen Estimates, the development of agriculture is obstructed, and we are thus damnified in the three directions—industrial efficiency, social progress, and agricultural expansion. Both the urban and the rural population are prejudiced.
One knows that the Foreign Minister for Germany has invited the co-operation of our Foreign Office in the way of dealing with outstanding questions, and we must regard with much pleasure the answer given from the Front Bench. I would ask the Members of the Ministry really what outstanding question there is between Germany and ourselves which justifies this enormous expenditure? Prince Bismarck said on one occasion in connection with a European dispute, that there was no issue in it which justified him in endangering the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. I want to know what question is outstanding between Germany and ourselves which would justify the shedding of one drop of British blood? I dare say that the feeling that obtains both amongst Ministers and the Opposition is that this predominance of naval force against Germany is required in the commercial interest. I claim some title to speak for commerce, because I have been actively engaged in it all my life, and my experience is that commerce does not follow the flag, but follows the price list. All these burdens hamper the expansion of trade. Those of us engaged in commerce find no difficulty in adjusting our differences with our Continental colleagues. They are keen competitors of ours yet in spite of that English and German producers do not find any difficulty in coming to friendly and amicable arrangements. To us commercial men it is a standing riddle why diplomatists and statesmen are not able to adjust their differences on some infinitely less costly lines than these Estimates. Germany has set us a better example in this respect. I understand that the outcome of the policy adopted at Potsdam is that there will be no prospect of a military conflict between Russia and Germany. The result is that Germany is immensely relieved as regards military pressure on the land side, and, therefore, may be able to devote a greater part of her expenditure to her navy. Is there no similar line of policy 1940 possible to use whereby we can lessen the pressure of our naval position. On both sides reference has been very properly made to the question of arbitration. I may say with regard to the Resolution and Amendment one would be equally happy with either, though I believe there is more vigour in the Resolution. On both sides of the House I am sure we would welcome the greater and more widespread adoption of arbitration. I have noticed that there has been no reference to the proposal of President Taft that as between Great Britain and America a treaty of absolute and unconditional arbitration should be brought about. I am certain that that policy will appeal to all Members of the House, and I would urge that it is a policy quite in accord with the line taken by the Conservative party under the guidance of Lord Salisbury. Admiral Mahan recently writing says:—With Lord Salisbury it was a dominating principle that no controversy with the (United States should be permitted to approach a rupture.The attitude of the Opposition in regard to the treaty provisionally concluded between Canada and the United States has not been entirely consistent with that principle. Not content with regarding Germany as a hostile Power, their comments upon that treaty have seemed to indicate that they regard the United States also as a potential enemy. It seems to me that the policy of statesmanship would be, if we must regard Germany as an enemy, to cultivate friendly relations with the kindred community of the United States. I would urge upon the Government that the policy of absolute arbitration should be prosecuted with greater vigour. Is it not possible to arrange treaties of this nature with other countries than the United States? Is it not possible with France? The entente with France has undoubtedly been completely and enthusiastically endorsed by the people of this-country, and I hope the Government will find no great difficulty in coming to an arrangement showing that they are prepared to submit all questions of vital interest between France and ourselves to absolute and unfettered arbitration.
This beneficent policy is proving infectious, for I notice that M. Dumont, who was then General Reporter of the Budget Commission, who is now a Member of the Ministry, proposed that between Italy and France a treaty of the same nature as is suggested between Great Britain and the United States should be negotiated. It seems to me that 1941 Italy is a country with which it would be eminently fitting that Great Britain should act on similar lines. Relations of the most cordial friendship exist between the two countries, and the recent graceful reference on the part of the Prime Minister was received with warm appreciation by the people of Italy. Is it not possible for Great Britain to arrange with Italy a treaty by which no conflict could possibly arise between them? By that means the naval situation in the Mediterranean could be materially eased. The position at present is that Italy is building against Austria, or Austria against Italy, and we are asked to build against both. This same policy of absolute arbitration might, in my judgment, be fittingly followed with the smaller countries of Europe. I cannot conceive circumstances under which it would be thought proper that we should come to blows with such countries as Norway and Sweden, Spain and Portugal, Denmark, Holland, and Belgium. If this policy were followed it might happen that the one or two remaining Powers would be in such a position of complete moral isolation that they would be constrained to come in also. I am sure that this is a much more hopeful line than the insensate piling up of expenditure on armaments.
I regard the immense increase of Naval Estimates at this moment as peculiarly inopportune. I note with much interest the progress made by the movement for the establishment of international law at sea. I notice also the defence of the Declaration of London by Ministers within the last few days. That defence, though admirable, is somewhat belated. It would have been to the advantage of the country if what has recently been said had been said earlier. That the hostile expressions of opinion from Chambers of Commerce do not represent the sum total of commercial opinion is demonstrated by the following quotation from Mr. Thomas Hoyden, chairman of the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association:—In my view the right to capture the peaceful commerce of a belligerent carried in neutral ships should he conceded to no nation, and I believe that the establishment of any such light would, in especial, be prejudicial to the safety of Great Britain.A preceding speaker asked us to come to the real cause of this enormous expenditure for armaments. That I desire to do. It seems to me that the troubles of the Government in this respect are really the result of their own policy. At the Hague Conference I understand that Great 1942 Britain refused to support the principle of the immunity of private property at sea. Personally, I consider that the action of Germany was a practically inevitable consequence of the action of Great Britain in insisting upon retaining the power to destroy private property at sea. Germany has a fairly considerable Colonial Empire, and, in addition, a large commercial marine. Our commercial marine amounts to 17,500,00 tons, while that of Germany is 4,313,000 tons; so that the relation of the mercantile marine of Great Britain to that of Germany is as four to one. This is an argument of which I make a present to the Opposition. They stand for a two to one standard, but on these figures the effective protection of commerce practically requires a four to one standard. One may push that argument further, and suggest that on the same lines, since the tonnage owned by Great Britain is nearly equal to that of the rest of the world, our Navy ought to be equal to all the other navies of the world. That is something of a reductio ad absurdum. The whole point is that Great Britain has a maximum interest in the principle of the immunity of private property at sea.
There is no nation more dependent on the conveyance of commerce, and no nation which has a smaller proportion of its food grown at home. The operations of our shipping are peculiarly wide-spread. In the remotest corners of the earth British shipping is found in great predominance. While we claim to enjoy unquestioned supremacy at sea, we also claim by our opposition to this principle the right to use that supremacy in the most ruthless and devastating fashion. When we approach Germany with proposals for a reduction of armaments, our attitude is very much one of going to them with an olive branch in one hand and a sword in the other.
The policy which the Liberal party should press upon the Government is that of a larger recourse to the principle of absolute arbitration, and that action I would desire to see associated with a larger adoption of Free Trade principles. In this connection the argument of the Opposition very clearly demonstrates that the effect of the abandonment of Protection and the approach to Free Trade will at any rate ameliorate the position between nations. Hon. Members opposite are so conscious of this that they believe that the reduction of duties between America and Canada will be so powerful an influence in that direction as to seduce our Canadian friends 1943 from their loyalty to Great Britain. We on this side have no fear of that, but we are fully satisfied that the principles of Protection represent hostility between the nations, and that the principles of Free Trade are entirely unifying. We would desire that the negotiations with Germany, and the removal of outstanding questions should be pushed with vigour, and that there may shortly be a happy consummation. We also would urge that the Government should proceed with vigour with the policy of establishing the reign of international law at sea, particularly the principle of the immunity of private property. From that we think they should proceed to a policy of the reduction of armaments, which the naval proposals are in contradistinction to. My fear as regards the management of the Admiralty is that the right hon. Gentleman the head of the Admiralty has allowed his policy to be dictated too much by the experts. In trade we know perfectly well that anyone who allows the experts to dictate his policy is on the way to bankruptcy. We challenge not only the policy of the Admiralty, but we also challenge its detailed administration. In that respect I would call the attention of the House to certain remarks made by Mr. Arnold Hills, Chairman of the Thames Ironworks Shipbuilding Company. He claims that in the relations between the Admiralty and the representatives of the steel trade, in the matter particularly of the supply of steelplates and guns, that the Admiralty gets infinitely the worst of it. His statement is that during the last ten years more than £1,000,000 annually have been paid in excess of the value of the materials supplied. From the knowledge I have of the steel trade, I think it very possible that the representatives of the Admiralty may have got the worst of it. Mr. Hills further criticises the designs of the "Dreadnoughts." He says that he has drafted a statement of a proposal for a "Dreadnought" which would be ten per cent. greater than the present "Dreadnought," twenty per cent. greater in displacement, twenty per cent. less in cost, and at least ten per cent. greater in battle efficiency. If that statement be correct about thirty per cent. of the money already expended upon "Dreadnoughts" has been more or less expended waste—
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Mr. Emmott)
The hon. Gentleman is now deal- 1944 ing with matters which would be much better dealt with on the Naval Estimates. He is going rather too much into details for a general discussion such as this.
§ Mr. JOHN
Thank you, Mr. Emmott, I was only anxious to demonstrate that we are dissatisfied with the administration of the Admiralty, both on policy and upon general details. However, the gravest side of the entire position is to my mind the absolute impotence and inefficiency of the House of Commons. In that respect I must say that I have listened with a great deal of interest and with some sympathy to the pleas of junior Members of the Opposition for the creation of an elected Second Chamber. For my part, provided it is wholly elected, I would be prepared very largely to entrust to the control of such a Chamber, Foreign, Colonial, and Indian Affairs, and the supervision of the Army and the Navy. Meantime I endorse entirely the position of the junior Member for Merthyr Tydvil, that a Standing Committee upon the Army and Navy Estimates should be established. I would further urge that we should also establish a Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs. I rejoice in the strenuous attitude taken by the Members of the Labour party in opposition to this policy of immense expenditure upon armaments. I hope they will be vigorously supported by Gentlemen in this House associated with the Nonconformist Churches. I must say that I consider a very special duty rests upon those of us who represent the Principality. We are profoundly attached to the principles of peace. Nothing since I have been in this House has moved me more than the very appropriate reference of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil to Mr. Henry Richard, his predecessor in the representation of his constituency. I hope the movers of this Resolution will not content themselves with an academic Debate, but that they will offer an opposition, strenuous, protracted, and resolute to the proposals of the Government which I regard as sinister, arrogant, and highly provocative.
§ Mr. BYLES
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the Tory party seems to have run away. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Oh, you are there, I beg your pardon. The Government, except in the presence of my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, also seems to have run away. I do not know that I am a very good one at flogging a dead horse, but, of course, I am heart and soul, through and through 1945 with the Amendment, because I am totally opposed to, and an absolute unbeliever in, any policy of mutual defiance—of swollen and swelling armaments. It is a wrong policy, this policy of "Dreadnoughts," and it is scarcely distinguishable from a policy of British brag, purse-proud British brag. You cannot make it respectable by pretending, as has been pretended by some speakers in this Debate, that these "Dreadnought" monsters are really, though christened by an archbishop and his wife, messengers of peace. If you send down these people to the launch it will not conceal from the public that it is a pretence; it will only diminish the respect in which we hold the Church. But a very little longer, a little further progress in expenditure, and we shall be able to see that the five Christian nations of the world are spending upon armaments a million a day. I cannot get over that. Nothing will induce me any more after we have arrived at a state of things like that to support any increased expenditure. It is high time we stopped, and, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend (Mr. Ponsonby), the way in which the world has got smaller by increased rapidity of locomotion and by the increased degree in which nations are getting intertwined and interlaced with one another as to their mutual interests, makes war, if it came, a ruinous thing, and indeed almost an impossible thing. We are going to order a lot more of these monsters, while it is in a very high degree improbable that they will ever be used. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord Charles Beresford) does not desire that they ever should be. His great hope is that in a few years all these millions worth of property will be scrapped. I do not want to spend money upon that for which there is to be no other outlet. The Noble Lord in the very interesting speech which he delivered, and all the speeches interest me very much, does not see any other outlet. We have heard from many speakers on this side quite another method for overcoming our quarrels and disputes. I say, if we do quarrel with our enemies, we ought to negotiate with them, argue with them, and arbitrate with them.
Our late Attorney-General was allowed to be absent from his duty here in England for many months last year for the purpose of trying to settle at The Hague a century-old dispute with the next greatest power to ourselves in the world; and he did settle it to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. Is not that an example better worthy of following than 1946 proposals of physical violence such as those put forward by the Noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty. I say—and I do not want it to be thought that I am speaking with levity—buy some quill-pens and sheets of parchment, pay some international lawyers and judges, and let the temple of peace which Mr. Andrew Carnegie's munificence is building be a clearing house for all your quarrels. I am a humble disciple of some great men who sat upon the Government Bench, of Mr. Bright and Mr. Gladstone, and of Sir William Harcourt. They taught me lessons of economy in the great spending Departments of the State; to husband our resources in times of peace, and by so husbanding to really defend ourselves. I even learned some lessons from statesmen belonging to the party opposite when they sat on the Government Bench. Sir Robert Peel has left his words for us to read, Mr. Disraeli left us his words to read, and so did Lord Randolph Churchill, who sacrificed a brilliant career rather than acquiesce in the increases in the Naval Estimates exactly similar to those now proposed; so did many other men of the party whom I support, but who are not now amongst us in this House. Reference was made a while ago to Mr. Henry Richard, whose speeches I well remember. You may read in "The Manchester Guardian" of to-day, and I hope everyone will read it, a letter full of reason from my friend Mr. Joshua Rowntree, who often in this House pleaded for retrenchment and economy, and I cannot forget we, have lost another great leader of the Liberal party in the person of Mr. Spence Watson. I thought we had some successors of these men still with us, and in the Cabinet. If so I cannot account for the unprecedented demand made upon us today. The Colonial Secretary is the son of one of those of whom I have spoken. The Home Secretary is the son of another of the great economic teachers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke in this House last year about this very policy, which we condemn as an insane policy.
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary spoke two years ago, almost to a day, in language which I, at any rate, can never forget, when he said this policy if we pursue it much longer would submerge civilisation and would lead us straight to national bankruptcy. He seems to have forgotten that, or at any rate, he is taking a step further in the direction of national bankruptcy by the 1947 policy recommended to us now. Individually, Members of the Government seem to be all right; on the platform they are splendid; collectively, when they get welded into a Cabinet, they seem to lose their Liberalism so far as public expenditure and naval policy are concerned. I will not castigate them with the stinging words of their own speeches. I will spare them that lash. But here they come to ask their loyal party to vote these vast sums and the party votes with them. Why? Because they want the Parliament Bill. It is the same sort of morality as was shown by the party opposite when they obstructed the whole night through the Revenue Bill, because they do not want the Parliament Bill. Of course, the great sinners are the heads of the two great spending Departments. When I first knew, many years ago, the Secretary of State for War, he was concerned with social reform questions—the condition of the people, the relations of rich and poor, and so forth. He was also a great lawyer concerned in arguing disputes before tribunals of justice. What is he doing now? He is playing at soldiers; he is like a boy in a nursery who takes them out of a box and moves them about the floor sometimes in single file, sometimes in double file, sometimes at slow march, sometimes in quick march, and then he puts them into the box again, and the next morning he takes them out again and puts them through the same manœuvres. That is what is going on day after day and year after year. All these men—180,000 of them, differ from the child's soldiers because they are alive, and because they cost money for their upkeep. They are all well fed, warmly clad, and comfortably housed, and it is all paid for by industrious workers, many of whom are scantily fed, meagrely clad, and poorly housed. I go past the right hon. Gentleman's office consisting of an enormous pile of buildings, with hundreds of rooms and hundreds of clerks receiving hundreds of pounds a year, all paid for by hundreds of thousands of poor men. What does the nation really get for maintaining this large Army?
§ Mr. BYLES
I suppose they are employed to make war, and I do not think the game is worth the candle. You say we keep them to defend us from our enemies, but why should we have any enemies? 1948 [Laughter.] I do not see why that remark is received with laughter. I have no enemies in the terrace in which I live. There are as many nations in Europe as there are neighbours in my terrace, and why are they not friends? If the Foreign Secretary conducts our diplomatic foreign international relations as I think he should do, if Britain among the nations behaves itself, there is no reason in the world why we should have any enemies; and other nations ought to be our friends, just as individuals are.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BYLES
Only to keep the police men out. I hope the Foreign Secretary will tell us what his policy is and endeavour to justify this vast expenditure. I have only spoken about the Army, but I might speak in similar terms about the Navy. The duty of the First Lord of the Admiralty is to look after the Navy, and I do not deny that he is doing his best to make it efficient. He is trying to meet the views of his opponents on this side who want less expenditure, as well as the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite who are asking for more. The right hon. Gentleman comes down here with his policy determined on the advice of the Board of Admiralty. We hear something about the Local Government Board, the Board of Education, and the Board of Trade, and we all know that they are not real Boards at all. The Board of Admiralty, however, is a real Board, and I can picture my right hon. Friend at the head of a table, surrounded by very distinguished admirals and men with wide knowledge of the sea and the world and the ships and guns, and they overbear him as a statesman. To them, of course, there is nothing like leather, and they persuade him to come down here to defend their policy. He has not only these gentlemen around him at the Board of Admiralty, but he has also a highly trained and an enormously high-salaried staff in that rabbit warren called the Admiralty at Whitehall. He has around him officers of all grades, engineers, advisers, both medical and legal, and I think spiritual advisers, and experts of every genus. These people are all employed and paid for by the State. These are the people who, through the mouth of the Minister, come down to us, the representatives of the people, and say, "It is your money we want." I daresay the First Lord of the Admiralty is doing his duty, but he is only 1949 one man in the Cabinet. I want to hear from some other voice in the Government an explanation and some reason why it is necessary for us to spend all this money. I do not want any merely technical reasons as between the right hon. Gentleman and the Noble Lord opposite (Lord C. Beresford), but I want some definition of the Cabinet's policy in this country, which is involving us every year in an expenditure of nearly £80,000,000 for Imperial defence.
It is about eighteen years since I came into this House, and since that time we have doubled the amount we are spending on these Services. This policy has never been explained. Last year the explanation of the increased Navy Estimates was left entirely to the First Lord. It is true that the year before we did have some explanations and some rather alarming speeches, because on that occasion the Government, in the first place, was afraid of Germany, and, in the second place, it was very much afraid of its own party. Consequently, we had the Prime Minister down here himself making an alarmist speech, and then we had the Foreign Secretary administering words of warning to his followers. I wish the right hon. Baronet would come oftener and propound more freely and frankly to the House of Commons more of his policy and give us more justification and more reasons for this great expenditure. I have already quoted the right hon. Baronet's words to the effect that this policy of increasing expenditure upon armaments was leading to national bankruptcy, and I have charged him with going on with that policy a step further and coming here to defend it. I ask the House gravely to consider what this expenditure is for. Are we going to invade anyone, or is anyone going to invade us? If so, let us know who it is. It cannot be the United States, because that is unthinkable and geographically they are too far from us. It cannot be France that we are afraid of because, I suppose, we have an entente with France, how close or comprehensive has never been explained. Of course, it is Germany, as we have been told over and over again in this Debate. There is a section of the population in this country obsessed with the fear of Germany, and they see German spies just as a drunkard sees stars which do not exist. [An HON. MEMBER: "Snakes."] When they are having their chin shaved by a German barber they think he is a German spy, and when they sit at the table with a German governess they think she is writing home 1950 to her friends acting as a spy against this country. Surely it is not worthy of the Government to entertain such ridiculous suspicions as those. The fact is, we are as closely intertwined and intermarried, both in our domestic relations and in a thousand ties of commerce, with Germany as we can be to any nation. Even our Court speaks with a German accent. I do not believe there is anyone in this House or in the country who really wants to injure or to destroy that great neighbour nation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] So far as you say "Hear, hear" that removes the justification for all this expenditure which is ostensibly directed against Germany on the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman this very afternoon. We settle other disputes, we settled the "Alabama" dispute, without a gun or without a charge of shot and why could we not settle all our disputes in the same way? President Taft at this moment is proposing a treaty of arbitration as between us and the United States which should cover all points likely to arise between us. There should be, and there might be, real affection between us and Germany. I do believe, since the death of the King, a new spirit of concord has arisen between the two people. I am sure we can all remember the pathetic scene in the great Hall near by, when the King and the Kaiser clasped hands over the bier of our late King, and nobody believes that was insincere. Those two great monarchs clasped hands of friendship and of affection, and that might and ought to be the symbol and emblem of the whole of the two nations. Since then even editors, who have a great deal to be forgiven with regard to war, have begun to dip their pens no longer in gall but in the milk of human kindness. Yes, although you carried the late King to the grave on a gun carriage, his memory will always be cherished in the hearts of the people as Edward the Peacemaker. And so I contend it is not the monarchs, and it is not certainly the common people of the two great countries who foment this distrust; it is the statesmen, the diplomatists, and the politicians, and they alone will be responsible if quarrels arise and war breaks out.
I will ask to be forgiven for having detained the House so long on two grounds. First, that I rarely trouble the House at all, and, secondly, that I feel profoundly the questions about which I have been speaking. I am a stalwart, earnest, and strenuous supporter of the present Govern- 1951 ment as to their House of Lords policy, as to their social reform policy, and as to their fiscal policy, but as to their naval and military policy, I must withdraw my confidence from them and deliberately proclaim my opposition. If a straw, the last of a big load, is enough to break the camel's back, is it any wonder that this fresh addition should suffice to break mine? Four millions increase and five new "Dreadnoughts" on the top of that! They are too much of a strain on my loyalty, and they have broken it. With the views I have held and advanced all my life, it is impossible that I should support these Estimates. I know that would not matter if I stood alone, but I counsel the Government to look around and listen to other voices. Let them put their ear to the ground, and they will hear cries and regrets and protests echoing and re-echoing in every direction, warning them that they are treading the path of danger. Their Naval Minister, I am afraid, is a source of weakness to them. This policy which they uphold is destroying their prestige and weakening the allegiance of their supporters in every constituency. I go into the Lobby against them to-night with great regret; it is the only way to make them listen. I am not saying this in order to make my opponents laugh. I am saying this most seriously and solemnly. There may not be many of us, I know, but there are many others who will agree with what we think, but who decide not to vote in that Lobby. They say, and say with great reason, "We are concerned with one issue in this Parliament." Therefore, I say, do not count the Lobby only, reckon a good many of those who are not voting with us. The Prime Minister must not be misled about this matter. It will be no real kindness for any of us to abstain or to go away without warning him. This policy, as sure as I am standing here, will recoil like a boomerang, and will inflict mortal injury on those responsible for it. It is the duty of a friend, a sincere friend, to tell them the truth.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
No one, I think, will doubt the sincerity of the two hon. Members who Proposed and Seconded this Resolution, or of the Proposer and Seconder of the Amendment; but what hon. Members are likely to question is the manner m which they have raised this matter, and also the conceptions on which they have based their speeches. They are, I think, somewhat erroneous. What 1952 is the gravamen of their charge? They complain more particularly in regard to the money, but I contend—and I think with justice—that the gauge of this subject is whether or not the military and naval forces of the Crown are fitted for the work they may be called upon to do in the event of war. I must say I do not appreciate the controversial spirit in which the matter has been approached by many speakers on that side of the House, and it would have been far better if they had avoided that as far as possible. I have always contended that there are many points certainly on our naval policy—and with the military problem I do not purpose to deal—upon which they is general agreement upon every side of the house. First, we are all agreed as to the necessity for the maintenance of a powerful Fleet. Secondly, we recognise our dependence in regard to food supply upon our command of the sea. Thirdly, to use an old and hackneyed phrase which has done duty in the past, and which will do duty in the future, "Battleships are cheaper than wars." Fourthly, and lastly, a Navy that is too strong is evidence either of panic in the past or of faulty administration, and a Navy that is too weak is evidence of national insanity. While I am upon that point I would like to refer to what is or what is not a sufficient Navy. A Navy that cannot carry out that which is necessary for the protection of this country is in almost the same category as a man who orders a bridge eighty yards long to span a river 100 yards wide. The first essence surely of a Navy is not to ensure that we do not go to war; a wise nation builds a Navy for the insurance of certain victory in the event of war. It is to that point I propose to direct my attention. There are two main features of naval strength. One is the material and the other the personnel. I hope the House will not consider I am an unrepentant sinner of the material school if I deal with the known and not the unknown fact of naval strength. I recognise fully the value of personnel, but it is essential for us to consider the personnel of all navies to be upon the same par of efficiency. I would like to quote George Washington when he said that the firmness requisite for all the real business of fighting is only to be attained by a constant course of discipline and service. I recognise that it is the men that fight and not the ships, and for that reason I turn more readily to the ships. What we have to consider is whether our Fleet is adequate or not.
1953 I take it that the hon. Members who Proposed and Seconded this Resolution, if it can be proved that the Fleet, present and past expenditure, as well as the proposed expenditure of the future, is really no more than is essential for the mere maintenance of our supremacy as a nation, will not be prepared to press the point embodied in their Resolution. They will recognise that a Navy, and an all-powerful Navy, is essential. The point is, whom are we likely to have as foes? The First Lord of the Admiralty, in language which could not have been better chosen, referred to Germany. It is a painful thing to have to bring into a discussion like this a nation which is on friendly terms with our own, but the pivot of international outlook shows that the possible danger zone has been shifted from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. I do not mean to say that the Germans are going to be our foes, but there is a probability that those Fleets which are growing up with a greater strength are those which will probably be the greatest menace to us in the event of war with a particular nation. Germany has the second strongest Fleet to-day. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford), mentioned the Triple Alliance, and several hon. Members opposite have referred to it in that connection as a three-Power standard. If Germany is to go to war, and I do not lay that down as certain, it is not likely she would go to war with a nation such as ours entirely single-handed. We must take into consideration the alliances that exist. I am not prepared to except Austria and Italy. They are now building "Dreadnoughts" on the same scale as ourselves. There is a certain racial animosity between those two nations, and were it not for that racial animosity we should not see the haste they are displaying in building these "Dreadnoughts." But we come back to the curious paradox that though they are building one against the other it is essential to consider these two probably hostile nations as arrayed with another Power in hostility against ourselves.
I come next to the case of the United States of America. With regard to them I have always found that probably the large majority of the Members of this House hold that it is a very improper thing to consider for one moment that the United States is capable of being an enemy of this country. We have so many ties in common. The language is the same. But the point I take it is that it is 1954 for this reason there is not the slightest harm in throwing over the two-Power standard on condition that we have another substituted of an equal or even greater strength. I have always been a strong advocate of the two keel to one standard, and I should like to say a few words on that point. That standard is not meant for experts. It is meant for the world at large—for those who count in tons and guns, and are able thus to more clearly set out our defensive strength and to decide for themselves whether or not we are as strong as they consider it is essential we should be. The two keel to one standard does not mean that two of our "Dreadnoughts" are necessary to fight one German "Dreadnought." It means that if we have heavier responsibilities outside European waters than at present, that we must be able to meet those responsibilities despite any possible hostilities in European waters. That is my conception of the two keels to one standard. Arbitration has already been mentioned. I maintain that the finest arbitration in the world and the one upon which we can best depend is battleships. Battleships are cheaper than war. What is our naval strength to-day? I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs, who moved this Resolution in which he gave us three or more reasons, mostly based upon comparisons as to why we are too strong to-day. If I can convince him that his conclusions are wrong, then I feel certain he will be prepared to go back upon what he has said. I believe to a certain extent there is a fallacy in his comparisons and in his arguments, and not sufficient analysis has been applied to them. The hon. Member talked about displacements. I must admit that displacements at the present moment are scarcely a gauge for our strength. We are building vessels to replace ships of 15,000 tons. The Germans are building vessels of 22,000 tons to replace the "Hageas" and "Hildebrands" of 4,100 tons. Cannot the House see the absurdity of taking tonnage as a reference for comparative strength to-day or in the future. The hon. Member's brave speech reminded me, not a little, of the title of a book which came out in America the other day—"The Valour of Ignorance." I think I can make out a good case for the hon. Member. We have positively twelve "Dreadnoughts" to five German "Dreadnoughts," and since the greater includes the less, that represents not only the two-Power 1955 standard, but also the two keel to one standard. Then I will take the pre-"Dreadnought" battleships. We have forty to the German twenty, and beyond that our vessels, ship for ship, are better than the Germans possess. Here, again, we have the two keel to one standard. Then take the case of armoured cruisers. We have thirty-four armoured cruisers of superior type against Germany's nine. I hope the hon. Member will see what a good case I am making out for him. I turn to the protected cruisers. I am rather frightened of stating the exact number of these because the First Lord of the Admiralty scraps a ship now and then, and I do not know whether he has scrapped any since I obtained my information. I believe we have got ninety protected cruisers approximately.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I believe we have approximately ninety protected cruisers built and building to Germany's forty-one, so that it seems that here again we have a preponderance that is positively crushing. Then of torpedo-boat-destroyers, we have built and building 239 to Germany's 122. The right hon. Gentleman may be going to scrap some I have included in these figures, and I believe he scrapped the "Hardy," last Thursday. If he has scrapped any of the others perhaps he will tell me. Then we come to the submarines. We have, as the right hon. Gentleman told us, sixty-two built or building to eight of Germany's. Obviously, I have made out a very good case for hon. Members opposite, and they will wonder how I am going to get out of it, but I set out to give these comparisons because, as I have said, a comparison is only valid after it has been subjected to careful analysis. But I will say at once in regard to submarines we lead the world, not only in numbers, but in type, and that is accepted generally. I turn to destroyers. And how do we really stand in regard to those. We have 239 destroyers built and building. In the first place in regard to those there are thirty-three of what is called the twenty-seven knot type. These are going to the scrap heap very quickly and one was scrapped last week. They are only able to do twenty-two or twenty-three knots an hour, and are not of any use in the North Sea. Then there are the ships of the thirty-knot type, which, however, are not comparable to the German 1956 vessels of the latest class. Germany has built, on the other hand, a matter of 110 and she has at the present moment, I believe I am right in saying, ninety-eight built capable of work in the North Sea, while we have ninety-nine. I do not want to exaggerate in the very slightest iota; I want to be absolutely moderate, and I do not insist upon saying that all these old destroyers of ours are incapable of service there; but we have to recollect that, whereas we started building destroyers in 1893, Germany did not start to build properly called destroyers till 1899 or 1900. The start was made by us, and having regard to the machinery of the quick-driving type, and the great power concentrated in the vessels, the vessels cannot be counted of effective service after ten or twelve years.
I come now to protected cruisers again, and if hon. Members will permit me, I will mention a technical point. There are three services for which these are required. The first is for work with the Fleet, the second is for the protection of trade routes, and the third is on foreign stations. I do not propose to deal with the latter; we have plenty of cruisers which will do for that service, and we have not only plenty of cruisers which will do for that, but they are au older type of vessel. For the protection of trade routes-however, and work with the Fleet, speed is an essential. The work of the cruiser or scout is to go ahead of the battle fleet, find out where the battle fleet of the enemy may be, and come back with its detailed information, a summary of which will have been sent on by wireless in advance so that it is at the disposal of the Admiral, who will thereby know what is required of him. Battleships steam from twenty-one to twenty-two knots, and a cruiser which steams less than twenty-three knots will not be of any value. How do we stand in regard to ships which will go twenty-three knots, or twenty-five miles an hour? We have built, building or projected thirty-seven in the British Navy to twenty-three for Germany. There are two points to note about this. The first and most important is that seven of these are being built, or are to be built, for the Dominions, three for Australia—two are being built called the "Melbourne" and the "Sidney," and the third is to be constructed locally—and four have to be built for Canada. I do not think, therefore, that anyone will pretend that with thirty to twenty-three the majority with 1957 us is too large in view of the tremendous responsibilities of the Nation so widely extended over the universe as they are. I am endeavouring to put this moderately. I want to raise no scare or panic, but the situation is not one to call for reduction of the moderate—the far too moderate and insufficient estimates for the coming year. Coming back to the armoured cruisers, thirty-four to nine is an astounding superiority. They are far better ships, and are larger in displacement and have a better armament than those on the other side. I wonder whether there is one of the hon. Members who have led the attack upon their own party who would like to attack the First Lord of the Admiralty for this preponderance of thirty-four to nine, the credit for which is due to hon. Gentlemen on this side.
I come now to the "Dreadnoughts." Here, again, there should have been nine German "Dreadnoughts" built, and it is certainly not due to any prevision on the part of the First Lord of the Admiralty that Germany did not have nine to-day. They have only five to-day, and it was due to the shipbuilding strike, over which Germany had no control, that there was any delay. It is, however, certainly known to the House that these "Dreadnoughts" have already their guns on board and are ready for trial now, so that Germany in effect has got nine. But I should like to say that the strength of the Fleet to-day cannot be accepted as any criterion of what it will be three or four years hence when current programmes are coming into commission. I am not going to contend that there is any reason for panic, and I believe it can be proven very easily that we have an absolute sufficiency of every essential to a Fleet, but that does not affect the issue three years hence. I am taking a far-off view of the naval situation, and I should like to see what the figures are. There is no need to go into the smaller fry, as they will practically follow in the ratio of the "Dreadnoughts" with which alone I will deal. In 1913, in regard to "Dreadnoughts," on 31st March, the end of the British financial year, we shall then have twenty-seven and the Germans seventeen, and in 1914 we shall have thirty-two and the Germans twenty-one. But two of ours, the "Australia" and the "New Zealand," are booked to go out into the Far East. I have always understood—it was quite a revelation to me to hear the First Lord say something different—that a third armoured 1958 cruiser of a similar type was to be attached to these two and sent also to far Eastern waters.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I will let that point for the moment drop. If that were so, it would reduce our total to twenty-nine. and at twenty-nine I have got it. At all events, I can take account of the Triple Alliance. We have a right to take into consideration the Triple Alliance since we know Germany would never think of going to war with us by herself, and we do not desire, on the other hand, to consider going to war with America, which would be the case if we relied on the two-Power standard. What are Italy and Austria doing? They may have two "Dreadnoughts" each in 1913. I like to allow plenty of time for the delays which have been evidenced in the past with Austrian and Italian warships, but on the other hand, we cannot base the safety of this country upon probabilities, we have to look at facts. It is certainly very possible that in 1914 both Austria and Italy will have four each. I prefer to take that view. I go well ahead of what average people think. That will give the Triple Alliance twenty-nine to our thirty as a maximum. I cannot go into the ethics of the case, but do hon. Members really think we shall have a majority that is too great in March 1914? On the other hand—the Estimates in the past and the Estimates proposed in the future are demonstrably insufficient. We have heard very much in the past about a critical year. We must have come down to a very extraordinary pass when we hear the Prime Minister of a country such as ours dependent as it is entirely upon the sea for its foremost position among the nations of the world, talking of the possibility of a critical year, and yet the Prime Minister and the right hon. Baronet (Sir E. Grey) have mentioned a critical year. We have a right to look at what is likely to be the critical year. It would be invidious for me to venture into the domain of foreign policy, but the critical year to which I look with some apprehension is 1915. There are several reasons. The first is the possible complication—I do not say probable—that might arise from the completion of the Panama Canal, and the second is that the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, unless renewed in that year, comes to an end, and, for the mere maintenance of our position in those waters, and not for the sake of hostility 1959 to a nation which has been an ally of ours, but for the balance of power only, we must have again in those waters an armoured fleet consonant with the strength of that of any other nation which happens to be in that position. The third reason is that Germany will in that year have reached the maximum of her strength. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, will recognise that by that I mean that she will have reached the end of the period when she has had four ships laid down per annum. She will then be getting into the time when she is only having two per annum, unless she alters next year. We can be assured that the four ships of this year, plus the two of next year, will be commissioned in 1915. Again, allowing for full delay—I wish to emphasise my moderation; I am quite sure it is unexpected moderation from these benches—we then can be perfectly certain that Austria and Italy will have eight ships between them in the Mediterranean, and, unless we are prepared to desert those seas, we shall be called upon to maintain, either in the Mediterranean itself or based upon Gibraltar, a squadron of vessels equally effective and equally strong with those which have been put there by Austria and Italy.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I have not brought in France in the slightest in view of the fact that at the present moment it would be invidious to refer to a country which the entente cordiale leaves out of calculation. But it is a well-known fact that, with regard to "Dreadnoughts," she will have six completed by 31st March next year and she will not have any other ships placed in commission until the two which are to be commissioned in August, 1913. France is very easily summed up. One of the most important features is that in 1915 there will be possessed by the minor nations of the world a greater number of first-class fighting units than have ever been known before in the history of navies purchasable, if necessary, immediately before a great international war. Hon. Members will recollect that immediately prior to the Russo-Japanese war—I remember it well, because I was at Port Arthur at its outbreak—two ships building for the Argentine were purchased by Japan, and to prevent purchase by the enemy of our ally of two similar ships, the "Triumph" and the "Swiftsure," we ourselves purchased them. These purchases are forced upon nations. I will put 1960 this to hon. Gentlemen, who will say, "Yes, but why can't we buy them." If we are placed in such a position that we have to buy ships from abroad, we are paying a sum which goes entirely into the coffers of foreign nations, whereas if we had built them for ourselves that money would at least have been spent within these shores. I want to know whether really the provision has been carefully looked into. I should like to give one little extract from "The Times" of 10th March, which seems to me to be very pertinent upon the present situation:—The First Lord will be expected to assure Parliament and the country that these estimates, moderate as they are in the circumstances, albeit gigantic and unprecedented in themselves, represent the free and unfettered judgment of the Board and especially the professional members of it. and that the provision made for the current year is sufficient to maintain our supremacy at sea in that absolutely unassailable and unchallengable condition to which Mr. Asqnith and his Government stand committed.I do not doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will give that assurance with all the strength at his command. What I doubt is whether it will be received with conviction by everyone in the country.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I hope the hon. Member will forgive me if I pass from his interesting and informing speech to the Motion which was put before the House with so much ability and moderation by the hon. Members (Mr. Murray Macdonald and Mr. Ponsonby). I think the speeches of my hon. Friends must have carried, in a great part at least, conviction with them to the great majority of the Members of the House, to whatever party they belong. Every one must agree with the Mover of the Resolution that we need armaments upon such a scale as will provide for the safety of the Empire at home and abroad. And everyone also must agree with the words which they used to deplore the present height to which our expenditure upon armaments has attained. Indeed, I hope they will forgive me for saying I think they might have put their case on that head even higher than they did put it, because it is not really a matter of the amount of the expenditure which is being incurred by the country. If that were the ground upon which they based their arguments, this very cogent reply might be made to them: that although the expenditure has indeed reached a high and deplorable point, the expenditure is not more than we can afford if it is necessary. I think it is much more alarming to remember that these Estimates, which will soon be before the House for discussion, in effect condemn over 300,000 able-bodied men to the service of 1961 economic waste. That is a very great and important point. I think it is a much more cogent point than the mere question of expenditure, because if we have regard to expenditure, what do we find? My hon. Friend passed lightly over the question of Army expenditure, upon which I think a great deal more might be said than has been said to-day. The Debate to-day has largely turned upon naval expenditure, but at any rate, if we take the figures which were quoted to the House by my hon. Friends, I suggest to them that they hardly did justice to the subject, because in dealing with the question of increase they compared our present expenditure with that of the year 1907–8, a year in which we had reduced our expenditure very considerably. One of my reasons for supporting the Government at this juncture is that, I think, they did their duty. I think they did honestly endeavour to reduce our expenditure upon armaments, and when we compare the year 1907–8 either with the year in which the Government took office or with the preceding we see what a very great saving was effected. If we compare 1907–8 with the year in which the present Government became responsible for the Estimates, what do we find? We find that there was a considerable saving. The increase this year upon 1904–5 was £3,500,000. The increase in the year 1905–6 is nearly £8,000,000, so that the increase for which my right hon. Friend was responsible is not nearly so great as was represented to the House by my hon. Friends.
But there is another point to consider. Just as it is true that the expenditure in the Estimates now before the House is greater than it was last year, so also it is true that in the forthcoming financial year, so far as we can at present see, for purely automatic reasons the expenditure will again fall. It is rather instructive to see how our probable expenditure in the next financial year will compare with that of the year in which the present Government took office. What do we find? In 1905–6 the naval expenditure was about £35,500,000, and that in the forthcoming year, 1912–13, it will probably be about £41,000,000. That is to say, while we have about £5,500,000 increase on the year the Government took office, compared with the preceding year, 1904–5, it will not amount to more than £1,250,000. I do not think my hon. Friends can justly term that a very great increase when we consider the growth of the wealth of the country in the same period. What is that growth? Let us take Income Tax 1962 assessments. In the same period the amount on which Income Tax is assessed will have increased by nearly £200,000,000, so that if they base their case on the question whether we can afford this expenditure I think the case must go against them. I might also remind the House that while the expenditure is wasteful in an economic sense, it is not more wasteful than other forms of expenditure with which we are connected. If that is the case, the question whether it is imposing an intolerable strain may be considered in this way. I think it is pertinent to point out that our expenditure on naval construction, high and deplorable as it undoubtedly is, is not really greater than the expenditure in the United Kingdom on the construction and maintenance of motor cars in the United Kingdom. That will I hope bring home to my hon. Friends the fact that if the expenditure is large, it is certainly not greater than we can afford. Really, the whole point is this: Is the expenditure necessary? That is the only fair test we can apply. One of my hon. Friends in the course of this Debate mentioned the interesting fact that Lord Randolph Churchill resigned upon Naval Estimates which did not exceed £13,000,000. Let us compare with that figure upon which Lord Randolph Churchill resigned the naval expenditure of one other Power. We are compelled to mention that other Power, because it is the second in the matter of naval expenditure. Germany spends £21,000,000 a year as compared with the £13,000,000 which Lord Randolph thought so high that he gave up his position in the Government rather than tolerate it. But that does not express the whole truth, because the £21,000,000 spent by Germany is equivalent to an expenditure of about £ 30,000,000 by this country, because we have to pay our men a higher rate and to victual them at a higher rate; we have charges on our naval expenditure which are not on theirs; we have pensions which are not on theirs; and we have works upon our Estimates which are not upon theirs.
I can use no more cogent illustration to show how different is the situation which has not to be faced in 1911. If we take the years since 1904–5 our increase on new construction up to last year's Estimates was only £1,500,000, whereas in the case of Germany it was over £7,000,000. I need not go into further details, for that is sufficient to show how different is the situation which the Government have to meet now as compared with the situation we had to meet when I entered the House 1963 as a new Member in 1906. I remember at that time I made a speech containing passages very similar to those contained in the speeches of my hon. Friends. [Cheers.] I hope those who cheer that remark will believe me when I say that it is no pleasure to a man who wants to devote every penny of this money, if possible, to social reforms to be compelled to say that the force of events in the interval has made him support these Estimates. I do not think that it can be justly said that I have changed my opinion. In the speech to which I have referred I mentioned £27,000,000 as the sum which I at that time thought sufficient for the purposes of the British Navy. Within three years of my making that speech, the Estimates have been reduced to £31,000,000, or only £4,000,000 more than the sum I named. That will help my hon. Friends to realise the extraordinary change made in the interim, not a change in my opinion, but a change in the facts upon which alone opinion can be justly based. I do not think my hon. Friend paid enough justice to the Government in regard to their efforts to secure a reduction of armaments. My hon. Friend the Member for the Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Murray Macdonald) repeated to-day what he said in the House last year—that no credit was due to my hon. Friends for the reductions which they made in the Cawdor programme.
I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk Burghs will be inclined to put his word against that of the late Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. May I remind the House of what he wrote on 2nd March, 1907, in an article which attracted, as it could not fail to attract, European attention. He said: "We have already given earnest of our sincerity by the considerable reduction that has been effected in our naval and military expenditure, as well as by the undertakings that we are willing to go further if we find a similar disposition." In the previous July the then representative of the Admiralty in this House said that our construction was being limited in view of The Hague Conference. In view of those two utterances I do not think it is competent for my hon. Friends to argue that the Government did not do all that lay in their power to secure a reduction of naval expenditure, and that to words they added what is far more important—deeds. In the year following the year of which I speak our construction of 1964 capital ships, as they are sometimes termed, was reduced to two, as against a construction of four by Germany. I hardly know how much further the Government could have gone to show the sincerity of the utterance which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman put before the civilised world in 1907. We have also the very clear utterance of the present Prime Minister with regard to what had occurred in negotiating with Germany on this particular subject. I may remind the House that on the same day last year as the hon. Member for Falkirk Burghs charged the Government with having done nothing to secure a reduction of armaments the Prime Minister said:—We have tried to get them to hold their hand. They will not. They are not in a mood for it. They will not do it.And in the previous year the Prime Minister said:—The question has been raised (by the British Government) more than once with a view to ascertaining whether any mutual reduction of expenditure for naval purposes would be accepted by the German Government, but we have been assured more than once and in the most formal manner that their naval expenditure is governed solely by reference to their own needs and that their programme does not depend upon ours.Taking all those utterances together, we have the very clearest proof that the Government held by the undertakings which they gave to the party, and which they gave to the country at large, not only to reduce expenditure, but to endeavour to reduce it still further.
One of my hon. Friends referred to the speeches recently made in the German Parliament by Admiral von Tirpitz and Dr. Schroeder. It will be remembered that both these gentlemen in their speeches expressed astonishment that we should imagine that the German programme should be accelerated. But what actually took place was that while the British Government were reducing their expenditure and offering to reduce it still further the German Government were increasing their expenditure and proposing to increase it still further. We have it on record, again in deeds and not in words, in the amended naval law which was passed in Germany in 1906, and in the second amending law of 1908, laws which added to the German programme of capital ships no less than ten units, and which, as my right hon. Friend pointed out this afternoon, actually doubled naval expenditure. In view of those facts, I really cannot understand why Admiral von 1965 Tirpitz should express astonishment that we should suspect a still further acceleration. With regard to the present position of my right hon. Friend that we propose a margin of safety in regard to this particular class of vessel of thirty to twenty-one, I think it is incumbent upon my hon. Friends if they fall foul of that margin to say what they consider would be a proper margin of safety. For my part I cannot see, having regard to the strategical position and needs of these two countries, how the First Lord of the Admiralty could propose to the House a smaller construction than that which has been submitted. I may point out to my hon. Friends that one of the men in this country who have striven most for economy in regard to naval expenditure, Lord Eversley, whose word will certainly have weight with my hon. Friends, has expressed the opinion that in the present year he considers we ought to provide for four more of these great vessels.
That is only one less than the provision proposed by my right hon Friends, and I ask my hon. Friends who have moved this Motion to say whether they agree with my right hon. Friend that thirty is enough, or whether they agree with Lord Eversley that twenty-nine is enough. If the difference is only in the matter of one ship it was scarcely worth while for them to enter upon this particular Debate. It is as true to-day as it was when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman wrote the article to which I have already referred, that the fleets of the United Kingdom carry with them no menace to other nations. He said:—The sea power of this country implies no challenge to any single state or any group of states.Surely that utterance is true now as it was when published in the "Nation." Our position is that the British nation is one dependent upon the command of the sea, dependent not only for a great part of its food supply, but also—and this is equally important—for the supply of the greater part of its raw materials. I do not think we must believe that because our nation has developed and increased under the protection of the Navy the economic position to which we have attained is a commonplace thing. It is not a commonplace thing. If any hon. Member doubts that let him remember that before the German nation attained to internal peace and security, although it was one of the greatest coal nations of the world, and though it was gifted with one 1966 of the most intelligent people in the world, it made practically no progress for a period of about 250 years. It was not lack of the gifts of our people that kept Germany back; at was simply the fact that upon German soil there were fought out war after war and battle after battle. What we now call the German Empire was a cock pit of war during all that period. It was not until Germany secured its frontier and practically made an island of itself by means of its army that it was able to secure that economic development which was its simple due. That offers a very great lesson to the people of this country. There is sometimes a temptation to forget upon what our security is based. I do not support the Estimates of the current year because I desire that the amount of money should be spent, and I should be very loath to support them indeed if I believed that because we provide for that proper security we have got to bring our efforts to a close with regard to social reforms. I do not believe that. I have confidence that the wealth of this country is sufficient not only to provide proper security for our people but also to provide those social reforms without which both armies and navies are futile.
I understand that the Government desired to give a night to the important discussion of Home Defence on a Resolution which would enable the House to deal with a complex and difficult question, both from the naval and military side, and that in order to carry out that intention they have compelled us to discuss the most important questions of finance at most inconvenient hours of the morning, and they have still further upset the programme of business, which I think, in any case, they will find it difficult to carry through. I wonder, now that the Debate is drawing to a close, whether either they think, or anybody else, that any enlightenment has been thrown upon the problem of defence by any single speech which so far has been made from the other side of the House. But this is the opportunity, the one opportunity, of surveying the question in its entirety, because when we get, as we shall, in not very many hours, to the Naval Estimates we shall be confined to Naval Estimates, and when we get to the Army Estimates we shall be confined to Army Estimates. Unless the Government give us another day to discuss the Committee of Defence or some other Vote of that character, this is absolutely the only occasion in the whole Session on which we really have an opportunity of 1967 dealing with the whole of this great national and Imperial problem. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are quarrelling among themselves, and I declare that I have not heard one single utterance from any one of them which was more than an effective tu quoque against another on the same side of the House.
The hon. Member who opened the Debate spent about half of his speech—unless I do him an injustice—in proving to the House the sufficiently obvious proposition that the Government which came in upon economy of the Army and Navy Estimates have not fulfilled the pledges on which they originally obtained support from their constituents. We all knew that. It is one of the commonplaces of the controversy. Then the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment went to the trouble of quoting the Prime Minister and quoting Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and other great authorities before the election of 1906.
The hon. Gentleman is quite within his right: it is my mistake; I said the Mover of the Amendment when I ought to have said the Mover of the Resolution. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution spent half his speech in quoting from the Prime Minister and from Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and from other great authorities to show that in the view of the then Opposition the then Government were guilty of great extravagance in regard to the Army and Navy Estimates. He went on to say that these Estimates were bloated before 1906, and that they had increased in size under the successors of the late Government; and that while the figures have increased in size they have apparently improved their figures, which are very much less bloated than they were seven or eight years ago. Why waste our time by explaining how much hon. and right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench have fallen below the professions with which they obtained office. It has an importance which may be admitted; it gives us some pleasure on the platform even now, and the future historian will observe it with interest. But in this Debate in which we are engaged, and which is on the present issue, the present necessities, what have the inconsistencies of the Radical Government got to do with the defences of the Empire. Of course, everybody knows they are inconsistent.
1968 When the hon. Member who seconded the Resolution throws out that if the Resolution which he is supporting had been proposed by his own party when in Opposition it would have received their unanimous vote; of course he was right. We all accept his political estimate; we all know what would have occurred in those circumstances. We should not have had the elaborate and interesting speech of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Chiozza Money); we should not have had the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King); we should not have had the spectacle of the Irish party sup porting the Government in 1911 on a vote precisely identical with that which they opposed in 1910. We should have been deprived of a very great many interesting Parliamentary episodes, interesting at all events to Members of Parliament. But all that, though it is amusing, though it is perfectly instructive, though it throws a light upon the party system, and a still stronger light upon the group system—all that, although it gives a clear idea of what is the unity of the coalition, although it illustrates all these interesting party controversies of the moment, what does it tell us about the great matter which is really in dispute, the best method and cheapest method by which this country can be made secure from all question of invasion, and by which the commerce and the independence of the Empire can be made absolutely secure from any kind of hostile attack? As far as I have noticed not one word has been said by any Member opposite, unless I am to count the amazing doc trine laid down by the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution, which—unless I misrepresent them, and I hope they will interrupt me if I do—they laid down explicitly, that we ought to reduce our defensive forces, no matter what is done by any other country—
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
I did say that we must always be influenced by what was being done by other countries, but that unless the Government could justify by a reasoned statement the Estimates they were submitting to the House, we were entitled to ask for a reduction, and that I myself would support such a reduction.
Of course, every Government makes a case for the expenditure which they ask for. That is a commonplace. Though I fully accept the version of his own speech given by the hon. 1969 Gentleman opposite, I think he was more cautious than the Seconder of the Resolution. I think the Seconder of the Resolution, and I notice he also is in his place, did lay down in explicit terms precisely what I have stated to the House—namely, that our reduction should go on irrespective of the shipbuilding programme of other countries.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I quite believe that I did not express myself in a way to be perfectly understood, but that was not the impression I intended to convey. I meant to say that I was asking the Government to make the case out for the further increase in this year's Estimates, and that unless they could make out a case with which I was satisfied that I was prepared to vote for a reduction of the Estimates.
I think when the hon. Member looks at the report of his speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT he will find that the intention with which he spoke was not very effectively carried out by the phraseology which, on the spur of the moment, he adopted. I entirely accept the version which he has now given of his views, and which coincides with the version given by the Mover of the Resolution of his views; and which amounts to this that the Government, who are threatened with extinction at the hands of those hon. Gentlemen who propose to vote against them; ought to justify their Estimates to the country. Of course they ought. Has any Government ever pretended otherwise, has anybody ever suggested that a Vote, however small, should be proposed to this House unless the Minister in charge of the Vote was prepared to account for it. If that was all the proposition laid down by the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution; if that is all that was intended by this Motion, heralded in the Press as if it were the beginning of some new era in our Parliamentary proceedings, if that is what the Mover and the Seconder meant, then surely the proposition with which I began my speech—that we have wasted a whole afternoon—is confirmed, and more than confirmed. Neither the Mover of the Resolution nor the Seconder attempted to suggest on what principles the Government should frame the Estimates of the year. They do not pick a hole now; they did not attempt to pick a hole in the view which is held by all rational men, namely, that what every country has to do must bear a relation to what other countries, its neighbours, its friends, its possible rivals, 1970 its possible enemies, are doing at the same time. Of course, the Government have got to do that. And it is because the Government are trying to do that that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway quarrel. I do not come here to support the Government Estimates. We are not now discussing them. The right hon. Gentleman who is responsible has, I think quite properly, declared that they are not the subject on which he proposed to speak this evening, and until I hear his full defence of the Estimates of the year, I hesitate to condemn them. I confess my own impression is not that the Government have over-rated the dangers which this country may run in the event of possible, though, I trust, extremely improbable, hostilities, but that they err on the other side. If the Estimates err they err not in having too many capital ships or too many cruisers, but in being deficient in both classes of ship. But I agree that that is not the subject which the House can most appropriately discuss on the present occasion; that is reserved for a date later in the week or next week. What I had hoped we might have heard from the First Lord of the Admiralty or from the Mover of the Resolution were some general principles—principles dealing with the defence of our coasts, with the defence of our trade, with the relation in which the military forces of the Crown should stand to the naval forces; in fact, all those great problems which the Committee of Defence has to deal with, on which the Government, as those who control the conclusions of the Committee of Defence, might on such an occasion as this have given us really useful information.
Two observations have been made in the course of the Debate on which I think I ought to comment. One fell from the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie), who told us that the whole growth of armaments as between Germany and this country was due to one cause and one cause only—namely, the jealousy which the British trader felt against the German trader. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman always appears in this anti-patriotic capacity. I do not know why, not content with those divisions of political opinion which are inevitable and appropriate in a free and self-governing State, he always comes down here, not merely as the advocate of a particular school of domestic doctrine, but as the advocate of everybody who opposes his own country. The statement is wholly without foundation.
The hon. Member for Merthyr and I have been long enough in the House for him to know that I never wish willingly to misinterpret anything he has said. I listened to his speech, and what I thought he said was this: that the cry in this country for more and more money to be spent on the Navy as against the German navy was due to no other cause than the jealousy which subsisted between the British trader and the German trader, the British trader feeling that he was gradually being ousted from the markets of the world by his German rival. That is what I thought he said. If he did not say so, perhaps he will correct me.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I said in effect what the right hon. Gentleman has just stated, but I pointed out that the reason for the German navy was the protection of her own trade, my point being that this rivalry was due to trade and commerce and profit-making, and not to any international rivalry on any other ground.
I do not think the statement I have just made is inconsistent with that. It is a slight expansion to what the hon. Gentleman has just said, and a slight digression from what he said two hours ago. The substance is the same. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] I heard his speech. If the hon. Member thinks I have misinterpreted him I am ready to give way to him. But I say that attack upon the feeling of the country in favour of a bigger navy is a gross libel upon this country. It is not in order that we may enable British traders to beat German traders that we want a big Navy. We want it in order to defend our Empire and our commerce. We want it for no other reason whatever. And that is the only possible reason that expenditure of this kind is and can be justified. The immense, but not too great sacrifices, that the Government are now calling upon the country to make are justified, and can be justified by great Imperial needs, great Imperial reasons. The 1972 Government believe that they can be supported by those only, and the suggestion certainly conveyed to my mind by the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil that small and petty commercial rivalries were at the bottom of this movement for great defensive armaments is wholly unjustified.
The other point which has emerged in this Debate was raised in the very interesting speech of my hon. Friend behind me (Lord Charles Beresford). He asked by what authority a brief memorandum by the First Sea Lord was first made public on the bookstalls, and subsequently made public as a Parliamentary Return? This is the only opportunity, so far as I am aware, on which we shall be allowed to debate that point. I am not quite sure whether it will be in order on the Naval Estimates?
Well, it will not be in order on the Naval Estimates, because this work contains not merely a communication of the First Sea Lord, but also a communication from an able and distinguished soldier who was at one time a member of the Army Board, and who now holds a very high command, and is, I think, a member of the Imperial Defence Committee. How came that book to be published? I think it is a departure in public life which is of a most dangerous kind. I say so with the more freedom because there is a great deal in what is contained in the Military and Naval part of the book with which, as a humble civilian, I very cordially agree. Therefore it is not because I propose to quarrel with the conclusions that I quarrel with the procedure by which these conclusions have been put before the public. Just consider—I say nothing about the conclusions—what you are doing! The Government have every year the difficult and responsible duty of preparing these Naval and Military Estimates. In the Cabinet every year there is no doubt, we may feel sure, that it is so in the present Government, as in every Government of which I have ever known—whether Liberal or Conservative—a sharp discussion as to whether the expenditure is necessary. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that it is a great delusion to suppose that any party or any Government like increasing their Estimates. Were they less patriotic men they would still hope for decrease; it is most inconvenient not merely to the Chancellor of the Exchequer but to the whole party and 1973 to the whole Government, and there is no Government in the world but rejoice to be able to cut down their Estimates, and groan in spirit when the Estimates have to be increased. There is naturally and inevitably a discussion upon Estimates, and the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War quote their advisers to the Cabinet, and they give the conclusions they have arrived at after consulting with their experts. And then they come forward, and on their responsibility, and not upon the responsibility of the experts, they recommend these Estimates to the country. But if you are once going to give the opinion of the experts to the country—the experts, mark you, being still in office, in this case one of them being First Sea Lord and the other being in high command and having been a member of the Army Board—if you once begin to do that you break down the whole system of Cabinet responsibility, and I do not see how you can avoid it. [An HON. MEMBER: "And of discipline."] I think so. I think you break down efficiency and discipline. The Government are not going to publish in these books opinions with which they do not agree. Surely, if they are going to do it at all—and I hope they will never do it again—they are only going to select the opinions with which they happen to agree. We do not know, as my Noble Friend pointed out, the questions that were put to the First Sea Lord, we do not know the instructions that were given to Sir Ian Hamilton, we do not know how these opinions came into being. We have no opportunity of cross-examining those who gave them. We do not know whether there were opposite opinions, given by other members of the Naval Board. We do not know whether there might or might not have been some distinguished Admiral of the Board of Admiralty of a different view, and gave a private minute of a different tenor. You entirely break down your whole system if you, in order to buttress up the policy of the moment, drag into the field of political controversy the private minutes and communications of those who are your expert advisers. I think it is a most unhappy precedent. I say nothing against this book—I think it is worth everybody's while to read it, it is full of valuable and important suggestions and arguments, be they right or be they wrong. My complaint is not against the book, but against its publication. My complaint is not against the writers, but against those who have given the permission or the orders to the writers to have their 1974 opinions made public in this strange and abnormal form. I hope the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he replies, will give us the view of the Government upon the broad question of administrative policy. Believe me, it goes to the very root of the difference between the Parliamentary representatives of the Department and the Members of the Department and especially does it go to the very root of the relations that must subsist between the great Admirals and the great Generals on whom Governments have to rely for their opinions, but whose opinions have to be weighed by the Government responsible to this House, and whose opinions the Government have no right whatever to use in the manner in which they have used them in this book. That is a general question of administrative policy. May I ask the Government whether an obvious inference from the First Sea Lord's notes is one which they accept as obvious. The starting point of the argument I want to lay before the House can be best found in the paragraph last but three in the memorandum, and it is very strictly relevant to what ought to have been the subject of our Debate to night, though it has not been. The First Sea Lord says this:—Is it possible to entice part of our Fleet away by any strategy? It is possible, but even if he (the enemy) succeeded in drawing off half the Fleet, the other half in conjunction with destroyers and sub marines would be quite sufficient to sink the greater part of his transports even if supported by the strongest Fleet he could collect.That sentence and other sentences from this brief memorandum, which anyone can read for himself, clearly show—at least, I think they show—that in the view of the First Sea Lord our Fleet in Home waters ought to be in ordinary times twice as strong as the fleet of any Power that can be brought against us in the North Sea. I see no other meaning in those words. Is that the policy of the Government? Is that the policy to which they are ready to commit themselves? Compare the words I have quoted with the famous preamble of the German Navy Act. The Germans understand preambles as well as the English, and their preambles are quite as instructive. The hon. Gentleman who preceded me talks as if the Germans never contemplated a fight with the British. Let me remind him that he quoted Admiral Tirpitz and a gentleman who is an Independent Member of the Reichstag. The preamble says:—Germany must have a Fleet of such strength that even for the mightiest naval power a war would involve such risks as to jeopardise its supremacy.1975 I particularly draw attention to this. This is not a speech made in the Reichstag, but the preamble of the German Navy Act under which the ships are now being built. The preamble continues:For this purpose it is not absolutely necessary that the German Fleet should be as strong as that of the greatest sea Power, because generally spending the greatest sea Power will not be able to concentrate all its forces against us.In other words they contemplate also a large part of the British Fleet being, in the First Sea Lord's phrase, "enticed away." They contemplate that in such circumstances they mean to have a Fleet which would be able to compete on at least equal terms with our own. That is not the statement of irresponsible Germans, not anything said in the Reichstag, but it is the deliberately set and predetermined object for which the Navy Bill was passed, and which for all time they have embodied in the Preamble of the Bill. I want to know whether that being the avowed design of the German Parliament, whether I am right in supposing that the opinion of the First Sea Lord half the British Fleet ought to be equal to dealing with the whole of any other fleet likely to be met in the North Sea. That is what is commonly called the policy of two keels to one. If I understand the memorandam of the First Sea Lord, for which the Government have made themselves responsible, that is the policy which he presses upon us. Is that the policy they accept? The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, who is about to follow me, will, I hope, give us a clear explanation on that point, which is, after all, far more relevant to the real Motion before the House than any speech we have heard to-night from any quarter of the House. I am not greatly interested in the defence which the First Lord of the Admiralty has made of his own calculations two years ago. I think his defence was a very good one so far as it went, though he has never succeeded in justifying the strange interval—before he came to office I agree—in which shipbuilding almost ceased and in which it was reduced to a minimum; but, from the point of view of this Resolution, we do not want to know whether he is right in his old Estimates. We want to know whether he is right in his new Estimates, and, in order to know whether he is right in his new Estimates, I should be indeed grateful to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he would tell us on what broad principle those Estimates are framed.
1976 The Mover of the Motion tells us that we still adhere to the principle of the two-Power standard. I do not so read the Declaration. I am not going to criticise the Government for ever having silently abandoned the two-Power standard in its old integrity. I think the world may be in many respects changed, and it is possible some new standard may be better fitted for our new needs, but what is it? Is it the standard of the Government? Surely it must be plain to everybody who has listened to this and other Debates that when we have no standard this House wanders at sea—I mean no ill-timed jest—it wanders at large without any principle to guide it, incapable, from its very constitution, of discussing the details of Admiralty administration or the strategic and tactical considerations which must operate with every responsible Government and every responsible Board of Admiralty. That is the real ground on which it is so desirable to have by common consent some standard laid down up to which you should build. There is something necessarily arbitrary in all such standards. The Germans have the standard of their Bill. That is more or less arbitrary. We had the two-Power standard. There is an element, I quite grant, which may be described as arbitrary in that; but it had the advantage of being pefectly clear and perfectly simple, as it used to be interpreted It is no longer clear in the form in which the Government now state it; and I think they have abandoned it in the old form. Let them give us a new form. Let them tell us up to what standard they propose to build in relation to the building of foreign Powers. They all admit our building has some relation to the building of foreign Powers. You may say. if you like, you must judge from year to year, and vary your building from time to time according to your friendship with this Power or with that Power. That is building on the quicksands. It takes two and a half years, roughly, to build a battleship; it takes much less than two-and-a-half years for an old friendship to become faint and a new enmity to arise. I hope and believe all our friendly relations with Foreign Powers are on the most stable foundation, but when you are discussing defence you cannot rely upon that, and no nation does rely upon it. They rely upon themselves, and we must rely upon ourselves; and, in order that we may do so, and do so with effect, it is eminently desirable the Government should resolve upon some 1977 broad principle which will meet with common acceptance on both sides of the House with regard to the shipbuilding programme of the future. They have abandoned, as I understand the two-Power standard in its old form. Then I do ask—and this is my last request and my most important conclusion—the Foreign Secretary, who is in charge of this Debate, to tell us, as representing the Defence Committee or the Admiralty as it may be for the time being, to what standard the present Government desire to build, and whether we are right or wrong in interpreting this memorandum by the First Sea Lord as indicating his view at all events that we should always build on such a scale that even if half our fleet were seduced away we should still find ourselves in a superiority in home waters.
§ The SECRETARY Of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
First of all, I would express my own deep personal regret, which I am sure will be shared by the House at large, that on this particular occasion especially the Prime Minister is not able to be present to speak, following the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I am sure I am but expressing the feelings of the whole House when I say I trust the anxiety which has for the moment deprived us of his presence may soon pass away. Meanwhile, I will reply, first of all, to some of the points made by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite before I come to the actual Motion and Amendment before the House. The right hon. Gentleman complained, in his opening remarks, that much of our time in this Debate had been wasted by charges of inconsistency, tu quoque, and so forth, which was not a profitable way of spending time which might have been used on this Motion in a much better way. But he himself spent a little time in that way. I cannot say, from the way in which the right hon. Gentleman referred to it, that though undoubtedly it may not have been profitable, yet he got considerable satisfaction from it. He is much too old a Parliamentary hand not to know that if he twits the Government with inconsistency it is an almost irresistible temptation to indulge in tu quoques. I do not admit the inconsistencies alleged on our part with regard to pledges of reduction. I shall maintain that no pledges have been given which can fairly be taken as pledges irrespective of what might happen in other countries. I shall be prepared to show, with regard to some of these, that we have given a sub- 1978 stantial fulfilment of our pledges. Did the right hon. Gentleman have no inconsistencies, no lack of fulfilment of pledges in his ten years of office? Perhaps not about the Army and Navy, but what about some of those things promised in Home Reforms?
§ Sir EDWARD GREY
The right hon. Gentleman now suggests, I think, that if from one bench a charge of inconsistency is made it is absolutely certain to produce a tu quoque from the other. To go back long in political history, such charges of inconsistency would be endless, especially I am afraid, as far as naval and military expenditure is concerned. I do not think a charge lies against the present Government in that respect, and if any charge does lie against the present Government I should refer it to inconsistencies of another kind. The right hon. Gentleman also made a point against us with regard to Irish support. But that, again, seems to me a point which ought not to be considered. I do not intend to labour the point; he has had Irish support.
§ Sir E. GREY
I have not yet spent many words upon it. The right hon. Gentleman did, and I only notice that point in order to show how unprofitable it is. I do not quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his statement of what the purpose of this Debate is. He stated that it was to be an opportunity of discussing the problem of defence of the country—Army and Navy combined. I do not deny that it is an opportunity of doing that, but I do not imagine that when a special day was asked for by the hon. Members who put this Motion down that was the particular purpose which they contemplated as a complete fulfilment of the opportunity. I have regarded this, and I shall frame my speech accordingly, as a Motion brought forward by those who are seriously impressed with great and growing importance of Army and Navy expenditure, and it is from that point of view that I shall treat the Debate. I shall not pass by the problem of expenditure, and I propose to discuss it in a comprehensive manner, which I think would not be possible on either the Army or the Navy Estimates, therefore I am going to pass over very lightly subjects which I think can be discussed on Army and Navy Estimates. I think the book which the right hon. Gentleman has quoted can be discussed on 1979 the Army and Navy Estimates. The publication of the book is in accordance with the King's Regulations, and I think that an entirely justifiable use of it has been made, in the discretion of the Government, within those Regulations. When the right hon. Gentleman comes to the Army and Navy Estimates he will receive a full justification of the use of that discretion. Then the right hon. Gentleman quoted from a memorandum by the First Lord, which was included in the book. He raised a highly technical point upon that memorandum. [AN HON. MEMBER: "NO."] Yes, he quoted a sentence which seemed to me to raise a technical point, which I certainly am not prepared to discuss without reading the sentence in its context, and which can perfectly well be discussed on the Navy Estimates. I will reply to the question which the right hon. Gentleman really did press, and which I thought he cared about much more than any particular point which he was raising as to the book. He said to us, "What is your standard?" On that point I do not think there was misunderstanding with regard to our standard. The Prime Minister, if I remember right in a previous year, stated that we maintained the two-Power standard with regard to European Powers. He gave some reasons why you should not extend that beyond European Powers to the extent of bringing the United States into the computation—bringing them in ship for ship, because the remoteness made a difference in counting the ships. I myself, I remember, on that side of the House argued most strongly once on grounds which seemed to me unanswerable at the time, and seem to be unanswerable still, that in dealing with the two-Power standard you must not take the United States into account in the same way that you would take European countries. Let us accept the two-Power standard as applied to European Powers. But some of us have used a phrase which is, I think, even better than the two-Power standard with reference to European Powers, a phrase which my right hon. Friend (Mr. McKenna) used to-night—a Fleet sufficient to hold the sea against any reasonably probable combination. At any rate, I hope I have answered that point sufficiently explicitly for the purpose of the Debate to-night.
I will proceed to the actual Motion before the House. We cannot accept the Motion. It demands a condemnation of expenditure, while making no recognition of the fact that our expenditure must be 1980 dependent on the expenditure of other Powers. If we did not resist it we should be bound, the Motion once accepted, to reduce our expenditure without reference to what other Powers are doing. The right hon. Gentleman opposite quoted sentences from speeches which he had heard pointing in the same direction. I thought I heard one or two remarks I which pointed in that direction, but I do not press that, because the terms of the Motion are such that it precludes us or any Government, and, I think, precludes the House from accepting a Motion of that kind, which would undoubtedly place the Government and the House in a false position. That is my one great capital charge against this Motion. When I come to speak of the general expenditure, not of this country alone, but in the world at large, I will speak in language strong enough to convince the hon. Member who moved the Motion, and anyone else, that I think at least as strongly as they do about the general evil of increasing military and naval expenditure. But before I speak strongly on that point I should be misleading the hon. Member and the House if because I speak and feel strongly on that point I gave any impression that the Navy Estimates now before the House were more than the Government think is necessary to meet the requirements of the case for this year. The First Lord has had a very difficult task. He has had to stand against panic and scare, notably in the election before last, greatly fomented by the calculations made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour), which, when the calculations proved to be mistaken, disappeared. Just as he stood against scare and panic previously, so my right hon. I Friend and the Estimates of the Government stand for national safely to-day. I will not state the case further than he himself has stated it. He dealt with attacks which have been made upon him for a speech he made in 1909, in which it was stated he had miscalculated, in a manner which was frank and clear, and must have convinced everyone at the time when he spoke he was thoroughly justified in the statement which he made, and that since it became apaprent to him that of the two inferences which it was possible to draw one inference would not be correct, he at once accepted the correct inference, and left the other.
But what does any statement in 1909 matter with regard to the Estimates now? The Estimates have now to be judged by 1981 what our position will be two years hence. The First Lord has stated roughly to-night what that position will be—thirty to twenty-one. When we come to examine the Navy Estimates it is by that test, the test of whether they are sufficient or are likely to be in excess of what is sufficient two years hence, that they should be judged. The estimates are the Estimates of the Cabinet. We believe we have not provided for two years hence anything in excess of what is sufficient, and it rests with those who attack, when they come to the Estimates, to show in what way it can be proved that the margin which these Estimates will provide two years hence is in excess of what the safety of the country requires. My hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby) rather implied in his speech that the Estimates produced by a Liberal Government, must be in excess of what was sufficient, because he said that the time when the Admiralty had their happy hunting ground was the time when they knew they could get them from a Liberal Government. The Admiralty and the whole Navy, without discrimination of party, render with equal patriotism, loyalty and devotion, their best services to the nation whichever party is in power, and, so far as I am aware, ever since I have had anything to do with Governments, from 1892 to the present time, I believe the relations between the Board of Admiralty, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Government have been equally frank, cordial, and confidential, whichever party has been in power. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs, I think, goes a little too far when he says that a Liberal Government is regarded by the experts of the Admiralty as their opportunity for big Estimates. Is it really the case when a General Election is taking place that the experts at the Admiralty and the whole Navy are anxiously waiting for a Liberal majority to give them their chance? If the case was as my hon. Friend has stated, the joy of the Navy and its intense desire to see a Liberal Government in power would have by this time become notorious. Where did my hon. Friend get his information from in regard to the action of the Admiralty? I suppose it was from that unequalled experience of confidential prints of which he told us.
My hon. Friend made another criticism to which I wish to refer. He seemed to reproach me because I spoke too seldom 1982 on foreign affairs, and he invited me to say something to-night of our foreign relations and their bearing on naval expenditure. Let me say that the reproach is not one that should be brought against me. I do not think I have deprecated discussion in this House. I have said that if the House was to make excessive demands on the Foreign Secretary, it would be impossible for the holding of the office to be compatible with a seat in the House. But I have also said that the demands of the House have been exceedingly lenient and indulgent, and I do not remember any occasion that I have deprecated Debate. I would also point out that it is absolutely beside the mark for individual Members to address me with reproach because foreign affairs are not spoken of more often. Ministers do not dictate what Estimates will be brought in. I understand that there are regular channels shared on both sides of the House through which it is ascertained what Estimates are to be taken for the general convenience of the House. If the Foreign Office Vote is not brought forward more frequently it is not because I deprecate it. It is because other demands have been brought forward, and that other Votes are more generally pressed on the attention of the House.
All I have to say is this: If people wish discussions on foreign affairs it is their business to make it clear in the usual channels, to convince the usual channels that it is the general desire of the House, and when those wishes are made known I shall certainly be present. I would say this. Do not let it be supposed for a moment that because our Estimates are increased this year our foreign relations are strained. My right hon. Friend spoke of the Estimates this year as being at high-water mark. They are at high-water mark if the programmes of other Powers follow their normal and intended course. If that expectation be realised, which we have every reason to suppose will be realised, then undoubtedly we have reached high-water mark, and reductions will ensue consistently with the national safety. But that must depend again upon foreign naval programmes, which are at present known to us, following their normal and intended course. If that expectation be not realised we can give no absolute pledge with regard to reductions. If it be realised, then, as my right hon. Friend has said to-night, reductions in our Estimates will certainly become practicable.
1983 With regard to our foreign relations, I said they were not strained. In the case of France the words which the Prime Minister used are still fresh in the mind of the House. First, the two Governments made up their differences, and then on both sides followed the goodwill of the people, all the more complete because it was in the first instance begun on the other side of the House. As regards Russia, the same course was followed. Just as when France made up her difference with Germany about Morocco in recent years, no diminution of cordiality ensued between us and France, so when Russia had friendly conversations with Potsdam the other day no diminution has followed in the cordiality between ourselves and the Russian Government. We have no wish—I will put it more strongly—we have the strongest desire to see those who are our friends on good terms with other Powers, and we regard it without jealousy and with satisfaction. In Austro-Hungary the Foreign Minister made a very friendly reference to us the other day, saying that both Governments were disposed to return to the old relations of confidence. I entirely reciprocate. Then the Prime Minister spoke in the warmest terms the other day of Italy, and I cordially endorse what he said. I now come to Germany. The German Chancellor has spoken lately, in December, and I should like to read his words to the House. They are specially applicable to armaments and to this Debate. He said:—We also meet England in the desire to avoid rivalry in regard to armaments, but non-binding pourparlers which have from time to time taken place have been conducted on both sides in a friendly spirit. We have always advanced the opinion that a frank and sincere exchange of views, followed by an understanding with regard to economic and political interests of the two countries offers the nearest means to allay all mistrust on the subject of the relations of Powers to each other on sea or land. A continuance of frank and unconstrained exchange of views on all questions connected with these matters is in itself a guarantee of the friendly intentions entertained on both sides, and which gradually but surely lead to the dispersion of the distrust which has unfortunately manifested itself in many cases—not in the case of the Governments, but of public opinion.I call the attention of the hon. Member for Merthyr especially to these words, "Not in the case of the Governments," because when he touched on this subject he gave the impression that all was well between the two countries except with regard to the Governments. The German Chancellor's statement is "not in the case of the Governments." I entirely reciprocate that attitude. I think, considering all that has appeared in the Press, all that might 1984 have been surmised. People would be astonished if they knew how easy it has been at any time within the last few years, I do not say to reach agreement, but to discuss differences between the two Governments in a frank spirit. The hon. Member for Merthyr says that entails a change of policy. It entails no change of policy; it has been going on for the last three years at any rate. We have no desire to hold off. We have no desire that our relaions with any Power should be such as to make cordial relations with Germany impossible. We make but one stipulation that, when we make friendships we make friendships so that we carry with us the friendships we already have got.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
My statement about the change of policy referred exclusively to the building of the Baghdad Railway in Persia.
§ Sir E. GREY
I was not aware of any change of policy about that. It is a matter we have never had any difficulty in discussing with the German Government. True, we have not reached agreement. When I spoke the other night, I certainly was not aware of any change of policy; I thought I was making a statement of facts which had been patent and known for some time.
That is the situation. The Great Powers of Europe are spoken as being in separate groups. Yes; but gradually, in the last five years at any rate, things which might have brought these groups into opposition with each other, have been disappearing. So far as our policy is concerned, it is to be staunch and loyal to every engagement we have, and to do our utmost to promote goodwill on every side. The House may well say it is a paradox that if relations between the Powers should be such—because, remember, I am speaking not of our particular relations only, but of the relations of France with Germany, and Russia with Germany, and I said at the beginning of my speech that I was going to speak, not only of expenditure on armaments in this country, but in the world at large—the House may well say it is a paradox that, if the relations between the Great Powers of Europe are what they are, the armaments of Europe should be increasing as rapidly as they are. I have read out the friendly sentiments, the friendly expressions of opinion in some other countries. I have expressed some friendly opinions of my own. It might be thought that, as armaments increase, these opinions could not be sincere. 1985 I believe they are sincere, not only on our part, but on the part of those from whom I have quoted. Yet the armaments increase. That is a paradox. But there is a much greater paradox. It is this that, that this growing and enormous burden of Naval and Military expenditure is coinciding not merely with friendly relations between the Powers, but with" growth of civilisation as a whole. It is a fact that it is in the most civilised nations of the world that the expenditure is greatest. If civilisation means all that we imagine we imply by it, surely the growth of civilisation should have softened and not increased Naval and Military expenditure. Some Naval and Military expenditure I admit the most highly civilised nations must necessarily have until the world is all equally civilised. The most highly civilised nation must, of course, have in all circumstances the power to protect themselves against those who are less advanced. But the paradox remains, that their expenditure on armaments is not directed against nations less civilised than themselves, not against more backward nations, but it is directed—I will not say directed against, but it is entered upon in rivalry with each other. This paradox—unless the incongruity and mischief is brought home not only to men's heads generally, but to their feelings, so that they resent the inconsistency and realise the danger of it—if this tremendous expenditure on and rivalry of armaments goes on, it must in the long run break civilisation down.
People point with pride to the strength which is accumulated by a great Army and Navy. Yes; but a much more true way of looking at it is not the strength merely, but the burden. If you are to have these great burdens of force piled up in times of peace, as it has been in the last generation, it will become intolerable. There are those who think it will lead to war precisely because it is becoming intolerable. I hear it said that as the burden grows it will be felt so strongly that some nation will seek relief in war. I think it is much more likely that the burden will be dissipated by internal revolution—not by nations fighting against each other, but by the revolt of the masses of men against taxation. But it does not follow from that that one nation can, as the hon. Members who Moved and Seconded this Resolution suggested, put a stop to the rivalry by dropping out of the race. I should object most strongly to the 1986 word "alarm" in the Resolution. If one nation, and especially a nation of this kind, dropped out of the competition, I do not believe we should be serving the purpose of which I have been speaking by reducing the general rivalry. On the contrary, it might very well be that if one nation dropped out of the competition it might momentarily give a spurt to expenditure in some other. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil spoke not more strongly than I have spoken of the growing feeling there was against this policy of expenditure, and he spoke of the Socialist vote. Yes, but that growing evil must find its expression and make itself felt not in one country alone, but in countries simultaneously. He spoke of the growth of the Socialist vote, but it had no effect on the passing of the German Navy Estimates the other day. And until that feeling has reached greater power in the nations generally than it has at the present time we shall not reap the benefit of it. I said I deprecated the word "alarm." I think so, because I feel the evil of taxation, the world evil of this growing expenditure, but I do not believe that we are the country which yet feels the burden of taxation most. It is heavy in this country, I admit, and we do feel the burden of taxation, but I do not wish it to be understood from my speech in this Debate that we think the burden is more severe in this country than in others. I believe the contrary to be much nearer the truth. The burden of taxation may be heavy in this country, but I think the incidence of it is so arranged that it does not so heavily fall as in some other countries. I spoke of a revolt against naval and military expenditure. That revolt will not come until the taxation presses directly upon the classes for whom existence at best must be a struggle. When you begin to make hunger by taxation, as sooner or later every country will come to make it if naval and military expenditure goes on increasing, then you will be within measurable distance of that revolt which will put a stop to it. That is the direction in which the great countries of the world are heading.
There is a greater danger than that of war—the danger which I once outside this House called bleeding to death in time of peace. I quite admit that if no relief is found, this evil of naval and military expenditure generally may go on increasing for some years yet before the consequences to which I think it must inevitably lead are reached. I would fain hope that some way 1987 out may be found. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is for you to do it."] Someone says it is for us to do it. We certainly, I think, cannot be accused of having forced the pace. Our Navy Estimates for 1909 are said to have given provocation. They have not given rise to increased naval expenditure in Germany, or, I believe, in any other country. The last addition to the German Naval Programme was settled by law in 1908. This further has to be borne in mind, that, though we maintain a strong navy, and have announced our intention to maintain it, we do not maintain an army which can be regarded as an aggressive force, and, in my opinion, we are quite right in not doing so. Our Army Estimates we have reduced since we came into office. I spoke about the fulfilment of pledges. We have reduced the Army Estimates, if you take loans into account, by £3,400,000 a year, and they would have been reduced by £4,500,000 had it not been that we now spend £1,400,000 more on the Territorials than we spent on the Volunteers before. I call that a substantial fulfilment. In our first two years of office we did reduce the Navy Estimates, and we did—though I think an hon. Member said we did not—point to that as an example which we hoped other nations would follow, in the article by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, which has been quoted in the course of the Debate. But it did not lead to a reduction. Supposing you were to reduce the Navy Estimates in this year by £1,000,000 to £2,000,000, or something of that kind, I do not believe that that would affect the general rising of expenditure any more than the reduction of two or three years ago did. Agreement with other nations? I believe that agreement may do something. Agreement with Germany has been spoken of. It needs very careful handling. I have always avoided the phrase "limitation of armaments," because limitation of armaments is often construed abroad as if we intended or were endeavouring to impose some limit on another country. No country would stand that, and, least of all, Germany. "Mutual reduction of expenditure" is the phrase I have always endeavoured to use. Remember that in any possible naval agreement with Germany we have been given to understand that the German Naval Law must in the long run be carried out. That German Naval Law when complete means a navy of thirty-three capital ships, including "Dreadnoughts" and cruisers, as well as pre-" Dreadnoughts." That is a 1988 very serious Naval expenditure for any Power; but I am sure if I held out any hope to the House that by agreement Germany would part with her naval law, or alter it, I should at once be contradicted by the German Government. Within the limits of that declaration I think agreement may do something. I have always held that frank exchange of information between the two Governments, through their naval attaches, would guard against surprise. It would convince each nation and the world that neither was trying to steal a march upon the other, and it would have a pacific effect. It may be that within the limits of the German Naval Law some retardation of naval expenditure may be effected. It may be that agreement would make it certain that there would be no addition to the present programme in Germany. All that is a subject for discussion between the two Governments. It would be to the good if any agreement could be reached between them. But remember, it must always be within those limits! So far as this agreement is concerned, it must be remembered that German Naval Law has been laid down by Germany to fulfil what she thinks necessary for her own purposes. She believes it within her power to have a strong navy, and due to herself. That is a position that nobody can resent Germans taking up. Germany has never regarded our Navy Estimates as a provocation to herself. Agreement may do something, but it is a small matter compared with the whole question.
The rise and fall of world expenditure is the real thing which we wish to affect. The tide is flowing: expenditure is increasing. What we have to look for is any beneficent movement which will go to the root of the matter, and so effect public opinion, not in one country, but in all. That may lead to first of all the tide ceasing to flow, then turning, then, I hope, ebbing. I can conceive of but one thing that will really affect this Military and Naval expenditure of the world on the wholesale scale in which it must be affected if there is to be a real and sure relief. You will not get it till nations do what individuals have done, come to regard an appeal to law as the natural course for nations, instead of an appeal to force. Public opinion has been moving. Arbitration has been increasing. But you must take a large step further before the increase of arbitration will really affect this expenditure on armaments. I should perhaps have thought that I was not spending the time of the House 1989 profitably in asking the House to look to arbitration as something which could really touch this great expenditure had it not been for the fact that twice within the last twelve months, in March and December, the President of the United States has sketched out a step in advance in arbitration more momentous than anything that any practical statesman in his position has ventured to say before—pregnant with consequences and very far-reaching. I should like to quote two statements by the President of the United States. Here is the first one:—Personally I do not see any more reason why matters of national honour should not be referred to Courts of Arbitration as matters of private or national property are. I know that is going further than most men are willing to go. but I do not see why questions of honour should not he submitted to tribunals composed of men of honour who understand questions of national honour, and abide by their decision as well as any other questions of difference arising between nations.
§ Sir E. GREY
The other statement is:—If we can negotiate and put through agreements with some other nations to abide by the adjudication of International Arbitration Courts in every issue which cannot be settled by negotiation, no matter what it involves, whether honour, territory, or money, we should have made a long step forward by demonstrating that it is possible for two nations at least to establish between them the same system which through the process of law have existed between two individuals under Government.These are bold and courageous words. We have no proposal before us, and unless public opinion will rise to the level of discussing a proposal of that kind not with reference to charges of inconsistency, not with reference to what one nation or the other is going to gain by some agreement, but unless they rise to the height of discussing as a great movement in the opinion of the world it cannot be carried out. But supposing it took place, and two of the greatest nations in the world were to make it clear to the whole world that by agreement such as that, that in no circumstances were they going to war again, I venture to say that the effect on the world at large of the example would be one which would be bound to have beneficial consequences. It is true that the two nations who did that might still be exposed to attack from a third nation who had not entered into such agreement. I think it would probably lead to their following it up by an agreement that they would join with each other in any case in which one only had a quarrel with a third Power by which arbitration was refused. And more and more the tendency which is growing in 1990 the world to recognise that war between two great countries must not only be a serious thing for them but must be a serious thing for neutral Powers through the disturbance it causes the more and more they would join and nations would come to the conclusion as between themselves, that they were not going to fight, but that it was their interest to join together to keep the peace of the world. I have spoken of that because I do not think a statement of that kind put forward by a man in the position of the President of the United States should go without response. Entering into an agreement of that kind there would be great risks entailed. If you agree to refer everything to arbitration as the President of the United States has said you; must be prepared to take certain risks. You must be prepared for some sacrifices of national pride. An agreement of that kind so sweeping as that, if proposed to us we should be delighted to have such a proposal, but I should feel it was something so momentous and so far-reaching in its-possible consequences that it would require not only the signature of both Governments, but the deliberate and deciding sanction of Parliament. That, I believe, would be obtained. I know that to bring about changes of this kind public opinion has to rise to a high plane, higher than it can rise in ordinary times, and higher than some hon. Members opposite, I imagine, think it can ever rise. In ordinary times that may be true, but the times are not ordinary with this expenditure, and they will become still less ordinary as this expenditure increases. The minds of men are working upon this, and if you look back into history you find there do come times at favourable moments when public opinion has risen to heights which a generation previously would have been thought impossible. It was so when public opinion abolished slavery with all its vested interests. It was especially difficult in the United States, and I can imagine there may have been, there must have been, occasions before the United States put an end to slavery, when any person might have demonstrated that public opinion in the United States could never rise to that height, but it did, and it did it without counting the cost in treasure, in blood, and in risk to their national existence. So I think it is not impossible, though I admit that in a case of such an enormous change progress may be slow, that the public opinion of the world at large may insist, if it is fortunate enough to find leaders who have the 1991 courage—the sort of courage which has been shown in the utterances I have quoted in the House—upon finding relief in this direction. Some armies and navies would remain, no doubt, but they would remain then not in rivalry with each other, but as the police of the world. Some hon. Members say we should not live to see the day. I daresay we should not—[An Hoy. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—but I think we shall live to see some progress made.
§ Sir E. GREY
The Noble Lord's interruption is a repudiation of the statement I have quoted to the House.
§ Sir E. GREY
My attitude is one of encouragement, and even if our hopes may not be realised in our time that is no reason why we should not press forward in the direction in which we see a possible means of relief. What is impossible in one generation may be possible in another. It is rendered more possible in another by the fact that one generation presses in that direction, even though it fails to attain the goal. The great nations of the world are in bondage, in increasing bondage, at the present moment to their armies and navies, and it does not seem to me impossible that in some future years they may discover, as individuals have discovered, that law is a better remedy than force, and that all the time they have been in bondage to this tremendous expenditure, the prison door has been locked on the inside. If you think that visionary and not in the region of practical politics, I reply that at any rate we ought not to leave what the President of the United States has said without response. I admit it is a response—not to a proposal, because we have no proposal before us—to the idea. It is, at any rate, the best we can do, and I believe, in the long run, I am better serving—Utopian though some of my hopes may be—the purposes of the hon. Member who moved the Motion, better serving the object and interests he has at heart by making the response I have made to that general idea which has been put forward on the other side of the Atlantic, than I should have been serving the purposes of his Motion by a detailed examination of the Estimates of the year. Now I have to say what our attitude will be.
1992 We cannot accept the Motion for reasons I stated in the earlier part of my speech. We are bound to resist that Motion if it is pressed, because it would place us and the House in a false position. It binds us with regard to our expenditure without reference to the expenditure of others. We are bound to resist that. On the other hand, I see nothing in the Amendment moved that we and the House cannot accept. There is nothing, I am sure, in my speech that is inconsistent with that Amendment. We were not consulted with regard to that Amendment. We had nothing to do with the wording of it. But the Amendment is one which we are prepared to vote for, and I therefore tell the House frankly our position is this. We must vote against the original Motion if it is pressed, but if the Amendment becomes the substantive Motion before the House we, as a Government, are prepared to go into the Lobby in support of it.
§ Mr. R. A. COOPER
I will not detain the House two minutes. I would not have ventured to interrupt at this stage of the Debate had not the Foreign Secretary thought fit to level a charge against my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that the naval and military scare which has permeated this country the last two years was mainly due to him and to those on these Benches whom he so proudly leads. My own opinion, or perhaps that of any Member on these Benches, might carry very little weight in this matter with hon. Members opposite. I will therefore content myself with giving a very short quotation from an hon. Member opposite, who is a warm supporter of this present Coalition Government, and is yet one who has been today perhaps more attacked than any other hon. Member in this House. I refer to the junior Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), who at Sheffield on 20th March, 1909, said:—The Navy scare was not the work of the wicked Tories, but had been created by the statement of Mr. McKenna and Mr. Asquith. The whole scare was manufactured out of two suppositions with regard to Germany, which the Secretary of State for the Navy in Germany had given flat contradiction to. They had a War Minister doing and saying things which, if done and said by a Tory Minister, would have been condemned by every Liberal.I have nothing to add to that.
§ 12.0 M.
§ Mr. HUNT
I hope the House will allow me to say a few words on this Debate, considering that I ventured to ask the Prime Minister to suspend the 11 o'clock Rule to give ordinary people a 1993 chance of expressing their opinions on the question of national defence—the most important matter for any country in the world. I am only sorry more of my hon. Friends are not taking advantage of this opportunity. In the very interesting speech we had from the Foreign Secretary we were told that the Regular Army had been reduced. It has been by about 34,000 men. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to history, but I may remind him that in all history peace has never been anything but an interval between wars, and that is likely to be so at all events for a long time to come. The hon. Member who opened the Debate asked what was the character of the foreign danger which justified an increase in the Navy Estimates? The answer was that the danger existed in the North Sea and in Germany's preparations. The increase of the German naval construction has been such that between the years 1904–5 and 1910–11 British naval expenditure has only increased 16 per cent., while German naval expenditure has increased by 166 per cent., and that alone shows us the enormous increase that Germany is making, and the danger lies in the fact that Germany is a great country just over the other side of the North Sea, which is making these preparations. We are in far greater danger than we were in Napoleon's time; it is because necessity compels Germany to expand. The law of nations and the struggle for existence is compelling Germany to find new territories for her surplus population in order that they may remain under her flag, and not be lost for ever to the German Empire. If Germany had a great territory like Canada where her surplus population could go and remain under the German flag, we might remain at peace perhaps for very many years, but the Foreign Secretary knows that that is not the case. He understands as well as I do that that is not the case. He knows the danger, but though he and the Members of the Front Benches on both sides know the danger they dare not tell the people. Both Front Benches know the danger, but they dare not tell the people. It is perfectly well-known. Some of the Socialists know it well. Some have risked their popularity by telling the people the truth. German publicists with one accord declare that Great Britain must be conquered to make way for Germany. I take these things more seriously, I know, than a great many hon. Gentlemen. Bismarck's famous declara- 1994 tion still stands, that the destinies of Germany must be worked out not by votes and speeches but by blood and iron. In 1864 Germany attacked and conquered Denmark. In 1866 the same with Austria. In 1870 the same with France. We are in very much the same position now as France was in 1869. France was warned over and over again of what was going to happen. Her own Attaché at Berlin kept on warning the French people, but France took no notice. After all, you cannot dispute the result, and the danger we are in now, a danger that people in this country cannot realise, because we have never been invaded for a thousand years. The danger is very pressing. There is no tradition handed down from father to son and mother to daughter of what the horrors of an invading army really mean. In the countries on the Continent these traditions are handed down. They do know what it means, and the consequence is that practically every man is a soldier. Every man knows how to defend his country and its women and children. Surely it should be so here. In spite of the Labour Members and the Trade Union Leaders, surely it is the duty of every man to learn enough to defend his country and its women and children in time of national peril. Is there a single Member in the House who will get up and say that it is not the duty of every man to learn enough to defend his country and women and children. Not one. In the country I shall now be able to say this. A German historian—Professor Trietsche—said that war with England was inevitable. Germany had settled accounts with Austria, France and Russia, but the struggle with England would be the longest and most difficulty The great Socialist leader in Germany, Herr Bebel, said not only outside but inside the German Parliament that the increase of the German Navy was directed wholly and solely against Great Britain, and that all the other reasons for it were humbug. The German Emperor said that the future of Germany was on the water. These are the dangers that lie in front of us. The fate of France and the record of Germany ought to be sufficient warning. On the top of that you have got the warning of our great soldiers and sailors, and of eminent men all over the Continent, and in America. Surely that should make us think. Are we really going to be safe? According to Admiral Wilson's statement we have got nearly double the 1995 battleships and cruisers of any other single Power, but the statements made by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House as to what our position will be in the spring of 1914 do not show the same comparative strength. I would ask the House to remember that in the event of a naval war the working people of this country would suffer most. If you do not believe me, read Blatchford's warning. He has put the case very plainly. Outside of European waters there are only 27 cruisers to protect the merchant vessels carrying our food supplies over many thousands of miles of unguarded spaces of the sea. If the merchantmen are not protected, you are not going to get your food supply. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has signed the Declaration of London. Under that all food, except nuts—Free Trade has brought us down very low, but we have not yet learned to exist on nuts—is liable to capture when being brought to us in ships, whether neutrals or our own. For that reason we are in the greatest danger of being starved in time of war with any other great nation. All the enemy's merchantmen can be turned into privateers. or commerce destroyers. Until we get sufficient small cruisers to protect our trade we shall never be safe, so far as our food supplies are concerned. Germany has got cruisers and plenty of merchant ships that can be turned into cruisers which she will use. The regular Army has been reduced by 34,000 men to save expense, and, in consequence, as Lord Crewe said in the House of Lords, I think in June last, we could not send out of this country in the event of war, more than 80,000 men, because the other 100,000 regular soldiers would be required to nurse our Territorials. What is the use of that sort of thing? The Territorial Army produced by the Secretary for War is useless to protect us from invasion. It is a political fraud and sham intended to deceive the people. Lord Roberts has pronounced it to be a sham army of no use to defend us from invasion. Which are we to believe, the greatest living soldier in Europe or
§ America or the great Chancery lawyer at the head of the War Office.
Mr. J. ALLEN BAKER
As one who has taken a deep interest in this question, and feels bound to go into the Division Lobby with my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, I rise to express my profound gratitude to the Foreign Secretary for the great speech which he has just delivered. I have heard no utterances in this House which has more deeply moved it or will be more heartily welcomed in this country, and I believe also throughout the civilised world, than that to which we have just listened. A definite proposal such as he has outlined from the President of the United States agreeing to submit every dispute that may arise between our two peoples to a court of arbitral justice would be hailed with joy by the nation. Can any one doubt that its consummation would be the greatest step that has yet been taken towards bringing about the peace of the world, and eventually end the rivalry in armaments that now exists. At this hour I will not detain the House, but I feel impelled to express my sense of personal obligation to the right hon. Gentleman, and this must be shared by every Member on both sides of the House.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
I hope the House will indulge me for a moment to say that I listened with the greatest gratification to the momentous statement made by the Foreign Secretary. I know the feeling I have with regard to that statement is shared by all my Friends that such a Treaty as President Taft has suggested, and, as has been intimated by the Foreign Secretary, the Government are prepared to consider, may actually become an accomplished fact. [Interruption.] I merely want to add that I listened with deep regret to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. For that reason I cannot accept the Amendment, and must go to a Division.
§ Question put," That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 56; Noes, 276.1999
|Division No. 70.]||AYES.||[12.20 a.m.|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Edwards, J. H. (Glamorgan, Mid)||Hinds, John|
|Barnes, George N.||Fenwick, Charles||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Barton, William||Goldstone, Frank||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hardle, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||John, Edward Thomas|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Johnson, William|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)|
|Chancellor, Henry G.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Pointer, Joseph||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Lansbury, George||Pollard, Sir George H.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cockermouth)||Richards, Thomas||Wadsworth, John|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Martin, Joseph||Robinson, Sidney||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Rowntree, Arnold||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Morrell, Philip||Scott, A. M'Callum (Glasgow)|
|O'Grady, James||Sherwell, Arthur James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Murray Macdonald and Mr. Ponsonby.|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Snowden, Philip|
|Pirle, Duncan Vernon||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lloyd, George Ambrose|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Allen, A. Acland (Dumbartonshire)||Essex, Richard Walter||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)|
|Armitage, Robert||Flennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lowther, Claude (Eskdale)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||FltzRoy, Hon. Edward A.||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Astor, Waldorf||Fleming, Valentine||Lyttelton, Rt. Hn. A. (S. Geo., Han. S.)|
|Bagot, Lt.-Col. Josceline||Fletcher, John S.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Forster, Henry William||Macmaster, Donald|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Foster, Philip Staveley||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Balcarres, Lord||France, Gerald Ashburner||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Furness, Stephen Wilson||M'Laren, F. W. S. (Linc, Spalding)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.)||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||M'Laren, H. D. (Leices., Bosworth)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Gelder, Sir William Alfred||M'Laren, W. S. B. (Chesh., Crewe)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gibbs, George Abraham||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Baring, Capt. Hon. Guy Victor||Gibson, Sir James Puckering||Malcolm, Ian|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.)||Gilmour, Captain John||Manfield, Harry|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Glanville, Harold James||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Goldman, Charles Sydney||Marks, George Croydon|
|Bathurst, Hon. Benjamin (Glos., E.)||Goldsmith, Frank||Masterman, C. F. G.|
|Beale, William Phipson||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Mathlas, Richard|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Grant, James Augustus||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Greenwood, G. G. (Peterborough)||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.|
|Beckett, Hon. William Gervase||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Greig, Colonel James William||Moiteno, Percy Alport|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Gretton, John||Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Benn, W. (T. Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Guest, Hon. Fredk. E. (Dorset, E.)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Morgan, George Hay|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Gulland, John William||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Bigland, Alfred||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. (Honlton)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Hall, Douglas B. (Isle of Wight)||Morrison-Bell, Captain E. (Ashburton)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Boscawen, Col. A. S. T. Griffith-||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Munro, Robert|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington)||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.|
|Boyton, James||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Neilson, Francis|
|Brigg, Sir John||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Neville, Reginald J. Neville|
|Bryce, John Annan||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Newman, John R. P.|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Harwood, George||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Burn, Col. Charles Rosdew||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Norton, Captain Cecil W.|
|Butcher, J. G.||Haworth, Arthur A.||Norton-Griffiths, John|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Hayward, Evan||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Campion, William Robert||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Paget, Almerlc Hugh|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hickman, Col. Thomas E.||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hill, Sir Clement L. (Shrewsbury)||Pearce, Robert (Staff'rdsh., Leek)|
|Cawley, Sir Fredk. (Prestwich)||Hillier, Dr. Alfred Peter||Pearce, William (Llmehouse)|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Pearson, Weetman H. M.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Rotherham)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Peel, Captain R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hunt, Rowland||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)|
|Churhcill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Clyde, James Avon||Jardine, Sir John (Roxburghshire)||Pole-Carew, Sir Reginald|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Jessel, Captain Herbert M.||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Kemp, Sir George||Pryce-Jones, Col. Edward|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Quilter, William Eley C.|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)||Radford, George Heynes|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Davies, Ellis William (Elfton)||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Kyffin-Taylor, Gerald||Raphael, Sir Herbert Henry|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)||Rawson, Col. Richard H.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Larmor, Sir Joseph||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (S. Shields)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Stanley, Major Hon. George (Preston)||Webb, Henry|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)||Stewart, Gershom||Welgall, William E. G. A.|
|Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, N.)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, W.)||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Ronaldshay, Earl of||Swift, Rigby||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Rose, Sir Charles Day||Tennant, Harold John||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Rowlands, James||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, N.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Rutherford, J. (Lancs., Darwen)||Thynne, Lord Alexander||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude|
|Rutherford, W W. (Liverpool)||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|St. Maur, Harold||Touche, George Alexander||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Winterton, Earl|
|Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Tullibardine, Marquess of||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||Worthington-Evans, Laming|
|Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.||Valentia, Viscount||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Verney, Sir Harry||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel||Walton, Sir Joseph||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Simon, Sir John Allsebrook||Ward, A. S (Herts, Watford)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)||Younger, George|
|Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Soares, Ernest Joseph||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Illingworth.|
|Spear, John Ward||Watt, Henry Anderson|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Resolved, "That this House views with profound anxiety and regret the continued necessity for the maintenance by this Country of large armaments, and would welcome the establishment of international arrangements under which the Great Powers would simultaneously restrict their warlike preparations."
§ And, it being after half-past Eleven o'clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Twenty-six minutes before One o'clock.